10 Lessons from a 10-Year Old

This post is actually three years old. But, it still provides some valuable lessons from the happenings of a 10-year-old.

I got a call from my daughter’s school nurse last week. My mind went to sore throat, upset stomach – all the bugs that go around this time of the year. Instead, I heard that she fell off the high bar at recess. “And we think she broke her right arm.” Oh boy.

Here were the stats at the end of the day:

  • 4 hours waiting
  • 3 broken bones
  • 2 casts (one on each arm)
  • 1 scratched up face

And … 10 lessons learned from my 10-year-old over the last week. Even though each one is pretty simple, you might benefit from the refreshers both personally and professionally. I know I did.

  1. Smile.
    She was wearing a smile in every picture I took of her. The doctor said she was one tough cookie. Sometimes the ability to keep smiling is very difficult. But when we smile, we can make someone’s day without even knowing it and it makes staying positive much easier.
  2. Improvise.
    Her Halloween costume would no longer work with the casts. So, she decided to let her injury work in her favor and opted to be an “injured person” instead. When Plan A doesn’t work, move quickly to the next solution and you might find it better than your original plan.
  3. A lesson that doesn’t kill you is a lesson learned.
    When I pointed this out, I knew I had officially become my mother. But it’s so true. I was at a marketing conference a few years ago and one of the speakers said he would frequently tell his team that “no one is going to die” if they didn’t do something exactly right. As long as you are continually learning and then adjusting, you will get it right.
  4. Don’t be a show-off.
    Speaks for itself. Don’t do it. Ever.
  5. Let rumors roll off your back.
    Her biggest concern was rumors would spread about the accident. What if someone said she did it on purpose? What if someone said she got pushed off? As I listened to the simplicity of her concerns, I thought about how easy it is to get wrapped up in the worry of what others think, no matter how big/small/positive/negative/neutral it is.
  6. Allow others to help you.
    I have become very good at getting just about any shirt or coat over two arm casts. There are other things she can still do on her own. Recognize where you need help and ask for it. It is ok!
  7. Take a month off from busy-ness.
    You can’t really play sports or practice the clarinet with two arm casts. So, she gets a month off from the normal, busy weekly schedule. We are all enjoying this break! Sometimes taking time to slow down and smell the roses is absolutely necessary.
  8. Always sport your flair.
    The best part about two casts? Picking out two different colors! She opted for neon green and rainbow tie-dye. What color is your flair? Make sure you sport it as much as possible.
  9. Do not use casts – or any other item for that matter – to harm others.
    It has been very tempting for her to use her casts as weapons on her five-year-old brother. But we learned in kindergarten that it’s not nice to hit others. That’s still true.
  10. Being famous isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
    After her first day back at school, I asked her if she got a lot of attention and was tired of telling the same story over and over again. She rolled her eyes and said, “Yes. I definitely never want to be famous.” After hitting it big, you might long to be just an ordinary person after all. (Casts might come in handy for the paparazzi, though!) Just kidding.

Insomnia and Divorce

Before I had kids, I didn’t think about sleep really at all. I pretty much always got enough of it and if there were a few nights I stayed out too late, I could catch up. And being in my early twenties, I could still go out and then go to class or work the next day and somehow function.

Then I had my daughter. I knew people said that babies keep you awake at all hours, but as a young mom, I don’t think I fully comprehended what that meant. In those moments in the middle of the night when I could hardly keep my eyes open to save my life, I learned that sleep is one precious commodity. I vowed to myself to never, ever take sleep for granted again. And thirteen plus years later, I still do not take it for granted.

At the point of getting separated, both of my children were very much past the waking up in the middle of the night stage. So, I had a few years of some very good sleep – of which I soaked in every single moment.  I didn’t think I’d ever have to face a sleeping shortage again. Well, I was wrong. I don’t know if anyone else who has been through a divorce experienced insomnia, but I sure did – and still do – to this day.

