five years

Here’s a story that I should probably be embarrassed to share, but since it has a happy ending, eh, here goes.

Five years ago, I was separated and in the process of getting a divorce. Thanks to North Carolina’s mandatory “one year waiting period” before a divorce can be granted, that state of limbo seems to be longer and more torturous here than in other states. I had dipped my toe in the online dating world, but had only been on a few dates at that point.

This was before Catie started kindergarten, so both of the girls were in daycare full-time. There was a little girl in Catie’s pre-K class whose parents were divorced, and her mom, Tanya, and I became fast friends. Tanya sort of took me under her wing to help me through the process. We lost touch after our kids started school, since we live in different districts. But I think about her often, and I’m eternally grateful to her for some of the advice she gave me in the months after my separation.

In 2012, on St. Patrick’s Day, Tanya convinced me to join her and some of her friends to go out for dinner. My mom baby-sat the girls that night so I could go out with them. There were cocktails with dinner, then afterward, we ended up at a bar and had more drinks. (I guess it wasn’t really a bar – it’s normally a restaurant, but on Saturday nights, they have live music and it turns into sort of a dance club? It’s an odd place.) I’m a total lightweight with alcohol, I drink maybe 3 or 4 times a year on average, so it doesn’t take much to knock me for a loop. I don’t know how many drinks I had that night, but suffice to say, it was way past my tolerance level.

So, it’s St. Patrick’s Day, and I’m drunk in a bar. You know, as you do. I decided it would be a good idea to text a guy who I had a lunch date with earlier that week. It started off as just a, “hey, I really enjoyed meeting you, we should hang out again sometime,” friendly chat, and then turned into me confessing that I thought he was really hot and a whole bunch of other things that I would never have had the nerve to say if I had been sober.

I ended up taking a cab home, and my parents had to drive me back the next day to retrieve my car. Which was kind of embarrassing for a grown 36 year-old mother of two children, but better than the alternative of driving under the influence.

The guy I had been drunk texting? He texted me in the morning to ask if I was feeling OK.

Five years later, that turns out to have been the best drunk text I ever sent.

Waiting for fireworks. Happy 4th of July!

Chris is the guy who takes care of me, deals with all of my crazy hang-ups and anxieties, loves my kids, does the dishes and takes out the trash without me even having to ask, helps with the pets, and does a million other things that I try my hardest to never take for granted.

Chris is such a good guy that even my dad likes him, and my dad is a hard guy to win over. In fact, my dad likes him so much that he has never once told me that he disapproves of us living together even though we’re not married. (One exception: he did once say that he didn’t want me to talk about us living together on Facebook, because he doesn’t want some of his conservative Christian family members to know that I’m “a fallen woman.” Which didn’t offend me, it made me laugh, because it’s such a hilariously antiquated expression. And my dad is nearly 81, so I get that he has some outdated worldviews that I don’t share.) Meanwhile, my mom loves Chris so much that she automatically assumes any disagreements we have are my fault. So, yeah. Both of my parents are big fans. My kids adore him too. Hell, even Dave likes him.

Happy five years, babe. There’s nobody I’d rather be shacked up and living in sin with.

❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

P.S. Neither of us can remember the date when we met for that first lunch, other than it was a few days before St. Patrick’s Day. But 3/17 was the night of the drunk texts, so that’s what we jokingly refer to as our anniversary.

the past 2 months

I haven’t blogged in 2 months, which is weird for me. I keep thinking of things to write about and then I get distracted. So, here’s a bunch of random stuff that’s been happening lately.

We’ve been doing fun stuff on the weekends the kids are with me – now that summer is over and the neighborhood pool is closed, we’ve been going to the science museum and the playground more often.

Science museum. Have to pose with the shark jaw.

Those giant indoor trampoline places are fun on rainy days, too.

My levitating children at the Launching Pad.

I try to keep us busy on the weekends, it keeps the kids from fighting if we get out of the house and do active stuff.

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Catie update:

Catie finished her first term of 3rd grade and she’s now on her 3-week track-out break. (Let me take a moment and say again how much I love year-round school. Just around the time they start to get burned out on school, they get a nice long break. And then, just when they start to whine about being bored: time to go back to school!) She’s been spending this track-out break with her cousins; my aunt Susie is in town taking care of my cousin Cat’s kids, so I’ve been dropping her off every morning at their house and she’s been having a blast.

