How many lies?

A friend came to me recently, knowing my history and needing someone to confide in. She shared that she thinks her husband of 30 years is cheating on her. Shock only lasted for a moment, quickly giving way to more of a “why am I not surprised?” emotion. Not that I have reason to feel this way. I have never met her husband. But I’ve heard enough stories similar to the tale she proceeds to tell me.

It’s been going on for years, she suspects, yet has never been able to prove. “Why?” She asks me. “Why has no one ever just told me? I see the way people look at me, I can tell they know something. Why won’t someone just tell me so I can move on with my life?”

My heart immediately breaks for her. I’ve been in her shoes. Knowing something is not quite right in your marriage, but if you dare to question anything, you’re met with more lies and cover stories. It’s enough to drive a woman completely mad.

And it does.

She pours out more details over the next few days, sharing pieces of truth mixed with paranoid theories. She stops and looks me straight in the eye, looking for judgment she will never find from me, “I sound crazy, don’t I?”

My memory takes me back in time, to a time when I had found out just enough truth to prove that I wasn’t just being paranoid, that I wasn’t going crazy… but it was too late because I did do exactly that, I went a little crazy. All of the lying and sneaking around leading up to that moment had turned a once quiet, mostly even-keeled woman into a stark raving lunatic who drove to the other woman’s house, knocked on her door, stood in her kitchen, and in front of that woman’s husband told her to back off and leave my husband alone. (There may have been a few expletives thrown in there, crazy times call for crazy measures.)

It was an act that a well-mannered, sane woman would never dream of, and when I think of that moment now, I cringe. This memory does not make my top ten list of things I am most proud of. (Spoiler alert: My threat didn’t work. Go figure. Cheaters gotta cheat, so they just got craftier with their deceit, making my job of seeking out the truth drag on for another year. And with every lie, I grew a little crazier.)

I recognize the desperate look on her face too well. “You’re not crazy, but all of the lying is making you crazy,” I assure my friend. She is smart and successful and has a heart of gold… and to other people, she may sound a tad bit loony when she lists off the suspicions she has of her husband. I don’t judge her for a second. I’ve been in her shoes. I know how the mind can turn dark and go to very strange places when you are trying to sort through all of the lies and discover what ugly truths they could possibly be covering up.

I wonder, how many lies does it take to drive a woman this crazy?

I think of the commercial from my childhood, the one with wise old Mr. Owl sitting in the tree minding his wise old self until little Johnny disturbs the peace with his silly question, “Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the middle of a Tootsie Pop?”

How many licks

Mr. Owl quickly and confidently takes the Tootsie Pop from little Johnny, removes the wrapper and counts, “One. Two. Three.” Crunch. “Three.”

And the narrator confirms what we already know, “How many licks does it take to get to the center of the Tootsie Pop? The world may never know.”

Like that Tootsie Pop, is it one lie? Is it two lies? Certainly, it can’t just be three lies to drive us to the point where we find ourselves hiring private detectives or confronting meddling floozies in their kitchens. The world may never know how much a woman can tolerate, how many lies she ingests before they make her go off her rocker completely.

I want my friend to just walk away. I ask her if she can, but she can’t. She needs to know the truth. It’s too late for her, he has driven her to Crazy Town and dropped her in the middle of it. She has too much invested in this relationship now, be it time, love, money, or pride… she has to know. This has gone on so long that she can only walk away if she has the iron-clad proof that the man who promised to love and to cherish her all those years ago has indeed broken those vows. I acknowledge her reasoning because I have been there myself and I empathize with her pain and torment. I pray for her to find the answers or at least find peace so she can move past this chapter of her life. I even pray for the lying husband, because in the end, karma is as unforgiving as the lies he tells.

