Monday, April 21, 2014

Adventures of a soccer mom: Day 3. Training begins

It's Monday.  The day dawned rainy and damp, as seems to be the trend here.  It was cool, in the 50's.  I was woken from a very sound sleep by the phone.  It was the coach, telling me breakfast has been moved a half hour earlier.  I almost said to him, "Are you f*$% kidding me?"  but I didn't.  (Sorry Andrew).  The sleep deprivation had caught up.  BTW, I am now all screwed up as it's 11 pm and I should be asleep! 

So I stumbled into the bathroom to bathe and then wake the boy and nag him to prepare for the day.  We stumbled into breakfast half awake at 8 am.  We left to head to training about 9:15.  About a 15 min walk from the hotel, the boys have a private 2 hour training every morning on a turf field in the shadow of the famous Camp Nou, the home of FC Barcelona.  They are training with a couple of coaches that run a camp, not with their own coaches.  I think they are learning as much as the kids, which is a fantastic opportunity for all of them.  The boys went through drills and some teaching of skills and principles of the game the way it's played in Barcelona.  The kids got a lot of fantastic instruction and the chance to apply it immediately with definite improvement in their skill in a short time.   Amazing.  By the end of the 2 hours they were exhausted, heads spinning from all they had learned and had to process.  It was fascinating to watch. 

Then, a walk back to the hotel for a quick tub for the boy and a change of clothes and then to a quick lunch.  Pasta!  From there, we went back to Camp Nou for the "Camp Nou Experience".  An opportunity to tour the museum and see the history of the club, the (many, many, many) cups they've won, information on some of the greatest players to ever play the game and videos of their greatest moments.  The chance to see the away team's locker room, the press box, access to different areas of the stadium, to see the chapel and to walk the route the FC Barca team walks when they take the field (with the Barca anthem playing for effect) was really cool.  They got to see the bench (crazy first class style seats with cup holders in a rain shelter!) and stand at field level.  They were not allowed on the field but the ability to stand that close was a huge thing to some of them.  The tour ended in the gift shop, of course.  Where we spent entirely too much time but surprisingly not a crazy amount of money.  Just a few small souvenirs. 

From there we headed back to the hotel.  Dinner (ugh, I may not make many more dinners here...) and then down time.  Precious, much needed, down time.  Aside from a little foosball and a quick trip across the street to the grocery for some sports drink, we had a nice low key evening.  A chance for the boy to call his dad and for me to have a decent conversation with my husband and send a few emails.  Oh, and write this post!  :-)

Now, I must get some shut eye.  Another early wake up call and more training for the boys.  Their first game is tomorrow night.  Against a Barcelona youth team.  Their toughest game, ever.  Wish them luck.  These kids are probably the best in the world.  Win or lose, they will learn so much.

It really hasn't sunk in yet.  How lucky they are to be here.  How fortunate they were to be given this opportunity.  How much they still need to learn and put into the game to get where they want to be.  To figure out where it is that they want to be.  They don't get it.  They just can't grasp what it means and why it's such an amazing opportunity.  I wonder if they will by the end of the week. 

It will be interesting to see the progression of this week alone! 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Adventures of a soccer mom: Barcelona, day 2

Today dawned showery.  It's Easter in Barcelona. 

Our alarm woke us at 8 am.  Neither of us wanted to get up.  It was loud around our room last night and we  slept poorly until about 1 am.  Our hotel room is nice by standard European hotel standards, but the beds are rather uncomfortable.  Not that we cared.  Especially last night.  We were SO tired! 

Turns out the shower in our room does not work, so tub baths it is.  The sight of me kneeling in the tub to wash my hair under the faucet is amusing, I'm sure.  Yet it works.  Tub baths are not the worst thing.  In fact, small boy prefers them.  While not as efficient as a shower, they accomplish the same goal. 

After our breakfast we hung out for a bit, then departed as a group to ride the Metro to Las Ramblas.  It's the old city of Barcelona.  Most of Barcelona is a grid system.  The old city is not.  There is a main 'drag' if you will, that is straight, but many amazing rambling little narrow side streets that house great shops and restaurants.  It's easy to get lost, since there are no street signs.  Seriously.  What is up with Europe and the lack of street signage?  Las Ramblas is a sight to behold.  There were tons of people, even on Easter Sunday.  Like, TONS of people.  A  pickpocketers paradise.  We had a chuckle when the first thing one of the boys spotted was a likely cross dressing Marilyn Monroe on the balcony of the erotic museum of Barcelona.  The large '69' signs made the adults chuckle, too.  Ah, Europe! 

Our group split into little sub-groups and we wandered the city for several hours until our pre-determined meeting time of 4 pm.  We toured with the boy's friend Tyler and his dad for a bit, then ran into his friend Toby and his dad.  The 6 of us enjoyed meandering about and exploring.  The boys were truly boys.  Being silly at a playground for much younger children, leap frogging at the water front and chasing pigeons.  They were in and out of the little souvenir shops until they realized they all had the same merchandise.  Every storefront had something Barca related.  We left with a Barca scarf and hat for my son.

