Category: My Life

Spin the Wheel

It’s been a hot minute since I posted, and it’s not been for lack of inspiration. I have a note on my phone with seven different posts I want to write! But, life has been crazy. I’m fairly certain that life will be crazy for the foreseeable future. 

Life with five kids is a lot. For me, going from two to three was a challenging transition, and then going from three to four was just the gradual process of becoming a parental figure to my stepdaughter, Penny. She’s our oldest, so it wasn’t exactly the same as adding a new baby to the family. 

With Finley, I really feel the five. FIVE. It’s grueling, to be honest. 

You would think that co-parenting with four parents would be easier in a way. We only have four of our kids about 50% of the time, because the other 50% they are with their other parents. And in some ways, it is pretty awesome. We get to have some quiet nights with just Finley, and some nights with just Finley and Penny, and some nights with the Westys (that’s what we call my three kiddos from my previous marriage) and Finley, which is a different dynamic than when we have all five. 

Having times without all of the kids gives me and RJ the ability to decompress a bit and recharge for the next time we have them. When we have all of them, we call it “Kid Chaos,” and the name is fitting. It can feel a tad chaotic when you’re holding a baby, two kids are crying at once, and the other two are asking you for things. Oh, and there’s poop, too. Where? Just everywhere. In diapers, unflushed in toilets, in the dog’s crate, possibly on me somewhere. It’s par for the course. 

So the days when we have fewer kids are really helpful for our sanity—or what’s left of it.

But, in other ways, our co-parenting lifestyle is more challenging. The scheduling alone could be an Olympic sport. Even as someone who enjoys organization and lists and calendars and schedules, I can’t always keep track of who’s supposed to be where and when. I absolutely hate being the one who dropped the ball in the parenting game. 

The hardest part, though, is the emotional side of things. 

My mental state is drastically affected by which kids are with me on any given day. When it’s Kid Chaos, I automatically go into Mom Boss mode. I summon the patience and energy to keep things running (mostly) smoothly. I pull out some of my best parenting tactics and often find myself satisfied with my work at the end of the day. 

But, if Kid Chaos goes on too long, I run out of steam. I sometimes describe stress to my kids like air in a balloon. If you’re blowing up a balloon, and you keep adding more and more air, eventually it’s going to burst. If you stop adding air, and maybe even let some out, then you will be able to fill it up again later without it bursting. All the things in life that cause stress are like air that you’re adding to your balloon. Taking time to release some of that pressure—to pause, rest, and recharge—is important to prevent a blowup, AKA an emotional meltdown. 

So, needless to say, when Kid Chaos goes on longer than my personal balloon can handle, it doesn’t end well. Those are the days that I consider “bad parenting” days. Am I too hard on myself? Possibly. But in any case, yelling at my kids is not something I want to do, ever. So when I fail at keeping myself regulated and end up adding to the chaos with my own out-of-control emotions, I consider that a parenting fail.

When it’s time to bring the Westys to their dad, I usually have a complex tangle of emotions to process. I feel relief, because I can finally let some air out of my balloon. Even if my balloon didn’t survive, well, at least I have time to acquire a new one. (Metaphorically speaking…) When I get a break, I have a chance to mentally recover from any bad moments I had with the kids. That brings a sense of relief, because God only knows I need those breaks. 

But the feeling of relief is very quickly followed by guilt. Mom-guilt is a powerful force, and I have loads of it. There’s guilt over feeling relieved that I get a break from my kids. There’s guilt over needing a break at all. There’s guilt that I’m only half of a parent to the Westys, because I’m only with them half of the time—I know that this isn’t true, but it’s what that little voice in my head tells me. 

There’s guilt in knowing that our divorce has caused and continues to cause pain to my children, because they are sometimes upset during the transitions and often miss the parent who they aren’t with. There’s guilt in hearing my kids tell me that they wish we all lived together. There’s guilt in every meltdown, misbehavior, and moment of conflict, because what if it was caused by the trauma of our divorce? 

Guilt is heavy, indeed. 

Plain and simple sadness is also entangled in the ball of emotions. I’m sad that I’m not with my kids. I’m sad and nostalgic about the simplicity of our lives when we were a nuclear family. I’m sad knowing in my heart that Cory and I were not meant for each other forever, and nothing that I did or he did would have changed that. I’m sad knowing that the first part of my adult life was spent with Cory instead of RJ, and that the first part of RJ’s adult life was spent with Amber instead of me, and knowing that I still wouldn’t change a single thing because it brought me my kids exactly as they are. 

I’m sad that out of all our kids, only one will know what it’s like to have an intact family. I’m sad that I’ve done to my kids the one thing I never, ever wanted to do to them—and vowed never to do!—because I didn’t want them to experience the pain that I experienced as a child. I’m sad because I know that life just isn’t as simple as I once believed, and we can only do our best, and nothing is guaranteed, and things change in ways we can’t predict. 

I often find that when I’m with my kids, I feel stressed and overwhelmed, and yet somehow also energized and motivated. But when I’m not with all of them, I feel relieved, and yet also sad and anxious and depressed. It becomes this paradox where “I can’t live with them, and can’t live without them,” as they say. I’m unhappy in both situations, just in different ways. 

It can feel like each day I’m just spinning a wheel to see what it lands on. Chaos? Stress? Guilt? Sadness? Depression? Anxiety? 

Which will it be today? 

Of course, those aren’t the only things I feel. I feel joy and excitement, amusement, contentedness, satisfaction, and so many more positive things when I’m with my kids. They make me laugh, delight me with their adorableness, and warm my heart with their sweetness. Above all, when I’m with my kids, I feel love.

There is no love like a parent’s love for their child. I would do anything—anything—for my kids, and my highest priority in life is to take care of them. But also, there is no love like a child’s love for their parent. To your child, you are a hero. You are the one human in the world (or one of a very select few) that they need and love more than any other. You are the world to them. Even when they say they hate you, or that you’re mean, or any other angry and thoughtless thing that kids can sometimes spew at us parents, we still know that they love us and will forgive us. We can mess up again and again and again, but as long as we do our best and try, our kids will still think we hung the moon. That is such a privilege. 

To love and be loved as a mother is the most priceless gift. Despite the immense challenges that come with parenthood, I wouldn’t give it up for anything. My kids are my biggest source of both pain and joy in my daily life. They are everything.

So, onward I march. I’ll continue to take my days as they come, one at a time. I’ll continue to spin the wheel. Or maybe the wheel is spinning me? At this point, I don’t think it really matters. I’m just along for the ride. 

A Look Back at 2022

Last year brought more unexpected changes to my life than any year I can remember. My family, my pets, my home, my location, my future plans—they all changed drastically this past year. It’s been a lot. And for me, the queen of change, that is really saying something. 

Let’s dive in. 

In January, I was still, technically, polyamorous. I was married to Cory and living at home with him and the kids, while dating RJ. But RJ and I were making plans for a more serious future together. We were seeing each other about every other day, despite the hour and a half commute between us. What our future together looked like was very much up in the air, but I knew that I wanted to live with him and I was hoping that Cory would be amenable to having him move in with us. 

Meanwhile, Cory and I were still trying to figure out ourselves and what we wanted our marriage to be. And unfortunately, he wasn’t ready to invite RJ into our family and didn’t know if he ever would be. Because of this, along with many other factors, Cory and I officially decided to end our romantic relationship. 

Soon after, RJ asked me to be his nesting partner—even though he wasn’t ready to make that a reality, yet, he knew he wanted that someday. His marriage was ending, and the future he saw was one with me as his life partner. But his separation and divorce process was much more tumultuous than mine, and he hadn’t yet made any official moves to get that started.  

