A Family Forever Changed

Empty chair and table - Single Mom A Family Forever ChangedI know it’s the right thing, in fact it’s a Good thing, and I know there are many friends who would love to send their sons or daughters off to college and just cannot for one reason or another.

Maybe the child doesn’t have the grades or the motivation. Maybe finances prevent a child from going away to college. Maybe the child just wants to be home. Maybe the child got caught up in the wrong crowd or was in an accident or got sick. Maybe that child didn’t make it.

I know I am one of the lucky ones. My oldest is off to study chemical engineering at a small, private college that offered him all he was hoping for in the way of adventure and academics and some really nice academic scholarships. I couldn’t be more proud of him.

But at the same time, I felt a bit frantic and a touch of sorrow this summer, our summer of lasts.

It was the last time my family would ever be the same again. One of us was moving out, moving on, leaving the rest of us here. To continue. Without him.

It was as though a piece of us was being lost, and even though I was happy for him and proud of him, it still caused a lump in my throat every time I thought of it.

I tried to determine whether all parents go through this. I’m sure they do, but I’m equally certain that, as a divorced parent, my loss is compounded by feelings of abandonment and sadness in wounds that were freshly healed.

My husband walked out suddenly when I was five months pregnant with our 5th baby boy. When I say suddenly, I mean suddenly. We had just renewed our vows that Valentine’s Day; he announced he was leaving on Mother’s Day and moved out one week later.

There was no opportunity to patch things up. There were few warning signs. We had some difficulties, but all marriages, all relationships, do. He left saying I was his good friend. He left with me saying but I’m pregnant and wondering what had happened and how it had happened so quickly.

My husband’s leaving was sudden. It was devastating. It was heartbreaking, and I, like those who have lost loved ones to death, often found myself in the months that followed thinking, “What if I had just one more day…?”

After my husband left, I often wondered, if I had known I had just one more day with him, how I would spend that day? What would I apologize for? What would I ask of him? What would I do for him? What we would do together? What would we do as a family? What snapshot would I take to memorialize all our love brought into this world? How would I capture every last moment and hold it in my heart forever?

With the 20-20 vision of hindsite, what would I be willing to do to keep my family intact?

Now, with my son graduating from high school and preparing for college and especially after dropping him off and missing the chance to say good bye (another story), I was continually assaulted by the unbidden, often shocking knowledge that my family would never be the same again, and that once again, there was nothing I could do to stop it.

Whereas my husband’s leaving was sudden and shocking, I’d been given 18 years to prepare for my son’s leaving, and yet, I still wasn’t prepared. I wanted to cram a lifetime into every moment.

There was so much I wanted needed to tell my son. Where do I begin apologizing for all the mistakes I’d made, all the mean or selfish things I’d said or done over 18 years, all the times I should have said or done something but missed the opportunity, all the times I wanted to be perfect but instead was just me?

How did I teach him in these last few moments all I had neglected to teach him these past 18 years? How did I warn him about the evils of this world? How did I tell him I was sure, with God’s help, he’d handle everything just fine?

I knew all summer this time was coming. It was as though a cloud loomed over the future that only I could see. I’d begin making plans only to realize he wouldn’t be part of them. I took fun family times and removed myself from the fray to snap pictures in a lame attempt to memorialize every moment, to capture every moment and hold it in my heart forever.

I dropped my son off at college. I had 18 years to prepare and I found myself totally unprepared, glad he’s going, happy for him, proud of him, but wishing I had one more day.

My son’s leaving is nothing like his father’s leaving, but at the same time, I know my family will never be the same. We will never be complete as we once were.

And it’s a Good thing.

And one day, I’ll even be able to say it with a dry eye.

I Love You Troy and am so proud of you. Thank you for these past 18 years; you have blessed my life. I cannot wait to see what the next chapter brings for you – and for the rest of us too. God Bless You…

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Single Mom Smiling’s 1st Monthly Newsletter!

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So…because five boys, teaching high school math in a Catholic school, being an 8th grade CCD Confirmation catechist, starting a new life coaching business, and I don’t know what else isn’t quite enough…

I’ve started a monthly, faith-based newsletter for the divorced, for single parents, and for those struggling with marriage and family issues.

(Don’t worry – I’ve given up on housecleaning; I’ll survive the sacrifice! 😉  )

Single Mom Smiling’s Newsletter:

Here’s What You Get (and it’s not just for single Moms!):

The first Saturday of every month (who needs more to do during the week, right?)

Subscribers get direct content not found on SingleMomSmiling.com,  

inspiration, encouragement, and advice straight from Strahlen

as well as First-to-Know privileges

about podcasts, webinars, and G+ hangouts all coming soon!

Can you tell how excited I am???

While you’re reading each month’s newsletter,

consider sharing your Joys and triumphs

as well as tips, suggestions, prayer requests, and photos for publication in future editions.

Hope you join us on the first Saturday of each month for Single Mom Smiling’s newsletter ~  and remember, this is not just for single moms!

The first edition comes out this Saturday. I talk of 9-11, sending children back to school, and a return to faith in the midst of it all – Don’t miss out!

