Category Archives: Ginger Emas


The Divorce Diva is In, Part II

Thank God for Girlfriends and Family

Some things came much easier following my divorce. I found it a relief to be living authentically – no more pretending that everything was fine; no more struggles and resentment at home. I was able to talk with my girlfriends with a freedom and honesty that had been somewhat strained before. And they welcomed my stories and sobbing and even my loving support of Jon. Yes, they thought it was odd, but no one judged me or called me crazy – to my face, anyway. 

How to tell my family was a little harder to figure out.  I am the only person who has ever gotten a divorce in the entire history of my genealogy. I didn’t think they’d understand. I thought they would tell me to try harder. But when I told my sisters and brothers and my mom and dad, I received unconditional love and emotional support. Well, to be perfectly honest, my dad was not happy. He wanted someone to blame, and it’s taken many years for me to convince him that there’s really no one to be mad at. He still thinks it’s weird to be friends with your ex. That’s okay; it is. But all in all, everyone dealt with our divorce with care and kindness, and extended that to Jon as well.

A Child’s View

How to tell our son became the overpowering question. Jon and I spoke for hours about the best way to tell him (together), the choice of words to use, where and when … and how to explain his “why?”  It’s worth spending a lot of time on this … after five years, my son still remembers the exact moment of the telling, the exact place he was sitting, his own perception of what we said, how we looked, how he felt. I wish I had a video camera to see how close to reality his version is! We also paid very close attention to see how our separation would affect his mood, his conversation, his schoolwork. We didn’t know if he needed a professional to talk to – hey, we’d been doing it for years! – so we took him for a session and learned that he was adjusting really well, but that he might feel the impact now and then, years from now, at different points in his life, and we should continue to check in with a therapist. We do.

The Evolution of Divorce

Like a marriage, a divorce evolves, too. It’s been five years, and What’s Next has turned into What’s Now. Jon is an involved, empathetic, loving parent, and a helpful and compassionate co-parent with me. And believe me, I’ve needed that during the teenage years! I am a strong presence and partner in Jon’s life, too. I believe I am a better person for knowing Jon, for having been married to him, and I feel honored to have created with him the kind of relationship we have … out of the divorce, a real friendship.

What I Know Now:   

…that divorce is not always a tragedy. It does not mean that your child will automatically have a more difficult life. Sometimes it is the best, healthiest path for a family to take, especially when the marriage itself is unhealthy. 

…that love does not conquer all. It is powerful, but no one can change another person; they have to do that for themselves.

…that you can disagree with – and even fire – your lawyer if you are not on the same page philosophically. Interview several lawyers, and find one whose practice matches the way you want to proceed with your divorce. 

…that the people who love you will support your decision with kindness.

…that anger, resentment and hurt suck the energy out of you. The sooner we let those emotions go the healthier and more vibrant we feel. 

…that divorce is one of those rare opportunities to use the highest character traits God has given you — the power to really forgive your ex and yourself – and the compassion to accept your ex for who he is.

…that if you have children, it will be SO MUCH EASIER if you can have an amicable relationship with your ex, for schedules, carpools, expenses, adolescent issues, graduations, weddings, grandchildren… in some ways, it’s still forever. Let go of the blame. No one person is responsible for what has happened. 

….that I had everything I needed to be a good mother and co-parent in a divorced situation.

…that happily-ever-after looks different than Disney. Create the life you want; it’s your story.

The Divorce Diva is In Part 1


Now that I’m nearly eight years post-divorce, I thought I’d share my top tips for anyone new to this sometimes scary, often enlightening, frequently courageous transition.

In the Beginning

I met my future husband, Jon, in late summer. Four months later he asked me to marry him. By September we were married and had already been in couple’s therapy for eight months. Our problems were complex, but probably not all that unique. There was substance abuse involved, intimacy issues, and my need to try to control the fear. But even in those early years, we thought we would make it. Both of us truly believed we loved each other as much as a marriage would ever need. But after 13 years of marriage (and 14 years of therapy), Jon and I separated. Within two months, on his own accord, my husband checked himself into rehab. My son and I visited, attended meetings, supported his dad the best we knew how, and learned to live without him. It was the saddest time of my life, but I started to feel better than I had in years. Then, following a year of long talks, lots of tears, and trying to hold onto our marriage, my husband and I decided to divorce.

Does Anything Prepare You For Divorce?

People say nothing in marriage prepares you for a divorce. But I disagree. I think everything we worked on for more than a decade is what led us to finally be able to divorce, and to do it with grace. What I wasn’t prepared for was What Comes Next? There are practical steps you need to take right away, and sometimes it’s difficult to be sensible versus emotional.

