In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

Friday, March 20, 2020

Life Keeps Being Tricky: And Now My Mom is Gone

Three and a half years ago, my mom had a massive stroke.  One where the doctors felt she had no chance of talking or walking again.  A true, FOR REALS, miracle occurred and within days she was talking and quickly coming back to her old self.  The only thing that I feel like my mom lost in her stroke was some kind of hardness that was in her heart.  I would never have described her as a hard hearted person by any stretch of the imagination, but after her stroke there was an openness and a softening that made her more fun and more loving and more accepting and more of all kinds of great things.  Although, her body was weakening, her soul heart was growing stronger.

The last three and half years have been my favorite three and half years with my mom.  In these last three and half years, my mom and I have done a lot of growing and we did it together.  

I knew that my mom's body, and particularly, her lungs, have been growing weaker for years and years, but I am still absolutely stunned that she is gone.  Just last week at this time, I was still talking to her about my day and that the kids will be out of school for a while and how my piano lessons went.  She was in the hospital, after getting pneumonia, but she has gotten pneumonia before and took antibiotics and she would be fine in a few days.  I still haven't caught up with the idea that she passed away on Sunday night.  Just one week ago, it was barely on my radar that would die from this.  By Friday, I was getting nervous, by Saturday, I was panicked, and on Sunday morning, her vitals looked much better, and by Sunday night, she was taken off of a heavy duty oxygen machine, and she passed away.  She was just so tired of coughing and just so tired of trying to breathe.  It seems so easy to breate, but her lungs said something different. I, for one, was in no way, ready or prepared for her to die. 

The things I'm grateful for over the past week:

1.  She came to see me and my kids a few days before she got sick, after being hesitant to drive all this way for a couple hours. During that time, I sat with her at my kitchen table, before my kids came home and laughed harder with her, than I think I ever have.  I remember thinking in that moment, that I was so lucky to have a mom that I still laugh with. It was a special moment. 

2.  I'm thankful that I got to talk to her on the Friday, before she died.  We actually even laughed then, too.  She was telling me that she asked the nurse the night before if he thought she would make it through the night and he said, "Well . . . .  hmmmmmm . . . .I'm not sure."  In her shock, she said, "You really think I might die tonight?????!!!!!!!" And he said, "Oh my gosh, NO! I thought you were asking if you were going to have to move rooms tonight."  We had a little laugh over that.  That was the last time I talked to her.

3. On Saturday, when things were quickly going downhill, I wrote a letter to her, after being urged by friends to put my writing to some real use. I'm so thankful that I did.  I got to say all of the important stuff that I wanted to say to her and she was awake the whole time that my dad read it to her.

4.  The Piano. This one is bittersweet.  It is hard to hear my kids practice this week, but I know that in a short time, that all the piano practicing I hear, will help bring my mom back to life in this house . . . just a little bit.  My mom was my teacher when I was growing up and for the last 11 years, she has taught me how to teach.  I can hear her in a lot of the instructions that I give my kids and other kids.  I also, have her hands, which I never wanted, growing up.  I would think, "I hope my hands don't look like that, when I get older."  Well, as it turns out, they do!  But they play the piano well, so I guess I won't get too hung up on how they look.  Every single time I put my hands on the piano, I think of my mom, because our hands look so much alike.

The things I'm having a hard time being grateful for right now:

1.  The Coronavirus.  I couldn't be with my mom in the hospital, because of the Coronavirus.  Only one visitor per patient and then on top of that, I had a little tiny, baby cold.  That baby cold, kept me from being able to be with her when she passed.  Plus, my sister was not able to fly out, when we thought things were looking dicey.  Here is the deal, I need people when life gets this kind of extra tricky, but people can't give hugs and be around each other.  We can't even have a funeral and be with family and friends during this time.  I hate this!!!! Of course, my dad, being the extreme introvert that he is, is OK with people not dropping in all the time.  

2.  That I can't talk to my mom on the phone anymore.  I averaged about 2.3 calls per day.  Sometimes we would talk for 10 seconds and sometimes we would talk for 2 hours.  But I was constantly in touch with her.  We could talk about the deepest, most sacred parts of our lives to the most mundane . . .  often ever in the same sentence.  There was no linear path in our conversations, but that never seemed weird.  I told my sister that she needs to start preparing for an increase in phone calls and that many will go a little something like this, "What is a shallot???"  I've already picked up the phone to call my mom a few times, because it is such a habit.  I can't imagine not being able to press "MOM," on my phone.  I'm surprised my phone doesn't have a dent in it, where her name shows up on my phone.

3.  After Dave died, I no longer had my person to be as proud of my kids as I am.  My mom became that person.  She thought my kids were pretty great.  Those pictures and videos that you normally send to your spouse, I sent to my mom.  And I would feel like I had someone to mutually share in my proudness. I just feel so sad about this.

