Sunday, October 7, 2018

On My Worst Days

It started on Sunday. Or maybe before Sunday but that day felt significantly hard. 

The panic over not being able to provide for my children for 12 weeks while I am student teaching is setting in. It's right in front of me, only a few months away, and it is affecting my mental health.

Feeling like I'm asking for too much or relying on others makes me uncomfortable.

And on Monday morning, I said goodbye to my children for the week and immediately drove to a job interview.

Knocked. It. Out. Of. The. Park. 

I left feeling on top of the world. Maybe my circumstances would change. Maybe I wouldn't have to student teach. Maybe God had placed that job interview in my path at the exact time when I was needing it most.

And then the rejection email came on Wednesday. On the day when I realized my baby boy was getting sick and vomited all over me at dance.

I felt completely kicked when I was already down. 

And then on Thursday, I felt more rejection after a difficult conversation with someone I had put a lot of faith and trust in. More shame for feeling like I'm not providing enough for my babies. More anxiety as I felt more being put on my already-full plate.

It didn't fully hit me that night. I was sad. I was anxious. I felt completely stupid. But it wasn't until Friday when Leo was still sick and I had to leave work early to get him that I started to lose it.

Like fully lose it. 

"Sobbing to one of my best friend's on a Marco Polo" losing it. 

And all of this in the parking lot of dance before I walked in to teach.

I've lost it a few more times between yesterday and today. Each time, it is when I'm alone and feeling the depth of everything being placed in my path.

There is a lot going on right now. And I feel like I am just treading water in the middle of the ocean, waiting to see if I'm going to make it or if my legs are going to give out.

And why am I writing this down? Why, if you are a close friend, have I not told you personally? 

It's probably because when I speak these things out loud, I cry. And what I'm trying to do is continue to tread that water and not completely drown. Crying takes energy and makes me feel weak. And I'm hanging on by a thread over here.

Somehow, I'm still passing all of my classes. Somehow, I'm still working two jobs. Somehow, I'm still raising three children.

But it doesn't feel as amazing this week as it normally does. 

More than one circumstance from this week has made it feel less amazing. My brain has decided that I'm not getting by because I'm strong---I'm getting by because everyone else is making it possible. It has nothing to do with me.

My heart knows that isn't true. 

But the inner struggle between my heart and my brain has left me feeling exhausted and confused. I'm having a hard time believing that somehow, I've made this all happen for us. I'm feeling like a fraud---like the only reason I'm passing my classes is because I half-ass every assignment and they must feel sorry and give me points for effort. Or like the only reason I am providing for my children is because everyone around me helps out and feels sorry that I'm a single mom and I have NO idea what providing for a family 'in the real world' looks like. Or like the only reason I am able to raise Leo is because the government financially assists his life and not because I'm actually a good mom or that my love is what is helping him to thrive.

These are the real struggles. The un-sugarcoated mess that has been swirling around in my brain and tells me I'll never be good enough to actually be successful. These are the fears I currently have that tell me I'm not successful, that I should have this all figured out after five years of divorce and that I rely too much on the fact that I'm a single mom.

The phrase "single mom" just feels like some nasty crutch that I've apparently used for way too long. 

I don't always leave the darkness here---the reality of how I feel on my worst days or the struggle I have with feeling like I'm good enough to succeed at anything.

I have been rejected before and although I feel like that should prepare me better for more rejection, it just seems to have me feeling worse.

I am not going to happily end this blog post. I already know that once my babies are back tomorrow, I'll feel immersed in the joys of raising them. But this week was awful. It broke me down. I felt worthless and ashamed and childish.

And there is no sugarcoating those feelings. They just are. 

PS: It is really hard for me to just leave this here as is. I so badly want to wrap it up with a positive message. I don't like when people are worried about me. That isn't the point of this. And in fact, I don't need the worries because this isn't the first or last time I will feel this way. But it needs to be written and intertwined with my blog posts about how everything wraps up perfectly in a pretty little bow. Because life does not always wrap up in a pretty little bow! 

Monday, September 24, 2018

Anxiety Update

Months ago, I wrote THIS post about my anxiety disorder and how it affects my life. I stumbled upon it today while looking for something else I had written and it just seemed to hit me that my anxiety has been quieter lately.

Without medication.

It's a personal story as to how and why I went off of my anxiety medication but that was over two months ago and realizing that my anxiety has been a little more distant in the past few weeks has me feeling a lot of positive-emotional feelings.

