I call bullshit. Bullshit on this “I’m so tired” existence that we are supposed to be living in. Let me explain myself. Over the last few months, blogs, articles and ads keeping popping up/bombarding my social media pages, talking about moms being tired and how normal it is. “It’s ok, sis, it’s normal to be tired”, they keep proclaiming. Bullshit!!!!! We are not supposed to be tired all the time!!! That’s not normal! That’s not what our bodies are built for. Our baseline existence shouldn’t be exhaustion. As moms, we’ve somehow been convinced that we are supposed to be tired. That we are supposed to walk around in a fog. Bullshit! Ladies! (and guys), stop buying into this idea. Are there seasons of our life when we are tired? Absolutely! Did you just push a baby out of your body? You should be tired. Are you waking up with your new born 3 times a night? You should be tired. Are you or a family member sick? You should be tired. Does our energy fluctuate occasionally? Absolutely! I think you get the point. But our “normal” existence should not make us exhausted. In fact, I truly believe that we should be filled with ENERGY as our baseline.
I’ve read all the reasons why we should be tired. We (moms) are in charge of all the schedules. We work full time, cook and clean the house all while getting the kids to school and their after school activities. We are a stay at home mom and we, again, are taking care of the house, getting the kids to school and all of their after school activities. We are on the school board, PTA, auction committee, room mom. All of these activities are constantly running through our head and we are constantly juggling how we are going to get everything done and look good doing it. Bullshit!! Why?! Why are we putting so much on ourselves? Why are we saying “yes” to everything that someone asks us to do? Why do we find it necessary to make sure that our kids are signed up for every activity that pops up, all while making sure they get their homework done? As Jen Hatmaker states “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no”. Ladies! You can say no! And, on top of that, you can even ask for help. Gasp!!! You guys, I am constantly asking my husband for help. Anyone who knows me, knows that Joe does much more around the house than I do. Am I lazy? No. But it isn’t just my responsibility to keep the house running. Every morning I ask him to watch the kids (his kids, btw. The ones that he helped create) so that I can take 1-2 hours to get my work out in. And since we’re on the topic, lets talk about taking care of ourselves, cause I think this is the root cause of our exhaustion.
After having children, I completely stopped taking care of myself. I wasn’t drinking enough water (I was living on coffee). I wasn’t sleeping enough (I stayed up late after the kids went to bed for “me time” and woke up exhausted every morning). I wasn’t eating healthy. (Even though I am gluten free, I was still eating a lot of processed food and eating like crap). And the worst part, I wasn’t doing anything that filled myself with joy. I put everything aside, to make sure that my children were getting everything they needed. But what they weren’t getting was a happy mommy. They weren’t getting a mom that was full of energy and joy. They saw a mom that rushed around in the morning, stressed about getting everything done, went to a job she wasn’t happy in, picked them up and rushed home to make sure all after school activities and homework was taken care of. It wasn’t until I was asked to evaluate myself, that things started to change. My life coach asked me to look at these different areas of my life and see how I would rate myself. Ladies! I always thought I was pretty healthy. Nope!!! I immediately started drinking a shit ton more water. I started exercising in the morning, so that I would start the day with energy, as well as start my day off on a positive note. I evaluated my diet and got rid of all processed food (yes, including tortilla chips. Oh, how I miss tortilla chips!). I started taking vitamins after talking to my doctor about which ones I should be on for my age. I FORCED myself to go to bed earlier so that I could get at least 7 hours of sleep. Do you need 7-8 hours of sleep? YES!!!!! Ok, ok. Your friend, Susan, only requires 4 hours of sleep and is crushing it in life. But guess what, you aren’t Susan. And neither am I. Get the sleep!!!! Oh, you’re sick?! Why? Why are you sick? Have you had blood work done recently? Have you really examined which diet is best for your body? Are you taking vitamins? Go. To. The. Doctor! Figure out what is going and ask for a blood panel. Ok ladies, here is the kicker!!! You NEED to do something EVERY day that brings you joy. What? You don’t know what brings you joy?! Bullshit!!! You don’t have time to do something for yourself that brings you joy? Bullshit!!! Stop the excuses. Oh, let me guess, you want to be present for your family, so that means you don’t have time for yourself. Bullshit!!! Ladies!!! This is bullshit!!! Ever since I started doing things that I love to do, I am MORE present for my family. I have more energy to focus on them and give them my full attention, instead of my exhausted attention.
Last weekend, I fell off the wagon. It was a holiday weekend. I ate all the food and drank all the alcohol. I substituted coffee for water. I stayed up late and didn’t get the sleep. I felt like crap! But, I argued with myself, I was still working out and I was still doing things I loved to do and filled me with joy. It turns out, you need to take care of your entire body in order for it to function correctly. I started drinking water again (hallelujah). I started eating healthy again (I’m trying this Keto thing out) and I started going to bed early again (no more binge watching Golden Girls till 11:30). Guess what? Two to three days later, I felt better. My energy was back and my brain was no longer in a fog. Try it out ladies!! Will you be tired when you first start working out again, yes, yes you will be. But give it 2 weeks and you’ll start seeing the difference. Please, stop believing this bull shit lie that we are supposed to be exhausted all the time. Take care of your body! You deserve to feel full of energy and joy. Go ahead, give it a shot. See what happens.
“I hate being a step mom!” I yelled at my husband while curled up in bed, bawling. I knew these words weren’t true the moment they came out of my mouth and I cringe just typing them, but I also knew that there were so many things about being a step mom that just really sucked, and I was over it at that point. What was the straw that broke the camel’s back this time (cause this wasn’t the first time over the last 8 years that I had uttered these words)? A scheduling conflict. Here’s the thing, when you’re a blended family you have to have some serious organizational skills to ensure that everyone (both sets of parents) know who’s going where and when. Here’s an example, this summer we needed to plan our vacation around Charlie’s swim team; the volleyball camps her mom had signed her up for; her other family’s vacation schedule as well as our own schedules. For the last 10 years, Joe has always included me on any group text so that I know any schedule changes and can input them into our family calendar. For some reason, his ex-wife, doesn’t always include me on these types of texts; or conversations are had at a drop off and aren’t mentioned to me. And that’s what happened this time. Again. I know, it doesn’t sound like a big deal, until it happens over and over for ten years and you are constantly left in the dark.
