Steps…Hard Work but Beautiful Views

Have you ever climbed the steps to the top of a lighthouse? It is really tough climbing those steps. But when you get to the top, the views are beautiful. But those are not the steps I am writing about today.

Most of my girlfriends are divorced. The idea of their exes bringing a new woman into the lives of their children is scary. Every experience is different, but I can share mine…

I can remember when I came to terms with the fact that this new person was in my ex’s life, and would be in my kids’ lives. I can’t lie. I was angry, hurt, scared. How is it fair that some stranger gets to spend half of my kids’ lives with them? I am their mom. It is unfair that I only see them half the time. I was hurt that my kids accepted her into their lives. I was scared they would love her more, and forget I was their mom. Reality has a way of slapping you in the face.

I can also remember when she first started coming to watch my kids play sports. It was the hardest thing in the world. I would sit in the bleachers, quietly, with tears in my eyes. When my daughter would look up to her, in the stands, my heart sank. I felt like I was losing her. Like my fears were becoming reality.

My daughter started coming to the house with cute new clothes. Was she taking her shopping? It broke my heart to think another woman was taking on a maternal role for my kids. It was probably the scariest thing I have ever faced.

My first step to acceptance, being grateful that she was coming to support my kids in their sports. She must like my kids to bring her very young daughter out, close to bed time, to support my kids. My daughter, looking at her in the stands, means my daughter feels loved. It was a step forward.

But then my daughter said it…she called her her stepmom (they weren’t even married yet), and she called her daughter, her sister. Honestly speaking, those words were so hard to hear. The fear started sinking in again. I mean, the word mom is in stepmom, so I was being replaced, right? My insecurities said yes. It was time to regroup.

I had to step back and realize, I was in rough shape. I wasn’t capbable of having a meaningful relationship. It was clear in my insecurites when dating. All my baggage was stopping me from opening up to anyone. It was the same with my kids. My insecurity was toxic. I cried a lot. My kids had a hard time seeing me so unhappy. It was never supposed to be their job to make me happy. That was something only I could do.

At the time, I relied so much on my parents and my sister and her family. I really didn’t have anyone else. I had friends at work who I could talk with openly, but when I did talk, I would cry, and that was not condusive for working. So, I found some girlfriends…nope, a tribe. A group of other divorced women who were going through or had been through this. These friendships were so fulfilling. They brought happiness to my life. I had to step out of my comfort zone to meet them and I had to open my heart to trust them. But the reward was true happiness. I became a different person….

I became a person my kids felt comfortable to be around again. I become fun. I smiled, I laughed. By this time, my kids were both in college. But I could look back and see, I never lost them. They never replaced me. What I learned was that they did not have to replace me. Someone new was brought into their lives who respected me, as their mother. I can remember my daughter’s graduation party. Her little sister was so excited to meet her mom. Kids are funny. They can’t pretend. So, when she was so excited to meet me, and gave me an adoring look, my heart melted. All this fear of being replaced was silly. Not only was I not being replaced, but I was very much a part of my daughter’s life and the life of her sister. Not because she knew who I was, but because I was a special place where her big sister would go for a few nights. And the look she gave me, told me she felt it was a happy place. It felt pretty special.

When my daughter was struggling, emotionally, with her Lyme, it was her stepmom that had connections in State College to get her the help she needed. The reality was, my kids didn’t just have someone new around them. They had her, her daughter and family and friends around them. More people to love my kids. More people to look out for them. And I am so grateful to her for what she has given to them.

I have had friends that are in the same boat as I am. Thrilled for the kids to have someone new in their lives that loves them. Others are still coming to terms with it and still frightened. The climb up those steps is a long hard climb, but if the steps are right and you can figure out how to get to the top, believe me, those Steps can lead to something beautiful.

Life In the Fast Lane

One thing I have learned from my divorce is that I am an extrovert. I love being around people. Don’t get me wrong. I love my space too. But being around others just brings me joy.

I love going out with my friends or hanging out with them at their house or mine. I love visiting with family and going in the pool or relaxing. I love spending time with my guy playing golf or poker or date night. And I love when my kids come over and just fill my house with sweet noise. Given the opportunity, I will get up very early and go to bed extremely late to enjoy the people in my life.

