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Dating After Divorce-What I’ve Learned

It was two months after my divorce. I was sitting at the dining room table staring at the phone after submitting a dating profile. It was hard, being all alone. I was feeling the heavy weight of responsibility as a single mom and I longed for friendship and support.

But what had I just done?

From that dating site, I met a guy living in California who insisted on meeting my kids within a couple weeks of our first phone conversation, to which I said no. For the next few weeks he consistently asked, but I kept putting it off. A month after our first conversation, he was talking about flying out my way, seeing how we connected and if all went well, he would give me a red rose, symbolizing his desire to become serious.

Warning bells were clanging in my head.

“ This guy is moving WAY too fast!” I thought to myself. I had zero interest by this point. Talking just to talk had been fine, but panic set in at the idea of a serious relationship.

He picked up on my hesitancy and he also figured it would be easier to get to know someone who was more local, so we made the decision to just be friends.

I cannot describe the relief I felt.

Be he did insist that I talk with his brother. We were more alike, he said. For whatever reason, I decided to give it a try. It didn’t last past two or three conversations. Hearing him state that he felt God allowed his deceased wife to get cancer because she had become vain, was mortifying. If he talked like that about his deceased wife so flippantly, what kind of a man was he?

I was done. Completely done. I told God I was happy to be single for the rest of my life.

I wasn’t ready for a relationship, despite how lonely I felt. I was too insecure; I was filled with doubt about my ability to recognize how a good man should treat a woman; I needed time to think, heal and then move forward into what God had for my life.

Little did I know what, or who, He had waiting for me.

I had actually first started noticing him and his family at church toward the end of 2017, about a year before my divorce. It was all I could do to fight back the tears as I witnessed the tenderness of this man toward his children. They, in turn, sat up close to him, their body language showing they felt safe and loved. My heart longed for my children to have that kind of relationship with their dad.

Fast-forward to the spring of 2019, one year after the divorce. The family still managed to catch my attention since we sat in the same general area. I began to be curious about the man. Who was he and where was his wife? I brushed the absence of a wife and mom off and assumed maybe she was involved with church duties or was a nurse and worked every weekend. There was no way he wasn’t married; he was too kind and caring for a woman to up and leave him.

And so these were my thoughts until the hot summer day I caught him staring my way in the church parking lot.

“Dude is checking you out, mom,” pointed out my daughter. It was in that moment that I realized, after two years, he actually wasn’t married. I felt my heart jump. Could he be interested in me?

For another year this question would weave in and out of our brief interactions either at church or eventually on Facebook Messenger. “Dude”, the nickname dubbed by my daughter, was shy and reserved like me.

Despite the fact I was growing more and more interested in this mystery man, I was in no hurry. At all.

I had just bought a house in the Spring of 2019 and the kids and I finally settled into a routine. That’s when it hit me. The pain from the emotional abuse in the marriage, the betrayal, the utter sense of failure my entire life. I had hit bottom. There were moments of ugly crying. Days filled with despair as I looked ahead at a seemingly bleak future with a deadend job and alone, once my children left home.

I had already started journaling the year before, but now I journaled more intently, filling the blank spaces with my struggles.

It was hard staring my insecurities and past neediness in the face. How much of life I had wasted thinking that the ultimate goal was to find a man who would love me unconditionally!

But eventually, I wallowed less and less. Journal entries ended with praises rather than laments.

I was reminded that I am “…fearfully and wonderfully made…”; that…”He who had started a good work in me would be faithful to complete it”…and that He would provide for all my needs.

And He has.

I worked through the hurt, rediscovered my passion for writing and had my first big publication.

And all the while, he was there in the background.

By the summer of 2020, my curiosity in “Dude” was growing deeper, but I waited for him to make a move. For three months, I wrestled with what to do. Did I need to just give up or should I be the one to take the first step? Doing the latter was way out of character for me, but I couldn’t shake the thought that that’s what was going to have to happen if I wanted to get to know him more.

I took the plunge in September 2020. I sent a simple message on Messenger asking if he would like to join me for a walk sometime. Two years later, we are still walking and talking and laughing, thoroughly enjoying one another’s company, looking forward to when we can spend the rest of our lives together.

