Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Happy First Divorciversary To Me

One year ago on November 22, I sat in a courtroom and listened to a judge declare that my marriage was over. And as I anticipate my official divorciversary this Saturday, I thought I'd share some one-year post-divorce reflections. Click on over to read my latest at the Huffington Post.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Moving Home After Divorce: No Brainer or No Way?

I’m currently obsessed with the show “Parenthood.” After my work day is done and my kids are in bed, I binge on Netflix as I join the Braverman family in all their adventures in parenting. I watch as they celebrate life’s joyous moments, mourn life’s tragedies, help each other with problems big and small and stand by each other unconditionally.

And with every episode I watch, every theme song I sing along to, I have the same thought, “I wish I had that.”

I love my family. I have the best family in the world. And while we're able to do all that celebrating, mourning, helping and supporting, it's usually over the phone. Unlike the Bravermans who live a stone’s throw away from each other, my family is spread out all over the country. I can’t drop the kids off at my parents’ house when I attempt to have a social life. My mother can’t swing by with chicken soup when I’m sick. My kids can’t have sleepovers with their cousins. I can’t go over to my brother’s house with a bottle of wine. My closest family is a 14-hour drive away. We are not the Bravermans.

I left home when I was 18 to go to college. I never moved back. Always proud of my independence, I never doubted that I would succeed on my own. I knew my parents would support me and welcome me home with open arms if I ever needed a soft place to land, but in the last 20 years I never needed it.

Until now.

I didn’t expect divorce and single motherhood to be easy. But after being a military spouse, I was already used to doing most things on my own, and I figured it wouldn’t be much different. Throughout our separation and for the first several months after the divorce, my ex and I maintained a relatively consistent custody schedule that the kids came to view as normal. If emergencies came up, such as our dog almost dying, my ex was around to take the kids so I could nurse the dog back to health. If he had scheduling issues for work, I kept the kids on a weekend that usually would have been his. I may not have had family nearby to help, but I wasn’t doing everything on my own.

That all changed 4 months ago when my ex moved to Hawaii.

Since he left, I am solely responsible for my children. Sometimes I try to view this as a deployment. I’ve done this before, right? But this is not a deployment. He’s gone for 3 years, and there’s no guarantee he’ll come back to this area once it’s time for new orders. 

The second question most people asked me when I announced my divorce (after "What happened?"), was, "Are you moving closer to family?" But it wasn't until the past few months that I started seriously considering moving back home. Between the stress of single parenting, the appeal of my children being closer to both sets of grandparents and my parents’ ability to help me, recent health issues, the fact that my job travels with me and my old military spouse mentality nagging me that it’s time for a change of scenery, signs are pointing me in that direction. Throw in the added plus that the high school reunion I attended over the summer reminded me that I would already have an established circle of friends once I got there, the pro side of the debate is pretty hard to beat. 

But my fiercely independent side can’t help but view it as a sign of defeat. I worked really hard to create a new life for myself. I moved to an apartment complex a year ago that I chose primarily because it’s in the best school district in the city (and, of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s in walking distance of the beach). My kids don’t want to move again, and now that I’m not a military spouse and the Navy is no longer forcing us to move, I feel fortunate that my kids can say they’ve lived in the same city for a whopping 6 years. In fact, my daughter, who was only 10 months old when we moved here from Japan, doesn’t remember living anywhere else. Why would I uproot them again? Why would I uproot myself again?

It’s a tough call. 

I have days when I’m ready to call a moving company and tell my parents to clear out my old bedroom. And I have days when everything falls into place and I can’t imagine leaving a city I’ve grown to consider the closest thing to home since I left home 20 years ago.  

Right now those days seem to balance each other out. So I guess I’ll just continue to take life day by day, lean on my local friends for support and appreciate the times when my parents visit me and I visit them.

And maybe live vicariously through the Bravermans.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Removing a Broken Heart One Laser Treatment at a Time

Ever think about getting a tattoo removed? Yeah, me too. 

You can read my thoughts on tattoo removal in my latest at the Huffington Post.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Happy Moment: A Birthday Adventure

Seven years ago today in Sasebo, Japan, I listened to countdowns from 10 in a foreign language as I watched dolphins swimming on a flat-screen tv in front of me. The result was a beautiful baby girl who makes me laugh and swell with pride while constantly keeping me on my toes.

I've never been a girly-girl. I was always the jock academic type who cared more about swim practice and books than clothes and makeup. So when I found out I was having a girl, I braced myself for a life of pink and princesses.