Was this the only thing that sent me into a crying mess? No. For a couple weeks, I hadn’t mentioned to Joe or anyone, how frustrated I was at continuously being ignored by Charlie. Yes, I clearly understand that she is 13 and is going to ignore all of us, but I’m also highly aware that it happens to me much more than to Joe. Ever since we have been married, when Charlie needs something or has a question, she will literally walk right by me, walk across the house to Joe and ask for his help. Do I think she does this on purpose? My head tells me no, but my heart tells me otherwise. And it still stings every time it happens.
A couple of months ago, I was talking to my therapist, and she told me about an article she had read about being a step-mom and how impossible it is to discipline your step-children. I actually hadn’t thought about it in that respect before. From the day we were married, Joe and I focused on making sure we created a family unit where Charlie never felt left out. I made sure to plan all activities (i.e. Picking out the Christmas tree, the pumpkin patch trip, decorating the tree, all birthday celebrations etc.) on weekends when we had her at our house. I made sure that if I asked Charlie to help out around the house, that I was also asking the boys to help out as well. If I set household rules, they applied to everyone. But every time I tried to instill these rules and boundaries, I felt like the evil stepmom. Was I allowed to get angry or frustrated with her, because she had broken one of the rules, like I did with my own boys? Was she going to go back to her other house and tell her mom what a terrible person I was or how strict I was or that I had yelled at her? Was she going to get mad at Joe because he married me and now I was trying to tell her what to do and how to live her life? Was she going to resent me because I was trying to be her mom and I’m not her mom? You guys, these are questions that are in the back of my mind EVERY SINGLE DAY!!! When I set rules and boundaries with my own boys, it’s fine. I can discipline them, however I see fit as their mom (obviously, not in an abusive way) I feel well within my right to have conversations with them about rules, to take privileges away, if necessary, and to raise them with the values that Joe and I have established for our family unit. But that’s the thing. Those are our family values and our values don’t always align with other family’s values and they are definitely different from Joe’s ex-wife’s family values. So what happens when they collide? How do we address that as parents?
I don’t have all the answers to all of these questions. I’ve been a step-mom for 8 years and have been in Charlie’s life for 10 years and it still feels like I am navigating new territory every day. Maybe this is what happens when you enter the teenage years. Maybe you have to re-evaluate the way you raise and address parenting for all teenagers. I do know that I’ve had to re-evaluate how I am as a step-mom. It’s taken a lot of conversations with friends who have step-parents, therapists and my husband to come up with what will work best for both Charlie and myself. A few of the things that we have implemented to save from any frustration is working on our schedules. Joe very politely reminded his ex that he would like her to include me on all texts so that I am aware of any scheduling changes or conflicts. Joe and I sit down with our schedules once a week and look at what we have planned for all of the kids and who is going to be dropping off and picking up (honestly, when we don’t do this, our week falls off the rails). Here’s the hardest thing that I’ve had to change and adjust in my head, I needed to take a step back. This is to protect myself as well as give Charlie some space. When we started this marriage, it was my intent to have Charlie think of me as her second mom. It seems that that’s not how it works. Charlie has a mom. She has a dad. And she has a step-mom and a step-dad. That’s a lot of parentals in her life! One of my friends told me that Joe should be doing most of the disciplining and rule setting for Charlie. I had a serious problem with that suggestion at first. Shouldn’t she think of us as the same? Shouldn’t she know that she needs to listen to me too? How am I supposed to do that when I am home with her all day and Joe is at work? My friend said “think of it like a quota. You can tell her/ask her to do things through the day but once you’ve reached your quota, it’s Joe’s turn”. So here’s what we do now. Joe establishes the rules, the chores and following through. He talks to her about what we expect at our house. I give gentle reminders through the day. And if a serious conversation needs to take place, Joe and I sit down together with Charlie, but Joe does most of the talking. On top of all of this, I’ve come to the realization that Joe and Charlie existed without me for three years. They had a relationship before Joe and I had a relationship. Charlie wants to spend time with her dad without my interference. This was a hard realization for me and was a serious ego hit. But, I’m a grown ass adult, and have learned to give them that time and space. Here’s how I think of myself at this point. My mantra with Charlie is “I’m the aunt”. Aunts help out, give advice, give gentle reminders but are also not the parental. They are the ones that can have those uncomfortable conversations that the parents don’t want to have or that the teens don’t want to talk to with their parents. So whenever I start overstepping my boundaries, or getting butt hurt or angry about rules not being followed, I think to myself “I’m the aunt”. I back off, talk to Joe and we have a conversation about it. Has this solved all issues? Absolutely not, for goodness sakes, she’s a teenager! Teenagers are crazy!!! But it has given us a good baseline to work from.
Please know that this entry is about me, as a step-mom, and how I have had to change my way of thinking and parenting. I am very aware of how hard this situation is for Charlie and that she has to navigate some seriously tricky situations, bouncing back between two very different households and establishing her own personality amongst all this chaos. She is an amazing young lady and one of the kindest souls you could meet, but step parenting is tricky, no matter how awesome the child is. I also understand how hard it must be to be Charlie’s mom and watch another person come into her daughter’s life. But I can’t write from their perspective. But I can write from mine, and hope that it helps any step-moms out there know that they aren’t alone as well as give them some tools to use in their own lives.
