The Day(s) My Marriage Ended

The Day(s) My Marriage Ended

I married my husband, Daniel, on a warm spring day in 2011. Actually, since we were married March 19th, it was still technically winter. But a Georgia winter, meaning it was 65 degrees and sunny.

It was a beautiful day. My father-in-law performed the ceremony, and that day still goes down as one of the most fun of my life. We danced to all the wedding cliches, had enough candy to feed a medium-sized village, and even broke out into a flash mob at one point. It was perfect.

And then real life began. Ours, like so many young couples’, began with a joy all newlyweds have: The joy of lying. Not big lies. Not like you forgot to tell them you’re wanted in five states. But little, easy lies, like, “This dinner is delicious!” or “I definitely like this painting.” I used to sneak out of bed in the morning and brush my teeth before Daniel woke up so he would think my morning breath was naturally minty-fresh. You’re welcome for that free tip, humanity. We wanted to make each other happy, so we were willing to overlook towels on the floor or accidentally-destroyed projects (I’m still really sorry, Daniel). We made the extra effort because it was worth it.

We had been married for a year-and-a-half when we found out we were expecting our first baby. We were thrilled! As you probably know, our firstborn arrived a bit less traditionally than the average bear.

And that’s when our marriage ended the first time.

Gone were the days where our biggest worries were over whether to order pizza or go out for dinner instead. I didn’t get enough sleep to even think about waking up early to brush my teeth and sneak back into bed. Towels on the floor became just one more nuisance on a never-ending list I kept tabs on in my head.

Joshua needed our constant attention. After four months in the NICU, he came home to therapies, specialists, oxygen tubes, apnea monitors, and more. As time went on, the needs changed, but the stress of having a special-needs child didn’t.

You want to know one of the truths about having a kid with special needs? It kills your marriage. Kills it. We were both still there, still married, but the marriage we had known was gone forever. In its place was something almost unrecognizable. And it was getting worse every day.

I’ve said before that having a child like Josh changed me. In so many ways, it changed me for the better. It made me more compassionate, and more understanding of the struggles of others, and opened my eyes to an entirely new world.

In some ways, though, the changes weren’t as great. These were the changes that were the hardest to resist. I was so angry at God for allowing Joshua to have so many issues. I was angry at myself for not realizing something was wrong sooner in my pregnancy. I was angry at everyone around me. And while throughout the day, I made an effort to at least smile at other people, by the time I got home from the hospital or new specialist or therapy session, I decided I had given all I could. I couldn’t possibly deal with one more thing. And I took it out on Daniel.

Every forgotten task, every misunderstood conversation, every dish I washed alone – I kept track of it all. I knew how many times I had done the laundry and how many times Daniel hadn’t. Sure, he was working all day, but I was busy with the baby. It wasn’t fair. That’s what I kept repeating to myself. It wasn’t fair. I was a stay-at-home mom, but not by choice. I had never asked for this. I wasn’t even sure I wanted it for a long time. But then it arrived and was so much harder than I expected. And I knew I wasn’t up to the challenge. And not being up to the challenge made me defensive. And being defensive made me resentful. And being resentful made me bitter. And all of that culminated in my marriage slowly dissolving into two bickering parents who didn’t know how to stop arguing.

No one is ever 100% innocent in these kinds of things. But I will be honest and tell you that a lot of this was on me. Daniel tried his best to help me, but I didn’t want his help. And then I got angry at him for not helping me. And then he tried to help me again, and obviously that meant he thought I wasn’t doing a good enough job, and then I was angry again. And then he didn’t help, and how dare he not help me? It was a vicious cycle.

We went on like this for a few years. We had our daughter, Jenna, just 15 months after Josh was born. Daniel worked full-time, and I worked part-time for a while, eventually moving to a full-time position where I worked from home. We had two kids under the age of two, hectic jobs, financial struggles, and so many appointments to go to. Life was busy. Too busy. Jenna was a fussy newborn. Josh didn’t walk until Jenna was almost a year old. There was no rest, no time for our marriage anymore. Even if we had wanted to work on it, there was simply no time.

