Hasta Luego

In less than three weeks, David and I are taking Jack to school, boarding our dog, and jumping onto a plane headed for Madrid, Spain.

No, we can’t afford it. It will increase the already sizable amount of credit card debt we carry. But we are going anyway.

Jack will spend Thanksgiving week with his dad (who gets holidays on odd years) and my employer has issued an office-wide mandatory vacation for that week. So I have a week where I can’t work if I wanted to and I won’t have my kid. A whole week!

And lord knows we need a vacation! David and I haven’t had a true vacation together since our honeymoon three years ago. We are lucky if we get to spend an hour together each night, and usually that time is spent talking about Jack’s health. We are tired and depressed and even though we see each other daily, we miss one another.

So yeah, we’re leaving the country and getting as far away from our day-to-day troubles as we can. We are going to dedicate that week to taking care of ourselves and renewing our relationship. It’s all about us! We can wake up when we want to and go wherever our mood dictates.

I am excited and so very hopeful. I hope that the radical change in location will help us set aside our daily stresses and replace it with awe over a different country and culture. I hope we can stop talking about Jack’s health for a while and instead talk more about how fortunate we are to have this wonderful family. I hope we can reconnect and enjoy our love. Maybe we can even plan for the future.

Mostly, I hope we will come back feeling refreshed and energized and better able to handle the challenges that come at us constantly.Jack has a year and a half of treatment left. Hopefully this break will fortify us enough to make it through.


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An End and a Beginning

In summer of 2008, just before our son’s second birthday, my husband and I split up after nine years of marriage. Our marriage had been over for a long time and we’d come close to splitting a number of times over the years, but for some unknown reason we just kept beating that horse until it was dust on the floor.

Finally, with a few months of therapy under my belt and a therapeutic dose of antidepressants in my system, I found my strength and independence to utter the words.

“I think we should split up,” I told him one day before work.

“Yeah, me, too.”

The decision was made in a ten-minute conversation. We would separate and see how things went from there.

Only a couple of weeks after that, I was living in my own apartment – for the first time on my own – with Jack and my two cats. And I loved it! The moment I set foot in my apartment I knew I’d made the right decision (and soon after, I knew divorce was absolutely the right choice). Naturally, it took some adjusting. It takes a while to unravel yourself from an eleven-year relationship, but I’d been emotionally preparing for the separation for years. Even when the adjustments were difficult, I found them easier to cope with than fighting for a long-dead marriage.

I talked to my friends every day and wrote my heart out both online and on paper. I wrote pages and pages about what hadn’t worked in my marriage and then I wrote more about what I really needed in my life. I asked for advice and guidance from my closest friends and they were more than happy to give it – even when it wasn’t pretty and even if I didn’t always heed that advice.

And then, after a few friends suggested I try dating since I never had before, I put my profile up on match.com. Writing a profile for a dating site may seem like an easy task, but I was in a very strange place in my life. I had ideas about what I was looking for but I had trouble putting them into words. Describing myself as an individual – outside of my marriage and being a parent – was quite a challenge. I really had to look at myself in new ways and figure out what made me who I am.

I rewrote my profile a bunch of times before coming up with what turned out to be the perfect thing. Even after that, I took it down completely in a moment of self-doubt, but I did end up putting it back up. And thank goodness I did because I met David and he changed my life.

This is the profile that landed me my perfect match.


I am always seeking out new points of view on life from others to test my own opinions. I like to examine the differences and similarities in all people. I love to bounce ideas and theories around. I am playful and not afraid of embarrassment, although I dislike being the center of attention. I am a no-nonsense type of girl who goes for what she wants and I’m passionate about the things that are important to me. Yes, sometimes I argue my point even if I suspect I’m wrong. I don’t give up easily!

I often get so enraptured with a subject that I will read everything I can get my hands on about it until I’m an expert. It’s typical of me to read all of the album lyrics and notes prior to listening to a new CD. I am a master googler. I love imdb and wikipedia.

I’ll know I have reached the ultimate in life when I acquire a maid and a cook. I like it when I can pay someone else to do things I don’t like to do; I feel like I’m helping the economy.

I am somewhat impulsive but I usually spend a lot of time planning. I’m contrary sometimes.

I can be reserved at first but if you’re shyer than I am, I might do something outrageous to get you talking. I’m honest to a fault and will answer any question. My answers will probably surprise you.

I hate to wonder if I’m missing out on something that has the potential to be awesome. I am independent and enjoy time alone, but also love the energy of a group gathering. At a party I’m likely to be found in the corner of a room observing interactions or engrossed in a conversation about the merits of various toothpaste flavors and consistencies (cinnamon gel is my favorite).

