Monday, November 8, 2010

dreams

When I was married I used to have a recurring dream.  The setting of the dream would change, but the underlying theme would be the same.  I would find myself in a situation in which I was not married to my husband.  In some dreams we had broken up.  In others he had never existed.  I would realize his absence by the fact that I was not wearing my wedding ring.  When I woke I always found myself extremely unsettled.  I was so scared to think of my life without him because such an existence was unimaginable to me.  I believed that we had been destined to be together and that I had been waiting for him my entire life.  I know it sounds cliche and all that, but it is really how I felt.  My marriage was never perfect and I did not have grandiose romantic illusions about what love and marriage were about.  That was actually what always convinced me that we were meant to be together:  the fact that our marriage was real and honest and open.

Ironically, here I am 12 years after I said I do.  Our marriage was anything but honest.  My wedding ring is not on my finger.  We are not together and since his suicide 2 years ago, he no longer exists in this world.

When I awoke from those dreams I felt a fear deep inside my soul.  A fear of losing him.  But then I would look to my side and he was there.  I would often tell him about my dream and he would comfort me and tell me he was never leaving and that everything would be OK.  

Every now and then I experience a feeling of disbelief.  My story fast forwards through my brain and I feel like all of that could not possibly have happened to me.  But it did.  And no matter how happy I am in my life right now, no matter how much I have healed, there will always be that raw, wounded part inside of me.  At those times when it rises to awareness, I just have to be kind to myself, take some deep breaths and tell myself everything will be OK.  And it will.  And it is.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Not As I Pictured

I saw an incredible documentary this weekend...Not As I Pictured by John Kaplan.  You can see more about it here.  John is a Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who is also a lymphoma survivor.  He documented his cancer journey in this film.  There is a lot that I loved about the film, but one thing in particular reminded me a lot of my own life.  The film began with pivotal points in his adult life:  falling in love, a wedding, the adoption of a child, the birth of a second child.  On the screen appeared 3 pictures (one of each event) and then the words "As I Pictured."  As the pictures faded, they were replaced with NOT...and the now dark screen read "NOT As I Pictured."

How many of our lives HAVE turned out as we pictured they would?  I would venture to guess that very few people would fall into that category.  Not everyone's life involves a trauma but most people don't have storybook "just as I pictured" lives.  Those of us who are single parents often did not picture our lives this way.  We probably had storybook images of mom and dad in love, loving and raising children and then growing old together.  Even though we probably all have lists of what we would like to change, I expect that most of us would not trade our single parenthood for anything - just because of the wonderful joy brought into our lives by our children.  I know it is kind of cliche.  But for me it is worth remembering.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Flashbacks

Watched a TiVo'd episode of Oprah tonight.  A woman who contracted HIV from her husband.  He was living a secret double life and having sex with men.  This could have happened to me.  I remember getting my HIV test after I found out about my husband's double life.  I remember waiting for the test results.  I remember the relief of receiving negative test results.  I was just lucky.

Here's the link to Oprah:

http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/Why-Bridget-Sued-Her-Husband-for-12-Million-Dollars

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Random Thoughts

I am anxious. 

This week has been out of the norm because my kiddo had strep and was out of school for three days.  I have been distracted and out of my groove at work.  My house has been cluttered and out of control.  I am out of clean clothes.  The seasons are changing and I realize that once again, my winter clothes seem smaller than they did last year...I am fairly certain that is not related to my ever increasing weight.  I am really bad at planning dinners.  I am even worse at planning healthy dinners.

I have stuff I want to do.

I want to get some pictures framed and hung in my house.  I want to repaint a few rooms.  I want to move some perennials around in my garden.  I want to clean out my basement and throw away or donate stuff I do not need or want.  I want to lose weight but I do not want to change what I eat or exercise more.  I am fairly certain that it not going to work.  I want to figure out how to follow blogs on my new Droid phone but RSS feeds and the like are monumentally confusing to me.  I want to scrapbook again - it has been many months.  I have been wanting to blog...but have been stuck in this spot.

So I thought that I would try to write it out.  So far I don't feel better.  But maybe I will.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Occupational Hazard

We all have them, right?  Some jobs are inherently dangerous (firefighting, police work, military) while some involve high stress (doctors, air traffic controllers, preschool teachers!).  Some hazards may include exposure to dangerous chemicals or challenging people.

My job is providing psychosocial care and support to people with cancer.  Death is my occupational hazard.  Of course, working with people with cancer doesn't put me at any greater risk of dying, but it does involve developing relationships with people who may die.

Some professionals handle this hazard by staying disconnected and may appear cold to the casual observer.  Some get way too close, burn themselves out and leave the job.  I choose to care for my patients, know them and develop relationships with them...with appropriate professional boundaries, of course.  It's not really a choice for me.  It is the only way I know how to do this work.  I think you have to care in order to find the joy that is inherent in this work as well as to be effective.  But balance is they key.    I have to find ways to deal with the stresses and losses inherent in my work.  I have to have a well-developed support system and a life outside of work.  I have been lucky to be able to find that balance and have stayed in this field for 17 years.

But some days are harder than others.

Yesterday I attended the burial mass for an incredible person whose life was taken by cancer.

I am not Catholic, but for some reason, certain portions of the mass are comforting to me.  The incense that the priest waves around the casket is a smell that calms me.  The music comforts me.  I also tend to have a lot of flashbacks to my deceased ex-husband, since he was also Catholic.  [More about that in later post]

I cried a lot yesterday.  The person who died was young and had so much life left to live.  She battled her cancer for 7 years.  I knew her for 5 of them.  Her sister gave her eulogy and gave it with strength and grace.  I was in awe of her and not sure if I could have done the same.   But she did what she had to do...and wanted to do.  And that is something I can understand.

At the end of the eulogy she stated that her sister lived a life with no regrets.  That really struck a chord with me.  Could I say the same about my life?  Mostly yes, but there is one thing.  And if I can identify it that quickly then I need to do something about it.

I know that making a change is something you do for yourself.  But I am hoping to draw strength from so many people who have faced much bigger battles.  Because I can make this change.  It is within my control.  Which is very different than cancer, which takes your control and throws it out the window.

I want to live a life with no regrets.  So it is time.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Have you seen them?

Have you seen those stick figure decals for cars that represent your family?  They're cute.  And I hate them.  If you have them on your car I hope you are not offended by this.

Adorable little stick figure people.  A mom with big curls in her hair and a briefcase.  A girl holding a soccer ball.  A boy in with a hockey stick.  A baby in a diaper with a big bow on her head.  A dad with a golf club.  A kitty cat.  Then I realized that I only saw "normal" stick figure families:  two parents, a couple of kids, a pet...an INTACT family.

I have spent quite a lot of time answering the question, "Are we still a family?"  No one ever asked me this question.  I just asked it myself.  Over and over and over again.  I know we ARE a family.  We are a small, loving, non-traditional family.  But I still miss the dream of what I thought my family would be.  I thought my family would look like one of those stick figure families on the minivan in front of me:  a wife, a husband, two kids and a dog.  But as many of us know, life had other plans. 

And I am OK with that....except when confronted with one of these annoyingly cute nuclear stick families on the car in front of me.  Somehow that stick figure family makes me feel like I am missing out on something.  I am proud of my family, but I am not going to put a decal of a mom and one kid on my back window.  I don't want to advertise that it's just me and my kiddo.  It just doesn't feel right to me.  It feels like it's nobody's business what my family "looks" like in stick figure form.  In fact I do not want everyone who sees my car to know I am a single mom.  I don't like the safety implications or the assumptions that might be made.

