When You Are Away


A few weeks back I got an email from Becky Higgins asking me to contribute a post to her Good Life series she's running on her blog this year. This was the post I ended up writing - it was shared on her site last Sunday and I want to post it here in my archives as well:

Part of cultivating a good life is knowing we can make it through hard things.

Two years I ago my life changed in a million big and little ways when I went through the process of an unwanted divorce.

There is nothing easy about divorce but in our case, through intention, hard-work, mutual respect and a shared love of our children we've been able to move forward in a best-case scenario that I'm thankful for every single day.

I don't want to sugar coat this experience or give you the impression that it's no big deal or easy or everything is wonderful all the time. It isn't. It's gloriously imperfect. There are scars. There are emotional challenges. There are missteps and backwards slides.

But every single day we choose love.

One of the hardest things for me, especially in the beginning of this life change, was not having my children with all of the time (not that they were with me every single moment before but there is no way to discount the acute pain that came from the times when they weren't with me because we were getting a divorce). This has gotten easier over the years as I've come to appreciate the time I have to myself, especially for cultivating my own interests and relationships. But in the moment it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my body.

I've been thinking about writing something to my kids about what I do during the times they are with their Dad. Sometimes they ask me when I see them again but most of the time we just give a whole lot of hugs and move on with whatever is next (often popcorn and an evening movie all cuddled up together on the couch - a re-entry tradition I started when we first began sharing our kids between our separate houses).

Someday down the road they might be curious about I do when they are away.

Many of the scrapbook pages I have created include letters to my kids as the main journaling component. It's an easy way for me to organize my thoughts and share with them something from my heart. I think that writing a letter is a great way to share this with my children and I'll be taking this text and turning it into a layout soon.

I want my kids to know that we, all of us together and each of us individually, can make it through hard things. We do that by supporting and loving each other even when it's hard, even when we'd rather go hide under the covers.

We can choose to make the best of what's in front of us right now, even when it's hard.

Dear Simon & Anna,

Someday down the road you might wonder what I do on those days and weekends when you are with Dad.

I think it’s important for you to know that I miss you when we are apart. I think it's important for you to know that I know you are safe and being cared for in a very loving environment which I am so very thankful for. It is important for you to know that you are so very loved, whether we are together or apart. It’s also important for you to know that what I try to do during those days we were apart is live the length and width of my life.

Sometimes I work ahead on my "work stuff" so I can be more available and present and less distracted with my to-do list when we are together.

Sometimes I play. That might mean going to the movies, a concert or other travel to near or far away places.

Sometimes I travel for work, often with Katie along for the ride.

Sometimes I do nothing and simply rest in the cocoon of my bed and blankets.

Sometimes I mess around in the yard or clean up your rooms or re-organized things around the house.

I often do laundry.

Sometimes I go to more than one movie in a row.

Sometimes I exercise for longer than I usually can when you're both here. Maybe at the gym. Maybe on my bike. Maybe at the pool.

Sometimes I go out for dinner and drinks with friends and celebrate that we all made it through another week in our crazy lives.

Sometimes I sleep in late, read the paper at the dining room table, and never change out of my jammies all day.

Sometimes I feel sad and sometimes I'm so happy I feel like I can fly.

Sometimes I try to learn something new. I think I need to do more of that.

I often dream.

I often think of you guys and what you might be doing (I usually know) and hope you are enjoying time with Dad and his family.

In case you ever worry about me, I want you to know that I am okay.

And man do I love it with all my heart every time you return home.

Love, Mom

43 thoughts

  1. Meghan

    2014-03-13 12:33:25 -0400

    Ali, so many times you have inspired me or made me laugh or brought tears to my eyes. I too, suddenly, am going through an unexpected divorce. Right now I feel like my heart is being ripped apart whenever the girls are gone. But I have to be strong, for them and for me. I see how you have made this divorce a growing part of your journey, and reading this gives me more comfort than I can say. Thank you for your sharing and your amazing outlook on even the harsh parts of life.

  2. The Necessity of Hard | simplyspokn

    2014-03-13 12:35:30 -0400

    […] my feed included a post by the inspirational Ali Edwards (Read Post here). As I read it, I had to suck back the bitter taste of my own divorce 3 years ago. Not only was it […]

  3. Kim Schofield

    2014-03-13 12:38:58 -0400

    I think really sharing with your children is very important as they age and consider "what went wrong" in your marriage. My parents divorced when I was eight (my brother was two) and now, at 47, I still struggle with their decision. I think part of the issue is that neither of them really talked to my brother and I...we don't really know why they divorced (of course we have one side of the story but not the other). They kind of tried to act like it was no big deal. No matter what adults say, divorce is devastating for children. I understand that sometimes it can't be avoided but I do think it's so important to keep the lines of communication very open...even if it means showing them the difficulties. I think it's a great thing that you're documenting for them. And I'll do my best to not strongly dislike your ex for putting you all through such a difficult process. LOL! I'm so, so happy that you've found someone else and hope that he's a keeper and treats you like a queen! :-)

  4. Kathy

    2014-03-13 13:30:33 -0400

    I left you a question from your blog post two days ago. Would you please send me a answer. It regards your pages on starting to digital scrapbook. Thank you

  5. Roberta

    2014-03-13 14:33:24 -0400

    Bless you Ali, for choosing love, for struggling so hard in the muck (divorce is so fuuullll of muck), for being strong, and for sharing this with us so we can grow and flourish also. Thank you!

    Hang in there! Your kids are so beautiful - and Simon is getting so tall!

  6. Mikki

    2014-03-13 14:41:26 -0400

    Thank you so much for sharing your story. I too went though an unwanted divorce years ago and hearing you talk about your story always makes me optimistic and glad to hear that I am not alone.