I’m not much of a cook but I bake fairly well and often. I’ll make you some peanut butter brownies if you prepare the main course. Or you can give me cooking lessons… Dining out most nights a week is perfectly acceptable, as well (as long as it’s not fast food).

I have an amazing 2 year old son who fascinates me with his passion and his unbridled sense of discovery. He is inspirational and brings out the kid in me. He makes me a better person every day.

I’m looking for a creative, funny, yet intense man. Someone who feels equally comfortable discussing the state of the world as he does chasing me around the house or taking care of a pesky spider (they have it in for me!). I want someone I can rely on and who takes the time to get to know what makes me tick. I will offer the same in return.

I’d like to take any new relationship slowly, although I suppose I may budge on the relationship if I meet the right person. After all, they say you find the one when you least expect it. I’ve never actually been on a real date, so this should be interesting!

for fun:
I love doing just about anything with another person – life is always more fun with friends. Board games, dining out, travel, BBQs, bocci ball… I like dancing around the house (but I’m a terrible dancer) and pondering the oddities in life.

my job:
I’m an executive assistant at a software company. I like the exposure I get to various types of work, the details about the inner workings of a company, and I learn new things all the time. The money isn’t bad, either.

my ethnicity:
I’m so pale I glow. I’m mostly German with a spattering of British and a little part of every other European country that ever existed, except Italian.

my religion:
I’m highly skeptical of organized religion. I focus on being the best human being I can be and don’t feel that I require a set of instructions in order to do that. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is great, though.

my education:
I could never decide what to major in (Sociology, Psychology, Art, Finance, English…so many choices, so little time) and the classroom is set at too slow a pace for me. I prefer to read a book and learn while doing.

favorite hot spots:
It is my goal to eat out at every restaurant in the bay area. Okay, I can skip the seafood but I’ll take everything else! I enjoy museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, coffee shops…the Bay Area is a great place for all of those.

favorite things:
I’m an indoors girl generally, but will venture outside for walks or a hike with the right company. I like to bowl. I’m currently having a lot of fun decorating my apartment (retro yeah!). Wine is tasty. I miss the 90s music scene but am adjusting.

last read:
Lately I’ve been reading any vampire book I can get my hands on (anything from I Am Legend to Twilight). Patricia McKillip is my favorite (fantasy) author. I write and read blogs. I eat up Augusten Burroughs. Click Clack Moo gets a lot of play, too.


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Divorce and Empathy

My friend Becky is in the early stages of divorce, a situation that brings out a lot of empathy in me. It’s not only a divorce – it’s also a complete shift in her life; she is completely starting over from scratch (which is fairly typical with divorces). This, naturally, takes me back to four years ago when I did the same…

I had been married almost nine years to Joe when we called it quits. We’d been together since we were 16 and neither of us had ever lived on our own. We grew up together – and we outgrew one another. We had been trying to avoid the inevitable for years, doing everything we could think of to adjust to one another, including individual AND couples counseling. Divorce came up so often in our relationship that we had already decided “if we ever get divorced, that one is YOUR cat.” He regularly talked about women who would be “next in line” and I tried to escape with friends or travel as often as I could.

Not long after moving back from the isolated northern coast of California to the Bay Area and starting a new job, I started having a serious mental breakdown. I had an incident where I could not get out of bed – I felt entirely zapped of energy and I had to be guided to the car because I was so disoriented and dizzy. The stress had built up so much that my own willpower was no match for it.

I started therapy again and got some anti-depressants. In talking with my psychiatrist (who reminded me exactly of Dustin Hoffman’s character in Stranger Than Fiction), I realized I had some serious personal issues I needed to work on that just could not get resolved while I was in that relationship with Joe. I had to start from scratch if I was going to fix anything about myself. I had to separate completely from unhealthy patterns, behaviors, and people. I had been trying to live a life that just wasn’t me for too long and I was no longer able to stuff myself in that box.

The conversation about separating took about two minutes. Joe and I both new where we stood with one another and knew it’d be a relief to not be together anymore. Everything else aside, we were a bad match – nearly complete opposites when it came to goals, personality, and values. This was not difficult to see. The only reason our relationship had been ‘working’ was because I’d been suppressing so much of myself for so long, trying to mold myself into a good wife for Joe. I might have continued to do this if my own psyche hadn’t put a stop to it. Even Joe had told me, “You aren’t the person I fell in love with at 16.” He was right.