As I sit here writing this post, I’ve probably yawned ten times. Like bringing out the big guns yawns. I’ve been awake since 2:30 this morning when I woke up and simply could not get back to sleep.  I’ve adjusted to this lifestyle of many sleepless nights at this point. When I do have a night where I wake up less than two times, or a morning where I am able to sleep in a bit, I take full advantage. I take Benedryl, Advil PM and melatonin on occasion to at least help me go back to sleep if I wake up in the night. I usually do this when I know I have flexibility to sleep in the next morning. However, this strategy also backfires on me. I’ve learned that I can take one and it might work, but two gives me worse insomnia. That really annoys me.

There are several reasons why I link my insomnia to divorce. The most obvious reason is because it started at the same time. Also, at the beginning stages of divorce, it is rather difficult to live in what I call the limbo or in-between period. This is where you have made the decision to move forward, but so many pieces have to fall into place before you can really feel like you have somewhat of a normal life again. If you have kids, add a multiplier of stress to this time period.

I was numb for a long time even before my divorce, as I had to be strong and cope with things that wouldn’t have been possible for me to get through had I not blocked out emotion. It must’ve been a flight or fight instinct in me that pushed me to that point, as I really don’t think I would’ve been strong enough to get there on my own based on how emotional and sensitive I am at my core. Because of this, the transition or limbo period wasn’t as difficult on me as I have heard it’s been on other people. I think my limbo period just started years before my divorce, so I lived in it for a long time without even knowing it. While this might’ve made it a bit easier from an emotional standpoint, it was still a change with many, many unknowns.

I slept better when my kids were with me (and still do) because that seemed more normal. It was when I was alone that I never slept. I would even turn into a bit of gypsy and stay at my sister’s house or my parent’s house just to get some sleep versus zero sleep. I would avoid staying alone overnight if I could. The odd thing is I wanted to be alone and I spent many days all by myself because I didn’t want to go anywhere or see anyone, but when it got closer to bed time I would go stay somewhere else.

I remember the first Christmas Eve following my divorce. I didn’t have my kids, so after church I went to my third story condo all by myself and that’s when I cried – ugly cried to be exact. I knew I needed to stay there because I had to be Santa Claus and be there in the morning when their dad dropped them off to see what Santa delivered. That was a moment in time I will never forget. Looking back, getting through the year of firsts – just like with the grieving process – is what helps you get closer to a feeling of normalcy.

Eventually I just made myself stay alone no matter what. Some nights are still better than others. I get scared easily, so if I wake up to noises, it’s over and I’m not going back to sleep. But for the most part I am doing much better than in the beginning. I know if I continue to give time it’s proper time that one day I’ll be sleeping like a baby again.

How to be Friends and Co-Parent with Your Ex-husband

A lot of people actually ask me these questions about my ex-husband. How do you guys get along so well? He still comes to some of your family functions? You give him dating advice? All of you can still go to dinner together?

I don't know how I got so lucky in my divorce situation, but I really did. No one envisions divorce, nor is it any sort of an ideal situation to be in at all. However, sometimes it just IS. And once it's over, all you can do is make the very best of your situation for everyone involved, especially if that includes kids.

There has never been a time in the 4.5 years since being separated that we did not respect each other and didn't work through everything in order to be the best co-parents we could be. Some people don't understand this set up. They think there needs to be clear separation in order to move on – and in some instances I am sure this is more than 100% true. In situations with no kids, I can definitely see that being the best situation for everyone. There is also the quote from When Harry Met Sally that a man and a woman cannot be just friends because someone always wants more. I tend to believe that quote, but if there are boundaries set up front, I know it can work.

So, how do we do it? I've come up with the critical elements below.

