Thursday, December 29, 2016

Holiday Weekend Family Fun

According to blogger, it has been over a year since I last blogged and oh so much has changed in that year - and there is so much to talk about!  But I will have to save the years worth of updates and thoughts for another post, cause this post is about the excitement of our holiday weekend in CT and the big updates that came from there.

Matthew, the kids and I spent the 3-day holiday weekend up in CT with Matthew's family where the kids and I participated in our first Christmas, alongside of Hanukkah.  We drove up late Thursday night - after a HORRID experience at JCP portraits doing our holiday photos where we ended up with exactly one decent picture - but I guess that's all we "need".

After a decent nights sleep - we got right into the holiday spirit, with the kids and I working on our first gingerbread houses and the kids playing a bit in the snow.  

And since the kids weren't going to be with us for most of Hanukkah, we decided to start Hanukkah a night early with a delicious Hanukkah dinner, followed by the kids giving everyone their gifts - the ones they bought from their school secret shop (highly entertaining!).  We then gave the kids their gifts for the first night, but we decided to share our gifts with each other at Christmas, so I thought the night was ending. Little did I know there was one gift left to give that night, and Matthew asked the kids to help him get it - at which time I had an inkling of what was coming. The kids (seperately) handed me a little white box and N opened it up to show me what was inside.  I asked if he knew what it was and he shyly told me that Matthew wants to marry me.   In what is apparently typical Wander fashion, Matthew never quite asked, but he did sweetly explain that we officially decided to become "exclusive" last Hanukkah, so it was only fitting that he propose this Hanukkah - and maybe in 20 years over Hanukkah we will get married, until then this ring remains a symbol of our commitment to - and love for - each other, our relationship and the family we are forming.

We're engaged!
...and the kids helped to propose!

The amazing ring - and my ugly, pale hand (picture doesn't do the ring justice)
The next day didn't bring as much "excitement", but it continued to bring new experiences and memories.   The kids got to decorate and bake Christmas and Hanukkah cookies (but it doesn't look like I took any pics - oops!), the kids relaxed for a bit in front of the tv and tree as dinner was being prepared, we had our first Christmas dinner - which was quite delicious! - and the adults all got to play Santa for the kids first Christmas.  

Watching tv while wrapped in a blanket in front of the tree

All the gifts under the Christmas Tree
The overfilled stockings for the kids
Christmas morning came and although S was disappointed she didn't get to see Santa, the kids played with a few of their Hanukkah toys while we waited until everyone was at the house and ready for the opening of gifts!

...and when they finally could, they tore open their gifts, helped pass out gifts to the adults and all around had a very happy morning.


Once we all recovered from gifts, we enjoyed a delicious Christmas breakfast, N built a lego set with Matthew, while I went on a 4-mile walk with Matthew's parents and S and she got to enjoy a stopover at the playground.

And then we switched and N and I got to enjoy some time outside with me before we had to pack the car up and take the kids to their fathers house.

All in all a wonderful Hanukkah and Christmas-filled family weekend with wonderful surprises and happy memories for all.  And now I look forward to adding on a couple extra days to the end of Hanukkah with my family and to get some more magical memories with my kiddos.

Hope you all had/have a Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

2 years later...Bigger and Better

I blogged the other week about what that day was like 2 years ago - the pain, the hurt and the unknown future. But as most of you know, in these last two years, I have grabbed life by the horns and forged a new path ahead and I am much better for the experiences.

I won't lie, the first few months were tough. I was dealing with the emotions of losing my marriage, the internal feelings of failure, and trying to keep it all tucked inside so few others knew what was going on - all while working a full time job, raising two kids (and two dogs) on my own, keeping up with the house – and working out the logistics of a separation.

And then I realized that this new way of life was actually easier than taking care of a grown child and fighting and/or crying all the time. I was happier and was able to focus on me and my needs. I continued to go to therapy for my mental wellness, I started focusing on my eating and fitness, and then I started listening to personal development and before I knew it, I was feeling better inside and out and I had a better handle on my future.

