the time it takes to paint the canvas

A few days ago, my son came home with a paper invitation in his backpack that explained his artwork was featured in an exhibition at a local church’s annual Festival of the Arts. He’s in first grade, so I’ve only had a school-aged kid for a couple of years, but I have already figured out that it’s really impossible to tell with some of these functions if they are a big deal, so to speak, or if you will rearrange your schedule and drag kids out for something they would’ve hardly missed. There was no teacher email or mention on this one either, but I stuck it on the fridge and figured we’d go.

Wednesday rolled around, and it’s speech therapy after school which makes for a long day anyhow. Plus it’s the end of the month when my finances are always extraordinarily tight, so I didn’t want to splurge on dinner out when we had food at home. We race home, I make a quick dinner, and we turn around to race back out in the same general direction we came from. My mom was at my house the day before and saw the invitation on my fridge, so my parents wanted to check it out and were a little ahead of us and already there. She texted that there were A LOT of people there, and she wasn’t kidding. We arrived and took a while to find parking and shuffled in a line with everyone else to see the student exhibitions with work from 21 different elementary schools in the county – plus middle and high schools. There was visual art and ceramics and fashion design and sculpture. It was pretty amazing. And amazingly crowded. But we did spot his work along the wall with the others.

Untitled

At 6:45, they shuffled everyone upstairs to the sanctuary to list award winners, and they read a long list of 20 Honorable Mentions for elementary schools. They didn’t say his name, which did not really surprise me given the volume of art and participants, and he seemed a little disappointed, so I was whispering that it was an honor just to be included and don’t forget that your teacher chose only you for this event. Only you.

Then they listed winners for elementary school, and when they said his name for third place, both he and I perked up in surprise! I have his art cluttering my fridge and my coffee table and the back seat of my car and nearly every surface in my house, but that is mostly just because he’s my own kid and he loves to draw and paint and create. I never compare his work with others. It is such a fun experience and a rare moment of genuine surprise when you hear your kid’s name called and see them recognized in such a big way. He was competing alongside kids years older than him from 21 area schools, and it was such a special moment of pride for him. I’ll never forget the look on his face.

I emailed his art teacher early the next morning to say thank you, and she explained that she “knew it was special when she saw him painting it.” And Jude’s only mention of it weeks ago was to tell me that they were studying Van Gogh, that he kept working, working, working on it when all the other kids were done, and that his art teacher let him work slowly and take a long time to finish. (How seldom we do that, right? Such a reminder to have patience and let the canvas take shape — which is one big metaphor for raising kids and for watching your own life take shape, too.)

I’ve written a lot lately about being exhausted and pulled to my limits, which I am. The long days are the longest. But the good days feel like such a welcome break in the monotony sometimes. Wednesday was a really great moment.

As any divorced parent will tell you though, these moments do not ever look like what you’d once expected them to.

Jude’s dad was on the other side of the country, so neither of us told him when the initial invitation came home as there was no point. As we were walking out the door though, I think it dawned on Jude that this was a big deal and dad wasn’t able to see it, so he sent a hurried text message to his step-mom detailing the time and location. She dropped whatever it was that she was doing and hurried there, baby in tow.

I let him contact her without asking otherwise. We slid over in the crowded pew for her to have a place to sit. My family flagged her down in the crowded sanctuary so that she would feel less alone. We waved her off at the end of the event so that she felt included. I say all of this not to say look at me, I am amazing. I am not. We are not best friends. I say this to say that after months and months of practice, it really is not impossible to look at someone like a human being.

I wrote a little last fall about seeing her in a different light and feeling commonality and even sympathy for her in many ways. I do. And yet the hardest part of this is that, though she and I have stepped up to drop the bitterness and rise to a higher calling for the sake of my kids, there are bumps in the road beyond the two of us. My parents and I will sit down at a soccer game with folding chairs near my ex so that kids see us as one unit, and my children’s father and his own parents will stand up, fold theirs, and move to the other side of the field to make it clear we cannot do that. I will greet with a hello and get nothing back. When we are passing bags of clothing back and forth between households, I reach my hand out, but it gets placed on the ground at my feet though I am standing 3 feet in front of him and an outstretched arm would be the most respectful and least awkward way to do this. There is so much more I could say, but I will end there.

