Tag Archives: divorce

Intentional Friend

By Darbie Andrews

Making friends came easy until I reached my forties. In my younger years, it happened so effortlessly through work, school, and activities. I always had friends nearby who I’d see sad1on a regular basis. All that changed when I moved away from everyone, divorced, became a single mom, and started a new job. My closest friends lived five hundred miles away during one of the most painful times of my life. Talk about lonely. I desperately needed and wanted to find new friends, but struggled with how to go about it since I never had to make such a conscious effort in my earlier years.

I ventured out to the gym.

The first time I saw her I had no idea we’d become friends. I noticed her for many reasons. Unlike me in the back of the room in all black, she wore all matching, bright colored Zumba clothes and she stood in the front row of class. Her ability to follow all of the Zumba instructor’s choreography with ease impressed me. Many of the people in the class knew her and they hugged before class. This woman had style, friends, courage, and great dance moves. With my self-esteem in the toilet from the battles of divorce, I didn’t see us as potential friends.

A few months after I first began going to Zumba, we ran into each other in the locker room. She complimented me on my dancing. Shocked that she noticed me at all, I felt my face turn five shades of red. That’s the beauty of exercise rooms covered in mirrors, no one can really hide. We had a short conversation about upcoming classes and we introduced ourselves. From that point on, we greeted each other before every class – the beginnings of a friendship with Stephanie.

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Then one day she took the stage as a Zumba instructor. Wfullsizerender3ow, I thought to myself, how did she do that? Her courage to move from being a participant to a leader intrigued me. I started moving closer to the front of the class and talking to her more about being an instructor. We seemed so different in many ways, but seeing her make this leap of faith helped my confidence grow enough that I became inspired to become an instructor as well.

We chatted about choreography, songs, class size, mistakes we made while leading dances, and anything Zumba. She became a Zumba friend.  I greatly appreciated what we shared, but we weren’t friends outside of Zumba until one day she did somethin10371341_10205379343183963_2529482028241788670_og that no one else has ever has done. She took out her planner and asked me, “When can we do lunch?”  I stood there staring at her with my mouth open for a while before I grabbed my planner and we found a date to meet.

The first time we had lunch together, I realized how amazing it feels to be in a friendship with someone who intentionally seeks to connect with you.  It felt profoundly different than my friendships of the past because it didn’t step1just happen. She made sure it happened. Her passion for connection made me feel special. I felt honored by her attention to our potential as friends.

We’ve filled our planner with many other lunch dates over the years and become close friends. She has supported me through painful dating fiascos and day to day challenges, but the most beautiful thing she’s done is shown me the power of true friendship and the beautiful heart of a devoted Christian. Stephanie loves deeply and much of that love comes from her devotion to Christ.

Called to teach Zumba for God, Stephanie brings her love for others to every class she leads and the people feel it. The genuineness of her caring for others brings people into her life that want love and acceptance. I’m sure that’s why our paths crossed. I stayed in a bad relationship and she prayed for God to show me what I needed to get out and it happened. She stood by me and helped me stay strong through the break up. Stephanie knows my struggles with the Christian church and she has never preached to me. Her love for God shines through her actions.  She lives in love. step

I could go on and on about the many wonderful things Stephanie has done for me and many other friends, but this one occasion speaks volumes. On one of our recent lunch dates, I told her how all of the people I meet and know are devout Christians. She listened. I told her again how I don’t like church. She listened. I told her how I went to this church coffee shop and felt somewhat comfortable talking to the youth pastor about a mentoring program. She listened. I told her that I might go to a service there someday. She took out her planner and said, “I will go with you. When you want to go?” Again, my mouth dropped open. There she sat, ready to go to a church, other than her own, to help me make that step, that very uncomfortable step. She didn’t want me to go alone. My eyes filled with tears.

I would not have gone to church if Stephanie hadn’t offered to go with me. She did what no other person had ever done…again. People have invited me to their churches a

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Church!

