Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I'll be LIVE on the radio! (9/24)

Well, guess what--I landed a radio interview with famous comedian Brian Shirley!  

    I love this guy.  Last time he had me on his show, we talked about this book:

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Brian always has me in stitches, that's why I can hardly wait to talk with him about this new topic....
Marriage: What NOT to Do 
What can cause (or maybe even caused my) divorce.

Join us, September 24th at 5:15pm EST. 
Listen in online at: The BTS Show

I'm excited!

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Miraculous Angel Named Mr. Miyagi

A Miraculous Angel
The computer tech reminded me of a young version of Mr. Miyagi, wise and reassuring. At the quaint computer store, Miyagi Jr. quietly accessed my laptop and said he could fix it immediately and be done within a half hour. So I waited and before realizing what happened, that man gave my four kids candy--we joked and laughed about life--my mood AND the mood of the store changed, becoming brighter.
    When it came time to pay, he wouldn't let me. "This is on me," he said.
    "You have to let me pay," I said. "Look at all the work you've done."
    He eyed me thoughtfully, stroking his long goatee. I thought he might see straight through me. Maybe he'd understand that something rested beyond my joking and laughter. Zeke's birthday was fast approaching and I didn't want to feel the ache that day always brings since my son passed away.
    Miyagi Jr. nodded and said, "There's a pizza place around the corner. A man always works there at this time. If you'd really like to thank me, go order a pizza and visit with the man who's working there. Visit with him just like you visited with me."
    Visit with the man?  It sounded strange. What could he possibly mean? It was my turn to study him. "All right," I finally said, then grabbed my youngest kids' hands and stepped toward the door. 
    Just as the bell rang above the exit and I walked outside, I heard another tech ask Mr. Miyagi, "Are you sure you should send her over there? You know what happens when some people go there when he's workin--"  The door shut and I didn't hear another word.
    "Mama, where are we going now?" my four-year-old son asked as I buckled him in his seat.
    I inhaled a big breath. "Well, that nice man wouldn't let me pay. So we're going to buy him a pizza."
    The pizza place was tucked back at the edge of a dilapidated parking lot.  People swarmed to other businesses around, but no one went to the forlorn restaurant.     
    "You stay in the car. Keep an eye on the babies," I told my oldest daughters.
    "Mom, are you sure you should go? This whole thing sounds weird," my second-oldest daughter said.
    "I'm just getting a pizza. The computer tech needs to get something for all of his hard work."  I turned music on for the kids, stepped from the car and locked the black doors.
    The pizza place didn't have tables, chairs or benches. But the spotless counter gave me a good impression. As the smell of fresh breadsticks wafted toward me, my insides warmed with childhood memories. I stepped forward and rang the metal bell.
    "Hello?" I said.  "Hello?"  Someone moved in the shadows at the far end of the kitchen.
    A man lumbered forward. At first I couldn't see his face because he'd turned it down and away.
    "Those breadsticks smell amazing!" I said.  Then he fully turned toward me and I gasped.
    The left side of his face was so handsome. He had a striking brown eye and perfectly dark skin. But the other side of his face drooped and bulged.  The forehead on his right side stretched a fist taller than the rest of his face.  His right eye couldn't open, nestled below his nose.  
Click the picture for more information about how to help people with this condition.
