52 Weeks: Journey’s End

It’s today. Gosh, I looked forward to this day for a full year now. I had this feeling in my gut that today would look totally different from where I was a year ago today. And it really really does! So without further ado, I’ll try to get through this without crying…

41) Go to a “midnight premiere”: I had to finally put this in quotation marks because I realized that there is no such thing as this any more. Nope, you can go a day early but at like 7 PM. Movie theaters don’t do the midnight thing any more. Oh well! I was the first one to watch Part 2 of the Mockingjay at this theater in this city in this state, so I’m going to count it. lol

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How very appropriate.

42) Operation Christmas Child: This is one of the things on my bucket list to remind me to give back a little bit. I realize that this has been a very self-centered/self-expressive journey but this is also important. That, and I LOOOOOOVE Christmas time. It makes me sentimental.

43) Complete DivorceCare: I’m not going to lie, I didn’t finish this study with my original group. I quit going after Russ and I started seeing each other. The people in my group were seriously hurting and frazzled and the last thing I wanted to do was be like “Hey y’all, I won the reconciliation LOTTERY!!!!”. But seriously, this is an amazing amazing resource. I don’t care if you are still married, recently divorced, or went through it years ago- this is a great support group environment. http://www.divorcecare.org/findagroup    I don’t care when it starts/started, you can go any time. It’s priceless.

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44) Start a new job: Yeah, I’m going to count this because everything was so crazy and up in the air at this point and then I started my new job and had to start building a database and doing this much-more-intense work stuff and by golly it earned another spot in my 52 weeks. Yay for getting my act together at work!

45) Clean out my closet: This started out as a whole different idea when I wrote it down last February. But what it ended up being was getting rid of the old to make room for the new… literally. I made room for Russ to be in my closet. In fact, I made room for him to be in my house, in my life, in my heart. Throwing away 6 garbage bags of unflattering junk I’ll never wear again was just a byproduct. 😉     I will say, I didn’t take Russ seriously until he agreed to move in with me. It was a big shock. I have spent so much time trying not to need anything to make relationships as easy as possible that when I blurted out “I need you here all the time” I was expecting excuses or a brush-off but Russ really listened to me. He dropped everything to come rebuild something real. And that’s when I knew this was serious.

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46) Read 12 books in 12 months: I love to read, but I don’t always take the time to read. But books inspire me, and for my birthday Kevin (yes, THAT Kevin) got me a Ravenclaw-edition set of the Harry Potter books (some of my faves) and I’m not even going to pretend that they didn’t eat up a big chunk of this goal. I also worked on the Game of Thrones series, several self-help novels, and an embarrassing number of trashy vampire romance novels. Moving on…

47) Purchase a power tool: Because seriously this needed to be on the list somewhere and it feels kinda awesome to use my new leaf blower. It feels akin to turning up the music in my car until I can’t hear myself sing along badly. It’s fun!

48) Find a church home: This was another thing I was HOPING would happen this year but it ultimately revealed itself in an unexpected and even better way. Russ is not big into church but when we started dating (this time) I told him church had become really important to me and I wanted to build on that foundation. That being said, I wanted to be somewhere where we could grow as a family. I took him to the church I grew up in, just because I love it there and it feels like home and the people are nice. I also took him to the church I went to DivorceCare at which is a bit more flashy and anonymous. He actually chose my home church. And we met with the pastor, and we found a Sunday school class, and we joined. Like official, and everything. I’m still a little in awe of this one. Totally a God thing.

49) 12 Fine Arts Events in 12 Months: This one was really fun, and also important to me when I started this journey. Music and fine arts has always been a part of my life and I’ve missed it. So I made it a point last summer to buy tickets to a bunch of Arkansas Symphony Orchestra performances. Some I went alone, some I had a date, one I even had like 15 tickets to and we all had a blast! I had to count the Living Christmas Tree at church and my son’s Christmas pageant to get all 12 in, but I did it!

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50) Take my vitamins every day for a whole year: Yes, I actually did this. It was part of my commitment to make it a point to take care of myself, in any small fashion I could manage every day. Every. Single. Day.

51) Read Scripture every day for a whole year: I won’t lie to you (especially after making it all the way down here…) but I changed this from “read my Bible” to just “read Scripture” because I made it a point to post Bible verses in my house on the walls and some days all I could manage was to stop and read Jeremiah 29:11 on my way in or out of my house. But every single day I was at the very least reminded of a promise of God, and some days that one promise was what I had to cling to.

