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January 27, 2018
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Having reread my last post I’ve begun to become conscientious of how it may be perceived by others either in or outside of my family situation. My problem lies in that I don’t really write my journal posts specifically with an audience in mind. That’s why I call it my journal and not a blog. My thoughts are often all over the place and disorganized, unedited… And since I journal for me I don’t give the full story on anything so it’s hard to know the context and background of what I write. This has gotten me in trouble in the past and I’ve been seriously tempted over the years to make my journal completely private. But the folks that keep coming back to me thanking me for sharing my life and telling me how much it means to them are those for whom I keep hitting that “visibility:public” button when I publish, haha.

Anyway, I’d like to clarify that I am neither angry nor disappointed in… anyone, really… but namely my dad since he was mentioned in my last post. These circumstances suck but I do not blame my dad. I haven’t agreed with everything he has done… (But I mean honestly, who agrees with everything someone does? People are frustrating like that- no one’s living their life doing everything the way you believe they ought to, lol.) In fact, there are times I get frustrated and I tell him so. See, but that’s the beautiful thing– I can tell him so. I can go to him; I can put on my best angry face and demand to know why he said this, and why he did that, and ask him to do things a different way and I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he will consider what I say and he will love me, absolutely, unconditionally. I am secure in that. Additionally, I understand that grief is a process- a big complex learning process. And good on him for actively working through that process and taking chances on things. I personally have turned off my grief process and and I’m stuck being a dead numb dumb person continually walking straight into a wall and getting nowhere. So I just gotta give people grace for dealing with things the way they need to at this time because, I dunno, I guess I’m not letting myself work through my own grief for fear I won’t be afforded that same grace. That’s a shitty fear to live with.

And lastly, I am legitimately happy to room with my dad. I’ve offered to live with both my parents since before any of this ever happened, and Dad just happened to take me up on it. It’s not as though I’m going out of the way and doing a favor; I want Dad to be here. I’d room with anyone anytime! Let’s get a bigger place and we can all share, yay!

And speaking of Dad, I’ve actually been meaning to post these pics for forever..

This past September he won a First Place award for a wooden bowl he turned, the first and only that he’s submitted to an art contest.


Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

take a sad song, and make it better

July 1, 2017
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I never thought I’d be writing this, but I believe it is time.

A lot has been going on in my little world for years now- a lot that I’ve kept close to my chest; a lot that I haven’t talked about. I can’t talk about some of it and I don’t entirely want to talk about the rest of it. It’s been… overwhelming. Heh. I don’t even really know how I’ve held it together. My whole fucking entire world has been on my shoulders, and now that it’s in pieces, well… I’m just so apathetic about it. I mean. I fought so hard for it… and now it’s gone. I lost. It feels. so. twisted. I feel guilty for even writing that because I don’t want to offend my parents or anyone else, but sometimes when I think too hard, or think at all, I’m just… what the fuck, y’all. What the fuck. How did my life become this?

Anyway, to cut to the chase and to make a very very (very) long and complicated story short and simple— The Sanders Family is now a split family.

Dad is living apart from Mom and they’re working on a disillusion. And that’s not all! They are also both seeing people they intend to stay with. We get to navigate all the life changes at once!

Dad is with a gracious, kind, intelligent and beautiful artist named Suzanne. She is like this sociable Bohemian-esque free spirit with long flowy hair who paints for a living and has friends and stuff, haha.  For those of you who’ve known my dad all these years, your eyes are probably bugging out of your head right now. I know! mine are, too! I used to think- if anything ever happened to Mom, Dad was sure to become a hermit or something in a house full of his hundreds of hobbies. I thought that surely he’d find new instruments to play that no one has ever heard of, and spend the rest of his days playing records/listening to NPR and making things out of wood.  I am, of course, thankful that I like Suzanne, as unexpected as she is! Mom seems to be okay with Suzanne. Suzanne it seems is also willing to accept our wackadoo clan and hang out with all of us as a family… I mean, the situation at this point is as positive as one could hope… And I don’t know what else to say, y’all- that’s that! We will see how the future unfolds.

My mom has been a bit more private about her situation, so I guess I won’t talk about that yet.

