Saying Goodbye (2-22-16)

This past year has definitely seen its share of changes.  Mostly good.  Some hard.  Some instant and some over time.  My challenge this year has been to focus on the positive, and surround myself with people who support us and make our lives easier.  At some point acknowledging the challenges, the losses, and relationships that have changed is good to sit with, grieve, and let go.  Not to focus on necessarily, but to sit with, feel, process.  For the most part, this has been doable. The hard part is deciding which relationships are worth fighting for, grieving, or letting go.

There are several different groups of people we seem to have in our lives.  One group barely batted an eye at us deciding to be together, coming out, and rearranging our lives.  They love us no matter what and don’t think anything has changed.  There are 2 subsets to this group.  The ones who took all the news and change without skipping a beat and fully embrace us.  The other subset had questions.  Lots and lots of questions at first, but after hearing us, hearing what we’ve already processed, feel, think, are, have been at peace and also fully embrace us.

Then there’s a group who have mostly quietly slipped away from me, mostly as a show of moral disagreement to the choices I’ve made.  This is the group that I’ve struggled with this past year but finally realize that I’ve done what needs to be done on my end and all that’s left is a heartfelt goodbye, process the sting of rejection, and then move on.  At first I was unsure what to do.  At first I thought if I could only explain myself people would understand.  But no one asked for an explanation.  A frustrating place to be when you feel like it would make sense if you could share, but no one wants to hear.  No one wants to give you room to have a story to tell.

Then, I realized that I need to be the bigger person.  It’s simple to feel silence and respond with silence back.  If you are being rejected, it’s easy to reject them right back.  When I was hearing nothing but a deafening silence in their direction, maybe they were simply feeling rejected by me, unsure how I still felt about them.  Maybe by reaching out and showing that I still loved them and thought them as family or friends forever, they would take a deep breath, and answer back, Oh I’m so glad, I thought when you walked away, you walked away from all of us.  I’m so glad that’s not the case.

Often times, when I am able to wrap my mind around a concept, and it becomes so clear and so plain I wonder why I even ever questioned it, it’s hard to give grace to those who aren’t at the level yet.  Give them time to wrap their minds around it.  It just takes time.  So again I step up and give grace.  Lots of grace.  Time.  Time.  Time.  But it doesn’t change perspective.

I’ve reached out.  I’ve stepped up.  I’ve given grace.  And I will continue, but at a certain point, you just do the healthy thing and let go.  You let go of the idea that you have not been heard, because you never will be.  You let go of the idea that they are your friends or family.  You let go and know that it’s OK to have someone think poorly of you.  It’s OK because there are other people in the world who love you and they don’t think poorly of you.  You struggle to keep above that, and insist to yourself that you still have worth.  Just as much as before.  There are people out there that understand you for who you are and give you grace, just as they need to be given grace.  As a Christian, it’s easy to feel judged by other Christians, and to even be at a point where you feel good that they are “overlooking” your “wrongdoings” and extending you grace.  But in reality, you are the one who is really giving the grace.

To still want the person in your life who feels like they are above you, or showing tolerance to you, or praying that you will see the error of your ways and perhaps they will be the chosen one to lead you back.  These are the people for which grace is actually required and designed for.  They don’t know that the wrongs are on their sides, in their minds, and in their actions.  I believe God calls me to extend them grace.  I give them grace for their distorted thoughts and judgments.  The real question is, while you can continue to give grace, do you exhaust yourself with efforts to hold on to that relationship, using up precious energy that could be focused on the good, the love, the wonder of the people who love you?

It’s not new to me to lose people.  Perhaps I’ve been more sensitive and everyone experiences it, but growing up in a stable family, in a small town, in a class of 10 people in K-8th-only 1 or 2 newcomers, and very few that left- I didn’t experience much change in family or friendships.  College experiences will change that, but in my case it became so ridiculous it was the running family joke.  My sophomore year at school I had built a group of close friend of 6.  By October, all but myself had dropped out.  It was rough.  I started over.  Then met people.  Who left.  Dropped out.  I started over again.  Every person I met was on their way out.  At that age it was a struggle.  Then after college I was the one who moved around.  I became better at meeting people.  I grew in these experiences.  Where before losing a close friend was devastating and frustrating and I questioned why people left me, I grew to learn that it was OK.  I wasn’t going to be able to be that person who still hung out with high school friends, or took vacations with the girls from college.  People floated in and out of my life and I learned to embrace them while they were with me, and let them go when it was time for them to float back out.  I loved the idea that they came into my life for a reason, and not everyone can stay forever.  Some people I try to hold on to from a distance, and when I feel that, I will reach out.  I’ve grown used to being the person that reaches out, that holds the relationship until it’s too much work.  I’d stopped keeping record of how many times I reached out compared to them reaching out to me.  I was happier if I didn’t.  I realized that’s my gift, to those who want to but don’t, that I can do that work for us.

