Friday, September 28, 2012

Happliy Ever After: My thoughts on Separation and Divorce

Someone very close to me is currently at a crossroad in her marriage.  She is done and is ready to move forward with the process of looking at ending her marriage.  She is in a hell that you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy and her struggle has prompted me to write this blog.  I want to try and share a bit of my story in hopes that I my experience will assist her in going through her own.  One of the most important things to remember when you or a loved one is going through such a thing is that this is a long painful process.  You don't just wake up and decide to end a marriage. 

I was going through my separation and divorce I realized, who would want this?  For those few who questioned what I was doing, I asked myself this.  Who wants to admit that their marriage is crap?  Who wants to stand up and tell everyone that they don't live in the perfect little world that they desperately wanted others to believe they did.  Who wants to put their children through the pain and heartbreak of a unhealthy living situation?  No one does.  In order for me to have gotten to the point that I went ahead with actually divorcing my husband of twelve years, the father of my four beautiful children, I truly had to go to hell and back. 

If I truly want to be honest with myself, I do believe that we were too young to get married.  At twenty one and twenty three we were babies, and we were having a baby.  Because of my childhood situation, because of the dysfunction of my home growing up, I believed that I was wise beyond my years and in ways I was.  I had experienced more heartache in my first twenty years then many of my friends.  In second grade I was taking my siblings to the neighbors to save them from the sadness at home.  So by the time I was faced with the choice to get married, I thought I was ready.  I thought wrong. 

Young love is not mature love.  You need time to grow into yourself and become the true you.  By the time I was twenty six I had four children, five and under, had moved from the Midwest to New Mexico and had to put college and my career on hold for my family.  My Ex earned his Masters when Savannah was just a baby and his career took precedent to mine simply because he was able to make more money than I was.  I had four children to take care of and a household to run.  I worked too, starting at the company I still work for, Garden Critters, when Sage was just three months old.  I also worked for a non profit, The Rio Rancho Education Foundation and a fine art gallery.  I was proud of the work I did and that I was able to contribute to my family.  Then because of choices my Ex made while at the workplace, choices that affected our family and my trust, we moved again, to Colorado.

The move was hard.  I was in a new city where I knew no one and I missed my family.  However I was able to enroll back in school and finally finish my degree from Colorado State University.  With four children at home, this was no small task and will forever be one of the things I am most proud of. 

What does all this have to do with divorce?  It's to make the point that while we struggled in our marriage, while the cheating, fighting and dysfunction took place, life went on.  I had opportunities to get out, opportunities that I didn't take because I had made a commitment before God, because I had children, because I had already sacrificed so much and if I said good-bye, wouldn't that have all been for nothing?  I had a lot of issue with the fact that in some ways over a third of my life was about to be thrown in the garbage, discarded like trash.  I struggled with this, but as the true dysfunction of our marriage came to a head in the beginning of September 2009, I knew I had to say enough is enough.  I had finally reached my breaking point.  I was done.

I was lucky enough to have immense support from my family and friends.  They were tired of seeing me sad and heartbroken.  They had watched this movie play out from the very beginning and they were ready to be my support as I reached out to them in my darkest hour.  However, the sad truth is they still don't know the half of it.  They don't know of all the events that went on behind closed doors that I never shared with anyone. That is one very important thing that people have to remember, you never know what happens when others are not around.  To not support someone during such a hard decision is to also disregard the pain they have had to get to in order to reach this point.   

One personal example happened when Saxton was just a baby.  My Ex came home from work one day and proceeded to tell me about an indiscretion that had happened while he was at a work retreat.  The most heart wrenching thing about it was that Saxton was just four weeks old, and it was over my birthday.  While my sister was helping me clean my tile floor as a birthday present, he was propositioning his co-worker.  I remember thinking that I was done then.  But I didn't tell my family and after the prompting of those that knew, we moved on, for our family.  Unfortunately this was one example of events that took place that we just couldn't get past.  I don't often give examples of such things in my blog, for several reasons, maybe the biggest one being that it is really hard to lay out your most vulnerable moments for all to read.  But the point I want to make from this example, is that this was a long process, it didn't happen over night or even over the period of months, it was years.  As those events compile, the voice in the back of your head that tells you enough is enough gets louder, gets stronger.  It wasn't one thing that led me to divorce, it was hundreds of actions, words and heartbreaking memories that led me to such a difficult decision. 