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52) Talk to God every day for a whole year: Oh man, I’d like to tell you that I got good at prayer. Like, “War Room” level praying with a room and a journal and a “get thee behind me satan!” but you know what? Sometimes I just talked to my steering wheel, or cried out in the middle of my tears for God to send me even one ray of comfort, or yelled wordless curses at the ceiling because how could God let this happen, or treated God like a journal entry- here’s what happened today, hope You’re here, hope You show up again tomorrow. And He did- even when I was hurting, and sad, and angry, and scared, and impatient, and questioning, and not even happy to be there. God showed up every day. I didn’t always like it, but I knew He was there with me. I can’t deny that God has intervened in my life, because He has managed to make things happen I never could have orchestrated on my own. I also can’t deny that He clearly loves me very much to intervene the way that He has. It was always high on my priority list to do better about talking to God, but this year I really tested Him. I talked about it all- the good, the bad, the ugly. I asked Him for help. I gave God His power back in my life. And look what He has done.

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It’s ok if you don’t believe like I do. I hope my story at least resonates with you on some level. I took the darkest day in my life and turned it into a reason to trudge forward. It wasn’t always easy or fun, but by the end of it I was through that dark day and then a little bit more. I’m glad I didn’t end my life a year ago. I’m glad things worked out even better than what I had planned. If you’re lost in that place I was in, I’m telling you that it won’t last forever unless you choose to stay there. You can choose to get up and walk through the door of depression or addiction and face it head on. I wouldn’t say that if I hadn’t done it.

And here I am, bawling tears of joy because I have been given the most precious gifts I never thought to ask for. God is here with me and cares for me. My beloved husband has come home and not because I whined or begged or changed for him or blackmailed him… because he wants to be here. I have my family with me, and I am certain that together we can face whatever comes. There is hope. And after 52 weeks, I finally believe it for myself.

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Thanks for reading! ❤

52 Weeks: Finding my faith

I was raised in church most of my life. I’ve seen the best and worst of church. And at some point- after I got really jaded by the cruelty of people- I even started to believe that God didn’t care about me. Why should He? I don’t do what I’m supposed to all the time. Even when things are going good, I worry about all the stuff that could go wrong. I make poor choices at times, and when I’m making good ones I expect everyone else to. I’m flawed.

But at some point in my journey, God started talking back. I started praying and reading the Bible because I felt like it would ground me, not because I thought it would make any difference to Him. And then at some point He started answering me. When I reached out to him right before this journey started, I asked Him how on earth I could let my husband go. Russ wanted out so badly, and I still loved him, and I really felt like divorce in this case was wrong. It felt a little bit like this…

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Enchanted: when a Disney princess learns about divorce

And God told me what to do, and I did it, and He didn’t reach down with a lightning bolt to fix it.I gave God every opportunity to save my marriage, and He chose not to. It was a long time before I quit being mad about it. It’s a hard thing, being mad at God. So here is where I started letting go…

31) Do an escape room: This was fun. Definitely on my bucket list, and as it turns out it was also my first date with the guy who was my only other exception to the no-dating journey I was on. I decided to leap in, feet first, and see what would happen. It was a lot of fun!

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This place is cool, by the way!

32) Throw a party in my home: My 29th birthday was amazing. My friend Kevin came down from Illinois, my friend Natalie came from Missouri, even some of my friends from Nebraska came… and along with a lot of my local friends we all piled in my house and ate Chipotle and talked. It was amazing! I remember looking around at all the candles lit, and the people from all corners of my life talking and laughing, and I thought “this is what Heaven will be like”. Best day of my life in a really long time, and I still can’t thank my friends enough for coming. Especially you, Kevin. But that’s a whole ‘nother post. ❤

33) Take a week vacation: Before I ever even considered buying a home, before the divorce, before my life even started really taking shape- I knew I needed a vacation. So I plunked my tax refund down and gave myself something to look forward to. It was fun because I wasn’t on anyone else’s timetable for a week- I did what I wanted, pigged out, and overall had a blast. But I won’t lie- there was more than one night where I stood outside looking at the stars and missing my boys and really wishing that Russ and Jonathan were with me. Those are the guys I want to share my cool life experiences with, even if it’s not romantic or perfect or even makes sense. I think I need more time. But overall it was a very good week and I’m glad I went!

