Wednesday, December 31, 2008

To Resolve or Not to Resolve?

I have an ongoing debate with myself on the creation of New Year's Resolutions. I've heard many thoughts on resolving -- how resolutions are only a temporary fix, or on the flipside how they can really change our lives.

My friend Nelda titles each year similar to ancient sanskrits to represent ideals she wants to focus on during the year.

Others I know (myself included) will exercise regularly, drink 12 glasses of water a day, and eat the most vegan, low-carb delicacies they can possibly stand.

This year, I am considering several new life changing processes that I'm not sure are resolutions. I really want these to become habitual and a part of who I am.

What are your thoughts on making resolutions?

Where in the blog have I been?

Writing is like therapy for me. And like any good therapy, just when I think I'm cured of whatever ails me, I stop. But any good doctor will tell you just like with antibiotics, you need to keep the therapy going until it ends, not until you feel better.

So, just as I thought I was cured of the divorce pain and drama, I stopped writing. Only to discover that the writing is what was making me feel better...and i needed to keep doing it.

So I'm back. 2-3 times per week. All the tales of motherhood, living single, a rediscovered career (we have a lot to catch up on), and a new year!

Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Good Friends, Old Times, Midnight Frapps

So maybe it wasn't midnight.
But it was about 10:30 p.m. on Halloween night when Christie and I had Frappucino's and attempted to solve the world's problems. (They were a nice treat from her husband Jamie, particularly since he drove the 10 miles from their slightly rural subdivision to go the nearest town to buy them for us.)

Starbuck's in hand, the discussion began. Our topic -- middle class Americans, what it means to be wealthy, and how living a frugal lifestyle does not equate to poverty.

(The children were there...playing with Moon Sand and creating a fort.)

Please keep in mind that neither of us is wealthy, and by the same token, neither of us is poor.

At different times in our lives, we have both traded in more non-frugal living lifestyles for the benefit of our families.

Our definition of frugal does not equal poor. We do realize that for some people it does. Again, our definition of frugal does not equal poor.

For us, living a frugal lifestyle has included coupon clipping, cooking from scratch, and giving homemade presents. It means we think hard about making purchases. It means we consistently assess our wants and needs. It means we are honest and fair with ourselves about our family's consumerism.

The advantages to this lifestyle are the memories we've created with our families in the kitchen, having children who understand that life is not always about immediate gratification, and having the opportunity to be extra creative when giving gifts so the receiver feels just as special as he or she would if we spent $1,000,000.

The times of frugal necessity also serve a purpose. Again, frugality does not equal poor. At the times in my life when I have felt like a "baller," I have also realized that monetary affluence means nothing if you are not happy.

Three years ago, I drove a Land Rover and Mr. X drove a Volvo. We lived in a big house and loved to host and attend fancy dinner parties. We especially got a kick out of having the most entertaining kids' birthday parties on the block.

Was I happy? No. Was he happy? Probably not. Would I rather have dinner now with people who know and understand me for who I am -- not for what they perceive my bank account to be? Yes.

Do I understand that true friendship does not require me to prove myself in social circles that I sometimes consider shallow, privileged, and self-serving? Most definitely.

And because of that, I'll take my midnight frapp over a fancy dinner any day! :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Just as I was about to give up road tripping....

History was made!
The inauguration will be held on January 20, 2009.
The distance from Dallas to Washington, D.C. is 1310 miles.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Good Friends, Old Times: Mr. X

CJ's teacher called me Tuesday to say he was having a very emotional day at school. Apparently, he cried numerous time throughout the day -- attributing it to the divorce.

Mr. X and I have had a good 10 days or so. There have not been any ugly emails, he answered when the kids called, and he has agreed to help me sort through the school possibilities for Jada for next year. (Her current school stops at kindergarten.)

So, when the emotional issues popped up, I thought I would just have CJ call his father so they could talk. After school, CJ got in the car and instantly burst into tears. I handed him the phone and asked him is talking to Dad would help.

"Yes mom. I want to talk to him but I'm crying too hard. Can you call for me?"


"Sure, dear."

I called. He answered. I told him CJ had a rough day.

"OK. Toni, can I call you back?"


In 30 minutes he called back. Again I said, "CJ had a rough day. He's upset and asked me to call you."

"OK. What can I do to help?"


"Toni? Are you there?"

"Yes, I'm sorry. Jada was talking to me."

(Translation: Did YOU just ask ME how you could help? If I had heard that come out of your mouth before, we could possibly still be married.)

"OK. So what's up? Would it help if I talked to him?"

"Ummm...yeah. He's crying uncontrollably right now but he knows you're on the phone."

"Well...where are you guys? I just got off work and I can come see him."

Silence again. But this time I caught myself before he said anything more.

"We're headed to Applebee's. Kids eat free tonight."

"OK. I'll meet you there."


Yes he showed up. Yes the kids were estatic. Yes he talked to CJ about his school issues. Yes he talked to them about the missed birthdays. Yes we were cordial. Yes he asked me about every person at Greenhill he remembered. Yes he asked about Michael, Rosa, Elliott, Nelda, Christie, Jamie, and Gillian (our friends who took MY side). Yes I asked about his family, Tina, Tim, Cecil, and Yolanda (our friends who took HIS side). Yes the kids called him OUT on his new girlfriend/ fiance. Yes I caught him in a couple of lies (leopards never changed their spots). Yes I initiated a conversation about visitation during the holidays. And yes, I lived through it without having an alcoholic beverage.

So, here's the deal. He can be a jerk. He can be more than a jerk. But no matter how much of a jerk he is, he will always be their father and they will always love him. Even when he stands them up. even when they get a new step monster. Even when he forgets their birthdays. And because they love him unconditionally, I have chosen to befriend him unconditionally.

There you have it....good friends, old times, Mr. X.

PS- I did have one secret pleasure of the night. The kids mentioned a male family friend of ours who happens to be 38, tall, good looking, single, and "buff," as CJ says. They said that this "uncle" calls and emails them almost everyday, helps with math facts, taught them how to swim this summer, and lets them stay up late to watch the Disney channel when we are all together.

Mr. X's eyes got big, his mouth fell open, and I gazed out of the window. Nothing else needed to be said.

What are the odds?

I am posting twice today.

I just had to write and say that I HAD ANOTHER FLAT TIRE TODAY!!!!!!

The second one in 3 weeks. This time the rim is damaged. I was taking the kids to school.

I did not have an emotional breakdown like I did last time.

