Friday, August 28, 2015

Dotty is Not a Consolation Prize for Divorce...

I had a very nice lady who has known me and my family for many years talk to me the other day. She was bragging on our successes in the business, how much we had accomplished over the years even with all the ups and downs of life, and so on and so forth. Then she said "You know honey...your marriage might not have worked out but you got a sweet girl out of the deal so I guess it wasn't a total loss was it?!"
I know she meant well...and trust me I have heard worse "compliments" regarding my status in life over the years but for some reason on that day, in that moment, that comment just hit me wrong.
I smiled and said "Well you know I have never considered Dotty a consolation prize for failing at marriage."
Of course this caused the well meaning lady to backtrack faster than A Rod during an interview on PEDs. I wasn't trying to make her uncomfortable or upset her because I don't think she was originally trying to do either of those things to me. We did get past that awkward moment and ended with a hug and a goodbye.
Later I got to thinking about what she had said and about my feelings about the entire situation.
Like Oprah there are a few things I know for sure...
1. Like I told the lady...I don't think God ever intended for Dotty to be mine or Tony's consolation prize for not making our marriage work. Dotty is one fantastic, amazing, off the charts personality, going to do something big someday...kind of kid. The world needed Dotty...or if nothing else...MY world needed Dotty for sure! God knew this. He knew I needed Dotty...and the only way to get Dotty was to put Tony and me together. So no...Dotty is not the consolation prize. She is not the "Let's see what is behind Door #2" in the game show of life. She is not the equivalent to a lifetime supply of Campbell's soup as a parting gift from the "Marriage Game". She is at least one of the MAIN reasons...if not THE reason God put Tony and me together. I believe this...with my whole heart I believe this.
2. Up until my marriage ended life came pretty easy to me. I had a great childhood for the most part. I did well in school and in sports. I had friends. I had family. I had a good job. Of course there were the little dips in the road here and there but nothing major. I knew other people that had REAL big issues in life...but not me. Nope. I had it made. In some ways...I was basically telling God "I got this Big G....don't you worry about me. I am good. I have my life in control. You go solve world hunger or find a cure for cancer...but don't worry about me...I am all good God! I got this. We can talk later." When I got divorced though I was definitely not "all good". In fact I was one big mess. For the most part I kept it together at work and in front of Dotty but when I was alone or with friends or sitting on my counselor's couch I was a huge mess. During the first year I talked to God more than I had talked to Him in the 30 years before that...I yelled at Him...I questioned Him...I cried to Him...I reasoned with Him...and then finally I stopped talking and I listened to Him. In the last five years I have grown closer to God than ever before. I have talked with Him not only daily but sometimes hourly. I have poured myself into a relationship with God because that was the only way I could heal. God knew He would have to break me...He would have to break my heart WIDE OPEN in order for me to make room for Him. Now don't get me wrong...I have always loved God and worshipped Him but I had never REALLY leaned on God, cried out to God, fell on my knees and talked to God with a heart and a soul so crushed that only God could find all the pieces and put it back together. I don't believe God intentionally hurts us but I do believe that He let's us get hurt so we can find an even bigger even stronger faith...and an even deeper love through Him. After all, if He would let Job go through all that he endured God would certainly let me have a few months of pain and sorrow if it meant a deeper connection with Him in the end. So my divorce brought me closer to God. Again...I don't think this was the consolation prize...I think it was part of the Plan...Big P from Big G!
3. The last thing I know for sure is we all walk different paths in two roads are the same. My marriage/divorce/coparenting situation is not like anyone else's. We all must travel the road God has for us. Before I figured this out I was very quick to make assumptions about people and their situations. Now I realize I just don't know the whole story...and I am not supposed to because it is not my story. I think I have more compassion for everyone going through the trials of life whatever they may least I hope I do. Many people see Tony and e raising Dotty in our somewhat unconventional way and they make comments both good and bad about it...but what I know for sure is this is what works for us...and most of all for Dotty. I know some of you have ex spouses that are first cousins to Satan himself and trust me my heart breaks for the situations some of you face. I thank God everyday that while Tony and I failed at our marriage (and trust me we both failed at it...we each had our issues big and small that led to the downfall) we have succeeded in raising a kid who for the most part is "okay". She is well adjusted. She is pretty normal...although some of her dance moves are a little out there...but she is pretty normal for an almost 8 year old girl. I don't know what the future holds. Twenty years from now she might be telling her counselor all her problems stem from her parents...but the one thing she can never doubt is if we screwed her up we did so out of love. It was the love Tony and I had for her...the love for her and her well being that has caused us to raise her the way we do. Tony and I still disagree sometimes. We still get on each others nerves. We still don't like the same things in each other that we didn't like five years ago (in fact I can assure you Tony will not like this post)...but we also STILL love Dotty more...more than anything else will ever matter. And Tony and I are just pieces of the path. Brittany is HUGE piece of how we walk our road with raising Dotty. In fact...sometimes she, as Dotty's step-mom, is the glue that holds the whole road together! Our parents, siblings, friends, and so many others who love Dotty more than they love picking a side in a divorce are also a part of the path. Tony and I are pretty good parents because we have a crazy awesome support system that won't let us fail. These people might not always agree with our choices...they might not understand them...but they see Dotty smile and they know that she is the only reason we do what we do.

