I’m Still Here – Kinda, Sorta

Well, hello there, blog readers. I did not fall off the face of the internet entirely. I’ve started typing a few new posts, thought about even more in my head and have been reading along with some of you even though I’m not commenting like normal.

Last month the kids and I moved into a new townhouse about 25 miles away from the house I shared with Zachary. They still split their time 50/50 between the two of us, and I’m driving them to and from school in the “old” town each day they are with me.

The new place is quite a bit smaller than the house the kids still share with Zachary. No basement, either. As I think about the boxes still left at Zachary’s (how weird to call it his house instead of our house) that I need to bring here I freak out a bit wondering where those holiday decorations and old family memorabilia will go. I look forward to summer but question how the kids will fare without a huge yard to run in when they are with me.

The thing about a divorce is that nothing else in life slows down so that you can deal with it. It just runs right alongside you, laughing the whole time, “You thought you were busy before? Let’s throw some legal hassles at ya now and see how ya do!” I may need to pack and move and unpack and research new insurance policies and help my lawyer draft responses and figure out how to get the kids enrolled in a new school district and and and and and… but my kids still need their mother, my business still needs to run, I have the part time job I still work. I’m also interviewing for a new part time job at another restaurant since I don’t get enough hours at the first one.

Here are a few random facts I’ve learned this past month:

1. I have a ton of books. Like, a billion. Or maybe just hundreds. But it’s a lot and about half of them were in boxes in my basement I hadn’t touched in more than six years. College textbooks on literary theory, short story anthologies, poetry books written by my professors. And I can’t bear to part with any of them. Except The Help, Under the Dome and the Sookie Stackhouse series, among a few others. Those are definitely going.

2. I love 30 Rock. How have I lived my life without seeing this show? I’ve been watching it while I exercise or when I work at home and it’s awesome. In fact, after I hit publish on this I think I’ll help myself to a glass of wine and watch another episode. Long live Netflix!

3. I am still not good at dancing or Zumba. Still putting in the effort, though! You’d think after all this time tagging along with friends to the gym or to go out salsa dancing I’d have the moves down, but I may have to accept that I have no grace or rhythm. At all.

4. Budgeting when you don’t know what your expenses will be is hard. I don’t know how much to budget for gas because my driving patterns have totally changed. I don’t know how much to budget for groceries because I’ve never had my kids just 50% of the time before. I don’t know how much my utilities will be each month. I’m going to make sure I don’t gain a single pound because I don’t want to have to buy any new clothes unless necessary. I went thrifting and bought a bag full of (necessary) clothes for me and the kids for less than, I admit, I have spent on just one new shirt at the mall.  It’s going to take a few months in this new place with the new job to figure out my financial groove.

5. This winter is endless and that makes even die-hard winter fans grouchy. I do not love snow or cold, so you can imagine how absolutely blah this dreary weather makes me feel. Seriously, we just had record snowfall last Friday that canceled my kids’ field trips. It’s madness, and it needs to stop because I’m in need of some sunshine and the option to wear footwear that does not require socks.

6. Cooking for one is kind of a waste of time. When I don’t have the kids I usually eat oatmeal, eggs or a sandwich for dinner. Actually, I eat one of those for almost every meal when I’m alone. Anything that takes more than five minutes to prepare seems like overkill.

7. I have an odd compulsion to sign up for 5Ks. I think I’m up to four or five for this year. Never mind that I’ve never participated in an actual 5K before. As far as mid-life crises go, jogging slowly with throngs of others seems pretty tame.

So, there you have it.

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It Takes a Village to Survive Divorce

The kids and I moved last weekend. Halfway, anyway. Our mattresses are here, the couch, the dining table, 99% of the kitchen items. The bunk bed in Miles and Grant’s bedroom has not been put together and won’t be assembled until I can sweet talk a girlfriend or brother into coming over to help me. Isla’s bed frame turned out to be broken (bed jumping injury from the old house) so I’m going to have to beg a brother to come over and fix it for me.

There’s nothing pleasant about a divorce, but in my case I’m putting up with the trauma, delays, financial pitfalls and hassles knowing that having it finalized will mean much less stress and anxiety and negativity in my life than during my marriage. But without my friends and family, I’m not sure I’d be doing as well as I (think I) am.