 

 

 

Beautiful Scars

Last Sunday I was in the kitchen working on meal prep for the week. I was slicing melons, plucking grapes from vines, and baking chicken breasts when an unexpected thing happened. It was just the girls and I home for the afternoon and they had both gravitated to the kitchen (probably the scent of chili-lime flavored chicken wafting through the house had something to do with it.) Before long we had found ourselves deep in conversation; about what, I couldn’t say now, but somehow we came to this:

My sixteen year old looked at me and said, “Mom, you are the strongest person I know. I look at everything you have gone through, picking yourself up after the divorce, being a single mom to two daughters, having to work hard to support us…  You showed us not to settle for less than what we deserve. I don’t think you realize how much we look up to you.”

Naturally, I teared up and if my soul could sigh, it would have done so at that exact moment.

It’s been such a hard road for us three. The road started out pretty normal, freshly tarred to make for smooth sailing. Eventually, that perfect road experienced some pretty major frost heaves, frost heaves that popped us right out of the minivan of life and dragged us behind it for a spell; resulting in three pretty severe cases of road rash. Road rash hurts, both real and metaphorical. It hurts real bad.

Eventually, I got tired of the frost heaves causing so much pain, so I put the brakes on, dusted everyone off, slapped some bag balm on the road rash and turned that minivan down a new road. This road had potholes, too, No road is perfect, but we were wiser this time, and we had the scars from the road rash to remind us to slow down and avoid the bad road if we could. So eventually we learned to see the signs of a road in need of repair and we began to detour whenever possible.

It seems like for the past year the road has been a bit more travel-friendly, and for that I am thankful.

There was a time when I didn’t know if my relationship with my girls would ever return to what it was before. Were the scars from the road rash just too much to fully recover from? It felt like it at times. Times when I couldn’t say or do anything right. Times when they judged me and resented me for choices I made and for things that were out of my control. I’m not talking about normal everyday adolescent squabbles with my children, it was something far beyond that.

I’ve read a lot of articles and blogs about life after divorce, but I’m not sure any of us dare to truly delve into the ugly truth of single parenting. Even now, I only dance around the subject matter of co-parenting with a narcissist. The truth was knowing that anything that was said and done at my house could and would be used against me by the other side. For years I felt like I was being held captive in my own life and that my world could come crashing down at any moment due to crafty manipulation techniques. Even when the efforts failed I felt the effects from my children. They would treat me differently until eventually things would settle down and we could get back to our normal. It wasn’t their fault, they were children, and it certainly wasn’t fair for them to be caught in the middle of someone else’s sick games.

I struggled during those years. I struggled with my reality vs. the reality I longed for. I wanted simplicity and an honest life with my children. I resisted and pushed back when drama and lies crept in from the other side. It wasn’t easy having a foot in two separate worlds; the world I had lived in with my children and the world I wanted to live in with them.

I kept on. I stayed true to my course. There were days when I wanted to scream and yell, and there were days when I did exactly that.

They said it will get better, they said to keep doing what you are doing because you are doing it right.

And after looking into the eyes of my sixteen-year-old when she said, “Mom, you are my hero. I wouldn’t be who I am today if it wasn’t for everything we went through.”

I finally believe they were right.

I have no false pretenses on perfectly paved roads of the future, in fact, I am well aware that at any moment I could get bucked right out of the minivan again and suffer a fresh case of the rash. The knowledge that at any moment we are one incident away from turmoil, and I could be cast back into the role of the villain always resides in the back of my mind. But the older they get, the wiser they are becoming and I keep praying that they always see truth above everything else.

At the end of the day, at least now I know with certainty that underneath all of the muck and mire resides a strong foundation of truth and integrity that we built together. And as for that road rash… it gave us some pretty beautiful scars that only the three of us can see. It taught us more than I can even begin to quantify with words. As we stood around the kitchen that afternoon we shared memories of one horrible summer that we all agreed has become one of our favorite summers together. I never would have guessed all those years ago that some of the worst days of our lives could have bonded my girls and I so closely that we could turn it into such a positive and sacred memory.  Never underestimate the power of the road rash and the beauty of its scars.

