Tuesday, November 4, 2014


When thoughts are at the tip of my fingers and I desperately need to put them down, I have no question about why I write. It's cathartic. It's the "why I share" that I am often asked to defend. I don't share it because I am a particularly good writer or because I profit in any way. I share because I am an avid reader. I read all day, every day. So much of what I read touches me, appalls me, moves me and often scares me. But, it reaches me. There are days I will read something and I will swear I must have written it or that the author must have a secret window to my soul. And it is that feeling of being understood, of being less alone, less afraid, that pushes me to share. It is not always easy or comfortable but it is always worth it.

My parents just left after an incredible 4 day weekend together. The first in my new house, the first with me alone with my kids. I am incredibly sad, but even more grateful. My parents are as "normal" as anyone else, but to me they are the epitome, the picture of unconditional love. I thought about writing them a letter in private, but realized that is simply not my way.

In life, there are very few people who can and will love us unconditionally. For me, that is my parents. I talk a lot about "who shows up" and "loving us when we are unlovable." In my almost 40 years, I can honestly say there has not been a single time that my parents were not there when I needed them. Physically, emotionally, financially - all of it. They have delivered tough love when I've been an idiot and been my soft place to land when my world was falling apart. They always show up. They always make their love known. There are no conditions to their love. They do not wait to be asked or invited. They do not back down in my defense and they do not lie when I am wrong. They are simply always there.

We fight, we are Jewish, loud, opinionated and human; of course we fight. They drive me crazy and I them. We are as imperfect as any family, with our skeletons, our insanity, our "ways" and our stupid jokes. But they are always there. They have taught me more than anyone else ever has about life, love and my own worth. They have shown by example what it means to be a family. They have cared for our sick, our elderly and our broken. They have rarely asked for help, but when they do it is always with a thread of regret at having to.

This weekend they helped turn my house into my home. My father worked tirelessly, for days, handing, drilling, nailing, screwing, measuring, but never complaining. All the while only concerned that we would not have accomplished everything on my list. He is my hero. He is a saint with endless patience, love and devotion. My mom never stopped planning, making lists and approving everything we did. She is my greatest advocate, my best critic and the voice in the back of my head. As a child there was little my parents did not sacrifice to give my brother and I everything we needed. The 12 year old brat I was never understood why I couldn't have everything I wanted too. Like all of the kids around me. As a parent, I get it and realize it was likely the most valuable lesson they taught us.

My greatest wish is that I am half the parent to my girls. That I sacrifice my needs for theirs when it makes sense. That I instill in them the same self worth, unconditional love and support I have and that I always show up. At the end of the day, that one act is all we need.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Wisdom Before 7am

This was the first thing I read this morning.

“Divorce is always good news. I know that sounds weird, but it's true because no good marriage has ever ended in divorce. That would be sad. If two people were married and ... they just had a great thing and then they got divorced, that would be really sad. But that has happened zero times." Comedian Louis C.K.

It was before 7am, the sun was not up and coffee had yet to be ingested. That might be why I questioned how much it resonated at first. It was sarcastic, harsh and yet…boldly and completely true.

Divorce is sad. We were (and sometimes still are) sad. Our children were (and sometimes still are) sad. Endings are often sad. One of the smartest women I’ve had the privilege of knowing, once said to me, “I got divorced once. It had a beginning, a middle and an end. The end was awesome.” And that’s it really, isn’t it? Once you’ve made the decision, then the hard part really becomes getting it done. Getting from the beginning to the end without being enemies, being the best parents and people that we can. But we fall down too. Divorce makes us forget that we were once married to this person, that we loved them. Divorce often overshadows the fact that we might actually feel OK on our own. We forget to see that we are actually growing, rediscovering, shedding negative self-images and even simply laughing more.

Divorce is sad but it needs an end. At some point it gets to be over. As you move closer to the end you realize so many things about yourself. I am stronger, more independent and more badass than I ever knew. This will likely be unpopular, but I AM A BETTER PARENT when parenting alone. I am more present. I am more patient. I am more grateful. I am both more and less rigid and flexible. I am more open. Quite simply, I am more me. I am also learning to be more open to constructive criticism from their dad when I fall down. Words that I’d have been too defensive to hear in the past, now resonate with truth and the need for change.

