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Monday, November 23, 2015


This week we will have another quiet Thanksgiving Day.  Divorce alters traditional family celebrations forever and spending big days without some of those you love the oat is one of the most enduring markers of a divided family.  Holidays will never be the same.  My children requested a Thanksgiving celebration at home this year, and so we will enjoy a feast on Saturday along with traditional holiday decorating.  Mr. Wonderful and I have reservations for lunch on Thursday.  Thanksgiving is such a family-focused holiday that I struggle against the sadness.  I'm glad I'll have Saturday and Christmas to uplift my spirit.

Yesterday at church, I was sharing our Thanksgiving plans with a fellow solo-mom.  I mistakenly assumed that she might understand the challenge of celebrating without the presence of your child.  "I haven't ever had a holiday without *Kaley, I just can't imagine." she said.  I just nodded, but I felt even more isolated and less understood.

I'm very conscious of many blessings I have been given.  It's so easy to notice what I don't have and long for more: time with my children, clothes in the closet, updated furniture, modern conveniences, etc.  These thoughts are very me-focused, and I am practicing looking outward.  The news displays clear evidence that I have so very much and am rich in material goods.  My family and children reflect how deeply I am blessed in relationships.  Mr. Wonderful is such a tangible presence of understanding, partnership and love.  The comfort of knowing he "gets it" is so monumental.  The very fact that we have walked similar hardships bonds us more closely together.  Those I love most are healthy and cared for.  It's hard to ask for more.

And so it is with most things.  If we look, we can find the blessing even in what is negative.  We miss our one who went away to university this year.  Yet we are so grateful for her intelligence and what she is learning, experiencing and the way she is growing.  Middle school has been so challenging and yet my son has matured and is stretching himself.  When I practice gratefulness, my perspective shifts and I feel so rich.  Let's be intentional about noticing the blessings.  It's a practice of perspective that has the power to change your life.

*name changed for privacy.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

How to Stay Calm When Your Ex Pushes Your Buttons

There is a reason that you and the father of your children are "Exes" and not still a couple.  Because you were once close enough to make a baby together, he is close enough to know the things that get under your skin.  The patterns have probably long been in place for you to react to certain topics or to become emotional under certain circumstances.  But you have the power to stay calm when your ex pushes those buttons.  You do not have to go down the path of reacting.

During the process of our separation and divorce, it was my mantra to Keep it Classy.  You get to keep your dignity and maintain composure, even when it's emotionally stressful.  Employ calming practices and prep in advance for any necessary comebacks.  Keep these principles in mind:

- Don't talk "business" at family gatherings, school events or sporting events.  Save it for a quick call, email or whatever form of communication works best for your parenting dynamic.

- A little distance is healthy.  He doesn't need to know all your plans and thoughts, so remember it is okay to not include him in the decisions that do not affect his time with the children.

- Keep the past behind you and beware of becoming immediately defensive.  Ask yourself if this situation is worth the emotional expense that conflict will bring.

- Before you respond, smile.  This will force you to pause for a beat and communicate good will.  It may even signal a cheeky understanding that he is trying to manipulate the interaction, but you are still in control.

- Be Consistent.

- Keep trying.

- Determine to be a grown up and never make your child or teen choose between you and your ex.

- Commit to emotional integrity and determine to live by your values, even in a challenging relationship.

You are only responsible for yourself.  If a conversation begins to deteriorate, simply walk away.  Detach.  Disengage.  Depart.  You've got this!  Then call a supportive friend and hash out the crazy.

I hope this Thanksgiving season finds you counting blessings.  Look for them - they are out there!  I'm grateful for any who come here to read.  I'd love to hear from you through this season.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Before & After

On the day of my divorce, I burned personal
letters and cards that no longer had value because I deemed
the words insincere and irrelevant to my future.  
I was driving through the mountains on a road I hadn't traveled on in about three years.  Prior to that, I was there often.  It was a short ten minutes from my previous home, and yet now there is a more direct route to the mountains that I take.  Being back on this road, once so familiar and routine, now felt uncertain and I lost my bearings.  I missed a turn.  I couldn't remember the way to a landmark.  I was disoriented.  I felt unsure of myself in a place where once I was the expert.

That is often how I feel about the circumstances in my life.  Once, I felt so sure, so certain that each next step was the right one.  I professed faith, and yet every decision was made with my own calculation and prediction.  I could not have imagined how completely life has shifted from that time "before" the divorce that was final five years ago this week.  I remember how completely disoriented and unsure I felt about my future.  Filing for divorce was the greatest act of faith I had taken up to that point in my life.  I well-remember the sense that God was asking me to choose Him and let go of trying to gain security in a man who struggled with his own issues.

Even years later, I still grieve that ideal family that I spent my early life imagining.  I never considered that it might not remain intact.  My younger-woman-self could not believe that the man I chose might not always choose me.  I didn't realize how significantly that choice would affect the children, even under the best of circumstances.