You see, I'm not an advocate for medication and I'm not an advocate for a more natural approach to dealing with anxiety.

I'm an advocate for doing what feels right for YOU.

That advice alone, because it kind of isn't even advice, is the only kind of advice I would give you if you asked me whether you should take medication or use essential oils or drink coffee or see an energy healer to aide your anxiety.

The things that have worked for me in the past 6 years of dealing with the worst parts of my anxiety disorder have changed throughout time. Sometimes, medication helps the most. Sometimes, it aggravates what my body is feeling.

I've learned that it doesn't have to make sense to anyone else for it to be the right thing for me.

I'm still an anxious person. I still hate when my kids are not with me. I still think about the day when/if I'll have to say goodbye to my precious Leo boy and feel a sense of panic.

But I have been handling those ups and downs so much better lately. 

And maybe I'm on here writing just to say how thankful I am for these times in my life where I'm handling everything pretty well.

Because I can't really think of another reason why any of you would need an update on the current medications I'm taking. ;)

I'm just grateful that life has been so beautiful lately. Co-parenting has been effortless. Teaching dance has been a huge highlight. Raising my three babies has been so rewarding.

It's just all going right, right now. And I'm so thankful for that.

Monday, September 10, 2018

How Do I Do It?

This past weekend, my brother finished his two-year church service mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. He's my hero, that kid. The obstacles he has faced in his life have been challenging but have not kept him from his goals and I think that's what I love about him the most.

He is a great example to me of doing hard things. 

On Sunday evening, my family threw an open house for him so that people who have been a part of his journey could celebrate his accomplishment. This was something I was selfishly looking forward to because I knew I would get to see many people from my childhood years, people who had helped shape me into the person that I am today.

Throughout the night, there seemed to be a theme among people that hadn't seen me in years and asked me whose baby I was holding.

"Mine!", I would reply, before explaining how Leo came to be in our family. And as soon as I would finish, the question was always the same. "How do you do it?"  

It's a fair question, although being treated like Super Woman when you often feel like Hot Mess Woman is a little uncomfortable for me.

But I wanted to address that question in blog form because it's usually pretty hard to articulate when I'm asked face-to-face.

How do I do it? 

How do I raise two biological children while also raising the sweetest little baby boy through foster care? How do I work 30+ hours at a pediatric doctors office while my kids are in school and promptly go work another 14+ hours working at the dance studio every week? How do I manage to be in school full time, this semester taking 6 classes total online?

How do I do it? 

I take it one day at a time and my Google calendar is my lifesaver. My ex-husband's wife was actually the one who suggested a Google calendar because I could update it and it would be shared with the two of them. Genius! I now have three calendars on there---a calendar for the kids that is shared with their dad, a calendar for Leo, and my own personal calendar. Everything is color coded and includes every little thing you could imagine, including which days the kids are with which parent and everyone's personal (and crazy) dance schedules.

My calendar is pulled up on my computer and my phone at all times and I check it multiple times a week to make sure I'm staying on track with everything that we are doing.

How do I do it? 

I go to therapy. 

I remember a few weeks ago when my therapist asked me, "Suzanne, what do you do for self care?". I couldn't really muster up an answer because I was feeling especially defeated that day. But when I got home, I realized that therapy IS my self care. I know it won't be forever and quite honestly, I find myself not relying on it as much these days but back in January, when I was suffering from PTSD regarding the nine month trial that had happened most of 2017 and I had to imagine what life would be like if there was a huge custody change for my children, I needed her as much as I needed air or water or food. I relied on therapy because my beautiful life---the life where I fought for what was best for my children and ultimately was given what was best for them---just seemed so uneasy most of the time.

How thankful I am to no longer be in that same place that I was back in January of this year.

How do I do it? 

I rely on God. 

Yes, I should've put this one first because it is definitely at the top of that list. But I don't feel like moving it so you're just going to have to trust that it is the most important one to me.

I like to say that I rely on God but often times, God just shows up even when I think I can do this without extra prayers or asking for guidance (because I'm kinda stubborn). God is a huge part of my life and I have a gift of feeling close to Him even when I'm busy and life seems to take precedence. I recognize the many moments where God has led me to where I need to be. In fact, take Leo for example---I know Leo is supposed to be in our family. I knew I was called to foster care without knowing why. Leo is my why. Yaya was my why. God knew He needed me to protect these babies at these specific times, even though my life did not seem to be in the perfect "foster parent" position. But I'd argue that is ANYONE'S life in the perfect position to become a foster parent? It's messy and all the training in the world cannot fully prepare you for the experience that is foster parenting.