  • Put first things first – your kid(s) – you have to start there. This will help shape how you want things to look and what you need to get past in order to make the best out of divorce for them. They didn't ask for this and part of them will always be affected by it. So it is your job to be mature and figure out how you will put them first. This also includes never bad mouthing your ex to the kids.
  • Be transparent with your kid(s) – having a friendly relationship with my ex-husband has caused some strife with my kids wondering why the heck we just can't be married if we get along? Being transparent does not mean to tell them every detail as to why you got divorced or anything they are not emotionally equipped to handle. It does mean that you let them know that you will be friends and co-parents for them because it is what they need and deserve. Letting them know up front that it doesn't mean you're going to get back together is a good idea.
  • Let go of the past – obviously there is muck or you wouldn't have gotten divorced. It is time to let go of the past and move on. Give grace, forgive and see the best in your ex so you can be the best version of yourself in this situation for your kids.
  • Set clear boundaries with each other and your families – this is probably the biggest element. Someone probably might want more (or be misled to think there is a chance) if you don't set clear boundaries. This includes boundaries with your families, because there might be some instances where it is best to keep things separate and not always be together at family events, unless it's one of the kids' birthdays. My family tends to go overboard and wants to include all of the time when that is not necessarily the best set-up, either. There needs to be space and you need to determine what that space should look like, as well as let others in your close circle know.
  • Actually be friends – my ex-husband and I talk about things going on with the kids, but we also ask how work is going, how his favorite team did in the game, and he even asks me for dating advice. I give it to him because all I want is to see him move on and be happy. And I want to help pick out my kids' stepmom – I am kind of selfish with this one! Just the other day, I helped him decide to send flowers to the girl he has been dating and made sure to tell him at this early point in their relationship to make them fresh flowers with a fun and flirty message, not red roses with a creepster message. And it totally worked and scored him some big points. I live for that.
  • Be transparent about the set-up and expectations when you do enter a relationship with someone else – I saved this one for last because it can be tricky. Not everyone will be ok with me being friends with my ex-husband. And that's ok. I will make it clear up front what the situation is, though. I will be loyal to who I am in a relationship with, but he has to be open to this in some way or it will not work. In my last relationship, my ex-husband graciously bowed out of many things in order to give the guy I was dating the chance to be with my family alone.

So there's my advice on how to be friends with your ex-husband. It isn't always easy, and most people will look at you funny, but I have learned that there is no "right" way to do divorce. You need to do what works for your situation. I also understand that in a lot of cases there is one side that absolutely will not cooperate, even for the kids. That is unfortunate but I know it is reality. There is also abuse involved and other things that make it not possible. I understand that. In those situations, all you can do is be the best parent you can be on your own for your kids.

I'd love to hear how about other people's co-parenting solutions!

Divorce journey takes friends

I’ve realized something lately. It’s not earth shattering or something I didn’t know before. But, does something ever hit you, like really hit you, and even though you knew it before – all of a sudden you just see things a little differently? This is what happened to me. ***I’m placing a long post warning right here – if you want to just get to what I’ve realized, skip down to the last two paragraphs. If you want to follow how my crazy mind works, well then read on from here. 🙂

I’ve always had the best friends. I have been so blessed in this department my whole life. I was single for a very long time, so maybe that is part of the reason why. I was always ALL about my friends throughout high school and college and could pour a lot of me into them. In fact, I was just telling my teenage daughter last year that if you aren’t making an effort in friendships/relationships, you aren’t going to get anything out of them. My lesson to her was simple – as a girl, you NEED girl friends. It is essential to every part of your being. She wanted to be instantly liked and included – and not have to step out of her comfort zone in order to develop deep friendships. This is when I told her that you have to put your real, authentic self out there. (Which I realize can be really scary in 7th grade at a new school.) She had a Christmas movie marathon at our house in December and invited old friends, as well as people she was just getting to know. And the rest is history, really. My number one thanks to God in my prayers over the last several months is seeing her with what is now down to a group of four of them that have become so close. I can tell she is 100% herself around them and vice versa. It literally brings tears to my eyes as I type this because it makes me so happy. Maybe this is where this revelation started even, I don’t know.

