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Finding Your Best Self Podcast

My name is Tracey Lewis-Stoeckel and things haven't always gone my way. I have gone through some crazy obstacles on my road to finding happiness. Every obstacle has taught me something about myself and I want to share my story with you, and share the stories of other women who are going through or have taken themselves from crappy to happy. By sharing, I hope that we can lift up and support one another, so we can each find the positive and find our own best selves in the process.
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Jan 24, 2018

In Episode 8 Tracey talks about her initial attempts at coparenting with Gary and how things didn't really go as planned at all.

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

 

Co-Parenting

I was recently interviewed on a podcast about loss and grief Check it out here!.  During the interview, the lovely podcast host asked me if it helped to write about what happened to me all of those years ago when I went through the terrible loss of my marriage and the way of life that I thought would always be mine.  And the truth is, it really does help, but all of that stuff that I have talked about, all the stuff that has happened between Gary and I is really so long ago that I am over it.  Sure I get riled up telling the stories, and it churns me up a bit when I have a friend or one of my besties from my Facebook group contacts me and are going through the same thing, but overall, I have come out the other side.  I’m good.  Really.

There is one exception to that rule though.  The part that isn’t behind me yet is the part that pertains to my kids.  Although my marriage was dissolved in a courtroom after two and a half years of battle almost six years ago now, I am still the mother of these two amazing people, and he is still their father.  And co-parenting with Gary, well it has never been easy.  I have been putting off talking about this, because it is still really real, and really raw.  And while talking about everything else is easy, it’s old news, talking about my kids and what they are currently going through is fresh, and it’s painful.  I can be somewhat impartial with the rest, but with this stuff, this is not something I feel magnanimous about…I will do the best that I can.

Custody situations can vary.  I was lucky enough to be awarded sole physical custody of my kids and only joint legal custody.  Legal custody relates to decisions surrounding healthcare, religion, and schooling.  So a few years ago when my son was being brutally bullied in school and I wanted to pull him out and let him do school online, I was vetoed and there was nothing that I could really do about that.  But the sole custody part was a huge bonus for me.  And a real life saver, which I will explain here in a moment.

But first let’s go back to 2009.  The very first weekend after we moved over the river and through the woods to the poopy brown house, the kids had their first “visitation” weekend with Dad.  I was kind of a wreck and couldn’t wait to get them back.  And before I even went to pick them up I got a call from my then best friend, who lived across the street and had spent some time with my daughter when she had come over to play that day.  She warned me that I was going to hear some news from the kids that I wasn’t going to like.  While the two little girls were chatting and playing, my daughter, Samantha, had told hers that she had “had a sleepover “ at daycare.  Which, if you will recall, means that she spent the night at Carol’s house.  I didn’t think too much about it because Carol, if you will also recall, was married.  My friend, we will call her Janet, wanted me to know, and I thanked her.

So when I picked up the kids that evening, the first thing they both blurted out was that they had spent the WHOLE weekend at daycare.  I called Gary.  We talked civilly.  I explained to him that I felt it was important for the kids to spend some time getting used to living in two homes before he started diverting their attention with Carol, if that was what his future was going to hold.  He assured me that there was nothing going on with Carol, but in the end, he agreed that the kids should have some time to adjust first.  When I tucked the kids in to bed that night, my son, age 9, said, “Mom, I think Carol is going to be our stepmom!”  And I cheerfully agreed that “maybe she is”. 

I should mention, that I was not unhappy that he would choose to start a relationship with Carol after we split.  And I also was not yet clear that she was the catalyst of the split.  Carol had been our daycare provider for a number of years at that point. She knew my kids and I believed that she cared about them.  They knew her and they trusted and cared for her as well.  My guard would have been up had she been a stranger…but she was Carol…I felt okay about the idea that if the kids wouldn’t be with me, they would be with someone who understood my parenting style and who also cared about them.

Two weeks pass and the kids are back with Dad for another weekend.  They spend another weekend sleeping over at Carol’s.  During the weekend in between her husband had been given his walking papers and he was now moved out.  My kids would continue to spend almost every night spent with their father in sleeping bags on her basement floor until we got to court over a year later and I got the judge to assert that he would not have visitation with them unless they had beds to sleep in.

So we got off to a rocky start parenting together from the very beginning.  The first agreement that we make on behalf of the kids is violated when he doesn’t keep the kids separate from his “friendship” with Carol.  But things are weird all the way around.  He barely seems like the same person.  And the kids start to notice.

When we were together, Gary would play video games with our son, Jake, and it was kind of their “thing”.  Jake loved that time with his Dad and they played games that I didn’t always think were appropriate for Jake’s age group but my boys were happy, so I was happy.  Jake loves guns.  Both Gary and I are from an upbringing that hunt and guns are a part of our culture.  Jake had toy guns ranging from a realistic cap gun to Nerf guns.  He also had a fascination with knives and had his own pocket knife that he had been taught to handle safely.  Once Gary started spending all of his parenting time at Carol’s all of the rules changed.  Jake was not allowed to have any guns as toys there.  Carol did daycare and she would not allow it.  When I did daycare we kept my kids’ toys separate—guns were for the weekends or after all the daycare kids had left.  They weren’t outlawed.  Jake was told that this was not an option at Carol’s and to leave the guns at Moms.  Knives were definitely not allowed, which was understandable.  But what poor Jake did not understand though, was that suddenly the rules around video games changed.  First, Dad no longer wanted to play video games with him.  He was busy hanging out with Carol.  As if that wasn’t bad enough, Jake was no longer allowed to play any of his games that he was used to playing with Dad.   The M rated games were all gone.  And he wasn’t allowed to play the T rated games either.  It was G rated or nothing, and I watched as Jake’s love of video games died off.  The following Christmas Jake asked for a bunch of games and got a couple of them from myself or grandma.  When Gary saw them he was livid.  Why would I buy our child T rated games when he said no?  Well, because you used to let him have them…and no one understands why that has changed.

Another thing that changed after Gary and Carol started hanging out is that he started going to church.  When Jake was a baby, Gary’s parents pushed for us to get him baptized.  Gary and I dragged our feet.  Although we identified as Christians, we didn’t go to church and I wanted to find a place that we liked before we baptized our baby there.  I asked him repeatedly to go with me to check out the churches in our town.  Gary could not be bothered to get up early on a Sunday to go and attend church services with me.  Well, once Carol was in the picture, they were going twice a week.  AND requiring the kids to go with them.  Our kids had never had to sit through a church service other than a random funeral or wedding and suddenly they were going twice a week when they were with Dad.  Jake didn’t like it.  He doesn’t believe the way that we do and I accept that he has his own opinions.  His father does not and it has caused problems between them.

Then there was talk of having Samantha baptized at Carol’s church…but not really to me, rather around me.  That still hasn’t happened yet, but I am fairly certain I won’t be invited when it does.  And yes, doing that behind my back is a direct violation of our court order.

There are more tales of parenting woe like when Gary decided to take Samantha to get her ear’s pierced and I said no but he did it anyway, because he said Carol deserved to have that special time with MY daughter.  Or like the times that he and Carol would decide to go out of town and leave the kids with Carol’s mother instead of allowing them to just stay with me.  Or the dozens of times they took my two kids and her one child and left the three of them in a hotel room at the casino overnight so they could gamble on the casino floor all night long, a nine year old in charge of two other kids 6 & 4. Or how he stopped bringing them to visit his parents as much or accommodating his parents vacation schedules so that I had to deprive my kids of time with their beloved grandparents or give up my own time. You know the answer to that one…I give up my time over and over again so that they can continue to have a wonderful relationship with their grandparents.