For me, watching the toxic environment of his home life was painful. At the same time, I felt a need to gain more independence in my own life and I felt it was time for me to move out. I could only do so financially if RJ moved in with me, but I knew I could scrape together the money to live on my own for a couple of months while RJ got things situated on his end. More than anything, I wanted to give him a safe and happy place to live, and I acted with my typical speed on that goal. By the end of the month, I was in my new apartment and hoping that RJ would join me there soon. 

Not living with my children was a huge transition for me, but I was determined to stay positive. I chose an apartment only 10 minutes away from the house, and began setting it up so that the kids could stay the night there with me a few nights each week. I also designed my schedule so that I spent a lot of time at the house. I wanted the kids to feel that we were still a family, and I didn’t want the changes to make them sad or feel stressed. 

Looking back on those months, it is honestly hard to write about. At the time, I was focused on finding a life for myself that was happy, while still trying to ensure that my kids were happy too. But a year later, I find myself worrying about what I have taken away from my kids, and how it will affect them for the rest of their lives—that’s something that is hard to live with. 

One thing I do know is that at the time, I was doing the best I could. And, on a happier note, January is when I met and adopted my dog, Pepper. She quickly became my close companion and emotional support animal.

In February, I was briefly employed as a social media poster on a small startup platform, which I very much enjoyed. Unfortunately, the job was temporary and didn’t lead to a longer-term position. I spent most of that month setting up my apartment and settling into my new routines, as well as continuing to drive back and forth to see RJ several times each week. 

That month, Cory and I also decided to dog-swap with my parents. As weird as that sounds, it was the right decision for us! Our puppy Moosey was too much for us to handle, and their older dog Buddy was no longer a great fit for their more active, traveling lifestyle. We happily took Buddy and gave them Moosey, which has been a positive change for everyone. Buddy is wonderful, and probably the most gentle, patient dog with the kids that I’ve ever known. Even though he isn’t mine—he technically belongs to Cory now—I still love and care for him very much. And Moosey is also very happy in his new home!

Sometime early in the year, Cory also got a roommate when he started renting out the spare room to a friend of my brother’s named Dean. He has a daughter who is a year younger than Abi, named Odessa, and they both became a part of our extended family throughout the past year. My kids have loved having Odessa around and playing with her just like they would a younger sister. 

In March, RJ moved in with me—but the defining moment of this was actually quite murky. He started spending more and more nights at the apartment and bringing more and more of his stuff there, but there wasn’t one day where he officially moved in. He started contributing to rent that month, so that’s when I consider him “moved in.” In March, we also got our second cockatiel, Eevee. Pikachu was very happy to have a new friend!

In April, nothing much was going on with me from an outside perspective. But emotionally it was a very challenging time for me. RJ and I were going through the beginnings of a very rocky stage in our relationship, and I was suffering from severe depression. I decided to start therapy (again), and for the first time I also started taking antidepressants. Their effectiveness, for me, wasn’t exactly obvious—but they didn’t not help, so I continued on them until I became pregnant and decided that the potential risks didn’t outweigh the benefits for me. For the first time in my life, though, I found a therapist who I can confidently say is helping me. I have continued to see her, and am very thankful for her. 

In May, RJ and I went on a trip to Las Vegas. We wanted to do something special and romantic to celebrate our commitment to each other, but since we weren’t divorced yet, we settled on a wedding-like commitment ceremony. We kept it just between us, but it was very meaningful even so. That month, RJ and I also took all the kids camping one weekend, and Cory joined us. That was significant to me because it was the beginning of our family truly blending together.

In June, I brought home my first foster kittens, who I named Gremlin and Scout. Gremlin was ugly and hairless, but very sweet. Within a few weeks, she started growing her hair back, and then within a few months she became a beautiful gray cat with a lovely coat of long, soft fur. We changed her name to Remi, and adopted both her and her brother. They are very sweet, well-mannered kitties.

In July, RJ’s daughter Penny turned 9. I also celebrated my birthday that month, and after turning 30 years old, I made a poor life decision and brought home a litter of four more foster kittens—who I was determined, at first, not to adopt. But alas, each kitten was claimed by one of our children as their own. And, after bottle-feeding them and nurturing them back to health for several weeks, we were all attached. I admitted defeat and we adopted those four, as well. Their names our Peanut, Milo, Dusty, and Stormy. Because of them, I have six cats. (For the record, Leo is also still around! He belongs to Cory now, though.) They are very friendly and sweet—but they are also extremely mischievous, and it can be quite stressful managing them at times. 

July was a particularly difficult month for my relationship with RJ. After spending most of our relationship up to that point being monogamous, we decided to revisit the possibility of being polyamorous again. After all, to me, being poly was a big part of my identity and something I wasn’t ready to give up. Unfortunately, since meeting me, RJ no longer felt that being poly was a part of his identity. For him, monogamy had become non-negotiable. We struggled with the issue for weeks, and our relationship barely survived. Ultimately, I chose to stay with RJ and give up poly, but the damage to our partnership was severe and we spent the next several months in couple’s therapy working through that as well as other issues that came up throughout the rest of the year. 

In August, Cody and Abi started school for the first time. Cody went into second grade, after being homeschooled up until then, and Abigail started Transitional Kindergarten (TK). They have thrived throughout this school year, and it has been a very positive change for them—and for me! Having the pressure of homeschooling taken off of me has been a big relief. In August, RJ and I also took a trip to visit my parents and he met them for the first time, which went well. At the end of the month, Cory turned 30. 

In September, Abi turned five and RJ turned 29, and we unknowingly conceived our baby, Finley. Also sometime around that month, Cory’s roommate Dean started dating a woman named Kendall, who has a toddler-aged son named Kaiser. They started to spend time in the house a lot, and it was always fun to have them around. Our blended-extended family was growing!

October was a big month. I found out I was pregnant, which (as already stated) was unplanned, but not unwelcome. It was shocking to me since I’ve never gotten pregnant unintentionally before. It was also well before our planned timeline for having a baby (which we did want to do, eventually). Nevertheless, we were still happy about the news. We decided on the name Finley right away. In October, we celebrated more birthdays as Cody turned 8 and Mia turned 2.

Much less happy events also happened in October, unfortunately. My dog Macy started attacking Buddy, unprovoked—and she caused serious damage to both him and Cory when he intervened. The first attack actually happened in July, but we thought it was a one-time thing until it happened two more times in October. That was the point at which we decided we had no choice but to put Macy down. We’d already attempted to rehome her, searching for over a month with no takers. After that, we put her in a board-and-train program for aggression rehabilitation, and the results seemed promising—until the next attack happened. 

We knew that it was likely that any future home would be unprepared for her aggressive behavior, even if we warned them, because she was so incredibly sweet most of the time towards both people and other dogs. Her attacks were unpredictable and vicious. We knew that the safest thing for her and everybody else was to end her life in the most peaceful and humane way possible. It was a horrible decision to have to make, and a horrible thing to have to do. I miss her very much.

The silver lining is that Buddy has made a full recovery from his injuries and is much happier and carefree now. He will be able to live out the rest of his years in peace and safety. Cory has unfortunately suffered permanent damage to his hand from being bitten, and Cody experienced emotional trauma from witnessing the attack and losing a pet he loved very much for a tragic reason. So I couldn’t say that the events were all for the best, not by a long shot. All I can say, confidently, is that I believe we did the right thing. And it wasn’t Macy’s fault. She didn’t deserve to die. It was simply the only safe choice for everyone involved. Part of me believes that she may have had a neurological problem that we could not detect, because her aggression was completely out of the blue when it happened. But whatever the reason, she was still a good dog and I will always love her. 

In November, RJ and Cory and I took all of the kids on a road trip to the snow. We had a great time! Then we came home and had Thanksgiving, which was also lots of fun. We were able to enjoy our delicious feast this year as a blended family, including our extended-roommate-family—six kids in all! It was a special Thanksgiving this year, which I will always cherish. 

