Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Blending Family Challenges: Update from Yesterday's Post

I rushed to get out last night's post in hurried frustration at my situation between Gentleman Jack and his ex-wife and my ex-husband. I hate being caught in the middle of things.

Later that evening, while dining with my children, I realized I was sad more than anything else so I sent GJ a text stating as much. He agreed with me. That's when I knew we would be okay. We're on each others' side and that's what matters above all.

When we finally talked last night, I could tell he was exasperated from speaking with his ex-wife. He absolutely stood by my choice to honor my ex-husband's wishes. He put it back on his ex to recognize that a change in her schedule affects more than just her life.

She got very upset and emotional with him. He told me that he then realized, in that moment, that she doesn't take our relationship seriously. She didn't seem to be moved that a schedule change would put us off on our custody weekends... which meant our children wouldn't see each other nor would he and I have a weekend alone. She didn't see the harm in it. After all, we weren't married.

Then he had to explain to her that her new husband was no less part of what she considered "family" when they were merely engaged and/or living together. Just because he and I live 3 hours apart and choose not to marry doesn't make our relationship any less real or committed than hers or anyone else's. She still insisted on keeping the schedule as is for a short time, until she could talk to her boss about changing things.

We agreed in the interim.

Mostly I was proud of my man, no matter how much he loathed the battle and what he calls "emotional manipulation" from her, he stood up for us. I'm not even sure I ever doubted that he would. That's one of the reasons I'm in love with him.

In the meanwhile, my ex-husband called back today feeling a little more generous about switching weekends. I guess he felt badly for standing his ground and said he'd be willing to work something out. But here's the thing: my ex-husband so rarely says "no" that, if I have to, I'll stand his ground for him. That's what I did when we were married. Or so... when I realized that he had trouble saying "no".

I told him that GJ and his ex would work things out. He was very happy with that decision.

And me? I'm happy that divorce or not, marriage or not, I've chosen the best of the crop in men. Honorable, loving, good men.

I feel pretty good about that.

Monday, July 30, 2012

The Challenges of Dating Someone with an Ex and Children (and being in a Long Distance Relationship)

Prior to our high school reunion, a fellow classmate (who is also dating another fellow classmate) called me to talk about dating post-divorce.

Both she and her boyfriend have children from previous marriages. As a matter of fact, they have a lot more in common with Gentleman Jack and me than just being fellow classmates. The difference is that their children haven't met each other yet.

She and her beau haven't experienced the challenges of blending families yet. She isn't aware of trying to co-parent with exes who are remarried or remarrying or dating. She doesn't yet realize that, after the fantasy of dating after divorce, there is the reality that you're dating, betrothed to or marrying not only your new love... but his (or her) ex and their new love and their exes with their new love and so on and so on...

As an example, I offer you this, the most recent challenge of being in love and in a serious relationship with someone else with children.

Gentleman Jack and I have 4 children. I have my two and he has his. Our children love spending time with each other and with us. We love having all 4 children together as much as we can, within the limitations of a long distance relationship.

This means that we have to line up weekends of custody of our children. It's difficult enough to try to get weekends without children as well. We too need downtime to be a couple. Often times, we'll go 3 or more weeks apart so that we can plan to have our children at the same time. Then we'll have to do the same to get a weekend alone. It's quite a challenge but one we've managed to work through for nearly 3 1/2 years.

How, you might ask?

Well, he doesn't say "no" to his ex and my ex never says, "no".

Until now.

GJ's ex-wife's work schedule changed so she asked him to switch weekends going forward. She's done this nearly every year that we've been together. Thankfully, my ex-husband has been lenient enough to comply with this switch.

Now, however, my ex-husband is about to marry and take the children for a few weeks for the summer. He is planning a schedule with his new wife and her children. As well he should. So, this time, when the request came through GJ that his ex-wife would like to switch, my ex-husband said no. And I'm fine with that.

I'm NOT fine with the changes to our schedule. I'm NOT fine with our children never seeing each other. I'm NOT fine with NEVER having a weekend alone with my man. But I'm also NOT fine with GJ never pushing back on his ex-wife. Why does SHE get a say in so many other people's lives?

GJ actually said to me that I have no way of being in his shoes or understanding how difficult it is to say "no" to her. He said that on the weekends she has custody, she will ask HIM to keep the child. Basically this would mean he has no weekends off at all. I don't think that should be the case. She should be responsible for getting a sitter during her custodial time, not calling in dad and playing on his guilt because he SHOULD watch his son.