 Or there was also the time when he essentially kidnapped my children on a Friday night that happened to be Jake’s birthday because he said he was sick of dealing with me and he would not be bringing them back until a judge ordered him to.  And I cried and cried until Tuesday, when the kids reappeared.  As if by magic. 

And don’t even get me started talking about child support.  I could go on and on.

Now those of you who have gone through a divorce or are going through one are probably screaming at me right now that I need to document this and tell the judge.  Well, I did just that and although the judge sided with me on every issue and made notes to that effect in her court order.  Enforcement of that court order is something else entirely and the reassurance that the judge agrees that my kids being left in a hotel room is not safe does not help me keep them from ending up in that hotel room when they are in their Dad’s care.   Yes, I could have him found in contempt, but that all costs money and time, which are two things that I don’t have ample quantities of and I would rather spend what I do have on these kids.

Parenting with an ex is hard.  Parenting with an ex who cannot be wrong and does not ever see the error in his ways or apologize for anything…well, I am going to go out on a limb and say that it is impossible.  I sure haven’t been successful at it.  Throughout all of this abuse, I never badmouthed this man to his children.   Until recently—when for reasons you will discover in a moment, it could no longer be avoided. I will talk about the perils of bashing the ex in another episode, but it’s just a terrible idea on all fronts.  Don’t do it.

Jake is 17 now.  He is a smart, creative, sensitive young man and he makes me proud in a myriad of ways every single day.  He also makes me want to strangle him on occasion but I love and respect the human he is growing up to be.  His Dad has a mold that he would like Jake to fit into.  You see, Jake has never really liked school, and as a result he is an underachiever by society’s measure.  He isn’t incredibly social, doesn’t put a ton of energy into chasing girls, and doesn’t play sports.  Jake didn’t get his driver’s license right when he turned 16…or 17.  Part of that was that I couldn’t afford drivers ed because well, his dear old Dad doesn’t help out too often, but also because he doesn’t really care if he gets a driver’s license and he recognizes that there are financial ramifications to doing so.  And he has no interest in getting a traditional job—both because he does not incur expenses, and because he hopes, and is working towards making a living online doing graphic design for video game designers.  He is very good at it.  All of these things add up to “not good enough” for his father.  So a few months ago, the two of them had a discussion, via text message about his father’s expectations and Jake decided that rather than change himself to avoid disappointing his father, he would just NOT.  His father expects an apology that Jake has opted not to give.  So he doesn’t see too much of his Dad anymore.  He is starting to stand his ground and to speak up when things seem unfair, and that doesn’t go over well with a man who cannot be wrong. 

Then there is Samantha.  She is such a radiant soul and has always been Daddy’s little girl.  But the stuff happening with her brother upset her.  Hearing Carol talk trash about her brother got to her even more than listening to them talking trash about me for all of these years.  Sweet Sammy started hardening herself, suspecting that if she didn’t jump through all of the hoops that she would be next.  That time came sooner than she expected.  While camping with some cousins and Gary’s parents, her step-brother Charles became upset claiming that Samanthaand Jake were teasing him.  He was in tears, and wanted to go home so he called his Mom.  She immediately set out for the northwoods to retrieve him and Gary sent a text message to me and an email to his mother that he was going to bring our kids home too.  Well, when Carol showed up at the campground, it was only Samantha who had to go home, and after words were exchanged between her and the grandmother a tearful fourteen year-old girl was driven away against her will.  She was devastated and swore that she did nothing wrong.  Her story was corroborated by her grandmother and every adult at the campground, and after a day and a half when I was finally able to see her, I mentioned flippantly that I had half a mind to drive her back there.   After consulting with and getting approval from the grandparents, we hatched a plan… and back to camping she went.  Of course she was punished the next time she went to Dad’s for defying his orders, but we believed that we had stood up for what was right.  And even after trying to talk to him with the help of her therapist, he refuses to believe that he did anything wrong or that his forcing her to leave her cousins and grandparents was anything less than “good parenting”.   He also bought her expensive concert tickets the week that this therapy visit was scheduled, because he had to know that she had grievances to air.  And his doing so, as per his plan in my opinion, pushed her complaints to the side.  At least for now.

Samantha is a bit more aware of the tenuous nature of her situation now.  She knows that one wrong step will put her right out of her father’s favor.  But she also cares less.  People always say that kids are smart and they figure stuff out for themselves, and that is certainly true with my kids.  They get it now.  They certainly are nobody’s fools.

And here’s the big moral of this whole story.  While these tales and woes do not necessarily involve me…it is incredibly upsetting to comfort your child when they are hurt by one of the two people who should love them most in the world.  Just like them bashing me to the kids though, it works slightly in my favor.  My kids are more aware now than ever before that my love for them does not have conditions.  That they don’t have to fit a mold for me to love them.  And that they don’t have to hide their feelings or pretend.  We can talk through the tough stuff. They are welcome to have and share their opinions.  Just as I am allowed to play the parent card and overrule them.

Gary and Carol like to say that we don’t have any rules in our house.  But we do have rules.  Well, maybe just one rule.  Love and respect each other.  I strongly believe that if we do that, there are no additional rules required.  While I wish that things were different and that their father and I could work together to be better parents to them and to remove so much of the awkwardness that has happened and is bound to continue to happen when we have to attend things together, I am feeling pretty okay with what I am accomplishing on my own.  These are good humans.  I must be doing something right.

Until next time.

 Don't forget to visit the FB group Finding Your Best Self FB Group--The Home for Badass Besties and share your motivational thought or phrase from Episode 7.

Don't forget to pop over to the website and check out the many ways that you can support the podcast.  Do you shop on Amazon?  By using our link, a portion of each purchase you make at Amazon.com will be donated to help us produce this podcast.  Thank you for your support!

Jan 23, 2018

In Episode 7 Tracey talks about her inner mean girl and the value of positive self talk.  She issues you a challenge to talk nice to yourself and see what happens!

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

 

I talk to myself.  Don’t you?  I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.  I talk to my dogs as if they are going to respond, so I certainly should be able to pull off talking to myself…I mean, at least I answer, right?  Oh wait, is it not good when you answer yourself? Well, anyway, I know that I am not alone.  I have heard plenty of people talking to themselves, and that doesn’t even count the many years I spent as a bartender.

What Are You Saying?

We aren’t so different, you and me.  And even if you don’t talk to yourself out loud, you talk to yourself inside that beautiful head of yours all day.  Every day.  So what are you saying?  More often than not, that internal chatter is negative.  I do it myself. Every time I forget something, drop something or smack my elbow (what? I have really bony elbows!) on something, I say the word stupid to,and about myself.  When I ran my daycare stupid was as bad as any swear word, my kids couldn’t use it.  So why do I feel so eager to use it on myself.  It has become an involuntary reaction to whatever stimuli brings it on.  I don’t actually believe that I am stupid, but when I tell myself I am stupid, it makes me feel bad anyway.  And what does that do to my subconscious mind?  No, seriously, I am asking, I am not a neuroscientist, what does it do?

So What’s the Deal?