Once I started to realize that life as a single mom was “easier” and better for me, and carrying around the title of separated (or divorced) really wasn’t so bad, I was able to focus on myself. Beachbody released its new program, 21 Day Fix, and it was the perfect program for me. It was the introduction to better nutrition and the starting point to my interest in wanting to learn more for myself and to help others.

With 21 Day Fix, I also got more involved with Beachbody coaching, and took the time to add personal development into my day – mostly via podcasts during my commutes to/from work. All in all that first year was focused on my mental and physical health.

During this year, I started to realize that a true marriage and love was not what I had been involved in in the 3 years prior, and that there was someone out there who would be honest with me, communicate with me, understand what a relationship is and would treat me (and my kids) the way we deserve.  I was nowhere near ready to go there, but I finally was able to recognize that it was out there for me.

In the second year, I decided it was time to put my thoughts into action and focus on my business ideas. Unfortunately, I kept on hitting setbacks and my heart was never there consistently enough.  During this time, my ex started to get every other weekend with the kids and actually started to take his holidays.  This time with their father is something that I knew was best for the kids, but that I had major personal issues with from a health and parenting perspective.  No matter how much personal development I was doing on my own, I knew I needed to focus on getting a better handle on the situation, so I decided to get back to the therapists office to find a way to not let these issues (and my ex) get to me.

And with that, year two involved some dibbling and dabbling on the business front, but mostly ended up being some more focus on my personal growth and mental health through finding acceptance.

My therapist helped me realize that acceptance didn’t mean I was accepting of the bad behaviors.  Instead acceptance (in my situation) means that I’m accepting that I have no control over the issues. I’m accepting that issues will continue to arise due to the nature of my ex and nothing I do will change that, so its better to focus my energies elsewhere.  My biggest acceptance “win” just recently came when I realized that I could continue to ask questions of my ex and continue to get lies for answers, or I could just accept that I will never get the truth from him, and should just stop asking the questions. By accepting this, I no longer get myself worked up every other weekend over his lying to me.

Two years are in the books and I’ve found acceptance and closure for myself, and am looking forward to see what year number three will bring.

My “goals” for year number 3 are to continue to focus on my physical and mental health, grow through personal development and try and get more consistent with my businesses, but I wouldn’t be true to my Type-A, stubborn, always taking too much on my plate, self if I didn’t add more to the list. And so the addition to year number three is one that I truly didn’t think would be in my future for a long, long time, but realized it was time to be vulnerable. I’m putting myself back out there and looking for my better half.

Maybe it will come this year, and maybe it really is a long ways down the line, but no matter what, I’m going to try and enjoy the journey that dating takes me on.  So stay tuned for crazy dating stories. And if I find someone that I think is that special one, but I have blinders on again – please don’t keep it in and just tell me.

But no matter what I take on in year number three, the most important thing is that I do what makes me the happiest, and that I don’t let the antics of others take away from that happiness.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Two years ago, Part I

I can remember the day very vividly.  It was a Thursday and I was about to depart on a 3-day, 2-city business trip. I had a morning flight, and we had previously decided that he was going to take me to the airport and then he and the kids would pick me up on when I flew home on Sunday.  

We had been fighting a lot recently because of the web of lies that had been spun the weeks (and years) prior - and that morning wasn't much different.  I don't remember if there was a fight before leaving the house, but I know there was a fight the night before and there was angry silence on the car ride.  I finally said something to try and resolve the issue from the night before.  I was met with silence.  I tried again - and was met with more silence.  When he finally uttered words, the words were "I'm going to talk to my brother this weekend and get the name of a lawyer".  

Internally I was melting down inside. Externally I was angry and upset.  

What do you mean you are going to get a lawyer?  What happened to talking?  All I want to do is communicate and have honesty?  We went to therapy to work towards that, why can't you just freaking be honest and communicate?

Those are not the words that came out of my mouth.  I don't know what words did, but I know I was clearly should my external emotions.  I was hurt.  We are in the car on the way to take me to the airport.  He won't speak to me except to say he is going to get a lawyer and wants a divorce.  We finally got to the airport and after some more talking, I convinced him to sit on it, so we can talk some more when we can sit down together.