My friends, my sister, my aunt, my uncle and his wife – they’ve all listened to me as I struggled with the decision, made the decision and moved on with the decision to file for divorce from my husband of 10 years. When Zachary called the police on me because he believed I was in violation of our custody agreement by moving back into our house temporarily after I realized the roommate I was renting space from was crazy (I was not arrested; I had a letter from my lawyer ready to show the police officer stating I had a legal right to be in the house), a friend and her husband offered their home to me so I could have a safe place to stay when I was not with the kids. Even though they have two children of their own and busy lives, they were generous enough to let me have a room to myself for six weeks (two more than we’d initially agreed upon) and didn’t charge me a cent in rent. Another friend with an unfinished basement let me store some of the belongings I’d had in my car the night of the police debacle in her home. In addition to the sympathetic ears of married or single friends or family members, I have friends who’ve gone through divorces of their own who give me advice and show me that life will go on after this is all over.

There have been too many acts of kindness to list here, and if I try I will forget someone and feel bad. Like Hilary Swank or Sandra Bullock at the Oscars.

My dad and brothers helped me move heavy furniture up two flights of stairs into the new townhouse I rented. I should add that my dad, who is about to be 64, has moved me about 1,342 times in my life. To college 300 miles away and back home, to apartments, to and from another state, and now this. As he finished putting the dining table together in my new place, the dining table that once belonged to him and my mom, I thanked him for helping me and said that if I ever had to move again I’d hire movers. “Yeah,” he said, his eyebrows raised. But even though he was exasperated, he still helped me. That’s a good dad.

There’s nothing pleasant about a divorce, but the support I’ve received has made it more bearable. My new home is much, much smaller than the old one and we have no yard. I’m worried about how I will afford everything I need to afford. I don’t know for sure when the rest of my furniture and boxes will make it here. I don’t know who I’ll get to help me assemble and fix the beds because even though I know my friends will help me I’m afraid to keep asking, to keep needing their assistance and so I hesitate when a need arises and first try to figure out if I can do it on my own. Maybe Miles is big enough to hold the pieces of the bunk bed. If I buy a drill, maybe I can figure out how to fix Isla’s bed.

I don’t wish a divorce on anyone, so I can’t say that I hope I can return the favor one day. But I can find ways to pay the kindness forward until the days my friends may need me for something. I offer profuse thanks and am trying to be more gracious in accepting help. Like compliments, I’m sometimes too quick to brush off offers because my independent streak wishes I didn’t need help.

Thank you, dear friends and dear family – the listeners and the entertainers and the supporters and the reality-checkers and all.

News Flash – Divorce is Expensive

Blog image for use on the www.everyday-commotion.com blog.

Two months past Christmas and the tree is still up and fully decorated. I’ve said to the kids, twice now, “Okay, tonight we’re going to listen to music and take down the tree!” but Jonah cries and protests – “No, don’t! Leave the tree!” and I’m a sucker for his sweet baby face and so the tree stays.

This weekend, though, the task will be done. I’ll bring the ornament boxes up from the basement and wrap the fragile ones in tissue paper and match the Hallmark ones to their original boxes for safekeeping.

The ornaments will be divided by which house they’ll go to next year – mine or Zachary’s. Last Christmas was the last time all the decorations would live on the same tree.

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Divorce sucks. I know that word isn’t the most descriptive or kind and, as a woman who holds a BA in English, I should reach further to write better, but really the word sucks just fits here. I first filed for divorce in September of 2011. Zachary and I reconciled from that December until August 2012 when I set the divorce proceedings in motion once again, and now, six months later, we’re still not quite done. The mental toll of the waiting is heavy and harsh. I had no access to Zachary’s paychecks starting in November, and with no temporary support in place or even any idea what that support would eventually look like, I could not move out into my own place. Everything was up in the air, from where we might live to where I’d possibly work to when the divorce would finally be, well, final.

After being rescheduled, our financial mediation was held this month. My lawyer slid me a letter halfway into it saying we should just leave as it appeared Zachary and his lawyer had little interest in settling anything and I slunk into my chair, trying not to cry. Without a successful mediation, we faced at least four more months of uncertainty and an expensive and possibly contentious court battle.

