I’m Anna Renvall, a writer and self-help enthusiast in Minneapolis. Thanks for listening to FO-MO: Dating and Relating As a Former Mormon. I’m creating a platform for the stories of navigating relationships, sexuality, feminism, and other social issues as a former Mormon. As a former Mormon myself, I hope to build a sense of community and loving support. FYI, this podcast is for grown-ups as it contains adult themes.
To kick it off, I’ll tell you my life story. The short version!
Thoughtful people, including my friends, colleagues and acquaintances, and even customer service representatives, offered heartfelt condolences when I informed them of my divorce. I felt awkward, because by then I had already shifted into renewal and optimism. Getting divorced was the final step in a deliberation and uncoupling that had gone on for years. I wasn’t broken-hearted over the divorce, though I was still recovering from the many years of unhappy and unhealthy marriage. I suppose condolences are meant to blanket the past, as the diversity of divorce experiences are connected to loss. The loss of an idea, an unrealized expectation, the loss of trust and intimacy, the loss of a partnership you thought was guaranteed; as is said for solidarity in grief: loss is loss is loss.
I assume the condolences were also for my implied future of lifelong energy I must put forth to support my kids in an expanded family dynamic. How are the kids taking it? I was asked countless times. I had to fight my defensiveness around this question. I begrudge the implication that I have done something that makes my kids worse off. I wish I could have taken away their anxieties during the long adjustment period, but I trust that my commitment to them and our family culture will help them to develop resilience. If I were to spiral into regret, it would not be about establishing them in two homes instead of one. It would be that I did not more quickly figure out the ideal strategies for healthy conflict resolution, and they had to grow up most of their lives (to that point) with tension between their parents. But it’s NOT TOO LATE to model healthy relationship and self-care behavior for them.
In addition to the condolences and concern, I also received a lot of advice. Here’s what I found most helpful during my divorce:
Step into your future self. I tried to treat divorce meetings as opportunities to practice the kind of communication that would be ideal for co-parenting long-term, and that I could use as evidence for myself that I am a peaceful, level-headed, and secure person. If you find yourself falling into old negative dynamics, don’t beat yourself up, but stop and say to yourself, Woops! I’m not playing that role anymore! I am free to be [compassionate/independent/abundant/humble/secure/clear/honest/private/unperturbed/in charge], whatever your new healthy boundaries look like.
Find a good therapist. I am fortunate to have a therapist I really click with, and for two years I met with her weekly, and continue to meet with her sporadically. Therapy was key in regaining mental health and confidence to start a “Plan B” for family life.
Pamper yourself from the outside-in. I bought new underwear and bras. I prioritized hair treatments. I gave myself a ring that I was drawn to, as a symbol of delightful surprises during times of heaviness. I revisited books like Orgasms by Lou Paget and Come As You Are by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.
Practicing yoga and hiking in woods are vital to my spiritual, psychological and physical self-care and development. Those two activities are my personal favorite tools for the broader mission to prioritize healthy eating, body movement, mindfulness, curious exploration, and community connection at all times, but especially during times of transition. Do what feels good to you, and never discount the power of moving your body.
Yes, it’s hard sometimes, but it’s OK to have fun. There are times I grieve not having the parenting lifestyle I thought I would. I honor those feelings, but try not to let them stain the upsides. Yes, there are upsides! Divorce is a lifestyle change, not a punishment! I set appointments, run errands and do more housework and more working on days they’re with their dad. But I also use that time for grown-up fun. I have date night, meet friends, dress sexy and go out, take hikes and spend restorative weekends away with my boyfriend, and attend events that are fun and enriching for me, but not kid-friendly. It’s OK to be happy, and you deserve to be happy. It’s also OK to feel sad, or angry, or anything else. Feelings don’t need to compete; there is room in each of us for a full and rich experience. Just don’t wait to have fun.
