Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Look Backwards, Look Forwards

Today, I thought I'd clean out my  sent email folder, which only has a little over 12,000 emails in it! I started with the last page (from the middle of 2007), clicking each box, then scanning down the list to see if there was any I wanted to keep. A couple caught my eye -- one to my counsellor, and the other to one of the pastoral staff at my church. Opening them, I wasn't prepared for the flood of emotions -- the one to my minister told her that "things were going so smoothly on holidays, I probably wouldn't need to see her when I got home," and the one to my counsellor a few weeks later, expressed the kicked in the gut feeling of discovering that the "great holiday" was all a sham. Now, of course, I know the truth of that holiday -- the mistress waiting back home.

The emotions conflict -- on the one hand, a little post traumatic stress of feeling very much back in that bubble three years ago (or 8 years ago, or 12 years ago, .......) coupled with the anger at being lied to, the distress over being wrongly blamed and dissed for, well, for being me. On the other hand, a flood of relief that this is not my life anymore.

Friday, October 29, 2010


A designer friend and I were talking about her latest rash of clients. She says they are singularly difficult to deal with and she wasn't sure why. In some cases, they had been badly burned by previous contractors (losing $140K which goes to show you how much money these people are pouring into their homes, but I digress). In other cases, they were bitten by the DIY bug -- even cardiologists with insanely busy practices thought they could take on the role of contractor to save some money. That's like a contractor saying he's going to operate on himself when he develops heart disease. The other reason is that this is a narcissistic culture, and one of the defining symptoms of narcissism is to think the latest thing is the greatest. (Look at the love affair with Obama, and how they're slamming the poor guy now in spite of some very real and positive moves; look at the landslide with Ford, and one can only hope Toronto will wake up without a hangover on that decision... but I digress again). So back to the clients -- they fall madly in love with this designer or that, they must have that new kitchen no matter what, it's the only thing that will make them happy (narcissists also seem to be addicted to the new thing to relieve their deep seated unhappiness). But when the new begins to demonstrate it or they have feet of clay, they quickly get dashed to the ground, demonized for having failed the unrealistically high expectations.

When one part of any relationship -- between client and contractor, people and president, man and woman -- has these narcissistic expectations that the other will solve ALL their problems, it's doomed. In the case of the cardiologist cum contractor, my friend decided to walk away. Trust your gut, walk away.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Body of Christ, newly defined

A friend of mine at church has been suffering from kidney problems for many years -- she has been on dialysis for the past two years, a machine in her home which she has to hook up to every second day. She is courageous and has dignity, but even she was wearing thin from this. Last year she had to have one kidney removed. Because of her age, she would have waited ten years for a transplant tobecome available. Her husband wasn't a good match because he has lupus.

Her situation became somewhat known to our parish family.

A few months ago, I found out that Martin G, our quiet unassuming single library guy had volunteered one of his kidneys. When the social worker was doing his psych screening, she asked him whether he thought this would score brownie points with God. He told her that God already loved him, he didn't need to do something further to gain that reward.

Last Thursday they had the operations, and it was deemed a success on all fronts. Of course, there needs to e more time to determine how she will adapt to his kidney. Someone said, her blood, flowing through M's kidney, will give her clear urine and a new life.

It is a new, and really concrete, way of looking at the Body of Christ.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Darkness into Light brings its own Pain

This morning's reading was John ch 3, and Jesus spends a long time speaking with Nicodemus about what it means to be born again. That is, not born of flesh, but of water and spirit. I guess the apt comparison would be Adam born of flesh, and Jesus born of spirit (and flesh). Jesus, or rather John (the apostle) makes a big deal out of light, and darkness, and he picks up on Jesus' convo with Nicodemus about evil likes the dark, but to be born again, that is grow closer to God, trust him as a baby does its mother, you must come into the light.

That journey is not without pain. There are times, especially in church when my usual crust is threatening to crumble, that I let the tears flow. I wish I could say it is from joy, but more often than not it is from pain, at the memory of yet another betrayal, or mean speech, from my ex-h. Although I was pretty sure for all those years that things were going on, I wasn't prepared to rip the veil off the activity, and find out for sure, because at some level I knew that it would require action I wasn't prepared to take at the time. And so I suffered the insults and shameful behaviour within a cloak of darkness and denial. One becomes immune to this behaviour -- it piles up, without you realizing it, sort of like turning up the heat on frogs immersed in cold water. But now that the cloak comes off, and the crust on the scab is beginning to fall away, leaving behind some pretty raw feelings. Thus the tears.

Likewise my own behaviour, though. I hid in darkness, not being bold, not confronting when I should have, and so layering his sins with my own. Comfort first, even if that comfort was the legitimate kind to protect my kids from a split home. And if I'm honest, comfort for me at my age not to have to struggle along with one income. (As it turns out, I am getting quite good at managing my bills.)