Thankfully we seem to have avoided the court battle, as our two sides eventually came to an agreement on child support and spousal maintenance (if you’re wondering what that term means, it’s what used to be known as alimony). But the agreement is really not good for either of us. Divorce not only saps you of your emotional strength, but the financial aspect can feel devastating. Both Zachary and I, and therefore the kids, will have to change our lifestyles drastically. As our mediator said once we’d settled on figures, I have a rocky road ahead of me. Zachary, the family’s breadwinner for the last ten years, will live an altered life, as well, but with his income and earning potential, he will be fine. His proposed budget included money to put away for retirement, something I may not be able to achieve for years and years.

The kids are doing okay. I’m going to work as hard as possible to make sure they don’t feel the impact of our steps down the rungs of the financial ladder, but it won’t be possible to keep everything the same. Eating out will be a thing of the past. I am not sure if we’ll be able to keep our zoo or museum memberships. Swimming lessons may have to be group instead of private or cut altogether. Family vacations will not include airplanes or resorts or expensive activities, that is for certain. We are focusing on the positives.  I think Zachary and I both have done a fairly good job keeping our kids from being materialistic, which is helping now that finances will be tighter for us both. I let the kids know that even if we have to live in a smaller house, at least we will be able to spend time together. Isla is excited about sharing a room for the first time in her life – she’s chosen to let Jonah share with her, though in a few years, as a pre-teen girl, I’m sure she will opt to have her own room, which will mean all three boys might have to bunk in one room together. That’s fine, they can have the master bedroom – I don’t need much space for myself.

Now that I have a budget I am looking at places for the kids and I to live in – they half the time and me full time. Four bedrooms will be impossible. Separate home office? No way. Big basement for storage? Nope. Enormous yard for the kids to race around in while I watch from the kitchen? Not going to happen. I’ll be able to afford a town home 1000 square feet smaller than our current home (not even taking into consideration the basement) with no private yard. I’ve wanted to move on for so long and have a space the kids and I could call our own, but now that the reality of moving is imminent, I’m scared about making it work.

My business is picking up and I have my meager part time job. I have hard decisions to make about whether to maintain and grow the business or just let it go in favor of an entry-level job that may pay me less than $30,000 a year and offer no benefits.

But through it all I have a sense that everything will be okay. I’m not sure how I’ll get to the okay part just yet, but I think that’s where we’re headed. The divorce will be final eventually (hopefully within a matter of weeks). I will hit my groove with a job eventually. The kids will adjust to living in two households. We’ll learn to be more creative with our money.

Life will be good. Life IS good.

What’s In a Name? Changing Your Name Back (or Not) After a Divorce

When I filed for divorce in 2011, I had to answer a question about whether I’d want to change my name after the divorce. I hesitated but wrote, “Yes,” and then didn’t think about it again for months. Zachary and I reconciled, living together and going to counseling but the efforts couldn’t surmount the challenges and almost a year after I first told Zachary I wanted a divorce, I told him again that I didn’t want to be married.

The original divorce proceedings had never been canceled, merely put on hold. So I did not have to reply about my name change again, but this time I leaned toward keeping Zachary’s last name. I’d have the same last name as the kids, I wouldn’t have to go to the hassle of changing my name on every single document that exists with my identity. Bank accounts, social security card, driver’s license, emails, business forms, emergency contact information for the kids, credit cards. Admittedly, I like the way his last name sounds with my first better than the pairing with my maiden name. I’d envision going back to my maiden name and it made me feel childish, young in a not-so-positive way. Like I’d be erasing the last ten years of my life. I went back and forth. Some days I was sure I’d keep his name, others I was ready to change.

After the decision had been made to move forward with the divorce, the therapist Zachary and I had been going to for couples counseling recommended a book called The Good Divorce by Constance Ahrons, Ph.D. Her book is based on twenty years of research on divorced couples and is full of facts and data, interspersed between vignettes about the couples she profiles. I highly recommend it for any parent facing a divorce. One fact really struck me – she said that 50% of divorced men are remarried within one year of the legal divorce. Not just dating or engaged, but actually married again. Within one year.

And I knew that I did not want to be the old Mrs. Marceaux if and when Zachary remarries. That is what tipped the scale. His family has stopped speaking to me so I don’t feel a connection to “their” last name. I won’t feel like any less of a mother to my children if our names don’t match. I have friends who are married but kept their maiden names – they are fantastic mothers and the name issue has nothing to do with that.