Good Divorces Do Exist (THE ONE internet stranger’s story I found relatable and which offered me hope and inspiration)
I also used my county’s website for collecting forms and information. I found going to speak to the courthouse clerks in person so helpful and clarifying. I was also able to consult with a lawyer free of charge. Accuracy and organization make a huge difference not only for the divorce process, but for situations like the following year’s taxes and your individual financial planning. (I did great during the process, but not so well in the first six months after my divorce, so I learned the hard way–keep all your financial and legal records organized and easy to access!)
More Practical Tips
A friend encouraged me to hire a lawyer. I didn’t (except for one very helpful free consultation) and maybe I should have. In any case, I would offer the advice to anyone divorcing with kids, as it really is difficult to understand how to fill out the paperwork correctly, not to mention understanding your state and county requirements, procedures and precedents.
I didn’t use a divorce mediator, but I have only heard good things about mediation, so I would recommend that, too. Neutral third parties with a working knowledge of the system can save time and energy. Even if you hire a lawyer, it can be helpful to hire a mediator, too.
My ex-husband had a great experience in a divorced parents class which was run by a church and free of charge, and provided child care.
This may vary by state, but in Minnesota, the most efficient order for changing your name (if you do) upon divorce is
bank and financial accounts (loans, insurances, phone bills, will and testament, etc.)
Social Security card
Financial institutions just require making a copy of the official decree, so immediately get two copies for yourself. (I had to go to a county services branch and pay to print official copies of both the divorce decree and the name change decree a few days after the divorce was finalized in court.) Many places, including my credit card, car insurance and gym membership, took my word for it and no documentation was required to change my name. The driver license system is not always synced to the social security records, so waiting until you receive your new physical social security card is the best way to guarantee a smooth DMV encounter.
If you’re navigating a divorce, I wish you vibes of healing, renewal, power, and prosperity. You will be able to create a life happier and healthier than you ever imagined. You are not defined by your marital or relationship status. If you are one who finds satisfaction and joy in committed partnership, know that you can be the partner you want to be, and you can experience the partnership you have dreamed about. This is one step in your story. Peace to you.
I made a Montessori Peace Table for my home, and I am happy to report that it has worked to decrease conflict and increase peace. A peace table (or peace corner) is a space dedicated to grounding thoughts and feelings, practicing meditation or silence, and resolving a conflict.
I am well-practiced in the rituals of moving house. I tend to belabor the process with emotional exertion. As every item in my home is sorted, the evidence of failures form into piles. A deluge of procrastinated tasks is released from drawers and closets. Just as each of my four moves in the last five years, my most recent move required me to confront an overwhelming mass of unmet expectations by the last day of the month.
The stain. I got it out. A bleach pen, applied three times, removed the mysterious red stain from the wood floor of the kids’ bedroom. Why don’t I know what stained the floor? Why didn’t I try to remove the stain months ago? Will I never learn to deal with messes right away? Two pangs of guilt, one sting of self-doubt, one relief at victory.
The embroidery floss. For the cross-stitch hobby I never started. The kids kept taking it and tangling it up, because they don’t respect my things. I threw it all out. Even the good ones. A week later, I saw embroidery floss on the list of solicited donations to the kids’ school. That’s four layers of guilt, if you weren’t counting.
The box of summer clothes. The week before the move, a storage box of summer clothes was discovered in the basement, underneath a cobwebbed box of sports gear. The kids’ clothes fit them, despite having been meant for use last summer. Mine are too small for me. With the revelation of the box came one half-dose of guilt for the accidental misplacement, a double rush of fun for two kids’ wardrobe enhancements, and a complex discomfort with my body weight.
The gifts I didn’t mail. In other words: a perpetuated to-do list indulging a delusion. I already spent time, energy and money on the photo matching games for my nieces, 16 months ago. I’m going to mail them. Really. Next week.