In December, RJ and I, as well as Cory and the kids, all moved back to Orange County. It was a decision we’d all made together months before—Cory’s idea, and RJ’s eager request after I told him about it. Being able to live near his daughter again has been a dream come true for RJ. Moving over an hour away from her was extremely difficult for him, and I know that both him and Penny are much happier now. Cory is also very happy to be able to spend more time with his parents and brother, as well as have a stronger support network as a single dad. 

For me, the move was emotionally and physically challenging. Since about five weeks into my pregnancy, my nausea has been in effect in full force. Handling a move while managing pregnancy sickness was no easy task. In addition, the city that I left was the city that I chose and loved for the past 10+ years. Leaving it was hard for me, and I will probably always miss it. It felt like home.

Nevertheless, I knew that moving was the right choice for everybody else, and the importance of me being in the city I prefer pales in comparison to the importance of RJ being close to Penny and Cory being close to his family. I will adjust to being back in the place where I grew up, and I’m sure I will learn to love it. It may not feel like home yet, exactly, but at least it’s familiar. 

On Christmas Day, RJ finally (officially) asked me to marry him. While we were already planning on getting married, and have discussed it in detail many times as well as picked out our rings, I was still waiting for the “formal” proposal. He asked, and I said yes, and we exchanged rings. So now I can call him my fiancé—yay!   

Last but not least, to end the year with a bang, I had to make one final questionable life decision; get a puppy! RJ and I brought home a tiny 1 ½ pound Chihuahua puppy and named him Nugget. He has been a joy, and I am so glad we decided to get him. (Despite the fact that I already felt at-capacity with pets… I got that puppy fever and gave into it. Fortunately, he’s been a positive addition to our family.)

We closed the year with a party, which was also our first time spending intentional time with RJ’s ex-wife and her girlfriend. The relationship between RJ and Amber (and myself) has been difficult over the past year, but I think we all want to build something more harmonious for the future. And we started that off at a perfect time—celebrating the New Year together, and hopefully, the beginning of a new, more positive year ahead. 

Honestly, 2022 was a hard year for me. I experienced a depth of depression that I haven’t been to since I was a teenager, and it’s something I’m still wading through and trying to pull myself out of. My relationship with RJ has been anything but easy, and many of the changes in my life recently have been stressful and emotionally difficult. 

This was a year in which I made a lot of big decisions, doing my best to make sure they were the right ones. And yet, so many times I’ve looked back and felt that somehow, they were all wrong. Worse, it has felt like any decision would have been wrong. I’ve felt trapped, confused, broken, and stupid. I’ve felt that I have ruined everything. It is a good time for a new year, for me—clearly, I need a fresh start. 

But you know, that’s the thing about the New Year. The date on the calendar changes, yes… but it isn’t magic. Everything is still the same as it was before the clock struck midnight. So while, for some people, celebrating New Year’s fills them with a sense of hope and optimism, for me there is also a sense of defeat. If every choice I make is wrong, what good is a new year? It’s just one more thing for me to fuck up. 

On the other hand, I’m still here. I’m alive, and I have a lot to stay that way for. All I can do is my best, and keep moving forward. And so in that spirit, I have set some goals for the year. My focus is on bringing Finley into the world, taking care of my family, and hopefully, finding some peace for myself. (And maybe, just maybe, trying to avoid making any more changes or big decisions for a good long while.) I am hoping that 2023 is a better year than the last.  

Welcome to IDoNowWhat-Gram

I’ve recently decided to get off of social media. One of the big reasons is that social media has a toxic culture, in my opinion, of comparison and competition. Seeing how everyone else’s life looks from the outside (which is not a realistic representation of everyday life anyway,) can cause one’s own life to look a little less shiny in comparison. While I didn’t necessarily see this happening to me, I could see how subconsciously it might affect me negatively without me realizing it.

The main reason I decided to ditch Facebook and Instagram, though, is that I’ve made so many drastic changes in my life over the past year, and to be honest, I don’t really feel like explaining all of those changes to people who aren’t genuinely part of my life outside of social media.

Over the past year, I deconstructed my faith and left the Evangelical Christian Church. Cory and I opened our marriage, and ultimately decided to separate when we discovered that we weren’t romantically attracted to each other anymore. I’ve moved out, and Cory and I have transitioned to a friendly, supportive, and loving co-parenting relationship.

I also met and fell in love with someone else. RJ is someone who came into my life like a wrecking ball (in the best way). It was fireworks and a deep connection from the start, and he immediately became an extremely important part of my life. He is now my boyfriend and nesting partner, and we are making plans for our future together.

So to be genuine about who I am now and what my life is like would be a big shock to many people on my social media accounts—yet those people aren’t truly part of my life enough for me to take the time to tell them about what’s been going on with me in a more personal way. The people who are in my life know about these things already, so what’s the point?

I decided that it would be easier to just walk away from those platforms. But now, I’m finding myself with the urge to still post my favorite pictures and memories of my day-to-day life and special moments, and I have nowhere to do that. So, even though only a few people ever read this, I’m going to start doing that here. I like to be able to look back at the things I wrote—and now the pictures I’ll post here. Every month, I’ll do a photo dump and maybe write a little bit about the things I’ve been up to.

For this first post, since it’s been quite a while since I’ve been able to post on Instagram, I will do a photo dump from the past several months. 🙂 Enjoy!

Brain Thoughts and Things

You can learn a lot from the internet, you know. It may sound funny, but I’ve actually learned a lot of very interesting, helpful, and insightful things from videos on TikTok. It’s become my favorite social media app.

One of the topics that comes up often in my TikTok feed is mental illness. ADHD is a very popular subject within this genre right now, and I think that’s really awesome because it’s bringing awareness to the different ways that ADHD can manifest in adults, and women especially. It’s no longer just a “kid’s” issue—and although there are negative aspects to ADHD, there are also ways that it can be seen in a positive light. Some people prefer to use the term neurodivergent nowadays to describe many mental differences, including people with ADHD and those on the autism spectrum.

The word neurodivergent is great because it reflects the reality that people with mental differences aren’t somehow broken—rather, they are simply different. And being neurodivergent gives those people special strengths, as well as challenges. The challenges are mostly due to the way that society is structured to work best for neurotypical individuals, anyway. That’s one reason why neurodivergents often need to seek professional help and/or medication to help them cope with their challenges.

Anyhow, that went down a rabbit hole. My point with this post was to talk about hyperfixation. This is something that is most commonly attributed to ADHD. What it means is that people can get super-focused on something (or someone) and that thing (or person) can take over the majority of their thoughts and attention for a period of time. There are also food-related hyperfixations, in which people might want to eat a particular meal every day for a period of time. A common hyperfixation can be on a hobby or interest, a TV show, or a book.

I have given a lot of thought to whether I have ADHD or not, because there are a few ways that I definitely relate to the “symptoms.” One of those things is how I will start doing one task, but then get distracted by another task that needs to be done and start doing that task, and so on until I’ve started several tasks but not completed any. This, however, I mostly attribute to my lifestyle. Being a mom, and homemaker, and pet owner, and partner… well, it leads to many people (or animals) needing things from you, often at the same time, along with a lot of chores that continuously need to be done.

Ultimately, I have landed on “no”—I do not believe that I have ADHD. I do suffer from depression and occasionally anxiety, and I have recently realized that I do tend to hyperfixate at times. But the interesting thing about this is that I just learned that hyperfixation is not only attributed to ADHD, but to depression and anxiety as well. So that makes a lot of sense for me, and I feel weirdly excited about finally having a word and an explanation for some of my behaviors.

