If You Give a Mom a Moment

me and kiddos

Each summer my big girl makes a 5 or 6 week visit to her dad. On top of that, I share custody of my youngest so I get her every other week. So at times when they are both away, I am forced to take…a moment.

I know I am not alone in my situation – there are plenty of other parents that have to experience this. I used to get intensely sad and mope for days and even fall into a depression about it. But I have slowly been able to turn my perspective of void and sadness to joy and happiness.

So, what is the big turn around?

My girls and I really enjoy the If You Give a Mouse a Cookie series. We are always making up our own goofy versions. So here’s a nod to Laura Numeroff, the author, and a feeble attempt at a parody on it to try to explain how things turned around for me.

If You Give a Mom A Moment…

At first she will be sad. Saying good bye is hard. Chances are, she will cry. She will try not to cry in front of her child, but if she does, chances are, she will realize moping around and acting like a victim or martyr, borders on emotional manipulation and only robs everyone of happiness. If she wants her children to be strong, well-adjusted people – she will want to model that.

And if she is modeling healthy role-model behavior, chances are she will eventually find humility – She will have to accept that she alone, is not enough for her children. That her kids need their dad(and step mom if there is one, and many other relatives) in their lives to keep them stable, happy and confident. It takes a village. Really.

Once she is humbled, chances are, she will just want her children to be happy. She will realize that as long as her kids want to spend time with their dad and he wants to spend time with them, it is ALWAYS a positive and wonderful thing. So she will foster that relationship like crazy (regardless of her past and personal history with her ex. Because she will realize it is not all about her).

And chances are, if she sees how happy her kids are, it will change her perspective. She will realize there are much harder things people are dealing with, and that this is a very temporary time apart.

When she realizes this time apart is only temporary, chances are she will spring into action and want to take advantage of the fleeting moment.

She will want to deep clean, and even down-size STUFF!

And since she is cleaning and decluttering, chances are, she will sift through the mountain of randomness that inevitably collects in the open real estate of unused kitchen corners and dispose, dispose, dispose…and file the 3 things she actually needs to keep.

Since she cleaned up all that clutter, chances are she will want to get organized and figure out how to prevent that from happening again.

She will probably spend some time on pinterest searching really cool ways to organize stuff.

And since she is on pinterest, chances are, she will see images of women that appear to have it altogether and are enjoying life.

When she sees images of these women being carefree, she will remember a time when she was carefree.

It might remind her that the only person holding herself back from being carefree right now is her, and she will want to claim some quiet time herself.

She will probably sit still and do nothing for awhile. She will be reminded of a time before children where there was no one constantly bumping her, stepping on her toes (literally), poking her, sitting on her, and interrupting every 5 seconds.

And when she thinks about not being interrupted, chances are, she will want to spend some time with her spouse completing full sentences and thoughts and catching up with the person she fell in love with.

When she spends time with her spouse, she will probably talk about her dreams and hobbies. She will want to work on recording music she has written, work on books that need finished and published, sift through electronic pictures and maybe get some printed out. She might even want to paint, and experiment with new art forms.

Painting will remind her of wine and canvas nights and time with her own friends. Chances are, she will make a few dates with her friends and go out and have a blast, without needing to ensure everyone is safe, comfortable, and properly hydrated (and bug sprayed, or sun screened, or have enough snacks on hand, or needs a hair tie, or has to go potty or…)

And when she spends time with her friends, they will probably end up talking about their children. She will get to vent about life and parenthood, and then brag a little about her kids. Chances are, she will compare notes, and get some great advice.

And when she gets some great advice, it will probably make her reflect on what she is doing well as a mom, what she could do better, and take some time to read up on how to influence instead of nag. How to partner, not be nosy.

And while she is reflecting, chances are, she will probably miss her kiddos. She might even shed a few tears…

But this time they are not tears of pure sadness, but of completeness. And when she realizes how far she has come…chances are, she will want to have a moment.

The quiet and important distractions that keep me sane

 

On these days without my child because I have shared parenting, I look forward to the quiet and important distractions that keep me sane.  Without them I would be a sobbing, devastated mess…dwelling on missed hugs, smiles, spontaneous laughter, and sweet little kisses. 

Really – I know this first hand because I was a sobbing devastated mess for a few years until I learned to turn those quiet distractions into moments of strength and clarity.

I learned that I get to focus on the quiet or sweet silence – something that I don’t get to experience when she is around.  I have learned to embrace this quietness – something that once grieved me now fills me up.  It is a re-energizing moment.  A moment to breathe.    The silence that once screamed of voidness (which is apparently not a word) and loss now comforts me and provides moments of reflection, clarity, balance. 

Honestly – I used to kiss my sweet girl goodbye with a strong happy face mask, close the door and sink to the floor in a fetal position and sob.  Snot dripping, knife-like inflicted pained sobbing.  Though I still do smell pillows and pajamas left behind, it is more of a bittersweet/happy reminder – a promise I will embrace her again soon…not a devastating never ending loss. 

That was not a wise way to live back in those slow internal death days, but I guess I had to get it out…so I could move on to this next level of coping.  A healthier way.

