Reflection on March 2018….Squad Goals

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It’s no surprise life is HARD, even harder alone.  It’s probably one of the single most terrifying things about divorce…will I be alone forever?  Obviously I am never really alone, I’m THE parent 24/7 365 days a year, and its exhausting….oh wait, that’s not the kind of alone I’m referring to.  It’s the kind of alone where you have no one to share your life with, have conversations with, go on adventures, just have fun.  I’d like to say that it wasn’t something I ever worried or thought about, but that’s not true.  I did a lot the first 6 months, then it seemed to move more toward times of high stress or boredom, and its been weighing heavy on my heart the last few weeks again as I sort through some things.

In 2008 I got on a website for moms, it was ran by the Indy Star Newspaper, it was called “Indy Moms”.  It was this magical place where moms from all walks of life, at various ages and stages of motherhood came together for beautiful, civil discussions on topics from marriage, motherhood to controversial current events.  OK just kidding, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but it was a pretty powerful place.   This was the place where 10 years later many of us formed some of our deepest friendships.  They would host Mom Night Out (MNO) Events and get people together IRL.  It was September 2008, and I decided I was going to go to one.  Remember I rarely went out, and even more rare to go out alone, but I decided it was happening despite the consequences I might face at home.  At this event I met 4 of the most amazing women.  One of them was getting ready to move into my neighborhood.

I remember nervously taking a welcome basket to her family when they moved in to break the ice a bit.  I don’t remember a ton about those first few weeks, but I do know we because fast friends.  We talked everyday, went to the store together, had MNOs with the other 3 ladies we met from the event.  Our families began doing things together,  we could have been The Real Housewives of Indianapolis, except we weren’t rich or perfect, ok she really is kind of perfect, but that’s another story (and I know she is rolling her eyes and saying “whatever” as she reads this.)  My youngest was only 8 months when we met.  The other day he said he thought Amy was his Aunt (insert big AWE, how cute).  As time went on the group drifted apart, but Amy and I remained friends.

 

Now as you can imagine, the closer we got the harder the push was from my ex for us not to be friends.  He slowly started making it more and more difficult for us to hang out and we drifted apart for a few years.  However there were those moments when he was out-of-town, or I was just over being told what to do, when we would pick up for a little while were we left off.  It was never really quite the same, but in many ways it was.  It’s one of my big regrets from the time, is missing out on those years with her.

We moved away a couple of years ago, (ok well not far away, but 20 minutes away) but as fate would have it, 3 months later they also moved away in the same direction we had moved, about 3 miles away from us (completely unplanned, although I’d like to think she just needed to be close to me, just kidding.)  Now it’s definitely not the same as being able to walk to each others houses, or as convenient as stopping to pick the other one up on our way to the store, but it sure beats it being 20 minutes away.

The morning I got up to file for divorce, it was her that I called to go with me. With the exception of making me drive because it was downtown, she was right there to do whatever it was I needed.  Over the last year we have once again grown closer, and I can not imagine ever going back to the way it was before.

Just over a year ago I remember sending her a text to see what she was up to.  I needed out of the house, but she already had plans with some other friends.  She said just come along with us, turns out us was a bunch of couples (insert MAJOR anxiety attack).  I sort of wanted to beat her ass for the whole third wheel thing, but I’m SO glad I went.  I met what would turn into the 3rd in our new little “squad”.

 

A couple of weeks ago we had a little impromptu GNO and happened to go to the same place we had gone for my birthday about 3 months earlier.  It struck me as I was getting ready how much they had changed me.  For my birthday they literally had to drag me out, I was all kinds of a pain in the butt, sorry girls.  This time it was my idea.   In typical Jen fashion, I am sitting here in tears at the memories of the last year with our little squad.  I can not even express how much it means to me to have these two in my life.  They are my “people” and both bring such an important history, perspective, personality to our little group.  I can’t think of a single thing I have gone through that one or both of them didn’t have the perfect thing to say to help me through it, even if I take a little longer to follow their advice then I should sometimes.  I am surrounded by lots of people, but in the end some may come and go, but these two are stuck with me forever!