But they are cute.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Taking the High Road

The current post at Since My Divorce is about how I handled my divorce proceedings.  I believe very strongly in taking the high road and not doing things that were contrary to my character.  You can read the post here.

It made me think of a funny little story I thought I would share.  I was really angry with my husband.  However, I tended to intellectualize my anger and dealt with it within the complex web of other emotions I was feeling.  As Mandy describes, I purposefully took the high road in my divorce.  Part of this is who I am.  I did not want to sink to the level that my husband was acting on.  I also did not want to do anything that I would regret in the future.  I wanted to handle an impossible tragic situation with as much grace as possible so that my son would see that example.

I never really regretted these actions, but sometimes I would imagine what it would have been like to dump all his clothes and personal stuff on our front lawn, so when he arrived to pick up his stuff it would be a big embarrassing mess.   I never really wanted to do this, but I did fantasize about it.

The things I did do were on a much smaller level.  In packing up his things and storing them in the garage, I found our Precious Moments wedding topper.  I was struck by the innocence of the piece:  the idyllic round-faced, wide-eyed groom holding his bride in his arms.  Suddenly, I grabbed a hammer and attempted to bash it to pieces.  The hammer struck the groom's head and demolished it, while leaving the bride intact.  So much for happily ever after.  Then I placed it into one of his boxes for him to find later.  It was a small thing, but it was symbolic.  I knew when he saw it that he would know just how much he had hurt me - and that was enough.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Thanks to That One Mom for inviting me to do a guest post on her blog, Only Parent Chronicles.  She is one of the first bloggers I "met" here in the blogosphere and her story helped inspire me to share my own in more detail than I had done before.

Hop on over to her blog to check out my post on friendship as well as the rest of her awesome blog!


FriendsYouLove

Monday, September 6, 2010

Shout out!

Just wanted to take a second to give a shout out to my "followers" - both new and old.  I know that some of you have been following me for a while and others are coming to my blog through SITS and Since My Divorce, where Mandy is currently sharing my story.  I am humbled by the support I am receiving.  I want to take some time and reflect on this experience of my story being told by another person.  It is very cathartic and healing!  But today is Labor Day and I am having an impromptu party to celebrate all the fun we have had this summer and I need to prepare!

So, just wanted to say thanks.  And if you're stopping by, please feel free to leave a comment.  I would love to know that you were here!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seeing my story through different eyes...

If you have not already done so, please check out Mandy's blog, Since My Divorce.  Today is the second post in her series about my story and I am so pleased with how she is presenting it.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Here goes....

Tomorrow, Mandy at Since My Divorce will start a series of blog posts about my story.  I just read her intro:
Tomorrow, I’m starting a new series with Debbie who blogs at My Everyday Journey. Debbie was married to the love of her life until she found out he was a pedophile. She’s an amazing lady who’s bravely and courageously rebuilt a life for herself and her son. As I said on my Since My Divorce Facebook page, never again will I listen to a news story of a pedophile without wondering if he has a wife and children and what’s happening in their world. I hope you’ll join me as Debbie shares what has helped her through her challenges.
Guess what?  She said it.  She said the word.  She said pedophile.  After talking with Mandy a few weeks ago for this series, I realized that I had never before actually used the word pedophile to describe my husband.   I reviewed the diagnostic criteria for pedophilia to make sure that's what he really was.  I went back and read my "About Me" posts and realized that I didn't even use the word there.  I danced around it.  I alluded to it.  I said my ex-husband was sexually pre-occupied with minors.  But I never said what he really was, which was a pedophile.
I know that I am not to blame for what he did.  I know there is no way I could have known about his problems at that time.  But it is something that still brings about feelings of shame.  It still makes me wonder if people judge me for being married to such a man...being married to a pedophile.  There I said it.

So....are you judging me?  Are you thinking that I must be a little insane myself?  That I must have seen signs and just chose to ignore them?  Do you think that I am a bad judge of character?  Do you think I just must not be that bright?
I have thought all those things.  I have concluded that none of them are true.  But the shame and embarrassment of falling in love, marrying and having a child with a man who turned out to be a pedophile still sneaks in.  That is one of the many reasons I started blogging.  When I was going through this I could not find anyone who could truly relate.  I could not find anyone who was going through exactly what I was experiencing.  I still haven't.  I have found some common ground, some similar situations, but no one who says, "I, too, was married to a pedophile."

I wanted to bring my story out of the shadows.  I wanted to be open with it so that maybe, if there was someone else out there dealing with similar issues, they would feel less shame.  I wanted to get it out there so that it did not have any more power over me.

I am really looking forward to seeing what Mandy takes from my story and how she presents it.  And I am holding my breath a little too....

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First Day of School

My kiddo started 2nd grade this week.  The start of school is exciting:  new supplies, new school shoes, new teacher, new classmates - lots of stuff to look forward to.  As an only parent this time of year used to remind me how different our family was from others.  I would see all the moms and dads and siblings and would be painfully aware that we were a family of two.  It would make me feel a bit lonely and sad.

But this year was different.  It has been five years since my son and I have been a family of two.  This year I was struck by how big he is, how smart he is, how well adjusted he is and how happy we are.  I am proud of all that we have been through and that we were able to get to this point.  I also found myself being incredibly grateful for our larger family of relatives, friends, teachers, etc. who bring such joy into our lives.

I know it's not Thanksgiving yet, but I am feeling very thankful for all the blessings in my life right now!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Remembrance and forgiveness...

Going back to the island was not at all what I had expected.  The time that has passed and the healing I have done allowed me to see things with new eyes.  There were still memories, but they were soft and gentle and kind of faded into the background.  It felt like a new place, just like I have been feeling like a new person over the last few months.

I told my son about my intention to have a small remembrance ceremony for his dad.  He did not quite feel the need, but wanted to be a part of it.  Our first morning, we went to the rocky beach where I had picked up a stone on my first trip to the island in 1996.  On the rock I wrote, “I forgive you,” and I wrapped it in paper with the following quote, which I also read aloud.
"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past.  A healed memory is not a deleted memory.  Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember.  We change the memory of the past into a hope for our future. (Lewis B. Smedes)
My son and I had a nice talk about forgiveness, why it is important and how hard it can be to forgive someone who has hurt you.  We also talked about the symbolism of rocks and water.  Rocks with hard rough edges can represent anger and grief and the tough thing that we go through in life.  The water can represent time and the work that we do to heal.  As the water flows over the rocks, the edges are smoothed and can represent our healing.  [This is all adapted from a rock ceremony I use in grief support groups and remembrance services.  I do not remember it’s actual source]  We both held the rock for a few moments and then I threw it into the water.

Then we searched for another rock to help us remember our trip to the island and the beginning of new memories for my son and I.  While my son was searching, I took some private time to say a prayer and some lines of a song.  I also tried to light a candle which does not work well on a windy island shoreline and resulted in nice fingertip burn.  Tears flowed, not because of the burn, but because I was finally able to say goodbye and let go in a symbolic way, which is something I really needed to do since we were not included in his funeral.  I was able to cry for the man I loved.  I was also able to forgive the man who betrayed me and left my child without a father.  The tears were cleansing and did not last long.

