Monday, March 31, 2014

To Whom It May Concern


Dear Netflix,

Oh, how you mock my free time. You had me at “Mad Men.” Then I moved on to marathon sessions of “Breaking Bad,” and as of this past weekend, I've completed the second season of “House of Cards.” You have completely ruined me for normal scheduled programming. And while I love your convenience and portability that allows me to take you along on my travels and watch you on my iPad in hotel rooms, you have become an addictive time-suck.  I don't know whether to thank you or curse you.
Best regards,
An Addict Who Needs a New Series

Dear Mother Nature,
I know the customer service representatives in your complaint department are working overtime this year, but I’m running a half marathon in less than two weeks, and I was hoping for 65 degrees and sunny with zero percent chance of precipitation. This cold wind and rain makes it tough to stay motivated.
Much appreciated,
A Runner Getting Psyched for Half Marathon #7

Speaking of running…

Dear SELF Magazine,
How about we focus more on encouraging and empowering EVERYONE who makes the effort to live a healthier lifestyle and less on making fun of cancer survivors running marathons in “lame” tutus? I appreciate your public apology and follow-up interview with the woman you belittled, but there's simply no excuse for potentially squashing any potential desire your readers might have to do something as awesome as run a marathon for fear of being self-conscious about how they look doing it. 
A Proud Tutu’d Runner

Dear Gwyneth Paltrow,

Just stop talking.
A Working Mom Who Wishes You the Best of Luck on Your "Conscious Uncoupling" and Hopes That Having a Bogus Catch Phrase Will Ease the Challenges of Your Already Difficult Celebrity Life

Dear Life,

Sometimes I just need a nap.
The One in the Middle of that Mommy Sandwich (See Photo Below)

(Psst, Gwyneth. This is what working moms look like at the end of our easy 9-to-5 work days.)