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34) Go on a cruise: Yeah I killed two birds with one stone. Spoiler alert: the next three also happened all in one week. And I’m glad, because the next few weeks were so hard that I could not fathom trying to write any of it into some form of bucket list item or accomplishment…

35) Ride in a limo: My friend Kevin- the awesome one!- splurged on a limo for everyone to ride around in on my birthday, and it was super duper cool. It was on my life bucket list to ride in one, but I didn’t think I’d get the chance to cross it off my list this year. Kevin, you are awesome. Like, the coolest. I still giggle when I think about this. 🙂

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Kevin is the BEST ❤

36) Have a totally tech free day: Yep, still coasting after all the great stuff I did during my birthday vacation. Which is good, because this is about the point in my journey where my heart got ripped into a million pieces. I prayed to God about this guy I was seeing. I told Him that I was gonna marry this guy unless He intervened. Which He did. And it sucked, but not really- because this is also the point where God started tentatively applying Scotch tape to my broken game-over marriage. WHAT?!

37) Go ziplining: Yes, I did this on vacation too. WHAT ON EARTH IS GOING ON WITH MY LIFE?! Is… is my ex-husband serious? Does he… LIKE ME LIKE ME? Like… more than friends? Life is weird. This is weird. GOD WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU DOING????

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My last first date ❤

38) Go to counseling: This was one that I didn’t really know where to start or why to really spend the money on it. Oddly enough, I went back to counseling for the first time since my divorce on my second date with my ex-husband. Did I mention life is weird? It was always so good to talk to Bill, and he was so excited to see us together. Even though it still felt surreal, I was glad to be there with someone who was there in the End and knew all the stuff from before without having to re-hash it. This… this is good, right?

39) Get a new job: It’s no secret that I wasn’t wild about my old job. I hired in to do database stuff and process efficiency and all the stuff I trained to do with my degree and got excited about. What ended up happening was I paid bills all day and got super depressed. I was bored, but at the same time I had so much going on in my personal life that I couldn’t handle even that much. (FYI, DivorceCare was really helpful here because in talking to other people going through the same kind of trauma I realized I wasn’t doing THAT bad, all things considered.) So this item is where a light came down from heaven and God gave me my new boss Sarita who has been super amazing. She worked in my old department once and although she didn’t approve of my despondence she understood it and she decided to take a chance on me and by golly I have worked my butt off for that angel of a woman ever since.

40) Have a work social in my new home: This was a cool day. I bought my house with visions in my head of having friends over, Sunday school class parties, work socials, all kinds of stuff. It’s made for that, really. So when my old team at work started discussing a Thanksgiving social right before I started my new job, I volunteered my house for the party. And it was cool.

So here it is. The most stark contrast from beginning to end you’ll see in any of my sets of 52 weeks. I started out on my own, exploring a new relationship, enjoying my new house, with all these conflicting feelings about how to mesh my past and my future. And at the end of it I am no longer alone, still pretty confused, but praying with every fiber of my being that I’m not dreaming and this is real. Because God yanked away my Plan B and it looks like He’s making my original Plan A possible. And… I’m so happy I could cry. And confused. And excited. And terrified. And… so grateful. Because every day I get to spend with my Russ and my Jonathan is a day I fall on my knees in gratitude. I may not trust yet for tomorrow, but I’m so grateful for today!

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52 Goals: Becoming me

This is the part of my journey where I became a force of nature to be reckoned with. It was time to stop sniveling and focus in on who I wanted to be- with or without a spouse. I latched onto an idea- I needed stability. I needed a foundation. I needed a home.

This idea started really driving me. On top of the need to stay on top of my health to avoid slipping back into depression, I decided to get on top of my emotional health. I wish to no longer be so easily swayed by new distractions- there needs to be a bedrock upon which I am firmly settled, and this foundation is love, hope, and ultimately- joy.

So here is the phase where I did a lot of heavy lifting:

21) Weigh under 145: This is 20 pounds lighter than where I was a year ago. I don’t really care about the number, but what I DO care about is knowing I can physically conquer anything I put my mind to. From sheer determination, people. I. AM. NOT. ATHLETIC. Never have been, never will be. This is the first time in my life I have ever conveyed myself this far at this speed for this long. And I am proud of it. RAWR.

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22) Credit score 650+: Remember way back when I was shocked to be at a 600? Don’t judge me. But I’ve been working and watching and waiting and now I’m here! This is not an easy journey, but instead of making excuses I make things happen. Bills get paid, luxuries get tossed. I paint my own nails, I went back to my natural hair color, and I live the large majority of my life in a small geographical area conserving gas and energy and resources. My world had to get smaller in order for me to get a better grasp on it, and I’m getting there!