My hyperfixations in the past have often been pet-related. I will decide that I want a certain pet and then hyperfixate on that—including figuring out what I need to buy for the pet, what care the pet needs, setting up the living area for the pet, and adding the pet’s expenses to the budget. Then of course I get the pet and enjoy it for a while… but eventually, the hyperfixation ends and then I’m left with more responsibility than I needed on my plate. And so, I’ve rehomed a lot of pets in my lifetime. While this isn’t ideal, I also am very diligent about finding good homes for them—and as I’m learning this about myself, I am also trying to end the cycle.

Other hyperfixations have been on hobbies, exercise regimes, daily schedules, meal-planning, home organization projects, budgeting, homeschooling, potential career paths I could follow, and even people (specifically, romantic partners).

For me, hyperfixations aren’t extreme. I don’t spend every waking minute thinking about or doing the thing that I’m fixated on. But I do spend a good amount of time on it, in between my mandatory tasks such as taking care of my children, home, pets, and occasionally myself (haha, joke…).

From what I read, and it totally makes sense, hyperfixations are a way of diverting negative emotions, like those stemming from depression and anxiety, into something more positive. They can become a problem if they interfere with living a healthy and balanced life, but they can also be a suitable coping mechanism at times.

My current hyperfixation is karaoke, of all things. I went to an arcade with karaoke rooms the other night, and had some fun singing there with my boyfriend and brother. As it turns out, my singing in the car doesn’t translate perfectly to good singing into a microphone in front of other people! And even though I had fun, it was definitely humbling. Instead of saying “well, never doing that again!” I decided to practice until I get better, so that next time, I can sing confidently in front of more people. And as it turns out, it’s pretty fun to practice singing with the goal of getting better. And this has been a source of stress-relief for me that is very needed.

Right now, there’s a lot of stress in my life. I have a busy co-parenting schedule with Cory, which means a lot of kid-swapping and time alone with the kids, as well as time to myself. It’s a really good balance, but it does take a lot of mental energy to keep up with. I also have my boyfriend’s schedule and time with his daughter to consider, not to mention keeping up with chores and pet care. My dogs Buddy and Macy and my cat Leo live with Cory, and he takes care of them. I have my dog Pepper, my boyfriend’s dog Dezi, and our cockatiels Pikachu and Eevee living with us at our apartment, and we share the responsibility for taking care of them. Since homemaking and being a stay-at-home mom is what I consider my job, I do most of the chores at the apartment as well. Cory has taken over the vast majority of chores at the house, though I help him with some things still. All in all, I have a lot on my plate, but it’s still a manageable amount of things to take care of.

My stress also comes from challenges with building a relationship with my boyfriend, in the midst of both of us getting divorced and both struggling with mental illness. I’m used to being the one with the “issues,” and now I have to learn a new skill of supporting a partner through these things as well. We have had some incredibly painful experiences as a couple while figuring out these new dynamics together, and even though we’ve made a lot of progress, it’s still not easy.

I love RJ beyond words, and I am committed to being with him forever, just as he is committed to being with me. But that doesn’t make our relationship easy. We have challenges and things that we need to fight through and work hard on. It’s the first time in my life that I’ve been in that position, because things were honestly always so easy with Cory. And that fact alone has its own weight, which can add to my insecurities and stress over this relationship!

What it comes down to is that right now, my stress levels are high and my depression and anxiety are a daily struggle. But if singing “Let It Go” a dozen times in a day makes me feel a little better, then that’s what I’m going to do!

I love learning new things about myself and discovering that other people do similar things—it makes me feel less alone, and more “normal.” So, this is my reminder to go ahead and use hyperfixation as a coping mechanism, even when it feels silly. Because it’s okay to be a little weird and silly! It’s all just part of being human. 🙂

The B Spectrum

I’ve realized something interesting about myself recently. I guess I already knew this on some level, but I never really defined it before. What I realized is that there’s a sort of “goldilocks zone” for my happiness, which I have named the B Spectrum.

On one end of the B Spectrum is Boredom. When I don’t have enough to keep me occupied—physically, mentally, and emotionally—I get bored. And when I’m bored, my anxiety is often triggered. This will lead me to try to make changes in my life to add some excitement, such as a new pet or a move or a new project or goal.

Being a stay-at-home mom keeps me busy in a lot of ways, but they’re not always the right ways. This job—and yes, it is a job—has the unique properties of being utterly exhausting while simultaneously being mind-numbingly dull. Keeping kids safe, fed, and otherwise well-cared-for requires the presence of a responsible, mature, and capable person—but it doesn’t require a whole lot of thinking, or interesting problem-solving, or any sort of mental stimulation, really. Yet it is still completely exhausting to deal with constant requests for menial labor, ridiculous bickering, emotional outbursts, and never-ending (and often disgusting) messes.

So, simply put, I get bored! And then I get antsy and anxious.

On the other end of the B Spectrum is Burnout. When I feel like I have too much on my plate, I get overwhelmed and stressed out. This usually triggers a depression. And then I might react by trying to simplify my life, such as by quitting a project or rehoming a pet. (This might sound terrible to some, but I always make sure that any pets I rehome go to a loving family that will take just as good care of them as I would, if not better. And for the record, I never set out to adopt a pet only to re-home them down the road, this is just a pattern that I’ve noticed, and I’m trying to break it.)

Again, being a stay-at-home mom is exhausting, and frequently does lead to burnout for me. What it comes down to is that I’m doing a job that is very demanding, despite being often unengaging.

Please understand, though—I love being a stay-at-home mom. Yes, it is hard. But I adore my children and it makes me very happy to know that I get to be the one home with them day in and day out during these early years of their lives. I feel very blessed to be able to do this, because I know that not everyone can.

Nevertheless, it honestly isn’t the best job for my mental health, because it triggers both sides of the B Spectrum simultaneously, which exacerbates my anxiety and depression. I can and will continue to find ways to cope with these challenges, because I believe it is worth it. But I also truthfully look forward to my kiddos being in school so that I can have other projects to work on that that challenge and excite me.

In the middle of the B Spectrum is Balance. When I can manage to find Balance between doing too much and not having enough to do, that’s when I feel the best. Right now, with the shifting dynamics happening in my family, I am finding more and more balance.

In some ways, I’m busier than ever. My life is essentially controlled chaos at the moment. I have schedules in place with Cory for who has the kids and when (on evenings and weekends). This means that I finally have regular time that isn’t with the kids, and so does Cory. Both of us are able to do things that we want to do as individuals, and that has been wonderful! That alone has gone a long way towards giving me some more balance between mom-ing and me-ing.

For the most part, boredom is not a problem lately. There’s still depression spells, probably from the stress, but keeping busy is helpful for keeping those at bay. The more pressing issue is making sure that I don’t get burned out, and so far, it feels like I’m staying in that golden zone of Balance for the most part.

I don’t know exactly what my life will look like in the coming months and years, but I feel like I’m moving toward something positive. Some days are better than others, but for right now at least, I’m feeling good. 🙂

All About RJ

*Note: I previously used the pseudonym “Jay” for RJ. So if you see the name Jay anywhere, don’t let it confuse you. It’s the same guy. 😉

I’ve been requested to write a post introducing my readers to my boyfriend, RJ, so here it is!

But before I get into that, I wanted to reiterate some things. If you read my last post, you know that Cory and I have decided to permanently separate. What this means for us is that we’re still best friends and life partners, and even “nesting partners” in many ways, but I also have my own apartment now and we are no longer a couple in a romantic way.

To be clear, this decision to separate has nothing to do with Jay. Well, technically it has something to do with him, because he was basically a catalyst for me to realize that my feelings for Cory are purely platonic. But I’m not leaving Cory for Jay—because I could have continued both relationships and everybody would have been happy and fine with that! We were/are polyamorous, after all.