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Steer clear of the dark side I must

Another Monday morning. I drag myself out of bed at too-early-o’clock, shuffle to the kitchen in my paint-stained pink crocs where I patiently wait for the tea kettle to whistle. I drop a teaspoon of instant coffee into my cup. It used to be Folgers but I have gotten cheap and only buy the store brand now. I reach into the fridge for my vanilla creamer just as the tea kettle begins a soft whistle. I pour the just-right-temperature-water, stir in two packets of Truvia and a generous shot of creamer and take my first sip. Perfection. The only thing that could make this cup of coffee any better would be if this was a Saturday morning not Monday… and if I actually had time to sit and sip, not trudge down the hallway to start the shower.

But that’s what I do… because it’s Monday.

I turn on my current favorite playlist as I go about getting ready for the day. I’ve carefully selected the songs in this playlist, it’s full of feel-good ballads and music that makes me think. My tunes motivate me to be in the best possible, positive mood I can be in, being a dreaded Monday and all. I’m fairly pleased with my hair today, thank God and my hairdresser-that woman is a saint for putting up with my picky self, not to mention my stubborn cowlick, and God- well He is the man. I am ready for the day with moments to spare which I then somehow figure out how to waste. It’s almost as though I like being a few minutes late to work every single day. Or maybe it’s my subconscious avoiding going to the one place that as of late makes me feel horrible about myself.

It wasn’t always this way. Every job has it’s ups and downs, but there have been far more downs than ups this year. I can’t quite put my finger on why I feel so sad when I think about going to work. Sure, there have been a lot of changes this year, but I work in a school and I’m pretty sure schools invented change. So no, it’s not that.

I start my workday by cleaning up the mess that was left behind by me taking the previous Friday off. It doesn’t take me long and I am right back to where I should be on a Monday morning, doing attendance, preparing payroll reports and sending bills off to the central office to be paid. And then it happens. A quick conversation with my boss that makes me veer right off the positive course I’ve tried so hard to set myself on all day.

She didn’t mean to upset me, but at the end of the conversation, I was left feeling unappreciated and unvalued.

It’s funny how much words really matter. Hearing a simple “Thank you.” from your boss at the end of each day can make a person feel so valued, like an important part of the team, like perhaps they would be lost without you.  Sometimes just a simple “thanks for all you do” is enough to keep me going when the days are long and tiresome.

Days like today when my spirits, already plummeted, spiral further when I open a nasty passive-aggressive email from the central office regarding “proper budgeting procedures”, procedures that seem to change monthly I might add. I bite my tongue, grit my teeth and hit send on a short reply of “Ok, thank you.” Five minutes later I field a phone call from little Johnny’s helicopter mom who thinks I spoke too harshly with him when I caught him using his forbidden cell phone during school hours. My face burns cherry red and I swear I feel my blood pressure rise as I apologize for upsetting poor little Johnny when I caught him breaking the rules. I politely remind Crazy Mom that we have rules and I promise never to upset her son again. I hang up the phone and see a streak of blue tearing into my office.

It’s my favorite student, I will call him Yoda because he is wise beyond his years. I’m probably not supposed to have favorites but this one has left a mark on my heart in the 4 years I have known him. We didn’t always have this relationship, Yoda and I. He’s a tough nut to crack and I will admit that it took me some time before I understood him.

Yoda is upset. It’s hard telling what straw broke this camel’s back so I invite him to come sit with me and talk. If it’s one thing Yoda can do, it’s talk. He airs his usual grievances, he knows this is a safe space where I won’t judge him, but I do challenge him. When he complains about others I remind him to have empathy, we have been working on this all year long. I remind him what a busy and stressful time of year this can be, not just for the kids and parents but for teachers as well. He surprises me with a piece of knowledge I don’t expect him to have at the age of 13 and I interrupt him. “I’m surprised you know what that means,” I tell him, “But then again I shouldn’t be surprised, Yoda, you are such a smart kid.”

He stops and stares at me and his eyes begin to water. “You are the first adult to tell me that I’m smart all school year.”

