It’s Cinderella Fault… #15

It’s Cinderella’s fault that the divorce rate is so high!  Don’t believe me?

Most women grow up with Disney’s version of a storybook romance, fueling their desire to fall in love, get married, have children and live happily ever after. As time goes on, movies like Sleepless in Seattle, Pretty Woman, The Notebook and The Holiday keep our fantasies alive. We almost have no chance; we are pumped with romance, not only in movies, but in novels, magazines and of course societal pressure to get married before we become “old maids”.

What’s a girl to do?

We finally meet a guy, “the One”, who is worthy of our love.  We get decide to get hitched, and get lost in the excitement of “the wedding”. We have been waiting for this day all our lives – planning, dreaming, picking out colors.  Unfortunately, nobody tells us just how much work and dedication it takes to make a marriage thrive, especially once children come on the scene.  It’s not their fault though, we wouldn’t believe them anyways because we’ve been brainwashed by Ms. Cinderella.cinderella

I was no different. I bought into the whole handsome prince taking me away on his white horse nonsense, and I loved it!  It was exciting to think about how one day I would be rescued from my simple existence and whisked away to some amazing new life. And one day, I met my prince and he was a great guy! I had a ball planning my wedding. I got so busy planning my wedding that I forgot to pay attention to my relationship.

Several years and a few kids into my marriage, I decided I wasn’t happy because my ex wasn’t the prince I imagined him to be.  In other words, he didn’t sweep me off my feet every single day, tell me how beautiful I was and how much he loved me every day, regularly buy me big expensive gifts, whisk me around the world, showing me all that life had to offer, read my mind, and oh yea, he didn’t help me enough with the extensive list of chores required to run a household and raise children. Most of all, he didn’t “make me happy” like the prince was supposed to do.  Didn’t he see the movies?!  Didn’t he get the script?!

Looking back, he was a great prince.  He was kind and loyal, worked hard to put food on the table, showed up for his family, even when he didn’t want to, bought me nice things, took me on nice vacations and bought me a beautiful home.  But, I was so buried in my happily ever after fairy tale that I couldn’t see my own reality.

I saw those princesses dancing and singing about how much they loved their man, and I wasn’t singing or dancing!  In fact, I was kind of depressed, and incredibly bitchy. I was a lot more like the wicked step mother than Cinderella.  Did I get the wrong script?!  I built up years of resentment and that made matters even worse. This prince could not win!

The husbands who play a role in these fairy tales are often shocked and surprised when his princess announces she is leaving. He has no idea he is playing the role of the prince, let alone what the job requirements were.  He goes to work each day and works hard to provide for his family like young men are taught to do. He is told by the other men that if he works hard to get ahead and provides for his family everything will work out great for him.  He is under the impression that everything is just as it should be; the house is clean, check, dinner’s on the table, check.  He has a job, a house, a wife, a dog and 2.3 kids, check, check, check.

What I didn’t realize until after I got divorced was that I was the one who was supposed to “make me happy.” Go figure!  All those years I blamed my ex for not making me happy, and it wasn’t even his job!! This is a common misconception in relationships on both sides, actually. We so often look outside ourselves for happiness and in reality the only person who can make us truly happy is ourselves.

Once I was on my own, I was still miserable, and realized I was the common denominator!  I could no longer blame my ex because he no longer lived with me. I was forced to look inside and see what was causing me so much grief, and realized that my perspective was way off!  I did a lot of studying, found some amazing teachers and learned to love myself again.  Of course the yoga and meditation helped me to move through it all more gracefully, and I managed to survive all of my crazy!  You can too! I promise. xo

Love your Children More Than you Hate your Ex

smallest just breathe logoGolda Meir, former Prime Minister of Israel, once said “Peace will come to the Middle East when the Arabs love their children more than they hate us.” As quoted in Media Bias and the Middle East (2003) by Paul Carlson, p. 10.

The same is true for two people getting divorced when children are involved.  In order for everybody to win in a divorce, we as parents have to love our children more than we hate our ex, and more than we love our assets!  There is nothing worth fighting over and no material possession worth damaging the well-being of our innocent children.

Every time you make a decision regarding your divorce, you need to step out of your drama and into reality; you may be harming your kids with reckless decisions that are made out of spite for your ex.  Take time to think long and hard before you make any decisions.  It’s easy to get worked up in an adversarial situation such as divorce, but this is no time to lose your sense of doing the right thing.

Let’s say for example, you are talking to a friend or family member, telling them how you plan to get back at your ex in court.  Your child is listening to every word you say, even if you think they aren’t.  If they aren’t listening, they sense what you are up to, don’t be fooled into thinking they don’t.