Divorce is sad but we don’t need to be forever. Our divorce will always be sad, but eventually all of us, we can be happy.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Basket (not bucket) List

It's like riding a bike, right? Except, I've never lived alone. I've never ridden this bike before. The tires seem thinner, the seat less worn, the handle bars harder to grip and the road longer. But there's a basket. I've never had a basket before. Always wanted one, but baskets seemed like something someone else had, that I coveted from afar.

This basket is woven, no obvious beginning or end. It was empty, so open to possibility. So I began to fill it with things I never even knew I'd need for my adventure. I began the ride and a list formed on the horizon. A list of "never befores" and "maybe I cans" and "why haven't I evers?"
  1. Packing the car for a road trip as the only driver
  2. Summer adventure with my kids
  3. Driving in Manhattan
  4. Mowing my lawn
  5. Living alone
  6. Choosing everything for my new home – paint, décor, furniture, set-up
  7. Fixing and building things on my own instead of asking for help
  8. Buying my first house alone
  9. Asking amazing friends for help and support during surgery and recovery
  10. Trusting my parents adult to adults
  11. Creating circles of trust, support and community
And the list goes on, and the basket fills, and the journey is endless, and the ride gets easier as I go.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Change of Address

I loved our house. Truly. We were sort of forced into it when out first house sold in 14 days and the buyers wanted to close 5 minutes later. There was little on the market at the time, and the idea of renting for a year with little kids and a dog put me over the edge. He was less than enthusiastic about the new house. But I pushed. What else is new? I wanted “home” and “done” and it was beautiful and big and had 100 times more closet space than the first house. It was always a source of contention. Every time anything went wrong in the house, I was reminded that it was I who chose it.

Now my house belongs to someone else, and technically I am homeless for a while. That is not to liken myself to people who are actually without the means to have a roof over their heads. But I have to admit, it’s been a sock in the gut every time I have been asked for my address in the last few weeks and had none to give. The look on the receptionist’s face at the pediatrician almost did me in. My mail seems to be lost in space, my belongings are being stored in pods at a storage facility, and my sanity was lost somewhere between here and there.

As we locked the door behind us last week for the last time, my older daughter was crying. He was crying. I was numb. She talked about it being the last time we’d live together as a family. Both girls made it clear they did not want to even drive past the house once it wasn’t ours anymore.

I have purchased a new house, for the first time, on my own. Ever dollar and every ounce of blood, sweat and tears I have will go into making it a home. One of the two homes my kids will go between. It doesn’t close for another month; hence the “no address.”

Our divorce is not yet final either. Finality appears to be elusive in these times. Despite trying to do it amicably and make things cheaper and faster, the reality is a sluggish process filled with angst, endless compromise and 700 legal terms I need defined. It’s a weird and awkward in-between space. We talk about the kids and the details, but rarely -- if ever -- about us anymore. Our 14th anniversary is in a few weeks, and Hallmark simply does not make a card for that one. Could be a goldmine, considering.

I am a painfully honest person, often to a fault. So when I am asked (several times a day) how I am doing, I generally respond as such.

“I’m treading water.”

“I’m coming undone.”

“I’m doing my best”

“I’m sad.”

I’ve learned that most people don’t actually want those answers. They are disappointed or speechless, disinterested, or overwhelmed. But some of them get it. And they show up. With coffee and ice cream and wine and offers of company and dinner and “can I take the kids” or “move in with me, for as long as you need.” And I am once again reminded that this entire experience has rocked my world, but the silver lining have been the rocks in my life. Those I’d anticipated, and those I’d never have expected, but who are the most beautiful gifts nonetheless.

Miles melt away as those who love me hold my hand and my heart. They remind me that I am worthy and that there is a light at the end of this dark path. Friends near and far, who were keeping their own secrets about being in a similar place, call and write and ask for guidance, love and support in their journey. As much as my heart aches for them, it also warms, knowing I am not alone. Knowing that I have been there and get it. That bond creates deep and powerful friendship, where previously there had just been a surface knowing.

