Father Of The Bride

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My first husband, Chuck, and I were married in May of 1989. We had a fairy tale wedding — no two people were more in love than we.

A year into our marriage we learned that we were expecting our first child. I was frightened, but from the moment he found out, Chuck was elated. Once I overcame my initial fears, we had a great time planning and dreaming, making lists of names, buying baby clothes, putting the crib together. Chuck wanted a girl and shared with me so many of the things he couldn’t wait to do if we were blessed with a daughter, but the greatest thing he looked forward to was lifting her up and swinging her around in the air.

He died on a stormy afternoon, the day after our baby’s due date. Our daughter, Melody, was born a week later. Devastated over the loss of my husband, my heartbreak deepened when I delivered our beautiful baby and discovered Chuck had been sent the daughter he had yearned for but would never get to meet.

My Melody is now 24 years old and in eight days she will be walking down the aisle to marry her soul mate. She and I have had talks about her daddy, we’ve discussed how to take traditional roles her dad would have filled at the wedding and how to change them to accommodate someone else without giving the impression that they are filling in or taking his place. I was honored when she asked me to help walk her down the aisle and to give the ‘Father-of-the-Bride’ speech.

I’ve lamented the unfairness of his absence during Melody’s life, but today I’m especially grieved that he won’t be physically present on her wedding day. I don’t need lectures on how nothing in life is fair — I’m well aware. It doesn’t change that outrageous feeling, though. Melody and I were robbed, it wasn’t fair, I have never gotten over it, and I know I never will.

But that’s okay. It’s okay to have moments where I say it’s not fair. God hears me and I believe He’s just quietly and lovingly acknowledging that no, it isn’t fair, but it will be alright.

As I take that slow, sweet walk with my daughter on her wedding day I believe Chuck will be there walking with us. I think he’s happy for his baby girl and is bursting with pride over the remarkable woman she has become.

I know I am.

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Perspectacles

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I’m hard on myself. I’m my own worst critic. When a mistake is made by me, no matter how small, my negativity is all over it in a heartbeat. When I can’t accomplish something, my pessimistic, doomsaying spirit reinforces what a failure I am. It’s a horrible way to speak to myself, a caustic and damaging way to see myself.  When I realize it’s happening sometimes I can talk myself away from the harsh perspective I have of myself.

I spent the week deep cleaning our house. Atticus and the boys did the heavy lifting, but I took on the scrubbing, sweeping, and mopping during the quiet mornings when the kids were at school and Atticus was still sleeping. I accomplished much in short amounts of time with no interference — no one needing something from me.

Then I paid the price for the physical exertion in the form of extreme pain, chasing it, of course,with a destructive criticism cocktail. How could I think I was going to be able to keep taking care of my family when just doing basic cleaning was debilitating? I might as well just quit. They’d be better off without me and my limitations dragging them down.

My greatest investment of late has been a wonderful pair of perspectacles. They help me see through my damaging perspective. Once I remembered to put on my perspectacles I was able to see how much more I am to my family than just the cook or cleaning lady.

Yesterday a nurse from Sprout’s school called and said he was ill. When I spoke to him he said he was too sick to remain and finish out the day, so we went to the school and picked him up. When we returned home I suggested that he lie on the couch, watch cartoons, drink some juice, just rest and be still. He didn’t seem sick to me, but I know sometimes we don’t look the way we feel. Sprout quickly got bored with resting and wanted to run around and play. All afternoon Atticus and the teens warned Sprout that he was supposed to be resting. By dinner it was obvious that he wasn’t really sick.

I spent the evening in bed, resting and reading, and trying to reduce my pain. Sprout came to me and started telling me about a boy in his class who is very mean. Apparently this boy was making some threats yesterday that scared Sprout enough to make him want to come home. If I wasn’t waiting at home, where would Sprout have felt safe? To whom could he have turned to feel protected?

Mommy is more than clean house and food. Mommy is safety, security, stability. Mommy is boundaries and accountability. Mommy is hugs and kisses and love. Mommy is an empathetic ear during hurtful times, cheerleader during triumphs, coach in learning experiences, sounding board during decision-making.

Mommy is valued.

Having difficulty seeing yourself with gentleness and grace?

Invest in a proper pair of perspectacles.

Perspectacles

Perspectacles

Thank you for joining me today for the A – Z September Blogging Challenge. Please take a moment to visit our other participants:

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http://freckledfaerie.blogspot.com/

Mom

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It’s hard being a mom.