I went through security and to my gate and I was A MESS.  My coworker saw me at security and not realizing that I was upset started to talk to me - and then he saw my face.  I tried to hide it all that day, but he knew something was wrong.

Once I got to Boston, I did a little bit better because I was able to focus on my meeting that night and everything that needed to be done.  But when I wasn't focusing, I was spying.  I was constantly checking the IP cameras that we installed as baby monitors.  I was checking his emails (he gave me access) and our verizon wireless account to see who he was talking to and about what.  I'm not really sure what I was looking for, but I found things that hurt and upset me.

I got through my meeting that night and went back to my room and we talked on the phone.  It was the worst phone call of my life.  He made his decision that morning and wasn't doing anything to re-consider it. It was clear that he hated me and wanted nothing to do with me**.  I begged and pleaded to no avail.  So finally, I said fine - pack your bags. After you pick me up from the airport, you will drop the kids and I off at home, and you will find someplace else to live.

I spent that night crying.  A lot.  And drinking wine.

I woke up the next morning and continued my weekend travels down to Ft. Worth, Texas.  The meeting went well and pretty much ran itself - which is good, because it was probably the worst job I did as a program manager.  My mind just wasn't there.  I spent every chance I could on my laptop figuring out finances and how I would propose we would split expenses, and how I could possibly afford the expenses I needed to cover.

In the moment - that day/weekend was the worst of my life.  Looking back from where I am now.  That day/weekend was the best of my life because it gave me life.  Check back in tomorrow to see how I went from the same instance being the worst to the best of my life.

And please remember, the reason I share all this is because I want everyone to remember that there are always people out there that have been in your shoes and can help you, or at least drink a glass of wine with you, and there is always a brighter future for you. Please don't let the dark days bring you down forever, confide in someone, getting it out of your system and start the process of moving forward.

**Yes - those might sound like harsh words, but a) I said that to him then and multiple times since then and he has never denied it and b) I'm a much happier and healthier person with no ounce of regrets or vengeance, and I still feel strongly that he hates me

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A tough week ahead

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And the wisdom to know the difference.

I have come a long way in the last two years. I've learned that there are many things I can not change and coming to accept those things. I've also learned what acceptance truly means for me at this point in my life and much of this learning has come in the last few months. I think it's all been preparing me for what will be the hardest week of my life (at this point in my early struggles of parenthood). For 7 full days and nights, starting tonight, I will not physically see my children.

Since the kids were born, I can not think of one time that I was away from them for longer than 3 days. Hell - I even flew between Philadelphia and Hawaii - and was in the air longer than I was on the ground so that I wouldn't be away from the kids for too long (it was 2 months after the separation, so they were already dealing with plenty of adjustments)..

Don't get me wrong, I'm all about having self-care time, and I do think its important for me to have some trips to myself so the kids can see that my entire life doesn't revolve around their wants and needs.  But, they are just 3 years old, and for the majority of their young lives, they have not had their mommy and daddy under the same roof.  So I also think its important to be there for my kids as they struggle through these major changes in their lives and keep my trips short and limited.

So, 1 full week starts tonight (2.5 hours ago to be precise) and I know it will be great for me.  I can (theoretically) be more accomplishing personally and professionally.  I can sleep more, cook more, exercise more, relax more and devote more time to Charger. I can work a little later and not have to worry about whether I'll get to the nursery school/camp in enough time. I can make plans with friends on weeknights. There is so much I can do! (I just truly hope tonight is not an indication of the rest of the week, because I had grand plans of getting lots done, and instead I have been the definition of lazy and unhealthy).

I know that 1 full week with their dad will be great for them and their dad. For the last 10 months, they have only seen him every other weekend. And for the year before that, they saw him even less. They have become real little people in that span of time, and he deserves to be able to spend some quality time with them. They love their daddy very much - and I honestly wouldn't want it any other way. I know he loves them very much and he tried his hardest.

Trust me, I know all this, and I believe every word I wrote with every ounce inside of me .  But there is that little person in my head that still gets their thoughts in.  That little person is the same one that has caused set backs in my personal goals and will make this week even tougher than it would already be.