A couple weeks ago I wrapped up my life as I’ve known it for the last 11 years. Technically, 11 years is how long I have been a teacher. But if we are going to be really technical, I’ve been working with children with disabilities for half my life. And now it’s over. So why did I decided to leave the best job I’ve ever had? Because I’ve actually been following the wrong dream. Is that actually possible? I’ve been struggling with this idea for a long time. People will say “you are exactly where you are supposed to be”. And I believe this. But I also believe that somewhere along the way, I lost my way and followed the wrong dream, the wrong passion.
When I was a senior in high school, I took a psychology class. At least, I think it was a psychology class. Honestly, I have the worst memory, especially of high school. It could have been a social science class or a philosophy class. What I do remember is studying the behavior of people and groups of people and absolutely falling in love with it. It lit me on fire to study it and learn about why people did what they did. I followed this love in college and became a psych major. I loved every aspect of it! Ok, that’s a lie. For some reason, I had to take psychology of statistics class (twice) and hated it! But I digress. The parts of psychology I loved were the aspects of observing people and trying to figure out why they did what they did. After I graduated, I thought I would eventually go back to school and become a therapist. But I floundered. And I listened to other people’s opinions. I kept hearing that I was too sensitive and would end up taking my work home. That I would struggle listening to people’s problems all day long. So I stopped. I stopped following that dream. But my love of it didn’t stop. I continued reading psychology books, self-development books, anything I could get my hands on that talked about behavior. So much so, that my librarian at the school I work at, knows my love of psychology and has set books aside for me. I used to sit in the psychology section of Barnes and Noble and just read books for hours (yes, I realize that I just aged myself cause it’s almost impossible to find a Barnes and Noble now)
So, what was I going to do with my life? The only thing I knew and was good at, was working with children with disabilities and helping shape their behavior. I started working in group homes. I worked with children who had been neglected, abused, abandoned and stabbed (yes, stabbed). These children had serious aggressive behaviors and often times we would have to call the cops. I knew I had the patience and compassion to work with these challenges but what I didn’t have was the bank account to survive on $9.00 an hour, living in San Francisco. So, I followed the money trail, and decided to become a teacher. Hahaha!! Actually, what really happened, was that I had a friend who was entering the teaching program and she convinced me that I should do it with her. So I did. And she didn’t. She dropped out. But I was committed. I figured this was my dream. This would be the perfect job. I could still use my psychology degree, still help people and get summers off. (Ha!!! Clearly, I was naïve) While I was getting my degree and trying to find a full time job, I was a substitute teacher. I always found myself in the special ed classes and the teachers always requested me as their substitute because they knew I got it. To be honest, I went to a private school up through high school, and didn’t even know special ed classes existed (I seriously hate admitting to that) so this type of classroom and teaching was totally new to me. When I finally got a teaching job, I started off as a kindergarten teacher. I loved those children and how sweet and innocent they were. But, I didn’t feel the challenge. I knew they would learn what they needed to learn, whether it was from me or another teacher or their parents, they would figure it out. I missed the challenge of the students who REALLY needed my help. I ended up losing that kindergarten job (blessing in disguise?) and ended up getting hired as a special ed teacher for an intensive autism program. I truly loved that job. For a year. I swear, I feel like a bad person admitting that I didn’t love teaching. Aren’t you supposed to have a deep passion for teaching if that is the profession you choose? I did love the students. I loved helping them learn. I loved the challenge of figuring out what it is they loved to work for. I loved the challenge of discovering why they were showing certain behaviors. I loved creating lessons that would reach all my students and their learning needs. So what happened to my teaching passion? I didn’t actually get to work with the students as often as I would have liked. I was constantly in meetings, writing reports, writing IEPs, responding to parents and administrators. And honestly, it was exhausting. When I was young, unmarried and didn’t have my own family, I was able to commit myself entirely to that job. But after getting married and having my own family, I found that I didn’t have energy when I got home. And when I was in my classroom, I was so tired from 3am feedings and diaper changes, that I couldn’t give my all to those students. I switched to a less intense class, hoping I would be less stressed, but I still wasn’t happy. So what was I supposed to do now? I had spent years on this road and it was the only job I knew.
Everyone always talks about following your passion, but I didn’t know what my passion was. I don’t have talents that are obvious so I wasn’t sure what I was good at. I had to do a lot of soul searching and talking with my own life coach to find what energized me, what made me vibrate inside. Turns out I have a lot of things I’m passionate about but two of these stood out as things that I’ve always been interested in, psychology and writing. While listening to a self-development podcast, I realized how much I still loved psychology. I realized that my talent is analyzing (some people, like my husband, friends and family members might say my talent it overanalyzing J). Seriously though, I love to research everything and figure out why we do the things we do and then use that information to help others. But I knew I didn’t want to go back to school to become a therapist, I wanted something different. As I was reading a book written by a life coach, it hit me. I could be a life coach! So, of course, I researched this idea and realized how much I wanted to do it.
Along with psychology, I’ve always had stories running through my head. I’ve always narrated and authored my life. It dawned on me that I actually liked to write. I wasn’t sure if I was good and I wasn’t sure what to write about, but I knew that I needed to do it. But here’s the thing that kept nagging at me, I knew I had to use our grief from our miscarriages to help others. I knew there was no way we went through all that pain just to let it go and let others suffer without support. So through a lot of talking with my own life coach and a lot of meditation, I realized that I needed to use all of these passions to help others through their grief and provide a place where women could go to feel supported through the hardest times in their life. And that’s when I decided to create a blog to show women how I got through the hard times. At the same time I decided to become a life coach and specialize in grief support. Bang!!! The moment I figured this out, it was like something in me lit on fire! I knew that was my true calling. Every time I sit down to write, it energizes me. Everything about it lights me on fire. And through this blog, I’ve had people reach out to me about miscarriages and infertility and I’ve had the opportunity to help them and give them a shoulder to cry on. I love being able to support them and be there for them when they need it the most because I know, from experience, just how important it is to have someone who understands the pain that goes along with miscarriages.
