Cristy and Megan Simmons
N. California – USA
“Small town – Big hearts”
EPISODE 003: DETAILED SHOW NOTES
Location: A small lovely town in the wine country, between Redwoods and Pacific Ocean, in Northern California, USA.
Podcast recording: The conversation was recorded via video Skype when Ariel was way too tired after a full day with Ella. Skype connection/internet connection was choppy, at best, so some bits lost along the way. And, as well, you will enjoy being a part of Fall/winter food ritual of warming mashed potatoes and homemade apple sauce.
-Taking the high road/good attitude, kids are #1 within reason and not putting kids in the middle, in divorce.
-Sex, drugs and alcohol, family dynamics and importanceof ohana-extended support system.
-Looking at the similarities and differences between countries and driving, being the friend you would like to have, unselfish millenials, music taste, holiday traditions and more.Buzz Sprout Title: Episode 003: Cristy and Megan Simmons –N.California, USA
Explicit language: There wasn’t much, yet, will always warn you!
Motherhood, tantrums and judgment
There is already enough fear and pressure as new mom about what might happen to your children, let alone worrying they will be taken away because you offend someone close by with your parenting techniques.
As habit, Cristy would often prep Megan, in car on the way somewhere, when she felt something bubbling up. She would talk about what what was going to happen, no tantrum throwing and so on, in hopes that all would be cool on their outing (and no one would call CPS!)
Don’t talk smack about others
Ariel talks about how impressed she was about how Cristy is in life and that she always seemed kind and never mean.
Cristy’s attitude is, “You don’t talk shit (smack) about others.”
She strongly says that it is not worth getting sucked into that crap.
Her childhood was not always best, but..
She really learned how important it is to lead by example.
Cristy goes on to tell us that her kids, like herself, don’t get involved in that petty crap.
Not to say that she hasn’t used the world around to invoke lessons. Like if she sees someone is a mess on the street, on drugs, “drugs are bad” and so on.
3 is not a crowd:
Cristy’s daughter, Megan, will be living at home for a year or 2, before she goes for her Masters.
Her 16 year old son, Ryan, will also be there, so it will be the 3 of them, together in one space.
How will they manage it?
Cristy talks about the fact that they have mutual respect at home. They are aware of each other’s schedules. They have to be respectful. And, they know each other well enough to flow.
Her co-workers laugh about how are like-minded the 3 of them are and can see how they know how to ebb and flow around each other. Its about love, respect, etc.
“They are good kids”, says Cristy who makes it clear that she likes her kids.
Cristy talks about the time during her divorce and how intense the period was when they left their dad. A lot was happening and there were issues. But, they managed.
Ariel understands better how strong Cristy to be so positive and keep the kids out of the emotions between she and her ex as she has been in the opposite reality with Mats’ ex.
Ariel would like to bottle up what Cristy did to not put her kids in the middle and give it away to all who need it.
Cristy reflect back that it was the hardest thing she has ever done. She had been married a long time. Yet, it was the right thing for her and for the kids, too. However, it was important that she respected that they didn’t need to cut from their dad just because she did.
She didn’t want the kids or anyone else thinking the kids were pawns to be played with.
But, people forget that.
Just knock it off. It is not OK.
It’s really about your kids. Such a waste of energy to be like that.
Kids are little sponges and it’s not worth it to have this revenge, madness and anger.
You want to hope that people will wake up and realize what they did.
She sees it too often at her work. Kids come into the school office, crying, upset by how they are being pulled around by parents and so on. And, she really would like to bottle what she has figured out and give it to all those parents.
Cristy is now has a workable relationship with ex husband, which surprised Ariel after all the hard days and nights she remembers hearing about from Cristy.
Whether it will ever happen for her own situation with ex wife and daughter is an entirely different thing. Yet, hope of more peace for all around, some day, is enough for the moment.
Kids rely on you to be the parent.
They need you to be one.
Cristy’s daughter, Megan, didn’t get it so well with her dad, in the end, yet she was older. Yet, her son has a much better relationship, though unconventional.
Ariel had an aha moment with dad going both ways knowing each other. Crazy to have this happen at age 37, in Prague.
