To blog or not to blog

April 14, 2008

I feel like I’m kind of at the end of my rope in coping with my husband’s ex-wife – how her existance and her choice of interactions affect me.  I feel like too much disclosure, and I’m being inappropriate – this is a public blog.  Then again, I feel like I’m not really sharing what is going on in my life, because I’m being so circumspect.

I’ve done my best to not vent about her to anyone except my best friend (Sorry, G-Whiz), my husband, our couples therapist, and my client/friend Leshawn (also a step-mom) since really, it can be kind of tedious.

She called the house on Friday and was yelling at my husband.  She is relentlessly unkind to him.  I understand that they must have unresolved angers at each other – how could they not?  They seem unable to ever say what is authentically on their mind.  My husband just never says anything, no matter how much he is bothered by something.  Her favorite rant always centers around some perceived injustice to her son.  I have no idea what she is really trying to say when she says this stuff.  Their inability to be authentic with each other leads to more stress on both of them, and me.  Apparently, they had a pretty inauthentic life together even when they were married.  At least, that is how he characterizes it now – emotionally dispassionate and disconnected, even at its best.  “Flat” is the word he always uses to describe their marriage.  I have no way of knowing if this is true.  I wouldn’t care, either, if she weren’t still in the picture.  But she is.

I am just worn out.  She has done creepy things like drop by with a friend and start demanding that her Halloween decorations be found.  Every month she manages to find some issue to hassle her ex-husband about.  The oldest kid and she triangulate against him all the time.  It is tiresome for me to handle in a way that I didn’t know I could be emotionally tired.  This first year of marriage has been the most exhausting year of my life.  And that includes the year of my divorce and my first year in Africa.

I know I could go to therapy to get help in dealing with how I feel about all of this – but that makes me mad.  Why should MY ass have to be taking the time and effort to sort through this stuff when neither of them does?  So I don’t go.  Even writing it and looking at it, I can see how immature that is, but it is how it feels.  This crap is not my mess!

Another reason I don’t blog about this stuff is that I’m afraid I will sound whiny.  But, it’s been several months now of very spotty writing over this issue, so oh well.  If you think I’m whiny, sorry.  As I walk uphill, I guess sometimes I whine.



April 12, 2008

Recently, I was accepted into a Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) internship program.   It is at a local hospital, and I am in a group with five other interns.  It is an incredibly intensive program – we interns are invited to minister to the patients at the hospital one-on-one in every kind of circumstance.

I’ve not had to be at a job site from 8:30-5:00 in a long time, but that is the requirement for this ten week program.  When I did work somewhere with those hours, I was getting PAID.  In this case, I pay them for the privilege of learning how to pastor people I don’t know.  This is a skill that I don’t really have much experience with, as congregational work takes place amongst people with whom one is familiar.

This past Monday, I was asked to say prayers over a man who was going to be removed from his ventilator.  I am glad that my theology includes a concept of God as generous and understanding, because I think my prayers were inadequate.  At best.  His weeping family stood around the bed – and I cried with them.  He was only in his fifties.  I felt so sad for them.  This was not what they expected.

This is perhaps the most extreme thing that can happen to a family: an unexpected death.  Expected death doesn’t seem all that much better, either.

Then there are things like what I’ve been going through lately: unexpected feelings about how my life is unfolding.  I wasn’t cut out to be a second wife or a step-mother.  Especially when the first wife is an angry lesbian who hates my husband, her former husband.  My vocational life hasn’t made much sense to me in a long time.  My family life doesn’t make much sense either these days.  My life with God still has its moments of transcendence and goodness, but He is confusing me too.

I’m trying to hold on to the truth that nothing can separate me from the love of God.

Moving as a way of life

January 29, 2008

I live in a house that was once occupied by my husband, his former wife and their two children. I made the choice to live here with my eyes wide open, knowing it would be wierd & probably a little uncomfortable, but “worth it.” The kids experienced so much transition last year. I mean, imagine finding out your Mom is gay, your dad gets remarried, you get a step-mom, all of that. I figured anything we could keep constant would be good. Their address(es) and school were two areas where nothing changed last year.

But it has been REALLY wierd and uncomfortable for me to live here. In spite of “redecorating” three rooms (our bedroom, office and the dining room), I am not at home here. First of all, my husband’s ex-wife still owns half of the house. Ick, right? Then, there is the intensely creepy thought that she and he had sex in what is now my bedroom. That is just ICKY to think about. I thought maybe that by living here I could take the edge off of those realities, but that has not been the case. Add that to the fact that I freaking hate living in the SoCal burbs, and I’m ready to move. Again.