So, am I sad to leave the only profession and the best job I’ve ever had? Yes, a little. After all, if it weren’t for that job, I wouldn’t have met my husband. I wouldn’t have met some of the most incredible group of ladies that worked in room 408 and who became life-long friends. I wouldn’t have been inspired by some of the best special ed teachers and behavior analysts one could ever work with. Do I believe that you have one path? Yes and no. I do believe that I wouldn’t be where I am if I hadn’t detoured (off roading, is more like it) off my path. But I also believe that you have a passion. It might be buried deep in you and it might have been ignored for a while because you listened to other people’s opinions, but it’s still there. You just need to find that thing, the thing that makes you vibrate inside. The thing that lights you on fire and gives you energy. Now I finally feel like I’m back on the right path. I have a feeling of happiness and excitement about my future that I haven’t felt in a long time.
Why am I showing you these pictures? Never, in the past, would I have put a picture on the internet, for everyone to see, where I looked somewhat “fluffy”. But I’m over it!! I’m so over this skinny bullshit! Most of you who know me, know that I am a huge fan of Rachel Hollis. Recently, she’s been preaching about being healthy and loving your body for it’s strength and not it’s weight. I believe this to the core of my being. But sometimes I stumble. Sometimes, I think “girl, why isn’t your stomach flat anymore?” “girl, where did your six pack go?” You wanna know where it went? It went to my 8 pregnancies!!! It went to my two baby boys, one of them being 10.2 pounds!!! I know. I know. No one wants to hear about a girl who was a size two that went to a size 4. Woe is me, right? But that’s not the point here. The point is, we, as women and a society, put way too much value on weight and fitting into a certain idea of what we are “supposed” to look like.
Here’s the thing. I’ve always been skinny. I’m not saying this to be arrogant, it wasn’t anything that I did, it was just in my genes. And because I was so skinny, much of my identity was based around how I looked and how skinny I was. When I was in high school, I remember a friend saying to me “you’re in the under 100 pound club”. What the fuck is that? Apparently, it was a group of girls who identified themselves based on their weight. What?!! Gosh, I wonder why I’ve based so much of my identity on my weight!? (palm to face). In college, I specifically remember my friend and I saying that if we ever got older and had pooches, we would just die. Guess what? I have a pooch now. And I’m pretty sure it isn’t going away. But you know what? Who the fuck cares?!! When I was in high school and college, I wasn’t healthy. Let me say that again for those that may have started dozing off. I WASN’T HEALTHY!!!! I had a Crossfit coach joke with me that I was “skinny fat”. Yes, I was skinny, but I wasn’t healthy. I ate Taco Bell AT LEAST once a day, sometimes twice. After track practice, I would go home and eat TWO rows of Oreos! (I wanted to make sure to leave a row for other family members. Cause I’m nice like that). The point is, I wasn’t healthy. I was skinny, but that meant nothing about my health. For years, ok, decades, I’ve had this idea of what healthy looked like and how my body should look. I knew I could have a six pack. I knew I could fit into a size 0. Until I had children. My body has warriored through 6 miscarriages and 2 full term pregnancies, one of which, I gained 60 pounds!! But my perception of my body has had to change. I now have to look at the amazing things that it has done, and not judge it based on it’s weight. You guys, a few weeks ago, I ran a ridiculous Ragnar Race. My body was able to run 16 miles over 32 hours on no sleep and peanut butter sandwiches. I was surrounded by seriously, amazingly strong women. Women who run marathons, 50k’s, 100k,s Boston Marathon qualifiers, trail runners, you name it. And no one had the same body type. Every person was built differently. Some probably had 6 packs, but most of us did not. Most of us did not have “runner’s bodies”. But every one of us were crazy strong and ran for a reason. When I started training for this race, I immediately started gaining weight. I was pissed!! How the hell could I be training for a race, be running two a days and be gaining weight?! Well, my body was trying to compensate and was very confused, so I ate non-stop for a month. Seriously, a month. But, it did what it was supposed to do and got me through an incredible weekend. Our bodies are built to do what they are supposed to do.
I just wish that, we, as women, would stop judging other women, and our own bodies, based on how skinny we are. I wish we would stop comparing our post children bodies to our pre children bodies. I wish we would look at each other, at ourselves, and realize how much we have done and how strong we are. How beautiful we are. Instead, lets look at other women and see how brave they are. Let’s look at ourselves and see our bodies for what they are, warriors. Our bodies are incredible! Let’s look at our bodies and see the strength. Let’s look at our pooched stomachs and see a house where our babies grew. Let’s look at our arms and see the hugs they have given. Let's look at our saggy ass boobs and see the nourishment we gave our babies. Let’s look at our legs and see the gymnasium our children see or the races they have carried us through. Another one of my idols, Brendon Burchard, states that our bodies are like power plants. We do not just have energy, we need to create energy and in order to do that we need to move our bodies. Working out gives me the energy I need to accomplish everything I want to accomplish through the day. It gives me the energy to chase after my kids after a long day of work. It give me the energy to focus on my dreams after putting my kids to bed. And it gives me the energy to spend quality time with my husband to continue to create an exceptional relationship. It focuses my mind and gives me that time to myself that I crave so badly. Working out should not be about looking a certain way or to be "skinny". It should be about health and creating a body that supports you and everything you need to do. Will I continue to work out and run? Yes, but not for the intention to be skinny. Instead, for the intention to be healthy and full of energy. Working out has a different intent now, and it isn’t to be a size zero or to be in the “under 100 pounds club”.
