Posts from the ‘single parenting’ category

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I’m a little bit behind when it comes to becoming addicted to the popular TV series out there. Last year, we registered for Amazon Prime (hello, this is truly a Godsend to a working mother of 8!). Along with subscribing to auto-deliveries of toilet paper, toothbrushes and deodorant, we get Amazon Video–heavenly when nothing good is on TV. After subscribing, I quickly saw what all of the hype was with Downton Abbey (only 4 years late). Once I devoured the series in a few months, I was on the lookout for another fun series to watch while I was on the treadmill.

As I was sweating away, staring out the window at the gym, I happened upon Big Love. I’m a gal who is born and raised in Utah, and although I’m not a “typical” Utah girl, this series seemed intriguing to me. I couldn’t quite wrap my head around the whole polygamy thing (I am sooooo not into sharing), but I was interested in watching the series because of the slight mentions about the Mormon church. So I tried watching the first episode. Aside from the it-really-doesn’t-need-to-be-in-there-so-much sex scene, the show is quite addictive.

The relationships between the sister-wives is intriguing to me. I could never share my husband with someone, but they can. (Let’s face it, the drama is too funny and it’s what keeps us coming back for more)

After being a few episodes in, Brandon’s kids came over for the weekend (as they do every other week). I was playing with our 3 year old and he was telling me about his mom and how they were going to maybe get a new house soon. I was excited for them. What a good feeling that must be for both him and her. “That will be so great!” I exclaimed.

I’m a firm believer that their moms are their moms, and I could never replace them in any way. But I’m also a firm believer that we have a connection that other people don’t. In a way (okay, maybe a strange, far-off way) I’m somewhat married to his exes as well. I listen to their children talk about their lives with their mom’s. I see them at events and when we transition from Mom-time to Dad-time. We are connected this way, and will be for the rest of our lives. Weddings, babies, graduations…we have a lot of events in our futures.

When I meet our 3 year old’s mom on Saturdays, it’s friendly and nice. I always tell him, “Say love you mom and see you Sunday.” Then I turn to her and tell her, “Have a good day at work.” I need to be supportive of her. It’s what’s best for our son. Yes, our son. She’s raising my son, and he loves her as much as he loves me.

As a single mom, I know how hard it is day-in and day-out. I know she tries her best. And I know she trusts me with our son. One day, out of the blue, she sent me a text that said “I was talking to {son} today and he brought you up. I just want to tell you I’m grateful for your help in raising him.” I melted. She didn’t have to do that. She could be bitter and hate me and talk badly to our son about me and turn him against me. But she doesn’t. We’ve both chosen the high road. And he’s better off because we have.

When I married Brandon, the mother of Brandon’s 3 older children wrote on my daughter’s Instagram photo of the wedding ‘Beautiful dress, Lori. Congratulations to you two.’ After being divorced from Brandon for over 10 years, she knows that welcoming a new mother into her kids life takes courage and love.

When my ex married his new wife, I couldn’t have been happier. She’s been nice and accepting of my kids. She’s spoken to me when my ex won’t. She’s raising my children, too. With every part of me, I’m thankful for the love she shows to them. We, too, have a connection that will last forever–our kids. It isn’t easy sharing your kids and having time away from them, but this woman is the best woman my ex could have ever chosen.

All of these women, are in a way, my sister-wives. No, I don’t share a husband with them, but I do share their/our children. I’m lucky. Each of these women love openly, like I do. Each one works hard for their kids and each one is a believer in raising good children.

If I have to be ‘married’ to multiple people, I guess this is how it’s done.

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Life lessons can hit you head on, blind side you, or whack you from behind and leave you face down trying to figure out what the crap just happened. It’s funny how these things creep up on you…kinda like granny panties (Side note: switch to a thong if this happens to you…less material up there makes wedgies obsolete!)

Next week, I’m looking forward to celebrating my 44th birthday. Who am I kidding, no I’m not. I am looking forward to celebrating it in Las Vegas with my husband, but I digress.

As I look back at my 43 years so far, I’ve had my share of life lessons I’ve learned. Some I took like a spoonful of sugar. Others are still a bitter pill I try to swallow with a smile on my face.

After trudging through all these lessons and “aha moments” in my life, I’ve paved the path for others. I’ve been there, done that! The following are a number of things I know to be true. Hopeful a few of these will help you along your journey!

1. When you grow up with a parent who indirectly (or directly) criticizes you about your hair, choice in boys, choice in friends, choice to dance and says “ there’s no way I’m gonna let you go out there and shake your ass” you MUST look within yourself for your value. They don’t want to compliment you or congratulate you because then they (they being a narcissist) won’t be the center of attention. And once they see (in their mind, that is) you passing them in talent, looks or intelligence, they will begin to “hitch their wagon” to you. That extra pressure is like cement shoes. Remind yourself it is not your job to make that personality happy in their life (The life they complain about often to you). It’s your job to build a life for YOU. The one you want. Not the one your mother wants you to have.