All I can say about it is ick.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good Friends, New(er) Times: Right Here in Dallas

I am thankful for my new friends.

The group of friends who I've encountered since I moved to Dallas 13 years ago. They genuinely love and support me in everything I do.

These friends knew Toni Williams (a little), and Toni Holloway (a lot), and now they know Toni Williams Holloway (or whichever name I am using that day).

They are different from my old friends in that we weren't in college together, we weren't initiated into the sorority at the same time, and they don't remember the great car accident on high school graduation night. What they did do, though, in the time that I've known them -- is taken an interest in learning about all of those places and things, while simultaneously creating new memories with me. After all, these were the women who were with me in the throes of labor.

I'm also thankful for my newest friends -- those who have entered my life in the past year or so where our common bond is divorce, single parenthood, and mommying. There's no doubt that my own mommying changed in 2008 as I took time off from the real world to be more available for the kids. I'm also thankful for the moms who love a good mojito, moms who cheer with me for the Lady Hornets soccer team, and the moms who help me understand the culture of being a mommy this day and time in Dallas, TX.

Here's to you new friends! Here's to you!

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Lessons Learned

I had a huge Aha! Moment last night while doing laundry. As load after load (until all 6 loads were done) came out of the dryer, I noticed how my three children folded and put away their own clothes without being asked.

I was tired, they were tired, they knew we had a soccer game early the next morning, but yet and still, they willingly helped me.

I began to think about the past year and some of the good that has come out of this...particularly as it relates to the children and their personal growth.

1. My children know that living in a household equated to being part of a team. It takes everyone to help with the cleaning, the laundry, and getting dinner on the table. When Mr. X and I lived together, he and I often did things so we didn't have to hear the other's complaining, not realizing that the kids needed to participate. Now, we know and respect the fact that if you live in the house, you do all parts of the job.

2. We don't take the work "family" for granted. A couple of Sundays ago, we were watching Extreme Makeover Home Edition and the design team was creating a garden with adjectives that described the family etched in stone. We decided to come up with our own adjectives and then created a list defining the members of our family. We weren't exclusive, and definitely included extended family members and friends. (And yes, we even included Mr. X and his soon-to-be Mrs.)

3. We are committed to community service. All of the blogs and books I've read about overcoming divorce has suggested helping others as a means of overcoming the loss of a marriage. I have volunteered at the kids' schools a lot, the children are proactive in donating old toys and clothes, the kids volunteer at the library during preschool storytime as story assistants (they think they are so big), and we are more involved in our church this year.

4. We understand that emotional trauma makes you more aware of the mind-body-spirit connection. CJ actively meditates on his own when he's under stress. Tyra wakes up early some mornings to do yoga. Jada reminds us everyday to take our multivitamins, get a flu shot, and have some Noni juice before we leave the house. And when we've had a bad day, we all unwind with a cup of chamomille tea.

5. We love fun! We've cried a lot over the past year. We are now determined to have a ball wherever we go and with whatever we do. This afternoon, we sat around watching tv while wearing silly hats. There was no purpose to was just fun!

What lessons for good have you learned from your trials?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Feeling Quite Fabulous

I've mentioned the Fabulous Financials of Single Ma in previous posts. It's one of the blogs that I follow regularly. Well check this out! She wrote an article for another website and quoted me...she even said I was "fabulous." WAHOOOO!

PS-The article has good tips for luxuries you can afford during these tough economic times!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

How do you spell g-r-i-e-f?

Last month, actor Paul Newman died. I wasn't a big fan, but I do respect his work in film. As I watched his daughter speak on television about his life's accomplishments, I became saddened. What if that were my dad? Should I go out and buy some of Newman's Own salad dressing in honor of him? It just felt weird.

Last week, I found out that my first boyfriend was killed in a tragic shooting in Chicago. I had not seen or spoken to him in about 10 years, but preceding that, we were good friends and lovers who often discussed mortality in this dangerous world. He is probably what attracted me to police officers in the first place.

I was devastated as I read news accounts and watched video snippets of his funeral. At the same time, though, I felt silly. I was mourning as if he was still an active participant in my life...but he wasn't. Or was he?

After attending last week's divorce care class, it took these two deaths to make it plain and clear to me.

I never grieved any relationships I've had. I have always been scared to grieve. I was afraid of the pain. To make sure there was never any pain, I made sure we ended things on as upbeat a note as possible. We always, "remained friends."

Except this time. This divorce was about more. I have been forced to not only grieve my relationship with Mr. X, but I am also grieving the hopes and dreams for our future that I had. Needless to say, we haven't remained friends. And you guessed it, I am also grieving the other great loves of my life that I have lost. And now, one of them is not only gone from my life, but from this world as we know it, and I must grieve that too.

So now, the real work begins. I can acknowledge the pain and use the scattered remnants of each relationship and move forward. It's time to decide what worked, what didn't, was what good, what was bad, and what I could have and should have done differently.

What do you think about when you reflect on your past interpersonal relationships? What helps you make it through the grieving process?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Still Alive

The grubs have lasted yet another day. Maybe this was truly meant to be!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Every Grub Needs a Home

My daughter, Tyra, is such an interesting person. She loves taking the knowledge she learns at school and applying it to something practical and hands on.
About a month ago, she brought home a recently-shed snake skin from her science class. Last week, she was fascinated with rollie pollies. Yesterday, she wanted to do her part to save more of the earth's creatures.
By adopting 3 grubs.
Yes. My sweet girl rescued 3 grubs from the earth and brought them home from school. She had them packaged nicely in a ziploc bag with grass and dirt.
I think I am a pretty liberal parent. I am all about learning by doing, exploring the world, caring for living things, and making a difference in the world.
However, grubs are gross.
My plan was to tell her the disadvantages of the grubs going home with us and let her make the decision to set them free.
I tried it all, but girlfriend had done her research. She googled grubs on the computer at school to find out out to take care of them.
"Grubs are the larvae of Japanese White Beetles," she said. "Many people think they are a problem because they eat grass and dirt. They just like salad," she said. "And salad is good for you."
I replied, "You know, grubs are important to the circle of life too. Timon and Pumba (from the Lion King) eat grubs."
"Timon and Pumba should be vegetarians," she said.
"Mom," she said. "No matter how matter how squirmy...a grub is a living thing that deserves love, kindness, and a place to live. These grubs were once a part of someone's family. They were lost in the world and needed to know that someone cares. That someone is me."
"What if you kill them?," says her senecal older brother.
"Then they would die knowing someone cared. I have felt like a grub sometimes," she admits. "We have been alone without Daddy but God always took care of us. I want to take care of the grubs like God takes care of us."
And so the grubs live on...happily ever after on our patio.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Lessons From Being 7

Tyra turned 7 last week (no, her father didn't call for that birthday either) and I had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with her friends at school. I took a cookie cake (cupcakes are so last year) to her class and learned a lot from her first grade buddies. Because I personally believe that children can be so much smarter than adults (you should hear Tyra's theories about John McCain), I am sharing what I learned from her friends:

1. Eating too much dairy can make you act crazy.

2. Boys and girls shouldn't play soccer together. Some sports are ok, but not soccer. Boys have different priorities when playing a game.