“I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver” Dr. Maya Angelou
We all have that person in our lives. You know the one. The one that infiltrates your happiness. The one that can knock you down, no matter how good or positive you’re feeling. Maybe it’s a colleague. Maybe it’s your boss. Maybe it’s a family member. Maybe it’s an ex. Over the last couple of years, I’ve had my fair share of these people. It seemed that, without fail, every time I was getting my groove back on and feeling amazing, that person would somehow come back into my life and challenge my happiness. A few months ago I was explaining this phenomenon with my life coach (yes, I had a life coach. Thank God!). I told him that it seemed like every time I was feeling good, someone was ready to knock me down. In this case it was a specific person that kept creeping back. I could have literally been dancing around my house, feeling energized and ready to take on the world and then, BAM!!, I’d get a text message and would be brought down immediately. My coach explained that he thought it was the universe’s way of teaching me how to face these situations head on, and that if I didn’t conquer them, they’d keep coming back until I learned how to deal with them. He then asked the question that changed my whole outlook, “What can you do when these situations arise? When this person tries to knock you down?” The first thought that entered my mind was “Give more love.” I know!!! This sounds so whoooy and new agey. And maybe it is, but let me explain what I meant. I truly believe that you can counteract hate and anger with love. That when someone puts negative energy out into the world, we need to put more love into the world in order to balance out the universe. Stick with me here. Think about it. How do you feel when you help someone? How do you feel when you volunteer? As Dr. Maya Angelou states, “giving liberates the soul”. So my thought was that every time this person added negativity into my life, I was going to do something good, something positive, whether it was going home and giving an extra hug to my kids, or helping Joe by taking the garbage out. And when something really bad happened, I would go out and volunteer.
Did you know that there is clinical research showing that when you volunteer and help others, it puts you into a better mood? Don’t believe me? Try it. It helps the mood so much, that doctors even prescribe it to those that are suffering from mild depression. I’m not saying that volunteering will help cure depression, I truly do believe that if you are clinically depressed, you should try meds. But I do believe that if you are in a funk and not feeling yourself, sometimes you need to step outside of yourself and give back to the community. So here’s what happened when I started implementing this into my life. First of all, I noticed that instead of focusing on the negative situation and the person, I would immediately start thinking of what I could do to help someone else. So instead of spiraling into that negativity and letting that anger take over, I would immediately start feeling better, because I knew someone else would benefit from this situation. Everyone benefited. My kids got extra lovin, my husband didn’t have to do as many chores and the house was cleaner. It got to the point that when Joe would come home and I was doing the chores he normally did, he would respond with “uh oh, what did she do this time?” Hahaha!!! But you know what? It worked! I felt better because I was helping others. And when a lot of negativity infiltrated my life in one week, I would gather up the kids and we would go volunteer. Other people were benefitting and more love was being put into the universe. My children and I now volunteer on a regular basis and are seeing how they can help others. On top of that, I started using this in my daily interactions. Whenever someone would frustrate me, I would think to myself “how can I counteract this negativity?” The longer I did this, the easier it became. And honestly, I don’t think the negative situation and that negative person has decreased in my life but my attitude towards is has changed. Negative situations and negative people are always going to be around but how we choose to respond to those situations can change. I’m not saying we all need to be Polly Anna, but it does feel so much better to respond in a positive way than to respond in a negative way.
I think we all know this, divorce f**king sucks! But I think it’s important that we talk about the reality of it, cause we are all affected by it in some way. No, Joe and I are not getting divorced! After seeing what our friends and family have gone through, we are in it for the long haul (that, and we still actually like each other).
My parents divorced when I was 23, so I didn’t grow up with divorced parents and didn’t have to navigate that life. However, that doesn’t mean my brothers and I don’t have to deal with some uncomfortableness when our parents are at the same event (ie, weddings). Joe and his ex-wife divorced when Charlie was 1.5. And now I’ve watched my brother go through a divorce with two young children. I’ve been through enough divorces, and talked to enough people who have been through a divorce, to have learned some lessons, and a few of those were unexpected. But first, a story.
A few weeks ago I was running one of my longest runs in preparation for my race. I had A LOT of time to think and reflect, and I kept coming back to events that had occurred two nights earlier at our son’s school auction. Now, I love any event that includes drinking wine, dancing and hanging out with my friends and husband, so I was really looking forward to this event. At one point I sat down at my friend’s table and introduced myself to one of the moms of Jackson’s friend. Our boys are both a little mischievous together so we had some laughs about the joys of raising boys. At one point she mentioned that she already knew who I was. I thought “oh, well yea, we have mutual friends”. She continued and stated that my ex-sister in law’s parents lived next to her parents and they had heard all of the drama of the divorce. She quickly added that she had told her parents that she didn’t want to judge Joe and I based on the rumors that were going around. Smart lady! But I was floored. How could someone, who had never met me, known all about my family and the hardships we were going through? All I kept thinking during my run was “what was being said about my family?” I had already heard a few lies from other people but I kept wondering what else was being said. I thought about my parent’s divorce and Joe’s divorce and all the anger that had surrounded those situations. (and those were pretty amicable compared to some other divorces I’ve seen). I thought about how focused we were on making sure everyone knew that we were not in the wrong, that Joe was the one that had suffered. I thought about my brother’s divorce and how focused we were on making sure everyone knew that the rumors that were being told about my family and my children, were lies. And these thoughts kept creeping into my head “keep your eye on your own paper” “stay in your lane” “other people’s opinions are none of your business”. And on mile 8, it hit me, “It’s time to stop all this bull shit”. I’m done! Divorce is awful! There is so much pain and anger surrounding it and the last thing we need is more fuel added to the fire. What we should be focusing on are the kids and how this terrible experience is affecting them. How do we make such a bad situation a little easier on these kids? I know. Everyone always says “I have the kid’s best interest at heart”. But is that true? I think we all want to believe it, but I’m not sure we all follow through with it. I know for a fact, that I have contributed to the gossip surrounding all of these divorces. I’ve lost friends and family members through divorce. And honestly, I’ve lost people from my life that I never expected to lose because people take “sides”. I believe I’ve even lost potential friends because some people won’t talk to me because I am Joe’s wife and they side with his ex. Is this really how we want to live? How is this helping anything or anyone? How does this help Charlie manage going from house to house? How does this help my niece and nephew navigate this new life of theirs? I am constantly talking about adding positivity to the world and helping others when they need help. It’s time I practice what I preach. So, I’m done. I’m out. I throw in the towel. I’m staying in my own lane, keeping my eyes on my own paper and not caring about anyone else’s opinion. I will not participate in this negative talk anymore and I will not add fuel to this fire. Sure, you want to vent or need advice, I’m here for you. But I will not be the person you can turn to anymore to gossip about other people’s hard times. These are people’s real lives, real pain and real emotions. Let’s do what is best for those children and get them through the hardest time of their lives. Cause guess what? Divorce f**king sucks! But we can help make it a little easier. Are you with me?