Friday, October 08, 2010

A Question of Support

I've met with a variety of sometimes surprising responses when I tell people that my ex-h has to pay spousal support. They range from well shouldn't you just go out and work to revenge scenarios like taking him for all he's worth. First of all, I am working, I just don't pull down a huge salary. And secondly, I've never been a gouger, and revenge only backfires on the perpetrator.

So here's the scoop on spousal support:
1) women post-divorce experience a 50% decline in living standards within 5 years; while men, post divorce, experience a 50% increase.
2) within five years, 75% of men are remarried, while 75% of women are not.
3) 90% of children living in poverty are living with single mothers.

Those are the reasons why the laws have changed so that women don't need to live in poverty.

I've proposed waiving spousal in exchange for his equity in the house. (He won't be left penniless either since he gets all the retirement funds.) This provides me with the security of a home for me and my children.

More research (acquired by me):

Once men remarry, they cleave to the new woman, and HER children, often leaving his own children out in terms of time, energy, and MONEY. In fact, more often than not, when a man dies, he leaves his estate to his new wife, and her children, and leaves his own children little or nothing. (I personally know of four instances of this, and my lawyer says he's seen plenty of cases that support this.)

And finally, since splitting, his ardour toward having the children has cooled a little, passing up offers of taking them here, or there, or visiting in the middle of summer camp... And so the bulk of t he child care rests on my shoulders. Not that I mind. In fact, I often sit up in the middle of it all, dishes, laundry, signing school forms, overseeing homework, and realize: I got the best deal!!!! But it does leave me with more of the workload.

That said, I realize plenty of men are impoverished paying spousal to an ex who won't work. And plenty of men (usually the ones who didn't walk away) are more than eager to have their kids as much as possible.

So my question is:
is spousal support fair?

My New Improved Life Story

Anyone of a certain age and stage who's had a "career" for several years, knows that they either retire, or switch things up a bit if they want to keep going, making a living, and having a productive life.

Me, I wanna focus on that making a living idea. So for the past couple of years, I've been reading business books (some of them are ok), listening to podcasts (on Oprah's website no less!), and trying to absorb what the gurus say about making career shifts at my (undisclosed) age.

Today, I came across a piece of paper that has my scribbling on it, and it's obviously cuz I was listening to some guy who knew what he was talking about. The title at the top of the page is: Get Known Before the Book Deal.
By now, I've become pretty adept at taking concise notes, so this one pager I'm guessing was from a one hour podcast or something.

But everything they suggest is stuff that does not come naturally to me: zoom in and narrow your focus. What happens when you're the kind of person who is intrigued by almost anything? (So much so, I'll talk to virtually anyone, reagrdless of IQ, FQ -- fashion quotient -- or EQ) The podcast guy also says to identify the expertise you already have, by looking at your past, then meet your readership, break them down into submarkets, and align with your audience by figuring out who you are?

Here's how I answered that question: mom, writer, Christian, frantic, worried, photographer, traveller, daughter (with a ? mark), sister (another ? mark), friend, tired, a little unfit and overweight (make that a lot unfit), closet Southerner, closet Catholic, vocational advisor (for friends who have no job), book reviewer, info purveyor. In pencil, obviously added later, I inscribed: generalist, lateral thinker, juggling act, no fixed address (hmm, really? that must have been before I saw my lawyer and was almost guaranteed that my ex-h wouldn't be able to remove me from the house).

And just what am I supposed to turn all that into?

It's a year later, and I'm no further ahead on the work front. Yes, I work, but it's an insecure living, so it's back to the drawing board. And exit the pity pit.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

My Life as Story...

Was something Peter Kreeft said in a seminar for Act One's workshop a year or two ago in Hollywood. (Act One is a screenwriting program to turn Christian keeners, intent on saving Hollywood, into excellent writers. And Peter Kreeft is a preeminent Catholic thinker who's written about 50 books, and has his feet planted firmly on the ground.)

He said that if we think of our life as story, and understand that like all characters we have the power to resist good and embrace evil, just as much as the other way around, then we will also understand that we can only be overcome by a beauty more powerful than our choice of evil. Looking at our lives as such, also makes for less remorse over lost years, regarding them as part of the narrative arc in a journey, as long as that journey is gradually inching towards good. It allows me to see (sometimes, at least, when I'm not overcome by anger and resentment), that the things that have happened to me over the past 12 years, have also opened me up to God's grace in a way that being sheltered probably could not have. By looking at our lives as story, we are also able to see truth, because it lies there in the concrete. And goodness, he says, depends on truth -- that is, without being truthful, we can never really be good. That's why some beautiful movies can never be good, because they don't impart truth, and also why some primitive movies are good because they do. And it lies in the story, not in the costumes, sets, and special effects, though sometimes excellent goodness is seen through those things too. As flawed as Mel Gibson's personal life is, and as much as it's not always a witness for Christ, his movie The Passion of the Christ, affected people -- Christians and atheists and Jews and Muslims -- in a profound way that has led many to truth.