But damn. I have lived in nine homes since I was 24 (I’m 36 now). That number only includes places I lived for six months or more. If you added in all the “interim” places I stayed or visited (from between 3 weeks to 4 months) that number goes up to fourteen. Moving is practically a way of life for me. And those nine homes since 24 include two that were in Africa and South America. Packing and unpacking. . .although I dislike it as much as the next person, I have done it so much that it is nearly second nature.

But I’ve never moved “en famille.” I hope it’s not worse than normal moving. We are hopefully putting the house up for sale this spring. We are also praying that the housing market around here stays somewhat afloat. I just can’t believe after making this big move in June from my fabulous Eagle Rock digs out to the burbs, I’m gonna do it all over again. I don’t know what we’ll be able to afford or find, but it looks like moving again is in the cards. Pray for me, k?

Of Blogs and Bibles

January 16, 2008

Today I had a grumpy morning with the children. They were just being children – fussing about how much cinnamon and sugar goes on toast, clothing options, etc.

Sometimes we’re all, children and adult, just contrary. Well. To a degree. I guess none of us adults has thrown a complete crying, screaming fit because we couldn’t wear a striped shirt. Then again, probably very few adults have their wardrobe choices curtailed by an unimaginative dress code, either.

But I wasn’t feeling resilient this morning. I hadn’t had my tea. I just wanted to wake up and have normal conversations with everyone. No “discussions.” So, after a few minutes of testy discussions, I took my tea and went to my google reader to see what the blogs were up to. I was so happy, because my favorite blogger had a new post, and she hasn’t been posting much lately. I read it. It was nice. I read a few other posts here and there. Then, my google reader was empty.

I closed the browser and sighed. I said to my blank screen, “can’t you satisfy me?” I actually laughed out loud after I said that. I realized I was using blogs to distract me from how I was feeling. I knew I needed input from somewhere. I intuitively knew that I wanted some satisfaction from words. But I was looking to the wrong words. My little daisy Bible was sitting on the desk next to my monitor. I picked it up and read this week’s lectionary readings.

The Gospel reading is from the first chapter of John. John the Baptist says (v.29), “Look the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Right there I was hooked again. The Bible for me is like a dynamic, strange, endlessly fascinating, illuminating conversation with the most interesting person I’ve ever known. Today, when I read that, my mind went immediately to that oft-repeated phrase – that Jesus somehow takes away sins. I find that thought so interesting and so strange. What does it mean exactly? I know the traditional, orthodox answer, which I hold as a gift from the past. But how can I deepen that understanding, know what it means for real, for me, for my friends? He takes away sin in general? From me? Where does he take it? How? And, what then? And why a Lamb, a reference to sacrifice and dependence, first? He’s a shepherd, too, right?

And then I read the Old Testament reading, which was from Isaiah 49. In verse 4, Isaiah has the Messiah say, “I have labored to no purpose; I have spent my strength in vain and for nothing. Yet what is due me is in the Lord’s hand, and my reward is with my God.”

Isn’t that outrageous? The Bible is incredible. It is full of this kind of despair and “FORGET IT!” kind of sentiment. When combined with an equally outrageous trust in God, it is a potent mix.

When I read the Bible, I know I will never be done plunging all of its mysteries. There will always be more for me to see, to learn and be amazed and baffled by in it. Already I feel pulled to spend more time researching and praying over those passages.

No one can rock it like God. No one has so much to say to me that is so encouraging, bizarre and wise. That is His job, to be loving and mysterious. The Bible kicks ass.

That said, let me affirm that I love reading good blogs. They can be a great blessing. Sometimes the rawest, most honest thing I “hear” all day is from a blogger – like this one from Melissa in Ohio. Sometimes the silliness of my fellow Christians just gives me a great laugh.

But nobody rocks it like God. Love you, God.

Christmas with the kids is over

December 24, 2007

Today was the day we celebrated Christmas with the kids.

We had low expectations.  Or at least I did.  My only hopes were that:

1. Nobody would have a meltdown.

2. We would talk about the birth of Jesus in a meaningful way at some point during the week.

3. Nobody would sulk.

We managed to accomplish #2 and #3.  The meltdown(s) of course, starred Bee (6).  They were small.  But they reveal the emotional underbelly of a kid who has so many issues I don’t even know where to begin to help her sometimes.  From the time she was born, according to my husband, she was born into a home of discord.  Since her mother has become a lesbian and is now living with her girlfriend, and I’ve married her dad and I’m living with them . . . she has even more to negotiate.  I feel for her.

She experiences so much shame when she is corrected.  Even when she is lovingly corrected, like this:

Parent: Bee, honey, you know, you might want to try cutting your crepe with . . .