We all want happily ever after. If anyone said otherwise, I wouldn't believe them. Others might claim there isn't such a thing. I believe there is.  It took me most of my life, but I have finally experienced it.  There is a world that exists where I am loved, respected and valued as a person. There is a world where I am safe to truly be who I am, show all my beautiful colors, even my imperfections and not fear being attacked. I remember one day I was talking to my baby sister Colleen and I was telling her how happy I was, giving her examples of the sweet things that Jerry did for me. I could hear her smiling through the phone as she said how happy she was for me, but that I needed to realize that what I was experiencing was normal, the way things should be.  I hadn't ever lived normal, so I guess it has been an adjustment to learning what that is.  If I could share anything with my children, my friends and my family, it would be that yes, life isn't perfect, but we still need to believe that our own version of happily ever after does exist and we deserve to experience it. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Max is free

Max and his buddy Luke 9/11
The last few nights I haven't been able to sleep, I either had trouble falling asleep or I would wake up and not be able to fall back to sleep because I was worried about today and Max's doctor appointment.  Today Max was getting x-rays to see if he could have his cast removed and while I was excited to have him free, I was also nervous at his leg's vulnerability.  In fact when the Doctor came in to talk to us about taking off his cast, I started to cry, out of worry and relief, bittersweet tears.  The day before, I had been talking to my neighbors about his injury and how before this had happened I didn't cringe at every fall or worry about every cry, but now I held my breath and expected the worst.  I think it will be a while before I allow myself to relax and trust that things will be okay, that he'll be okay and he won't break at the slightest tumble.  Even when the older kids come to me with tears after falling on their bike or off a scooter I cringe and frantically look them over to make sure they are okay.   

The actual cast removal was a little bit nerve wracking, I found myself holding my breath as I watched the saw going so close to his little body.  When the tech finally took it off, Max was anxious to wiggle and move about, but with each move his legs were cramping and he started to cry, which just broke my heart.  He was so brave during the removal, I felt so sad for him to be so uncomfortable.  However after several minutes, and several warm wash clothes on his leg, he started to feel better.  When the doctor came in and quickly looked him over he started to cry again and he encouraged me to pick him up.  For a split second I realized I was scared to, scared I would hurt him, but I did and he quickly calmed down. 

One of the biggest things that I was looking forward to was giving Max a bath.  After we took Jerry back to work and picked up the girls (they had a half day) we headed home and straight upsairs for a bath.  The girls were so excited and even Sofia, our neighbor, was excited to watch Max get all cleaned up. (Sage told me when I picked her up that she had been pacing all morning wondering how his appointment would go.) So it was Max and three little girls and I easing him into his bath and smiling as he began to relax and enjoy himself.  We ran the water and soaked and washed him until the hot water ran out.  Afterwards I took him in his room, lotioned his poor leg and the rest of him and put on one diaper, instead of two.  Yeah!  I think the biggest thing I noticed is how little he looked and when I picked him up he felt so light in my arms, just a little minute without his heavy cast.  I was happy to be able to have my little one back to where I could hug and snuggle with him and not have his cast get in the way. 

After his bath I put him to bed and he went right to sleep, I imagine he was just exhausted and very happy to be able to lay down, cast free.  The rest of the day we just enjoyed seeing him toddle around and walk slightly as if he was still wearing his cast.  We went down to see his friends, Luke "Duke", "Me Me," Anne and Zack.  He was so excited to see his friends and they were very happy to see him walking on his own accord. 
Max and his friend Fia.
I have been very blessed through this journey to have had such support from my family and friends, both near and far, but especially my neighbors.  On a daily basis they asked about his progress and cheered him on as he began to feel better and become more mobile.  I don't know what we would have done with out them.  Thank you so much for all your love and encouragment. 