Overall, I am just so grateful to have had a very loving mom, who was always pointing me to Jesus and who I truly believe was proud of who I am.  And I'm so grateful for those three and a half bonus years.  In those years, I left a very destructive marriage. You know how earlier I said that she had softened?  She had, but she also grew strong.  Her heart was so soft towards me and she believed me and she would weep with me and get angry with me and I was so thankful and grateful for the way she always defended my decision to get a divorce.  The way she defended me, was a testament to the strength that she grew, even as she was aging.  As I uncovered, layer at a time, what kind of relationship I was in, she read articles with me, listened to every summary of every counseling appointment, and just listened to whatever I needed to process.  All of that made me feel so secure and loved.  I couldn't have asked for her to walk that road with me any better.

And then there is parenting.  Less than two weeks ago, she sent me a video from Paul David Tripp about parenting.  It was one of the best talks about parenting that I've ever heard.  After I listened to it, she said, she wishes she could have a do-over with her parenting.  I feel a little guilty that I didn't say, "You were a fantastic parent, and never forget it"!!!  Instead, I said something like, "I'm sure I'll want a do-over, too."  But in a way, she got her do-over through me, as we had so many talks about parenting.  Maybe if Dave were still here, Dave and I would have been sorting that out together.  But since he wasn't, I would go to my mom to talk about parenting.  And parenting has been really, really, tough with one of my kids.  The "normal" way of parenting just doesn't work.  It's, again, another area where she supported how I did things.

And one last topic.  Jesus.  My mom loved Jesus. I am truly excited that she is with Jesus right now. The older she grew, the less her faith remained seated in rules and the more it became just about grace and Jesus.  If I counted the number of prayers she prayed for me, my kids, my family and my friends, I would be sitting here for a long time.  When I had a hard time going to church after my divorce, she completely understood.  Instead of giving me a lecture, she would send me an article on how others had the same experience with faith and church, as I did.  That was so incredibly loving of her.  When I started dating a non-believer, she only prayed and I can assume she is still praying.  She noticed the value that he has added to my life.  She handled it with such love and grace.  I mean, think if that had become a point of contentiousness in her last days?  That would have been awful.  The only thing she would say, is that she trusts me and that she thinks that God has a plan in all of it.  I know it wasn't her favorite, but she and I maintained a solid relationship and because she handled it with love, we were able to keep talking about it.

Her love for Jesus could be seen in a lot of different ways, as she was involved in many ministries and barely ever missed a Sunday.  But her love for Jesus was apparent to me, not through the ministries she was involved in, but through how she loved me.  

She died such a wise, grace giving, LOVING, mom.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Do I Still Qualify???

I am a little giddy about sitting down to write today.  It's been sooooo long.  I miss writing so much.  While, I don't have a lot of extra time to write due to being a single parent and because I have a full load of piano students, there are other reasons I have not written, which is kind of what I'll be writing about . . . that I'm not sure I feel qualified to write about Jesus anymore.  Let me explain.

I have no idea if everyone throughout time hits their 40's and then deconstructs their faith or if it is a sweeping idea across American Christianity right now.  It kind of seems like the latter, but I could be completely wrong.  I don't know if I am deconstructing my faith, but I am certainly challenging some ideas that I grew up believing.  This biggie, is one that I was taught was NOT true of the Christian faith, but I know that I feel it very deeply.  The basic idea, is that I can earn the love of God, by being a really obedient Christian.  I've always been taught, out loud, that I can not earn the love of God, but being where I am right now, I can tell I don't believe that.  I believe that I MUST be obedient to earn the love of God.

I have never challenged this idea until now.  I grew up going to church.  I grew up loving church and loving Jesus.  I quit club volleyball when I was in high school, because tournaments interfered with going to church on Sundays.  I went to a Baptist college.  I seriously think I had no more than 5 sips of alcohol until I was 35 years old.  I married a fellow Oklahoma Baptist University-ian.  We adopted a child from Ethiopia, because I had always felt called by God to do so.  When Dave, my husband, died, I walked closely to God, even in my anger towards him.  I averaged about one cuss word per alf a year and these lips never saw a cigarette or a drug. Why wouldn't God love me??? Even though I was well aware of my "little" daily sins, I just didn't struggle with feeling acceptable enough to be loved.

THEN . . . I got a divorce.  After the death of my first husband, I married somebody who sadly replaced control for genuine love.  I could not stay and could not allow my kids to stay.

I stayed as long as I did, because divorce meant possible hell.  Divorce meant, that I may no longer qualify for Gods love.  By the time I left, I had felt way more comfortable with leaving.  I felt like if I stayed I was disobeying God just as much as if I divorced.  It was basically a lose lose situation, so I may as well lose, and save the lives of me and my kids in the process.  (This was my thought process).