I’ve been a widowed mom, an abused mom, a survivor mom, a warrior mom, a single mom, a happily married mom, and a step-mom. There is not a stage of being a mom that is easy or uncomplicated. We don’t receive a guide when we deliver our firstborn, although I do tell my kids all about the rules in the Mommy Handbook that came with each one of them before we left the hospital. When they are young they believe in such a book and are more willing to follow the rules because they purportedly come from a book of life skills.

I’m always a bit sad when they come to the realization that there’s no Mommy Handbook. I wonder what they think — what assumptions they make, what conclusions they draw. Do they realize Mom is just winging it? That I’m just living day-to-day garnering wisdom as I walk this life? Do they understand that the reason I fail at making certain decisions is because I’m just as human, as incomplete, as fallible as they? Are they able to comprehend that much of what I do, what I teach them, and where I lead them is based off of gut feelings? Still, they trust me to keep leading them despite my shortcomings and downright failures.

Nothing I’ve ever gone through in my life was as challenging or difficult — or rewarding — as being a mom, but in writing this I’ve realized I survived it all because I was a mom — for the sake of the hearts who depended solely on me.

What great and boundless love we have for the children we call our own, whether they were delivered from our own bodies, or entered our hearts in other ways. What wouldn’t we do for them?

What, indeed.

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

My family at Bok Tower and Gardens

Thank you for joining me today for the A-Z September Blogging Challenge. I hope you’ll take a moment to visit some of our other writers:

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In Tune

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In my Giving Up post I shared some wisdom from my daughter regarding my need to take some time to pursue personal interests and friendships outside my home and family. It didn’t take long to search the activities of our local libraries to find a writer’s group to join. I’m very excited to participate and have the opportunity to work and talk with local writers.

After my talk with Melody I asked God to help me find some activities in which to involve myself. I suppose I asked Him in a roundabout way to help me make friends here, although I wasn’t specific because I have that whole lack-of-trust thing. I never really hold my breath that I’ll make any close friends because I don’t think many people ‘get’ me. Atticus is my closest friend and I know he doesn’t understand certain things, although he tries, yet he always accepts me even when he doesn’t fathom certain idiosyncrasies of mine. I treasure this about him — it helps me feel safe and loved, but I know people such as he are rare.

I used to be very independent and self-sufficient. I was always proud of that. After Atticus and I married, there wasn’t a need to do so much of those things and very quickly he and I were doing everything together. We never spend time apart. It isn’t necessarily a terrible thing, but we rely only on each other, which can lead to bad things…we can’t always depend on each other being there. As my disease advances I count on him more and more to help me walk a semi-straight line from point A to point B, and recently I realized I need to reclaim all the autonomy I can while I can still have it. I need to learn what my limitations are and I really can’t do that when I’m always depending on Atticus.

I’ve begun doing more on my own and at the outset I felt scared and unsure — even just to drive myself — but it turns out I can do plenty and get around fine with a little bit of ingenuity.

Earlier in the week, on Scout’s birthday, she and I went grocery shopping — just the two of us. It was very early morning and not many people were out yet. When we arrived at Aldi there were just a handful of cars in the parking lot and I was so grateful because I knew it would mean a basically empty store and few people to have to navigate around. When we entered the store I could see a few retired couples and two women with two small children. Scout and I made our way up and down the aisles, filling our cart as we went,  and she waved and giggled with the two other children. As I was finishing up the shopping Scout started singing that it was her birthday and one of the two women asked me if is was really her birthday, then wished her a happy day and asked her some questions. She was so kind to my daughter and I was so pleased that Scout had someone else wish her a lovely birthday. As I turned to keep walking, I felt God nudge me and tell me to talk to the woman.

“Uh, no way, God. I’m not talking to a stranger at Aldi,” I replied and walked on.

“You asked for help and I’m giving it,” He continued.

“I’m not doing it.” I think I heard him tsk, tsk, tsk, but maybe that was just the guilt I felt over arguing with Him. It took a while to unload our overflowing cart, but just as the cashier was finishing up our purchases, the mom and her kids entered the line right behind us.

“You need to talk to this woman,” He nudged once more.

“No possible way and I talking to a stranger at Aldi.”

I pushed my cart to a counter and began putting my groceries in bags. The mom paid quickly, but seemed to linger behind me. I kept packing up frozen peas. All the while, God kept insisting that I speak to her and I kept saying no, no way, not gonna happen.

I watched them head toward the exit and then blurted out, “Are you homeschoolers?” The mom turned and came back and we started talking. It was weird — it felt like an instantaneous connection. We chit-chatted back and forth about homeschool, kids, church, etc. I told her I have ten kids, she said she had nine. The woman she was with came up to us.

