Monday, September 26, 2016

10 Things Nobody Told Me About Divorce

Hello my lovely readers. Oh how I've missed you so! I was overwhelmed and uninspired these past few weeks. I was able to clean, cook, and work, but that's about it. That was as far as my head was letting me go.

You know why?

My date in front of the divorce judge is this Thursday. This Thursday. I am doing this without an attorney and drafted all the legal documents myself, did I tell you that? I prolly didn't. I prolly was trying to avoid the onslaught of "Are you joking! Don't be an idiot! He'll take everything!" comments. But it's true, he and I are both representing ourselves. That paperwork is horrendous, and I'm a girl who loves paperwork. I can understand why attorneys charge so much.....kinda.

So I hesitated this morning, feeling nauseous after another night of restlessness and lying in my bed going over and over my various areas of brokenness. I thought, "Who the hell wants to hear from a whiner? Nobody likes to read about divorce. It's depressing. It makes single people not want to get married. It makes married people anxious. It makes struggling wives and husbands scared they might end up there some day. Best if I just keep quiet another week and hope something new and positive comes along next week."

But then I thought to myself, "Jen, what in the actual f@#$ is wrong with you? This blog is called Flaws, Forgiven. This is your space, your place. If you can't be ugly, sad, truthful, and real here, then where?"

This is my messy place. My place to connect to other messy people and raise my hand alongside you and voluntarily join up together in our own little messy, messy world. I'm truckin on today, readers. I'm writing because I feel like I might die if I don't and I'm drawing inspiration from real life. And real life for me, at least this week, is all about divorce.

1. Everyone has an opinion.
I assumed, perhaps stupidly, that my decision to divorce would be taken with a unanimous and resounding "Yes! I support you! I am here for you, feel all the feels!" You don't realize how different the people in your life are until you struggle with something immense, like divorce. Some tell me I made a great decision, it's time to move on, chin up, be strong. Others think I'm being a little dramatic, should've stayed put, needed to think about the long-term implications of my decision a little more. I will say the first group heavily outweighs the second group in my situation, particularly because I was left with the choice to divorce or remain with a repeatedly unfaithful man, but those few random people who are saddened by my decision still poke at me.

It hurts to think my decision causes others pain....but what hurts even more is facing those who cannot sympathize with me and understand divorce is something I never wanted. Despite the Facebook pictures showing me smiling and happy, I am mourning my marriage. I am purposely throwing myself into the happiest possible surroundings I can because if I stay put, stay inactive, I will fixate on the loss of years and years of hard work. My marriage was an investment gone bad, Jen's Black Tuesday. It's devastatingly difficult to be around people who cannot understand that, especially when I was so sure I wouldn't need to defend myself.

Similarly, I have very sweet, supportive friends who say things like, "It could be so much worse." They mean well, they love me, and I love them for trying to make me feel better. But it could always be so much worse. Telling someone it could be so much worse while they are at their worst is the emotional equivalent of threatening to cut off a one-legged woman's good leg. It undermines the struggle and fails to acknowledge that sorrow, anger, complaining, and generally being upset is allowed during divorce, regardless of specifics. It leaves me wanting to scream, "Let me be a whiny bitch for a minute! Promise when something terrible happens to you I will stand by your side and let you feel every last piece of it without rushing you along!"

Bottom line, don't expect anyone to fully understand what you're dealing with unless they've been there themselves...and even then, be prepared for the comparisons and the "you are so lucky" (yes someone actually said that to me while I shared the details of my divorce) comments. If you do find someone or a group of people who can simply stand there and hold you, judgement-free, lean on them and hug them to you with all your might. They are the right people to be around in this season of your life.

2. I judge myself every single day. 
Sometimes I judge my parenting. Sometimes I judge my ability to be a good friend. Sometimes I judge my looks, my character, my strength, my drive, my skills, my dedication, my heart. And yes, sometimes I even stand back and judge my decision to get divorced. I do not regret it, oh no. That ship has sailed. But I do look back at the events leading to my divorce and wonder if I couldn't of done something different. Been better. Tried harder.