I have some friends who have lost their children at such young innocent ages to pediatric cancers and tragic accidents.  Their tragedies have also helped mold and form my newly found composure – by putting my situation into perspective.  My pity parties have definitely been curbed as I have seen these families deal with the most unimaginable horror, with grace, honesty and beauty.  I realized how ridiculous I was being by dwelling on the negatives rather than the positives. 

But everything has a cycle.  If you are in the beginning of your journey of a new divorce with forced time away from your babies…take heart, but also know that it’s ok to cry, sob and grieve like you’re dying.  Get it out, but don’t stay there.  You can camp out for the night at pity party alley, but you can’t live there.  That’s not for you – or for your kids when you do have them.

Here are some tangible and wonderful distractions to do with your forced silence:

  • First of all – Make a list of places you want to go and things you want to do that you could only really enjoy alone or in adult company.  This is important because you WILL forget.  Depression can set in fast and you need that “Go to list” as something to look forward to.  These ideas usually come to you while your kids are with you (let’s be real for a moment – you know those moments in time when they are driving you crazy and you start thinking things like “OMG – I could SO being doing this or that…”  Those This or That’s are the starting points for your new list of things to do when they are away – so make notes.  On your hand, a gum wrapper or these days – a text to yourself. 
  • If you are having trouble thinking of something to do – take some time to remember who you were before – we sometimes lose ourselves in a relationship, a divorce, or parenthood.  Who were you before?  What did that person love to do?  Remember your hobbies and start making time for them again.
  • Sign up for art classes.  Water color, acrylic, oil, tile mosaics, floral arranging – don’t limit yourself.  JoAnnes, Michaels, and other hobby stores often have free or reasonably priced lessons.  Or look up different techniques on line – some great learning videos on youtube these days.
  • Go to a Lowe’s or Home Depot Do it Yourself Workshop.  (You know… I am women…hear me roar!  I don’t need a man to fix THAT, thank you). Sorry guys – you can attend to.  No shame in not knowing how to assemble a door knob…but maybe now’s the time to learn that new skill. 
  • Sign up to blow glass if that is available near you
  • Call up a friend and make time to reconnect.  Friends are not telepathic and do not keep track of your personal schedule of when you do or don’t have your kids. Swallow your pride and initiate the call. You will both be glad you did.  
  • Find some live music and actually go and listen
  • Pick up a local “things to do” magazine and start circling interesting places and things you want to do or see that you never even knew existed right in your own town.
  • Head to the library for something for…YOU!  Not the kiddie section. In fact – purposely avoid the kid section.  This is your time.  It’s ok to guard it selfishly because let’s face it – you have no choice.  Own it girl (or guy).
  • Organize those 5000 photos you have downloaded on the computer and have never printed out.
  • Go to a coffee house
  • Go Shopping
  • Go Hiking
  • Go Kayaking
  • Go Biking
  • Find a stream or creek…and just listen and breathe it in…as long as you want to.  No shirt tugging and restless whining to hurry to on to the next thing.
  • Take a book or an Ipod to a nature reserve.  Hike, find a peaceful place and read, or listen to the wind in the trees or your favorite music. 
  • Take time to find some new music or artists.  There is more to life than Dora the Explorer and Disney Channel and it’s ok to find it, and embrace it.  Look for Indie Artists. Utilize Pandora, Spotify, etc.  There is a whole world of really great music and artists that never get mainstream radio that you need to hear. 
  • If you have a weekend – take a trip!  By car, by plane.  Go visit a long distant friend. 
  • Bake something.  Again – something grown up that you enjoy.  No mac and cheese or hot dogs here.  Spoil yourself a little.
  • Take a cooking class. 
  • You never had time for the gym before – well guess what doll?  Now you have time!  Do it.
  • Take a spinning class.
  • Eventually and only when you are healed and honestly ready…start contemplating the idea of dating.  But make sure you are not looking for someone to heal your wounds or “complete” you.   That is a dangerous lie and trap.  You don’t need rescued.  Chances are you will only end up in another heart break.  Take this time to really find you.  This is a gift – a rebirth!!  Once you have done your mourning – Embrace it.  Never forget who you are again.  Then promise yourself that you will never lose yourself again.  If you ever do find someone worthy of you – they will have to accept you for the amazing person you are and not want to change you.

When you learn the art of taking these moments to re-build you, to rejuvenate you – you will in turn be a stronger, healthier, better parent.  You have to take time to lick those wounds, but find a balance.  As you get stronger and better adjusted you can take advantage of more and more of these wonderful spirit building quiet and important distractions that will keep you sane.

Mowing Season

I mowed my own grass this weekend. Now that doesn’t sound like much of an accomplishment, and on the surface it isn’t. But for me it was a big deal. I got to do a lot of thinking while I just walked and mowed. It marks not only a new season of growing for the grass…but for me too.

2 years ago I was suddenly completely unaware I had grass in my yard. It seems like I forgot I even had a yard. I was in complete shock as I had just discovered that my husband who I had mistaken for the love of my life was having an affair on me with a woman from his work that I had met several times.