Another thing Kreeft said that struck home was the need to "exchange efficiency for delight." Joy is something I have either avoided, or it's avoided me, until the past few years when I have recognized the need, actually the desire, for joy.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Knocked Down...but Not Out

Apparently, the baby giraffe is knocked down by his mom just a few minutes after getting up wobbly legged from being born. He gets up again, and mom knocks him down again. This happens several times, but it's not a random cruelty. Mom does it to toughen up baby so he will be able to stand strong.

About 12 years ago, I remember thinking, you know I've never really suffered. And about a month after that, my husband announced he was leaving (the first time). I was devastated, and more so when I discovered he had met his "soul mate" and that she was the love of his life, and so on and so forth. But he didn't leave -- she wasn't available -- and the following couple of years was hell. He was in turns nasty, nice, physically attentive, cold. He declared up and down he wasn't having an affair (I've recently found out that was a lie), and during it all I got pregnant (how's that for cosmic timing).

I was so knocked down, I never thought I'd be able to stand again, and just when I would begin to rise out of this pit, he'd do something else to knock me over again. This went on for a couple of years, and friends said run, or kick him out, but don't put up with this any longer. The bad behaviour ended finally (what wasn't apparent at the time was that the behaviour just went underground). Anyway, that's a very long preamble to say that the three years of being knocked about, really was good for me, just like the baby giraffe. I dug deeper into faith, through scripture, prayer, reading what others have written, and clinging to good friends. The Christian friends did me the most good, because they supported me, prayed for me, listened to me, but wouldn't let me get away with any spiritual or emotional nonsense.

What I didn't realize was that while I was slowly rising out of a pit dug with my past -- both family and misspent youth -- my husband was slowly getting more mired in his.

Being knocked around by the original tsunami, repeated last year with much less wave action, has changed my priorities considerably. It has woken me to some realities -- especially the reality of the Presence of Christ, forever and always the Hound of Heaven. It has shaken me to see that the things I have held on to for security are false lifebuoys. I have even come to recognize and reach for Joy when it presents itself.

Not sure yet what that experience is preparing me for, though!

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

One Year Later...Single parenting Life Marches On

I won't even comment on the length of time it's been since I last posted on this thing -- let's just say the summer was busy and leave it at that.

But today, the first day of school, marks one year since my DH announced, for good this time, that he was finally leaving. Thanks to having heard this before (for the last 12 years in fact), and having already undergone the devastation, panic, bereavement, anxiety, and so on that accompanies the breaking of this relationship, covenant really, I have really had not a bad year of it. In fact, it's become a way of life finally, which is probably what the greatest difficulty was originally. That's not to say that I recommend it -- divorce tears children's lives aparts in ways we never really appreciate until long after the deed is done (studies show that the biggest impact of divorce comes when the children go to marry themselves, and 70% of those marriages end in divorce). And so, your job description as a parent becomes different, more challenging, but in some ways more rewarding. It forces you, if you're like me at least, to really study productive and beneficial ways of going forward.

I personally feel a whole lot better than I did a year ago. I no longer have to look over my shoulder wondering when he's going to fall in love with someone else, have an affair, or threaten to leave. I no longer have to feel second best, wonder what I did to displease him, or accept the few crumbs tossed my way. Thank heaven I had the ten years to adjust to the idea that he really isn't all that into me, doesn't like me, and doesn't want to be here. I get it now. It's really nice not to feel that way anymore -- though SHE will, eventually. It's just the way he is.

My relationship with my children is better than it ever was (with no one behind my back trying to poison it), and I get the whole bed to myself. I can sing when I want to. And now I actually want to.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

Oh, what a ride!

I've said for a long time that anger is a verygood tool for protecting your inner mushball, and that sadness while it taps into your real emotions can leave you a mess until you work through it. The last week or so has been like this.

And I've had too much contact with my ex-h. Better left alone. Since he had a potentially serious medical problem which needed attending to, I insisted on driving him to the hospital, then driving him to another hospital next day for the emerg laser eye surgery. When I accidentally hit a bump in the car, he asked that I slow down since my driving could hurt his eye. I got defensive, because I had been very mindful, and then the memories surfaced -- having a miscarriage all over the kitchen, and his asking if I needed a ride to the hospital. D'oh. Half hour from delivery of our dd, (while he was engaged in a full blown affair, and being so nasty I'd asked a friend to be my labour coach, then relented, but I digress). There I was, 9 cm dilated in screaming labour, and he accidentally bangs the wheelchair into the wall driving the pain through my whole body. Naturally, I cried out -- he got angry with me.

So as I drive along -- him in the back seat with our dd, and me in the front like the chauffeur I allow myself to be -- and start thinking about all those affairs, and his mean behaviour towards me during them. While I understand, intellectually, that demonizing me justifies or normalizes behaviour, he doesn't want to feel guilty about. And I understand too that I contributed to this by being so effing stupid as to put up with it (what was I thinking? Saving my children's home?) and worse to fall for his mood switches from nasty to sweet -- when I'd start to exhibit signs of kicking him out. Maybe that's why these romantic comedies appeal so much, because they take a Proverbial statement and flesh it out -- those lines ring true, because they are true. My marriage is a combination of Legally Blonde and Jerry Macguire -- only I'm like a pathetic Elle still stuck on Warner.