How do I do it? 

I let things go. 

I do the things I need to and the things that I want to do and I give myself permission to let other stuff go. When a friend wants to hang out and I literally write back, "Sure! I am available two Thursdays from now.", that is not me being a jerk or not wanting to see my friends. If I can make it happen, I try to. But my kids come first. And my work comes second. And school comes third. The rest of the things may or may not happen.
And that's ok! 
I have realized this past year that I get to choose what to put in my life and that I don't need to feel guilty about the things that take a backseat to what I believe is most important.

How do I do it? 

My tribe supports me. 

I wouldn't be able to do this life thing without my family or friends. They willingly take my kids on Saturday mornings while I teach. They listen. And that might be the biggest support. I have a few friends who I talk to almost daily about the ups and downs and everything in between. They listen and offer guidance but often times, they just remind me to look at the bigger picture. Because living in the chaos that we are right now needs to be embraced. I cannot change the fact that I'm single. And I refuse to put my goals and dreams on hold because I'm single. So I'm going to have to embrace the chaos that is my life right now.

How do I do it? 

Sometimes, I don't. 

I drop the ball at least once a day. Just this morning, I was SO proud of myself because we got out the door on time! As I drove up to the kids' school, I looked over at my front seat and defeatedly asked the kids, "Did anyone grab Leo's bottles for daycare?". I already knew the answer before they could reply. I hadn't asked anyone to grab them so why would they have grabbed them?

Tears began to stream down my face, realizing all of my hard work from the morning wasn't going to do me any good. I was still going to be late for work.

Defeated was the only word I could think to describe it, really. And this is not just a one time thing. I try to stay on top of everything but it's inevitable that something falls through the cracks.

Usually, it is that my house is a disaster and the dishes have started to smell. Or that the kids haven't finished their homework and gotten it signed. Or that Leo's gorgeous biracial hair has not been combed. Or that I haven't cooked a meal in over a week. Or that my homework is past due.

It's always something. There is always some area of my life where I can pinpoint failure. And if I let that eat at me, I am bound to sink into a pit of despair where I wonder HOW I'm EVER going to be successful at this life thing?

Because as you heard, forgetting bottles at home brought me to tears today...

So how do I do it? 

I just do it. I try to stay as organized as possible and I try not to beat myself up when some days just blow up in my face. I try to embrace the days we don't have a long list of things happening and I also try to embrace the days we leave our house at 7:00am and don't get home until 10:00pm (those days really do exist).

I am not Super Woman. I do not have super powers. All of these things I do, you would probably do if this were your life.

I am learning to respond with "thank you's" instead of deflecting my accomplishments. Because the truth is, even on the days where I fail at some things, I'm still doing pretty great. There are still a lot of things I'm doing right. So when someone tells me I am doing amazing things, I don't roll my eyes or say, "You should see my house right now.", I am learning to agree and thank them for noticing.

Because this Hot Mess Woman has got a lot of things going right and those things really should be acknowledged.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

The Halfway Point

I try really hard to take my New Year goals seriously.

Keyword = try. 

I was sitting here and thinking back to January and I realized I couldn't even remember what my word for this year is. So that shows you just how well my goals are going, huh?

Of course, I easily figured it out by looking at January's post. But still---I obviously haven't been focused on it enough if I was able to forget the word altogether!

The word I had picked was forgiveness. And since it is now September (technically past the halfway point...), I knew I wanted to assess the goals I had made and re-center myself.

Because lately, I've been feeling out of whack---like I'm just running from place to place with no sense of purpose.

I go to therapy and half of the time, my thoughts just ramble because my brain feels like scrambled eggs.
So I guess those videos in elementary school about drugs turning your brain into scrambled eggs didn't contain the full truth. . They should've added that motherhood/divorce/fostering/college/career/ADULTHOOD IN GENERAL could also scramble your brain.
Moral of the story? We need to be teaching young children to go live on the beach with ZERO responsibilities so their brains stay healthy forever.
Of course, I'm mostly kidding. And although I've never tried to test out the difference, I am sure my brain is less scrambled now than it would be if I were doing cocaine. At least I sure hope so!