Even though I’ve been having a hard time the last few weeks.  LOTS and LOTS on my mind and in my heart, I will never be alone as long as I have our lunch, dinner, wine, coffee and group message therapy sessions.  30629046_10216385940827657_7772610935570563072_o (1).pngThe moral of the story, your never really alone as long as you surround yourself with people who get you, love you and will help you unpack your baggage along life’s journey.

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This is someone else’s life, not mine…

There is no way this could be me, my life, this happens to other people, not me.  That’s what I told myself for years.  The hole he punched in the wall right next to my head because I had a different opinion then he did.  The destroyed kitchen I came home to, because I didn’t get home fast enough when he requested my presence.  The headbutt I took to the nose because he was wasted, had out wore his welcome at a friends and I was trying to get him in the car safely to get him home.  But there is no way that I was in an abusive marriage, that’s just not possible, it happens to other people, not me.

42 Domestic Violence Warning Signs even now I look at this list and can’t believe that I experienced 29 of the 42 things during the 21 year relationship.  That’s right, it didn’t start when we got married, that hole in the wall, that was only after dating a few months. Psychological Abuse #6 Gaslighting:  to cause a person to doubt his or her sanity through the use of psychological manipulation.  This is a super powerful form of abuse.  You walk around questioning everything and forgiving so much, because you can’t even tell if its reality or not anymore. The answer to the question I know you are asking yourself right now, “Why the hell did you stay in the relationship?”  I won’t go into detail which of the 29 I experienced, but I can say there is not one of the 8 categories that I escaped experiencing.

Knowledge is power, the more I read, the more I learn, the more in control and powerful I feel.  I wish I could say that I always see things as they are happening and the past doesn’t affect my current life, but I pray that those things I miss and later realize happened as a result of the past, contribute to the continued growth and healing.  Writing it all out, bravely sharing it with the world (even if it sometimes takes me days to hit the publish button) has been one of the most empowering things I have done in the last twenty years, hence the recent domain and blog name change.

So of the 29 things I experienced the hardest was the emotional, psychological, and sexual abuse.  For obvious reasons the emotional and psychological abuse is difficult and being in a marriage you never want to think that you can be sexual abused by your partner.  I am certain there are going to be plenty of people who are going to think what I am about to share is going to far, but before you judge me, please understand, I only share things in hope that if there is someone else out there like me, experiencing these things, they will feel less alone, see that there is hope on the other side, and reach out and get help to get out of their situation.

Of all the things that happened to me two stick out to me the most.  February 13, 2016 the day before he decided he needed to get sober, he was drinking VERY heavily.  I could see that it was going to be a really bad night.  I had put all the kids to bed early and tried to avoid them seeing or hearing his behavior.  I mentally prepared myself for the usual battery of words that would be thrown at me to make me feel as low as possible. There is only so much you can prepare yourself for no matter how many times you been through the same situation, and typically you miss something.  Late in the night he decided he was going to try to be “playful”.  I was in our bedroom when he left the bathroom, right next to our bedroom, so he came in and began to force himself on me.  I tried to say no, and when he just wouldn’t stop, I begged and pleaded with him to just please shut the door so the kids wouldn’t see if they woke up.  A few minutes (which was probably really seconds, but felt like forever) later it was too late, our oldest who was almost 18-year-old (at the time) walked past the room.  He has always been very protective of me, he had begged me to leave his dad since the time he was 10, there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t regret the fact that I let him down by not being brave enough to leave sooner.  I’ll never forget hearing him scream at his dad “Get the F&@$ off of her!”  He walked into the living room and threw his dads beer can across the room so hard that it split it through the center.  In a moment of frustration, embarrassment, I’m not really sure what went through his head, but my ex grabbed his keys and left.  We ended up getting him to come home so he wouldn’t kill someone with the car and I didn’t speak to him again until the next day.  I remember him standing at the kitchen sink pouring out what was left of the beer in the fridge and telling us all he was done drinking.  I thought this might actually be the rock bottom that would save him.  The one thing that would make all the years I’d stayed wishing he’d get sober and be the dad my kids deserved, so I gave him the chance to prove it.  He was sober for 3 months.  It was the 3 best months of my kids lives with their dad.