Sometimes I have fantasies that we will end up like Modern Family where we are all quirky and dysfunctional AF but we are still one family, for better or worse, forever. But I am also trying not to get my hopes up, because being let down still feels raw and incredibly painful. Right now? I just don’t want to care. I’m done caring. I’m tired of caring. I have cared too intensely for far too long and it’s time to rest. Right now I just want to be selfish. Like, I want to be a child that tests my boundaries to see how unconditionally loved I actually am. (Am I?) I don’t want to be nice. (I am not not being nice!) I don’t want to try to hold this together and make this work. I need other people to figure this out.

I am thankful I have both of my parents, and they love me and my kids. I am sure to not take that for granted, and I count my blessings every day.


Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Adry’s Day Out

July 5, 2015
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Adry got to have a grandson date with Grandma and Grandpa Martin last week.

They got to go to a park,

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see a juggling show, and visit Keith at work.

I’m very thankful for Adry’s day with The Martins! I’m very thankful that my boy is loved by so many people.

…Shared parenting is hard enough, and the total disconnect in routine/discipline/expectations between our households is challenging for me. I’m thankful for the amount of cooperation I get from Ben-I know the situation could be bad, and I do not consider our situation bad. We are civil and work together well with the schedule, clothes, etc., but otherwise Ben prefers for there to be a complete clean split/separation between our families. For example, if I want to ground Adry from Xbox for behaving poorly in my house, I can’t ask or expect Ben to carry out that grounding in his home, or even ask him to have my back and talk to Adry about his actions and consequences. I think he just prefers to not deal with whatever happens in my home, and I also have no idea what goes on in Ben’s house.

Anyway, I initially coped with this complete disconnect between our homes by trying desperately to gain control in my home and it wasn’t working. The more I pushed, the more Adry acted out. Keith and I saw a blended family therapist for a few weeks who basically listened for a few hours, and then was like, look. you’re turning up the volume and what you need to do is just let go– communicate and model expectations, and then let go.

And I did. I pretty much relinquished control and crossed my fingers for the best, haha. And it’s hard for me! Every day it’s hard.

Well, kids are resilient and they adapt well-that’s true. But I rely so much on the people in Adry’s life to love him unconditionally and model for him how to behave, and how to treat me and treat others, and I just want you all to know how much I appreciate each one of you in his life, and every minute you spend with him! He has so many fantastic role models and positive influences, and he notices more than you know!

Thank you, thank you! <3 I love you all.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Wedding Week!

September 15, 2012
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Entering into a second marriage is an interesting experience.

Keith is incredible. I am so grateful for him. I am SO in love with him, and I love him more each day. I want nothing more than to be his. I am excited and I feel SO fortunate. I stop periodically and marvel at how perfectly things fell into place… how he practically fell in my lap and he is just… amazing. When I met Keith I had this feeling in my gut that I’d be single for a really long time because settling in to another marriage scared me and I wanted to be 100% CERTAIN it would last. And of course, don’t even the most rational and realistic of girls have a picture of Mr. Right in their head, even if they are sure he doesn’t exist? I was sure my dream guy didn’t exist. And then there he was.

February 26, 2011:

this is why I like him. He’s super Christian and super laid back all at once. Does not get offended, is not a goody good, has EDGE, AND is super kind and loving and compassionate and sensible. How often do you find that mix/balance!? HOW OFTEN!?) So… if anything, I really plan on just enjoying this friendship.

March 5, 2011:

We talked about where we go from here. I think he’s cool with starting a relationship. I am >THIS< close to being ready, too, but when he asked me I faltered. He asked me if I have concerns and I said yes. But I have no idea what they are… other than I am terrified of cutting out options. Which sounds so selfish. AND ridiculous, because he is my dream guy. DREAM GUY. WHAT OPTIONS AM I AFRAID OF CUTTING OUT IF HE IS EXACTLY WHAT I WANT!?

And March 12, 2011:

Keith assured me that he’d made his decision about me. That I was what he wanted and he was confident. He apologized for not making it clear how much he’d liked me… he was afraid he’d screw things up because I wasn’t ready. He told me I would NOT lose him… basically that he’d be waiting for me to make the right decision (whatever that may be). He told me that he realized I needed to choose a suiter fit for both Adry and I and that this decision was bigger than his own desires. He said he was willing to put up with a little jealousy and be sensitive to my situation. He told me he felt really self-conscious, though, because he wanted to be what I wanted… […] And. Y’all. My resolve broke. And I KNEW, beyond a shadow of a doubt, exactly what I wanted. exactly who I wanted. And I wasn’t scared anymore, I wasn’t worried, I wasn’t uncertain. […] Because Keith was SO right. Keith felt like home. Keith was who I wanted to make happy and take care of possibly for the rest of my life. And this passionate, intense feeling washed over me and I couldn’t wait… so I told Keith right then that I wanted to be his…

And on September 22, 2012 we will vow to to be one, to cherish each other and take care of each other, for the rest of our lives. And I couldn’t be happier about it.