Ah…. crap. I can’t watch a person cry without joining them. I tell him again how smart he is and I’m sorry he hasn’t heard it more lately, and for heaven’s sake please don’t cry or I will, too.

But it’s like that, isn’t it? As humans, even when we don’t mean to, we derive so much of our self worth and our happiness on our feedback from others. Yoda is still young and figuring everything out, but at 42 years old I do know better than to do this to myself. At this stage in life I know with all of my heart that I can’t change people, I can only change myself. I know I am a hard worker, I know how much I put into every single day at my job, I know I am grossly underpaid and vastly unappreciated. I know that I go home many days feeling completely drained from the nature of my job.

For months I’ve been feeling the effects of a change in climate, where at times it feels as though it’s every man for himself. Today I was reminded in the watery eyes of a gentle 13-year-old soul that I need to take the little moments to build people up and not focus on the things I can’t change. At the end of the day, I know my worth, even if others don’t.

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So You Think You Want To Date My Daughter?

Well… it finally happened. I’ve been tiptoeing around minefields of mascara and padded bras for several years, holding my breath, waiting for the moment when one of my girls would finally give a boy a fighting chance at winning her heart. I’ve been lucky. No heart break thus far.

8 months ago that all changed. Insert the first boyfriend. We will call him Sherman. Sherman made it past the incredibly high standards my daughter had set for any possible suitor. Suddenly she went from chatting with me about the cute boy in her PE class at the beginning of the school year to casually bringing his name up in conversation weeks later, announcing that they were “talking”. She was a sophomore and Sherman was a senior. My ears perked up at this possibly frightening information. This was my cue to pay closer attention and ask questions. Teenagers date differently nowadays by the way. They don’t “go steady”, they have a “thing”. It’s, in a word: weird. “Talking” is spending hours upon hours of sending random snapchats of half of their face to each other. No words. No lengthy chats about life or anything of any actual importance. Just an eyeball here. Lip there. A strand of hair and a great shot of the ceiling…insert my eye roll… For once my kids are right when they say I really don’t get it.

But for whatever reason all of this back and forth:

(Eyeball  –  Forehead  –  Chin  –  Ceiling  –  Smile…)

results in Sherman picking my daughter up one Sunday afternoon so they could hang out at his house for a few hours. One afternoon morphed into several afternoons of rotating visits until finally I asked my daughter, “So are you two a couple now?”

To which she answered, “I don’t know.”

“How do you not know?” I asked.

“It hasn’t come up.” She shrugged.

“Do you want to see other people?” I questioned.

“No.”

“Do you want him to see other people?”

“No.”

“Then you need to find out if you and he are on the same page.”

I watched it happen. The lightbulb that went off when she understood what I was saying. My daughter has been one of the most guarded people I’ve ever known. She is practical and focused. She’s never been the one to walk around with her head in the clouds dreaming of being rescued by her Prince Charming. She quickly ended a relationship before it even started last year when the guy got too “clingy”. But Sherman, for whatever reason, is different. This once seemingly, cold-hearted, ruthless girl of mine seems to have fallen head over heels for this boy and it scares the crap out of this overprotective mom.

So… time for mom to figure out how to handle this new situation.

First off, I wanted to talk to Sherman and give him some pointers. Number one pointer: You don’t deserve her, don’t ever forget that. Number two: If you break her heart, I’ll break your face.

Okay, I wouldn’t really break his face. But I would turn on my scary mom eyes, and everyone knows my scary mom eyes rival the stare of Medusa. So there is that.

But I didn’t have any such conversation with good ole Sherm. I engaged the filter, welcomed him into our home, and prayed for the best.

In a perfect world, it wouldn’t be considered awkward or weird to talk to the teenage boy who now takes up real estate on my couch a couple times a week. I would tell him that my daughter is fragile underneath that tough exterior. I would tell him that she has experienced enough disappointment from broken promises to last her a lifetime, so please don’t add to that. I would say, “If you aren’t going to be thoughtful and kind and true to your word, then go. Sometimes she might need help letting go of the past, so listen to her if she opens up and shares with you. I want you to know that it’s not easy for her to talk about the things that hurt. She needs help learning to trust men, so don’t ever give her a reason not to trust you. And if you get to a point where it’s over, for the love of God, just tell her. Don’t string her along.”