Fast forward to February 2017 when the detective told me that it would get worse, and I needed to make a plan and get out sooner than later.  I never imagined it would be something happening to me, after all everything he was doing the last couple of months was focused on other women not me.  Unfortunately February 26th we were out-of-town at our last club tournament.  He was again wasted and overly aggressive.  I remember laying in bed like I had so many times over the years, laying as still as I possibly could, hugging the edge of the bed, praying that he wouldn’t wake up and touch me.  Usually once he was snoring I was in the clear, but not this time.  I woke up a few hours later with him on top of me.  I pushed and pushed trying to get him off of me, finally freeing myself.  I was terrified.  The gaslighting started, but this time, I was done.  I wanted to call the police, but we were in another state, and I couldn’t handle my kids being put through the spectacle it would cause, so I did nothing, I said nothing to anyone for months.  I filed for divorce two days later.

By this point you are probably wondering why in the world I am sharing such a personal and painful experience with the you.  I can still see vivid images in my mind of them happening as I sit here typing.  It makes me physically ill.  But, I remember thinking when I spoke to someone about it the first time a few months later, the power I felt in getting the words out, not hiding behind the things he had done to me.  I also remember thinking that I would NEVER let anyone else do anything like that to me again.

About four months ago I started dating again.  I was on the fence about whether it was a good idea, but felt like I needed to somehow breathe life back into my…life.  So I made an attempt at Match, I realized quickly (I didn’t even last a week) that was a mistake…far too many unsolicited photos and messages, it was just too much.  I took a quick breather during the holidays and then hunted for something else.  I wasn’t doing Tinder, and I was hoping to find something that was a little less here send me a photo of your junk type of thing.  So after some looking around I landed on Bumble.  Bumble, similar to Tinder in that you have to swipe left or right.  Once you both swipe right, the man pops up in the woman’s hive and she has 24 hours to send them a message, and they then have 24 hours to respond.  So now after several months “bumbling”….I’ve met mostly nice men.  Some pleasant conversations, some new friendships, and some nice dates.  I’ve been super cautious, some might even think overly cautious, I was actually wondering if they were right….until a few days ago.

I met a guy and we chatted for about a week, he seemed pleasant and normal and he asked me to have a drink with him.  Lately I’ve been reluctant again to go through with meeting anyone, and almost canceled, but my friend said just go, have fun…so I went.  Everything seemed normal to start.  He was drinking a little more than I would have liked, especially given that we had talked about my alcoholic ex, and I was having a water.  I gave him the benefit of the doubt, he seemed extremely nervous.  The date itself would have been great, had things not gone the direction they did.  In hindsight, I keep thinking about how terribly wrong things could have gone.  We walked from the bar to another pub and had dinner, it was beautiful outside and nice alternative to sitting across from a table the entire time talking.  On our walk back to our cars, he stopped at one point to kiss me, and apparently decided he knew me well enough to start “touching” me.  I grabbed his hand and told him that wasn’t ok.  He stopped.  I spent the rest of the walk back to our cars trying to avoid any further progression of things.  Can someone please tell me why in the world any man (or woman) would rationally think that this was acceptable behavior?

The next day I met my two best friends for dinner.  We talked through the happenings.  In case you ever date me or anything of the sort, you should probably know we have a very open relationship and share just about everything.  Imagine the coffee shop scenes from Girlfriends Guide to Divorce.

coffee shop

So a) don’t be a jerk and b) expect that they probably know things, that’s just how we process the craziness of our lives.  As I’m telling them the story, it’s almost like I can’t even believe what happened, to be honest still in this moment, I keep thinking there is no way this actually happened, and the more violated I keep feeling.  Of course both of them are trying to figure out why I didn’t punch the guy.  As it was happening I was trying to think who can I call to help me if needed.  I’m usually pretty careful about telling them where I am heading for dates, so they at least have somewhere to start, if I come up missing, but at this moment I wished I had a panic button in my pocket.

After talking through everything with them, I of course in very predictable Jen fashion, I keep thinking (or over thinking as some would say…(clearing throat) Chris…Kobie…yes that was directed at you, lol) the situation.  This leads to me crying myself to sleep.  I continue this cry fest the next couple of days off and on.  I’m just so angry at myself for not having a better plan.  For thinking I was being safe, and yet somehow I managed to get lucky and it wasn’t worse than what it was.  It makes me angry that there are men out there that think this kind of behavior is ok.

