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01/16/2014
Co-parenting on holidays

It was my ex-husband’s turn for Christmas with my son that year. Our custody agreement, made years ago dictates that we alternate Holidays. No problem. However, after 5.5 years of being divorced and raising our son, we’ve had to make adjustments on our own. Since we are interested in preserving a good relationship for our son’s sake and share a certain level of confidence in the other as a capable parent, we make things work. For instance, my parents live out of town, his don’t. If it’s my holiday and I don’t leave town, Damian comes to my house Christmas eve and Christmas morning. Visa versa.

This year though, things were a little different; I was in the middle of divorcing my second husband, Andy. (I KNOW, you didn’t know I was married twice did you?! ) It was Damian’s holiday that year so no one was leaving town and we were both dating people. In my case, a new man, Michael. A much, much younger new man. (insert giggle here) AND that year, Damian’s girlfriend of a few years MOVED IN. That’s a lot for anyone to process let alone our nine year old.

Damian had been to my house when my ex-husband and I hosted Christmas’ past, but this was my first year spending Christmas morning with Damian and another woman. At THEIR house. In the past Damian had never included any other women he was dating into the “Holiday Scenario”. This was a big step for him, all of us really, and my clue that he was serious about his girlfriend. I wasn’t really prepared for that morning; All the things that went terribly right, a few fleeting moments of feeling like an interloper and my hyper need to de-robe. STAT!

It was typical for me and Damian to share in the opening of Donovan’s Christmas presents together because neither one of us wanted to miss his reaction. Nor did we want to miss his reactions to Santa’s foot prints, the cookie remnants Santa left, and Santa’s reply to Donovan’s note. We each delight in the evidence that Santa really does exist for our 9yr old. (Believe me, I know, that’s a little old but, when he asked if I was Santa, I did the “big terrible”. I stared deep into his blue pools and said, Yes! Santa is absolutely real! I told a bold face lie to my son.)

Neither one of us wanted to miss his face when he opened our gifts. Neither one of us wanted to give up seeing our sleepy groggy, awkwardly lanky boy still in his high water PJ’s making his way to the pile of presents under our perspective trees. Neither one of us wanted to deny the other parent those precious memories. We are too aware that those days of innocence are numbered.

Damian and I didn’t work out as a romantic couple but we still maintain a strong sense of unity and togetherness where Donovan is concerned. Especially, during the Holidays. Damian has helped me drag in my tree when my ex-husband Andy was away, We have conspired to get Donovan his most desired gift, we have stayed late on Christmas eve and came early just so we didn’t have to miss any of the goodness.

So, Christmas morning, all snuggled up with my some-what newer, certainly younger, very sexy boyfriend,Michael- Incoming! A call from Damian at the 5am hour… “Charisma, he’s up! Can you rally and come earlier?” “Yes”, I replied. “Gimme 15 minutes.” I suggested he invoke some sort of “Operation Distraction”! I eased out of the bed as to not disturb my boyfriend, brush my fangs, throw on an over sized, super baggy sweater over my night shirt, sans bra. Legged on my Gap boyfriend jeans and UGGS. I scooped up all the presents from me and my side of the family. Loaded up the car, then schlepp ‘em over to Damian’s house. I think I did great time wise but was closer to 25 minutes than the desired 15 minutes. Damian did a great job keeping him out of the front room until I got there.

When I arrived It was still dark in the living room illuminated by the glow of the tree. Donovan is masterful at delaying gratification. In fact, It’s kind of annoying. He quietly surveys the room. Still dark and OH MY GOD, so freaking HOT! -Holy heat balls! Anyway, its customary that the stockings get checked first. Low and behold, Santa had left little gifts for ALL of us. But Donovan’s stocking had all kinds of knick knacks. A soccer magazine, Soccer bracelets, a Lifesaver cherry pack, (just like Santa used to give me) and the big one… an IPOD TOUCH 5! – Custom Santa Red.

Donovan was beside himself with excitement and enthusiasm. It was such a thrill to see his awe and disbelief at such an awesome present. It really makes me smile as I type this. It was an Expensive gift and one Damian and I deliberated over. The big questions were; Is Donovan responsible enough to have such an expensive gift? Were we sure we wanted Donovan to have such easy access to the internet, music and apps? Finally, how could we give this gift to Donovan with out one of us feeling left out?

