Friday, October 23, 2015

I met my second husband online. No really.

Back in January I was living with the kids in a temporary apartment. We had closed on and moved out of the Barbie Dream House, and the mint green shitbox was in full renovation mode. That stupid house failed nearly every inspection. Anywhere there was plumbing, the subfloors were completely rotten. The house was a mess. I was a mess. It was all a mess.

And so the kids and I were living in a month-to-month rental, all shacked up together. The apartment was nastyyyyy. I scrubbed it with so much bleach the week we moved in that I literally had no fingerprints. I could have committed any number of crimes and been untracable. Horrific.

It was a particularly brutal time of transition. I was having a hard time balancing it all -- parenting, a newborn, three toddlers, Lola's early intervention services, working full-time, renovating the house, ex-wifing. It felt like the sky was falling most days.

My brother and his girlfriend of five years broke up that month, and he was pretty broken over it all. I set up a profile for him to help him get over the whole thing. I thought if he just got back out there, he'd regain some confidence and move on. Daily we checked in and he told me about the funny (and sometimes, insane) messages he was getting. He was putting himself out there and it was pretty brutal to handle rejection after a breakup.

A few weeks into it he convinced me that I needed to be on Match with him. It was my fault he was online, and the least I could do was be his partner in crime. So I made an account. Added pictures. Wrote a profile. And never paid.
I have never been on a date. I met my exhusband when I was 21 and we were in college. Logic and time took us through the usual steps – marriage, a house, kids. I’d write down my interests, but they’d all be a fa├žade right now. The truth is that I’ve had my head down, wearing the title of wife and mom for so many years that I have forgotten to just be me. I had a life before. But this space that I am in now is new, unexpected, and certainly wasn’t part of the plan. I’m learning not to plan, and instead be in the moment, be grateful for what is, rather than reticent for what isn’t. I guess I joined here to start figuring out who I am again, and to see what moving on might look like. 
In the first day I received over 800 messages. Chum in the water. It was overwhelming, and because I didn't pay for the account, I couldn't read any of them.

After a particularly harrowing day with the kids and Joe, my brother convinced me to go to the mommy juice store, buy a bottle of wine, pay for my damn Match account and call him. We'd get sauced and read the messages together. There were some gems to sort through. The day was January 27, and in that pile of messages was one from Eric.

My profile, my story, was his. The parallels between our marriages, our divorces, our lives was uncanny. (To this day, it is still so uncanny.) So I wrote him back. And he wrote me back. And I wrote him back.

Somewhere in our first week of chatting he asked me out on a real date. Now, mind you, I had never been on a real date. Certainly never as an adult. So in January, when this beautiful man asked me out, I told him the first time I was available was the first or second March.

Later that week my friend Leslie came over to help me paint the mint green house. I showed her Eric's pictures. Questioned whether he could really be that cute, or if the pictures were a fluke. She asked me if we were going to meet, and I told her about our date (in March.) And the look on her face said it all.

"I blew it, didn't I?"

She just blinked.

I had no idea. Truly, I was so overwhelmed. And so busy. And was still wearing maternity clothes -- not because I couldn't fit into my regular clothes (hellooooo, divorce diet) -- but because all of my clothes were in boxes in a storage unit. And I felt like such a loser for not knowing how this all worked.

But he was willing to wait to meet me, and in the meantime we kept talking. We exchanged phone numbers and began text messaging each other.

I was a smitten kitten from the start.

We played 20 questions all day long. Some were hard questions. Some were playful. Some were silly. It was like speed dating...on cocaine. I mean we got to know each other FAST. And the more we found out, the more consumed we became with learning more about the other person.

Our text messaging quickly became 20 questions throughout the day, sending each other little video messages in the morning and throughout the day, talking on the phone at night. We'd talk from 8 p.m. until 4 a.m. every night, literally falling asleep on the phone together, and this went on for weeks. We never ran out of things to talk about, to ask about, to share, to discuss.

And we still hadn't met.