Little Max isn't out of the woods yet, we have to be careful with him for the next few weeks and make sure he doesn't do anything to re-injure his leg.  We go back in three weeks for our final x-ray and Dr. visit and hopefully things will check out okay and we will be well on our way to a full recovery.   


Monday, September 10, 2012

Let's do this for Ronan!

Tonight Jerry had asked me if I had heard this song, told me that Taylor Swift and the mother of this little boy co-wrote it, I told him I hadn't, so we began to listen.  I don't know if a song has ever hit me like this one, after just a few lines the tears started to fall. It actually took me several tries in order to get through the whole thing because my tears turned to sobs and I was just so heartbroken for this mother, for her loss. 

I remember your bare feet
Down the hallway
I remember your little laugh
Race cars on the kitchen floor
Plastic dinosaurs
I love you to the moon and back
Even as I read these lyrics I remember my little Max doing just this today.  I thought about bedtime tonight and how Max likes to put his little arms around both my neck and his dad's as he goes back and forth kissing us good-night.  I think of all six of my babies because I constantly tell them, "I love you to the moon and stars and back."  I think of this mother who had to let her little boy go forever and how I don't think I could live another day if I had to do such a thing. 
I remember back to the day Max hurt himself and thinking that something had to be wrong, he couldn't have taken such a small fall, landed on a pillow and broke his leg.  I remember the drive to the hospital and thinking the worst.  I remember arriving there, walking past the oncology check in desk and saying a silent prayer. 
Later in the day, after finding out that he was fine, he would heal and get better, I reflected on the alternative, my soul ached at the thought, my heart broke for those parents who received that dreaded news, that their baby couldn't be fixed.  I didn't even want to imagine such heartache.  Tonight through the haunting lyrics of this song, my mind finally went there. 
I had to resist waking up my littles, taking them in my arms and hugging them for hours, knowing Ronan's mom wished more than anything for such a luxury.  Again, my heart is broken for her.  I am so sorry.
The one thing I can do, is to share this song and ask that everyone who reads this blog decides to go to itunes and purchase the song.  You can also visit Rockstar Ronan and read what Maya, Ronan's mom has to say and find out things you can do to help.  In her blog she challenges all of us to live life to the fullest and to be the best we can be.  The beauty of her blog, her mission, is to not allow her baby's death to be in vain, but instead affect people's life and make a difference in Ronan's honor.  Let's help her... Let's do this!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Accept and Max on!

I love this video.  It shows Max not only walking, but dancing.  He is dancing for no particular reason, maybe just because he can, all the while trying to find his shoes. 

Wednesday might be the big day that Max doesn't even know he is waiting for, the day his cast finally comes off.  For those of you new to my blog, my son Max fell and broke his femur on July 31st.  He originally started with a full Spica Cast but then on August 13th they took off the half leg portion of the cast from his good leg and just left the full leg and body cast. This adjustment allowed for him to ultimately teach himself to walk  unassisted.   

Yesterday Max and I were playing ball in the backyard with our dog, Puppy.  I was watching him bend over in the most unique fashion in order to pick up the ball.  He didn't complain, or make some loud noises of frustration, just did it.  When he did fall during one of his attempts, he just looked at me and said, "fall" and then got himself back up.  He didn't cry, nor get frustrated, he just did what he needed to do to get to his end goal.

Max has taken the majority of his injury with acceptance.  He seems to understand that he can't have a full bath, only a hair wash over the sink and a wash cloth.  I am sure he wishes he could swim,  when he saw a video of himself swimming on his birthday, he smiled and said, "swimming," but he knows he can't because of his, "cast."  His walk is slow and troublesome, but he continues on anyway, strong and determined.  I am the one who holds my breath and gasps when he falls, runs to him to make sure he is okay although he shows no sign of distress. 

The hardest part is when he wakes up in the middle of the night and crys out, "oww-eee."  I know it can't be comfortable for him to sleep and we try and go in his room and do our best to make him comfortable.  Even then he doesn't throw a fit or scream incessantly, he takes it all in stride.