I worry a lot about how my kids absorb this as they are growing old enough to watch and observe with their own thoughts. I don’t write a lot about that dynamic here because it feels weird to do so, and I always write with the intention of revealing my own heart, but sometimes someone else’s actions and the effects on your own heart are so tangled that you cannot unwind them to talk about one without the other. I know so many readers here are coming from the same story, and I’m being transparent for the both of us. If you are in it too, I see you and I feel your sadness. If you have emerged to the other side where you are treated like a real person and a human being and not a ghost, please tell me how to get there.

Sometimes I think it’s just that women are capable of seeing complexity in a situation and rolling with it in all its gray areas so that we can put or children first. Sometimes I think that it’s because I took the time to clean up my own heart after my divorce so I can make eye contact and say hello and sit in a chair near them and it doesn’t hurt like it did at first. I know how it was in the beginning when I couldn’t look at them without tears in my eyes, but I don’t feel that anymore now that we are 2 years out and I did the hard work of cleaning up the mess inside my own self with time and reflection. If you cannot make eye contact or pass a clothing bag with an outstretched hand or answer a hello, is your heart anything but messy? Sometimes I wonder if I can be my own self without bitterness and shame and anger because I was not the one who stepped out of the marriage before it imploded. Is it actually easier in the long run when you are the one left behind in the beginning? That seems so ridiculous and counterintuitive to say, but there are ways I think it is true. I have nothing to hide or explain.

And in a literal sense, I know if I never once wrote the first word here, it would be very different. I have laid out all my fears and my sadness and my hurt and my confusion in this space, and it has only ever been my own perspective and my own heart. I have always said that. Many, many times, I have been told to be quiet and stop writing anyway, and yet I never did. This space has evolved to something else entirely where I have written about a million more things but always with the simple intention to tell the truth and lay it all bare as I feel it inside – whatever it may be.

I am revisiting some Marianne Williamson this week, and she says, “Women are still in emotional bondage as long as we need to worry that we might have to make a choice between being heard and being loved.” That passage slays me because I can glance back at every moment in my life when I felt that being heard did not equal being loved and feel how painfully that suffocates you. I think I finally realized that love is not real love anyway if it comes with the condition that you cannot be heard, so here I am still writing. And here I am still loving – even those who are hard to love. I can know that someone made choices I would not have made and maybe still has some mess left to work through, but my only ability to change anything at all is to be responsible for my own actions – whether that means making room on a church pew, recognizing my son’s desire to reach out for love from his other household, or looking someone in the eye to say hello. I think I will have to wait on the hand of time to soften all the rest, and if it doesn’t, it is still softening me. Maybe that is the other side I am meant to arrive at — not some sitcom reality where divorced parents have dinner together with their kids.

It’s our small daily choices that paint the whole canvas in the end. And though my kids don’t fully understand everything now when they see someone move a folding chair at a soccer game or decline a birthday party invitation or leave a hello hanging in the air between us without an answer, I know that they will look back and see that if nothing else, mom stayed open and soft and honest and real.

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35 thoughts on “the time it takes to paint the canvas

  1. Lynn Deutsch

    Hi Katie.

    I still read all the time — but don’t comment often. I do worry a bit about you when you go long periods without publishing a piece, but you always put something out right before I email to check on you.

    I have a strange question, hope it is not to stalkerish. I know you are North of Atlanta — just not sure how far north.

    My daughter is finishing her sophomore year of high school and has had pretty poor instruction in English. (This year she essentially didn’t have a teacher most of the semester as she delivered a baby at the beginning, came back for a bit, and baby got very ill. We are on the block schedule. Last year, I wasn’t impressed with the rigor.) I think that some of her struggles in writing could be helped with a great writing coach. She struggles with introductions and conclusions. I also think she needs help in answering the types of questions you find on college apps, job apps, volunteer form apps. etc. From her perspective, I think she would say that conclusions are the hardest for her.

    She rides horses in Milton several days of the week, pretty far up. I think just a few minutes from the Cherokee County line. I could bring her to you, if you might be interested. We are still figuring out Summer here, but wondering if working with you is even an option. Thought I would tackle the geography question first.

    I hope I don’t come off too stalkerish.

    Thanks

    Lynn Deutsch

    1. HI, Lynn! It’s good to hear from you. This school year has been so busy (hence the longer breaks from posting lately) but I am thankfully about to slow down a lot this summer. I am so close to Milton, and I would love to chat about coaching writing a bit. I have a few short trips planned this summer, but I am mostly in town. Email me a few more specifics on what you were thinking, and we can start talking details!

