All about baseball (translation: not at all about baseball)

Take me out to the ball game, take me out with the crowd…

Once upon a time, it feels like a million years ago, I loved baseball. Well, that may be a little bit of an exaggeration, I liked baseball…which really means I didn’t mind watching a game, contingent upon appropriate snacks. And I prefer my baseball games outside, not watching from the couch. And they have to be evening games, not too hot, with east-facing seats, because, my sun-fearing skin. And my game-watching companions must either care enough about the game to know what is going on, and be able to talk about it without being a jackass, or care nothing for the game and be present only for the atmosphere and overpriced stadium food. So…maybe I didn’t really like baseball all that much, but I sure as hell knew a lot about it for a little while.

My x-husband, who I don’t talk about very often, was a baseball fanatic. He grew up in Chicago and was a hardcore Chicago Cubs fan, he and his Dad and his brothers had been on the waiting list for Chicago Cubs tickets for years by the time I met him (I just checked, the current wait list is 65,000 people long). In addition to watching almost every single televised game, he played on a local team, and we often went to the minor league games in Salt Lake; our team is the AAA affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels.

Because he loved baseball so much I asked him to explain the game to me, and his analytical brain spent HOURS detailing strategy, and players, and history, and blah blah blah. I mean, kudos to him for providing the extensive information, and triple kudos to me for a) listening and b) actually being somewhat interested. I picked a favorite player based solely on looks–Derrek Lee, a first baseman who had just started with the Cubs–and settled in for a long summer of cracker jack and bratwurst. I learned enough about actual strategy to be able to comment occasionally on a play, or whatever, and my X and his baseball buddies (brothers & friend) playfully dubbed me The Rookie. I distinctly recall the day I questioned a play that was not jiving with Good Baseball Strategy and all four of those dudes turned to stare at me, dumbfounded, “Well, she’s not the rookie anymore!” It was a compliment, and one I was kind of proud to earn. Honestly, in those early days, it was fun to watch part of a game, be able to follow what was going on and understand a little about the outbursts of joy or rage coming from the Baseball Groupies.

The X and I got engaged towards the end of that first baseball season, and married before it started again. Shockingly, the second time around his obsession became kind of tedious. Then a lot tedious. Prior to living together I had no idea how much televised sports he really watched, upwards of 14 or 15 hours a day, any given day, sometimes more. In lieu of season tickets, and actually living in Chicago, X splurged for the Every Televised Baseball Game cable package and then set up two TVs in the basement, both with picture-in-picture capabilities (do you even remember that super fancy technology?!) and proceeded to watch 4 games at a time, all the time, all season long. As the season progressed the summer evening AAA games at our local stadium were fewer and fewer, then non-existent, and the marathon sessions of televised MLB games and sports talk TV about the games intensified.

While we were dating and engaged I was in school and working two jobs and when we went out in the evenings I didn’t realize that he’d simply set the last part of the last games to record and would watch them later. Once we got married he quit the record-watch-later charade, and I was at first charmingly surprised (2 minutes), then irritated (15 minutes), then full on annoyed that this dumb game was more important than anything else (the next 14 months). Baseball was more important than dinners with family, birthday parties for my nieces and nephews, or even regular not-sports-related date nights or quality time together as a couple. I was a baseball widow before we even had a chance, and I resented it, big time. Now, there were a lot of other major factors that contributed to the deterioration of our marriage, obviously. But for me the last straw was during a conversation prior to Baseball Season: Round Three when he told me, in a moment of complete seriousness, that if he had to choose between watching baseball and working to improve our marriage, he would pick baseball. Every time. He actually said that to me, not in a moment of anger or frustration, but in a matter-of-fact conversation about what was and what wasn’t working in our relationship. When I questioned it, wondering if he was just exaggerating for twisted-comedic effect, he doubled down on his stance. I moved out a not long after that; again, a much bigger catalyst led to that decision, but the baseball thing was always there, lurking, reminding me that I didn’t matter nearly as much as a bunch of dudes in pinstripes standing around for hours and occasionally doing something to/with a ball.

I don’t watch baseball anymore, I haven’t paid attention to a game for over a decade. I don’t even really care who makes it to the World Series, or if a home run record is broken. Every year or two a group of friends would go to a minor league game, but we are definitely, solidly, in the camp of “here for the atmosphere and the snacks and the post-game fireworks” and very far away from arguing baseball strategy and comparing stats on the players.

I passed a billboard the other day with a countdown to the beginning of baseball spring training season; I had forgotten all about the Cactus League and the 5 or 6 weeks of intense Baseball Everything  in Arizona. I probably won’t go to a game, just passing the billboard brings up enough unpleasant memories as is, but maybe next year, or the year after, I’ll have a couple of friends here who wouldn’t mind spending a warm evening eating overpriced bratwurst and laughing about completely unrelated events while a baseball game goes on in the background.

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Being a stepmom means winning last place

A few months ago my media feed was full of a video showing a determined father dragging his daughter’s stepdad down the aisle at her wedding, showing the world that he cared more about his daughter’s happiness and inclusion of her whole family in her wedding day than his own (twisted) sense of patriarchal pride. I sobbed and sobbed while watching and re-watching that video.

I have been a stepmom for four years, and I absolutely do not see that kind of collaboration in my future. Honestly, I hardly see myself being included in big things like weddings and the birth of future grandkids. Blue Eyes’ x-wife and I are not exactly bffs, in fact, she hardly acknowledges that I exist. If we attend the kids’ events (school program, dance recital, ball games, etc) she pretends I am invisible; her “Ignore Harriet And  Blue Eyes” game is a strong one. She could be an Olympic gold medalist with very little additional training. The one time I sent her an email (to refute ridiculous accusations she had emailed directly to me) she threatened to file an injunction against me if I attempted to contact her again. And frankly, her dirty attorney is sketch enough to try and get that thru the court (he’s also a big fat liar-pants).

