Saturday, November 30, 2013

Latest Divorced Moms column: Angry with your ex? Don't use your children as a weapon

My latest Divorce Moms ( column is out! And, thank you to William for providing me with this beautiful photo of him with his girls. Priceless.

Angry at Your Ex? Don't Use Your Children as a Weapon                     

By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - November 30, 2013
luvudaddy.jpgSeveral years ago, my boyfriend, David, had two beautiful daughters. They were the same age as my daughter, Morgan, so we spent a lot of time together. David was a great dad. He was completely devoted to them.

Keep reading here...

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Today I'm grateful for...

My mom

My bestie Julie

My dad and nephew-- the cutest little guy ever -- Dylan

William, who made the yummiest turkey and stuffing

Morgan, my other bestie, and who also happens to be my daughter (lucky me)

Jason and Nancy (my brother and sister in law) who hosted dinner tonight, which means I didn't have to do a single dish (whoohoo!)

Siena (my 8 year old daughter who I love so much it sometimes hurts), Kate and Malory who are all getting along so well (and Devynn, too)

Walmart for allowing me to purchase an iPad for my daughter's Christmas gift and only making me wait in line for about 10 minutes on "gray Thursday", and to William who drove and found parking and Julie who kept me company

For my Sterling Pear gift from my friend, Janet ( two beautiful keepsake storage chests, which I love! I can't wait to start guest blogging for her company (watch for links to them when they get posted)
Photo: Thanks Janet Bishop!

...And for being surrounded by the people I love the most. I have so much to be grateful for. God bless.

Pay it forward

William wrote this beautiful Thanksgiving message and I'd like to share with you. Read up and enjoy!...

There is so much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving season, for starters, if you are reading this, you are alive.

I was in a conference once where the topic was being grateful for our wayward teens and the leader of the conference who knew the frustration we lived with each day said something I will never forget. He said, just be grateful that your child breaths, even if that is the only thing that you can be grateful for because you see the alternative is that they would be dead. I started to view my teen differently from that day forward.

During that conference they gave us time to go out and do random acts of kindness during the day and report back that evening.  I must admit at first I had no idea what I was going to do but by the end of the day I had been transformed by how simple acts of random kindness not only affected those I helped but how it touched my heart to its core.

I left the facility not knowing what I would do or where I would go and eventually decided I would go into a Wendy’s and buy someone person’s lunch.  I noticed an elderly woman with a young boy around the age of 10 at the counter and getting ready to pay.  I rushed to the counter and asked if I could pay for their meal. At first they said no but finally agreed to let me pay for the meal.  I sat down with the elderly woman and young boy and asked them who they were and what they were up to that day, this is what I found out.  The young boy was celebrating his birthday that day and his grandmother was taking him to a nearby Walmart to buy a video game with the $10 dollars he had gotten for his birthday. His grandmother indicated she lived in a nearby trailer court that her husband of 55 years had recently passed away, that the boy’s Mother and Father where drug addicts and could not celebrate his birthday because they were no-where to be found.  As I listened to their story, I began to weep and my heart went out to the elderly woman and her grandson.  We sat and talked for nearly an hour an as I listened my heart grew larger with compassion and empathy.  At the end of the meal, the two of them indicated it was time for them to leave and go to Walmart to purchase the video game the boy was hoping to buy.  I told them the game would cost much more than $10 dollars and I suggested I go with them and help them select a game that they could reasonably afford.  As I suspected, the games were closer to $50 each.  I ended up buying two games for the young boy and told him to keep his money and save it for college.  We were all crying at that point and I left feeling as though I had touched the hearts of both the Grandmother and her young grandson.

I left the Walmart again not knowing where I was heading and as I was driving I noticed a self-serve car wash and decided that I would pay for the car wash of the next person that came in.  I waited for what seemed for 10 minutes when a large muddy pickup truck with dual back wheel tires rolled into the wash and out stepped a very elderly man.  I quickly ran over and asked the man if I could pay for his truck to wash and suggested to him that he could sit back and I would wash and dry his truck for him.  At first he said absolutely not but after a little prodding he agreed to let me wash his truck.  As I washed we struck up a conversation and I found out he was 86 years old and his wife had passed away 10 years ago, he had three sons who lived in the State but he hadn’t seen any of them for the past 8 years.  He had no permanent residence and the truck he was driving was the type that you could hook a trailer up to and so he lived from trailer park to trailer park.  He indicated his children no longer had time for him, that they were just too busy with their life and that he was all alone and sad all the time.  As we talked I could tell he was just happy to have someone to talk with who took some interest in what he was saying.  It took me nearly 2 hours to wash and dry his truck.  I was working very slowly because I could tell this gentleman was enjoying our conversation.  Initially I was asking quite a few questions just to get the man talking but after a while I really didn’t have to say anything. I listened as the old man talked and after I was completely done and we said our goodbyes, I sat in my car and weep.  I was so touched by this gentleman’s story and the sadness that that enveloped his life.  I said a prayer for him and went about my business looking for another opportunity to serve.