The shock and awe of it all consumed me. On top of it all, this was happening while I was pregnant and just had our sweet baby girl. Trying to come to terms with the double life he and she had been leading for years was almost more than I could handle. I shut down.

The house and yard and the many blessings that I had been so thankful for became a strange, unfamiliar place. Everything I thought I knew…was a lie. I unattached myself from it all for a period of time. Partly just to survive. I learned a serious lesson – that it is ok to ask for help, and admit you can’t do life all alone – especially when you are injured.

No one would expect someone to keep up with all the housework, yard work, and children all alone if they had just had triple by pass surgery. But most people were largely unaware of the gaping hole in my heart because no one could physically see it. My dad and wonderful stepmom had mercy on me and came to mow my grass. In between that I paid to have it done.

I simply didn’t have the capacity, wits, or ownership left in me to do it. I had a new born, and a six year old at the time and was suddenly a single mom, in the true since of it. My husband had always traveled extensively and I was alone a lot, but I was now living in a shell of a house, shattered dreams and reliving every moment I had lived the 2 years previously realizing that nothing was what I thought it was.

She had been in this house. She had violated my space. She touched my children. She ate meals that I cooked and or bought for her. He was texting her and giving himself away to her under this roof we shared – sometimes while the children and I were in the same room I found out by looking at the phone logs! This house was no longer our house. The yard was no longer our yard. It was a fallen battle ground. It was a sad reminder of the carnage and loss I had suffered.

HOWEVER…that kind of mentality doesn’t last forever. I have to say – it is important to mourn, and get it all out.

But then MOVE ON.

I have mowed my grass twice already this season. I no longer see this place as a shell, or a battleground of defeat. It is just the opposite. This is now a place of victory. We made it…well…me and the girls. We survived. A bit bruised, a loss of innocence too soon, but stronger and more aware.

I am getting ready to hand the house over to him. I am getting my name off of it and he can pick up the pieces that he scattered all over the place. He was gone for so long – under the convenient disguise of “business travels”. And he has continued to dodge a lot of the reality and responsibility of being a full time parent and home owner. I can only hope that at some point he will grow up.

It’s kind of funny or ironic that just when I am able to start feeling capable of caring for a big place like this on my own, that I am now ready to give it up. I consider it just another sign of healing. A sign of awareness. A renewed since of independence, emotional maturity and glimpses of clarity. And lots of prayer, good friends and support.

I’m ready for whatever lies next. Whether it’s a condo, or an apartment where I don’t have to mow…or whether it is a little place to make our own where we get to bring our own mower and I get to mow to my hearts content.

Look out world…I found my walking and mowing shoes…

It’s mowing season.

vroom, vroom!

Uncomfortably Numb

The pressure is on. I am overwhelmed. There is honestly more to do and accomplish in all areas of my life right now then I am capable of achieving. I feel…uncomfortably numb.

I need to find a place to live for me and my girls…and one cat.

Yes – that means I need to find my other cat, aka, miniature panther a new home.

I need to have a tremendous yard sale and downsize a ton of stuff so I don’t have to move unused “stuff” to the new place – wherever that will be.

I need to find full time child care for at least the summer if not full time, permanent care for the girls.

Before I can secure full time child care, I have to fight and win the battle that my ex mother in law should not be the sole child care giver as is presently the case. This is because of inconsistency in availability and also my personal fear for her long term health and strain that would be put on her – spending 50 hours a week with a very busy, independent, fast 2 year old.

Because of my point directly above, I am wasting hours of my already overly busy day trying to secure child care to cover for certain events or needed absences of my current child care giver, and arguing my case to my deaf, mentally stunted and reality challenged ex.

I am working a very busy full time job that I am so very thankful to have but currently is so demanding that I am lucky to stuff a bite of food in my face in between meetings and managing projects. Still fairly new, so I am still on a learning curve. Feeling the pressure of knowing “just enough” to feel fairly responsible, but still clueless enough to not feel confident yet.

All this while being a single mom. Coming home mentally exhausted, helping with homework, fixing dinner, cleaning up, tending to all the household chores (laundry, trash out, kitty litter changed, vacuuming, etc…all of which usually gets neglected), getting the kids bathed, and to bed before 8:30 (usually closer to 9).

Then there are extra curricular activities for both the kids and myself. Good activities…play dates, art classes, girl scouts, sunday school, vacation bible school, women’s ministry meetings, focus groups, and all the meetings and research that go with all that too.

Trying to find time for my great girl friends and a really neat and special person that I would like to spend time with, but struggle to see more than once or twice a week and usually less.

So where is my time to play piano? My love…I miss it. Where is my time to dream, write, create? Where is my time to finish my website and books and CD’s and all the things that make me feel alive? And why do I feel so guilty for even wanting or hoping for those things?

I am so very tired and feel like I am failing miserably at everything. Work, motherhood, juggling tasks, being a good friend – I am not doing a great job at ANY of these things right now.

I feel like I am on some strict task master schedule, reacting…not having time to really think things through very thoroughly. I don’t have a lot of time to analyze how people “feel” right now. I barely have time to figure out how I feel about anything.