Third grade has been interesting because the two teachers split the day – one does math and social studies, the other does reading, writing, and science. So the kids spend half their day with each of them. Catie seems to like both teachers this year, which is pretty lucky.

Oh, and Catie got new glasses. She picked them out herself, and they look fantastic on her.

Catie got new glasses

Catie’s eye doctor is concerned about one of her eyes being significantly weaker than the other, so she’s now wearing an eye patch. She was upset about the idea of wearing it to school, because third grade girls can be mean about teasing, so I relented – she wears it from the time she gets up in the morning until she leaves for school, and then from the time she gets home until bedtime. She has it on for several hours each day, and hopefully that’s enough. We have a follow-up appointment in December to see how much progress she’s made.

And because she was constantly complaining about how her hair was making her hot, we decided to cut off several inches and give her a bob.

Catie's haircut before & after

She looks adorable, I absolutely love it. Between the haircut and getting her bangs off her face (both girls are growing their bangs out), she suddenly looks so grown up. Although maybe that’s partly due to her recent growth spurt. Girlfriend is now 4’5″ – she’s grown over 2 inches in the last 6 months.

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Lucy update:

Lucy has started taking a weekly dance class at her daycare, and I wish I could spy on it because I’ll bet it’s adorable. They email a newsletter to talk about the stuff they’re doing in class, so I’ll ask her to show me something (like pliè and relevé), and it’s a riot.

She also takes a weekly soccer class at daycare, which she really likes. I’m glad our daycare has these types of extracurricular activities, because I’m not sure how we’d make it work on our own time.

Lucy had a fever yesterday, so she's staying home with me because she needs to be fever-free for 24 hours before she can go back to daycare. She's obviously feeling better, so we're playing with hairstyles.

She’s gotten to a phase where she’s suddenly shy around new people, and her daycare teacher even says that she’s one of her quiet kids, but when she’s home, she’s still my hilarious little goofball.

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Me update:

I had a rough few months over the summer – there wasn’t any reason for it, just out of the blue I was suddenly anxious and jittery more often than not. It’s gotten a lot better in the last few weeks, for which I am thankful.

I’ve also been enjoying my weekends when the kids are with their dad. I get to sleep late, Chris and I can go see a movie or go out for dinner whenever we want, without worrying about anyone’s schedule. Yesterday, the weather was so gorgeous that I ran for nearly 5 miles, which is the first time I’ve gone that far since the half-marathon back in March. The combination of an injured foot plus the summer heat made me scale back on running, but I’m getting back into the longer distances and really enjoying it. I’m also doing the Barre3 28-day challenge with some friends, which is kind of fun just as a way to mix things up.

Work is good; I had my annual performance review a couple of weeks ago, and I got a raise. I asked Chris if it made him feel emasculated that I now make more money than he does. He laughed and said, “Sweetie, you go ahead and make aaaaall the money you want, the more the merrier.”

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Today it’s been 3 years since my divorce. I don’t think I would have remembered it, except the Timehop app on my phone reminded me. It made me think of this conversation I had with Lucy a few weeks ago:

Catie was with my parents, and I went to pick up Lucy from daycare. We were leaving when we saw a man waiting in a car in the parking lot. I recognized him as one of the teacher’s husbands – they only have one car, so he drops her off and picks her up.

Lucy: “That’s Miss Nikki’s husband.”
Me: “Yep.”
Lucy: “Just like you have a husband.”
Me: “No, I don’t have a husband anymore.”
Lucy: “You used to have a husband but he died?”
Me: (thinking: WTF, that’s morbid) “No, baby, I used to be married to Daddy, but we got divorced.”
Lucy: (genuinely shocked) “You used to be married to DADDY??!!”

Dave and I split up when she was only 2 months old, so of course she has no memory of us ever being together. And I guess in one way, it’s sad that she had no idea that was where she came from. But at the same time, I’m relieved that her only conscious memory of her parents is the two of us as friendly co-parents. We could’ve done a lot worse.

This doesn't happen often, but I love it when it does.

Because these two kids? They’ve turned out pretty spectacular so far.

a decade

If I had stayed married, today would be my 10th wedding anniversary.

I guess it says a lot that the day doesn’t register much with me anymore. I didn’t even think about it until I looked at my phone this morning and noticed the date. I’m not sad about it at all, it just feels like some sort of notable milestone. Ten years. A whole decade. And I’m not sure my life could look more different now than it did ten years ago: I was in my 20s, had no kids, lived in Seattle, had a completely different career path. It’s all changed so much in a relatively short amount of time.