“She won’t tell you this, but she lost her husband recently.” I was floored and instantly heartbroken for this mother of nine — now a widow trying to make a life for herself and nine children. I told her how sorry I was, and that I, too, had been a widow and understood what losing a spouse truly meant. We exchanged names and phone numbers and her little daughter asked us to come to homeschool co-op that afternoon. What a love!

I did actually call Maria the next day and she was so glad and relieved that I phoned her. We talked — she asked questions about grief, loss, healing, parenting without a husband — so many things. She asked about me and my life so I gave her the brief outline – widowed with a newborn, 16 years in an abusive marriage, the fight for our lives and freedom, the gift of meeting my Atticus. We’re going to make plans to get our families together for a game night soon.

Maria knew, as I did, that our meeting was a God thing. My heart is so burdened for her and her children as they try to face each new day in a situation they didn’t ask for and do not want. The really cool thing is that I don’t feel like I was put there to just help herInstead I feel that it’s a mutual thing — you know, a friendship.

I’m glad I was eventually in tune with what God was saying and I’m thankful He doesn’t give up on stubborn me.

Thank you for joining me today for the A-Z September Blogging Challenge. Please take a moment to send some love to our other participants:

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They’re All The Same…Right?

We’ve all heard it — or said it — before.

I was abused by my spouse and for the first year after I left him my bitter heart said all men were the same: evil.

I have several male friends who were cheated on, and eventually dumped, by their wives — some of them losing custody of their children in the process. I hear them day after day bemoaning how all women are cheaters, no woman can be trusted, and they’re all just waiting for a chance to stab men in the back.

I hear basically the same comments about both sexes on a daily basis from friends, acquaintances, family…you name it. I’m sure you are bombarded, too, and maybe even a bit offended that you, a decent and well-meaning person, are lumped into these stereotypical generalizations.

There were several things that helped me overcome my extreme distaste in all men. The first was time. Looking back, I wish I’d realized that it was the first phase of a very long healing process and maybe I’d have kept my mouth shut and not hurt and offended all the decent men I had demeaned. But maybe not. It’s all factored on a learning curve, isn’t it?

Another thing that helped change my negative thinking was when I realized that we’re all created in God’s image and ultimately if I was putting all men down as dogs, what then had I been saying about their Creator? That wasn’t a pretty thought for me because I love my LORD and even in those dark and heartbroken years I never sought to disrespect my God.

The real eye opener, though, came when I realized my thoughts, words, and beliefs were affecting my children. I saw college-age Melody experiencing her first crush and when the young man rebuffed her, the immediate response was that all guys were the same. Stupid men. When she was eventually involved in her first committed romantic relationship and things were beginning to sour I heard similar comments about how all guys just want the same thing. I’m not saying this guy wasn’t after her for the wrong reasons…it was her generalizations and misperceptions that all men only wanted her for one thing that flipped the light switch in my brain and helped enlighten me as to what I was doing.

Then I started thinking about my sons. I have remarkable boys. I’ve raised them to be polite, respectable, dependable young men with good character. How would I react — and how would my boys feel — if the young ladies called them lying, cheating dogs without ever first knowing who they really are? My boys would have to hold me back from girls like that because I’d be quick to tell them what I thought about the aspersions they were casting.

Meeting Atticus also helped restore my belief that there are very good and decent men living, breathing, and walking among us. We were both hurt so badly by our spouses that we placed no expectations on each other, we were just thankful to have a true friend we could count on. That friendship was the foundation for the eventual relationship that blossomed. It’s still the best part of our marriage, knowing that he’s my best and closest friend and that we are there for each other. Always.

My all-men-are-the-same attitude came from the abuse I suffered but I’m going to tell you something I haven’t shared before, not even with Atticus, but mostly because Atticus knows without my having to say this to him: my negative and hateful attitude towards men was perpetuated by me – on purpose – because it was a safety mechanism. If I hated all men, I never had to let anyone near me, and to me that translated to living safely. I wore that bitterness like my 4-year-old wears her blankie around the house — for security and comfort.

There was a time I finally gave in to the understanding that not all men are evil and accepted that the blame for the abuse and the damage it caused needed to lie only on the shoulders of the one who hurt me. When I let God guide me I was able to eventually love a wonderful man. It was a process, but the healing has been a blessing.