We happened upon a great little Italian place for lunch.  It was our waitress' first day and she was very nice and spoke enough English that the boys could order themselves.  We had pizza and what I thought was regular water, but was basically Gatorade sugar water.  Along the way, the boys got some ice cream, too.  Aside from the people watching and admiring of architecture, we saw the Cathedral of Barcelona, the court building, the Christopher Columbus monument, and our friend's apartment!   After our day of exploring we headed back to the hotel and had dinner.  Rice with tomato sauce?!  It was...well... icky.  But I ate it.  Well, some of it.  Also a skirt steak (i did not eat) and fries that were pretty icky, but I ate those, too. 

The highlight of the day was walking to Camp Nou to see FC Barcelona play!  The walk there was an experience in itself.  Crazy crowds of people decked out in their Barca gear.  The stadium was not sold out but it holds 80,000 people!  It was amazing to me the strong police presence, especially around the area for the opposing team's fans.  The boys had an amazing opportunity to see some of the best soccer players in the world and experience what enthusiastic fan support is really like.  The songs and chants of Barca, Barca, Barca could be heard throughout the game.  I had video of a goal Messi scored on a free kick and the fan response was deafening!  Unfortunately, our group was not seated together, so we were off by ourselves but we had VERY enthusiastic Barca fans behind us.  When they scored they sang and danced and were very loud about it!  :-)  To make the night even more amazing, they got to see Barca win at home!  The walk back to the hotel was also accompanied by singing and chanting by happy Barca fans.  The boys were so wound up, it took a while to fall asleep, even though it was midnight. 

Tomorrow, Monday, starts their training.   The real reason they are here.  Soccer. 

Adventures of a Soccer mom: Barcelona Day 1 - crazy long and crazy busy!

As I write this it is 3:29 am EST or 9:29 am Barcelona time.  It's Easter morning.  Happy Easter! 

Day 1 in Barcelona was a crazy long, crazy busy day. 

It began with our arrival at the Barcelona airport just a few minutes late, despite our nearly hour late departure from PHL.  Most of us on precious little sleep and several of the kids on no sleep. They were flying on pure adrenaline and excitement.  We made our way through customs, fetched our luggage, and met our guide.  The kids were absolutely thrilled to find a luxury coach bus with "Celtic FC Bolts"  on it.  They were traveling in style on their own private bus!  They quickly assembled in the back of the bus while the parents chose the front. 

We had about a half hour bus ride to our hotel.  It took several hours for us all to check in.  We stowed our luggage in the coach's room since his was the only one ready and we took a walk around the block.  This could be dangerous.  There is a pastry shop every 3rd store front!  All displaying their treats for Easter.  We found a toasted ham and cheese sammich for the boy and a chocolate muffin.  We hung out in the hotel lobby.  The boys were entertained since there was a foosball table!  Finally, about 1:20 pm local time we were able to get into our hotel room.  We had 10 minutes before we had to be re-assembled for our afternoon tour.

Lo and behold, another private bus complete with our own personal tour guide.  These boys have no idea how lucky they are!  We had our own 'hop on hop off' style tour of the city.  It was a great way to get oriented.  The city is absolutely beautiful and incredibly clean, at least the areas we saw.  Even ordinary buildings have amazing architecture. 

The highlight of the trip for the parents was La Sagrada Familia.  An absolutely stunning work of architecture, still in process.  We only saw the outside.  The line to get inside was probably close to a 2 hour wait.  We also stopped at Montjuc for a spectacular view of the city and the Olympic stadium, where there was a rugby match going on.  Let me tell you, these people take their sports very seriously.  Nearly every spectator was decked out, and I mean head to toe, in support of their team. 

The highlight of the trip for the boys was Futbol Mania.  As one might expect from the name, it was a ginormous store dedicated to soccer all over the world.  The boys were over the top.  Disneyland for soccer!  We walked out many euros poorer with 3 official soccer jerseys, two complete with the names/number of their favorite player. 

We then headed back to our hotel and immediately had dinner.  We were starving!  We were served pasta and bread and bottled water which was devoured.  We thought that was it (and were sad, because it wasn't enough for these hungry boys, let alone their hungry parents) but then we also got second dinner!  Chicken and fries.  Followed by an amazing strawberry and vanilla ice cream dessert.  Dinner was overall, average, but it was quick and easy and we were so hungry, I don't think anyone cared! 

As soon as dinner was done, we walked a mile or two to the Camp Nou Mini Stadium to watch the Barcelona B team play Girona.  It was like going to a Revs game except these guys played futbol!  The stadium was barely 1/3 full but the spirit was strong.  Flags waving, drums pounding, fans chanting and cheering.  Animated players.  The boys who were able to stay awake had a blast.  A few were dozing on and off and few outright passed out they were so exhausted.  The parents were having a hard time staying awake, too.  It was a gorgeous evening, albeit a bit cool and breezy.   After the game we walked back to our hotel.  It was about 9 pm.  Small boy was asleep 2 min after his head hit the pillow.  I was not far behind him. 