Am I being a good mom? Am I being a good friend? Am I doing enough to maintain the relationships in my life? Did I make the right choice staying quiet? Do I really have any right to be sad? I'm constantly on the stand in my own courtroom, evaluating my progress through this maze of crazy paperwork, single parenting, and new routines. I overthink the crap out of my decisions....and it's because I don't trust myself. I don't trust myself to make the right choices, to be the support my kids need, to achieve my goals. There's a little light within me that grows by the day, telling me to push forward and for the most part, I listen and do. But I also doubt and judge myself constantly.

As time goes by and you develop a feel for your new routine, your new life, your new standards, your days in front of your internal judge will get easier. This is all about gaining confidence and learning to trust yourself again. It will happen. Be as gentle as you can with your self-critique until that day arrives.

3. My left hand is a flashing billboard.
So most of you prolly know by now that I love driving and flirting. I love the fleeting, absolutely no-strings-attached way you can ride alongside someone and give them smiles. I love when I'm deep in thought about something trivial and mundane and some dude rides up and winks at me. I love when I'm singing at the top of my lungs at a red light and the person in front of me is staring in their rear-view. I love it. And when I first separated from my ex, I flirted like a maniac. I rolled down my window on purpose to drag my hand through the air so all the dudes on the road knew I didn't have a wedding band. I felt free and it was lovely.

On the flipside, I find myself extremely self-conscious when I'm up in front of the church singing with the choir on a Sunday morning. Do they see I'm not wearing a ring? Have they noticed it's no longer there? I get self-conscious showing up at school events for my little ones. Do the other parents notice the tan line where my ring once sat? Should I wear long sleeves so I can cover my hand if need be? I wish I could say I was above worrying what strangers think, but we all know by now that is obviously absolutely not true.

The truth? Chances are nobody notices or cares what's on your left hand....and if they do, you'll never know what they're thinking anyways. Best to put that newly-naked left hand in the air with positive flirtatious vibes and let any negativity about your null-and-void ring roll right off.

4. Friends and family choose sides.
This one will blow you away when it happens to you. Fair warning.

As I mentioned earlier, I was pretty confidant those who know me and my ex would understand why I chose to get a divorce. I didn't adequately prepare myself for the very painful experience of getting left off a what I thought was a mutual friend's party invite. Or a family dinner. Or a holiday celebration. Every friend and family member who was his before the marriage falls into muddled, hazy territory that is tricky to navigate. Dinner with family members you love sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well, not when your ex doesn't want you there. Doesn't matter how much you love them, that's his family and you're out. Plain and simple.

And despite what they say, people will choose sides. They may do it gently, and continue to hang with you both while the other is not around, but there will always be a situation where only one of you can attend. The host will need to make that hard decision and chances are, it will hurt.

The only way around this is to accept your divorce signifies a completely new life.....your daily life for sure, your parenting and financial life, obviously, but also the way you spend your free time and how the people of your "married life" play a role in your "divorced life." Those relationships will change and sometimes will, yes, end. The sooner you work past that and accept such things are just a part of divorce, the better equipped you will be during your recovery process. Remember the good times and cherish your memories and move on. You have new places to be now.

5. I am happier.
My divorce isn't final yet. I'm only 9 months into this new, separated life. I am sad about it every day. But even in this walking-dead, bleary-eyed state, I realize I am happier. I am happier than I was when I snuck around checking phone records. I am happier than I was when I argued over how many beers were in the fridge. I am happier than I was when I wondered if I was too fat to be sexy. I am happier, even though I am not very happy.