Almost all the difficulty in the separation came out of the reactions of family and friends (not everyone, mind you – we had support, as well). Someone made the comment that because Joe and I had been together so long, had seemed so comfortable in the way things were, that they had placed us in the category of “not breaking up ever.”

Reactions varied – some took sides (although we both maintained that it was a mutual decision) and others felt scared about their own relationships. People argued that we hadn’t tried hard enough, hadn’t done enough to save the relationship. As hard as my depressed and scattered brain tried to make sense of it all for others, I was not able to coherently explain that the relationship was a fraud – that I was a fraud – that I had buried myself for a decade. The relationship was an illusion and there were some fundamental problems with me (and Joe, as well) that needed to be fixed. Guessing at the people we would likely be once these issues were addressed, it was blatantly obvious we wouldn’t choose to be together (if even friends) once healthy.

We both grieved the end of the relationship and the major upheaval in our lives. Joe did so openly, as he is a very outgoing person. I, on the other hand, am more private – it’s only through writing that I am able to share most of what I’m thinking and feeling. My therapists have always had to PULL information from me.

Unfortunately, my lack of demonstrativeness was seen by others as coldness. I didn’t seem to be upset enough. I seemed to be carrying on just fine. (Meanwhile, I was taking bathroom breaks often to deal with my panic attacks in private. The idea that my personal life would affect things like work was appalling to me – I needed to work and I needed to take care of my child and I needed to start all over. I didn’t have time for grief.) A number of people were MAD at me – felt that my seeming indifference was aimed at Joe. The things that were said about me hurt deeply, especially since I was struggling with my long-ignored mental health in addition to this huge life change.

Some of the relationships I had before the split were never quite mended. I still haven’t yet figured out my place with my family-by-marriage. I was fully entrenched in that family for over a decade and loved them as my own. But somehow when Joe and I split, I lost my place with them. I still feel most conflicted about that.

I write all of this not because I want sympathy after the fact but because I would like to implore everyone out there to have empathy for those going through divorce – for BOTH people. Joe did horrible things to me during our marriage and I did horrible things to him, but in the end – even if those things had never occurred – we were wrong for one another and we both knew it. Neither of us wanted our child to grow up thinking that he should force himself to stay in a bad situation that was leaching him of happiness. We wanted to show him how to go out and seek what he needed, to find those things that feed his soul.

I’m proud of myself for walking away from the marriage. I’m proud of myself for sending the message to my son that love and happiness are important. I’m proud of deciding that *I* was important.

Divorce is hellish, no matter how amicable it is. Starting over SUCKS and everyone makes mistakes while doing it – they are, after all, making extremely important decisions about life while under a ton of stress. But sometimes, even as painful as it is, it’s the right thing to do. Without happiness, how is life worth living?

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Coming Down the Mountain

So, it seems I got a mild concussion while (attempting) skiing. Also I hurt my trapezius muscle so my doctor gave me  a prescription strength anti-inflammatory pain killer to help with the neck/shoulder pain. I think next time I go to Tahoe I’ll just head straight to a massage therapist rather than up or down any mountains.

The house hunt continues. We put an offer in on an awesome house in our ideal neighborhood and were outbid. I’m feeling a bit heartbroken over that. It helped me get over it (slightly) when the listing agent came back and asked us for a higher bid “in the 420k range” and when we asked for clarification, she came back with $440k. Um, lady, that is NOT the 420k range. Further, you’re insane mkay byyyye! So we are still looking and feeling pretty dejected at this point. I think we’re up to 43 houses viewed now. The market has stalled so it feels like we’ll be stuck in our shitty rental forever. Not fun! A few people have said inventory will pick up in spring; I surely hope so.

Between those things above and my incredibly stupid idea to try to gradually reduce my anti-depressant intake…I haven’t been doing well. Luckily I realized it fairly quickly and did an about-face with the med plan. It will take a little bit of time for my levels to return to normal…in the mean time I am trying not to get too down about all the stress and craziness (including our broken washing machine, our broken heater, and the lack of a suitable house to escape to).

With that said, things are looking up. David accepted a job and will be starting next week. YAY! We’re very excited! We so needed that change of luck!

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Wedding Budget Breakdown

The grand total price of my wedding was about $3700.  I was shocked at the end of it all that we pulled it off spending less than $5K, especially because we definitely splurged in certain areas.  For those interested, here is a breakdown of where the money went:

Beauty & Health – I could have saved a LOT in this area if I knew anything about hair and make up.  As it was, I sought out a cosmetologist from outside of the Bay Area (Yolanda from PrimaDonna Makeover) because she charges less than those here in the city.  I ended up paying for her travel time, though, so I didn’t save as much as I had hoped.  Of that $539 number, $425 went to the stylist.  It looked pretty good, though, and it was all done in my home so I didn’t have to stress about running all over the place the morning of my wedding.  It was overall worth the splurge.