Kids are number one, with balance
Your kids are number one, but you can’t get lost in it.
“Kids compliment my life.” “They aren’t my reason for living”, says Cristy.
They give you a reason to constantly move forward.
Cristy embraces the human side. In some moments, she is Betty Crocker and as well she gets to go out and be human.
They are number one because they are most important in her life. Yet, she admits that, as much as she might like to at times, she can’t dote on them all day.
Yet, she says she can make sure she has a good job with benefits and a home that is comfy and safe.
Yes, Cristy might like to retire, and she’s a parent, so is responsible as they are her main job.
They are as important as my other work.
The kids need to be happy and contributing to society.
The benefits of being a single mom
When you raise your kids, nearly alone, the good thing is that you get to do the things that make you happy and that you enjoy.
(That seems to be the way to still live, within the demands of daily family life!)
Like one thing Cristy really likes is making things with apples, at this time of year.
Traditions in their family that she/they like?
Fall apples, Halloween décor, etc, collecting ornaments for Christmas.
It says something that Cristy’s 22 year old daughter, Megan, still likes to do the fun things like the making of crafty things etc.
Traditions are important, a comfort, something that many look forward to.
What are your favorite traditions that you have created or passed on?
Cristy says they have a lot.
She didn’t have a lot of traditions with her mom. They didn’t have a lot of money, moved around a lot and so on, so traditions came later when she had settled down with Bopa.
It is super important for Cristy, now to have many traditions and rituals:).
Halloween is all about decorations, putting a fire on and watching Scooby Doo movies.
They also do Thanksgiving every year, which is Megan’s favorite meal.
Christmas Eve is also really important.
Cristy’s step mom continues to come on Christmas Eve, Dec 24, even after her dad died, which is really nice.
Last year, Cristy made a Turducken and it was horrible and everyone said never to do that, again. Normally, they have crab or similar, as its local and fresh.
Now, it is all about Christmas decorations.
November/Fall Cristy and Megan go to antique stores, on the hunt for old Christmas ornaments.
As they go through all the old things, Cristy teaches Megan what things are, like old bacon presses and so on.
Recently, Megan picked up an old fishing reel, at a shop, and said, “is this an apple corer? Oops, nooo, it’s a fishing reel, right? Loads of fun.
Sex, drugs and alcohol
Cristy’s son is very different. “He’s a boy”, she says with a giggle.
He is quiet, but soaks it all in.
When Ryan had a girlfriend, Cristy had the talk about “use protection”. “No babies and no death, please.” “We aren’t going to be one of those families.”
She trusts her kids.
“They are good kids, “ said Cristy.
Her son doesn’t like pot or alcohol. And, has surrounded himself with others who don’t do these things, either.
It’s the same with her daughter, Megan who has never smoked pot in her life.
Cristy was open about her attitude. So, no rebelling happened, as what would be the fun in that?
Living life together as a small family
Ultimately, being a parent is all about doing what you are comfortable with.
Remember, how what you didn’t like, as a teen and now what you like now as adult and how it’s different.
Small town, USA
Living in a small town works well, for Cristy.
Cristy makes her own destiny.. to be happy and she has been lucky a lot of good has come.
Cristy couldn’t have imagined raising kids alone, yet being right in town has been great.
It’s been great. She was less worried about safety, etc with the network all around, in town.
Only once, there was a bank robbery down the street which was a bit scary. She hasn’t worked at that bank in 20 years, yet they called her, knowing she was out of town and her kids would be on way home from school!
Amazingly, just after they got robbed, they called Cristy, right away, and she called dad to check on them and thankfully, all was fine.
A bit scary alone in house with kids, every night. Hasn’t slept soundly since becoming a mom.
Kids can’t hide a lot in a small town, it’s good for her.
You feel less alone and overwhelmed in a small town with the community and family close by.
In expat family reality, life means a lot less support than what Cristy spoke about. We have to often hire support and family is far away. Of course, depending on where you live, community has a different feeling.
The family and community you create is vital. Where is your support system.