Nevertheless, I feel like I'm just here. I'm not really gaining much or losing much. I'm just here. I'm not growing mentally or spiritually. I'm just here.

Am I working to forgive myself and others? Kind of. Which is better than not at all but not as great as YES!

I've let go of so much past hurt. I've done a really great job of moving forward. I have forgiven myself for things I never thought I'd be able to move past.

I have accepted that only hindsight is 20/20. I might hate that but I've accepted it.

But I feel like this year brought some unexpected changes and I didn't expect to react to them in the way that I have.

After our court trial, I was worried that my co-parenting relationship would be ruined with Hayley and Andersen's dad. Thankfully, that seems to be the opposite of what happened. I mean, it sure isn't all rainbows and butterflies but I truly thought that our relationship would need so much repair work because the last year was full of so much hurt.

That's a God thing. God did that for us. Somehow, it has been better and things have run pretty smoothly with only small snags here or there.

But that's pretty typical because it's co-parenting---and it sucks.

Leo came into our lives and I find myself moving between believing he will be here forever and panicking that DCS will call and tell me he is leaving tomorrow.
I'm not ready to open up about Leo's situation and what his future most likely holds yet but just know that I am equal parts mess and at peace. 

I stepped on the scale a few weeks ago and shouldn't have. Because two seconds before that, I was fine with the way I looked and felt and two seconds after that, I began struggling to love myself and have continued down that path in the weeks since. It. Has. Been. Hard. And that's sad to me because it hasn't impacted me that significantly in a long time.
As a disclaimer or FYI to that paragraph, I am still currently doing great and am fully still in eating disorder recovery. Just in case you're my mom and you were worried.

On any given day, I can go from wondering how I'm even managing to stay afloat to feeling like I am Super Woman in about 10 seconds flat.

I am not drowning but half the time, I feel like letting myself. 

I am not going to give up but half the time, I feel like that'd be easier. 

So as far as my goals for the year, I am really trying to push through and remember that FORGIVENESS word. I've sincerely thrown all of my other yearly goals out the window because I just want my main focus to be on digging into my past and realizing that it doesn't have to determine my future.

I still have faith that it's possible, mainly because I have seen it work in my own life. 

And so this is my halfway point (even though we are 3/4 of the way through the year) where I recommit to myself that I am going to continue focusing on forgiveness and moving forward with my life.

Thank you for coming and goodnight. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018



That number sounds so large. 

I distinctly remember Hayley turning FIVE and wondering how I was gearing up to have a Kindergartner in just a few short months. How was she old enough for that? How was I old enough for that? 

She is now in the FIFTH grade.  

And here I am, kind of kicking ass and kind of failing at this single mom thing. 


My WHAM basketball jersey number all of the years I played basketball as a child, thanks to my ASU basketball idols, Eddie House and Ike Diogu. 


The number of children I planned on having. Before the days where I realized you can't necessarily plan those things. 


The number of years it has been since my husband left me---my d-day, if you will.

In that time, Hayley has doubled in age and Andersen is close to tripling his age. They were 5 and 3 when their dad left.

And today, that feels a bit crippling to me. It feels like, in some way, I have failed them by allowing them to grow up for the majority of their childhoods without a father figure living in our same home.

I know that isn't true. I know that I've done everything BUT fail them these past five years. I know they will someday recognize how much work I've put into keeping their lives as normal as possible.

Today is a day that I don't mind sinking a little lower than normal. It is a day I allow myself to feel the negativity.

Because five years ago today, in the early morning, I kissed my husband goodbye and sent him off to work, not knowing that that would be the last time he would tell me he loved me and have me believe it.

Five years ago, I spoke pretty directly with my Heavenly Father, as He told me to recognize how beautiful my life was---not knowing that He was preparing me for an utterly devastating heartbreak hours later.

And then five years ago, I heard the words, "I don't love you anymore." over the phone and I knew it was already over. I knew, deep down, that he was never coming back. I knew I needed to prepare to become a single mother.

I just knew.

The words "I think we need a separation" were no different than if he had said, "I filed for divorce" because my gut told me he wasn't coming home.

It's been five years since my world completely shifted. And when it did, I became a completely new person.

If you were to ask me now whether I'd choose to go back and do things differently, I'd tell you no. I wouldn't. Because I know that my marriage was supposed to happen. And I know that my divorce does not negate how right my marriage was. 