Naively, I thought that the removal of my ex-husband from our home would remove his influence from my life.  I had been told that I was trading one kind of problems for another kind of problems, but now I understand what that means as it plays out in daily life:

  • I don't wonder about who my husband is with, I worry about who is sharing time with my children.
  • I don't stress about impressing my family at holidays, I stress about holidays without some of my favorite people.
  • I don't argue over how to spend our income, I worry over whether child support will always be paid.

Anger doesn't end after divorce.  Hurt doesn't disappear.  My experience as a parent is radically transformed, as is the experience of childhood by the little ones exposed to two homes.  Divorce is the doorway that ends one kind of family, but opens into another kind.  The new life provides much more control over my personal life, and much less control over the lives of my children.  That was explained to me, but I didn't understand it until I lived it firsthand.  It is a humbling and difficult challenge.

And yet, the life during and after divorce has been my most rich living thus far.  I looked around and discovered a whole different tribe of people who were there for me.  I saw with my own eyes how the Lord provides and comforts.  I experience the peace of living in truth at home and elsewhere.  I am more confident in Him than I could have been without the painful journey of divorce.

Mr. Wonderful and I snuck up to the mountains last weekend.
We are headed back tomorrow.
Sometimes I feel disconnected from the person I was before.  I miss the sense of history to share with my spouse.  At the same time, I feel so much more free to be my true self that I can hardly remember the sense of uncertainty, fear and bondage in which I lived for so many years.  I am loved more wholly and more sacrificially by a man who demonstrates with his life, not just his words, that he is committed to me.

The exact season which I feared may destroy me, is the very moment when I witnessed the greatest of miracles.  Surely, five years ago I could not predict where life has brought me.  How I wonder what the next five years might hold?  As I was then, I am confident that God goes before me and my children,.  He will work His way for good and I rest in His security.

I am not the person I was before.  I am not only this life that is after.

 I am before and after. 

Have you experienced any before & after events in life?

Other times I written about my divorce experience:

It's Good, But It's Not The Same (and that's okay)
One Year Later
Is Divorce Wrong?
The "Christian Divorce Advocate"

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Mom Selfies

When is the last time you were so joyful that you burst into uninhibited laughter or a smile?

Everyday, I fight for a little bit of time for just me.  Sometimes I use that time to go to bed early or read.  Often I get outdoors alone and run or walk in our gorgeous natural landscape.  Rarely, I indulge in a movie or Netflix.  But I've learned to fight for it because for years I lost me in the survival mode of motherhood and wifedom.  

Motherhood is a high and noble calling - I think there may be none greater.  Yet it is only one role in our lives and in order to serve well, we must nourish ourselves, too.  It's easy to overlook self and sacrifice all for others, but that is not healthy nor required.  We aren't doing any favors when we neglect our people's most valuable resource - Mom!
A dose of nature always brings me joy!
In light of this, I would like to see a movement for more Mom Selfies.  Just you - no children, no friends or partners - just mom.  It can be a moment when you feel great or when you feel defeated.  Maybe the only self care you get is your time brushing your teeth, but even that can be embraced.  Let's do better.  Let's work to find what kindles the spark in our eyes...we recognize it in our children, and you are just as worthy of that kind of joy.  

On Facebook or Instagram, Twitter or wherever you like to share, tag #MomSelfie or #MomCare so we can celebrate with you.  Just do it for fun!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Life Lately

We've been busy with extended family for the past couple of weeks.  We're grateful for lot of people who love us well.


If it looks like all this blended-family-ness is bliss, let me assure you that it is not.  This week has included frustrating schedules, difficult sleeping arrangements (house with 9 people and three dogs is not conducive to relaxation), tight deadlines, a toddler-like tantrum and quite a bit of sass.  Middle school is still creating anxiety, budgets are still tight and there are many things that pull us in different directions.  So, yes, we truly are "Far From Flawless!" But we are still appreciating all the good and trusting that the difficult will be used to grow and mature us.  And I love the special relationships witnessed in these photos!

How do you take a moment to remember the blessings in the middle of the challenges?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Do You Understand What Enabling Is? It Can Look A Lot Like Love.

My wonderful husband is an ideal counterpart to me in so many ways.  Recently, he pointed out that I have a tendency to spoil our pets, especially one little runt puppy, to his frustration.  This little guy is so tiny and I do admit to adoring his little, needy soul.  I dote on him, carry him around and give into his little whines for attention.  And so while I'm gone from the house and Mr. Wonderful is hard at work in his at-home office, this little dog begs for his attention and follows him around whining.  It drives Mr. Wonderful a little crazy and we call this pup incurably co-dependent.  He gets so forlorn and can't seem to handle being alone.

My mama tendencies lean toward the same with my children.  In my desire to protect them from difficult things, I have shielded them from consequences of their own negative choices.  Those choices continued unchecked and so now correcting them is absolutely necessary - and so much more difficult because habits have been formed.  The behavior is more challenging to change, because it has been allowed for so long.  I wasn't doing my children any favors by shielding them.  In fact, I was enabling them continue in a negative way.

Enabling is a rich concept and entire books have been written on the subject.  My simple, working definition is shielding someone from the consequences of their choices or doing something for someone which they are capable of doing themselves.  Both aspects stifle maturity, but lately I've been working on the consequences side, which has required discipline and awareness on both my part and the part of my children.