I guess it’s one of those Sliding Doors moments where you wonder what would happen if you’d taken another path in life. What if I had never married Dave in the first place? What would my life look like then? But I can’t venture too far down that road. Despite the failure of my marriage, and all the pain and suffering it caused, if I had chosen any other route in life, I wouldn’t have Catie and Lucy. How could I possibly regret any choices I made that brought those two amazing little people into my life?

I don't think I'll ever get tired of watching Catie read to Lucy.
I mean seriously. Just look at them.

My dad once made a comment about Chris, that “it’s too bad you didn’t meet him first.” I pointed out that if I had, he wouldn’t have the two granddaughters he adores so much. And besides that, I think the failure of our previous relationships is a pretty critical element of what makes my relationship with Chris work: we’re both keenly aware of our own flaws, and how things can go wrong in a relationship, and we actively work on not repeating those mistakes with each other.

Ironically, today is also Chris’s anniversary with his ex. Different year – his was 2004, mine was 2005 – but it’s a little weird that we share the same anniversary of the day we married other people. We also separated from our respective ex-spouses at nearly the same time; Dave and I split in August 2011, Chris and his ex split a few weeks later, in September 2011. I don’t really believe in the concept of fate, but it does feel like God or the universe or something was looking out for us, and made sure that we were both where we needed to be at the right time.

Chris & me at my cousin's wedding a couple of weeks ago. We clean up ok.

Whatever it was – God, fate, random coincidence, whatever – I sure am grateful for it.

Ten Years Ago Me probably wouldn’t recognize Current Me, but I can honestly say that if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing. So in that regard, I guess I can say “happy anti-versary” to me.

old house, old life

My half-marathon is a week from today. Yesterday, I had my last long training run, and ran 10 miles. The town I live in has a pretty great system of connecting greenways, and yesterday I took a route that ended up in my old neighborhood.

The house we live in now is only about 5 miles from my old place, but I never go by that house anymore. It’s not that I intentionally avoid it or anything, I just rarely need to go anywhere in that direction.

One of the weird things about long runs is the way that my mind can sometimes wander. I started thinking about how different my life is now, versus then. And man, if that wasn’t a lesson in gratitude.

Almost exactly 5 years ago, I tried to start running for the first time in my life. I remember starting the couch-to-5K program, when the idea of being able to run for 20 minutes without stopping was just unimaginable. I can now run for 2 hours, which is not something I would’ve believed I could ever do. (I mean, ok yes, I do still take some walking breaks here and there, particularly on really steep hills. Even still: TWO HOURS.) I’m really proud of myself for the progress I’ve made with that.

I also started thinking about how at this point four years ago, I was pregnant with Lucy, and my marriage was falling apart. Everything I thought my life would be – husband, two kids, pretty house in the suburbs – was vanishing in front of my face, and I was terrified. I remember telling my mom that my due date felt like a countdown to a death sentence, because my life as I knew it was ending. I cried at every OB appointment. I actually had to find a new doctor for all lady-parts related issues, because just walking in the door there, even two years later, gave me a lump in my throat and that horrible stinging-behind-your-eyes feeling when you’re about to cry.

It’s weird, I was so scared to have Lucy, because I was essentially going from a married mom of one kid to a single mom of two kids. But I can’t imagine life without Lucy, and watching how her relationship with Catie has developed is one of the greatest joys in my life. Also, I’m now in a happy, loving relationship with a man who accepts me completely, never invalidates my feelings, and never shuts me out. That’s pretty different than my life four years ago. (I don’t mean for that to sound like a slam on Dave. He’s not a bad person. But the two of us as a married couple were not a good match.)

So while it’s true that it’s not the life I thought I would have, it’s actually so much better than I ever thought it would be.

And now: half-marathon in 7 days. I’m a little nervous, of course, but after that run down Memory Lane (see what I did there?), I’m ready to go rock this.

sticking a balloon up your nose sounds like a really bad idea

A couple of years ago, I started seeing an Ear Nose & Throat doctor for some recurring sinus issues I was having. He recommended that I get sinus surgery, but the recovery time was at least two weeks. And he told me this when Lucy was a baby and I was a full-time single mom of two kids. So I basically balked at the idea.

I saw my doctor again a couple of months ago, and he told me about a new procedure called balloon sinuplasty, which is basically the same concept (taking a Roto Rooter to your nasal passages), but less invasive and the recovery time is minimal. And it turns out my insurance covers it, too.