Money Talks

I didn’t know how to talk to a financial planner, or even how to talk about money with my ex. Jon had been in charge of our bills and insurance and savings and wills and even our burial plots. Now I had to determine if I could keep my house, if our son could stay at his school, and if my single incoming salary could support my outgoing expenses. I was supposed to itemize our son’s expenses, from daycare to Legos, and this was nearly impossible to get my head around when I kept looking at the tree in our backyard and remembering how much love and hope we’d had when Jon and I planted it years ago in honor of his grandfather. In fact, I could not bring myself to call the house – the home — that we had re-modeled, re-carpeted, re-painted, and re-planted, an “asset.” But I took baby steps, and that is the most important tip I offer: no matter what you are delving into after your divorce, go slowly, even cautiously.

Who’s On Your Team?

I asked people I respected to recommend accountants, lawyers, insurance agents, mortgage lenders. Some of these turned out to be good matches for me. I hired a financial planning firm early on to help me budget, save for college, buy life insurance and revise my will, and this team is still with me today. My divorce lawyer, however, was a bad choice for me. I was not prepared to buy into his version of “wife versus husband.” I did not want to, as my lawyer suggested, “leverage everything the law would allow” because we were talking about the father of my child; a person I wanted to remain close to. My attorney viewed divorce as warfare, and that just wasn’t my philosophy. (If it’s yours, that’s fine – I’m not judging, it just wasn’t right for me. I can give you his number if you like.) If I had it to do over again, I would have fired my attorney and kept interviewing until I found someone who would handle the legal part of my divorce with the same care and character as Jon and I were handling the rest of it. Instead, I let myself be pushed around until I finally pushed back.

Now, you may want a lawyer who will fight for everything the law allows; you may be entitled to the highest level of child support; you may need a sizeable share of your ex’s 401K, stocks and salary in order to maintain your lifestyle or give your children what they’ll need in the coming years. You really do need to be smart about money; just make sure you engage an attorney whose goals match yours.

Tune in next week for The Divorce Doctor Is In, Part II


Dating After Divorce: What Gift Do You Get Your Boyfriend's Mom?

Dating After Divorce: What Gift Do You Get Your Boyfriend’s Mom?

Thank God Christmas is over! I had no idea it could be such a dangerous holiday.

It all started the morning I was shopping for a gift for my boyfriend’s mom. And let’s stop right there. That term, “boyfriend.” We really need to come up with a word that doesn’t make me feel as if I’m in high school, because while I may be in my prime, I’m decades past my prom. Yet, I have a boyfriend. And, well, that boyfriend has a mother. She’s really sweet and very smart, but because she lives out of town, I’m still just getting to know her, even after several years of dating her son.

I’ve only met her half a dozen times so I don’t know much about what she likes and doesn’t like, but I do know she’s really into shoes. Every time I see her, she comments on my shoes—no matter what pair I am wearing. And come to think of it, she talks about her own shoes fairly frequently, too. But you just can’t get your boyfriend’s mother a pair of shoes. In fact, you really can’t buy anyone but yourself a pair of shoes, unless they’re flip flops. And she is not the flip-flop-wearing kind of woman. At least, I don’t think so.

Anyway, last year I gave her a beautiful picture frame with a picture of her son (my boyfriend) … and me. It was taken when we were on a hot air balloon ride. I thought about it later and wondered if this was really an appropriate gift. I mean, she loves her son and I’m sure she is happy to have a recent photo of him. But a picture of her son with his girlfriend? In retrospect, I worried that it might have been perceived as some sort of jab. Could she have thought it was an, “I’ve got him now” kind of taunt? I mean, does any mother really want to see her son madly happy with another woman? Actually, my son is 16 years old and between his hormones and my hormones, some days I’m willing to give him to just about any other woman. Whether she makes him happy or not.

I don’t know if my boyfriend’s mother actually displays the picture and frame in her home, as I have not been there since two Christmases ago. And no, I do not take this personally in any way.

So this year, I thought I would give her something more meaningful; something she loves (besides shoes). I went to the gardening center to find her a potted herb garden because she’s a vegetarian and I thought she could use this in her kitchen.

So, I am standing in the garden center, where there are hundreds of pretty little plants displayed in a variety of pots on dozens of glass shelves. I bend down to smell one marked European Basils and suddenly I am propelled forward by some invisible force. My ankle buckles and I fall toward the glass shelf. I try to catch myself but I am afraid that if I grab the shelves I will break the glass and bring all of the plants shattering down around me. Instead I simply continue falling until I hear a crack as my rather-high cheekbone makes contact with one of the shelves.

The impact immediately throws my head backward, giving me some sort of garden-variety whiplash, and my cheek immediately begins to swell. I turn around to see what on earth could have thrust me forward like that, and I notice that while my back was turned, someone had placed a gray Rubbermaid trashcan directly behind me, apparently to catch some water dripping from the ceiling.