Turns out, no matter how many Barbies and dolls and pretty dresses I buy for this little girl, she's growing up to follow in my jock academic footsteps. She would rather spend her time finding new adventures, reading a book and requesting I change her name to Cannonball.

So what did I get this mini me for her birthday this year? An afternoon of obstacle courses and zip-lining!

We spent 2 hours sweating and flexing our muscles and laughing and getting dirty and enjoying family time together. And despite the rocky start with massive Labor Day weekend traffic and an unexpected trip to the vet for a dog who somehow managed to slice off a chunk of his paw pad, it was all worth the effort when Little C sat on the platform before her final turn on the zip line and said, "This is the best birthday present ever, Mom."

Days like that remind me that happy moments are everywhere...

Happy Moment: A Birthday Adventure

Happy 7th birthday to my blonde-haired, blue-eyed Japanese tomboy. You rock, Little C.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

10 Books That Helped Me Get Through Divorce

I'm one of those people who turns into an obsessive reader when I'm going through something unfamiliar. When I found out I was pregnant with my son, I read everything I could find on pregnancy and parenthood. I read so much that, by the time I hit my third trimester, my OB/GYN told me to stop reading pregnancy books and start reading lighter material to counterbalance all the heavy stuff that was stressing me out. 

When I started heading down the road toward divorce, I naturally reached out for reading material. (And my OB/GYN would be pleased to know that I still follow his advice and add some humor to the rotation.)

Here are my...

Top 10 Books That Helped Me Get Through Divorce

10. "Heartburn" by Nora Ephron

“And then the dreams break into a million tiny pieces. The dream dies. Which leaves you with a choice: you can settle for reality, or you can go off, like a fool, and dream another dream.”

I started reading this book the day after signing the separation agreement. This novel was my way of dipping a toe into the overwhelming pool of books about divorce. I wasn’t quite ready to jump into the self-help books that would force me to dissect feelings and motivations and behaviors. I simply wanted a glimpse of what I was getting myself into with a twinge of humor. And no one does the heartbreak and humor dance better than Nora Ephron.

9. "The Five Love Languages of Children" by Gary Chapman and Ross Campbell

While I originally started reading this book to write a blog post for work, it turned into a valuable lesson in how to nurture my kids as they cope with their parents’ divorce.

My 10-year-old son’s preferred love language is Quality Time, which comes mainly in the form of undivided attention during conversations. Although most of our chats these days revolve around Minecraft and Clash of Clans rather than the divorce, I know he feels most loved when he knows I’m truly listening to what he has to say. And I know that my ability to fill his emotional tank in that way makes him feel safe to talk to me about more serious topics.

My 6-year-old daughter’s love language is Physical Touch. She needs hugs and hand-holding and cuddling to get her emotional needs met. That knowledge was important during all the divorce-related transitions, especially because a child her age has difficulty verbalizing thoughts and feelings. She may not have understood why mommy was moving out of daddy’s house, but cuddling during a movie went a long way in making her feel better.

8. "Seriously, I’m Kidding" by Ellen DeGeneres

After sharing the news of my separation with a select few friends, I was thrilled to find care packages on my doorstep to help keep my spirits up. Bubble bath, nail polish, sweet treats, DVDs to make me laugh or to help me cry it out. And this hilarious book.

I can count on one hand the number of books that have made me laugh so hard I had to put the book down and compose myself. I didn’t think I could find a book to top the laugh-out-loud quotient of Bridget Jones, but Ellen did it. (Just ask the poor dude who sat next to me on the airplane when I was reading this during a business trip. I eventually abandoned my attempts to stifle my giggles. I’m sure he was thankful he brought headphones.)

7. "Happier at Home" by Gretchen Rubin

Moving out allowed me to start over in many ways. I read this book shortly after I moved into my apartment, and it helped build my excitement to decorate my new home in ways that would reflect my new life. I learned to “see things with fresh eyes” and to remember that life doesn’t stop, that “now is now.”

6. "Fifty Shades of Grey" by E.L. James

Don’t judge. You know you read the trilogy too and can’t wait for the movie to hit theaters.

5. "Are you There Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea" by Chelsea Handler

Another book I saved for those beer and bubble bath nights when I needed some comic relief.

4. "Moving On" by Russell Friedman and John W. James

"Successful recovery requires completion of the pain rather than retention of the resentment. You are the only one who suffers when you don't forgive."

A friend recommended this book very early on in my separation. I ordered it immediately and sat it on my nightstand when it arrived. And that book sat there on my nightstand unopened for almost a year.