  2. Melanie

    Your words bring so much to me. You and I have similar stories except I’m two years behind. I wonder if I will heal and be able to be the mature one and accept the other woman who tore my family apart. I draw strength from my four children and other places. One of those places is from your blog. My heart is still bleeding severely but I have true hope because of your blog. Please continue to be honest and share your feelings. You give me hope!

  3. Beth Rosenberg

    So beautiful, honest and real. Thank you for your wisdom, integrity and strength.
    From one who is walking the same path…

  4. Erica

    Thank you for this post.

    I am confused about what your ex is so angry about. Did you have some kind of custody battle or something? He’s the one that cheated and left for another woman and had another kid immediately. Seems ridiculous. I’m not sure how you are able to get along with her. But then he is actually the one that betrayed you and was supposed to be loyal. So I don’t believe in blaming the other woman and not holding the spouse accountable. But still must be tough to see them together. I get along okay w my cheating ex (don’t trust or like him, but enough to get along on the surface) but I didn’t have to deal with mine actually being with the other woman in any legitimate relationship type of way.

    I like your posts like this where you actually do go into some detail and specifics about difficulties (and joys) in navigating this divorced parent path. I find it hard to relate or care when you are just expressing emotions and only refer very vaguely to the cause. Not to be offensive, just honest feedback. I understand it’s not an anonymous blog and it would be difficult (I’m obviously not doing it myself) but just letting you know.

    1. No custody battle at all. We didn’t even go to court or mediation. It was a lightning-fast settlement. (He got engaged 5 weeks later, so in hindsight, the hurry made sense.) Honestly, and I am being completely transparent here, the one and only thing I have done that has angered certain people is to write. That is it. My very first post where I talked about my in-progress (at that time) split In Jan 2015 was pretty vague. And even then, it was called “distasteful” and that sort of started the change of attitude on the other side. Not that things were perfect and rosy before that, but the intense anger and almost bullying kind of attitude (texts instructing me to remove posts and stop writing etc etc) only happened after I began discussing my pain and my own perspective here in this space.

      When Sweatpants and Coffee published “Enough” in July of that year, it sort of ripped the band-aid off all of it. It angered them beyond belief, I think, and I caught a lot of flack for that, but it also made me fearless. Writing is my salvation in many ways, and it helps me to see things a lot more clearly, so I almost can’t help myself. I am going to write it out somehow – either where no one can see it or here to share with women like you who have come from the same story and can offer encouragement. And, of course, the irony is that I had a handful of readers when I began this chapter of my life, and now my reach spans a lot wider.

      As last summer happened and my grandmother passed, I was so grateful to have this space and community already created to write myself to the other side of that heartbreak as well. This blog has evolved to something very different than just a “divorce blog,” but I would be disingenuous to make readers think that things were all cleaned up on that end. They are still messy, and situations like soccer games and art shows bring that to light for me.

      Thank you for the honest feedback. 🙂 I love to hear it. You are right that it is hard to write every little detail when this is a personal blog and not anonymous. It is a hard line to walk. I am starting to thread together some pieces for a full publication one day (I hope) and those pieces are far more detailed and story-like. Still though, it helps to hear you say that details bring connection. Thanks for reading and for chiming in.

      1. Erica

        Hilarious that you telling the truth angers him. Guess he shouldn’t have cheated in the first place if it is so shameful for him to be called out on it.

        It’s not like you would ever speak about him in a disrespectful way and just talk trash. But he/they can’t deny the facts. I’m sure you would easily admit (and have) that you had things about yourself to work on as well. You’re just looking to work through it best you can and writing about it here helps I’m sure.

        Have you ever checked out chumplady.com?