 

nd I’ve gone, but Stephanie brought it to another level. She and her husband sat there with me. She’s that friend. She’s the one who will go above and beyond. As I sat there in this church, totally uncomfortable, I looked over at her and my discomfort lifted a little. When the pastor went on about the struggles of dating and how people often short change themselves, tears poured down my face. I looked at Stephanie. I knew she knew that message was meant for me. After the sermon, she said, “God definitely called you here today.”

I’m not sure about what God calls me to do or not, but I am sure that my prayer to find new friends has been answered. To have friends nearby improves my life on so many levels, but what I appreciate more than anything is the lesson of being intentional. Being treated like I’m important and my friendship is important sends a beam of love into my heart and I want to do the same for others. The message of “I want to know you” is powerful. It’s what we all need and deserve to hear because it communicates that we are valuable.

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In these times of full schedules, it’s easy to go months or years without making time for those we love or for potential new friends. We are often caught up in stuff and forget to express how much we value the people in our lives, but it’s a simple fix. Be intentional. Pull out your calendar and pick a date. Make it that important. We all deserve to feel that important. Thank you Stephanie for wanting to know me. I’m so happy to know you. We need to get our next date on the planner.

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The first Zumbathon we participated in together!

Corners

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Many years ago when I did whatever I could to see another Phil Collins concert, I had the surprising experience of hearing him talk about one of his divorces. I just wanted to hear him sing, but being with him and the thousands of other people for his short storytelling about a super painful time in his life made me like him more. I didn’t think that was possible.  philcollinsHe decided to tell us a little story about how people in his life chose to stand in separate corners, like in a boxing ring, during the divorce fallout. He mentioned how people who he thought would always be in his life chose not to be anymore. I remember thinking how mean that was. Poor Phil Collins. He went on to sing “That’s all” which talks about loving someone more than he wanted to.

Back then, in my twenties, I really didn’t have a clue as to what he was talking about. Then came my forties. friendsI had this friend of twenty-four years. We were college roommates. We religiously watched America’s Funniest Home Videos together every Sunday night. It was our time. We laughed until we peed sometimes. When she went away to the East Coast to study, I sent her care packages and visited her. I was in her wedding; she was in mine. She called me “Darbielou” and kicked my butt at tennis. She encouraged me to move to Redding. So I did. Friends for life…I thought.

divorceThen came my divorce and that same thing that Phil talked about happened to me. I couldn’t believe it. My college friend took my ex’s side. If we could have literally stood iblue-boxing-gloves-1434861_960_720n a boxing ring, my friend and her husband would have been in my ex’s corner coaching him on. Left jab. Right upper cut. They would have been screaming and yelling from the corner. Heck, they might have even jumped in the ring and thrown a few punches themselves. At least that’s how it felt. Talk about being sucker punched. Even though Phil warned me; I never expected it. I wasn’t prepared. How do you prepare for that?

broken-heartThe hurt and betrayal stayed with me for many years. I’ve felt super angry, but mostly hurt. I wanted my friend back and I wanted to know why. I wanted to talk to her, hang out, play tennis, laugh, but that didn’t happen. It was so hard to understand and accept. Eventually I had to accept that she wasn’t my friend. She stood in his corner regardless of our history, but I also stood in mine.

Six years later, I had pushed most of my thoughts of her away so I didn’t hurt anymore. Then one day, I just couldn’t stop thinking about her. It was overwhelming. Initially, I thought maybe the time had come for our reconciliation. Although I had many moments when I just wanted to cuss her out, I mostly wanted our friendship to mend. That hope lived in me. It felt so bad to have someone I loved not love me anymore.sad

Today I don’t know if our friendship will ever be again. I waited too long.  I let her position in my ex’s corner take over. In my mind, that was reason enough to avoid even trying, but it wasn’t. I should have tried harder. When she went to his side, I told her I was mad at her. I’m pretty sure she thought I remained angry, which I did for a long time. I only reached out once. Knowing what I know now, I wish I would have made a bigger effort to communicate with her. Things would be different.

