Ex-etiquette, we all have something to learn

Photo by Paul Wesson Photography

Photo by Paul Wesson Photography


It took about two years for my ex and I to find ex-etiquette that seems to work for us. Once we got past the bitterness, the awkwardness and the newness of everything we found a place that has the greatest level of harmony for us all.


I almost jeopardized that in a new relationship who just didn’t understand that two adults who no longer love one another CAN and SHOULD have a civil and friendly relationship for their children’s sake. Fortunately I woke up and saw the effect it was having before any permanent damage was done. After a sincere apology and open communication things feel even more harmonious. This is all I could ask for my girls.


The children who seem to be the most well adapted to the new arrangements are the ones who see their parents speaking in civil, if not friendly, manners while always making the children feel at peace. If they can attend an event and easily transition between both parents (as well their respected spouses/relatives) there will be less unnecessary stress upon the children. Imagine being the child who can expect both of their parents, and whoever else is a part of their lives, to be ever present – just as they might in a traditional nuclear household? It IS possible. I’ve seen it.


Picture this: Christmas Eve; it’s dad’s week to have the children. His parents and significant other will be arriving for dinner momentarily. Mom and her new husband arrive at the door, with dessert and a bottle of wine in hand. Everyone has agreed that the traditional Christmas celebrations centre around the children, therefore, everyone has agreed to set differences aside and celebrate WITH the children. Mom and step-dad leave at bedtime and head home, waiting for the kids’ call to say they are up and ready for opening gifts from Santa. Mom and step-dad head back over for the magical moments of Christmas morning. Later that day, dad and significant other troop to mom’s house with the kids to finish exchanging gifts and have Christmas dinner with mom and step-dad’s extended family. This may sound absurd to some, but I have witnessed a very similar scenario, to which I was included as extended family.


We may not realistically ever achieve even a semblance of this, but can strive for something like it.  I think as human beings we find anger the most difficult to let go of. However, the negative energy associated with anger is much more draining and spreads much more than we can ever imagine. Sometimes it is necessary to establish firm boundaries so that the situations that anger us become fewer and farther between. But ultimately, if we can look beyond and still follow the course of action in the best interests of our children, everyone will be happier in the end.


If you’re trying to find that middle ground of forgiveness and compromise, perhaps there are some resources that would be helpful. Is there a book you would recommend in navigating these choppy waters?


I’m currently reading “Ex-etiquette for parents – Good behavior After a Divorce or Separation”, by Jann Blackstone-Ford and Sharyl Jupe. These two women are friends in co-parenting. They write a national advice column: Ex-Etiquette 


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Finding our new normal

The grieving process has so many aspects to it. We grieve the loss of our loved one. We grieve the loss of our future as we envisioned it. We grieve the loss of our daily normal life as we knew it.

For those of us directly effected by that normal daily life it can be the most challenging, emotional, exhausting part of grief.

When my ex-husband and I split up 6 years ago this was most definitely true for me and our girlies.

When we lost my 59 year old grandmother suddenly to liver disease 25 years ago, this was certainly true for my grandfather.

Since losing my 59 year old mother after a short illness with cancer 4 weeks ago, this is absolutely true for my father.

Nothing prepares us for the grief or loss in such circumstances. It is raw. It is ever present. It comes in waves. And it overcomes us.

There are no tried and true answers. There is no remedy for grief. Time is the ultimate healer. Yet, I do try to assist this process along.

Holidays and special occasions bring with them added intensity to feelings. Some of our traditions and rituals bring great comfort with the wash of happy memories that come with them. Others bring an unanticipated painful flood of raw grief.

It’s not possible to stop the hurting, nor is it healthy to try to do so. However, I have found that creating new memories and traditions that will be associated with them have brought comfort. The things that I have found most challenging to face, I tried to change in some way. Letting someone new take it on, or doing it in a new way, and creating a joyful association with the new rituals that will continue with our new normal.

The firsts are always the toughest. This will be our first Christmas without my mom. We will all be gathered in my home, which became the new tradition after my girlies and I moved back to Nova Scotia. Every Christmas that I have them home with me, we host and the girls get to sleep in their own beds before waking up to the spoils of Santa’s mid-night visit. Christmases without my children are very different, and intentionally so.