Sometimes the pain of the moment causes perspective to warp and creates a sense of longing for something that was never really there in the first place. The good times stand out and my stomach lurches and I feel nothing but failure, remorse, and sadness. It's important, at times like these, to think back on the past with a clear head. I kept notes in my phone from those days, the real bad ones, so I could talk to my therapist about them back when we did marriage counseling. Sometimes I will pull those notes up to remind myself of just how bad it was and how much growth I've encountered already.

This whole situation is extremely difficult and painful and makes my head spin. But I am happier than I have been in 10 years. And you will be, too.

6. I can reach crap all by myself.
I had this silly image all through my marriage that if I got divorced I wouldn't be able to reach stuff up high. Like, I'd get divorced and I'd need to grab a dish from the top shelf of the pantry and instead of having him there to help me, I'd try and get it myself and would end up bumping the shelf somehow and everything would come crashing down on top of me and I'd die under a mountain of canned olives and cake platters.

But you know what's shocking? Now that I'm living the single woman life, there's not much I can't do myself. I can reach stuff up high. I can lift heavy stuff. I can build firepit brush piles. I can fix stuff. I can do those things. I'm not some wamby-pamby little mouse who flinches and tears up at the thought of her ex-husband's swift ability to unclog a drain. Reality is I've got a naked 4 year old who's crapped her pants and I need to get that drain unclogged now and get her poo-butt in the bathtub and cleaned up immediately because I start work in 4 minutes. So I do it.

You can do the stuff he did, or she did. Maybe not the same way. Maybe not with the same efficiency. Hell maybe you hire someone to do it. But you can get it done. You can reach crap all by yourself. The ideas in your head, the visions you had of your life post-divorce, they are not reality. Imagination is beautiful and terrifying and also simply that....imagined thoughts. Ground yourself in the reality that your life can function beautifully without anyone else around to help or watch or praise you.

7. I do not recognize my ex 99.9% of the time.
I know. By now you may think I am some kinda moron. I mean, c'mon, you're getting divorced, it's obviously not what you thought it was going to be. But I mean it when I say this element of divorce stunned me. I thought after ten years of marriage, I knew my ex inside and out. Turns out I was wrong and that scares the living crap out of me. My head is consistently humming with thoughts of, "Did he ever love you? Why does he hate you? Was he always like this? What if he changes his mind about giving you money? What if he takes off? What if he has a breakdown like those crazy shooters on the news? Who is this person? Has he really seen you naked and afraid? Is this really the same guy who dried your tears? How could you ever think you knew him, truly? What is wrong with you? Who else behaves like this? Will you ever find someone who doesn't change his mind about you every day? What if it's not him, it's you?"

Those thoughts go on and on and on, dear readers. When someone you love turns into someone you don't recognize, as I've mentioned in previous posts, it's the most jarring, unforgiving, horrific experience a person can have. Betrayal doesn't encompass it. Painful doesn't come close to describing it. You doubt the other person but even worse than that, you doubt yourself. How could your heart and mind and judgement be so wrong?

The only way up from here is to make a conscious decision. You really have only two choices - harden your heart and refuse to risk the pain of poor judgement again, or chalk your failed marriage up to a rare and horrible experience that will not define you. I am trying very hard to holdfast to my dedication to the second option and to remain hopeful about love and faith.

8. Reading and visiting the county's legal self help office was the single most helpful action I took.
Nobody told me to do my divorce alone. Everyone told me to go the opposite way, actually. Who knows, I may still end up hiring an attorney (Thursday will decided that). But despite the long hours I put into this paperwork, and the horrific legaleze I was forced to decipher over and over, I am glad I've done this on my own. I've learned my rights, I've learned his rights, I've read typical court outcomes, I've read what to avoid, I've read what to strive toward.

Perhaps it's my control freak nature. I feel I have no control over my failed marriage...but hell if I won't have control over the paperwork that seals my fate. Either way I feel better knowing and understanding these things. I'm informed and knowledge is power.