In turn, I don't know if I feel right about saying that my divorce was part of the plan---I don't know if it was---but I do know that Heavenly Father has a specific plan for me post-divorce.

I know that plan includes continuing my education and devoting the majority of my time to my children. I know that plan includes so many deep friendships and taking in children who may live in my home for a month or may be here forever. I know that plan includes happiness and sadness and anxiety and more knowledge than I ever could've asked for.

The thing is, my divorce taught me a lot of stuff. 

Some of it bad---people really CAN leave deep scars by making crappy decisions.

Some of it good---you really CAN do anything you set your mind to.

In the past five years, I've wondered what life would look like now if I were still married and sadly, I can't see the same happiness I currently have. I can't picture a life with Leo in it or Hayley dancing like she does or Andersen getting the help he needs in school.

My divorce pushed me to do hard things that were the right thing. In fact, it still pushes me.

I am more patient and empathetic with the people around me and have become much more sensitive. I am not afraid to speak up about things that are wrong including pornography or abuse or being honest with the people you love. I am also not afraid to talk about my own struggles that include an eating disorder and anxiety.

I live a pretty authentic life. 

Or at least I try to. 

I try to give my anxiety it's place because heaven knows it ain't going anywhere! So I may as well embrace that it is a part of me. And my OCD and ADHD? Might as well give them their space here as well because why not?!!

Five years ago, I was living a very unhealthy life as I obsessed over my food intake and exercising. I gave my ex-husband's decision control over me because if he left me, chances were it had something to do with my imperfect body. 

And in those darkest moments of my eating disorder, I learned so much about myself as I begged for Heavenly Father to just loosen the grips my addiction had over me. I learned that I want to live a life I love, not a life the world tells me I need to be living.

I will probably never be a size 4 again. I am more overweight now than I was five years ago. And although sometimes that is still hard, the majority of my days are spent realizing how beautiful and amazing I am AS IS. Not beautiful IF I lost 50 pounds. Not beautiful IF I had less pimples or if my eyelashes were just a tad fuller. Not beautiful IF I could figure out a way to get rid of the stretch marks and the larger stomach that have accompanied my two pregnancies.


As is. 

I wouldn't change the events that transpired five years ago, even if I could. Because I never would've become who I am without those hardest moments. I never would've taken as many leaps of faith.

I never would've learned just how brave and resilient I can be. 

The events from five years ago have not only shaped me but have helped me as I've walked through other dark times in my life.

I really CAN do hard things. I really, truly can.

The moments of despair and trauma I experienced five years ago have left lasting effects that I still deal with today. I am afraid of loss most of the time.

It doesn't matter how amazing things seem to be going. I can convince myself that I am about to get fired from a job where I know I'm appreciated just because my brain sends broken warning signals that tell me I'm supposed to fear the world.

BUT---I don't let that stop me. I still do the things, despite knowing there is a potential for heartache involved.

I no longer put my life on hold just because I am afraid of new experiences. 

I still get scared---and then I face my fears by allowing new experiences anyway.

Five years. 

Wow. It feels somewhat painful that it has been a whole five years and yet, in so many ways, I am beaming that we are five years out. Because trust me, I'd rather be here than where I was on this day five years ago.

I am continuously healing and growing from those awful events that happened five years ago and all I can really say today is that I am extremely grateful to be living the life I am currently living.

And because I like this new authentic life way more than I ever could've imagined. 