And it’s weird because in the midst of all this happiness and excitement I have all these feelings about my previous marriage that I can’t express because I’m afraid people don’t understand or they get the wrong idea. Since I AM so happy and moving on to a new chapter of my life, I am feeling guilty that I let things go so sour in the first marriage. Since my marriage ended the way it did, it’s really hard, y’all, to express guilt over it, or any kind of compassion for the other side. Even when I talked to a counselor I was told it was worrisome that I was shifting blame on myself. When I was hurt, I felt the victim. But I’m not hurt anymore. And I AM blaming myself… not for the final end of the marriage but for the part I definitely played. Even if I had changed my behavior and still had no control over the final outcome, I am still sorry. Now that I’ve had the chance to step back and feel stable and secure and happy, I recognize the hurt on the other side and how I might have caused it, and that makes me hurt for him… because I should have been the one he felt safe to go to, and I obviously wasn’t that person for him. (I am not excusing. Just reflecting on MY part.) And that’s something I’ve really worked on with Keith. I’ve pretty much drilled it into his head from Day One that I don’t care WHAT he’s tempted to do, or what mistakes he’s made or will make, or what his insecurities are, or what thoughts go through his head, I just want him to come to me. I’ve promised I won’t react angrily and I will make every effort to understand his point of view under the conditions that 1) he’ll never leave me, 2) he will never lie or hide anything from me, and 3) he will make conscious efforts to love me and be happy with me despite his feelings. I can handle ANYTHING he throws at me under those conditions. Of course his response is, “You don’t have to worry because I will never even think about doing that to you and I will always be happy with you” which, of course, is not what I want to hear. I don’t want him to feel like a failure or resort to secrecy and dishonesty if it does happen.

So, yeah. I’m excited to spend the rest of my life with Keith. I’m excited to learn more about him and us and continually perfect this relationship and grow more awesome together. I am so ready!

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal


August 30, 2012
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My life has been so incredibly stressful and crazy the past few months.  I feel like things are going to begin settling down very soon. The fact that I have a spare minute to get on here and update my journal is a good testament to that.

First, I guess I am legally Jessica Sanders, now! Although I still go by Jessica Ellwood since it’s easiest. I think that signing away my full time parenting rights was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done… Now I only legally have the right to see my child 3.5 days per week. I sobbed on the floor for an entire 24-hours after I signed those papers. And I still cry every day that I am not with Adry. Still. Every day. In the beginning I kind of dealt with it by shutting off my heart, but it caused tension in my relationship with Adry that I think we are still recovering from, so I decided that vulnerability and all the love, joy, and hurt that goes along with it is better than hard-hearted numbness. I keep wondering when this shared parenting deal will stop hurting so much. I thought I’d be used to it by now… I wonder if I’ll be an absolute basket case as an empty nester. I’m just going to have to have a baby when I’m 50 and spare myself! hah.

Speaking of having children. Keith and I were sitting on the couch the other day watching some action packed thriller DVD and he randomly looked over at me and said he’d cemented his decision to have children with me a couple of years down the road… to TRY to have children with me. Before he’d been open to the idea for my sake. He’d never had the desire to have any of his own, and he was content having Adry, but he said that now he desires to add to our family and make it a little bigger. Which, you know, is always good to hear. There’s a huge difference between your partner agreeing to have children with you and actually DESIRING it for themselves. (I’ve turned He Man Woman Hater into a lover AND a family man.)

Also, Keith and I get married next month. Finally. (Finally? It’s not like we’ve been dragging anything out.) I’m just ready for it to be over I guess. I don’t really know why. I remember when I FIRST started dating Keith (I mean like first week) I asked him if he wanted a wedding when and if he ever got married. He said yes he did want a wedding. So I went straight home to Jamie, my BFF roommate at the time, and told her I’d found the PERFECT guy except that he wants a wedding, can you believe that! And we shuddered and we groaned and she swore she’d find an impulsive man who would elope in Italy, just the two of them. (Of course she didn’t.)  So I tried, as I’m sure most anti-brides have tried in the past, to have the absolute tiniest-as-possible, no-big-deal celebration of my union to Keith. And I discovered, as I’m sure most anti-brides in the past have, that that is mostly impossible because before you know it a bonfire night in your back yard turns into omistars, how are we going to fit 100 cars in our driveway? and you blink a couple of times and voila- you are in the midst of planning a ceremony and reception and people are asking you Why aren’t we calling this a ceremony and reception? and you respond well crap because you realize that despite your best efforts it IS in fact a ceremony and reception and so you drag your best friend out to buy a fancy dress that inevitably needs altered. That’s what happens. But it’s okay because I’m going to try to have fun and at the end of the day I’ll be married to Keith regardless.