It got to the point where we couldn't wait until March to meet. So he switched his flight itenerary for a work conference and flew in from Vegas on a red eye, on a Wednesday (February 18). And then drove from Boston Logan to New York, without sleeping, so that he could take me on a date.

I got a sitter, and put myself together and drove to meet this man that I was pretty sure I loved before I had ever truly met. The text messaging as I was driving to meet god, we were both so nervous and giddy and ANXIOUS.

I was late, I'm always late. He was early, he's always early.

He had to change his shirt before he got there because his hands were shaking so badly that he had spilled coffee all over himself on his way to our first date spot.

I parked my car and walked through downtown Saratoga, texting him that I was on my way in. I walked through the door, and there he was sitting, facing the door, at the first hightop. And he was beautiful.

He stood up when he saw me, and we hugged, both shaking. This man that I already knew. I mean I KNEW, but had never known, and there he was in front of me. In real life.

We sat down and ordered drinks and he sat there smiling a goofy smile NOT SAYING A WORD (which I have come to learn is *highly* unusual) and when I get nervous I talk...a lot. So I talked and talked and talked to fill space. And I remember thinking, oh my god, this is going horribly. I mean I am talking, and he's just staring at me. Stop talking, Niki. STOP TALKING.

About forty-five minutes in, he joined the conversation. We had drinks, we had dinner, and then it was time to leave. I mean the place was literally closing down, and it was time to leave. (You don't have to go home, but you can't stay here....)

We stood up to walk out and this man was going to give me a hug and leave it at that. After weeks of anticipation and excitement, A HUG. And with that, I did something I have never done in my whole life. I grabbed him and I kissed him, hard, passionately, excitedly (in public! with a room full of people watching) I made the frigging first move.

My goodness. I am bold in my middle age.

We talked that night, again, until almost 5 in the morning. Our first real date. And I never wanted it to end. (Thankfully, it hasn't.)

I don't know how I ended up here. A year ago I was packing up my forever house and dismantling my life, starting over again as a single mom of four. If you would have told me this is where I'd be 12 months later, I would have laughed in your face. But here we are.

There are so many reasons that I love this man. Every day, I find another reason. He is without a doubt, my perfect person, the love of my lifetime, and the thing I have been missing. And last week, he asked me to be his wife (more on that later.)

I couldn't have written it better if I tried.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

What the hell is going on, Niki?

I have received several messages over the last few weeks with people wanting to know, literally, what the hell is going on? What is this stuff I am posting on social. Have I gone to the dark side? Have I lost it completely? Am I going to become one of those people?

I have a lot of posts I've started to write about where we've been and what is going on, but I felt compelled to hit publish on this one before those.

Since I'm using social media to market this new opportunity, I felt like now was a good time to at least share my why. As in, "Why the hell are you doing this?"

I don't plan to sell or market my new business on my blog, though this is a blog about my life and this business is now a part of it, so I can't say that it will never come up here either. But I would prefer (and I think others would too) for this blog to be my authentic space, and so I think it's best that the two remain mostly separate.

So, without further ado, why.

In February 2014, I came home from a long drive. Joe had already put our three older kids to bed, and was watching a DVR’d lacrosse game in his office. I walked through the door, my face stained with tears, sat down next to him and told him I was leaving. I was seven weeks pregnant with our fourth child, and I was scared as hell.

By May, our Barbie Dream House, the house I thought I’d spend forever in, was on the market. We had just custom built that home 18 months before. I drew the floor plan on a napkin, picked every fixture, painstakingly selected every tile. I dreamed of a day when one of our girls would get married and have a tented reception in that backyard.

Ryan – my son, my oldest, and one half of my dynamic duo (twins) – had just been diagnosed with Autism in September 2013, and transitioned to a special needs preschool in January 2014. His IEP is managed by our school district and county. I fought so hard for home-based and school-based services, getting him therapies and quantities of sessions not usually afforded to children. There was no way in hell I was going to risk giving up a single service, so I committed to finding a home in our county and our school district, that I could afford, that could fit five people.