I give a lot of "shout outs" on FB to family, friends, staff, strangers...and of course Dotty but I don't think I have ever given one to Tony. So here goes...
He is a great dad to Dotty (and Dylann, Dotty's little sister, and will be to his little boy that is on the way). He is a good person. He had his good points as a husband. He had his faults too (just like I did). And he is a good ex-husband in many ways.

God has shown me over the last five years what it takes to forgive someone and what it takes to get forgiveness in return. God has shown me that REAL forgiveness can't come with stipulations or ultimatums. Real forgiveness is freely given. Real forgiveness is a choice we offer up every day. Real forgiveness can't be forced or rushed. Real forgiveness comes from a deep place that real pain and real love also reside. Real forgiveness is what we give others and what we must give to ourselves.

God has made me better in the last five years. I am not the same person I was back in the fall of 2009. I thank the good Lord every day for that. Once again I don't think me becoming a better human being was a consolation prize...I think it was part of the PLAN. I don't know what else God has planned for me but I can guess some parts will be awesome and some parts will be awful and all parts will be for my personal greater good and for the ultimate GLORY to GOD.

Monday, August 24, 2015

2nd Grade...

Today I dropped Dotty off at school for her first day of Second Grade. In the car on the drive over I kept giving Dotty helpful hints like...

- Talk less and listen more.
- You have to be a friend to get a friend.
- Talk to the kid no one else is talking to.
- Be a part of the solution not a part of the problem.
- Wash your hands often. Then use hand sanitizer. Then use some more.
- Don't run with scissors. Actually don't run at all...except on the playground. So I guess just don't take your scissors to the playground.

You guessed the last one Dotty was looking at me like I had lost it. What she didn't know was I was trying really hard by talking non-stop to not lose it and start crying like a baby! I mean seriously...this is not our first "first day of school". We have done this three times already (Pre-K, K, and 1st) not to mention all the times I dropped her off at daycares over the years. So why is it still so hard to watch my baby cross off another milestone in life? Why does it feel like time is slipping away from me so fast and the more I try to slow it down the faster it runs through my fingers?

I did pretty good in front of Dotty at school. I kept a smile on my face. I kept it light hearted. I even helped a bit with Dylann who was having a hard time on the first day of Pre-K and Brittany was a little frazzled too. I watched a few of the other kiddos hanging on to their moms' legs as teachers slowly and sweetly pulled them away. I watched this as my own child could barely get away from me fast enough. I had to physically hold Dotty by both shoulders to get a good-bye kiss. She was in such a hurry to see her friends, to get to class...she is in such a hurry to grow up.

While I am trying to always slow her down...she is always trying to speed up. It is a constant war we wage as mother and daughter.

When I got back in the car Brittany sent me a sweet thank you text and mentioned how the day had been tough. I reminded her how good of a mom she was and what a good job she was doing.

It made me think how all moms are so hard on themselves. We want to create these pinterest perfect moments in life and when they fall short we think we have failed as moms. Let me tell you though I know Brittany is no failure. I see it every day when I see Dotty and Dylann. Brittany is one of the good ones...she loves her kids and wants only the best for all moms should.

I know how hard it is to leave a crying child. I know how hard it is to walk away and will yourself to not look back. I know how hard it is to hold back the tears until you get into the car. I know because I have been there. Dotty has had those moments. We have had those moments.

But I also know this...those days of watching a crying child reach for and cry out for their momma are just as hard on a mom as the days when the child can barely say good-bye and runs into the school building without looking back. Those are the days that a momma cries too.

On those days she cries because she is so proud of her baby...and she cries because she knows her baby is no longer a baby.

Soon friends and boyfriends (heaven help me) will be more important than Mom. Soon the homework will be too hard for Mom to help with. Soon the athletic ability will mean Mom is no longer "letting them win". Soon the only times Mom will get a really good snuggle is when there are hurt feelings or a broken heart involved.

Moms cry on these days because they can see the transition coming...and it is closer than they want it to be.

I don't miss the days that Dotty cried when I left...but I also am not looking forward to the days when Dotty won't even let me get out of the car to hug her goodbye. I want my child to be independent in a lot of ways but I also want her to always need me in some ways. I am so proud of the little girl Dotty has become but I want to keep her a little girl as long as possible. I am excited about what the future holds for Dotty but I don't want that future to come any time soon.

Basically I want what I can't have. You can't keep a little kid from growing up...we hope and pray they all get the chance to do just that.

So I do what all moms have done for years and years and will continue to do for years to come. I smile so my kid knows I am okay. I tell her what a great day she will have on this first day of second grade. I laugh at her and her friends and the things they talk about. I get one last hug and a quick kiss and I smile even bigger.

Then I hurry off to my car and I cry once the door is shut. Through my tears I post pics on Facebook and send them via email to great-grandparents. It takes me a few minutes and when the tears are all gone I look up to see I am the last parent in the parking lot. All the other parents have moved on.