Once I got through the emotional roller coaster, I kept coming back to my friends saying they couldn’t believe I didn’t punch him.  It really started to eat at me, WHY didn’t I punch him.  Why did I choose any of my actions/reactions the way I had?  Finally as I was doing the dishes today, it all hit me like a Mack truck, and I fell to my knees in sobbing tears.  I allowed it because I had been desensitized and conditioned for so many years to think that this was all I was worth, and I deserved to be treated like that.  It was common for my ex to be drinking and “handle” me the way this guy had, and I was just supposed to accept it or face the damaging words that would follow.

So four months ago when I decided I was going to attempt this dating thing, I can’t say I’m sad that I did, it did help me breathe life back into my life, but I think this last event will make it extremely difficult for me to meet anyone new for a while.  I think its time to hang that hat up for a little while and reevaluate how I respond to things, what is normal and what just seems like it should be normal based on my past conditioning, and maybe take a self-defense class.  Because unfortunately no matter how much I want to think it wasn’t me…it was me…I was in an abusive relationship, I did live 29 of those 42 warning signs of domestic violence.

Abuse is not just being hit….

“He doesn’t have to hit you for it be abuse. He can manipulate, belittle, humiliate, curse, blame, scream, ridcule, disrespect and try to control you….Abuse gets worse over time. Get help now!”

I wrote a post last year titled “Behind Closed Doors”, unfortunately I no longer have this post. What happened to it you might wonder? One day my ex found my blog and got very angry. He demanded that I remove the post! How dare I say these things about him in a public place. How dare I speak the truth and show people who he really was, that’s what he was really angry about. My point of saying this, isn’t to out him, isn’t to try to make him look bad, its the feeling I had after I deleted the post that I want others to understand.

For months I had been healing. I had realized where I was in my life, what had been happening to me for the last twenty years. I was beginning to regain my self esteem, my clarity in life. For that one brief moment I became that scared woman again. The one who would do anything to keep the peace, rather then face another night of being screamed at, called worthless and ugly. Being told that everyone hated me and I was a horrible person. Because these were the words I endured for 20 years. I did everything I could to protect him, his image, the image of our family, etc, but I didn’t protect the most important thing, myself.

I always thought that I was protecting my children by keeping the peace, keeping our family together. I didn’t realize it until recently that I was just doing more harm then good. You want to be a brave mom? LEAVE! Do whatever it takes, work 2 or 3 jobs, ask for help, and don’t be ashamed of anything. Asking for help is one of the most difficult things, especially when you have been told for so long how worthless you are. Why would anyone want to help you. Why would you deserve anyone’s help? Even if I don’t know you personally, I can promise you one thing YOU ARE WORTH IT!  It will take time but I promise you, you too will see your worth in the coming days, weeks, months and years.  Little by little you will see who you always truly were beneath the layers of abuse.

As I was going through photos of the past year, I found the first photo taken of me with friends while out one night.  You see, I never went out with friends, because I wasn’t allowed, or I was made to feel completely horrible if I chose to go spend time with my friends.  I never wanted him to go with me because it always turned into an embarrassment from his behavior.  So instead, I made excuses and didn’t go out.  I remember this photo and what my dearest friend said to me….this is a good photo…because that is your REAL smile.  That smile showed the happiness I felt at that moment.

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Within an hour of that photo being taken, I went to the bathroom and for the first time that night had checked my phone.  As I walked back to the table my friends husband looked at me and said, “you got a text from him didn’t you?  Give me your phone.” (So he could hold it and I wouldn’t look at anything else he texted the rest of the night) I couldn’t.  I can’t remember what the words were on that text, all I remember was the feeling.  Even though I had already filed for divorce and had our first court date, I felt like I was doing something wrong.  I was instantly terrified.  I quickly made my plan to exit and go home without being overly dramatic or anyone knowing “why” I was leaving.

Now almost a year after that photo was taken, I was going though photos from this weekend.  Even though I am officially divorced, started dating again, and have my own life, he still sends me texts while I’m out.  It’s as if he has a tracking chip on me.  Once again, I’m out and I get a text from him.  My friend doesn’t try to take my phone this time, just says, “don’t respond.”  The freeing feeling I had of not even caring.  I didn’t want to say anything back, I didn’t care that he had texted me, and I could have easily handed my phone over and went about my day with no guilt.  That’s the difference a year will make.  That’s the difference of realizing your worth.  That’s the difference of realizing though you are not 100% healed, you are healing.