Earlier this week I made the decision to go to NY and stay with my family. A short visit had always been planned, but it will now be a few weeks. My brother and sister-in-law are having a baby (my first niece!) and I am sending the kids to sleep away camp from the Long Island bus stop. I work for myself and can set up shop anywhere, so that was easy enough to figure out. But the truth is, I need to get out of Dodge. For the first time in 20 years, the idea of the cocoon of my parents and my childhood home is calling my name and I am heeding the call.

When I return I will begin Chapter 2. Baby steps for sure. New house, new unmarried status, new address and, I guess, in many ways a discovery of a new me.

That new me will likely need some very cute change of address cards.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

So THIS is 39...

So THIS is 39…

I love birthdays. I mean really, really, love. I enjoy making a big deal out of loved ones special days, and prefer that my own lasts a week -- or even perhaps a month. So I wasn’t quite prepared for the way 39 would feel. It’s not 40 and it’s certainly not 25. It just, well…39.
I had the pleasure of emailing with my 12th grade Social Studies teacher this week. She was floored that I was 39. She is only 7 years my senior, but 21 years ago that was a world of difference. She had completed college and graduate school. I had gone to prom and gotten my license. Today, so many of my peers and friends are 10 years my senior or 10 years my junior. Where we are in our lives is the thread that binds, no longer our ages.
So this is 39, I pondered as I woke to the sound of my kids’ voices singing to me. Over the phone. Because they were with their dad and not jumping in my bed.
So this is 39, I thought as I applied eye cream to de-puff my eyes, sunblock to protect my skin (even though it’s only 56 degrees) and plucked hairs I can only see with the 3x mirror. And as I counted the gray hairs on my head and the ones not on my head (OMG). I made a list, to add to my list, to be incorporated into the master list. Of course, without all three I will forget.
So this is 39, I smiled as the number of people wishing me well on Facebook climbed over 100. Some of them had been wishing me a happy birthday for over three decades. I was reminded that I have kept a promise to myself – don’t burn bridges. I am still in touch with every guy I’ve dated and every boss and close colleague.
So this is 39, I breathed deeply. 38 was a year defined by change. My family has a new version of itself. My home and my life are altered. I am forever and remarkably different. The last year has been steeped in hard and painful moments, peppered with incredible friends and family lifting me up, supporting me and loving me when I did not feel so loveable.
So this is 39, with a measure of acceptance. I accept that I am a mommy of two girls who finally understands what there is about my body and mind to love. Sharing that understanding with them is what will make the difference. I accept that people will judge my choices, mistakes and words, and I can still believe in them. I accept that when life is at its toughest, I will be floored by who comes through and who just can’t or won’t. I accept that I am worthy, deserving and entitled to happiness. I accept that I need to work hard for all of that, and I will want to give up on a regular basis.
So this is 39, and I am healthy and I eat well. I should exercise more for my mind than for my body. I need to stop putting off the mammogram and admit that too much wine is a guaranteed night of restless sleep. I need to commit to sleep, as it is elusive when I stress.
So this is 39, and I own my own business and just bought my first house on my own. I pay bills and taxes and worry about interest rates, 529s and the Dow; but I am still carded when buying wine at Trader Joe’s.
So this is 39, and I am a mommy to kids with real worries and angst, who talk back and question the world, and yet still expect me to have all of the answers. They try my patience and break my heart with their sweetness, all in a matter of minutes. They are me and they are their dad, but such better versions. They are small adults and big babies all at once. They are the very heart of me.
So this is 39, and I am starting a new chapter. It is terrifying and overwhelming, but also exciting and energizing. I am realizing that I am just beginning to truly know the adult me, to appreciate, understand and love myself again. But I am also vulnerable and raw -- and often still naïve. I do not always guard my heart as I should, or consider my words well enough. I am still a work in progress.
So this is 39. Happy Birthday to me.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

"I’m getting divorced.”