This book isn’t just a self-help book filled with theories and advice for moving on after a divorce. It’s a journey through past relationships, analyses of patterns in partner choices and brutal honesty about your own role in the destruction of those relationships. It was therapeutic and enlightening as I revisited relationships back to age 14 and uncovered what I thought I wanted, what I was actually getting, and what I ultimately want, need and deserve.

This book ripped my guts out. But not only did it show me what mistakes not to make in the future, it also helped me recognize sources of anger I didn’t even know I had and taught me the importance of forgiveness. (I’m not fully there on the forgiveness part yet, but I’m getting there.)

3. "Not A Match: My True Tales of Online Dating Disasters" by Brian Donovan

I read this short book after giving up on online dating. I can't tell if the author’s stories made me realize my experience wasn’t so bad or if he scared me into never wanting to try it ever again. Either way it made me laugh.

2. "Chicken Soup for the Soul: Divorce and Recovery" by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen, and Patty Hansen

This book offered up great feel-good divorce stories (which, I’ve learned, doesn’t have to be an oxymoron). A few of my faves include:

“Through my divorce, I learned to become the person I was meant to be. I went on a journey, deep into my soul and met the me who I had left behind so many years ago.”

“I discovered happiness on a newer and higher level. I learned how to get past the rough spots and remain focused on the happier times ahead.”

“My life had not gone according to plan, but I was okay. In fact, I was better than okay. I was beginning a new phase of life, and I could look at it as scary or I could look at it as an adventure.”

1. "Divorcing a Narcissist: One Mom’s Battle" by Tina Swithin

I ran out of Post-It notes with this one. Too many lessons learned to list.

(In the same genre, I read "Stuck on Me MissingYou" by Larry Bugen, which gave an interesting perspective on narcissism. And I skimmed through “Assholes: A Theory” by Aaron James, which offered very useful suggestions for "asshole management.")

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

An Anniversary of a New Beginning

One year ago today I moved out of my marital house.

For most of our year-long legal separation, my ex and I lived in different parts of the same house. It was partly to save money, partly because he was traveling for work and would be gone anyway, and partly because neither of us seemed willing to move out.

It wasn’t until we got in a fight one day last May that I realized I needed to move forward. An hour after the argument, I was touring an apartment complex. The next day I put down a security deposit. My move-in date was July 29.

I hired a moving company, and after a friend gave me the boxes from her recent move, I started packing. This time the military wasn’t helping with the move. I was on my own.

My ex and I had already walked through the house and split our possessions with little conflict. I spent the next 2 months packing on the weekends, a task that was both physically and emotionally exhausting.

Somehow I thought the process of placing items in boxes would be as easy as it sounds -- and some days it was. But there were other days when each item placed in a box flooded my brain with memories, both joyful and painful. The teacups we bought in Japan. The photo albums that spanned almost 15 years. The jewelry he’d given me, including the engagement ring that I had taken off so long ago that the once prominent indentation on my ring finger was now gone.

Some days I blasted music to drown out the memories. Some days I gave in and cried on the floor.

I finally finished packing a few days before the big day. I called to confirm my move-in date with the the moving company, finding it strange that they didn’t pick up the phone.  I figured they were busy. After all, I live in a military town, and it was prime PCS season.

Then July 29 arrived. My brother flew halfway across the country to help, the kids were in camp and I was able to make a couple of trips to the apartment to start moving items before the movers were supposed to show up.

But the movers didn’t show up. I called repeatedly. No answer.  At one point, I had to go back to the apartment for my Internet and cable hookup. By mid-afternoon, I had to face the fact that the movers weren’t coming.

While my brother somehow found a moving company that was available the next day, I drove to the address of my no-show guy to see if I could find this jerk in his office. I pulled into the parking lot to find a police car.

Turns out, the moving company I hired wasn’t really a moving company, but a thief the police were actively looking for. The policewoman said I was lucky he didn’t show because the chances were good he would have loaded my belongings onto his truck and disappeared with them in addition to my deposit he had already pocketed.

So instead of getting settled in my new apartment, I was filing a police report that led to a warrant for a man’s arrest.

I was devastated. July 29 was supposed to be my new beginning. Because of this crook, I had to bring all the bedding back from the apartment, remake all the beds, and spend another night in the house I had already said my goodbyes to. My new beginning was ruined, and I had to mentally prepare myself to spend my second last night in this house.

Fortunately, the next day the move actually happened. It took way longer than it should have, and my brother had to get on a plane halfway through, but by the end of the day, I was officially moved out of the old and into the new.