    "What do you want?" he mumbled.
    I nearly cried, feeling so badly for gasping seconds before.  I blinked hard, collecting myself, and instantly donned a smile.
    "How are you today?" I asked brightly.
    "I'm . . . all right," he said, turning so I only saw his profile. "And you?"
    "I'm having a fantastic day. I went to that computer repair place over there.  They fixed my computer for free.  So I'd like to order a large peperoni pizza for them."
    His curious eye darted toward mine.  "They've been very good to me as well." His words came out slowly and cautiously.
    I wanted to make an impact, then. But how? I could have told him that my first son had birth defects. Explain how Zeke had a cleft lip and palate.  My stomach knotted, remembering how I'd wanted Zeke to be born perfect, live a good life, and die long after I did. I looked at the pizza man and wondered for the millionth time, why do birth defects exist?
    But instead of talking about Zeke, Miyagi Jr.'s words drifted into my mind.  Visit with him just like you visited with me.   
    So I shot the bull with him as he made the pizza.  I told jokes about how I worked at a pizza place once. "When I was on the clock, they were always running out of pineapple," I said. "It's my weakness, really."
    "I know what you mean," he mumbled, then laughed. "I always eat the pineapple too. It's a good weakness though."
    When he finished the peperoni-extra-cheese, he came over to the counter. "Don't worry about bringing this to them. I'll bring it for you and tell them an angel bought them lunch."
    I've been a lot of things, but I've never been someone's angel. As I gazed into the man's eye, I thought of how hard I try doing everything right--so I can see my son in Heaven. But I never feel good enough. Tears welled in my eyes and I couldn't look away from the man. No. I wasn't an angel, he was--smiling and laughing despite his lot in life. It could take years to learn what that man had suddenly taught me about gratitude.
    I lingered because so much kindness shone from his deep, dark eye. "Thank you. You have yourself a wonderful day," I said, turning to leave.
    Just as I pushed the door open, he stopped me. "Wait," he said, and I turned. "Thanks for coming in here today. It's a cruel world out there, but people like you make it a better place."
    I held the door open for a minute longer. "Not people like me," I said. "Wonderful people like you."  I smiled one last time. "Hey, enjoy the pineapple, it is the best part of working at a pizza place."
    "I will," he promised and I left the store.
    As I drove home, clouds grayed the sky overhead. The sun shone brightly in the east, shedding light even through the storm.  I told my kids the story. "I don't know who was more of an angel, the pizza man or Miyagi Jr."
    "Mom, you haven't said a word about the guy's face. I saw him through the window. Didn't you notice something was really wrong with him?"
    There hadn't been a reason to mention his physical defects. "He was born with problems like Zeke was. But just like Zeke, he was beautiful inside. It makes me wonder though. . . . Why do you think the computer tech sent me to the pizza place?" I asked my oldest daughter.
    "Maybe he realized you treat everyone with the same kindness no matter what. That says a lot about you, Mom."
    "No," I sniffled. "It says a lot about him."
    I pulled off and parked on the side of the road after that. I got out and looked into the storming sky. I thought about my book The Golden Sky--the book about how God and Zeke changed my perception--how sometimes beauty comes right after the storms of life. 
    As I gazed at the widening clouds, a raindrop fell on my nose and somehow I felt like Zeke was looking down on me, beaming. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Strong As Stone: Becoming the Best Version of Me