But anyway. I know that this is a surprising thing to realize after 10 years of marriage and 14 years as a couple, that my feelings are not romantic like I thought they were all this time. But the thing is, people change and grow. Sometimes they can change and grow together as Cory and I have for many years, but sometimes they also grow in ways that are no longer compatible. Whether I have always felt platonic love for Cory, or whether it changed somewhere along the way is something I’m still analyzing, but ultimately the result is the same. We are not in love in a romantic sense, and we still love each other and care for each other deeply, but we no longer fit together as a couple.

This change isn’t a tragedy to us. We don’t see it as a sad thing or a failed marriage, but a beautiful chapter that has ended. We can celebrate it for what it was, while still moving forward onto other chapters in both of our lives.

For our family, this means I still spend my days at the house taking care of the kids, and then after Cory finishes work for the day we have a rotating schedule of some nights where he has the kids, some where I have them, and some where we spend the evening together as a family. I always go back to my apartment after the kids are in bed, where I can have time to myself, and on the weekends we both have time with the kids as well as time to ourselves. Our priority is making this change non-traumatic and comfortable for the kids, and so far, we’ve been successful at that.

Now, more about RJ!

So I met RJ while I was doing the poly dating thing, and he was guy #8 I went out with, out of ten. There were also other guys I talked to but never went out with. It was a very busy six weeks from when I decided to be poly to when I met RJ!

The two guys I went out with after him didn’t turn into anything serious, so he’s the last man standing in that sense. And since I met him, I truly haven’t wanted anybody else anyway, so it works out. We have now essentially become monogamous with each other by choice.

We met the way I met all of my other dating partners, through online dating and specifically OkCupid. He sent me an intro message, and the funny thing about this is that he doesn’t usually do that. He said that when he saw my profile he just knew he had to meet me.

The other funny thing about that is I didn’t always look at my intro messages. I got a lot of messages from matches alone, and intro messages are from people who you haven’t matched with yet. The way that the intro messages work is that you can only see one at a time, so you don’t get to move on to the next one until you either accept or decline the current one. The fact that I just so happened to decide to look at my intro messages that day, and that I just so happened to decline a few of them in order to get to RJ’s message, still feels like such a fateful series of events. It could have so easily happened that we never connected online, but thankfully, we did.

Not only that, but RJ decided to go big or go home on his intro message, and that’s the main reason I decided to respond to it.

In my profile, I had a sentence asking people to please mention manatees if they send me a message, so that I could know that they actually read my profile. That helped a lot to weed out guys who weren’t even willing to put in the two minutes to learn about me before sending me a message!

So RJ’s first message to me went something like this:

“When I see your face, it makes me want to write you love letters until you fall in love with me, and then we’ll go searching for manatees together.”

It was so silly and over the top that I just had to respond!

As soon as we started talking, we hit it off. We talked about everything from “what’s better, coffee or tea?” to “what are you looking for in a relationship right now?” We were both polyamorous, married, and parents. Our connection was instant and amazing!

We planned a date for the very next night, and by the time we met in person, we’d already been talking nonstop (well, other than pausing to sleep!) for more than 24 hours. We’ve talked every day since then, never going longer than a couple of hours between messages.

Our first date was on September 14th at Lazy Dog. We chose a location halfway in between us, since we live about an hour and a half apart. We met pretty late at night, and got snacks and talked for a long time. Then we made out in my car, as was my custom on dates. 😉

The first time we kissed will always be a powerful memory in my mind. It was magical, and it started a fire of love and passion that we’ve only continued to grow since then.  

Our second date was simply me inviting him to my house, which was the next night. He met Cory, and we played board games, then of course we had alone time and were able to get to know each other on a much more intimate level. That night also will always be a very powerful memory for me. It’s the night I really fell in love with him!

Of course, even though I felt what I felt, I was hesitant to truly admit it, even to myself, at that point because it was so fast. I’d known him for less than 36 hours, and I didn’t know him well enough at that point to fully trust that he was genuine with his intentions. I wanted to trust him, but I was still scared because I’d been hurt a few times already by guys I’d dated at that point.

Needless to say, things have only progressed since those first dates. We both fell in love very quickly, and we said those words to each other a week and a half after meeting.

There are so many things to love about RJ. He’s a hopeless romantic, like me. He’s an amazing partner—very considerate, affectionate, supportive, and loving. He’s fun to be around because he’s super silly and also adventurous. He’s emotionally intelligent, and also just intelligent in general. He’s ambitious and capable. He’s a wonderful dad, and loves animals.

We enjoy a lot of things in common, too. He likes writing, watching TV and movies, eating yummy food, camping, going on walks with his dog, and listening to music. Of course, there are also ways that we’re very different. I’m very neat and organized, and I’m big on planning. He’s a bit messy, and he’s more of a dreamer than a planner. He also loves coffee, while I was more of a tea person before I met him—but he’s brought me over to his side of things in that regard! He also brought me over to the dark side when I went from being a stubborn Android user to a happy user of Apple products, because of his influence. 😉

RJ works in IT, and he does a lot of different things within that industry. Some of what he does is coding, and some of what he does is more project management, and then there are other things he does that I just don’t fully understand how to label. So I just simply say that he works in IT, and he does really well for himself and his family.

On that note, he’s currently also in the middle of separating from his wife. This, also, isn’t because of me, although I did act as a catalyst for him just as he did for me. For him, it’s been years in the making and there are more problematic dynamics at play in his marriage. Nevertheless, he hopes to have a good, friendly and caring relationship with his soon-to-be-ex-wife in the future.

His daughter is the most important factor to him in all of this, as she should be. He is doing everything he can to ensure that she is as happy and well-cared for as possible, and that he continues to be heavily involved in her life.

As a couple, RJ and I are I it for the long haul. We have plans to live together soon, and we can both see a future of loving each other for the rest of our lives. He is my life partner, lover, boyfriend, and soul mate. (I still consider Cory my life partner and platonic soul mate as well!)

So that’s pretty much everything about RJ and how my life looks with him in it. We’ve been together for over four months now, and we see each other about every other day. Every day our love grows more mature. I can’t imagine my life without him now, and I hope I never have to.

P.S. Would you look at how cute he is? Just look! *heart eyes*

Help! My Life Is Falling Apart! Just Kidding, Everything Is Fine.

Over the past six months, my husband Cory and I have been slowly separating from each other. This is not what we thought it was or what we called our transformation, at first—”separation.” I’ve said for a very long time that I would never get divorced, and even though that isn’t what’s happening technically, it is essentially the same thing without the legal and financial aspects. Cory and I are officially (though not legally) separating.

What this means, in practical terms, is that I am getting my own apartment. We are very fortunate to be able to afford this on a single income, since I am a stay-at-home mom. And on that note, I will continue to be a stay-at-home mom—I’ll just have a short commute, now! I’ve come up with a schedule that still gives us a lot of time together as a family, as well as individual time with the kids.  

Our separation also means that Cory and I have finally removed all of the romantic forms of affection from our relationship. No more kissing, cuddling, hand-holding, or anything else that either of us wouldn’t do with a platonic friend.  

How did we get here? Sometimes, I still feel shocked by how much has changed in just the past six months.

Everything started with the decision to open our marriage and become polyamorous. When we started that, we literally said the words, “This is not the beginning of the end for our marriage.” We said that we were rock solid, and you know what? We actually, truly were! But as it turns out, there are things that can separate even solid rock. Like an earthquake, for example.

When we opened our marriage, we had a lot of struggles. While we both embraced the idea very quickly as a theory, it was a harder emotional transition than we expected, in practice. Getting through those challenges was part of what pushed us to begin finding ourselves as individuals, outside of the “us” we’d been as a couple for so many years.

As we became more and more independent, we started to slowly face the reality of our true feelings for each other. Bit by bit, we peeled away things that we’d been forcing or doing out of habit for so long. We asked the hard questions, and found some hard answers.