2. There’s a phrase that Forest Gump repeats, one that his mother taught him: “Stupid is as stupid does.” The same is true about negativity. Negative is as negative does. I was married to a man who called his sister fat and lazy and expressed his disgust for her, got pissed that the neighbor copied us by painting her water meter to the point that he wouldn’t talk to her, ended a friendship with a couple we often went out with because the husband didn’t tip, and despised a teammate of my son’s because his mother was a bitch. I was raised by a woman like this who had the same mud-colored glasses on. And the more I was around these two, the more deep in the mud I became. My ex and I became so annoyed at that neighbor that we actually moved a few months later. Yes, moved! And yes, the mother of the boy was completely abrasive and spoiled and wanted her kid at short-stop and batting forth and put high demands on the coaches, but that didn’t give my ex a right to tell me he loved it every time that boy struck out. I had to remind this man that the kid up to bat was an 11 year old boy. When you are around this person, you get sucked in to their false reality. You end up griping on the phone together. You go to family dinners and are itching to spread the “how dare theys” and “can you believes.” The energy is heavy and dirty and toxic and it swallows you. Your mud-colored glasses make you critical and constantly looking for everyone’s faults. You must recognize when you think this way and break free from the pull of this type of personality. EVERYONE is good enough. EVERYONE tries their best every day. EVERYONE deserves love. And until a person shows you otherwise, you should be gracious, giving and open. Stop right now and ask yourself Am I with a person like this?

3. Leaving the people with the personalities I’ve mentioned above, whether through a divorce or by setting boundaries, is never an easy thing when you’ve spent considerable time with these people. I’ve seen that lots of people move in and out the narcissist’s life. But those of us that have stayed with/tolerated/enabled these types of people have a hard time truly leaving. Sense the signs early. These people will make you feel guilty for having your own goals. They poo-poo your ideas or shoot your dreams down, always pointing out how they’re absurd. It will take everything you have to pull away. They will toss and tangle you in their games and you must keep walking.

4. Once you finally get away from a narcissist, you will not be yourself for awhile. It’s a strange, crazy phenomenon to be mourning the “old” you and at the same time trying on so many “new” yous. It’s freeing and scary and crazy and sometimes, it’s stupid. You might lie down at night and hate yourself for some of these moments. There are things I felt and did and tried that I glance back on and think Yeah…that wasn’t so smart! But those things are part of my journey. And each is a thread in the pieces that make me, me. I mean, really, I didn’t date much as a teen so taking off for a weekend to St. George with a man I only spoke to twice on the phone isn’t the “old” Lori (or all that smart for that matter). But the “new” Lori said yes and met a great friend and we shared lots of divorce drama stories. Be careful with yourself. And be forgiving.

5. When a beautiful 21 year old guy grabs you and pulls you into the bathroom to sneak a kiss before you return to your table, let the moment happen. At 41, to learn that lesson, well that was a spoonful of sweet, sweet sugar.

6. When someone tells you they love you, and you think they’ll love you forever, there’s a chance they don’t even know what love is. Or their too proud to show it. Or they just never loved you in the first place. And that’s ok.

7. Your kids will heal after the dust of divorce settles…on their own time. And they’ll never be the same. This is a bitter pill for me. At least for now. I’m crushed to see their pain still resurface. I’m shattered their paths were altered forever. I pray every night they each find their true selves and grow and love. Still working on this one.

8. Learning to trust again takes time. And it also takes a leap of faith. People will take advantage of your big heart. People will lie to you. People will look at you with pity in their eyes or judge you for your “unfortunate situation.” Don’t harden your shell. Don’t stoop to their level. Don’t give up on the joys of life and experiencing and growing. Just. Don’t. Do. It.

9. The person you left will continue to throw rocks at you. They will file court orders, they will judge your parenting, they will spread lies about you and spit venom at you at every chance they can. And the sun will rise again tomorrow. And it will be another wonderful day you can celebrate being free.

10. Invest in people who invest in you. So many people surround me and support me and care for me and love me and my life is full. No one makes me feel guilty. No one puts me down. They don’t criticize me. They are there for me. Genuinely and sincerely.

11. When someone new tells you they love you, and you think they’ll love you forever, there’s a chance they just might.

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I’m not quiet and shy. You won’t find me sitting in the corner at a party watching all of the action from the sidelines. It’s not in my nature. I’m a strong, athletic woman who at 5 foot10 inches tall can walk into a room and intimidate people. Ask one of my best friends about her first impressions of me and she’ll tell you about seeing me in the hallway of our kids’ school and thinking Look at her all tall and blonde. She’s got it goin on!

At that time in my life, I was just entering the world of frazzled single momhood and drifting like a lost ship at sea in the dark just trying to find solid ground to land on. My life had been tossed up in the air like a bowl of confetti. It was sprinkled everywhere for everyone to see and falling all around me at a fast rate. I hardly felt “put together” but I was on a journey to find myself again and the glow must have shown on my face.

After being with someone for nearly 20 years who didn’t seem to appreciate the “true” me, I had turned into a quiet, unsure human being. I’ve spent lots of time doubting myself, my looks, my worth. I lived in that zip code for waaaaaaay too long! Near the end of that relationship I began my metamorphosis into the strong, happy person I am now and I’m not apologizing one bit for my strength and confidence. (Damn, that sounds cocky and outright snobbish–but it’s not meant that way at all!)