But here’s the thing…being active like that, it doesn’t always like me. For instance, last week, I had been going all week. I completely crashed and burned last Monday into Tuesday. I was so exhausted, I forgot all my coping skills. But it’s not just about crashing because I am so tired. I get so busy, that I forget how to enjoy being alone. How to enjoy time to myself. This is supposed to be calming and enjoyable. I can watch what I want on tv. I can sit around on my couch with no pants on. I can talk to myself. I can sing at the top of my lungs and dance around my kitchen (my neighbors probably think I am weird). I love doing these things, but when I live my life in the fast lane, and never stop, I forget how important that time is.

If someone asked me 5 or 6 years ago if I thought my life would ever be this full, I would have said, “absolutely not!” I was a total couch potato. Always watching tv or sitting in my craft room. I was a total fuddy duddy. I learned to really just take life and run with it, and run and run and run and run and CRASH.

But, this week, I realized, I am not alone in keeping busy and forgetting how to be alone. It’s been a tough week for a few people in my life this week. Whether it is going out to avoid being home, or running around always taking care of other people just to be able to not respond to the bad in our lives. It’s really hard to face things that aren’t going your way.

I have surrounded myself with warriors. If you are in my life, know that I think that about you. Whatever your battle is, you have faced it head on and may have other battles you are gearing up for. This is one of our missions. Take some time to be alone. Think about what you enjoy doing alone. Embrace that down time. Love ourselves and enjoy being with ourselves. We are such strong people. Learn a new craft, enjoy a book, exercise, start cooking. Enjoy life in the slow lane sometimes. You don’t have to stay there. Start slow. Maybe just plan a weeknight where you can relax. Make a plan of what you will do. Start adding tv shows or movies to your Streaming cue. By some yarn and hooks so when the evening comes, you have something to do. A drink….don’t forget a good drink. It’s absolutely okay to drink alone. After all, think of it as a date. A date with your biggest love…You.

Just When You Get a Handle on Things

I have been through the separation and divorce process. It’s a roller coaster. But one thing I remember, is that just when you feel as though you have a handle on things, you realize how close you are to the actual divorce being final and BOOM! You have to find a place to live. Leaving the place you have lived and not knowing where you are going can be so scary.

I lived in my home for 11 years. My kids were raised in that home. We had family gatherings, birthdays, nerf wars, pool parties, lots of first days of schools, lots of movie nights… Sophia learned to cook in that kitchen. Our amazing dog, Shiloh, is buried there. The thought of leaving all that was heartbreaking. How could I leave all those memories? Not to mention, where was I going to go. Do I rent? Do I buy? What can I afford with my salary. It became very real that I might have to move in with my parents. I love my parents so much, but at 43, and dating again, I really did not like that option. I needed and wanted my independence. I can’t tell you how much I cried about not knowing what was next for me.

I realized the only option for me was to buy. I couldn’t afford rent in Loudoun County. I also knew I no longer wanted to live in the same town. Quite frankly, it was too small and I really had no friends keeping me there. Everyone was too busy with their lives and I certainly didn’t belong in any group.

So, the house hunting began. It’s very difficult to not just jump at the first place you see, due to sheer panic. But, with a lot of help from my mom, I had the patience to wait for the perfect home.

But this isn’t about my perfect home and loving where I am now. It’s about realizing that sometimes, we feel like we have everything under control, only to find another hurdle in our path. A big hurdle. It’s the idea that when you get divorced, if you have children or something else that keeps you connected with your ex, you will always be going through the divorce. Things happen that can knock the wind right out of you. Things you were never expecting. I still continue to have the wind knocked out of me, but I have learned that I am in control of how much power I give someone. And I am done giving someone else power over me. Not in a way that brings me down.

A couple of years ago, when my ex knocked the wind out of me, I couldn’t breathe for days. I would get so down. Now, when the wind gets knocked out of me, I step back and wonder why this person still has power over me. This is someone who I would never choose to be friends with, if given a chance. I can be nice, and get along very well, and I will mean it. But, I really don’t care what he feels about me, so there is no reason I cannot hold strong to my boundaries. So, that’s what I do. I stick with my values, with my boundaries. If my kids get mad, it’s okay. Some day they will understand where I am coming from. If their dad gets mad…well, I really don’t care.

No matter how long you have been divorced, if you have children, the ex will always be in your life. Figure out what you are willing to compromise and what you are not. For me, I have learned that sticking to our Property Settlement Agreement is a much better way to handle things, because it’s binding and easier to set my boundaries that way. Know what works for you and stick with it. Don’t let someone rule your life and your emotions, even if you can’t get them out of your life for a long time.

