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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Holidays Without the Children

My first 'big' holiday without the children was Christmas last year - and it was a doozey.  I guess my theory was to take the gut punch first and it could only get better.  It has gotten better.  This year I've enjoyed Easter, July 4 and Labor Day with my threesome.  Plus I've been looking forward to Christmas morning since December 25 last year. 
Last Thanksgiving was made up with a fun road trip where the children and I drove to be with family.  It was fast-paced, loud, adventuresome and so memorable.  I've been with my parents and sister's family for most of the Thanksgivings in my life and love passing the traditions along to my own crew.  So this year didn't quite feel like Thanksgiving, even though it was a lovely day, including gourmet food, family and football.  Isn't it amazing how we resist change?

If you find you are having a holiday away from your children, there are some things that will help:
  • Setup a time to speak with your children. Whether it's a whole weekend away or just one day, both children and parents feel more connected when they know they will touch base throughout the absence. 
  • Make the effort to celebrate together - even at a different time than normal. Put up decorations, bake the cookies, write a letter to Santa, create a "Thankful Tree."  Holidays are seasons of celebration, not just a one-time event.
  • Keep the traditions. If you won't be waking up to open stockings on Christmas morning, hang them anyway, fill them for when they do come home and be sure they know "Santa was here, too!"  Open the advent calendar (even if you miss some days because of visitation), read the Christmas stories, bake and make presents for teachers.  Most traditions are not date-specific and can be done during the days and weeks leading up to Christmas.
  • Stay connected to family and friends. It's easy to withdraw and isolate when you're feeling discouraged and down.  During the holidays, so much is happening that others may not notice when you are no longer showing up.  So take the initiative to stay engaged, attend work parties, church functions or remain active in the gym.  Whatever gets you up and out and interacting with others is good for your well-being.
  • Bring the party home.  Make your house a holiday extravaganza and decorate as much as you can!  Strings of white lights are inexpensive and make everything look festive.  Then invite some friends over or host a play date.  Make memories in your own space so that you can enjoy the season on your turf.  I like to invite some friends over for a sweet & savory evening and have no problem asking everyone to bring something.  It keeps the expense down for me, but provides a space for connection.  Try it!
  • Stay focused on the bigger picture.  Holidays are important and memories are made during this time, but real life happens day to day.  It's important to remember that the values you instill throughout the year are more important than the seasonal celebration. 
  • Avoid the competition trap.  If it's your year to spend the holiday alone, do not overcompensate with gifts you cannot afford or activities that offer more stress than pleasure.  Let your children's other parent be the hero and bear the financial brunt.  It's okay to have a 'lesser' gift when your children know they have you.
Holidays are bound to be emotionally charged.  Too many memories and traditions are wrapped up in them along with expectations and images of 'perfection.'  It's time to forge a new normal and let go of the stress.  Soon I'll share what I wish I'd done differently last year and some changes I plan for this year.  Please share with me, too.  Do you include your children's father in the Christmas celebration?  Do you help them buy a present?  Any hints are appreciated as I'm only on my second holiday season post-separation.  Thanks!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Moody Monday!

My therapist actually had to give me
a feelings chart to help me identify
the way I felt because I had stuffed
my own feelings for so long. 
Not anymore - I let it all out!
Actually, Mondays are usually pretty good days for me. I like the 'fresh start' of a new week and the chance to begin again.  But, in truth Mondays mornings arrive early and the cycle of responsibilities begins in full force. Sometimes, it is just a bit overwhelming to know the whole week looms ahead with deadlines, homework, carpools, activity schedules and trying to manage healthy meals, play and character-building in between.  Yeah, Mondays can be a real challenge.  Please tell me I'm not alone?

I think I'll make Moody Mondays a weekly challenge - what's making me moody and how am I going to overcome that temptation to wallow?  Will you join me?  Please share in the comments - I'll start!

Missy - Today I'm moody because the weather is dreary and the Christmas lights that I worked so hard to hang are not properly functioning.  I have to reconfigure the electrical setup to get it right, and I have to do it in the rain!  My overcoming plan: Enjoy warm snuggles and dinner with my children and work on the lights peace after they go to bed.

What's your mood?  What's your plan?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

So Much!

I have so much for which to be thankful!  I am most aware of internal things this year: hope, love, connection, peace, security, stability, laughter. MY life has it's share of challenges.  I have been disappointed and have lost much.  I have experienced seasons of dispair and seasons of devastation.  Yet today I find myself in a season of hope, security and peace.  Perhaps that's one of the things for which we can be most grateful, seasons do change.  The way I feel today, is not how I will feel forever. Dispair gives way to decision and to hope.