I'm sorry to rant and CAPITALIZE everything but this is one challenge where I'm standing MY ground and my ex-husband's ground too... with the potential to hurt both our children and our time together.

So.... to my friend who is in dating bliss with your new beau who has children? Good luck. You have no idea what you're in for.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Post-Reunion Thoughts: Friends, Old and New


I'm completely painfully exhausted after this past high school reunion weekend. I planned most of it and it was a wonderful success! Everyone had a great time and we're already planning subsequent mini reunions because we enjoyed each others' company so much.

Soldier was unable to attend. I guess that was good but it was bugging me not knowing so I sent him a quick email last week. He actually responded - which was a surprise - but even better, he was even friendly in the email. I just don't want things to be weird with us, ya know? He and I always talked about attending a reunion together so I knew he wanted to be there. I just didn't know if he felt it was too awkward since Gentleman Jack and I would be attending together instead. It turns out, he had Army stuff and couldn't attend after all. Now's he's spoken up on our Facebook page about attending the next one. Hopefully, if GJ and I are there, it won't be so uncomfortable. Anyway...

If you've been reading here for a bit, especially in the past year, you know that I've moved away from a few friendships that felt a bit dramatic or tiresome for me with everything else I have going on in my life. One such friend has expressed her sadness at the space between us. I've felt awful about it because I do still love her, as I do the others I've pulled back from. I guess I felt that I had no space for where our friendship was going. It seems like the healthiest space would be actual space... until we're in the same space again. Make sense?

At my reunion this weekend, I ran into one of my longest best friends from school. We actually met when I was 12 years old. Our friendship was rocky during some high school years but we always came back together. We stayed in touch until my husband and I eloped. She stopped speaking to me after that. It was only years later that she confessed she was unhappy that she found out about our marriage through an announcement instead of an invitation.

We rekindled our friendship through the births of our first children. I miscarried and then she miscarried shortly after that. Then I finally had my second child while she struggled to get pregnant again. I offered her my fertility books and support. She carried the next child to full term and I was happy for her.

The next thing I knew, she wasn't speaking to me again.

When I saw her at the reunion, I was genuinely happy to see her. She demanded that we catch up on things so I gave her a run down on my life and all that has happened since I last saw her, years ago, at my father's funeral.

We realized that we live in the same town, within 3 miles of each other.

Then I recalled sending her an email when I bought my house to let her know we'd be practically neighbors. That was our last correspondence.

"Oh I remember that email," she said, "but I wasn't comfortable with all that you had going on in your life at that time so I never replied."

Huh?

What was going on at that time in my life?

My father had just died. I was separated from my husband and finally selling my home after 2 years on the market. I had just filed for divorce. I was buying my first home, alone, with two very small children. I was dating a man that she and I both knew who had just deployed to Iraq.

So....... this person, whom I considered my best friend from age 12 forward, chose not to respond to my "hey we live so close now! would love to see you!" email because she wasn't comfortable with what was going on in my life?!?!?

I'm sorry. I was very hurt and angry and defensive. And I told her so. She jumped in that she did attend Dad's funeral and yes, she did. But wow. I couldn't even speak to her after that for the rest of the weekend.

Really?

And is that the way I've been making my friends feel now for the past year or so?

*sigh*

There is never any intention to hurt, but self-protect. And Gentleman Jack pointed that out about her response to me too. But I couldn't help but take it personally.

Wouldn't you?






Monday, July 16, 2012

Something that made me smile today...

Borrowed from this site on dog safety in a car


I was on my way to work this morning and saw not one but two dogs eagerly enjoying the wind in their fur. It made me giggle right in the middle of my crazy to-do lists and other stresses.

Currently I am:

  • Training my replacement at work (which means I have no computer)
  • Ramping up on education to begin my new job next week
  • Finishing up the final plans on my high school reunion (this weekend)
  • Meeting with foundation repair companies to fix my broken house *sad face*
  • Trying to figure out how I'm going to pay for foundation repair
  • Not to mention the other single mom duties

I've not had a moment to blog or tweet or even Facebook, really, so I apologize for being "off the grid" lately. After starting the new job, I should have a better idea of how to squeeze in everything.