I am shutting down. I feel numb. Uncomfortably numb. I know I am not alone. I know everyone else probably feels like this in one capacity or another. I am also thankful that moments in time like this won’t last forever. In 3-5 months some of these things will be done and some relief will be granted. There is comfort in knowing that nothing lasts forever.

But I can still dream. That is remarkable to me. Not sure why or how I can still do it, but I do still dream. It keeps me going. I have tried to stop, but I can’t. Dream of making a difference, being a great mom, a good friend, a published author, a song writer, and to one day be loved or cherished…whatever that really means.

Yet I have to accept that I may never achieve, be or have any of those things. It’s a delicate balance. I fall of the beam frequently.

So for now, I just have to keep going. Keep moving. Keep reacting. Doing the very best I can simply do. Giving my all. Hoping it is enough. One step at a time.

Hook, Line and Stinker

Hook: My 2 year old sees opportunity…she goes over and grabs my 8 year old’s favorite stuffed animal.

Line: My 8 year old starts whining dramatically and grabs it back.

Stinker: My 2 year old starts screaming and possibly even hits big sister.

All out battle commences.

Heavy sigh.

Sibling rivalry is not my forte. It is not even something I can apparently tolerate or understand…and my girls are masters at it. If there was an olympic sport for such a thing (which may only be a matter of time) I am quite certain they would win the gold.

They feed off each other. The little one, in particular, who is very “two” is quite the instigator. My older one who is a very dramatic “eight” does a phenomenal job of sinking down to the 2 year old level at the speed of light. As the barometric pressure descends at a rapid pace like this, the conditions are just right for a mommy sized thunderhead to form without a lot of warning.

Somedays I am better emotionally equipped and it may take a lot to rattle me. But some days, when I am already exhausted from working and bogged down with household chores they can strike right to my core. Without sophisticated doppler like radar, they are sitting ducks in the path of hurricane like discipline storm.

So, yes, I stoop down to the 2 year old level quite rapidly too on these ungraceful moments. OMG – who is driving this ship of fools? It is pretty obvious that it is the 2 year old of the house. She’s the captain. I go wayward of my duties of steering the ship on course and hand the wheel over to my very incapable 2 year old and 8 year old first mate.

But never for long. I come to my senses and muster up some kind of super natural strength and take the wheel. My super hero mommy powers come out and I am able to manage to reason with them, explain the consequences, and when all else fails…threaten grounding for life.

My sweet lovies are truly trying sometimes. They are a handful. They can wear you out. But they are also such amazing gifts. Each one with their own personalities, strengths and weaknesses. They are both so precious and beautiful, and I can hardly believe sometimes that of all the people in the world…I get to be their mommy!

They have plenty of sweet moments together too. My older one will read books to little sister. They play outside together for hours – exploring the wild, pretending to be orphans or animals, and all kinds of great make believe stuff.

And I know they love each other. They miss each other when they are apart. And sometimes when I am trying to get “tidbit” to nap, she will run to the saving arms of big sister in attempts to be “saved” as if I am some kind of dragon or or something (which is actually very funny). And sometimes they play “Boxcar Children” and act out stories…this usually involves some make shift fort like structure.

But on any given day, they nit pick at each other and I do struggle with this whole siblings at war thing. It is so painful to me because my brother and I never had any of that. I don’t even know how to approach it because it is such a foreign concept to me.

I would love to hear some suggestions or advice from you parents out there with kids. I need to know some techniques to help dissolve this whole bait and switch banter that goes on around here on any given day. I am weary and need help on how to stop the hook, the line, and the very cute little stinker.

My Tattered Blanket of Faith

Love never gives up. Santa Claus is real.

Which of the above statements are true? Either? Both?

What is a kid supposed to think? What am I supposed to think? What do I tell my kids?

One day they will soon know that I have been lying to them about Santa.

They have seen love give up through divorce. They know that some love DOES give up. But yet we read in the bible that love never gives up.

What does that look like? How do you distinguish between the love of this world, and the love of some spiritual book? How do we know this book is not just fiction anyway? The work of men just like me desperate to believe in a love much bigger and far reaching than anything we might experience in this wretched world.

Faith, love, hope. It’s a beautiful thing to want to believe. Without it…what do we really have? But are these stories any more real than Santa Clause?

At times it is so tempting to contemplate throwing away even my faith. It’s like my faith plays tricks on my mind now and then like one of those 3D pictures. I can try so hard sometimes and still not see the 3D image but then suddenly, when I finally relax – I see it! But then, just as quickly as I found it, it goes away. Leaving me to wonder if I really even saw it, or did I just “think” I saw it because I wanted to believe it was really there?

Some legalistic Christians may say I must not really have faith or really believe then if I even have these thoughts. I would answer – maybe you are not being really honest. If you have a brain – you wonder these things sometimes. It is not a sin to wonder. But when does doubt cross that line and actually become a sin?