        Being divorced, being cheated on, is not ever 100% of who we are (though I will admit mine changed me – only for the better though!) so yes, I am glad you also write about being a parent, a granddaughter, grieving, dating, etc. but I do think maybe when we are not coupled-up, writing/reading can provide additional comfort and connection that we may be otherwise be lacking, which married folks may not feel quite as much of a void there. And we do have unique circumstances to deal with. However, it is also true you can be coupled-up and still feel alone, which is what I’m trying to avoid! 🙃

  5. Ashley

    Hi Katie!
    Your son’s painting is beautiful and he certainly has a gift . Please keep sharing his art work because he is definitely destined for great things.
    Your ex in laws should be ashamed of themselves but then again they raised a son with an askew moral compass. You can’t expect anything from people who only see the world as black and white. His new wife will always be wondering what her husband is doing while he is away. But I applaud her for showing support to your son/ that takes a great deal of stength. One day I suspect, she too will be in your boat- a single mother.
    Your endurance amazes me. I am four years out, my ex left me for a woman he found on line. I had two young children too. We do not sit together at games or any other events for a slew of reasons. They are doing well despite the fact they have a father who isn’t around. Family isn’t a unit of a mom, dad, two kids and a dog. We define the term “family” as we deem fit. As my son once told me , ” a triangle (representing him, his sibbling and myself) is inherently strong because of their structural design- we are that.”

    I no longer have any mother in law issues- what a relief! Fortunately, his mother died during our separation so I do not have to endure what you are going through. She treated me as your ex in laws do on a daily basis during our marriage so there is simply no love loss there. She treated my children no better but I digress as she is no longer an issue I have to contend with.

    You’re a stronger person for all the events that have transpired the last 24 months. Your writing is evolving into a deeper place and that is a reflection of you. As Eckart Tolle wrote,” You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.”

    Keep striving!!

  6. Jennifer

    Hi. Found your blog through Huffington Post and thought I’d stop by. Have you ever thought that maybe your ex just genuinely doesn’t want to associate himself with you because of your own actions? I’ve found through my own relationships that true positivity and kindness are the only way to win people over. Your speculation of how he feels seems like it’s only perpetuating the real issue here. I wouldn’t want to talk to you if you wrote about me like you’ve written about him either.

    1. Hi, Jennifer. Thanks for reading and commenting. I’m glad Huffington Post led you here.

      Honestly, I am not sure how to respond to the idea that my ex “genuinely doesn’t want to associate with me” as that is the reality of divorce. We have two children together. I am their mother and primary physical custodian, so “associating” is something that has to happen no matter what. I have no choice on that, and neither does he. It is the reality we live in, and with some time and maturity and kindness and determination, people can treat the other with basic human dignity ie: making eye contact and sitting in the same room together. I’m certainly not trying to “win people over” through some ray of positivity as I know by now that does not sustain anything real.

      If you read my essays closely, you will find that I do not assume anything about how he feels – as you mention. I will never know that. I only comment on *actions* as they affect me because this is my own personal space and I am a writer through and through – always processing what happens in my own life through a process of reflection and words on the screen. I’m assuming my paragraph that listed a series of questions and “sometimes I wonder” might be what you are referring to, and I can see why – especially if this is your first time stopping by the blog. But my point there, as you can read from my lack of certainty in my tone above, is that I am genuinely perplexed on how I can be treated like a ghost 2 years later. I do not mean to assert “speculation on how he feels” because I am sure that is far too complicated for any of us to unravel.

      I am a big believer that our individual experiences matter and that we own our feelings. If you say you are sad or hurting or confused, no one ever has a right to tell you otherwise. That is you. My life unfolded in countless ways when I became honest and authentic …. and as scary as it is to put my feelings out in the big wide internet (very scary), they are mine. Given the past 2 years of my life, this has included sadness and fear and confusion in addition to the happy stuff.

      Anne Lamott says in Bird by Bird, a favorite book of mine, “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” I tell my story, despite my fears, because it is my own. I don’t own anyone else’s thoughts or perspective, but I own their actions as they intersect with my own life.

      I hope that sheds some light on why I write and why I have the courage to be honest for anyone who reads here. Connection among this space has been such a powerful and healing thing for me. Again, thanks so much for making your way here from Huffington Post and for reading and commenting.

      1. Jennifer

        Katie,

        I appreciate you sharing your thoughts here. It really does take courage, and in no way do I want to belittle what you write, however, having come from a similar situation I want to help with some genuine advice rather than the typical “you go girl” type of response. I don’t know you and I won’t pretend to. I just think that when you have a hard time with how your ex and his family are acting towards you, try to understand their motivation. They could be awful people, but that’s hardly ever the case. Keep your heart and mind open. Have candid conversations with your ex if you haven’t already. That’s why I mentioned what appears to be projection because you clearly don’t know what he’s feeling or what’s driving him to act however he’s acting. It seems from this post that you didn’t tell him about his son’s school event at all. Travel or not, for him not to even know about what’s going on in his son’s life seems… wrong..
        Honesty and open dialogue got me to understand my ex and air things out with him directly. I wouldn’t say it’s a sitcom relationship, but there’s no animosity between us.
        The fact that any of your readers think that any opposition has to be a “troll” means that what you’ve written here is polarizing. You don’t have to like your ex to not be enemies. There should not be two sides, especially where kids are involved.