What we discovered is that we are better as platonic partners. The biggest strengths of our relationship are our friendship and our teamwork. The best things about us are how well we get along and enjoy each other’s company, and how well we work together in life and as parents. We are good at communicating, solving problems, making plans, and acting on them. We are good at knowing what needs to be done and doing it, in a way that allows us both to feel balanced. We balance each other’s weaknesses with our strengths. We have fun together, make each other laugh, and know each other incredibly well. We provide each other with emotional support that is invaluable.

All of those things are still true, and I hope they will never change. What is changing, though, is that we are finally accepting the reality that what we have is no longer a “marriage” in spirit. It’s still an enduring and deeply committed partnership, but it’s no longer at the same level of intimacy as it used to be. Emotionally and physically, our marriage is over.

Coming to terms with this has been confusing and difficult for me. One of my core beliefs about myself was that I would always stay happily married. I was absolutely determined for this to be the case, and truthfully, I am stubborn enough that it could have been. I could have stubbornly held on to the ideal and stayed in my marriage for the rest of my life. I could have been content that way, I truly believe that.

But ultimately, Cory and I have decided to let it go. I believe that there is more for both of us in this life, and I want us to be free to live our best lives.

Still, the incredibly stubborn side of me is finding it very hard to fully accept. I’m trying to find a way to tell my friends and family, and honestly, I am scared to do that. I feel embarrassed. I feel like they are going to judge me, and think I’m ruining my life. Sometimes I wonder if I am ruining my life. I feel like they are going to see this as a tragedy, and I feel awkward that I don’t see it as a tragedy at all. Do I fake a somber mood when I tell people? Ugh, the whole thing just gives me a whole lot of anxiety. It also makes it feel real and that is scary in its own way.

The path my life has taken now makes me question marriage and “forever” love in general. I swore many times that I would love Cory forever. And to be fair, I have not broken that vow because I do love him still. We love each other very much and care for each other deeply. That hasn’t changed.

Yet, there was a time when I felt very much “in love” with Cory, and that part has changed. So, now, when I tell my boyfriend Jay the same thing, that I love him and I always will… is that meaningless? Will I stop feeling this total adoration and desire and passion and attraction for him someday, too? The thought is frightening and saddening, because these feelings that I have for RJ are amazing. I don’t want to lose them, nor do I want to make promises that I can’t keep.

Thinking about this now, I can admit that I have no control over my feelings of attraction or desire for RJ. I can’t guarantee that they will never fade—I can only hope that they won’t. I have a hard time imagining that they ever could, simply because of how overpoweringly strong they are. I have never felt passion and need for someone like I do for RJ, and the best part is that he feels the same way for me.

But regardless of that aspect of our relationship, I can promise that I will always love him. Even if somehow our relationship lost its romantic and sexual sides, I would still love him. He has become my best friend and confidante, a person I want to spend unlimited amounts of time with, a person who knows and cares for me so deeply and who I know and care for just as much. We are partners. I will always love him and want him to be happy, and that is a promise I can keep.

The biggest comfort I have in regards to my marriage to Cory is that these things are also still true for us. Cory is still my best friend, too. He’s still a person I never get tired of spending time with. He still knows and cares for me deeply, and I feel the same for him. We are still partners.

Our song over the past year or so has been “The Bones” by Marren Morris. The song goes like this:

“We’re in the homestretch of the hard times
We took a hard left, but we’re alright
Yeah, life sure can try to put love through it, but
We built this right, so nothing’s ever gonna move it

When the bones are good, the rest don’t matter
Yeah, the paint could peel, the glass could shatter
Let it rain ’cause you and I remain the same
When there ain’t a crack in the foundation
Baby, I know any storm we’re facing
Will blow right over while we stay put
The house don’t fall when the bones are good

Call it dumb luck, but baby, you and I
Can’t even mess it up, although we both try
No, it don’t always go the way we planned it
But the wolves came and went and we’re still standing.”

I love this song. It gave me and Cory strength and faith in our partnership, when things were difficult. We knew that everything would be okay, because the foundation of our relationship is strong. And this is still true. Our partnership has shifted from romantic to platonic, but it is still there and it is still strong. Did it go the way we planned it? Nope. But we’re still standing.

When I met RJ, I said I found my second soul mate. At that time, I wasn’t aware of or ready to face the truth of my feelings for Cory, so I meant that they were both my soul mates in a romantic sense. Now, I still believe that I have two soul mates. But now, I can accept and understand that not all soul mates are romantic ones. It doesn’t make a relationship any less valuable because it’s based on platonic love rather than romantic love. Love is love, and I am so thankful for how much of it I have in my life.

A Look Back at 2021

In the past year, I didn’t post much here on I Do… Now What? It was a busy year! Here’s what I’ve been up to:

In January, not much happened except that I spent a lot of time managing my horse, Apple. We moved her a few times, trying out different boarding facilities, and I also did a lot of training sessions and lessons with her in the beginning of the year.

In February and March, I taught my final Hypnobabies class, after which I “retired” as a Hypnobabies instructor in favor of focusing on completing and teaching my own birth education course, which is called Better Birthing. I completed building my comprehensive online course and launched it, which was a big accomplishment for me.

In March, we got our puppy Moosey. He’s now fully grown and he’s very sweet, a fast learner, and gets along amazingly well with Macy. He is still learning manners, potty training, and respecting personal space, but I’m confident that after he gets through his teenage stage he will be a well-behaved dog.

In April, Cory and I got our first Covid vaccinations which we were very excited about! That month is also when we got our pony, AJ, and decided to start trying to sell our horse, Apple. We were able to find a new home for Apple fairly quickly, which was a relief.  

In May, our kitty Luna passed away. She had chronic asthma which was no longer responding to treatment, so we chose to end her suffering. We said goodbye in the comfort of our own home with a mobile vet.

In June, we started trying to put Cody and Abi in some extracurricular activities to help them socialize. Unfortunately, Cody was not into it, and while Abigail loved her dance classes and gymnastics, we only continued for a few months because of concerns about Covid resurging. That month, I also started fostering kittens through a local rescue, which I did for a few months and plan to possibly do again in the future.

In July, I turned 29. We rehomed our parakeets, Oliver and Oakley, who absolutely hated me and would not let me touch them. I’d been accepting that they’d just be cage-bound and that was fine, but at this point I finally decided that everyone would probably be happier if we found them a different home, and the home I found for them is a great one.

At the very end of July, Cory and I decided to “open” our marriage and we became polyamorous. That was a big shift, needless to say!

In August, we both started dating other people and the poly adventures began. Cody finished homeschool Kindergarten, and then after a short break I started first grade with him. At the end of the month Cory turned 30.

In September, Abigail turned four. I also met my boyfriend, RJ and we fell in love.

In October, Amelia turned one and Cody turned seven. We rehomed our bunnies as well, Kit and Karma, because my allergies were becoming less bearable. As always, I found them an amazing home where I know they will be loved and well-cared-for. On Halloween, I went to an exotic bird store just for fun to play with the parrots, and accidently fell in love with a cockatiel. I couldn’t stop thinking about him, and ended up buying him later. I’ve named him Pikachu, and he is a wonderful bird. He’s very friendly, cuddly, and makes many lovely sounds (as well as some that aren’t as lovely, but that’s part of the deal with birds).

In November, Cody got his first Covid vaccine, and we started catching the kids up on their vaccines for school as well, since we had at that point decided to be done with homeschooling after this school year. That’s right, my kiddos are going to public school next year! Hallelujah!

In December, we ended up selling our pony, AJ. We are now horseless and for the time being that feels like the best thing for us. Ultimately, neither Apple nor AJ were the well-behaved trail horse that I was looking for when I started this journey. Both had training and behavioral issues that I wasn’t motivated to take on, and while I learned a ton from my brief time as a horse owner, I am glad to be done with that for now.

In December I also met my new puppy, Pepper. I know, I know—another dog? Yes, another dog.