Once my son and I found the “perfect rock” to represent our trip to the island we left the shoreline to begin our vacation.  We had a great time making tons of new memories over the next two days.  The last place we visited before we left the island was that same rocky beach.  It was not planned, my kiddo just wanted to play in the water and collect more rocks (a lot more - carried home in MY backpack!), but it brought things full circle.  I feel more settled than I have in years.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

forgiveness

Today, my son and I leave for a three day vacation on a Lake Erie island.  This place was very special to me during my courtship and marriage to my husband.  It holds a lot of memories of our life and our love.  It holds no bad memories of his betrayal.

Today, my son and I will travel the same waters; walk on the same shoreline; sit on the same beach.  We will talk about forgiveness, about moving forward from painful things in our past.  We will light a candle in his memory.  We will return a stone to the island, that I had picked up on the beach the first time I was there.  We will choose another stone to take home to represent the beginning of new memories.

Today, I will take my engagement ring and wedding band and cleanse it in the soft waters of the lake.  I hope to change how I look at this beautiful diamond - no longer as a representation of our marriage, but as a symbol of the amazing child that we were blessed with and I have the honor of raising, nurturing and loving every day.

Today, there will be forgiveness, healing and moving forward.  Another step on my everyday journey.
"Forgiving does not erase the bitter past.  A healed memory is not a deleted memory.  Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember.  We change the memory of the past into a hope for our future. (Lewis B. Smedes)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

another step on my journey

Single woman
Engaged
Married
Mommy
Working Mom
Betrayed wife
Divorcee
Single mom
Only Parent

So many labels....but there is one role that there is not a label for.  The divorced woman whose ex-husband commits suicide.  It is a strange category. 

His death was shocking and so incredibly sad.  I tried to imagine how low he would be to take his own life - to feel that there was no other option.  I don't have words for how it feels when I think of him at the point.  His death began a period of grief for me that was unexpected.  I grieved the man I married, the man I loved, the man I brought a child into this world with.

His death was also a relief.  The man he had become was a stranger.  He was a threat to my mental health.  He was a possible threat to our safety and I had to warn every teacher, school, day care provider about him  I worried about how my son would deal with having an absent father in the future.  I thought about people that my ex might hurt in the future and knew I was powerless to do anything to stop it.  His death freed me from those concerns.

So I was grieving the death of my husband, but I was not a widow.  I was an woman with a dead ex-husband.  No label for that.  No rules for how you should feel.  I did not attend his funeral.  I was not notified about his death until afterwards.  I did not get to say goodbye.  But who would I say goodbye to?  The man I loved had been lost years ago and in his place was a very sick man, an addict, a pedophile.  We were better off without him in many ways.  But still I grieved.  Such conflicting emotions.

Next week my son and I will take a three day vacation to a local island that had been very special to my husband and I.  It was our place and I have not been back there without him.  I am going there to make new memories with my son.  I also plan to try to find a way to say goodbye while I am there.  I am not sure how.  I am not sure if I will tell my son.  But it's time.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Welcome to Holland

One of the things I have come to learn about life is that it IS a journey; a journey through happy moments, crises, boring days, ecstasy, tragedy and simple moments. I believe the key to a well-lived life is how you handle each of these situations. We may not have choices about where our journey goes or what experiences we face, but we always have a choice about our attitude. If we do not like something, we can learn to live with it or change it. We can look a crisis in the face and crumble or we can find the strength to work through it and come out stronger on the other side.

I certainly would not chosen to have my marriage fall apart, to find out that the man I loved had cheated on me, betrayed me, put our son's safety in jeopardy and hurt other people. I would not have chosen to be a divorced only parent. I would not have chosen to have to explain to my son why his dad chose to commit suicide rather than get help for his many problems. I would not have chosen to raise my son alone.

But there are also many positive things that have come out of my journey. My son and I developed a very special, close & trusting relationship. I learned that I was stronger than I ever thought I could be. My son is learning coping skills early in life that will help him as he grows. I have an extended network of family and friends (my village) that truly enhance my son's and my life. I have connected with other single moms (mainly through this new blogging adventure) who give me support for the present and hope for the future.

When I worked with children with life-threatening illnesses, I came across this piece written about the experience of raising a child with disabilities. The story is powerful as well as transferable to many situations where you end up in a different place than expected. I hope that it touches you as much as it touches me.

Welcome to Holland

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability - to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It's like this......
 
When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.
After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."
"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."
But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay. The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.
So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.
It's just a different place. It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.
But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy... and they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned."
And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.
But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.
Emily Perl Kingsley  1987

Random updates

  1. I have a new home at http://myeverydayjourney.net   Yep - a custom domain name!  I had tried to get the .com, but it was taken.  Hopefully the .net won't confuse people.  If you have a link to me, you can update it if you want or blogger will redirect you automatically.
  2. I was interviewed yesterday by Mandy at Since My Divorce.  It was enlightening to tell my story again and I am looking forward to seeing what she does with it.  It has really made me realize how much I want to connect with others who have similar experiences.  I want to share my story...to help myself and to help others. 
  3. I found out about meme's yesterday.  Looking for any single mom blogs that have meme's that I could participate in.  If you know of any, let me know.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Family Time

People always talk about family time.  Quality time spent with your family...perhaps gathered around the dinner table or a favorite board game or any number of activities.  It always sounds so nice to have mom, dad and kids together enjoying each other and catching up on everyone's activities.


But what is family time when you have a family of two?  My family is me and my seven year old son.  After my divorce I went through a period of time when I questioned whether or not we were still a family.  I realized that just because we don't fit into the traditional mold does not mean we are any less of a family.  All families are different.  But, back to the question of family time.

All of our time as a family is spent together - me and my kiddo.  There are no other immediate family members to draw into the circle.  Sometimes that is hard.  Sometimes it is nice.  But I do miss being able to have a conversation over dinner that involves more than two people.  I miss the dynamics of a group rather than a duo.

When we are at home, it is often just the two of us.  This does get switched up a bit now that he has friends over more often - for play or sleepovers.  When it is the two of us, sometimes we do things together, but more often it seems we are doing parallel things.  He might be playing nintendo or reading while I might be on the computer or cleaning.  We do both enjoy time to ourselves but I also want to have that QUALITY family time.  That is truly the struggle.  I have the quantity of time, but do I have the quality?

I am trying to find out more about how other single moms of only children manage this issue.  Do other people have different ways of looking at it?  Do others even think about it like I do?  So far I have not found much about it in the blogosphere but I am still looking.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

5 Random Weekend Thoughts

1.  Telling my story WORE ME OUT!  Wow.  I expected it to be hard...but then it wasn't as bad as a thought...until I was done.  That is when I realized how hard it was to process all those things again.  I must say, the last few posts were not as "polished" as I wanted them to be but I just needed to be done.  Glad I did it.  Hope that I can find a way for other people in similar positions to "find" me,  But right now I am just glad I am done.

2.  I love this summer.  It has been different than any summer yet.  My kiddo played baseball which mean I hung out at the ball field 2 - 3 times a week & LOVED it.  Got some great photos, fun times with friends and saw my kiddo improve so much over one season.  We also have been enjoying the pool.  I have avoided it in the past - because I am fat - but this year I decided that was stupid.  I am trying to get in shape, but I decided not to postpone my life any longer just because of the way I look.  That has been very freeing.  And the best thing has just been having fun.  No matter what we do - camping, sleepovers, parties, hanging out...we just seem to be having fun.  And that is GREAT!