        1. You definitely softened up your language in this last reply, Jennifer. Thank you. I think the reason a couple of readers commented as they did is because you came out of the gate with “I wouldn’t talk to you either” and your assertion that I am “perpetuating the real problem” somehow. If you are a reader who randomly landed here this weekend from my work on Huff Po, it seems very presumptuous for you to assert that you somehow know the real problem. A lot of my readers have read here for years and know my story from beginning to end, so I think that is why their response was strong and seems “polarizing” as you say.

          This event was different than other school events as we only found out a couple days before with a paper invitation and no explanation. I thought I explained that above but maybe wasn’t clear enough. It is not the norm for us. He knew about our daughter’s Xmas program 4 months in advance and I reminded him days before. That is more typical. And we reached out to his wife as we rushed to throw it all together on this art show – which is the whole point of this post. I am a full time faculty member at a local university in the madness of exam week, a single mom of two, and I’m busy – like all of us. I am human and did the best I can on extra communication that week, and I am grateful she could come.

          I am treading carefully here because I do not write to air dirty laundry, and I am honestly a little embarassed about a lot of it. But I’ll say that I think you have to search as far back as August of 2015 to find the last time I mentioned anything at all about my ex other than occasional “the kids are at their dad’s” etc. I have had many readers email me privately to ask for tips on getting along with exes or ask how we communicate now etc — because for over 2 years I have pretty much stayed totally silent on it until this post. For a period of 18 months, I regularly received dozens and dozens of horrible texts and emails that I do not air here and only my closest circle knows about. It’s bad enough that a professional therapist has worked with me on how to react internally and suggested that I seek legal counsel to deal with it. (Which I never did because of expense, among other things.) That kind of behavior has mostly halted now that there is a new baby involved which I am really grateful for. But I say all this to explain that there is so much more I could say and don’t because my purpose in writing here is to share my own struggles as a single mom and not to trash anyone else. I think my readers see that which is why most women’s response here is so supportive and genuine and it’s become a healing thing for me. Most of the readers I hear from are not “you go girl” so much as a “Thank you. Me too” kind of response. It is a common but hard place for women to be, and a lot of us understand each other in a way others cannot.

          I love your suggestion for an honest and candid conversation. I would LOVE to do that with my ex. But that is kind of what I am saying here. Face to face, I am not treated in an angry fashion so much – just like a ghost. Like I am not even there. He cannot look at me in the eye at all, cannot greet me, cannot return my greeting. So a candid talk to clear the air would be so welcomed for me, but getting him to sit across the table and look me in the eye and talk is not happening right now. I am glad to hear that you have a decent relationship with your ex – were you married? Did you have kids together? Do you live in the same city and see each other often? If so, I’d love to chat more over email about specifics on how you guys make that work. I’d love suggestions.

          Lastly, I want to make it 100% clear that when you say he won’t look me in the eye perhaps “because of your own actions” you are correct. Writing this blog has been a problem from the very beginning. This first post was deemed “distasteful” and I was told even then that I needed to stop writing. https://mamathereader.com/2015/01/28/redefinition/ … I think what is distasteful about all of this to them – what is hard to swallow – is that I talk about my own pain and my own struggles so openly. With the exception of this post which is so, so rare – I write about my own self. Because I do not own anyone else’s experience. I just won’t silence myself for someone else’s comfort though. I explained all this in my first reply to you, but I want to own that and hold myself accountable. My honesty about my own feelings makes him very uncomfortable, but at 36 years old, I have finally learned not to make myself smaller to make someone else feel better. It’s my experience and I own it all. I do not pretend to know his feelings, but this space is where I have explored mine and will continue to do so — all the scary and sad and also all the happy and exciting.