I love my kids so much!  
We had way too much fun playing this together.

~Strong as Stone~
©2014 EC Stilson & Mike Magagna

Changing...moving on.
Moving past the way things used to be.
Growing...getting strong.
Becoming the best version of me.

There is a time and a season.
You're not the reason--
you are not the one.
You're not the change in the season.
And it has begun.

Changing...moving on.
Moving past the way things used to be.
Growing...getting strong.
Becoming the best version of me.

||:There is a time and a season.
You're not the reason--
you are not the one:||

Steppin' up, strong as stone.
Can't you see, I'm not alone.

Steppin' up, strong as stone.
Can't you see /we're/ not alone.

Lyrics by EC Stilson & Mike Magagna

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Dear God, I'm Tapping Out Now

Dear God,
    I stopped really praying to you the day Zeke died. I asked you to heal my son, but you didn't; at the time I thought you were on vacation or something. I get it now though, why he died--how certain things are meant to be. Too bad it didn't make the pain go away. That's when I quit praying, figured you'd do what you wanted no matter what my finite opinion was.  
    But I have to say, you shocked me this year.
    I've prayed for signs and answers have surprisingly come, time and again.  People said it was coincidence, but after a while, I started doubting them instead of you.      
    On Monday I hit an all-time low, set my pride aside and prayed for more than a sign--I REALLY prayed for your help.
    I hate asking for stuff, like a spoiled child who doesn't get their way. I know it's prideful, feeling things should be done on my own. But last Monday, I apologized for not checking in more often, not telling you how glad I am for life, not explaining that I miss feeling as if you're always with me.
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    "I'm tapping out," I said Monday morning. "I know I'm not the greatest at praying. I'm not the most eloquent, or smart. I'm not the kindest, or the sweetest. I've made more mistakes than Eve. I suck, really. God, I've even denied you, saying terrible things out of hurt, or just to sound cool.
    "I'm so sorry for betraying you. I don't deserve your help...your love...even your goodwill.  I'm a backstabber to my maker--and maybe that's the worst crime ever known.  But God, things have gotten so bad. 
    "I'm a single mom.  My ex can't work right now because of his motorcycle accident.  My kids need so much from me constantly.  I feel like I'm gonna break under this pressure. 
    "God, I'm asking you for something--and you know I never really ask for stuff.  I need a job--a good job.  I don't know if you'll answer me; it'd be a miracle if you did.  But really, I need help. I"
    I applied for 18 jobs after that prayer on Monday. So many people reached out to me, sending info and employer phone numbers. Help came from long-time friends, relatives I thought had forgotten about me, people I didn't even think liked me, some people I'd wronged.  I cried over the emails, seeing how generous and kind everyone truly is.
    "You're gonna make it," one person wrote--a person who never should have given my friendship a second chance. "You're stronger than you know, and you're going to make it despite what anyone might think! I'm pulling for you, friend."
    Friend...  She'd actually written the word.  That kind of love and generosity floored me.
    God, I saw your kindness in those actions--and it made me realize again, how amazing life truly is even during the worst trials.  The darkness might come and surround us, but the Light, it has the power to make that darkness run.
    One job spoke to me more than the rest.  I crossed my fingers, hoping for the best because really it would be my dream job.  
    Tuesday morning they asked me to an interview that evening.  On Wednesday I was already scheduled for a second interview.  And by that same night, I had the job.
    God, this might seem silly to some reading these words, like a Christmas letter a child sends to Santa, but I wanted to tell you where everyone can see.... THANK YOU. 
    I was so sad. I didn't know how I'd pay my bills, take care of my kids, even afford groceries, but that's all changed.  I'm gonna work my little heart out, making my employer proud.  
     Thank you for loving me against all the odds.  Thank you for forgiving me, even though I didn't deserve it.  And thank you for surrounding me with good people who believe in me despite the odds.
   I love you, God. And I want everyone to know that even though my life has been hard at times, you're still here for me and if you can be here for someone like me, I know you're there for them too.
               I'll talk with you soon,

P.S. I'll try to stop swearing when I'm with my friends. But that's going to take some effort.  Here's to honesty!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

10 Reasons My Marriage Failed

Yesterday, I wrote about my divorce. But today, I really had an urge to write about why my marriage failed before all of those terrible events from last year even started. 
    If you're married or in a long-term relationship, thinking things have grown stale, I hope you'll read this and make a change.

10 Reasons My Marriage Failed
 These are MY faults--I'm not talking about my ex. 
This list exists so that if I get married again, 
I can read it and hopefully prevent a similar situation from happening again.

1. I Stopped Trying 
    This is short and simple. Remember when you used to be romantic, buying cute things to wear on dates--or afterwards? Leaving notes in your hubby's car? Doing sweet things around the house just for him? Actually curling your hair?! Well, after I went through labor 5 times, this stopped. We were lucky to have a meal alone. I felt frumpy AND I just didn't make time.  I kept thinking, "So I'm gonna breastfeed, pull my straggly hair up and then try to be sexy?" Yeah right!  Well, I should have made the effort--and so should you.
 photo 3752d60b-0f20-4f25-9801-49ea3498ad77_zpsd68c9f32.jpg guessed it--an actually a pic of me in curlers. 
    This might sound silly to some people, especially if you've been married for over a decade, like I was. You might think, "But we'll always be together, why should I make that extra time?"  That leads me to the next point.... 

2. Becoming Overly Confident
    I loved my ex so much--and I knew he loved me--so I figured we'd always be together. Why exert that extra energy curling my hair and doing my makeup? Why leave him notes, when he already knew how much I cared? 
    No matter how much someone loves you or you love them, it's always nice to hear that they love you back.  I knew my mom loved me as a kid, but when she'd leave notes in my lunch, it would literally make my day brighter. I had something to hold onto all day, to read over and over. Someone cared about me! Wowser.
    Remind your significant other that THEY ARE LOVED. It's amazing how much this simple act of kindness can revolutionize a relationship. 