Anyone who knows me well, knows I HATE having my photo taken.  I cringe at the thought and dread looking back at them later.  I however LOVE these photos, because they represent the progress I have made in my healing.  The show that its possible to be happy again.  BeautyPlus_20180125120234_saveScreenshot_2018-03-17-14-32-20received_1021538760991301420180317_21251320180317_16163720180317_15575920180317_212428

If you are reading this, and this is your story, or similar to yours, please reach out to someone and tell them. It may take you time to get out, but you can make a plan.  In reality it took me almost 2 years to fully prepare myself to be out.  I took baby steps before I took giant leaps.  If you are the friend, please know this….you can’t make someone do anything, but your support no matter what can save their life.

Finally to those of you who are in these photos, I want you to know how important you are to me.  As I sit here looking at them, looking at my smile in each one of them, tears are streaming down my face, knowing that they represent pure joy in my heart, you are a part of my story, a part of my healing, a part of my joy, and I am SO very thankful for you!  Some of you I have known for years others have only recently met, but you all represent the joy that comes from finally being freed from the chains of abuse.

1-800-799-SAFE or via the web The National Domestic Abuse Hotline

February 2108 reflection….Who am I?

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One year ago today (2/28), I woke up, got dressed, pulled the papers that had been waiting for me to file for 3 weeks, called my best friend and said its time. We went to the courthouse and filed, and then to lunch. Oddly I remember some of the strangest details of that day. I vividly remember what I wore (especially the heartache and frown on my face), where we sat at lunch, how I felt sitting in the office filing those papers. Yet at the same time, I can remember feeling like I was watching all these things happen from outside of my body. I was ending the longest chapter of my life.

Now after a year has past, I find myself contemplating who am? I’m a daughter, a mother, a teacher, a coach, a friend, and a little lost, yet feeling optimistic and happy overall. It’s no secret this has been a roller coaster of a year, I have come so far. The fog has cleared, the realization of the reality that I lived in/through for so many years, making me so much more aware of who I was, who I have become, and who I hope to be.

Twenty-one years ago I was a shy, young, unsure but optimistic twenty year old who fell fast for a guy I thought was different then who he became, or was and I didn’t realize/see it. I will never regret those years. Those struggles made me stronger, independent, outgoing, gave me depth and made me more aware of my talents, faith and achievements. Those years taught me compassion, understanding, and in the end that I am worth all the things I had hoped for and looked for in a man all those years ago and now. Those years gave me the opportunity to experience the incredible joy of growing a life within me and seeing them raised into some of the most amazing people I have ever met. It allowed me to experience the intense grief of loss, and reality that life would continue despite my pain. The last year brought me to my knees and taught me that we truly must listen for the answer and not just expect the one we want when we pray. In fact it showed me in what was probably the boldest way, that prayers are answered sometimes by showing you the worst in a situation to point you in the direction you should be going. I will never regret those years.

Now as I open a brand new book, beginning the first chapter of the next book in the series of my life, I’ve been thinking about who I want to be. I want to be kind, empathetic, strong, full of love and life, open to new experience, brave, authentic and fearless. I want those around me not to feel like they have to apologize for my past, but be happy for me for my future. I want them to realize that this is a good time in my life.

I am certain about only a few things. I am certain I will have days that I want to stay in bed and stop “adulting”, because being a single mom is a lot harder then I ever imagined. I will always be surrounded by love, I have amazing children, friends and family that are there for me even when I feel at my loneliest. My biggest comfort will always come from those quite moments on my knees when I bravely turn things over to God and stop trying to be in control. And finally, I am going to mess up, sometimes epically, but I will recover.

Last month I wanted to focus on being myself as authentically as I can be, and approaching things in a more “breezy” way, surprisingly I’ve been able to continue that pattern. I’m pretty proud of myself for this one. There is something to say about not overthinking everything you do (I’m not 100% there but I’m doing a ton better on this one). Doing something for someone just because it will make them smile, even if it really has no return to you other then knowing that you put a smile on someone else’s face.