          1. Jennifer

            I have a son with my ex husband to answer your question. I don’t feel like I’ve changed my tone as much as elaborated on my thoughts. I’ll admit, my first comment was knee-jerk because I do have a different perspective. I still think that you need to look at what you may have done (at least from your ex’s POV) and reach out to him to understand why he ‘treats you like a ghost’ instead of airing your issues with him in a public forum and asking for advice from people without the true context of both sides of a story.

            Whatever the motivation behind long-time readers’ responses, they’ve been here reading and relating and watching the events in your life you’ve chosen to document. You have kids so you understand, you are with them every day and you don’t realize how much they grow and change in front of you until you look at pictures of them from months back.

            From an outsider seeing only this and what’s on HuffPost, you don’t seem to own that you aren’t just a victim of circumstance. I’ve come to realize that I was with my ex because I bought into some glittery vision of the ‘American dream’, that I got along with him well enough to fulfill those life experiences I thought I was supposed to have under my belt and I’d live happily ever after. The truth is, we weren’t right for each other and one way or another it was bound to fail at the end of the day. We were miserable and it bled into everything. I’ve found that letting go of the blame and understanding that everyone is human is what sets the stage for an actual healthy relationship. It sounds like you’re starting to get there on your own. Yes, confrontation helps you grow, but that kindness completes the cycle.

            That’s all I’ve got- I just thought getting some perspective might be helpful since you prompted advice.

          2. I am glad your co-parenting relationship is a little cozier, Jennifer. I hope that one day we will get there.

            I think I am a little confused on what you have read that I have written. You mention what is on Huff Po, but I have been published there 10 times and only one mentions my ex at all. And that essay is all about the ways that I learned beautiful and powerful lessons through our split and am even grateful for it. It ends with a passage where I say it taught me to see all of us involved as “Beings of shattered ideas and frailties, beautiful and sufficient in our imperfections.” I absolutely 100% see him as human. Again, trying not to air it all, but one of his many written communications with me that I referred to before explained that he and his family see me “as Satan. Not even human” (exact quote, straight from him) Will I ever know why? No. But I do know that seeing me as some evil “not even human” would help soothe his own conscience for any pain he caused whereas looking me in the eye requires seeing my humanity. So I totally agree with you that “letting go of the blame and understanding that everyone is human” is the way to improve. Unfortunately, he does not see me as a person. He says so himself.

            I was not a “victim of circumstance” and have never claimed that. If you read here, you will see that I had no concept of my own boundaries, bent over backwards to fulfill some new ideas and “checklists” that he asked for as his priorities shifted, took sole responsibility for raising our two kids as he was always traveling, and crushed my own self in that process. I didn’t love myself enough to have a fulfilling relationship and instead carried so much shame about not being “good enough” and perfect enough. I take full responsibility for that and always have.

            I am trying so hard to be respectful, but I do want to add one last thing that I have repeated endlessly to you in my replies and yet you have not acknowledged even once. This is MY blog, MY story, my heart and my experience — my own voice. I have laid every major experience of my last 7 years bare in this space and will continue to do so. When you attempt to shame me for “airing my issues with him in a public forum,” it sounds an awful lot like what he says — your feelings are wrong, your feelings are invalid, you need to keep them secret. That is the idea that made the last few years of my marriage so incredibly hard, and luckily I learned from that and have more fulfilling relationships now as a result.

            Thanks so much for your ideas and advice, and it looks like we actually agree with each other on most of it — seeing someone as human is paramount to a solid working relationship. I just think you are missing some pieces here, and if your solution to my hardship is to stay silent about the feelings associated with divorce and single motherhood it is right back to square one – If I have to choose between being heard and being loved, I choose being heard.

        2. Melissa

          This is the most passive aggressive and bizarre comment. I’m fairly certain this is not someone named Jennifer. Might was well cut through the bullshit and just say it.

          1. I think what “Jennifer,” is forgetting is that it’s truly not about you, your ex or your inlaws. It’s about what is best for your children. The best thing for them is to see a joined effort by everyone that loves them to cheer them on in everything they do. Children should never feel as though they have to pick sides. When everyone sits together the children don’t have to feel as though they are going to hurt feelings by sitting with the other parent or grandparents. As adults it’s up to us to rise above our pettiness and put on a united front for them. If everyone involved loves them and puts their feelings first everything else will fall in place.