Now, I am not much of a gardener, but what exactly is the problem of rain water dripping among the plants in a GARDENING CENTER?

As I touch my throbbing cheek and roll my ankle around to ensure nothing is broken, an employee comes by to see if I’m ok.

“No, I don’t think I am,” I say, my voice actually trembling.

He was not expecting this. I’m guessing, like restaurant servers who ask if your food is okay as they walk on by, not bothering to see if you need ketchup or utensils or a third cocktail, this gardening center employee rarely encounters anyone who says anything but, “I’m fine. Can you tell me where the fertilizer is?”

Now I’m really about to cry because he’s walking away and I feel as if my left cheek is about three times as big as my right cheek. And what I am going to say to my boyfriend’s mother when I see her Christmas Eve and she asks how I got that horrible bruise on my face? I can’t say, “I got it looking for your gift” because she clearly wouldn’t believe that anyone could harm themselves looking for an herb plant. (She doesn’t know me very well, either. I’m not exactly the graceful type.)

So now I’m pretty upset and I am thinking of not buying the Basil plants at all. I realize I’m projecting my anger onto this basket of greenery that really had nothing to do with the injury, but I don’t care. I turn to the Rubbermaid trashcan – the anti-Christmas in all of this—and push it out of the way. I continue to give the trashcan a series of small kicks until it is out of the aisle, safely away from any glass shelves and innocent — though clumsy — shoppers.

Suddenly, I start to laugh. At myself, at the trashcan, even at my bruised cheek (and matching ego.) I realize that I’m really nervous about this gift to my boyfriend’s mother, that I want it to say much more than “Happy Holidays.” I need it convey all the things about me that she doesn’t yet know: that I’m a good person and a devoted mother. That I’m bright, responsible and kind. And most of all, that I care deeply about her son.

That’s a lot of pressure to put on a potted plant. But I think if I add a card, a warm hug, and a few years of showing her who I am, the Basils will be up to the task.

As I reach for the prettiest of the plants, I notice that the leaves seem to be reaching toward the drops of water falling from the ceiling.

And in true Christmas spirit, I hum all the way to the cash register, “Let it rain, let it rain, let it rain.”


My Post-Divorce Relationship Takes on Christma

(Spoken to the rhythm of ’Twas The Night Before Christmas)

‘Twas the night before Christmas, and I felt kinda blue-ish;
It was the first time I wished that I wasn’t so Jewish.
My boyfriend, a 7th Day Adventist he,
Was bouncing off walls filled with merry and glee.
He was wrapping up gifts and caroling carols,
Making hot cider and eggnog by the barrels.
“Could we have Christmas at your house?” last week he had asked;
“My mom called to say she’s not up to the task.”
“Of course,” I’d said sweetly, but inside I was balking.
All I know of Christmas would not fill a stocking.
Me with my latkes, menorahs, Oy Vey!
To me Christmas Eve’s just a late shopping day.
It’s okay, I thought, I’ve got one week to cram,
As Sean called from the kitchen, “We’ll just order a ham.”
“I’m Kosher,” I cried, “You can’t serve pig here!”
“It’s tofu,” he said, “they’re all vegans, my dear.”
Oh, yes, I’d forgotten what Adventists eat.
So, an all-dairy Christmas, with mystery meat.
He added, “No dreidel – that’s a gambling game.
My whole family will die of original shame.”
“We’ll just keep it simple, straightforward, low-key,
They won’t even notice there isn’t a tree.”
“We’ll sit around talking, sharing Christmases past.
We’ll sing, we’ll play cards – honey, you’ll have a blast.”
“What? No dancing? No drinking? No family feuds?
What this party needs is a few boisterous Jews.”
As if right on cue, there arose such a clatter,
I set down the blintzes to see what was the matter.
Outside it was snowing, but sloshing right through
Was my whole friggin’ family – surprise! The Jew Crew.
My brother Avromi and his second ex-wife,
Who can’t tell a clean story to save her own life.
Behind her I saw Uncle Ben and Aunt Sable,
Soon they’d be drinking us under the table.
There’s Moisha and Sasha and Bubby and Zada,
All with their doggy bags to take some “fuh laytah.”
My mom and my dad with a car full of toys —
I prayed that they wouldn’t call anyone “goys.”
My stomach was churning, Oh! What a disaster!
Could Christmas Eve please just this once go by faster?
Before I could faint, Sean’s own family arrived,
Spiritual and sober — I just prayed they’d survive.
My sister Shoshana slaps them all on the back,
And tells them she’s no longer addicted to crack.
My gay nephew Aaron hits on Sean’s younger brother;
My father – who’s 80 – tries to French kiss Sean’s mother.
As Sean’s folks milled around I heard one of them say,
“How the hell do they do this each year for eight days?”
But Sean’s family’s not shaken, they’re still very formal.
They gotta be thinking: This makes our family seem normal.
My boyfriend just hugs me and kisses my head.
“See honey?” he says, “So far no one’s dead.”
“We’re all here together, there was nothing to fear.
“Hey, all!” he yells suddenly, “same place next year!”
You have to be kidding, my thoughts nearly burst,
No Christmas here next year, I’ll kill myself first.
But at the end of the night as the little ones yawn,
And I take back my jewelry they’d stolen to pawn,
I have to admit my eyes feel a slight mistness,
When my son cries, “I’m Jewish, but I’m glad you’re all Christmas!”