And when I got home, feeling pretty low, out of the blue appear my two dearest friends (via email and phone), as if by divine conjuring, and made me feel loved again. Cuz it's being unwanted that really hits you most in times of sadness (most other times I feel very content about the turn of events, at least with regards to me). The other thing to watch out for is when one or both of the kids is away -- my tall lanky and handsome son has been at camp for over a week, and that probably accounts for the mood more than anything. I will, with the help of good friends and my faithful Lord, rise again.

Keep on moving, look forward and see what the good Lord has in store for me. After all, he promises to restore the years that the locusts have stolen. But I won't know them if my head is down.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Sadness Trumps Anger

This process -- some call it grief -- is funny in the way it rears up at times. Last night's healing prayer service for our minister's wife opened some floodgates. Usually I am in good spirits, moving forward, and basically dismissing my husband from thought. But during times of intense prayer, when more barriers are lowered, the sadness seeps in, and so the tears begin. For the past several months, I have recognized that anger allows you to function, by keeping the grief at bay, but the sadness is necessary for dipping into the grief and then moving on from it. If that makes any sense.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

The New Normal?

Most of the time, these days, I trip quite happily along, but there are times when I get caught up short, usually by something my ex does. Yesterday was just such a time. He comes in to pick up our daughter for school, and natters on about this that and the other thing. All I can think about is "you are not my friend, and don't try to normalize this." It infuriates me.

Later I went to meet someone who was friends to both, but whom we hadn't seen much for at least five years. I gnashed my teeth worrying about either saying too much or too little, so we ended up talking about what we were both doing these days, and only later did she ask about "IT."

Though I didn't tell her everything I knew, she wasn't all that surprised. Then my Writers Digest came in the mail, and while reading an article on how to write memoirs, it hit me why the narrative I've been telling leaves a bad taste in the mouth -- I've been stuck on defending myself, and it sometimes comes out sounding like I'm a victim. Especially if I'm angry. Having entered this marriage with my eyes open, I'm not a victim. And now setting boundaries, I'm still not.

So back to what's "normal" -- his behaviour the last several years isn't. My turning a blind eye, and accepting less than respect isn't. What is normal is being myself, standing up with grace, and in joyfulness, staying focused on the King. And like the wedding guests who finally did show up (Matt 22: 1-14) make sure I arrive with proper wedding attire.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Fire Hydrant by any other Name

In the past week or so, my husband has been in the habit of coming into the house, walking back to the kitchen, washing his hands and blowing his nose (not necessarily in that order). Remember that he has just left his own place not five minutes before, so why wait til he comes to my place to wash his hands. I asked a friend what she thought that might be about, and she said it sounds like a dog pissing on the corners of his territory. I asked another friend, and she agreed -- her ex-h does the same thing -- when he picks up the kids, walks all the way through the apartment, goes to the bathroom to pee, looking in all the rooms as he goes.

Friday, June 04, 2010

Visiting Dad

Lately, I've had lots of opinions tossed at me over this one. The kids, especially DD, doesn't want to sleep over at dad's place. A lawyer friend, who does mostly family law and is remarried himself, says that NO kids like to stay over at dad's. There are several reasons for this -- dad doesn't spend as much time or effort making the place feel like home, the kids aren't ready to admit this split is a real, or long term thing, or dad has a new woman and they feel out of place. He says regardless of the reason, you need to force them to go.

Another friend whose h left four years ago refuses to force her son, although it's not really an issue for her since the h lives clear across the country.

Another friend, a single mom who made the decision to leave her h about 6 years ago, tells her children they must go to dad's and that's all there is to it. She needs the time to herself (she doesn't have a boyfriend, she just needs some alone time).

Then I asked my cousin's son, who is 19, and whose parents split 3 years ago. It was the dad's decision (given the stats, I'm assuming his dad was entangled, because 99.9% of the time men leave only when they have a soft spot to land). This really sweet and mature kid told me that 1) friends are essential, not for having someone to talk about "IT" but just to have around and thus take your mind off "IT" b) don't try to force the kids to spill their guts, because it can get too heavy, and c) don't force them to go anywhere they dont want to or aren't ready to yet. He said he was very angry with his dad for about a year, and then realized at the end of the day, this was his dad, and he loved him. But he also tells me he is very close to his mom. (Which means, moms don't worry that you're losing your children because they want to have a R with dad.)