3.  I miss my sister.  For the last few years we talk on the phone every morning while I drive to work.  After watching Oprah's special on cell phones and distracted drivers I decided to try to stop talking on the cell while driving.  It is not that hard, except that I miss that time with my sister.  It is hard to find uninterrupted time to talk on a regular basis.  I wish there was a solution.

4.  I have been working hard on finances after taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace class last September.  I really liked the majority of the class.  He is more religious and conservative than me, but I took what I liked out of the course and really made some improvements to my financial life.  There is a freedom that has come with knowing where all my money is going and being in control of it.  I have managed some big expenses (new car a/c + suspension = $900, dental work = $700, etc.) without going into debt.  That felt great.  I was also able to find room in my budget for some "extras" like someone to mow my lawn, which has been a huge relief and time saver for me.

5.  I had my first pedicure this year.  I cannot believe I waited so long.  I have always hated my feet, but I love my new polished toenails.  Fun to get pampered once in a while.  Taking care of myself is something I usually put on the back burner.  Now I know a pedicure is not the ultimate in mental health or anything - but it sure was fun!



That's it for now - Happy Weekend!!!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

How I Got Here (Addendum): Just When You Thought it was Over

A divorce should be the end of the story, right?  It wasn't.

Three months after my final court hearing I found out there was another story playing out parallel to my divorce proceedings.  Approximately six months after I filed for divorce he was arrested by a police detective posing as a 14- year-old boy on the internet.  My husband had been "talking" with this "boy" online and eventually traveled about an hour to meet him for oral sex.  When he arrived, he was met by the local police department...think "Dateline: To Catch a Predator" without the TV cameras.  He was arrested and charged.  He was convicted as a sex offender the week before our divorce was finalized. 

I should not have been surprised.  Eventually his actions were bound to escalate.  I was shocked and saddened but glad he had been caught.  I had worried about people he might hurt, but never had any specific knowledge or evidence that I could take to law enforcement or children's services.  He served 30 days in jail and had to register as a sex offender.  Now I knew why he dropped any requests for unsupervised visitation with our son.  I was incredibly sad that it came to this, but I did have a sense that justice had prevailed.

But that was still not the end of the story.

It was now almost four years from the day I found the list, two and a half years from the finalization of my divorce.  My furnace had a crack in the heat exchanger and had to be replaced.  I had taken the day off work to get quotes since it was October and getting colder every day.  The mail came and I saw an envelope from the Child Support Enforcement Agency.  My first reaction was that he had finally lost his job (I had always expected this to happen) and child support would be ending.  My only thought was NOW?  When I needed a $4000 new furnace?  When I opened the envelope,  I stated reading a motion from his attorney to end child support due to his death.  WHAT?  His death notice was attached.  I cannot begin to describe how this news affected me.  I was distraught.  I cried from the depths of my soul.  But I was also relieved.  It was finally over.

Over the next few weeks I was able to confirm that he committed suicide, read the police report and his suicide note.  I got some answers.  Basically he had created a new life based on the same lies and it was unraveling beneath him.  Even in the note he played the victim, took no responsibility for his actions and made hurtful comments towards me and his son.  It was sad.

I never wanted him to end his own life, but I was not surprised by it.  He was a sick man and he refused to get the help he needed.  Even if he would have sought out help, I am not sure he could have gotten better.  In some ways, his death finally gave me some closure.  He was no longer out there.  I did not have to keep wondering if he would show up some day and try to see our son.  I did not have to think about what he might be doing.  It was over.  Really over.

It has now been almost two years since his death.  I have been able to grieve his death and my loss in a different way.  I have been able to allow myself to remember some of the good things about him.  I have been able to continue to move forward.

The whole thing is unreal.  And tragic.  But it is real and it is part of my story.  My story is part of who I am, but it does not define me.

How I Got Here (Part Five): No One Gets Married, Planning to get Divorced, except maybe Larry King.

I work in the medical field and I know that we speak a different language than normal people.  I know the hospital lingo and as a oncology social worker, often find myself in the position of interpreting "medical speak" to the patients I work with.  Patients who have been diagnosed with a cancer often describe it as walking into a foriegn country, not knowing the language, the landmarks, etc.

When I first sat down with my divorce attorney, my immediate thought was, "This is how my patients must feel the first time they meet with the doctor."  I was immediately thrust into a world that I did not know or understand.  Motions, filings, subpoenas, hearings, continuances, hourly billing rates...OH MY!  It was overwhelming, especially in my fragile emotional state.  I was "lucky" in a few ways.  I did not have any second thoughts about what I needed to do.  The extremity of my husband's actions made the decision clear.  NOt easy, but clear.  I also found an excellent, well-known (read expensive) attorney who specialized in complicated divorce cases.

My state is a no-fault divorce state.  This means than no matter what he did, he was entitled to half of everything we had.  Period.  However, if we could come to an agreement and a judge approved it, it did not HAVE to be that way.  I put my cards on the table:  I wanted to keep our 2 bedroom middle class house.  I wanted full custody of our son.  I would only allow supervised visitation of our son, for obvious reasons.  I did not want to pay my husband any money or "buy him out" in any way.  HE did this and I wanted to do everything I could to ensure that I could get out of this in a financially secure manner that would allow me to care for my son in the best way possible.

He fought me...every step of the way...for over a year.  His attorney kept sending us letters with demands.  We kept saying no and requesting a deposition.  I was not afraid of testifying in front of a judge.  I had nothing to hide.  This was key.  He had everything to lose by his secret life becoming public.  The one thing he did not fight for was the right to see his son.  In fact he dropped all requests for visitation because he said supervised visitation was unacceptable to him.  This broke my heart in many ways, but it was also a relief, because I did not feel that my son was safe with him at this point in time.

The legal posturing went back and forth for a year until he finally lowered his demands to an acceptable level.  There were still two things I did not want to accept.  First, he demanded more than half of our son's college savings.  Second, he refused to keep our son as a beneficiary on his life insurance policy.  As a mom, I hated making these concessions.  I remember crying in my attorney's office and saying that I could accept him wanting to hurt me, but how could he take these things from our child.  But my attorney advised me to look at the larger picture and the fact that I was getting all of the things I had classified as most important.  He was right, but it still made me steaming mad.  In the end, my husband did not even show up at the final hearing.  He had filed with the court many months earlier that it was too emotionally difficult to see me at the courthouse.  Whatever.  So there in the magistrate's office, across a big wooden desk, she made the end of our marriage legal.  Then she looked at me and genuinely wished me the best.  And it was over.  I only saw him two more times after that, when he came to pick up his things that I had packed and placed in our garage.

Those are the facts...but the emotions are such a bigger part of the story.  The week I filed for divorce and he was served with papers was traumatic for me.  I cried non-stop.  I don't think I went to work.  Friends and family stayed with me around the clock and helped care for me and my son.  I was a wreck.  Slowly, I began to function again but the whole year was filled with roller coaster emotions.  I would start to develop panic attacks every time I saw a grey envelope from my attorney in the mail.  It was a bad year, but it got better.  I got better.

Counseling helped immensely.  One thing my counselor said over and over were that there were three things I needed to remember, "It's not fair.  It will never make sense.  There will never be justice."  I kept searching for understanding, kept trying to make sense of all of it, but it was impossible.  My counselor also told me to try to look at it in this way, that I crossed paths with insanity but I got out with my sanity intact, for the most part!