AND THEN . . . I did something I never thought I would do.  I started dating someone who is not a believer.  And I still am.  I love him.  Now, I feel very unqualified to be loved by God.  Somedays, I want to run back to the safety of my rules.  If I could return to being the model Christian, then maybe, I will feel like I'm back in the fold.  I feel unqualified to write about Jesus, to have any form of leadership in the Christian world (and I probably shouldn't), or to be looked on with approval by God.   I, seriously, can't imagine what it feels like to be LGBTQ and to also want to follow Jesus.  Do they struggle with the same questions of feeling acceptable enough to be loved by God?  I hope not.

I was talking to a piano student at lessons this last week.  We were talking about how we both feel like we have two different lives. The perfect Christian life and the life that came after the CRAZY in our lives.  Probably a lot of you can relate. A lot of you have had some crazy in your lives.  My crazy has certainly messed with my faith.  Probably most people who have lived with a spouse or parent that appeared to be very Christiany on the outside, but was different behind closed doors, knows how much it messes with your faith.  Then when others in the church community support them and not you, it devastates your faith, as they call his actions holy and mine, not. (Not everyone in my church community did this, but some did).  In these cases, spiritual abuse IS at play. I have been fortunate to have had really important conversations with some of the leadership from my former church, but it hasn't undone what happened to my faith throughout my divorce.

While it surprises me that I would find myself loving someone who doesn't share my beliefs about Jesus, it also doesn't at the same time.  On our second date, I LITERALLY cried throughout half of it, because it had been a LONG time, since I felt safe with a guy.  (I, to this day, can't believe he went on a third date with me after that cry fest. I mean . . . it was not just a tear or two.)  I was safe to be completely be me.  I definitely knew he wouldn't be using the Bible to shame me or question me.  But really, it was just a feeling of safety and care.

But back to the question at hand.  Am I unqualified for God's love, because of this choice I am making.  Would I, all of the sudden, be qualified, if my sweet boyfriend gave his life to Jesus tonight???  Is God's love that finicky?  Is it based on what I do, or is it REALLY based on what he has done.  I can tell you, that ever since I got a divorce, I still can't keep my tears in whenever I think of Jesus.  I just can't. And it's been that way, ever since my tidy Christian persona came to a halt.  I have NEVER felt the depth of his love in such great measure, than when I feel so undeserving.  I've spent my first 43 years of life pretty much feeling like I was deserving of being in the IN crowd of Jesus.  I just can't believe that he sees me as pure, because of what HE has done.  How can it be?

I have one lovely, but difficult daughter, who is CONSTANTLY asking in a million different ways, a million times a day, if she is loved.  She has had an impossible life, with WAY more hurt than any child should have by age 11. It is so beyond frustrating and exhausting that she can NOT seem to wrap her arms around the idea that my love for her has ZERO to do with her behavior, accomplishments and failures.  How many times have I begged her to just believe that the ONLY requirement for my love is that she is my daughter?????  Why am I so confused by her distrust of my love when I have the same trouble believing that my behavior and my accomplishments have ZERO to do with how much my Father loves me, even though he has already shown me the depth of his love by dying for me?

It is a little crazy how I knew most answers to my faith when I was in my 20's and now, all I can say, is JESUS.  And then the tears come.  I know nothing . . . but Jesus.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Perfect Moments

I just went back and read my post from the beginning of the summer. It was called "Grief Interrupted." I talked about how marrying my ex and being in crazy town for a few years, short-cutted (I doubt that is a word) my grief process and I felt like I was back near the starting line.  I was quite the special MESS in June and the raining weather DID NOT HELP one tiny bit!  I was missing Dave . . . BIG TIME.  I was missing all that he would have added to our lives, if he were still here.  It was worthy of missing, no doubt about that!

At the beginning of the summer, when I would think of Dave, it was like I was right back near the beginning of my grief walk. It was like my whole body and mind departicalized and was transported back in time to feel the intensity of grief all over again. (Do I sound dramatic?)  One could say it was sweet that I still missed and loved Dave so much, but I DID NOT like it.  I felt like I had a long road ahead of me AGAIN!  With all sorts of grief feelings bearing down on me, I decided to ramp up my counseling schedule.  It paid off!  I don't know if you have ever tried EMDR as a form of therapy, but it sure does wonders for me!!!  The most basic way I describe it, is that is pulls the emotion out of the memory of something really painful.  You still remember the person or the incident, of course, but your body and brain and emotions, don't react to it, as if you were right back in the middle of it again.  Trauma is tricky biz, peeps! 

The first trip in the summer, was to the Sand Dunes.  I was hurting for Dave so hard, and couldn't pull myself together.  By the time I was driving to Oklahoma in July, I realized that I wasn't experiencing the same sense of loss and "I'm missing the magic of Dave," that I had on my first vacation of the summer.  The potential for the grief to pop back up was there, but I went on to more camping trips and a trip to Connecticut and my thoughts and emotions were in a much lighter place.  I'm not going to lie . . . it is no easy task logistically to prepare to camp with three kids and get on planes and get cars packed and get camping meals prepped, and all that other stuff, but that is simply an inconvenience, it's not some kind of deep heart issue.