So, on the sage counsel of my 19 year old second cousin, or first cousin once removed, I am not going to push my kids to sleep over at dad's unless they want to.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Faith in the Time of Choleric Spirits

The past little while I've felt very unsettled -- at times extremely happy and peaceful without the sword of Damocles over my head, and at others feeling afraid and very vulnerable. Meanwhile, the world around me spins, not just on its axis as its meant to, but as in out of control spinning. The children's marks are dropping a little, they're staying up too late, watching too much TV or on the computer too long, not reading enough, not exercising enough. The ex is looking fat and satisfied with his lot, but there's also an edge to him now that wasn't there before, an aggressive edge even, and he's never been like that. I won't speculate on where it's emerging from, but I can guess. One sister is on the brink of being on the street, the niece is more or less on the street, and I become increasingly aware of the "demons" -- however one wants to define them -- whirling about like dervishes.

Today I read in Matthew 15, the Canaanite woman who approached Jesus fearlessly to have him heal her daughter of demon possession. The woman's confidence and faith won out. After this, the crowds press on Jesus, and he heals the blind, the lame, the dumb, the maimed. After three days of this, he feels compassion for the people who stayed out of faith to be healed, and knowing they were hungry asked for food, blessed it, broke it, and distributed it.

But then Jesus goes to be alone with the Father. He is the centre of this whirling sea of illness, helplessness, demonic possession and so on. He can withstand this only because of the stolen moments of peace and grace that come with time alone with God.

Today's CQOD from Thomas Merton seemed very apt:

When the time comes to enter the darkness in which we are naked and helpless and alone; in which we see the insufficiency of our greatest strength and the hollowness of our strongest virtues; in which we have nothing of our own to rely on, and nothing in our nature to support us, and nothing in the world to guide us or give us fight--then we find out whether or not we live by faith. ... Thomas Merton (1915-1968), Seeds of Contemplation

And as Christ said, come to me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will refresh you. (Matt 11:28)

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

I Do... Not

I've given some thought to the whole idea of remarriage, and have decided that it's not for me. Of course, that might be easy at the moment, given there's nobody banging my door down. But since my ex is entangled, and most likely will be for some time to come, and possibly for good, if I were to get likewise entangled, then my kids wouldn't have any place where there wouldn't be an intruder. No matter how nice a step parent is, from what I've read, the kids always feel like either the step is an intruder in some way, or that they are the intruders in someone else's home. It bears out the saying, the home is where the heart is, and since kids ALWAYS want their parents together, and that's what is in their hearts, the only real home, until they make one of their own with a special someone, is where the parents are.

It's just not something I'd want to subject my children to, at least not as long as they're living under this roof.

Of course there's also a selfish reason -- I'm quite happy this way, having my children around. AND I can do whatever I please and not worry that someone else finds me wanting.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Separation (from food) anxiety

OK, everyone knows that church dinners aren't always the height of culinary arts. Often macaroni and cheese, or a pasta salad, or spaghetti bolognese (you get the idea), but the whole point of these things is to be hospitable and break bread together (and pasta is not far removed from bread). So when my sister expressed her displeasure at heading to Alpha for the dinner portion, because of her "sensitive" stomach, I knew it was because the fare wasn't up to snuff.

It reminds me of something Adrian Plass said once on tour in Toronto, about church social gatherings -- they are testament to our fortitude towards others' eccentricities. So perhaps I should take that advice and stop judging the finicky sister, and accept that she is so, and doesn't want another mac and cheese dinner.

On another albeit similar note, I saw the ex in a tee shirt today, and ohboy he's put on weight. I guess Mrs Paradise is feeding him well. I do recall reading a note from her saying she enjoyed preparing gourmet meals (I just didn't realize at the time that it applied to him!).

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Who Loves Ya ....

I have a few single mother friends, and we help each other out -- watching out for each other's kids mainly, or insisting they sit down and have dinner with us.

Given my daughter's occasional remarks about how much she'd like to live in a community like Redwall (Medieval mice living in a castle), with everyone making soup together, I've been thinking about this more.

Without the "man" around the house, space miraculously opens up and your home feels almost huge. It's a shame not to share it.

So I'm thinking I should rent or buy a huge house in the country, invite all the single moms I know, and call it the Home for Unwanted Mothers. The one prerequisite is that your husband has to have left for another woman -- hence the unwanted moniker.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Judge Not Lest...

This morning I had to check my bank statements and discovered that my son's WOW (World of Warcraft) account was still active, i.e. the monthly fee had automatically been taken from my VISA. I was steaming (he was still asleep) -- upset that he'd promised to stop after the one month, and devote more time to his schoolwork, upset that I'd been duped (no need to again go into why I'm sensitive on that score....), upset that he was back on that thing, and addicted to it.

Since it wasn't time for him to get up yet, I figured it would be good to start morning's devotions. I'd started Matthew and was halfway through the Beatitudes. Today, Matthew 7, verse 1, jumps off the page: Judge not lest you be judged...

OK, still fuming, I try to figure out what that's supposed to mean to a mother who has to take some kind of leadership role.

When he got up, I had on my not amused at all face, and said we need to talk. I have checked my VISA statement continues I, grimly. Yeah? says he, looking a little wide eyed. Your game is on it....