Same people. Different marriage.

And then one day, Daniel and I had a big argument. (I’m not trying to air our dirty laundry or anything, and I asked Daniel if he was okay with me writing this. Just want to put full disclosure out there.) It was bad. I was so angry and so tired. Josh had started an intense feeding therapy program. Daniel was dealing with some (thankfully resolved!) health issues. It was stressful. And we argued, and then I shouted that I wanted a divorce.

It wasn’t true. I didn’t want a divorce. I was so tired, so angry and bitter, and I just decided to say it, to goad my husband into arguing with me. But he didn’t argue. Instead, we sat in silence for a while. I knew I should apologize. But I wouldn’t. I didn’t.

I thought that I was already so broken that nothing could touch me anymore. But I was wrong. The look on Daniel’s face when I said those words to him made me feel like I had shattered all over again, like the day Josh was born, and all the days after when we heard more bad news. And so I made a choice.

I decided to try to let the little things go.

It was hard at first, and is still a struggle for me, if I’m being perfectly honest. But my goal was to stop looking for ways to blame Daniel, and instead look at the ways he loved me and showed me his love every day. I decided to think about his intent – did he not take the garbage out just to make my day harder? Probably not. Probably he had just come home from a really hard day at work and it slipped his mind while he was helping me with the dishes or feeding the kids. Probably I could just remind him, or even do it myself. And then we wouldn’t have to fight. Things didn’t have to turn into an argument every time one of us made a little mistake.

My other goal was to get to back to reading my Bible every day. That isn’t meant to sound self-righteous; I just knew I needed to hear what God had to say instead of screaming my own words at Him. As we say in this house, it was no longer my turn.

So I started working on my goals. And I’ve messed up so many times. But it’s been getting easier and easier.

And that’s how my marriage ended the second time.

Same people. Different marriage.

Slowly but surely, the arguments grew to be less frequent. We sought ways to work together instead of ways to blame each other for the stresses in our life. Our other situations didn’t change. Josh still had a lot of needs and was a lot of work. We still had two very little kids and very little time for ourselves and our marriage. Those things wouldn’t change. But we could. We did.

When I first decided to write about this, I was hesitant. I didn’t want to paint Daniel in a bad light, because he is a wonderful, godly man, who married a slightly crazy, super short woman. I didn’t want people to judge us. I didn’t want to come across as having so many struggles.

But I don’t think we’re alone in these struggles. Even if you don’t have a kid with special needs, your marriage has likely hit a rough patch. If it hasn’t, please submit yourself for testing at the nearest health facility, because you might be a robot.

And if you do have a kid with special needs, and your marriage is struggling, and you’re not sure how you will possibly make it through one more day of therapy, and leg braces, and helmets, and practicing stairs, and giving choices, and being a constant cheerleader and advocate for your child so they never have to feel different – it’s going to be okay. Things might not change. But you can.

Same people. Three different marriages. And we would never change a day.

D and K

Today’s the Day

Today’s the Day

Once upon a time, there was a woman who lived in the merry lands of Georgia. She had a lovely life, with a husband who loved her, and whom she loved, and two children whom she only rarely considered selling on eBay. She spent her days raising these children, and providing mediocre meals for her husband, and writing on a giant whiteboard calendar that she made herself in spite of her inability to craft. And it was a good life.

But the woman wanted to do just one thing more: She wanted to be healthy. Not, like, to run a marathon, because that sounded terrible. More like healthy enough to live a long life and set a good example for her children.

The woman tried lots of different ways to make this work. She took advice from trusted friends, and tried various programs that had been proven to work. And sometimes they did. The woman would always start out strong, and she would slowly become healthier. But life, as it so often does, would get in the way, and the woman would have to miss a weigh-in or stop by a drive-through. When that happened, the woman felt like she had failed. And if she had already failed, what was the point of continuing?