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

I Won A Contest

 From the writing contest I entered for Mother's Day: 
My name is Suzanne and although I am many things, warrior is certainly at the top of that list. 
I was a fairytale lover --- boy-obsessed from 1st grade until I graduated from high school. Fairytales taught me that I needed a man to take care of me and I believed from a young age that if I was loved by a man, I would have infinite worth.
I was married at the age of 19. And as we all do, I planned to spend the rest of my life building a future with my husband. I didn't expect it to be perfect but I expected it to always be our mess --- not his mess and my mess.
The thing is, my husband truly did love me. That part was not a lie. He was great at loving me when he wanted to. But he loved me conditionally. He loved me for certain parts of who I was and began to tear down the parts of me he didn’t like. I became a pawn in our marriage and learned that I was not the most important thing to him. But why? I couldn’t figure out what was more important.  I just knew things had shifted. He hardly ever wanted to be intimate with me and would stay up all night playing video games, claiming he had insomnia. I got used to marriage feeling mostly one-sided and found myself justifying the way he was treating me --- because at least he wasn’t physically abusing me. But I still wondered if the shift in our marriage was my fault.
I had given this man two beautiful children --- was it my body? Was I not sexy enough anymore?
For a girl who claimed to be strong and independent, I am surprised when I look back and realize how much I lost myself in my marriage. Then again, for a girl who claimed to be strong and independent, I had held the belief that my worth was dependent on a man for as long as I can remember.
Five years into my marriage, I was arguing with my husband one day when he told me he no longer believed in God and would not be attending church with us any longer. This shook me but I held my ground and poured myself into being a better wife and mother. I could fix this. I could mend this part of our world that felt bruised and broken. I felt our marriage falling apart but I wasn’t going to let it. I needed him and I felt he needed me too.
I found myself drowning while trying to save him. Often times, he came home from work angry and unresponsive and he would lock himself in our room or go outside to clean his guns or work on the car he was fixing up. The emotional abuse was weighing me down and I started to have panic attacks about seemingly normal things like what brand of food to buy. My husband would point my anxiety out and remind me how unstable I was and how I needed to continue therapy because I was causing hardships in our marriage. 
I thought it was me. I thought I was the reason things were falling apart. And so I tried to fix myself and allow him space by taking care of the kids with essentially no help. I didn't want to bother him. I didn't want to make things worse. I was sensitive to the fact that I was diagnosed with "mental health issues" and that it was ruining my marriage. 
And in the midst of me trying so hard to fix us, he abandoned our family in August of 2013, after seven years of marriage. Our children were only 5 and 4 years old and did not understand what was happening, so on top of being abandoned by my husband, I was left to tell my kids about the divorce by myself and deal with their heartache. And in turn, they knew I was their safe space and so they directed all of their anger toward me for months while begging me to bring their daddy back home. 
Throughout the 6 month process of separation and divorce, I found out that my husband was not the man he had claimed to be. I started to realize that I was not the only one struggling. He was addicted to pornography, among other things. I tried so hard to stay afloat throughout this time but I began to drown in the form of an eating disorder and severe anxiety. 
I felt so worthless. So used. So unloved. 
The trauma I experienced while learning about that betrayal is something I'm still healing from.
But I don't point that out to tell you how awful he is. Because the thing is, my ex-husband is not a monster. We don’t always get along and he certainly makes some poor choices when it comes to his treatment of myself and our children but he isn’t a monster. He is an addict that struggles with knowing how to treat the people he loves most. He pushes us away in fear of us rejecting him. Does that lessen my pain? No. But it helps me to understand that I was not the problem. I could not have been prettier, smarter, or more subservient. This battle wasn’t mine to win or lose. It was, and is, his battle to fight and he chose to fight it without me by his side.
I’ve endured a lot since my divorce 4 ½ years ago. I figured that the longer we were divorced, the easier things would get. And I guess, in some ways, that is true. But I still find that divorce affects myself and our children on a daily basis. I have endured some pretty awful fights, DCS reports, a difficult court trial, among the daily struggles that come when trying to co-parent with a person who has a hard time with communication. I struggle to help my children as they both deal with the trauma this has caused in their lives, resulting in general anxiety and separation anxiety. 
I was forced to find myself when my husband abandoned me. That event, although extremely traumatic for me, has shaped me into a person that I very much like. I did not curl up in a corner and die --- I fought for myself and my children. I graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree last summer. I am working two jobs to provide for my children. I got certified as a foster parent and was the mother of a sweet and sassy toddler for five months last year and last week, I was asked to take in a two-day-old baby boy and have been killin’ it in the motherhood department. My children are healthy and loved.
I still struggle with loneliness, especially when my kids go to their dad’s house but I know that my worth is not dependent on others. I will still live a beautiful life, even if I never remarry. I will continue to persevere when life slaps me in the face because I know for a fact that I can do hard things.
As the 5th anniversary of that traumatic August day creeps up on me, I wanted to share this letter I wrote a few months ago. I ended up winning that contest and was gifted a beautiful piece of jewelry that I wear often to remind myself how brave I am.

It's amazing to me how telling my story is healing, each and every time. This definitely doesn't contain it all and there are parts that will always be too personal but I am grateful that I can look back and remember the bad parts AND the good parts.

You guys, there was so much good. For years, the bad seemed to negate the good but I'm learning to validate those good times too.