The Train is Leaving The Station


I had been dating my boyfriend, Jon, for four months when he asked if I would drive from Atlanta to South Florida with him, to attend an anniversary party for his grandparents. This was big – meeting his grandmother would be like meeting the Queen of England. Jon’s Grandma Dorothy was the matriarch of his family, and often ruled it with an unforgiving iron fist.

But she was no match for a girl in love. Without hesitation, I said yes! After all, my entire family lived in South Florida, and I was just waiting for the perfect time to introduce them to Jon.

Let the Romance Begin

The anniversary party was Saturday night, and everything went beautifully. Jon’s grandparents were gracious and delighted that their grandson was dating a “nice Jewish girl.” We danced, we laughed, we bonded over family stories. To my surprise, my boyfriend showed up at my parents’ home the next morning at the crack of dawn – literally, 6 a.m. With an air of mystery, he told me to grab my flip flops – we were going to the beach.

A romantic stroll on the beach at sunrise with my pony-tailed, one-earringed, guitar-riffing musician boyfriend who normally slept until noon? Are you thinking what I’m thinking?

We walked for about a mile along the sandy shore when suddenly Jon stopped, turned to face me, and dropped to his knees (landing dead-weight on the top of my left foot. Normally I would have cried out in pain, but when I realized what was happening, I was not about to let a few crushed tendons ruin the moment). He pulled out a homemade snowglobe of glitter, and floating inside was a golden ring. He handed it up to me and asked me to marry him.

And of course I said — or rather, screamed, “Yes!” (The reality of the crushed foot to be part of our story as the years went by, but not today.)

Let No Man Put Asunder

We raced home to tell my parents, who apparently had already been filled in. It was 9 o’clock in the morning, and I was starving. Jon and I left to grab breakfast at Denny’s, and by the time we got back to my parents’ house, my mother had booked the room, the caterer and the florist.

The train was leaving the station, ladies and gentleman, and I was strapped to it.

After all, my mother had been waiting more than a decade for her last child to get married.

Just as our future was looking so bright, our troubles started to surface. Within weeks, my boyfriend – excuse me, fiancé – began having panic attacks. He felt as if his throat was closing up on him and he couldn’t breathe. Direct correlation to having just gotten engaged? I didn’t know, but as his symptoms worsened and he dropped more than 10 pounds in two weeks, we called for help.

Can You Love Someone Enough To Save Him?

We went to see a therapist, and I discovered that the man I loved had a substance abuse problem. Well, actually, I didn’t learn that in our first session; I just learned that something was terribly wrong and making him scared to death. It took a year of neurotic behavior, obsessive doctor visits, psychotherapy, extreme weight loss, multiple occasions of drug use discovery and severe anxiety attacks until we both learned that his addiction was slowly killing our relationship — which by now had become a marriage.

Yes, I went full-steam-ahead with our wedding plans during the same year that Jon and I were learning more about each other (and ourselves, for that matter) than most couples learn in five years.

Why did I marry Jon just as I was learning he had a substance abuse problem? Well, for one thing, I had never met an addict before, and Jon’s use seemed very low-key and surmountable. It was nothing like the made-for-TV-movies. But here is the real reason: I was absolutely certain I could love him enough to save him.

I did not walk down the aisle thinking this was a mistake. I did not walk down the aisle thinking this could be heartbreaking. I walked down the aisle thinking, “Jon is the love of my life.” I truly did not have any pre-inklings of separation, divorce or trauma. I was a happy, hopeful, bride-in-denial

The Co-Dependent Dance

For the next 13 years Jon and I built a marriage on a rocky foundation. We loved each other – we even liked each other most of the time – but we were cast in the co-dependent version of So You Think You Can Dance? That dance goes something like this: Jon would stop doing drugs. He would make promises and we would make progress. Then I would notice that something was off. I would ask if he was doing drugs and he would tell me no. Then I would feel bad for thinking he was doing drugs. But the feeling wouldn’t go away so I would ask again, a week later. Jon would deny it and I would feel bad again. And then, eventually, I would discover the drug use. Each time my husband lied, I would feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy promises not to take the football away. And each time we would get extra help from our therapist and we would work to rebuild our relationship. I would love him all over again.