I have a thought if you are one of the people who keep saying all men or women are lying, backstabbing, cheaters. Maybe you’re thinking that because those are the people you keep associating with or drawing to you. Perhaps you need to do some healing, stop chasing what you want and pursue God — I mean in a full-out sprint. He’s waiting for you. When you’re on track, He’ll allow the right people into your life. That’s what happened for Atticus and me.

It’s a shame and a waste to pigeonhole everyone. We are all unique, we are all on different journeys, and we are all at different stages of those expeditions.

Most of all, we all need a bit of grace.

Violence Against Men

Domestic violence doesn’t just happen to women and children. It happens to men, also. While I was doing some research this morning I repeatedly found information for domestic violence rallies for women. I saw a ‘Remembrance Tree’ in front of the Walker County Courthouse in Texas that held a pair of shoes for every woman killed by an abusive partner. In Victoria, TX they celebrated Domestic Violence Awareness Month by hanging t-shirts for the victims, but they only contained women’s names. The Texas Council on Family Violence completely disregards men as victims: “Each year, the Texas Council on Family Violence compiles a list of the women killed by their male intimate partners in Texas.” (highlighted for emphasis)

We’ve all read the statistics. One in four women will be victims of domestic violence…but did you know that 40% of the victims of severe domestic abuse are men? Did you read that? Stop and let it sink in. Forty percent. Forty percent of the victims of severe abuse are husbands and boyfriends.

How many male victims of abuse do you know? I know of three men who have been abused by a spouse or significant other. I’m sure there are more men I know that are being abused and I just don’t know about it.

Why don’t more men report abuse? They are more likely to be ridiculed than women because they aren’t being manly. When a victim is beaten, most often they call police for help, but men who call 911 are often derided by the officers who are supposed to be helping them.

Victims are not weak because they are abused. They are most often trapped in a situation from which they don’t know how to escape, or they fear leaving and what will happen to them. The sex of the victim should not matter.

The Mayo Clinic gives an extensive list of the signs of domestic violence against men who are straight, gay, or bisexual — because violence doesn’t just happen in the heterosexual community — it has no sexual preference.

I think some men don’t realize that certain behaviors are abusive — they think it’s ‘typical female behavior’ — but hair-pulling, name-calling, extreme jealousy, pushing, slapping, etc. are uncalled for and unacceptable.

Our society is taking great strides to bring domestic violence out of the closet and into the light, but sticking our heads in the sand when it comes to abused men is wrong and it makes me wonder if the ‘Women are Victims’ groups are pushing an agenda that really has nothing to do with the victims.

We can put any spin on it we want, color it with any crayon in the box, but the truth is that men can be victims of domestic violence just as much as women. We need to open our eyes, take a stand, bring to light the horrible burdens that abused men are carrying alone because of the way our society treats them and say No More. Then we can begin providing male victims with the same services female victims receive.

If you are reading this and you are a victim or know someone who is, speak out to someone you trust — a friend, a clergyman — and get help. You are not weak — you’ve been strong for far too long.

What I Think About No-Fault Divorce

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Many states now offer no-fault divorce. In case you aren’t familiar with the term, it means a person can file for divorce and not have any reason or grounds for doing so. I’m not sure who thought that might be a good idea, but it helped raise the divorce statistics in America. We have close to a 50% divorce rate in this country. That grieves me. Children are torn apart by divorce and many times are left to deal with their pain on their own — one or both of the parents delude themselves into believing that children are resilient and will get over it. If that were truly the case, then why are children from divorce four times more likely to divorce than children who are from parents who stayed married?

I’m not saying that divorce should never happen. I, myself, am divorced because I was married to a sociopathic abuser. I divorced my former spouse because my children and I have the right to live free from violence and sexual assault.

I’ve got a burr under my saddle for the people who choose no-fault divorce for their own reasons and sacrifice their spouse and children for the sake of their own desires. Not in love with your spouse anymore? Change it. If you really don’t want to do that, wait until your kids are eighteen, then leave.

Here are my thoughts about no-fault divorce…

In a case where one spouse wants a divorce and one does not, the spouse who wants the divorce should be allowed to have it — but that’s all they should be allowed to have. The spouse being left should maintain the family residence and have custody of the kids. Why is our society so alarmed by the rising divorce rate when we are giving people a free ticket to destroy families? I know so many women who decided they didn’t love their husbands anymore, so they divorced them, took the kids away, were given the family residence, and child support, sometimes even alimony. How does anyone perceive this as right, or moral, or fair?

I’m not saying we need to live in the dark ages and never allow divorce. I just don’t think it should be so easy to destroy our families.