Turns out they automatically take it off, he didn't cancel til the day after. (Either that or he's one helluva good con artist, but he's not old enough or jaded enough to be able to pull that off.)

Loosely translated, judge not for today's lesson is "jump not to conclusions."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Lying is a Virtue Now?

OK, call me old-fashioned but since when has lying been considered a virtue, or a necessary and healthy milestone in a child's development?

This morning in the Star, Minay Venon's column discusses a new study from U of T that says lying could very well be a sign of future success. We all hate it when politicians lie, and when lawyers lie, and when anyone else lies -- so why would we find a way to rationalize children lying?

There are tons of ways to be creative, without having the short ones lie their way to success. Next we'll hear that little girls should learn how to sleep their way to the top.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

the impossibility of prayer

Last night at Alpha, week four, the subject was prayer, and Nikki Gumbel spoke about the hows, whys, and whens of prayer and then finished up with an impossible story of one man's refusal to give up in his prayers. Long story short: British actor, whose wife left him after three years, became a Christian. She would have nothing to do with him, was living with another man, and so he began to pray for her to know Christ, not for the marriage. As she was pressing toward divorce, he sent her and her new man two tickets to see Billy Graham. She sent the tickets back. Billy Graham stayed an extra day, unexpectedly, and the ex-husband sent two more tickets. The live-in bf couldn't go, so long and short they went together. At the end when Graham asked people to come down and be counted among Christ's own, she ran down the stairs. Her soon to be ex-husband (the decree nicae had already gone out) had never stopped praying for her. They are now living as a married couple again.

It's my prayer for my husband -- I doubt our marriage could ever be salvaged out of the mess he made with his serial affairs and various other sexual activities, but I was reminded that we are to pray ever.

I was also reminded of how faithful our God is. For the last little while, I've been quite preoccupied with my son's distance and sometimes aggressive behaviour. He's been swearing more, and lashing out at his sister. Because of the family situation, I have been loathe to press him too much because I know I can be a little overwhelming on that score -- kind of like picking pimples til there's no skin left. Over the weekend I was reading through John's gospel, around chapters 15-17 and was struck by Jesus prayer to His Father over the spiritual provision for his disciples that not a man of them was to be lost. He prays for their souls. he prays -- and pays -- for our souls. We are given the promise that what we ask we will be given, as long as it is right minded. I have prayed lately for some assurance from God that all is and shall be well with my son's soul and faith journey. The night before last when he was particularly beastly with his sister, I started to talk with him, and he really unloaded. He's lonely, this separation has left him unsettled, his sister's behaviour is worse because she's trying to get his attention more now, and he's sad over his gf dropping him, and he's not sure where he's going after high school, and whether he has what it takes to get into medicine, although he's now not sure he even wants to do that. But we also talked about faith, and I was given the assurance I'd prayed for that he is exploring it more, that his heart is for God.

Praise God! And thanks for his answers to prayer.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Marriage is not a Mirror Image

I was talking to a gay man I know, and told him about my marriage breakdown. He asked if I was lonely, and I said no -- more angry, hurt, betrayed and feeling blamed for something that was way out of my control.

He asked if I didn't think monogamy was impossible, and that we were not meant to have the same mate for ever. I said that I thought marriage is where you meet yourself (for better or worse). He asked if that meant mirror image, and I said actually the opposite -- it's where you meet the Other, and in that other ness you are able to see yourself, flaws, strengths, everything, if you're aware of or open to seeing that.

Mirror images are essentially narcissistic because you're hoping to see a positive reflection of yourself. One reason, I guess why my husband consistently falls in love with his ethnic mirror image, hoping to find himself. Ironically when he was younger, he fled that cultural mirror image, rejecting it. The wrestling, as I explained to my friend, was in the complement, to see where and how you can fit -- not as in hand and glove but as in wrestling with another, fully individual person with separate desires, will, goals, and so on. Teenagers mature when they have to cut their teeth against someone they disagree with, although that someone also needs to be in loving relationship with them. Otherwise, they walk away. When you rub up against someone not entirely like yourself, but someone who also has the will (in spite of that lack) to see it through to the end with you, you work out your own personality, see where you are succeeding, failing, where you are strong and weak, where you are culpable and not.

Barring abuse of any kind, marriage breakdown is a failure of will. It is easier to find something new and potentially more exciting. It requires strength to face our own weaknesses and failures because it takes guts to be accountable and take responsibility for things we may have done to hurt. No mirror image can erase the fact that behind that mirror lies an other human being, complete with their own will, which inevitably will depart from your path at some point. What makes marriages last is the willingness to banish fear of being alone, and to wait patiently until those two paths converge again.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

My Little Valentine(s)

My big lug of a 16 year old boy, and his more diminutive girlfriend, had decided to bake something on Saturday night and then make dinner for me for Valentine's day. When he told me this -- because his gf is grounded right now and they won't be able to after all -- I hugged him. (Of course, he could still do it.)

But how sweet the thought for his broken down old maw....

