Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Boy


“Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time.”
~Maya Angelou

I'll never forget the night I met him.

I had been divorced for almost 6 months and I had just walked away from a failed attempt at a "rebound" relationship. 

My heart was so tired. 

I had officially given up.

We had taken one of my very best friends out for her birthday and as usual dinner turned into dancing as it always does with her. 

So, we took her dancing, because it was her birthday and that's what all amazing friends do. I was the driver a.k.a the babysitter, so I found a table, situated myself with all their purses and drinks, and I began to watch them dance. 

It was a good night.

A good night for forgetting.

A good night for allowing yourself to be carried away by the loud thump of the music and the healing that comes from a much needed girls night with your very best friends. 

He was totally unexpected.

Totally. 

The next thing I knew he was sitting next to me trying to have a conversation with me over the extremely loud music. I smiled. I nodded. I barely caught his name and filed it in the back of my mind as just another guy in another bar. I looked toward the dance floor. 

Wasn't my friend ready to leave yet?

I turned back to him trying to hear him. He laid his phone on the table in front of us.

He was asking me for my number. 

I don't know what it was that told me to do it or where my extremely jaded heart managed to find that spark of hope, but I reached down and typed it in his phone.

Suddenly the girls were ready. I was being shuffled out the door. 

As we walked to my car, they teased me. I laughed and said, "Yeah, right. I bet he never calls."

And then we heard him running up behind me and calling for me. I stopped and turned around-wondering what in the world he could possibly want.

He smiled, "I didn't get the last digit of your number."

And my life has never been the same. 

****

The thing about hope is that it begs you to believe even when your faith is worn thin. 

Hope takes your tear stained face in its hands and says, "Hold on. It's coming." 

Hope reminds you that there is still good in this world, even when everything around you seems so dark. 

It's a beautiful flame.

A ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. 

It's the seams that hold your broken heart together.

That's what he has become to me. 

He represents my hope. 

He is everything I never knew I needed, but now I can't imagine ever living without. 

He is the spark. 

The reminder of what it is to never give up.

Even when you are so worn out and tired from the journey, you can't give up.

Because what's waiting for you around the next corner, is the reason for it all-for every heartache, tear, and bruise to your soul.

A love with no end. 

A love that looks at you in the most dark and broken place of your entire existence, and says, "None of that matters."

None of it.

A love that chooses you. 

Just you.

Every. single. day. 

A love that has grown from the ashes of a condemned life. 

A love that is full of grace.

Beautiful, undeserving grace. 

****

Yes, I am blessed. 

Blessed beyond measure. 

And my heart has never been so full. 

I am thankful for him for all of those reasons, and so many more. 

I am thankful for mornings-for every single day that I wake up and he is still here loving me with a love I cannot possibly deserve. 

I am thankful for the way he loves my daughter. The way he has just quietly come along side us and fit perfectly into our lives. 

I am thankful for the way he loves me in front of my daughter-for the amazing example he is to her of what she should someday wait for in a man. 

I am thankful for the way he has become my partner and my very best friend. He is everything my heart could possibly need and so much more. 

I am thankful for his heart that not only beats for me, but for others. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and the way he loves people, especially his family. He is good. SO good. And he gives without ever expecting anything in return. He is the most loyal friend you could ever hope to have and I am thankful to call him mine. 

****

A year ago today, I wrote the post, The Boy I'm Waiting For

It seems fitting to let you know that I've found him. 

As I read through this list that was made months before I ever met him, I have to smile because it was like my heart already knew him. The Lord was preparing me for this boy who would come into my life so unexpectedly and would be everything I ever wanted on that list and so much more. 

All it took was a little hope, a little faith, and a best friend who always wants to go dancing. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Co-parenting Diaries


"Your children will become who you are.
So be who you want them to be."
~Anonymous

Let me just start by saying, I am NOT an expert on co-parenting and to be honest, I don't think I ever will be. 