And then, I’m certain Sherm and I would wrap up the heart-to-heart with a warm embrace and a solid understanding, that though I am not a large woman, I am the mightiest Mama Bear he will ever meet…and I can hold a grudge like no one else if you hurt my loved ones.

Fear the grudge. Fear it.

Seriously though, I know heartbreak is inevitable, especially for a 16-year-old. Maybe I can’t have that chat with Sherman, or whoever else wanders near, but I will be there for my girls no matter who or what comes along.

First corinthians

 

Shark Week

Confession time.

I have never actually watched a single episode of anything shark-ish during Shark Week. I vaguely remember a time when someone else in the house had tuned in to the Discovery Channel during Shark Week, but I lacked the interest to actually pay attention. I imagine the programming is entertaining, how else would it still be so popular over 30 years later?

30 years is a long run for a lot of things. Time usually changes everything. Trends and habits are continuously evolving, people change and grow, often leaving behind parts of their past that they revisit so infrequently the memories fade into the dark and murky corners of their minds. And then there is technology. Technology changes so fast your new iPhone seems to be outdated the second you walk out of the store with it.

Time changes everything.

One day you are taking your kids to the playground for what seems like the thousandth time, and when you leave -though you don’t know it at the time- it’s the last time you will ever pack them into the car after an hour of swinging, sliding, and monkey bars.

One day you’re driving a car load of kids to and from Girl Scouts, playdates, practices, dances, and games, the next day you are looking at downsizing from the mini-van because all that seating seems silly now that no one needs you to drive them around anymore.

A few years ago my husband, John, was playing in our 16-foot above-ground Walmart pool with the kids. He was just mom’s boyfriend then, somewhat entertaining to have around, yet heavily scrutinized at every turn… and not to mention, desperately searching for ways to connect with my girls. Together, John and our girls created a new pool game called Shark. To become an accomplished Shark player, one needs to successfully tag another player while blindfolded (or blind-goggled), and of course, be in a body of water. I remember watching with a happy heart as our three girls forgot about all the baggage that comes from divorce and the idea of sharing their parent with someone else and just played together.

From then on, if more than two of them were in the pool at one time a game of Shark was sure to happen. Occasionally someone would get caught peeking, or try to sabotage one of their fellow teammates into getting tagged, and I would watch from my comfy chair on the deck and smile. Shark became one of those sacred things that every blended family needs. Something that didn’t exist before this new union. Memories of people who were no longer around couldn’t taint the joy of playing Shark. It was ours, and ours only.

Time went by, the girls got older, interests changed, and for the last couple of years John and I have been the only ones who really use the pool anymore. John enjoys performing his “pool boy” duties by skimming out the bugs and checking the status of the filter while I prefer to float lazily as I work on my tan. And even if we wanted to, we can’t play Shark with only two people.

Last week, as Discovery Channel was getting ready to wrap up their 31st season of Shark Week, the unthinkable happened at our house. I was sipping a cold beverage in my comfy chair, relaxing after a stressful week and feeling pleased to see not only John getting use out of the pool but also, two out of three of our girls, plus a boyfriend. My ears perked up slightly when I heard someone mention Shark. It had been years since any of them had asked to play! It didn’t take long to inform the boyfriend of the rules of our family game, and in no time I was laughing while I watched. (If you are reading this I encourage you to introduce Shark to your own family. You will be amazed at how funny it is to watch blindfolded people try to tag other people in a pool.)