When she failed, the woman was ashamed. She was angry at herself for not working harder to stick to a plan that she had promised to finish. She was sad that she had disappointed herself and others, especially her husband and kids. She was embarrassed that she had let herself become so unhealthy to begin with, regardless of the reasons. She did not want to tell her friends and family that she was trying to be healthier, because she did not want them to watch her struggle and fail.

One day – probably a Tuesday – the woman found herself sitting on her couch at home. She had spent so much time researching the best ways to be healthy, and joined all the right groups on the Facebook, and became a gym member, and yet, she was no healthier than before. She was a few pounds lighter, but she knew she had such a long way to go. And as she sat on her couch, she wondered where it all went wrong. Why wasn’t she motivated to do anything to become and stay healthy?

That was really the heart of her issue: She wasn’t motivated. Because she didn’t believe anything would work. Life, though still a blessing, had beaten down the woman’s spirit over the last few years. She wanted to be strong and joyful, but it was just too hard when something went wrong. She had taken the hopefulness and positivity that was once part of her and slowly put it away. Oh, she could get to it when she wanted to, but she found those instances were fewer and farther between. And the more she put away, the less she wanted to find it again. And so it went.

As the woman sat on her couch, lamenting the woes of her life, she found a picture of herself from long ago. Well, it was really only about six years ago, but the woman was going for a dramatic effect in her story. The picture showed a man and woman on their wedding day. They were, of course, dressed up; he looking so handsome, and she so beautiful. But it wasn’t their clothes or their weight or her makeup or the lighting that made them look this way.

It was their absolute joy.

And as the woman looked at the photo some more, she wondered if, maybe, she could have that joy again. She knew it wouldn’t just come back right away. But if she believed it would return, it would.

That was the key to her struggles the whole time. Every weight-loss program, every announcement of giving up sugar, every promise to make it to the gym four times a week  – she had never believed she could do any of it. And after she tired of going through the motions, she stopped.

So the woman made a decision. She decided to believe that she could become healthier. Not to fit into a certain size or wear a special outfit, but to prove to herself that she could. And to prove to her own daughter that she could. And to finally feel the joy that she had contained for years.

The woman knew that, ultimately, no number on a scale would bring her the joy she sought. She knew that her ultimate identity was found in Jesus, and from there she was so much more than a certain weight or measurement. But she also knew that this was the right step to take, both for herself, and for her children. And she believed she could take it. No special classes or outrageous goals or shame if she stumbled. Just belief that she could take the first step. And then the next. And then the next. And then the rest.

So she did.

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40 Thoughts Every Parent Has While Watching The Octonauts

40 Thoughts Every Parent Has While Watching The Octonauts

1. How did all of these animals even get together? Where is a polar bear going to meet a house cat?

2. While we’re on that topic, why is a house cat even one of the Octonauts? Aren’t cats scared of water or something?

3. He has an eyepatch. Naturally.

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4. Wait, the eyepatch doesn’t even cover anything. He just lifted it up and there’s just a regular eye under there. So he just wears it to inhibit his vision?

5. They named the penguin with the Hispanic accent Peso. Tell me that isn’t racist.  Read more

The Day I (Almost) Stole From Target

The Day I (Almost) Stole From Target

Hollaback if you love Target. I know you do. Don’t be ashamed. I love Target so much that my kids ask if we’re going there on a regular basis. Target and “Cheekin Feel A” are our two favorite ways to spend an afternoon in this family. Except for Daniel, who insists on going to work and providing for us. Whatever.

So last week, Jenna and I went on our daily weekly pilgrimage to Target. Since she is a “beeg guhl” now, she will no longer deign to ride inside the cart (You guys know how I feel about the Target carts anyway). Which is mostly…fine. I mean, I used to go through Target without running after a tiny giggling maniac while simultaneously dragging a loaded-down cart behind me, but I didn’t get nearly as many steps in, so it all works out.

My little helper wanted me to put everything in the bottom section of the cart, so she could add it by herself. I didn’t want to be a dream-crusher, so I said she could do that, and when she wasn’t looking, I put the items up in the main cart so I wouldn’t forget any.