A year ago I was a destroyed shell of myself, wondering how in the world I was going to ever survive, would I ever feel whole, would I ever smile, would every day end in tears, loneliness and uncertainty. I wish I could have told that girl that in a year you would soon be replacing the wedding ring you had worn for 20 years, that represented more of the cycle of abuse then the love it should have, with a smile that you had lost. I wish I could have told her that there would be days she’d catch herself smiling for no reason and that in itself would make her smile even more. And now I find myself wondering, what will the next year bring. What will I discover about myself. What vivid memories will I hold and look back on in a year. I can only hope they are filled with memories of the smile I thought would never return, happy memories of new adventures, and moments of discovering who I am!

January 2018….patience, grace and understanding

To be completely honest, I have dragged my feet about writing this reflection for the last two weeks.  January was a FULL month, it honestly felt like at least 6 months.  I am finishing up my “January” book, “5 Habits of a Woman Who Doesn’t Quit” by Nicki Koziarz.  The fourth habit has really stuck out to me.  “She gives others what she needs.”  Through all the things that have happened in the past month, I have tried to take a short second before my initial reaction and think about what it is that I need right now, and try to apply it to the situation.  Currently I feel like I need patience, grace and understanding above all else, and I have tried to react to each situation with those things.  It is amazing the sense of peace it has given me in many situations by doing this.

I assumed that January would be a difficult month for me, I was really dreading all the memories flooding back from last January, but instead, what I found when I saw a Facebook memory or something else that tied a memory to last year, I didn’t feel sad, I actually felt blessed.  I am blessed to no longer be in that situation, I was blessed by MANY people in my life at the time who carried me through such an incredibly dark time.  I knew it at the time, I thanked them, prayed for them, and was so grateful of all the friendships and simple words of encouragement that came, but seeing it once your out of it, the blessings were HUGE, and God sent me exactly what I needed at that time, even if I didn’t know it.

I’d love to say that I’ve been perfect and always turned things over to God, rather then trying to do it on my own, but that would be a huge lie.  I’m far from perfect, and frankly, until the last year, I am not sure I ever really turned everything over to him.  There were times last year that I thought I did, and then I would catch myself trying to do it my way or on my own…and I usually fell on my face.  This past month, I really truly tried to let go, approach everything with a more “breezy” go with the flow, let god lead me attitude.  When that feeling of doing or reacting to something my way came over me, I tried to pray instead.  The calmness and peace is such a contrast from my life the last twenty years, I truly hope I can continue this approach.

When I first picked up this book last month, I choose it because I felt like a failure, like I was always quitting things and that just made me feel horrible.  Ironically, the lessons to me have more to do with living my life in general, in a way that provides and environment that doesn’t feed into my “desire” to quit.  When things aren’t going nuts, when there aren’t a ton of things to make excuses about, it’s easy to follow through with your commitments and goals.  So for February, I am working on keeping these approaches in the front of my mind, and challenging you to really think about whether you are handing things over to God or trying to control your life.  If nothing else, go out and give the world what it is YOU need right now.  You may not get it back in the place or from the person you are expecting it, but I promise it will come back to you!

2 Corinthians 9:6

“whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. “

2017 Reflection: be brave, be strong, be independent.

2018 17I decided I wanted to have some monthly reflection in 2018 and posting here seems to be a good way to keep me accountable.  I’m going to  kick it off with a reflection of 2017, what better way to look back on 2018 and see how far I’ve personally come.