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

How a Marathon Got Me through My Divorce

I said it, but I wasn’t sure I believed it:  “I’m running the Marine Corps Marathon.”
I’m not an impulsive person, so when I shared this news with my father, a former marathoner himself, he probably thought I was as unsure as I sounded to myself.  It wasn’t so much the fact that I had never run a marathon before or even expressed a desire to run one.  I had four half-marathons and countless other shorter races logged in my running book.  Under normal circumstances, I could get myself in marathon condition in the 7 months between registration day and race day.
The problem wasn’t my fitness capabilities. The problem was that those 7 months weren’t going to fall under the category of “normal circumstances.”  During that time I had another marathon to get through – one that would require most of the focus, energy, and mental strength I possessed to ensure I’d still be standing at the finish line.
That marathon was my divorce.
When I decided to run the race my husband and I had been legally separated for several months.  We still had a long road ahead before the divorce would be final. I hadn’t shared the news with most of my friends and even some of my family. I had no idea where I was going to live or if I’d be able to support myself.  Just hearing the word “divorce” was enough to bring me to tears.  I probably didn’t need to add marathon training to my to-do list.
While my father the runner told me to go for it, my mother suggested that maybe I already had more than enough on my plate. Torn between my dad’s endorsement and my mom’s trepidation, I decided to leave it in the hands of the gods of registration.
The Marine Corps Marathon is the third largest marathon in the country, and in 2012 the race filled its 30,000 runner limit on registration day in less than 3 hours. The chances that I’d be one of those lucky runners to get in were slim.
Thirty minutes after the online registration opened, I had yet to make it past anything other than a “try again later” message. By the hour mark, other hopeful runners were voicing angry complaints on the marathon Facebook page about the website crashing and how technical difficulties were ruining their running dreams. I had managed to get through to the registration form a half a dozen times, but each time I was knocked off before I could fill in my information.
I had been clicking the refresh button for an hour and six minutes on two different computers when, finally, my registration form was accepted. In a record 2 hours and 27 minutes, the 2013 Marine Corps Marathon reached its 30,000 registrant limit, and I was one of them.
The marathon took place at the end of October, a month after my divorce was supposed to be final. The timing felt poetic. Completing the marathon would be my closure, the official celebration of my new independence and my hard-fought journey to a sense of self, happiness, and forward movement. It would also serve as my graceful exit from my life as a military spouse, a way to show my pride and gratitude to the military community I deeply respected.
My seven months of marathon training were time consuming and physically demanding, even punishing at times.  For all of my running experience, I’d never logged as many miles week after week.  I started the process relatively out of shape, thanks to the stresses that led to the separation agreement. My mental and emotional endurance were lacking. As the weeks passed, I struggled with physical aches as well as emotional beatings rendered by major life transitions like losing the familiarity of my home by moving out and adjusting to a co-parenting schedule that accommodated the new reality of two households as well as my husband’s latest military assignment that took him out of town during the work week.
There were days I flew through 12-mile runs, finishing with a bursting feeling of invincibility that I could conquer anything. Other days I barely managed 6 miles, relieved to press the stop button on my Garmin as I fought collapsing after an hour of being trapped inside my own head.
Some days I relied on my training partner, who understood the stress I was under but also pushed me to bank on the good days and muddle through the bad. I couldn’t hide under my pillow on long run days because I knew he would be banging on my front door until I laced up my running shoes. Other days I ran alone, leaning on the playlists on my iPod for the support it took to keep going.
Race day finally arrived (in spite of a government shutdown that a threatened to cancel it because the course went through several national parks). I was no stranger to running races, but standing at the start line of the Marine Corps Marathon was unlike anything I had experienced before.
The crowd buzzed with nervous anticipation as strangers told tales of past accomplishments, wished each other luck, and attempted last-minute stretching. Uniformed Marines were everywhere, double checking race bibs, collecting runners’ “throw-away" clothes in trash bags, and offering high-fives. I soaked in the energy that surrounded me, and just when I thought I couldn’t wait one more second to start moving, I heard the howitzer fire, signaling the start of the race.
The crowd collectively inched toward the arch that marked the official start line. I took my first marathon steps walking, then jogging. Soon I was off and running, weaving my way into a space of my own and finding my rhythm, not unlike the path I had traveled from day one of my separation to these last days leading up to the divorce.
I ran past monuments and national landmarks. I posted photos on Facebook to share my progress with friends and gather virtual support. When I needed an extra push, I took out my earbuds and let the cheering bystanders carry me until I fell into my groove again. When I hit a mental wall at mile 17, I called a friend. And as I thanked the Marines who handed me cups of water throughout the race and cheered me on as I climbed that last hill before rounding the bend to the final stretch, I realized that I would truly miss being a part of the military world, but the lessons I learned and the experiences I gained will always be a part of me.
I finished after 4 hours, 48 minutes and 59 seconds.  At the finish line, I was embraced by co-workers, friends, and family – my support team, the people who had both made the effort to watch me race and answered every late night phone call, weathering my tears and rants, listening when appropriate and giving advice and tough love when required.
Twenty-six days after the race my divorce was final. As I stood watching a judge sign the document that ended my marriage I was reminded of how I felt at the end of the Marine Corps Marathon.  I was grateful that moment felt familiar.  If it hadn’t I’m sure I would have lost my composure, something I’d later regret.
The Marine Corps Marathon kept me from indulging those inner voices who nagged at me to yield to the stress of divorce in non-productive ways. Running prevented me from succumbing to depression. It got me out of bed in the morning. It improved my mental tenacity. It kept me from drowning my sorrows in cartons of Ben and Jerry’s and glasses of wine. It gave me something from which to draw strength and confidence. It reminded me I have a lot of life left to live and that I might just be able to live it happily if I try.
My divorce challenges aren’t over and I don’t expect they will be for quite awhile.  But on more challenging days, I’ll remind myself that I ran the Marine Corps Marathon.
And that should keep me standing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Roller Coaster is Swinging Into a New Phase

Notice anything different?
Thanks to the amazing Dani, owner of Graphic Grace Creative, I got myself a makeover!
My life has taken a rather dramatic turn, and while I'm sad to see the other design go, it no longer reflected who I am. I've changed a lot. That means the blog needed a change too.
So this is the new Roller Coaster swinging into a new phase in my life. Thanks for joining me. And let me know what you think of my new look!


Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Gift of Dammit

Since my divorce, I've received all sorts of gifts and cards and well-wishes. But I have to say that one gift in particular has really come in handy, a gift I use frequently, a gift I highly recommend for anyone dealing with raised levels of stress.

The Dammit Doll -- for all your dammit needs.

"Whenever things don't go so well,
And you want to hit the wall and yell,
Here's a little dammit doll,
That you can't do without.
Just grasp it firmly by the legs
And find a place to slam it.
And as you whack the stuffing out
Yell 'Dammit! Dammit! Dammit!'"