It wasn’t a very long road back to confidence and true-happiness, because starting my new life was like freeing my soul to live its true purpose. Most important to note: I got to this place on my own. I didn’t jump into one relationship after another to fix myself. A man didn’t help me feel beautiful. Money didn’t make me feel successful. It all started within myself.

Yes, there were (and are) days filled with self-doubt. But not many. I catch myself when I’m putting myself down in my head. Those crappy self-talks you have in your head about how dumb or crazy a mistake you made was or how your stomach isn’t as flat as it used to be? Those aren’t allowed! So stop that right now. Think of all the wonderful things you are and how far you’ve come.

Today, I am one week away from turning 44. I’ve raised 4 kids, sacrificed a lot for a marriage that failed, paid lawyers fees, moved my kids, embraced the opportunity to grow, and moved on with my life. I am more loving, confident, sexual, outgoing, fulfilled, happy and positive than I ever have been in my entire life. And people notice.

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There’s a certain energy that surrounds you when you enjoy the person you’ve become. You will walk taller. You smile more. Your owning it and feeling like the sexiest woman on the planet will have people feeling drawn to you and you will soon be booking long weekends in bed with your spouse or significant other. If people can’t embrace that or want you to change because their insecure or can’t handle your confidence, don’t change who you are for them. You will only end up unhappy and broken. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt!

I challenge you today to quiet that critical voice in your head. Practice smiling. A lot. Laugh. Flirt even. Hell, take your clothes off and stand naked in front of the mirror and name, out loud, 10 beautiful things about your body. You can do this! Stop comparing yourself to an image in your head and get your sexy on! Up your energy and own who you are. There is no one else out there like you so show people the best you. You’ll be happier, and they’ll be happy you showed them who the best you really is!

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There’s an amazing thing that happens when you start feeling like you are in control of your life again. Okay, maybe “in control” is too bold of a statement–let’s say more in-tune with who you are and your family. Almost every parent has felt like they run around like a mad man/woman trying to get everything done, but unless you’ve been a divorced parent with multiple kids, you probably won’t understand the level of craziness that we parents hit post divorce.

You bust your ass at work to do a good job, bring home a somewhat respectable paycheck, and try to maintain balance with the kids and their activities, school, homework etc. All the while you’re at work, you end up missing the 4th grade program, the 6th grade field trip, and the kids are often left home alone after school and on non-recognized holidays at work like Halloween, Veteran’s Day etc. You feel like a schmuck. And when you take-off work because of dentist appointments, state fair presentations or to volunteer in class, you feel like an even bigger schmuck because you’re gone from work. It’s a lose-lose, really. And it sucks! It’s a battle that never ends.

Now that I’m at home, I’m battling another battle in my head–it’s an evil, mean little battle that creeps in every now and then. You’re being selfish–decreasing the family’s income to chase a dream and be home. How will you pay for braces/college/soccer and all the other unexpected things around the corner? Little shouts of doubt pierce my thoughts, and I shake them off and try to ignore that ugly lizard brain that tries to talk me out of something I know is good for me. But wow is it hard to keep the faith and push forward!

Two weeks ago, my oldest daughter tried out for the Elite Club National League team here in Utah. We got to the tryout, and she didn’t know a soul. We sat in the car and watched as girls were dribbling and talking and everyone seemed to know each other. As more cars pulled up, she saw a few familiar faces from school. I thought that may help ease her nerves, but she mentioned that the girls were part of a premiere club, and she was not. Tears welled up in her eyes. She was worried. “I don’t want to go out there,” she told me.

I watched as she immediately talked herself out of the team, because she didn’t have faith in herself or her skills. She was selling herself short, and she hadn’t even stepped foot on the field! Of course, I knew she was an outstanding player (she’s been playing a year up for 5 years), but getting her to see that is a different story. I watched as she fell apart–completely melting into the front seat of my car. “I can’t do it,” she said.

My heart broke. I’ve been there. I never tried anything if I wasn’t good at it–I wouldn’t be caught dead trying something I looked foolish trying. She is a lot like me. In that moment, instantly remembered my decision at 17 not to take my college volleyball scholarship, because I was terrified–terrified I wouldn’t fit in, terrified to live on my own, terrified to move far away from life as I knew it and step out onto unstable ground. Not taking that scholarship is my biggest regret in life.

With misty, tear-filled eyes, I looked directly into the eyes of my daughter–my successful, straight-A, beautiful, dedicated daughter– and told her, “Honey, sometimes you have to do hard things in life to get to the things that are great. You can do this!” It was a moment where my heart was breaking. I wanted to take away her fears and insecurities. I wanted to help her escape this moment with all my being, but I knew this was a moment for her to shine. She wiped away her tears, took a deep breath, and strode off across the grass and introduced herself to the coach. She made me so proud in that moment. She took everything she was and faced her fears head-on.