I'm still taking time to work out when I can... though even it has gotten in the way of other demands.My girls left this morning to spend a week with their dad so that helps. Lots of last minute reunion go-ers are needing answers and even more surprises about what I need to do during the actual reunion. Hopefully, I'll get to relax in there somewhere.

I need to make a decision on my home repair soon which means I need to get financing soon... which means I should do it before quitting one job I've worked for many years and starting a brand new one.

After the reunion, I have to haul butt back to Dallas, get the kids and prepare for my first day at the new gig.

Whew.

Well, the dog is giving me sad eyes because she wants to play after I've been at work all day. Oh how the canines of the world bring joy to my life!

Miss all of you!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Allowing the Challenges & Blessings of a Long Distance Relationship

Occasionally, I get the feeling that all is as it should be, that I'm exactly where I'm supposed to be and life is moving along perfectly.

Occasionally I get it.

Sometimes I'm even able to go with the flow. It's true! Me! Ms. Trying-to-Stop-Being-Type-A! I've been working on letting go and allowing for some time now. Obviously it feels easier now that the job situation is rectified. Even when I was going through all of that, I kept reminding myself that the perfect job would meet me right where I was.

As another example, last week when I was with Gentleman Jack, we had a discussion that left me in severe processing mode.

Come on, my fellow over-thinkers can relate, right?

First something is said that kind of feels uncomfortable, then you start to get upset about it and then, in my case, I start to wonder WHY I'm upset about it.After all, I know that if it's bothering me, it must mean there's something there I have to look at. So, I stayed up most of the night... looking at it. Oy vey.

Somewhere in my heavy analytical over thinking and in between annoyance at GJ sleeping so soundly, I recognized exactly why we're in a long distance relationship. First, a little history.

***

I'm sure it's written on this blog somewhere but a few days before GJ and I connected, I was miserably praying and practically begging to be heard. I was still mourning the end of my previous relationship (and most especially after supporting a deployed soldier for over a year) but I was tired and EXHAUSTED with being alone. I felt I was at the end of some journey and couldn't take a step further.

"Please God," I begged, "I just want someone in my life who loves me for WHO I AM NOW. Who understands what I've been through, who is okay with my mourning, who can love me through my growth and getting better. And when they hold me,  I'm reminded that I am lovable. I know there is someone out there who fits me perfectly RIGHT NOW."

In that quiet moment, alone in my bed, I felt arms around me. I felt nurtured and comforted. So much so that I cried silent tears of gratitude. Two days later, my sweet Gentleman commented on a Facebook picture of mine. The first time he held me, his arms felt familiar. The rest, as they say, is history.

***

I recalled, last week, the words I used when I begged for this man to come into my life. I wanted someone to be there for me through my growth. I knew I wanted to change. I knew I was selling myself short in relationships, career and even friendships. I knew there was much healing to do and it would be hard. I wanted someone to help me and challenge me to be the greatest version of myself. I feel, with Gentleman Jack, I have that.

But it is NOT easy. In fact, I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to run like hell in the other direction. Growth sucks. It's been nothing but beneficial for me, my life, my children, my family! It's been really good and I'm very happy with the person I am today compared to the depth of low I felt that night. It took hard work. It still does! It takes deep questioning of beliefs and thoughts and actions and reactions to continue to grow and shine my light more.

He wants to be the grandest version of hisself as well. His intuitive nature and the desire to teach what he needs to learn... well, that's one of the reasons I love him so much. Sometimes, however, I get stuck in a pattern, an ego trip, or some bad memory reveals itself as fear. He makes me challenge those thoughts by simply asking me why or, in some cases, reacting. I realize that he isn't making me do the work but with his unique viewpoints I find he's a great teacher and a mirror.

I think if my Gentleman were in my life every day, living with me, I'm not sure I could do it. I very well may have run away or given up because of the difficulty. Instead, when I feel challenged by my thoughts or reactions, as I did last week, I have time alone to process. I have time to step back and reexamine. I have moments to ponder, question or just breathe.

I think I forget this when I miss him. Missing him is hard too but putting down roots into the core of who I REALLY am, allowing life to show up as it's supposed to, becoming better and better as me... well that's a lot more challenging.

I'm glad for little reminders and awareness, no matter how uncomfortable they seem in that moment, that life is what's happening all the time.... if you don't fight it.





Thursday, July 5, 2012

On living together...

Gentleman Jack and I decided this weekend that we can never live together.

We'd both be FAT if we did!