Monday, March 3, 2014

5 Things I’ve Learned as a New Single Mom

When I was a military spouse, I often referred to myself as a Sometimes Single Mom. My husband was frequently away on military orders, and whether he was gone for short bursts of time here and there across the country or for longer deployments to less than friendly places, I was often left parenting our two young children on the homefront solo.

That’s the definition of a single mom, right?

Turns out, not so much.

Since becoming a real single mom, I’m realizing there’s so much more to single parenting than simply being the only parent physically present. I won’t say I had it easy as a military spouse because I didn’t and neither do all the military spouses out there parenting alone right now. But real single mom-hood is a whole new ballgame. I’m in the major league now.

That’s why, when I first read military spouse Sarah Smiley’s headline in her recent piece in Huff Post Divorce, I almost spit out my coffee as she called herself a single mother in a publication aimed at single parents. But as I read her post, I realized it was actually a nice tribute to the single parents working it every day. All her points rang true.

While I agree with the 5 lessons she learned about single parenthood during her husband’s deployment, I wanted to add my own 5, my own lessons learned during my brief time so far as a single mom. I don’t wish to generalize to all single moms because all single moms face unique circumstances, but the following are 5 things I’ve learned along the way:

1. As a single mom, I am solely responsible for my financial outcomes.

As a military spouse, I did a lot of parenting alone, but the money was still incoming. My husband’s paycheck supported my ability to be a stay-at-home mom for 6 years, and when he deployed, we actually saved money. Any paycheck I earned when I went back to work was supplemental, not a necessity.

As a single mom, I’m on my own financially.

In my case, this is both good and bad. It’s good because, in my marriage, I was the saver and he was the spender. I no longer have to worry about his spending habits or deal with the fights those spending habits caused.  I’m already programmed to pinch pennies.

This is bad because his paycheck was significantly higher than mine. That means pinching pennies is no longer optional. Yes, I receive monthly payments from him, which I will never complain about because I hear too many stories of women whose ex-husbands think they can pick and choose when they want to pay child support. But that money covers a small portion of living expenses for me and my children. Money is tight.

2. As a single mom, I don’t make parenting decisions unilaterally, but sometimes I wish I did.

Being a parent is tough. That’s why it’s ideal to have two parents to bounce ideas off each other and generate solutions together. As a military spouse, I often didn’t have the option to call my husband and ask for his input on how to discipline our son for breaking a rule or how long I should let our baby daughter cry it out. I complained about having to make tough decisions on my own because I didn’t know when he would be able to call or if he even had the time to process life at home. I craved those times when we could discuss parenting issues, when we could parent together.

Now that I’m a single mom, I sometimes wish I could make those decisions by myself. Now there are no discussions at all. Now I have to deal with the aftermath of his parenting decisions I don’t agree with. I have no say in what goes on in his house when the kids are there. I have no say in the movies he shows them that I deem age-inappropriate. I have no say in the people he brings into their lives. I have no say in the gifts he buys for them, even though gifts like cell phones will affect behavior not just in his home but in mine as well.

3. As a single mom, I have lost a portion of my support system.

When you divorce a spouse, you inevitably divorce his family. While I still have a relationship with my former in-laws, it will never again be what it once was. And I no longer have any contact with most of his other family members and friends.

4. As a single mom, I don’t have a plus one and I don’t have the reassurance that one is out there.

Even when my husband was deployed, I knew I was married. I knew I had someone who was eventually coming home to me and would eventually fall back into the routines of married life. I had someone who would eat dinner with me, watch movies with me, sleep in bed beside me. Even if he was temporarily absent, I knew I had a plus one, a significant other, a care package recipient, a partner, a companion.

Right now I have important people in my life who love me, but I don’t have a partner here with me for the routines of married life. And I have no idea if I ever will.

5. As a single mom, my time with my children is dictated by a legal document.

Any mom will tell you that she needs some time to herself every now and then, and I’m no exception. But now, my time alone is a result of a document drafted by an attorney and signed by a judge in a court of law. I have to abide by custody schedules. Any changes to that schedule involves extensive  and frustrating exchanges with my ex.

But do you know what else that means? It means I treasure the time I do have with my children. And I'll never take that for granted.

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