She is such an example to me. I know that quitting my job was doing that hard thing for me. But I also have faith that great things are going to happen. In the past 5 days since leaving my job, I’ve experienced some beautiful things…all because I’ve been AVAILABLE to see them. Here are a few that come to mind I’d love to share with you:

  • My daughter officially became a member of an elite team last week, and they played in their first tournament over the weekend. Both of her coaches expressed to me that she has “something that I just can’t teach.” I spent the day with her in Park City on Friday, which is something I wouldn’t be able to do if I was at my 9-5 job. And on Sunday, her step-dad, 7 siblings, and I watched as she and her new friends took 2nd place in the tournament. Her smile last weekend is something I wouldn’t miss for the world.
  • Today, I took my 17 year old son to the bank today and showed him how to withdraw money from his account–it seems like such a silly thing, but after landing his first job 2 months ago, he was used to seeing the money going into the account, but he had no idea how to get the money out. He was so proud to withdraw $350 and purchase a new Xbox system. It was like his Christmas for him. And seeing him becoming an adult is like Christmas (in a weird/strange way) for me.
  • Yesterday afternoon, I picked up my other son from his girlfriend’s house–the sun was out, the radio was turned up, and I looked at him and said, “Let’s go get a drink!” This boy loves his Mountain Dew. He beamed, and we rolled down the windows, turned up the tunes, and belted Maroon 5 at the top of our lungs. It was one of those “take a mental picture” moments I’ll never forget!
  • Finally, last night, my husband came home to a clean house, dinner on the table, and he and I and my youngest daughter went outside and played catch as the sun was setting. If I were working full time, NONE of that would have happened. Our nights were typically frantic, dinner at the last minute, and I usually was cleaning up or catching up on laundry each night.

These are the great moments that pay so much more than any job could. The moments that make me the most proud. And these are moments that if I’m not available, will pass by too quickly.

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When it comes to the debate of working moms vs at-home-moms, I’ve always been an advocate of “Do what you feel comfortable with.” I’m not here to judge another woman for going to work every day, just like I wouldn’t judge a woman who chooses to stay home with her children. Each woman should know herself and know where she will be the most happy. I’ve danced the line of working mom/at-home-mom many, many times. I’ve worked at home, nights, weekends, part-time and full-time. I’ve done it all.

After 17 years of juggling, maneuvering and balancing, I know what works for me. I enjoy working. I enjoy creating something and sending it out into the world and making a difference in people’s lives. But I also know that my influence on my children is one of the most important gifts they’ll receive.

Once I got divorced, I went directly into survival mode: work hard, provide for my kids, get them into counseling, try not to change life too much. I quickly found full-time work and bought us our little home. There was hardly any time for adjustment, because when you’re in the middle of divorce, you just do what you have to so you get by. All of you single parents out there know exactly what I’m talking about.

The most difficult part about that phase in our lives is that I felt like my kids lost their dad AND their mom all at the same time. Their world as they new it was turned on it’s head, which wasn’t fair! Their dad moved out, and their mom was hardly home because she worked from 8:30-5:30, and after work she was the chauffeur. We burned that candle at both ends for quite some time.

I’ve now been married to Brandon for nearly a year. We’ve been playing hot-potato with schedules, carpooling kids, trying to keep all the trains running, keep the house clean, each working a full-time job, and nurturing a new marriage all at the same time. Life ain’t glamorous most days ’round these parts, but that’s not what life is about. There’s been many, many discussions about keeping our relationship fresh, parenting our kids, joining our lives together and trying to understand one another. And when we hit a bump in our road, we’ve learned to talk through it and figure it out.

The ground beneath us is starting to feel fairly solid now, and we’re on the back side of that all-too-familiar “difficult first year” of marriage. As I’ve said before, blending two families is a challenge, but it’s also a blessing. Brandon’s recently been promoted at work, which takes him away from home more than I’d like, but I’m so proud of him and his accomplishments. We’re settling in and seeing how the inner-workings of this family work, and it now makes sense for me to be home more to take care of our kids, our home and nurture all that goes on here while he’s at work. In a way, I’m thrilled. But in another, I’m terrified! The day I quit, I had to make myself not think and just feel with my heart. My heart is telling me the right thing to do and it’s holding the door closed so my mind doesn’t run in and ruin the whole thing!

To walk away from a full-time job by my own choice is a crazy thing. But to have the majority of my job description be about nurturing my children and supporting my husband and walk towards a personal goal to start my own business/adventure (or whatever it is I’m going to do) is exciting. I’ve never had someone who believed in me and my talents the way Brandon does. He knows it’s important to have home handled, and his goal when he took this job was for me to be home more to hold down our fort. I honestly believe that life is much easier when one parent is home a majority of the time keeping the peace and balance–especially when you have a large number of children. Some may disagree, but this is our gig, and we chose this route.

I’m not going to lie…I’ve been sick with worry in making this decision. It’s a moment of vulnerability for me–to depend on someone financially again. My ex had no problem controlling and stashing money, so I breathe deeply with this decision and try not to hyperventilate myself into a frenzy. To give up the “guaranteed” and bet on myself is a huge risk. In a way I feel selfish. Is that stupid? I feel lame because I’m not contributing as much to our income as I could. I doubt my talents. I fear the stress will be too much on Brandon.