Bee: I KNOW I KNOW I KNOW . . .waaaaahhhhh. <sobs>

Parent: ?

Or it could go like this:

Parent: Bee . . .

Bee: WHAT? WHAT? (in this tone of voice that is like she’s been accused of grand theft auto)

Parent: We asked you not to climb on the back of the couch, right?

Bee: <from the back of the couch> I DON’T CARE! I KNOW! LEAVE ME ALONE!

Parent: Seriously, ,you’re going to fall and crush the . . .

<the thing gets crushed>

Parent: Bee! Dang it!

Bee: WHAAAAAT??? Waaaaaahhhhhh. . ..


The other day I was with my friend who has a three year old daughter.  She was more able to communicate her feelings and receive correction than Bee.  It was sobering to see a three year old explain to her mother why she didn’t want to do something.  She explained very carefully and slowly, like her mother was a recalcitrant, stupid employee.  It was funny and inspiring at the same time.

Having a kid who is unable to control herself or her reactions is draining in the same way that having an asshole boss is draining.  You know you aren’t going to influence the boss all that much in one or two conversations.  You know the boss isn’t going anywere.  You know that any change, if it comes, will be slow.  You know that you are all in the same company and somehow have to find a way to work together.  But you go home at the end of the day worn OUT.

I know that other parents have children with similar issues.  I know this is not some special, unheard of disorder.  But this is my shout out to all the parents and step-parents out there who feel slightly inadequate to the challenges laid before them.

Set low goals, people.  And have a three year calendar on the wall.

Baseball, drugs, parenting, presents and giving it away

December 14, 2007

I love baseball. My best friend loves baseball. My husband loves baseball. My step-son loves baseball. Baseball is a beautiful sport.

Yesterday, Senator Mitchell’s report on the use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball came out. The Mitchell report tells a story in detail, the broad strokes of which most of us already knew. Men in baseball use drugs to make themselves, as Kanye would say, “harder, better, stronger, faster.” The ever witty (and bitter) Dodger Blues has lots of funny things to say, as usual.

It bums me out that my very own culture and my favorite sport have created an environment where this kind of accepted cheating goes on. There is something in our culture that tells us “whatever the cost, get what you want.” I’m not saying we’re the first or the only culture to roll like this. Caligula and Nero didn’t live in a vacuum. But still. It’s a crappy and TOTALLY ungodly way to do life. I know, I know, a lot of those players who did that stuff probably have no relationship or knowledge of God.

The Mitchell report had its list, and my husband and I have ours:img_3137.jpg

Yes, those are the Christmas lists for Bee and the boy. And yes, the boy’s has a KEY to understand the priorities of the listed items. Good God. I know that kids are kids and that they angle for what they can get, not just at Christmas but every day. That’s the nature of kids. But I have to say, I started to feel kind of dirty that in my home live two more beings who are this into STUFF. Uh, cause I like STUFF too.

Slowly, slowly, Jesus is turning my heart into a heart that wants to give away a little more than it wants to get. Or that “gets to give to get to give” as John Wimber used to say. I know that I’ve only been in a position of any real influence on the kids’ lives for about six months, so they are just reflecting what their parents, freinds and culture have taught them. I’m hoping that Jesus rubs off on me more so that he can rub off on them some too.

When I read what Eugene Cho’s kid wanted to do with $100,000 (all of it altruistic, for those of you who don’t click through), it gave me a glimmer of hope. It is possible to raise kids that won’t keep writing lists like this, kids who could grow up to have the backbone to say “no, thanks” in a clubhouse where drugs were being offered. Maybe my step-kids can turn into adults who want to give away more than they want to get.

Maybe I can turn more into that adult too. Help me Jesus!

Dancing in the bedroom

December 13, 2007

Today I got home from tutoring in need of a bit of a release. (People! Get your minds out of the gutter! The children were still up!)

Bee and I went in the bedroom, turned on some crazy loud music and danced around like maniacs. It was awesome. There was some crazy heavy metal stuff, a little rap (“I got my drink and my two-step”. . .how can you resist that!), some Neo Encendio mixing, even a little classic rock. I love LA radio, I really do. We danced in our limited space, sometimes on our own and sometimes holding hands. It was great to have someone with whom to just go crazy. Her daddy is more of a contemplative, peaceful sort, and he doesn’t quite know what to do with her exuberance sometimes. I feel like God especially blessed Bee and me with each other.

At one point we were dancing to “Your momma don’t dance and your daddy don’t rock and roll” and she yelled to me over the music, “Well, MY momma dances like CRAZY!” It was a good party, y’all.

Don’t worry. She went to bed like an angel. I’ve gotten enough kids wound up in my day to know enough to PLAN a slow song at the end.