As the lone protector you are always 1/2 awake and aware. You don’t get to shut down. I feel the same when we are in our cabin in Sweden, whereas in our apartment, you feel somewhat safer, though that said, we do keep all things locked, unlike in countryside in states, years ago.
The surprises of motherhood
Until you have the kids, you just don’t fully realize, then mother bear comes out.
They are 1st our responsibility.
Mom/Woman balance is tricky.
Ariel is still working on it. It is a river that is ebbing and flowing, all the time.
Cristy has been mostly on her own, yet was lucky for family and community support.
Hardest things about being a mom?
Ryan is quiet. Megan, has always been a chatter box.
Constant input and overload.
A lot of bribery to survive going out.
Often Cristy would write a list, yet forget it.
So much stimulation.
Online shopping when Ella sleeps is essential and saves the day, forAriel.
Yet, clothing shopping is needed, yet nearly impossible.
A couple of words that might represent Cristy’s kids?
Megan: Independent, intelligent and vivacious.
Ryan: Quiet, thoughtful and hilarious.
Ryan.. thoughtful as in thinking, not as in brings mom flowers, ha ha.
Cristy’s theme song:
She has several favorites. This is a hard question.
When driving it would be for sure “Rage against the machine“
The Armenian group: “System of the down“
Aggressive and melancholy, yet she likes it.
Road trip or sitting by lake she likes harder things.
Later: Electric light orchestra
50s, 69s, 70s shole music
Sad: Cat Steven’s
Sound tracks of Grease and Blues Brothers
Ariel hated it for years, yet, now it brings her home.
She would often say that she never wanted to be in her shit kicking town, yet now see the place very differently.
Ariel watched Megan grow up in pieces, over time.
Experienced Cristy and Megan as a good relationship.
Megan says it’s true, they rarely scream at each other.
During the divorce, Megan screamed a lot more.
Yet, now it is mainly Ryan and Megan who scream at each other.
Overall they have a good relationship.
What drove Megan nuts and what was great with Cristy?
Other moms vs. Cristy
Megan says her mom thinks she is better than others and yet won’t admit that she feels that her way is the only and best way, which annoys her, a bit.
Yet, between Cristy and other moms, Megan sees Cristy as cooler and more supportive.
Her mom protects, but not as much as others.
The kids grew up young, but more prepared for life and college, etc.
Cristy was there, but taught her to do a lot alone.
Megan has a lot of friends that weren’t ready.
Megan is happier to have a mom who doesn’t do everything for her, yet is available, if needed.
Now, Megan is living at home, again, as housing in Northern California is way to expensive, at this point.
Now, she is prepping for grad school, re-doing her bedroom and figuring out what comes next. Some parents force you to stick to what you started. Cristy let’s Megan ask for help which is tough sometimes..
Megan doesn’t often ask for help.
Cristy will check in, but really gives Megan plenty of space.
It is hard for Megan to admit that she needs help as she is stubborn and feels like its admitting defeat.
She feels she “should” be able to handle yourself.
What stands out in your life with family/mom?
What works with their dynamics? Challenges?
Cristy didn’t have an easy childhood and neither did Ryan and Megan.
(Microwave sound, making mashed potatoes)
They have gone on a lot of trips compared to many two-parent families.
Claddagh ring and tattoo and Irish necklace are seen on Skype screen.
Grandpa, mom and Megan all got tattoos on her birthday.
Megan feels her ohana, so many that would do anything for her.
Her boyfriend’s parents have known her since birth, etc, a lot of male community, even if not her dad.. who step up to be dad, uncle, etc..
Important to have others around, too.
“It’s the friends you can call up at 4 a.m. that matter.”
Cristy is this person for Megan.
And, Megan is the same for people around her. Megan says that this speaks to who her mom is.
Community, family and who you are makes you who you are.
( Megan, now enjoying eating mashed potatoes and homemade apple sauce)
If others had, had more of a hand in raising her, she is sure, she wouldn’t be this person.
In the case of the guy she drove home who was drunk, she didn’t even like him, but….
If you couldn’t sit at home and watch a movie and cry, like I might, says Ariel. “What would you listen to, to lift you up?