I had one of those satisfying, take-it-all-in-and-sigh-contentedly moments while I was watching my family in the pool that day. I realized that I had been impatient at times since my family dynamic changed so drastically all those years ago. I used to feel angry and sad for everything that was lost by going through a divorce and having my children’s lives uprooted. More than once, I mourned the moments that would be lost or forever changed due to them not having their parents together anymore. I couldn’t see back then that we could still have those things together in our “new” family, we just had to give it time. Healthy relationships grow over time, getting stronger in truth and love and with adversity. I didn’t lose everything as I had feared all those years ago, I just needed to give it some time and let the new relationships grow.  I even suspect…just maybe… I gained so much more than I ever really had in the first place. img_3386.jpg

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Watching my young adult children playing Shark.

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A few days later all three of the girls, the boyfriend, (he’s a good sport), and I gathered around the kitchen table for our first “Paint and Sip”. Olivia led the group of amateur painters through each step of masterful artistry until we had all created undeniably, priceless works of art. I’m no expert, but there might quite possibly be a Picasso amongst us. For the second time in just a few short days I was reminded of how blessed I am as we sat around that table. We talked, we joked, and we made more cherished memories, as well as beautiful art together.

We’ve been 5 years in the making, this blended family of ours. 5 years of making memories and forming bonds. 5 years of growing, changing, and adapting. There were times during these last five years when I wondered how on earth John and I would ever survive the trials and tribulations of raising three girls who don’t share the same DNA and get them to the point where they are happy, content, independent, and well adjusted. I questioned our decisions, our different parenting styles, and not to mention our sanity on a regular basis. I confided in friends and family when things got particularly rough, looking for any indication that we were doing this “right”. They told me to keep doing what we were doing, “Everything will work out in the end”, they would say, “You just have to give it time.”

Last week I witnessed my nearly grown, blended family come together in just the way I always dreamed they would. Shark Week isn’t just thrilling television programming for me, it is a reminder of the week that I saw a glimmer of what the future holds for our family.

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My girls and I posing with our very first Paint and Sip masterpieces.

 

Stronger

My oldest daughter leaves for college in 4.5 days. Tears begin to burn my eyes and I blink furiously as I type this. Lately, it seems I can’t think about her leaving without picturing that blonde-haired, blue-eyed, belly-laughing, pig-tails-bouncing, beautiful, captivating little girl.

It went by so fast, just like they said it would.

The tears come faster now, I can’t blink them away and one escapes down my cheek. I’m not looking in a mirror but I know my nose is bright red and my eyes have turned a glassy shade of green. I’ve cried enough, especially in the last 6 years, to know I’m on my way to being a hot mess if I don’t change my train of thought.

I need to think about something else…

I really need to get my office organized before school starts…

I need to go run on the treadmill, I have less than 2000 steps today…

I need to do laundry, it isn’t going to do itself…

I need to at least vacuum up the dog hair that’s collecting in the corners…

I need… I need to be stronger.

I’ve been “sensitive” since as far back as I can remember. I am overly emotional, way too sentimental, and I get my feelings hurt far too easily. I feel so much. From compassion and empathy for others to disappointment and hurt, to nostalgia and an inability of being able to let things go. It all registers, and it gets me right in the core of my being. And then I cry.

Crying is a sign of weakness, I need to be stronger.

I’ve been through a lot of events in the last six years that tested my strength. I’ve cried too much. I’ve felt betrayal and a hurt that brought me to my knees. I’ve wallowed in the what-could-have-beens and the how-can-this-be-happenings. I’ve feared the unknown and prayed with all my might. I’ve been angry and I’ve been sad. I’ve felt remorse and grief, happiness and peace, and fear and desperation.

And every time I struggle, through the tears I tell myself I need to be stronger.

But what if I’ve been looking at it all wrong?

Let’s say most people register at a 4-5 on the sensitivity scale.  This means they cry when a loved one dies, maybe even cry when the dog dies in the movie, but overall they keep their shit wrapped pretty tight and go about life with nary a concern. A rating of a 1-2 is pretty much a serial killer, while a 7-8 cries when the brother comes home unexpectedly in the Folgers commercial, at cute you-tube videos, and at every Kristen Hannah book ever written.