Closing A Chapter

Life is always full of fresh starts.  Sometimes, we don’t always recognize the new beginnings.  They just happen.  Other times, we anticipate them and have time to be afraid of what is next.  I just reached a new chapter in my life that has me both excited and nervous.  After 11 1/2 years, I have made the decision to leave my job at the Loudoun Abused Women’s Shelter.

This job has been such a huge part of my life for so long.  I have grown so much from when I first started working there.  I remember coming in as a volunteer, ready to save the entire world at one time.  Silly me!  In all seriousness, I have eaten, breathed, and slept this job for a very long time.  This has been my passion.  When people ask if I work full time or part time, my response is normally, “Neither, I work most of the time.”  Most of my friends and family see me with my phone firmly attached to me.  Sometimes, it’s two phones.  I have left events and holidays to attend to something at the shelter.  It has been challenging and exciting and amazing!  Nothing can ever compare to what I have learned at this job.  When people ask what I do, they usually don’t quite know what to say at first.  Their next response is, “That must be so rewarding.”  I laugh inside a little.  Working at a shelter, well, rewarding isn’t normally the word I would use.  Sometimes, I have felt like I was living with a rebellious teenager.  Sometimes, it was like I was watching someone run a marathon (I can cheer for them, but cannot get them to that finish line).  Sometimes, it was like being in a room with 100 Dementors.  What people don’t realize is that domestic violence does not come in one size or shape.  Survivors do not come to us and cry and ask our suggestions and follow them to a tee.  Nor do we expect that.

The people I have served for so many years are survivors.  Some may be terrified of everything and others may be angry at the world and come across as mean.  Survival skills come in all forms.  But what always amazes me, is how these individuals have learned to overcome the traumas they have gone through.  They have every right to be bitter and angry.  I don’t normally take it personally when someone verbally attacks me.  While directed at me, it’s usually not about me.  But, there are days you just can’t leave that at work.  Some individuals are just drowning and figuring out how to get out of a depression and they can’t seem to reach the surface.  As an advocate, my job was to support the survivor in the choices he/she/they made.  Sometimes, that came naturally.  Other times, the support was there, but I had to walk away and just cringe.  But as long as I was supportive and nonjudgmental, they knew that if they made wrong choices, they could always reach out for help and would never be made to feel less than the Wonder Women they are.

My daughter’s First Grade teacher used to have keys to success.  The one that always stuck out in my head was “Failure leads to success.”  Thanks Mr. Chandler.  It’s true.  We all make choices and fail sometimes.  However, if my survivors fail, and know they can come to me and I won’t judge, they are not as afraid to try again.  And they may have more failures.  But with continued support, eventually, they find success.  Sometimes the success comes faster, sometimes not.  Patience.

I have learned all about taking things for granted in life.  That my culture is not the only culture.  Cultural sensitivity has become a huge part of my life.  My clients have taught me so much in so many areas about this.  I have learned that while faith may be a very cringeworthy topic of discussion to some, it is very important to me.  While I do not get into faith discussions with my clients, I do find I ask about their faith.  It’s an amazing way to connect and serve my clients in the best way possible.  I can be mindful of set prayer times, dietary needs, connect with faith services a client may be comfortable with, and make sure the safety plans I offer conform with their beliefs.  And I’ve learned that I take what we have in out first world country for granted.  I have had clients that didn’t know what went into a refrigerator or how it worked.  Working with LAWS has forced me to open my eyes and see the entire world, not just what was in my little bubble.

But what most people don’t know about LAWS, is that there are so many amazing people who have worked there and that still work there.  It’s a group of the most amazing and supportive people.  I went through major life changes, and I’m convinced LAWS had a lot to do with my survival.  When I went through my separation and divorce,  I went through the tool bag of survival skills I gave my clients.  I could not be a hypocrite and give up, while encouraging my clients to accept the new life and rise from it.  And my coworkers, well they were amazing.  I was able to lean on them for support.  I survived my divorce with flying colors and found that I had become my own Wonder Woman.  Moving forward and working with clients, I was able to have so much more confidence when talking with them about surviving life changes.  That gives some of them more confidence to make changes.