Why do we feel like we can get away with talking poorly about ourselves?  We likely wouldn’t let our friends or family members do it to us, but we happily do it to ourselves?  Yep!  If it is what we have always done, it probably feels pretty natural to us by now.  But here’s the thing…  Your self-talk changes the way you think.  It changes the way you feel about things.  It changes what you will achieve!  Don’t believe me?  When was the last time that you started a diet, and maybe the first day, maybe the next day, maybe a few days in you decided to “treat yourself” and have a donut.  I bet it was delicious!  But then you realized that you “cheated” on your diet plan.  You “blew it”.  And then you decided that you had already messed it up so you might as well quit.  Am I right?  It was one donut, and you let it, and the way you talked to yourself about your perceived failure, convince you that you didn’t deserve to fit into those jeans on your closet shelf. That you didn’t deserve to feel sexy in that new dress for that big occasion.  You let yourself talk to you like that…over a one donut.  Rather than tell yourself the truth, it was just a donut, it doesn’t really matter that much, I will do 10 extra minutes of cardio or an extra thousand steps to make up for it.  Nope, we tell ourselves that donut brought about our epic and complete failure!  Does that make any sense?  I am not just talking about diet and weight loss.  That negative self-talk has beaten you down about lots of other things too.  You have likely told yourself that you are not pretty enough, not smart enough, that you are too this or not enough of that, that you don’t make enough money, that you don’t deserve to be happy, blah, blah, negative blah…toxic self-talk, that just makes you feel…well, crappy!

Flip It Around!

How many times have you heard the suggestion that you should write your favorite motivational saying on your bathroom mirror?  Do you know why so many positive happy people suggest it?  Because it works!  Yes, reminding yourself of something positive repeatedly throughout the day changes the way your brain works.  YES!  You can train your brain to talk nice to you.  Post a sticky or write on your bathroom mirror in lipstick…whatever it takes.  Just a phrase as simple as “Hello Beautiful” can change the way you start and end your day.  If you have a repetitive negative thought bouncing around your pretty head, write down the anecdote to that thought and keep it somewhere that you can see it. My planner (www.ErinCondren.com) for 2015 had a cover that stated “there are so many beautiful reasons to be happy.”  That saying became so meaningful to me after looking at it for 365 days that it became the driving force behind my Finding Your Best Self blog and Facebook group!  The back cover of my planner also had an awesome picture of me with my two best friends on it.  Talk about always having something in front of me that reminded me to be happy! The messages that you tell yourself matter!  Remember Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night Live in the early 90’s?  Let me refresh your memory with this video . Well, that was my Senator, Al Franken!  His mantra, “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me,” has stuck with many from my generation.  We might laugh when we see him now, but his repeating positive affirmations into the mirror is exactly the practice that those of us with “stinking thinking” need to undertake.  And there is no time to delay.

I Challenge You…

Here is my challenge…  Choose your favorite inspirational phrase or a series of them (don’t beat yourself up because you can’t decide).  Post it somewhere that you can see it and maybe even read it aloud to yourself several times throughout the day.  Pay attention when negative self-talk creeps in and recognize it.  Talk NICE to yourself for 3 days.  That’s it, 3 days!  And then let me know if you feel any differently.  I am willing to bet you that you feel more positive, lighter, more motivated, and more optimistic after only a few days of watching your thinking.  Then make it a habit by committing to it for 30 days.  Subscribe to my email list for help in staying motivated, check out some podcasts on the subject, and be nice to yourself!

Let’s talk again soon!  But in the meantime…why not post a comment to this blog and tell me what your inspirational-motivational-you-are-amazing-positive-thinking phrase is going to be.  Here’s one to get you started, “You are a beautiful person, and I appreciate you!” 

 Visit the FB group Finding Your Best Self FB Group--The Home for Badass Besties and share what your motivational thought or phrase is going to be.  

Don't forget to pop over to the website and check out the many ways that you can support the podcast.  Do you shop on Amazon?  By using our link, a portion of each purchase you make at Amazon.com will be donated to help us produce this podcast.  Thank you for your support!

Jul 14, 2017

In Episode 6 Tracey talks about how friendships can change after a divorce or big breakup and why it is important to find your own tribe.  

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

 

When Gary informed me that he had decided to end our marriage it was November.  I had already caught him in the bathroom with Carol but I still didn’t believe that we were actually headed for an imminent divorce.  I was pushing for counseling, or at the very least, for him to see a doctor (I think I already mentioned that I thought he was acting like a crazy person).   So by the time we were planning the actual separation it was in the midst of the holiday season.

Like any good suburban Mom I was preparing for the annual Christmas cookie exchange with my neighbors.  It was at this event that I announced that they would all soon be seeing a moving truck in our driveway.  This angered Gary, that I would make our private business public to all the ladies in the neighborhood.  And I have to admit, that was one of the most confusing things to me to date…that he wanted me to disappear and I wasn’t allowed to talk about it.

But that’s what this episode is about.  I HAD to talk about it.  So in the midst of playing some game for Christmas ornaments or something I announce that I am moving out with the kids, that my marriage is over, and that I hope we will all stay friends.  Those beautiful ladies tried to be supportive.  They asked the right questions, made the right sympathetic noises, and encouraged and supported me.  They wanted to know why I wasn’t more angry.  They wanted to know if he was cheating, to give their own opinions on that subject, and to tell me what they thought about her—it wasn’t good.  But what I was going through and what I was about to go through scared them.  No one lives in a glass house.  They believed that we were happy.  So if this could happen to us, then it could happen to any of them.  No one likes to witness their own mortality.  While they hugged me and said nice things, I could feel each of them slip away ever so slightly.

We hung out again, with their husbands this time, on New Years Eve.  The kids and I had moved out the day before.  Gary had said he would not be home, so we could come over and shower before the party if we wanted, he was going to a party at a coworkers house.  The charge on his debit card for Bennihana said that was a lie, but whatever…the only reason that even registered on my radar is because he had been “unable” to give me money for Christmas gifts for the kids.

The New Year’s Eve party was fun.  My friends were enthusiastic about my decision to go back to school, were making recommendations on I should choose for my next career.  They all gave big hugs and even the boys promised to be there if I needed anything.  As I loaded my kids in the car in the snow, and drove down the back roads to the poopy brown house, there was only one thing I needed.  I needed this not to be my life.

Over the weeks that followed, I felt more alone than I could have ever imagined.  My friends called to check in and I really appreciated it.  But I didn’t have anything to say.  There was nothing new.  I was still terribly hurt and sad and just starting to get angry and let’s face it, over time, no one wants to hear the same sad story over and over again.  And remember, my story scared them.  Maybe I pushed them away, maybe they got tired of listening to me cry…eventually they stopped calling as much, and some of them stopped calling at all.

I had one friend who thrived on the drama in my life and stayed by my side.  Eventually that would prove to be a problem, but during that first year, she was the fuel that kept me moving.  She managed a charitable organization and gave me a part time job.  And it was there that I met Lisa.  Back in those days when I met someone for the first time, part of my introduction was that my husband and cheated on me with the daycare provider.  It was just something I had to say.  That I needed people to understand about me, right from the get go.

 

 

Don't forget to pop over to the website and check out the many ways that you can support the podcast.  Do you shop on Amazon?  By using our link, a portion of each purchase you make at Amazon.com will be donated to help us produce this podcast.  Thank you for your support!

Jul 6, 2017

In Episode 5 Tracey talks about why you should consider saving your current marriage/relationship...especially if he is willing to buy you critters!

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

I know that my platform is that I am happier after my divorce than I could have ever dreamed.  It's true, I am.  But, that doesn't mean that I am promoting divorce IN ANY WAY, shape, or form.  I believe in marriage, I will never do it again, but I believe in the sanctity and the tradition…it is part of the reason that I was so mad when my own husband cheated.  I stood in a church and made a vow before God and every single person that I loved that I would be with that jerk for the rest of my life…  Admitting that I had made a mistake, that the vow would not be fulfilled…that was HARD for me.  Still is!  Yesterday would have been my 23rd wedding anniversary.  I was in a funk all day…it just is hard to feel like you failed at something so HUGE.