The hotel is OK.  Our room is nice by European standards.  Small but neat.  The floor could stand to be washed.  The beds are not comfortable but we were so tired we didn't care.  We are on the second floor.  It was loud and noisy until about 1 am so sleep was on and off for me.

Thank heavens breakfast wasn't until 10 am this morning.  We woke, reluctantly, at 8 am.  The shower is not working so we took tub baths.  Not the worst thing in the world, honestly.  We are now dressed and ready for day 2!  A walking tour of Las Ramblas and we're seeing Barca play tonight!!!! 

Easter in Barcelona! 

Adventures of a soccer mom: Update from cruising altitude

Leg one:

The boys gathered at Logan Airport in Boston.  They were so coordinated and excited.  Wearing their khaki's and team practice shirts.  Each with the Bolts soccer backpack in hand.  They congregated together until everyone was present.  Check in at US Airways terminal B was surprisingly quick and easy.  The gate agent helped us, especially when small boy came up as an 'unaccompanied minor' due to our names being different.  In other news, my suitcase was 49 pounds, 1 pound shy of the extra baggage weight fee! 

Once everyone was checked in, we went through security.  There was no one in line!  We moved quickly through security and on to  lunch.  Pizza, of course!  It was only a short and relaxing wait until our group was called to board.  The boys were so excited, shuffling seats so they could sit with their friends instead of their parents!  My son sat with his best buddy Toby.  They giggled and laughed and played Mad Libs most of the short fight.  If I can figure out how to insert photos on my tablet, you'll see a few.  :-)

Upon arrival at Philadelphia the coach did a head count, gave a short address and then we walked a looooong way to our next gate in another terminal.  Once everyone knew where our gate was we scattered to eat an early dinner.  We were successful in finding pasta!  The boys and their parents wandered about for a bit and then we ended up back at the gate with the boys playing hackey sack and having a blast hanging out together.  Parents took advantage of the opportunity to charge their electronics, only to find out you could on the plane!

Leg 2:

Boarding went smoothly on our second leg.  We're on an A 330.  2-4-2 set up.  We are in row 7.  Second row of the economy cabin!  Score!  We're in the middle section.  Small boy sat next to his friend Ty and myself and Ty's dad had the aisle seats.  They thought they were in first class!  The seat back TV's were a hit and after dinner half of the team chose to watch Frozen!  There was a rather amusing and quietly dramatic singing of "Let it go".   I wish I had videotaped it!  I watched a Discovery show narrated by Morgan Freeman and a few episodes of the Big Bang Theory.  Then I blew up my airplane pillow (the big one like you see in Sky Mall, thanks, Jeremy!) and attempted to sleep.

We might have gotten 3 hours of frequently interrupted sleep.  Sleeping on planes is so challenging.  It's 1:48 am EST now and we are about an hour from landing. We've had breakfast.  About 4 hours after we had dinner.  Wakey tea on board.  I fear more may be needed!  Everyone is awake now, the kids having juice and the parents some caffeine.  A cinnamon chip muffin was our breakfast fare.  Several of the kids did not sleep at all. 

Of interest, my GPS screen tells me we have thus far been in fight 6hr 9 min and we've travelled 3604 miles and are currently travelling at 41,000 feet at a speed of 535 mph.  We've got about 50 min left in flight.  It's -79 degrees outside the plane.  Holy cold atmosphere!

We will be on the ground in Barcelona in about 45 minutes.  It's currently 8 am in Barcelona.  That's 2 am for those of you playing at home.  :-)  We have a long, exciting day ahead of us.  We're looking forward to meeting up with our 'exploratory committee', a group of moms and siblings that arrived on Friday am and seeing some of the sights.  Right now the boys are gathered around a window amazed that they see snow covered mountains!  This is the longest flight most if not all of them have been on and the first time out of the country for most of them, too. 


Welcome to Barcelona! 

Friday, April 18, 2014

Adventures of a soccer mom: Travel (looooong) day ahoy!


It's 5:30 am EST.  I might have sleep about 4.5 hours.  But I am packed.  :-)

It's 26 degrees and dawn is breaking and it's quite beautiful.  The birds are starting to sing.  I am sleepy.

On the bright side, it's 12:30 in Barcelona and 64 degrees!  Wa-hooo!  The weather looks to be low to mid 60's for the time we are there and night time temps in the 50's.  Partly cloudy with a slight chance of rain, although that could change.  Sounds delightful for soccer and sightseeing.

In other news, guess who started complaining of a sore throat and a cough last night.  Yep.  The boy.   Chances are high he has the viral bug his older brother and I had last week.  The good news is, one only feels 'meh' for a day or two.  The bad news, we are spending the bulk of today hanging around airports or on planes and it's likely the day he will feel the worst.