Shortly after the truck arrived at the house, a neighbor came over, another mil spouse asking if we were PCS’ing. (I hadn’t told her about the divorce. In fact, only one neighbor knew I was moving out. I still didn’t know how to tell people, and I just wanted to slip away quietly.)

“You’re getting divorced?” she asked, clearly shocked. “How long have you been married?”

“13 years.”

“That’s a long time. You guys can work things out.”

“No,” I said, trying not to cry. “We can’t.”

She meant well, but it was statements like that I was hoping to avoid. The marriage was unfixable. It was time to move on.

When the last item was loaded onto the truck and my kids and the dog were loaded into my car, I did one last walk-through of the house. The items I left behind were just as telling as those I chose to take. The painting from Thailand. The obnoxious desk I once worked at. The dresser that was so oversized and heavy that it left gouges in the hardwood floor as the movers pushed it into position when we first moved in.

One last look. I said goodbye. And I closed the door for the last time.

People often ask me why I was the one who moved out. “You’ll have the kids more. Why don’t you get to keep the house?”

I’m sure life would have been easier if I had been the one to stay, especially now that my ex has moved to Hawaii and the house has new owners. Knowing how transient his life is with the military, it probably would have been more logical for me to stay.

But I didn’t want the house.

We lived in that house together for 5 years, a lifetime by military standards. But for many reasons, it never felt like home to me. That house saw too much. The walls held too many bad memories and too few good ones. I needed a fresh start. I needed to make my own home in my own way.

Moving out of that house was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. But moving-out day was also moving-in day. So I can look back on that day with sadness as the day I moved out of the last house I lived in with my husband. Or I can see it as the exciting day that I moved into my new home, the home where so far good memories outnumber the bad.

As I re-signed my lease a few days ago, I realized that this is where my new life started. One year ago today was a day of new beginnings. I may not live here forever, but for now, I can’t imagine living anywhere else.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Happy Moment: Jumping Into Vacation

We all need a break every now and again. My break came recently when I combined my 20th high school reunion with a weeklong vacation.

I had some time with my parents. Time with old friends. Time with my kids. Time for myself. And a little time OFF from work and emails and deadlines.

Although I almost feel like I need a vacation from my vacation, I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated getting away for awhile.

Happy Moment: Jumping Into Vacation

Monday, July 14, 2014

Divorce, Redemption and My 20th High School Reunion

I just attended my 20th high school reunion. It was a blast, but going into it, I was a bit nervous about how it would look from the eyes of a divorcee.

Read all about it over at the Huffington Post.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Happy Moment: Independence Day 5K

Big C ran his first 5K this morning, despite a visit from Hurricane Arthur. I'm so proud of my boy, who announced after the race that he had "caught the running bug."

Happy 4th of July!

Happy moments are everywhere...

Happy Moment: Independence Day 5K

Monday, June 30, 2014

Online Dating: I Did It For the Blog Post

After my divorce was final, I decided to try online dating for two main reasons:  1) curiosity, and 2) my friends made me.

Oh, who am I kidding? I also wanted to write a blog post about it.

Friends warned me that when you first join an online dating site, you’re instantly bombarded with winks and likes and emails. That’s supposed to be exciting. Look at all these guys interested in me! Look at all the possibilities! Look at all the potential boyfriends and date nights and free dinners!

I was indeed instantly overwhelmed with men expressing interest. But I was also instantly underwhelmed by the possibilities.

My first online interaction came several weeks later. And it probably should have been an indication of what little desire I had to pursue this method of dating as well as what my overall online dating experience would be like.

I received an email from a very nice man who had clearly taken the time to read my profile and come up with relevant questions to start a dialogue. He told me about himself, and I liked his combination of confidence and self-deprecating humor. He seemed well established in his career, and we shared similar interests.

So what was wrong with him?

The man was old enough to be my father.

But because it was the most sincere email I had received on Match, I decided to write him back.

“Thank you so much for your thoughtful email. Unfortunately, I’m looking for someone closer to my age. But I wanted to respond and tell you that it was obvious you took the time to read my profile and compose an introduction that reflected both your interests and mine. I encourage you to continue that practice as you go forward with your dating journey. Best of luck. ”

He immediately wrote back.

“Thank you so much for your email. I understand the age difference thing, and I appreciate your effort  to respond. You’re the classiest lady on this site. Best of luck to you too.”

I was celebrating the fact that I was just named the Classiest Lady on Match, when he emailed again.