And one last thing for now: Keith and I have settled into Grandview, the city in which we are happy and excited to raise our family. I love it and I’m glad to be here. I was nervous about downsizing into such a tiny place, but it turns out I like it better than the extra space. It’s cozy and home-y. We both got new jobs right here in the city within walking or biking distance, which is awesome.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

… Because the testing of your faith produces perseverance… So you may be mature and complete

April 22, 2012
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“Don’t you wish you could go back and avoid that whole mistake?”


I do not regret my marriage to Ben. Had I a choice, I wouldn’t undo my decision to marry him.
And I’m not one of those ‘live without regrets’ people. I do have regrets. That’s just not one of them.
Maybe because I don’t consider it a mistake.
I was young, but I knew exactly what I was doing. I knew the vows I was taking and I was committed. Extremely committed and faithful, to my spouse and to my family, until the day I was told to cut it out and move on because there was no chance of reconciliation.

On a couple of occasions I entertained the thought that it’d be fairy-tale nice if I could be one man’s wife and keith’d be the only one I promised to spend the rest of my life with, the only one I shared the marriage experience with.

Sure. That’d be lovely I guess. But thats just not…. us . First, our relationship has been unorthodox and backwards from the start. And I love it that way. It’s been the greatest adventure of my life. And we would have never met up or become who we are as a couple without our backgrounds.

And also, despite second marriage/ blended family fail statistics, my experience, if anything, taught me that I *know* I have what it takes to succeed. I have issues, but where it counts I’m solid and secure and confident. I know my strength. I know I have the ability to lead my heart when my emotions are tugging me in a thousand different directions. I know how to decide to love and fight for that love in the face of betrayal and hurt and hopelessness. I know the power of forgiveness and grace- giving it, asking for it, accepting it. I recognize the mistakes I made in my pervious marriage. I know how relationships fall into ruts that seem inescapable and I can easily identify the warning signs along the way. I know what to look for and I know the behavior patterns to avoid.

…Deep betrayal and heartbreak tends to strengthen your core and soften your edges. I’m less rule-bound, fundamental, and insecure in my faith. It’s easier now for me to admit how much I don’t know, how much I never knew, how little control I actually have, and how easy it is for me to screw up. I know what it’s like to find yourself at rock bottom and have no idea how you got there. I’m okay with admitting I’m as weak and flawed as any, and I’ve learned to TRULY understand, commiserate, and offer compassion and mercy.

At that, I have adry. Although this experience has been tough on him and challenging for me as his mother, I cannot express how thankful I am to have him and that I appreciate how motherhood has shaped me and my life. I’d relive all the bad parts if only to have him with me now and a part of me and Keith’s life together.

A failed marriage is not what I dreamed up as a little girl, nor what I prayed for as a teenager, nor what I expected as a young bride. But not only have I accepted it, I’m grateful for the experience and invaluable life lessons. I don’t feel gypped, I’m not bitter, I don’t hold any grudges. I’m happy and I look back on good memories fondly. And I could not be more happy about where I’m at now and who I’m with. I’m capable of a much deeper, raw, and honest love, and it feels good to be vulnerable with someone I absolutely adore and trust to know me fully and love me completely.

I feel passionate AND safe.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal


November 10, 2011
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Sometimes I forget what infidelity and a failing marriage feels like.

I wrote this post on August 13, 2010, just over a week before – out of hopeless desperation and a nagging feeling in my gut that something just still wasn’t right – I hacked into his Twitter account and confirmed my suspicions. I knew things were unfixable at that point and I left that very night. (three strikes?)