But it wasn’t easy for me, taking the step into a serious relationship. I wasn’t prepared for the old insecurities to come back, taunting and tormenting.

“You’re not good enough. There are much prettier women out there.”

“You don’t have a degree and he has a PhD. He’ll eventually find you boring and move on.”

“Maybe you observed wrong. Maybe he’s really good at hiding his true self.”

On and on these thoughts hammered in my head. It took me about a year-and-a-half to finally realize that it was okay. I was okay. “Dude” was patient, understanding and respectful of what I needed, without me having to say a word. He won my trust and now, he is my best friend, my safe place.

It wasn’t until I realized my worth in God and allowed His companionship to fill the aching hole in my heart, that I found true peace and contentment in whatever path God led me down.

I’m glad that this special person is a part of God’s plan for my life.

God’s timing truly is perfect.

So, to anyone out there who’s thinking about jumping into the dating world after divorce, take the time to really consider the decision and your why for doing so.

Make sure you’ve given yourself plenty of time to work through the baggage from your past and don’t be afraid to face the tough realities of your mistakes, but also find what you did right.

Forgive yourself.

Recognize that the person who caused you pain had his or her own issues. Their causing you pain was not your fault.

Rediscover a passion-a hobby, career change, or volunteer work. Rediscover who you are.

Make the effort to create a circle of friends, if you don’t have one already.

Educate yourself on what healthy and unhealthy relationships look like.

Embrace the value God sees you having as His created child.

And if, or when, you do meet someone, take your time. If he or she gets serious before you are ready and doesn’t respect that, it’s okay to walk away. You must be emotionally ready before you can be successful in a new relationship.

Recognize that, even when you do feel emotionally ready, there will be times of doubt. That’s okay.

If he is patient, understanding, and respectful of your needs, don’t let him go. You are good enough for that person and he will love you no matter how much time or space you need. He will bring out your inner qualities, encouraging you with confidence and a belief in your abilities.

Settle for nothing less.

And be okay with being single for the rest of your life, if no one does come into your life. A man or woman is not the answer to happiness or purpose in life. The happiest people I know are the ones who are content and working toward goals, whether single or married.

Life is hard enough; live it to the fullest with your hand in God’s and you won’t be disappointed.

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“What Should I Do?”

“What should I do?” I asked Suki, our tortoiseshell cat.

Her expressionless eyes gazed back at me-unblinking, uninspiring.

I scratched the back of her head, then plopped myself back into the overstuffed, faux-suede recliner and proceeded to write this post.

An hour before I posed my question to Suki, I had randomly googled best website platforms for writers and found myself creating a free Wix account.

“What in the world am I thinking? This will be at least the fifth time I’ve attempted to build a website.” I thought to myself, already picturing the website just sitting, eventually being lost in the cyberworld netherland with all my other ones.

The other oft-reviewed ideas of how to get myself out there as a writer staggard out of my subconcious, looking haggard and bored.

“Just do something!” they seemed to say. I get the tiredness of the ideas. After presenting themselves over and over only to get shoved aside just as many times, I’m sure they must be quite worn out.

I’ve frustrated my ownself to the point that I can’t seem to get out of this ever-moving circle of procession ideas.

Thus my question to Suki.

But, then again, maybe she did inspire me. After all, I did begin writing this post.

So, where is this stream-of-consciousness post going?

To share with you that at some point in the near future, I will be opening a website containing my writing portfolio. I have yet to decide exactly what will be in it, but as soon as I have it up and running, I will share it with you all.

Now I will be clear here-near future can mean anywhere from six months to a year. It’s not easy having to work full-time; prioritize relationships, and build a writing career as a divorced mom. Or that’s been my excuse for keeping the ideas in that frustrating procession.

By speaking publicly about my online portfolio goal, I am endeavoring to hold myself accountable and accomplish the writing goals that have been shoved into the background way too often.

And maybe, just maybe, Suki will inspire me again.