Moving forward, I will be continue to work with clients and providing assistance.  I look forward to meeting new coworkers and meeting new clients who will teach me even more about myself.  Change is hard, but necessary.  I will always be grateful to everything LAWS gave me to be able to make all the changes in my life.  And for raising me to be Wonder Woman.

Finding a New Tribe

When I first got separated, I suddenly found out all my friends were mutual friends…and most were married. And, I realized how much I had neglected my friendships. I had a wonderful group of women who used to invite me to wineries and to go glamping with them. I always found excuses because I didn’t want to leave my family for a weekend, or even an evening. I regret that decision of giving up some amazing friendships. I still consider these women my friends and love them, but I isolated myself. So, separated and isolated, I was on a journey to reconnect with old friends and make new ones. I started with old friends. I was able to reconnect with a few and go out with them some. But I still felt like I didn’t have a tribe, like I really didn’t belong. I joined MeetUp, but never went to anything. I realized I had anxiety about going somewhere with a lot of strangers.

What I really wanted, no needed, was a group of women with whom I could share my feelings, and they would just get it. Women who have understood the roller coaster ride of separation and divorce. Women who know what it’s like to put a smile on your face for your kids, so they don’t see all the tears you shed, and so they never see you as less than the strong woman you want them to know. Women who have to learn how to date again and trust again after a loss of a marriage. But how do you find a group of women like this, and seriously, they would have so much crap going on…how would they get along.

So, on a whim, I thought I would try social media. I didn’t feel like I had any other outlet for meeting people. I happened to find a group for women who were either separated or divorced. It was a nice group and every day the administrator would post very positive messages. Many times,these messages were spot on to how I was feeling. the administrator and I reached out to each other and met up for dinner. I was so excited at the possibilty of a new friend. I never imagined where this would lead.

Not long after meeting this woman, we decided to have a meetup at a local coffee shop. There were only a few of us there, but I could feel something changing. The group of us ranged from someone having been divorced many many years to someone who had only been separated for a matter of a few weeks. I made a couple new friends.

The group continued online and served as a place for great resources and even better support. sometimes, on really bad days, I felt comfortable sharing with the group. I always got support. I didn’t always like what someone said, but I took the advice and used it to better my situation. Eventually, there were more meetups, with a bigger group. Many were the same women, with a few new women to meet each time. It was amazing! We all had very different experiences, yet we all just knew what to say to each other, how to comfort each other. This last year, connecting with these women, has been one of the best experiences. We meet up regularly, as a group. But some of us get together outside the group.

Some of us have been in the dating scene. We all support each other in our endeavors and share our horror stories. There have been times I have laughed so hard I almost peed…okay, maybe I peed a little. But the adventures of dating will be another post.

Christmas, well, we got each other through the holiday. Those of us who did not have our kids on Christmas Day met up for a movie and dinner. We gave each other something to look forward to. We are working on a girls weekend. Something very inexpensive because, well, we are all rebuilding and pinching pennies. But, I cant think of a better group of ladies to spend the weekend with.

So, to my Tribe, thank you all for being so supportive. For lifting me up on days I struggle. Thank you for allowing me to help you through bad days. Thank you for listening to my adventures and sharing yours with me. Thank you for your honesty. But mostly, thank you to all of you for being the type of women to straighten each others’ crowns. Your friendship has been life changing.

Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

I always try to go through life with a pretty positive outlook, but sometimes, life can get the best of me. Hey, I can’t be Wonder Woman all the time. But seriously, I just wrote about predicting, preparing and planning for those moments through which we know we are going to struggle. But how do we deal with those slap you in the face moments? What I’ve learned, is that those moments hit me when I am pretty exhausted. As my therapist has told me, I tend to attack life and try to make the most of it, but then I get so tired I crash and burn. So here I am. I’ve spent the last week or so worried about medical test results, working a lot of extra hours, trying to be super excited about dating in a dating world of men who really seem to only want one thing, and trying to figure out when in the heck I’m going to get my Christmas shopping done. Did I mention I haven’t been to the grocery store in 2 weeks. Yep, even a Wonder Woman goes through struggles.

I always say I never want anyone to dull my shine. I try to spread pixie dust wherever I go, however, sometimes I lose all faith and trust, and…well, we know what happens next. No more pixie dust. What next?