But money does not drive me. Relationships do. At the end of my life, I won’t be asking someone to bring my Porche to the window so I can marvel at how clean it is. I’ll want my family near me. When my children are parents themselves, they will know that family is worth sacrificing for.

My oldest son came home the other day and told me that his father got mad at my daughter for resting her arm against his car’s window. He had yelled at her, “Get your arm off the window!” quite loudly. My son looked at me while telling me that story and said, “Sometimes I want to ask him, ‘Dad, why’d you even have kids?'”

Life with children is full of sacrifices, fingerprints, heartache and challenges. Some don’t have the choice whether or not they’ll stay home, and they go to work every day to give everything they can to their kids. I applaud you, because I know how hard that is. We do the best we can with what we have.

I’m looking forward to this new adventure, but even more, I’m looking forward to more quality time with my husband and kids.

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Pouty face.

NOT duck face.

Pouty face.

Today is a day where I toss up the white flag.

I’m trying to figure out if I’m just being weak (or a wuss, whichever you prefer), or if I’m really, really trying to take on too much. And after all of the in-depth soul searching, I’m finding that it’s some of the first but more of the later.

The past few weeks have been filled with hectic, emotional things for me. Selling my home. Purchasing a new one. Problems with my ex not providing his proof of child support checks unless I paid him $150 for the fee of splitting of our 401K (long story–can you say blackmail?) and issues with our house-sell funds being wired on the right day and having to fight with the builder to let us occupy the house early and wondering where we’d sleep until the funding went through. Dealing with the builder and their employee (ex’s wife) taking my ex through MY house. Moving alone, with the help of my brother and 2 neighbors because Brandon had to work Friday and Saturday (those are his busiest days at work). And now trying to settle into our home, being buried in boxes and clutter, and realizing that we don’t have enough money in the bank to put in the yard AND finish the basement–which means cramming 6-10 people into a 1500 square foot space (that’s not even mentioning the stress of delivering that news to my four kids who are sharing rooms and packed in like sardines at the moment).

I’ve officially hit the wall. (not literally, although I’ve considered it.)

Trying to balance life is a difficult thing for everyone. I’ve oftentimes found myself scouring for advice, quiet time, lists etc to help me feel like I’ve gained some amount of control over my life the past few years. But ya know what I’ve learned? I’ll never ever have it under control.

I work 40+ hours a week at my job and raise my 4 children daily. They go to their dads a day or two a week, but for the most part it’s me doing all of the homework, running around, shopping, haircuts, mentoring etc. Brandon is there when he can be, but his job has him away for a good majority of the week. Add on top of all of this Brandon’s 4 children and spring sports (softball, soccer, which has us going almost every night of the week and all day on Saturdays), and I’m almost curled up in the fetal position in the corner.

I’m buying dinners on the go, because I run in the house at 5:00 and grab 1-2 kids to run out the door for a choir concert, practice, training or game. I HATE spending money on food out. My brain plays with the idea of if “I didn’t work full-time, I wouldn’t be so busy” and I could cook more at home which would save us money. I would also be home at 3:00 to help with homework, laundry, and organize the house before the dinner hour and we’d be settled into a routine by the time Brandon gets home from work.

Playing with that idea is a common thing for moms who work.

Is it true that we can’t have it all?

If I had my way, I wouldn’t work full-time. That was never in our “family plan” when I was married to my ex. We made a conscious decision for him to go to college (twice) and get his degrees so he could support our family and we chose to have 4 kids knowing that I’d be home to raise our family. Well, that dream went to shit and now I work full-time PLUS raise the family. It hardly seems doable some days. I worked full time with 3 kids under 3 to put him back through college to cement that plan in place, and ya know what? NOTHING is for sure.

Now I work, and I work hard. If I’m kicking ass at work, I feel like I’m dropping the ball at home. And if I’m in my mom-groove and in the mom zone, I feel like work suffers and I’m unavailable. There’s just no winning. Do I ever think I could be a stay-at-home-mom and not work at all? Probably not. I enjoy working hard and creating wonderful things and changing lives. but all of these things should be pointed directly at my family and less-so at a job that is just a job.

I’m not a “career woman”! Hell, I’m not even a corporate ladder climber; not since I became a mother. These kids are my life. And after a long, heart-wrenching talk with my 15 year old son the other night, I realize that the divorce and life has taken me away from the core of my life. It’s time for that to change.

My husband gets frustrated I’m so busy and grumpy about running around like a chicken with my head cut off. And I’m frustrated because my husband works so much and I’m taking on a lot of this on my own. And our kids are frustrated they don’t see either of us much. Sounds like the tail is waggin’ the dog, doesn’t it?!

Was it a mistake to purchase a new home and increase our payment? Who knows. But we needed the space. Were Brandon and I crazy to try and blend 2 jobs, 3 ex’s, 8 kids and our baggage into one life? Again, who knows. But we love each other and think we can make all of this work.

