Finding my footing after divorce

 This post is in collaboration with TIAA to empower women experiencing divorce, encouraging them to take control of their financial future.

Over the past three months I went through the process of sitting for my licensing exams to be a marriage and family therapist.

You may be thinking . . . wasn’t she already licensed? Yes, I was. I was in private practice for over a decade, before I had kids, and before I started a blog.

I loved being in private practice. I liked my colleagues, I liked that the job was challenging and cerebral, and I loved that I could set my own hours and work part-time for a decent wage. One of the things that drew me to this career was that I thought it would be very compatible with motherhood. I thought I could see a part-time caseload during my husband’s off days, while staying home with the kids.

This worked out well when Jafta was a baby.  And then baby #2 came. She slept about 2 hours at a time. She nursed 24-7. I was a mess physically and emotionally. I was tired all the time. I was plagued with post-partum anxiety that made me even more of a catastrophizer than I already am (which is a lot.) I was a ball of nerves all the time. I no longer felt like getting dressed and going to work was a nice reprieve. Now, it felt like a complete and total charade. I was a stressed sleep-walker in a professional pantsuit. Underneath my blazer, I had a bulky maternity bra and leaky boobs. I struggled to stay awake as my clients talked about their life. I showed up to class with spit-up stains on my shirt. I felt like a sham.

In addition to feeling more frazzled in session, I really struggled to keep up with returning phone calls and setting appointments during the week.  Once I had my third child, I could barely find the time to call back the referrals I got. The few long-standing clients I saw after her arrival were hard for me. I felt like my brain was in short-circuit mode. I just couldn’t get my head into a space where I could really be present with clients. I am an introvert, and motherhood was draining any energy I had that I could previously devote to my job. By the time child number four arrived, I decided I needed to close up shop. At least for a while. I cleaned out my office and decided to devote more time to blogging. I made a decent income from the blog, but my husband was really the breadwinner. My income from blogging was a supplement to his steady paycheck that supported our family.

And then I made a mistake that I would later come to regret: I didn’t renew my license.

It wasn’t intentional. I always planned to keep my license and thought it was a job that I could go back to someday. But life was happening all around me, and one year, we moved and I forgot to update my address with my licensing board, and I missed the mail-in renewal. I didn’t realize this until two years later, and by that point, my license had been canceled. All because I wasn’t staying diligent. I was busy being a mom, and I was abdicating the career stuff to my husband.

Fast-forward to a few years later, I found myself in the position of getting a divorce. The regret of letting my license lapse was now even more painful, because I needed to find a way to support myself beyond the supplemental income of my blog. I needed to become a breadwinner in my own right, and going back into practice, especially now that my kids are older and require less emotional energy, would have been a perfect transition. But I didn’t have the option.

I called the board and they informed me I would have to sit for my exams again. MFT exams are notoriously difficult, with very low pass rates, but I was grateful that at least my two years of grad school and three years of internships did not need to be repeated. So I set out and started studying. It was time for me to take control of my financial future.  (TIAA offers some wonderful resources here.)

Taking these exams again was a humbling experience but it was also empowering. It was humbling because I had been a supervisor and a professor. I had taught some of the subjects on the exam. But at the same time, while I was out of practice, certain laws had changed and a new diagnostic manual had been published with a lot of changes – so I was truly behind. I failed my first practice test. I had my work cut out for me.

But it was also empowering because I knew that I was working toward a career option, one that I was grateful to have. While I always wanted to be a mom, I am so glad that I also recognized that nothing is ever certain, and had the sense to study for a career in my early adulthood instead of assuming I would just stay home and let my husband support me. Even though that was my reality for a few years, I’m glad I had a backup.

In September I took the first of the two exams and passed, and then last week I took the second and passed. It has been a huge relief. I’m not sure I will go right back into private practice but I am so glad that I have it as an option.

I had the chance to take part in a conversation led by TIAA about rebuilding after a divorce. It’s a topic I feel passionately about, because I know how much finances can be a strain in that process . . . especially for women. In this video, I talk about the process of finding my financial footing after divorce.

Whether or not you are going through a divorce, I would encourage every woman to make sure she has a clear picture of her financial portfolio and plans for the future. TIAA has some amazing resources to help with that endeavor on their website – check it out to learn more about how you can take control of your financial future.

 

Friday Finds: Kitchen Favorites

  1. Nom Nom Paleo Ready or Not!: 150+ Make-Ahead, Make-Over, and Make-Now
  2. Crock-Pot  Stainless Steel 7-Quart
  3. Klikel Square Glass Kitchen Storage Canister Jars
  4.  18 Glass Meal Prep Containers
  5. Hamilton Beach (37518) Rice Cooker
  6. Conscious Kitchenware Eco Friendly Reusable Silicone Food.
  7. Vremi 8 Piece Ceramic Nonstick Cookware Set
  8. Instant Pot LUX80 8 Qt 6-in-1 Multi- Use Programmable Pressure Cooker
  9. Food52 Mighty Salads: 60 New Ways to Turn Salad into Dinner

 

 

What’s Taking So Long in Haiti? || On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from October 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from October 2008.

