The reason I write

Hi, Girlfriends.

I’m Gretty, and welcome to my blog.

My life drastically changed at 57 when my husband and I hit the road full-time in an RV. Trust me.

It was highly unlikely that I’d be a full-time RV’er (more on that later) but here I am. Here’s the deal.

I really really love my new lifestyle. I enjoy adventure, change, meeting new people, experiencing different climates, visiting new communities, etc.

And, I love my man.

He is kind, sweet, honest, full of integrity, and willing to watch chick flicks with me.

But honestly? John is a guy.

His brain thinks differently than mine. Since we have been full-time RV’ers,

I miss hanging out with my girlfriends. If you are a nomad like me, I bet you are shaking your head!

So, I thought, if I want to connect with girlfriends on (and off) the road, and I have some funny stories to tell, maybe I should begin a virtual coffee shop where we can gather to chat, laugh, commiserate, and do life together?

Plus, last year I felt a tug to share personal stories of challenges and joys in my unique RV life.

It’s like you can peek inside my diary!

This blog is for you if

  • You are a woman, (but guys you can read it too!)
  • You are an Unlikely RV’er like me.
  • Your shining ‘dream life’ has had some hiccups.
  • You’ve experienced divorce or loss of a long term relationship.
  • You’re looking for healthier ways to enjoy relationships.
  • You’ve ever felt overwhelmed by the challenges of living in an RV full time.
  • You like blue nail polish (just kidding!)
  • You want to learn from my relationship mistakes.
  • You need a good laugh.

It’s the truth. Men just don’t think as we do.

They are waffle thinkers. We are spaghetti thinkers.

Men stay in their square until it’s time to move to another topic or task

.But we girlfriends? Our thoughts, feelings, and activities weave, turn, and circle around as we process a topic or task.

My brain says this:Hey-I-woke-up-and-have-so-many-things-I-wanna-research-but-must-dump-the-tanks-first-oh-hi!-new-neighbors-walking-their-cute-dog-back-to-dumping-the-tanks-listen-to-that-bird-up-there-um-what-was-I-doing?-back-to-checking-out-that-hike-adventure-but-look-what-splattered-on-my-cute-sanuks-where-did-I-store-those-paper-towels-kind-of-day.

My man’s brain says: I am going to research a hike that we can do this week. 30 minutes later (after ignoring my interruptions, the phone ringing and the dog bringing toys to him)….Oh, here are three options for that hike, and let’s make a decision so I can eat breakfast next.

I hope to encourage you by

  • Promising to be real and vulnerable with you.
  • Giving you a voice to respond.
  • Letting you know you are not alone.

What you’ll learn

  • You are not alone!
  • How to see the joy in the small things in life.
  • The importance of deepening our relationships on and off the road.
  • How to have fun wherever you are.
  • Finding the balance of work and play in the RV world.
  • How to laugh at yourself and not take life so seriously.  More about Me
  • I LOVE Fritos.
  • I am 61 years old and shocked at what the lack of estrogen has done to my skin these recent years.
  • I am an encourager – I love that part of my life.
  • I admit I get distracted ALL the time by life happening around me, and it drives my husband (a lot) crazy.
  • I am a people person and find you fascinating.
  • A Cougar by age standards alone. Yep, I was born in 1957. My husband John was born in 1966.
  • A divorcee magnet. I run into you all the time. I’ve met you in line at Starbucks, in campground laundry rooms, dog parks, and I love talking with you.
  • I talk to God all the time- and he never seems to tire of my rants…
  • I am crazy proud of my two adult sons and daughter-in-law, but I won’t be embarrassing them here with stories of them.
  • I’ve got a ton of insecurities, that I will be unloading (and uploading) regularly.
  • I am vain…I color my hair and freak out when my jeans are a bit snug.
  • I admit I am more comfortable asking about you than telling about me. (sigh..)
  • I am all about cooking for large gatherings, and then usually I forget to put one item on the table.
  • I love boots and shoes and will check yours out when I meet you.
  • I’ve been on Mission trips to Peru and India and have never seen the world the same.
  • And lastly, I love my dog, Penny, the Cockapoo!

Love,

Gretty

16 helpful tips to navigate holidays following divorce, separation, or break-up

Hi, Girlfriends.

It’s me, Gretty.  Have you had a recent relationship break-up?  Are you dreading the upcoming holiday season?