So, starting at the beginning of July, I had so many "perfect moments."  I try so hard to taste and savor and capture the memory of those moments.  One place I experience many perfect moments is at my pool. Even though, sometimes, I miss Dave when I'm there, I had multiple "perfect moments," playing volleyball with the sun setting and my kids running around aimlessly, this summer.  One time, I even played for someone else's team and I didn't even know it.  I jumped on the court and announced, "I'm here."  I played the entire MATCH, thinking that we sure had a lot of subs that night and no one even bothered to tell me that I was playing on the wrong team, at the wrong time.  That is how gracious Valley volleyball players are!
So many beautiful sunsets from the pool.
Valleyball - Where the most important rule is to laugh a lot, while playing!
I love watching my kids swim.  Diving off the blocks is my favorite to watch.
I, also, love watching my kids form fun friendships!

I had perfect moments with friends, backpacking and camping. I had perfect moments just sitting on my deck.  I had perfect moments traveling to see my sister and her family. And last, but not least, it was a perfect moment when school started back up again.  I have a lot of fun with my kids, but I was ready to get back into a schedule.  I'm thankful for their love of school and for their teachers that love them so well!
Backpacking with friends!

I mean, this was beautiful!

Summer, camping, campfires, friends.  I love it!

I feel so thankful that I was able to experience these "perfect moments" without the shadow of grief on them. Had you asked me if that was possible at the beginning of the summer, I would have said, "NO WAY!"  I'm guessing that grief will circle back around, because that is just kinda what it does, but I always have to keep remembering that it will pass.  It's hard to remember that in the midst of it, but I'm learning.
Laughing is my favorite!

Friday, September 6, 2019

Immediate Healing

I just had to sit down and write yesterday, and this is what came out!

Last March (2018), while I entertained the thought of leaving my marriage, I thought that I would be facing years of counseling to put my delicate, unidentifiable, self back together.

About two weeks before I left, I remember sitting with some friends for dinner, and one of them asked me about doing some kind of skit or something like that and I flat out refused and I thought to myself, "No way!!!!!  I'm not even funny anymore.  In fact, I have no idea who I am anymore!?!?!" (Some of you may thinking that it's funny that I ever considered myself to be funny at all, but
anywho . . .).   I felt like the essence of who I was, was no longer even present inside of me. . . anywhere???? Talk about terrifying!!!!   At that point I was 98.7 percent sure I was leaving my marriage, (however, I had been there a couple times before and didn't leave) barring some crazy miracle and I wondered how long it would be, before I would feel like myself again . . .  if ever. I thought I would be some delicate, broken, child, for a long time, needing countless hours of therapy and whole lotta time.  I can tell you, with great relief, that as soon as I walked through the door of my old house and into a new life without my ex, it SERIOUSLY was like something supernatural happened.  It's like whatever was so heavy and whatever I was wearing that kept me from being me, stayed behind me as I walked through the threshold of my previous HOME.  It's like it wasn't allowed inside and it just fell away, turned to dust and blew away.  I think that requires an Hallelujah!  It nearly brings me to tears. OK . . . I am teary.  It just reminds me so much of how gracious Jesus was to do that, and I didn't even ask or expect it.  These are some of the first pictures, after we moved back into our HOME, last summer!!!!!

All last summer, I couldn't believe how immediate the relief was and shocked at how in one instance, I felt like I was back to myself.  I did go to counseling and did some, for reals, intense work with EMDR, which is a form of therapy, in relation to my ex. But my whole point is that, when I left him, I felt like a whole person almost immediately. And I would not consider it a stretch to say that I felt like MORE of a whole person after going through an abusive relationship and leaving it, than I did, even before Dave died.  I didn't feel delicate, I felt strong.  I was certainly wounded, but I was not wrecked. I thought my kids would be broken and angry that I was leaving, but they were relieved to the core and forgiving of me (mostly) for not leaving earlier. I did not feel condemned (by Jesus), like I expected. In fact, NEVER EVER  have I felt so loved and taken care of in the most gentle way, by Jesus, than when I left.  Sadly, I kinda miss that feeling and consider it a true gift that I had a season where my God was so incredibly personal and just . . . so gentle, when I thought I would feel debilitating guilt.  These are all things that I absolutely didn't expect and didn't even think to entertain, before I left my marriage.  I absolutely didn't expect to feel whole so quickly and I absolutely did not expect to feel that Jesus was the most understanding and gentle of anybody.  I guess that says a lot about how I viewed (view) Jesus.

