Gratitude

I can’t believe it. I feel so grateful for everything that is in my life. It is only recently that I can even realize the many blessings in my life compared to where I was. I currently have the most amazing supports in my life. I have some amazing local supports of friends who will hold me and love me through everything. I also have friends from throughout different stages of my life who love and support me from a distance.

For much of my life I didn’t feel like I deserved friends like the ones I have now. I didn’t think I should have people who loved me. It’s hard to imagine but I feel like for the first time in my life I am letting myself bloom, letting myself be happy.

I look at what I have in my life now and I know that I couldn’t have had this just a few short years ago. My ex-husband held me back. He didn’t want me to have friends. He was controlling. He was overshadowing. And I let it happen. I thought that was love. I thought that was what I deserved.

When he got mad, I also thought I deserved that.

When he lost his temper, I thought it was my fault.

When he blamed me, I blamed me too.

But there was an angel in my life who helped me to see a light. A brighter future. And a promise of something better. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Since then, I have realized that there is an amazing world out there that I am part of. That I deserve to be part of. That I make better by being part of it.

I always thought I was pretty accelerated at things. I was a good student. I excelled in my studies and I have always been pretty forward moving and goal orientated in my career. But when it comes to life, I guess I am a late bloomer.

I feel like a butterfly who has finally gotten out of my cocoon and out of the dark shadows of my past. I feel like I can finally spread my wings and fly. I feel like I deserve this happiness that I am now feeling.

gratitude

I am so grateful for the blessings in my life.

Each morning I wake up with a smile on my face for the amazing gifts I have in my life. That you to all those people who saw I was worthy before I did and who have helped me to embrace my new found sense of self.

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Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love

 

Over the past 4 weeks of advent, my church has been focusing on these 4 words: Peace, Hope, Joy and Love.

As I think about Peace, I try to find peace in my life in where I am right now. Peace about not being in a relationship right now. Peace about being alone. Peace about the amazing people I have in my life.  Peace and appreciation for what I have and who I am right now.

Hope is more about the future. About the hope that I won’t always be alone. It is about hope for what is yet to come. If I have faith that I am in the right place right now then I hope that being in the right place, both physically and spiritually, will lead to blessings yet to come.

Joy is about celebrating the small things. Celebrating the blessing of friends and family and appreciating all of the little things in life. Celebrating my boys and watching them grow. Celebrating time together with family and friends. Sharing a simple cup of tea, or dinner out. Or simply sharing text messages from friends near and far. Celebrating the many joys I have in my life.

Love, well that is harder for me. Being divorced twice this is an area I feel fairly incompetent in. Something I struggle with constantly. I have numerous friends whom I love and adore, just can’t seem to make the whole relationship thing work.

I am trying to find an inner peace, which will give me hope for the future and a joy about love I have yet to experience.

My wish for you (and me) this holiday season and in the upcoming new year: Peace ~ Hope ~ Joy ~ Love ~ blessings for all.

 

 

 

 

Together

I looked up the antonym for alone the other day and it was together, or accompanied. I have worried and stressed about being alone. I am not currently in a relationship and my ex is already living with someone else and has a new family with them. But last weekend I realized that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was.

My son had has play, The Wizard of Oz. it was great fun. I went to all three shows (it’s what moms do). On Friday night we had 9 people at the show: me, a good friend from out of state who came all the way to see him, my son and his girlfriend who drove over two hours from college, a friend from work and her husband, a friend from church and her daughter and my pastor. It was such a great, warm feeling to have so many people there.

On Saturday afternoon 11 people were there: me (again), my parents, brother, another brother and sister-in-law, my niece and her husband, another niece, and a friend from work and her son. My son’s social studies teacher also came to see him.

On Saturday night I knew my ex was going with his girlfriend. I asked another friend from work to go with me. My son’s best friend since kindergarten and her mom also came. The whole weekend was great. He had so many people, there for him and I felt the opposite of alone, I felt surrounded. I felt surrounded by love, by friends, by, people and by caring.

And on Saturday night when I saw him with his girlfriend I recognized the look in her eyes. The fear and controlling that comes with spending time with him. I saw the uncertainty in her eyes of being in public with him. He could be so volatile, and unpredictable, and sometimes just down right mean.