I’m finding that my frustrations have led to me losing pieces of myself again, because I feel like I have to concentrate on so many balls not dropping. And ya know what? I can’t do that any more. I simply can’t. Most women would have probably had a break-down by now. You think I’m being over-dramatic, but I’m completely serious. I simply say the phrase, “We have 8 kids!” and everyone looks like I have 3 heads and runs in the opposite direction. If I said, “yeah, I work full time, my husband works 50-60 hours a week, and we have 8 kids who are all active in competitive sports blah blah…” I think their heads would implode on site.

On days like today I need to pat myself on the back for all I do. I do a lot, damn it! And I keep this family running! And in the same regard, I need to allow myself the room to say, “I can’t” or “no” more often than I do. I can’t please everyone. Say it with me, “I can’t please everyone!” If I don’t learn to do this, I’m not going to be worth a damn to myself, my husband OR our 8 kids.

Today is a day I wanna give up. But guess what…today will be over, soon.

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Last week I went to dinner with a good friend. We had a long discussion about what we “deserved” in our lives and why, sometimes, it’s difficult to call attention to what we deserve or even ask for it from people.

Why is it so difficult? It shouldn’t be, and yet it is.

Too often, especially as women, we tend to put everyone else first on the list and we are a distant second (or third, or fourth). Sometimes we think we’re being selfish, and other times we let poor treatment towards us slide because we excuse it off when another person treats us worse than we’d ever treat them. You know who you are out there–right now you’re saying, “Damn it! That’s SO me!”

The minute you have the epiphany that you are “settling” in some way or another is the time to take action. Do it RIGHT THEN! You can express your needs and what you deserve in a productive way. It may be hard for others to hear at first, especially if you’ve been the doormat for far too long, but it the first step to getting what you deserve.

After telling my ex husband to move out of our home, I felt myself put me first for the first time in almost 20 years. The backseat I took to him and my children was, in my mind, my way of being a good wife and mother. Not true. I was on a quick path to depression and sadness by losing myself.

This photo was taken when I was putting myself first. I made time to go for a walk every day (without guilt of leaving the kids). I gave myself permission to spend money on clothes for me, wear more makeup, and feel sexy again. I was broke, separated, my life was in upheaval, but I was doing what I “deserved” all along in my marriage. So in a strange way, I was happy. Extremely happy.

It was also during that time when I began thinking long and hard about what I deserved in my life. These are some of the things I repeat to myself often.

  • I deserve to be treated with respect. Do not yell at me, do not put me down, and do not call me names.
  • I deserve happiness and laughter every day of my life.
  • I deserve time to take care of myself.
  • I deserve to not feel guilty when I spend money on myself.
  • I deserve to be treated like a queen by the man in my life and showered with loving words, loving touches, and time.
  • I deserve to have my loved ones show appreciation for all of the things I do for them. Even if that means I have to remind them to say thank you sometimes.
  • I deserve a job where I’m appreciated for my abilities and an employer to be somewhat flexible with me for my family, because balance is important to me.

As my friend and I ate our chips and salsa last week, we laughed about how it’s easy to get sucked back down the dark hole of “tolerating” poor treatment or or being second place, because it’s what we know. And even though the subject came up because of her relationship, I realized that I, too, was slipping back into the old me.

So you know what I’ve decided to do? I’m going to have a bi-weekly or monthly check-in with myself. I’m going to have an honest discussion with myself and see if I’m really walking the walk or am I just full of crap. To create new, good habits, I’ll need to review my list and make sure I’m keeping those things first in my mind.

This weekend I looked back at my list and realized that bad habits come back quickly. Am I putting myself first? Nope. I’m becoming frumpy and out of shape, staying in the house more, and I’m tired a lot. Am I giving and giving and am I getting appreciation and respect? Not very much. This is something I talked to the kids about last night.

At the same time, I asked myself if I was GIVING OTHERS what they deserved. Am I trying to say thank you for the small things? Do I recognize when my kids are being kind, or doing well at school and commend them for it? The check-in goes both ways. Are you getting AND giving what you and others deserve? I know that I could improve in both areas. I realized that I’ve asked Brandon what he needs/deserves out of our relationship, but I haven’t asked my kids what they need. I need to. Their happiness and what they deserve is important to!

So I ask you, what do you deserve?

Do you have it?

divorce_web

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Rings

I’m ready. It’s time.

Along this journey of divorce, self-discovery, and remarriage, I’m learning that life slowly shows itself to you. After going through the raging storms, crashing waves, and now sunny skies, I find that growth continues to happen.

The decision to remarry was heavy and a process and I was filled with fear. Would I be able to love again? Would I be able to trust again? Would I be able to bring someone into my life, and more importantly my children’s lives, and believe that they will love us as deeply and fully as humanly possible? I slowly came to the conclusion that I could trust this person more than anyone I’ve ever trusted in my life. He’d take a bullet for me (or my kids for that matter); although, let’s not throw that out into the universe tempting fate!

As Brandon and I steered our way through the first six months of marriage, we’ve worked through issues with ex’s, money, jobs, children, and different ideas of what life has looked like for both of us. I hated trying to start over some days. Starting over is hard! There’s so much crap to sort through, and all of us come from existing places filled with hope, regret, hurt, love, and history. But after that beginning, we’ve found a great stride. And now we’ve decided to continue our new beginning by selling my home.