Oh, and our clothes dryer stopped drying last night.  *sigh*

Since I gave the boys their Easter goodies yesterday, and he ate too much chocolate too late in the day, and thus, he, too, was awake until after 11 pm.  I'm going to wake him up at 6.  That will be a challenge.  Might as well get him closer to Barcelona time and hope he'll sleep on the plane tonight.

I'm impressed with my packing!  Small boy's bag has a lot of snack foods in it!  It has primarily soccer shorts, shirts and socks, casual clothes and is toiletries. His carry on bag consists of his soccer backpack with complete 'kit' (too fearful of it being lost for it to be packed in a checked bag so all the soccer essentials are hand carried, in jumbo ziplock bags not only for organization, but to mute the shin guard/shoe sweaty boy stench for our fellow passengers!) and a string backpack that consists of his travel pillow and blanket, entertainment system (iPod touch), headphones, glasses, his composition notebook/adventure journal and pen and a whole bunch of snacks!  Oh, and his epi-pens, inhalers, and just added, Advil and Ricola cough drops!

My checked bag is larger.  I just couldn't fit everything into the smaller suitcase for 10 days.  I shall carry on my purse and a backpack.  I also have ample snacks.  :-)

I'm checking my list(s) to be sure I've not forgotten anything of import.  I'm enjoying the peace of the early morning.  The next 10 days are going to be a whirlwind!

For those playing along at home, and my mom, whose job it is to be anxious when her (44 year old) baby travels, our travel adventure begins in about 3 hours and will take us the bulk of the day and into the wee hours of tomorrow morning EST.  We are leaving for the airport around 9 am, budgeting for traffic.  That should be about an hour's drive, but how long it actually takes is anybody's guess.  The airport will be nuts, as it's April Vacation week and a big travel day.  We meet our group at 11 am to check in. I'm told if we arrive early, we're getting a donut!

Our first flight departs Logan about 1:30 and gets us to Philly for 3:11 pm, where we have a layover until 6:45 pm.  It will be a fueling stop for growing tweens!  My son has already scoped out the terminal food establishments and is concerned about in-flight options!  We fly 'over the pond' to Barcelona 'over night'.  About an 8 hour journey.  We arrive 8:35 am local time, that would be 2:35 am to us.  I'm hopeful for a solid 3-4 hours of sleep on the plane, more would be fantastic!

From there, a loooong and exciting day shall commence.  I'll tell you all about it!  Who knows, there may be a travel day update from the airport, too!

See you 'in' Spain!

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Adventures of a soccer mom. Barcelona! - T-24 hours. The back-story.

T-1 day and counting. Trying not to panic.  I have SO freaking much to do.  I leave for Barcelona tomorrow morning!

Why am I going to Barcelona?  Why to watch my 12 year old son play soccer.  Crazy, I know!

This trip was not on my radar until November.  The concept of the possibility of one of my boys being invited to play soccer anywhere but Massachusetts was never on my radar, let alone another country! Yet now it is.

How did I get here?  Glad you asked.  I wondered the same thing!

The back story:

When my boys were 5 and wanted to play town soccer, I thought it was cute.  There was something adorable about seeing these little guys in their too big soccer T-shirts all chasing a ball around like it was a magnet.  They'd run as fast as they could, kick it, if they were lucky, sometimes several at once, and sometimes, it went into a net.  It might have been the net 3 'fields' down, but it was a net.  They'd get all excited and jump around.  Except for the one who was staring at the sky or twirling or running the wrong way.  The games were short and the season was measured in weeks.  It was a mere $50 and I could buy cleats at Target for $20.

Then, they really liked it.  They started to get very competitive about it.  They wanted to play more than town soccer.  I was clueless.  I didn't even know something called 'club' soccer really existed!  A fellow mom whose son also played and loved the game, invited my youngest, then 9, to try out for a new club team called F.C. Celtic.  They were adorable, talented, local boys.  They had a coach who had a lovely British accent and a great sense of humor.  He engaged the boys and taught them football. European style football, not American soccer.  Turns out, there is a difference.  A big one.

This adorable group of young boys were also the sweetest, kindest, gentlest kids you'd probably ever assemble.  They are innately skilled and athletic, sponges for knowledge, and have a lot to teach the rest of the world about sportsmanship and the importance of team.  They had the good fortune of a coach who taught them to win with skill, not 'dirty' play.  It's almost a 'kill them with kindness' (and amazing foot skills) mentality.  And it works!

These boys have grown tremendously in all areas.  Not only are they taller, more savvy to the strategy of the game and becoming young men, they are advancing in skill rapidly.  Those with the fire and the passion live, eat and breathe soccer.  The core of that original team is still intact today, 3 years later. They are the best of friends and their care and concern and support of each other is inspiring and heart warming.  Newer team members have come and gone.  They are now the Central Mass Bolts Boys U-12 team.  They are still the sweetest boys you'll ever meet.  They just happen to have a tremendous team bond, great friendships, and they play kick-ass soccer.  The best part?  They have fun doing it!

