Monday, August 16, 2010

How to get divorced

Having been through a divorce myself, being a victim of my parents' divorce and seeing my children deal with the second divorce of their father, I feel there are some things that need to be said. This is for anyone who's been through a divorce, is going through one or will go through one. It's also not bad advice if you apply it to a troubled marriage.

1) Do NOT put your child in the middle of your battle with your soon-to-be-ex (STBE). Whether they're infants or teenagers, they have enough weight on their own shoulders and they're dealing with enough of their own grief over your separation without having to carry the weight of your anger, grief and frustration. And when they need to talk, you have to be willing to put your own personal feelings about your STBE aside so you can listen to their worries without influencing them one way or another. Diplomacy is vital when dealing with your child during a separation or divorce.

2) If your spouse says it's over and they refuse to take steps to repair their relationship with you, then accept that it's OVER. Don't berate them. Don't harass them. Don't take out your anger on them. Don't stalk them. Don't criticize them. Don't question their motives. Just accept it and move on. The above behavior does nothing for either party when it comes to moving on. This rule also applies to your STBE's friends and family.

3) While you don't have to like your STBE, you do need to remember that everything you do and say is being watched by others. People you never expected to turn on you, will choose sides. Sometimes, that side won't be yours. Some people you thought were your friends will be all-too-happy to report back to your STBE about the shenanigans you're pulling and the lies you're spewing.

4) If your attorney tells you to do something or not do something, listen to them. They know the law better than you do and not only could you end up without an attorney, you could end up in jail for breaking the law. That's not going to end well for anyone involved, especially your child. Also, if you have an attorney, let them deal with conflict between you and your STBE. That's why they're there. If your ex is doing something that you don't think they should be doing, let your attorney deal with the confrontation. If you don't have an attorney, then call theirs.

5) With divorce comes anger and hostility. I get that. Believe me...I've been there. Instead of focusing that hatred on your STBE, focus it elsewhere, such as yourself or your kids. Find a hobby to keep your mind off the situation. Spend more time with friends and family. Surround yourself with people who can help you use your negative energy in a positive way. Coach a little league team. Get in touch with old friends. Travel. Go to church. Get involved in the community. Read. Listen to music. Volunteer at a soup kitchen. If you find yourself unable to move past your hostility and anger, get counseling. Let's be honest, it's not a bad idea to do anyway. If you don't do it for yourself, do it for your kids. They're going to need you at your best now more than ever. Don't give them less than 100% of your best. 

6) This is an emotional time. Cry. Get mad. Curse. Throw stuff. Join a kickboxing class. Scream at the top of your lungs. Growl. Vent. Get your emotions out, then LET THEM GO. Don't pick them back up when you're done venting. Leave them alone. That's the point of doing those you don't have those emotions anymore.

7) Document everything involving your STBE. Everything. Every phone call, every visit, every email, every text message, every face-to-face conversation. You may never need the information, but if you do, it's nice to have. Where kids are concerned, write down every ball game, school event, doctors appointment, visitation schedule, birthday party...anything that involves your children, whether it involves the other parent or not. Inform your STBE of those events. Even if you think they can't attend, they need to be made aware. And, in kind, every time the other parent misses or is late for an event, appointment or visitation, write that down, too. I have been divorced for eleven years and I still do this despite the fact that I haven't had to use my records in over four years.

8) While we're on the subject of co-parenting, keep in mind, it is NOT your STBE's responsibility to make you aware of events in your child's life. There are school calendars and sports schedules for a reason. Check them. Check them often. If you're able to maintain open communication (without hostility) with your STBE, then you may ask them to keep you informed of appointments, etc, but don't expect them to. Be proactive about it. It will not only make you aware of what's going on in your child's life, but your child will pick up on the fact that you care enough about them to be involved.

9) Remember that just because you're not married to your child's other parent any longer, you are still a parent. You will have to be present in your child's life for many years to come and if you're hostile toward their other parent, they will pick up on that and end up resenting you as a result. You don't have to like your STBE, but you do have to be nice to them. It's tough, but it can be done. Trust me.

10) Rely on your friends during this time. They, no doubt will have opinions about the situation, but make sure they understand that you need to depend on them for strength. They should also be aware of the things said here. They can detest your STBE all they want, but when around your children, they need to keep those emotions in check. It's also important that you not try to influence your child's relationship with your STBE's friends and family. Your child needs an emotional support system now more than ever and when you bad-mouth those people, your child feels like they've lost even more relationships.

11) Remember that children can be manipulative. I made an agreement with my ex-husband eleven years ago: "I will believe half of what the kids tell me goes on at your house if you believe half of what they tell you goes on here." It's worked for us. If there have ever been question as to something that's happened, we've agreed to discuss it like adults rather than take our children's word for it. Kids will also tell you what they think you want to hear. If you hate their father, then they will talk trash about him to you. Vice versa. If you present a united parental front to your kids, they will realize that you are still their parents, despite being divorced. They need that stability. Give it to them.

12) Stop hanging onto the roles you have had thus far. You are no longer that person. Whether you agree with the reasons your STBE wants a divorce or not, you no longer have a say in what goes on in their life. You are not in control of this situation, anymore. Walk away with your dignity and whether you like the situation or not, it is what it is. Accept it gracefully and MOVE ON.

This list is in no way all inclusive, but should be a good start beyond common sense that should already be in place. A divorce doesn't have to be messy. That is entirely up to you.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Faith. Hope. Love

These last couple years have been tough for my husband and I financially. We've struggled many times over the last year trying to balance our needs and our wants (and when you've got a NKOTB addiction and have friends from one end of the continent to the other, this makes it tough).