Kids are far more tuned into what we do than what we say.

What are they learning from you?  To start, they are learning to be greedy adults.  They are learning hate.  They are learning to fight dirty.  They are learning that marriage is a bad thing and ends in horror.  They are learning not to trust the opposite sex, and chances are they will end up in the same type of relationship as you did.  Most of all, they are realizing that their best interest is the last thing on your mind.  Is this really what you want your kids to walk away with from this experience?  Don’t do this to them or to the relationship you previously worked so hard to build with them.

When I filed for divorce, my ex was understandably pretty angry with me.  Our kids were 2 and 4 and I told him up front that he could go as low as he needed to, but that I would not go down with him.  Thankfully, he agreed that there was nothing worth fighting over, and that our childrens’ welfare was all that mattered.  Just because we wanted a divorce that didn’t mean the kids had to suffer.  In fact, it is our job to be sure that our children don’t suffer as a result of our divorce.  It wasn’t their choice to get married, divorced or to be born for that matter.  We brought them into this world; it is our job to protect them!

We also agreed never to say anything negative about each other in front of our kids and definitely not to our kids.  The more kids know they are loved by both parents, that both parents respect each other and that they are going to be okay, the faster they will adjust.  We respect each other and remain friends, which makes life easier for everyone.  Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

Parents who fight in front of their kids, who trash the other parent and who use their kids as bait to get what they want in a divorce are simply being selfish.  Do right by your kids!  Quit being narcissistic – you brought the kids into this world; you owe them responsible, loving parents. It’s the least your could do.

In the end, the only thing that matters is that you and your ex come out of the divorce learning from your mistakes, and showing your children how to resolve unpleasant matters with respect and dignity for yourself and for others.  You don’t have to go down that dark road just because you are getting divorced.

You have a choice, it’s YOUR divorce.  Do the right thing!  Love your children more than you hate your ex, and more than you love your material possessions.  It’s really a no-brainer, isn’t it?

A+ Student, not so much #13

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

A+ STUDENT, NOT SO MUCH

As long as I can remember, I thought of myself as the person in my family who had the good grades, the first to go to college and so on. I prided myself on this story, until recently when I had to request my high school transcripts and was shocked to find that I bombed several classes in 9th and 10th grade. As if that wasn’t enough, they were the classes I thought I excelled in, math and English. It’s ironic that I eventually chose to become a writer when I literally failed English in 9th grade and managed to raise my grade to a whopping D the second time I took it in 10th grade. It just goes to show you that a high school transcript is not necessarily a picture of one’s future.

I’ve always seen myself as a numbers geek too, I still do today. I find things related to numbers interesting, like investigating and tracking financial accounts to determine the trail of funds, for example. My memory of math in school was that it came very easily to me, and that I got straight A’s. And yet, I did not do well in math my first two years of high school. Hmmm…perhaps the brownies and cookies I gave to my teachers didn’t work as well as I remembered.

The good news is I eventually woke up and improved each semester until I graduated 34th in my class of 350 students (I’m not even sure how I know that). It may or may not be a coincidence that my grades improved significantly after we moved in 11th grade, and again in 12th grade.  I am certain all of the drugs I did in 9th and 10th grade had nothing to do with the D’s and E’s either.  But, because I have chosen to be completely honest, I have to admit I got into drugs starting in 7th grade and this continuing on through the end of high school. It obviously showed in my grades, and evidently effected my memory of my grades too!

The thing about honesty though, is that we all have a very different perception of the truth depending on our vantage point and our experiences. In this case, since my mother never yelled at me about homework or my grades like she did my siblings, and since I spent many of my days high on one thing or another during those years, the part I played in my movie was one of a straight A student. The truth was a very different story. If you had asked me prior to seeing the grades in black and white, I would have sworn to you that I was a straight A student. mymovieWe all see life through different lenses. Some people see the glass as half empty, some see it half full. Some people see life through rose-colored glasses, some with dark shades. Some folks bury their heads in the sand or sweep things under the rug, but each of us sees life through our own viewfinder which is continually changing throughout our lives based on everything we see and experience.  If we were to witness an event at age 20 and then witness that same event at age 40, we would have very different stories to report. Similarly, when several people are witnessing the same event, you’ll hear them tell different stories of how the events unfolded, and they will defend their individual positions vehemently. The truth is, they are all right, because they all saw it happen through their viewfinder. It’s their truth.

So the next time you find yourself defending your position, just breathe, and consider that maybe being right isn’t all that practical, and maybe it isn’t all that important either. Maybe having peace in your relationships is far more important than being right.