I don’t know how to write this so I’m just going to start and hope that it makes sense. I feel the need to write about this subject immediately, which means I’m not going to do a lot of editing.
A couple of things happened this week at the same time that made me sick to my stomach. The first one is something that everyone knows about- the college entrance scandal. The scandal that involved wealthy, well known actors and actresses buying their children’s way into prestigious colleges. The second event was something that happened to my six year old son. He got in trouble at his after school day care program. Now, this isn’t the first time he’s gotten in trouble, but the frequency has been increasing in the last month. My son most likely has ADHD and Auditory Processing Disorder. What does this mean? It means that Jackson has a very hard time controlling his body. It means that when you tell him something, he needs to be told in more than one way in order for him to understand it. It means that he is easily overstimulated, especially in loud, active environments (classrooms, restaurants, after school programs etc.) It means that if he doesn’t do what you asked him to do, it isn’t because he is being defiant, it’s because he actually didn’t hear you because he was distracted. He doesn’t fit into the “typical” child mold. School will always be hard for him because our current school system does not reward children like him. But is he a bad child? Is he a trouble student? No! He’s probably one of the sweetest, funniest boys you will actually meet. Don’t get me wrong, Joe and I are not the parents who think that our child is perfect and the teacher is wrong. We know Jackson is hard to work with. We know he can be frustrating. We had Jackson’s spring conference this week and his teacher asked me if Jackson frustrates us. I literally laughed out loud and said “yes, every darn day!” For these reasons, Joe and I started going to parenting therapy in order to get the tools to best work with Jackson and what he needs. We had found that we were constantly frustrated with him and yelling non-stop in order to get him to follow a direction. Our yelling has decreased substantially and we are learning to work with his strengths. What we know is that Jackson loves to please people and responds very well to positive reinforcement. But our current school system and society do not see Jackson’s spirit and joy for living as something good. They don’t see his strengths, they see that he isn’t being obedient. Going back to his after school program. In the last month there have been changes in the staff. There is one staff member who believes that all children need to follow directions at all times and if they aren’t, there will be consequences. Fine. Children need to learn to follow rules, I get that. But as a six year old, they are still learning what these rules are and instead of consequences, can we try positive reinforcement? When I suggested this and trying a sticker chart (a tool that has worked in the past for Jackson) his response was “well, I mean, I guess we could try that as long as no one else knows about it”. I’M SORRY, WHAT!!!???? Why do we have to hide that? Why do we have to make it look like every child fits into a perfect mold? Why can’t other children see that not everyone is the same and their needs may be different? So I have a couple problems with this. The first is, what’s going to happen when this teacher talks to the other teachers in the day care? Is he going to tell them that Jackson is a trouble child? Is he going to say he’s a hard child? So then what? Now other teachers think that he is hard before they even know him, before the even see his strengths? And then it becomes this self-fulfilling prophecy, where Jackson then starts acting poorly because that is what is expected of him. I see this all the time in the school system and when I worked as a kindergarten teacher. A child is labeled as being “bad” or “difficult”. The teachers then tell the other teachers and soon all the teachers at the school know this student and their deficits instead of their strengths.
Here’s my second problem with the fact that we expect all of our children to behave in one perfect way: our society puts way too much emphasis on how things look on the outside. This was just proven in the college scandal. For God’s sake!!! These people literally could not accept the fact that their children didn’t live up to their expectations and instead of loving them for who they are, they bought their way into prestigious colleges, all to look good. What the hell is wrong with our society?!!! Why the heck can’t we accept the way our children are? Why can’t we accept that not everyone is the same? Our world needs every type of person and their strengths. And not everyone is fit to go to college, let alone an ivy league. We live in a society where we value selfies, Instagram feeds and Facebook posts more than we value our children’s well-being and teaching them to be themselves. Will my son go to college? I have no idea. What I do know is that my husband and I will support him and his strengths and let him know that whatever path he takes will make us happy, as long has he is happy. Can we please just learn to accept children the way they are? It is our job, as parents and teachers, to teach them how to be good people and how to survive in life. It is not our job to judge them and demonize them for not fitting into the mold that we think they should fit in. I don’t know how to solve this problem except to teach my own children that we love them for who they are, and I hope you will do the same for your own children and students.
Why do I run? Because I can. Why do I get up at an ungodly hour in the morning to run? Because I can. Why do I train for ridiculous races that push me way out of my comfort zone? Because I can. At least once a week, someone will ask me why I do these crazy things and the short reason I give is “because I can”. Did I get back into running after having children to help lose some of the baby weight? Absolutely!!! (for goodness sake, I gained 60 pounds with my last son, I needed some way to get rid of that weight) But why do I continue to run and why am I still motivated to crawl out of bed way before the sun is even up? BECAUSE I CAN!!!