They have worked hard and played hard.  Soccer is now a year-round sport.  I spend thousands (tens of thousands over the years) of dollars on equipment (those $20 cleats are now $100 and last 3 months if I'm lucky, and keeper gloves... yikes!) club and tournament fees, uniforms, and gas to drive all over creation to games and tournaments.  Someone has soccer just about every night of the week and every weekend day.  Most of our weekends in the fall and spring and most holidays are lost to soccer.  I have paid a gazillion dollars and spent countless hours driving to/from games and sitting in all kinds of weather year-round to help him accomplish his soccer goals and dreams.  The things I've given up so my boys can play soccer is... well, this is not about me.

Parents, when you have those babies, these are the things you don't realize.  Self-sacrificing for your kids, to give them the best you can, never ends! I sure as hell hope they thank me someday and maybe get a scholarship to college out of it!

Now, he and his team have the tremendous opportunity to travel to Barcelona, Spain, representing their club, to play football against the Spanish kids.  They will train 5 days and play 4 games.  They will get to visit and train at Camp Nou, the amazing stadium where FC Barcelona plays.  They will even get to see FC Barcelona play on Easter night.  To say they are over the top excited would be the understatement of the year!  It's like they are going to soccer mecca!

The boys really don't quite grasp what this means.  How far Spain is.  How different the culture is. How good these Spanish kids are going to be at the game! What a tremendous opportunity this is for them, both for their soccer 'careers', but also the chance to go to Spain and experience all that Barcelona has to offer.

"Manimal" as his coach affectionately calls him, is very excited.  Not only about the travel to Barcelona and the soccer he will play and watch, but mostly about spending a week with his best buddies.  He's almost giddy.  It's so wonderful to see him so happy.  He's worked hard for this.  I'm so glad I will get to share it with him. He's still a mama's boy.  :-)

Of course I have a gazillion things to do before we leave.  I am sad, because it's just he and I going. The trip is crazy expensive and was unexpected and not budgeted for, therefore I am unable to bring the entire family. I just couldn't afford it.  I really can't afford it for me!  I just couldn't deny my son the opportunity.

My older son, who is also a soccer player and fantastic goal keeper, is not able to come with us.  Nor is my husband.  I feel so horrible as a mother that I can't share this experience with both of my boys and my husband.  We will 'make up' for it in another way when another opportunity presents itself, but it's not the same.

So check back here as I plan to chronicle our adventures!

Excuse me while I go to work.  I'll be the one up most of the night trying to get everything done.  I guess that means I'll be on Barcelona time real quick!  ;-)

Safe travels to my fellow soccer moms and dads, some of whom are leaving today.  See you Saturday!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Playing nice when breaking up. With friends or with lovers. A how-to guide.

It's no secret I am divorced.  It's really no secret, at least to those who knew me 'in that life', that it was a messy, contentious, and difficult divorce.  It took waaaay longer than it should have and cost waaaay more than it should have, because my ex-husband refused to come to the table and 'play nice'. Eventually, that led to me having difficulty playing nice.

Where there was once love and compassion, there became anger, resentment and a very broken relationship.  The reality was it was broken from the beginning and poor communication and all that goes with it set us up for failure. It takes two people to make a relationship work.  Both of us were responsible for it's ultimate failure.  Blaming serves no one. Least of all the children or other important people in our lives.  We are both to blame for it's demise.

Despite that, we could, and should, have gone about ending our relationship differently.  More kindly. I tried.  But it takes two to end it amicably, too.  Therein lies the challenge for most couples.  We could have ended it in a much kinder way to both of us.

The details of the failure of our marriage are not important for you to know.  The lessons learned, however, are.

This is not about him.  Or me. Or our divorce. Or even about collateral losses as a result of or related to the central one.  It's about YOU and YOUR relationship(s).  It's a bit of insight into what I learned along the way that I hope others will benefit from on their journey.  Whether you are party to a divorce or break up now, have been in the past, or may be someday in the future, this is for you. Maybe it's a romantic relationship that has ended.  Maybe it's a long term friendship.  It doesn't matter. A break up is a break up and someone hurts.  Often, everyone hurts.  Yep, that's pretty much anyone who has a heart.  No one is immune.

Why am I writing this now?  It's been on my 'things to write about' list for years.  I have several friends in various stages of relationship crisis right now.  Some in messy divorces.  Some in amicable break ups and divorces.  Some who are married and working really hard on resolving their issues and learning to communicate better.  Some who are married and outright lying to their spouses about really important stuff. Some who are trying to repair damage done in the past when they didn't know what they do now.  Quite simply, it is time.  So if you are reading this, it's for you.

That, and I actually have time to write it today!