Hence the gift was from Santa. (Later, when Donovan stops believing, it will be from both of us.) We laid down ground rules with specific consequences regarding Music and Apps. Those rules and consequences were: He must ask to buy them. If after we check the rating and the content meets the “appropriate quotient” for our family, he may have it. Regarding going on the internet, we don’t encourage it unless it is to learn something. So far, it hasn’t been an issue. The consequences are dependent on the agreement violation. The Trump Card of all consequences are to take it away.

Stockings complete, on to the tree…. at this point I am dying in my multi layers of wool. I am desperate to shed the huge and heavy sweater I threw on in my rush over but I have no bloody bra on. Um, awkward! Here I am with my kiddo, (He doesn’t need to see that) My Ex-husband, Damian and his girl friend. I CANNOT free boob it right now! Especially me, have you seen me? (Playboy July 2004) I am a large breasted woman. It’s just not an option. So there I sat silently sweating. I don’t know why I didn’t just ask if they would mind turning the heat down. I guess I felt comfortable with them but, not THAT comfortable. Well, it became INCREASINGLY less comfortable when it became evident that we were exchanging EVERYBODY’S gifts. I wasn’t just watching Donovan open gifts it was an exchange of gifts among us all. So when Damian’s girlfriend opens her presents from him I felt a little out of place. Just a wee bit. (Why? Well, I remember back in the day, when Damian and I were together, before Donovan, I got a lot of “lady wear” for a particular Christmas. – I was slightly concerned I was going to have to watch her open a box from the “Private Collection” catalog. That would be just TMI !!!) Honestly, I knew that wouldn’t really happen but that did not stop my imagination from trying to PUNK me! Thankfully, it was a tasteful sweater after tasteful sweater.

After all the gifts were shared, IPOD explored, day plans laid out, thanks you’s, kisses and hugs exchanged, it was time for me to go. I was looking forward to returning to my bed where I left my sleeping boyfriend. And finally shedding not just the top sweater but all my layers….

 

 

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©Charisma Carpenter, Surviving co-parenting in Hollywood
January 16, 2014
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

01/08/2014
Charisma and Donovan enjoy swinging when he was young

Damian and I never did reconcile. We never shared a roof again; we never got it back after that day in the therapist’s office.

We had been together for so many years. About 9 years in all. We had overcome so much as a couple in all that time. We took vows! We had our blue-eyed baby boy! We had a blessed life of good health, friendships and family. How could he not want “us”? We were the nucleus of a wonderful group of friends. Our home was the gathering place of many celebrations and meals. What happened? And why?

I saw my lawyer to see how to proceed, see what my rights were, to talk about my options. In a crisis, I just “do”. What’s next? How do I proceed? Maybe it’s just my way of coping. I go into strategy mode. I couldn’t change my husband’s mind. I couldn’t make him feel differently. All I could do was adapt and carry on.

For example, a while back there was a huge earthquake in Southern California. It shook my roommate and me out of bed. I immediately screamed bloody murder then pulled myself together. I shouted orders, “Come to the doorway. Brace yourself. Stay put. There will likely be an aftershock”. My Father called me from Indiana. He saw the news about the earthquake. He had specific orders for me, “You need to make sure the gas is off and blow out the pilot lights, etc”, and so I did. I didn’t ask “God, why the quake?” -It just happened. I needed to take care of business now, assess the damages later. And so, this was how I handled my divorce.

My lawyer wanted to serve Damian right away. Which made me panic. I wasn’t sure yet. I needed another opportunity to ask Damian if he truly meant what he said in therapy earlier that week. Did he REALLY want to end our marriage? I needed to hear it from him after a few days had passed and tempers had cooled. However most importantly, I needed to make sure this was what he wanted prior to taking the serious step of filing for divorce. – Something I never imagined doing.

It’s Friday, a week prior he had announced his exit. Damian agreed to meet me at our usual coffee shop. He was there first but wasn’t wearing his wedding band. I crumbled and began to cry. All the air had been taken out of the room. I asked the question I intended to ask even though the absence of his ring said it all. “Did you mean what you said in the therapist’s office?” He said, “yes”. Ouch! More tears. We argued but I got no closer to understanding where he was coming from or why. But it was very clear- it was over.