I am actually feeling bittersweet about Wednesday.  When it comes to diaper changing and bathing, I am excited to go back to one diaper and to scrub him down from head to toe in a tub.  My back will probably start feeling better because I won't have to carry him so much or lift him akwardly from one place to another.  However, I will be a nervous wreck as he has full capability to run, climb and play full force.  Every fall or ouchie will make me anxious.  As I said though in a previous blog, I will just have to let go and have faith that he will be okay.

Being a mom is like sending your heart out into the world in another person's body.  No matter if it is Savannah, who is fourteen and very independant or Sam playing football, Sage teaching herself how to ride a rip stick, Saxton on her scooter, Brayden on his bike or Max riding the neighbor's tractor, you worry.  No mother wants to see her child sad or know they are hurting. No matter where my babies are, or how old, I know I will worry.  And on Wednesday, if the doctor decides Max is ready to be cast free, I will have to be ready too, to hold his hand just long enough, until he desides to let go. 

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Machine Gun Preacher and Think Humanity

I don't often do recommendations for books or movies on my blog, not that there is anything wrong with it, I just haven't.  However I think I am going to start and recommend Machine Gun Preacher.  It is not a film for those who are faint of heart, as there are some intense scenes and the beginning is quite rough, however, the message and story are real and worth the two hours it will take you to watch the movie.

In  June of 2009 I went to Africa.  I didn't go on a Safari or see any Elephants or Lions, I went to a refugee camp with Think Humanity in Uganda.  What I saw and experienced while I was there was unforgettable and will forever be carried in my heart.  If you want to read my story, you can read my blog post Africa: If you haven't read my blog yet, please read this. As I watched the movie, I had several flashbacks of my own journey and as the tears fell down my face and my heart ached, I promised myself to never forget that trip, those people and to keep trying to make a difference in Africa.

My journey started years ago with my constant interest and concern for those in Africa, but things got more serious and concentrated when I started studying Africa at Colorado State in the fall of 2007.  I took a class with Dr. Sunseri called Modern Africa.  In this class, we studied several historical as well as current events in Africa, including the horrors that are depicted in The Machine Gun Preacher.  Some times we watch movies, read books and wonder if these things do exist.  I can assure you that in terms of this movie, they do.  These people do exist, as do the situations and challenges they face everyday.  These people do exist and they are amazing!

What makes those I met in Africa so amazing is their resolve, their positive attitude, their love and their smile.  I fell in love with Africa and her people. They welcomed me, enveloped me in their hearts and their lives and I will never lose my will to help them in any way I can. 

Often people will say to me, "there are people her in the United States who need our help, why not help them?"  I do help my neighbors and I do believe in helping anyone who needs it, however, those that Think Humanity helps don't have any other hope.  They don't have health care or education or life saving mosquito nets without us.  They don't have a chance at life without Think Humanity.  My friend Beth who is in charge of Think Humanity and helps keep the non-profit going sent me a card and it read, "I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things." Mother Teresa  Who knows what those we help will do, maybe they will be the next Nelson Mandela and help to bring peace to Africa, peace to the world.

Somewhere right now there is a young person who has lost everything to war, they have seen their parents killed, lost siblings and entire families, they are hungry, scared and in need of help, that is who Think Humanity is reaching out to, that is who they are trying to save. 

If you are not into movies, or you want to know of another way you can help, you can:
Check out Feed Just One They are a really cool organization who is trying to help us feed the young refugees who are in our education program.  With their help we are able to feed one girl thirty meals by selling just one t-shirt. Mother Teresa once said, "If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one."

Buy some Jewelry!  Check out how this project helps the Acholi women who are from Southern Sudan and Northern Uganda, these are the same people depicted in the movie.  You can also check out other products Think Humanity sells in order to help raise money for "Teen Mom Tailoring Project." 

Sometimes the problems of this world seem so great that we don't know how to start, however, I have just given you a big old push in the right direction. 

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Amazing Max, neighbors and friends, Mountains and Sunsets!