  7. Lenni

    2014-03-13 14:52:50 -0400

    Thank you Ali for sharing your personal journey. I wish I had your courage.

  8. Sue M

    2014-03-13 15:14:59 -0400

    How moving... I divorced many years ago.. remarried 11 yrs later.. lost him a couple years ago. All those challenges you feel now, I felt way back when. I'm hoping some day, you find that special someone to fulfill your life like I did. Your comments to your children were beautiful.

  9. Sue Smith

    2014-03-13 15:21:45 -0400

    Absolutely beautiful.

  10. Maureen

    2014-03-13 15:28:32 -0400

    Thank you Ali for always being honest. I'm well past my own divorce but it's never easy but we do what we can to live into the next stage with as much grace as we can. Some days just plain suck.

    Good for you to remind other mothers that 'we' need our cocoon time too. Take it when you can!

  11. Abby

    2014-03-13 16:43:21 -0400

    Wonderfully written -- you are simply amazing, and very obviously thriving with grace. Thank you for sharing. My son's girlfriend's parents recently divorced (Mom bailed out on Dad), and I think your words would greatly inspire him. The girlfriend is only 16 with a 14 year old sister. So difficult.

  12. Lori

    2014-03-13 17:45:42 -0400

    I have been around since the beginning. You are BRAVE and oh so HONEST-I LOVE both beautiful qualities in you. You have taken this curve ball in life and are trying to learn new "techniques" probably daily with it to the best of your ability. I love the letters you write your children, highlighting their strengths and "favorites"/"unfavorites" too and they are right on cue (as they should be) and you are real, you speak from your heart and soul. I love that about you and admire the strength you portray--even when as a mom I know you are "sometimes a wee bit sad" you still do it with heart and soul. I love the interaction you share with your family and friends. Sometimes even when a curve ball strikes us out we can pick up the parts of ourselves we need to strengthen, tap into new strengths, get second chances at opportunities we thought we may have missed and come back at it even better and stronger the next time...I see you do this time and time again. From an outsiders perspective...I'm glad you have such a great family and Katie & Her Husband (praying I spelled her name correctly). Your surprise with Simon to Disney - unreal. You create magical moments - BRAVO! It's nice to see you sparkling more and more. Wishing you happiness as your transformation continues. :) You are amazing-keep shining! :)

  13. Karen F

    2014-03-13 18:45:07 -0400

    So love the idea of writing letters. A beautiful thing to do that is falling away with technology so I think writing them as part of memory keeping is a wonderful personal way to share. Thank you.

  14. Angie

    2014-03-13 19:19:46 -0400


  15. Pink Ronnie

    2014-03-13 22:15:50 -0400

    Oh my goodness, I am in tears....
    Thank you for sharing your life with us, Ali.
    Ronnie xo

  16. Sarah

    2014-03-14 03:07:38 -0400

    Thank you for sharing so deeply Ali. I think perhaps you posted as much to keep this letter among the mix of things as to share wider. This blog will be a fantastic family archive in years and years to come.

    I couldn't help thinking that our children are so much more ready to hear this sort of thing than we realise. I hope you share this letter with your children very soon, not wait until they can somehow articulate that they worry for you at times. I think it will help them to know what your life is like without them. Then, without guilt they can enjoy where they are completely in the moment.

    You are strong and wise and clearly a great Mum. Sending respect across the hemispheres, Sarah

  17. Cindy Gay

    2014-03-14 21:35:47 -0400

    Simon is so tall! And Anna is adorable. You're strong Ali and to be admired!

  18. Barbara

    2014-03-17 00:45:21 -0400

    This made me so unexpectedly emotional! Thank you for sharing. What a blessing you are in your kids' lives, and to have a dad that loves them, too. What an example that you both have risen above the negativity to give them security and love.

  19. Beatrice

    2014-03-17 03:25:27 -0400

    Tears in my eyes as I was reading this post. Bless you, Ali, for being who you are and for coming through all of this as gracefully as you have. You continue to inspire me creatively as well as how you view Life and its ups and downs. Be happy :)

  20. Gayle

    2014-03-17 18:14:02 -0400

    I love hearing you say these things! I've been a single mom for ten years and I feel exactly the same when my daughter is away and I do exactly the same things. People think that divorce must mean hating one another, that's not the case. Our divorced relationship is far better than our married one was. I relish my alone time and know it's important for my daughter to have special times with her dad.

  21. Hollie S.

    2014-03-18 10:50:13 -0400

    My ex and I have equal visitation at the moment, and your post almost made me cry. I could have written it word for word. I think I may have to borrow this idea. :) Thank you for sharing your story.

  22. SandraA

    2014-03-18 14:59:23 -0400

    Thank you so much for this post. God bless you all.

  23. Liz Kartchner

    2014-03-19 12:27:06 -0400

    Such a wonderful momma you are! tfs

  24. Rhonda Markham

    2014-03-20 08:31:16 -0400

    My heart aches for you. I still have clipped articles of yours from Creative Keepsakes 10 years back when your works emitted the epitome of living life's joy. You are an amazing, loving, caring, giving, creative woman. But the quality I admire most from you is that you shine as a woman of integrity. You are an ispiration to all of us who are moving through their own emotional walks of pain. The integrity with with your live your life is an example I endeavor to follow daily. Thank you for sharing your stories. Rhonda~~

  25. Janie Breth

    2014-03-22 23:31:19 -0400

    I cried when I read this post. Very touching as I have been there myself. But I applaud you for the words that I have felt in my heart so many times. I started scrapbooking because of divorce now over a decade ago knowing that I wanted memories established with me and my child when we were together. Not once have I thought of scrapping when we were apart and to share those feelings. Thank you for the inspiration.

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