I decided to go to a nursing home and asked the receptionist if it would be OK for me to go and visit with some of the people living in the home. She indicated that they had just started to play bingo and if I liked I could go and call out the numbers, which is exactly what I did.  I called out the numbers for two games and as I did, I told jokes and tried to be funny and upbeat.  It seemed as though everyone was enjoying me putting some energy into calling the numbers.  I too was having a great time interacting with those living in the home playing bingo.  When I finished I went back up to the front desk and asked the receptionist if there was anyone living in the home who hadn’t had a visitor for a while and she indicated there was an elderly woman who hadn’t have a visitor in 5 years.  I asked if I could see her and spend some time with her.  Shortly thereafter a nurse brought an elderly in a woman to the front lobby. Confused at first the elderly woman had no idea who I was and I explained to her I was here to see her and let her know she was not forgotten and that I loved her.  When I said this to her, her whole face began to light up and she had the biggest smile on her face. I wanted her to know that I was a friend and that she was a gift to me and I was extremely glad to be there talking with her.  Our conversation lasted for nearly an hour when she had to leave for dinner.  As I left I gave her a great big hug and told her again how much she meant to me and that I loved her.  I then pushed her wheelchair to the dinner room and left and as I left, I past the receptionist who had a tears in her eyes.  She told me that was the sweetest thing she had seen in her five years working at the nursing home.  Little did she know it was I who was the one who received the greatest gift of joy.

That day will forever be etched in my mind as one of the happiest days of my life.  For a brief period of time, it was about me and my problems. I came away with two guiding principles that I still live by; the first being, “it is not about me and secondly, love and serve others”.

I am extremely grateful this Thanksgiving season for the many blessing that come my way each and every day and I would encourage all to go out experience the gift of peace, happiness and joy that comes from a random act of kindness.

May God bless you all and know this; God loves you and he asks that you love yourself and then go out and love others as yourself.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm so excited about the holiday season this year! In fact, I already pulled out my Christmas ornaments. In this photo, I am holding up the first memorable Christmas ornament I ever purchased, which brings back very fun memories. I had just graduated from the University of Utah and moved to Washington, DC for an internship. When my internship was over, I got my first "real" job at Chemical Manufacturers Association as a Staff Assistant. I made very little money but it was great experience and I met lots of new friends.

It was Christmas season in 1992 and my colleague, Mary Beth, came to work one morning and showed me the most beautiful ornament I had ever seen. It was the official White House Christmas ornament and they produce a new one every year. It featured a painting of Mary Todd Lincoln with gold inlay. It was breathtaking. I couldn't afford it but I purchased one anyway. And I started buying one every year. Today, I have something like 30 White House ornaments (I purchased many back years). I love every single one of them.

Last night, my BFF Julie and her children are here for a week. We'll be doing all the typical things we do when we're together-- talking, lunches, movies... Last night, William made dinner for all of us and I didn't have to lift a finger (unless you count lifting my fork to my mouth). I had extreme fatigue from my medication's side effects, so not having to cook or clean up was a Godsend. After a great night's rest, I feel better today. So I'm crossing my fingers this lasts all week because we've got lots of baking to do.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Divorced Moms column is out! "Those War Wounds Are My (Well Earned) Badge of Courage"

My latest column on Divorced Moms!

Those War Wounds Are my (Well Earned) Badge of Courage
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - November 17, 2013
lizzy1.jpgI was married to an alcoholic. My husband, Bob, was verbally and mentally abusive throughout our time together. When I finally escaped the marriage, the divorce process was as abusive as the marriage was.
Read more

You've made it through cancer treatment. Now what?

In September 2012, I completed my second of two autologous stem cell transplants for Multiple Myeloma. My doctor gave me a four week break and then in October, I went on my maintenance plan, which included weekly velcade via IV with Dex, and daily thalidomide. Once per month I had my labs and Aridia via IV, and I only saw a doctor once every six months.

And that's when fear set in. I had no idea I would feel that way. I was so used to being in clinic several times per week, sometimes every single day, that the void was frightening. When I was being monitored so closely, it was reassuring. I relied on the constant feedback. I knew that as long as I was treated by the angels at Huntsman Cancer Institute's Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) clinic, that myeloma would not claim my life. But now that I wasn't getting that constant care?

I knew that it was time to start taking a more proactive role in my health, as clearly it was up to me now more than it had been since diagnosis.

One aspect of cancer care that I find surprisingly lacking is how us cancer warriors can take care of ourselves post treatment. We get lots of support during treatment but not so much after we are done. So I did a little research of my own and came up with my own plan, which I'll share below. But the bottom line is this: It is vitally important that we all take care of our emotional and physical health post treatment. If you ask me, our ability to stay well depends on it. So whatever your plan is, make sure you at least have one. And, to your best ability, stick with it.

Emotional health
-Pray/meditate: I prayed throughout treatment. I actually prayed throughout the day. Post treatment is no different. I also talk to my body a lot. Those talks tend to focus on telling my body that it needs to kill off any crazy cancer cells. There is a mind-body connection so convincing my inner body to do what I tell it is an important part of my emotional recovery.
-Yoga: I'm putting this under emotional health because yoga is an excellent way to heal emotionally, as well as physically. For me, I love Bikram yoga, especially in the winter. Sweating out impurities, including emotional impurities, is incredibly therapeutic.
-Therapy: I did not see a therapist but I purchased self help books that were appropriate for me. It helped me heal from the trauma I experienced in my fight to get well.
-Support: Find people you love and surround yourself with them. Learn to laugh and have fun and live again. Fill the void that not being in treatment every day with something that brings you joy.