3. You should always wear a seatbelt. If you don't think you need to wear one, check your intake of dairy. It could be clouding your mental judgement.

4. Be careful about sharing your personal information. If you must write your address down in a public place, shread the form after it's been used.

5. Slurpies or icees or slushies are the best cure for any ailment.

6. Cheerleading is a skill that everyone should know and practice daily. Positive cheering daily can help everyone's self esteem.

7. Divorce is okay. It can actually be better than okay if you have supercool uncles.

8. Be nice to your siblings if you have any. They are the only people who will help you fight bullies when your parents aren't around.

9. Choker necklaces are back and here to stay.

10. Every girl should own at least one nutcracker. They come in all sizes and have many uses.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Good Friends, Old Times, Releasing the Pain

There about one thousand different posts that I could have written about my day this past Wednesday. And finally, I decided to just tell it like it is! Wednesday afternoon, I somehow managed to condense every emotion that I have felt over the past year into a 90-minute time frame. 90 minutes of shear emotional upheaval. More than a catharsis. Raw emotion.

Raw. Emotion.

One of my tires blew out on a busy Dallas freeway at 1:30 p.m. I had been running errands and was on my way to pick Jada from kindergarten. Dismissal is at 2:00 p.m.

As I was driving, I started to smell something burning. Within seconds, the road tripping minivan was shaking, and before I knew it, I saw pieces of tire rubber roll into the next lane. Pieces of rubber from my tire.

I pulled over onto the shoulder and instantly began counting my blessings. No children were in the car with me. No accident ensued. I could make definite afterschool arrangements for Jada from my cell phone. CJ and Tyra both had afterschool activities that didn't end until 4:30 p.m.

I counted my blessings. It could have been so much worse. I called for roadside assistance. I then called Christie because someone needed to know where I was -- and then it happened. I broke down into tears. Not because of the tire, not even because of the "what if's" it had been worse. At that moment I felt that something was missing.

I missed the feeling of security that comes from knowing there was a man I could call in a situation like that who would have my back. I didn't have that. He was missing. It was at the moment that in the past year I realized I had shifted into overdrive to handle business and take care of the kids. I never once realized that I needed to take care of me...or more specifically, have the idea that someone else would take care of me. I missed having a should to cry on and a knight in shining armor to come and rescue me.

(Please keep in mind that more than likely, the ex-knight would NOT have been able to come assist me, but it was the theory of having someone that I was thinking of).

While I was waiting, 4 police cars whizzed past me on the freeway. Not one of them stopped. That made it worse. The fraternity of law enforcement officers that I used to proudly be a part of

had not time for me.

In the midst of my tears, I decided to listen to the radio. As I turned the volume up, I felt a numbing sensation in my right hand. The tingling traveled up my arm but then moved down the right side of my body.

Having had a friend who suffered a stroke 7 years ago at the age of 29, I became instantly concerned about my physical health. As my head began to hurt, the tears began to flow harder and all I could say was "Oh God! Please don't let me die today!Those children need me! Please not now, not now!" I then exclaimed, "Oh crap! I haven't finished the book yet! If I lose the ability to use my right hand, how will I finish the book?"

Yes. I can be full of drama. And actually, Tyra was at acting class when all of this was going on.

My emotional outburst lasted for the next 30 minutes. Kindergarten Jada would say I was making a pattern:

Cry, tingle, headache, pray. Cry, tingle, headache, pray. Cry, tingle, headache pray. Cry, tingle, headache, pray.

Soon after, the roadside assistance crew arrived, the tire was changed and I was in route once again to collect my children.

It was then that I realized that I did in fact have a knight in shining armor. It was okay that it was not him, because He was there. It was Him.

Something amazing happened later that evening. The kids and I met an old friend for dinner at Luby's. As we caught up on lives and our perspective on the woes of our country, the kids were entertained by a balloon artist. By the time we left the restaurant, each child had to "regular" helium balloon, and a "special" balloon shaped like some animal.

On the way home, I heard whispering in the back seat and one of the kids asked if we could stop at the park for a few minutes. As I prepared to launch into a huge "We have too much to do tonight" speech my son said, "I want to release my balloon to the world so I can get past your divorce."


In thinking of my own need to get past the divorce (as evident from the emotional incident of only a couple of hours before) I headed to the park.

Each child said a few words, I said a prayer, we thanked the Lord for each other and our friends and family. We verbalized good wishes for their father and his fiance (surely, the 4th marriage will be a charm!) and we let the balloons go.

It was a very touching moment for us. It was poignant and powerful and everything about the moment of release made it all worthwhile. All of it.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Last night I couldn't sleep. It was midnight and I was as bright-eyed and bushy-tailed as ever. When I have insomnia, there is a problem. At 36 years old, it has taken me numerous consultations with medical doctors and emotional counselors to learn this. If I can't sleep at night, I have a problem.

Here are some examples from my past:
1. I couldn't sleep the night that I had a horrible argument with my ex-husband's mistress two years ago. Yes, I have been there and lived to talk about it. And yes, I said VERY inappropriate things to her. Christie can tell you all about it. Yes, she and her sister were on three way so I could have ear witnesses.

2. I couldn't sleep the nights I found out I was pregnant, any of the three times. The outcomes were great, having three children in 3.5 years was very overwhelming. No wonder my thyroid gave out!

3. I always have insomnia if I have a crazy boss. Ummm...that would mean that I had regular insomnia from August 2005 until May 2008.

4. I couldn't sleep well last week, in light of my sweet firstborn's lying and hitting issues.

All of this brings me to last night. I couldn't sleep. I am FREAKING OUT about the state of our country. I am nervous about the banks, the mortgage industry, the government, the Dallas Independent School District, and my future. (I realize that some of you do not live in Dallas and don't understand that reference. Click here to find out more information.)