This adorable 100 year-old farm house was all I could afford as a single mom just over a year and a half ago. It gave me and my children a safe-haven to gather in. It has been a place where we’ve laughed, cried, dreamed and rebuilt our lives. The adjustment of moving out of our family home into this quaint cottage half the size was hard. We had 3 kids going to new schools which meant new friends and routines. All of the kids had to walk to-and-from school, which was a new experience after having been bussed every day. And the ugly truth of divorce and dad-is-never-coming-home-EVER-again started to sink in. The adjustment was HUGE at times and I wondered if we’d make it through the transition. We slowly began to find out footing again. The sun came out and shined bright.

House_Web

Now I’m a bit more out of shape (no time to exercise when I’m wanting to be with my new hubby and family), a little older, and a newlywed with 8 children. This charming bungalow of 2,000 square feet seems to burst at the seams when everyone’s over to hang out. Sometimes I feel trapped in the house with nowhere to carve out a little space just for me when everyone’s loud and energetic. I skip away to my bedroom, but the freakin kids STILL find me! :)

And don’t even get me started on sharing bathrooms–it’s a huge bother in the mornings, and pissy people launch out of my house to start their day after fighting for 10 minutes in the shower. Mornings are complete chaos.

I will always love this place. Purchasing this cottage proved to me I could do it on my own. I knew that if it was the last house I owned, it was mine and I paid for it on my own. So many women after divorce end up renting an apartment or moving in with family, which is a difficult adjustment after having your own home. And there’s nothing wrong with living in those circumstances. But I knew we had to put down roots–and fast! And just as quickly as I felt we had to put down roots then, I now feel like it’s time for our new-family beginning.

Last week Brandon and I found our home. A home for our family. It will take some creative maneuvers, saving, and bunking up until the basement is finished, but we’re ready. An offer went in on Wednesday, and we listed our house on Thursday.

We’ve had some showings already, and received an offer on Saturday. It was a piss-poor attempt on the buyer’s part to get the house for a steal, so we counter-offered today. If the sale is meant to be, they’ll accept. If not, we’ll have a bit of time before I feel absolutely ready to go.

Of course, my ex husband found out about our expected move and reacted in common form–harassing me via text about our son’s missing homework and telling me that I needed to report to him what I work on with our son each night because it doesn’t get done otherwise. (It’s funny how the good in your life makes others want to knock you on your ass. And by others, I mean unhappy ex’s!)

I’m ready to move. I’m ready to kiss a soft, sweet goodbye to my little home and leave it to another family/person looking for a fresh start. My heart is full and ready and more than ever, I’m ready to begin our life. A life in our home. Dreaming our dreams. Making our memories. I am blessed, and I pray the papers line up so we can sell and move quickly.

Keep dreaming. Keep doing. Keep living.

I plan to do all three.

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How on earth did I end up here?

The road during and post-divorce can be a long one. There are arguments, decree drafts, mediation meetings, lawyer meetings, more arguments, division of property issues, selling of assets, parent time issues, etc. And that’s only PRIOR to the divorce hearing! There are times when you feel depleted. Your ego takes a hit (unless you’ve been feeding it with adultery or tippy-toeing on the line of it), your finances take a huge hit, and you try to be counselor to the kids and to yourself all while trying to live life with as little interruption as possible. After all, the kids still have school, you still have work, there are sports and activities and meetings to attend and life seems to go on as normal for everyone while you spin in your own world of why is this happening to me?

But after wiping the tears, and stashing the pity party, there comes a time where you strap up your boots, lick your wounds and take on the world like a big-girl again.

I’m so thankful for the time I spent alone as a single-mom. I truly feel that the time I spent working on me is what helped me find the path I’m on now. I took care of me. Physically and spiritually. I went to a counselor who reminded me that I can’t control everything in my life. She also reminded me that a free fall can take some time–and the good thing is once you hit bottom the only way to go is up. Was I happy she told me just to “wait it out”? Ummm…hell no. That’s not what a girl who is always in control wants to hear.

Spending time on myself helped me get through. I worked out. I listened to music. I spent hours upon hours in my head. Thinking, dreaming, coming to the realization that there was part of my failed marriage that was my fault. And I learned from that. I learned a lot during that time. And I’ve brought all of that to my new relationships as both a new wife and step-mother.

I look at my new marriage with new eyes. Mature eyes. It’s not about me all the time, and it’s not about Brandon all the time. It’s about us. Just the two of us. It’s about our 8 awesome kids. It’s about wiggling around and finding out where everyone belongs in this big ol’ family and trying to be the best us for our family. I won’t lie: there are days when I think we were absolutely insane to try to blend 8 kids, 2 adults and 3 ex’s (which means 3 other families to consider and plan around) into one life. But I know, without a doubt, we all made the right decision to combine all of our crazy lives into one fabulous life.

Today, I count my blessings. I have a man in my life who adores me. I have 8 kids who are healthy, happy, and we are learning to love each other as a new family. I have a home where we can grow and a job I love where people care about me.

