Category Archives: Family

What is There to Celebrate?

The first holiday season after a loss can be especially difficult – whether it’s the loss of a loved one or the loss of a marriage. I remember the first Thanksgiving after my dad died. My mom and I were celebrating Thanksgiving with my sister in another state. After Thanksgiving Mass, we all three just stood there and cried because we missed my dad so much.

It’s so easy to fall into a funk during the holidays – sadness, anger, depression, and bitterness. Cycle Dude said his deceased wife is the one who made the holidays joyful for him and his children. There just doesn’t seem to be any spark in his holidays. I am determined to change that this year (since I am living in his house, too).

I decorated his house for fall because it’s my favorite time of the year and I always decorated my home for fall. I have tons of Christmas decorations that I will set out as well. I have discovered that there is something to celebrate after my divorce – peace, stability and joy. Those things were dreadfully lacking in my marriage. I celebrate a life of gratitude – for Cycle Dude, my children and soon-to-arrive granddaughter, my pups, my friends, etc.

My life is not perfect – whose is? Yet, there is so much in my life to celebrate. There is so much to be grateful for. If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, it doesn’t have to be depressing. Take time for yourself – what do you like to do? Go out for ice skating and hot chocolate with a friend. Volunteer at your local homeless mission. Bake cookies with your adult children, or for your neighbors or the children at church.

But most of all, have a grateful heart. There is always something to be thankful for. What is there to celebrate? Life! Take the time this holiday season to enjoy life. Stay tuned. . . .

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Organizing My Thoughts

It’s usually around this time of the year that I start to write my annual Christmas letter. I keep it to one page. I remember getting Christmas letters from distant cousins that were pages long of bragging. Ick! I dedicate a paragraph to each of my children, one to me and Cycle Dude and one to my dogs. Five paragraphs are plenty long enough for a Christmas letter! I stopped writing the paragraphs a couple of years ago about my children and let them write their own to include in my Christmas letter. Not only does that make their news more personal, but it helps me to organize my thoughts.

I remember the days immediately before, during and after my divorce. I was so scatter-brained, I was surprised I could think at all! I was still in school at the time, and was preparing to graduate five months later. I couldn’t afford to be scatter-brained! By the grace of God, I was able to hold it all together enough to graduate with a 3.3 GPA.

I employed several different tools during that time that helped me a great deal!

1. I used a paper calendar: I kept the calendar with me so I remember appointments, when papers were due, when I had exams, etc. I filled the calendar in every two weeks and let it do my thinking for me!

2. I made dozens of lists: From what I had to accomplish that day, to my grocery list, and my housecleaning list, etc. Even if the task was trivial, I put it on the list. I didn’t want to forget anything, especially since I was in school.

3. I’d prepare for tomorrow the night before: I’d make sure I had all the schoolbooks I needed, the papers that were due, my lunch, and anything else I needed for the day. I would also lay out my clothes the night before. If I took time the night before to prepare for the next day, then the next day wasn’t as crazy!

4. I’d take some time to seriously veg: Sometimes, you just need to have an afternoon of not doing much of anything. Those were the days I’d clear the cobwebs from my brain and just enjoy the peace and quiet.

5. I’d map out my route: The year I was divorced was my daughter’s first year of college – four hours away I another state. I attended all of her volleyball tournaments. I always made sure I knew in advance how to get to where her game was. Of course, my laptop and schoolbooks came along as well.

It’s easy to become scatter-brained when you’re going through a hard time. Take the time to make sure you have the tools to help you not be so scatter-brained. And above all, give yourself grace. Stay tuned. . . .

What is My Purpose?

My mom had such high hopes for my five siblings and I when we were younger – she thought at least one of us would be rich, or perhaps another would be famous. None of us are neither rich nor famous. But we have touched others’ lives for the better. Both of my sisters are educators – one teaches English for the military and another teaches fifth graders. One of my brothers has been a leader in his church and another brother owned his own coffee shop. My mom is currently pursuing her two passions – writing and educating. She has her own website and writes an education column for several local newspapers. Perhaps she is the one who will be rich and famous!

Often, when we come out the other side of a rough time in our lives, we begin to question our existence. If you are a mom, you may feel your children are your identity – until they grow up and begin families of their own. They are no longer your responsibility. Or you may feel your identity was in your marriage. Your purpose as a mom and a wife are gone. So what do you do now?

A sweet friend called me this past weekend. She had been reading my blog. I remember when she first contacted me to comment on something I had written. She was very wounded and didn’t think she could endure the hard time she was going through. I encouraged her and stayed in contact with her. Now, a year or so later, she is, in turn, encouraging other women. I told her she has come so far! She has a purpose – to walk beside other women as they go through a divorce or other hard times in their lives. I am humbled by her strength.