This is different.  These are lost relationships that don’t come from distance, or growing apart.  But from differences in opinions and values.  And I’m open to people growing enough to eventually coming closer.  I won’t shut people out.  But it’s time I am able to open my hand and let the idea of them go.  Without anger, or hurt, or frustration, but because it’s time.  Maybe it’s really the same.  They were there at that point in my life and we served a purpose to each other and that time is over.  It’s time to ponder those relationships, let them go, grieve them for a bit, and turn the focus back inward to those that do love and support us.  And I know from experience that it’s not really loss, because relationships are always out there, new, waiting, and with new life changes, those people will naturally come in to fill those spots.  It’s important to know that this is a chance to rebuild friendships and family and it’s a chance to only gain.  I am open to that!  This isn’t a lesson in loss.  It’s a lesson in appreciating those who have stuck around and are there.  It’s a lesson in letting go, peace and grace, and keeping one’s self open to new possibilities.  And that’s a wonderful thing.

A Mother’s Intuition (2-24-16)

PictureOur daughter turns 8 today!  Previously I shared about her scare on a road trip when she was 2.  There’s more to the story, so in celebration of her life, here it is:

By the time she had the choking scare, she had already had pneumonia a couple times.  After she choked, she developed pneumonia again, and, being in Wisconsin for the summer, I took her to the Pediatric Pulmonologist at UW Madison.  She had also been diagnosed at birth with a wheeze (stridor) that was considered laryngeomalacia, a floppy voicebox that she would outgrow before the age of 2.  She was still sounding wheezy at 2.5 and also seemed to get a lot of crud that would settle into her lungs, which would develop into pneumonia.  The specialist at UW listened to my concerns, thought of a couple possible, but highly unlikely conditions that he didn’t recommend follow-up with when we got home, and concluded that the most likely diagnosis was a random cluster of illness.  He actually wrote a letter to our home pediatrician that he was fairly convinced she was just “unlucky”.  So, with paper in hand, and filed at her doctor, the conclusion was just plain bad luck (Is that a pre-existing condition?  Bad luck?  Can you get health insurance for it?).

When we got back home after the summer, her pediatrician was no longer concerned because a specialist (who hadn’t run any tests) didn’t think she had anything wrong with her.  That winter landed her in the hospital again with pneumonia.  (In all, she has gotten pneumonia over 8 times before the age of 7, and hospitalized with RSV twice at the age of 3 and 7).  Once particular time, her older brother had gotten a really bad cold, complete with several days of fever.  Usually I let it run its course, but I finally took him in.  They tested for the flu and he tested negative.  When she got the same virus several days later, I knew what to expect, and there wasn’t much that could be done.  We were riding it out, but around day 4, I looked at her and remarked that her lips looked a bit blue.  When we took her to the doctor that day, we found her oxygen sats were around 64%.  Headed to the hospital immediately!  She unfortunately had a viral pneumonia, so we couldn’t do much except monitor and oxygenate.  She was in the hospital for several days.  That was the scariest time, sitting, waiting, hoping.

By this time I was becoming frustrated.  Each time she was sick, I would remark to the doctors or nurses that it seemed strange.  At first they listened, but decided that since she had already been checked out, maybe she just got all the bad bugs!  I was still nursing her at the time, and aside from frequent pneumonia, she was a very healthy child.  I would tell them I was still nursing, even at the age of 2 and 3, but they figured she just got sick a lot.

During her hospital stays, I would sleep with her in the hospital bed, nursing constantly.  The doctors ignored this, but the nurses were so encouraging.  Just keep nursing her!  It’s got to help!  When I would express my concern, I was mainly brushed off by docs, but the nurses would pull me aside and tell me they thought the same thing, maybe something else is going on.  She shouldn’t be this sick.

Finally, one night, one of our regular docs came to check on her doing his rounds.  I voiced my suspicions to him again.  I had said (for the hundredth time), I just feel like something in her throat is constricting, and when she gets sick, she can’t clear her lungs and it just settle and gets infected.  I’m just sure of it!  This doctor listened, but didn’t agree with me.  When he left, I felt crushed.  I cried.  I prayed.  I decided I needed to stop being a hypochondriac for my kids.  I was embarrassing myself trying to play detective and medical doctor and I only had a weird hunch.  I had to let this go.  I had to stop bringing this up.  I didn’t want to look stupid anymore.    The next morning, the doctor came back in.  He sat down and said, “I’ve been thinking.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with her, but I guess if this were my kid, I’d be a little curious.  I don’t recommend seeing a specialist, but if you want a referral, I will give you one.”