Cake – I got a damned good deal here.  Doing research on Yelp for budget-friendly bakers, I stumbled on From Scratch SF, a brand new business launched by Jennifer Bratko.  I discussed my budget with Jennifer, sent her a copy of my invitation and a picture of my topper and she suggested the perfect design for my cake.  It turned out absolutely beautiful and amazingly delicious, and SO worth every penny:

Photo & cake by Jennifer Bratko

Catering – Lucky for us, David is a great cook and he had a fabulous friend to help him, so food costs were low.  The menu consisted of finger foods – salmon burgers, turkey burgers, and gourmet roast beef sandwiches.  Delish!  The total above actually includes a new grill that we got on sale at OSH.  We bought all of our wine at Bevmo with reward coupons (could have saved more if I had purchased it all during their 5 cent sale but we didn’t get organized in time) and the food was purchased in bulk at Safeway and Costco.  All of our tableware and cups were compostable and went right into the bin when we were done.

Dress & Attire – I bought my dress on mega sale at the Jessica McClintock outlet here in San Francisco.  It was $93.  It was a little long but I fixed that with a pin in the side rather than dishing out money for alterations.  David’s tux rental cost more than my ensemble!  I got comfy ballet flats on sale from shoes.com for $28 (using a coupon from savings.com*) and my jewelry and accessories were purchased on etsy.  Jack’s suit was borrowed.

Flowers & Decor – We saved money on flowers by ordering hydrangeas in bulk from Costco.  This ended up being a pain in the ass due to the incompetence of our local Fed Ex (the flowers sat in their warehouse mere blocks from my work for TWO DAYS) but we were lucky and it all worked out with only a few bunches that were compromised.  We put together simple arrangements using mason jars bought at the grocery store and tied with ribbon.

Our backyard was kind of a wasteland, so David ordered and laid sod down the day before the wedding.  At about $250, this was actually cheaper than renting any sort of astroturf and certainly less than renting a reception hall.  He also planted some flowers the same day and added in some mulch, and it looked very fresh!

Tables, chairs, and linens were another $265 (including delivery fee) and made things look more “official,” and I bought a tent (again – purchasing the tent was actually cheaper than renting one) for about $150.  Our paper lanterns were purchased in a variety of colors and sizes (less than $2 each) through JustArtifacts.com.

Invitations – Being that I am a Stampin’ Up! demonstrator, I definitely could have saved more money in this area by making my own invitations.  Instead I chose to go the lazy convenient route and get custom invitations from Ruff House Art on etsy.  I paid an extra fee of $40 for a custom design, which I’m sure others can choose to skip to save a few bucks.  I also decided not to include RSVP cards since we had a small number of guests and are close enough to everyone to take RSVPs by word of mouth/email/etc.  The cost also included matching thank you cards.

Jewelry – David’s titanium ring cost a whopping $55 at JustTitanium.com.  He wanted something super lightweight and slim fitting (1.3mm thin to be exact) and I tracked down the slimmest ring I could find and then we requested that the 2mm standard size be slimmed to 1.3mm.  David is a very particular guy.  My ring was definitely pricier, but rather than spend extra on something custom, I searched high and low for something that just happened to be made for this somewhat unique setting.  Thanks Dacarli Jewelers for providing exact measurements of the ring and a nice return policy (just in case)!

Music – You won’t see this up there because we spent $0.  We used iTunes and put together our own playlist.  Between the fact that the reception was in our backyard and it was the middle of the day, we figured there wouldn’t be much dancing anyway.  Plus, the drunk people will dance anywhere and to anything!

Photography – Photography is a tricky thing to save money on – those disposable cameras usually just generate crap and professional photographers charge a whole lotta money for their services.  I think it’s worth it to pay big bucks for a photographer, but that doesn’t mean it’s practical for the budget.  I got lucky in two ways – my friend’s brother is a photography hobbiest with some sweet gear AND my friend Sarah is fantastic behind the camera.  Photography cost us next to nothing and we got beautiful, memorable shots of the day.

Site Fee – We spent $0 on this, as well.  It was a flash mob sort of ceremony on the beach that lasted all of about 30 minutes.

Obviously, all of the help from our family and friends is not included in the cost of our wedding.  That part was priceless and really the best wedding gift of all!

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