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.")

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