They were real. They are real. 

It is still a rollercoaster. I think it always will be. But this is the hand I was dealt. This is a huge part of my journey. And telling my story is not to relive the past and open old wounds---it is a reminder of where I've been and where I am now.

I am grateful for the pain that has dissipated as the years have passed. 

And I am so incredibly grateful for the life I am currently living.

Friday, June 29, 2018

Divorce Failed Us

We were lucky in terms of a divorced family.

Most of our co-parenting issues seem to pale in comparison to other stories I've heard.

When we divorced, there weren't lawyers involved. Just us.

For the first year after divorce, I was trying to figure out boundaries because I just wanted the kids' lives to feel as normal as possible. So their dad came over for movie nights and we went hiking as a family and I held it together for the sake of our kids.

It wasn't easy for me. Because I was still betrayed and angry and I tried so hard to show him how well I was coping even though I was NOT coping well at all.

But at least the logistics were pretty easy---even if the emotions were brutal.

After a while, we got used to our groove but it still left lasting scars. Because every once in a while, the kids would call and beg to come home and I would stay strong for them until the phone hung up before sobbing into my pillow. The contrast of going from a full time stay-at-home mom to having times where a court document told me when I was and wasn't allowed to see them was awful.


The Mama Bear in me just wanted to keep them in my arms at all times to protect them from the pain this was causing.

And when their dad remarried last summer, I was slapped in the face with the "life's not fair" motto. Because not only did it hurt me personally, it came attached with court papers for a change in the custody that was already painful for us.

So when I walked into that court room on January 4th, 2018, our future now in the hands of a judge who did not know us personally, I knew he could change everything and that it had the potential to negatively impact our family.

I knew I would have to be brave to show him whatever bits and pieces of our lives he was going to grasp before making the decision of where our kids would live.

And I think that's why the resounding anxiety has continued, even if it's quieter than it was January through April.

Because I've learned from that experience that so much of my life is out of my control. I don't just get to keep my kids when they're begging to stay. I can fight {and fight, I will} for what's best for them but in the end, a man who does not know our family and our situation is the one deciding how we live our lives.

Let's put this into perspective a little bit---your child has anxiety and is begging to sleep in his own bed, even though he was invited to a fun sleepover. Not only that, the sleepover is at his very best friend's house whom he loves being around. But he still doesn't want to leave you because you are his safe person. He would love to have a late night but he wants you to come back and get him later because the longer he is away from you, the more nervous he gets.

You're probably not going to force him to go, right? Because you want to protect your boy when he is feeling uneasy in a situation. Your mama bear instincts are to keep him close if he's begging to stay close.

That's where divorce has failed us. 

My children love their father very much but until this past year, he wasn't as involved and they were used to sleeping in my home (their home) approximately 26 days each month. They were used to the consistency I've worked so hard to give them.

But then our lives were put in the hands of a judge. 

And all things considered, that judge did an incredible job. He actually kept most of it the same.

But divorce still failed us in the end. 

Because my children were considered too young to be given choices. Their voices weren't given the chance to be heard. And they are continually shown that their voices won't be heard. Because---court documents trump their voices.

On Wednesday, a few weeks ago, as I sat on the phone with my little boy, he begged me to just drive over and tuck him into bed or come pick him up. I told him I wished I could. And as he got more choked up, he said, "I know, Mama.". 

The thing is, he knows I'd be there for him if I could. But divorce makes it so that his very own mother is not allowed to give him a hug just because he is requesting one from her. Because there is a brick wall of court papers that divides us when it isn't "my time".

That is where divorce fails us most.

What was obviously necessary for two parents splitting up takes it's toll on any children involved. Divorce divides what once was a unit.

And even though that is common sense knowledge, until you live it, you cannot know how hard it feels to divide what once was a family.

This part of divorce is harder for me to voice my feelings about because
1 --- My kids love their dad and he loves them. Their pain of being away from me has nothing to do with hating their dad.
2 --- We have worked so hard to build a beautiful life from the ashes of divorce and I believe we are doing that pretty well.

So when I tell you divorce has failed us, I don't say that to tell you our lives are ruined forever. They aren't.
Instead, I voice those feelings to tell you how difficult it is to co-parent and have pieces of paper that tell you you're not allowed to see your babies.

Because when I held my precious newborns, I never imagined I would only raise them 75% of the time and not 100% of the time.

And they never imagined it either.