And every so often, I thought to myself, “Maybe I don’t want to do this anymore.” But we had a son by now – a miracle in and of itself – and I could not imagine breaking up his family.

A Changed Perspective Changed Everything

One day, 13 years and 5,000 therapy sessions into our marriage, I suddenly I saw the possibility of divorce from a totally different perspective. This time I didn’t think about divorce as, “how can I do this to my son?” but rather, “how can I not do this FOR my son?”

That slight movement, the understanding that letting go of this marriage could actually be better for my son – for all of us – changed everything. I believe it is what finally gave me the courage to try a separation. I believe our separation is what motivated Jon to get help on his own and me to stop trying to save (control) him. And I believe the growth that both Jon and I did – alone – is what allowed us to ultimately come together and build this strange but authentic friendship. It wasn’t always an easy path, and I hit a lot of road bumps along the way.

Stay tuned for what happened after we said, “I don’t”…


One Family’s “Crazy” Is Another One’s “Normal”

Thanksgiving is an interesting time for my family and me. (“Interesting” as in “different,” “unusual,” “unorthodox.”) You see, I typically make the 10-hour car trek to South Florida from Atlanta with my family; and when I say family, I mean my son, my boyfriend and my ex-husband.

And yes, we all arrive unscathed and generally in a pretty good mood.

Most people think we’re nuts. Even my dad thinks we’re a little crazy. But the rest of my family takes it in stride, understanding that when my husband and I became exes, we also committed to keeping the friendship part of our relationship.

And while that may be “weird” to many, it’s our normal.

This year marks the 7-year anniversary of my divorce—the event that turned my ex-husband into one of my truest friends.  I tell my ex all the time, “Honey, I’m glad I married you, because you are great to be divorced from.”

He knows exactly what I mean.

Our friendship is an unusual story, I know — and the truth is, it didn’t just happen. From the moment my ex-husband and I decided to separate (which was a culmination of years on the fence), we asked ourselves: can we create a divorce that isn’t bitter and hurtful? Can we preserve the platonic love we have for each other – for both ourselves and our son? Can we keep all the good parts and toss all the bad stuff?

We decided we could.

So with small, mostly-even steps throughout a nearly two-year separation leading up to our divorce, we created what is for some of my family and friends, a mind-boggling relationship.

We understand it takes some getting used to.

The person most confused by our friendship is my father.  My dad – as any father who thinks his little girl has somehow been wronged – wanted to be furious at my ex. I told him that I wasn’t angry, so he didn’t need to be mad on my behalf. I think that leaves him a little unsure of how to feel about this ex-son-in-law-good-friend thing.

I’ve told him, “Dad, maybe if you had raised Jon (that’s my ex) he would have turned out differently. But he didn’t have the benefit of having you for a father … maybe you could sort of be one now?”

Still, my old-school dad doesn’t understand how we can all hang out together — yes, at any given time you can find my ex, my boyfriend, my son and me, bowling or going to dinner or even having a New Year’s Eve party.  We all get along that well. (As an example, my boyfriend was the first one to buy my ex a gift last year for the holidays. My ex is a huge fan of my boyfriend’s technological wizardry. My son adores his dad and really likes my boyfriend. My boyfriend likes my son, which, as an often-surly, frequently moody teenager, is the biggest surprise of all to me.)

When we arrived at my parents’ home the night before Thanksgiving, there were hugs for everyone (including my ex). My ex sincerely loves my father; his own dad died when he was 13, so my dad is the only father he’s had in his adult life. Later, as we were leaving for the nearby hotel, my dad announced he was picking up the tab for all of our rooms. We all protested, but both of my parents insisted.

Then my dad whispered to me, “When you got divorced, I didn’t think I’d be paying for MORE rooms than when you were married.”

I think he was only half-kidding.

On Thanksgiving morning, we arrived at my parents early to help.  My boyfriend lifted the 22-pound turkey into the oven; my ex set the table; my son took out the never-ending trash.  As soon as the rest of my 20-member family showed up, the conversation and laughter level rose to concert-level decibels. Occasionally, someone came up to me and told me how wonderful it is to see Jon here; how great that we can have this kind of relationship. A couple of my nieces, now of dating and marrying age, told me they think it’s great for my son, and asked me if it’s ever weird.

“Not really,” I said honestly. “It’s just the way we’ve done it from the beginning.”  I think it would be weird to do it any other way.

At the dinner table, it was my turn to say what I am most grateful for. I look at “my boys,” – my boyfriend, my ex, my son … I look at my dad … trying so hard to be new-age with us … I look at my mom, who has never stopped loving Jon and who gives that same love to my boyfriend of five years… I see my siblings and nieces and nephews, and I realize what I am most grateful for this year is their open arms, open hearts, and most of all, their open minds. I thank them for truly supporting this and deciding that for us, this is what normal is.