This year I will prepare mom’s Christmas brunch on the eve. We’ve asked my grandfather to provide a soup for Christmas Eve that he hasn’t cooked for us since he remarried. Mom won’t be here to overfill the stockings with her little extras that could fill a stocking each on their own. I decided to take care of everyone’s stockings myself rather than try to recruit help when no one is in the spirit. And this year my sister, dad & I will prepare the feast without mom’s singing to keep us inspired.

There are gifts under the tree from mom. These will be emotional and special in her all-to-obvious absence. It’s also far too reminiscent of a Christmas long ago, when the three of us kids unwrapped some very special knits that mom’s mom had completed, right down to the wrappings before she became ill herself.

Yet, it will be the first Christmas in six years that dad will have all of his children under the same roof as he. The first ever that all of his children and grandchildren will be. It will be the first that we are all together with my grandfather (mom’s dad) and wife, and my uncle (mom’s brother), just like the many Christmases after we lost Nanny.

Family drawing together to guide one another through a difficult and bittersweet time. Drawing upon the children for the joyful spirit that most of us aren’t naturally inclined to this year, we’ll make it so for the girlies.

Separation. Loss. Redemption. Love. (Writing prompt: @copyblogger)

I have tucked this writing prompt away for several days stewing over it. The timing of it is nearly impeccable. In three days my divorce will be effective. My divorce, that has been three years in proceeding, five years coming (since separating), and many more in the making. While I have moved forward, there is still always a part of this process hanging in the background darkening the edges of my being. I look forward to celebrating that cloud being lifted. Celebrating with a life partner whose priority has always been to ease (never cause) my pain.


The separation started long before we split up. Emotionally detaching in preparation for the inevitable. When it came time to divide our household, I felt prepared and ready. Or so I thought.


The loss came with an unexpected flip-side of relief. While I grieved the loss of our dreams, of our family unit and all that I had envisioned for us and especially for our children, I was relieved that finally a decision had been made… that the endless trying to make it work, that the unbearable feeling of hopelessness, was over. With those losses have come many, many more gains.


Redemption came with knowledge. Knowledge of that which I really need to be happy. What I learned from my failed my marriage: what I can and cannot compromise on. I learned what is really important to me. I learned what I should have known – before I ever married in the first place.

The redemption came when I found everything that I needed, and recognized it thanks to my past experiences.


Love came at the least expected time. It came while neither of us were looking for it. While both of us were content – separately, with the direction each of our own lives were heading. It came when accepting what we’d found meant moving in an entirely new and unanticipated direction. Love came when we were ready.

Progress in this journey we call life

After missing so many weeks of writing blog posts, it’s time to make it happen. Perhaps looking at what’s been happening recently will help me to get motivated/inspired or simply able to take action!

Life has gotten really busy, and there is a lot of progress worth noting:

  • we continue the quest to sell our house in order to move into a bigger house with capacity for an in-law suite, on lakefront. This has kept us the busiest, making improvements to the house to make it more sell-able. All are projects that were on our list that we were continuously slogging through. Since listing in May we’ve completed most, taking years off the timeline. There have been many viewings, but so far no bites.
  • My sister is settling in with us and our family is reshaping a little. It’s all good, but it sure would be nice to be done with the viewings and to have more space (and that lake to jump in every morning!)
  • I am officially closing a chapter in my life that brought a lot of heavy emotions and stress, the official documents arrived today, and court issued certificate will come in a few weeks. This is a huge weight lifted that will hopefully allow our family to move forward more.
  • Finally another sega is being closed with a settlement hopefully forthcoming in the near future from my car accident.
  • Working with my RMT, chiropractor/ART, and family physician I am getting back to a more active life, with less pain and feeling (bit by bit) more like myself again
  • I bought a new bike (upright city cruiser), and sold my mountain bike to pay for it. I can now ride without neck or shoulder pain, and have started cycle-commuting again!
  • I am becoming more involved with advocacy efforts once more
  • Contemplating my future and hopefully moving into the career I will grow with
  • with things feeling more settled I am ready for a bigger challenge, full-time work, etc.