Physical health
-Exercise! This is so critically important! After almost a year of treatment, I was physically very weak. I started off with power walks. I had just met my boyfriend, William, and we would go for long walks together. The first time that we walked six miles, I nearly started crying. It felt like such a huge achievement. One day last year, I even went skiing. Granted, it was a very "easy" ski day for me. William and my daughter, Morgan, went on the more challenging runs while Siena and I stayed together. But it all meant that I was getting a bit stronger every day.
Photo: Sundance

-Rest: I'm on a two year maintenance plan so I still have side effects, which includes extreme fatigue sometimes. I used to try and power through it. I don't anymore. Most days, I need to be horizontal for at least 15 minutes. Sometimes I need a nap. This week, I've been more fatigued than normal and I've needed a nap every day. I literally drop the kids off at school, take a shower, and then take a nap. Frequent rest is important. Get it.
-Nutrition: What we put in our bodies either helps destroy us or makes us stronger. Focus on anti cancer foods, like tomatoes and garlic and organic berries; nuts and seeds, lemons, ripe bananas, and avocadoes. There are a million books and websites to direct you to anti cancer diets. I also learned that turmeric is very anti-myeloma. I cook with that spice often.
-Work: I worked fulltime prior to diagnosis and stopped working throughout treatment. I have not yet gone back to work and I won't even consider it until after my two-year maintenance plan is complete. Each one of us is different so know your options and what works for you. I need rest and my Friday clinic appointments sometimes take several hours. Working and managing my maintenance treatment are not compatible. Whatever you decide, feel no guilt and no need to justify that decision to anyone.
-Massage/acupuncture: I scheduled weekly massages. It wasn't cheap but it was necessary. It helped address sore and aching muscles and was good quiet time to meditate.

-Alternative therapies: I won't go into detail on which ones I've chosen (and they change all the time), but there are many alternative therapies that appear to be very successful. Do some research and consider picking one (or several) that makes sense for you.

Whatever you do to recover from treatment, I strongly suggest you make a list and stick with it. I don't know a single cancer warrior who doesn't come out of treatment a profoundly different person. Most every person I've talked to appreciates life in a new way. Life post treatment is exciting-- especially if we stay healthy. Cheers!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Understanding lab results? This is exactly how NOT to do it, Kaiser Permanente!

Recently, the mPatient Radio program featured Dr Michael Misialek, a pathologist, about understanding lab results. For us Multiple Myeloma warriors, lab results are intense. Perhaps it's the same with other cancers, but since I only know myeloma, I stay focused on that. No two myelomas are the same and, therefore, before selecting a treatment protocol, patients and doctors need to fully understand their particular myeloma. Some are riskier than others, some tend to respond to treatment better than others. Age is a factor, as is general health. You get the picture. Tests that help determine that cancer include blood tests, a 24-hour urine collection, bone scans, and bone marrow biopsy (ouch!).

Which got me to thinking about when I was first diagnosed. My symptoms prior to diagnosis were incredibly vague. I had sore ribs. My husband, Rob, had grabbed me around the waste and fractured one of my ribs. Prior to that, I seemed to have sore ribs often. But then again, I got pregnant twice (I miscarried both) so I thought it was simply my body changing. I was extremely forgetful, which was odd for me. And by the time I went to see my primary care doctor at Kaiser Permanente in San Diego and asked for a CBC (complete blood count), I knew something was wrong. I thought it was mental-- my continual struggle with living with a (highly functioning) alcoholic who was extremely abusive.

At that office visit, Dr Anton didn't think there was anything alarming and prescribed an anti depression drug. I knew I wasn't depressed and though I filled the prescription, I never took a single pill.

Kaiser puts all their patients lab results online. So over the next several days, I would get emails from Kaiser saying that I had new lab results. I would review them from my phone or at home and since I had no reference and no doctor helping me decipher them, I would just go online and try to figure it out myself. After the first wave of blood tests, Dr Anton requested more blood work. Again, more emails saying my results were ready. I started looking up all the results myself. At this time, worry started creeping into my head.

Over Christmas vacation, I got a call from Dr Anton. That awful call no one wants to get. "You are severely anemic," he said. "But you are not iron deficient so we will have you follow up with a hematologist/oncologist when you get back."


So Kaiser Permanente (if you ever read this and, because I'll be Tweeting this blog post, I suspect you will read this): This is NOT THE WAY YOU DIAGNOS A PATIENT WITH A NEW DISEASE!!!! Instead of posting this stuff online, you call the patient into an office and go over it with us. We don't understand them and self-diagnosing without proper knowledge SUCKS beyond belief.

While Kaiser is a terrific place to have medical insurance if: 1) you have no other options; or 2) you have basic ailments, like colds and broken ankles... I am so grateful that I was able to get far superior health insurance elsewhere. I wouldn't wish Kaiser on any cancer patient. Kaiser can do far better, and they should. You just don't diagnose someone with cancer this way!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Crater swimming

This was my belated birthday weekend, compliments of Dear William. And it snowed! Beautiful white billowy snow. I couldn't have ordered up better weather. It was exactly what I had hoped for and I got it.

Across the street from the Zermatt Resort & Spa in Midway, Utah is a 10,000 year old crater filled with water from underground springs. The water temps are about 95-degrees and, with a reservation, you can swim in it. It is amazing and if you have a bucket list, add this! It's a very cool experience.