Gary decided he was done with me over a matter of months.  Looking back now I can see how it played out, although at the time it seemed sudden and very shocking.  I lost my job in May of that year.  I was fired, but the reality was that the company wasn’t doing well.  They were closing offices around the country and firing me for supposed cause was going to be easier on them than laying me off and paying unemployment while I found a new job.  Gary didn’t buy that…  You see, in his opinion, I have always been lazy and had a poor work ethic (despite working two jobs and running a business for most of our marriage).  He decided that I was a loser who couldn’t hold a job.  At that same time we were using a new daycare provider and he was spending more and more time with her at drop off or pick up…and starting to pull away from me.  I noticed it big time in July of that year when we went to spend a week with his family camping in Wisconsin.  He barely spoke to me the whole week and once when I tried to get him to go for a walk with me into the woods, he pulled back…disgusted.  He spoke on the way to and from camping, and briefly about the kids and small things, but he was avoiding me.  There was no question about it. There was the bathroom incident in October, but it really hit me at Halloween (I know…I am a slow learner).  We took the kids trick or treating and he ended up spending the evening walking with another family…I took the kids home and we camped out in Mommy and Daddy’s bed waiting for Daddy but he never came home…or if he did, he slept on the couch.  It was only days after that at a birthday party I threw for him that he announced in front of everyone that he wanted a divorce…and then the ugliness started.

I begged him to give it some serious thought.  I pleaded with him to go with me to get counseling.  I knew somewhere in my heart of hearts already that he had cheated, was currently cheating, and probably would cheat again…but I wanted my family together.  I wanted my kids to have everything they deserved.  I asked if he was using drugs.  Begged him to go to the doctor…  Anything!  He claims he did go to the doctor and the doctor said it wasn’t him, that it was me. Yeah, cuz doctor’s do that.  But the bottom line is that I would have done anything that it took, at the expense of my own happiness, to keep my marriage and my family together.

I am not saying that is the right thing either.  Mental health is a very big deal and you need to be able to be happy to live a long and fulfilling life.  BUT…  I think we are sometimes too willing to throw away what we have in favor of what might be out there waiting for us (or, in his case, what we might have already found).  You have heard that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.  I think now with Facebook and other social media forums it is easy to think that everyone else has it so good…they are all so shiny and happy…maybe we need to get out there and get some of that.  Right?  Everyone on Facebook has super perfect lives, so why am I unhappy.  Maybe if I had that guy who buys flowers and plays with the kids so sweetly….  This might hurt your feelings, but Facebook lies.  People (well most people, not me…because I am just out there for all to see) but usually people just show you the pretty, and they hide the ugly.  So if you are thinking about leaving your relationship or your marriage to find your Facebook perfect life,   Let me be the first to tell you…the single life after marriage SUCKS!!  Online dating is scary and stupid and they are all fucking crazy!  I have stories…I will share…CRAZY!  Maybe not all of them…but 99.99% crazy.

The worst is the simple fact that if you divorce with kids…you now have to share them.  You get to see your kids on half of their birthdays, half of their holidays, half of their good nights and good mornings (maybe more and maybe less depending on your custody situation).  Some women love this…it frees them up to go out and to date and…whoop it up, but for the rest of us, those of us who feel that separation from our children in our very beings, it SUCKS! Spending Christmas without your children is the worst.  That never gets easier.

There is also the financial strain of going from two incomes to one…  Making ends meet on one salary is extremely difficult in this day and age, even if you are making really good money.  Of course, we know that typically women do not make as much as their male counterparts so in my case there was a pretty massive disparity in our incomes.  Which is what child support is for…right?  Yeah, good thought.  So the idea of child support is that it takes both parents incomes into account to even things out for the children.  The courts don’t want to see the child living in the lap of luxury at Dad’s while they are eating tuna out of a can at Mom’s or vice versa, let's not be sexist.  So the court orders child support to even the playing field and help with the expense of housing, clothing, feeding, and “growing” those kids.  And Dads (usually its Dads, but sometimes Mom makes more) Dads are always happy to pay it, right?  Well, I can only speak for my own situation, but no.  They are not happy to pay it.  They don’t grasp that the money is for their children, and they do not want to pay it…some even complain to their kids about having to pay it, which is not helpful.  Or they might decide that your second-hand Coach purse that your mother got you for your birthday from a garage sale means that you are flush and they can just stop paying it…  That could happen too.  It took almost three years for child support to even be ordered in my case.  Three years in which I supported those kids on my own, much of it working only part time with generous hand-outs from my parents.  Once it was court-ordered and coming straight out of his paychecks, things got MUCH easier…  I started sleeping at night, and taking full deep breaths…that was fun!  Until he quit his job.  But again, I digress.

These are all things that you need to consider before you decide you want to end your marriage.  Can you survive on your income?  Because trust me, you cannot count on child support coming your way, even if it IS court ordered.  Can you leave your kids to work a second job if you need to?  Will you need to downsize your home to ensure you can afford it, or that you have time for upkeep, lawncare, etc?  It has always been my dream to have a hobby farm with a hundred critters…but that is not something I can do as a single Mom working two jobs…maybe you want to keep the imperfect guy, so you can have all of the critters…I probably would. What? I probably would.

There are all of these arguments for staying together for the kids, or not staying together because of the kids and my answer to all of that is…I have no fucking clue what is better for the kids…except for one very important thing.  Keep them OUT of it.  If you do decide to divorce their father, tell them one million times that it is not their fault…tell them that Mommys and Daddys sometimes just decide not to live together and it's okay because you both still love them very very much and you will both still see them all the time.  And then shut the hell up.  DO NOT ask them what they did at Dad’s.  Do not ask questions about Dads new girlfriend (other than maybe, do you like her and is she nice to you—those things seem important).  Do not tell them that their Dad doesn’t pay child support, doesn’t want to spend time with them, or even worse, that he forgot to pick them up.  This one is hard…but sometimes you have to cover for that asshole with your kids…sometimes you have to pretend that he didn’t forget to pick them up (I know I dwell, but, that one still sticks in my craw) and you have to tell them how much their father loves them, even though his choices say the opposite.  Sometimes you have to reprimand your child for being disrespectful when talking about that shithead.  You will choke on it, but you do it because you love that kid and want them to be emotionally healthy and grow into a good adult human.  Bashing the other parent to your child does two things:  1) It hurts your child, and 2) it forces them to form stronger loyalties to the parent who is being picked on.  I am almost grateful that my kids have had to defend me so incredibly much over the years…it has done nothing but make us stronger together and bonded us even more solidly in trust and understanding. (well except what it has done to their insides).   Your kids are not a party to your divorce.  They are Switzerland and deserve to have their peace and their sweet innocence preserved, even when your life is in the fucking toilet.  Kids are not pawns…  End rant.

There are a hundred other reasons to consider saving a marriage/relationship.  Being alone sucks.  Cleaning the toilet every single time it needs cleaning is a bummer.  Having to be all things to all people at all times is very stressful.  I wonder how I can even hold a job.  My youngest is in activities year round and I am always having to duck out early, or come in late, or sleep under my desk from sheer exhaustion…no not really…but I wish.  Having someone to chat with when you lay your head down at night before you close your eyes is a gift that should not be taken for granted.  The value of a safe and reliable sexual partner should also not be underestimated.  Having someone to share your hopes and dreams, to be by your side at special events, and even more importantly, bedsides and funerals, and to whisk you away (or you whisk him girl—you are a strong independent woman) to exotic vacations or a roadside picnic…  These are things that make up a life.  Everything is better with someone…make sure you give your someone a healthy chance before you decide to hoe the row alone.