My friend was in a terrible car accident and ended up in a coma. I heard she woke up, but that she’s not really okay. There are many secrets surrounding her condition due to the health care privacy act and strange circumstances. I know she’s hurting and I just want to send her my support and love, but I can’t for many reasons that are out of my control. I’ve done as much as the circumstances will allow and it just doesn’t feel like enough.

In real boxing matches, boxers often hug after the fight or at least shake hands. They battle, then it’s over. Taking corners only temporarily. In life, when people take corners they seem to stay there for a long time, depending on the circumstances. The problem is that you just never know when someone won’t be able to hear you anymore. You never know when your last chance to try to fix the situation may be gone.

I wish I had the chance to tell her I forgive her for taking sides, standing in his corner, because I do. I’d like to ask her for forgiveness for my anger and my errors in judgement. The chance to talk it out would be healing. prayI wish for anyone who’s taken a corner in someone else’s divorce to reunite with the person and let the past go. If we stay in our corners, we cannot heal. Corners are meant for enemies, not friends. Harboring negative feelings doesn’t do anyone any good. She and I should have left our corners, fought it out, and hugged. I miss her more than ever and now it’s too late.  I can only pray that she will get her memory back so we can talk again. May I never lose another friend and if I do may we find a way back to what we once had.

The One and Only

The One and Only

By Darbie Andrews   Image

I want to tell you about the most magnificent person in my life. This person made me feel a love that I didn’t know existed. My heart grew the day I met him. He’s the best thing that ever happened to me. I’m a stronger, more ambitious, and happier person because of him. He is the one and only, Dakota, my oldest son.

His entrance into my life began before his birth. It happened the day the doctor put the warm ultrasound gel over my small belly for the three month check-up.  I squeezed my husband’s hand, hoping this time would be different. We watched the black and white squiggly images changing on the screen. We could see our baby, but we wanted to hear him.  The doctor’s hand stopped moving, “Shhh,” he said. I lifted my head, hoping that would help me hear the sound that I should have heard two years ago. Nothing. I couldn’t go through that again I thought.

“Is everything okay?” I asked.

“Relax,” the doctor said.

“I’ll try,” I took a deep breath.

“Listen.”

I let my tears fall, silently. I didn’t want to drown out the beautiful sound with my crying.

My baby had a heartbeat.

When we left the doctor’s office that day, we practically skipped to our car. We looked down at my belly several times and smiled. I wrapped my arms around myself and squeezed real tight, hoping my baby would feel the hug.  I kissed my hand then placed it on my belly. The sound of his heartbeat sang in my head. A love filled my heart like no other.

My love for him grew during the next six months as I watched my belly expand and felt him move around inside of me. The blessing of being pregnant made me grateful for every element of the process.  The weight gain, the nausea, the swelling of my feet…everything was perfect. I was so lucky to have each and every experience. I spent as much time as I could reading about every detail of his growth. I entertained people with my news, “Guess what? This week his fingernails are forming. Isn’t that amazing?” I felt like I had the winning lottery ticket and I just wanted to tell everyone all about it.

His due date fell on the day I graduated with my Master’s Degree, but all nine pounds and two ounces came into the world a week later, four days before my thirty-eighth birthday. His arrival came after many hours of labor then an emergency caesarian section. When the doctor finally held him up so I could see him, I couldn’t believe my eyes. There he was, perfect and beautiful. I’d never seen anything as amazing as him in my entire life. I thought my heart was going to pop out of my chest.Image

During the next three months of maternity leave from teaching the second grade, I spent every day with my son, caring for him, staring at him, holding him, rocking him, singing to him, feeding him. I didn’t want to do anything else. Just looking at him made me happy.  Nothing gave me the same satisfaction and contentment as caring for Dakota. Tearing myself away from him to return to work hurt in a way I’d never experienced.  Every day it felt like I’d left part of my heart behind.