I think it’s safe to say I would be a 10 on the sensitivity scale. No one cries alone in my presence – like seriously – I tell the kids at school not to cry when they are upset unless they want to see me cry, too. (This usually gets a smile out of them when they see my eyes are in fact watering up and they forget their troubles at least for a moment while they marvel at what a basket case Mrs. Dyer is.)  The usual sad stuff gets me along with sentimental attachments to objects, change (all of it),  and expectation vs. reality. It all registers, it hits me right in the gut and causes me emotional pain.  Knowing this about myself I recognize that I am a huge pain in the ass to live with. My husband, who I would rate a 4, doesn’t even begin to understand my emotional state most of the time. (John, stop trying to figure me out and just love me.)

So what if I really am stronger than I give myself credit for? What if I’m actually like super-hero strong, and here I am thinking that just because I shed a few (ok, a lot) of tears when I am sad, scared, angry, hurt, happy, cold, tired, and nostalgic means I’m weak, when in reality I should say, “I am one hella strong and sensitive woman. Given my sensitivity rating of 10, I should be catatonic by now…and yet, here I am… look what I have survived!” 

First husband of 15 years cheated, dragged me through hell for over a year lying about it: survived – check.

Became a single mother. Enough said: survived – check

I had to give up my girls 2 days a week to their father and the woman he cheated with. Found out they were getting married a couple months later and learned to tolerate her trying to mother my children: survived – check, check.

Battled threatened custody arrangements, stood my ground and: survived – check.

Endured years of emotional roller coaster up-and-downs with both daughters following the divorce: survived – check.

Braved the new, tumultuous world of a blended family: still surviving – check-(ish).

Have fairly, successfully survived three girls during the teen years… thus far… not checking that one off yet… that battle is still underway.

Considering some of the stuff I’ve been through I could actually be an emotional ninja, karate-chopping through life’s trials one tissue at a time! (Do ninjas actually karate chop? Hmmm…)

So instead of self-shaming, I will remind myself that I don’t need to be stronger, I am stronger already. The me today is stronger than the one from 6 years ago. It’s ok to feel, it’s ok to be emotional, and it’s ok to cry when I drop my little girl off at college on Friday.  It’s ok to mourn the end of her childhood while celebrating the start of this new, exciting chapter for her – adulthood. The fact that I am sad about her growing up doesn’t make me weak or mean I have a need to feel needed, it just means I have loved every minute of being her mom, and I’m going to miss her like crazy.

Ten things he doesn’t do

5 years ago I was in a much different place than I am today. Facebook’s On this day feature reminds me on a regular basis just how much my life has changed since then. It’s funny how living through some really hard times can make you so much wiser when it comes to certain life experiences.

Sometimes I talk about life back then. Sometimes I keep it to myself and I listen to others talk about their lives and situations that closely mirror what I lived through. I never have the heart to tell them what may lie ahead if they don’t change the course they are on. They wouldn’t listen anyway. I wouldn’t have listened. I had to live it out on my own, I had to experience every single heart break in order to truly accept what I went through.

My ex husband was an utter shit to me the last few years of our marriage. In his defense, he wasn’t always. The beginning was good, the middle was ok, but the end… that’s the memory I took away with me.

From that experience I also took away what I could live with, and what I would never live with again. People tend to accept and live with things they never thought they could before they find themselves face-to-face with said situation. It’s a lot easier to talk the talk than walk the walk. I made the most of a bad situation for a long time. By the end, I was done with it all. I walked away knowing I would never ever let myself accept things I didn’t need to accept.

Fast forward five years and here I am. I am re-married to a wonderful, yet flawed man. (I threw the flawed part in because I am about to talk about how awesome he is, and it’s my job to keep him humble.)

The only reasoning I have for how John and I found each other when we did is that it was all a part of God’s plan. John had been following his broken road for some time, and I, as mentioned before, had just barely survived the most hellish experience I hope I ever have to live through in this life.

So now, five years later when I look at this man who stands beside me every day I think how amazing it is that I got a second chance. He brought back trust, and love, and laughter. He brought back the importance of family, faith, and integrity. He had no idea, and probably still doesn’t know how important his role in our lives truly is to me.