Max parking his one car
and getting ready to
move to his truck.
Max riding on his friend
Luke's (Duke) tractor. 
 He could make it go with his good leg.   
Today Max walked across the room, all by himself, not holding on to anything, still in his body cast.  I almost felt like it was his first steps all over again.  As I watched, I couldn't believe it, how this little person just adapted so well to something so cumbersome, uncomfortable and inconvenient.  But he doesn't know the meaning of any of those words, he just has the will to get around and it's pretty amazing.  He still army crawls to get around, but now he also cruises or uses his little push cars to go from one place to another or to transport his toys.  He is a very lucky little boy and is very loved, not just by his family, but also our friends both near and far.  Again, thank you for everything to those who have been there for him over these last weeks of recovery. 

Sage is an awesome big sister and loves her Max.

Aunt Lauri, Max's Godmother sent him a box for his birthday and his baptism.  He had a blast opening everything and playing with his new toys.
Thank you Fritz family!

I have said this many times over the last several weeks, but I feel very fortunate to live in the neighborhood we do.  All of the kids, even little Max have several friends to play with and Jerry and I have had such amazing support over the last few weeks concerning Max's injury.  We often don't make it very far down the street before we stop to talk to someone. A quick trip outside to the garbage lasts thirty minutes because I end up chatting with a neighbor.  A walk with Jerry around our neighborhood ends up with us stopping and chatting with someone.  I love it and appreciate everyone of them who have been there for us.  Here is a picture of Max and his friend Tyler hanging out together yesterday.  Tyler was nice enough to share his awesome stroller with Max. 
Breakfast for dinner with some of the neighbors.

On top of Crystal Mountain.  We took the gondola up and hiked around.
There is a beautiful view of Mt. Rainier from up there.  (August 26th)
As the summer winds down we have tried to take advantage of our amazing weather, no rain for well over a month and for the most part mild temperatures that make being outside so enjoyable.  Last Sunday Jerry and the kids and I drove up to Crystal Mountain and took a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain.  While we were up there we did some hiking and had a small picnic.  The view was amazing and the perspective of Mt. Rainier was breathtaking.  I feel we are very blessed to be so close to both the mountains and the water. 

Jerry, Max and I made it up to Chamber's Bay just in time
for an amazing sunset this past Friday night. (August 31st) 
Friday night Jerry, Max and I headed up to Chamber's Bay to take Puppy to the dog park (Sage and Saxton stayed home and had a sleepover with Sofia.)  I was on the phone with Sam when we pulled up to the top of the park (you come in and overlook the water and the golf course below.)  Jerry dropped me off so I could run down the hill and Sam stayed on the phone with me.  I told him the sunset was so beautiful it took my breath away.  It was golden and shimmered on the water in a most spectacular way.  When Sam and I were at the lake in Minnesota this summer we were out on the boat and we were talking about how a sunset can look like heaven.  I reminded him of this and said that I was sharing another heavenly sunset with him,  just via technology this time.  The sunset was so beautiful I exclaimed as much out loud to more than one stranger walking by, many agreed and seemed to be in just as much awe as I was.  Jerry took Puppy to the dog park so Max and I could race to the pier and watch the Sun make its decent into Puget Sound.  I hope I never reach the day where I don't feel peace I feel when I am by the water.  To me it is like a present from heaven for anyone to enjoy.

Savannah and Sam on their
first day of school!!!

Tomorrow is my birthday, I will be thirty six.  Wow.  I can't believe how fast time is flying by.  Hours quickly turn into days and weeks.  I am lucky in many ways and I try to not forget that.  When the dust settles from the daily grind of life, I try and see the beauty that is left behind.  A bike ride with my littles through the beautiful woods by our house, a walk through the neighborhood, taking pictures of the perfection that is nature, watching my kids grow into wonderful people, a conversation with Savannah and Sam (or a text and picture), a kiss with my sweetie.  I am lucky.  Life isn't easy, frustration isn't absent, but in the next year of my life I want to try and make sure that Life is good.