I don’t have a rule book. I’m faking my way through this most of the time. There are still days where I think about my “old map” of my life and get frustrated I’m not as far along as I used to be. I don’t have the savings account or retirement account or the crystal clean credit report. I can’t buy things the minute they’re needed. And I definitely get frustrated that I’m knocked back a few squares in the game of life. But I do know that when I quiet myself, think of the good I want to do in this world, and remember that the key to living is NOW (not to keep looking years down the road) I am more successful.

I used to joke when asked about divorce, “It’s like packing for a trip to Hawaii and ending up in Alaska. I don’t know how to do Alaska!”

This journey has taught me how to pack in layers. To be prepared for anything thrown my way. And to also be ready to switch course at a moment’s notice. Living is not about plotting a route and getting straight to the destination. Living is about wandering. Trying new things, new foods, new locations, new journeys. Who wants to walk from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic Coast in a straight line? I’d much rather bounce around and see all the sights, sounds, tastes and feelings that life has to offer. I’m happy where I am right now. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow brings.

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ChildhoodFamily

When I look at this photo of me and my family, I see a small, blonde, little girl who’s missing her two front teeth under her crooked semi-smile (I also see my badass bangs/haircut–I’ll address my funky childhood haircuts later). This picture was taken in my backyard during the mid-70s, when big collars and plaid were all the rage. I was probably close to 6 years-old here. (I remember hating that mustard-colored shirt.) This was during a time in my life when my parents were very busy both personally and in the community: they were members of the Jaycees, bowled on local bowling leagues a few times a week, played softball with friends, and my dad traveled quite a bit as the VP of a construction company. They left us home with a babysitter or alone…a lot!

I cling to memories of camping trips with my family, Sunday nights in front of the The Wonderful World of Disney, and careless summer days playing in the gutter outside of my home. I think I remember those times the most, because they were when my family was together and good-times were soaked up in the sun or on the ski slopes. Family time was somewhat rare, from what I remember. It’s because of this that I made a commitment to be very present in my kids lives.

A few years after this photo was taken, I began taking gymnastics classes at a local High School and soon began living at the gym 4-5 nights a week. The introduction of the “overpacked schedule” entered my life. From that point on, I was always busy. Gymnastics took up most of my pre-teen free time, and softball began the summer I turned 9. As I began to grow, and out grow gymnastics, I added cheerleading and volleyball to my schedule. I often wonder why I took on so many activities when I was young and should have been hanging out with friends in the neighborhood. Perhaps I was running from something (I’m sure that had something to do with it) or perhaps I enjoyed accomplishing things on my own and getting recognition for working hard. Whatever the case, this busy behavior has continued into my 20s, 30s, and now my 40s.

Is that a dangerous way to live: over scheduled and running all the time? My parents were busy doing their things all the time, and I longed for family time. Are my kids doing the same? My kids schedules are what keep us away from the house, but we’re still away.

I started pondering all of this yesterday. When I have too much idle time, I get a bit manic and over examine all parts of my life. For example: yesterday I had most of the day to myself, as my husband worked and my kids were at their dads. As I sat there folding laundry and watching a movie where the people lived by the beach and lived a slower paced life, it was like a huge mound of bricks hit me all at once, and many, many questions ran through my head: Where am I going? What am I working for? Where is my life taking me? Am I doing enough? Am I accomplishing enough? Am I teaching my kids enough? AM I ENOUGH?

Why am I asking myself these questions? Am I comparing myself to someone else? No, not that I know of. Am I expecting more out of myself? Could be. Do I feel “happy” in my life? That’s a difficult one to answer. Am I happy? Yes! Am I happy with my life? I think there’s definitely room to improve. Let me explain…I wake up, go to work, rush home, run kids around, feed the family, try to help with homework, get everyone to bed and do it all over again. Weekends are either filled with 8 kids and their things, or it’s catch-up on “us” time for me and Brandon. I feel like my life is living me, not the other way around. I debated with myself for a long time yesterday whether I was in the midst of a mid-life crisis or just having a pity party. I haven’t decided which one it was, but I need to kick myself in the ass and buck up!

I know the joy is in the journey, and I absolutely and fully admit I’m definitely a girl that forgets to embrace each day and live it to it’s fullest. (I’m that girl who saved outfits for “special occasions” and the good towels for guests only). Capricorns are natural goal setters. That’s what I do. I set goals and work towards them. The problem with that type of thinking is that I’m missing the sweet, luscious blessings right beneath my nose! My husband is much the opposite of that. He lives each day the best way he can. He doesn’t get caught up in the planning, scheduling and over thinking. I wish I were more like him.

In 2014, I resolve to slow it down a bit. To not be so over-committed that I practically kill myself getting everyone to every little practice, activity or training. It will be okay if we have to skip a few. I run a household of 10 alone 75% of the time because of Brandon’s schedule. I can only do the best I can.  I resolve to forget the criticizing words of my mother and my ex husband and know that I am amazing just for being me. I don’t have to be perfect. I don’t have to do it all alone. I don’t have to always be in motion or achieving. Sometimes, it’s okay for me to just…be.

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