As you may have noticed, most of my updates this year are involving animals. We started the year with one dog, two cats, two birds, two bunnies, and a horse. We ended the year with two dogs (and one puppy on hold at the shelter), one cat, and a bird. Why so much pet shuffling? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s the long explanation of how it all happened:

While I really enjoyed having Macy as our only dog, which was the situation for about eight months, I fell in love with my parents’ new puppy in February. She was their second dog of the same breed, which is an American Bully, and both the puppy and their adult dog are absolutely wonderful. I found myself with a burning desire to have an American Bully of my own.

For background info, Macy is an American Staffordshire Terrier, and both breeds fall under the category colloquially known as “pit bulls.” However, American Bullies are a newer breed and they are specifically bred for their incredibly gentle and calm demeanor. That’s what I fell in love with and that’s exactly what I got in Moosey. He’s still an adolescent, so he can definitely have moments of being extremely, well, bullish. He’s bowled people over a few times, which of course is not ideal! But, he’s slowly learning to behave himself a little more politely, and is overall the sweetest and cuddliest of dogs. I know when he grows up he will be more gentle and well-behaved—but even as an energetic pup, he’s a total sweetheart. We love our Moose!

Now, I adopted Pepper just a few days ago, and the main reason was that I wanted a small dog again. She’s a Pomeranian and American Eskimo Dog mix, very similar to our old dog Sky. I had hesitated getting another small dog because of the situation with our old dog Lila and Macy. They did not get along and we ultimately had to rehome Lila, which broke my heart. But in Pepper’s case, I specifically looked for a particular personality which is submissive but not overly fearful when meeting other dogs. They met before we adopted her, and it went great. Since I brought Pepper home, she’s gotten along perfectly with both Macy and Moosey. Moosey is a little rough at times for her, but personality-wise, they are an excellent match. Moosey gets along with any dog he’s ever met, so that’s no surprise!

As far as re-homing our parakeets and bunnies, those were both decisions that we didn’t take lightly, but ultimately, we knew that both our family and the animals would be better off by re-homing. I have very high standards when it comes to finding new homes for any of my pets, and in both cases I was sure that the people I chose would take just as good care of them as I did.

The Apple and AJ situation was more complicated. Apple was supposed to be my trail horse, but she had a lot more training issues and personality quirks than I was really prepared to deal with as a relatively beginner-level rider. While I did end up gaining a lot of valuable experience from her, and I got to the point where I felt confident handling and riding her, I still wanted another horse that would be better suited for the kids to ride and enjoy. I decided to go with a pony since I felt it would be less intimidating for the kids to ride.

When I bought AJ, I thought he was going to be the perfect, mellow, trail pony for both me and the kids. I decided to sell Apple because AJ was big enough for me to ride, and two horses was a lot, both financially and time-and-effort-wise. I found Apple a home that was committed to continuing her training, and I feel good about where she ended up.

Unfortunately, it quickly became apparent that AJ also had more training issues and personality quirks than I expected, so riding him on the trail was a huge challenge. Still, AJ has a wonderful personality and is incredibly sweet and affectionate, and I was able to just enjoy spending time with him and putting the kids on him for rides around the arena for a few months. By the end of the year, though, I decided that financially it would be better to find him a new home. He is now the pony of a sweet little girl who is learning horsemanship—and he lives in pasture with other horses, and an experienced owner. I am very happy with his new home.

I’ve already explained the sad situation with Luna, and the unexpected situation with Pikachu, so that’s all of it! It’s been a lot of changes to our little “zoo” but ultimately, my goal is now to keep our number of pets stable. Animals are a lot of work to take care of, not to mention expensive. My plate is full! Now I just need to avoid visiting pet stores at all costs! 😉

The animal lover in me is always battling the practical side of me, which knows that I would regret getting any more pets at this point. But Pika and Pepper are truly special animals, and I don’t regret adding them to my family. I really did fall in love with both of them upon first contact! Out of all the cockatiels in the store, Pika was the one who clearly wanted me to pick her up, and then didn’t want me to put her down when it was time to go. She also snuggled on my chest and make happy chirping noises at me, and really, who could resist such tactics?! As the saying goes, “I choose you, Pikachu!” We both chose each other, it would seem.

Pepper was just a happy little face looking back at me from her kennel at the animal shelter, and when I took her out for a visit she immediately jumped into my lap and wanted to stay there. I figured she was always that friendly—until I saw how she tried to run away from the shelter volunteer who came to put her back! It turns out, she is friendly, but she’s also cautious, and for whatever reason she just trusted and bonded to me right away. Since I’ve brought her home, she has been amazingly well-behaved and is learning the house rules extremely quickly. She’s also a snuggle bug and a wonderful companion. <3

Anyway. That’s been my year. My word of the year for 2021 was “balance” and I found a lot of different applications for that as the year progressed. Balance has been important in managing three children, especially getting through the very challenging high-need-baby-stage (which has now transitioned to the high-need-toddler-stage).

Balance has also been very important in my poly journey, as one can probably imagine. Managing multiple relationships at once, while also taking care of my family and home, has been quite the balancing act!

Balance, for me, has meant knowing when to say “no” or “goodbye,” and put certain things down, so that I can better focus on the things that I want to keep in my life. Balance has also meant letting go of perfectionism, and knowing that my best is really enough.

As I go into the year 2022, I feel the word “becoming” speaking to me the loudest. There have been so many changes in my life in the past six months alone, and they are all part of something new—a new stage of my life. I feel like I am finally becoming more truly myself. And this year, I can’t wait to start living that out more and more each day. As always, I’m excited to see what the next year holds!

Happy New Year to everyone out there! I hope this year holds wonderful things for you.

We Were Happy

For anybody who doesn’t know, I’m a huge Taylor Swift fan. I’ve loved her and her music since I was 15 years old, and she wasn’t much older. Cory is also a huge fan, and our mutual love for her has been a special part of our relationship.

When we got married, we used multiple songs of hers in our wedding. Cory and the wedding party went down the aisle to “Ours,” and I walked down to “Love Story.” Cory danced with his mom to “Mary’s Song (Oh My My My)” and I danced with my dad to “Never Grow Up.”

We’ve also been to several of her concerts together—Fearless, Speak Now, and Red. They were all fantastic, of course! We even had tickets for 1989, but ended up having to resell them because we had baby Cody at that point and he was insanely high-need so we didn’t feel able to leave him. Then we had Abi and couldn’t afford tickets to Reputation, but when Lover came out we got tickets for that one—which were unfortunately cancelled due to Covid. But the point is, we adore her!

I’ve stayed up until midnight for her album drops numerous times, watched her documentary twice, and her Reputation concert on Netflix many times. I know every lyric to every song she’s ever put out, and I could recognize her voice or one of her songs within seconds of hearing it. About 75% of the time I listen to music, it’s hers. Obsessed is a good word, I would say!

Anyway, that went down a rabbit hole and Taylor Swift wasn’t actually the topic I was planning on writing about today. But it was good opener, at least.

All of that to say, the other day I was listening to Swifty in the car as usual, and “Love Story” came on. Immediately I was taken back to my wedding day, and I felt a lot of happy memories about that time in my life. I remember how excited I was on my wedding day, and how deeply in love I was with Cory.

The next song that came on was a new one, called “We Were Happy.” Some of the lyrics that hit me most with this song are these:

“When it was good, baby, it was good, baby
We showed ’em all up
No one could touch the way we laughed in the dark
Talkin’ ’bout your daddy’s farm we were gonna buy someday
And we were happy
We were happy

Oh, I hate those voices
Tellin’ me I’m not in love anymore
But they don’t give me choices
And that’s what these tears are for
‘Cause we were happy
We were happy”

This song hit me hard, because I can relate so strongly to it. The reality with my marriage to Cory is that nothing is wrong. Nothing went wrong, nothing bad happened to make things change between us. We still love each other, and damnit, we have had an absolutely amazing relationship for as long as we’ve been together. Despite the doubters early in our relationship who told us we were too young to be in love and too young to get married, we have been rock solid for our entire relationship and marriage.