And then I thought about how I felt all weekend. I didn’t feel the fear of upsetting him. I didn’t feel the hesitation of him controlling me. I didn’t feel the uneasiness of having my family around and having him be upset about it. And I didn’t feel alone.

surrounded

I realized that without him controlling who I spent time with and him limiting who I could be friends with, I have surrounded myself with a wonderful support system. It took some time to learn to let them in and accept the support and love from my friends, but I now realized that I am not alone.

And I’m happy.

Starfish

There is a poem about a man walking down the beach throwing individual starfish back into the ocean. A stranger happens upon him and asks him what he’s doing. He says that the starfish will die if left in the sun to dry out so he’s throwing them back. The stranger looks around at the thousands of starfish on the beach and asks what difference it makes, there are too many to save them all. The man picks up a starfish and throws it back in and says, “I made a difference to that one.”

starfish

As a middle school principal I sometimes feel like I’m surrounded by starfish.

Sometimes it is my teachers, who come into my office, shut the door and share with me something that is happening in their life. Whether it’s a divorce, a death in the family, the illness of a family member or themselves, I hold each of these teachers as they share their lives with me. And I try to make a difference to them.

Sometimes it is parents who come to me and tell me the family issues that they are dealing with. The stories of their life that make it a challenge for their child to focus in school. I try to listen to them and help them with their challenges, even if those challenges are the school itself. I try to make a difference with them.

And sometimes it is the students who share their personal struggles. Sometimes they are in tears because of a bad grade in math, and sometimes it is because of the horror they face when they go home. But whatever it is, I try to give them perspective, time, a shoulder to lean on, and in the end I try to make a difference.

Sometimes it can be overwhelming the number of “starfish” out there. I try my best to save each one. But sometimes you can’t save them all.

I have a high school student who has recently made some very poor choices. She did things that she will have to live with the consequences of for the rest of her life. So of course I am trying to figure out why I couldn’t make a difference to her? What could I have done to help her from making those bad decisions? Why didn’t she feel like she could reach out to me, or someone else, to help her? What did I miss?

I know I can’t always save them all. But I will continue to try.

Broken

It started when I was 10-years-old. I don’t know exactly when it stopped. I guess when he moved out of the house, or when I moved out of the house. Even though I don’t see on a regular basis anymore, I still battle the after effects everyday.

It happened slowly over time. At first it was just a hug or a kiss or a caress that all just felt like too much. It was a hand up my shirt or down my pants. Nothing that was easily identifiable, just uncomfortable.

He took advantage of my trusting nature. He took advantage of my rule following nature. He took advantage of the trust my parents put in him. He took advantage of the situation in which they left him in charge. He took advantage of me.

He destroyed my confidence. He told me I was worthless.

He destroyed my sense of self. He told me no one would ever love me.

He destroyed my trust. He told me no one would ever believe me.

He left me broken.

I have fought for years to try to rewrite the message that plays in my head: I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I’m not smart enough, I’m not worthy of love. Some days are better than others in believing it.

But… In my brokenness I have found healing.

In my brokenness I have found strength.

In my brokenness I have found hope.

Through that brokenness, I have used my own pain and experiences to help others. I have been able to help others know that while abuse shouldn’t define who you are, it will always be a part of you.

Through my brokenness I have comforted others and let them know that I understand, and I survived.

Through my brokenness I have been able (I hope) to help a little girl rebuild and redefine herself after a horrible event happened to her.

I think that as hard as it has been, and continues to be, if I can help one other person know that they are not alone, then my brokenness can be used for good.

Disappearance or disappointment

I have 2 sons (the pride and joy of my life) from 2 different husbands.

My oldest son’s father was the disappearing one. We left him when my son was only a year and a half old after disappointmentthe relationship turned violent. I tried to keep a connection for my son with his dad, but I couldn’t do it alone. He did not make the effort to stay connected, so he disappeared from his son’s life. I worried about my son and tried to provide him with father-like figures throughout his life. He had my dad and my brothers as father figures in his life and some of my great friends who were there for him as well.

But mostly he had me, as both mother and father. He is an amazing 19-year-old young man who is surprisingly well adapted and not bitter about his disappearing father.

My younger son has known his dad most of his life. He is 11 years old and we are only recently divorced. He sees his dad every other weekend. Every other weekend he is faced with disappointment from his father. He says it doesn’t hurt when his dad shows up late or cancels, but I know it does.