23) 5K with a friend: Oh, this was an awesome day! I am soooo proud of my friend Heather. It was on my list and I was determined to do a 5K with a friend, and she was really determined to do her first one. And we did it in FLIPPING JULY. Yep, probably over 100 degrees. And there were INFLATABLES. And you know what? She did every single one of them. She didn’t give up, and the one time she wanted to all I had to do was stick with her and she made it. In her defense, some of those things were not made for short people. lol

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24) Buy a new comforter: I dunno why this was such a sticking point for me, but it was. I started buying things as I found them on sale for the new house before I even moved in. And one night I was perusing the sales rack and crooned about the cool gray and purple combo that was in my price point. And he says to me: “Ugh, is EVERYTHING in your house going to be purple?” EXCUSE ME? Is this your house? Is this your money? And OMG I wanted something that I picked out, that I liked, that I spent whatever I wanted on without anyone constantly questioning my wants and needs especially when it was my money and… YES. MY ROOM IS PURPLE. I LIKE THAT COLOR. GRR.

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25) Save $250 with coupons: HAHA oh I am kinda proud of this one. I used to love watching Extreme Couponing on TLC, so this was one of my goals. I figured it would take me all year but I was doing really good with it and then this happened…   So I went to the Dillards store and looked at their furniture just on a whim. It’s overpriced expensive stuff. And there was an 85-year-old sales guy (I kid you not, his name was WOODY!) who oh-so-kindly pointed me in the direction of the sales items. And then discreetly told me there was an extra 40% off sale starting the next day. So yeah… I got 2 Italian leather pieces of furniture in my living room for less than $1000. I’m pretty proud of that! So when you come to my house and see nice stuff, don’t judge me because 99% of it was on sale or clearance or I COUPONED THE HECK OUT OF IT. Because I’m awesome like that. lol

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26) Buy a house: I think this is pretty momentous. There was a time in my life when given the choice between keeping my credit clean or my husband’s, I always kept his squeaky clean and let mine take the hit. I built back from that, saddled with student loan debt, working my butt off as a single mom, and bought a house. No cosigner, no crazy interest, no winking at the mortgage loan officer (who never met me so has no idea how wildly attractive I am- HA!)… I worked for it. I earned it. End of story. Woohoo!

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27) Go one week without eating out: It’s just so easy when you’re eating for one to grab something cheap and move on with your day. Especially on lunch breaks. But the week after I bought a house I went through a little bit of shock (OMG MY HOUSE PAYMENT IS A BAZILLION DOLLARS A MONTH UNTIL I’M DEAD) and figured this was a good time to practice some frugality and time management. Cross this off my list, let’s go to Chipotle please. lol

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28) Have prayer in my home: Ooh this was such a sweet one! After I got my house semi-situated and painted the inside, I was ready for my first group of guests. So I invited some girl friends over for a sweet time of prayer and fellowship and snacks, and it was awesome. I love you ladies so much! ❤

29) Go 30 days without soda: This isn’t as hard as I make it sound, but I had gotten in the bad habit of drinking them when I ate out, so that stuff had to go. When I ate at home for a week, it made sense to go ahead and tackle this while I was at it. Surprisingly not that bad!

30) Complete the 21 Day Fix: This is just a 3 week workout/diet program that I love. It got me started on my fitness journey a little over a year prior, and it’s just committing to making your health a habit. As I started a new life and new routines in my new house, I felt it was important to stick this one in there… and I’m so glad I did!

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Now I’m in such a different place than I was. I have a home- not just a place I sleep, but a place that is MINE for the foreseeable future. I choose to be stable, and I choose to make this place a home full of love, and prayer, and focus. When people come in the front door, I want them to know that there is peace here. Not because I have it all together, but because I choose to have hope in the midst of uncertainty. This is me. On my own, without someone telling me who I am or what choices to make. And I like it. I like me!

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52 Goals and Grieving: Semi-functional = Gold Star!

This is a difficult section of my 52 weeks to talk about. I was grieving my marriage, all the while trying to trudge forward. Shortly after the divorce we sold a marital asset and split the proceeds, and frankly paying off my debts and sticking some money back in savings was the only thing I could really accomplish for a while. I got out of bed every day for my son, I went to work because I didn’t want to get behind for when I did snap out of it. I smiled and nodded when people told me I’d “find something better” and eventually quit bringing it up. Grieving is a tough process, and don’t let anyone else put you on their timeline when you’re working through it. Just understand that the people who stick by you from beginning to end are special, and sometimes it’s going to be just you and God.

So without further ado:

11) 30 days eating veggies– this was my way of making sure I didn’t just survive off of donuts and alcoholic beverages all the time. It was that and celery.

 
12) Plan birthday party for my son– I went all in on this one. I had a Pinterest board. I shopped on Etsy. I really threw myself into it. And this was the first time that I really let all the usual family drama roll off my back. This actually simplified my life quite a bit, not trying to make everyone happy. I think I’ll stick to this method.