Moving Forward with an Almost Empty Nest

Bonfire

Last night, I sat by the cheery bonfire I had made, reminiscing about bonfires with family and friends in the past. With my adult and almost-adult aged children running here and there to work or some event, I’m finding myself alone more and more.

It was my first time building a bonfire and enjoying it alone. Yes, I did mean to say “enjoying”. It’s definitely taking some getting used to being alone more. I found myself at first feeling sad and pulling out their baby albums, looking over their pictures and wondering how we got from there to here so quickly.

In the next stage of adjustment, I found myself hinting to them that it would be nice to hang out sometime, play a board game or chat a while, to which my daughter would say, “I’m sorry you feel alone.” A couple of times her saying that motivated me to move forward to the next stage.

Acceptance. I don’t want to accept that my children are spreading their wings and needing me less and less. I still want them to be like the little girl I saw in church, sitting in her mother’s lap and cuddling. Oh, if only I could just have one more moment with both, cuddling them on my lap; how I would treasure it.!

But I am learning to accept.

Part of that acceptance is building a network of friends. This area of my life had gone to the wayside for the past five years with having to work full-time and managing everything after the divorce. But I’m rediscovering the fun in getting to know new friends better and the fulfillment of different kinds of companionship.

I’m also experiencing the blessing of being alone. Like last night at the side of my bonfire. I ate veggie hotdogs, had a s’more or two plus four marshmallows ( but whos’s counting?), and I sang a few old hymns as I watched the flames flicker. I wasn’t truly alone. He was near and that truth is what gives me strength in the lonely hours.

I did wind up having company toward the end of my bonfire time. My son’s plans fell through and so I invited him to join me. He did and we ate marshmallows together, talked and laughed. It was good. I treasured every moment of it.

Eating Healthy as a Single Parent

Chickpea Sandwich Spreads

One challenge of being a single parent is having the time, money and energy to create healthy meals. After a tiresome day at wotk, the thought of standing on my feet for another half-hour or so just simply isn’t appealing at all.

Until I think about my health.

When my children were young, most of the meals I cooked had a bean and potato/rice base with cooked or raw vegetable side dishes. Simple, inexpensive and nutritious.

I still mostly adhere to the bean and potato/rice base when cooking because the results of doing so for twenty years can’t be disputed. Despite the family tendency for high blood pressure, I’ve managed to maintain good blood pressure levels, be energetic and have good health all the way around.

But, as I said, it can be challenging; though necessary. As single parents, I believe it is just as important we take good care of ourselves as it is for anyone else. We owe it to ourselves to put into our bodies the nutrients that will give us the energy we need to power through each day. And do we need it! Single parenting saps one’s energies very quickly!

One mealtime that is the hardest for me is packing a lunch for work. There is a cafeteria at work, but high prices and lack of healthy options drives me to my own fridge and pantry, and leads me to brainstorming lunch ideas.

And that’s how my daughter stumbled upon the idea of chickpeas as a spread. Like me, she wants to eat healthy and she will often take ingredients we have and create a meal from them.

On one particular evening, I arrived home from work and had just set my stuff down when she popped out of her room and said, “Mom, you just absolutely have to try this!” I’m used to her creating with food so I agreed I would. She pulled a bowl out of the fridge, spooned out a dollop of some kind of tan goop onto a lettuce leaf and rolled it up. I took a bite, a bit wary of what I was succumbing to, but as I chewed, I became more and more pleasantly surprised.

“What is this?” I asked.

“It’s smashed chickpeas with mayo and sirachi sauce. Isn’t it good?” she asked, her face lit up. That it most certainly was.

The flavor was not lost while also being packed with protein, loaded with fiber and quick to fix.

For one 14.5 oz of canned garbanzo beans, smashed, there is about five tablespoons of Vegenaise or mayonnaise, Sirachi sauce to desired heat/flavor and salt to taste. You can then spread on whole-grain toast, spread on a lettuce leaf for a gluten-free alternative, or eat in a sandwich with lettuce and tomatoes.

When I ate what she handed me, it reminded me of something else. Tuna salad. Twenty years ago I had made the decision to become vegetarian, but one thing I really missed was tuna salad.