I follow blogs for a hobby. Some of my favorites relating to financial success and motherhood are: The Millionare Mommy Next Door (I am determined to become one), Single Ma's Fabulous Financials (this woman is making it happen...I love her willingness to blog about her financial issues...I am working on getting there), and The Hustle of the Sistah Ant (A single woman who overhauled her personal credit and financial issues who now has a credit score of 808! Yes, you read it right...808!)

All of my finance blogs and other recent research has given me the urgency to change the way I view life, money, and preparation for the future. This week (barring a mommy emergency that I need to blog about) I am going to write about my plans admist the turmoil.

I haven't watched any news yet today....should I brace myself for any other shockers?

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

We Made It Through the Start of the School Year

We made it!

Not only have I not had that crazy chest tightening feeling about the stress of school, I am also volunteering at the school so more than I could have before. I do have some observations of the new school year that I am dying to share:

1. The determination of whether or not your child is "in a good class" is based on how much you like the other parents in that class.

2. 2nd graders do not want their mommies to kiss them goodbye at school. You can walk them in sometimes, but no kisses, not ever.

3. Everyone loves a good mojito, margarita, or martini. This isn't some cryptic/ code language, it's the truth. I just want you all to know it. The may come up at the next parent meeting you attend.

4. If your kids are not enrolled in a school that they will attend for sure next year, you have already started having anxiety about where they will go next year. Take a deep breath and pray about it. It will all work out.

5. You cannot make every soccer game, every tennis lesson, every event that surfaces. You can do your best and prioritize. Everyone has conflicts all the time. Don't beat yourself up (or let your children beat you up) over it.

6. Schools that encourage children to interact with their teachers from last year are amazing. I can't tell you how many kids I know (including my own) who get to school a few minutes early so they can grab a quick hug from their previous teacher. Its' still happening, and we've been in school for a month already.

7. Breakfast clubs are back, and here to stay. (That one was a little cryptic, but it referred to my earlier post from the summer. I'll blog about it more this fall, I promise.)

8. If you have a 1st or 2nd grader, homework should NOT be a horrible existence for your family. If it is, something is wrong. This subject alone was the topic of my prayer and meditation this morning....I don't have anything else to say about it, because I haven't figured out how I am going to rectify it in our family. Bottom line though, it should not be stressful.

9. The public library is a very cool place to take kids afterschool for about an hour to chill out. My kids love it, it's free, and there are no battles about the tv.

10. Volunteering at the school gives you an excuse to be nosy. My precious firstborn who just turned 8 had a mishap where his backpack encountered another child's face yesterday. (ie, the boy made him mad and he used his backpack to hit him). Because I was there "volunteering," I got all versions of the story (my child's, the other child's...2nd graders love to tattle, my younger child's...1st graders are so nosy too, and an eyewitness...the kids' cousin also goes to school with them...she saw everything! In my words to the children, "You might as well tell me the truth...I'm up at that school so much...and I know everybody...I'LL FIND IT OUT!"

What are your thoughts on the new school year? Share! Share!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Back on the Blogosphere!

I am back! Back in Texas, back to blogging, back to using the computer regularly. Back and happy about it!

When we returned to Texas from the adventures of the greatest summer ever, I had to hit the ground running. I needed to find a job (remember, I quit the one I had last May), I needed to find a place to live (moved out and put everything in storage at the beginning of summer), and I had much needed legal business to complete (the divorce IS NOW final).

The last part of our trip was so amazing! Once we left Chicago though, I remembered how hard it was for me to have my own computer time while taking care of the three kids. (Ah...the memories of having my mother babysit while we were in Chicago).

There are a few lessons learned and trip tidbits that I plan to share, however, since the road trip has ended, our recovery has headed in a different direction. I promise to write more about that in the next coming weeks.

This is the first week of fall, and I have decided to embrace it fully. If you subscribe to the blog via email or a reader that doesn't let you see the graphics, please go to the actual site....I think it's lovely. After spending much of the month of August being sad that summer was coming to an end, I am approaching autumn as the season of earth's beauty. Keep reading, and I promise to keep blogging!

Ta Ta For Now....

Friday, August 8, 2008

Good Friends, Old Times and Non-Violence

When we were in Florida, there was an incident with my son and another child we did not know where my child got punched in the chest. The children were playing football and apparently the child that hit mine took the game rather seriously. Once he was hit, my child burst into tears and ran to tell me and his uncle who we were visiting at the time.

The incident spawned a big discussion about how you teach a 7-year-old to respond appropriately in contentious situations. I have always preached non-violence, and his uncle tried to explain that sometimes non-violence works, while other times you need to react. I thought we handled the situation well, particularly since he gave the child much more insight into manhood than I could.

Fast forward two months and a child calls my son a "Bobblehead" at school. What does my son do? He hauls off and hits the offender. I think there may have been some memory of the incident from the summer, I most definitely think that there was some repressed anger toward his father, and I think he had just had enough of this particular child.

The teacher saw the incident and called me. I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on what I should have done, and then I'll share what I did do. Here is some background you may want to know before you give me your opinion:

1. My son's birthday was the day before the incident. His father did not call or acknowledge the child's 8th birthday in anyway.

2. My son's initial reaction to everything is to cry. He got that from his mom. In this instance he did not cry until his teacher told him she had to call me.

3. He is the oldest of three children, the girls are 5 and 6.

4. The incident happened near the end of the school day.

5. One week earlier, the same child that called my son a bobblehead also told him that he should not support Barack Obama because Barack is proposing to put a $100 tax on toys for children.

The last one was irrelevant to hitting issue, but I couldn't help but mention it. :)
What would you do?

Summer's Out and School's In?

As my Chicago days were relaxing and theraputic, they were quick to liven on the morning of July 29. Here is a sample of the subject lines of emails I received that day:

1. "First Grade Move In Day"

2. "Second Grade Flag Football Team Information"

3. "Girls' Fall Soccer Registration Information"

4. "2008-09 Parent Volunteer Opportunities"

5. "Classmate's Birthday Party"

6. "Book Exchange for Elementary School Students"

7. "Student Health Forms Due NOW:

My chest started tightening, my lips were pursed, and I could not breathe. The anxiety and anticipation of the upcoming school year was coming, it was almost too much to bare. School supplies, school clothes, PE shoes, and more had me freaking out!