But if alone is how it has to be…you know we will find a way to make it the best that it can be. We are in this together. Until next time!

 

 

Don't forget to pop over to the website and check out the many ways that you can support the podcast.  Do you shop on Amazon?  By using our link, a portion of each purchase you make at Amazon.com will be donated to help us produce this podcast.  Thank you for your support!

Jun 15, 2017

In Episode 4 Tracey talks about what she would do differently if she had it to do over again and her controversial take on sharing custody with the person who destroyed your children's lives.

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

If there were two things that I could do over again.  It would be this:  1) don’t try to be nice and 2) start keeping notes. 

Now I was a girl who was raised to always be nice and amiable and polite…and when I first told my neighborhood friends at a Christmas cookie exchange that I thought my marriage was over, they all asked me why I was being so nice about it.  Everyone agreed, that if he had suddenly decided that he wanted out that he must be cheating (we really didn’t know that to be true at the time, despite the bathroom scene…because, yeah, I am that gullible) AND they also agreed that I had every right to NOT be nice.  If my marriage was over, I just wanted a nice quiet divorce.  I wanted what was best for the kids.  And I still believed that he would do the right thing.  He would support his children.  He was my best friend, of course, he would do that.  Oh, sweet innocence.  You were so….sweet.  Divorce is nothing if not enlightening. 

We decided that we would file our paperwork for the court ourselves and save a ton of money.  Sounded like a great plan to me because I did not have a POT to piss in.  I was leaving this relationship with absolutely zero savings, two maxed out credit cards and a month to month lease on a house my parents had offered to help pay for.  I left the papers with him and told him to fill out his part and then give them to me.  And I waited, and I waited.  And I waited.  He told me that he didn’t know the information, the financial stuff, and then he started talking about what he wanted, what he thought he deserved. 

It turns out, he thought he deserved, well, everything.  I told him I would wait until February the 1st for him to fill out the documents and if he did not then I was going to retain a lawyer.  On February 15th I retained that lawyer…she ended up being too nice…and I later had to find a new one.

Which brings me to the second thing, I would do differently.  If I had to do it over again, I would keep better notes.  When Gary found out that I was not going to be a push over and give him everything he wanted, for example, the majority of the time with our children, all of our savings, and the household furnishings, while I took all of the debt and no possessions but my family heirlooms…Let's just say the proverbial shit hit the proverbial fan.  He was not happy.  And that was when the threats, and the insults, and the shit talk, and the overall ugliness began. 

For a while, I brushed it aside as a passing phase.  You have to understand.  He was my best friend for 20 plus years.  We had had arguments and been mad at each other before, and we always forgave each other.  In my mind, this would be no different.  He would remember that he cared about my well-being, that he didn't set out to hurt me, and he would do the right thing. 

So I didn't keep track of things.  It wasn't until later when I realized how important the little details were at making up the big story that I went back and pieced it together as best I could.  Thankfully I am a huge blabber mouth and had talked to my friends, his family, and anyone who would listen and had a trail of text messages and emails a mile long from which to reconstruct the past few months.  I should have kept better notes.  What I did have was a diary of bad behavior—his and mine—that I kept on my computer in a file called "Ugly Stuff".  Printed out for the judge it was 18 pages of mostly one-line entries.  From him refusing to bring our children home at the end of his weekend (yep, that's kidnapping) and her telling my kids that I just wanted their father's money.  And Carol texting me in the middle of the night telling me what I loser I was and how I blew it with such a "wonderful man" all while denying that she was sleeping with him, even months after we split.  This was a pretty constant thing for a while until I got smart and threatened to get a no contact order against her unless she stopped.  That worked…but then she called a cop friend of hers and told him that I had threatened to kill her…I hadn’t really, just made some cryptic Facebook posts about pushing slinkies down a flight of stairs and references to wood chippers, which my friends jumped on and had good times with.  Carol still believes I really was looking for a hitman on Facebook.  Thankfully the judge laughed that one off.  Like I said, my Ugly Stuff file was a journal of bad behavior on both sides. 

But in the end it was also evidence.  Evidence that disproved many of the lies that he tried to put past the judge in our final divorce hearing (which happened over two years after we split) which is a story unto itself) and substantiated every claim that I made.  It was invaluable to my winning custody of my children.  And that was all that was important to me…my kids belong with me.   

One thing on that subject before I wrap this up.  That is one thing that I still can't quite wrap my tiny little brain around.  I believe that children in divorce situations should have time with both parents.  But I really struggled with the concept that he should have 50% of their time.  In the end, we had to hire a custody evaluator who decided what was best for the kids and I was awarded more time.  But from the very beginning, I wanted to do the right thing by my kids, but could not swallow this one fact…  That because he decided that he wanted to be with someone who was not me, that I had to give up 50% of my time with MY kids.  I did not step out on my family, and I would NEVER have done anything to jeopardize my children's happiness and emotional well-being.  But he did.  He destroyed their reality and created so much conflict and turmoil in their lives.  And yet, at least to me, it felt like I was the one who had to pay the price by now not being able to put my children to bed every night, see their sleepy smiles every morning, and share every birthday, holiday, and exciting first with them…  It was heartbreaking for me at the time and just felt completely unfair.  And you know what?  It has never gotten easier.  It still sucks to share my kids.  I still absolutely hate being away from them for days at a time. But that, my dears, is life.  So I tell myself what I would tell you if you were whining to me about it.  Suck it up Buttercup!  Until next time!

 

Don't forget to pop over to the website and check out the many ways that you can support the podcast.  Do you shop on Amazon?  By using our link, a portion of each purchase you make at Amazon.com will be donated to help us produce this podcast.  Thank you for your support!

Jun 1, 2017

In Episode 3, Cheaters and Why They Blame Us, Tracey talks about how blaming the victim seems to be the modus operandi of men (and women) who cheat.  She shares some wisdom from Kurt Smith, Marriage and Family Therapist of The Guy Stuff Counseling blog about the cheaters mindset and why we shouldn't be expecting an apology from the men who cheat on us.  

To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves. 

You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Show Notes: 

Welcome back to the Finding Your Best Self Podcast.  If you listened to the first episode you know that we are just getting started and I kicked off the season with the story of my “beginnings” in my quest for finding my best self.  My divorce.  Now please, if you haven’t listened to the disclaimer in the pilot episode, please understand that I am not a counselor, a doctor, a life coach, or anybody really except a real woman who has been through her own shit and has some perspectives on it all.  When I say that I want to “help” those of you who are wading through the shit right now, I just mean as a girlfriend and a confidante, not as a professional…  A professional I am not.

So, when last we spoke I had just left my husband of 15 years.  Now despite the fact that I leaked a little of the plot, in Episode 1,  when I left our home, it was because he had told me our marriage was over because of a myriad of reasons why I was a terrible person, a worse wife, and kind of a crappy mother.  He blamed me for anything and everything that was wrong in his life including his ongoing battle with his weight (it was because I didn’t cook healthy meals for him) (laugh). But in the midst of these nightly sessions of yelling and blame, he also confessed to something I had suspected (and he had repeatedly denied) for 13 years.  Early in our marriage, he had had an affair.  She, we will call her Carrie, and her husband were friends of ours when Gary was in the Navy.  When her husband took an assignment in another state and I returned home so that we wouldn't both be transitioning into new jobs a few months later after his release from the military, the opportunity was there, and they took it.  I kind of knew, but denied it—it’s a personality trait I have, which we will discuss another time, and Gary denied it too many times over the years when I would get up the nerve to ask.  Always the same story, nothing happened.  So one night He confessed to me that he was in love with her and that if they had not gotten caught, he would have left me for her.  I felt like our whole lives had been a lie at that point, and I was out.  Done. Finished.