Take a minute to look at the divorce laws in your state. Go to the self-help area of your county's courthouse. Familiarize yourself with the paperwork and expectations. Even if you hire an attorney, it behooves you to understand the basics of your divorce case. You might need to understand these things later if something in your agreement is breached or changes need to be made.

9. The truth comes out.
Remember how everyone has an opinion about your divorce? Well, turns out everyone has an opinion about your ex, too. Once those around me understood my marriage was permanently over, the truth came out. They told me what they really thought about my marriage and my ex. They let it alllllll go. And in some ways, it was reassuring, and supportive, but in other ways it was very sad and hard to listen to.

I don't want to listen to someone completely bash the crap out of my kids' father. It's ok to call him a name here or there, I do that sometimes too. But tearing him apart in front of me does not help me. He is still a part of my life. He will always be a part of my life. I need to deal with that and keep some semblance of positivity in my interactions with him when possible.

People throwing too much shade? Is the truth hurting too much? It's ok to tell them to hush. They will. And then they will likely feel bad and apologize for getting caught up in their moment of anger. When you really step back and look at it, such displays are almost endearing. Your ranting friends are mad this happened to you. They want to let loose potentially years worth of opinion that's been bottled up and brewing. They are hurting too. But it's ok to tell them to hush.

Likewise, it's ok to tell your ex to hush. He might want to talk about his new love interest. He may want to divulge what really made him cheat. He may start talking about what he was really doing that night you thought he was somewhere else. Tell him (or her) to hush. You're dealing with enough truth right now. The truth within others' hearts doesn't need to be hashed out right now.

10. Doing things on my own is more healing than wine and chocolate. 
I know. This seems impossible, Jen. What are you saying. It's true, dear readers. I could very easily drown in bad food and beer and Netflix. Sometimes I allow myself to do just that. But can I please tell you, in all honesty, nothing feels as good as doing things on my own. Going to the library alone. Taking the kids on a "family-friendly" outing alone. Hosting a party alone.

Each time I do something I typically did with my ex, I gain a kernel of independence and confidence back. Every time I achieve a new goal, or try something new, or venture out on my own, I learn a little more about myself. It's incredibly empowering and definitely makes me feel better than wine and chocolate.....I really am telling the truth. 

It's tricky because a lot of the time I want to curl up and make good use of use various mindless crutches, like sleep, books, or Facebook....but I'm finding when I push myself to make plans, get busy, jump outside my comfort zone, I feel accomplished in ways I haven't felt in years.

Don't let your traditions end with your marriage. Tweak them if you need to but do them anyways. Make them your own. And realize you can do this, this thing called life, after divorce. Matter of fact, you can do it better. And you will.

Have you been divorced? What shocked you about the process? This goes out to non-marriage breakups, too....any tips to share? How did you find yourself again? I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments down below. As always, dear readers, thank you so much for reading :)


Monday, September 12, 2016

Best, Easiest Zucchini Bread Ever

I know I say this every time the seasons change...but I am so, so excited for fall this year. I had a record-breaking roller coaster of a summer, reaching some of my highest highs and lowest lows and let me tell you, I am ready for change and blankets and the end of the insanity that is my lawn these days. I've lost animals in that lawn. Children. My children disappear into that lawn. But I digress.

One of the craziest, most interesting things about autumn is the ironic pull this feminist single mama feels toward her kitchen. Oh yep, I said it. I love female power and challenging stereotypes and teaching my girls they can be warriors and anything else they want to be....but I also love, love, love being barefoot in my kitchen. It's true. I love cranking up the oven, sprinkling flour on my counter, and baking the crap out of my garden harvest. I love smell of my crockpot as it melts chicken bones into broth and I love pulling out my huge old-school pressure canner and listening to lids pop. I love rinsing off heirloom tomatoes and looking out the big kitchen window and watching my chickens bobble across my yard. I love, really love, being in my kitchen, especially after visiting my garden. And with autumn around the corner, my trips to the garden are becoming more and more frequent.