If this was a musical, the soundtrack right now would be full of ominous tones.

I had to get an item from just about every section (except for the toy aisles, which I avoided like the flipping plague), and Jenna trotted faithfully behind me, occasionally playing a hilarious game where she hid from me and my heart stopped and then we all laughed and laughed. Finally, we were ready to check out.

I paid for my items, and Jenna asked to get into the cart, so we were all set to go out the door when a customer service person stopped me.

“Are there any other items I can help you purchase today?”

If you have ever worked retail, you know this line. You know it by heart. It’s the line drilled into you as the proper response if you see someone stealing from a store. There are a lot of rules about what you can and can’t say to a terrible merchandise stealer, even though they are a MERCHANDISE STEALER, and that is a standard party line. “Are there any other items I can help you purchase today?” actually means “I know that you know that I know you’re stealing, and you’re a jerk face for doing it, and I hope your stolen items all break.”

So when the customer service rep said this to me, I knew what she really wanted. She wanted me to ‘fess up about my thievery. But I had literally just paid for my items. What could the issue be?

The rep looked down at my cart. Past my bags, past my toddler, and down into – you guessed it – the lower part of the cart. On this section were the following items: Three (3) bottles of craft paint, one (1) pack of stickers, two (2) containers of peach-flavored yogurt, and one (1) boot. Yes, the one boot confused me the most, too.

Apparently I hadn’t been as diligent about watching my little shopper as I thought I had.

“Oh! I’m so sorry. My daughter was putting stuff in the cart and…” I trailed off as I realized I was blaming a two-year-old – who was currently sitting in the cart and therefore could not have possibly been grabbing things from the shelves – for what looked like outright theft.

Slowly, shamefully, I put each stolen item on the customer service shelf. I offered to put them all back, but the rep declined. Can’t say I blame her. Then Jenna waved goodbye to everyone, smiling and blowing kisses, earning more and more sympathy as she was carted away by her criminal mother.

We got into the car. I put her in the seat. “Jenna, we don’t take things from the shelves, okay? Mommy always has to pay for it at the front.”

Jenna smiled. “Okay, Mommy.” And then she laughed. And laughed. And laughed.

It’s now been four days since my last Target run. If you see me there with a fake mustache on, just keep walking. And stop Jenna before she gets to the parking lot.

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The Best Policy

The Best Policy

As I have mentioned probably 470328320 times, I am on Facebook a lot. A. Lot. I love Facebook. I sing love songs to it and whisper sweet nothings in its ear.

No, no, the last two aren’t true.

When you get down to it, Facebook is basically a way to announce to the world what you want them to know about you in that moment. It might be what you’re doing for the weekend, what your kids are crying about, or, inexplicably, pictures of your dinner. It allows you to post your thoughts and opinions on literally everything. That can get tedious but I think we can all agree that it is an effective form of communication, if not always the most personal.

Of course, this also means that you are going to see posts that you disagree with. Sometimes just a little, sometimes vehemently. That’s right. I said vehemently. And when that happens, you have two choices: make a comment or move on.

A few years ago, if I saw something I didn’t like. I always commented. Always. I have been told that I can be a little too quick to react without thinking to a lot of situations, (hard to believe, right?? RIGHT????) so my comments were not always the most polite. I would get involved in debates that lasted all day, sometimes not even totally sure why I was debating but confident in my right-ness about the situation. Is “right-ness” a word? Spell-check didn’t flag it. But it also didn’t flag “spell-check.” Hmm. Is my spell-check even on? What is it doing, watching TV? Get it together, spell-check.

So what was I saying? Oh, right – the right-ness. I would get angry and I would argue and argue until Daniel either took away my computer or one of my fingers went numb. Darn carpal tunnel. It wasn’t pretty.

After a while, I realized that I probably wasn’t helping anyone by shouting my thoughts as loud as I could. I certainly wasn’t showing people the love of Christ. So I decided to stop getting involved with arguments and debates on Facebook. It just wasn’t worth it.