Being the one who’s home with his all the time, I sense a difference in his voice and his spirit when talking about his dad. He is careful and guarded. He is shy and uncertain. When he wants to make a change in his plans with his dad, he asks me to intervene. When he wants his dad to come watch him compete on his swim team, he asks me to invite him. And when he comes home from his dad’s, he holds me tighter.

I think that because he had a dad involved in his life for a long time, he misses the “dad” role more so than my older son did. He talks more about what kind of a dad he wants to be. I have a few friends who he looks to as a father figure. He talks about them to me and always tells me what he admires in them. He is constantly comparing and questioning.

He thinks things through very thoroughly. We were visiting with my sister one day and he asked her he could live with her if something happened to me. He had it all planned out. He told us all about it. First he would live with my sister and her family, then if something happened to all of them, he would live with my brother and sister in law, then if something happened to all of them, he would live with my friends. Then if he had to, he would live with his dad. He said to my sister, “You know, my dad is a pretty good dad, but he’s not a great parent, if you know what I mean.” Unfortunately, he does know what he means.

While both my boys are different and have had different experiences with their fathers, I think that the disappointment is harder than the disappearance. While my older son was probably disappointed by the fact that his father was not in his life, it was not a constant sense of disappointment every other weekend.

It will be a struggle to help my son deal with the constant disappointment. I will continue to give him positive role models in his life, both male and female. And I will continue to be there for him, as both mother and father. And I will continue to love him enough to grow into the wonderful young man I know he will be.

Strength

Strength comes in many shapes and sizes,

many forms and functions,

many ways and words.

Strength comes when a mom holds her baby for the first time and knows in that moment that she will do anything to protect her baby. It also comes when her grown baby is in tears because their heart has been broken, or someone has treated them poorly, or they had to learn for themselves that life isn’t fair, and knowing she can’t fix it.

Strength can be found in a grown adult sitting by their parent’s bedside while they are recovering from surgery, still waiting to find out what the next steps are. It can be found in the waiting room of a hospital in the family members hoping, praying, and just being there, being together.

Strength comes when a smart, beautiful, young lady spent her junior year of high school battling cancer instead of her grades. When she shaved her own hair before the chemo could take it away from her.

Strength can be found in the eyes of a 12-year-old girl who finally got up the courage to tell her father that she was raped by her boyfriend. And in her steely response when her father asked if she did anything to encourage the boy.

Strength comes when a woman stands up to the man she loves, the man who promised to love and protect her, but instead filled her with fear and terror. When she finally finds a way to protect herself and her family from the man who threatened to ruin it all.

Strength can be found in weakness, in tears, in fear. Because in those moments, when we are often at our weakest, it is then that we feel the strength to push on, the strength to move forward, the strength to ask for help.

Strength comes from knowing when to walk away, and when to walk towards.

Strength can be found in the arms of a friend, who doesn’t have to say a word.

Strength comes in the familiar “ding” of a text message or email alert from someone who cares enough.

Strength can be found in the amazing people who are in our lives.

To walk with us,

to cry with us,

to celebrate with us,

and to just be with us.

I am blessed for all of the different ways I have experienced strength.

I try every day to accept the strength others give to me, and to be strong for them in return.

I’m not a very big person. I doubt anyone would describe me as physically very tough or strong.

But I have seen strength, I have felt strength, and through my experiences, I have known strength.

gentle strength

Giving

I love Christmas. I love all the celebration, the excitement, and the anticipation. I love the idea of giving. One of my most favorite Christmas Carols is probably one that many people are unfamiliar with. But it touches on this idea of giving.

For some reason my ex-husband was on my mind this morning. It was strange, I don’t usually miss him, and so I stopped to think about why. I realized that it was Christmas and how much he liked it.

Then I thought about why he liked it so much. He was all show. One of the ways in which he equates love is in buying presents for people. Giving equals love to him. He often tried to buy love. It was showy and pretentious and not a good way to love others.

He used to buy a lot of “stuff” at the holidays, but for some reason it never felt good or right. Because he did just that, he bought stuff, for the sake of buying it. He rarely took the time to think about why he bought something or even the person he bought it for.

But through his buying of stuff and his attempts to buy love, I learned a lot about gifts and about the real joy of giving.

I used to worry about how much money I spent on people and getting a bigger or better gift for people. But I’ve learned that the price tag isn’t important. I’ve learned that the best gifts are the ones that come from the heart and are thoughtful. I love when I have found just the right gift for someone. I’m like a little kid, I can hardly wait to give it to them.