2017 began in extreme turmoil, chaos, and hurt.  I never in my life imagined that I would experience the pain I did in that short time.  Witnessing someone you once loved self destruct and attempt to take you with them, is indescribable.  I remember toward the end of the first two months of the year, after I had spent EVERY single night crying, all at once I just realized that I was not present with my children, my own life was falling apart, because I was grasping onto something that I needed to let go of.  I was so sick of crying all the time, I hated looking in the mirror and seeing this girl looking back at me who was destroyed.  I snapped a picture and decided that was it, I would never again allow that to be the girl who stared back at me in the mirror.  I was no longer going to allow a man who was suppose to love me, continue to destroy my life and his.  I knew I could do nothing more for him, I had fought as hard as I could for not only the last two months, but in reality for the last 20 years.  I had given my marriage absolutely everything I could, and there was just no more that I could do to keep fighting it alone.  I had completed the initial paperwork to file for divorce.  They set in my drawer for 24 days before I finally called a friend and asked her to accompany me to the courthouse to file the papers.  I will never forget sitting their listening to the required recording for those filing pro se, one of my best friends and biggest supporters text me and asked how I was doing (knowing I was there filing), I nearly lost it.  He told me to take is slow and breathe, and it would all be ok.  This was one of the most painful things I could have ever imagined doing.  I cannot imagine ending a marriage at any point is easy, but we had been together and just had (not celebrated) our 19th wedding anniversary and 20 years together.  I had been a child when we met, barely 20 years old.  I was now sitting her 40 years old ending all my hopes and dreams.  I’d love to say I felt confident right away, but I wasn’t.  I waited a week and served him.  At that moment, I felt confident.  This was what needed to be done.

Music has played a huge part of my life in 2017.  Just two days before I had filed, we had been at our last tournament club tournament for the season in Columbus, OH.  A few things occurred during that tournament that changed my life and made it painfully clear I needed to get out, and fast.   I hate driving in the winter, really hate it.  In fact, I’m not a fan of driving super long distances alone either.  This time I had to drive it alone, despite the fact that he was in the car.  I drove the entire three hour drive all by myself.  I listened to a lot of music on the way home, but the one that I really remember was the last song that played as I exited the interstate home.  I remember thinking just before that, I did it, I conquered a HUGE fear of mine and did this entire drive alone. I remember looking over at him while he slept and feeling sad, but confident that it was time.

“Say Something”

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one if you want me to
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on youAnd I… am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all
And I… will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawlSay something, I’m giving up on you
I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on youAnd I… will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbye

Say something, I’m giving up on you
And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere I would’ve followed you (Oh-Ooh)
Say something, I’m giving up on you

Say something, I’m giving up on you
Say something…

The months following filing weren’t any easier.  I struggled with how to handle each new thing thrown my way.  He did not make any of it easy.  The denial of the entire situation really took a toll on myself, the kids and eventually even him.  After a failed attempt to finalize earlier in the year, I had put off the necessary things to just pull the trigger and get it done.  Something was always looming and not the “right time.” We had Andy’s graduation, Alex’s nationals, Andy moving to college, just something always there. Finally in September, I did it.  I will never forget the look on his face when I handed him those papers.  That was the one moment of this entire process that I actually felt sad.  I did not feel regret, but I felt like for once, one thing I was doing was hurting him, and that made me sad.  Anyone who knows me will say I’m way to nice for my own good, and this was a classic example of that.  He went back and forth over the next 5 weeks fighting over it.  Finally 15 minutes before he started his job (after being off work for 5 months) he signed the final papers, and later that day after my final court hearing, I was officially divorced.  He could no longer control me, manipulate me, or destroy my self esteem again.  I had taken back control of the person I once was.
As the year was winding down, I had many months of reflection on myself.  The mistakes I had made, the things about myself that I loved and the things I didn’t like very much.  I had time to reflect on what I had dreamed of when I was that blind 20 year old first getting involved in this relationship.  At the time I wanted to be a wife and mother.  I couldn’t imagine what I would do with my life if I wasn’t those things.  Most importantly I didn’t really think about what I had to offer anyone at that time.  I didn’t see my own worth.  However after many months of being single, really looking at my life, the next 40 years, ect, I had so much clarity.  Late in the year someone asked me how I was, my response:
“All things considered, the fog has lifted, the sun shines again, life goes on. 🙂 Time for new adventures.”
I reread that a few times over the last few weeks of the year.  I was so proud of myself for how far I had come.  I knew that statement was 100% where I was.  I was finally done with the hurt and the chocs.  I was ready to move on to my next adventures.  I was happy.
Like I said music seemed to play a big roll in my healing this year.  Earlier in the year when I would hear this song, it was what I hoped for.  I wanted to be BRAVE.  I wanted to see myself be brave.  I wanted to heal and take back control of my life.  On New Years Eve, I sat an listened to this song, and for the first time in a very long time, the words meant something so different to me.  It wasn’t something I was hoping for anymore, it was who I was.  I was brave.  I was the words people had used to describe me.  I was strong, brave, kind, I finally knew my worth.  I had even been brave enough to express my feelings to someone, despite it not turning out how I had hoped, it really turned out as I expected.  The most important thing though, was I knew my worth and I was brave enough to stand up for that and speak up.