“By the way, I see you’re a writer. Any chance you could take a look at my profile and give me some pointers?”

And there you have it. My first online dating interaction ended with me editing a man’s profile to help him meet other women.

My experience with online dating was short-lived and laughably unsuccessful, but I did pick up a few things along the way in case I ever decide to give it another go:

1. Usernames are important.

Make an attempt to come up with something unique other than your first name and your zip code. But if you’re not the creative type, don’t force it.

For instance, don’t use fancy words like “quixotic.” I get that you’re trying to make yourself sound smart, but you’ve probably just eliminated most of the women on Match because it’s easier to move on to the next guy than to find a dictionary.

Furthermore, it may be a turn on for some women, but if the word “Navy” is in your username, I’m running far far away.

And for goodness sakes, don’t include the word “lonely” in your username!

2. Profile pictures are your first impressions.

Your profile picture is the reason I either click on you or scroll past you. There are a lot of standard “rules” out there for the photos that generate the most success with online dating (yes, studies have been done!), and most people also have their own rules. One woman I know refuses to view a man if his profile picture is a selfie. Although I totally disagree, she believes this means he doesn’t have enough friends to take a picture of him.

What are my personal rules? I won’t click on you if you include the following in your profile picture:

  • A cigarette.
  • Another woman.
  • Sunglasses. (Eyes reveal a lot. Don’t hide them unless you have something to hide.)
  • A mask.
  • Your tongue.
  • So much distance from the camera that I can’t tell if you’re actually a person.
  • A military uniform. (If you haven’t noticed, I’m over the whole military thing. Blog post to come.)
  • No shirt.
  • No shirt and flexing.
  • No shirt and flexing and my abs are tighter than yours. ***
  • No photo at all.

(***Just for the record, I have nothing against shirtless photos. Just not as your profile picture. Remember, this is a first impression. Would you meet me in a restaurant for a first date without a shirt on? Hopefully not. So don’t present yourself for the first time half-naked.)

3. Read my profile before emailing me.

As flattered as I was by your email that read, “U R HOT,” you clearly missed the part in my profile that let you know my profession. A writer probably wouldn’t be impressed by that gem. Sorry, but that won’t get you so much as a “TY.”

4. Use your words wisely.

Your initial written interactions reveal a lot about the kind of person you are. Keep that in mind before hitting send.

I had a date lined up with a Navy pilot. Although it never happened (thanks to miscommunication and then a 6-month deployment), I was already losing interest because he sounded more and more arrogant with each communication. I’ve had enough arrogance to last me a lifetime. Thanks, but no thanks.

I’m also not a fan of weirdness. I recommend asking interesting questions that help you stand out, but not so interesting that they’re borderline creepy. So while the dude who asked me who my favorite Muppet is did make himself stand out, it’s probably not for the reasons he was shooting for.

5. If you’re not ready to date, don’t date.

After my first date with you, I should not know your ex-wife’s name, where she lives, where her family lives, that you exchange emails with her every day, and the reason you got divorced. If you’re sharing these things with a woman you’re supposed to be trying to start a romantic relationship with, you’re probably not ready to date.

I also won’t open your profile if your status is “Currently Separated.” While I understand that men and women cope with divorce differently (namely, men tend to jump right back into the dating scene as soon as legally possible), I do not want to be your rebound person, and I definitely don’t want to be your tool to make your wife (because if you’re “currently separated,” she still is your wife) jealous because you think that’s how you’re going to win her back.

I may have given up on online dating prematurely, but I really don’t think it’s my thing. Maybe one day I’ll try again. Maybe I’ll return as a freelance profile editor. Who knows. But if I got nothing else from online dating, at least I got that blog post.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Happy Moment: Family 5K Training

When I was a kid and into my teen years, I was always involved in an extracurricular activity. Although it was usually swim team, I also gave softball and track a try, and for a while I spent time after school at band practice playing the drums.

That's why I just assumed when I became a parent, my children would naturally gravitate toward the extracurriculars that fit with their interests.

Turns out, my kids are very hard to please when it comes to finding those interests.

My son is 10, and while I had great hope for baseball after several years of his participation on the same team, he ultimately lost interest after his first season of kid-pitch. He tried soccer too, but he was more interested in chit-chatting on the sidelines than kicking the ball. He did enjoy chess club this past school year, but that met only once a week for a few short months.

I've since offered everything I can think of. Basketball. Tennis. Lego Club. Swim team. Guitar lessons. But every suggestion landed me a "no, Mom, I don't want to do that."