More than anything else though, you guys, he was my best friend.  And as stupid as it sounds, I didn’t want to lose that part of our relationship.  I really believed that we could divorce and move on and stay friends.  How nice for the kids, right?  Yeah.  I tried to keep things amicable but he was so angry, and he really hated me.  I couldn’t believe that we went from happy to hate in what seemed to me in about 30 seconds!  And he would go from his warm friendly self to going for the jugular in a flash, it was so confusing!  My friends told me he must be cheating (at the time I didn’t think he was) and that he was being mean to me because he felt guilty.  I thought they were crazy.  I might have even told them so. 

Fast forward to present day.  I friend of mine was at work one day when she got a phone call from her husband.  He travels a ton for his job and was home for the weekend.  He called her on the phone, told her he needed to talk to her, and right then and there, on the phone, he tells her that she has ruined his life and he wants out.  His main reason for suddenly wanting out of the marriage in which they shared a child?  This one will burn your butts…and if it doesn't, turn in your girl card right now because you are out of the club!!  She recently had survived breast cancer and her lack of energy and cheer was too much for him.  Yep!  Let that percolate for a minute.  Every time I say it I get more disgusted.  What a puke!   When I heard the story, everything I had personally been through came rushing back.  He was cheating!  There was no doubt in my mind.  I asked my friend, and she said (just like I did) that she didn’t think he was, but that others had asked the same thing.  I explained the blame game and my experience with it to her, and she said it did make her feel a little bit better.  Was he cheating? We still don’t know if he is or isn’t, but I didn’t find out (well at least not for SURE) that my ex-was until later on too… so, who knows.

But the question is there…

WHY do guys who cheat need to displace all of that guilt and lay it squarely on the woman that they have just devastated?? I mean WTF? 

Enter Kurt Smith, Marriage and Family Therapist and his blog, Guy Stuff Counseling and Coaching.  Kurt was not available for an interview but invited me to share his blog and any information that I found helpful with you.

I will include the link to his blog in the show notes, http://www.guystuffcounseling.com/counseling-men-blog/bid/86041/why-do-men-cheat-blame-their-partner

Here are just a few snippets from Kurt’s blog post entitled “Why Do Men Cheat & Blame Their Partner?”

Why do cheating men re-write history & blame everything on their partners? 

I wrote, “How men cheat is by dealing with the reality that they’ve hurt another by denying it. You don’t have to deal with something that is not a reality to you.” Since denial is one of the coping mechanisms that cheating men use to mentally make it okay to cheat, rewriting history and blaming their partners shouldn’t come as much of a surprise.

When cheaters rewrite history and blame everything on their partners, there’s even less that they have to deny. Men who are cheating will try anything to avoid taking responsibility for their wrong behavior, and re-writing history and blaming others is one of the best ways to do that.

 How do cheaters deal with the fact that they've hurt another?

They don’t deal with it since it’s not something that they think about (see the denial technique described above). Cheating is selfish. It says my needs are more important than anyone else’s. 

When you’re cheating, you’re in “it’s all about me” mode. The obsession on meeting your needs doesn’t allow for thinking about your partner’s feelings.   Meeting one’s own needs is at the core of the question why do men cheat.

Why do the partners who have been left become the bad guy? 

Kurt’s response to this is, “repeat” Cheating is Selfish.  They don’t care about anyone’s needs but their own.  They avoid taking responsibility for their actions, and they don’t care about your feelings, only their own…  Okay, now you have some idea of the cheater's mindset. When you're denying reality, seeking to blame others and avoid responsibility, then making your ex-partner the bad guy is really pretty easy and makes sense. Making your partner out to be the bad one, and the one who has done wrong can make your wrong behavior seem right.

Why do cheating men continue to lie, even when the affair is out in the open?

One of the core components of cheating is dishonesty. Dishonesty is what allows cheating to occur. Lying is like rolling a snowball rolling downhill. Like a snowball, lies just keep getting bigger and bigger, and they're hard to stop once started.

I've worked with cheating men (and cheating women, too) who've been lying for so long, and in so many ways, that they've created such a web of lies that even they sometimes don't remember the truth. For some people lying can become a way of thinking that's hard to stop.

Ugh, this has such a ring of truth for me. Can I get a hallelujah? An Amen? If I decide to tell the most sordid tales of my custody battle, this will make more sense to you too.  The lies! UGH!

Here is the question I wanted the answer to:

Why do they become so selfish often at the expense of their own children? 

Cheaters never mean to hurt their children. Some don't mind hurting their partner, but not their children. Sadly, hurting our kids' other parent hurts our kids too.

So if cheaters don't mean to, or want to, hurt their kids, why do they? As I described above, it's because cheaters are in “it’s all about me” mode. Cheaters put their needs above everyone else's, even their kids. Many cheaters are cheating to make themselves feel better (another reason why men cheat), and it's hard to give up something that makes you hurt less, even if it hurts your kids.

Why do cheaters not show any sorrow or remorse?

Having worked with a lot of cheaters I can tell you that many, even most, have remorse. They just hide it really, really well. And since they're cheating at least partly arises out of displeasure with their partner (why do men cheat answer), showing their partner any remorse is highly unlikely. When I help them tear down the lies, the denial, the blame they've built up, hidden beneath is often regret and remorse.

But listen up ladies!! For women who've been cheated on, these explanations may not make you sympathetic towards your man, and they shouldn't,  don’t give that bastard one ounce of your precious sympathy!  As an attorney advised me years ago, now is not the time to be nice, now is the time to think mean and be ruthless.  BUT, and this is a pretty important but, if this info can help you understand more why do men cheat, and more specifically, why did your man cheat, then maybe you can start to heal.

Healing is easier said than done, my friends.  A professional counselor or therapist like Kurt Smith can certainly help you get perspective and help you to start trusting yourself again—because that really is the key, isn’t it?  You may still trust others, you might not even have trouble trusting a man again, but you feel like you can’t trust YOU, am I right?  It can also help to talk about your feelings with friends in an environment that is safe and nurturing.  So feel free to leave a comment for me if you want to share and get an Amen or a Hallelujah or a high five or a raise of a glass.  I am here, and I have been there.  Until next time my loves…

 

May 19, 2017

In Episode 2, the First 30 Days, Tracey (while suffering from a cold) talks about the first few weeks after her separation from her husband of 15 years.  In this episode she talks about dealing with the "realization" that he is seeing someone else, battling the urge to stay in bed, redefining her future, and the dreaded first date.   To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves.  You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

 

Welcome back to the Finding Your Best Self podcast.

So, the last time we “spoke” I had just left my husband of 15 years on a gray snowing December day. It was December 30th, 2008.  The kids and I moved into a cold crappy rental house that would never feel like home…we would only stay there for six months because the landlord was a drunk who liked to call me and try to extort money from me at all hours of the night.

The meeting

I had quit my job right before Christmas.  An attorney I had scheduled a free consultation with had told me that I would lose my kids because of the crazy hours that I worked (4 am to 11 pm and up to 55 hours per week).  My parents, who are the best any girl could ever ask for, had put up the deposit on what we called the “poopy brown house” as well as a retainer for a lawyer and had promised to help me out if I agreed to go back to school.