On Saturday morning, William and I drove up to Midway, Utah, which is an incredible picturesque town nestled at the foot of the mountains. We got some lunch and checked into our hotel, the lovely Zermatt Resort & Spa.

But this is the cool part-- across the street from Zermatt is a 10,000 year old crater and, if you have a reservation prior, you can swim in it! And that's what we did. We walked into a cave, put on life vests, and got into water that came out of an underground spring and that has been around since, oh I don't know, the dinosaurs or something. (Seriously, I don't know how many years ago the dinos became extinct but it doesn't matter. You get the point...) The fact is, swimming in 95-degree temps in a crater was an incredibly cool experience. It felt so peaceful and dark and calm and cathartic and, well, lovely. We floated and chatted and (I know this sounds really new age-ish) I felt so "present" and "in the moment" (thanks, yoga, for teaching me these concepts!). Even if you don't live in Utah, put this on your bucket list!

When we were done in the pool, we stepped outside to breathtaking beauty. Snow, unspoiled fresh brand new snow. Which meant that back at the resort, it was a perfect time to snuggle and get warm and feel cozy and... well, even writing this it all sounds silly but, seriously, it was so fun. I like having fun and laughing and it's nice to feel that again. Fresh and new and hopeful and optimistic. This is nice. It feels safe.

Even though we were gone for just a day, I missed my girls. I realize that when I'm not with them, I talk about them all the time. I am very lucky to have great parents who are willing to pitch in whenever I need them. While getting cancer was a really horrible thing, there were good things that came from it. I don't know a cancer warrior whose diagnosis didn't change their life for the better in some fashion. For me, among other things, it has enabled me to spend quality time with my mom and dad. They have been my caregivers through my tough treatment, my biggest support and champions, and amazing to my children. They are the best parents around. The set great examples and truly model what being a good person means.

It's hard to believe that Thanksgiving is next week. Let the holiday season begin!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Divorced Moms article: The wisdom of neutrality (or How I became Switzerland)

My Divorced Moms article is out! Read it here...

The Wisdom of Neutrality In Blended Families (or How I Became Switzerland)
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - November 15, 2013

One lesson I learned from my marriage (and I learned it the hard way) is this: Never become part of the story when it comes to the relationships between your new mate’s former wife, children or family members. As best possible, stay out of it! Be Switzerland. Be neutral. Beautiful, wonderful, amazing neutral.

Click here to read the rest

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

I won't buy that girl a pencil!

As I've written about on this blog, Kalie, Rob's younger daughter, boycotted our wedding after a big argument. Around Christmas, they made peace and she started doing her typical rotation of one week with us and one week with her mom. That arrangement only lasted about four months before Kalie told Rob that if he drank around her again, she would stop living with him. And, true to form for an alcoholic (or at least an alcoholic like Rob), he drank in front of her and a few days later, Kalie announced that she would no longer be living with Rob.

After Kalie told Rob she wouldn't be living with him anymore, Rob was served with papers. Terri, Rob's ex wife, was taking Rob back to court for full custody and for a re-calculation of child support. That sent Rob into a bigger drinking tailspin and me into a total panic. When we had purchased our big house, Rob reminded me that his financial obligations would start minimizing. For one, Nicole would be graduating a year later so his child support would go down in half. And then a few years later, Kalie would be "off the books." If Terri got full custody of Kalie, I knew that child support wouldn't decrease in a couple of months, but it would increase exponentially for a few years.

Rob started saying even worse things about his ex wife and daughter. "Terri only cares about Kalie because she represents dollars!" and "Kalie only goes to her mom because she's buying her love."

In my mind, I was thinking: "You drank in front of her when she told you she hated it. Look in the mirror, buddy."

In August, Rob went to mediation with Terri, the mediator also interviewed Kalie. We got the report and the mediator recommended that Terri get full custody of Kalie and child support was recalculated. Instead of Rob's child support going down to about $500 per month after Nicole graduated, it increased to about $1,400 per month. Rob was livid.

"That's fine! Just wait and see. I won't even buy that girl a pencil when she goes to college! I hope Terri saves for her college fund!" Rob screamed in a drunken tirade.

When he calmed down, he wrote Kalie a letter and asked that I give it to her. "Tell her that I recorded the mediation session with her mom and the mediator railed against Terri because she's alienating Kalie from me." Was that true? Rob said no but I wasn't sure. Since Kalie and I were still on speaking terms, I asked if she wanted to go to yogurt with me. I picked her up and we sat outside the yogurt store while Kalie read Rob's letter. I wish I had a copy of it but the gist was that Rob told Kalie that her mom cheated on him, that he was a victim in their marriage, that if she didn't have a father, awful things might happen to her... Kalie cried while she read the letter. I felt like an idiot but I was still Rob's champion and really sincerely wanted Rob and Kalie to have a good relationship. I didn't understand such animosity between children and parents because I had literally never seen it or experienced it. I was baffled and confused and horrified.

Kalie looked at me and said, "You don't even know. You have no idea. I just love my mom so much." And that's how she left it. I couldn't "talk" her into wanting a bigger relationship with her dad at that time.

When I told Rob, he was disappointed. But a few weeks later, after a few drinks and that glassy look again, he tried to blame me for it. "You should never have given Kalie that letter!" he screamed at me. Oh no he did not!

"Stop right there, Rob," I said. "Don't even try to blame me for something you asked me to do. Look in the mirror and for once take responsibility for your actions."