“Brave”

You can be amazing
You can turn a phrase into a weapon or a drug
You can be the outcast
Or be the backlash of somebody’s lack of love
Or you can start speaking upNothing’s gonna hurt you the way that words do
When they settle ‘neath your skin
Kept on the inside and no sunlight
Sometimes a shadow wins
But I wonder what would happen if youSay what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be braveI just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

Everybody’s been there,
Everybody’s been stared down by the enemy
Fallen for the fear
And done some disappearing,
Bow down to the mighty
Don’t run, just stop holding your tongue

Maybe there’s a way out of the cage where you live
Maybe one of these days you can let the light in
Show me how big your brave is

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

And since your history of silence
Won’t do you any good,
Did you think it would?
Let your words be anything but empty
Why don’t you tell them the truth?

Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave
With what you want to say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I wanna see you be brave

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
See you be brave

I just wanna see you (yeah)
I just wanna see you (oh ooh)
I just wanna see you

I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you
I just wanna see you

So as 2018 begins, I want to thank all the people that shared 2017 with me.  Those who held my hand, prayed with me, cried with me, sent me words of encouragement, made me feel loved, showed me I was brave, strong and independent, encouraged me to be everything I could be despite the hiccups life was throwing me.  What I am looking forward to most in 2018 is not only continuing to be brave, strong and independent but owning those adjectives and adding determined and joyful to the mix.  Good bye to 2017, I will never forget you.  I always thought I wanted to, but in reality, despite the enormous amount of poo that was thrown at me, It will probably go down as one of the best years of my life, because it prepared me to be so much more then I already was!  Hello 2018, let’s make this a great year!!!!
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WGU Enrollment Process

college bound.jpeg

Having gone through this process two times now, one for myself and with my ex-husband, I thought it might be helpful to give those of you who are considering it an idea of what it will be like.

*First if you need a referral code to get your application fee waived, comment below with your email and I’ll send you one.  NO reason to pay for it, when they’ll give you a code to do it for free, right?!

*Once you’ve filled out the application, you will be given a log in, this will be your log in as a student as well, and will end up being your @wgu.edu email address as well.  I would recommend getting a notebook and making notes of all these passwords, phone numbers, ect as you go through the process.

* If you’ve attended college before get those transcripts sent ASAP.  These can take a little while sometimes, so its best to get on it right away.

*Fill out your FASFA forms.  Make sure you have your tax forms from last year ready, it will make things a lot simpler for you.  At the end of this application it will give you an idea of what you can expect in terms of grants and/or loans.

*Assessments, for the most part everyone has to take these.  You will take a basic math and language assessment.  You should give yourself 45 minutes to an hour to complete these.  Then you will write a short essay 200-800 words.  They give you 4 hours to write it, but it really doesn’t take long.  I have seen some examples of questions spread about the internet from time to time.  I believe my husband’s had something to do with how workers skill sets have changed over the last 100 years.  That’s not exactly what the question was, but something to that effect I believe.  Finally there is an assestment to ensure that online classes are a good fit for you.  It takes maybe 15 minutes to answer these questions.  No big deal at all.  You want to get all 4 of these done ASAP though.  They take around 5 to 7 days to get the results back and the waiting can be painful! : (

*Contact your Enrollment specialist (by phone) and they will likely set up your entrance interview.  Again this one is no big deal, you just have to answer questions to ensure you are a good fit.

Once you have completed everything and are accepted you will have an orientation class you will take.  And be assigned a start date.

If you do everything efficiently and don’t drag your feet, you could realistically be completely done with the process in a week or two.

One last tip…you do NOT have to start right away.  Let’s say you have a vacation coming up next month, go ahead and get your enrollment stuff done and then request the following month as a start date.  Everyone starts on the first day of the month, but it can be any month of the year.  By getting everything in and completed, you can ensure you get the start date you’d like, versus finding out there is a wait (1 person told me there was a wait at one time, not sure how often that happens).

Good Luck and Welcome to the WGU family!