All in Ex-Spouses

When I divorced Dick, 17 years ago this month, I shared my plans to give my wedding ring to our daughter Elle when she turned 18.  Dick responded in a sarcastic, bitter, angry tone "Sounds like a great idea!  Elle here's a symbol of your parents FAILED marriage!!" I responded "No, here's a symbol that your Dad and I loved each other once!" 

Dick and I never discussed the ring again. Many years ago I shared with Elle my intentions to give her the ring. I don't remember the exact conversation other than we both knew that the ring belonged to her and that Grandma(my Mom) was keeping it in a safe until she turned 18.

It was my scheduled day to pick Little Hart up from school as it has been for years. I typically leave at 2:15 to make the 30 minute drive. Just before leaving I uploaded my post to Facebook when I noticed Little Hart's status posted two hours earlier: Can't wait to see my brother in 30 minutes! Um interesting, since Jax, home for less than 24 hours - left over two hours earlier to meet Greta for lunch.  No communication from anyone the lunch involved Little Hart.

I shared the status post with my Hubby, asking his guidance - he responded;" hold tight, Greta must of forgot to share with us the schedule change."  At 2:35 Greta called - she had taken Little Hart out of school to have lunch with her and Jax - he would bring her home. No need for me to pick Little Hart up. 

I quickly got off the phone - looked at Raylan - I guess I should feel lucky she even called.

There were no tears shed when we dropped Jax off three weeks ago - only a blanket of sadness as we left town without him. In the back of everyone's mind we had Labor Day.  

Jax and Elle the early years

It was like a lot of other goodbyes over the years.  He was simply on vacation with his other family for a few weeks - not living in another state. It clearly had not sunk in.

Long before Jax had left, he planned to fly home for the Labor Day weekend to spend with our extended family. It was a tradition started by my parents long before Raylan and I created our Family of Five. When we introduced  Jax to the tradition he had an immediate connection with the tradition and the family dynamics.


We had survived something together.  It had bonded us as a group or so I thought.  Turns out it was a temporary situation. Temporary for our youngest Little Hart.

When Raylan, me, Jax and Greta had travelled twice before Jax had handled the situation so well, it never crossed my mind that this might be a problem for Little Hart.  I didn't factor in that she was four years younger and had never been with both parents for longer than an hour her whole life.  Add to that the dynamic of Jax leaving, a relatively new relationship with her Mom and having her Mom all to herself without Greta's three younger kids.  It was a perfect storm. A storm that I never saw coming nor did I realize the above factors as the reason for the storm until later.

It started out subtle, Little Hart responding with an edge and occasional biting comment directed mostly at Elle, occasionally me.  As the comments grew in frequency everything in my body wanted to say to Little Hart STOP IT!  Had it been just our family - I would have in a heartbeat.  Yet with Greta there I felt restrained.  Neither Raylan or Greta said a word.  And I felt like my mouth was wired shut.

Later I expressed my concerns to Raylan.  He downplayed it, attributed it to the girls "normal" dynamic - it would pass.  Which made me feel even more restrained from saying something. We were all gathered there for Jax - I didn't want to be seen as the one ruining the trip for defending my daughter that no one else thought needed defending.  So I kept it shut and felt like the worlds worst mother in doing so.


Last week I went on a road trip with on one of my Hubby's ex wives. Yes, you heard me right a road trip with Greta - Ex Wife #2.

You're probably thinking the same thing my friends did when I shared my upcoming plans - O - M - G! What are you thinking? 

Um - it isn't a girls getaway - rather a trip designed to squeeze every last second in with Jax before we drop him off at College.  OHHH - that should be interesting! 

It was always a given that both Greta and I were going on this trip! 

Raylan and I have been a parental team when it comes to raising our blended family - physically, emotionally and financially for the past twelve years. Even now with Jax entering College our partnership continues.  Raylan and I are working together to provide financial support for Jax's education, as well as, support him emotionally through all the changes coming his way and is willing to share. Hopefully a lot! Probably wishful thinking on our part!

On the other side of the coin is Greta - his mother. She's never missed a big moment in Jax's life. This moment was no exception. Sal's participation in the road trip was never discussed as a possibility. Greta was the parent who handled the majority of parenting of Jax in her home. 


"We're ready to apply Elle's hardware," something I had never imagined hearing about one of my children. The words from the surgical intern calling from the Elle's surgery with an update.  