How do you hold onto your faith? I grew up going to church on Easter. I didn’t focus too much on my faith in God. I believed, but never questioned, never understood. To be able to see through the eyes of a child again. It wasn’t until after my children were born that I really wanted to explore my faith. Turns out my mom, my sister and I all decided, apart from each other, to start reading through the Bible, at the same time. I started taking Bible studies and going to church. I had a strong faith, stronger than I knew. I suffered from anxiety and learned to turn to God. Faith helped me through some very anxious moments. I felt like I was faithful and strong in that faith. When infidelity rocked my trust to the core, I turned to my pastor and I turned to God. What was wrong with me that I wasn’t good enough for my husband? I had two young children, no job, and no idea how to be on my own. I always said cheating was a deal breaker, but was I strong enough to call it off when faced with it? I wasn’t. I felt trapped, like I had no way out. So, my husband and I went to counseling and worked through everything and worked hard to make our marriage work. I felt like I made it through that dark period in my life with faith. I questioned it, I yelled at God, I was angry. But I was comforted, I was given strength and hope, and I was able to move forward.

After my trust was completely shattered I realized how strong my faith was. I continued with church. I was presented with an amazing job opportunity. Quite frankly, I felt as if the ground work was being laid for me to become a much stronger, more independent woman, should I ever be faced with having to go through life alone.

9 years later, my faith was still strong and it still continued to help me through anxiety. But then it happened. That silly trust thing…again. I had told my husband we would not survive another breach in trust like that. We didn’t. I saw it coming a mile away and I fought it and fought it. My self esteem was already in the shitter (sorry for the language). But let me tell you what infidelity does. It takes that self esteem out of the toilet and sends it all the way to Middle Earth somewhere. The feelings of unimportance, insiginificance, hatred for yourself; they all come to the surface. What was wrong with me? What did I do wrong? And the comparisons, oh the comparisons to the other person. I totally went there for a little while. I cried…I cried until I could barely see because my eyes were so swollen. I would get sick because my nose was so stuffed. My dog, he learned to run when I sobbed. I can remember what my prayers were. I used to pray that God would just take me out of the world and end my suffering. I was tired. I had no fight in me. I felt pathetic. And I felt like I had lost everything.

So, through all this, despite my very glum prayers, I tried to hang on to my faith. My church family was amazing. I continued to go to church, but my in-laws were there. I went for months and sat through services and couldn’t hear a word the pastor was saying, as I spent the entire hour fighting back tears and, yes, sometimes having to walk out in the middle of the service. My friends and my faith were here but I began feeling so abandoned by God. If my faith was so strong, why was he presenting me with challenges that I could not handle? Every week, I thought it would be better. I could be having a great day, but the moment I stepped into the church, I felt empty…even lost. I stopped going. I just couldn’t do it anymore.

It’s been over three years and I have gone back to church. My daughter plays her flute there on occasion and I always love to hear her. When I go back, sometimes it feels like I’m going home. Everyone is so wonderful and so welcoming. But I have yet to feel the comfort of God’s arms wrapped around me. I still talk to God, but I don’t have the confidence that my prayers are heard. I don’t know that my faith in God will ever be restored. At this point, I try to solely rely on my faith in myself. To know that I am strong and kind and that I’m not unimportant or insignificant. I try to go through life seeing the glass half full.

So, this brings us to trust. My trust in people has been completely rocked to the core. When I first started dating I didn’t trust that anything was real. It took a long time for me to find someone with whom I let those walls down. It was amazing! I could be me and I could let myself be vulnerable. Maybe life didn’t have to be so hard. Boy was I wrong. The silliest of arguments and he called it all off. Not only did he call it off, but he attacked my character and said some pretty awful things. So, at this point, I not only lost trust in another human being. I lost trust in my judgment. My red flags were up on our first date, and I let him convince me otherwise. My trust in myself is completely shattered.

But through this, I have some amazing family and friends that have seen me through pretty rough times. They have my back and I do know that. They are my cheering section and during those rough days, I can hear them all clapping their hands and yelling, “I believe, I believe, I believe!” So, I may never fully gain my faith in God, and I may always struggle with trusting myself and my judgment, but my family and friends will ALWAYS make sure I have my pixie dust so that I never, ever lose my sparkle.