I moved from crisis mode to survival mode, which lasted several years.  Just this year I feel that I have started to live again.  I still have my moments.  I still cry at night sometimes wondering what in the world happened.  But I have learned how to take care of myself.  I still make some unhealthy choices - like emotional eating - but I am working on it.  It's a process.  It's about choices.  It's life.  I may not have ended up where I thought I would be, but I ended up somewhere pretty good.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

How I Got Here (Part 4): The Next Four Months

After the phone confrontation, he told me I would never see him again.  He had planned all along that if anyone ever found out about this, he would kill himself.  I considered if he was using the suicide card as manipulation, but my gut and my training as a social worker told me that he was incredibly unstable.  At that point, my anger and hurt at the betrayal was replaced by my desire to keep him alive.   No matter what happened with us, I did not want him to kill himself.  I desperately pleaded with him to come home or go to a hospital.  I told him I would be at home waiting for him.  I left my son with my dad and went home to wait.  I remember sitting in my empty house imagining the scenarios that might be playing out.  Not knowing if he was dead or alive was agonizing.

He eventually came home around one in the morning.  It was surreal when he walked in the door.  We talked, cried, embraced...for a moment I saw the man I loved.  But I knew he was a different person.  It was incredibly confusing.  He promised me that I knew everything now, that there were no more secrets and that he wanted to get better.  He seemed to be at rock bottom.  Then began the "honeymoon period" during which I actually felt closer to him than I had in months.  It seemed like everything was on the table and we were committed to working through it. 

The next four months played out in a pattern:  something resembling normalcy, retreat into depression/moodiness, lies, explanations, acceptance and repeat.  He never truly apologized for what he had done to me.  He portrayed himself as a victim who was powerless and not responsible for what he had done, because he was an addict and sex was his drug of choice.  I struggled with the issue of his homosexual experiences.  He continued to say that this was a sex addiction and he was not gay.  I did a lot of research but was still confused.  Was he gay?  Was he bi-sexual?  Was he an addict?  Was he just making excuses?  I still don't know those answers.

Looking back on it I am amazed that I went through it so long without seeing the truth.  But when you love someone and you desperately want to believe, you miss signals that seem obvious in hindsight.  You tune out those gut level instincts.  I don't see it as denial but rather the process I needed to go through.  I had taken a vow for better or for worse and did not want to abandon him if he was truly sick but was committed to getting help.  And he did get help:  counseling and a 12 step group.  I made some adjustments like never leaving my son alone with him and I stayed.  And yes, I did get an HIV test - cried through the whole thing.  Luckily it was negative.

One thing that was prevalent during this time was his ability to make me think that I was the crazy one.  Every time I would suspect something or feel something was wrong, he was able to turn it around on me.  What I know now is this was part of the manipulation:  keeping me off kilter and confused so that I would not discover the truth.

Things culminated in April, 4 months from when I found the list.  I was having a tough week and decided to visit my sister out of state.  I was contemplating separation and needed to think away from home.  When I returned, our fighting continued and I asked him to leave so we could have some space to think.  He checked into an extended stay hotel. 

A few weeks later I noticed a gas charge on our credit card bill from the weekend that I was gone.  The charge was from a gas station over an hour away on the turnpike.  He said he had just gone driving to clear his head but I did not believe it.  This time I followed my gut which I had ignored for so long.  I checked the cell phone log and found a number of calls that weekend to an out of state area code.  I had a friend call the number.  It was a woman whose name was on the list.  A woman he dated in high school.  He had previously denied an affair with her and said her name was on the list because of emotional support she had provided him.  I always suspected he had an affair with her but I had no clue it was still going on.  At this point I knew our marriage was over.  I had given him so many opportunities to come clean, but he continued to lie.

It was Tuesday and I knew he should be on his the way to his 12-step meeting.  I called his cell phone.   I had never felt anger like this...from deep within my soul. I told him that I was going to give him something to talk about at his group.  I told him he should talk to his group about why he was continuing to lie to his wife after all the support and forgiveness I had given him.  I asked about her and he admitted the affair.  He went into a rage and said he was going to kill himself, that he was sick, that he was a monster and hung up. He called back and left two of the ugliest, rage-filled messages I had ever heard.  I finally picked up and told him I could not make any promises about our future but I begged him to go check himself into a hospital.  Regardless of what he had done, he could get help and I wanted him to live.  He hung up.  Once again I waited, unsure if he was alive or dead.

He called two hours later from the emergency room to tell me he was being admitted to a psychiatric hospital.  With his permission I went to clean out his hotel room.  I asked him what I would find there and he said I would find a letter from her that I did not need to read but might as well.  He also told me about things in our house that he had hidden.  I found all of it and so much more...notes, cards, lists, letters, photos.  I spent hours reading and processing what I had found.

I went to the hospital the next day and he presented me with a letter stating he had hit bottom and was coming clean with everything because he had nothing left to hide.  He was cold, angry and distant.  That letter hit even harder as I once again realized that there had been more secrets and more lies.  The biggest shock was that he had abused children when he was a teen and that he remained sexually preoccupied with minors.  Some of the names on the list had actually been teen boys.  I was physically sick. 

I told him that he could not come home.  I filed for divorce a week later.

Friday, July 9, 2010

How I Got Here (Part Three): The Day My World Turned Upside Down

Things had been increasingly difficult for a few months. He was more depressed and harder to get along with. The mood in our house was stressed. But he had accepted a new job with great potential and I was convinced that this would be the turning point. Since this job had a level of security that he had not had before, I was able to accept a new job with less hours, allowing me to stay home more with our son. This was the best of both worlds for me: being able to work in a field that I loved and feel more of a balance with my family. Life was looking up.

It was near Christmas and we had a rare night out planned with friends. I was searching the computer for my babysitter info sheet so I could get things set for the evening. I am usually pretty organized but I could not find it for anything! I started to randomly open folders in the hope that I would find the file and not have to retype the whole darn thing. As I searched, I found an unfamiliar folder and opened the first document.

It was a list. A list of names. I recognized a few as his past girlfriends. My name was on there. But then came more names - of both genders. And graphic descriptions of sexual activity. And locations - some in our own home. I was paralyzed and just stared at the screen. He was cheating on me with women and men. For the first time, I felt he was a stranger. I had no idea what was real and what was not. The world was swirling around me. I knew that I needed time to figure out what to do so I printed out the list and decided to wait until we were with our counselor to confront him. It felt like the best thing to do as I was unsure how he would react. I no longer felt safe.

Well, you know that phrase about best laid plans, right? Well, he found the list I had printed out. Guess I am not a good secret keeper. He knew I knew. But then he asked ME what it was, claiming he had never seen the list. He said a virus must have placed the document on our hard drive. Really? Did he think I was THAT stupid? Well I played dumb, because I did not want to go any further without a third party. I put on my brave face, went to dinner and no one ever suspected what was going on beneath the surface.

Over the next two days, he stuck with the virus story. Our counselor even seemed to believe him. She suggested that the best way to get this behind us was to have a computer expert look at the computer and figure out how it had been infected and the origin of this document. I just laid low for the rest of the weekend, the whole time feeling like I was in a fog of confusion deperately trying to get my bearings.