Sometimes I find myself a rebellious child…crossed arms, piss poor attitude…tapping my foot and rolling my eyes with a huffy puff blowing my disheveled hair out of my face…thinking, “Sure God, really? You really expect me to believe in you? As if you actually are there AND care about me?”

Then I commence to carry on as if I have no idea what love really is and have a full blow pity party. I become impatient with my children, I model bad behavior, I fall down on being the steward I am supposed to be. I temporarily throw love and faith out the window and think I have to do everything “myself” and alone. I completely shut out the idea that love is patient, kind, slow to anger, and to consider my trials as pure joy…etc.

Being a single parent is the hardest job out there. Being one with little to no help is nearly unbearable. There are moments that I am quite convinced I am not capable of doing it. At these moments Love abandons me. Or more accurately, I abandon love. I deny it. Maybe it was never there to begin with…perhaps it is all a work of fiction.

But then, I find myself longing for it…the comfort of it.

My beautiful eight year old has a blanket. This blanket is 9 years old. She has had it since she was an infant. It is so faded and tattered that you can barely tell that it is light blue and you cannot see the white clouds that used to be so prevalent. Only if you knew what it looked like when it was new could you even see a hint of the clouds. You might even begin to wonder if they were every really there to begin with.

I have to be honest…this precious blanket of hers repulses me. I am glad she has a comfort thing, and I try to wash it a few times a month, but when we snuggle up close, I make a point of making sure that blanket is not near my face. It’s just kind of yucky to me.

One day I know she will have to part with her beloved blanket. She will out grow it. It will become embarrassing. It will eventually fall completely apart. One day she will probably even forget all about it. But right now, it is very real to her…very comforting…very necessary.

If one day she when she is old and grown and she does forget about it…does it mean it never existed?

I always keep coming back to it. No matter how faded or washed out it looks sometimes. I keep coming back to this idea that faith and love really exist. To me it is very real, very comforting…very necessary.

My biggest fear, I guess is that sometimes I do such a terrible job of representing love, that perhaps everything that I think I might believe in and hold dear actually becomes repulsive to others. Not that I live my life trying to convert anyone into believing what I believe, but something even bigger – that I make love and faith a confusing, twisted, unrecognizable thing.

Sometimes I misplace it. Sometimes I throw it across the room. Sometimes I hide it and pretend like I don’t have it because it might be a little embarrassing sometimes. But I always come back to this idea of faith and love that covers over me, comforts me, accompanies me where I might take it. I wonder if one day I will ever out grow it or abandon it. And even if I did – would it mean that it never existed?

All I know is that I would probably be completely hopeless without it. If fiction or real, I cling to it. Even if it is repulsive to some, I can’t seem to part with it. No matter how careless I handle it sometimes…I always somehow manage to find and hold on to my tattered blanket of faith.

Removing your own internal organs

When you go through a divorce with children the cliche phrase “It feels like my heart is being ripped out”, becomes more than just a dramatic statement. It is about the only way to accurately describe the manifestation of the pain you emotionally feel…but for me – I physically felt it. My heart physically hurt…my whole body hurt.

I even starved myself for awhile and I found out somewhere along the way that it wasn’t just because I was not hungry – but it dawned on me that I actually “liked” the pain of being hungry all the time because it kind of masked the pain in my heart!

In my case it was all so shocking. I had just had our daughter when I found out about the affair my husband had been having for a year and maybe more. Though we had not had the most stellar of marriages, I honestly did not see that coming. He was traveling excessively, I was a pregnant stay at home mom – and these situations can cause some stress on any marriage. We were finally having a baby together for heaven’s sake! For some odd reason I thought we were on the same team!

So when I found out about it and the way I found out about it (phone records and hotel receipts) I was in shock. I even fought to somehow overcome it and keep the marriage together, but he didn’t want that. He had already moved on.

It was completely bizarre to me. After all the professions of his love to me – I was the golden girl that got away. His childhood dream girl that he finally got to be with. The one he had been waiting, hoping and dreaming of his whole life. No…I really didn’t think he would so easily jump on board another train at such a critical time. Blah Blah Blah…

The shock and pain of a marriage dying and crumbling was bad enough…but there were children involved.

So to say my heart felt like it was being ripped out is kind of an understatement. More accurately – it felt like I was being asked to remove my own major internal organs. Reading over all the legal documentation and trying to work out visitation schedules – this is specifically where it felt like I was reading instructions from some foreign piece of paper and trying to slit open my body and figure out which organ is the right one to take out.

First of all – I never wanted the divorce and secondly – now I am being asked – “So which major holidays would you like to willingly give up your child for?” WHAT?!?! And the questions are asked with such coldness and ease – as if this were just the most normal question in the world. While my spouse is across the table acting like this IS the most normal thing in the world. OMG! My heart is racing, I feel like passing out…where is the door, some help…something!”

It felt like I was in some science fiction movie where nothing was making sense. I am being asked to decide or do something that I really shouldn’t be asked to EVER do! And everyone is just staring with normal expressions on their face handing me the pen, asking me to sign so nonchanlantly. I want to scream “I am being asked to sign something that says I willingly agree to NOT be with my lovies on certain days!! What kind of mom does that make me?!?!?! What kind of person does that make me?”