Some people are in unhappy relationships.  They have fallen out of love.  They don't want to be with the other person anymore but they choose not to tell them.  Or maybe they do tell them, but they agree not to divorce if married.  They may no longer wish to live together, some don't.  Despite that, they decide to stay in those relationships.  Some because they are in abusive relationships and are afraid to leave and afraid to ask for help in doing so.  Some choose to stay because they are afraid of the repercussions or the financial strain separating or divorcing will impose. Some stay 'for the kids'. Some stay because it's just easier to lie to themselves or their spouse than it is to speak, honor and live their truth.  This often leads to extramarital affairs or 'secret' behaviors because of the discord and unhappiness in the relationship and an unwillingness to talk about it with your significant other/spouse, which can lead to the aforementioned messy and contentious divorce or separation.

There are also people I know who are in strong, healthy relationships.  They seem few and far between, but they are out there.  Some are fully committed to each other and only each other.  Some are actually in open relationships (they are married or in a committed primary relationship, but have their spouse's/S.O.'s blessing to date other people).

They are the ones that realize a relationship is work. It takes two.  It takes honesty.  It takes being 100% transparent and truthful, even if it's not what the other person wants to hear and even if it's difficult for you to be so vulnerable and reveal your 'weaknesses'.  It takes open, honest, communication. It takes respect and honor. It takes an open mind and a compassionate heart.  It requires the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes to see the other side of an issue.  It means you come to the table when things are not right, not run away or blame.  You are a team.  A partnership.  You are equals.  You got into it together.  You get through it, together.  You learn the fine art of compromise.

They have learned to play nice.  No, they don't walk around blissed out all the time.  They argue.  They fight.  They talk it out.  But they listen and say they are sorry.  They respect.  They forgive.  They work hard to grow and change together. They support each other.  They get it.  For better or for worse.

The Beginning
When love is new, it is intoxicating.  It's easy to spot someone in the throws of a new romantic relationship. There is romance.  There is an endorphin high.  There is something wonderful about being courted and wanted and having your feelings returned by someone you are attracted to.  You do new things together. You go places.  You show each other off.  You are always 'on'.  Looking and acting your best.  It's nearly impossible to sustain for a lifetime.  Therein lies the flaw of being human. Emotions and feelings.  Eventually, our feelings get hurt.  Especially if we don't learn the art of effective communication.

As relationships grow, they change.  At times they plateau or stabilize.  This is a natural thing.  With familiarity, comes routine.  Eventually, our 'real' selves start to show.  That constant state of being our best selves is nearly impossible to sustain long term.  We are human after all.  You know, the one where we don't dress to the nines to impress our significant other, where we begin to take compliments and day to day things for granted and love is implied, not said or even shown much.  The world where our partner sees our 'bed head' and still loves us.

Sex that may have been fantastic and frequent in the beginning of your relationship may become routine and less frequent.  Physical affection may dwindle.  The hand holding and cuddling that was so sweet in the beginning slowly dwindles.  Not necessarily because the love is not there, but because life happens.  We work, we have kids, we get busy, we get tired.  And we drift apart.  If we don't make the effort to connect, it becomes harder and harder for us to.

Do we 'settle'?
I've had many a conversation with many a person about how when we are young (or not so young), we 'settle' because we feel this person is 'good enough' or because we fear we will never find someone 'better'.  It may be because they fit the concept of our 'ideal' mate in looks, job status, personality or some other traits we thought we wanted in a partner.  Maybe it's because our biological clocks are ticking and we were looking for a spouse and a baby making partner more than a true life partner.

Some people choose to marry or enter a committed relationship with someone they know deep inside of them is not the 'right' fit.  They hope they will change or be good enough.  They hope that the differences they might have, the ones that irk them, will somehow magically disappear or become less bothersome.  That rarely happens in 'real' life.

All too often, we realize at some later point in our relationship we are unhappy.  Some people choose to go with the flow.  Some seek a relationship that they feel gives them what they are missing.  Some will choose to end their relationship.

In the end, it doesn't matter if we settle or not.  What matters is that we talk to our partner when we are unhappy and attempt to find happy again. What that is will depend on how those conversations go.

Kids stress a relationship.  Big time. 
Ah, kids.  They complicate things.  They are expensive.  They are demanding.  They 'ruin' the life you knew as a single person or a childless couple.  The vast majority of people who have children planned on having them.  They consciously set out to have babies. Yes, they were created and born of your love.  They are YOURS. How quickly we forget that when we become stressed and overwhelmed by the demands of parenting.

If your relationship was not strong and stable with open and honest communication before kids, it means more work to maintain your relationship after you do have them. All too often this comes as a complete shock to a couple when they have their first child.  The more children, the more stress that seems to come along for some.

Some people can't handle the stress children bring to a relationship.  They start to work later or spend more time with friends.  They travel more.  They avoid the kids and/or their partner rather than communicating.  Eventually, the relationship will break down.

Even if you have had kids for years, talk about how parenting has changed you or potentially will change your relationship and why.

Communication.  Communication.  Communication.
Communication often breaks down as relationships stabilize because the reality is it was never that good, honest, or frequent and 'real' in the first place.  Very few people are 100% honest and truthful with themselves, let alone with their significant others.  How many white lies have you told your S.O.? How many things do you hide from them?  Communication with ex's?  A porn habit?  A shopping habit or 'secret' credit card or bank account?  Debt? A history of illicit drug use, addiction, or a run in with the law?  An affair?