That little person right now is reminding me that I chose my words above very carefully.
I spoke about how their dad deserves to spend time with his children. But the little person in my head reminds me that they aren't going anywhere for the week and their dad is still working, so they won't do anything special with their dad and really its their (other) grandparents that they get to spend time with.

That little person is reminding me that the other grandparents are the same people that have ruined relationships left and right (for them and others). The same people who never liked me and tried to cause trouble between us in the past. The same people that raised a child to be completely dependent on them (or someone) for everything. The same people that 2 different therapists told my ex that they were a cancer and he needed to cut them out of his life.

That little person is reminding me that sometimes trying your hardest/best isn't always good enough and that my safety and hygeine concerns that are based on history are probably valid concerns.

That little person is praying that the poop parties-, temper tantrum- and attitude-filled three year old show their true selves the entire week.
95% of me is trying to beat out that little person. And for the most part the 95% is winning.  I know this week will be good and important for me, my kids and their dad on many different levels.  But, the part my ex-in-laws play in this whole thing is making that 5% have more space than it deserves.

So please keep me and my kids in your thoughts and prayers this week. Pray that 5% of my head is completely wrong and out of line and that my kids will come home clean and safely next Sunday evening. Pray that I will have the strength to survive this length of time without having my babies nearby. Pray that I will get extra sleep and use this time to finally get into the routine I've been craving for months.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Love, Hate and Everything In Between

"Legend": From here on out, references to my ex will either be "the ex" for "A", the co-parenting therapist will be Dr. B and to my personal therapist will be Dr. A.

Last week I was in a co-parenting therapy session with the ex - the last for now, and probably the last in general as I realize I have to just accept that nothing will change. Dr. B started off with a little introduction of things such as mindfulness and doing things for the purpose of the kids and lots of things that I wholeheartedly agree with - reasons that I "forced" Adam to go to co-parenting therapy  (cause I apparently didn't learn my lesson when I forced him to go to personal therapy and marriage counseling when we were married) and why I was trying my hardest to just have a civil relationship with him.  

After getting into that, Dr. B. started to talk about how - compared with many others - we actually didn't have major issues and that we seemed to be civil enough and there was no hatred among us and that we didn't wish ill will upon the other.

He said that and I really wanted to interrupt and correct him and say there was hatred - Adam previously admitted to me that he hated me, and recently I have been contemplating whether I hate him.  I didn't interrupt him but that is the purpose of this post.

On numerous occasions immediately after we separated, it was clear to me that Adam hated me, and I called him out on it and he never denied it.  In all fairness, he never admitted it either, but based on the way he "treats" me and acts towards me, it is quite clear that his feelings are well past a dislike and into the hatred category.

Personally, even though I don't like to use the word hate, I really WANT to hate him.  But I just don't know that I have it in me to hate someone.  I hate the things he does - intentionally or not intentionally - to me. I hate the attitude he takes towards things and his complete irresponsibility. I hate his lack of parenting, communication and motivation to be a better person. I hate how he is always full of excuses for everything and never takes ownership of anything.  I hate that he lies about everything - including the statement that he no longer lies - and that you can never trust a single word he says. I hate that this was always the case and I was completely blind to it until the kids came. Most of all, I hate that I can't bring myself to actually hate him.  I can honestly say that I hate everything about him, but somehow I don't hate him.

Is it because I've just found "acceptance"?  Is it because he is the father of my children?  Is it because I know that at one point, I was in love with him, so there just has to be some redeeming qualities?  Or is it because there is no place for hatred among people?

I don't think it's the acceptance thing because, although I am making progress towards that, I don't think I've gotten to the point of complete acceptance.  I also don't think its the latter, because I can say without a doubt in my mind that I 100% truly hate his parents - but that can be a topic for another day and time - and I don't have major qualms about saying I hate who he is, but not him overall.