Somehow I managed to breathe and medidate my way out of that experience. I have gotten some things accomplished while on vacation, but the first two weeks back in Dallas are going to be pretty jam-packed. We had to go to the school today to turn in some forms...and guess what? The chest tightening started all over again.

Do you have back to school anxiety for your kids? How do you overcome it?

Heading Home

As my 6 week adventure has come to an end, the writing is not. I took some time off to visit more destinations, and have had more enlightening experiences. Tonight I am at my final stop and have gathered more knowledge about life lessons in the past 6 hours than possibly at all in the past 6 weeks...and I definitely garnered a lot in the 6 weeks. The bottom line is that this summer was AMAZING and I will be writing about it for weeks to come. For now, I need to get some rest...I'm hitting the road home in the morning.

Friday, July 25, 2008

This Was One of My Best Decisions

I have been in Chicago four weeks TODAY! I could not have asked for anything more. I got to spend time with my parents, I treated the city like I was tourist for the kids, and I really had to opportunity to get some much-needed rest.

Most importantly, I have regained a sense of myself and I have a handle on the ups and downs of life and how to handle them and "keep my yellow."

We are leaving Chicago in 6 days. From there, we drive to Florida. One week after that, we are back in Dallas. I plan to blog regularly from now until we leave Chi-town, but I am going to try to stay off the computer while we are in Tampa and Orlando. If anything, I expect that leg of the journey to be the most exciting, most energy-filled, and most noisy.

Once we're back in Dallas, I'll post some concluding thoughts on road-tripping...but hmmmmm, I wonder what I should write about next?

Have a great weekend!

Link Love to Other Road Tripping Bloggers

These blogs have fun tips and valuable information for road trippers this summer:

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

I Finished Chapter One

Before I started writing this post, I read through all of my previous posts to see if I had mentioned that I am in the process of writing a book. Well, I hadn't. Then I realized that I have never blogged about the decision to "take a year off" from the world either. So here goes.

My decision to embark on a cross-country road trip this summer was the result of several things. I wanted to travel with the kids..affordably...and have the opportunity to work on my consulting business, this blog, and begin writing a book about an interesting irony I recently discovered.

Until this past May, I had a full-time (40 hr/ week) job outside of the home and I was the primary caregiver for my children. Their dad and I separated last December, and since then, his involvement with the kids has been less than desirable. This spring it seemed like all at once my world crashed. My boss was as understanding as she could be (which was very limited and NOT nearly what I needed her to be), I felt more pressure from the kids' schools to be even more of a supermom (as a way of compensating for the separation/divorce...yes they can make you feel really guilty), and for the first time in my life, my parenting was questioned by entities who should have been concerned about their own operations. (I know the last part was vague...that's a blog post for another day.)

One more birthday was in May...and ever since I turned 30 six years ago, I have been making some huge life decisions around that time. And this year was no different. In May, I decided that I needed a year off. I needed to work less in order to spend time with my kids more. I need to drop them off at school on time, I need to pick them up when the school day ends (not when afterschool care ends), and I needed to have our evening routine with homework, reading, math facts, dinner, and bedtime operate more smoothly than it did last year.

I needed to quit my job.

The irony of all of this is that as I realized that I desperately needed to be home more for the kids, I wasn't sure if I could afford it financially. It can be a challenge for dual-income families when one spouse stops working, but what does it mean for a single-parent family when the single parent stops working full-time? I didn't know, but I would soon find out, and live to write about it.

Enter the road trip to Chicago. Enter the time spent with my parents. Enter the creation of my consulting business. And enter the writing of the first chapter. My goal this summer is to write two chapters and pen the rest as the year progresses. My book is about the irony of it all, how it was the write thing for us, and how it ends.

Here's to the celebration of Chapter One! Wahooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good Friends, Old Times, Orgasmic Ice Cream

I love ice cream. Everything about it is fun and tasty and sweet and creamy and wonderful. Tonight I had the chance to meet an old friend for ice cream in Chicago's Lakeview neighborhood. Lakeview is on Chicago's north side and one of those neighborhoods that I have always thought I would live in if I ever moved back. The ice cream was great, the company even better, but the jury's still out on the neighborhood.

I'm concerned about the plethora of sexually-oriented businesses I saw. Have I been in the conservative south too long? I am usually pretty liberal when it comes to sexual anything (after all, I called ice-cream orgasmic), but this was just weird. Before we knew it, our conversation went from, "I'm thinking of taking the kids to the zoo on Thursday," to "You know, lubricants are important." Again, based on my own personal liberalism, I didn't mind having this conversation (my friend is pretty liberal too), however, I would hate to be walking down Broadway Ave. with my kids only to have one of them ask, "What kinds of costumes are these, moma?"

In Dallas, I know exactly where the, ahem, "costume shop" is and it is not in the midst of a residential neighborhood. Nor is it on a strip of other costume shops, adult bookstores, and let me see... "novelty" stores. I am not expressing my dislike of these stores (the can definitely spice up a few things), but I don't know if I want to raise my children right down the street from them.

Any thoughts?

Tyler Perry's Tribute to Single Moms

I love the creative artistry that is actor/ writer/ director/ producer Tyler Perry. He is absolutely amazing. For the first time in the month that I've had my iPod, I bought a movie from the iTunes store. The movie was Meet the Browns by Tyler Perry. While I don't get to go to the movies often, I do relish the opportunity to rent, buy, or see all the latest releases in a relatively timely manner.

If you've not quite understood the plight of the single mother, watch this movie. If you really want to know the fears and the realities of single motherhood, watch this movie. If you want a good laugh and a good cry (simultaneously), watch this movie. If you want to undertand the world around you a little bit better, watch this movie.

"Make room for us in your hearts. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have expolited no one. I do not say this to condemn you; I have said before that you have such a place in our hearts that we would live or die with you. I have great confidence in you, I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds"
2 Corinthians 7:2-4

Monday, July 21, 2008

"The Best Way to Heal... by giving of your time and talents to a school, church, organization, or individual in need."

I heard that this morning on Joyce Meyer's podcast. I think I also read it a couple of months ago in one of the self-help books I was reading. I really don't think there's much more to say...service is important. Period. That's it.

If you subscribe to this blog via email and receive an empty email last night, I'm sorry. I was so excited about what I was typing that I hit "post" before I actually wrote anything. You can access the full and complete blog here.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

10 Days and Counting....Progress Report?!?!?

It's hard to believe how fast time flies. We are leaving Chicago in about 10 days. We are not headed back to Texas just yet...keep reading because we've got some fun-filled plans for the first two weeks in August!