Now normally I have zucchini up the yim-yam by now, but some of you may remember I had an epic battle of ungodly proportions this year with massive amounts of teeny, sneaky little chipmunks. Everything went in late and as a result, my zucchini just started blooming a few weeks ago. You know. In August. My summer squash, zone 5, typically comes in ready to harvest by June. Juuuust a bit late, yes Jen?

I had all but given up hope and resigned to learn from my mistakes and try again next year when one day, I went out there one day to grab some Moonglow 'maters and noticed a stretch of dark green peeking up at me from under those huge, giant zucchini leaves. Sure enough, when I swept them back, I found this.

Blessed be thy giant zucchini. The kiddos were so excited we took pictures with the thing. And then we promptly decided it was time to make bread.

This recipe is adapted from Iron Oak Farm, a delightful little blog I follow on Pinterest and Etsy. 

3 cups of flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup honey
1 tsp vanilla
2 1/2 cups zucchini (see below on how to prep it)
1 cup raisins (optional)

Zucchini Prep: Now once upon a time I read you needed to shred your zucchini by hand with a cheese grater. This, dear readers, is about as fun as shredding 5 blocks of cheese or 4 bars of soap. Anything that requires me to use a cheese grater automatically makes me want to punch myself in the face. So here is how I do it instead:
1. Cut the zucchini in half longways

2. Scoop out the seeds (you can save these for planting next year if you grow heirloom!)
3. Cut the zucchini into smaller pieces
4. Throw the pieces into a blender and/or food processor and pulse, pulse, baby

That's it. I don't add water, I just pulse away. I tamp stubborn chunks down between pulses so they get good and shredded. If I have more than 2 1/2 cups of zucchini, I toss the extra in a baggie, write how much is in there on the baggie (this helps later, trust me), and freeze it for the winter. Taa-daa! :)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and move your oven rack to the highest position possible. The higher you bake in your oven the more even your stuff bakes!
2. Grease two bread loaf pans - I use butter but you can use anything slick. *heh heh heh*
3. Mix up all your wet ingredients - this includes the eggs, olive oil, coconut oil, honey, vanilla, and zucchini.
4. In a bigger bowl mix up all your dry ingredients - so your flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, baking soda, and baking powder.
5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. If you like raisins in your bread, add them now. It'll look pretty liquidy and that's perfectly ok....great, even.

6. Pour half your batter into one loaf pan and the other half into the other loaf pan.
7. Bake for 60-75 minutes. You'll know it's done if you can shove a toothpick in there and have it come out clean. I like to live dangerously and go based on color and smell alone - a nice, deep, golden color combined with that perfect "not quite burned but soon to be" smell means it's ready. Or, you know, toothpicks n' stuff.
8. Let the bread rest in their pans for a little while then turn the pans over onto a cooling rack or clean towel and let everything cool down. You can eat some now and burn yourself like I always do - yes, it's worth it.

This bread freezes really, really well so if you think it'll stick around long enough, go ahead and put that second loaf into the freezer or gift it away like the angel you are. In my 3-girl-household we usually eat an entire loaf in about 2 days. Yep. Not even a little ashamed.

print recipe

Best, Easiest Zucchini Bread Ever

3 cups Flour
1 cup Sugar
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking soda
1/2 tsp Baking powder
3 Eggs
1/2 cup Olive oil
1/2 cup Coconut oil
1/2 cup Honey
1 tsp Vanilla
2 1/2 cups Zucchini
1 cup Raisins (optional)

1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees2. Grease two bread loaf pans3. Mix up all your wet ingredients4. In a bigger bowl mix up all your dry ingredients 5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until well blended. If you like raisins in your bread, add them now.6. Pour half your batter into one loaf pan and the other half into the other loaf pan.7. Bake for 60-75 minutes.

Found on Flaws, Forgiven:

What are some of your favorite fall recipes, dear readers? I'd love to hear them in the comments down below and as always, thank you so very much for reading :)