People are always asking me why our adoption is taking so long. It is such a hard question to answer. How do you explain the insanity of Haiti adoption? It’s a place with absolutely no infrastructure, poor communication, every-changing rules, and absurd corruption. The hoops for completing a legal adoption are almost laughable. Except you’ve been waiting too long to laugh.

Our orphange director John was writing about one of these hurdles in a recent blog post. This story is not about us. Keanan’s birth parents are both deceased – which is a whole other bag of worms. But I think this story is a great example of the insanity of adoption in Haiti, how narrowly things can sometimes come together, how much work our orphanage director must do on a daily basis, and how every child coming home is literally a miracle.


We try to keep tabs on the biological parents because we need
them several times in the adoption process. We need them to sign various
documents, to be interviewed on the Haitian side to verify that the parent in
fact is without coercion relinquishing the child and to verify documents like
birth certificates, death certificates etc.
But over the years there have been a few times when we have lost touch of the birth parent and have prayerfully had to go looking for him/her. This is what happened this week.

We had an appointment on Wednesday, October 8th for the birth
parent to be interviewed at the consulate; but we were not able to locate this
parent. We for over a month had been trying to find her but with no
success. And then we heard that she was probably in the Dominican
Republic, at a town near the border. So last Monday Junior and I headed
for the Dominican Republic, the country which shares two thirds of the island of
Hispaniola. Haiti takes up the other third. We went in the little
Suzuki since my truck was not working. We arrived a few miles from the
border after having gone through stretches where water, left over from last
month’s storms, was covering the road. We were able to make it through the
first two but clearly we were not going to make it through the third stretch
that we came to. So we turned around and planned on coming back on
Tuesday. Remember the appointment was for Wednesday, the next day.

So the next day we headed out again, but this time in my truck
which still wasn’t fixed and was shaking big time. We headed out with no
visa to enter the Dominican Republic and with only a couple of photos of the
birth mom that we were trying to locate. We passed through ten sections
where water was covering the road. Several of the sections were quite deep
and we actually turned around once thinking that we couldn’t make it even in the
pickup truck. I suppose that these were the cautious thoughts of someone
who has submerged a car, Beth’s car, in a river. But as we
were heading back to Port-au-Prince, a pickup much like mine passed us heading
for the border. So we turned back toward the border following the
pickup. We passed through ten sections where the water was covering the
road (The photo left is not a river, but it is the road covered with water).
And at four of them we were holding our breath and praying hoping not
to stall the truck. But we made it to the border.

Now here we were with no visa to get across the border and so as we do often do we go into talking mode. In Haiti there are times when we have to do a lot of
talking to get things done and give a little money as well. In about ten
minutes we passed the Haitian border and now we faced the Dominican border,
where we had to contend with the racketeers who could see that we were not sure
what we were doing. But living in Haiti has equipped us to deal with
such situations and so after about thirty minutes and about $10.00 we were in
the Dominican Republic and heading toward the border town where we heard that
the birth parent is living. We, equipped with the photos, drove around for
about showing the pictures and asking if anyone recognized the picture and could
take us to where this parent lived. After about ten minutes we found
someone who said that he recognized her and would take us to her house.
About thirty minutes later we parked in front of the house where we found out
she used to live. She now lived about eight hours away in the
capital.

We were able to get a phone number and after only about one hour of
being in the Dominican Republic, we were able to talk with her. She said
that she would borrow money and come Thursday, but I told her that we needed her for an appointment on Wednesday and to make a long story shorter let me tell you that on Wednesday morning at 10:00 she was in our office. We prepped her
for the interview and arrived at the Consulate at 11:20 and left at about
1:30. She did great and now wait for the date for the visa
appointment.

This kind of stuff has happened before and as I said,
I have mixed emotions. It is pretty amazing that we could find her and
have her here the next day. Yet really I am not surprised as there were so
many praying and even her birth daughter who will soon be traveling to her new
adoptive home. She said to her mama, I prayed real hard that John
would find you. GOD ANSWERED HER PRAYER.

 

Wednesday’s Child: Erica

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

 

Life Lately

We went to the school Halloween event as “off-duty witches who like lounging in caftans from Amazon”

Kembe’s chosen outfit. I … I don’t know.

Post-cotillion Target run. 🔥 🔥

 

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Howerton kids representing in the back. Not pictured: Karis on xylophone behind the pillar. 🤘

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Operation “systematic desensitization” in preparation for Tokyo with my fish-phobic girls. We walked through the store and bought All The Snacks and mostly did not freak out about the raw fish smells. Baby steps.

 

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It would appear that @indiahowerton shares my enthusiasm for karaoke. 😂😂

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SELF-CARE AS A TRANS PERSON: AN INTERVIEW WITH CASEY BROWN | SELFIE, EPISODE 55

Casey Brown shares vulnerably about the realities of self-care as a trans person, from being misgendered to the struggle of public bathrooms, as well as some of the unique learnings about skincare, shaving, and more as they began hormone therapy last year. We learned a lot from Casey and hope you will give a listen to understand more about the realities of trans people and how to be an ally.