We live in a small rural area, and another much less service-generous county comprises the majority of our school district. Finding a home that met all of these criteria was no small feat. I found our current home – the home I have lovingly referred to as the mint green shitbox, or the pistachio nightmare – on October 14, 2014, exactly one week before giving birth, and 36 days before the Barbie Dream House was set to close. That is 36 days before my three toddlers, my newborn, and I were homeless.

The mint green shitbox lived up to its full potential, coming in with over $22,000 of inspection failures. Radon, plumbing, electrical, sump pump, subfloors. You name the inspection, this house failed. It was the only house on the market that could preserve Ryan’s IEP and fit my tribe, so I poured every cent and every last ounce of energy I had into making it work.

The kids and I lived in temporary housing while the floors were fixed, and we moved into old minty on January 31, 2015. We had no kitchen and my refrigerator was plugged into my living room next to a pile of boxes. I washed dishes and bottles in the bathtub after the kids got out of it each night.

Let me tell you, if you’ve never lived with two four year olds, a two year old, and a 3 month old for four months with no kitchen, then you have not lived.

I am a communications consultant, and I worked my butt off to grow a successful business that would allow me to attend to my four children, and all of their various needs, while financially providing for them. This has meant that for the last two years I’ve worked nights, weekends, before the kids wake up, after they go to sleep. I have taken calls during nap times, sent emails while trying to get dinner down. I’ve run, I’ve rushed, I’ve pushed, I’ve pulled. But, most of all, I’ve juggled. And I’ve been exhausted.

In January, just as we were getting ready to move into old minty, Jamie Walker approached me about joining her team. I didn’t know Jamie, but she “knew me” through this blog.

She presented Rodan + Fields, and asked me to join her “Dream Team.” I listened to her pitch, heard her story, and said, “Thanks, but no thanks. This isn’t for me. I don’t have the time. I’m way too busy. I can’t possibly take any more money away from my children. This is too risky. I’m not cut out for this. But thanks.”

Jamie and I stayed in touch, but as friends. I had no desire to sell anything.

I enjoy our friendship, we share inspirational quotes, and stories about raising twins, and text message each other songs that have to make it onto a playlist. And over the next nine months, I watched her business grow. I wondered whether I could do this, but convinced myself that I couldn’t.

In that time, two more women I have met through other life experiences and hobbies – infertility and photography – each took the leap. One was a nurse, the other a teacher. Both were moms. I watched them start. I watched them take off. I watched them succeed. I watched their lives change. And I wondered whether I could do this, but convinced myself, again, that I couldn’t.

After a particularly harrowing day parenting and mothering and exwifing and homeownering, I woke up to find that one of these women I had been watching from afar succeeded to the point of earning a raise, another promotion, and a Lexus. Yes, people, a goddamned Lexus.

That morning I messaged my other friend that I’d had my eye on, and I asked her to share her experience with me too. Her business is smaller, but successful. Rodan + Fields has allowed her to take a leave of absence from her teaching job to stay home with her two children, but still earn enough to cover her mortgage payment.

And with that I decided to stop convincing myself of what I couldn’t do, and try to see what I could do.

Because even if I did nothing more than earn my business kit for free, I had tried something that could benefit my family without impacting them. If I only earned $500 a month – something that is SO doable with this business – I would be able to afford to buy my kids clothes (do you know how expensive it is to dress four kids across four seasons?!), or pay for my son’s therapies, or my girls’ ballet classes. And maybe if I really succeeded, I could climb out of the mess I created making this house work, and the mess of leaving my old life behind and starting again, or put money away so I can (hopefully) help four kids pay for college, or afford to finish fixing this shitbox (I have a room with no ceiling right now, people.)

I would do anything to provide for my kids, to be more available for them, to give them a better life. I would try anything.

As of writing this, I have been in business for two weeks. TWO. I am not a Lexus earner, or a million-dollar achiever, I am not paying off my house this year. (Though I have people on my team that are all of those things.) But, I will earn my business kit for free. And when my commission comes in next month, I will pay off the balance on my Gap card, which I used to for my kids’ school clothes.

I get that this journey isn’t for everyone. But I believe in the opportunity. Maybe you do too?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

First Day(s) of School

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