I love college!

Now, I already had a college degree. I had earned my bachelor’s degree back in 1999.  In fact, the day that I graduated from college was the day that I found out I was pregnant with my baby boy—he is almost 17 now, and I like to talk about what a cute baby he was in front of him just to bug him.  Now if you do the math on that from Episode one, you will figure out that I didn’t do college in four years, but rather my college career spanned the better part of 9 years.  I do love college!

Buh-bye law school.

After graduation, I had applied to law school which was always my goal and  I was accepted.  By then I was very pregnant, working full time and also had a business with a direct selling company that was bringing in almost as much as my corporate job. Gary liked that we were financially secure and that I was able to put up most of the down payment for the house we were buying from my side gig. He did not like the idea of me stopping all of that to go back to school or the concept of leaving him with a baby most nights to go to class.  He said no to law school.  And I probably cried about it for a minute but I let go of that dream because my focus was my family and building this life together.

Yeah! Screw him!

So, sitting with my parents in a bar after signing the lease on the poopy brown house my Mom asks me what I want to do since my degree in Sociology and Social Work had never translated to anything more than a line on my resume. Paralegal, I said.  Yeah, the next best thing to being a lawyer…but I was so disgusted by the lawyers I was talking to who wanted to help me “screw him over”.   I just wanted to be nice!  I figured maybe I would get over that and find my legal career after all.

Thanks Brian!

Late one night shortly after we had moved, while I procrastinated going to sleep in an empty bed, a commercial came on TV for a college nearby.  I called the number and set an appointment with the admissions rep.  His name was Brian and he changed the course of my life—no we didn’t fall in love at first sight or anything like that.  Jeez, people !  I went to see Brian on January 2nd, 2009.  He asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up (ha, I was 36).  I told him I wanted a job that was recession proof, that I never wanted to have to worry about finding work.  He suggested I look in the paper and see what the postings were.  So I bought a Star Tribune and went home and opened up to the job ads.  There weren’t many, but under the medical section, four ads for medical assistants jumped off the page at me.  There was only one for paralegal and they asked for three years of experience.  My decision was made.  I called Brian back and January 6 th I was sitting in class, starting a journey I would not regret, learning to be a medical assistant.

Home alone.

So I was in school. Which meant that I had to get my kids up and on the bus every morning and then get myself out to class, and then get back to be there for them when they got home.  In those early days,  Gary didn’t always come to get the kids when he was supposed to. There was at least one time when he forgot completely…did not meet them at the bus, and my seven-year-old had to break into the house through a sliding glass door that didn’t lock right (very reassuring for the single Mom living in the poopy brown house in the boondocks, let me tell ya).

If you’re happy and you know it…

From the outside, I was doing just fine.  All of my friends were so proud of me.  And when my kids were home or awake, I am sure I looked happy.  I refused to bury my nose in school books while they were home and just tried to be normal.  But when they went to bed, and my homework was done…the darkness would close in and I would cry myself to sleep.  On days that I didn’t have class and they were in school, I would stay in my pajamas until a half hour before the bus came, then frantically shower and get made up so they would see that everything was fine.  On the weekend that they went with their Dad (and spent it at Carol’s even though her own husband didn’t know yet that his marriage was over) I just stayed in bed all weekend.

Don’t wallow…start online dating!

I was living a double life…or a life, and a half-life or something…  And I knew it couldn’t last.  So I told myself that I could wallow for a full 30 days.  I signed up for a dating website.  I had really strange online conversations with a few guys and then spent a weekend that the kids were away chatting with one guy in particular.  And on the 30th day, I went on a date.

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And we’re back.

Epic mistake #376

Okay, now in the long list of epic mistakes that I have made in my life, this won’t even rank in the top 10. But holy crap, what a mistake that was.  Don’t get me wrong, he was sweet.  And probably one of the most normal guys that I have dated, especially from online dating.  He was very cute.  Very very cute.  Only just a little bit boring.  And he had a fantastic body.  Nothing terrified me more than being with someone new after 18 years with one man.  So, of course… I slept with him on the first date. (twice)  It was pretty terrible (both times) and I had to shove him out the door with moments to spare before my kids were dropped off the next morning.  Afterwards… He called!  We set a date for later that week…and then he vanished off the face of the earth.  We will talk more about dating in another episode but if you have ever read the book “He’s just not that into you”, you know exactly what I did and how I rationalized his tragic disappearance.  I’ll tell ya later!

To get a copy of the book and see for yourself what I did…Order He’s Just Not That Into You on Amazon now!

The up-down

So, with that out of the way, I felt better. I had lost about 40 lbs over the past few months since my life imploded (and Gary found it, ha ha) and I was looking pretty good. So much so in fact, that when Gary came to get the kids one night as I was preparing for a date with a new online guy he gave me the up-down.  You know, the look you up, and then look you down again up-down?  We joked about something (things hadn’t really gotten ugly yet) and I asked him if he was ever going to apologize to me for ruining my life.  He asked me if I was ever going to thank him—because he said he had never seen me so happy.  Thank him!  Can you believe that crap?  Thank him…but yeah, I guess I was kind of happy.  I loved my classes and was making new friends.  I had just started a part time job that I could  just work when he had the kids and I had made a couple new friends there too. My date that night was taking me to a fancy place for dinner…  I kind of laughed and told him the thank you cards were being embossed.  I still wanted him to apologize.  He was still an ass.

And slowly I started putting one foot in front of the other.

That relationship didn’t work, because he said I was “not damaged enough” for him—we stayed friends.  I had met the two girls who would be the kind of friends who would help a girl move.  Twice.  They are my best friends to this day.  I still have that part time job.  I still love it.  The building blocks of the new foundation were laid.  I was starting to feel like I was going to be okay.  I wouldn’t stay feeling that way…but I would feel that way again, eventually.  A story for another time.  Until then.

May 18, 2017

In this first episode of the Finding Your Best Self podcast Tracey shares the beginning of her personal story of divorce and the obstacles she faced starting over as a single Mom.  To learn more about Tracey and the podcast visit the Finding Your Best Self website.  Once there you can opt in for access to special episodes and updates, and join the Finding Your Best Self Facebook page, a special community just for women who are striving to find the best versions of themselves.  You can also support the podcast by shopping with one of our many affiliates.  Each time you make a purchase through an affiliate partner, they make a contribution to Finding Your Best Self which helps us to keep producing podcasts for you.

Do you love what you are hearing so far?  Leave us a review on iTunes!  It is the best way for you to help others find the podcast.  Also, Tracey loves to hear your feedback.  Just click here to leave feedback, ideas for future episodes, or to share your personal story.

Episode 1

Hello and welcome to the Finding Your Best Self blog/podcast. If you have not done so already please go back and read/listen to the preview episode for my disclaimer about how I am not a licensed professional and I am speaking to you because I have been through some shit and not because I have a degree in something important or some credential as the authority of anything.  Now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you who I am, why I started this blog/podcast, and why I feel like I have a right to talk about this stuff.  Oh, but first, this is a podcast about adult subject matter, and there may be adult language.

The Beginning of the Story

When I was 21 years old I married my best friend. We had dated for three years at that point  but we were friends in high school before that.  He was in the Navy so I did the military wife thing and moved across the country to start a life with the man I loved.  I married my Prince Charming and I expected my fairy tale to unfold before me.  There were bumps in the road, marriage is hard.  It isn’t 50-50 like I expected, it’s 100-100 and my husband was selfish as was I back then, and I was insecure and maybe had some issues with control as a result.  Living halfway across the country from my family and every one of my friends was harder than I ever imagined.  We survived those first three years (well, I will talk more about how mistaken I was about that another time).  Things got easier after the Navy and seven years after we married we welcomed a baby boy, we moved into our own home in a smallish town, I was running a business full time so I could quit my corporate job and be home with my son and life was good.  A couple of years later we welcomed a beautiful baby girl.  My business was thriving, my heart was full, and if you asked me, my life was pure perfection.