And so...I do the same. I move on...I enjoy this last first...and I look forward to the next.

Conversations with my now 2nd grader...

Life with Dotty is never boring. Our conversations are pretty awesome these are just a few pieces of today's after school talk...

Me - Did you make any new friends?
Dot - Yep. Two new ones.
Me - Great! What are their names?
Dot - I have no idea. I don't do details.

Me - I don't know how I feel about having a second grader!
Dot - What about when I go to Jr. High?
Me - I might not get out of the house!
Dot - High school?
Me - I might not get out of bed!
Dot - College?
Me - I am just going to wrap my arms around you and hold on tight!!!
Dot - Well that is one way to get a kid "held back" in school.
Then she laughs so hard at her own joke I laugh even harder!

Me - I love you more than you know Dotty.
Dot - I have deep regards for you.
Me - Deep regards huh?!
Dot - It is better than having shallow regards.

Crazy kid!!! I have no idea where she gets this from!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Vacation is No Vacation...

All week my house has been pretty close to spotless. All the clothes are folded or hung up nicely, all the beds are made, all the pillows are on the couch, all the blankets are put away, all the toys are tucked neatly in their proper house looks really pretty awesome if I do say so myself. My house has also been very serene and peaceful. The tv has been off most of the week. I have spent countless hours reading in the stillness and the silence that has surrounded me. Occasionally I would get on my computer and the tap-tap-tapping of my fingers on the keyboard would echo through the house but for the most part other than the swirling sounds of fans or ticking of clocks my house has been pretty silent.
Some of you would think this week must have been a great one for me...and some of you know that this week has been almost pure torture because you too have had to deal with weeks when your child was gone. Whether they are gone for camps or visits to grandparents or to see their other parent the fact is your child is not home.
In order to survive times like this many of you might turn to my strategy. During the days you keep yourself so booked up and so busy you barely have time to think. When the evenings roll around you either schedule time to catch up with friends and family you don't see very often or you have a to-do list of errands a mile long that you hope and pray will last until bedtime.
Unfortunately there comes a time when I have to go home. I have to walk into my perfectly clean, amazingly straight, super quiet, Dottyless home. And this is simply not the home I want to live in. Every night I hold back tears or sometimes let them fall. Every night I go to bed early just so I can be done with one more day and be that much closer to Dotty's return.
I know I am lucky it is only a week I have to do this each year. Some of you endure much more, much longer and I simply don't know how you do it. I guess just like anything else in life...we do it because we have to and because we love our kids.
I know Dotty is having a wonderful time with her Nichols side of the family just like she has a wonderful time with me when we go on vacation. I also know that when Dotty and I are gone for long periods of time on our trips Tony feels just like I do. He feels like a piece of his heart is missing.
I laid in bed last night thinking about how in a little over 10 years Dotty will go off to college and this will be my world from that point on.
I almost got physically sick at that thought.
Then I began to wonder if you could home school college kids...then I began to wonder if it was too late to enroll her in MSU now and go ahead and pay for it that way she couldn't get too far away from me...then I began to wonder how to make time stop.
Sadly many of you parents will soon have your babies heading off to college and my heart breaks for you! I have a decade left to prepare but I know even that will not be enough time. Even with 10 years still to go I will still want more time.
(Of course I have heard it said that the reason why teenagers are so bad is so parents are glad to see them leave the house at 18 but hopefully Dotty's teenage years won't kill me or us or our relationship! Hey a mom can hope!!!)
It has been five years since Tony and I divorced. Five years since we started sharing our time with Dotty. It hasn't gotten any easier. It perhaps has become the new "normal" but it has never gotten easier. Like I said (and simply can't say enough) I know how blessed I am that Tony and I can get along as well as we do and that we even have a highly functioning dysfunctional family that does a lot of stuff together. I know how good God is to have Brittany and Dylann and Baby Boy Nichols in Dotty's life and in mine. I know how lucky I am that I can still talk and laugh and get along with my ex-in-laws. Trust me...I know in the grand scheme of things I have it pretty dang good.
But I also know that seven nights without my Dotty is hard on this momma. Divorce is never is never easy...even in my case where my divorce is about as good as they come. The fact is there is still hurt and pain in divorces...long after the papers are signed and the case is closed there are still nights with tears and there are still broken hearts.
Someday I want Dotty to know that both Tony and I encouraged her time with the other parent out of love for her. In a true act of selflessness we gave up what we wanted so she could have the best childhood a kid with divorced parents could possibly have. Tony and I let our own hearts break so Dotty's heart could be filled with the love of three parents (yep...Brittany loves my kid just like her own and for that I will always be grateful...and I pray to God that someday He adds a fourth parent...a step-dad who will love Dotty like the rest of us do) and countless other family members who care for her in ways she won't ever really be able to understand until she becomes a parent herself.
To say I dread the first week in August every year is an understatement. To say I cherish the other 51 weeks of the year is my goal and solemn vow to Dotty.