I’d rush home as fast as I can to see him and I still do. I don’t want to miss a second of his life. From his first words, “butda, butda,” to his birthdays, sports events, and report cards, I record it all. Watching him explore the world around him and grow is my greatest joy. The memories are endless and priceless. Dakota has brought a delight into my life beyond compare.Image

He is almost ten years old and I Imagecan’t believe it. His curious mind still drives him as it did during the toddler years.  I never have to worry about how he’s doing in school because he always does his best. Since Kindergarten, he’s excelled. He seeks out information and consumes novels, sometimes one a day, but one of the best parts of my son is his caring heart. How other people feel is important to him. He never wants to do anything to hurt anyone and always wants to do what is right.

Life has thrown Dakota a curve ball with the divorce of his parents four years ago, but he’s resilient.  He lives in two homes and thrives in two homes. His intelligence and desire to do the right thing keep him on the correct path. He enjoys many privileges, but appreciates what he has and this is so evident in his willingness to share with others. Dakota has had two foster brothers and with each of them he gave of himself and of his things.

ImageThe most beautiful example is how he helped his younger brother, Dominic, learn to speak. When Dominic first came to live with us at the age two and a half, he only spoke five words. He called Dakota, “dah” because he couldn’t pronounce his name. I couldn’t believe my ears one night when Dakota decided to read to Dominic and work with him on pronouncing certain words in the book. He praised him for his attempts at saying each word. I attribute much of Dominic’s rapid improvement in speaking to Dakota’s hard work, love, and patience. He could get Dominic to try to speak better than anyone else. Within six months of living with us, Dominic exited out of all of his speech and play therapy programs. I’m so proud of both of them.

Having the opportunity to give birth to a baby and raise a child is the one of the best prizes a human can win.  I didn’t understand it until it happened to me. Seeing his hopeful eyes every day, knowing that his life and happiness depend on me gives me the one and only feeling that changes people, that feeling of pure unconditional love. We all want and deserve it, but we don’t always experience it.  I do everything I can to make sure he feels my unconditional love every day. He’s Imagemy one and only Dakota and he’s inspired me to live better and love deeper. Being his mother has expanded my capacity to love and to have another one and only, Dominic. Dakota still teaches him and always will. He shows him how to build with Legos, throw footballs, shoot basketballs, and listen to directions. When I watch my two sons playing together, I feel like I’m the luckiest person in the world. No lottery ticket could top this!

The “Never Forgets” By Darbie Andrews

ImageI brought in another box from the truck and paused just inside the entry way. Was this really my house? The white walls melted away with the continual movement of paint rollers. The old, dingy, and dull disappeared behind bright, bold, and fresh. I stepped out of the way as friends brought in more boxes. I sat mine down and grabbed more paint for another friend who stood high on a ladder to paint the upper corners of the kitchen. Then I brought duct tape to my buddy sitting on the floor behind the dryer. My cellphone rang; more help was on the way to finish painting and help me unpack. I smiled, but my eyes watered. I’d never forget it, the moment I realized that I’d reached the other side and the divorce had ended on another level. I was no longer broke, without friends, or fighting any legal battles. Yes, this was MY house. With the help of others and the undying need to move forward, I’d managed to create enough new joyous “never forgets” to overpower the painful “never forgets” of the past. Wahoo!Image

It really hit me when my friends who’d been there for some rough moments of the divorce walked in the front door of my new home and immediately started working. They grabbed paint brushes and rollers and painted nonstop. They were on a mission. I couldn’t believe how much time and energy they gave. Seeing them work so hard on creating a new home for me and my sons made me feel so incredibly loved. It was like they were painting away those hard times when I had cried to them about the lawyer meetings and expenses, the loss of half my retirement, the custody battles, and the loneliness of divorce,. They gave me new “never forgets”. Every time I look at my freshly painted walls I think of them and I will never forget their love, support, and hard work.