I have found that part of my purpose in life is to write this blog, to encourage other women. I have also found that part of my purpose is to love my adult children through the different phases of their lives. My purpose is also to love my mom and encourage her as she pursues her passion this late in her life. My purpose is to love and encourage those people God has put in my life. In doing so, I will make a difference in my small corner of the world. It has taken me a while to realize my purpose.

For some, their purpose is larger than life. For others, their purpose is small and quiet – making a difference and blooming where they are planted. Do not feel insignificant if your face is not splashed across the latest cover of Vanity Fair. Know that God sees you, hears you and loves you. You are right where He wants you to me. Hugs! Stay tuned. . . .

My Responsibility

As a parent, I wanted to make sure I taught my children to be responsible for themselves. Blaming others for your poor decisions, avoiding the consequences for your actions, and lying about it all was something I would not tolerate. Personal irresponsibility was something I was exposed to for years.

Personal irresponsibility is a direct effect from enabling, rescuing and helicopter parenting. It does little Johnnie or Suzie no good if Mommy and Daddy are always there to pick up every mess they make. I remember when I was in kindergarten and one day I fell over a burm on the sidewalk. I hit the concrete hard and scratched both of my knees. That experience reminds me of what it means to allow our children to stumble and fall and face the consequences.

I am not saying we should deliberately create opportunities for our children’s demise. Heaven’s no! But as parents, we need to let our children experience the consequences of their decisions. We need to let them understand what it means to work hard. We need to be an example of personal responsibility. I must confess that I wasn’t always like that to my children. It wasn’t until I began to see the disintegration of my marriage that I realized I had to be responsible for me.

I’m sure my children got mad at me when I made them stand on their own two feet. I’m sure they resented me when they didn’t get the latest and greatest of everything. I’m sure they hated working those long hours in the summer just to have money for school. My parents made me do the same thing. My responsibility as a parent was to make sure my children were ready to take care of themselves when they left my home. It was hard on all of us, that’s for sure.

But I couldn’t be more proud of my children – all six of them (3 of my own and 3 in-laws). My first grand baby is due next month. I have no doubt my son and daughter-in-law will be amazing parents. My other two children don’t have children of their own yet, but I can see by how they treat their spouses’ nieces and nephews, that they, too, will be amazing parents. Will I take the credit for that? Perhaps some, but I prayed for my children ever since they were in-utero. I prayed for guidance, for other adults who would pour themselves into my children’s lives, and for spouses and in-laws who would also love them beyond measure.

My mom says that you never stop being a mom (parent). My responsibility now is to encourage my children in their parenting, to continue to pray for them and their families and to pass along some small nugget of wisdom that I have learned from raising them. I love my children. And I am going to love my grandchildren, too! Stay tuned . . . .

 

Fall is Here!

Fall is the prettiest season here in MyState. People come from all over the world to visit the national park and October is one of the most crowded times of the year. The small towns near the national park host Octoberfests, Fall Festivals and go all out in decorating for the season. Once fall is over, the towns decorate for Winterfest, a delightful holiday season complete with lights, decorations and special events.

Fall is my favorite season and October is my favorite month because of where I live. I love the different colors of leaves. I love all things pumpkin. I love fall decorations. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And my daughter was born in the fall. I’ve written before about how divorce is season in our lives – things are always changing. I’ve also written before about finding the new ‘normal’ in your life after divorce, about finding your happiness and moving forward in joy.

Divorce is a very difficult time in one’s life – especially if your spouse is the one who filed for the divorce. (In my case, I filed.) You can feel rejected, angry, bitter and depressed. It’s okay to feel those emotions. After all, we are emotional beings. It’s part of what makes us uniquely human. But don’t dwell in those dark emotional places. Find the places that make you feel accepted and happy.

If this is your first holiday season after your divorce, I understand what you’re feeling. Give yourself permission make this holiday season different:

1. Feel free to ‘bow out’ of huge family gatherings: You may not feel like doing the huge family holiday, especially if your ex will be present. Carve out a time for you and your children, or for you and a few close friends, to have a smaller holiday gathering. If your family gets offended, don’t worry about it. You are the most important person right now – your healing trumps everything else.

2. Make new holiday traditions: Bring the stress level down several notches. Do simple things like: go out to see holiday light displays, go out for hot chocolate and pumpkin pie, invite a few close friends over to help you decorate for the holiday, have a pizza and movie night with your adult children. Keep it simple. The less stress, the better.

3. Give back to your community: Volunteer at a women’s shelter, collect coats for the homeless, volunteer for the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle campaign, collect donations for your local animal shelter. Giving back makes you turn outward instead of turning inward and feeling that destructive self-pity.