3. Over-worked
    Unfortunately, we all need money. But make sure your job isn't taking over your life. 
    My ex worked out of town and was only home a few days a month. That was rough, but what made it worse was that I had my own business and when he got home, I would oftentimes talk about my business, or work on the weekends while he watched the kids; this left no time for "us."
    Priorities... Is work more important than your relationship? If it is, you might end up divorced--by hey, at least you'll have a good job!  
    Seriously don't let work rule most aspects of your home life. If it isn't necessary, don't talk about it excessively with your spouse. And, take time with your spouse somehow regardless of opposing shifts, financial needs, or lack of interest. Reignite that flame. 
    Find similar interests, like the next point talks about.

4. Varied Interests
    It's great to have your own interests; in fact, this is vital to your own personal fulfillment and growth.  You can't be happy with someone else, unless you can be happy with your own "vents" and alone time.  But although it's great to have different interests, you also need similar interests.
    This in-and-of-itself can be work. My ex loved video games, I love writing. We should have taken time to do something we both enjoyed, like hiking or camping.
    Imagine these types of things as a wedge between you, or the glue that holds you together.
    There was a time when our similar interests were so in-sync, I could hardly wait to go hiking, or go to our favorite restaurant. But after time, those outings were replaced by our own interests, separate interests. 
    You get the point! Find your similar interests. And even branch out--who knows, you might enjoy their hobbies as well. 

5. When Hobbies Become Work
    Once you find a similar interest, don't do it so much it becomes stale.
    My ex and I are both musicians. Our greatest uniting interest was music.
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My ex and me 2 years ago at a gig.

    But we played so well together, people started paying us to play gigs anywhere from Colorado to California. 
    I think it was really about 3 years ago, that music stopped being fun for me.  My ex and I would go to hotels, get ready for a gig, grab dinner--act smiley--and jam for hours.  But at the end, my ex's hands would be killing him, I felt dead on my feet.  We were exhausted. And to think, in previous years this would have been a rush!
    So don't just avoid overusing your hobbies, make sure you can find new hobbies when the old ones become monotonous.  There's nothing wrong with trying to add a little excitement to your marriage.
    Ideas?  Go to an exotic restaurant you'd never normally try.  Take an early morning, or evening hike. Rent some paddle boards and go to a nearby lake.  Check out a Ghost Hunt or Murder Mystery Play. Visit a duck pond and sit, feeding the ducks.  (I don't know about that last  The point is, find something fun--out of the ordinary--and do it together with an open mind.

6. Don't Be a Jerk at the Same Time
    My grandma died several years ago, but I'll never forget what she told me when I first got married: Your marriage will survive if you're only a jerk one at a time.
    This is so true!  I'm a MEGA spitfire.  I can be as spicy as a scorpion pepper.  I love that line "fight means love in Italian"--well, I'm Italian.  BUT my ex could be a spitfire too.  We'd be yelling--at the top of our lungs.  Making up could be fun--but we would've never had to make up, if one of us would've stayed quiet and nodded, "Are you done?"
    If your significant other is angry, actually listen quietly. There's no reason to match volume.  

7. Grudges
    My ex and I both made very stupid choices early in our marriage--mostly because we were under 21 at the time.  I won't talk about his choices, but I know one of mine was always going to my mom or mother-in-law when I had marital problems. My ex was hurt--to say the least--that I'd tell them everything.  In our first two years of marriage, he was also hurt that I didn't seem to support his dreams.
    Well, we both held onto issues like this--for over twelve years!  I was still bringing up things from forever ago, unable to forget. I thought I'd forgiven him, but I've realized, I didn't really, until getting divorced and seeing how silly some of those things were.  I think he did the same thing!
    You can't have one foot firmly in the past, one in the present, and expect to walk into the future. If you love this person and want a healthy relationship, forgive, move past it, and grow. 