So I’m having it done later this week. The kids will be with Dave for a couple of nights while I sleep off the anesthesia and recuperate. I’m not anticipating any issues, but you know, when you throw the word “surgery” around, things start to sound kind of scary. Good thoughts welcome.

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The kids spent this past weekend with Dave. It occurred to me that this might have been the first time he got to be with both kids on Father’s Day in Lucy’s lifetime.

Actually, I guess that’s not true, because he was here in 2011 when she was two weeks old. But the vast majority of 2011 is kind of a blur for me. It’s weird when people tell me about something I said or did around the time Lucy was born and I have no recollection of it. (My dad mentioned something about painting Lucy’s nursery pink. I was like, “no, I never painted anything in that house.” Then I remembered that oh yeah, I did. Or maybe Dave painted it and I just decorated it with vinyl wall stickers afterward? I honestly can’t remember.) Everything from that time frame is fuzzy, like something that happened in a dream.

Anyway, the girls got to spend Father’s Day with him this year, and that’s a good thing. Lucy’s daycare class all made some kind of art project for their respective dads, and Catie made him a dragon, since she made me one for Mother’s Day and I guess felt like she needed to be fair.

"I knew Mother's Day was coming up, so I made you this dragon." I swear, 7 is my favorite age yet.

I know I’m not objective, but I do really like her dragons.

I don’t say much about Dave here, because I generally think it isn’t appropriate. But I will say that it’s been really great having him actively involved in the kids’ lives these past several months. I think it’s been good for all of us.

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I miss blogging. It’s hard because lately I feel so scrutinized. I know a couple of people are reading here, looking for any tiny detail they can use against me or Chris.

What’s the expression, it’s not paranoia if people really are out to get you? That. It seems there are some people whose entire existence is based on trying to suck the happiness out of others’ lives. Joy thieves really suck to have around.

Hopefully, this too shall pass, and eventually I won’t feel quite so censored. But for now, I have to use the “mute” button pretty heavily on a lot of my life, and I hate it.

and then life turns on a dime

There’s something pretty major happening right now that I want to blog about, but I also have to be careful of how I choose my words, because some people who read my blog seem to have a way of twisting things around.

The short version? It appears that Dave is moving back to North Carolina. Like, right now as I’m typing this, he’s driving from Seattle back to Raleigh.

There’s a lot of backstory here, and a lot of things that led him to make this decision, but those are his personal reasons and I don’t feel like it’s appropriate for me to get into all of it. It’s one thing for me to blog about all of my own personal issues, but it’s not really fair for me to talk about someone else’s.

Boundaries, you know. I’m working on them.

This obviously means a change to our custody arrangements, since right now it’s sort of a gray, nebulous “he can visit with the kids when he’s in town” phrasing, and if he’s going to be local, we need a more concrete visitation schedule in place. We’re still working on that.

He found an apartment here, in the complex that is quite literally across the street from me. It’s a big apartment complex, and the specific unit he’s renting won’t have a direct view of my house or anything, but it’s a walkable distance. I’m not sure how I feel about that – convenient, yes, but also maybe a little *too* close? I guess we’ll have to wait and see how it plays out.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about all of this. My fears are things like, how will the kids adjust to this new situation? And what if Dave is only here long enough for the kids to get used to having him around, and until Lucy really bonds with him, and then he moves away again? Then I’ll have to play grief counselor for two kids instead of just one.

And also, I’ve gotten really used to being the solo parent on the scene. Sure, Chris helps out, and so do my parents, but ultimately I’m the one in charge who calls all the shots and makes the rules. I don’t think it’ll be very easy for me to shift into more of a co-parenting setup. I have some… hmm, how to phrase it nicely?… “control issues.” Especially when it comes to my girls. That whole “mama bear” thing, you know. You don’t want to get between me and my cubs.

On the positive side, though, it means the girls get to have their dad in their lives. Which is absolutely, unquestionably a good thing for them. And selfishly, it means I’ll actually get some time off to relax and do my own non-Mommy stuff. Which is sort of mind-boggling. What will I do? Take up a hobby? Learn a craft? Or just watch Netflix and sleep? (Hint: probably Netflix and sleep.)

I think the good outweighs the bad here. Or at least I hope it will. Ultimately, I can’t control what Dave does or doesn’t do – I stopped having any say in that matter a long, long time ago. All I can do is try to help my girls adjust to this new change, and hope that it all works out for the best. And I really, truly hope that it will.