I've had to identify each child's ingrained wrong habit - usually an attitude, followed by words and behavior - and point it out to the child.  Then, repeatedly point it out because the habit has become so ingrained that it happens multiple times each day.  Now, I am at the point of instigating consequences.  It is not fun, for them or for me.  I don't like being the one to mete out bad news and point out shortcomings and I have avoided it in the past.  But that very avoidance has cleared the way for their poor behaviors to continue unchecked.

What I'm learning, is that the real discipline is keeping myself in check, being consistent and willing to do the unlikable thing.  It's tough holding a child accountable each time poor behavior is exhibited when it happens multiple times each day.  It's not fun being the main police parent.

But I am doing it because I am living the example of what happens when I let the poor behavior slide...when I believe that magical maturity will happen and the child will self-correct.  It doesn't even make sense when I type it out!  So, it's worth it to conquer these challenges now.  I will be the bad guy for a few weeks now in order to develop better character in the years to come.  They are so worth it.  I want to parent intentionally, not just avoid the more difficult parts.

My greatest frustrations come when I haven't taken the time to train my children by telling them what I expect and following through with consequences.  In this season of discipline, for me and for them, my goal to establish better habits now rather than kick the can down the road and deal with greater, potentially worse consequences later.

As a step parent, my Mr. Wonderful has a more hands-off role in this kind of discipline.  He backs me up, directs the children and follows through with established rules.  He helps me discern what is trivial and what necessitates setting boundaries.  He gently points out my inconsistencies, where the children are likely frustrated and confused.  Most of all, he supports me.  He encourages me and helps me see the greater goal beyond one frustrating moment.  I'm so grateful for him.  During my single mom years, I was often too weary and lacked the emotional strength for the discipline battle.  Because of Mr. Wonderful, I'm now able to step up in the parenting role and my children will be better for it.

Please, someone tell me you have faced a similar battle?  Where do you find the emotional support to remain consistent and firm, but kind?

Stepping Back so He Can Step Up - sometimes I try to control, too!

There are some great reminders about mothering here.

A great reminder for why it's worth it!

I Raised An Addict - the comments are heart-wrenching.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Are You Time-Starved?

Recently, I was prompted to consider how I spend most of my time.  So, I broke down the hours in a week and arrived at the following approximation:

  • 56 hours -  Sleep + Night Time Routines 
  • 32 hours - Work outside the home
  • 24 hours - Parenting hands-on: homework, reading, crafts, play, family activities
  • 12 hours - Taxi service (wow, more than I realized!)
  • 12 hours - Household Tasks: Cleaning, meals, laundry, grocery shopping, animal care, etc.
  • 12 hours - Self Care: exercise, getting ready, reading, prayer, journaling
  • 6 hours - Church
  • 5 hours - Intentional Relationships: dates with hubby, one-on-one with a child, lunch w/ friend
  • 9 hours - Entertainment, Fun, Margin
  • Total 168
Obviously, I value my sleep!  And while I don't have a great passion for my daily office job, I'm grateful for the way it supports my other values.  I didn't realize how much time I spend in the car - that's a lot!  I was surprised at the 9 hours of margin, because it often feels like I don't have a minute of extra time in my days.  Also, I noticed some things were difficult to categorize because there is significant overlap.  For example, parenting often happens among the household tasks as we go through our daily rhythms.  

For the most part, I feel like my time reflects my values.  Removing sleep, I spend the majority of time investing in the lives of my family and building up our home.  This aligns with my main purpose for this season of my life.  The time listed above doesn't display the undercurrent of spirituality that weaves through each activity.  Still, I see some areas where I would like to make adjustments.

Time is such a valuable resource.  In a family where children move between two homes, it becomes even more important to make good use of our time together.  It means those hours spent taxi-ing little bodies to school and activities are valuable minutes to invest in their hearts.  For this reason, we have a standing "no devices in the car" rule with rare exceptions.  I have to be cautious not to make all our time task-oriented (chores/homework) and focus on fun and relationship-building, too.

Have you thought about the way you spend your time?  Making a list of priorities is different that living by priorities.  If you tally your weekly hours and compare them to your list of life values, how does it measure against your ideal?  Are there changes that need to be made?  

Please know that we all spend a great deal of time simply performing the functions of life: sleep, chores, earning income.  I do not mean to induce any kind of guilt for the way anyone chooses to spend their time.  I truly found value in identifying the way I spend my time.  I found greater worth in the mundane tasks of housekeeping and commutes when I realized they built up the value of contributing to my family.  If you tally up your hours and find it doesn't match your priorities, ask yourself: 
  1. Are you mistaken about your priorities?
  2. Do you have less control over your own schedule than you would like?
  3. How can I begin to shift my time to match my values?
Our time and and our bank account often reveal our true values.  If the reality doesn't match what we say or want to be true, then it's time to look for ways to make our goals line up with our actual life.  Take a little step today and share what you choose to do in order to take control.  I'd love to hear from you in the comments or on instagram.