“All you need is FAITH, TRUST and a little PIXIE DUST.” – Peter Pan

Predict, Prepare, Plan

Let me share with you what Christmas looks like for me. Since I was little, my family has always celebrated Christmas on Christmas Eve night. We have a wonderful dinner and open presents. It’s amazing family time. When I was little, on Christmas Day, we spent the day in our jammies, playing with our toys. We had leftovers for dinner and it was a day for relaxation. When I started dating my ex (I was still in high school), Chrismas Day was spent with his family. When I got separated, the division of Christmas was a no-brainer. The kids spent Christmas Eve with me and my family and they went to their dad’s on Christmas Day. But I had never been alone on Christmas Day.

July 4th is my son’s birthday. It used to be a huge celebration. When I was married, we had a huge party with the family and all our friends. In the evening we always had the big fireworks. It was a big family day for us. This has become a tough day for me. The kids come to my house in the morning and I make homemade chicken and waffles (my son’s favorite meal). Usually they bring a couple friends over also, and we do presents. But, for fireworks, the kids usually head to their dad’s for his birthday dinner. I have an amazing view of the fireworks from my house and I watch them with my neighbors. But I don’t have my kids with me to watch the show. It’s not just the divorce, but a part of kids growing up that creates this time, but it still happens.

I can remember how tough those first nights home alone were, when I first got separated. I hated not having the kids home with me. But, when I found out my kids had been staying with their dad, at his girlfriend’s house, for months, without tell me, well, that made me being alone in my house even tougher. This was more unbearable than Christmas and July 4th.

I think now is as good a time as any to talk about a strategy for defeating those moments that can bring you down. It may be a weekend alone, or going to event and knowing you have to see your ex, or, it may be the ex’s year for Christmas. These moments happen all the time. Some of them just smack us in the face, but there are some for which we can emotionally prepare. Why let the predictable moments smack us in the face when we can be ready for them and kick those moments in the ass. My counselor gave me great advice on handling these moments. So I would love to pass this advice along to you.

There are moments we dread. We just know they are going to stop us in our tracks. This is where the Predict comes in. Do inventory. Check your calendar. What difficult times are coming up? Make a list of those times.

Now that you’ve predicted those moments, it’s time to Prepare. How are you going to feel? What is going to make you feel better? Will being with friends help? Or how about a bubble bath or reading a book? Maybe an entire weekend away will help. Prepare yourself for how you will feel and what you will need in your life to get you through.

Make a Plan. Try to make them as early as possible. Call a friend and plan a night (or a weekend) out. Have something set up to do at home (maybe cook a gourmet meal, with dessert, and hit up Red Box and watch a good movie). Whatever the plan, make it as early as possible. Once you have a plan, you will look forward to the moment and kick that feeling of dread right in the ass. See, you’re Wonder Woman. You did it!!!

So, with the holidays coming up, some of us may be in the need to predict, prepare and plan. It’s a tough alone holiday. Stores are closed, restaurants are closed. But guess what, the movie theaters are open. There are some great movies coming out…Mary Poppins, Rocket Man… Whatever you plan, be excited about it!

The In-Between Moments

Just a couple weeks ago I went and saw Bohemian Rhapsody. What a movie! There was a moment, when Freddy Mercury was talking with his future lover, Jim Hutton. He said he was afraid of life’s “in-between” moments. Before that moment, the movie showed his wild and lavish lifestyle. On the outside, it appears as though he has everything. But the movie shows him in his mansion, with his cats, all alone. He has no idea what to do with himself. My heart broke for him. And I understood exactly what he meant by those “in-between” moments.

When I first got separated, I remember the first night my kids spent away from the house. I was alone. Sure, I had friends. But when all your friends are marriage friends, it gets pretty awkward. And these friends were not ones I felt like I could call or text when I needed someone. I never nurtured my friendships to create that type of a relationship. So, those “in-between” moments, well, they were all the time. I would get anxious just anticipating them. I felt alone, even before the house was empty, just knowing the torture of it. My family was amazing at checking in on me. But I lacked those friendships we all need. No friends were checking in on me. I felt as though I just didn’t matter.

So, I filled that alone time? I drank a lot and I went on dating sites trying to find someone to fill that void. Really, what I found, was that the dating was mostly rejection with some dates that ended badly because I wouldn’t sleep with someone on a first date. The “in-between” moments were still there, only much worse. I had the rejection of dating and still no friends to check on me and see how I was. Clearly, drinking and dating were not the answers.