I am so grateful to be a mother.  I can't imagine my life without the fun, purpose and motivation that children give me.  Yes, there are days where it is just tough but I wouldn't trade having three little lives for anything thing in this whole world. My firstborn has taught me to love and accept others and to love whole-heartedly. My baby shows me how to be tender, tough and oh-so-fun fun all wrapped up in one package.  My daughter expresses herself so truthfully and inspires me to be the best woman possible.

This year I am especially aware and thankful for my friendships.  I made the effort to reach out and to be intentional about investing in friendships and it has been extremely rewarding!  I thank God for providing people to share my life.  I'm also thankful for the man in my life.  I am so surprised and thrilled to find myself with someone I admire and trust.  I know this is a gift and there are so many ways where I see God has gently cleared the path for me to know and be with him.  The wonder of it is just amazing to me.  It's humbling and more than I knew to request.

My family is an ever-constant source of support and strength.  We take the good and the bad and keep sticking together.  While I wish very much that we all lived closer together, I'm so grateful for modern technology to keep in touch.  Hardly a day goes by that I don't communicate with my family.  We don't get to choose family, but if I could, I would still choose them!

Everything isn't great in my life today.  My house will have a "For Sale" sign on Monday and I'm not sure what the ramifications are for that.  There has been tension between my former spouse and the holidays will always highlight the schism between what I desired and the reality of our lives.  Yet, the plusses far outweigh the negatives in my life and I'm so aware of the many gifts God has provided.  I pray others have the same sense of His care this Thanksgiving.

Monday, November 21, 2011

It's Not Going To Be The Same

Along with divorce comes change to all the family traditions.  The holidays hightlight that change because we have such emotional investments in the memories, repitition and quite frankly expectations that are higher than they should be.  Last year was my first season as a divorced woman and Thanksgiving was great as we traveled to be with family.  It was filled memories and fun along with lots of togetherness for me and my children.  The time leading up to Christmas was extremely difficult and Christmas morning without your children can only be described as dismal.

So, in my second holiday season of my new life, the holidays are flip-flopped and the children will be with Daddy for Thanksgiving and with me on Christmas morning.  Once again, I will try a new way of doing things.  My parents are great, and so supportive and will be here to spend Thanksgiving with me.  It will be a child-free day but knowing the children return on Friday morning means I won't feel too deprived. 

This year I am so very aware and thankful for my faith.  My confidence in the Lord is not something I could have conjured up, it is clearly a gift from Himself that I am able to trust and move forward when from human perspective all is lost, broken and failed.  I feel like I'm more aware than ever that doubt is not a negative thing because it actaully forces and requires me to act and accept faith. If my path and answers were clear, no faith would be required to act.  So, when I don't understand, when I am full of questions, when life simply does not make sense or seem to be part of a plan that could honor God, these are times when I must activate the faith he placed within and move forward in action knowing things are not what they seem. 

Ah, so much more to write on this subject which is close to my heart right now. Also, more thankfulnesses to write.  Tomorrow I'll share about the material things for which I am most grateful right now!  What about you?  What spiritual or God-attributes cause you to pause and thank Him today?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

In Between

When marriage ends, it is easy to feel like you've fallen through the cracks into a vague pseudo-life that is nothing like what you once knew or imagined.  Just like that mysterious time when the sun has gone down, but it isn't yet dark, it is hard to define so much of this season.  Twilight.  It's mysterious and darkening, but also leads to renewal.

What has helped me is to embrace this time as a chance to revisit my dreams, hopes and goals.  I always knew I would be a mother, and that hasn't been taken from me.  Many years ago I chose to serve Christ and the church, and those are not things from which I have been excluded.  There are friendships I have let slide, but being an intentional friend is high on my list of priorities.  I abandoned family to try and save my marriage and now there is time to nurture these bonds, too.

I am still me.  More than ever I know what I want and need to be content, joyful and fulfilled.  Having this knowledge is priceless in the quest for determining my future path.  I am no longer a wife.  But that  is only one definition of myself that is changed.  I am still mother, daughter, sister, friend, employee and Christ follower.  More personally, I am still a bit romantic, strangely optimistic, creative, a bit predictable, a lover of schedules and order and of course, recovering perfectionist with an idealistic nature.