And at first, that went really well. It was freeing to just scroll past controversial posts without feeling like I had to say something. I didn’t need to yell at people or tell them why they were wrong. I could just let them be.

But it didn’t take long for that to feel wrong, too. Not because I missed the angry debates or wanted to stir the pot, but because it seemed like the coward’s way out. I had gone from sharing everything to sharing nothing. No opinions, no disagreements, no nothin’. I was able to be everyone’s friend because no one knew what I really thought. It seemed like a wonderful idea, but it just didn’t feel right.

See, I got it wrong both times. I didn’t need to get angry and shout. I didn’t need to pretend like I had no opinions. I just needed to be honest.

We live in a time where people are afraid to be honest, I think. I know I am. I put too much stock in what others think of me. I care too much if my friends agree with the choices I make. It’s not something I recommend but I also think every person in the world experiences that in some form or fashion. The need to be accepted is deeply ingrained in each of us. And in order to gain and then keep that acceptance, we change ourselves. We see something we know is wrong and we keep scrolling. We see a friend hurting and we don’t reach out. We see a post that we know is harmless but we decide to lash out at the person anyway. All in the name of not rocking the boat or showing others how knowledgeable we are.

But – pardon the language, Mom – that’s crap. It is. Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what my friends think of me. I don’t serve my friends. I don’t serve Facebook. I serve my Heavenly Father and no one else. That’s it.

God does not call us to be liked. He does not call us to be popular. He does not call us to have 3279 Facebook friends. He calls us to follow Him in everything that we do. And if we agree to do that, we also understand that there will be days where our opinion is unpopular. But whether God’s Word is popular has never been the reason to share it. We share it because it is God’s Word.

So I have decided that honesty is the best policy. I don’t need to shout. I don’t need to hide. I don’t have to be profound or funny or likable. I just need to tell the truth, God’s truth.

I’m not saying to get involved in every post you see on Facebook. I’m not saying to stop voicing your opinions. I just want us to think about why we are giving our opinions. Is it because you want to tell the truth, or because you want to win? Are you ignoring an issue because you know that your opinion is well-known, or because you don’t want to upset anyone? Ask yourself why you are saying what you are saying, and I think you’ll have a clear answer on what to do next.

Honesty can extend to our real lives, too. I know, I know; I am speaking of life outside of Facebook. Tell your friends. But being honest is important in all situations. There are some gray areas – for instance, you probably don’t need to tell your friend that her new hair cut is so bad you want to watch a Britney Spears music video just to get the image of her new bangs out of your head. But if your friend has broccoli in her teeth before church, help a sister out. And ask why she has broccoli for breakfast because that’s a little unusual.

More importantly, if a friend comes to you for counsel, be a friend. Be honest with them. Show them love and understanding, but above all, tell them the truth. Don’t do them the disservice of skirting around your opinions or berating them for their choices. If someone asks you what you think about an issue, tell them. You don’t have to put them down or be afraid to voice your thoughts. Just be honest. Just tell the truth. And if someone is honest with you, do them the courtesy of not taking it out on them. Know that your friends and family love you, and that sometimes telling you the truth is the best thing they have ever done for you, and the hardest thing they have ever done for you. Be honest with yourself when you are struggling over the next step to take. Be honest with yourself when you know that what you are doing isn’t right, and be honest with yourself when you have to make a hard choice that makes you unpopular.

I am a Christian. I know some people don’t like Christians. I know some people do. It doesn’t matter. It’s just the truth. I believe what the Bible says. I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins. I believe that God is holy and that His Word is holy. And I know that we live in confusing times where we wrestle with ourselves over what to think about so many things. We know what God says, but we worry about what our friends think, what our family thinks. But we don’t need to. We don’t need to have an internal battle with ourselves. We don’t need to yell. We don’t need to be silent. We just need to tell the truth.

Be kind to one another. Show compassion for your fellow man. And remember that honesty is still the best policy. It can be hard and it can be lonely. But we can rest in the promise of God’s truth and know that in a world where everything is constantly changing, God’s truth never does.