It started Saturday morning when I cooked all of us (kids included) a breakfast of ham and cheese omelets and biscuits while GJ made us all fresh fruit smoothies. He looked at me after eating and said, "This *pointing to his plate*... can NOT happen every morning. I usually only have a smoothie for breakfast and that takes me til lunchtime."

We went on during the weekend (and into the week - Bonus!) to dine out with his mother one night on cheeseburgers. He grilled some awesome barbecue chicken for dinner one night. We went out to have sushi with friends one day for lunch and Mexican food another day for lunch with other friends.

Also, because it was the holiday, we'd bought some wine that we drank a few nights. We had margaritas. We had to partake in the drive through daiquiri places because we don't have them in Texas. We also shared drinks here and there.

Then we were going to bed late because we were seeing a movie, or swimming, or fishing, or popping fireworks. The kids had a great time being pyromaniacs with us to celebrate our country's independence.

Between the food, drinks and entertainment, I'm scared to know how much weight either of us put on after over 5 days together. I'm in need of a detox and a few good nights of sleep.

But I'm NOT complaining!

What I'm saying is if/when we ever did live together, we'd need to seriously kick each others' arses into shape!

****

On another note, I went home to my Louisiana man to find these waiting for me.



He knows that purple irises are my favorite flower and decided to surprise me. He's very proud of me for all that I did to land my dream job.

He also had sweet little gifts for my daughters too. He treated us to a wonderful week of great fun (see above) and lots of chill time on the water.

But my favorite time of all was the end of each day when all of the kids were in bed. I would snuggle up next to him on the couch and we'd both contentedly sigh at the same time.

I guess for that alone we could probably consider living together. We're kinda good together. 


Monday, July 2, 2012

When I'm Protecting Me, I May Be Hurting Someone Else

I learn a lot about human interaction just from watching my children.

One such observation came last week, as I watched my 7 year old slide into her victim "the whole world is against me and my sister is proof" mentality.

It all starts when one of them is in a bad mood. Or a good mood. Heck, it doesn't really matter the mood, ONE of them will start something with the other one. Then it becomes a "thing" and, no matter who started it, one of them will fall into victim mode, blaming the other one for something innocuous.

Story of my life lately...

And apparently, I'm told it's "normal" at this age. Whatever.

So last week, my little one was upset at her sister, pouting and stomping her feet as she's exiting the car. I thought she'd closed the door. Except she didn't. The door got damaged as I was backing out of the garage.

That's when I realized:

She had NO intention of hurting me (or my vehicle in this case).

She wasn't thinking clearly because of where her mind was: "The whole world is against me."

Which then made me realize:

...when ANYONE is in that mentality, the perceived role of victim, they could unwittingly hurt someone else unintentionally.

My thoughts raced to memories of my affair. No, I didn't feel the "world was against me" but I felt very much a victim of circumstance... in a marriage with someone who, I felt, didn't love me enough.

In my perceived "lack", I literally attracted something I thought would "fill me up". What I didn't realize, however, was how much I would unintentionally hurt myself or my husband.

I sure you're asking, "How could you have NOT known you were hurting your husband?"

But I beg you to ask MOST ANYONE who's committed an infidelity and they will tell you they weren't doing it to hurt, they were doing it to HELP THEMSELVES FEEL BETTER.

As a matter of fact, I've known this for some time now. People hurt each other all the time unintentionally. Many of us feel victimized most of the time and that affects our interactions with each other. Knowing this has allowed me to forgive many people and situations in my life, including myself... and that was most difficult of all.

My daughter's only thoughts, in the moments when she left the door open, were to get away from her sister and get inside to her room where she could feel safe again. She was so focused on herself that she didn't think of me, helping me or taking care of what was in her immediate area. She only wanted to feel better as soon as possible. It was "fight or flight" mode, in her eyes.

I wasn't happy about the consequences of her narrow focus and lack of awareness. She was disciplined and learned from the consequences of her actions. Hopefully the discipline will remind her to think of others next time... or help her to recognize that her pain doesn't need to be displaced unknowingly onto someone else. 

But I also understood and learned something about relationships, people and myself. I am happy for the "discipline" and "consequences" of my actions too. I can't imagine I would have a clarity to release any pain I've ever been through or have forgiven anyone had I not recognized my own shortcomings.

Once again, I must give credit to my children for being great teachers for me in this classroom of life.