Can you just imagine someone handing you a knife and spinning a wheel with different internal organs to see which one it lands on and then ask you to go ahead and cut yourself open and hand that one over.

Maybe I am being ridiculous, but you moms and dads of the world out there try waking up to an empty house on Easter morning and see if I am really ridiculous. It is just not normal. It feels completely foreign. I am lost. Despite the joy that I am supposed to feel on this day, I feel like I am missing all the best parts of me.

And if any of you want to throw at me – “Just focus on what Easter is really about – Jesus”…Well I would ask you to think before you talk, because the irony of your statement reaches hypocrisy at an alarming rate. Because this holiday is so important to me and because I do love God and Jesus and all that – it makes it even a bit harder because that is also part of what I want to share with my girls who are not waking up in their beds this morning with their sweet little faces and voices and snuggles.

And yes – then there is the “pagan” rituals – like Easter egg hunts and little girls in beautiful spring dresses and bonnets. And though I took my little one to an egg hunt yesterday – I am still hearing the sounds of laughter and joy from other kids right outside my window – the neighbor kids that my girls should be right there mixed in with. It is kind of sad when a childrens laughter is actually a source of sadness.

Despite how much I have worked on buliding “me” back up and working towards restoration…this is the part that will probably never be OK. Not being with my children during important holidays that mean so much to me will probably never be “comfortable”.

I think I have talked a big talk and made it sound like it does get better in time. Maybe it does…I guess even people who have had internal organs actually removed can survive sometimes depending on the criticalness of the organ itself. But that person is never really the same. They are always missing that part of themselves.

I guess if anyone out there that is still married – if you have ever considered divorce as a simple option – or even a not so simple option – I would just encourage you to think about it. Are you ready to do a self inflicted surgery on yourself?

Happy Easter.

Land mines and Granite

I can hardly believe it has been 2 years since the man that I thought was my soul mate walked out. He said it had nothing to do with the woman he had been caught in an affair with. I wonder if that was supposed to make me feel better or worse? But he stuck to his guns and I am finally realizing he did me the biggest favor.

I grieved the loss of the marriage for over a year…I mean deep, snot nosed, pathetic grieving. That first year was shock and survival. This past year was at first a year of anger, but it has given way to acceptance, and more importantly – peace. I am thankful to be at peace…something that I can’t imagine he can honestly feel – but the great thing at this point is that I am done caring how he feels – it simply isn’t my issue anymore.

The hardest part for me was accepting the crashing and trashing of sacred vows. It was supposed to be a unity, under God. I thought it was something pristine, coveted. It was also the foundation of our baby girl. It was very, very hard to understand and accept the answer NO, from God – of all my honest, desperate prayers and pleas to restore the marriage.

But sometimes the answer is no. I never understood that back then. How could God not want to keep intact or restore a “Godly” instiution and covenant? The answer I am seeing now is that the answer was NO before I even forced the I DO out of my mouth. I chose to ignore blatant signs from the very beginning.

There were tell tale signs of his arrogant, selfish, egocentric, extravagant self spending, controlling and opinionated personality right from the beginning, but I chose to overlook it. WHY? I guess I thought that I was being too critical. Also, perhaps I was lonely, not even recovered from my last divorce. I never took the time to grieve that first loss before I did the taboo – and remarried right away. Hello? Stupid girl…what were you thinking?

I was thinking that I had to have a man to complete me, is what I was thinking. I was thinking I needed to be in some kind of relationship to be happy, or normal, or picture perfect…or God only knows what. The point is – I was probably thinking too much and not following my heart or gut instincts. I had never done that before, and I didn’t even know how to do that.

So when the marriage started falling to pieces I simply couldn’t understand why God was not doing the miracle that I knew only He could perform and save this ugly situation and make something glorious out of it. By the way – I still believe that could have happened…but that takes two…or in this case – three, if you want to include the Holy dude himself.

For the first time in my life – I really started understanding the gift of free will. We are all given this freedom to make choices in life. I had the free will to ignore all the red flags and force myself into a terrible and oppressive situation. My husband also had the free will to conquer, and move on. He got to check me off his “to do” list and add me to his trophy case. He got his homecoming queen/childhood dream girl that got away and locked me away in his high tower while he flew around the country and worked hours that only allowed us to even see each other a few days a month/hours a week.

Yes…sometimes the answer is NO before you even start. But you have to listen. Then you have to follow through. Sometimes that requires the risk of being alone, or uncomfortable. But that NO means NO. If you ignore that NO – there are usually consequences. Some of you may be living that right now.

Now don’t ever mistake me of saying that divorce is OK or suggesting that divorce is a good solution. If you are in a rocky marriage – I still believe with all my heart that the best solution is to repair what is broken – as long as no abuse is going on. I would have still been married if I would have had any say in the matter. But again – it does honestly take two. I would have even stayed if it were just a miserable existence. The truth is – he left. He was done. He had already moved on. He had zero interest in fixing it…even the marriage counselor and pastors could see it. He had already checked out and moved on.