So when Big C approached me a couple weeks ago asking me to sign him up for a 5K, I jumped on it. I bought him new running shoes. I got the MapMyRun app on my phone because it's more visual for him than my Garmin watch. And the most important part, I signed us both up for one of my favorite local races on the 4th of July.

I love running, and I'm thrilled Big C has taken an interest in it as well. He even mentioned that he's considering joining the track team in middle school. Of course a lot can change in the next year before middle school starts, but it's the first time since his coach-pitch baseball days that he's expressed even the slightest interest in pursuing a sport.

We're in training now for his first 5K. Not to leave his sister out of the fun, Little C straps on her helmet and coaches us from her bike. 

Happy moments are everywhere...

Happy Moment: Family 5K Training

Monday, June 16, 2014

This is What My Family Looks Like

I’m a worrier. I analyze what others do, say and think. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I’m not very patient when it comes to finding out what that reason is.

Recently my daughter came home from school with this drawing:

I wanted to figure out the reason she drew it. I wanted to analyze what she was trying to express. And I worried.

Little C is 6 years old. She’s energetic. Creative. Smart. Determined. Competitive. Athletic. Anti-princesses and Barbie. Pro-hugs and cuddles. And extremely inquisitive.

While her big brother asks the tough questions only when she’s not around, Little C is loud and proud of her curiosity. Since my divorce, she’s asked me just about everything:

  • Are you going to have another baby?
  • Are you going to marry another man?
  • Is Dad going to marry another woman? 
  • Is Dad going to marry Miss ____ (Dad’s live-in girlfriend)?
  • Is Dad going to have another baby?
  • Are we going to have to switch schools again?
  • Do you have a boyfriend?
  • Are you and Dad friends?
  • Did you and Dad have a choice to get divorced?
  • The easiest question (and my all-time favorite): Mom, are you going to marry John Mayer?
  • The toughest question (and the one I dread even though it’s been asked multiple times): Why did you and Dad get divorced? 
I answer the questions the best I can. No, I’m not planning to have another baby. I don’t know if Dad is going to get married again; you'll have to ask him. Sadly, no, I will not be marrying John Mayer.

Knowing how her brain thinks, I try to get ahead of some of her questions by using spontaneous teachable moments. For instance, one evening we stopped at the park during our bike ride, and my kids started playing with two other kids they recognized from school. Little C asked them if they were siblings. The older girl answered, “Kind of. He’s my step-brother.” That night, during her bath, I brought up her new friends, and we had a lovely chat about blended families.

Because the lines of communication are wide open in my home, I was a bit surprised when Little C came home from school with that drawing that she explained was a family portrait.

This was actually the second time she came home with a family portrait that looked like this. The first time was many months ago.  At the time, I was concerned the drawing meant she didn’t understand the change in our family dynamics and that she still saw our family as intact with a mom and a dad who loved each other.  Maybe she thought her father and I would eventually get back together.

On the other hand, maybe it really was as simple as a family portrait because, after all, those are the members of her immediate family. She does have a mom, a dad and a brother. That’s the only family she knows. 

In my mind it meant one of two things: She either didn’t understand the divorce at all or she had the healthiest outlook of all of us.

I asked her to explain her drawing, noting that our family didn’t look the same as it used to. Little C said, “I know. But this is my family. This is what my family looks like. And I put you and Dad on opposite sides of the paper because you aren’t married anymore.”

I looked at the drawing again, and sure enough, her father and I were on the outside with the kids in the middle.

A few days later, I showed it to the kids’ therapists, and they assured me I had nothing to worry about.

Then Little C brought home the family portrait pictured above. This time, her father and I were standing beside each other, and as she explained it, the setting is in the neighborhood we live in, not the neighborhood her father lives in.

The worried over-analyzer in me immediately jumped to the conclusion that she’s regressing, that she placed her parents next to each other as a sign that she still doesn’t get what’s going on after months of answered questions and explanations since her last family portrait.

But then I realized that maybe this was a good thing. Maybe this just meant that she saw her parents as two adults who love her, able to work together to co-parent in a friendly manner.

And if that’s the case, then we’re doing something right.

As time goes on, my daughter will not remember her parents being married, a thought that is both heartbreaking (because she won’t remember seeing her parents when they were happy together) and reassuring (because she won’t remember the end of the marriage). Right now, the divorce is still fresh, not quite 7 months old, and I have to give her the space to process her feelings at the level of comprehension that works for her and try not to project my worries on that process.