However, before we go, it's time for me to be accountable! I need to share the specifics of my "healing," what I've thought, what I've done, how I've lived since our journey began last month. This week is it...I promise to tell all...the good, the bad, and the dirty! (If you have any specific questions you're dying to have the answer to, email me, and I'll post the question and the answer here)

So far, here's what we have:

1. I have started a gratitude journal. Each morning when I wake up, I write down at least 5 things I am thankful for.

2. I meditate at least 3 times a day and practice yoga at least once a day...everyday.

3. I have given up caffeine.

4. I have given up using "rules" to govern my existence.

5. I have been clipping and organizing grocery store coupons so I can have a frugal-fresh start once I return to Dallas.

6. I have done some preliminary work on my consulting business, established viable contacts, and SIGNED MY FIRST CLIENT.

7. I have started a "Too Blessed to Be Stressed" journal.

8. I have decided that when someone says to you, "I'm only telling you the truth," their truth can be completely different from my truth and I don't have to feel guilty or even care that it is that way.

9. I have one simple goal each day: to find my yellow. The space between me and anything or anyone else should always be happy, and yellow.

So far, so good....there's more to come!

The Week in Review

Last week was particularly busy for us as we got out and explored the city a lot! Here's a quick recap:

Good Friends, Old Times and Free Therapy -- The kids and I drove out to Naperville, IL (about an hour outside of Chicago) to see an old friend of mine from elementary school. She grew up across the street from us and has three kids, two girls and a boy, ages 8, 5, and 5. (The girls are twins). She's a family psychologist now, and were shared great ideas about discipline, cooking, and parenting. And of course, she was more than willing to offer me some healing advice related to the divorce...and I gladly took it!

Chicago vs. Dallas: Pizza! -- We had authentic Chicago pizza for dinner on Thursday night. I savored every moment of this pizza that NO ONE, NO ONE, NO ONE outside of the Chicagoland area is able to recreate. Many in Dallas have come close, but nothing has made the cut. If you EVER, EVER, EVER have the opportunity to try it, you must RUN not walk to the nearest pizze place. My favorite's are Pizzeria Uno's, Giordano's, Eduardo's, and the Medici.

Sightseeing in the City -- Navy Pier in Chicago is one of the absolute coolest attractions. Home to the Chicago Children's Museum, this shopping and food arcade is filled with plenty of events for the whole family! And...if Forrest Gump is one of your favorite movies like ours.....then the photo of the restaurant below will surely strike your fancy!

(We built this as a family team at the's suppposed to be a skyscaper)

Cirque du Soleil's "Kooza"-- In my realistic, well-budgeted life in Dallas, the closest we have ever come to seeing the "Cirque du Soleil" is renting it on Netflix. My god-parents got us tickets to see the event live at Chicago's United Center and it was absolutely AMAZING. If you ever have the chance to see one of their shows, you should definitely's not cheap...but it is a performance you will never forget! (I don't have any photos of flash photography allowed!)

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Old Friends, Good Times, and the West Loop

Breakfast clubs are the thing in Chicago. My father belongs to one, my god-father belongs to another one, and some college friends and I participated in one this weekend. Groups of friends, colleagues, etc. meet for breakfast on Saturday mornings. Breakfast clubs meet early, as the restaurants can get crowded quickly! So what did we do? We met at Wishbone's near Oprah's Studio in the West Loop at 9:00 a.m. (Not only was I on time...I was the first one there :)

There were five of us, and because we hadn't had the opportunity to really catch up with each other in years, we had to each tell what we dubbed "Our Story." The stories consisted of lost loves, true callings, travels overseas, dreadful bosses, the world of mommyhood, sorority memories, romantic trysts, and any other news we wanted to share. As we were leaving the restaurant five hours later, I had never felt more refreshed.

Here's to old times girls. OO-OOP!

Old Friends, Good Times and a Vision Board

I went out to lunch with a friend from high school. Actually, she's younger than I am and we never really knew each other in high school, but we have become friends over the past few years from the school's alumni association. So anyway, we met for lunch...and it was my first "outing" without the kids since I had been home. We went out for Thai food at Noodles, Etc. near the campus of the University of Chicago. We caught up and before we knew it, she told me that I need to get a "Vision Board." She said that should be one of my projects while I am road-tripping this summer. On this board, I am supposed to graphically represent the things I want in my life by July 11, 2009. I haven't had the chance to google this concept yet (I google everything), but I will. Have you heard of a "Vision Board"? Do you have one? How has it impacted your life?

I know what you want to know...

This blog entry is primarily for my real-life friends who know my history. Not my marriage history, or my romantic life history (do I have one of those?) or my work history. This is for those of you, my good friends who have wondered but hesitated to ask, "How are you and you mother getting along for a month....really?"

I'll tell you. I am extremely grateful to my parents for their help throughout my life and in particular, the last 6 months. My parents swooped in like mama bear and papa bear to care for their cubette and her little cubs like nobody's business. Because of the loyalty I feel to both my mom and my dad right now, I can't condemn, complain, trip, sigh, or scream. She is who she is, and I am who I am. And we are extremely different people .

I appreciate you for not asking...but it is a valid question. One day I tell you the stories in greater detail, over a pitcher of mojitos and margaritas...Texas style! But for now, despite the differences, I have just decided to be thankful.
(Just under 3 weeks to go...:)

my mom, me, and my dad when we were in Mississippi last month for my grandmother's funeral.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Is Someone Trying to Tell Me Something?

I am always late. I have gotten better over the years, but I am still late. So, after I posted the blog about being late, I can't tell you how many emails I got from all the on-time people of the world. It's had me thinking this week about making a serious effort to be early. Because as many of you have told me, "Early is on-time, on-time is late." So what arrives in the email inbox? My daily inspiration that I love to receive and guess what it's about? Timeliness. Check it out here.

A Walk Down Memory Lane

I took the kids to my old elementary school to play on the playground and in the park across the street. The walk in the neighborhood was refreshing in the 75 degree temperature and the kids were able to run, jump, and play without worry. For the sake of sentimentality, the playground equipment was the exact same as I remember...but for child safety, would you want your kids playing on a slide that is at least 30 years old?