I did worry about how the kids would take it, but I recalled a conversation we had last summer, before the divorce decision was renewed. My daughter asked me why Grandpa, my dad, haa a different last name than us. Because their other grandparents, Zachary’s parents, had the same last name. I explained how often women change their names when they get married.

So when it came time to tell the kids that I’d be changing my name back to Pearson, I stuck to that reasoning. There was no need to get into my emotions behind it or sound sad about it – I didn’t want the kids to think this was a bad thing. Just a fact.

One night as we sat down for dinner I said to the kids, “Do you remember when we were talking about last names, and how women will sometimes change their last names when they get married?” The kids’ heads bobbed yes as they ate.

“Well, since Daddy and I won’t be married anymore, my name is going to change again. It will be the same last name as when I was born, the same last name Grandpa has.”

“So you won’t have the same last name as us?” Miles asked. He wasn’t upset, just quizzical.

“That’s right. But of course I will always be your mommy.”

“Okay,” the kids said. They had all the answers they needed. I sighed with relief and started to eat.

Then Grant looked at me. “So… you and Daddy won’t be married again?”

“Yes, honey, that’s right. Daddy I will never be married to each other,” I explained. I looked closely at Grant to see if this troubled him but his face was clear.

“That means you’re going to be a señorita!” he said, a big grin on his face, proud he could use a little bit of the Spanish he’s been learning at school.

Kids – they really do know sometimes what’s important and what’s not. My name is just a name, and whatever the reasons for dropping my married name, my kids know my love for them will never change based on the letters that follow “Heather” in my signature. To them I’ll always be Mom.

Goodbye, 2012 – Hello, 2013

Blog image for use on the www.everyday-commotion.com blog.

I don’t know that I’ve earned an end-of-the-year/let’s-toast-the-new-year post with this blog, as I’ve fallen quite behind. But the new year is always a good time for reflections and plans and I’ve been re-reading my posts from 2012 to try to piece together my memories of the last 365 days.

My first post last January was called “The New Year,” and I briefly shared that Zachary and I had been separated for several months in 2011. A hard post to write, even if it didn’t delve into personal feelings or details, and yet I was cautiously hopeful. As the year wore on, however, my positivity for our future together waned and hard decisions had to be made. When you are young and life as an adult is beginning it’s so easy to share news. “I got a new job!” and “We’re engaged!” and “I’m pregnant!” are joyous and the good words flow and the congratulations are intoxicating. Then there are situations which are more difficult to announce, and you wonder how – and even if – to do it. My brother and his wife lost their baby girl. Zachary and I are divorcing. These were the tough spots.

The decision to end our marriage will affect me, Zachary, the kids and our families for the rest of our lives. The decision, made in 2012, colors the direction of all my years from here until the end, but my 2013 may have the most upheaval in a short amount of time. This year I will need to figure out how to earn a living that will support me 100% of the time and the children 50% of the time. I will look for a home to house me and the kids. I might go back to using my maiden name (I change my mind almost daily on that issue).

Despite the heart-wrenching moments scattered throughout, 2012 brought joy, as well. My babies turned 9, 8, 6 and 3 and showed me every day what amazing little people they are growing to become. Jonah potty trained and now I’m free of diapers forever. Grant transformed from a wild-child kindergartener to a boisterous (but calmer) first grader who is proud of how far his reading skills have come along. Isla grew more confident in her gymnastics. Miles finally learned how to ride a bike. I made Lego Star Wars cake pops for Grant’s birthday party and they took forever and make me want to pull my hair out but resulted in one of my most popular blog posts ever.

I traveled to California for a friend’s wedding and got to experience gorgeous weather mid-winter. I visited family and friends in Texas. I made new friends and spent more time with old ones. My business doubled in sales. My sister had her first baby with her new husband, and my brother and his wife found out they are expecting a baby girl a year after they lost their daughter to stillbirth. I reached my lowest weight since getting married 10 years ago (let’s not talk about how the scale has inched up again, though, okay?). The kids and I spent time together having fun (and visiting urgent cares) at Disney World. I tried Zumba for the first time and loved it. My friends convinced me to go salsa dancing and I had fun even though I couldn’t keep up. I made bread for the first time and it was edible, even if it didn’t turn out as expected.