8. No Trust
    Both my ex and I would accuse each other of cheating ALL of the time. If you don't have evidence--concrete evidence--let it be.  We probably could've seen a counselor for this one, but I think it really became an issue because of #1 on this list--we stopped trying.     
    When both parties are making an effort, that validation will help strengthen trust.
    Now if you find out your spouse has been cheating, that's a whole new issue.  But if this is an invalid lack of trust, ask yourself, why you feel this way?  Is it a need for validation, or something deeper?  Do you crave more quality time with your spouse?  
    What is your love language?  Find out HERE.

9. Complacency With Words
    Both my ex and I began forgetting how important we were to each other. We wouldn't always speak the same way we had in the beginning. Both of us could say harsh things we'd NEVER forget. Our phone conversations became short and to the point. We didn't always say what mattered.
    I wish that once a year--or something--I would've written him a letter to tell him how much he meant to me.  If you read yesterday's post (HERE) you know he was in a serious motorcycle accident.  This really got me thinking: What would you tell your significant other if they were seriously injured? If they died, what do you wish you would've told them?  
    Consider writing that special someone a letter, to tell them how much they mean to you. You might be surprised with how much they'll appreciate it. 

10. No Quality Time
    One of my biggest Love Languages is Quality Time.  If you take the test I linked above (in point 8) you'll discover out the 5 different Love Languages.  Well, if you aren't getting your fill of your language, you won't be truly satisfied.  In the same way you aren't satisfied, your spouse probably isn't either.
    The point is, take time for your spouse/significant other. Show them you care.  You've both given so much to be together.  Do you really want that to grow stale? Is it worth throwing away, when you have the chance to put in some effort and make things phenomenal again?

Best of luck!
I hope my failures will help someone else attain romantic success! *smiling*
EC Stilson 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

My ex was in a motorcycle accident.

My ex-husband was in a motorcycle accident.  He could've died, getting pinned between the guardrail and bullet bike, then flying off. He's currently still in the hospital, and it'll be an 8 month recovery, but at least he's alive. (Thanks to everyone who has been and continues to pray for him.)
    This stirs up so many emotions that I want to tell you something I haven't dared write about before. Here goes....