What I did next was dig. Dig for clues as to why this was happening to me. I went through everything. I went through all our receipts, bank statements, phone bills, you name it! I’m not proud of it but it’s what I did.

Here’s the thing though, I was looking at him, not at myself. I didn’t look at my part in the demise of our marriage. Reviewing the year leading up to the divorce I could have done so many things differently. I could have dealt better with the financial pressures I felt. I was very sad about a miscarriage we had. -The whole fertility road can be so difficult on a marriage. I really pushed for a second child. My beloved dog, Sydney died too. It was a lot. This wasn’t a single crisis this was a string of events that took a toll on me. I just shut down. I wasn’t looking to my husband for support either. All I wanted to do was sleep. I was just so tired. I napped with Donovan when he napped, 2 to 2.5 hours a day. How can you connect with your partner like that? Through all of it though, I never saw a divorce in my future. What I assumed we were experiencing was a “rough patch”.

I didn’t share these heavy feelings and events to make Damian the bad guy because he’s not. There is no bad guy. I shared these feelings and events because even after all the pain and confusion, today Damian is my friend. He is the Father of my son and my partner in raising Donovan. He is a good person and a wonderful Father. I could only see that once I saw my part in our break up. I had to look at my behavior too. I was not a victim. Once I accepted that reality, let go of my ego and heartbreak I was able to create space for a different kind of relationship between my ex-husband and I.

In the end, I am proud of the way we handled the biggest part of the divorce. I am proud of us for not fighting over custody of Donovan. That was NEVER an issue. I never wanted Donovan’s Dad to be taken away. I never felt entitled to more custody because I am the Mother. Damian never tried to upset Donovan’s home life by insisting on more custody either. We knew we needed to provide Donovan with the much-needed stability our divorce would certainly threaten. From the start I think we intuitively put Donovan first.

 

 

All posts here, Twitter, Face Book and Instagram are written by me.

©Surviving Co-Parenting in Hollywood with Charisma Carpenter
January 9, 2014
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

01/06/2014
Charisma and Donovan enjoy swinging when he was young

I got a call from my husband Damian while shooting an episode for Greek on ABC Family. He said we needed to talk. – Never good. I begged him to just tell me what was going on right then because it would be impossible to concentrate at work for the next 10 hours. He insisted we wait to have that conversation until I got home from work.

It must have been 8 or 9 PM when I got home. Damian put Donovan down for bed while I washed my face and put on my pajamas. I sat on the bed and he stood in the doorway of our bedroom. He proceeded to say he was going to stay at our friend’s house for a while. “He wasn’t happy. I didn’t seem happy.”

In my usual way, I piece it together then verbalized the essence, “So you want to separate?” He said he wasn’t willing to go further into the conversation without a therapist present.  HUH? I was totally confused and felt blindsided. The conversation was maybe 10 minutes long. He turned from the doorway, walked out the door and was gone.

It’s a Friday night, I had just celebrated my 37th birthday with Damian earlier that week, I just wrapped up the long work week, I’m in my pajamas, my 4 yr old son is asleep in the other room and my husband just left me. Now what? I wanted answers. I wanted to cry. I wanted to protest. But the answers never came. I STILL don’t know many answers. I did eventually cry, for about 6 months straight. The protesting…useless!

The FIRST time I broke down was at an unexpected time with an unexpected person. – My son’s preschool teacher. She was the softest, warmest, compassionate lady. While explaining to her that Donovan was going through “some changes” at home and if she would keep an attentive eye on him, Ms. Rita put her arms around me and I melted. I just stood there and cried in her arms. It brings tears to my eyes even now as I write this. When I reflect on Ms. Rita’s tenderness toward me, how safe she made me feel, and how vulnerable she allowed me to be….I have no words for my gratitude. Ms. Rita still has my “family” picture up in her classroom to this day. That was 7 years ago.

Ironically, around the events of this time I was reading “Eat, Pray Love” a book about a woman on an adventure of self-discovery. What a freaking coincidence. I was about to begin my own adventure…. the reluctant road to divorce.