On Monday morning, we both woke up and got ready for work. He left before me. I took my son to daycare, called in sick to work and drove directly back home. I called a computer expert to do a scan of the hard drive to find any deleted documents, web pages, etc. I knew enough to know that just because you delete something doesn’t mean it is gone.

I needed support, so I called a good friend and asked her to come with me. Probably the hardest thing she had ever had to do. The computer expert started scanning and found too much - photos, messages, personal ads. My fears were validated. He had betrayed me and violated my trust in a manner that I never thought possible. I did not know this man. I had no idea what my future would hold but somehow I knew exactly what I needed to do. My emotions went on a back burner. I was in crisis management mode.

I had a mirror image of the hard drive made and gave it to my friend. She stayed and went through files, saving things to a CD that I could access as needed. I picked up my son from daycare and met my dad who took my son to his house. I told him under no circumstances was he to allow my husband into the house. I called an attorney. I was advised to get everything valuable out of the home and to a safe place. I went to the bank, stood in line in tears, walked up to a teller-in-training and told her I wanted to withdraw half of the money in my joint account. She probably thought I was an abused woman leaving her husband. She started crying too and asked if she could hug me. It still felt unreal. I took the money, cleared out the house (paperwork, financial documents, legal stuff, jewelry, sentimental items), went to my parents’ house and waited.

When he got off work, I called him on his cell. I told him that I knew. He played dumb. I told him I would not be home when he got there. He said he didn’t understand. I told him to stop playing games because I knew. He explained. He made excuses. He said he was a sex addict. He said he chose to be with men so that it wouldn't be like cheating on me. Seriously? He said none of it meant anything. He said he was sick. He said he did not want to lose me. It was not making sense, but I SO wanted to believe him. I loved him and did not want this to be happening.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Anonymity

                 As I work on sharing the story of how I came to be an only parent, I am finding myself thinking more and more about privacy and anonymity.  I am not ashamed of my story.  Telling my story is not only therapeutic but it may help someone else out there feel not quite so alone.  But a dear friend emailed me today and asked if I had thought about any potential impact to my son in the future if he were to come across the blog or if his friends were.

Now I HAD thought about this, but now I am thinking more.  There is a line between being open/honest and maintaining some privacy for the sake of family members not being harmed in any way.



So where does that leave me in making sure that I can openly express myself but also protect him?  I could use some feedback here!  : )

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

How I Got Here (Part Two): Marriage, Family, Love & Life

I loved being married:  coming home to someone who was genuinely interested in spending his life with me; feeling love; giving love.  Now, I did not have unrealistic expectations of marriage.  We both knew it would take work.  But we were happy.  We bought a house in 1999.  We took some fun vacations.  We enjoyed each other.  After four years of marriage, we were blessed with the birth of our son in 2002.  Becoming parents was hard at times (as any parent knows) but we truly loved our son and enjoyed moving from being a couple to being a family.

Of course, not everything was sunshine and roses.  Life certainly threw us a fair share of curveballs:  deaths of his grandparents, a medical crisis for him, two job losses for him, a medical condition with our son, major house repairs, depression, financial challenges, etc.  Sometimes it seemed that there was a black cloud over us and bad things just kept coming our way.  At times our marriage was stressed, but I was always convinced that these were the ebbs in the "ebbs and flows" of marriage.  The relationship got harder, but I just kept telling myself that if we could get through that particular crisis, things would be better, he would be happier, we would be happier.

Then, in December 2004, came the day when my life was turned upside down in an instant.

Monday, July 5, 2010

How I Got Here (Part One): The One

Telling my story is something I want to do.  It is the story of how my life turned upside down in an instant and how I got to where I am today:  a single woman and only parent to a seven year boy.  I am a little scared to do it, but since a big part of my story involves someone else's lies, deception and manipulation, there is something freeing about wanting to get it out there, be honest and stop keeping someone else's secrets.  My story no longer defines me, but it is definitely a part of who I am.  The more I understand it the more I understand myself.

I dated a lot in high school and college.  I went to all the homecoming dances, proms, date parties, etc.  I had boyfriends (some serious some not).  I had break-ups (some my choice, some not).  After college, things changed.  I realized how much harder it was to meet people out in the "real" world.  So I dated here and there but often picked men who were not good for me.  Then I had one of those Aha moments.  I still remember that turning point when I realized it was better to be alone than to be with someone for the wrong reasons. 

At this point I had graduated from college and grad school and had a great job that became my career.  I was living on my own and was proud to be an independent woman.  I often wondered if I would ever meet anyone that I could see myself marrying.  Sometimes I felt like I would always be single. 

Then I met him.

We "met" under completely random circumstances.  That sounds so mysterious, doesn't it?  It was the early days of dial up internet (when a 14.4 modem was high speed) and America Online.  On AOL, I had a profile and my screen name contained the name Snoopy, my favorite cartoon.  He randomly "found" me when he was searching through the AOL community for people with similar interests, long before online dating.  About 3 months in, we discovered that we had mutual friends.  It was a "small world" kind of moment.  I took the opportunity to "check him out" and got great reviews.  People who knew both of us thought we would really get along.

I already felt I liked him, but was not sure how it would be in "real life."  It took some coordination but after months of long distance communication we met in person.  I remember that date like it was yesterday.  How comfortable the conversation was.  How much I wanted him to kiss me but was impressed that he didn't.  How I came home and called my mom and said that I could picture myself marrying this guy.

After that weekend, we saw each other almost every weekend for over a year and talked almost every day.  I was continually amazed at how he did not play games.  We could both be ourselves, be real, be honest.  We both commented on how refreshing that was.  We dated for a little over a year when he proposed to me.  I was thrilled.  I had found "the one."  The one who made me laugh, sent flowers for no reason and let me be ME!  It was not always easy.  We successfully made it through a career change for him, a job change for me, a move for both of us and normal relationship growing pains.  We married about a year later...on the 2nd anniversary of our first date.  It felt right.  It felt real.  I could not imagine my life without him.

 http://www.flickr.com/photos/clion52/2479389912/

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Open Windows

I love summer days when it is warm enough to have the windows open but not need the air conditioner.  At night, I love the cool breeze through the windows, just chilly enough to want a blanket while you are sleeping.  We have had a few of those days this week, but I can tell it is coming to an end.  Tomorrow is supposed to be 90 degrees with more humidity....but tonight the windows stay open!  Quintessential summer.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

good choices

Just for the record:  I made pretty good food choices the last few days.  Not perfect, but good.  And I went grocery shopping tonight and except for the white bread hot dog buns I was proud of everything I bought.   I wanted bratwurst for grilling for the Fourth of July, which is definitely not a healthy choice.  But I found some turkey bratwurst that were half the fat and calories and tasted yummy with the fresh cherries we found!

I am not kidding myself that one day of good grocery shopping and turkey brats are going to solve all my problems...but a step in the right direction was all I was looking for!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

unexpected reaction

I have worked in the field of pediatric hospice and oncology for 17 plus years. I have seen a lot of joy, healing and survival. I have also seen a lot of pain, suffering and death. But today I am reflecting on the second. I read a blog post from a mother, Sarah, recounting her last day with her 7 year old son, Conner, who died this past week from Cystic Fibrosis. I found this blog through my friend Stacey who recently started blogging her experience as a 34 year old with CF.