We’ve had fights and struggles, but we’ve never doubted our choice to get married or to be together. We’ve never regretted building this life together. We are soul mates, and I believe that our paths being intertwined was always part of God’s plan.

So my struggle lately has been reconciling those truths with the way that I feel now about us. Now that I’ve found a powerful romantic, emotional, and physical relationship with someone new, it has made it painfully clear to me that I don’t feel the same way towards Cory anymore. I love him and care about him very deeply—and I treasure our friendship, the way we work so well as a team doing life together, and the family we’ve created. But as far as romance and physical affection, I don’t feel the desire or even openness to those aspects of our relationship anymore.

I have learned that soul mates aren’t always romantic, and that romantic love doesn’t always last forever. I used to say that love is a choice. That in marriage especially, love is a choice and that when the feelings of “being in love” fade, which is natural and normal over time, the choice to continue to love the other person becomes the driving force of keeping a marriage together. And keeping our marriage together has been one of the most important things to me, for the past 14 years—even before we got married, I always said that I would never get divorced.

Now I’m not saying that I want to get divorced now. We still are happy—it’s just in a different way. There are a lot of reasons to stay married to Cory, even if our marriage is a platonic one now. We have a family and want to keep it intact—separation from my parents who shared custody of me as a child was incredibly traumatic for me. That’s not to say that other families aren’t better off with the parents being separated or divorced! In many cases, I believe that is the best choice for everyone involved. But in my case, I’m not there and I don’t know if I ever will be. Because we live very harmoniously as a family right now, and everyone seems happiest with the situation as it stands.

But what I am coming to understand is that marriages and relationships in general sometimes aren’t meant to last forever—and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean the marriage or relationship was a failure, especially when there are so many beautiful and happy memories to treasure in the relationship. I think it’s okay to celebrate what was and still accept that it is no longer that way, without seeing it as some kind of tragedy. It’s okay to say “we were happy,” and view that as a positive season in one’s life, even if it’s now over.

In my case, I’m still working through what it means for the romantic side of my marriage to be over. What does it mean for our future together? What are we now, and what does that look like in our day-to-day lives?

I am embracing the non-traditional more and more these days. I am embracing that every relationship can be whatever you make it, regardless of what other people think or what society expects. Cory and I can be married and choose to have absolutely no sexual relationship—and we can still kiss each other goodnight. We can sleep in the same bed when we want to, or not when we don’t. We can tell each other “I love you” and be physically affectionate, even though we aren’t “romantic.” What is being “romantic” really anyway? It’s for us to define (or not), and the way we interact can be however we’re both comfortable.

I’m just fine with all of that, and so far it feels like we are finding our new normal and it’s working out pretty well.

Where the wrench starts to get thrown into the machine is when I have powerful desires to connect my life to my boyfriend, RJ’s, more and more, and it’s not necessarily compatible with the life I’m currently committed to living with Cory. More than anything, I want to live with him, and Cory may not be ready to accept him into our lives on such a full-time basis, at least not yet. Even if Cory was ready, RJ isn’t quite settled on what he wants to do at this point in his life. If I didn’t have a family of my own, I would have so many more options. But of course, my family is my life and they have to come first, before my own desires.

When I think about my future now, there are a lot of unknowns. I know that RJ will be in it, and of course so will Cory and the kids. I just don’t know yet how all of the puzzle pieces will fit together. Half of me is afraid to hope for more with RJ, and the other half of me is afraid to not hope for that. Co-habitation—that’s the dream at this point. Is it a reckless dream? Impossible? I don’t know. But for now, I’ll just keep on dreaming.

Welcome to the Circus

I’ve been wanting to write a post for a while now about what my day-to-day life is like in this current season. Well, actually, since every day is a little different, it’s more like my week-to-week life. And it’s a lot! Let’s just say it’s a good thing I know how to balance and juggle at the same time, because this circus is my life now.

My schedule these days is highly dependent on when I get to see my boyfriend, RJ. And when I’m not with him, I’m just going about my life as usual.

We both juggle family obligations, which for me includes taking care of my three children, one of whom is homeschooled this year and one of whom is a toddler. Cory is an equal co-parent with me when he’s not working, but of course when he’s working it’s my job to maintain the kiddos. He works from home and has a very flexible schedule which allows him to start later in the morning when needed, and this gives me more options for being away from home in the early mornings. I also have pets to take care of, although Cory helps with that too.

RJ has a nesting partner as well who shares parenting duties with him for their kiddo, but typically he’s responsible for school pickup and afternoon supervision, as well as dinner and bedtime most nights. And he has a full-time job which is remote but involves an inconsistent schedule, sometimes working on weekends. Usually he starts his workday early, by 7 AM.

We have a lot of moving parts to work around, but so far we’ve managed to make it work impressively well. What that looks like is, on average, spending the night together every 2-3 nights. I’ll stay at his place usually once or twice per week, and he’ll stay at my place usually twice per week. But the reality is, there’s really not much that’s typical or predictable about our scheduling except that we simply fit in time together as often as we can.

When I go to his place, I either take my baby with me or go by myself and leave all the kids at home with Cory. My main consideration with whether or not to bring Mia with me is about breastfeeding, since I have mostly weaned her at this point but I still want to continue morning and bedtime nursings whenever possible.

Sometimes I go over in time to have dinner with him and his kiddo, and sometimes I arrive after bedtime. Usually I leave early in the morning, around 6:30 or 7, so that he can get started with his workday and I can get home to take care of my kiddos so that Cory can start his workday as well.

There are also weekends when I take my whole family out to his area, since Cory’s parents live very close to him. Then they stay the night at his parents’ house while I stay with RJ, and I shuttle back and forth to help take care of Mia during the days. Cody and Abi are happy to play with Grammy all day long, and she is happy to oblige, so this makes weekends like this much easier for us.

When RJ comes over to my house, he occasionally brings his kiddo with him on the weekends, but most often it’s just him. Usually he comes over after my kiddos are in bed, but on weekends in particular he’s more able to come over earlier in the afternoon. If he has to work the next day and his partner is able to handle school pickup, he can work from my house. I’ve set up a desk for him in my guest room. On other days, he’ll leave super early in the morning—around 5 AM—so that he can get home in time to start his workday and also pickup his kiddo from school later in the day.

A lot of our time together is spent simply being at each other’s homes, with kids and partners often present. We like watching TV and movies, cooking, and eating together. Sometimes we do things with the kids, or play board games. Less often, we’ll go on actual dates, which are always fun! No matter what we’re doing together, we’re happy just to be in each other’s presence.

While I spend a little less than half of my nights with RJ now, I still don’t feel like it’s enough. So often, we get only a few hours of waking time together on any given visit. It’s just the reality of the situation with both of us having full-time jobs (yes, being a stay-at-home mom is a full-time job, and then some!) and also living well over an hour apart. That part really does suck!

Yet even if we had more time together, I somehow doubt that it would be enough for me. What I want more than anything is for him to live with me. I think then I would be as satisfied as possible! Well, I want that almost more than anything. One thing I want more than that is for him to be truly happy and live where and how he really wants to. If that happens to be with me someday, then I would be beyond thrilled. As it stands for the time being, we are still just trying to get all the time together we feasibly can.

My life is a little messy, busy, and chaotic—but it’s also very fulfilling and I would be hard-pressed to think of a better life for me. I have everything I need and more; my husband, my kids, my home, my fur-babies and feather-baby, and now… my love. With him, my life feels complete and whole. If that comes with a little chaos, then so be it.