 
13) Save up one month’s expenses– Yeah, this was supposed to be some major undertaking, but these next five goals honestly all happened in one week and then I jotted them all down and quit trying so hard to accomplish stuff all the time. I just kinda zoned out for a bit…

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Pretty sure my friends felt like this…

14) Pay off my credit cards– This week I didn’t have to cross anything off my bucket list but I worked on my apartment anyway. I had a major mold issue crop up during kiddo’s birthday and it was time to start thinking about moving. It was actually good for me, tossing out a bunch of stuff I didn’t need or want any more.

 
15) 52 weeks of savings challenge– I’m taking the rest of the summer off from school. I just can’t concentrate. But I go over to Russ’ place at least once a week so kiddo can see us getting along and spending time with him together. Oddly enough, we are getting along. Maybe it’s because I’m a zombie. Maybe it’s because I’m just so glad we are doing this for our son’s sake. On a side note, it’s really nice to have my best friend back in small doses so we can at least catch up on our tv shows together. I missed that.

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16) Put aside $10 for each challenge– There’s a guy in my life who is really interested in getting serious. He’s been my friend for a while now, since before the divorce, and I kept trying to brush him off but he was very persistent. Well maybe that’s what I need- someone who won’t leave me when stuff gets tough. I’ll think about it. In the meantime, at dinner this week Russ told me that he’s so frustrated with dating and doesn’t think he’ll ever find someone who really gets him and still likes him. “Well I love you,” I said without thinking. He got mad. He didn’t want to hear it. I’m glad I said it anyway- he needs to know he’s not unlovable, especially to someone who really knows him.

 
17) Pay off all my collections– I have no idea how I feel about the men in my life right now. It’s hard to sort it all out, and of course everyone has an opinion. So instead of trying to figure it out I go back to my housing situation. I’ve been mulling it over for a while, and I think what Jonathan really needs from me more than anything is stability. It would wipe out my savings and then some, but I think what I need to do is buy a house. Put down some roots. With enough time, I think I can do that. I’ll start looking around at what I can afford close to work.

 
18) Right hand ring symbolizing Ohana– Now here is a goal that is worth talking about. It’s the first one I’ve reached in weeks! When you lose a dream, and then you grieve that dream, eventually you get ready to embrace a new dream. One of the things our marriage counselor (You know, the one I blackmailed my ex husband into going to see? But that’s another story…) had talked about was “levels of reconciliation”. Russ was never interested in reconciling all the way but there was a level just below that where we could spend time together with our new blended family and be genuinely happy for each other. We both embraced that idea. To us, it was the concept of “Ohana” from Lilo and Stitch.

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And so I fully embraced this new dream. We agreed not to let new romantic interests meet our son without meeting the other parent. We agreed to share birthdays and holidays and time together with our son, and not to get involved with people who weren’t supportive of this. Which, oddly enough, was proving difficult to do. How very odd. You’d think people would appreciate that we get along. Hmph.  So this week I was at the mall and walked by the Pandora display and saw a ring that was two bands woven together. So I bought it, and now I wear it all the time… for me, it symbolizes my faith that somehow my past and my future will weave together to be something truly beautiful.

 
19) Get approved to buy a house– Ok this one was pretty cool too. My friend Spencer Hawks is a really great real estate agent. I loved working with him. He was so patient with my detail-oriented questions and my semi-stalky tendency to fall in love with a house online and then demand he show it to me ASAP. lol    But he knew a mortgage guy that was great to work with and I figured I’d talk to him and see what I needed to fix before I could get approved to buy a house on my own. Turns out, nothing! Um… I just got approved to buy a house.

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20) Establish morning routine– I don’t know if you can really call what I do a routine, but at least I’m getting showered, fed, watered, and multi-vitamined every morning now. Which is better than I was doing right after the divorce. I’m excited about my new dreams and that makes it easier to crawl out of bed every day. So you know what? Jotting it down. Gold star for me. I’m human again! No more zombie Sarah. Yay!

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Seriously, have you not seen Warm Bodies yet?

Towards the End: Reflecting on 52 Goals

2016 is off to a rough start. I’ve spent most of it fighting off a bad case of pneumonia, while working and switching schools for my MBA. Not to mention Alan Rickman died. But I digress…

It’s February now, and I’m coming into the last 10 days of my 52 Goals in 52 Weeks. Some of my more ambitious goals didn’t get used, and there were some weeks when I struggled to write down ANYTHING I accomplished that week. But this. was. AWESOME!