Syndee – Big Loss #10

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

SYDNEE – BIG LOSS

Okay, I promised that even the most horrific events in our lives can bring unexpected gifts, so here goes.

It was 1996 and Eric, my kids’ father, and I decided to start our family. I was ready. I was 33 years old and most of my friends already had babies, the clock was ticking! We needed to get busy!!! It didn’t take long before I was pregnant; I was due in May of the following year.

As much as I wanted to be a mom, though, I wasn’t all that excited about pregnancy. I wasn’t one of those beautiful, glowing, adorable pregnant women who did yoga up to their last month. It was quite the contrary; I ate everything in sight and didn’t really appreciate the miracle that was happening inside my belly.  It was more of a means to an end, actually.

May rolled around and I started to notice my stomach contracting, but no pain.  Hmmm, “that’s strange”, I thought. But, two nights’ prior the baby was rolling around like crazy, so being a new mom, I assumed she was getting ready to come out. I called my doctor and he told me to meet him at the hospital.

While we waited for our doctor to arrive, a nurse and the on-call doctor put a heart monitor on my belly. She looked at me with the coldest eyes I’ve ever seen, and said, with a matter-of-factness that still makes me shake my head today, “There’s no heartbeat.” I couldn’t even comprehend what she was saying because it was just so horrible. At that moment, my world slowed down like I was moving through big fluffy white clouds, unable to fully concentrate, and not really sure what was going on. It all felt very surreal.

Over the next few days, we named our baby, Sydnee, held her in our arms, planned her funeral and was faced with finding a way to go on with life. My whole life’s plan revolved around being a mom; I quit my job, planned our futures and had no idea what to do with my life anymore. This was without a doubt one of the most difficult times in my life. And yet, the greatest gifts in my life came out of this loss. It took me a while to realize these gifts, but once I did, it became clear to me that everything that comes our way brings with it some unexpected gifts.

You see, at this particular point in my life, I was a very angry, resentful, self-righteous, bitchy young lady. I blamed my (former) husband for everything. I took no responsibility for anything in my life, it was easier to blame him and anybody else who walked across my path. I was mad at the world! It never even dawned on me that there was a better way to live life. I figure it was just my lot in life. But then Sydnee died and I had a lot of time alone to think about life.

I didn’t work for a year. I spent my days walking and journaling with my sweet, loving pooch, Zoe by my side. I did a lot of reading and exploring and eventually realized that there was a better way to live. Losing Sydnee brought me to a crossroads that I didn’t even know existed. For the first time in my life I had a choice between continuing on as an angry, bitchy girl or figuring out what the hell I was so bitchy about. I am happy to say I chose door number two, and since then I have been on a road that has led me to yoga, meditation and self-responsibility, without the need to blame anybody for anything. I no longer need to be right all the time either, and life has gotten a hell of a lot better! This was an enormous gift Sydnee gave to me. She was here for a short time to teach me how to love myself and others again. She took me down a road that I otherwise may never have found. I am so incredibly grateful she came into my life!

The two most incredible gifts she gave me were my two sons who came after her. I cannot imagine a world without these two incredible young men in it. They fit me perfectly, they get me and my quirky sense of humor, they love me unconditionally and they make me so incredibly proud to be in their lives. If Sydnee had lived I would not have had them in my life. Also, I wasn’t particularly aware of how fortunate I was to be a mom when I was pregnant with Syndee, I took it all for granted. And since I was so angry at that point in my life, I don’t know that I would have truly appreciated her as much as I should have if she had survived. I can say with certainty that Sydnee has made me acutely aware of just how fortunate I am to be a mom and what a miracle childbirth really is. I am so grateful she came into my life, even though it was for such a short time. She was a great teacher.

Life is gonna suck sometimes, no doubt. But I promise, if you look closely and keep your mind open, you’ll see that some pretty frickin’ amazing things can come out of all the suckiness.

Johnny Mathis #9

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

Johnny Mathis

Sixteen years old, big crush, butterflies and all – Johnny Mathis, not the singer, stole my heart. He was a happy sixteen-year-old boy with the wise eyes of an old soul. I can see his face so clearly as if I just saw him yesterday. We had a ton of fun together and felt like soul mates, at least that’s how I saw it. All of my memories of him involve snow, the kind of snow that flowed from the sky in a beautiful mist steadily coming down, including that fateful night – the last time I saw Johnny.

I went with Johnny to meet his family one winter night. I had never met them before because he lived with his aunt who owned and lived in a small hotel on 8 Mile (yes, like the movie) that they rented by the hour, day or week. We drove back to his place after a fun night of finally getting to know where Johnny came from, and as we stood by my car in that misty snow. It was such a beautiful night. Johnny asked me if I wanted to “come in and talk”. I’ll never forget his words, even in that moment it caused me to pause. Looking back, I probably should have known something was up because boys don’t ask girls to “come in and talk” at sixteen. I was leaving for Florida the next morning though and had to rush home to pack so I declined and headed home.