There are days upon days when I feel like for every five steps we take forward, we turn around and take ten steps back. 

Because let's face it, trying to parent with someone who doesn't really like you and who is no longer in the business of caring what you think is hard. 

Like really hard. 

But, regardless of my non-expertise, the Lord has been working on me to share my triumphs and struggles, and how I am trying to make co-parenting work for my daughter.

So, please forgive me in advance if I step on anyone's toes. I know that everyone's situation is different and that not all parents are in a position to co-parent after divorce. I am also well aware that some single moms face a host of challenges when trying to co-parent with the father of their children and visa versa.  I know that my thoughts and experiences may not help everyone, but if they can at least help you find a light at the end of your co-parenting tunnel, it will be worth it. 

Let me just start by saying that I am blessed. Like ridiculously blessed. Despite the heartache that I have endured over the past three years, I wake up every morning with the reminder that the Lord has not turned His back on me. He has loved me through my darkest hours and pulled me from a pit of despair only to bless me over and over. This is the number one reason that I know that I am on the right track with my life. 

One of His biggest blessings is that my daughter has been blessed with two parents who love her very, very much and who are committed to being the best parents they can be.  I am not one of these single mom's that has to fight tooth and nail for my daughter's dad to pay attention to her or help provide for her. My daughter's dad is a great father. Even on the days I don't particularly like him, he is still a great father. Period. I had to learn to accept this fact months ago, because I knew that for us to be able to successfully co-parent together, I would need to make the fact that he is such a great father my mantra and I have.

In addition to recognizing that he is a great dad, despite his faults, I have also taken up the habit of praying for my daughter's dad. Let me tell you, it is incredibly hard to "hate" someone you have been convicted to pray for and it has become the number one way I have found to keep my attitude and my words in check.

Before I meet with him to drop my daughter off, I pray.

Before I talk with him about anything of any kind of significance (tuition payments, holiday arrangements, parenting issues, etc.), I pray.

Before I lose my temper with him over something really dumb or something really important, I set my phone down, I walk away, and I pray.

I pray A LOT these days. It is the only way I have found to keep my focus and to keep me from turning into a crazy ex-wife on steroids.

Do I succeed at this every single day? No. But, ever since I started praying through our situation, I have found that my "bat-sh*t crazy" moments have decreased from once a week to once every couple of months and I feel like I just keep making progress.

Over the last year, I have learned  through prayer that we communicate and work through things so much better when I choose not to be a crazy person. I know this to be true, because let's face it: we're divorced. I don't have to listen to him yell at me anymore, and he no longer has to put up with my fits. We have turned over our rights to treat each other that way, and we have to work on viewing our relationship like a business partnership instead of on the deeply intimate level it once was. My ex-husband and I are now "in the business" of raising our daughter together. And just like any business transaction, great communication is key.

I know that this may seem a little heartless and deeply impersonal to view co-parenting my child this way, but I believe it is the only way I have been able to separate my personal problems and hurts that are associated with my ex-husband and our divorce from the fact that we still have to raise our daughter together.

At the end of the day, he isn't going anywhere and neither am I, so what good does it do to anyone, especially my daughter, for us to be at each other's throats all the time?

It doesn't. 

So instead of stamping my feet and pretending like I'm the only one who is right, I have had to learn to give a little. Instead of screaming and threatening "to take him back to court", I have had to learn to let some things go. I have to take a deep breath and walk away from my phone A LOT. I have to pick my battles and make sure they are worth it, and I have had to learn that I am the only one responsible for my emotions and my actions. I am the only one who has that power, and it's up to me whether I let someone else have that power or not. 

In real life, I am not a crazy person. So, it was high time for me to quit acting like I was. And after much resistance, I bit my tongue, got a grip, and forced myself to remember that I had a job to do. A job that is five years old, 3 1/2 feet tall, and still a very long way from adulthood. Once I accepted this and added more prayer to my daily life, I was able to do a better job of  tackling the challenges that come with co-parenting including the challenge of future step-parents.