The first thing any counselor will tell you to do when you go to seek help (which is how this whole thing started) is to journal. Talk about your feelings, see your progress, blah blah blah. Ain’t nobody got time for that. Except that’s a bit of what this turned into. Yes, the overacheiver in me wanted to cross something ridiculously awesome off my bucket list every week. But there were many weeks where I needed to stop blubbering, think of SOMETHING I did right that week, and jot it down. And looking back, I do not regret those tiny little things in the list because dangit I was doing good to get out of bed and I’m proud of myself for focusing on that accomplishment.

And because I know NOBODY wants to read about all 52 goals in one sitting, here’s my thoughts on goals 1-10.

1) Wall of Encouragement– this was a great exercise to put at the front of this when I was at my lowest. I actually took the time to gather photos of family and friends, and any other scrap that makes me feel happy or proud or encouraged- then I plastered them all over my bedroom wall. Some of your faces were the first thing I saw when I woke up in the morning. I even reached out to many of my friends and asked them to send me things to put on the wall. I got a few wacky responses (I’m looking at you, Kevin) but they went on the wall and made a huge difference. Surround yourself with positivity, encouragement, and people who care about you. That’s a major influence for healing!


2) Start a savings account– as a single mom, this was a big deal starting out. I changed my direct deposit so that with every paycheck SOMETHING went into savings. After a month, I could survive a flat tire. After a few months, I could go the ER if I had to and not worry about going hungry. Everyone should have SOMETHING going into savings. Automate it. Never ever see that money in your bank account. Poof. Gone. Done.

(On a related note, despite the NSFW language, this is a great read for women everywhere: https://thebillfold.com/a-story-of-a-fuck-off-fund-648401263659#.s311z2h1t)

 
3) Run a marathon– this one was a major highlight for me. This came only a month after seriously considering ending my life. I dedicated each mile to someone who inspired me, wrote them letters and mailed them, and then refused to quit during anyone’s mile. Not gonna lie, it took me NINE hours from start to finish! BUT in my defense, I spent an hour in the med tent at mile 20 with stage 2 hypothermia so… really 8 hours. The medics offered to take me to the finish line, but I refused. I had promised myself that if I finished this marathon that somehow everything would be ok. I needed to finish like Leonardo DiCaprio needed to climb on that darn door because there was PLENTY OF ROOM. And I did.

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4) Start a blog– I already had this blog prior to starting this experience, so I went ahead and just spruced it up and used it. I intended to write these great inspirational posts blah blah blah but you know what? I started it, and then I never gave up- I just didn’t always find the time to do more than jot something down on the sheet I had printed off which is now tattered, marked all over, and only about 1% coffee stained surprisingly. Good enough.

 
5) Credit score 600+– I thought this would take a year so I was surprised when I checked one day to see how abysmally low my score was and it was 602. You know what? That counts. I’m good for this week. Hmm… I will have to make some more lofty goals then!

 
6) Ride a roller coaster– Ah yes, the Spring Break trip to Silver Dollar City. It was just a day trip, it was frigid cold, but oh boy was it a BLASTY BLAST. I love roller coasters- not the backwards/forwards/upside down kind, just the nice steel go-really-fast-and-smooth kind. #rollercoasterconnoisseur

 
7) OK/AR Convention– This is always a highlight of my year. Phi Theta Kappa was a huge part of my life when I went back to community college, and going back to see people I know and the students who are just starting their journey is always so uplifting. But mostly it’s the hugs that are my favorite. I never knew before I joined this organization that there are people you can see once a year who are better friends than some of the people who are around every day, but it’s true. And these folks are some of my favorites.

 
8) Mauldin tribute– Gosh, this was something that I am so glad I was still on this planet for. Change is hard, and I’m sad to see my favorite mentor Mr. Mauldin retire, but I was so happy to celebrate how deeply he touched the lives of the students he worked with in Phi Theta Kappa. For him, he was just doing what needed to be done to organize our section of the organization into something actually benefitting the students. But to me, working with him changed my whole life. I never would have had the guts to go for International Office if I hadn’t had him backing me 100%. It meant the world to me, and still does. He’s one of the dad figures in my life that I so very much admire and do not want to let down.

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9) San Antonio trip– this was a very bittersweet time for me. 10 hours in the car (each way) gives you a lot of time to think about things. And totally rock out to Katy Perry. But my marriage was coming to an end and my other mentor was being excluded from this event due to some utter nonsense, and it was frustrating. Three years prior, I ran this convention. Two years prior, I was still useful. Even the year prior, I contributed to some of the alumni proceedings. But this year, I was just here to hug necks and see friends. It was good, but bittersweet- and I don’t plan on going back to this event in DC this year.