I was the only one that didn’t see that at the time. I was the only one that was confused. Many people really didn’t understand why I was even sad or in mourning. They were not emotionally invested. But at 2 years, I am finally able to see what they saw. And I see that the answer was NO before I even said yes.

I’m a very different woman than 2 years ago – or ever. My dad even commented on it. That is saying something. For the first time in my life I am no longer a victim. I have had a lot of really hard life experiences, but I am not longer defined by any of them.

For the first time I realize that I have free will too! I don’t have to make any decisions based on what I think anyone else thinks I should do, or how I might be perceived, or afraid or unsure of how things might turn out. If I follow my heart – my real passions and instincts, pray very hard BEFORE I move forward, and LISTEN to the real answer before I begin – I don’t have to be afraid anymore.

I am applying this to every area of my life now. I have more of a sense of peace than ever – even though my life is possibly more precarious looking than ever before. Now I have not only one, but two precious girls to be responsible for and raise. I know I probably have to be out of this house by summer. That is all I do know…that could look pretty scary and 5 years ago – this sitation would have made me want to seek the help and security of a man…you know – to complete me and take care of us or something bizarre like that.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I have been weaned off my addiction. I think I have been addicted to dysfunctional, abusive relationships. It started early on in life. Dysfunction was my comfort zone. It was all I really knew. I had no idea that I had the power within myself to break that chain at any given moment. I had no idea.

I have been living my life, being blown around in the wind, in any direction life blew me – as if I didn’t have a mind, heart, or passion of my own. And when I did pray – I prayed half hearted, selfish, fearful prayers. Prayers that were self serving or more like rap sheets – asking God to bless the path I was blazing without even asking if it was right. I would also modify myself to fit who I thought I should be based on who I was with. But I’m awake now. I’m aware.

The amazing part is that suddenly all the parts of me that I was afraid to let shine because it might have been viewed as silly or try to cover up because it might be hard to hear about – I am coming clean with. I don’t have to hide my love of music, writing, and all my silly dreams anymore. I can actually try to attain them…just because I can. I am free to do so. On the flip side, I don’t have to hide all the bad things I have gone through and instead use them as tools to possibly help others with. I have broken myself out of my own prison!

I could have done this while still married. Again – folks – I am an advocate of marriage. This is not about being “free” of a partner. I really wish I would have had a strong enough person to stand beside me as I awakened…maybe we could have done it together…how awesome would that have been? But I had to accept the fact that that was just not my story…as much as I hoped it would have been.

My story is a different story. It is so ironic that the one thing I have feared most in my life – I have finally made peace with. Being single. But being single, does not mean being alone, or isolated. I was more alone and isolated when I was married than I ever was now. In fact, I would argue that right now I am more “connected” to people than ever before. That is another intentional decision I had to make along the way. I had to decide to be real, vulnerable and honest about my feelings, fears, past experiences…about who I really am.

The risk was that no one would like who I really am, I guess. But, ironically, what I am finding is that people really dig vulnerability and honesty. At least the people that I dig the most do. I am accused of being too honest sometimes. Is that possible? I think if it is – I don’t want to associate with the people who think that way anymore.

So – here I am. A new born in some ways. Making my way through this crazy maze of land mines and granite. I want to stay on the granite…the rock. I want to be intentional about not stepping on the mines. I might miss now and then moving forward, but I feel like I have some armor on now. I am tougher than before. I want to hear that NO before I try to say yes based on fear or selfish desires. I want to stay on that rock.

I recently feel like I dodged a mine last month by not accepting a job offer. It was a job offer when I had nothing else on the table at the time. But it didn’t “feel” right. It was a low ball salary offer, and worse – the environment was oppressive, stifling and manipulative. At first it was hard to say no – when I didn’t have anything else on the horizon. I mean – here I am a single mom. 5 years ago I would have jumped on that offer just because. I would not have listened to the explosions going off all around telling me – trouble ahead!

But I said no. And a few days afterwards, I felt a clear peace about it. A few weeks after that I got the job offer that I had been waiting for. An offer that can actually pay the bills, AND put me in a thriving, growing environment where I can potentially make an impact by just being me. Those of you who don’t believe in God can call it fate, kharma or just plain wising up. But for me – I call it a God thing.

Whatever you call it – I hope this same awakening for you too. Whether you are married or single, working or stay at home parent, home schooling or public or private schooling…I have done it all – My hope for you is that you are making intentional decisions too – to be you. Because we mess up the whole cosmic intertwining web when you try to be something you are not. You and I are unique…our personalities fit a specific function and we have specific tasks that we were wired to do. Denying those inner wirings is disastrous.

I think it is hilarious that the person I was trying to hide for almost 40 years is so likable to other people. I am not bragging – I am stating my surprise. It genuinely is a crazy paradigm shift for me. I have the best friends I have ever had in my life right now…just because for the first time I am not hiding anything. All my ugly labels…my failures and successes…it’s all out in the open. I am not picking and choosing what I think people want to hear. I think there is a chance that even my family might like me again some day.