Early on in my vegetarian journey, I had tried a vegetarian tuna alternative only to be disappointed that it looked and smelled more like canned cat food rather than tuna.

But when I tasted the chickpea spread my daughter had made, I immediately wondered…could I add mayo, sweet relish and boiled eggs to smashed chickpeas and it taste like tuna salad?

I experimented and discovered that it worked! The texture is different; a food processor might make a better texture, but the flavor was very reminiscent to tuna salad. Made this girl happy! Again, it’s good spread on lettuce leaf, in a sandwich or on toasted bread. My daughter will often eat the mayo and sirachi sauce chickpea spread with rice.

Here is how I prpeared the Chickpea Tuna Salad.

1 14.5 oz. can of garbanzos , rinsed, drained and smashed

4-5 Tbs of Vegenaise or Mayonaisse

2 Tbs of sweet or dill pickle relish

1-2 boiled eggs, diced

Salt to taste

Stir and enjoy!

Not everyone will choose to be vegetarian; for me, it was a personal choice that has worked very well. The point here is simply to eat in balance.

I will leave you with this thought-we are given only one body and our children have only one dad/mom. Healthy eating is not just a fad, but a gift we give to our loved ones, an act of self-love, and a stewardship of the gift of life God has given each one of us.

Showing the Whole Picture

A couple of weeks ago or so, I wrote a post about how hard it is to let our vulnerabilities show to those around us. A fellow blogger, https://davidsdailydose.org/2022/09/10/showing-the-whole-picture/, shared how this post resonated with him and he took the thoughts I had shared and added his own experience. But I won’t say too much here; you’ll have to go hear his own words.

Have you ever experienced something that hit so close to home you found yourself saying, “That’s me.” This happened last week when I read a post by …

Showing the Whole Picture

A Part of the Picture

I took some time to relax by the water yesterday. There was quite a pretty spot with the sun shining through the foliage, casting a play of shadows and light on the rocks and water.

For you, a fellow blogger looking in from the outside, it would be easy to assume that all around me is a continuation of unspoiled nature; that it’s peaceful, relaxing and soothing to the eyes.

But what if I showed you the rest of the story?

Construction work for a new roadway
Apartment buildings

Now, I do have to say, behind me was a nicely landscaped tiered garden which does add a quaint touch.

Complete with an outhouse in case nature calls…

The Outhouse

And then more green foliage.

The Scenic Path

As I was taking the pictures, a train rumbled by, the “thumpity-thump, thumpity-thump” of the wheels overpowering the sound of the water. The faint hum of cars could be heard from time-to-time, along with the chattering of children, the swooshing of skateboard wheels and the occasional question of a passer-by asking-how do you like the nice breeze?

It made me think of us as humans. We only show most people a small snippet of our life and that’s usually the part we want them to see. We’re afraid to show the part of our life that’s still under construction. We certainly don’t want them to meet the not-so-nice characters that have moved into our thoughts. Heaven forbid if we even let on a tiny bit how stress has had the ability to “thumpity-thump” its way into our minds and override our peace. Who really cares, we think.

So, we show them the picturesque part, or at least close to it. They smile, paint a picture of our life and walk away, silently wishing they had their life come even close to being as put-together as yours.

Yet, all of the bits fit together to create a mosaic of the human experience that can be deeply interesting, connecting and reassuring, when we take the time to geniunely see and care.

A Very Short Distance From Where I Had Been Sitting

That Annoying, Berating Voice-A Personal Testimony on Turning it Off

Today, a group of us were asked to write a personal proverb. We had five minutes to jot it down. I sat there, thinking. Maybe I should write this? No, that’s not particulatly profound. Maybe I should write a proverb about this, but how to word it in a meaningful way? I continued thinking, the pen in my hand tap, tapping against the hard surface of the table, while I watched others scribbling bits of inspiration.

That’s the writer in me. My thoughts have to be perfectly expressed; noise is also very distracting. I wasn’t in my “writing space”.

But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

As the last volunteer read her proverb, an idea hit me and I quickly scribbled what had flashed through my head. Nothing profoundly deep, but something so elusive to me most of my life that, once I finally began grabbing hold of the principle, my life has changed in ways I never thought possible.