The absence of a husband and the very real, though honorable obligations involved in that role have freed me to choose what gets more of me.  I do more reading and writing.  I reach out more intentionally to my friends.  I take better care of my health and physical body.  Because I know there is no one else looking out for me, I give myself permission to take care of myself

Have you found any surprising discoveries in a challenging season?  What can you do to take care of YOU today?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

An Audience Above

Since it is my nature to please people, I have lived for the validation and approval of others.  I've let the opinion of someone else define me in the past.  Today, I can say that is no longer true.  It has been a great release to know that my goal is to please God alone.  There is great freedom in releasing the outcomes of others' opinions to what He allows through the filter of His care.

Also, it takes all the self-effort and manipulation out of getting my own way.  Truly I can rest knowing that God has it all under His control and will show me the way to go.  Whew - what a load off my shoulders!  Yes, I often take up the load bit by bit and once again need to relinquish it.  I suppose for someone like me it will be a lifelong process of achieving a balance.  But I'm changed.  Really and trully I've let go of the control which I imagined to have in the first place.

It feels very safe to trust God to open and close doors and protect me when I need it.  I have determined not to choose any human opinion over His's a challenge for me indeed, but I'm striving to fulfill that promise to myself and to God.  

I would love to hear how you are letting something go right now?  Is it hard?  Have you reached the place where struggle gives way to release?  Is there anything you're holding tightly still?

Monday, November 7, 2011

A Few Updates

I've been busier than usual with life and so blogging has fallen a bit by the wayside.  I do hope to catch up!  Some things I've mentioned before continue to be issues I deal with, so here is a brief update:

Decisions of Divorce - the marital home: I turned in all the paperwork, paid for the fees and the appraisal and was scheduled to close on refinancing the home into my name at the end of August.  There were some delays.  Then an ammendment was requested.  My former spouse did obtain an ammendment to our decree, but now the appraisal is no longer valid (90 days) and my credit situation is somewhat changed.  I'm waiting to hear back from the mortgage company, but I think this is a dead issue ... which means that I will need to list our home for sale.  Oh. my. word.

Relationship Status: At just the right moment, when I found myself in an emotional place where I admitted my desire to be with a man, I was introduced to one.  It's very interesting how the timing worked out and that first blind date has turned into a second, third and many more!  I think it is safe to say that I'm in a relationship now.  But trust me, I feel way too junior-high-ish to update that status on Facebook.  Anyone who knows me in real life knows where I stand and that's what matters.

Work Around the Little House: There are still lots of tasks to accomplish around our house.  The icemaker leaks and I've just disconnected the water line.  The sink leaks, so I have a bucket underneath.  The roof, siding and gutters are done and I was able to prep the yard/gardens for winter.  I still need to plant spring bulbs and spruce up the front porch.  It's hard to believe it will be time for holiday decorating soon!

The Big, Bad Mama: Things are bit better in the parenting department.  It has taken us a while to find our stride with the school schedule, two sets of homework, etc.  I have sought some outside behavioral counsel and put into effect along with more structured goals in school.  Things are far from perfect, but we are having more good days than bad and I feel like we are all on the same 'team.'

Still in the Single Moms Class: Even though this has never quite felt like the perfect fit, I'm still attending the single mothers class each Sunday.  I do find some comradarie, and the few who are dependable are there for a reason.  It's harder to be dedicated in this demographic and I want to be part of the solution and not the stereo-type.  Recently we've given money to provide a goat through Samaritan's Purse and have plans for a holiday party with just the mothers and children.  I've decided to stay throughout the year and then evaluate where we are next summer.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Always Negotiating

Once the legal action is final and the decree is stamped by a judge, the ongoing negotiations between two former spouses do not end.  Whether it is the schedule for children, ongoing financial concerns, or even just when he's coming to get that last piece of furniture, there are times when each of us needs something from the other.  For so long, I was afraid to ask for what I needed that I still find myself falling into the pattern of simply letting my ex have his way.  It is emotionally easier not to confront, but then I find myself feeling taken advantage of, resenting or simply feeling used.

Through practice and clear thinking, I have learned that it alright to insist on having a say in matters of schedule and that requiring him to commit helps not only me but my children have a consistent and predictable life.  A few thoughts are:
  • Plan ahead as much as possible.
  • Communicate the plan.  Use email, Google calendars, whatever works to put ongoing items in front of both you and your spouse.
  • Do not feel obligated to remind or hound him about what is on the schedule.  Allow him to take ownership and establish the expectation that he will follow-through with commitments.
  • Use face-to-face time to confirm verbally.
  • Be ready to be flexible, but not a push-over.  He will have last minute interruptions or special events that necessitate change.  It can be frustrating, but you will have time where you desire flexibility, too.  The give and take continues as long as children are involved.
The irony of divorce is that it takes so very long to untangle lives that were intended to remain together.