The rug. It was a holdover rug, a cheap and temporary solution. I liked it at first, but soon after I realized it wasn’t right for the space, and I hated it more each day. After 18 months in my living room, it had been destroyed by my apparent negligence. I thought adulthood would include more of investing in timeless wool Persian rugs, and less of assuring visitors that spot on the rug is chocolate, not poop. A rug of disappointments: at my feet then, and at the dump now.
I’m taking my things too seriously. I’m not being grateful enough that I had a rug in the first place, or that I have children who break and stain and wear things because they live with me. I do that sometimes; I take myself too seriously and I forget to let the gratitude edge out the disappointment. It’s all part of the process, though. It’s the same process each time: purge, wrap up, transport, reorganize. Yoga words echo in my mind, Let go of what no longer serves you. The guilt, the anger, and the disappointment don’t need to be unpacked in my new house.
This play kitchen is one of those things that is for my kids, but really it’s for me. All three of us (me and my six-year-old and my three-year-old) had the same reaction when we saw it: gasp!…stare in admiration…pretend to stock it with delicious food.
I will come right out and say, I don’t like the styling trick of books facing backward on the shelf. Prioritizing beige over ease of access to books is squarely in the realm of impractical design. I hope it is a trend that dies soon. Now, I’m going to show you bookshelves that embrace books as they are, and bookshelves that use backward or slip-covered books for textured monochrome variance. I want to be totally clear that I love the work of all of the stylists! I chose really admirable images on both sides of the book spine debate.
But look at the top image. So many books. Thick ones! What are they? If they want a book from the top shelf, do they have to stand on a ladder and pull out each book until they find it? Do they listen to the vinyl, or is it decorative? So many questions.
I obsessively scanned the typing on those covered white books and I believe I see canon hits like War and Peace, The Odyssey and Huckleberry Finn. Since the books are labeled, I can get behind the matching white dust jackets. (Although, if I ever read War and Peace, I will definitely leave it resting on my coffee table for a few weeks as a subtle brag.) The backward books I don’t get, because they look antique and all have pretty blue or brown spines; show them off!
Again, this looks great. Again, I think there is already enough of white accessories and breathing space that I’m curious to see how those books would look if they were allowed to fully show their hot pink and black covers.
Stephanie Sterjovski’s condo is super cozy, neutral and minimalist, so I get why the books should be quiet. You almost can’t see them, but there’s about 27 on that shelf. The white or black ones are showing spine, and the paperbacks are in a short-ish stack, so their spineless orientation seems more approachable than if there was a big row of backward books.
OK, now in the other direction:
I noticed most of the bookshelf inspo I’m drawn to has a lot of books, but they are thoughtfully grouped by color for harmony. This one seems boho and busy with all those amazing plants, but there’s nothing overwhelming about it because of the color palette, non-patterned pots, and the white wall backdrop.
In this proper home library, the books appear to be grouped by genre, definitely not by color. I think it works so well with the modern, sleek design around it because it is floor-to-ceiling and in a defined space. There are so many books that the disbursement of color and bumpy ridge-lines end up feeling balanced and even like artwork.
This bookshelf has an approachable vibe, so you believe the people who live there really read their books. It’s not trying too hard, but if you look carefully the books are thoughtfully organized and they do play nicely with the gallery wall color palette. Every little detail is repeated in some way for cohesion.
DecorFix created this image for their how-to on bookshelf styling. I will end here, saying it is possible to have a pulled together or even pared-back bookshelf with readable, accessible book spines. Don’t make your books face the wall. They don’t like it.
What do you think? Do you (or would you) hide your book spines?
When we moved in, their room was painted a sad yellowish cream with beat up white trim (which still looked wildly better than the red from the listing photo), and the owner offered to have it painted any neutral color.
I chose a bright white because the room gets great light, and I knew there would be plenty of color from the kids’ books and tchotchkes. Their room is used for sleeping, dressing, and quiet time, so I want it to feel airy, personalized and practical.