Elle's hardwareSo far everything had gone according to plan - no complications.  A relief for any parent, but it an even bigger relief given the emotional turmoil between Elle and her Dad. She needed something to go right. 

I talked at length with Elle about postponing her surgery until the dust had settled with Dick. Elle was adamant that she keep her surgery date.

Elle made it clear to Dick and Malus that she did not want them at the pre-surgical meeting or the surgery.  She would later agree that Dick could come to the hospital and sit in the waiting room during the surgery for updates and the results of the surgery, but she did not want to see him.  Dick agreed, but Malus on the other hand did not.

At Elle's pre-surgical visit, Malus arrived in the waiting room. She looked at us and didn't say a word, chosing to sit in a different section than Elle, Little Hart, Raylan and I sat. I could have made a scene in the crowded waiting room instead I didn't acknowledged her.  

I wasn't inflicting payback of my own for how Malus had treated me over the past fourteen years. I chose not to because Elle had asked her not to come which she ignored and her behavior during the situation between Elle and Dick back in May.  Malus knew what was going on behind closed doors and yet she told Elle to cover it up because her marriage and family would be over if Elle told anyone or left.

Elle was forced to call me from a public bathroom to tell me what was going on with Dick. When I talked to Malus I was very specific about how I wanted Malus to protect my daughter. I did not want Elle to see or talk to Dick until I could catch a flight home and assess the situation.  I knew that he was drunk and out of control and I didn't need to know any more than that. Malus promised - Hung the phone up and did the complete opposite.


This is a four part series in honor of Elle's 2nd anniversary of her SUCCESSFUL Spinal Fusion Surgery to correct the -49 curvature of her spine! YEAH!!!  

Curvature of the spine Tension had been brewing between me and Dick since Elle's diagnosis a year earlier. Although we had both accepted the fact, Elle's spine could only be fixed through Spinal Fusion Surgery - we both knew our 50/50 custody arrangement would not work in the recovery phase.

Elle's surgery had to be done before she turned nineteen to give her the best chance for success. Initially we thought/hoped it would be closer to nineteen, but the pain from Elle's curved spine began affecting her ability to participate in simple everyday activities - surgery needed to happen at 15. In May of 2009 the surgery date was set for Wednesday, July 22nd, a little over two months away.  

After my divorce from Dick, I was consumed with the day to day negotiations between the two households -  weekends - holidays - vacations - schooling.  In the back of my mind I always had a deep fear of something out of the ordinary happening; an accident, an illness, a surgery.  

Dick and I were barely able to agree on the the easy stuff - how in the world would we ever agree on something life threatening?  The minute a surgery date was set the underlying tension turned into a full on tug of war began between the two families - with Elle smack in the middle.  Where would Elle stay after her surgery?  Elle would have a six week recovery period, if everything went well - longer if it didn't. The best home for recuperation was up for debate.

Elle wanted to stay in our home, period end of story! Things had not been going well at Dick's house. I decided to tackle it head on with Dick.  I was strong, direct, confident and unwilling to compromise; Elle was was staying at my house after her surgery.  I was her mother, worked from home and could be there for her 24/7.   Dick would fire back that they were the better parents and that Malus could provide better care for Elle.  


Before last week I had never heard of Me Ra Koh. I know, I know -  I live in a box. Elle's camera on top of Me Ra Koh's BookHer name was not even on my radar screen.  Flash forward to today.  I'm lovin her! big time! For those of you like me, who have no idea who I'm talkin about - she is a famous photographer, motivational speaker now appearing on the Nate Berkas show, appeared on Oprah.  

None of the above has anything to do with why she has made such a huge impression on me. Me Ra has lived through some unbelievably hard times; date rape, miscarriage, almost near death of another child.  And yet, there she was standing on a stage with a huge smile on her face.  A number of times during her speech I wanted to let out a huge wail -350 people surrounding me - so I sucked it up.  While her story is extremely moving, it was the very real and deep connection I felt with her that got to me. Judging from the crowd there were many people who felt the same connection.

The loss Me Ra felt after miscarrying her son, the fear a few years later when her daughter almost died from an infection they both picked up in their travels.  Wanting to scream enough is enough already! How many times had I said those very same words. In an instant, my feelings from my own experiences; almost losing Little Hart from freak infection a year ago, Elle's scoliosis surgery two years ago - one mis-step she could have been paralyzed or worst dead on the operating table, my brother's death from a extremely rare form of cancer. As much as I tried to contain my emotions, the tears were rolling down my checks like a river.  I realized I didn't care!