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10) Finish my divorce- oh boy, what a rough day. I knew it was coming, but I sure did expect a lightning bolt to come out of the sky and make this not happen. I was texting my husband for the last time on my way into the courtroom- “Are you sure you want to do this?” “Yes,” he said. Oh boy. Heather was with me, and she was super supportive. But ultimately I just wanted to go home and have a good cry and a bottle of tequila and watch sad shows and let myself grieve. Two things stood out to me that day: 1) my friend Kevin called me and I don’t remember exactly what he said, but I remember how he made me feel. I felt better. And I didn’t think that was possible. 2) I watched something I had been avoiding for months: the episode of Glee where Finn died. Yes, it’s nerdy and sappy but this was something I had used to watch with Russ and I couldn’t stand the idea of grieving him yet and this was the day I sat down and cried over all the lost potential. I still haven’t been able to watch any of the episodes after that. Maybe I should. But oh my heart. That day was hard. I still feel a stabbing pain in my heart when I think about that day. Russ once remarked to someone that he was glad the divorce happened because otherwise we wouldn’t be who we are today. I had to explain to him just how bad that was for me and how I would have done anything to do all this hard work and personal growth without having to experience that day. He gets it now, and to his credit he hasn’t said that since.

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Ok I’m going to go look at pictures of puppies and babies and rainbows after that. I’ll go over some more later, for posterity’s sake. 😉

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An Exception to Every Rule: How I Ended Up on a Date with my Ex-husband

My divorce was hard. Ask anyone who knows me: I still loved my husband very much. I fought and fought and fought to save my marriage- by myself. I literally bribed, blackmailed, and blocked my husband at every turn until one day God whispered to me to “let it go”. And so I did.

I mourned, as we all do when we lose pieces of ourselves. I threw myself into running, and goal reaching, and yes the occasional bottle of tequila. I also threw myself into a new potential relationship. That’s what my ex-husband wanted: for me to go find some magical unicorn man to make me happy so he didn’t have to.

Enter the Asshat. This guy popped up in a bar (of course). We were going through similar things, he and I, so we really connected. I wanted to be “just friends”, he wanted more. I told him to wait until I was divorced. After the divorce, when I was done ugly crying, I started considering a relationship with him. He was, after all, there for me through all the bad stuff and we were so very honest with each other. It was refreshing to feel wanted and adored, even if he was living 1000 miles away in Nebraska. As soon as his divorce was done, we were going to be together. He was going to move here and live happily ever after.

I clung to this idea because I wanted so much for everyone to be happy. My ex husband was dating again. “Anyone but you” he told me over and over again. So I built a new dream in my head of him and I happy with other people and still having Thanksgiving together around one big table with all our kids and being able to love each other without having to be together. It was a sweet notion.

And then the Asshat became, well… the Asshat. His divorce was done, and he still wasn’t here. And wasn’t, and wasn’t, and wasn’t. I pushed forward bravely anyway. Surely if I loved him enough he’d see I was worth moving for. “Let’s make it official anyway,” I said. And that’s when it all came crashing down. I woke up a week later to a message in my inbox from his former wife, detailing his ongoing relationship with another woman in Nebraska. As I received the details, layer upon onion/ogre/ugly layer, it was so much worse with each new detail. He slept with  her once, no he slept with her for months, no they went on dates and their kids played together, no he asked her to move in with him, oh and by the way he also slept with his ex wife the whole time. More and more and more until he was beyond even the vast limits of my forgiveness. I thought I had experienced all the hurt life had to offer, and here at 29 years old I found a new one. I was devastated. And here’s where it gets odd.

My ex husband and I had developed a friendship. Both distracted by the shiny new possibilities of mixed families, we had somehow managed to become honest and caring towards each other. So on this particular day I called him and asked him to come get our son, who was getting upset at the sight of me crying. And without thinking, my best friend came to MY rescue. Not just our son’s. Mine. “You don’t need to be alone, come hang out with us.” So I did. I spent the whole evening cuddling with my son and talking to my best friend about the man who did me wrong and sniveling and hiccuping and drinking way too much spiced rum and Coke. And it was…. wonderful.

The next day I went back to my life and assumed that nothing had changed. Asshat was begging for “another chance”, BabyDaddy BestFriend was being himself, and I was trying to figure out what to do next. Everything was a bit of a fog until the day my son had to go to the emergency room. He took a tire swing to the face, bless his heart, and bit through his lower lip. Cue five hours in the ER with the BabyDaddy. And the next day: (You can’t make this stuff up. Seriously.) 9 AM- Exhusband texts me: “I think we should give this a chance.” Whoa. YES!!!     11 AM- Asshat texts me: “Guess what! I’m moving to Arkansas! I’m gonna prove to you I’m NOT an Asshat!” Um…. about that….. NO.