On a whim, I searched for local divorce groups. I found this amazing group for women going through separation and divorce. We all had something in common. It took time to nurture those friendships, but it has been amazing. As a group, we try to get together fairly regularly. It can be tough, as everyone with children has different custody schedules, but we make it work. Normally we meet out somewhere, usually a restaurant. We’ve gone to concerts as well (and I danced so much I could barely walk the next day). I had my first get-together at my home with this wonderful group of ladies. Okay, so the get-together was supposed to be a game night, but we never opened a single game. I did a take two of game night, but still, no games were opened. But the company was great.

Apart from the group activities, I have made some amazing friends who I have come to rely on and enjoy spending time with. Some of my “in-between” moments are starting to be filled with brunches and movie nights and impromptu drinks. I got a text the other night “I’m bored. Let’s get a drink!” It was out of the blue, but it made my day. Coming home to an empty house doesn’t feel nearly as alone anymore. I don’t need to have someone on the couch next to me, nor do I have to have someone constantly texting and checking in on me. I have some pretty amazing friends, that I know have my back. And they know I have theirs. I have an amazing family and they are my rock. It has taken me a long time to realize just how much I have in my life, but I’m so grateful for all of it.

I do still have some pretty torturous “in-between” moments. And I feel sorry for myself. And I’m pretty miserable to be around. But picking myself up from that is much easier. And each and every day, I like myself even more. That’s the ultimate key to being alone. Finding yourself again and learning to like what you see in the mirror. It’s still a work in progress, I will always be a work in progress. But with the help of amazing friends and family, I make many more steps forward than I do backwards.

When those moments of torture get the best of you, reach out to a friend or family member. Find a group and make the most of it. Step out of your comfort zone to meet new people. It’s not going to happen unless you make it happen. But when it does, girlfriend, you are going to soar!!!!!!!!!

How Do You Do Holidays/Birthdays With the Father of Your Children?

I can remember when I first got separated. It was the Sunday before Mother’s Day in 2015 and two weeks before my ex-husband’s birthday. The very first question that came to mind was, how do I do this? Can I do this? Well, I put on my big girl panties (and yes, they are Wonder Woman panties) and spent Mother’s Day with my kids and my family, but no husband. He went out of town. My kids were 15 and 16 at the time and knew enough to make sure I had something for the day. Neither could drive. My daughter used my Cricut machine and made a beautiful, homemade box. They went through the pantry and put 3 Hershey Kisses in it. The look on their faces broke my heart. They felt terrible about what they gave me. They have no idea what that gift meant to me. After 24 years of being with the same man, less than a week after we split, he could not find the courtesy to help them feel good about Mother’s Day, yet they did everything they could to make me feel better about one of the toughest days of my life. What I learned that day was that I would NEVER allow my kids to feel guilty for not having something for their dad.

One week later…it’s their dad’s birthday. I invited him for a birthday cookout. My daughter made him a cake and I took the kids shopping and the three of us picked up a nice gift for him. We made it a lovely day, and the smile on the kids’ faces was so worth it. That would be the last of the holidays/birthdays we would spend as a family.

When my birthday came up I got an Ipad. It was nothing the kids would have ever picked out for me, and nothing I really wanted. I called it my good riddance gift. He had already shacked up with his girlfriend and just wanted to say he did something nice. Guilt. After that, the kids were pretty much on their own for gifts for me. I think he helped them if they asked, but, for the most part, they got help with ideas from my mom.

I was still determined to make sure they never felt guilty. He had one birthday that they did not have anything for him. My son was old enough to drive and I asked them about a gift. They assured me they had it covered. They didn’t. Boy did I get an ear full. I felt bad for a bit, but then I thought, he is living with his girlfriend and the kids live there half the time. At this stage, shouldn’t she be helping him? So, first question to you folks. If your ex has a live in partner with home your kids live half the time and get along with, shouldn’t the partner be the one to help the kids shop? I feel like it would be a bonding experience as well as something the partner would want to do for someone with whom they are in a new relationship. Well, she never helped. Honestly, the kids always said she had no clue what to get him. After not getting a birthday present one year, I physically took the kids out shopping to make sure they always had something. I’ve received so many thank you texts from this man, thanking me for the wonderful gifts I helped the kids get. From concert tickets to amazing cooking appliances. I never spent a dime on him. My kids were old enough that they had jobs. They told me their budget and I helped them. Had they been younger, I would have paid.

Now that my kids are adults, will send them a gentle reminder, but no more assistance. If they don’t do it, they can feel guilty. They have the means to do it on their own now.