“I’m getting divorced.” No matter how many times you’ve said it in your head, the first time you say it out loud is startling. A bit like saying “I have cancer,” people look at you funny; they pause and step away for a moment. Perhaps it’s contagious. Maybe they heard you wrong, or they read it wrong. Because of course, there are folks whom you love dearly and still have to tell via email or text. It’s the wrong way to share that news, but you are exhausted from talking about it. So you just hope they will understand. In fact, you are drained from thinking about it, from living with it. You are so early in the process and yet you are fully spent. So tired in fact, that you wonder if you will ever feel like you again.

You spend weeks preparing to talk to your children, dreading it, agonizing over it and again not sleeping. Because you made them a promise, right? You promised them, as they grew inside you, that you’d never die and that you’d never break their hearts. That you’d walk through fire and into bullets to protect them. And you lied. And you wonder if they will call you on that. And they do in their own way – “but why”, “this is the worst day of my life”, “what do you mean you don’t love each other”, “please say this is just a dream”, “but you’ll be so lonely without each other”, “I never thought this could happen to us, it’s not supposed to happen to us.” And your heart breaks - right along with theirs.

And you wonder how you will survive and if you will be less of yourself on the other side. So many people tell you how strong you are, how resilient your kids are and how things will be better in the long run. You appreciate the affirmation, the love and the support, you really do. Sometimes though, you want to tell them to fuck off. Not because they are wrong, but because today you’ll be happy to get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other and not melt down. You know they are right. In fact, that it is why you have made this decision. It is the silent mantra you repeat in your mind when your child is curled in your lap on the floor or in your bed at night. It’s the pep talk you give yourself as you look at the mounting dollars this will cost, the friends you will lose or the lawyer you dread calling.

Statistically, 50% of married couples will wind up where you are and yet that does not make a bit of difference to you. This is your marriage, your family and your death to mourn. And a death it is. In Judaism there are rules for mourning – Shiva, Shloshim, Kaddish, Yizkor and different lengths of time depending on who the deceased was. There are no rules for the end of your marriage, no specified time or tradition.

For those of us who need a plan, a path and a set of guidelines for all things - good luck! There is no playbook for this, no checklist. I know. I’ve searched. It does not exist. You begin to make your own and it is long and grows every day. You feel like you are drowning and suffocating all at once. It’s all so new and there’s no path.

There are people though. It’s interesting who you choose to confide in at first. It’s like a clown car of people who have the right strengths, views, open arms, who lack judgment and just make sense for some reason you can’t explain at all. And then it’s out and you wait for the gossip, for the condolence calls and for something you didn’t plan on – those you don’t hear from at all.

You realize that for some it’s a need to take sides – sides that don’t exist in your case. For others, it’s too much. Your choice makes them look harder at their own relationship and question, wonder and fear. That part hurts, but you are too tired to focus on it for too long. The one you really don’t count on though are the people who judge. Those who think you could have tried harder, pushed on for longer or simply that you should sacrifice everything and anything for your children. You resign yourself not to let that hurt – good luck with that too.

You also know that you mean it when you tell him that you want to be friends. That you will work harder at that than almost any other part. That you are committed to it for your kids but also for yourself. Because you love him. No longer in love perhaps, but after half a lifetime together, you simply love him. You love the father he is. You love the story you have written together in that lifetime. You hope you can divorce the marriage, but not the person entirely. You want the memories to still make you laugh together and the future to be able to be shared around the new version of your “family.” You believe that this is possible and make a silent promise to make it so as best as you can.

So it’s out there and you know even if you could take back the words, you wouldn’t. You pray, even though praying isn’t really you. Nonetheless, you ask for strength and sanity and sunshine because the grey is killing you. You lean hard on those you can count on and feel more grateful than you ever have for your family and your friends who are the family you’ve chosen for yourself. You look in your kids eyes and beg silently for the light you know is still there. You cry and you claw and you climb out of the hole every day, knowing if you stumble back in, it’s OK.

“I’m getting divorced.” But it’s not cancer. I am not dying. This was a choice. My life is not over. This too is a beginning.

A very special thanks, to Amy Selling of Lulus and Lattes for posting this anonymously, before I was ready - http://www.luluandlattes.com/2014/02/02/divorce-is-not-dying-it-is-a-new-beginning/