So what came to my mind? This…

“Berating oneself does not bring positve change. Better to let go of your mistakes (perceived or real), forgive and embrace who you are, then step back and watch what happens next”.

Even as I wrote it, the nagging voice in my head said, “This isn’t anything profound. Isn’t this common knowledge?”. I shut the voice off and kept writing.

Sure, it’s a principle most of us are familiar with, but how many of us actually readily forgive and see ourselves in a positive light, in the way God sees us? I know for me, that little nagging voice begins speaking before I even realize she’s there. Like in the group activity. She almost had me convinced that I couldn’t write a proverb as profound as the others in the room. As if that mattered.

And that’s been the biggest struggle in my life-not letting the berating thoughts dictate the outcome of my life. The years leading up to the divorce were very rocky. Stepping out on my own and making major decisions was overwheming, but the discouragement stemming from berating myself almost daily has been the hardest. Maybe the reason I’ve berated myself is because I’m realizing that over half of my life has passed and I feel the weight of having wasted most of it, or maybe it’s because I’ve given too much personal space to the unsolicited opinions of others who were more than happy to share. Likely both.

But whatever the reasons, untangling from the habit of berating myself has been the hardest challenge I have ever faced. It’s hard to escape from oneself.

But untangling has been the most rewarding experience, when I remember to not listen.

In 2018, I wrote about my daughter’s accident at a horse farm and submitted it to Chicken Soup for the Soul, despite the voice telling me I wasn’t a good enough writer to be published in a well-known book series. In 2019, I had the privilege of seeing that story published in their Angels All Around book.

Facing challenge after challenge-from car accident, house maintenance issues, managing money, to raising my teens-has helped me rely on God more than ever before and He has never failed to provide just what is needed. This has been so assuring and has proven to me that, yes, I am capable, with Him by my side.

After being in a marriage where criticism and being told I needed to learn how to think was the norm every day, to now being in a relationship with a man who treats me as an intellectual equal and loves me for who I am, has shown me (once I embraced the reality of his genuineness and let go of the belief in the criticisms of the past) that who I am does have value and I am worthy of love.

And there are so many more instances I can share, but the fact is, I wouldn’t be where I am today if I had continued to listen to that annoying, berating voice. That’s not to say I don’t have my moments still, but they are certainly fewer and fewer.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else will unfold and happen next as I continue to silence the berating voice.

Journaling to Healing

I reached the 100,000 word count mark in my Word document journal yesterday. A full-length book.

I started the journaling process shortly before the divorce and have kept it up for almost four years now.

It’s messy with lots of stream of consciousness writing.

It’s real.

It’s raw.

But it was, and still is, the means of clearing my head – figuring out who I am after all the years of being who others thought I should be; asking why; committing to trusting God; chronicling the joys, the pain, and God’s hand moving.

And each time I read back over the entries, I see the journey of a woman being taken from brokenness and insecurity to strength and confidence, brought about by the almost imperceptible movements of God in these past four years.

Changes that, if I hadn’t journaled, would likely be forgotten now. The act of writing and then reading over and over have, instead, seared those movements into my mind and built my faith.

I highly recommend adding the practice of journaling, whether experiencing smooth-sailing or stormy times.

Each entry can be as short or as long as you like – the goal is to simply get the thoughts onto paper. Take a moment every once in a while to reread what has been jotted down.

There is no formula for how to journal. Sometimes my entries start off emotionally charged and wander into many directions. Others start with praising God for how He answered in a situation. The only thing I did keep consistent was to end most entries, no matter how I felt, with thanks to God for how He had answered a prayer or thanking Him for how He was going to work out an issue still ahead.

If you have made journaling a regular part of your life, I’d love to hear how helpful you found it to be. If this idea is new to you and you want to give it a try, let me know how it goes.

I will leave you with this quote – “We have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history”.