4. Be an ‘elf’: When you’re in line at Starbucks, pay for the person’s order behind you. When you’re at the grocery store, find an elderly person in the checkout lane and pay for their groceries. Be generous with your time and money. If you know of a single mom, pay her electric bill so she can give her children Christmas.

5. Put on your favorite holiday music and sing along at the top of your lungs! Who cares who’s listening?! Let yourself go! Be giddy and enjoy the spirit of the season!

Divorce can be dark and depressing. It can make the holiday season dark and depressing, too. Don’t dwell in that place! Even if you sing, dance or decorate just a little, at least you’re grabbing some of the holiday spirit. Start out small. One of my favorite post divorce activities was to turn out all the lights except the lights on my decorations – fall leaf swag, Christmas tree, etc. I would make myself a cup of hot chocolate and just sit in the silence with my dogs. It was so peaceful. Let peace reign in your heart this season. Get out and enjoy the sights and smells of fall. This is yet another season in your life. Breathe a prayer of “Thank you” and enjoy the whipped cream on your hot chocolate! Hugs, dear one! Stay tuned. . . .

May My Words Be Sweet

My son and his wife had a virtual baby shower this past weekend. It was basically a video conference call with folks able to join in from all over the country. Cycle Dude and I went to my daughter’s house where we were joined by my second son and his wife. It was a bit different attending a baby shower like that. We had all mailed our gifts ahead of time so we could watch my daughter-in-law open them.

A couple of days prior to the shower, my son texted me and reminded me to “be civil” since his father would also be tuning in. Even though ex ended up not being there or tuning in, I made sure to abide by my son’s request. I would not be ugly. I wanted to honor my son, his wife and my grand baby, Sweet Pea (my nickname for her). As I read my son’s text, I was reminded me of a poster I saw once. The poster was a picture of two little prairie dogs eating dandelions with the caption, “May my words be sweet, for tomorrow I may have to eat them.”

It is so easy for me to say mean things about ex. I have to remember that he is my children’s father and my history with him is not theirs. They don’t see him as I do. And they all have a relationship with him. I have been reminded several times over the years since the divorce that I need to keep my opinions about ex to myself. Sometimes, it is really difficult for me to keep that boundary with my children – that I will not say mean things about their dad in their presence. My journal is one thing – being in public with them is another thing entirely. It takes a great deal of self-control, but I want to honor my children.

I want to be above reproach with my children regarding what I say about their dad. I want them to know that I strive to keep my words sweet or to say nothing at all. It is difficult to have sweet words about someone you do not like. Better to say nothing than to have to eat sour words. When I was young, my mom always reminded me of what Thumper’s dad (from Bambi) said; “If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all.” Proverbs 17:28 states, “Even a fool is thought wise if he keeps silent, and discerning if he holds his tongue.” If my words can’t be sweet, then may I be thought of as wise. Stay tuned. . .

Family Reunion

Next weekend, various family members will be heading to MyState for a family reunion. The last time my siblings and I got together was for my mom’s 75th birthday. She will be 80 this year. Some family members are coming that I have not seen in years! I am excited! The only bad thing is that it is supposed to rain the whole time my extended family members are here. Oh, well.

I would not be as excited about this family reunion if I hadn’t taken a bold step last October. My middle son and I were talking one evening about the family reunion and he said something that made me think about my familial relationships. There was one family member that I had not gotten along with for years. I knew she would be at the family reunion. I did not want to make everyone uncomfortable by continuing this feud with her. I prayed and I asked for prayer because making peace with this family member was not real high on my “To Do” list.  Yet, I felt that it was something I needed to do.

I flew to the state this family member lived in. I stayed at another family member’s home and made arrangements to get together with the feuding family member. I knew I needed to approach her as honestly and sincerely as I could. Long story short, we resolved our differences. I was so relieved! Now, this family member and I are going to be first time Grandmas together – her first grandbaby is due two months before my first grandbaby. Now we will be able to share in one another’s joy.

Making peace with that family member was difficult. It is not something I would have done five or even two years ago! Yet, I knew this family reunion was coming up and I wanted to honor my mom’s 80th birthday by having the focus be on her and not on my feud with the other family member. It took courage and it took the willingness to do what I knew to be right even if the family member did not reciprocate.

So what does this have to do with being divorced? Do you have family members with whom you have not talked for a while – perhaps due to your divorce? Perhaps you and another family member said angry words to each other at one time? Perhaps you had a misunderstanding? I would urge you to resolve your differences as soon as possible. Pray about it, think about it, give it some time, but resolve to move forward to make peace.

Why? A couple of reasons: we are not promised tomorrow – make your peace today; you may see your family member at a family gathering – it’s much easier to be at peace with one another than to spoil the gathering for everyone else because you are feuding; and because the Bible commands it – Romans 12:18 states, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” Be willing to live at peace with others. Stay tuned. . . .