Then came the heavy lifting: appliances, furniture, bricks (yes, bricks). As soon as my friend grabbed the dolly cart, memories of my last move from the marital home shot through my head. My father had come to help. He and I moved everything alone. I’ll never forget the pain of that move. It felt like someone had cut me in half. In contrast, during this move, I felt complete and whole. Many friends came to help me begin a new exciting stage in my life. I’ll never forget how hard they worked and how much care they put into placing my things in the right place. They literally helped me move forward and claim a new lifestyle.

  As my friends painted and lifted, cleaned and unpacked, I wondered how I could ever repay them for all they’d given me. I hoped that I could give them some positive “never forgets” in the future or that I’d already given them some. Unlike the “never forgets” that I have intentionally worked for to overcome the pain of the past, these “never forgets” were a surprise. I didn’t expect the help that these wonderful people gave to me. That’s what made it even more unforgettable.

I’ll never forget the day, the real estate agent handed me the keys to my new house, but all the memories of people helping me afterwards, top that moment by far. Giving of our time and energy is one of the most powerful things we can do to make a difference.  Families give to each other because they are family, but when people step outside of their families and reach out to friends, it’s another level of giving.  We all have the power to create new “never forgets” for others and for ourselves. Sometimes the painful “never forgets” can weigh us down and keep us stuck, but only if we let them. The power of new beginnings, new memories, and new hope can move mountains.

I’m thankful for my painful “never forgets” because they have motivated me to seek new memories and experiences and they have taught me the power of moving forward and building a new life. Positive “never forgets” have helped me survive, thrive, and enjoy life. I’ve learned to value every experience and use it to create the life I want for myself and my children.Image

ImageMy oldest son who lives in two separate homes due to divorce chose bright green and blue paint for his room. My youngest, adopted son, chose baby blue paint. I handed them both a paint roller and said, “You’re going to help paint your bedrooms.” They both asked me why.  I replied, “Because you’ll never forget this.”  We need positive “never forgets” to get through the challenges moments of life and I hope to give my children and myself many more of them.

Invited? You Mean Me?

Invited? You Mean Me?

Moving, uprooting yourself and your family to a new location is life changing on so many leveImagels. It takes you away from your comfort zones, your friends, your familiar places and faces. When I relocated to Northern California at age 39, I’d already moved 28 times in my life. At the end of the month, it will be move number 31. I hope it’s the last one for many years.

I’m grateful that this time I’m not starting over with new people, new streets, new job, new everything. Many times in the past, I’ve moved to places where I haven’t known anyone. Over and over, I’ve had to learn my way around and reach out to people and communities to create a new life for myself. Although I like a good challenge, I have to admit that changing so much can be exhausting.

The most difficult time has been relocating to where I am now, a new area far from everything familiar. Then two years later life threw divorce and 50% custody on top of it. At a time when I needed friends and family the most, I had no one nearby, no one. My one friend of 24 years who lived nearby took sides, not mine. I lost all contact with my in-laws as they too chose sides. The loneliness hurt. I spent many weekends going to bookstores and movies alone or just staying home hoping that someday, my new life would feel comfortable and that I’d have friends nearby again.

During these last seven years, I’ve met many people who have lived in the same town their entire lives or for a long time. They seem to have a great social life full of family and friends who frequently gather and invite them to do things. They don’t seem to struggle to find someone to see a movie with or to invite over for dinner. They are never alone on special days. There’s always someone around for them. Time in one place has made them part of the community.

As a newbie and outsider, it takes a while to feel like you’re part of the community. If you don’t know anyone and you’re not related to anyone nearby, who’s going to invite you to go anywhere and who are you going to invite? It’s difficult, at least it has been for me, to build a social life in a place where I just haven’t spent much time. It never was this hard before, but this time, as a divorced single parent who works full-time in a small community, it’s been challenging. My belief that worrying about making friendImages was a problem of adolescence has completely changed.

It’s taken several years, but the ship has finally landed. This year, I was actually invited to a barbeque! I know, shut the front door. Better yet, for the second year in a row, I’ve spent Super Bowl Sunday at a good friend’s house. It seems simple and a little silly, but being invited by someone to come over and hang out is a pretty big deal for me. It’s the simple stuff that can mean so much, especially for someone like me who asked to go to a coworker’s house on Christmas one year because I had nowhere else to go and I didn’t have my son for the holiday. That was a definite low.