Not only has my daughter been blessed with a great dad, but she has been blessed through the significant others of her dad and I.

A major fear for me when my ex and I first separated was all of the unknown women that I thought he would be bringing in and out of our daughter's life. And in the beginning, I really struggled with it. The thought of him eventually finding another woman and making her his wife literally used to make me physically ill. Not because I wanted him back, but because the thought of my daughter calling another woman, "Mom", was more than I could bear.I would lash out at every woman he brought around our daughter, including the woman he has currently been with for over a year now.

It took me a long time to accept the truth that his current girlfriend had nothing to do with our divorce, and so therefore I needed to quit taking my hurt and resentment out on her just like I had watched my mother do to every single woman my father has ever dated since their divorce eight years ago. Even though I had always said I never wanted to be like that, the truth is, I was being like that, and it needed to stop.

So, I let down my guard and opened my heart to this woman that I know I will be sharing my daughter with for a very long time. She is a good woman. She is kind to my daughter, and my daughter loves her. She is everything I have prayed that God would bring into my daughter's life in the form of a step mother, and I am grateful for her. Truly. I don't even say that with a forced smile and gritted teeth. I say that because it's the truth.

Yes, we still tread lightly around each other as we try to find our middle ground. I phrase my questions to her over and over again in my head just to make sure they sound kind and respectful before I send them to her. My daughter talks about her constantly, and I let her. I only praise her to my daughter, because I want my daughter to know that it's okay to love her. There is no resentment here. And while she and I still have a lot to learn about each other and how exactly our relationship is going to work, I have seen huge strides in the direction I have always hoped co-parenting with my ex-husband would go just by opening up the line communication with her.

Do I still struggle from time to time? Yes. And I probably always will. I am human. I am fiercely protective of my daughter, and I worry about losing my identity as the mom. It is truly a fine balance-one that we are far from perfecting-but, as long as we keep the ultimate goal of parenting our daughter and what's best for her in mind, I think we are all going to be just fine.

Like I said, I am NOT an expert.

I'm just not.

And I realize that my situation is probably more ideal than a lot of co-parenting situations single moms find themselves in. But, I also feel like sometimes we, as single moms, make co-parenting harder than it needs to be.

Because let's face it, divorce hurts. It hurts so FREAKING bad. And we want nothing more than to punish the person who hurt us and unfortunately, when we start seeking revenge the only people who get hurt in the crossfire are our children.

I may not always like what my ex-husband does or how he parents our daughter, but I am not responsible for him or his parenting. I am only responsible for myself and how I choose to parent our daughter from my end. As long as he is actively trying to be a part of her life and we can find some common ground on major parenting issues, I consider that to be progress and successful co-parenting.

Our daughter deserves the best version of both of her parents, and the best version of ourselves does not involve screaming and blood shed over minor details. Our job is to strive to work together, even when we fail.

And on those days, all we can do is pick ourselves up and try again tomorrow. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

The Choice



As I sit on the floor outside her bedroom, the only sound is my fingers clicking the keyboard and her breaths-ragged and short.

I hate this time of year.

H.A.T.E. it.

Because every year about this time my allergy-prone child gets some sort of respiratory virus that is accompanied by one of those terrible sounding coughs that racks her tiny body every 2.5 seconds and leaves she and I both completely exhausted by the end of the day.

We battle this every single year, sometimes multiple times a year, and it never gets any easier.

Ever.

In fact, over the last two years, I think it's only gotten harder.

Because it's in these moments when I'm tired and spent, and crying in the hallway outside her bedroom door wishing I could do more that I wonder, "What in the world am I doing here?"

You know, I read somewhere that no mother sets out with the goal to be a single mother.

I believe it.

 Because if you would of told my young, beautiful, 24 year old, new-mommy self that in three years I would become a single mom, I would of laughed at you.