He started screaming at me some more, in that high pitched ridiculously horrific voice of his. I grabbed my keys and went to Shannon's house while I called Todd and talked to him the whole way over. How the hell did I end up with this guy with the beer gut and soprano scream?

Soon, Rob became even more "in your face" when it came to Terri and Kalie. They became the number one enemy. Every time Rob saw Kalie with a new cell phone or Rayban sunglasses, Rob became angry. "I can't believe Terri is taking my money to buy Kalie all this stuff!" When Terri purchased Kalie a convertible Mustang for her sixteenth birthday, he texted Kalie, "You need to thank me for buying you that car." One day, we saw Terri and Kalie driving that car and Rob tried to drive faster than them down the road.

The icing on the cake was the following year during health enrollment season. Terri asked Rob to cover Kalie on his medical plan. Since he was already covering our entire family, adding Kalie would have cost him not a penny more. He refused. Instead, he had me cover the family on my insurance plan that year so that if Terri took him to court, the judge would not be able to order me to cover Kalie's health insurance. When Rob and Terri went to court and the judge asked why Rob didn't cover Kalie's insurance, Terri responded, "Out of spite." True.

Rob and I adopted Siena together. She is an amazing child who is utterly confused and hurt that her dad has disappeared. Rob uses children as weapons to hurt his ex wives. It's unfortunate but to be expected. I'll get into the legal issues of this one on a future post. 

Morgan and Rob were very close and Morgan considers him her dad. While legally he isn't, emotionally and ethically, he is. The pain he has caused to her is unimaginable. But, hey, when Rob can cause an ex wife pain by using children as the weapon, why not?

I suppose it should come as no surprise to me that if he can do what he did to Kalie, then he can do it again. His dropping Morgan and Siena and cutting off all contact with them should be something I expected. Children are of no interest when Rob's true concern is doing things that make him feel good and are fun. And, frankly, using children as a weapon to punish his ex wife is something Rob tries to excel at. Well thank goodness that courts are established to address and rectify at least some of those problems. Since this is the month of giving thanks, I'll give thanks to that.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Wow-- I've never heard a man scream like that! (Sewing the seeds of contempt)

Rob and I returned from our honeymoon in Russia where we met our soon-to-be adopted daughter, Siena. I was filled with hope that maybe the marriage wasn't a huge mistake. Now the paper chase began in order to complete the adoption and it would be some ten months before we would actually get her home. That is a story all its own.

Almost immediately, I realized that I was completely overwhelmed by Rob and Nicole and the drama going on between the two of them. And the drama going on between Rob and his younger daughter, Kalie, who was refusing to speak to him at all. I felt swallowed up-- Morgan and me-- way out of our element. We were in a new neighborhood, in a house too big that needed too much work and I was getting zero help from Rob, and I didn't know how to handle it at all. My cousin, Sue, was getting a divorce and I asked her to move in with us. We gave her Kalie's bedroom, since I knew she wasn't coming home anytime soon. Sue became my much-needed ally.

By early November, just three months after our wedding, Mean Drunk Rob showed up. I didn't even know what was going on when he started screaming in this horrific pitch that I have never heard a grown man do. Ever. It was this agitated bizarre behavior that would start with glassy eyes, fidgety hands, and rambling, followed by a scream in a high falsetto/mezzo soprano wail. If I only had recorded it! Because there is no way to describe the scream and behavior surrounding it. The first several times that I witnessed this behavior, I literally stood transfixed, mouth gaping, wondering how the hell he could reach those incredibly high decibels. I didn't know if I should laugh, run, or slam my fist into a wall. Instead, I would do nothing and just let the bizarre scenario play itself out.

One night after a particularly "entertaining" screaming fit, I simply went into the guest room, laid in bed and started watching TV. I loved the feeling of being in bed alone. I felt single again and, truth be told, it felt terrific. I thought of Terri, Rob's ex wife, and I envied her life. It made me recall an illustration I once saw that said: "You're dating my ex? I've got a half eaten sandwich. You want that, too?" That was me-- taking Terri's icky leftovers that she couldn't swallow anymore. A few hours later, Rob came into the bedroom. I could tell he had been crying.

"Please come to bed. You're my wife," he said.

"No. There's something wrong with you. Go away, please," I said.

"This isn't going to work, is it?" he said with tears in his eyes.

I shook my head. "I don't think so." And I meant it.

He went back into our bedroom and after maybe another hour, I felt bad. He was my husband. Poor innocent Rob. The guy who was terrorized for 19 years by his ex wife and who didn't know how to communicate. It was all her fault (so Rob said and I believed him). I really needed to cut him some slack. He had so much stress. As soon as the stress was gone, he would be normal, just like he promised. So I got up, went into our room, cuddled up with him in bed, and gave him extra hugs and kisses-- just like I would a child. I thought that maybe more love and affection would do the trick.

Shortly thereafter, it was late November and my company Christmas party was just a few days away. That party was really fun every year. The year before, I had taken Todd with me and it was one of the best nights ever. We had dressed up and looked amazing, we drank a little too much, and I was giddy. I was with a guy I was absolutely crazy about. This year, I was feeling much more subdued and sad-- sad that Todd wasn't going with me, even though we had talked just a few days prior and, if I was single, I would have invited him and I know he would have gone with me. Instead, I was taking my husband, a guy I didn't love and screamed like a shrill woman. And in the midst of all those feelings, I got a call from Todd. I picked up the phone and we talked and laughed and I felt excited and happy again. Rob and Morgan had already gone to bed. It was just Sue and I. Sue could see me smiling as I texted messages and photos back and forth with Todd.