It’s me, Gretty. Have you had a recent relationship break-up? Are you dreading the upcoming holiday season?

If so, this post is for you.  I’ve packed it with 16 practical tips to help you navigate your (potentially painful) upcoming holidays and anniversaries.

The worst pain ever

What makes me qualified to write about this topic?  Here it is.  In January of 2005, my ex-husband of 27 years, left me for another woman who was pregnant with his baby. 

It devastated me. 

When he walked out, a hole was ripped in my soul. It felt like open heart surgery without anesthesia. 

That first year sucked

Initially, I felt suffocated by the memories surrounding me in Philadelphia.  I needed the healing love of my siblings to carry me through the devastation, so I moved to Madison, Wisconsin.    

As awesome as my family was for support, I needed a mentor.  In 2006 I reached out to my church for additional help.  I received a Stephen Minister, Betty, who met with me every week.  Her listening skills, empathy, and prayers were powerful.  After a year-and-a-half of snotty tissues, my tears stopped. 

I had processed the pain of abandonment and was on my way to healing. Betty steered me through unexpected emotional ambushes and showed me a healthy survival plan. 

DivorceCare* leader

The next year, 2007, I was asked (along with 11 other post-divorce individuals) to launch a DivorceCare class at our church. Each week our team met with dozens of people experiencing the trauma that comes with divorce or long-term break-up. 

I cannot begin to describe how thrilling it was to see change and healing in our attendees as they worked through the 13-week program. 

Here are some of the topics included in DivorceCare; Anger, Depression, Finances, Loneliness, New Relationships, and Sexuality.

Running into you

And now?  13 years later, I keep meeting so many of you!  Living our nomadic RV life doesn’t detour me from individuals who are surviving a break-up. 

I’ve met you at the dog park.  

We’ve met at author lectures.

You’ve stopped at my RV to ask about our coach.  

At one point I asked John, “Am I a divorcee magnet?”  But then it dawned on me (I shouldn’t be surprised) given these statistics: 

“In America, there is one divorce approximately every 36 seconds. That’s nearly 2,400 divorces per day, 16,800 divorces per week and 876,000 divorces a year.” (McKinley Irvin Family Law)

Replacing Pain with a Plan

I hope the timing of this post helps you. 

Spending time attempting to pick up the shards of your broken relationship will wear you out and cut your fingers.  However, following a game plan for healing will focus your energies into areas you can control.  These 16 tips come from my own life experience and from a program called Surviving the Holidays* which is put out by DivorceCare.                                              

(To all friends and family members who want to help?  I posted “How to support your friend/family while they are reeling from a break-up.”  check it out.)

                                                   

1.  A New Normal.

Acknowledge things will not be the same.  You have a “new normal”.  Before your separation or divorce, holidays or family gatherings were probably full of traditions.  And your significant other was usually a part of the festivities.    

And now?  

That must change.  

Acknowledging that you have a new normal is a big head-start to a healthy recovery.   

And I’m not talking about just Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Hanukkah. 

2.  Hidden Holidays.  

Your holidays may not be other people’s holidays.  

For example the anniversary of your first date, your wedding anniversary, birthdays, the anniversary of your divorce, the day you first met, your first kiss, etc. These hidden holidays will bring stress if you don’t prepare a plan.  

  • Be proactive.  

  • Make a list of the hidden holidays coming up on your calendar.

  • Then circle them.  

  • Plan to give yourself a special treat that day.  

  • Be good to yourself during these holidays.  

  • Surround yourself with people who can lift you up and help you through.   

 3.  You will be surprised by the emotional roller-coaster.

If you just experienced a break-up, you might get blindsided by your emotions

Certain events, areas, smells, tastes, songs, and photos, might ambush you emotionally.  

  • Acknowledge these ambushes will happen.

  • Set realistic expectations for when you do get ambushed.  Don’t bottle up the tears when you hear a song that was your wife’s favorite.  Let it out.  Be kind to those emotions.  Honor them.

  • Don’t be surprised by the magnitude of your emotions.  They are new and might catch you off guard.  Acknowledge the intensity, knowing that this will pass.  

  • Be honest with people close to you about the reality of your pain.  Just saying those words will lift a weight off  you. 

4.  Don’t numb your pain.

Drugs, alcohol, involvement in a new relationship, spending sprees, gambling, and porn are some of the worst things you can do when you are going through the pain of a break-up.  When they wear off, your depression will be more intense, and you will have to deal with the guilt/consequences of your behavior.  