So I save these drawings, dating them on the back and showing them to her therapist to discuss with her as necessary. I continue to do my best to answer her questions. And I gladly give her those hugs she loves because she inherited her pro-hug mentality from me.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Tell Your Stories

As a writer, I often walk a fine line between what I want to share and what is better left unwritten. And through years of writing from personal experience and putting myself out there publicly, I've learned that everyone in my life -- however casual or intimate -- shoulders the burden of being the potential subject of one of my blog posts.

That's why the writer in me loves the following quote. I'll remember these words the next time I find myself walking that fine line.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Another Divorce First: The Anniversary

Today I stare down another divorce first: my anniversary.

Today would have been my 14th.

So how am I supposed to deal with my first post-divorce anniversary?

Please join me over at Huffington Post as I share my thoughts.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Top 10 Upsides to Divorce

Generally speaking, divorce sucks. I don’t think you’ll hear many people say, “The year I got divorced was the best year of my life!” In fact, most divorcees will say it was the worst year of their lives. Lawyers, custody schedules, division of possessions. Yeah, I could sit here and list all the things that suck about divorce.

But I’m not going to.

Instead, I’m focusing on the list of positives about divorce. After all, that’s why I got divorced – to change my life for the better, to go after those positives waiting for me on the other side.

Four years ago, I wrote a post for Blue Star Families about the upsides of deployment. I felt like military spouses sometimes got so caught up in the negative aspects of deployment that we were making that difficult time even worse. But reminding ourselves there’s a silver lining hidden within just about any tough situation, including deployments and divorce, can help us get through it.

So today, like four years ago when my husband was deployed, I’m going to find the silver lining. (And the positives of divorce are actually oddly similar to those for deployment.) Here are my…

Top 10 Upsides of Divorce

10. I can decorate my home how I want. When my ex-husband and I were dividing our possessions before I moved out, I realized how different our decorating tastes are. (An upside to that is that I don’t think we had a single argument about who was keeping what.) When I moved into my new home, I decided it was time to surround myself with colors, art and furniture that showcased my preferences.

9. I eat what I want. I love food, and I love to cook. Unfortunately, my former husband and I didn’t always share the same tastes in food either. If there were meals I liked that he didn’t, I usually only cooked them for myself when he was traveling for work. Now every meal is a meal for me.

8. No. More. Snoring.

7. I can pursue my career. Throughout my marriage, I put my career on hold so my former husband could pursue his. I’m grateful for his military career for so many reasons, especially the fact that it led to mine. But now I no longer have to worry about how his career (e.g., PCS moves) will alter mine.

6. I’m no longer modeling a certain version of love and marriage to my children. One strong motivation for me to get divorced was the fact that I didn’t want my children to grow up believing that’s what love was, that’s what marriage was. 

5. I have financial independence. Money may be tight for now, but I’m actually saving money. I always joked that my former husband was the spender and I was the saver, but I don’t think I had any idea how true that statement was until after we split and my name was the only one on my checking account. I now have complete control over my money and where it’s going.

4. I feel like I’m a better mother. Sure, I have my days when I feel guilty for turning my son and daughter into “children of divorce,” but most days I think the divorce may have caused me to be more involved and attentive to their needs and emotional well-being. I think that’s partly because of everything I read about how divorce affects young children and partly because I treasure the time I have with them.  I’m still not used to not having them around when they’re with their father. My leisure time with them is limited, which is why I treasure things like our nightly reading/cuddle time in my bed, our Friday night Chick-Fil-A/Redbox movie, and now that the weather is warmer, our daily after-dinner bike rides.

3. I have an independence and freedom I haven’t had in a very long time. I’m making my own decisions. I’m doing what I want. I’m finding happiness on my own terms. And I’m no longer living in someone else’s shadow.

2. With that independence comes a new sense of empowerment.  I don’t need a man to pump my kids’ bike tires or hang a picture on the wall. I’m doing things I never thought I’d do. And it feels amazing.

1. Divorce has made me wiser and more self-aware. By the end of my marriage, I had no idea who I was anymore. I allowed my identity to get lost somewhere along the way. But no more. My journey through the separation and divorce has forced me on a path of self-discovery  I wish I had stumbled upon years ago. I’m now wiser about who I am, what I want, what I don’t want, and what I deserve out of life. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Roller Coaster Meets Huffington Post

I'm excited to announce my new gig as a Huffington Post blogger! I'm thrilled to have such a huge platform to share my journey through divorce and single motherhood. Click here to head on over to my Huffington Post debut. As always, I appreciate any comments you take the time to share with me.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Moment: Life's a Beach

Last Sunday was Mother's Day. And my Mother's Day was fantastic, due in large part to the fact that I have the coolest kids ever, but also because I live in walking distance to the beach and because Mother Nature gave me the gift of sunshine.