Moving on…I never wanted to be a divorced person. I didn’t want that label and honestly, I was ashamed of it. I felt that all of a sudden I got looked at differently and stopped getting invited to couple or family parties…because I was going to start hitting on all of the husbands?! However, I’ve tried my best to not let those thoughts and insecurities control me. At first, I hid out. A lot. I moved away in my own little place and only let in those closest to me. But, little by little I started to let my guard down. I gave time its proper time (and still am) and have been able to accept the situation and forgive myself for the most part.

Then I did something really brave. I got out of the almost four-year relationship I was in immediately after my divorce. This was probably one of the most courageous things I’ve ever done. I know that sounds pathetic, but it was a moment when I broke my own cycle. I took what I learned from my past and decided it wasn’t going to affect my future. I wasn’t going to get to one or five years down the road just to receive validation that my gut was right. It was scary to leave what was comfortable and who I knew loved me…no matter what. I could have stayed forever just for that alone, because then I never would have had to face the risk of not being loved ever again. However, I knew God was with me and would get me through – and in the end I would look back and know that the beauty waiting for me on the other side was because of the risk I took to let go and break the cycle. This is truly when I chose myself and risked living this life alone in order to choose her. What I’ve learned in this time, however, is that even if I’m not in a relationship or married, I’m not living this life alone. And that, my friends, opened my eyes and provided me more strength than I’ve ever had. Do I still have insecurities? Of course. Do I still get lonely and long for one complete family and to build a home with someone? Yes! And I know all of that is ok because it is just who I am. (This is girl is one HOPELESS ROMANTIC…I just know I have to embrace her and simmer her down a little when needed.) I also know that I need to be patient and LIVE moment by moment for once in my life.

I pray a lot for God to SHOW me how I can help – to make it abundantly clear what I am called to do. This is because I am so blind and there are so many times I miss something obvious or don’t act on a thought that crossed my mind. I forget that the Holy Spirit lives within me and gives me these nudges, but so many times I disregard them as my own thoughts. Acting on the things in which we know are good and we know must be heaven-sent is where we start to become closer to the person God created us to be. I read this question somewhere recently: what if at the end of your life you were able to meet the you that you could have been? That is a powerful thought. The gap could be so incredibly large or we could work now everyday to make sure the gap is as small as possible. And this isn’t about money or success – it is about a heart that takes action. I digress because that is not what this post is about, it is just how my thought process works. However, part of my realization stemmed from this notion of tuning in and acting on those nudges, no matter how small or insignificant they may seem.

Living moment by moment has helped me realize what I tried to get to in the first paragraph. And that is that sometimes the call to action is literally right in front of our eyes. It can be our closest friends, family members, or someone you just pass by and say hi to everyday at work and have no idea what he or she is really going through. It is about not being scared to tell your story because you never know who needs to hear it. We all go through muck in life and every single one of us has our own unique muck. God knows this because he knows everything. He knows who He can use to help his children through whatever muck they happen to be in. After encountering new friends and old friends that have been or are going through a divorce right now, it clicked for me that this is my call to action. I haven’t thought a lot about friendships being a call to action from God because like I said, I just always had good ones. However, I didn’t have a girl friend with kids that knew what I was going through when I got divorced. I had great girl friends that were there for me, don’t get me wrong, but no one that I could really connect with. It was kind of like when I had my daughter because I had kids many years before my friends did. I had to go through it first. Was I perfect? Not in the slightest. I was forced to figure things out, though.

SO…what I have realized is that I am BLESSED with those around me…with my girl friends…old and new. I have also realized that I have friends right now who truly need me. That is weird to write out loud. And I am truly willing to lose sleep for these friends and give up other things so I can spend time with them to listen or to just validate what they are going through. I want to be there to watch romcoms, laugh, snort and give hope in the fact that everything WILL be ok…with their hearts, with their kids, and with their lives. And I know because I’ve been there. And in many ways I am still there…I’m just at a different point in the journey. We are walking this journey arm in arm because we’ve been connected with our stories and our muck. Our muck happens to be similar so it bonds us together. I know there are many other stories like this – wives that have had to see their husbands on multiple deployments, those battling cancer, those coping with sick kids or loss. This is what we are called to do in this world. This is God at work. This is God being omnipresent. I know it with all of my being. If I’ve had to go through all of my own unique muck (and I know there’s more to come) just to get to this point of realization, I can honestly say it’s all made me a better person and certainly closer to the woman God created me to be. I am working to be more like her every single day. I am looking right under my nose for ways to help others in my life here, right where I am.