      2. Rita Good

        Kati you should not explain your writing or your feelings to ignorant people who comment on things they know nothing about. Just know all honeymoons end. The stronger you become, the more jealous ,hateful ,and deceitful evil spirits wag their ugly head. A very smart aunt of mine once told me if we do what is right (as being polite and kind) and set an example of kindness we have done our part. Jealously is ugly. You have come thru one of the most hurtful things that could happen to not only you but your children. Memories are made everyday. Your children will see and know you always fought hard to make a happy and loving world for them. You could have ran from this horrible situation but you didn’t. You took the punch in the gut and put your babies first. Love from Denton County Texas

    2. Melanie

      Wow. Is it just me or does “Jennifer” sound like an insider troll? I am a long-time reader/empathizer and I sincerely hope that is not the case. As I can’t imagine anything more pathetic.

      1. Ashley

        Regardless of whether you are a writer for a blog or the Sheryl Sandburg chief operating officer of Facebook, people will be judgmental. When she started dating one year after her husband died people emailed her and called her a “garbage whore.” Jennifer read ONE article and projected her own anger. I truly enjoy your blog and the thought provoking issues you have presented. It’s enlightening that you provided a response however Jennifer didn’t comprehend the subjects you wrote about.

      2. Melanie

        Sorry, dear Katie, if this stokes any flames but again I’m gonna call INSIDER TROLL on this.

        No one should have this much venom and vigor towards a stranger they “found on HuffPo”. Especially when so much of what you write does not even touch on the relations with your ex. This feels personal & targeted. I just hope I’m wrong.

        Love to you, ma’am. Keep bearing your soul. You are helping so many people. You just can.’t help them all.

  7. Nina

    Thank you for being vulnerable enough to share your thoughts and feelings on this site. I envy your strength in coping not only with your real life, but your virtual one as well; exposure such as this only deems itself to some added negativity. But know this, for everyone of the nay sayers (including your ex) you have dozens more beyond grateful for your writing.

    The painting is an illustration of his mothers written word – both so beautifully done. What his mother can say, he can create.

    Thank you.

  8. Jen

    In today’s world of “no-faults” – car accidents, divorces, etc, I think we miss an important element of growth – shame. Shame can help us grow as individuals; it shines a light on our vulnerabilities. We never feel shame over things that are our strengths. And, when there is no associated shame with our bad actions… how we can truly grow? Your blog is obviously shining a light on their actions and they fear shame. They wish to keep all of their actions hidden to the outside world. They want a “no-fault” life. Maybe one day they will see that a small bit of shame will help them grow. We all mistakes and we all need forgiveness. And, sometimes shame is needed for us to recognize our mistakes. Shames is only detrimental when it lingers. When forgiveness of others, or of ourselves doesn’t happen.

    Keep writing. Keep healing. And find your path to happiness. Unlike some other readers, I am happily married for 20+ years. It is possible. Keep the faith!

    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Jen. I let it tumble in my head a bit all night. You are so right that we run from shame – all of us – and it is so powerfully suffocating when we run because it goes nowhere until we deal with it. I can look back at my earlier work on this site and see so much shame. I was so ashamed and embarrassed and just perpetually apologizing for everything. It took a lot of work and a long time of sitting in the discomfort to come to the other side where I learned from it. I think that is how I gather the courage to keep writing here. When I reveal things that make me feel vulnerable, I can grow from them.

  9. I even think your replies to the comments are “soft and honest and real.” I’m a married (thirty years) reader who landed here for your open way of writing about something I haven’t experienced, but have found myself walking alongside several friends who sadly have. Your words have allowed me to encourage the “owning of their stories” to some of my dearest. Thank you.

  10. Teej

    Congratulations to your son. What a beautiful painting!

    I think your blog has a beautiful balance of sharing your personal feelings while also protecting the privacy of your children, which includes not speaking in great detail about their father. I have often admired your forbearance. Your blog has a whole different flavor from some of the other mom blogs I read where the children and personal drama are exploited for clicks. And now I really want to close out this comment by saying “you go, girl.” Can I? 😉

    1. Haha! “You go girl” is totally okay sometimes. Thanks for this, Teej. I do think it would be very easy for me to exploit my own story with all the salacious details … and likely increase my readership, but it would be all the wrong kind of readers. I feel like my audience has become a community of sorts – supportive rather than voyeuristic. It makes me feel good. 🙂 I have worked really hard this past few years to keep this space honest and kind, even when it was hard.

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