We wound up in that therapist’s office the following week. A Tuesday as I recall. There I told Damian he was the love of my life, I would fight for our marriage and I didn’t want a divorce. But he said he didn’t want to be married anymore and if we went to therapy it would be only to discuss how to co-parent Donovan as divorced parents. Whoa – I was devastated! The therapist asked if we wanted to make another appointment. I didn’t want therapy on how to be divorced parents; I wanted therapy on how to reconcile, how to heal our marriage. When I realized that Damian was done, I said no to future appointments.

As we stood silently in the elevator going down both literally and figuratively, I wanted to pound on his chest, cry, yell and scream my feelings of betrayal. During the appointment, through it all, he was so composed. Instead of me acting out, I stood in silence looking down at the floor. The bell to the elevator dinged, the doors opened and we walked our separate ways.

To be continued……

 

 

All posts here, Twitter, Face Book and Instagram are written by me.

©Surviving Co-Parenting in Hollywood with Charisma Carpenter
January 6, 2014
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author

12/30/2013
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I met Damian while on hiatus from Season 2 or 3 of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. We were both in acting class. During that break I decided to hone my acting skills so I enrolled in Iris Klein’s acting class. She taught Sanford Meisner’s technique. This was consistent with my previous training at Playhouse West with Robert Carnegie and Jeff Goldblum. Here love blossomed and so did my abilities in class. Thanks to Iris’s work ethic and expectations of her students, Damian and I spent a lot of time together rehearsing for a scene she assigned us. As weeks went on, we got to know and trust one another as scene partners and friends.

Iris assigned Damian and me to a Clifford Odets play, Golden Boy. The play focused on Joe Bonaparte a talented musician who is offered a prizefight by boxing promoter Roxy Gottlieb. However, the fight could destroy his hands on which he depended and needed as a violinist.

In Golden Boy, Lorna Moon the girlfriend of Roxy Gottleib and Joe fall in love. Damian played the role of the Golden Boy and I played the role of Lorna his forbidden love. It was during one of our rehearsals that I saw Damian for the first time as more than a scene partner or friend.

We had agreed to meet at a fellow student’s home with most of the other students. Rehearsal was scheduled on a Sunday. I went directly after Mass in my Sunday best. When Damian asked me why I was dressed up, I admitted to having attended Church. Rather than judging me, Damian shared about his personal journey with God. Then and there we embarked on an in depth discussion about our values, inspiration and books. That connection was the foundation of our path as a future married couple. It was very refreshing to meet someone in their twenties, in Los Angeles, and in acting school with similar values while simultaneously looking for deeper meaning to their lives. I was not looking for love and I certainly didn’t expect to find it in him. ~He was far too good looking to be so deep and sincere. Ha! Who was judging whom?

We had a very passionate relationship full of dips, twists and uncertainty. However, a friend of Damian’s once described us like this; “If you and Charisma were in speeding cars facing opposite directions you would still end up together.” That was a pretty befitting reference to a couple who met playing a scene from Golden Boy. (Read the play, you’ll see what I mean.)

After about 4 years of a very tried and true love affair we ended up pregnant. Our relationship had never been stronger so this news was truly the highlight of our lives. Damian was the love of my life. We had been through and had overcome so much. Having a child with him made perfect sense to me. To further affirm this truth, when the nurse called me with my pregnancy news I was with my family at the “happiest place on earth”, Disneyland, Splash Mountain to be exact. I still have the souvenir Tee I purchased that day.

Four months later, in October of 2002, we were married in Las Vegas. It was a very small ceremony attended only by family and a couple of very close friends.

My pregnancy for the most part, was pretty healthy. We had one mild scare, but it was mostly, just a hectic time.

I began shooting Season 4 of Angel in late July of 2002. I was pretty nauseous early on and it lasted until the end of my first trimester. Also, while trying to prepare for a baby and work, we began to remodel our bathrooms. ~ I tend to take a lot on but this was a little overwhelming. Construction, and all that comes with that, made it a little nutso. But, in the end, it turned out totally worth it.

Our son Donovan was due March 17th, Saint Patty’s Day. He decided to be 5 days late. My Mom flew into town to share in the joy of her soon-to-be grandson’s birth. However, our little man had other plans. As each day went by we were beginning to stress that he, Donovan, wouldn’t come before her return flight home.