For us, Thanksgiving and Christmas weren’t so bad. My family has a big football game every Thanksgiving. The kids come for that ever year and they alternate where they are for dinner. This year, they were with their dad. I had dinner with my parents and my sister and her family. Christmas was the easiest. We always celebrated with my family on Christmas Eve. I grew up celebrating on Christmas Eve in Upstate New York. When I asked about that, I was told New York is closer to the North Pole, so Santa gets the presents there earlier. Woot! Early Christmas for me. So, doing the whole family thing didn’t have to change that. Me and the kids still spend the day with my family. They get up early Christmas morning and head to their dad’s house. Christmas in my house is quiet. I go to my sister’s for breakfast and then head home and relax. I may watch movies or read a new book I got. This year, me and a girlfriend may catch a double feature at the movie theater. I’m looking forward to it.

The question comes up pretty quick when you first separate. How to handle the holidays and birthdays. My suggestion is to not worry about what the ex is doing when it comes to gifts. Be yourself and do what is best for the kids. Don’t feel like you have to exchange with that person. But there are many relationships that end amicably and gift exchanges may be in the cards. That is so amazing and kudos to you both. Either way can be done in a healthy fashion so the kids understand that life goes on and it’s going to be okay. They pick up on our cues. No matter how sad or angry we feel, don’t let the kids see. At some point, it’s okay to let them know you are sad or hurt, but let’s not make it the holidays. Let them be kids and enjoy it.

So, I’ve shared my adventures, but there are so many more ways it can be done, as opposed to my “everything is separate” way. One of my girlfriends spends Christmas morning with her ex-husband and their family. They do a gift exchange, but the presents they buy for each other are from the kids. They buy the kids’ gifts together. I think this is a great way for the kids to see that their parents can still get along. It makes future events, such as weddings, birthdays,etc much more comfortable.

I have another girlfriend who just got back from an overseas trip with her soon to be ex-husband. They took their kids out of the country to visit his family over the Thanksgiving holiday. I watched her post pictures of her trip on Facebook. It looks like they had a fabulous time. As for Christmas, they are with Dad, to celebrate as his family celebrates, on Christmas Eve. but go back totheir mom’s house that night so they can wake up Christmas morning there. Dad comes over super early Christmas morning in his PJs and they all spend Christmas morning together.

I love hearing what everyone’s traditions are. While my divorce was not as amicable, we make it work and try to make things comfortable. But hearing other traditions shows that there is definitely hope and they holidays don’t have to be a source of anger and sadness. Please share your traditions too. We would love to hear them.

Let’s Start at the Beginning

It’s really hard to decide where the beginning really is. I separated from my ex-husband 3 1/2 years ago. Our divorce was finalized 2 years ago. This August, my youngest joined her brother at Penn State University. They took my dog with them, as my daughter has Lyme and is using him as an emotional support dog. I can’t lie, I was looking forward to having my dog with me so I wasn’t alone in my home. So, what did I do? I rescued a dog. Marshall. He’s pretty amazing!!!

In the last few years, I’ve worked really hard to create a better relationship with my kids. I’ve gone through the dating world (it’s entertaining, but almost more stressful than it’s worth). I underwent 2 surgeries last year. I had back surgery, and I also had half my colon removed. Yep, I now have a semicolon. I just got out of a year long relationship. I thought I loved him, but turns out, I think I was way more in love with having someone. The moment he got drunk and started putting me down, I was out the door. I know I deserve better than that, and won’t stand to be treated that way.

One of the best things I did after my divorce…I joined a local Facebook group for women who are separated and divorced. When I got separated, I realized I did not have friends that were mine. They were all mine with my ex-husband. And, since they were all football friends, and the ex was one of the high school football coaches, the loyalty went to him so their kids’ could get playing time. So, back to the drawing board with friends. So, my new friends are amazing. We are all in similar places in life and can be completely ourselves with each other. I love these ladies. When I’m down, they are there. When I am excited about something, they are there. We come from all walks of life, but it works for us all.

So, that’s pretty much the cliffnotes of my last 3 years. The dating adventures have been fun, and I’m getting ready to get back in the saddle again. I’m looking forward to sharing lessons I’ve learned along the way, as long as some fun and entertaining experiences in my life. I’m sure not all things will be fun, because, after all, it’s life. And life has a way of throwing crazy curveballs at us.