Megan’s theme songs:
Megan likes all different kids of things.
Rap, Classic rock, Hiphop
What does Megan listen to, to lift her up?
Not a song, but an artist..
Inappropriate.. but, ..
Usually Eminem.. if she can keep up with one of the songs, then she can say..”yes, I did that today.” Most is listened to in her car.
Ah, in the car. Ariel misses the listening domain of the car, as she and Mats had to give their car back to his work when that job unexpectedly finished. So, luckily it’s easier in Prague without a car as there is a lot of reliable transport to all corners of city and country..
American and cars
In Northern California, you are stuck with unreliable busses etc.
The car, is a completely different reality than being on transport. Volume up and rocking out to your favorite music, it is just a different scene.
30 years later, in this area, the city/county bus is still impossible to use easily, so you basically have to have a car if you ever want to leave town.
At one point, Ariel made more friends at El Molino because she didn’t want to take any bus, so, would hitch rides with others leaving school.
Megan talks about how they are finally down to only 1 car, each (3 cars).
Before, they had 5 extra cars, though all broken.
Usual in Europe is that people get their license at 18 and many times they don’t even use them. Never mind so many cars at home. That is nearly unheard of.
Ariel seems to remember that her step-daughter has her license, but doesn’t use it. (Not 100%) on that, now.) Yet, likely, in the city, there is not a lot of opportunity or with great transport/metro everywhere, it simply isn’t needed.
Megan talks about her experience in Paris (funny enough, not even realizing that is same city Ariel’s step daughter lives in) and how she thought she would spend the rest of her life on a 7 lane round about that a family friend was driving in.
She says, the couple 2 lane round bouts they have nearby, in California, are plenty for her.
Last thoughts on holiday traditions
Any favorite traditions?
Megan isn’t sure if they have weekly traditions.
These days, her mom is often gone on weekends, so they do their old rituals, less often.
Yet, Sundays on the couch, watching movies is big favorite.
Halloween is the décor favorite, corny cheesy Halloween movies that they have watched since she was born. Thanksgiving and Christmas they celebrate too, but it’s different.
They will go to 23:00 late night Rocky Horror Picture Show and will likely dress up.
Europeans don’t get the culty ritual with Rocky Horror Picture show, it is quite the experience!
Halloween is still fairly new to us here in Czech. Mostly only expats celebrate, though more and more activities now starting to pop up around the city.
They have one little neighborhood at the edge of Prague that does decorations and trick or treating, etc. And, a couple pumpkin farms that really get creative.
Ariel introduced her step son to all the American Halloween ritual and he thought it was so cool when they went trick or treating and was excited to pick out a nice and ugly mask.
Little Ella is now enjoying all that comes with Halloween. This year she decided she wanted to be wonder woman and/or a buzzy bee. We will see. (she wore both. Wonder woman all week during day and Buzzy bee in the evening of Halloween when we went trick or treating)
Ariel was also thinking about what they actually have as Fall Halloween traditions, other than Halloween. All Saints day at the same graveyard every year and candle rituals to remembering the dead, with Ella and occasionally Mats.
Though they had just picked up a bunch of free apples on their street, from neighbors, so Ariel will make something as a cheers to Cristy and Megan and Northern California Apple Harvest season. (Ariel made chunky apple sauce with cinnamon, as it is a big favorite in the house)
Thanks for everything, Megan.
Wrap up with Ariel and Mats:
We talked a bit about how our own parents approached safer sex conversations.
School and that Ariel’s cousin did most of the talking to Ariel about safer sex and all.
Mats’ dad just screamed at he and his sister.
Mats likes the sound of small town, USA and community.
Ariel ran from that small town reality and rumors, etc. Needed more privacy. Yet, now, that is what makes having a family there, great. Being in a small town is more personal than a city.
Here we are in a safe city, but you approach it differently than in a small town.
Millenials aren’t all selfish. It’s about values and trust. Helicopter parents need to step back and let their kids make mistakes or get it right and build that confidence and be good people on the planet.
Thank you Cristy and Megan for sharing your stories and being so open!