Thank you to all of my friends – every single one of you holds a special place in my heart and helps me in SO many ways. And then there is FAMILY. That is like multiple posts, so I’ll just end with a huge thank you. There is nothing like the feeling of a grateful heart. And mine certainly runneths over.

Girl friends

Moving on After Divorce: Stay True to Yourself

I actually found the journal entry below from the year I got divorced, which was five years ago. So, I thought I’d share it. This where I was then in the divorce journey. It’s definitely been a road, but I can say that I have tried really hard to always stay true to myself. And, since then I have seen that girl again. She smiles and laughs and even cries – if you are numb and go without crying for years – it is actually a blessing to finally let yourself cry again.


I’ve learned to stay true to yourself.

There are so many things, beliefs, thoughts, memories, experiences and education that together make us who we are. Coupled with the core of our personality, or how we’re wired, we can take ourselves in many different directions based on current and past circumstances in life, age and simply frame of mind. I’ve spent so much time the last several years just going through the motions, running on empty and trying to do it all that I lost part of me along the way. I think I even got to a point where I thought this is it, just survive.

In the last couple of months, I’ve had the people that are closest to me open my eyes. It also took a therapist telling me I’m broken. Yeah, kind of hurty. But true. I had stopped feeling much of anything because that seemed easiest. I knew I’d let pieces of me go along the way and I didn’t think I could ever get them back. But I’m questioning that now. I know I’ll never be the person I was before 2005. There was a line drawn in the sand – one of those life moments where you know nothing will ever be the same from that point forward. But…

I’ve been thinking a lot about who I really am, what makes me tick, what you can get me talking about for hours and what I feel kind of ‘meh’ about. I’m working on staying true to her and fighting for her. Every day. For me, this means that I’m not going to accept less than extraordinary – a quote I had hanging on my wall in college. For the dreamer that I am, I’m done with not letting myself dream and plan and have goals to meet and celebrations to be had when complete. I’m going to question more and allow myself to feel again. I’m going to write and write. I’m going to sing at the top of my lungs and dance to really bad cover bands. I’m going to speak up, debate and lead. I’m going to joke around, be sarcastic and laugh until my stomach hurts. I’m going to stay positive and count every blessing. I’m not going to stop learning. I’m going to believe. Again.

I’m not finished with me yet. I’m trying to stay true to this girl that needs to let the sun hit her face and show me things I haven’t seen in a while.

Teenage parenting advice

A Letter to My Daughter on Her 13th Birthday

IMG_2434Dear Kaylee,

I am writing you this letter to give you on your thirteenth birthday, which is tomorrow. I still sit here in awe knowing that tomorrow you are going to be a teenager. I don’t know how the time went by so quickly and how my little baby, toddler, preschooler, elementary student…became this beautiful, smart, funny, caring and feisty, almost lady. You have blossomed right in front of my eyes over the last year and will only continue to do so as you grow into yourself over the next several years.