Over time, communication breakdown breeds resentment.  Resentments cause further breakdown and can build and before we know it, we think the other person has changed.  The truth is, so have we.  Or maybe the other person has not changed at all and we have.

Instead of trying to talk about the issues, we place blame on the other person.  We may begin to seek what we are missing in our relationship with them elsewhere.  With friends.  With ex's.  With alcohol and drugs. By working later or traveling more.  Instead of confronting the issues, we end up creating more.

All relationships need good quality communication to work.  Teacher and parent.  Parent and child. Boss and employee.  Friend to friend.  Husband and wife.  We, as humans are generally pretty bad at communication.  Words.  Body Language.  Tone.  They all convey different aspects of communication.  The advent of social media and electronic mail has only further complicated communication, reducing it to an impersonal level where it's hard to understand tone and impossible to see body language.

Talk.  You must learn to talk.  To each other.  Openly.  Honestly.  Daily.

The Blame Game
The crux of it is, all relationships take two people to work.  The truth is if your relationship is broken, it took both of you to break it.  Sure, one person may have more of the 'responsibility' say, if they went off and had an affair or drained the savings account without your knowledge, but something that was fundamentally broken in your relationship with each other led to it.

Blaming the other person or placing all the blame on yourself is unfair and highly likely to be an avoidance of conflict.  An avoidance of confronting the reality of who you are and an inability to face the consequences of the choices you have made and the responsibility you hold in it.  Because you are responsible, at least in part.

No one 'does' anything to anyone else.  No one 'makes' you say, feel, or do anything.  Only you are responsible for your actions (or inaction) or feelings.  No one else holds any special power over you. Unless you allow them to.  That, too, is all you.  Not them.

We all make choices.  Some good.  Some not so good.  They all have consequences.  Also some good and some not so good.  Some are really, really, hurtful and bad.  We make the choices we do from only two places.  We either choose from a place of fear or from a place of love and compassion.  It's important to realize why you are making the choices you are as it relates to YOU.  Not to the other person.  Because you are the only person who controls what you say, think, feel, or do.  Yep,  You own it.  Not them. You.

So re-frame how you view the other person in the context of yourself.  Make it about you.  Because it is. Nothing happens in isolation.  All of your choices impact someone else when you are in a relationship.

Be truthful.  Always.  
Chances are, eventually the truth will come out and it will be far better if it comes from you in the beginning. So, if you had an affair.  Fess up.  You don't like such and such about your partner.  Tell them.  Nicely. Overwhelmed and feeling unloved?  Tell them.  Racking up debt?  Tell them and get help. Maybe you are chatting on line with someone the other person doesn't know about and wouldn't approve of. Tell them.  Be honest.  Own it. Explain why you feel what you feel or why you did what you did.  It's not because 'they' did or didn't do such and such. It's about why YOU did or said what YOU did.  They should do the same.

Does this mean you have to change?  Not necessarily.  It does mean you have to understand, speak, live and be willing to stand in your truth.  You need to own your behavior, your choices, your actions. If you can't, then why are you doing what you are doing because it's hurting someone you once loved?

Try to do this calmly.  Sure, there may be a heated argument.  But stay present.  Count to 10.  Breathe. Write it down first if you have to and exchange letters than discuss it.  Seek the assistance of a counselor or good friend who can be impartial.  Talk in a neutral or public place where you are more likely to stay calm and present emotionally.

Please, talk to each other.  Be honest.  Be kind.

See their side of the story.  Put yourself in their shoes.
There are always two sides to every story.  Make an effort to see the other side.  To understand their argument, even if you don't agree with it.  Don't judge.  Just listen.  To each other. Even in the middle of a bad break up, you need to see both sides to fully understand why you are in the situation you are both currently in and so you don't repeat your mistakes in the future.  You need to be aware of how your choices impact others, not just yourself.  It's about being a good and mature human.

Everyone brings 'baggage' to a relationship.  Hopefully there was full disclosure at the beginning of your relationship about what this baggage is.  Maybe there was not.  Maybe you thought there was, but other things emerged over time neither of you realized or could have anticipated. Chronic or mental illness, a medical crisis like battling cancer, financial crisis, job loss, the demands of parenting or pregnancy loss/infertility struggles, or a profound loss like the loss of a close loved one all strain relationships.  They change us.  They challenge us.

Realize there is a reason for the choices we make.  Find it.  Share it.

No matter how hurt and angry you are, play nice.

One word.  Karma.  It's a bitch.  It really is.  So no matter how angry, bitter, hurt, betrayed, or devastated you are, be kind to each other.  In words and in deed.