The fairy “tail”.

Being a Mom to these two cutie pies was more than I could have ever imagined, and I loved working for myself and making a home for the love of my life. We moved into a bigger better house in a new town, and I thought that I had achieved the fairy tale.  Seriously…the dream home, the good life.  The economy took a bit of a digger and I started doing daycare in our new home and I loved spending my day with clients who doled out hugs and kisses all day.  Then I injured my back and started living a life with chronic pain. I had to scale back my business.  I eventually had to close my daycare and watch the babies, that I had raised, go to other daycares.   I could no longer do the things I wanted to do with my own kids.  I was in constant pain unless I was medicated, and popping narcotics is just not something you can do with two small children.  And I was sooo depressed!!

Eventually, I worked through it, and I got stronger…but there was always something different after that.  My husband  had grown distant and moody—our sex life was nonexistent.  But he was still my best friend.  And I worked to try to be happy with this changed version of my life.

Parenting rocks!

I loved being a Mom. These kids are the best things that I have ever done and they bring joy into my life every single day.  And he was an okay Dad.  He was just okay, and I am not saying that to be mean, it just is what it is.  He liked to sit and snuggle the kids in front of the TV, feed them a bottle, and he would watch movies with them…and… yeah, he was a great couch Dad.    He wasn’t the Dad who would have a tea party or throw a ball…I didn’t realize to what extent that was true until later But you know what?  It didn’t matter, he was good enough because I was a great Mom and together we were good parents and had really great kids.

I had closed my business at some point because he no longer was supportive of it and with a back injury, there was so much I couldn’t do on my own .  I really believe it is impossible to be successful in something if your partner is against it.  And I wanted him to be happy.   It was all I wanted…for my family to be truly happy.

Reconnecting.  Or was I?

By that time I was working a full-time job in a convenience store.  It was long hours and I missed my kids, but my relationship seemed to be good  again.  I set up a night out with some good friends. It was three couples. We went to see a comedian and then out for drinks. It was so much fun and I was so excited that my love and I were reconnecting—he even joked with the other guys that if he didn’t screw it up, that he would be “getting some”.  As we walked through downtown one of the guys said: “Don’t screw it up “Gary” (not his real name).   When the evening was over and it was time to go home, my friend, let’s call her “Carol” and my husband were nowhere to be found.  I went looking for them, and I found them.

Yep, you probably already guessed, it.  I found them in a stall in the lady’s bathroom locked in a passionate embrace.  It didn’t occur to me at that moment, but it  was obviously not the first time they had been in that position.  Oh wait, let’s rewind just a bit… (insert flashback music here) I said we were out with other couples, which is true, (yeah, she was married too) but I left out one key point.  The woman in the bathroom, the one with one leg wrapped around my husband was more than just my good friend.  She was also my children’s daycare provider someone I trusted with my most precious people…someone I would have and did trust with everything I had.

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And we’re back…

So my good friend slash daycare provider and my husband were making out in the stall of a public bathroom. Yes, very classy.  If you have ever experienced a moment like that…you know that the primary emotion is one of pure shock.  And in that moment I lied to myself.  I saw what I saw and I told myself I didn’t see it.   I nearly convinced myself that she must have been getting sick and that he was in there with her to help.  Like he was holding her hair or something.  What a great guy…  But wait, why were the toes of their shoes together.  Why did they jump when I came in?  Why did he run?   On the way to the car he tried to pull me aside to talk about what I saw in the bathroom and I told him I was sure it was nothing, that I trusted him.  I told him cheerfully (yup, cuz bitches be crazy) that if I couldn’t trust him, we were done…so of course, I trusted him. The rest of the night was kind of a blur and he didn’t come home with me but instead chose HER couch while I carried my babies out to the car and went home alone.

When he walked in the next morning, before I had even admitted to myself what I had seen and denied seeing, out of my mouth came the words, “How’s your conscience this morning?”    He felt terrible, he said.  It was a one-time  thing he said, brought on by alcohol he said. He wanted to work it out. He told me that he would do anything to work it out.   And because I denied even to myself what I knew to be truth, I felt like I had dodged a bullet.  I would work harder too, we would still have our happily ever after.  I believed it.

It was over already…

But it was over already. Two weeks later, in the middle of a birthday party I had thrown for him,  that he wanted a divorce.   I begged him to try counseling, to see a doctor (because I thought he was on drugs or had gone crazy) , and to please reconsider.  I tried to get him to talk about “why” he would do this to our family only to find out that he had a long list of things he hated about me, and that he had been waiting for, what he called, the right time, for me to be financially secure enough that he could pull the plug on our marriage.  That was enough for me.

Whatever I felt that we had and I knew our marriage had issues…but we had been best friends at that point for almost TWENTY years.  I thought we were unbreakable, but obviously,  nothing that I believed we had had really existed  .  He asked me to leave (well at first he wanted me to stay—but we will talk about that another time) and when he wouldn’t stop yelling at me…remember he never yelled before that birthday party…I started to fear for what all of this would do to the kids.

So I left.  I left without most of my belongings, again a topic for another time, but not without my kids.  I packed up my babies, then 7 and 5.  We left our big beautiful home, the home our dreams were supposed to flourish in, and on a dark gray snowy slushy December day in Minnesota, I left those dreams behind.

It took you “how long” to get divorced?

Nearly three years later after and –a custody evaluation and several days  (including Valentine’s day—oh sweet irony)  the judge granted us a divorce and granted me sole custody of our children.  I really…I know super naïve Tracey, thought that would be the end of it.  I would be so mistaken.  But I can’t tell you all of it at once…it would ruin the suspense!

I don’t want yo pity…

Now I don’t tell you this story so that you will feel sorry for me. Please don’t, because I don’t feel sorry for myself.  And I never really did—well after those first 30 days anyway.  While I got plenty of comedic mileage out of the fact that my husband left me for the daycare lady, it is what it is.  The real meat of the story comes in the tidbits of things that happened in the months to follow.  Like when he essentially kidnapped our children, my first date after being with the same man for 18 years (dating is terrifying!!), and trying to convince our friends that they didn’t have to choose between us.  I will share many of those moments with you and help you see why they were just stepping stones, helping me on my journey to finding my best self.   And my hope is that if you have obstacles in your life that you are facing, that you will share them with me, so we can work through them together…and I promise that it won’t always be so heavy.  You have to find a little humor in this crazy life. Please, if you have feedback or questions or want to propose a topic for a future episode, go to FindingYourBestSelf.com/contact and send me a message.  I would LOVE to hear from you.  Thank you so much for coming along with me on this journey.  Until next time!

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Mar 30, 2017

In this episode Tracey explains why she feels the need to tell her story, why she thinks you might want to listen, and her future plans for the Finding Your Best Self podcast.

Mar 30, 2017

My name is Tracey Lewis-Stoeckel and things haven't always gone my way.  I have gone through some crazy obstacles on my road to finding happiness.  Every obstacle has taught me something about myself and I want to share my story with you, and share the stories of other women who are going through or have taken themselves from crappy to happy. By sharing our struggles and our victories, I hope that we can lift up and support one another, so we can each find the positive and find our own best selves in the process.

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