After that therapy session, I heard two podcasts that made me think about this topic even more and resulted in my decision to blog about it. The first was from Life Is A Marathon and the podcast was titled "How To Love the Unloveable" and the podcast originated because the host (Bruce Van Horn), ends each episode by saying "I love you" and an Italian listener didn't understand how he could say he loves his audience when he doesn't even know his audience personally, and questioned whether his true meaning was the italian phrase "ti voglio bene!" which roughly translates to "I want the good for you"

Just as I think hate is a very strong word that should require consideration before choosing to use it, I think love is also a strong word that requires consideration before a romantic "atmosphere". On the other hand, I feel love is a happy word that we should use often to spread joy and happiness in our everyday lives - and that is the love that Bruce Van Horn speaks of when he tells us he loves us.

"I want the good for you" doesn't accurately portray (for me) what love does in a non-romantic setting. I think it is possible to have non-romantic feelings of love for people and things.  I love my kids, my dog, my family in a very personal, non-romantic way.  And here is where I bring the postfull circle.

I hate everything about my ex, and I so badly want to hate him, I truly dislike him, but...

...I love him.  I love him in a completely non-romantic, not even personal, way.

Without him, I wouldn't have N and S. Without him I wouldn't have learned hard life lessons that have helped me grow tremendously and will continue to help me grow. Without him, I wouldn't have learned to find acceptance, to be less OCD about things and to find happiness and joy.  Without him I wouldn't be who I am and I wouldn't have improved my self-esteem issues. Without him, I wouldn't know that somewhere there really is someone out there for me where I won't have to accept major flaws that eat at me daily.  Without him I wouldn't have learned what love is not, so I am more able to learn and know what true love is.

There is so much between love and hate, yet they are so intertwined that finding that space in between is quite difficult.

Monday, June 1, 2015

No Family Stuff, No Childhood Shit, I Just Need Some Strategies

After my last therapy session, I re-listened to Brene Brown's TED talks on Vulnerability and Shame A LOT. Both talks resonate with me, but the vulnerability one more so (right now).

At one point, Dr. Brown discusses having a breakdown from the results of her research on vulnerability and finding a therapist to "work through it". And here is what she says about it in the talk:
"So I found a therapist. My first meeting with her, Diana -- I brought in my list of the way the whole-hearted live, and I sat down. And she said, "How are you?" And I said, "I'm great. I'm okay." She said, "What's going on?" And this is a therapist who sees therapists, because we have to go to those, because their B.S. meters are good.  And so I said, "Here's the thing, I'm struggling." And she said, "What's the struggle?" And I said, "Well, I have a vulnerability issue. And I know that vulnerability is the core of shame and fear and our struggle for worthiness, but it appears that it's also the birthplace of joy, of creativity, of belonging, of love. And I think I have a problem, and I need some help." And I said, "But here's the thing: no family stuff, no childhood shit. I just need some strategies." 
After a few listens, that last line really resonated with me "no family stuff, no childhood shit. I just need some strategies." I didn't go into therapy outright thinking or saying that, but that's pretty much how I've been acting.

My initial introduction to therapy was back in 2013 when Adam and I went to couples therapy to try and work through our issues, and Adam was the one always in the "hot seat", so I really was just having a place to express my frustrations and be provided a few strategies to work through some of the issues.  Once the therapist realized that couples therapy was no longer going to be a help, we stopped that, but I continued to go on my own for a few months and it felt really good.  By the time we stopped (it was actually the therapist who thought there was no need for therapy), I had found a lot of peace and happiness.

Since that time, there have been ups and downs in my "relationship" with my ex, but after his mothers day antics I realized that I was giving Adam way too much space in my head, and so I started back at therapy.  First session was great and we really did discuss strategies and I incorporated some of those strategies over the following two weeks.  But my session last Tuesday progressed a bit differently.  We hit a road block, and when I asked how we get past it, the answer was no longer a strategic answer, but one that required us to delve into my past to find the root of the issue - a situation I unknowingly was dreading until the words came out of his mouth.

And that's when I felt incredibly vulnerable and felt the need to just keep things at the status quo and figure a way around it - but alas, I know very well that "easy" path is almost never the right path, nor is it typically easy in the end.

It will be a difficult road ahead, not because I have baggage, but more because I really don't know what baggage I have and I have to do a lot of deep thinking and soul searching to see what might be unconsciously causing me to react the way I do.