Gotta love them kids.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Life imitates artifice

It's amazing how often life imitates art(ifice). I was thinking about the ridiculous conversation between an American man and his American mistress while we were all having dinner in a tiny restaurant in Paris's 6th.

How much it reminded me of the months-later email conversation between my husband and his mistress, with her psychologizing about what a narcissist I am, how I do not realize what a Great Man he is, and -- worse -- how I have stood in the way of his accomplishing Great Works and his Destiny (which only her embrace can change for the better).

The couple in the bar were hysterically funny, particularly to me and my ten year old daughter, and even to 16 year old son. We couldn't believe how ridiculous they sounded, swilling back wine, she drunkenly defending their relationship, and earnestly psycho-analyzing the predicament of wife clinging to errant husband (judging by my own feelings, I suspect NOT), and he trying to keep his head above water, because her line of reasoning was so confusing.

Of course at the time I knew nothing of dear-husband's affairs of the heart. But looking back, it makes me wonder if these philanderers realize how predictable and silly they sound, so that even a ten year old girl snickers?

easy, healthy soup

I'm known in my family for my salads and soups. In fact, I could live on the two food groups if my kids weren't constantly wrangling for meat, french fries, and cookies.

Here's a very simple soup I made last week for friends:
Three or four whole carrots, peeled and cut in half
one potato, peeled
two parsnips, peeled
thinly sliced onions
tbsp or two of flour
some leftover wine
a packet of chicken or veg boullion

saute onions in a little olive oil, and when transparent add the flour, to thicken. when mixed, add some wine and stir til a thick paste. Then fill the pot three quarters with water, add vegetables, and simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the veg are soft.

Allow to cool, remove veg (reserve liquid in pot), puree in blender, then return veg to pot. Add chicken boullion. before serving, add some heavy cream (or evaporated milk) and you can also add a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon.

So easy.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

heaalthy recycling

My very thin six-foot-three-inch son has a secret stash of food. Unbeknownst to me -- even though I've been trying to get him to take more food for lunch -- he only has a sandwich and drink currently. I just found out from his girly friend that he eats that sandwich by first period, then scrounges everyone else's lunch for more food. When I asked him about it, mortified that my kid is scrounging, especially since I've been urging him to take more, he said it's no big deal, he's recycling!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

thrifty diversions

Nothing like a little shopping fantasy to take your mind off more troubling things, like errant husbands, and distressed children. Especially when it's done on the cheap!

I've often wondered if thrift is a chromosomal trait -- as in the absent Y -- or if it's a genetic, inherited trait. Frugality ran in my family -- five girls -- but it skipped our brother. On the other hand, it also skipped his wife, who spends scads of dough on matronly clothing that she'll be able to wear til she's 80.

My 10 year old daughter is now asking to go to Valu Village when she's in the mood for a little something new, and I happily oblige. She told me the other day that her friend Megan bought a sweater from lulu Lemon, and she cried in alarm: "Mom, it's ridiculous to spend $185 for a sweater when you get one at VV for $6."

That's my girl. Now if only I could get her brother in there, we'd be all set.

I just happened on two fantastic websites: and both of which recommend thrift shopping for birthday and Christmas gifts, as long as the item has been carefully and specifically chosen for a particular person, and it's good value and in very good shape.

Sounds good to me. Maybe I can get Dear Daughter to host a VV party -- for her birthday even and they all get to shop til they drop.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

and then again...

No sooner did I finish my last post, but this came to my inbox from Christian quotation of the day,and humbled me. I must have more patience, and forebearance, just as the Lord has done with me:

Lord Jesus Christ! A whole life long didst thou suffer that I too might be saved; and yet thy suffering is not yet at an end; but this too wilt thou endure, saving and redeeming me, this patient suffering of having to do with me, I who so often go astray from the right path, or even when I remained on the straight path stumbled along it or crept so slowly along the right path. Infinite patience, suffering of infinite patience. How many times have I not been impatient, wished to give up and forsake everything; wished to take the terribly easy way out, despair: but thou didst not lose patience. Oh, I cannot say what thy chosen servant says: that he filled up that which is behind of the afflictions of Christ in his flesh; no, I can only say that I increased thy sufferings, added new ones to those which thou didst once suffer in order to save me. ... Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Journals,

Swells of Anger, troughs of pain

Dealing with anger again. What's it telling me? Angry about the continued lying to the world about his secret life behind the mask, angry about the dismissive attitude -- oh well, we just weren't suited (it took you 23 years to figure that out, or was it because you couldn't find the laundromat?). I wonder if what I'm really angry about is that it tells the world that I somehow was unsuitable, something less than worthy.

But it's more than that, I think, even though I am as weak in succumbing to my ego as the next person. It's the way the world dismisses vows, and commitments, especially those you make on behalf of the weaker -- our children. For all their sophistication, our children are fragile. And yet they're also strong. Maybe this will make them stronger, maybe it will shatter my daughter's chances for a good marriage, if she pursues life with a man who is as spiritually and psychologically unformed as her dad. Who can my son look up to now -- he has declared that his dad is no longer a role model. His dad gave up all that, because of something he thought might bring him happiness? Even the kids are smarter than that -- my daughter "got" the message of Where the Wild Things Are (you can't run away from your problems).