While I was in Florida, I received a call telling me that Johnny committed suicide. He hung himself. To say that I was shocked was an understatement. He was a really happy kid. I didn’t see any indication that anything was wrong with him. He didn’t have the perfect upbringing but most of the kids we hung out with didn’t.

This was one of the saddest times in my life. I couldn’t wrap my head around why he would do such a thing, especially since we had such strong feelings for each other – at least that’s how the movie played in my head. I cried and cried while I listed to the Commodores, a band we often listed to together, and eventually life went on. To this day, I still can’t wrap my head around it.

I will never know why he did what he did or how he truly felt about me, but I can clearly see the blessings in having overcome a tragedy such as this. I learned that just because a person has a smile on their face, it doesn’t mean they are happy inside. We have to learn to trust our intuition when relating to others. Our bodies tell us the truth whereas often our minds are driven by what is best for us. I hesitated that night because my intuition told me to stay, but I didn’t listen. I learned to trust my intuition in that moment and I learned to trust what I felt from a person not just the words coming out of their mouth.

For most of my life, I felt responsible for Johnny committing suicide. I could have stopped him if only I went in and talked with him that night, I thought. But the truth is, if somebody wishes to end their life, and their time has come, there is nothing anybody can do or say to stop those events, at least not permanently.

Through this experience, I learned that when somebody asks me to talk, unless I have some emergency, I sit and listen to what they have to say. I look into their eyes and just listen. We all need each other to be there, and it really takes very little effort to sit still and listen. In fact, it’s far more work to think of something to say then it is to listen. In truth, most people don’t really want advice, they know deep down what is best for them, and they just want to be heard.

Johnny taught me about love, fast cars, not to stay at motels on 8 Mile, and mostly compassion for others. He was one of my great teachers considering the short amount of time he was here with me. Definitely, no regrets.

Papa Sam #2

The greatest gifts in my life have come in the form of breast cancer, foreclosure, my drug and sex addicted father, who passed away when I was ten years old, my ex-husband, my children, Jake and Jonah, and their sister, Sydnee, who died two days shy of her due date.

One might smallest just breathe logoask how losing a father at a young age, getting divorced, losing a child or having cancer could possibly be considered gifts. There is no doubt that these were very challenging times in my life, but once the dust settled, and maybe even during some of the later experiences, I was able to see the gift in each and every experience in my life.

Within each of our not-so-normal lives, we are faced with challenges along the way, nobody is exempt. These challenges show up for us to help us grow. Each and every one of those experiences leaves us with a “gift”. The catch is, we don’t actually get the gift until we are aware it’s there for us. Imagine a beautifully wrapped present hiding way up high in the closet, but you don’t know it exists. It only becomes exciting when you know it’s there and you have the chance to tear it open. The good news is it’s never too late to find them, we just need to open our minds to another way of seeing things.

My hope is that through this series of dysfunctional, crazy, funny, challenging and sometimes embarrassing glances into my life, you will learn to spot the silver linings in your life, unveiling these precious gems that have the power to bring you freedom and peace of mind.

I’m going to tell you some very personal details about my life and you will likely have thoughts of judgment, maybe anger at some point, but don’t stress out, just breathe. I forgive you. Xo

 

Papa Sam

Papa Sam had a very distinct teaching style. I think Nike’s “just do it” sums it up. When I learned to ride a bike, Papa Sam held on to the back of my bike running with me, for about three seconds, and then he pushed my down the hill. Trust me when I tell you I learned how to ride a bike right then and there. The same thing took place when I learned to swim and dive. He picked me up at three years old, threw me in the pool and somehow knew I would survive. No fear.

There was nothing but faith in my Papa Sam’s eyes – he knew that I would succeed. While I wouldn’t take this approach in teaching my own children, I value the beauty in his methods. He taught me to relentlessly face my fears. This came rushing back to me as I was at the top of a ropes course having to jump from one plank to another in mid-air while grabbing a rope 100 feet or more off the ground to get to the other side. It was scary as hell, but somewhere deep down I was prepared for that day because of my Papa.

He also taught me to allow my children to face their fears while letting go and allowing them to experience their lives. This is amazing because I have a son who loves to jump and flip and fly through the air as often as possible, just like I used to.

Despite Papa Sam’s unorthodox style of teaching, I felt nothing but love and a sense of comfort from him. He was an extraordinarily loving man, who thankfully did not pass fear on to me.