I know that I have a great family and wonderful friends and whatever I figure out about myself, I feel confident that I'll have a strong support network around me to help me through the tough times that lie ahead.

This will also be a big vulnerability test. I have learned to wear my vulnerabilities on my sleeve the last year or so, but I know there is so much more that I'm definitely hiding behind, whether consciously or unconsciously, whether its a matter of shame or just pure innocence, I'm scared to figure out what I might learn about myself, but I'm also a tad bit excited (yes - I'm weird) for the journey it will take me on to find an even deeper peace and happiness within myself.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Why I (over-)share so much

For those that read my facebook posts, follow my blog or just know me well, you know I share - A LOT.  To some it might seem like oversharing or that I'm looking for attention, and my reasons for sharing so much are many - but seeking attention is truly the furthest thing from my mind.

At first I blogged about my now-ex MIL, because she is C.R.A.Z.Y.  Like certifiably insane!*  I would share some of the antics with friends and it was the Needleman soap opera - people just couldn't get enough and kept on asking for more of the crazy stories, so I decided instead of having to say the same thing over and over and over and over again, I would just blog about it and everyone could read it themselves.

Then I realized I really enjoyed writing (even if I wasn't good) and it felt great to be able to get everything off of my chest - and it felt even better to get it off my chest and be done with it, not having to repeat the story to every family member and friend that wanted the next episode of the soap opera.

In between I would share random things on my mind or recipes, and I enjoyed that, but I found I got the most enjoyment, relief and satisfaction when I would share more personal things - using the blog as my journal of sorts.

No matter the sense of relief writing/sharing got me, there was still a lot I didn't share.  Until I did.

It started with the dreaded vague-booking. Things were getting rocky in the marriage, but I kept it hidden from 97% of my friends and family, but on many occasions, I would get so frustrated that I needed to say something, so I would vague-book.

Even when people had no clue what was going on, but they knew I was hurting inside, they would share words of encouragement - whether it be through a comment as simple as "hugs" or some thoughtful words of wisdom via email or text message.  Those messages made a huge difference to know I have such a strong support network.

Then I started to open up a bit more and shared some very personal blog posts through facebook and the words and encouragement and support were amazing. Even just to see the "likes" was a big boost for me.  And its not that I needed or wanted attention - lots of people have drama in their lives, so I'm clearly not special - its just that it felt nice to know that so many people cared for me without having to deal with all the emotions and awkwardness of sharing that in person or over the phone.

With that, it seems I'm taking the easy way out, except I do still talk a lot about it in person and over the phone, but the conversation I hate the most is this:

"...Im in the middle of a divorce..."
"I'm so sorry to hear that"
"Please, don't be sorry, it is seriously the best thing to happen to me and Im a much happier person"

I can't imagine the awkwardness the other person feels because they aren't sure how to respond, so they give the standard "I'm so sorry to hear".  And for some, that might be perfect, but for me, its not. I don't want anyone to be sorry, because first off - I got myself into the situation, and secondly (and most importantly), Im not sorry. And I feel really awkward for telling someone my marriage of 3 years failed miserably and Im the happiest and healthiest I've ever been in my life.

But I digress.  There is still one very important reason why I share. When I "came out" with my story, someone was able to put me in touch with someone who had been through a similar path, and I was able to talk to her about whats going on. Even when the conversations were just to share stories and commiserate, its nice to know someone who has truly been in your shoes - or worse - and can help guide you through the processes and what to expect each step of the way.

And before I knew it, I was able to do that for others. When I announced that I was getting divorced, no one in my friend network had discussed divorce - everyone was "happily" married.  Since announced, I have been able to be that friend for others.  My openness has allowed no less than half a dozen people to reach out to me to start the conversation for them.  Most of them are still trying to work through it and I hope for the best that they truly can work through it, but no matter what, Ill be here for whoever needs it.

So for some, the amount and details that I share is oversharing, but knowing that being so open via social media is able to help out even just one more person - even if I annoy a dozen in the process - I'm okay with it, because you can just scroll right past my posts if it annoys you, or you can read them if it resonates with you or you want to be a solid friend and support me.

*Apple doesn't fall far from the tree