I’ve always been a runner. (see picture above ) I was always the fastest on the soccer field, the softball field and the volleyball court. Don’t let this fool you. I had absolutely no talent in these sports. Usually you need to have some sort of coordination to play these sports, and coordination is something I was not born with! But, I could absolutely race my brothers to the car and win “shotgun” (again, see picture above. Yes, I am beating my brother). So I joined the track team and continued sprinting. I was definitely not the fastest on our track team (kind of hard to do that when Tiffany Roberts, you know, the women’s Olympic soccer player, is on your track team and she was lapping the boys!) but I loved the runner’s high and I loved the friends I made while running. But after high school, my running stopped. Between bunions and surgery for my endometriosis, I got out of the running routine. Until I turned 30. What happened when I turned 30? Well, I went through a nasty break up and decided to join Team and Training to train for a half marathon. Secretly, I thought I’d meet my future husband on the running trails. That didn’t happen. What did happen was that I made some amazing friends and ended up running four half marathons (some might say I ran two full marathons. Ok, I’m the only one that says that). But then life hit and I couldn’t run.
You guys!!!! There were years that I couldn’t run. There were years that I could hardly get myself out of bed because I was so sad about the miscarriages. There were years when I was literally told that I couldn’t run because it would make me miscarry. There were years when I was in too much pain, physically and emotionally, when I just couldn’t manage to move my body that way. And then, after having babies, I was in that stage of solitary confinement when my babies needed me. I was nursing and teaching full time and was just too tired to get out and run. After my second son turned 1, my colleague and running partner, encouraged me to join her on runs after work. Did the mommy guilt try to take over and stop me from 30 min of self-care? Yup! Sure did!! But my husband encouraged me to take the time for myself. So my colleague and I started running again and I was in heaven. The runner’s high is no joke you guys! And being able to relax with a friend who endlessly encouraged me, even when running up that hill might make me pee my pants, was an amazing relief from the grind of nursing and changing diapers. If you’ve read my past blog entries, you know that shortly after getting my running groove back, I found out I was pregnant, for the 7th time. I immediately stopped running because I knew that my body had a hard time holding on to pregnancies when I work out too much. I ended up losing that baby at 10 weeks. That was the most painful thing I have ever experienced. I didn’t run for almost two years after that! Yes, I would go on an occasional run, but nothing consistent and motivation was definitely lacking. It wasn’t until I started down this personal development journey that I realized just how lucky I am and just how important exercise is. Yes, I do consider myself lucky. Were the six miscarriages tragic and awful? Absolutely. But I was still alive. I was still able to move my body. So I started running again.
Why do I run at 4:30am? Because if I wait until the end of the day, I will talk myself out of a run. I’ll be too tired. Something will come up and I’ll have to go home after work. I’ll have to go to the grocery store to get last min dinner items (hahaha, just kidding, I don’t go to the grocery store) But, the important thing is that I know myself well enough to know that I will not run after work. I also know that I have much more energy if I get my run done in the morning. Sounds counterintuitive, hu? It is weird, but it’s true. The first week of getting up early to run or workout, is really hard. But after that, you actually start generating energy and have more energy through the day. So I get up at 4:30 am. Is it ever easy to get up at that hour? Nope!!! I curse my alarm clock every single morning. BUT, I do it! Because I can! I’m not assuming that everyone reading this loves to go out and run 3-4 miles a day. But there is something out there that you love to do. Something that brings you complete joy and gives you energy. Something that you aren’t doing. Why? Why aren’t you doing that thing? You’re allowed to do something for yourself, to take time for yourself. Don’t have time? Bull shit! If it’s something you enjoy and something that gives you energy, you can find the time. Your body was made to do it! Go do it! Because you can!!!!
A couple weeks ago, Charlie, my step daughter, had a volleyball tournament. I showed up a little late because Jackson had a pine derby race beforehand. Anyone who has been to a volleyball tournament knows that there is a lot of down time. During this time, the girls usually eat, mess around and just have fun. The parents usually talk and catch up. You know? All the normal things that people do at events like these. At this particular event, I started chatting with another mom. She was super nice and we talked for a long time, laughing and actually enjoying each other’s company. You’re probably wondering why I’m telling you such a boring story. Here’s why this is story is so important and why it stands out. It was the FIRST time a mom at one of these events had talked to me. This was the first time I wasn’t treated like the step mom or the “other woman” (which I’m not!). I’ve been attending all of Charlie’s sporting events (unless I was in labor) since she was 3. Soccer games, gymnastics, softball, volleyball… And it took 10 years for a mom to actually talk to me!
What I am about to write is going to really piss some people off. I’m not going to apologize because this is the truth that I am living and what I have experienced as a step mom. Being a step mom is LONELY!! First of all, before having your own biological children, other parents don’t actually see you as a parent. I can’t tell you how often I would participate in a conversation about parenting and a friend would turn to me and say “you’re so lucky you don’t have to deal with this yet because you don’t have children”. Knife. To. The. Heart. What people don’t realize is that being a step parent is just as hard as being a parent and often times harder.