Now a good solid year away from moving back to my house, I still find myself questioning the character of Jesus.  It's so easy for me to fall back into seeing Jesus as condemning.  For instance, I used to be such a good little Christian (I mean, I don't really think I'm "good," but "a good little Christian," who doesn't get drunk, loves Sunday morning church, reads my Bible consistently, adopted a child for crying out loud, and certainly didn't get divorces!!!) Now, things are different.  I don't really love church anymore, after this whole ordeal.  I feel cynical, I feel distrustful, I feel confused about the church.  When I hear messages of how to love well as a Christian or how to turn the other cheek or to put others before yourself, or countless other messages, I just die inside, because I know these messages are trapping and guilt inducing and confusing for those in destructive marriages.  And often times the abuser uses these very messages to reiterate how the other is deficient at loving well.  What is really quite astonishing is how quickly I return to the idea that I don't qualify to receive his voice and his love, since I don't really love church, and I'm questioning so much about my faith, yet I can hardly say the name Jesus, without dying in pile of tears, because I love him so much and I'm so beyond grateful for His presence, His love and His grace.

Friday, June 28, 2019

Grief Interupted

About six months ago, I was feeling guilty for feeling like I had sufficiently moved past all intense emotions about Dave and feeling like I was good to go, in moving forward in life.  It's like in the movie Father of the Bride, Part 2 that I watched six trillion times, when the movie starts and Steve Martin says, "It's like the saying goes, all those who think you've got it made, take one step forward . . . not so fast George Banks." (is it sad that I have that memorized???) All of the sudden I am backwards.  Like, as in, WAY BACKWARDS.  I feel like I'm back at where I should have been at summer number two.  It feel ridiculous, but then again, it kinda makes sense.

Nine months after Dave died, I started my nine month survival plan of living with a terribly herniated disc.  Life became all about managing my physical pain.  Then in the middle of that whole ordeal, I met my ex.  When we got married, I was pretty much, not allowed to have any of Dave's stuff anymore or even talk about him, and having a feeling about him, was way out of the question.  If I would tell a very neutral story from the years that I was married to Dave, it would not go well. I would say something like, "when WE went to the Sand Dunes, it was so incredibly windy." Then my ex would sarcastically say, "I never realized that WE went to the Sand Dunes together."  Then I would try to use I, instead of we, and say, "I went to the Sand Dunes once and it was so incredibly windy."  Again, according to my ex, I got it wrong and he would say, "Oh, you went there by yourself???"  Then I would just sigh and give up telling my story, or I would ask him to choose the pronoun he would like me to use.  It was too exhausting to ever tell a story, not even about Dave, but any story that took place while I was married to Dave.  This is one tiny little picture of what emotional abuse looked like in my marriage to my ex.  It wasn't like he would call me names or tell me I wasn't worthy. In fact, often times his words were complimentary, which is what makes these relationships so confusing.

And don't even get me started on Dave's birthday or death day.  I didn't even want them to exist, because managing my ex around those times, took more out of me, than taking time to remember Dave.  If I had a feeling about Dave that I would dare to express, my ex would express how difficult it was to be married to someone who had lost a spouse.  There simply wasn't enough room for me to have a feeling about missing Dave, because that was just too hard for my ex and then I would have to manage his feelings and his passive aggressiveness that would inevitably ramp up to a level 10.  It was so impossible.

As, I type this, no wonder I am so far back in the grief process.  I seriously had to shut so much of Dave down, as soon as I put that ring on.  It is so sad. Last summer, I did not feel this way.  I felt immense relief and some serious anger, but now that those are diminishing, the sadness and the vacancy that Dave left, is so stark and so sharp.  I've decided that I do NOT do sad, very well.  In fact, I seriously hate it.

I've done a lot of choking back tears lately.  Like a couple Fridays ago, when I went to pick up Spencer at Eagle Lake Camp, where Dave and I were both campers at the SAME TIME, when we were Spencer's age. What are the chances of that happening???  I can't even imagine how different it would have been to drop Spencer off at camp or pick him up, with Dave there???  Then when we got back, I took the girls to get mountain bikes and we all went for a mountain bike ride.  It felt so great to take care of all of that on my own and get them out there, because I knew Dave would be cheering us all on, but the cloud of sadness that he was not WITH us, was pressing in so hard that day.  Then after that we went to the pool and I got to play some volleyball . . . yet another thing Dave and I enjoyed doing together. I loved everything I did that day, but I couldn't get away from heavy sadness that comes with doing Dave things.  It's like I want to carry on all these things that we did together and I want my kids to learn all the things they would have if Dave were here, but doing those things, also hurts, lately.

I can't even seem to speak his name without crying, lately. I was timing at a swim meet, when someone asked how he died and I instantly began to leak tears.  It is just so right back on the surface, for LITERALLY crying out loud.   I broke down in Taco Bell, of all places, the other day.  May I remind you, this is 6 1/2 years later??????  It feels ridiculous to me!!!! My kids were with me and they were like, "What the heck?" So I told them I was missing Dave and then I went on for a bit.  I said, "Are you guys tired of listening to me talk, yet."  Spencer said, "I'll never get tired of hearing you, mom."  Leah goes, "I will!"  I want to be fine without him and without any other guy, for that matter.   I am relearning again how to do this life and parenting without Dave, (or anyone else) yet again.  This time, for reals!