A year ago, the kids transitioned from a toddler bed and a mattress on the floor to the Kura bed. It isn’t actually a bunk bed, it’s a bed that can be reversed so that the mattress is high or low. Gabe has a floor bed and Alexandra is on the “top bunk” a couple of feet lower than a traditional bunk bed would be.
The IKEA mattress that goes with the bed is much shallower; our mattress goes as high as the edge of the bed which, obviously, is not safe. She has a bed rail, and by bed rail, I mean I shove a large plastic storage box lid horizontally between the mattress and side of the bed. I took it out for the picture. I am sharing this “hack” for clarification, not for recommendation.
Gabe snapped off several pieces of one of the cheap rental standard blinds, so I replaced it with wood-look 2-inch blinds.
The kids love the multi-colored Christmas lights so much that I decided they could stay up indefinitely as a night light. I unplug them when I go to bed. My dad made that bookshelf when Alexandra was a baby and it has been in heavy use for more than five years. I used to keep a carefully selected variety of 16 picture books in it, rotated every Friday. Now, the kids cram it full of their current favorites and bring stacks of books into their beds when they’re supposed to be sleeping. I secretly approve.
This little corner (above) is the self-care area. A shatterproof mirror has storage for hair stuff and lip balm. They stand on the stools to hang up their towels.
I chose this informational view to show that french doors lead to the kids’ room from the living room, while a doorway (the door was removed by previous owner) connects it to the short hallway. The hall is open to the dining room and leads to the cleaning closet, bathroom, and my bedroom. I think that in the original 1939 layout, this was the master bedroom. The weird floor in the self-care corner was probably a closet, and the the opening with french doors were probably added in the 1980s. Over the years, we’ve had a lot of bedrooms with “character”, so I’ll be controversial and say I’d be happy to take on the challenge of a generic rectangle room with a standard closet.
Their dresser holds all of their clothes as well as their CDs. The fan serves as white noise every night. A fan in the room is connected with a slightly lower SIDS risk, so they’ve always had one and need the white noise to sleep now.
All year, I’ve been thinking about a large area rug and an updated light fixture, but the room probably won’t evolve further, since we’ll move in a few months.
Paint | Benjamin Moore Decorator’s White Kura Reversible Bed | IKEA Ljudlig Duvet | IKEA
Marimekko Bo Boo Pillowcase | FinnStyle White Blanket | Target
Butterfly garlands & party pom garland | Target (old)
Seagrass storage basket | HomeGoods
Rug | HomeGoods Faux sheepskin | IKEA
Bookcase | made by my dad
Baby chair | vintage Hemnes Dresser | IKEA Dresser knobs | Anthropologie
Greetings around the world art | HomeGoods
Portrait of Alexandra’s 2nd birthday | painted by Jenna Wynne
Globe | vintage
Unbreakable mirror | IKEA (old)
Name Stools | painted by Jenna Wynne Bunny & Triceratops towels | Pottery Barn Kids
I’ve been shopping for sheets for my kids’ twin beds. For the past few years, the night pottying was in progress, so to speak, so I only had cheap white sheets on their beds. Now that things have stayed dry, I want to get some fun graphic sheets that coordinate with their blankets. I am pretty set on getting the Shy Little Kitten sheets for my six-year-old, so I might end up getting the Bed’s Best Friends (dog) sheets for my 3-year-old. The prints aren’t not related, but I think they’d be cute paired on their bunk bed.
Design Mom’s 6 Secrets for a Smooth Move. I love the box-labeling system, though I have never been able to execute it. Each of my many moves seems to involve several boxes of “miscellaneous” things I waited too long to pack.
The wooden bead clothes-hanging line has been featured before, but it’s getting another mention for being super popular. I pinned it from Mommo, and I wish I could find the original source. I think this would be a fun and easy DIY for dress-ups, or for keepsakes like ballet slippers.
“The child is both a hope and a promise for mankind.” -Maria Montessori, poster on Teachers Pay Teachers