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I really hope you subscribe and participate in future editions by emailing SingleMomSmiling@hotmail.com Subject: Newsletter. Got a tip to share? I’m always looking for suggestions and am thrilled with your questions and ideas. I love celebrating your triumphs and praying for your challenges.

Yep, I’m up for pretty much anything on this adventure!

I am so grateful to so many of you who have reached out and shared with me through the years, both publicly on Single Mom Smiling and through private emails. I will still honor requests to maintain privacy, but if you want to share (I hope you do!)…hopefully this gives you a platform and builds a community where you feel safe doing so – although, as we all know, there can be some real jerks out there. I am not responsible for their comments.

This newsletter isn’t just about me. I’m hoping you make this about YOU too!

And by YOU, I’m also referring to single Dads and men affected by divorce and marriage issues. You add a valued, different perspective. Besides, it does us women Good to know there are strong, honorable men out there doing their best right alongside us.

I tend to write using female pronouns because, well hey, I am one, and I know that perspective best. Besides it gets bulky and awkward to keep using he/she and I run the risk of sounding like some gender-confused Target shopper.

So man, woman, or child (You must have parent’s written permission if you’re under 18), please subscribe today, NOW. Yes, Now That means You, Do it NOW! (please…)

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And, as always, thanks for commenting, following, and sharing!

This is the beginning of a beautiful friendship…

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God Bless…

Divorce Thoughts of Revenge & the Evil Within

Divorce Thoughts of Revenge and Evil Within - B&W photo girl with head on handOh the thoughts I’ve had about my ex and the other woman! The comebacks I’ve considered for their mean and spiteful comments, the responses I’ve rehearsed to their false and damaging accusations, the scornful piteous glance I’ll offer that other woman when she learns the truth.

I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t gone through some of that. I’d be lying if I said I don’t catch myself every once in a while falling back into that trap.

But that’s exactly what those negative thoughts are – a trap. 

In Sunday’s Gospel Reading from Mark Chapter 7, the Pharisees questioned Jesus about the disciples’ lack of proper protocol. Why didn’t the disciples cleanse their hands? Why didn’t they go through proper purification processes? Why didn’t they…?

Jesus responded to their questions in this way:

He summoned the crowd again and said to them,
“Hear me, all of you, and understand.
Nothing that enters one from outside can defile that person;
but the things that come out from within are what defile.

“From within people, from their hearts,
come evil thoughts, unchastity, theft, murder,
adultery, greed, malice, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, arrogance, folly.
All these evils come from within and they defile.”

This is an excellent lesson for those going through abandonment, separation, and divorce as well as for the Pharisees and others. Each of us must look within and discover where evil lies and what makes those evil thoughts appear.

It is easy to obsess about a husband’s affair on the other woman and the evil within the man who does such things. It is easy to get angry, bitter, and seek revenge. It is probably even justified to do so, but we must ask another question.

What within your spouse caused him to have an affair? If your husband’s heart and mind had been filled with Goodness, with Love, with Hope, with Faith, with chastity, generosity, life, loyalty, honesty, morality, concern for others, humility, wisdom would he have had an affair? Would he have sought that divorce? Would he have fallen from Grace so weakly?

You know the answer.

The evil of divorce can be blamed on many things, and rightly so, but there are plenty of individuals who withstand those many things and defeat temptation, lift their families, and live rightly. The greatest evil cannot be blamed on outside forces but on that within ourselves that allows us to succumb to deceit and temptation.

The corruption within ourselves allows some to succumb to temptation, to blame everything outside of ourselves, and to seek that elusive emotion of happiness by breaking marriage vows.

The abandoned spouse cannot change that. Free will is a God-given gift that is too often used to curse.

The challenge to faithful spouses is to not fall for the same evils within. Satan is smart; he knows each person’s weakness almost as well as the Father does.

Satan knew your husband would fall for divorce.

He’s hoping you will fall for bitterness.

It is the same evil within your husband that made him seek another, seek to please himself above all others, and seek to destroy the marriage and family you worked so hard to build that begins working on your heart when you have those thoughts of scornful revenge.

You must fight against that evil with prayer and peace.

Playing a tit-for-tat with your ex or fantasizing about what you’d do or say to him or to the other woman robs you of the Joy you and your children deserve. It is time spent better elsewhere.

Commit today to live each moment with purpose. Put together a plan for what you will do when that evil gnaws at your insides. Go for a run. Bake cookies for your kids (Can anyone really be angry while baking cookies for children???) Organize a closet. Anything!

But while you do it – PRAY.

Pray that that same evil does not take hold of your heart or your mind. Pray that the Lord fills your heart with Goodness, with Love, with Hope, with Faith, with chastity, generosity, life, loyalty, Love, honesty, morality, concern for others, humility, wisdom, with all those things your husband and the other woman lack without their even realizing it.

And pray for your ex and the other woman too, for you know better than most what evil can do to the heart, especially when we fail to recognize it as such.

You will be okay. You were made for more. Do not fall for negativity, but seek the Lord’s comfort and shelter, and He will provide you with a Peace and Joy that also comes from within and which cannot be shaken.