Will our son be better adjusted because of his divorced parents’ friendship? I honestly don’t know. He seems pretty well adjusted already. I know he loves being able to be with his dad along with the rest of his family. I know it’s gotta be good for him that there’s no fighting, no feuding, no taking sides between his mother and father. I hope that he learns – as we have – that divorce is not always a tragedy. But just in case this has somehow damaged him for life, along with our son’s College Fund, we might just create his Therapy Fund. Because one day he might be lying on a therapist’s couch somewhere, whining: “Why couldn’t my parents have had a normal divorce?”

Now, maybe I’ve miscalculated; maybe there are dozens of us – thousands, even – out there shaking up the traditional holiday scene and putting new meaning into “goodwill toward man” – starting with our ex-men.

Good, bad, sad, mixed — I’d love to hear about your non-traditional holiday life, too.


SoundAsleep Curtains Could Save My Relationship

There are many things I love about my boyfriend (although at my age and with an amicable divorce behind me, I am still slightly embarrassed to use the term, “boyfriend,” even after five years together). The things I love most about my boyfriend are probably not on anyone else’s top 10 list – they are the quirky things, the tiniest details, the qualities I was too dumb or immature to look for when I was in  my 20s.  At the top of my top 10 are: my boyfriend lets me talk to him throughout a movie and never gets annoyed.  I whisper questions and theories and sometimes things that don’t have anything to do with the movie. And he answers me.  I also love how compatible we are. Now, “compatible” does not sound sexy when you are looking for a partner in your 20s or even 30s, but to me, it is one of the loveliest words in the universe. It makes our love easy, natural and practically stress-free. And finally in my top three is the fact that my boyfriend is fully capable – he can cook, clean, fix stuff, buy his own clothes, achieve in business, and is more than happy to share the load with me. After years of choosing people who needed “saving,” I am delighted that a higher power chose this beautiful, capable man for me.

So on those occasions when my boyfriend and I have a difference of opinion, I try to be accommodating. Such was the case when he said to me one night, as we were getting ready for bed, “Those streetlights outside our window are too damn bright. I think I would sleep much better if we had black-out curtains.”

The thing is, I thought I had purchased black-out curtains when I redid my bedroom several years ago. But my curtains are so beautiful that I did not complain when they didn’t, in fact, block-out the street lights (or the full moon or my neighbor’s security light).  I have never wanted to replace the curtains even so, because I love the way they look and of course, it is much too late to ask for a refund or re-do at this point.

But my boyfriend’s request was simple – and of course, any relationship is filled with these small compromises, right?  So I started researching my options. I wanted to keep the look of my simple, spa-like handmade curtains – a perfect linen color – and I didn’t want to spend a fortune on new ones.  I couldn’t find what I wanted – the products either looked to “industrial” or were too expensive or just not the right solution.

And then, like magic, The Balancing Act hosted guests Ellery Homestyles, LLC and its SoundAsleep™ Room Darkening Curtains. As a blogger for TBA, I was invited to try them out – can you say perfect timing? I was pleasantly surprised when I went to the SoundAsleep website —it showed a wide variety of designs, colors and lengths. I chose mushroom, because it was closest to the color of the curtains I already have in our bedroom.  I wasn’t sure about the length, so I made my best guess.

Within the week, my SoundAsleep curtains arrived and I hung them up without even bothering to iron them. (They will definitely need ironing!)  Since I already had curtains, it was so easy to put the SoundAsleep panels on the same rod. I did not, however, use the valance that came with them – I’m not a valance person, I guess, and none of the styles seemed right for my room, although the website does offer several variations. The curtains’ color was a little darker than I thought it would be, but the fabric looks really nice – high quality and a heavier heft than linen.

My boyfriend and I could barely wait for the sun to set, the streetlights to come on, and the black-out to begin.


Not a filament of light came through the curtains! However, since I had apparently ordered too long a length, the puddle of curtain on my carpeted floor prevents the SoundAsleep curtains from lying close against the window pane. Because of this, a little bit of light escapes on either side of the window. Once I get the right size and perhaps a smaller curtain rod, this light will be blocked, too!

To note: each panel is sold separately, but they are really wide. You need two to make the window look balanced and well-designed, but seriously, one panel would cover my window. The price is fantastic; $29.99 for each panel.  n my research both online and off, that was one of the less expensive options, especially for the quality of the SoundAsleep curtains. I think the curtains look better and more modern without a valance, but that’s just my humble opinion.  And I will have to figure out how to iron them. It may be a job for the dry cleaners…

Even with just one of my two street windows blocked with the new SoundAsleep curtains, our room is DARK! (See the picture.) Thanks to my trial run, my boyfriend was happy, I looked like a hero, and we both slept as well as we do when we go to the lake – which is totally dark (no streetlamps in sight!).