"Wow-- look at you," she said. She was stunned at how happy I looked.

I finally had someone to confide in. "Sue, I think I made a mistake. How can I love Rob when every time I hear from Todd, I look like this."

And then my excitement came to a crashing end when I realized that, oh dear Lord, I was married. To Rob.

Todd and I talked a long time that night and for the next week, I was in another Todd funk. Rob and I went to my Christmas party and it was all I could do to stave off the sadness and depression I felt about being in a marriage with a man I didn't want to be with. Plain and simple.

The following week, Rob and I threw our first annual Christmas party. It was really fun and we had some 120 people show up. After everyone left, I was cleaning up and Rob, after taking out a few bags of trash, said, "Ok, do you have everything else?" I thought he was joking. "Sure, yes, I've got it all!" I responded. Maybe 30 minutes later as I was scrubbing floors, I realized Rob had been gone for a long time. I went to find him and he was in bed sound asleep. I woke him up.

Photos from our first Christmas party-- a party that Rob did almost nothing to help clean up afterwards.

"What are you doing in bed when I'm up cleaning?" I was livid.

"You said you had it all!" he shouted.

"I thought you were joking. How rude! Most of these people were your friends and you leave me with everything?"

He went back to sleep. As I watched him sleeping in bed with his big huge beer gut hanging, I was completely and utterly revolted by the sight. It was the first time that just looking at Rob with his fleshy belly made me physically ill. That fleshiness represented laziness and it was disgusting. I began to experience true contempt for him for the first time. I watched him for several minutes, becoming more and more grossed out by the view before I went back to the kitchen with a toothbrush and started scrubbing the tile floors and crying. I felt like I was losing my mind. The despair I felt was horrific. I was so angry with Rob and with me for getting myself in this situation.

It was after Christmas and Rob and I got in a huge enormous fight. Mean Drunk Rob showed up again, screaming again-- this time over my needing help with putting Christmas ornaments away. I begged him to go to his mother's house for a night to calm down. He packed up and on his way to the front door, screamed at me: "I'm not going to my mom's! I'm going to a hotel!"

My heart started pounding. "No you're not! We don't have money for you to go to a hotel, especially because you can go to your mom's for free!" I said.

"You can't tell me what to do! I make a lot of money!" he screamed again. Except he forgot to mention that no matter how much money he earned, he owed it all to his ex wife.

So I did the really mature thing. I called up the two credit card companies and cancelled both of the cards. And I texted Rob that he had no access to credit and he needed to go to his mom's house. He was furious but whatever. He was furious anyway and his mezzo soprano screaming wasn't sitting well with me anyway so, quite frankly, I didn't care.

My next call was to Todd. We spent the next several days talking on the phone and texting each other. He invited me over to his house for dinner. He was going to make us salmon and he had the whole menu planned out. I accepted. I was going to see Todd and maybe have an affair and let the chips fall where they way. It was a Sunday afternoon and I was taking a long walk trying to let my anger at Rob ebb before I returned home. I was steadfast in my decision. I called my friend, Shannon.

"I don't love Rob. This is a huge mistake. I'm going to see Todd next weekend," I said.

In the midst of that call, Rob called and I answered.

"I'm an alcoholic," he finally confessed. "I'm so sorry. I should have told you. I love you. I don't want to destroy another family. I want to get help and I promise I'll get better."

My heart broke. If there's one thing I do well-- I try and heal people. Wounded men is my Achilles' heal. I found AA meetings that week and I went with Rob to a few where he told the group: "Hi, I'm Rob and I'm an alcoholic." He got an AA sponsor who also worked at his company, Randy. And the next weekend, instead of going to Todd's for that salmon dinner, Rob and I went on a get-away to Catalina where we ate yummy food, went for runs along the beach, and took naps in front of the fireplace in our room. We got home on Super Bowl Sunday and went straight to Rob's brother Chris' home for the Super Bowl party. I decided that I needed to try and help Rob get well and to make my marriage work. After all, we owned a house together and I was stuck so I was going to do my best to pick up all the pieces and make the marriage work.

In April, Rob and I got in another huge fight. I went online and purchased two plane tickets for Utah and Morgan and I left the next day for the weekend. I didn't even tell Rob where we were going. We just left. I wanted out of the marriage by this point. But the same pattern started back up. Rob apologized. I felt sorry for him. We made up. We got along for awhile. Rob always had an excuse for his behavior. He was stressed because of work. "I'll be better as soon as I get these big projects off my plate," he'd say. Well what the hell? I had all the same stressors and more because I was managing our entire house with almost no help whatsoever from Rob and yet I wasn't behaving that way. How was it ok that he was?

And that was when Kalie told me about Rob drinking every day after work. A week later, she informed Rob that she wasn't going to be living with him anymore.

And I just sank deeper and deeper into life with an alcoholic-- a man who lied, manipulated, screamed, threw temper tantrums, made false promises, belittled, and behaved in horrific ways befitting a five year old child who had his Tonka truck taken from him. The seeds of contempt were well sewn and every single day, my contempt for him started growing stronger and stronger. And every time he screamed and apologized, I learned to loathe him a bit more every single day.