Right to your face.

Yes, while it's true that this was my choice, trust me, it wasn't my first choice.

I had every intention of raising my daughter in house with a mom and a dad and maybe a sister or two. There was a plan and I had never even considered another option.

We were going to be happy and healthy and whole.

Period.

Because that's what my church had promised and all the fairy tales had said.

But, that isn't how it happened is it?

That certainly isn't where the road lead.

And while I don't regret my present life and all it has taught me for a single second, I would be lying if I said that this life-this single mommahood-isn't hard.

Because it is.

It's really hard.

It's hard when...

There's no one to hold you after a particularly rough mom day when you've completely lost it more than once and you put them to bed 30 minutes before bedtime just to save the last strand of your sanity.

There's no one to tell you that dinner was delicious even though your five year old gagged through every. single. bite. 

There's no one to help negotiate with your aspiring fashionista or to help with homework, dishes, and night time routines.

There's no one to put your mind at ease about the things the teacher did or didn't say during the parent-teacher conference or to keep you from believing everything you read on Web MD.

There's no one to wipe away your frustrated tears or to take over so you can get some air, or some quiet time, or maybe just go to the bathroom in peace.

There's no one to share the midnight watch with you, or to wake you up and bring you to bed after you've fallen asleep on the floor holding their little, fever-warm hand.

There's no one here at the end of the day to remind you that you are enough.

It's just hard sometimes.

Which is why I'm pretty sure no mom sets out with the intention to do any of these things alone.

But you know what, a lot of us do: whether we chose to do it on our own or life chose it for us.

We still do it.

Every single day.

All by ourselves.

And even though tonight I'm lonely and exhausted, I wouldn't change a single baby step that has brought me here.

This life is molding me into the type of woman I want my daughter to admire: strong, independent, grounded. A woman who fights for herself. This life is preparing me for bigger and better things, even if tonight it doesn't really feel like it.

Because tonight, I wish there was a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, and whisper to remind me that every little thing is going to be alright.

And that this too shall pass.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

An Open Letter to 28


Dear 28,

I look at the girl in this picture, and my heart hurts for her. 

I remember how hopeless this birthday felt-how much this moment ached. I remember the forced smile and the wishes I made on those candles. I remember reminding myself that even though it felt like it, this was not the end. 

And you know what? It definitely wasn't.

Wow.

What a year.

What a chapter. 

The lessons I learned from you are irreplaceable. The memories we made despite the heartache will always be some of my favorites (Cozumel, anyone?). The friends and family I have grown closer with and the little girl I have poured myself into throughout your days are the biggest reason why I'm still here. 

Yep, 28. 

It's been a doozie. 

And as much as I am dreading turning another year older, I am also ready to embrace it. 

I'm ready to kiss my young adulthood goodbye, because I've done a lot of growing up over this last year. 

I would skip a night out on the town just to spend a night at home watching Frozen with Emma in a heartbeat. 

It's amazing what a year of gaining a new perspective will do for you, especially when you finally let go of the thing that was clouding your judgement.

Thank you for that, 28. 

Thank you for that and so much more. 

Thank you for the tears, the growing pains, and the laughter.

Thank you for more dinners in.

More books checked off my reading wish list.

More hours towards my degree.

And more date nights with my daughter. 

Thank you for the memories I've made with my family.

Thank you for the bridges I've burned, and the ones we've been able to slowly mend. 

Thank you for best friends who keep me laughing, and sisters who keep me grounded. 

Thank you for introducing me to a career that I just so happen to be in love with, and for putting me on the path to the boy I love even more. 

I am blessed, 28. 

Despite the pain in those eyes.

I have been blessed.

And you know what? I have a feeling that 29 is going to be even better. 