Experiencing the death of a child is not new to me. Her story was familiar to others I have heard or been present for. But my reaction to it was new. I could not even read it at first. I saw the post and navigated away from the page because I knew it would be too much for me. Today I decided to read it in it’s entirety. I knew I would be sad, but I think I experienced it in a different way because of several reasons. First, my son is also 7 and I found myself thinking of him as I read Sarah’s words. Second, I have been through some trauma in my life and I find that sad things bring me much quicker to tears than they did before. Third, the part I did not expect, was that it made me think of my struggle with my weight and health. Odd, huh? Here’s why: I have been seriously thinking about my weight and it’s effect on my health. I have been increasingly concerned as I see my weight increasing and my belief that I am string enough to do anything about it decreasing. I have been thinking about what I will think if/when someday my weight causes life-threatening health complications. Will I look back on this time and say to myself, “You KNEW there was a problem and you did NOTHING about it?” Will I realize that this was a pivotal point in my life story and I did nothing? Will I regret that I did not make significant changes that would have dramatically changed my weight and health?

I think I would.

Regrets suck. Especially when you had the power to do something differently. A lot of the decisions I have made over the past five years have NOT resulted in regret. I have been proud of how I handled the implosion of my marriage, my decision to divorce and related issues. I have not had regrets because I made good choices.

I talk to my son regularly about choices. I praise him when he makes good choices. I help him understand when he makes undesirable choices and help him learn from them so that he will be more equipped to make better choices in the future.

But here I am (the adult, the mother, the role model) making bad choice after bad choice about food and weight and exercise and health.

So, back to Conner and Sarah. As I read the story of her last hours with her son, I thought about life and death. I am my son’s only parent. I hope that he lives a long and healthy life – which will mean that he will have to grieve my death. That is a part of life. But I do not want it to be a premature death because I made bad choices.

So insert your favorite cliché here: This is where I put my money where my mouth is. No more excuses. (Cringing because I know I have said this before…)

I have a lot of reasons why I eat and why I am overweight. I have a lot of excuses. I will probably blog about those at a future date. But I only need one reason to get healthier: To live a long, healthy life…for me, and for my son.

The doubts are already surfacing….but I need to remember how I feel right now.

Monday, June 21, 2010

some days....

I have nothing insightful to say.  I have no deep thoughts, no feelings that need to be vented and no major life lessons learned.  Today was just an normal crazy day in my everyday journey.  Took my son to camp, got my central air fixed (kind of a surprise expense since it just broke last night), worked a full day, visited one of my support groups (for work) tonight, picked up my son from his baseball game and found out that they led the WHOLE game and lost by one run in the bottom of the last inning (bummer), came home, watered the plants, fixed hungry kiddo a snack and now vegging for a bit before our bedtime routine.

But I feel good right now.  Content.  Happy.  That is a good way to end a day.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Father's Day

My emotions about Father's Day have changed throughout the past few years.  For the first two Father's Days, I was married to my husband and loved having a day to celebrate his relationship with our son.  After the traumatic collapse of our marriage and family, I had a difficult time on Father's Day.  I spent it mourning what my son had lost.  I knew at that time that his father would never be able to be a healthy part of his life, and I mourned the fact that my son would not grow up with a dad.  However, over the past two or three years I have found myself feeling thankful to the men in my life who serve as role models to my son.  They show him that there are great men out there and give him something to aspire to.

That is something to be thankful for!

Friday, June 18, 2010

telling my story

Our lives are made up of stories.  Little ones.  Big ones.  Sad ones.  Happy ones.  Consuming ones.  I believe that my stories are a part of who I am but I struggle with not letting them define me.  I have wanted to tell one of my stories on my blog for a long time:  the story of how I became a single mom.  I wondered WHY I continually felt the need to tell that story...was it for the right reasons or the wrong reasons.  Did I think telling my story would help me or others or did I just want some kind of attention.  I also struggle because there are parts of my story that embarrass me and make me feel ashamed.  But there are also parts that make me proud and make me feel strong.

One thing I have never found is someone who shares a similar story.  But then I wonder if there are others out there, who are ashamed of their story also, just looking for someone else to relate to, like I have been.

I stumbled across a blog (see Only Parent Chronicles on my blog list) of a woman who describes herself as an only mom.  Her story is one of the closest to mine I have found.  On her blog she tells her story - in five parts.  I read it and found it to be helpful.  So I started rethinking telling my own story - in pieces.  I think I might.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Decluttering

Clutter is defined by Webster as "a crowded or confused mass or collection or things that clutter a place."

Decluttering is defined by Collins English Dictionary as, "to simplify or get rid of mess, disorder, complications, etc. declutter your life."

I wonder if there is a word that defines how you get cluttered.  I think it is just called life!  

Regardless, clutter annoys me.  I feel less productive and less effective when things around me are cluttered. Unfortunately, I am a magnet for clutter...so decluttering is something I try to do often. 

Once I get on a roll I find myself almost addicted to the process.  Everything I look at I judge to see if it is worthy of staying, going in the garage sale pile, donate pile or trash pile.  The physical process of decluttering my home often feels cathartic.  I feel lighter.  I feel more free.  Decluttering my physical space often results in feeling more decluttered mentally.


So my next project is to tackle a black hole of clutter in my house:  my family room closet which contains items ranging from bills, games, computer equipment, scrapbooking supplies and artwork from my 7 year old's preschool days!


Wish me luck!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Rearranging

I have lived in the same house for 11 years.  The first six were as a married woman.  The second five have been as a divorced single mom.  My home holds many memories...some good, some not so good.  One of my challenges over the past five years has been trying to make "our" home into "my" home.  It is impossible to banish all the memories, but there is value in re-creating my own space with my son.

Today I took another step.  I rearranged a room that still held too much of the past.  I re-purposed some of the furnishings into other places.  I will still make some more changes in this room - but it feels good for today.  The room still holds memories...but it feels different enough now.  Different enough to be mine rather than ours.  Different enough to start making new memories.

Monday, June 14, 2010

monday morning

Most monday mornings are yucky for me.  But today is different.  I have a peaceful content attitude.  I have good memories of a fabulous weekend tent camping with friends.  I have freshly painted toenails.  I have a kid on summer vacation who went to camp today without any of the normal complaints like "why do you have to work during the summer" and "why can't I stay home during the summer like my other friends?"  It does not seem to matter that my house is trashed after coming home from camping or that I have loads of laundry to do when I get home.  I am just happy.

Life is good.

Friday, June 4, 2010

a good read

I recently started reading "Women, Food and God" by Geneen Roth.

Yes, I saw her on Oprah and decided to take a chance on the book.  So far I have NOT been disappointed.  It has really spurred some deep thinking which I will probably share as I process my thoughts more.  Check out more about the book here.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

random morning thoughts

love waking up to an open window, spring breeze freshening the air in my bedroom and birds chirping outside

love when that peaceful scene is suddenly punctuated by a dog howling outside, reminds me of my former beagle, Bailey

thinking that this is kind of like doing Julia Cameron's morning pages

the sound of children waking in the other room is joyful...and funny when the other sound I hear is the nerf gun being loaded and shot

sometimes mornings are lonely

sometimes mornings are peaceful and full of promise and gratitude

i love the twilight time when I am just awaking form a restful sleep, reality and dreams are still fuzzed together and the time is kind of in a holding pattern

i think it is cute that my son has given me a stuffed animal to sleep with.  it started when he was much younger and i finally told him that his stuffed dog was HIS responsibility - i.e. not my fault if you forget to take him to preschool.  he countered by "giving" me another one of his animals and telling me, "Mommy, This dog is YOUR responsibility!"  Years later The second Dog reappears from time to time in my room, with my son telling me that the pup misses me and wants to sleep with me,  so cute.

hee hee - i am sitting in my bed and listening to the sounds of my kiddo and his friend (who slept over) giggling at morning cartoons.  i know they are still snuggled on the couch where they slept.  i could get up and get them breakfast but I like just knowing they are there enjoying the morning too.

i love sleeping in a bed with freshly clean sheets, great pillows and my down comforter with it's new hotel-like white cotton duvet cover.

i miss waking up next to a man that i love

this day is full of promise - i wonder what it will bring

and that is a good thought to end on!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Where should I be?