When Life Gives You Lemons…

Before I launch into my post for today, I want to say – “Thank you!”. I appreciate every single one of you guys out there who have decided to follow my blog and taken the time to comment on or like a post. It’s been a challenge, keeping up with weekly posts with everything else going on, but I have no plans to give up. I will keep marching forward in this blogging world. With that thought, I do want to say, I am aiming to change the course of the blog content just a little bit. I still want to share day-to-day happenings and vegetarian recipes, but I also plan to share my after-divorce experiences and thoughts with the hope of inspiring and encouraging someone along the way.

Now, on to today’s post.

Cancer. It’s a word that none of us ever want to hear uttered by a doctor. Yet, there is a woman I know who has not only heard it once, twice, or even three times, but five times. She’s my mom and this week she heard the diagnosis of cancer for the fifth time.

Twenty plus years of dealing with the dreaded six-letter word. Twenty plus years of having her share of radiation, chemotherapy, mastectomy, breast reconstruction, mastectomy again, hair loss, fatigue, nausea…and on it goes.

This time, it’s on her liver. Small lesions that the doctor is pretty sure can be surgically removed or zapped without need for chemotherapy, so it sounds like it’ll be manageable. We’re praying he’s right.

I asked her how she’s doing, hearing another cancer diagnosis. Her response? “Well, after a while, you just say ‘here we go again’ and focus on the next steps”.

I have heard the worry in her voice; I have heard and seen the struggle it is to be upbeat, but I’ve also seen an amazing strength that, time-after-time, refuses to be pushed down despite the emotional rollercoaster ride.

Her refusal to blame God and her acceptance of His directing in her life has had a profound impact on my life. As I struggled with the why’s after my divorce and the feelings of inadequacies, I was often reminded of how she has taken her circumstances and turned them into opportunities to support and encourage other women receiving their first breast cancer diagnosis. When I was tempted to have a pity party, her voice spoke the words, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. When I wondered why I went through those dark years, her favorite Bible verse showed me – “He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us” (2 Corinthians 1:4, NLT).

We don’t know the outcome of this next round, but it is comforting to me to know that, while she has her moments she is, nonetheless, at peace and fixing her eyes on Christ.

It’s assuring to me that I, too, can be at peace, no matter the circumstances because I know Who holds my hand and Who will one day make all things new.

Thanks for showing that to me, mom.

Vegan Spinach Lasagna

There are certain foods that scream comfort and for me lasagna is one of them. I grew up with the kind of lasagna most people think of-filled with crumbled beef and melted cheese-but I’ve come to appreciate this yummy and healthy substitute.

I will make a disclaimer here-if you expect it to taste like traditional lasagna, then you’ll be disappointed. But if you can get past that and appreciate it for it’s own flavor, you won’t be disappointed. My kids have had spinach lasagna with cheese and have told me, without hesitation, that they’d much rather have this vegan version.

The worn, stained paper says it all…

Utilizing cashews as a base for the “cheese”and crumbled tofu mixed into the “cheese” sauce, this lasagna is packed full of plant proteins. Oats and spinach add plenty of fiber, as well as do the cashews.

Without further ado, here is the recipe. Enjoy!

VEGAN SPINACH LASAGNA

Cashew “Cheese” Sauce

Blend well, 1 1/4 cup of very hot water with 3/4 cup of raw, unsalted cashews.

Add: 4 oz pimentos, drained

1 1/4 tsp onion powder

1 1/4 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp salt

Blend together. Slowly add 1/2 cup canola or olive oil, 1/3 cup lemon juice while still blending.

Spray with nonstick spray a 9 x 13 casserole dish.

Next you need:

12 lasagna noodles, cooked and drained

1 1/2 jars of spaghetti sauce

1 pkg frozen spinach, unthawed and drained

1 recipe of cashew cheese

Stir into the cheese:

8 oz. tofu, drained and crumbled

2/3 cups old-fashioned oats

Next, place one layer of noodles in bottom of pan with sides of noodles overlapping. Next, spread half of cashew cheese mixture, half of the spinach, then top with half a jar of sauce. Cover with a layer of noodles. Repeat and then cover with final layer of noodles. Add rest of sauce. Add more, if needed to ensure all of pasta is covered.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/2 hours, or until bubbly.

Enjoy!