Road Tripping Past-Times

Hats of to Heather of the Whittaker Woman blog for this idea while she and her family were road tripping this week. With all of the stops we had to make, I never once thought about stopping to just let them be kids. Check out what the Whittaker family did here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chicago vs. Dallas: Egyptian Hair Gods

I LOVE getting my hair done in Chicago! There are a slew of hair salons owned by Egyptian men that know how to transform a simple grooming experience into an erotic adventure. Ever since the planning of this road trip began, I have been longing for the day I can go to Yehia or Hassan or Shawie or Ahmad and one of them can work their magic on me! Today, I was at the wonderful mercy of Khaled who rubbed, massaged, and fondled the right folicles, roots and tips. From Jackson to Atlanta to Dallas, no one can do my hair like the Egyptian Hair Gods. Gotta love it!

Take the Stairs

CJ, Jada, and my mother got stuck in the elevator yesterday. For an hour. My father was home packing for an upcoming trip to his high school class reunion, I was working on a presentation for my consulting business, and Tyra was watching TV. She opted not to go because she said we needed to spend "mother/daughter time" together. After I gave her a snack and played with dolls, she decided that "mother/daughter time" was over and she would get an equally beneficial bonding experience with me by sitting in the room with me watching tv as I typed.

Needless to say, our afternoon was quiet.

Until my father heard banging coming from outside the the elevator shaft! My mother, CJ, and Jada were on their way back in from the errand running (which did include a trip to Rib's n' Bib's for barbecue-sauce-covered fries).

My father called the building maintenance people, who in-turn called the elevator company, who said their emergency crew would be here in minutes. Tyra lost it...she said she never got to tell CJ and Jada how much she loved them...and now they were going to die with her Nintendo DS! (They had her DS with them on the excursion).

The minutes droned on....and my father became increasingly impatient with the elevator people. It turns out that what was an emergency for us wasn't necessarily an emergency for them, and it took a while for them to arrive.

The building doorman ended up calling the Chicago Fire Department (think Backdraft!) and they set our loved ones free. The children remained surprisingly calm....CJ and Jada both said that they were fine until they saw "big Fire Fighter men with huge wrenches bust in the elevator."

(My children are the offspring of a police their minds, the police can do no wrong...if it's not a fire, call the's something I have to live with for of those is what it is...public service competition at its finest)

Sigh, and so I digress.

An hour later they were free and back in our apartment. I wanted to take photos of the empty elevator, the "stairs" sign, them once having recovered, but Tyra told me that was soooo innappropriate and that I would just be making fun of them but taking photos and putting them on my blog. From the mouths of babes...enjoy your day!

We made it to church!

This past Sunday we made it to church. In Dallas, it is a huge accomplishment for me to get out of the door with three children and make it there within the first 30 minutes of the service. I am maintaining that the accomplishment is just as huge in Chicago because now we don't have the 30 minute window...well everyone should be allowed 15 minutes to be late anyhere, right? Are you ever late? How many minutes pass before you consider yourself late?

Friday, July 4, 2008

Happy Independence Day!

Today was a great day! It is also my parent's 44th wedding anniversary. While I can't really imagine what it's like to be married to the same person for 44 years, I am confident that one day I will be able to experience it. What do you for a married couple who after 44 years, has everything? You get creative, bake a cake, and re-enact their wedding with homemade puppets...starring the grandchildren of course! Happy 4th of July!

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A Little "Taste" of the Windy City

If you ever have the opportunity to visit Chicago, try your best to visit in the summer during the Taste of Chicago. The 10-day festival showcases Chicago's finest food and entertainment, with a fabulous fireworks display to celebrate our nation's independence. Enjoy your holiday!

Yes, that's Cheesecake on a Stick!

We can talk about Low Carb Living next week! :)

CJ was chosen in the crowd to assist the balloon magician!

Only in Chicago! This is a real man.

Chicago vs. Dallas: Grocery Shopping

I have decided to make a stars and stripes flag cake for the 4th of July. In order to get the ingredients for my cake, we needed to go to the grocery store. Did you know that in some parts of the country, YOU HAVE TO PAY A DEPOSIT FOR THE SHOPPING CART?!?!? I was outraged. Additionally, at this particular store, they even charge you for bags. 5 cents for paper, 11 cents for plastic. My mother says this is less about saving the earth and more about protecting their company's assests, but I don't know. What do you think? Do you pay a deposit for a shopping cart, and then pay for bags? Is this the way it should be?

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

God knows...

Sunday morning I woke up early, got the kids ready, and prepared to go to church just like any other Sunday. All morning long, I had that weird, "you're not doing what you said you'd be doing" feeling. But it was church?!?!? I had to go....didn't I?

The caffeine withdrawal headaches were in full swing by Sunday. My mother said several times, "Are you sure you feel like going?" I said, "Yes. I'm fine." Then there was drama with Tyra's skirt, CJ insisted on wearing a shirt, tie, and jacket (it's still summer in the midwest), and Jada said that she hates socks with the ruffles. My mother said, "Toni, it's allright if we don't go." I replied, "No....I'm am giving up caffeine in order to be closer to the Lord. The least I can do is go to church and tell him about it!" Feel free to laugh, it sounds just as silly for me to write that I actually said that and believed it.

We get ready, we are running late of course, and we make it down to my mother's car in the garage, and guess what.....she has a flat tire! My car was about 4 blocks away at another garage for long term parking, but because we were already late, there's no way we had time to walk to get it and get to church...especially since our church here starts at 10:30 a.m. and promptly ends at noon. So much for our southern Sunday lifestyle of staying in church all day. (I didn't realize I had gotten used to that!) :)
Once we made it back inside, I decided to take photos of the kids (possible holiday cards...they looked to cute), and here they are:

So after I took photos, what did I do? I changed clothes and went back to bed...after I said a promise to the Lord that I would do better at following His instructions.

How will I approach this?

After I woke up from a long weekend's nap, I came to these conclusions:

1. The first fast would begin immediately. It would be a caffeine fast (remember the energy pack?) As far as I was concerned, caffeine withdrawal was just the jolt I needed to bring me closer to the Lord in finding myself.

2. No playdates with old friends, no meeting the girls during happy hour, no "fun" until I have been in Chicago for at least 5 days. I need to spend time with my parents, my children need to get used to the idea of being in a different city, and I need to take time to catch up on my rest.

3. If I start to feel a little sorry for myself in light of the divorce, single parenting, etc...the pity party can only last for 15 minutes. When it's over, there are no what ifs, self-loathing tactics, and no blaming.