Oh, one quick story from our bike riding time, was when they all started to do some bouldering and the girls were having a hard time getting back down.  I was at the bottom telling them to get busy getting down and that it was taking forever, because that is the kind of patient mom I am!!!  Meanwhile, Spencer had climbed over to them and told them where to put each foot and he talked them down all instructively (is that a word?) and calmly.   It was SOOOOOOOOOO Dave, that I started laughing out loud!!!!  Spencer is SUCH a mini-Dave in his just simple kindness.  It's not from me!!!!!!

Father's Day just recently passed.  I just wanted to pretend that the day was just like any other day.  I've already felt so griefy lately, that I just didn't want to entertain all those sad feeling that I'm evidently NOT good at, whatsoever. I was doing such a good job at forgetting that it was Father's Day, that I got on Facebook, where every post is about how wonderful everybody's dad is, complete with perfect family photos. I was in mid gag, when I came across this post called, "Let the Children Fly," and it challenged me to work A LOT harder that day to honor Dave, by using the day to talk about the men in my kids' lives that are examples of good fathers. Lately, I tend to want to point out what makes up an unhealthy person, but after reading that post,  I tried to use Father's Day to talk about what makes a good father. They had some really good ideas on what makes a good father. I ended up letting them take the lead on the day, and they decided that they wanted to play mini golf at Dave's favorite spot.  And then at dinner that night, Leah prayed and thanked God for all the Father's out there.  She was thankful for fathers, even though she doesn't have one here on earth????????  My kids are quite possibly so much further than I am.  So, to the men in my kids' lives, they are watching and God may be using you, more than you know, when you live lives of integrity, honesty, kindness, and faithfulness.
This is a father that my kids didn't know super well, but man, all three of my kids really looked up to him.  We will miss you, Ted Woodard! 

This weekend, I'm headed to an Aldridge reunion of sorts.  I'm so thankful for my continued relationship with Dave's family.  I love them so much. Sometimes when I think things will be hard, they are not, and sometimes when I least expect it, the grief hits. Either way, I'm thankful to still be a part of Dave's family.

One last parting thought.  I am not really a lyrics person.  I don't need deep lyrics to enjoy a song, but I do like a fun beat, (that's just how deep I am).  With Tween's in the car, I've gotten a lot of Tweeny music exposure.  One of my favorite songs, lately, is, "Broken and Beautiful," by Kelly Clarkson.  It's how I feel about writing a post like this.  It's this mix of, "I've got this!" "Hold me!" "My broken is beautiful!" Some of the lyrics are:

I don't need your help and I don't need sympathy
I don't need you to lower the bar for me

I know I'm Superwoman
I know I'm strong
I know I've got this 'cause I've had it all along
I'm phenomenal
And I'm enough
I don't need you to tell me who to be

Can someone just hold me?
Don't fix me, don't try to change a thing
Can someone just know me?
'Cause underneath, I'm broken and it's beautiful  


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Here We Go . . . I'm Gonna Tell My Story

Holy Cow! It's not actually all that long before Spencer goes to college. 
You wanna know the random thought that floats through my head all the time?  I picture my kids going to college, where nobody knows their story already.  I picture them having to tell a little about themselves in a welcome week group and they start with the framework of their little lives and they say something like, “My name is Spencer. I am from Colorado.  I love soccer, skiing, camping and I play the piano.  I grew up with the best mom in the world (my own words are in italics) and two younger sisters. One of my sisters is Ethiopian and was adopted when I was five.  Sadly, my dad died while jogging to work one morning when I was six years old and then a couple years later, my mom married another guy. He ended up being pretty abusive.  But we got out of that and life just went on from there.”

It just doesn’t feel real that that is the story of MY kids???  The Aldridge kids???  That can’t be me, he is talking about to his new college friends!!!  A mom that got into an abusive marriage???  Only really weak, not well, messed up moms get into relationships like that, right???  It’s so embarrassing and still so shocking that that was me . . . in a totally, completely, dysfunctional, destructive marriage, dragging my kids through the whole deal.  While it is embarrassing to share, I will share, because it was two girls from college, actually, who shared their story and gave me the strength to face my reality.  They were NOT messed up girls.  They were strong, they were leaders, they were so kind, and they were beautiful and they were both very brave to share their stories and were a critical part of me understanding my reality.  They took away the myth about who marries these types of people, for me.

Part of not getting out earlier, a HUGE PART, was desperately wanting to bring our marriage to some state of health and normalcy, so that I didn’t have to sit here, like I am in this very moment, at Starbucks, and be not only a divorced woman, but an abuse victim (which I’ll talk more about in a second). The countless hours pleading with God to turn our marriage around, revolved so much around just the shame of getting a divorce, the belief that divorce was some unpardonable sin and, also, that a divorce would jeopardize my reputation as a good Christian and as someone who would simply just never get a divorce (as if I am better than people who do get divorces). In addition, I pleaded for a normal marriage, because I wanted my kids to have a step dad who loved them, a husband who treated me like he loved me and because marriage can be so much fun and so many wonderful things. I desperately did NOT want my reality to be that I was in a destructive marriage, so I worked so incredibly hard to make that not true and believe that is was not true.  To no avail, of course. 