I had a conversation about where I am today versus where I think I should be.   It has been four years since my divorce was finalized.  It has been five years since I filed for divorce and felt like my marriage was really over.  It has been a year and a half since my ex-husband committed suicide.   I have come a long way but I think that I should be "farther along" than I am. 

The weird thing is that I am proud of how far I have come.  I got through the crisis of divorce and landed firmly on my feet.  I worked to re-create a healthy life for me and my son.  I worked through issues in therapy and did not become bitter.  Despite being lied to and manipulated by the man I loved, I did not stop trusting people.  I still believe that most people are good and honest.

My conversation today was about why I still felt stuck.  I was asked to consider if I had stopped moving forward.  If maybe I had reclaimed my life but had not re-started it yet.  That was an interesting perspective.  I do feel like I am in a holding pattern.  I am in the midst of a life that was supposed to be different.  I thought I would have a husband to help me raise and nurture and enjoy my child.  I thought I would have a second baby.  I thought I would have been out of my "starter" house by now.  I thought I would be working part-time enabling me to have a better balance of work and family.  I thought I would have more money coming into the household.

But that is not my reality.  I work full time in a job that requires some evenings and weekends.  I manage a household by myself.  I do not have as much money saved as I should.  I do not have a significant other.  Most of my life revolves around my son.  I do not have a lot of time for me.

But when I talk about it like that it sounds all pity-party-ish.  Other than the fact that I am a single parent, don't most of those statements apply to every parent I know?  And I berate myself for not appreciating all I have...all the positives in my life.  For not saying it like this:  I have a job that is more than work - it is a calling that has great meaning for me.  I have a job that requires flexibility but also gives me flexibility to meet some of the demands of raising my son.  I live within my means.  I am as financially secure as I think I can be at this point in my life.  I own my home and live in a safe neighborhood.  I have a son who I love and who loves me.  I have a wonderful network of friends and family.

So - does it all depend on your point of view?  Does it come down to looking at the glass as half full versus half empty?

I think it comes down to the fact that we as humans can have conflicting feelings at the same time.  I can be thankful to have a wonderful son, but still be stressed about raising him by myself.  I can be grateful for owning my home but still overwhelmed by all of the work that comes with it.  I can enjoy my job, but still wish I had more time at home.  I can be a strong, self-sufficient woman but still wish I had a significant other to share my life with.

I think there is some validity to the fact that I have not re-started my life.  I have continued the life I started with my husband.  Am I gaining something by staying in this spot - some secondary gain as us social workers like to say?

So the question that looms is HOW do I "re-start" my life?  Guess I have some thinking to do!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

when function and feeling cannot co-exist

There is a cabinet in my basement work room area. It is very sturdy, functional and well placed. Today I ripped off the wooden doors with my bare hands and proceeded to take it off the wall screw by screw, sometimes ripping them out of the wall with sheer force. That functional cabinet is now on my tree lawn waiting to be picked up by trash mongers or the garbage truck, whoever gets it first.

You may ask why would I get rid of such a seemingly functional part of my house. Because for five years it has stood as a reminder of the past. But I kept it because it was functional. And I hated it every time I looked at it.

The cabinet did nothing wrong.

When I first found out my now-ex husband cheated on me he explained it as "meaningless" and "promised" that it was over. I tried to believe...in him, in our marriage, in the ability to work it out. If both parties are true and honest and committed, marriages can survive infidelity. But this was not our case. The cheating continued and I ended our marriage.

So what does this have to do with the cabinet?

When I first found out that the affairs had not "stopped" (which I suspected) I also found out that one of them was an actual ongoing long term "relationship." At one point I threatened my ex and said he had better tell me everything. Of course I learned that I would never find out "everything." But I did learn more.

And so the cabinet enters the picture.

He told me to go downstairs and open the cabinet and on the right hand side of the bottom shelf I would find some things. Turned out to be a framed picture of her and her daughter as well as a bunch of cards and letters. Made me sick.

The items have been gone for some time. But the cabinet remained. And I have not been able to separate emotion from function no matter how hard I tried. So today I took control.

The cabinet is now out with the trash. And I feel much better.

unexpected soul nourishment

Sometimes you find what you need at the most unexpected time in an unexpected place.  My last post talked about my struggle for finding something to feed my soul.  It is often true that the harder you try to find what you are looking for, the harder it IS to find.

On my way home from a fun trip to see my sister and family (with a great 2 day trip to Chicago thrown in) I was tired and dreading the return to reality.  My son had been crying about leaving his cousins (always a very painful thing to witness such raw, sad emotions) but had settled in for the five hour drive and was concentrating on his Nintendo game.  By the time we reached the half way point I was really dragging so decided to switch from my CD to the radio, expecting to find a mediocre station that would likely fade out as soon as a good song came on.  But instead I found an unexpected treasure:  a replay of Casey Kasem's American Top 40 countdown from this week in 1984.  For those of you old enough to remember this classic weekly replay of hits, you might remember the "hits from coast to coast" melody or the "long distance dedications."

 Immediately I was transported to a different era.  This week in 1984 I was a freshman in high school, struggling with advanced algebra, loving my other subjects, completely "IN LOVE" with my boyfriend who was a senior at a neighboring high school, shopping for a prom dress and getting ready for summer!  The music was so fun to listen to.  I was singing loudly (much to my son's dismay) and just laughing in between songs.  Alan Parson's Project, Queen (Lady Gaga), Tracey Ullman (They don't know), Thompson Twins, Kool and the Gang, Willie Nelson & Julio Ilglesias (To all the Girls I've Loved Before - which reminded me some songs should remain in the past!!!), Rick Springfield, Weird Al (Eat it), The Bangles, Journey.....mmmmmmm....good times.

What I realized as I was driving down the dark turnpike, was that MUSIC has always fed my soul.  I KNOW this, but I keep forgetting.  I was raised in a musical household with my mom a former college music major and band director.  We grew up watching Sound of Music and singing in church choir.  I was in choir and band throughout high school.  I loved listening to the radio, albums (my first was Billy Joel Glass Houses) then cassettes then CD's and now my iPod.  I remember hanging out with friends making mix tapes in college.  Music was always around me.

But, as with many things, I forget about music.  I turn on the TV to watch the news or some other thing to pass the time.  I hear SpongeBob SquarePants in the background when I am fixing dinner.  But what I realized on this car trip was how much music can affect my mood.  Music instantly transports my mind to another place where I do not worry or obsess or question.  There are a few songs or artists that I no longer listen to because they are too tied to a sad or painful time in my life, but most just bring a sense of joy or strength or empowerment or just plain fun.

So - in contrast to U2's well known song...maybe I HAVE found a little bit of what I'm looking for.