There have been a lot of opportunities that I've been able to partake in over the last two years, but there've also been a lot of opportunities I've missed out on, too. I don't allow myself to get excited about birthday parties or the cruises because I know it's out of my means to go.  I've gone to a few shows this year, but I had to pass up a trip to New Jersey in March with my @TeamWahlberg sisters and a trip to New York in June. Each time, I've had to cancel, I've found myself more and more discouraged and depressed. There've been times when I've canceled even going out with the girls for a movie because I wasn't fit to be around people. It's been a sad descent into this hole.

Today, however, I'm happy to report that I am employed once again. It's not a glamorous job and it doesn't pay all that well, but it's more than I've been making and it will allow us to get some bills paid off (big stress relief right there). It will also allow me to plan on some vacations in the coming months and (provided I have good Wait List mojo) the NKOTB cruise in May 2011.

It's good to finally allow myself to HOPE again!!

It's ironic, really

While I've gone on record about not liking children, I seem to be surrounded with amazing kids. Mouth's friend, Mooch is here a LOT. He's a great kid. Midget's friend, T-Dawg is here all the time, too (I'll get to that more in a minute). @DonniesDancer's kids are a light in my life, too. Their talents and kindness are inspiring. The neighbor kids stop by frequently and while they sometimes get under my skin, they feel comfortable enough here to continue coming by. A couple weeks ago, I had a sitting with a huge family. They had six kids under the age of 4. Hubs said he was always impressed with how well I handle small children during sittings. 

I get along well with kids. It's ironic, really.

As some of you might know, T-Dawg has been a constant presence at our house this summer. From the time I get out of bed in the morning until the street lights come on at night, he's here, typically eating most of his meals here. I joked that if he didn't start eating at home that I was going to send his dad a bill for child support. He's gotten a bit annoying at times with his frequent visits and it's gotten to the point that I had to set some ground rules and time frames so that our own family could function well.

Sadly, it's come to my attention that his home life is less than pleasant. His dad is a good guy, but he works a lot and the woman I'll refer to from hereforth as StepMonster is not a good person and she and her heathen offspring (aka StepVermin) make T-Dawg's life a living hell. The StepVermin constantly push his buttons and get in fights with him. They steal his food, his toys, his video games. They blame him for things that happen that aren't his fault. And of course, the StepMonster sides with her cherubic demon spawn and T-Dawg pays the price. (For example, he showed up this morning at 6:30 a.m. with his school bag full of supplies so the StepVermin won't steal it from him.)

In talking with T-Dawg's dad last night and seeing how miserable things are at home for the kid, it's become apparent that I have become the proud parent (from 6:30 a.m. until 8:30 pm) of a 13 yr old bouncing baby boy. He's a darling child, really...a bit rough around the edges, but for whatever reason, God thinks I'm good for this kid and He's brought him to me. So, I...the self-proclaimed "Mr. Wilson" (of Dennis the Menace fame), have become a refuge for this lost little man. 

I think I'm going to need more vodka.

I found out that T-Dawg's dad and StepMonster are filing for divorce for his days in misery are numbered. I'm very pleased by his father's decision to leave this woman (or rather kick her out) and I think T-Dawg will benefit from it immensely.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Dancing in the Rain

I have a confession.

When I've talked about dancing in the rain before, I haven't always gone out and done it. I've meant to, of course, but I open the door and cringe the minute a drop hits my skin. I'm a puss. I'll admit it.

But tonight, I did it.

I stuffed my iPod in my pocket, left my glasses on the sofa table and I went outside, queueing up "Glitter in the Air" by Pink. 

I don't have formal training as a dancer, but I twirled and kicked and sang at the top of my lungs. I splashed and I looked up to the sky and celebrated life with my missteps and sour notes.

When was the last time you even walked through the rain instead of running inside? When did you take a stroll without an umbrella? When was the last time you said "I just don't care" and stood in a thunderstorm and sang out your favorite song to the skies with no regard for what people might think?
When I came back inside looking like a drowned rat, my teenage son looked at me like I'd lost my mind.

"Mom? What have you been drinking?" he asked me, as he handed me the towel I asked him to get before I went outside.

"Life, son."


"Do you ever dance in the rain?" I asked him, ignoring his skepticism.

"Uhh, no. It's wet, Mom."

"Yes, my dear. That's the point. C'mon. Come dance in the rain with me."

I was met with a blank stare, followed by, "Right now?"

"Of course right now. It's perfect!"

And for five minutes, my son and I danced without music in the middle of a thunderstorm. Aside from his birth, that was my favorite moment of our life together so far. Thank you, Son.

Friday, August 6, 2010

August already?

As I sit here looking at the calendar (and pending school registration) I can't help wondering where the summer went. My summer plans were to get to the beach a few times, spend time in the woods taking more nature-related photographs, spend more time soaking in the sun, traveling and getting a little writing done.

So far I've gotten some writing done. Go figure.

The kids are here for the next two weeks and it's my intention to get to the beach at least once, spend some time walking the trails by the lake and taking a buttload of pictures of the kids (they're gonna haaaate that part). They're itching to come home (after two weeks at Dad's and a week with the grandparents) and I don't blame them. I remember going on vacation as a kid and about half-way through the week I was ready to come home. It didn't matter that I was swimming, fishing and hanging out with my summer friends at the lake. I just wanted to be at home.

I think that's where I am this summer. When I painted my office last winter, I had no idea how much I would come to love this space. It's comforting, inviting and soothing to my creative soul. This is where I want to be. But I can't spend forever here. And as I'm learning procrastination isn't as great as its cracked up to be. So next week, it's sunshine & sand for me.

What are YOU doing as summer winds to a close?