My next step is to order the right length and a slightly lighter color, and four more panels (enough for the other two windows in our bedroom).  Since these are the official curtains of the National Sleep Foundation, I’m guessing I’ll be sleeping like a guest in an expensive hotel room (you know how dark those hotel room curtains are!). I just hope my boyfriend doesn’t sleep SO soundly that I can’t wake him up early now and then. 😉


My curtain on the left, my trial SoundAsleep black-out curtain on the right.
What a difference! No more streetlight, moonlight or security lights shine through!


Could The End of Your Marriage Be The Beginning?


There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.” – Louis L ’Amour

Eighteen years ago the world I’d always trusted came crashing down on me. I had been engaged for about five days when I discovered that the man I loved had a substance abuse problem. The next year included therapy, extreme weight loss, multiple occasions of drug use discovery, and severe panic attacks until we both realized that his addiction was slowly killing our relationship – which by now had become a marriage.

Why did I marry my fiancé just as I was learning he had a substance abuse problem? We honestly believed we loved each other as much as a marriage would ever need. Plus, I had never met an addict before — he wasn’t like any addicts you see on TV. He went to work. He helped around the house. He was brilliant and funny. He was also tortured. And I was absolutely certain that I could love him enough to save him.

We went to doctors, chiropractors and a psychiatrist renowned for treating anxiety-induced addiction. We took yoga and behavior-modification; we held hands and cried and went to couples therapy. Pretty soon I realized I had a problem — I wasn’t able to separate myself from my husband. Whatever he was feeling, I was feeling, too. Within months I had dropped 10 pounds, too, and I was having panic attacks – like the one in the hardware store, where I sat huddled on an aisle floor while they paged my husband over the PA. This was not like me – responsible, confident, Type-A. I began going to therapy myself.

It was the worst first year of marriage I could imagine. It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

For 12 years we did the co-dependent dance. My husband would stop doing drugs. He would make promises and we would make progress. Then I would notice that something was off. I would ask if he was doing drugs and he would tell me no. Then I would feel bad for thinking he was doing drugs. Eventually, I would discover the drug use, and I’d feel like Charlie Brown when Lucy promises not to take the football away. But we never stopped trying to rebuild our relationship.

Over the next several years I learned what “enabling” meant. I realized I had a need to save people and the capacity to forgive my husband and myself over and over again when trust was betrayed. Until one day, I thought maybe I didn’t want to do this anymore. But we had a son by now – a miracle – and I could not imagine breaking up his family.

Things got worse before they got bitter. I fanned a flame of resentment that acted like a wall around my heart. I didn’t want to keep loving my husband because I didn’t want to get hurt again. I thought I’d stay in that state of limbo forever.

Then one day, I discovered once again that my husband was using, and suddenly I saw the possibility of divorce from a totally different perspective. This time I didn’t think, “how can I do this to my son?” but rather, “how can I NOT do this FOR my son?”

For the first time I felt empowered enough to make a healthy change. My husband and I separated in November. It was the end of everything. And that’s when it all really began.

Within two months, on his own accord, my husband checked himself into rehab. He worked hard and went to meetings and moved to a halfway house. My son and I visited, attended meetings, supported his dad, and learned to live without him. It was the saddest time of our lives; yet I felt better than I had in years.

After a year of trying to hold onto our marriage, my husband and I decided to divorce. We took a deep breath, smiled shakily at each other, and committed to creating a divorce based on a strong, supportive friendship.

And we have. It hasn’t always been easy, but when things got tense, one of us would inevitably remember that just about nothing was worth not being friends.

I told my ex that I was sorry; that all I had wanted to do was save him. He turned to me and said, “Maybe you did.”

My son’s dad is healthy now. He’s a thoughtful co-parent, a father who is more than just “present” — he’s involved. He has stood by my side through the tough adolescent times and I have to tell you, we are closer friends than we were when we were married.

Our family looks different now. There’s my ex, one of my best friends. There’s our son, remarkably well-adjusted and mostly unaware of how non-traditional this divorce is. And there’s my boyfriend, the proof of how far I’ve come in choosing partners. He is fully capable, does not need saving, and lets me rest the world on his shoulders once in a while. On any given night you might see all of us hanging out, having dinner or celebrating something one of us accomplished. My friends and family are amazed; my dad thinks we’re crazy, and some of my acquaintances are probably appalled. But I think it’s a testament to the fact that just when you think everything is finished … that is just the beginning.


The Date That Started It All


Last night I went on my first date. In 14 years. It may be another 14 years before I do it again.