So here I am… giving the man I love who gave up on me a chance to see who I am now. Navigating the complicated and murky waters of new relationships with people you have painful history with. It is NOT easy, and it is NOT for everyone. But it is also NOT like it was before, and if I truly believe that I am not the person I was a year ago then I have to give him a chance to not be that person either. Did a magical unicorn fart make everything glitter and rainbows? NO. Do I think my family is worth taking the risk of getting hurt again? YES. Yes, a thousand times yes. And who knows: maybe two slightly less broken people will simply get some closure. Maybe my soulmate has just been fighting it the whole time and we’ll end up madly in love and remarried with like 6 more babies. (Just kidding, honey!)

Either way, I’m grateful for the chance, and the healing that comes from hearing: “I don’t know why, but I know you still love me and you have the whole time. You’ve always been here, and I appreciate it.” It gives me the strength to keep on loving people the way that I do. They always come around to appreciating it in the end. ❤

 

Who Am I? (Knowing Your Character Strengths Matters!)

Everyone has strengths. Everyone has a special talent. Everyone has a purpose in life.

You hear these things all the time, but sometimes when you’re a 28-year-old almost-divorcee/single mom with the rest of your life stretching out like a great big question mark you kinda want to know what your strengths actually are. Because sometimes it feels like you don’t have ANY redeemable qualities.

One night I was sitting in class listening to a guest lecturer who has been through some of the same things I’m currently struggling with. He was talking about ethics, and being true to yourself and your beliefs. And he was adamant that knowing your strengths is just as important as knowing your beliefs, because it makes you stand up for who you are at the core.

So I found myself answering questions for the University of Pennsylvania Psychology Department at http://www.authentichappiness.com wondering how the heck another personality test was going to help me with my life. I’ve taken a few… Meyers-Briggs is just confused by me. All it can figure out is I’m extroverted. Ya think?!  Then there was that one time a few years ago where I actually became unhirable at a job after taking the personality test. That’s right, folks.. I FAILED A PERSONALITY TEST. The HR lady took me into the broom closet afterwards (literally, there was Fabuloso in there) and said “Honey, you’re supposed to LIE.” *facepalm* True story.

And here is what the University of Pennsylvania determined in their Via Survey of Character Strengths are my top 5 strengths:

1) Humor and Playfulness
2) Judgment, Critical Thinking, and Open-mindedness
3) Forgiveness and Mercy
4) Bravery and Valor
5) Honesty, Authenticness, and Genuineness

Wow. Just wow! I mean, I knew I had those things in me somewhere, but I didn’t realize those would qualify as my top 5. Humor? I regularly struggle with depression, especially in the winter. Judgment? I show poor judgment every day dealing with a 2 year old who came by his stubborn streak SO honestly. Forgiveness? Ok, yes that IS me. Bravery? Well, yes I have to admit it takes a lot of bravery some days to do the things I do and keep my chin up. Honesty? Yes, to a very brutal fault.

So I’ve been mulling this over, and as I do I’ve had at least 4 different people post the following on my Facebook wall:
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I guess despite what I may think, this is something that a lot of people remember about me the most. My laugh, and the way I enjoy making others laugh. This is my honest to God number one trait? Well no wonder so many of my relationships made me miserable. Sour faces, lack of enthusiasm, a strong dislike for all things glittery? This isn’t me, and this isn’t something I should take for granted about myself. I like to make people smile and laugh everywhere I go- the checkout girl at Kroger, the tired waitress at Waffle House, the bank clerk who’s entirely too used to getting yelled at for silly little things that aren’t his fault. And if you can’t laugh a bit at your own expense to brighten someone else’s day- well phooey on you! But more importantly, if you stifle that in me, you’re stifling a big part of who I am.

The same thing has happened as I mull over these other character traits. They are true, and they are big chunks of who I am! And for people who “love” me to try to discourage my open-mindedness or question my mercy or laugh at my bravery and tell me I will fail… you’re wrong! Framing my life around the understanding that I need to express these character traits is totally different from allowing people to tell me “Oh you’re good with numbers” or “public speaking” or “snoring” (true story). This laundry list of skills is nice and all, but at the core of who I am there is joy and bravery and mercy and logic and genuineness that just oozes out of me if you get to know me.

So there you have it. I’m a little bit Erudite, a whole lot Ravenclaw, a smidge of Abnegation and Gryffindor, and even a big dash of Hufflepuff thrown in.

How would your life change if you framed the whole thing around a top character trait of Joy? Of Critical Thinking? How about Mercy or Bravery? Does that make your life more simple, and your choices more clear? Try it, and see!