It may sound like I am being hard on myself.  I don’t believe, anymore, that I was just plain stupid to get into a relationship like this.  I was maybe ignorant about the fact that people like this really exist. And let me tell you, they are everywhere and they are sneaky and they are hidden and they are tricky. That statistic feels IMPOSSIBLY HIGH, but once I was on the other side, I can not go anywhere, without meeting people who have been in relationships similar to mine.  It's just that now I have ears to pick up on it and I'm not afraid to start asking questions. I truly believe it is an epidemic. 

I was also very trusting and why shouldn’t I be???  I was married for eight and a half years to Dave, the most straightforward, easy going man. It never even crossed my mind to not trust Dave - even once.  OK . . . maybe once for about 6 seconds when he was all giddy about running the Ragnar overnight race with pretty much all cute, younger women from work.  I was like, “don’t act that excited as all these cuties are pulling up in our driveway.”  But, honestly, I actually thought it was cute.  I just didn’t have it in me to not trust him.  I just trusted him and he trusted me.  All that to say, these people that manipulate and control and lie in these types of relationships don’t discriminate.  In fact, sometimes they target strong women and Christian women, because they know strong women will fight to make the marriage work and their Christian beliefs will also keep them trapped in a marriage. And strangely enough, after my last post a million months ago, I had a decent number of women who had lost their husbands and then found themselves in a marriage like mine, next. I don’t know how to explain that one, but it was weird.   

Some people will give me an excuse and say that I was in a vulnerable position when I met Tony.  And I was, no doubt!  I had only lost Dave a little over a year, when I met my ex.  I was also in a lot of physical pain for many months, with a herniated disc. But that is NOT why I got sucked into this marriage.  Maybe, those things had a little to do with it and maybe he targeted me, but mainly,  it was that I, literally, knew NOTHING of this type of person.  Plain and simple.  

Earlier in this post, I wrote that I was an abuse victim. I honestly don’t know how I feel about that label. There was, FOR SURE, financial abuse, where I was clearly a victim and could do nothing about some of it.  So, I will take on the victim label there, but the rest . . .  I don’t really know.  I chose to stay, even though I knew it was JACKED UP!  I could have left earlier and I almost did at a mere 3 months and again at two years.  However, I didn’t understand what I was dealing with at those points and I was too afraid to really look.  So, I don’t know what to really say about that, but that every time I think of myself as a victim of spiritual and emotional abuse (which is a term now that almost makes some people say, “whatever,” but I don’t know what else to call it) I don’t feel comfortable with it.  Maybe because I don’t want it to be true, or maybe, because if I had the choice to get out, then how could I be a victim?  In fact, I guess I do believe that I was no longer a victim, when I took off my blinders, got educated with articles, counseling and books and knew what I was dealing with.  Once I knew what I was dealing with, I was making a choice to stay and I was no longer a victim. Anyway, thanks for talking through that with me!!!!!   

What really blows, is that when I finally got real, and left and told the truth about it all, there were people that simply didn’t believe me or wanted to diminish my story for some reason.  In my case, the people that flat out didn’t believe me, were mostly men and they were also people that interacted with my ex a decent amount.  This phenomena will, to the end of my days, baffle me. This was far, far, more shocking to me than almost anything my ex did. 

Nothing became surprising with my ex, because he was not well, but people that I have known for a long time and do not seem to have mental illness, their responses to me leaving were either no response at all or opposed to me leaving.  

Sidebar:  TO BE CLEAR, there were a few men, that did see through my ex and would not entertain his victim playing.  Of course, my ex wouldn’t interact with those few men who wouldn’t entertain my ex’s games and fake humility. I really can’t tell you how much I appreciate those few men, though. They have been and continue to be an important part of my healing, just knowing that they stood up for me and that there are men like that out there. 
Anyway . . . I have about six hundred more sidebars to share that I just feel some need to share them at this time.  My goal is to share my story.  Over the past 14 months, since I have left the marriage, it has actually become somewhat of a distant memory already, which I feel is an incredibly tender mercy from God. For a while, I thought I’d never be able to think of anything, but that messed up-ness. I was so consumed by it. Now that I'm not consumed by anger and survival, but the memories are still there, I want to write about a few things, that relate to being in a destructive marriage.  Maybe my story will help someone else who is trying to understand their own crazy in a relationship, or maybe it will only help me to move through what is still hanging on me, from all of this.  These writing may accomplish nothing, but I just feel compelled to write at this point.  So stay tuned, if you want.  I plan on writing some more.    

Friday, January 25, 2019

Six Years Later (and a month, but who's counting?)