Whether it seems relevant to you or not, I know what you are going through. As you’ve reminded me, I do know times were different back in 1993. In fact, I came up with thirteen differences from my life at thirteen:

  1. We still had land lines and long distance bills (that I frequently got in trouble over for calling boys from out of town)…oh and no caller ID or call waiting (do you know what a busy signal is?) but you could look up someone’s phone number in the phone book (do you know what that is?) and you had the last four digits of every single one of your friend’s phone number memorized
  2. Cell phones were called “car phones” and only parents could use them because we were charged by the minute…and there were no games, videos or apps on them
  3. The Internet was just making its way to Iowa and if your family had AOL, you were the bomb, but only one person could be on it at a time
  4. We watched movies on a VCR and we had to wait like six months for a movie to come out on tape
  5. Instead of play lists, we made mixed tapes that you had to manually rewind or fast forward to find your favorite song
  6. We had to actually watch the commercials during our favorite shows
  7. The selfie hadn’t been invented yet and we couldn’t see ourselves in photos until the film was developed
  8. We couldn’t document our every move on snap chat or even text our friends…we actually had to call them…or knock on their door!
  9. We could still walk around town at night on our own
  10. We had to read Teen Bop or Teen Beat to keep up on our favorite celebrities
  11. We had to buy the latest fashions AT THE STORE, and beauty stores like Ulta and Sephora didn’t exist so we had to fill our caboodles with Wet n’ Wild make-up and lip smackers
  12. We had to stalk our crush with random walk-bys past his actual house or calling and hanging up, and we had no idea if he was home or what his family ate for dinner
  13. We had to pass notes in school to find out if someone liked us. Note folding was a talent

So, maybe things have changed just a little bit now that you are a teenager. However, I am now older and wiser and  there are many things that have not changed…so here are thirteen facts that are still true today that I want you to know:

  1. What seems like the biggest deal right now won’t matter in six months or a year, and definitely not later in life
  2. You have no idea what people are actually going through – no one’s life is perfect and no single person is perfect, even if it seems like it
  3. You don’t want to peak now…or anytime soon
  4. You can never go wrong by being nice. A simple smile, hi, or asking how someone is could change their day, week, year or life
  5. People that are mean or put other people down, are actually the most insecure and need the most love. Forgive and give grace always
  6. It’s not all about you…ever. Open your eyes to what actually matters and how you can make a difference. The world does not owe you ANYTHING
  7. Be comfortable in your own skin – you are unique, you are beautiful and you have so much to offer the world – so just be YOU! If others don’t like it, that’s their problem, not yours
  8. You would stop worrying so much about what other people think of you if you realized how seldom they actually do – everyone is inherently self-centered so they are thinking of themselves too, not you
  9. Everything is ok in moderation – learn healthy habits now or it will catch up to you when your metabolism slows down – move your  body in ways that are fun to you, control yourself and don’t overindulge in anything in life, except your faith and service to others
  10. If you have a dream or want something to happen, do your part. Hard work ALWAYS pays off and most of the time in ways we can’t even imagine up front
  11. Solve your own problems now, while the stakes are low, and when the real problems of the world come your way, you’ll be ready. It is ok to make mistakes, but learn from each and every one so you don’t make the same mistake twice
  12. Whatever situation you are in – good or bad – it will change. Time is the ultimate healer. Be patient and give time its proper time. Even change you know is good change will be a transition, so those changes also need time
  13. You have the strength to get through anything, as long as you lean on God and not yourself

I probably needed to write this list as much as I want you to read it. Enjoy. Smile. Be happy. No one can make you happy but YOU. Enjoy these years. Enjoy getting your summers off, hanging out with your friends, spending your parents’ money and sleeping in. Enjoy being you. Enjoy the sunshine and the swimming pool and soak in the smells of every season. You will miss it. You will regret taking it all for granted because you didn’t know there was anything else beyond it. You will miss sleep when you have babies, but they will change your life in so many more wonderful ways…like you changed mine…thirteen years ago. THANK YOU.

I love you and couldn’t be prouder of you. I will never miraculously accept bad behavior, attitude or disrespect, however, I will always be here to guide you, push you and challenge you. You definitely won’t always like me, but one day you will thank me. One day you will understand. And it is ok if you don’t understand today – you’re not supposed to.

Happy birthday sweet girl, YOU ARE LOVED. God is smiling down on you today and always – don’t you ever, ever forget that.

Love,

Your MOM