What do you think? Have you been overtaken by feelings of revenge at some point? Did it help or hurt you in the long run? What could you do differently? Have you tried prayer? How did prayer bring peace within the storm?

Thank you for commenting, sharing, and following!

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God Bless…

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War Room Movie: Beyond Lukewarm Faith & Catholic Thoughts

War Room Movie - my boys and me

You gotta have faith – HOT faith!

That’s the message I walked away with after seeing the movie War Room produced by the Kendrick Brothers yesterday afternoon.

I have a little confession to make here. After seeing (and loving) the Kendrick Brothers’ other films (Facing the Giants, Fireproof, Courageous, and yes, even the quirky Flywheel) I was a bit reluctant to go to this movie.

Well, I wasn’t reluctant, but I was reluctant to take my sons. I had dropped my 18 year old off at college Sunday (for the first time – yes, I’m still a bit emotional) and my 16 year old had to lifeguard so it was just my youngest three (14, 12, and almost 6), and I wondered how they’d react to such an intense movie.Continue Reading

Catholic Dating After Divorce – What is Beautifully Sexy?

couple on the beach Catholic Dating After Divorce - Message You Send - Beautifully SexyLast week we looked at Catholics dating after divorce and the message dress sends and encouraged women to be beautifully sexy rather than trashy sexy.

So what is beautifully sexy when you’re a Catholic dating after divorce? 

Men are visual creatures. No gender re-identification program is going to change that. No Target store policy is going to keep men from being visual so let’s start with the physical and what makes a woman physically, beautifully sexy.Continue Reading

Our Last Family Vacation – Perhaps They’d Look Back?

Our Last Family Vacation - Perhaps They'd Look Back - SIngle Mom Smiling Photo of Noah in Car MirrorI began planning this summer’s family vacation knowing Troy would be going away to college in the fall. I knew he may have an internship next summer, that this may be our last family vacation together.

I wanted one last time to try to get everything right. I thought back to the camping trips we’d taken with varying degrees of success. I wondered if I’d pushed too hard. Would they treasure the cramped rides for hours on end as I took them to see some beautiful site only to have it turn out to not be what I’d planned or hoped for, those moments sleeping on the ground, fearing the thunder and lightening with just the thin canvas and the metal poles holding it over our heads?Continue Reading

The Last Family Vacation – Curse of the Custodial Parent

Last Family Vacation - Curse of the Custodial Parent - Me driving on camping vacation

Trying to give the kids everything made me miss our last family vacation.

Our Summer of Lasts was passing faster than I wanted it to, and I was looking forward to a few days to sit and relax with my children on our family vacation. We weren’t rich. I couldn’t afford the fancy hotels and big monied trips their father and his girlfriend gave my boys, but I was looking forward to camping and a few days to just BE together, connecting with nature, connecting with each other, away from the hectic life of every day.

But already things weren’t going as I’d imagined, as I’d hoped.Continue Reading

Planned Parenthood is Wrong About My Baby

Single Mom Sonogram

This is my son…

Almost seven years ago we began giving away our baby stuff. We were done having kids – according to our plan anyway! It turns out God has greater plans than any we could imagine, and not long after donating most of that baby stuff, I found myself pregnant once again.

The news came as a shock, one I didn’t want to tell my husband about because I feared his reaction, and maybe I was right to fear it because, despite renewing our vows on Valentine’s Day, it was right after that he reconnected with his current girlfriend on Facebook. It was shortly after that that we got the week’s notice he gave saying he was leaving for good. It was right after that that he moved out, giving inconsistent child support, and we lost our house.Continue Reading

The Message You Send: Cheap, Trashy, Sexy or Beautifully Sexy?

Catholic Dating After Divorce - Message you Send Large Cheap, Trashy, Sexy (NOT) womanWe’ve seen the ads of half-naked teenagers advertising clothing. I often wonder if those models baring so much get the irony of those ads. I wonder if they stop to think about how little they’re wearing and how and why some view those ads – and them.

It isn’t just teens exposing more of themselves; older women are also taking off more and more clothing, wearing tighter and tighter clothing, claiming to feel freer and freer because of it. They claim this makes them sexy while it leaves others wondering about their definition of freedom and their definition of sexy.Continue Reading

Catholic Dating After Divorce – Assumption Lessons of Mary vs. Barbie

Catholic Dating after Divorce - Virgin Mary - SmilingeditedWhen I was little, I begged my Mom for a Barbie. Every Christmas I waited with bated breath for my Grandparents to arrive, knowing they’d bring me a beautiful, expensive, finely crafted Madame Alexander doll. I loved those dolls and still have them, but I didn’t really appreciate them. I played with them, brushing their real hair until the style was unrecognizable, wrinkling their finely made clothing, and tearing their delicate silk stockings. I enjoyed those dolls, but I failed to value them for their true worth. I really wanted that cheap Barbie.

Finally one Christmas, because my Mother loved me despite my snubbing her lessons on value, I got my wish. I was really into gymnastics that year and was thrilled to get a Barbie gymnastics set along with the doll! The set included a bar I could snap Barbie’s wrists into and a crank that, to my delight, made Barbie spin wildly around the bar.Continue Reading