My younger son and I have spent a lot of time this Christmas thinking about people and trying to buy, or better yet make, just the right thing for them. I’ve tried to teach him that buying something for the sake of buying it isn’t as important as thinking about the person you are buying something for and finding just the right gift.

This Christmas we have purchased some “just right” gifts as well as crafted a number of homemade gifts for family and friends this year. We have also spent time writing letters or sending cards from the heagiftrt this year.

And even though we have spent less money on gifts we have spent more time on thought on the people we care about this year.

Christmas is a time for giving … love.

Little things

little things

A recent post from a blog I follow made me think about the little things we do for others and how big a deal those things can be.

I’m a principal of a middle school. And as much as we try to prepare the new 7th graders for middle school, it is always a challenge.

They go from an elementary school where they have two main teachers all day, are walked to all of their classes as a group, and even go to the bathroom as a class most of the time, to a middle school where they have 6 teachers throughout the course of their schedule, they have lockers (with combinations), they are responsible for walking to their classes on their own, in general they have a tremendous amount of independence that they have never had before.

Things happen and sometimes kids get lost. On the first day of school I was working with one of my 8th grade teachers to deploy iPads to students and a 7th grade student walked into his classroom by mistake.

Rather than simply tell the child they were in the wrong room and point him in the right direction, the teacher stopped what he was doing and said, “Wow, you did all the right things, and followed your schedule great. Sometimes there are mistakes and we end up in the wrong place.” Then the teacher walked with the student to the right class, never once making him feel like he had done anything wrong.

Later on, in that same teacher’s class, that same student wandered into the class asking for help. He didn’t have the teacher; he was just lost, again. Once more during the day, the student asked the same teacher for student. The student was in 7th grade and the teacher was an 8th grade teacher so the teacher never had this teacher on his schedule, yet he kept coming to this teacher for help.

During lunch on the second day of school I asked the student if he had any problems on the first day. He said he got lost a few times, but there was a history teacher who helped him.

I asked, “Was he one of your teachers?”

He replied with a grin, “No, but he was so nice to me the first time I got lost in his room, I decided that he would probably help me when I got lost again.”

And he was right. Taking the time to validate the student for trying and not making him feel bad about being lost, this teacher not only helped him find his way on the first day of school but he also helped him feel confident about asking for help.

Loss

Divorce is more than just the loss of a spouse.

At our final court date my ex husband brought his new girlfriend, his sister and his niece. I have known his niece her whole life. I actually talked to her when her mom was pregnant. I held her as a baby. I’ve watched her grow. And for whatever it’s worth it broke my heart to see her stand before me in the courthouse and not run over and hug her. She was more mature than her 9 years of age and she stayed by her mom and her uncle knowing that it wasn’t ok to reach out to me anymore. But she also showed her age when smiled at me and waved when no one else was looking. That’s when my heart broke.
When my husband and I met we worked together. Many of his friends from work I already knew and many of my friends he already knew. When we divorced those were some of the hardest people for me to tell. They knew us when we started dating and then got married. They knew us when things seemed to be at their best. We moved to another state a few years after we married and so we didn’t see our friends from our old job all that often. So for me it was tough to tell them how bad things had gotten and that we were getting a divorce. I felt like a failure. I didn’t want them to be disappointed in me. My ex actually reached out to one of my good friends from when we worked together to ask her to help us reconcile. She didn’t want to get in the middle of it but by knowing both of us they were all in the middle. It was difficult and awkward for me. I think now I’ve gotten to a place with the people we knew together where I can just be me and not put them in the middle. I know which friends are his who I no longer contact. And I know which friends are mine and I know they love me for who I am.

His other friends that knew him first and only knew me through him have gone back to being his friends. I don’t know what he’s told them and can only imagine it isn’t good based in the looks they give me when they see me. But I have to remember that my friends are not calling him up and hanging out with him either. There is a separation of friendships.

As hard as it is to split friends, family is harder. Not in the sense of who supports whom but in the sense of loss. There are nieces and nephews each of us won’t see grow up. There are brother- and sister- in- laws neither of us can connect with any more. There are parent in-laws each of us has to pretend we don’t care about. For me, there is a whole network of people who used to be interwoven in my life who have been removed and now leave holes.

They always say that when you marry someone you marry their whole family. What they forget to mention is when you divorce someone you lose that family too.