My date was a doctor. Correction: surgeon. I think I should have started with a paper boy.
On my drive home, as I replayed in my mind every excruciating moment, I had a feeling that I’d broken every dating rule ever written. So when I arrived home, I went to http://www.godthisisawkward at I read in horror the long list of “dating don’ts.” Sure enough, I had unwittingly committed nearly every one:

1. Do not talk about your ex-spouse on a first date. I practically told my ex’s life story: his terrible childhood, his resultant baggage, his brilliant mind, and the fact that, although he is my ex, we’re still good friends and I love him. At this point, I’m sure my date was trying to determine how long it would be before my ex and I were back together…unless he was too busy looking for the restaurant’s emergency exit. Thankfully, I left out the part about my ex having intimacy issues and all that that implies. How I managed to contain this part of the story, I have no idea. I must have actually let my date speak.

2. Do not mention sex. Well, technically, I did not break this rule, as I believe this means you’re not supposed to say you’d like to have sex on the first date. But here’s the rub: since my job involves teens and their everyday challenges, when my date asked what the research shows, I could have mentioned peer pressure, drinking or drugs. But instead I mentioned the trend of girls giving boys oral sex as routinely as we used to French kiss. Only I didn’t say “oral sex,” I said “blow jobs.” Talk about polite dinner conversation! According to, this is grounds for an end to any date, unless you’re actually offering said blow job. I don’t think I scored any extra points in the lady-like department when I tried back-pedaling, “Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for oral sex.” Although my date did perk up a bit after that.

3. Ladies should not drink beer. Now, I don’t necessarily look like I drink beer (I may have the Contour CoreBeltTM to thank for that!) and I don’t knock ‘em back, by any means. But I do love an ice-cold crisp light beer. It has been my drink of choice ever since I snuck into my first bar. I don’t drink wine, like I’ve always been told ladies should. So, on my first date after my divorce, not only did I drink a beer, I explained that the café we were patronizing used to carry a fabulous beer that is no longer available due to the fact that the brewery — which had been owned by a woman – recently shut down and I was disappointed because it was one of the best-tasting beers I had ever had and if I could, I would buy that brewery. I said it all without a breath, just like it reads here. At which point my date said, naturally, “Oh, you really know your beers.” I don’t think he meant it as a compliment.

4. Do not talk about marriage. I have no idea why my date asked me what makes a good marriage, since I had recently decided that marriage pretty much kills a relationship. (By the way, there is no rule about trashing marriage; the website must feel that this is so obvious it need not be mentioned. Obviously, they were wrong.) I think this is one of those Miss America-type questions, where I should have talked about saving the world and feeding the hungry. Instead, coming from the marriage I was in (see number 1 above), the first thing I said was “sexual compatibility.” My date said surely I meant the greater good of intimacy and closeness. I guess that was his Miss America response. But I was steadfast in my answer. After a while, my senses returned and I remembered to mention trust, respect and the true number-one for me, sense of humor. So maybe he thought I was kidding all along. One can only hope.

5. Do not reveal your shortcomings. Does this even need to be said? Apparently to me it does. Toward the end of the evening, it became apparent that I am geographically challenged. In fact, I can sum up the entire date in a single word: Okinawa. You see, my date was very well-traveled and we talked about the places he’d been. At one point, the noise level rose just as my date said that one of his favorite places was “Nawa.” That’s all I heard: “Nawa.” I asked, “Where?” If only I had asked, “What?” And he said, dryly, “Okinawa. You know, in Pearl Harbor?” Which I translated to mean: “You actually graduated college?” I nodded with a knowledgeable look, but my head was swimming: geography AND world history in the same sentence? (The High School basketball coach taught history.) By now, the notion of excusing myself and crawling out the ladies room window was looking like my best bet. FYI: I Googled Pearl Harbor later that night. Pearl Harbor is not in Okinawa. So now I’m wondering if he’s slapping himself on the head going, “How dumb am I? Did I actually say Pearl Harbor is in Okinawa?” Maybe we both sum up the date with that one word…

6. Do not kiss good night on the first date. Gotcha. You don’t actually think I got close to breaking this rule, do you? Instead, I did the awkward shaking hands with my non-handshaking hand thing. It was like I was possessed by my grandmother. Needless to say, there was no “I hope to see you again.” It wasn’t until I got into my car that I realized I hadn’t taken a breath for the past three hours. Surely the lack of oxygen was responsible for my geeky behavior? If I had only passed out, the evening would have gone much better.

First dates after a divorce are awkward, scary, sometimes nausea-inducing. We think we’re not pretty enough, smart enough, thin enough, worthy enough. You are more than enough! It takes courage to get out there, and a hefty dose of confidence (and maybe a little crazy on the side). You can do it, and I’ll be cheering you on! In the meantime, have a laugh and learn about fitness you can do while you’re surfing the online dating sites!