Sincerely, 

The Birthday Girl

Friday, August 29, 2014

And Sometimes You Fly



" When she transformed into a butterfly, 
the caterpillars spoke not of her beauty, but her weirdness. 
They wanted her to change back into what she always had been.
But, she had wings."
~Dean Jackson

If you would of asked me a year ago where I thought I would be in a year, I wouldn't have been able to answer. 

A year ago this week, I was a mess. 

Literally.

Every breath hurt. 

Every night was long. 

Every second that I could make it to the next was an accomplishment. 

There were days I didn't think I would make it, and there were nights I almost didn't. 

This post describes that time in my life perfectly. Despite it's controversy-it is my story on paper. 

The bitter means to what was meant to be my end. 

Thankfully, it wasn't. 

Not by a long shot. 

You know, the most amazing thing about rock bottom is that when your lying flat on your back you learn a lot about yourself and what exactly you are made of. 

Strong things. Tough things. Never-ever-going-to-back-down things. 

And once you realize that you are more than the mistakes...

The hurts...

The abuse that once chained you...

The men who walked out on you...

The lies you once told...

The lies you once believed...

The promises you broke... 

The darkness that once tried to consume you...

You allow Him to walk into your life, and begin changing you for the better. 

You allow Him to shine His light into every single inch of you and it stretches into every dark place inside your soul.

And suddenly you begin to understand that verse you learned as a small child, 

"He has made everything beautiful in its time." (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

What has He made beautiful? Everything.

Every single thing.

He reaches down and finds beauty in the ugliest of messes. 

He pulls you out of the darkness and picks you up from your reckoning place on rock bottom. He wipes the dirt and spit from your face, and in that moment instead of judgement He gives you the most beautiful set of wings. 

Wings that help you rise above the stones they're throwing, and their condemning whispers. 

Wings that allow you to see the world from His point of view instead of from the hard church pew you were used to seeing it through.

Wings that give you the strength to reach into the fire for others. 

Wings that remind you that you are no longer a caterpillar. 

He has set you apart. 

He has allowed you to walk through the fire, so that your story can be used to glorify Him. 

And as many of you know, I have never once shied away from my story. 

I have owned it from the moment my entire world fell apart. 

And as long as He sees fit to use this beautifully broken vessel, I'm going to let Him, and because of that He has blessed me. 

He has blessed me with the opportunity to meet some of the most strong and amazing women I will ever have the pleasure of knowing. Women with stories just like mine. Women who own their beautiful messes and who give all the glory to Him. 

He has blessed me by empowering me through my story. By giving me the courage and opportunity to show my daughter what real love looks like. 

He has blessed me with this completely amazing guy. A guy I would of never met if my life would of stayed on the same path it was a little over a year ago. A guy who truly loves me unconditionally-faults and all. Not only have I found a best friend, but a protector for my heart. A rare thing in this world.

He has blessed me with an amazing church family who have a heart for this broken world just like I do. 

He has blessed me with the opportunity to mend broken bridges and make them stronger, so that my daughter can have a loving and caring family dynamic on both sides of the fence. 

He has blessed me. 

Truly.

If someone would of asked me a year ago if I ever thought that He would use my ugly mess to bless my life, I would of probably laughed at them just like Sarah laughed at the angel who told her she would have a son in her old age.

And you know what? He would of proved me wrong.

A thousand times over. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

The Day You Went To Kindergarten


The day you went to kindergarten, I woke up late. 

6:36 a.m. to be exact. Your dad was going to be at my apartment with you by 7:15 a.m.

Yep. 5:30 a.m. is going to be hard on this mama's body...just ask my hair that is now officially going on day 4 of not being washed.

The day you went to kindergarten, my hands shook while I dressed you.

Your daddy asked if I was nervous. He knows me too well. 

All I could think about was that your brand new dress was no longer brand new. It had hung in your closet for weeks and you had begged me to wear it on more than one occasion. Well, it's official occasion was finally here.

Kindergarten.

The very first day of all your first days.

The day you went to kindergarten, we were late. 