My step daughter is 13. She’s been attending the same school since she was in kindergarten. When Joe and I were first dating and married, I gave a serious effort into meeting Charlie’s classmate’s parents. I attended school events, sporting events, club events, you name it. I put myself out there and would nervously approach other moms and try to have conversations with them. I can count on one hand (without all the fingers on that hand) how many times the moms would actually respond and engage in conversation with me. They would look at me like I was crazy or like they were betraying Charlie’s mom’s friendship. Here’s the thing, I NEVER did anything wrong. I wasn’t the other woman. I hadn’t broken up the marriage. In fact, Joe didn’t do anything wrong either, his ex-wife wanted the divorce. I met Joe after his divorce, fell in love with him and Charlie and wanted to do what was best for Charlie. So there was really no reason for anyone to treat me like I was the other woman. Every year, Joe would give my contact information to the school office so they could include me on the school email list. After all, I was actively part of Charlie’s life and would need to know the schedule and happenings of the school. EVERY year they didn’t put me on the list. EVERY YEAR!!!!! So every week for the last 9 years, Joe forwards the weekly email to me so that I know what is going on. Charlie has a friend, a supposed best friend. This girl’s mom is very good friends with Charlie’s mom. Knowing that Charlie wanted to hang out with her best friend on the weekend, I reached out to the best friend’s mom and asked if her daughter could come over and play. Four times she said no and after that she actually just stopped responding. When Charlie was in Gymnastics, I took her to a practice. One of her friends from school attended the same practice and the mom was there. Now, that particular day I had had a pretty rough day at work (almost every day as an intensive special ed teacher is rough). I was zoning out and the other mom walked by me and muttered under her breath “you can try smiling”. Uuuuuummmm, ok!!! You guys! I consider myself a pretty nice, fun person. I don’t think I’m a bitch. I try to be outgoing and make people feel at ease in awkward situations like these. I know it isn’t easy attending events when both sets of parents are there. I know the teacher is uncomfortable at Back to School Night or conferences of the Science Fair when we are all there. I get it!! But does that give you permission to be rude?
So, here’s the reason why I’m writing this. We all know someone who is divorced. We all are in situations where there are step parents. Go talk to them! Include them. Trust me, they feel more awkward than you do. If a step parent is attending all of those events, knowing that they are going to be looked at rudely, knowing that there might be some engagement with the ex that is uncomfortable, knowing that they are going to be ignored, and yet they are still there, they are good people. They are trying to do what is best for the child and make the best out of a hard situation. So please, go up to them. Engage in a conversation. Talk to them like they are normal, because they are. They did not want to be in this situation, they just are and all they want is to be treated like a parent.
This is a blog about coming out of the dark and coming into myself. There have been so many ways I’ve been in the dark, from my job to parenting to miscarriages to being a step mom. I’ve been on a path of self-discovery for the last year and am finally finding what my passions are again. It’s funny how you can lose yourself so easily and lose the spark you used to have for life. I’ve found that light again and have learned so many things over the last year that I thought I’d put them here in case it helps anyone else or resonates with others that have lost themselves.
Oh the trenches. You know what they are. Work. Parenting. Relationships. You haven’t experienced it? Just me? Ok, well let me explain. It started 41 years ago… hahaha. Just kidding. But it did start about 11 years ago. I was a new, bright eyed special ed teacher. I LOVED working with the special needs population. I had worked at a camp for children with disabilities, at group homes and as an aid in special ed classes. The natural progression would be to become a special ed teacher. So I did. The first year was great! (did you read that? The first year! I stayed at a job for 10 years even though only 1 year was good). Most people think it’s the student population that is exhausting. Nope! It’s the administration. Everyone has their complaints about teaching, but this is my unique story. After my first year, where the principal and special ed department revered me, I started getting berated and harassed by my administration. I was told I wasn’t a good teacher, over and over. And I believed them. I chose to listen to a few people who weren’t even specialist in my field. People who had never worked in this arena before. Why did I choose to believe them even though people who were actually good in the special ed arena told me how great a teacher I was? Because they had power? I made it my mission to prove to them that I was the best teacher out there, and they fought me tooth and nail. Is there a happy ending to this story? Eh, not really. Did the administrators apologize to me? Yes, they actually did. But not before they stole my confidence along the way. 8 years later I finally quit and changed jobs. Do you know how freeing it is to work for someone that actually appreciates your skill set? That is one example of the trenches. Need another example? I have one.
Who’s had kids? Seriously, are you in the trenches right now or have you come out of it? If you’re in the trenches, you probably don’t know what I’m talking about. There’s this time in your life when you have children and you are consumed by them. You go from being pregnant to being the source of food and comfort to this little human. You go to work, pump, pump some more, and rush home to hold your little one. Guess what? That actually ends. I know! It’s weird, but it does. You actually get out of solitary confinement! There was this time last year when I realized I didn’t have to rush home so quickly because my kids were actually happy with whoever was taking care of them. I could go for a run. I could possibly go have a drink with a friend. My husband and I could go on date night and stay out past 8:30. Part of me was saddened by this but another part of me felt so free. Guys, don’t get me wrong. I seriously love being with my kids, they are so stinking cute and hilarious. But it turns out that sometimes you need to take care of yourself and do things that bring you joy. That’s another example of being in the trenches. Guess what? I have more examples. But I’ll save them for another post because this is getting long and if you’re like me, you read these blogs while sitting on the toilet or waiting for the shower to warm up.
Here’s the thing. You actually have to get yourself out of the trenches. It doesn’t just happen magically. You have to work at it. Every. Single. Day. I work at it. Every. Single. Day. Was it easy to leave that job? Hell no!!! I had serious anxiety about it. And to be honest, my first year I had serious PTSD from my previous job. It took me a full year to feel like people weren’t always judging me. Did I and do I still have mom guilt creep in when I go out with friends or for a run. Yup. But I’m working on it. I know it’s important that I have my own personality and that my boys grow up seeing a strong momma that takes care of herself. Don’t let the fear of starting something new or the fear of mom guilt stop you from getting out of the trenches. Trust me, from someone who has come out of the trenches, it’s well worth the struggle to get out of it! So here I am, writing a blog, letting myself be absolutely vulnerable in order to hopefully help anyone else that might feel like they are stuck in the trenches or who are just coming out of solitary confinement. I’ll share with you anything that I have gone through or discovered and I promise to always be truthful and open. So here we go…
I'm an average girl who has discovered her passion for self-development after warrioring (yes, it's a word) through 6 miscarriages. I took that passion and applied it to helping others find their passions through High Performance Coaching. Boy mom to two "energetic boys" and navigating the art of being a step mom to a teenage girl, all while working daily on maintaining an authentic relationship with the best husband around. Sometimes mindful. Sometimes a runner. Always a little crazy!