You don’t need that.  

5.  Have a Plan.

Take Christmas for example.   Ask yourself these questions:

  • Do I really need to do this decorating for the holidays as I always have?  

  • Is it necessary to bake six varieties of cookies?

  • Do I need to send out Christmas cards?  

  • What is the most important thing to do this holiday?

  • How many items can I realistically do?  

  • How many do I not want to do?  

  • Do I have the energy to do this?  

  • Who could help me with this?  

  • Do I have the finances to do this

It’s OK to think selfishly.  

You cannot possibly operate at the same level that you used to.  

6. Intensive Care.

Remember this:  If someone was in the Intensive Care Unit with a physical ailment, would you expect them to do these tasks around the holidays?  

Of course not.  

Well, my friend, you too are in ICU.  

An emotional Intensive Care Unit.  

Your wounds may not be visible, but they are real and cannot be ignored.

Honor your wounds.    

7.  Make a budget.  

Be creative when it comes to your spending.  Don’t compete with your ex to buy a more extravagant gift.  Don’t spend money to numb your pain.

 8.  Arrange custody of the children for the holidays, or make a plan for your grandchildren.

Your new tradition may require celebrating on a different day of the week than you are used to.  Be flexible.  

Do not celebrate together with your ex.  Ask yourself what the motivation is behind this thought.

To flaunt?  

To secretly get back together?

It may create false expectations and hopes for the children or family members.  

9.  Choose friends wisely.

Same-sex friends are the safest.  Don’t hang around people who wear you out.  Don’t hang around people who might tempt you to do something you may regret later.  

10.  Help your children prepare for the holidays.

Sit them down and talk it out.  No surprises for them. Give them several days to digest what you talked about.  A few days later, discuss it again to see if they understood the initial conversation.  

Remember, they too are grieving.  

11.  Traditions:  Old vs. New.

Take it slowly with this area.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew.  

You are exhausted emotionally.

Don’t set unrealistic expectations.  Talk over traditions with your family to see what is really important for you to retain or to reinvent.  

For me, my son’s were 21 and 23. It was a bit easier to create new traditions for Christmas since they were adults. Since I lived in another state from them, my focus was on creating our new holiday traditions.  

Be creative with new traditions. Go visit a nursing home and sing carols with the elderly. Use your vacation time to travel over the holiday. Plan to help others who may need you.  It always feels good to help someone else even when you are hurting.  

12.  The trouble with Isolation.  

Again, be kind to yourself.  Be aware of what you are doing.  

Are you intentionally isolating yourself from people?  

How long has it been since you interacted with people?  

Is this behavior unusual for you?  

If you are sleeping patterns change, contact your doctor and seek medical advice for possible depression.

13.  H.A.L.T.

We tend to have the most negative thoughts about ourselves when we are Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  Be aware that you are more susceptible during H.A.L.T.  You are grieving.   

  • Make sure you are eating regularly.  

  • Know that you might have sudden bursts of anger especially when you are tired.  

  • Being alone is not unhealthy.    

  • Loneliness can be an unhealthy thing.  Talk with someone about your loneliness.  Just because your significant partner is no longer around does not mean you are half a person.  You are still a whole person.

  • Make sure that you get enough sleep each night.  You may need to take a sleeping pill during your months of transition.  I know I did.    

14.  Handling uncomfortable situations.

Your friends may not know what to say, or they may ask you personal questions about the break-up.  

Be prepared with an answer to their queries.  You are free to say “I don’t want to talk about that right now”, or, deflect the question back to them by asking them why they want to know?  Go to social events with friends who know the situation.  Give your hostess or host a “heads up” that you might need to back out of the commitment if you don’t have the energy.  

15.  If you are alone on the holiday.

Give yourself a special treat.  Make a plan as soon as you know that you are going to be alone for a holiday.  Stick with your plan.  Impulsive last-minute decisions may make it worse. Remember, the day is only 24 hours long.  You’ll get through.

15.  Sign up for a support group like DivorceCare.  

Join with others who are on a healing path.  The workbook, videos, and topics led by professional counselors are fantastic.  Click on DivorceCare or Surviving the Holidays* to find a group in your area. 

I hope these strategies have been helpful. Please let me know.  

Love,

Gretty

*I would like to acknowledge and humbly thank DivorceCare for granting me permission to share their information on Surviving the Holidays.