As always.

It never fails.

We paused briefly for pictures, I signed you in at the front door, and then they quickly whisked you away because your class was already headed upstairs.

I hardly got to say goodbye and you looked so overwhelmed and so scared.

My heart stopped for a full minute.

The day you went to kindergarten, I cried. 

Briefly. But, I still cried. Even thought I promised myself that I wouldn't.

I sucked in my breath and rung my hands, as your daddy followed me quietly out into the parking lot.

He assured me that you'd be okay-that eventually we'd get this down.

I wanted to believe him, because I knew he was right.

The day you went to kindergarten, I hugged your daddy goodbye too. 

Because for all our differences-all our mistakes-we're in this together. The two of us-for now.

I couldn't have made this far without him, and he couldn't of made it this far without me.

We have been able to successfully parent you to age 5 together-to your first day of kindergarten. We have raised a beautiful, smart, funny, big hearted little girl and we are both excited to see where your future is going to take us from here.

We know it will be an adventure.

It always is.

The day you went to kindergarten, I worried about you incessantly. 

The minutes ticked by so slowly. Each moment seemed longer than the last.

My heart was in my throat and I was hardly able to eat a thing.

Were you getting enough potty breaks?

Did I pack the right snacks?

Did you remember to take your thermos of juice to lunch?

Were you making friends?

Did you miss me? 

They assured me you were okay, and my head believed them, but my heart just wasn't so sure.

3:15 p.m. couldn't come quickly enough.

The day you went to kindergarten, I felt the change. 

The pages turning as one chapter of our lives closed, and another began.

We've been through a lot, baby girl.

Just you and I.

All those days and nights I spent at home with you when you were a baby all by ourselves. All the nights I slept with you on my chest. All the tears I've soothed and boo-boos I've kissed. All the reminders to say "please" and "thank you". All the gentle encouragements to share and play nice with others.

All of the milestones we experienced together.

All those moments that were just ours.

They were preparing us for this-for growing up.

Not just you, but your mama too.

And while we've both grown up a lot-especially in the last two years, I decided today that growing up is hard.

Really hard.

And you know what, baby girl? I just don't think it's ever going to get any easier. Not one little bit.

But, at least we've been able to grow up together.

Just you and I. 

And I wouldn't have wanted to do it with anyone else.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Growing Pains


I know I've been writing about motherhood a lot lately.

Maybe it's because I am a mom and it's my number one job.

But most likely it's the nostalgia.

The fact that in twenty short days she starts kindergarten.

Kindergarten.

When did this happen? 

I've been looking at her baby pictures the past few days. I've been assuring myself that this is normal.

Right?

Yes. It's definitely normal. It has to be.

And tonight she surprised me by glancing through her baby albums with me. She flipped through the pages a little too quickly and chattered constantly as she was situated next to me in her multi-colored tutu with her tiara perched perfectly on her head.

Because even in the moments when she is begging me to slow down, she still manages to go 100 mph.

We looked. She talked.

 I remembered. She was introduced.

She asked a thousand questions, and I gave her a thousand answers.

She saw the little dresses, the headbands, the toys, and the blankies before they were so loved and tattered around the edges.

I saw the silly grins, the little reddish curls, the orneriness in her eyes, and the things about her that will never change: the personality that she has had from day one, her caring heart, and her empathetic nature.

She has the best and the worst of her daddy and I inside of her.

She is our daughter.

Through and through.

And even though I am struggling fiercely with this whole growing up and leaving me for kindergarten thing, I know that fact will never change.

She will always be my daughter.

The little princess in the tutu going 100 mph will always be there even when she has to be tucked deep down inside of the woman she is becoming.

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I do not receive monetary compensation from any of the products, companies, or organizations I promote through my blog, unless otherwise specified during a giveaway or promotion. I am just your average mom trying to share products that I enjoy with other moms, as well as organizations and charities I believe in.