Cure Panel Talk Show - listen to recap

The Cure Panel Talk Show

On Thurs., Nov 7, I was a guest host on the Cure Panel radio show. On the show, I interviewed four amazing women who discussed the power of yoga-- especially in terms of its health and healing benefits during chemo and after. One of the guests was actually in the hospital being prepped for her first stem cell transplant. I learned a lot and I think you will, too. To hear a recap, click here:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Divorce is Hard (my first column is published!)

I'm excited to announce my first column on Divorced Moms (! I'll be posting new content every week. Here's the first one. Enjoy!

Divorce is Hard But Life on The Other Side Can be Beautiful
By Lizzy Smith, Contributor - November 07, 2013
lizzyhike.jpgThe year 2012 has to be the worse and most eventful year of my life. To sum it up, I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma (the second most common blood cancer after leukemia), left my abusive alcoholic husband, went on medical leave with my employer, moved two states away with my two young daughters, and entered treatment for said cancer—simultaneously!

Read more by clicking here:

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Happy birthday to me!

On November 6, 1967, a few notable things happened (actually, a few are quite tragic): A bridge at Annabaai crashes on Willemstad, Curacao, killing 15 people; the US launched Surveyor 6, making a soft landing on the moon; Dennis Brown of the San Francisco 49ers was born; in the Philippines, Typhoon Emma hit with the death toll leaving some 140,000 homeless and the death toll over 300; and, on a lighter note-- Lizzy Smilez (that's me!) was born!

And I have hair! After grueling treatments, I had enough hair to get hair extensions and I love them. Hair is good; hair is amazing; I love hair.

I used to tell everyone I was turning 38 years old no matter how many birthdays I really had under my belt. But no more! Every day, every year, is a celebration and a blessing. So, whoohoo! It's almost my birthday!

On a more somber note: Siena has been struggling with a horrible cold, which brought on breathing problems. Today I took her to urgent care and she was hovering between 88-91 percent lung capacity. So scary and borderline "let's put her in the hospital." We treated her with big time antibiotics, extra breathing treatments, essential oils, inhalers, anti cough meds... you name it. This evening, she started perking up and her oxygen levels are holding steady at 90 percent. Still not good but it looks like she can stay out of the hospital. It breaks my heart to watch her struggling for breath.  After she perked up this evening, I did a mini facial on her, which included a facial mask (she looked like the Wicked Witch of the West) and cucumbers over her eyes, a bath with essential oils and Epsom salts, good moisturizer, and a mani/pedi. And we made Jello. Cute. Please, Lord, heal my little girl.

Like mommy, like daughter. We love facials.
Siena also disappeared into the bathroom for awhile. When she came out, she had made her own beehive bun. She is the most creative child I've ever known. And funny.

And happier news on the kid-front: Morgan got her first quarter grades. They went like this: five A's, one B+', and one B. Since I pay out $20 per A, $10 per B, $0 per C, and every D she has to pay me $20, Morgan scored big time. She wanted to spend a good chunk of that money on getting her iPhone swapped for a white cover instead of a black one. Her money but since I'm still Mom, I get final say. I said absolutely not. She wasn't happy.

Photo: Mommy-Morgan day is fabulous
Morgan might get cross with me but we're still great pals no matter what. I'm so happy my children love me, flaws and all, and they forgive me for my shortcomings as a mom.

Tomorrow, William is going car shopping with me. I plan on test driving a Jeep Grand Cherokee, a VW Touareg, and a Volvo SUV. Then we're going to dinner with the family and eating cake, which William is baking. It'll be nice and low key and William and I will celebrate sans kids next weekend at a beautiful resort about an hour from home. I'll fill you in on all the details afterwards but I have a feeling that those of you in Utah should add it to your bucket list.

A few announcements:

1. On Thursday, Nov. 7 at 6PM ET, I have been invited to co-host the Cure Panel radio show when we talk about the benefits of yoga. I accepted the invitation and I'm really excited about it. If you'd like to tune in, all the details are here:

2. I just finished interviewing a law firm to help me with Part Deux of my divorce. I love this firm and I think I'm very close to making a decision. A big huge weight is almost off my shoulders. More details to come.

3. So I'm not sure how I type this one out so if this makes sense to no one but (potentially) one person, that's ok. Here goes: This afternoon, I got a voicemail from a very official sounding man who asked that I return his call. It was a San Diego phone number. I was sure this had to do with my divorce (and I suppose, indirectly, it is). But when I returned this guy's phone call, turns out he didn't call me and he didn't know who I was and I didn't know he was and we couldn't figure out the connection or what the heck was going on. And then we figured out our connection. So, to the person out there who wanted us to "talk", if you are reading this: We talked. But I have no idea why or what the heck is going on. So if there is a greater reason, can you let one of us know? Kinda awkward... though a pleasant exchange.