To hell and back, again and again, and again…

For a long time I’ve been wanting to tackle some big issues with my writing. These are not easy discussions to be had, with others, or with myself. However, even while in the midst of them I tried to be open and share what I was going through for one simple reason: there is no need to be ashamed, especially when you are not in the wrong. Plain and simple we NEED to talk about these things. My goal in sharing my experiences is not to seek sympathy, nor commiserate, but to present an opportunity for open dialogue, to reach out to those who need to know they are not alone in their experiences.

I am going to write a series of posts. They won’t share dirty details, well at least not any identifying ones… I can’t promise how much will be left out, in the interest of illustrating and sharing the reality of these stories – and generating discussion amongst others who have been there, are there now, continue to deal with them, etc.

Dan Pearce of Single Dad Laughing inspired me to finally share my stories. He wrote a post about his journey(s) through hell, and why he’d never change things. I’ve always felt the same way: every experience I had has made me the person I am today. As much as I wish NEVER for anyone I care about (or despise for that matter) to experience some of the pain that I have, I wouldn’t undo any of it. They’ve all been learning experiences, and some have resulted in a better me than I could have ever become intensionally.

All that said and yet I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. My experiences have been (without doubt) both painful and stressful, but I do not mistake them for much greater hardships that others endure and survive. In the worst of my experiences and heartaches, I’ve often found myself thankful that I am not going through that much worse experience of ___ (whatever I may imagine to be worse than my own present state at the time) ___.

My plan is that I will write a series of posts, in no particular order, and with no particular deadline (I believe I must feel innately compelled to write about the particular experience at the time that I tackle it). Here’s a little idea of what’s to come:

  • Bullying:
      • my experiences as a child of 9-11 in a community where I was technically in the minority, while still a part of the greater society’s majority.
      • my experiences as the new girl in a junior high school
      • work place harassment
      • the parent’s great fear of seeing one of their own become a victim of a bully
  • Infidelity and all of the complexities that come along with two very different yet familiar experiences
  • Separation & Divorce
  • Chronic pain
  • Depression

I welcome those who feel so inclined to share their own stories or suffering and overcoming, whether they be related or no.

Children & divorce

I’m going to offer just a handful of my observations as a soon-to-be-divorced parent: children are far more insightful than we ever give them credit for; there are considerable differences in how siblings view their lives; as the primary parent with whom they reside for more than 85% of the time dad’s weekends when the kids are away CAN (and should) be spent doing whatever suits my fancy.

My nine-year-old was five when we split, my seven-year-old, just three. For more of Seven’s life her dad and I have not been a family, than for the portion of her life that we were a nuclear unit. I rarely hear lamenting from her of how much better it would be if we were all still a family. Her sister says it less now than she used to, but it’s still ultimately what she would wish. I’m not sure what that picture looks like in her mind, but suspect it’s a slight distortion of reality as we once knew it.

Seven’s artistic renditions of family pictures almost seem to include her dad as an after-thought. She’s never been one to talk about him in any serious sort of way. She thinks nothing of skipping one of her bi-weekly weekend visits (he lives 3.5 hours drive from us), and she doesn’t miss me when she’s gone, even for extended stays. Someone once asked her recently if she missed me while I was away on work travel for a week. Without hesitation she reported no. This is just the way it is. It’s really the only way she knows.

Her sister on the other-hand, not only would have missed me, but would have wanted very much to assure me that she did, so I’d know just how important I am to her. Seven just has the confidence that she doesn’t have to tell me, I’ll just know.

As we’ve all grown accustomed to our new lives things have changed. While I struggled for the first year with being “on” 24/7 and needed those weekends to myself so desperately, now we’ve all come so far. There are less crying jags (on all of our parts). We all feel more settled into our new routines. And I miss my babies terribly while they are gone. Don’t get me wrong I still need and appreciate having a little time-off when someone else gets to be the primary parent. In fact I probably take better advantage of the time, but I find myself wishing more for the normalcy of a single household where our lives are less divided. It’s difficult to describe exactly. The more content we all are with our new lives, the more I want of it.