Until then – I have to just keep on keeping on. Not for them, or anyone else now. For me. For me and my girls. I am wired a certain way for a reason. I am so excited to see that turns out to be! And for the first time in my life I am not in a rush to get there. I want to keep taking my time, being intentional about seeking out that granite and praying BEFORE I step…after all…there are land mines to avoid out there!

My Big Fat Dysfunctional (not greek) Thanksgiving

I had always dreamed of a huge family gathering at Thanksgiving. And I was sure that at my age I would be the host and everyone would be flocking to my house that would be so warm and inviting and all Martha Stewarty.

I came from two families that had awesome family gatherings. My mom’s Italian family and dad’s Germanic family – both had big family gatherings with lots of extended cousins, uncles, aunts, etc. I loved those kinds of events. I somehow just assumed that I would be carrying on that tradition and my house would be that “place” to be.

So, it is a bit shocking and potentially depressing when at this Thanksgiving the only family I will be celebrating with this year is my oldest daughter. Where did that close knit family go? Where have all those extended family members gone to on both sides of the family? Well…people die, and people move, and families just slowly disintegrate when you let them.

You start realizing just how amazing some people were…and how much difference one person can actually make. When I look back I see that there were really only a few key people that would “make” those family gatherings happen. When those people died…family gatherings just kind of fell to the wayside and all these extended family members have completely fallen out of touch. I have no idea where most of them even are anymore.

The harder part for me though in some ways is the fact that I won’t be seeing either of my parents or brother, and my youngest daughter will be with her dad and his family. Mom moved to NC and is recovering from a mental breakdown and a horrendous case of pneumonia. Dad and stepmom are already in SC for the winter with my sweet dog Zeke. And my brother, who is one of my favorite people in the world texted me to see what I was doing for TG, but failed to follow through and actually extend in invitation. So it is just me and my big girl this year. I would have considered traveling, but now that I am a working girl, that isn’t really even an option.

OK. Now…can I be frank here. Yes…I have a very dysfunctional family. Do we all feel better now? I know – we have some level of dysfunction – I am no different. So…I am just getting that out there. Yes…the fact that I will actually not see any of my family during either Thanksgiving or Christmas is a bit odd. But a lot more people are getting in this situation as families are spreading out across the country and globe and getting together is just not as easy as it used to be when everyone lived in the same zip code or at least state. The part that makes it all harder to deal with is that I am single. Really. That is what it comes down here, folks…single parents on holidays with no family around…is kind of a hard pill to swallow.

Last year was one of the hardest holiday seasons because I was still reeling from the separation and pending divorce. So this year, I am redefining what holidays really are and mean. I am actually so thankful and happy to be right where I am. I don’t have to work, worry, fret and stress out about having any hard to please personalities over for a huge ordeal that I put hours and days of effort into that will be over in a matter of moments. I just get to show up, with my rice crispies pumpkin patch and laugh and enjoy some of my favorite people in the world.

I will miss my funny, sweet 2 year old, but will have plenty of the remainder of the weekend for her to completely wear me out. She is just so funny at this stage of life. How I love the age of two and how I want to just eat her whole sometimes. It is such a fleeting stage where you long to kiss nearly every inch of them. How do two year olds ALWAYS smell so good?

Looking through new eyes, I am no longer looking at all that I don’t have. Ok…in honesty – I am trying very hard to not look at what I don’t have. I do still ache and wish for someone special to be with during these times. But here is what I DO have: I get to wake up on Thanksgiving Day with both of my girls. We are all healthy. We get to spend a slow morning getting ready and hanging out and hopefully get some snuggling in. Then my little one is off to visit with her dad and family while my big girl and I get to go visit some great friends…play, hang out and eat probably more food than we should. Because I won’t have my 2 year old, I will have the opportunity to actually talk, and be engaged rather than only partially listening and mostly distracted.

We will get to share the fun little rice crispies pumpkins that we made the night before. These have become our own little tradition. I started making them a few years ago and they have become a favorite thing each year now. And the next morning my big girl and I will partake in the craziest shopping day of the entire year. We are going small – we will only hit the local Kohls. I will be armed with my discount cards, and a 2 hour time limit. Then we will come home with hopefully a much needed pair of shoes for her and a few other little things here and there. Then we get to be reunited with ‘Little Bit’ and the world will be right again.

If we are lucky we will find another set of friends to visit – or just spend the day being together…snuggling up with a good movie and some popcorn, playing outside if it is nice…and just playing life by ear. But it is all our choice! We don’t have to compromise or feign excitement over someone else’s idea of fun on these days. We won’t disappoint or let anyone down. We just get to be. That is a pretty great gift right there!

Though I would still love to have that bustling house some day…it is just not meant to be this year. Next year my oldest will be old enough to actually help out at a soup kitchen and has an interest in it, so maybe we will plan on spending some portion of the day doing something like that next year. But this year…we are going to spend one more year healing…loving…redefining what our new traditions will be, and being truly thankful for all that we DO have. Because I realize that even if it is so very different than I had hoped or expected, I am still very, very blessed.

Happy Thanksgiving to you – wherever you are, whomever you are with (or not) and whatever you are doing.