Met with a friend yesterday, and he says I should be relieved that he's gone, given what I now know. It was hard to explain to him that separation and divorce goes against everything I believe in, even while intellectually I know this is better now (does it bother me to admit that Tom was right -- this was a bad marriage? or because I don't get the opportunity to shout out that it's bad because he is ill and has no morals?).

But I also realize I'm doing exactly what my parents did -- my narcissistic mother, riddled with hypochrondria and sleeping pills, ranting to the skies about her horrible children, and my father allowing it to happen. (Even for all that, I'm healthier than my husband because I admit whereas he cannot be honest.)

But like my parents -- mother wrapped up in her navel and dad bound tightly to her illness --I'm wondering if I'm ignoring my children in order to obsess on the whys and wherefores of my h's behaviour. They need me focused on them, present, loving, fun and stable. I never thought I'd say this about my husband, but he's just not stable, and I was blind to not see it before.

Not exactly my most cogent post, but there you have it.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Living in the Light, radiating the Light

This journey of mine is an amazing testament to God's grace, because of the unbelievable number of Christian women He has set up along my path. I feel protected, upheld, and for once in my life worthwhile as in worth fighting for.

Last night as I lay awake for an hour or so (which I do most nights, wrestling with all this), I started having vivid memories of my relationship with my mother, and with others for whom I take on care for. That itself is a retreat from reality -- assuming I'm not worth caring about, and am only there to hold up others. But it'salso about not being willing to enter into that whole commitment thing that will allow me to accept care.

Being a researcher, I am one who relies on info from numerous sources before coming to a conclusion. I am trying to rely more on God alone, but He knows how I operate and knows how best to get me to listen. So He sends several women I trust and they give their two cents, which amounts to a goldmine (or should that be coppermine?).

The consistent message is that God wants me to live whole, which requires a transformed mind, heart and soul. I must move forward, like a butterfly wiggling out of its cocoon. Those around you who are mired in quicksand cause trouble when they attempt to pull others in with them. Being centred in Christ prevents falling into that quicksand with them. Being centred on God opens you to a renewal of the mind that proves the will of God in what's good, acceptable and pure.

Devotions point me forward too: 2 Corinthians, chapter 11, getting sucked in by smooth talking. In my case this isn't the snake oil salesman type, but a cool rational mind embodied by a responsible "family" man guy (who was living a secret life). St Paul talks about this sham -- especially relevant too the Corinthians with their rational Greek understanding of life and reality.

I happily bellied up to the bar of satisfaction, just like the Samaritan woman. I traded in the hard way for the easy way so many years ago, thinking that it was a breeze, paws off, Lord, I can handle this, and I am now paying for it. These are the wages of disobedience, and I can't let myself off the hook.

So, I could spend a lot of time looking backward, and worrying about my kids. OR, I can look forward and up, live a whole and satisfying life in the Lord, rejoicing in his abundance of gifts to me, and trusting that He will lead the way, that He can fix things.

I CANNOT fix things, no-how, no-way, no matter how "good" and pleasing I make myself, no matter how I try to meet other's needs. But I CAN live according to Him, by radiating His light. That only happens when we are securely fixed on Him.

Friday, January 01, 2010

roller coasters and other things...

This emotional ride is not as severe in some respects as it was 10 or 11 years ago when my husband first pulled his teenager tricks, but in other ways it's as bad. I am starting to recognize my own need to explain his behaviour to others who know him as not overly healthy for me. Although it enrages me that he is trying to pull the wool over his family's eyes (woe is me, I'm soooo unhappy), and not tell them the truth about his mistress (he wants a life of integrity, so how about start by telling the truth!), I also see that I'm playing a little of the victim game myself. Which doesn't help me move forward.

This first day of January is not only the beginning of a new year for me, but a new decade as well. There has been a huge amount of pain over the past decade, some of which I swept under the carpet partly because I'd absorbed as much as I could.

My husband's mistress wailed: mistresses are real people, mistresses have real feelings. The same goes for wives, sisters -- we are real people, we have real feelings, and why would I be content with a relationship that so degraded and devalued me? The only reason I closed my eyes to what was going on, was to preserve a home for my children. But my husband's leaving has ripped that wide open, and I am left with two choices: stay stuck with wishful thinking, or move ahead and live fully.

To alter the paralysis, I must move forward, even if it causes more upheaval and conflict within. That means leaving the past behind, because dwelling there is not where God wishes us to be, because God wishes us to have whole lives, not shadow lives. It means looking ahead, but only so far, because what the Lord wants more than anything is incarnational life, being fully present.

Moving forward means leaving the safety of the past, even though it is fraught with pain, betrayal, abandonment -- it's the devil I know.