Did you make resolutions for 2013? I haven’t. I’m not a resolution girl. In November I joined a new gym and have been going when I am not with the kids. I’ll meal plan more now that the holidays and get-togethers are over for a while. I’m going to volunteer more not because it’s a new year but because I love it and I’ve found friends who love it just as much and, like exercise, it’s easier to get yourself out with others who are happy doing the same thing.

2013 will bring challenges and changes, less fun and more numerous than those I experienced in the 12-month period that saw me follow Zachary to two different states, get engaged and hold four different jobs.

I have absolutely no idea what my “Happy 2014!” post will include. My life is a notebook with a lot of blank lines ahead. There will be tears, there will be smiles, there will be mistakes and successes. I’ll probably lose and gain the same ten pounds a few times and I imagine I’ll say, on at least one occasion, that I need a desperately need vacation but I’ll be unable to take one and the next day I’ll be better, anyway. I’ll breathe in, I’ll breathe out.

Happy 2013 to you all – whatever it brings you!

In Limbo

I am not a fan of ambiguity. I like decisions and plans and paths and so to have things in some undefined, neither here nor there space makes me unsettled. “I don’t know,” may be my least favorite phrase in the world.

My life is currently undefined. I’m neither divorced nor married, just waiting in a place between the two. I have no static home because I go back and forth between the house where the kids are and the room I rent 30 miles away, closer to my work. I have a job working for myself but the income is not consistent so instead of feeling fully employed I feel half employed. Under employed. Applications and resumes submitted go unanswered.

Beginning next summer, when the school year ends, the kids will have to go between two houses and I’m starting to understand how trying this will be for them. When I leave the house to go to my townhouse for my days away, I have to carry all the things I need for work and all the clothes I think I’ll wear and all the documents I might need to access and chargers and laptops and makeup and shoes and two coats and I feel more like I live in my car than anywhere else. How will this be for the kids, then, when they have to go from Zachary’s home to my home and they forget something at one place but need it at the other? How will we keep track of homework and permission slips? What if they want to play with a friend from one neighborhood when they’re spending the night at the other? Will they wake up wanting to wear a certain shirt and realize it’s at Dad’s house?

Soon my life will take more definition. The divorce will be final and I will have a new, loaded label. I will find a job. I will have my own space where the kids and I can shape a new home. But right now I feel like I’m floating in space and flailing my arms and there’s nothing to ground me so I just bounce around with no ability to control my direction. I need some direction. Direct me.
Written to participate in Just Write.

The End | The Beginning


I’m not sure how to write this post. I’ve thought about ignoring the subject altogether, like I did last year, but it seems like at some point it would become obvious my life has drastically changed and someone would notice and I’d have to explain. Writing helps me deal a little bit with what is happening, too, so in some ways it’s for selfish reasons that I’m telling you now.

I never mentioned it last year until it was over, but Zachary and I separated for a while in 2011. Then we got back together. Now we are apart again.

This time the apartness will be permanent.

There will be no details about the sad event or the whys or the hows. Those personal pieces don’t need to be shared. What I will share is how I feel when I miss my kids when I’m not with them. What I will share is how I am job hunting while also running a business and trying to figure out if there’s a way, any way, to make my part time business into something that will support a household consisting of me and four children.  And about how I then freak out worrying that nothing I can find will support a household of five. I’ll share how I’m adjusting to a hugely reduced income and hope you all will chime in with ways to cut expenses.

Perhaps this explains some of my previous posts, ones written intentionally vague. Like about how Zachary will not be at Disney World with us. But I’m happy to report my uncle in Texas has graciously offered to go in his place, and the kids and I are looking forward to an early winter getaway.

I’m typing this from a new place. I’ll be away from my children 50% of the time – they are staying in our house while Zachary and I move in and out when we are not with the kids, an arrangement that will last until the end of the school year, when we split residences completely. We didn’t want to the kids to have to move yet. For now I’m renting a room closer to my job base and will stay here on my non-kid days. Yesterday was my first day here. I’ve got a desk, a bed, a bookshelf and a gaping, jagged hole in my heart. Cliche, but damn if it isn’t true.

The house is quiet. Silent in a way that is vastly different from the contended peace of a house full of occupied or sleeping children. It’s a quiet that tells me my babies aren’t here. I miss them.

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I was packing and getting ready to move when Just Write happened, so we’ll consider this my contribution.

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