In this episode we talked about:

 

Surrendering to Looking Stupid, Part 2 | On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from October 2008.

On Thursdays I post from the vault. This post is from October 2008.

I wrote about my own surrender to looking stupid a few months ago. Lately, I am realizing that this theory must apply to my children as well. Okay, let me try to circumvent any nasty comments by saying this: I don’t think my kids ever look stupid.

But . . .

sometimes the choices they make are just not my choices. And sometimes their fashion sense just doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve mentioned my disdain for character clothing, and my loathing of crocs. And yet, for some reason, these two items seem to hold a mythical attraction for Jafta. He has one “character” outfit that he begs to wear EVERY SINGLE DAY. Sometimes, at naptime, I will come in the room and find he has changed into this outfit by himself. And he wants to wear his crocs everywhere he goes. Pair this with his red Angels hat, which he also insists on wearing every day, and it’s not exactly fashion city around here.

And then there is India. She has her own quirks about dressing. She demands to wear her crocs, too, but she likes them with socks. Classy. She also refuses to wear pants, and won’t tolerate anything in her hair. So she is my messy-haired girl wearing dresses with socks and crocs. And for some reason, her latest demand is that she will only consent to wearing about four of the dresses in her closet. All of which are way too small for her.

Now I believe in picking my battles. I do not think that clothing is a battle worth fighting. But sometimes, my pride gets in the way. When we show up to preschool and all the kids are wearing Paul Frank and skater shoes, I grimace a little at my son in his Cars outfit. When we go to church at all the girls are in cute outfits with combed hair, matching bows and mary-jane shoes, I laugh and smile at India’s strong will, and inwardly wish she was wearing an outfit of MY choosing.

In my psychotherapy practice, I counsel people all the time about the concept of differentiation. It’s the idea that caring about someone doesn’t mean they need to reflect our own choices in every way. It means allowing our spouse/friends/kids to have different views, different opinions, and different tastes. Intimacy is not birthed out of being like-minded with people, or liking the same music, or clothes, or shoes. That is an adolescent’s view of intimacy, and as we move into adulthood, we choose relationships based on shared values but enjoy the differences in our circle of friends. And more importantly, we recognize the choices of others are not a reflection of us. When we let go of this false need for managing others, our relationships blossom.

Wow, that sounds great, huh? So why do I struggle so much to do this with my kids? In a way, it does seem like kids are the final frontier in the process of differentiation. It’s hard to let go of the notion that they are walking and talking representatives of who we are as a parent. But when parents treat their children like little extensions of themselves who need to mimic them in every way, where does that lead? IT BACKFIRES. We’ve all seen the ending to that story of control, and it’s not pretty.

This all takes me back to a memory of the outfit I choose to wear for my first day of high school. I was 13 years old, and having kind of an identity crisis. I couldn’t decide if I was going to be a punk-rock chic or a hip-hop diva. I loved the music and fashion and attitude of both these worlds, and back in that day, it was all about personal expression of your musical tastes.

My decision . . . and it is with great pain and embarrassment that I write this . . . my decision was to make a pair of MC Hammer-style pants out of a punk-rock fabric.

Yes, you read that correctly. I made these pants. Not only was this the lamest idea EVER, but the idea was executed by the crappy sewing skills of a 13-year-old with a semester of home economics under her belt. (I’m sure you are surprised to hear that rapper pants in punk fabrics were not readily available at the mall.)

My mom, watching this whole debacle, had two choices: a) try to talk me out of this fashion disaster, or b) take me to the fabric store and help make sure my sewing didn’t leave my butt hanging out. My mom chose to help me make the pants. I know she thought they were hideous, but she was supportive anyways. And you know what? The result is, I got out of my rapping punker stage pretty quickly. Whereas had she balked at it, I probably would have kept up appearance just to be rebellious.

All this to say, my kids may like country music (sorry ya’ll), may want to dress lame, may want to join the color guard or follow a Dave Matthews tour or be in a handbell ensemble or wear a sequined leotard while singing a Depeche Mode song in a talent show (oh wait that was me). Whatever choices they make that don’t endanger their morals or integrity are gonna need to be left up to them. And me . . . I’m gonna need to let go. Starting now.

Wednesday’s Child: Desi

Every Wednesday I feature a child recently highlighted by a local Wednesday’s Child newscast to share the stories of children from around the country who are waiting for a family. My hope is that this can broaden exposure for the children highlighted, but also serve as a reminder that these children represent thousands of children currently in the foster-care system. Perhaps their stories will inspire you to consider opening your home to a child needing a family. For more information and to learn about other waiting children, visit AdoptUsKids.

 

OUR FAVORITE CLEANING PRODUCTS! SELFIE, EPISODE 54

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In this episode we are talking about our very favorite cleaning products for our homes, with an emphasis on non-toxic products, products that are easy for adults AND kids to use, and products that reduce waste.

Kitchen:

Laundry:

Flooring:

Special Jobs:

TWO THUMBS UP