Probably four days a week I succumb to intense depression. If I manage to get out of bed to get dressed and get to work on mommy chores, I cry throughout the entire day with a debilitating pain in my gut.. Other days I am too sick to get out of bed except to feed and watch over my child. Getting up is literally physically painful and tiring, as if I have a rotting tummy, a brain without gravity, and weights chained to every limb.
I’m sick of making decisions. If someone could please just walk me through this and tell me exactly what to do every step of the way, I would really appreciate it. I’ve lost all motivation. One minute I want a fresh start to reinvent myself and find clarity, and the next I want to bury myself in blankets and lose consciousness. I just want to know exactly what to do, and I want to do it without looking back. Limbo is killing my soul, slowly and painfully.
If I could go back to my life of ignorance- before I found anything out- when I felt pretty okay and had hope that the days were getting brighter and we were on the right path, I would. Heh. I so would. Hope was my backbone, and living without it has been a nightmare.
Why why why why WHY is this happening again?

As heartbreaking as it was, and as betrayed as I felt from all sides, I am so thankful I went with my gut and turned into psycho stalking wife and got that confirmation, haha. Suspicion, wondering, not knowing, not trusting… are all far more hellish and damaging than an actual affair. Sometimes I wonder how people can watch someone go through that (for three years!) and not just confess and release them from that hell.

God, I’m thankful for where I’m at now and who I’m with.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal

Serenity Prayer

July 23, 2011
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I know I fall short… incredibly short… of the mother I once was and the mother I feel I ought to be. I really need to step things up in a lot of areas, but I’m exhausted and overwhelmed (mostly emotionally) and so I get discouraged.

I catch myself- and this is a terrible terrible mother confession- thinking ‘I’ll do things right next time. Next time things will be different. I’ll be better and their life will be better and things will just be “RIGHT”‘ as if I have a second chance and this is just a trial run. From one marriage to the next (one day), from one family to the next, and Adry is left in the inbetween and we just have to survive it.

I hate that those thoughts run through my head and I honestly do not mean for them to. I hate that this all feels wrong. This is my son’s life– jumping around from house to house without any consistency whatsoever (in routine or discipline or expectations), but it’s his life nonetheless and how do I make it right? How do I make THIS TIME right for him? I don’t get a second chance to raise him. How do I make sure that he never feels like he was the product of a mistake and not a real member of either of his part-time families? I want him to feel like he belongs and he has a home. I grew up with two parents incredibly devoted to their children and incredibly faithful in their marriage. I will never relate to Adry’s situation. I will never know how he feels. And I just feel like I’m far from the Supermom he needs who can take his situation and step up her game and make it all okay.

So, you know, I spend 80% of my life feeling like a failure out of options. …Which probably creates a lot of tension in our relationship because kids are perceptive. Adry LOVES being with his dad who always seems so sure of himself and his parenting and I just can’t mimic that confidence. I wish I could. I feel like a failure because I think I’d still choose to do shared parenting even if I had the option to have him full time… and I feel guilty for that. I feel like I need breaks to live my own life. Selfish. I’m dating and going out with friends and doing things I never got to do as a teenager and young adult… nor did I regret not doing those things, nor do I particularly enjoy them now (clarification: love keith, love the relationship, not really into ‘dating’), but the thought of devoting my life entirely to my kid and ending up old and alone and depressed really scares me.

So, I made the awful mistake of breaking down last night and calling Baby Daddy all ‘I miss my baby. I want my consistent life with him back. You stole that from me. Wah wah wah I’m the victim. My life is ruined; I’ll never be the same. sob sob.’ and obviously didn’t receive any compassion. Not sure what I was expecting. I gave up. Went in Adry’s room. Failure, guilt, self pity, sob, cry. All that. It was all very lovely and becoming. And then it just hit me suddenly… being in his room with all his stuff that we enjoy together… that I LOVE him and I LOVE being a mom. I LOVE who he made me when he made me a mom and I LOVE who I have the potential to be as his mom. Maybe I can’t discipline him the way I want to, or keep him on a daily routine the way I want to, or read him nightly bedtime stories, or make sure he’s eating right and sleeping when he should and hanging around people that I approve of. But I can love him and support him and enjoy him. He will always be wanted and welcomed. That’s still a beautiful blessing and a huge privilege and I’m thankful for it. So so thankful for it. I’m thankful for him. He’s here, he’s healthy, he’s happy, he’s exploring and observing and learning, he’s loved by a ton of people on both sides. I’ve got to just take what I have and run with it and stop beating myself up.

I’m a mom and I love my son and no one can take that from me.

Categories: Ciao Bella Vita : Daily Journal