Happy Tuesday!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Douchebag Men's Club

The Douchebag Men's Club is reserved for those men who have an inflated sense of self, care about their own pursuit of pleasure above anyone else's, display a total lack of tact and decorum, have enormous character flaws as is evident in their actions, and, by society's standards, are complete and total assholes. Since I, Lizzy Smilez, am the membership director of this club, I get to decide who gains entry. It's not that easy, to be honest. A guy has to be, well, a complete and total douchebag. In addition to my ex husband, Rob the Great (Alcoholic), and former Senator and Vice Presidential candidate, John Edwards, let's welcome: 
"Joe": Joe's wife died several years ago after a valiant battle with breast cancer. A month later (yes, a month-- like 30 days!) he married the woman who worked at the funeral home who buried his wife. Holy flipping hell. Can we say tacky, thoughtless, selfish, stupid, and awful? His minor children (four of them) all moved in with their oldest sister and mostly cut off contact with their dad. He couldn't understand why. Um, hello Dumbass. And if there was a club for Deuchebag Women's Club, the woman who Joe married would be Honorary Chairwoman. What kind of woman steps into that mess? Shame on her for being his enabler. Yes, enabler. She enabled him to skip the grieving process, not heal, not focus on himself and his children, and, generally, piss on his wife's head. May they have many (un)happy years together. Two very sick people. Together. With a bunch of kids as the victims. Lovely.
Actor Kelsey Grammer: This guy is such an ass that it's hard to know where to begin. But I have copied below an article from that pretty much sums it up. Let's see-- the mother of your children gets cancer and where is awesome dad? Screwin' another woman! Who cares about the kids when Dad needs to have fun! Class act! Additionally, right after divorcing his wife, Camille, he remarried his girlfriend who was already pregnant. All I can say is, she married a very wealthy asshole but an asshole nonetheless. She'll be on the receiving end of his behavior and she'll deserve every ounce of it.
Ladies: Does size matter? Yes, it does! And I'm not talking penis size. Size of character matters. If a guy has just exited a relationship, do you really want to "go there"? The answer is, most emphatically, NO. What are you getting, really, if you do? An emotionally damaged guy. Sound good? Of course not! Not only are you going to be getting damaged goods, but you've got to ask yourself why your man isn't taking time to heal from his last relationship. Several adjectives come to mind, none of them good. And what is your role in this? You'll become nothing but a distraction and an enabler. Is that what you want to be? Of course not! Healthy relationships begin on solid ground, fresh, with full of hope and excitement-- not with the ex (or current) wife in the middle. I learned the hard way. My ex husband, Rob, had just exited his marriage-- and I mean by just a few weeks. I was the enabler. Now, granted, I didn't know-- Rob the Great (Alcoholic) lied to me about separation date. But I would never in a million years have ever dated a guy in the midst of such turmoil and chaos. And neither should you.

I don't think any of us ever wake up one day and say to ourselves, "I think I'd like to start dating a douchebag." Yet it happens every day. The best way to not get involved with such a man? Look for good character. Look for a man who has space between one relationship before jumping into one with you. Look for a man who displays emotional maturity, who values his mental health and wellness, and who is good, kind and honest to you. And, just so ya know... if you date such a guy, just realize that you're dating a deuchebag and you'll be on the receiving end of such duechery in no time.
So enjoy the article about Kelsey Grammer. What a piece of work. A guy who abandons his kids as he "enjoys" his new honey is a monster. And the woman he's with? Don't even get me started. (And, honestly, as I read this, all I could think of was "dang, this story sounds really super familiar to me." This isn't even debatable-- he's a... you guessed it... complete and total douchebag.)

Kelsey Grammer Hasn’t Seen His Children With Ex-Wife Camille In Six Months

Getty Images
Kelsey Grammer hasn’t seen his two children with ex-wife, Camille in over six months, including the time that the former Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star was in Houston undergoing surgery for cancer, is exclusively reporting.
Camille recently revealed on Twitter that she had reached out ex-hubby Kelsey’s camp, she doesn’t have direct contact with the Frasier starand that he never responded to her or the children. When asked by a fan if Kelsey had contacted her or the children about the cancer diagnosis, she responded,

“No, Kelsey has never contacted me or the kids about my health.”

However, has learned exclusively that “Kelsey hasn’t even seen Mason, 12, or Jude, 9, in over six months.

“The children remained in Southern California while Camille underwent a radical hysterectomy for endometrial cancer in Houston. She wanted the kids to remain in school, and they were well cared for. Kelsey didn’t see the children while Camille was in Houston for her cancer surgery,” a source said about the situation.

“He didn’t make any attempt to visit them, or have the kids come stay with him. He does call the kids, but it’s been a very long time since they actually saw their father.”

On October 29 Grammer, 45, was awarded a temporary restraining order to protect herself and her two children from Dimitri Charalambopoulos  after she claimed he was ”repeatedly slamming my head and face into the furniture” during a hotel altercation between the two on Oct. 16 in Houston.
The blonde beauty “will begin a grueling round of chemo and radiation in the next three weeks to treat the endometrial cancer. The good news is that Camille is young, and in very good health, and the cancer was caught early,” a source previously told Radar.

Sources tell Radar that Camille will likely undergo the chemo and radiation at a hospital in Southern California.

Her rep previously said, “The surgery went well and she is expected to make a complete recovery following a significant recuperation period.”

The kids “are doing remarkably well, given everything that is going on with their mom, but they miss their dad. Camille has always encouraged Kelsey’s relationship with the kids and wants him to be a part of their lives,” the insider added.

Kelsey’s rep denied the claim to Radar, telling us “Your sources are full of it and clueless as well.” (Lizzy's comment here: Even an asshole like Kelsey and his reps know what a total deuchebag he is and that his behavior is disgusting. I'd be denying it, too, because everyone knows this just isn't right.)