Happy moments are everywhere... 

Happy Moment: Life's a Beach

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Top 10 Uplifting Divorce Quotes

I find comfort in other people's words. I feel better knowing my feelings have been felt before. I'm motivated by encouraging sentiments. I can change my perspective for the better with a glimpse of another's insight. 

That's why I love quotes.

I started collecting quotes when I was a teenager and realized that other people could conceptualize what I couldn't express myself. Twenty years later, as my divorce loomed, I once again found myself collecting quotes. They're on my iPhone's camera roll as memes. They're saved as notes in my Evernote app. They're scribbled in my daily planner, on Post-It notes in my purse and on random pieces of paper shoved in between pages as bookmarks.

I've stashed WAY more than 10 quotes that have helped me to find solace through my divorce journey. And I'm sure I'll be sharing future top 10's with more quotes. But for now, here are my favorite...

Top 10 Uplifting Divorce Quotes

10.  “Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.”  
~Jennifer Weiner

9. “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”  ~Socrates

8. “Forgive yourself for not having the foresight to know what now seems so obvious in hindsight.”  
~Judy Belmont

7. "There is no passion to be found playing small -- in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living."  
~Nelson Mandela

6. “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”  
~Nora Ephron

5. “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”  
~Mandy Hale

4. “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”  
                   ~Jonathan Lockwood Huie

3. “Let go or be dragged.”  
~Zen Proverb

2. “Close some doors today. Not because of pride, incapacity or arrogance, but simply because they lead you nowhere.”  
~Paulo Coelho

1. “We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  ~Joseph Campbell

What quotes have gotten you through a difficult time in your life?

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Business Trip Travel Prep

I’m currently on a business trip. I love business trips because I love to travel, I love my co-workers and I love my job. But I don't love the pre-trip prep. You would think I'd know the drill by now, but I still manage to forget something, hurt something or generally screw something up.

The following is the closest I'll probably ever get to having a travel prep system. Here are my...

Top 10 Do’s and Don’ts of Business Trip Travel Prep

10. DO pack lightly when flying, but DON’T bother when driving. I like to have wardrobe options when I’m traveling. So if I don’t have any packing restrictions, why not bring all those options along?

I’d like to say I pack like this..

But when driving, I actually pack like this…

9. DON'T wear brand new shoes for the first time on a business trip where you'll be standing and/or walking all day long. I learned that the hard way.

8. DO pack Bandaids. (See #9.)

7. DON’T. Forget. Chargers. (And if you have them, keep backups in your car.)

6. DO check the weather forecast in the city you’re traveling to. It may be short sleeve weather where you live, but it's not worth risking a frantic search for fashionable and appropriate outerwear at your destination.

5. DON’T wait til the last minute to pack. Unless you like making late night runs to the drug store for travel contact solution and make-up removal wipes.

4. DO plan ahead to make the most of your trip. Arranging child care, especially during the week, is challenging. So when I can make the proper arrangements, I plan to make the most of my time away. Do I have a friend who lives in the vicinity of my business trip? Make up your guest bed, friend, because I’m coming to visit! Is there a cool concert one night I’m in town? Sign me up for tickets! Is there a cool place to go running? Lace up your running shoes and bring your camera, co-workers! (See photo. That's me about to run the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.)

3. DON’T forget to inform your kids’ teachers that you’ll be out of town, especially if the kids will be left in the care of a man (sorry men, but you just do things differently than us women). As a former teacher, I appreciated being informed of any changes in a family’s daily routine. It explained forgotten lunch boxes, mismatched clothes, sleepiness, tardiness, dirtiness and minor to major behavioral problems.  Plus, they know who to call in an emergency.

2. DO clean your house before you leave. Business trips aren’t just business trips for me. Usually they also double as mini vacations (have I mentioned I have the coolest job ever?). I come home with the perfect combination of fatigue, recharged batteries and good mood. I don’t want to kill that buzz by coming home to a mess. It’s worth the last minute tidying.

1. DON’T mysteriously injure your foot to the point that you have to go shopping for new shoes because your foot is too swollen to squeeze into your pretty shoes and just the thought of wearing your standard 3-inch heals makes you want to call an orthopedic surgeon. Sigh.

What would you add to the list?

Related Posts with Thumbnails