Don't spread rumors.  Don't lie.  Don't embellish.  Don't exaggerate.  Don't taunt.  Don't name call. Don't say things that are not truth and fact (check them, first).  Don't blame.  Don't steal.  Don't damage their stuff or their reputation.  (They will do just fine on their own damaging their reputation, don't worry.)  Don't say or do things just to piss off the other person.  Don't allow yourself to stoop to their level if the other person is doing these things in an attempt to hurt you.

Remember, only you control what and how you feel and how you act.  It's no one else's 'fault'.  It's all you. How they react to it is their choice.  How you act, is yours.

In this age of social media, keep in mind what you post is out there forever and can and will come back to potentially haunt YOU.  Chances are high your family, friends, kids and co-workers past, present and future will see it.  While no one should, people judge.  Think of the repercussions before you go down that road. For all of you.

Don't say or do anything when you are angry.  Chances are you will regret it.

Basically, follow the Golden Rule.  Do unto others...

In other words, don't be an ass.  No matter how angry or hurt you are.  It serves no one but the lawyers whose pockets you are padding.

When and how to tell the kids

Parenting is a team sport. If your relationship with your significant other is failing, don't fail your kids. Keep your feelings for the other parent out of your conversations and interactions with the kids. To the kids you must present a united front.  You must say and show them that you both love them and care for them.  That you will be a part of their lives (if you truthfully will be and want to be).  Tell them your relationship is ending but not your relationship with them.

Make absolutely, 100% sure you never, ever, blame the kids for the failure of your relationship with the other parent.  It is NEVER the fault of the children.  They will think it is.  You must be sure they know they did nothing wrong.  You made them together.  You parent them together.  United in what is best for them.  Always.

Do not use them as pawns.  They are not 'weapons' against your now estranged partner.  They are YOUR CHILDREN.  Do not try to take them away from the other parent unless their lives are truly in danger.

Don't push the kids to do something they don't want to.  If they want to live with only one of you or the shared parenting schedule is upsetting them, talk to them and try to honor their wishes and needs. Doing so from the beginning will help them to better cope and have a stronger relationship with you as they grow.  Try not to force them to do something they do not want to do unless the court orders it.

Be mindful of your children and THEIR needs and wants introducing someone 'new'

Kids are wicked smart.  Even babies and toddlers *get* emotion.  They notice everything.  They absorb that energy.  They learn by watching you.  They will behave the way they see you behave.

Kids are definitely affected by the relationship their parents have.  Affectionate children come from affectionate families.  If kids see you name call and fight and yell as your primary mode of communication, don't be surprised when they do the same.  Not only to you, but to their own children and spouses someday.  Do you really want them to have the same relationship struggles you did? Think about that.

Before you introduce someone new and 'special' to your kids, make sure it is going to stick.  Far too often, parents who break up have a 'rebound' relationship.  Maybe it began before the parental relationship ended, maybe it was the reason the parental relationship ended or maybe it is simply the thrill of someone new who seems to understand and care and think you're all that and a bag of chips. You fall for them.  You think it's 'right' or they are the real 'one'.  Before you go any further, stop.  You once felt that about the person you are breaking up with/divorcing too.  Don't lose sight of that!

When and if you introduce the idea of someone new in your life depends on the age and maturity of your children and how they are coping with the separation of you as their parents.  Their relationship with you should take priority.  Broach the subject in a conversation first.  Ask them how they feel. Don't put words in their mouths.  Don't be surprised if they are upset or never want to meet that person or meet them but never like them.  Listen to what your kids are saying and why.  Honor their wishes.  Chances are they think you are replacing their mom or dad.  Of course they are going to be upset about that.

Never force them to meet, spend time with or 'like' the 'new' significant other.  Give them time to adjust.  Help them connect with a counselor if they are struggling with your break up or someone new in your life.

I dated Joe for nearly 3 years before I introduced my boys to him as my boyfriend.  They had met him in group settings as a 'friend' about a year earlier.  It was only after they met, spent quite a bit of time together and it was clear they liked him and he understood what parenting meant and was willing to be a father figure for them (and an amazing one he is) that I agreed to marry him.  If my kids did not like him or if he were not able to 'handle' the demands of parenting them and what I was like as a mom (as opposed to just a girlfriend) I would not have married him.  We may have continued our relationship, but living in separate homes and without an integration or marriage.  My kids are just that important.

The bottom line
We are human.  We all make mistakes.

We also all deserve to love and be loved for who we are.  Unconditionally.  To that end, we all deserve respect, trust and truth from those around us. Especially those we choose to partner with in some way.
Communication makes the world go round.  Mis-communication makes misery go round.  Talk to each other.  Get help if you need it.

Relationships are fluid and dynamic.  They change.  Because people change.  Sometimes, we grow closer.  Sometimes we grow apart.  It's because we are growing.

No matter what the state of any given relationship is, it deserves to be treated with love, compassion, respect, honesty and grace.

Be kind to one another.  Choose from a place of love and respect, even if it's in ending a relationship.

Forgive.  Yourself and the other person.  You loved them once upon a time.  Chances are you still do, it's just in a different way.

Go in peace.