Damian, Mom and I did a lot of eating, shopping, and walking. I was eating anything people suggested I eat to bring on labor. Once while at Pinkberry a lovely couple suggested I eat some Pizza. “That” will do it. It didn’t. Finally I tried acupuncture, that didn’t work either. I did do a lot of sobbing on the acupuncturist’s table though.

I was so totally, utterly scared out of my mind to give birth. I had all these mounting fears, What if something went wrong? What if he wasn’t healthy? What if I have to have a C-section? What if there were complications and he… (I won’t write that!) What if I died? What if I couldn’t go through it without an epidural? I didn’t want drugs in my baby’s system. AND…let’s not forget my fear of the pain! I mean, you know, you’ve seen the screaming women on TV and in the movies. I was terrified! I laid all these fears out on the acupuncturist’s table. She suggested that these fears of mine, might be what was holding Donovan in. She soothed and supported me in the kindest way. -BUT HE STILL DIDN’T COME OUT!

I remember being in Triage at the same time as another woman. I was matching her contractions spasm for spasm. I was POSITIVE I was four centimeters dilated, in active labor, but…the male nurse broke the news to me that I was actually just a “finger nail” dilated. I sank; there was NO WAY I could “hang” without an epidural. Tearfully, I asked Damian if he would be disappointed in me if I got the epidural. Simultaneously, I contemplated if the nurse meant the length or width of a fingernail [dilated.]

Damian was understanding and on board with whatever I felt I needed to do. He was so supportive and present throughout the pregnancy. Together we read the book, “The Bradley Method”. Damian went to all the Doula meetings with me, He silently watched me eat ice cream floats and watched my butt grow, He rubbed my back, and he helped push me out of bed 19 times a night for “nature breaks”, but never complained! He was my partner in this whole adventure. I felt it was more of an “invasion” but it’s fine however you want to classify pregnancy.

I knew I wanted a boy because I wasn’t confident I could handle a girl. I didn’t want a “me”. My Mom used to tease, “ I hope when you have children, you have a girl…Just…Like…You.” – ‘Nuff said. What I really wanted was a healthy child first, however, I took it a bit further. I got specific with God about my “child order”. I also asked for a blue-eyed boy. Just like his Daddy’s eyes. ~ It doesn’t hurt to put it out there, right?! Why not?

After our Structured Ultrasound Doctor’s appointment Damian and I learned the good news that we were having the boy we both wanted. (God must have agreed with my Mom. I wasn’t ready for a girl ) Off to The Grove shopping mall we went. Together we purchased Donovan’s first outfit. I don’t remember driving there. I think we floated on cloud nine.

Back to the birth- So there I was in triage asking for an epidural. While I was being admitted to the hospital, the other lady whom I mentioned before, who was actually in active labor, decided to go home to tough it out some more there. What a trooper! Not me though, I got her “would be” room and boarded the baby delivery train. –Epidural? Yes, please.

A lot of family and friends started showing up. I had probably ten to fifteen people in the room with me awaiting Donovan’s arrival. Including my dear friend Loren, a talented filmmaker, who videotaped the whole thing for me. It was beautiful.

When the real action started though just a few people stayed for the actual delivery. It got tough and a little dicey there for a bit. But, honestly, I was never more joyful, more in love with my husband than during those hours delivering our son. Damian was emotional but a rock for me. He was literally by my side, on his feet, for about thirty-six hours. He held my hand, talked to me in my ear, encouraged me, took every breath with me. We were in it together. Partners!

I was also happy my Mom got to be there, too. It was getting down to the wire but she got to be there. What a great thing to experience with her. I’ll never forget her expression when Donovan arrived. Her eyes were big and glassy from tears. Her hand covered her mouth in raw emotion. He took her breath away.

To this day, I tell Donovan that he is his parent’s love child. Donovan was conceived in love. Even today, after divorce, there is no child more loved and wanted by parents than his parents. (Except your child, of course!) I know this is true. I know because I saw Damian’s eyes. He loved me and I loved him with all we had. He felt my pain, he hurt when I hurt, he cried when I cried, he never left my side until it was time to cut the cord. Our son was and still is the love of our lives.

So…. What happened…?

 

 

All posts here, Twitter, Face Book and Instagram are written by me.

©Surviving Co-Parenting in Hollywood with Charisma Carpenter
December 31, 2013
All Rights Reserved, do not reproduce in whole or in part without the express written consent of the author