My marriage wasn't perfect. None are. And if someone tells you they have a flawless marriage, they're lying.
    Many of you know how much I loved Cade. Hell, I wrote three memoirs about the man during the thirteen years we were together: How we were homeless as kids--sitting back-to-back in a druggie park at night, with only each other to depend on. How our son, Zeke, died when he was two and a half months old--we pulled the plug and he suffocated in our freakin' arms! How we have five gorgeous kids together.  How I thought we could make it through anything...almost.
    But a year ago, things spiraled out of control further than you might imagine. A series of events left both of us in terrible (albeit different) circumstances.  I was completely lost, terrified, sad beyond anything--and I'm sure Cade was too. It hurt to breathe--the damn pressure of loss all around me, threatening to take my sanity and my resolve. It was worse...even than Zeke's death.
    In August, 2013, I sat crying in a women's shelter. The place felt like my imaginings of prison, really. They'd put my four living children and me in a tiny cement room with two bunk beds--for the kids--an old, thin pad on the floor was for me to sleep on.
    "God, why is this happening? Should my kids and I be in the shelter or is there a better choice?  I can hardly stand this! I've lost Cade, my previous life...everything except my family!"
   I thought nothing could heal me. I'd already started dating again--sadly, jumping into the arms of the first man I could find after the separation, hoping the pain would subside, but it never did. No matter what substitute I used, nothing could numb the aching in my heart. 
    Would God give me a sign about staying in the shelter? Or had He abandoned me for good because I wasn't strong enough to be alone and face the pain of separation the way I should have, all by myself?
    As I sat, thinking God had abandoned me, a beautiful woman also staying at the shelter, came up to me. I knew she'd seen me crying. "I wanted to meet you earlier," she said so sweetly, getting my mind off of things. I wiped my eyes. "And I couldn't help myself any longer," she said. I'd noticed her and her son before. They both had such strong vibes of happiness and life around them--I wondered what brought them to a shelter. "My son, Zeke, and I are going to be here for a few weeks," she continued. "Zeke! Look, there's another boy here." She pointed to my only living son and I could've cried again, hearing her boy's name.
    My son who passed--Zeke--well, his name always seems to come up when I'm having a hard time.  And this time, as I heard the name, I sat, almost feeling as if cradled in the arms of God. I watched this ethereal woman playing with her son who had the same name as my angel baby.
    So, the next year slowly passed after I left the shelter. During that time, I found out the man I'd dated in 2013 (right after getting separated) was actually living with his wife--not separated and working on a divorce like he'd said for months. My heart broke again as he lied over and over. I wanted to believe him, even begged him to tell me the truth, just confess--but he never came clean. It was a complete loss of innocence as I spoke with his wife and family about the truth.  And it hurt more, when I found out he'd thought I was "an easy mark" because I was going through so much when he met me.
    I worked two different jobs throughout all of this, becoming a security guard--of all things--working for my parents' construction company, then going back to school to attain my B.A. in Elementary Ed. (which I'm still doing).
    As you know, I took my mind off of this by posting silly pictures (click here to see those).  
    Well, last month, things came to a head when I had to bring my four-year-old in for a hernia surgery. I sat by Cade and my mom, each of us, clasping our hands, worried.  It was odd sitting there. And honestly I thought there was nothing my mom and I could say to Cade, but, there was, and it was about our mutual interest--our baby.
    With worried expressions, we talked about the kids and how amazing they are.  I kept praying, asking God for a confirmation that our girl would be okay. And that's when I saw the beautiful woman from the women's shelter! Her son, Zeke, was just getting out of surgery as well. We hugged, talked briefly before circumstances separated our paths.
    "Oh my gosh!" I sighed. "We're far away from home! What are the odds of meeting them here? God, and maybe even Zeke...they're still watching out for us and the babies." And I couldn't help thinking that maybe the surgeons and nurses weren't alone as they worked on my daughter.
    It's been horrific honestly, this whole damn year has been hard--with the exception of my family and friends' support, and the fact that I've been dating Mr. Italy who gives my life a peaceful type of foundation I've never quite known before.  I love all of you so much--you know who you are!  Friends who have left food on my porch, or brought anonymous Christmas gifts, or my parents, helping me go back to school, or my writing mentor/second mom, or my brother and sister, aunts and cousin who have helped every step of the way! The list goes on and on....
    So when I got a text on Sunday, saying Cade had been in a terrible motorcycle accident, I felt like life might end...again. I don't know how much freakin' pain one person can take! I know so many others have it worse than I do, but damn it--life is hard!!!
    I was the first one at the emergency room. There was blood everywhere, on the bedsheets, the floor. I sobbed into my hands. Then went over to Cade and told him how sorry I am that life is hard. And how even though we aren't together and aren't meant to be, I wish I could take the damn pain because we grew up together--we were kids together and it KILLED me knowing he'd messed up his left leg the way he obviously had.  
    I hate it that we've been through the wringer so many flippin' times. How now, it'll be such a long recovery for a man who didn't deserve that type of pain. And now I need to get a good-paying job to keep my house--feed my kids--keep my sanity, again. The stress...I can't describe.
    That night they wheeled him into a two-hour surgery. I went home and prayed. And the whole time, I got this intense feeling of peace. Memories rolled through my mind, about the loving kindness I saw from fellow homeless street musicians years ago. I remembered tiny miracles throughout Zeke's short life. I thought of that inspirational woman I met at the shelter and then my daughter's surgery--where the surgeons did so well.  
    That's when I realized, life might suck ass. I might wanna roll over and cry 'til all the water in my body is gone.  I might feel like I can't make it and I'm the biggest failure on earth...
    BUT damn it--I'm gonna be okay. Because no matter how much shit happens. No matter if people love me or hate me, God loves me!  I'm not a saint. I'm not the Virgin Mary. And I'm constantly making mistakes, but me and my kids are going to be all right.  We're made of something tougher than the situations we're going through.
    I don't know what the future will hold.  I'm thankful right now, that God loves me, that I'm motivated to get things done for my babies, that Cade is alive, and that I have so many amazing people in my life.
 ~My Babies~
(that moment when you realize you're surrounded by girls lol)

    Thank you for everything--really. It means far more than you know.

    Getting ready for another storm,
                                    EC Stilson