We have now celebrated six of Dave's death days.  I can go back in my memory and describe how I was feeling surrounding the last six deathaverssaries.  The first, I was in absolute survival mode and in so much physical pain with my busted disc that my only goal that day was to survive.  The second, was about the most normal one.  The next three were were miserable and impossible, but not because of grief. The next was so rich, but it took an extreme amount of energy to guard the sacredness of that day.  And now this one.  Year six. Personally, I think it is a good sign that I didn't feel so pressed to write about it in any hurried manner.

A few months ago, I did kind of get a little/lot panicky.  The dates were lined up, just as they were the year that Dave died.  The year he died, school ended on a Friday and I was supposed to go in and help with Spencer's Kindergarten Christmas party.   The next day we were headed to Pagosa Springs, to ski and celebrate Christmas on a Tuesday, with his entire side of the family.  Fast forward to 2018.  This year, school ended on a Friday, with Christmas parties as usual. We were headed up to Pagosa to ski and celebrate Christmas, on a Tuesday, with Dave's entire side of the family.  I was starting to feel like I needed something to be different or that something bad might happen again, with everything lined up so exactly the same.

As Christmas began to creep closer, I expected my fears to escalate, but they did the exact opposite.  I don't know if it had to do with God's continued whisper to me that HE is the SUSTAINER of my life and the life of my kids, or if it was some EMDR work that really helped surrounding this, but I imagine it was a little of both.  In fact, I felt a little over EMDR'ed potentially, because I was actually looking forward to the day in a sweet way.

Truth be told, I actually felt almost a little guilty about feeling so OK with the day and even accepting  of Dave's death.  It was an unfamiliar feeling, for sure. Here is my pattern now. I have that unfamiliar feeling of being a little too OK with Dave's death, so then I feel guilty for about one second and then it is quickly followed by a little smile.  You know why?  Because I am 10,000% sure that Dave is so proud of me and our kids.  He's so proud that we are moving on and enjoying life.  He's so proud that I left an unsafe situation, as scary as it was.  He is so proud that even his death doesn't have the same hold as it has in the past.  He's so proud that we are looking forward to the future.  And he is so proud of who I am, who Spencer is, who Leah is, and who Macie is. (I can't be sure he's proud of Emmit, because he REALLY loved Charles, the dog).  I just know it and I am 10,000% sure that he would want it this way, because DAVE WANTED GOOD THINGS FOR US!  I can't tell you how much I loved that about him and how much that character quality of his, helps me now.

So, on Dave's death day, we really just enjoyed the day with the four of us.  We saw the movie, Ralph Breaks the Internet  (I never would have chosen to see that movie, but I loved it), we did a little last minute Christmas shopping, and then we went to one of those pottery painting places.  We painted plates with things that reminded us of Dave.  Then in the evening, we went home and watched Christmas Vacation, because that is what Dave and I did the night before he died.  I still feel so lucky that Dave and I had such a sweet night, the night before he died.  What a gift!

At the top of Spencer's plate, he added the quote,  "Did you see the Peak?" because EVERY time it snowed on Pikes Peak, Dave would call
from work and make sure we saw the snow up there!

My Dave quote was, "Before we go, everyone needs to pick up
10 pieces of trash."  This quote is meaningful to me, because until
his funeral, I thought maybe he just said that to our family, but one of
his friends that spoke, included that Dave quote in his talk. One thing
I loved at his funeral is that everything I heard was so consistent with
who I knew Dave to be. He was the same person with everyone he
met.  Dave was just Dave.

Another incredible gift that happened the week of Dave's death day is this little story.  I LOVE this.  So, a couple weeks prior, a friend sent me a picture of Macie when she was still in Ethiopia.  It made me realize that I was missing some pictures.  So, I took a cursory glance around for Dave's old phone, wondering if I ever got the pictures off of it.  I couldn't find it, but then I was looking for something else a week later and came across his phone in the most random place ever.  It said it was disabled, but I tried to sync it with my computer and it actually worked.  Some of the pictures I had, but some of them I had NEVER seen and there were a number of videos that I had, also, NEVER EVER seen.  Evidently, when Macie came home, I was busy falling apart and Dave was busy taking videos of her.  So, the week of Dave's death day, you could find the four of us huddled around my computer, watching these new found treasures.

I love the timing of this discovery.  It was so perfect.  I'm so happy that we didn't discover them until now, because now they feel so untainted.  I love that the kids can hear Dave in the videos.  When I took videos it was usually of the kids and not Dave, believe it or not, and usually he was at work or wherever.  But in the videos he took, it was his voice and his personality that you get to know.  There were a couple videos that I think the kids watched literally 20 times.  Those videos were not ones where my kids were performing or doing something video worthy, but they were videos where Dave was interacting with them.  I think they were so hungry to know what Dave was like with them.  I won't post those, because they feel so sacred to my kids, but I want to post a couple of them to share Dave's voice and to share this perfectly timed little treasure.