So I decided to get together a little list…  not of the things John does do, but the things he doesn’t do that make life so much better.

  1. He never comes home late. Like ever. John has always been a man of his word on pretty much everything since the beginning of our relationship, especially when it comes to when he will be home. In fact, most of the time he comes home early. I know it can be much different. I’ve experienced a life when I get no call, no text, no carrier pigeon or smoke signal to let me know where he was. It caused a lot of anxiety and even more mistrust and anger. It’s not fun to be disrespected.
  2. He never lies. Yeah… John is a terrible liar. He tells the bitter truth in every way. Sometimes I don’t want to hear the truth, but he tells me anyway. There is no dramatic exaggeration or little white lies in order to get what he wants. Truth is refreshing, and one of the most important ingredients in every relationship in my life.
  3. He doesn’t talk to other women. Of course he talks to other women, but never in a flirty or sketchy way. He doesn’t disrespect me by going behind my back and having private conversations with other women. You know the kind of conversation I am talking about, the kind that is generally hidden from the wife. Which leads me directly into number four.
  4. He doesn’t guard his phone with his life. John’s phone is an open book to me, and mine to him. Neither of us have passcodes and if we did the other would know what they are. Our Facebook profiles are both stored in the laptop and we can look at each other’s profiles any time we want to. Not that we do. That goes back to trust. When you trust the other person, you don’t need to look at their phone, their profile, or their browsing history.
  5. He doesn’t take me for granted. Not a day goes by that he doesn’t thank me for something. We take turns making dinner, and he always thanks me before the day is done for my contribution. He doesn’t expect me to take care of him. He knows what life was like before he had a wife helping with day-to-day chores. He appreciates my help, he doesn’t expect it, and he is thankful for it. It’s nice to be appreciated.
  6. He acknowledges me publicly. This may sound weird, but trust me, some husbands don’t publicly acknowledge their wives at all. The only time my husband neglects to introduce me to someone is when he has forgotten their name. He proudly post pictures of our adventures together on his Facebook profile and he isn’t ashamed to hug me, or even, ya know, sit with me in public. I’ve been in opposite scenarios before. It sucks to feel like your partner is embarrassed of you.
  7. He’s not afraid to admit when he is wrong. Which is pretty much every time he doesn’t agree with me… 🙂 In all seriousness, I love that he will concede at the end of an argument if he sees that I have a point. We are both very strong willed people (he blames the fact that we are both Geminis), and we have a tendency to butt heads at times. In the past I was always on the losing end of an argument so I learned to just give in. Over time I realized that I had to stand up for what I believe in. Lucky for John he gets to experience this head strong version of me. He’s actually pretty lucky. I have a lot of great insight and he benefits from it now and then…
  8. He doesn’t let me down. When he says he is going to do something he always follows through. I love how dependable my husband is. I don’t have to worry about whether or not the oil man will be called before we run out of oil or if there will be milk in the fridge when I get home. If he says he’s doing it, it gets done. I strive to be more like him.
  9. He never takes his wedding ring off. Since the day we said “I do”, my husband’s wedding ring has not left his finger and he said it never will. I don’t accept excuses for not wearing a wedding ring if you’re married. My dad has worn his wedding ring every day for almost 46 years. He has always had a very physically demanding job, and it has never stopped him from wearing his ring. If you want to be married you need to let the world know by wearing your ring. If you take it off for insert lame-ass excuse here, you shouldn’t be married.
  10. He never puts anything before his family. My husband always puts our family first. He goes to every game, performance or concert that he can physically get to for our kids. He listens and interacts with our girls, guiding them when they need it. He stops what he’s doing if someone is sick and needs to go home early from school.  He drives to the store for ginger ale, chocolate or pads without skipping a beat. He makes it to every birthday party, holiday and family event. He does all of this because he wants to be there for his family. This trait is the one I admire most  in my husband. It’s the trait that sets him so far apart from so many other husbands and dads.