So, if in the future it comes down to the kids having their Mom at an event or her threatening not to be there if I am invited…she will always win. I’m not the Mom, and I refuse to put these two kids in that kind of situation. However, she has no problem creating that kind of drama, so because I don’t fight as dirty as she does using kids as ammunition, she wins. Always.

I know some of you are stepparents yourselves, and it can be a really difficult role. Granted, it can also be relatively drama-free if all the parties act like grown-ass adults who want the best for the kids who are involved. I do not have one of those relatively drama-free scenarios (clearly, see above and then read through the lines for the rest of the story that has to happen to generate those few highlights).

Mr. Blue Eyes and I are unable to have kids of our own, so I always thought it was tremendously lucky that he had two munchkins I could love and play with and support and watch grow. I have been a lot more removed from that process than I thought. Even though for the last four years I’ve lived 700 miles away, the lack of involvement in their lives has been pretty remarkable, for both Blue Eyes and myself. That was the biggest reason for him moving to Arizona a year ago, he wanted to have some kind of normal relationship with his kids, and his crazy X has done as much as she possibly can to hinder that as well. (She’s an absolute delight, a true gem, I tell you!)

A few weeks ago I had lunch with one of my favorite humans; Aunt Mouse is a dear friend and surrogate mother, as well as a stepmom herself to kids who are in their 20’s and 30’s and now having kids of their own. Mouse did not have children either, and was thrilled to be a grandma to three new babies in one year. Sadly, her stepkids always choose their mother over their stepmother (not entirely surprising), but due to a pretty antagonistic relationship where Mom is a bitch and Mouse tries to be a good human, the end result is Mouse is completely uninvolved. Mom wins, and when Mom refuses to even be civil to Stepmom (again, using her children as the go-betweens who have to choose to exclude Mom or Stepmom because they can’t include both), Mom quickly becomes the only player in that game. And Stepmom loses everything. It’s a pretty tough pill to swallow, ya’ll.

I am the Stepmom. I will always just be the Stepmom. I make sacrifices for those kids that are far and above what I thought, yet I get zero benefit or even any feedback. I can’t even text them on their fancy iPhones because SOMEONE thinks I have a criminal record and am a regular extortionist of children and so she has blocked my number in the kids phones. (I really wish I was exaggerating, but the truth is you cannot make up this kind of shit and she has it all nicely (falsely) documented in threatening emails she has copied her attorney on, so it is all ready to be entered into a case-file if she even gets a hankering to be truly evil.) If you think motherhood is thankless (and I’m not trying to insinuate otherwise), try and imagine what it is like to be one step removed from any positive interaction while still being up to your neck in all the crap and drama that comes along with raising small people.

Camo and Mimi are 13 and 11, respectively. They are too young to have to deal with the fallout of this crap, and old enough to be able to see what is really going on, which puts them in the position of having to deal with this toxic bullshit. Sigh. It’s a never-ending cycle of crazy. I can only hope that as time goes on Ms. Crazy-Pants will calm down a bit and make all of our lives easier. I don’t anticipate that happening in my lifetime, but one can hope.

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Taking out my anger on a Post-it

Over the last six months (ok, really, over the last three-and-a-half years), Mr. Blue Eyes and I have been fighting with his ex-wife on some pretty outrageous things: Blue Eyes wants to be able to spend time with his kids on a regular basis, and talk to them on the phone on a regular basis. Crazy, right? At any rate, we are finally to what I hope is the final stage of this latest battle, and I don’t want to jinx it, but it might actually look like we are not going to have to go to court. Maybe. I mean, who knows, when you are dealing with CrAzY you can never really be sure, even after a judge stamps his approval and the thing is in effect “law.” CrAzY don’t care about “law,” she cares about what is most beneficial to HER at this particular moment in time. (Note: Not most beneficial to the kids in question, that would be reasonable and show some demonstrated good feeling and caring towards them; no, she wants what is most beneficial for herself or as a second-best option, what is the worst possible outcome for Blue Eyes. A real gem, this one.)

At any rate, I have tried a number of mostly unsuccessful ways to deal with my frustration at this whole situation, my anger, and to try and process my emotions. Honestly, most of them are generally ineffectual, though I’d like a sticker for trying. But today, after the latest bizarre demand, I found something that simultaneously validated my anger and frustrations, helped to control and minimize the over-the-top negative feelings I was having, and soothed my heart and my nerves.

I wrote everything on a post-it. Not a series of post-its, just one post-it.

Postitnoteanger_feistyharriet_March 2015

I wrote over words again and again, filling every corner of this little piece of sticky paper with rants and scribbles and possibly a few swears and curses thrown in her general direction. As I both let out my anger and also saw it being compressed into a neat little square, I started to feel immeasurably better. Her behavior is absolutely not okay, and mostly illegal (don’t get me started on The System and how it was built and is perpetuated to generally fuck with fathers and overcompensate mothers who are willing to lie and cheat for personal gain), but as I saw all this swirling, heavy, dark stuff turn into abstract curls and lines of pale blue ink….it started to not seem quite so terrible. It’s terrible, don’t mistake me, but it’s only one little blue swirl of terrible that is confined to a three inch square. And that is something that I can deal with. I don’t like it, but I can deal with it.

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