Sitting in a house full of people, feeling comfortable, able to joke around, eat good food, and enjoy a really bad football game together was just what this girl from far away needed. I have missed those moments so much. They haven’t happened a lot since relocating and divorcing. Being invited, being part of, belonging, we all want to feel these things. Some of us have it handed to us through family and living in the same place for years. Some of us don’t. We may not admit it because it’s embarrassing, but some of us who are building a new life practically jump for joy when an invitation comes our way. I’m thankful, so thankful for those people who have reached out and let me into their worlds. In every place I’ve moved, I’ve been so lucky to meet new people who were willing to let a new friend into their lives. One hundred thanks to every onImagee who invites new people in, who opens their lives and their hearts. You inspire me to do the same.

Really, a Blog??

I’m a little embarrassed that I opened up this blog back in 2012 and only posted one time. Should I shut it down and open a new one? My perfectionist side says, “Yes,” but my authentic self says, “Let it be.”  I have tons of legitimate excuses so I will share a few: a new adopted 2 year old son, working full time as a teacher at a continuation high school, becoming a Zumba Instructor, divorce, my dad died, and the huge amount of pain that caused. One other thing is that I’ve been writing, just not writing a blog. That’s actually why I’m back, or actually why I’m actually starting for real this time.

Why do I want to start a blog (again)? Why, oh why should I add one more thing to the many activities of my life? The main reason is, drum roll please…., I finished my first novel! Yes, I did, well the first draft at least. 280 pages that fill an entire two inch binder! I’m not lying! I tell you, that’s pretty impressive. Looking at all those pages in a Word document doesn’t feel the same as holding a big fat binder full of words that I wrote. It’s simply awesome.  I’m so proud of myself. I clearly remember when I only had ten glorious pages written. Baby, I’ve come a long way…in more way than one.

downloadFour years ago, during the beginning stages of divorce hell, I was moping around my empty lonely house, missing my son so bad that I physically hurt. With the television blaring, music playing in the background, my cell phone sitting next to me for constant texting, and my computer on my lap with multiple tabs open, I realized that no amount of distraction took away how sad it felt to not be a mother to my child for 50 percent of his life. Sure, friends told me that I was always a mother, even when he wasn’t home, but I didn’t even know where he was, so really, I didn’t feel like I was being a mother. No matter how many times I cleaned his room and washed and folded his clothes I wasn’t really caring for him because he was gone to his fathers. No matter how many people I reached out to or how many technical devices I plugged into, nothing filled the hole in my heart.

So… I decided I needed to produce something with all the days that I didn’t have custody of my son. I had to do more than grow crops in Farmville and like Facebook posts until he came home again.  The time I gave up with my son to save myself from a miserable marriage had to be used for something meaningful. Years down the road, when he reached 18 years of age, I didn’t want to look back on all that time that I had without him and say that I did nothing with it. I gave up so much to get out of the marriage and my decision made him lose so many moments with both of his parents. My freedom obligated me to do more.

I joined Redding Writers Forum and SCBWI to begin my writing adventure. Soon, I found a critique group. Well, first I learned what a critique group was. Who knew that people get together and read each other’s writing? Yep, that’s what I did. I brought ten new pages every two weeks to three other writers and they did the same. Together, we ventured forward in our novel writing process.  Without them, I wouldn’t have written anything.

And so my critique gals continue to lead me into the world of the blob. Oops, did I write that? The all-consuming BLOB! Well, it’s my hope that I won’t be consumed by my new endeavor, but I’m a little nervous. So, what will my blog, not blob, be about?  My son says I should call it, “Darbie’s Squirrel Moments.”  More on that later. It’s too fun of a topic to not delve into more deeply. For now, I’ll stick with “Going for It” because that’s what I’m doing!