4. Each day will begin and end with prayer, yoga, and meditation. The prayers are my requests to God, the Yoga opens my mind, heart, and body to receive God, and the meditation is the act of me listening to God.

Day Two: Cruisin into the Windy City

Aaaahhh....the Chicago skyline. Friday morning after what only seemed like a quick nap (the double energy pack from Starbuck's was still working), this was the only thing I could think of. I woke up at 3:00 a.m., took a quick shower, loaded up the minivan, awoke the children and we were back on the highway by 3:30 a.m. Part of this was because of my new executive decision, "Embrace the darkness when travelling with children. " The children instantly feel back asleep and I achieved about 4 hours of peace and harmony...with the pleasure of listening to adult music cds and making plans for my "retreat" in Chicago. My thoughts ranged from, "Should I fast while I'm there? Should I do yoga once or twice a day? Maybe I should do the Daniel Fast that I attempted at Lent again? Should I take this time to hone my cooking skills or become attached to a new hobby? " I made no decisions on the road, I simply pondered the possibilities and left myself open to the acceptance of my new life.
An interesting thing did occur that I'm dying to share with other road-trippers. When I driving Friday morning, after a couple of hours, I became really, really drowsy. Once the kids awoke and we stopped to get breakfast and some gas, I decided to turn the GPS device off. After all, at this point I knew where I was going and "Mandy's voice" was starting to get on my nerves. Once Many went bye-bye, I felt refreshed again...and now I'm wondering if watching that winding road on the gps screen had an affect on me. If you've had this experience, let me know...I'm interested in what others say about this theory. Don't get me wrong, I still love my TomTom, I just think it tried to hypnotize me.
Oh! One last travel tip that I wasn't aware of...the Red Roof Inn has recently undergone major renovations at all of their hotels. We have stayed there a lot over the past year and our experience in West Memphis was phenomenal. If you're looking for a family-friendly hotel with an affordable price tag, check them out.
We made it to my parent's house about noon on Friday...and for the next two days, I slept!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Open Road

We did it! We loaded up the minivan and survived the cross-country trek from Dallas to Chicago. The attached photo is a stock photo from but our minivan looks exactly like this and I wanted you to visualize our experience.

Day One: We left Dallas about 11:30 a.m. and made it to West Memphis by 6:00 p.m. The children did pretty well....I overdosed them on electronics, of course!

I wouldn't be me if I didn't make the trip a little educational. Our trip route took us from Texas to Arkansas, and as boring as the state sounds, there are a lot of neat sites to behold on I-30 Eastbound. We traveled through Hope, Arkansas, (birthplace of Bill Clinton), Hot Springs, Arkansas (home to Hot Springs National Park) and Little Rock, Arkansas (home of the Clinton Presidential Library).

A fun game that we were able to play while in Arkansas is "I Spy the word Walmart." Being the home of the infamous Sam Walton, the word "Walmart" is everywhere. From stores, to delivery trucks, to gas stations, it is obvious what store is king there.

The Day One drive would not have been complete without my friends at Starbuck's and Meringue Bakery in Dallas. While Starbuck's is known for the "fancy" drinks, they also have a special energy pack of ginseng that you can add to any drink. The cashier took one look at the three kids and joklingly said, "I'll give you an extra energy pack on looks like you will have a long day." I accepted the offer, however, was definitely not prepared how it would affect me. Road Trip Tip #1: Know how your body reacts to energy drinks before you partake! Cupcakes from Meringue are simply fabulous...they melt in your mouth and the flavor is amazing.

For road-tripping Texans this summer, be weary of our state's rest stops. We did not see an open rest area along I-30 and a couple of weeks ago we were on I-20 for a family funeral, and the same occured then. I did misjudge the number of bathrooms turns out we did have to stop every hour to an hour and a half or so. All of us had busy bladders!

Many of the budget-minded blogs that I subscribe too (thanks Christie!) mention all kinds of rebates, free items, etc. for consumers who present a gas receipt. In most cases, it doesn't matter how much or where you get your gas, but it may be worth your while to save your receipt every time you fill up...even while road tripping!

At the end of Day One, here's what I noticed: About an hour a way from our destination, everyone (including myself) got ansy! The children were arguing, I was impatient and jittery (remember the double energy packs) and more than anything we wanted to be done with the driving! On the road at that moment, I made two very important decisions.

1. Even though I am travelling alone with three small children, I need to figure out a way to do some night driving. The darkness soothes them and encourages quiet.

2. When physical fights ensue and we are on the highway, I let them go at it. In 15 minutes, they have worn themselves out and are too weary to speak.
Stay tuned...tomorrow, we roll into the Windy City!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Am I Really About to Do This?

Tomorrow morning I am doing something that I am not even sure I should be doing. I am packing up three children (incredibly cute and intelligent; however they are children nonetheless) and we are driving to Chicago to spend the summer with my parents. While it's nice to say that this journey begins right now, it really began eight years ago when I got married. My husband and I have been seperated for a little over 6 months now, and our lives have taken challenging and unusual turns.

You see, before I got married, I was the epitome of the single-twentysomething woman. I dated a lot (cutie patooties), spent quality time with friends, was adventurous, and high-spirited. Through the years, I've settled into common wifey and mommy roles which sometimes included side effects of neglecting myself and experiencing sleep deprivation, depression, emotional eating, an overactive thyroid that could only be controlled when stress was under control, and premature gray hair.

When I moved out of the house my husband and I shared with our three children, it felt like a burden was lifted from my shoulders. I didn't have to walk on egg shells, I could cook gumbo for Christmas dinner, I could buy generic foods, and I could decorate my new place any way I want.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world didn't see my separation as such a great thing. I quickly discovered that the more honest I became with what was happening in our personal lives, the more I subjected our family to unfair judgements, prejudice, and chastising by people who were not in my circle. While I am grateful for the friends and family who helped us through the trials and turmoils (and throughout the summer, I'm you'll read about the nitty gritty details), I need time away from Dallas to process the past six months and plan for the future.

Why Chicago? It's home. My parents live there and I am relishing the opportunity to go to my childhood home and snuggle with my stuffed animals in my old room. I need a sense of stability right now and that's the place I'm seeking it. While Chicago in the summer is fun, I also plan to use the open road to do a lot of thinking.

Our estimated time of departure is noon Thursday! I'll update the travels as events warrant (and as I have internet access). Here's to a fun and enlightening summer!