When she recovered (by this time she was around the age of 3), I followed up and got a referral.  Before we went, I researched her symptoms on my own.  I found what I was looking for immediately.  She had hallmark symptoms of a condition called tracheomalacia, a constricted trachea.  She had every symptom, including misdiagnosis, unexplained pneumonias, and failure to diagnose.  It’s usually caused by one of 3 things.  All I had to do was convince the specialists that this was what she had.  I was gunshy from the last specialist we saw, who did nothing but patronize me.

When I took her, they listened to her story and immediately said it sounds like tracheomalacia.  It’s one of 3 conditions, but let’s start with a bronchoscopy.  She had one, sedated, soon after.  The specialists were excited to find that indeed, at the bottom of her trachea, it became constricted.  This eliminated a couple reasons for her condition.  The most likely was called a vascular ring, a tight band of heart tissue that squeezes the trachea.  It’s extremely rare.  They scheduled her for a CT scan to confirm the diagnosis.  I was so happy to be getting somewhere!  She had her CT scan.  That day, her doctor who had scheduled it got called out to an emergency and another doc took over.  Several weeks later, we got the call.  The CT scan was read, and good news(?), no vascular ring was found.  This was pretty disappointing, as we were back to square one.  They told us over the phone that since it wasn’t that, they weren’t sure what it was, and hopefully she just wouldn’t get sick anymore.  It was late summer by then, and thankfully she typically didn’t get sick in the summers.

That winter she was hospitalized 2 more times.  What was going on?  It seemed like there was just nothing behind what was causing her illness except perhaps she was just sickly. I decided to call the specialists again and just report that she hadn’t outgrown anything, hoping they could offer other ideas.  Her dad even warned me to drop it, we’d already scanned for everything.  They were as alarmed as I was that she was still getting sick.  They saw her again, puzzling over the pneumonias.  Then, someone thought to read the CT scan again.  They came back into our exam room.  Sure enough, plain as day, a vascular ring, encircling her trachea, collapsing it.  A few days later, we received a personal heartfelt apology from one of the docs that was involved in running the scan.  He felt terrible it had been missed and laid awake some nights thinking that she could have died because they missed it.  That meant everything to us.  Humans make mistakes.  Sometimes deadly ones.  The people it’s hard to forgive are the ones that don’t admit to mistakes.

She had heart surgery a few weeks later as this was a fairly dangerous condition (obviously if she were to get sick again and not kick it), but it’s not something that a child outgrows.  In fact, the opposite.  As she grows, and her trachea grows, and everything else gets bigger, this little band of heart tissue does not.  It just constricts more and more.  (A semi-medical description of this condition can be found at the end).  It would cause her to get sicker as she grew.   While it was a straightforward surgery (basically clipping unnecessary heart tissue that shouldn’t be there), it was still full on heart surgery on a 4 year old, and she has the 4 inch battle scar on her back to prove it.

She is a healthy 8 year old today.  The lessons here are these:  Never underestimate a mother’s intuition.  Not as a professional.  Not as a mother.  It’s there, serving your children.  I almost stopped questioning because I didn’t want to look stupid anymore.  Not because I felt she didn’t have anything wrong.  But because I made it about me and what these doctors must think of me.  The frustrating part of the story was not being listened to.  Not taken seriously.  Patronized or ignored.  As a mom, it’s sometimes up to you to fight the battle solo.  If you feel that intuition, go with it, no matter what.  Believe the mom.  She’s usually right.

*Vascular ring:  Normally in-utero as the heart develops, it starts with several main vessels and eventually grows into a large aortic arch.  The remaining vessel sloughs off as the fetus develops and the tissue gets absorbed or disappears.  Most humans have a left aortic arch (and the heart is toward the left side of the chest).  It’s amazing to look at a diagram of the human chest.  The trachea and esophagus basically run close to/through the beautiful arches of the heart, nestled within it.  There’s not a lot of room in there, everything is in a tight space.  She happened to be born with a right aortic arch, and the left one failed to completely slough off, leaving a small band of living, but tight and non-growing, heart tissue that forms a ring that encircles the trachea.  Being a right arch, this landed her main aortic arch on the RIGHT side of her trachea, which also pulled her trachea over to the left a bit.  Not only did she have over 50% constriction of the trachea, but her heart was pulling it over and also pushing down on one of her lungs, causing further restriction.  It’s an extremely rare condition, but interestingly one of the first types of heart conditions/surgeries performed.  Find more information here:

The Time Share Dog (2-29-16)

PictureThe dog situation has changed drastically at our house around the time we merged households.  My wife and her ex-husband owned a Chihuahua and a Vizsla, both about 5 years old.  The Chihuahua was really my wife’s and he owned the Vizsla.  If you aren’t familiar with the Vizsla breed, they all look about the same:  Red short hair, red nose, red everything.  They are a Hungarian pheasant hunting dog.  And a bit energetic.  Our household owned a border collie and a mutt puppy.  I had gotten the Border collie as a puppy about 6 years ago.  The mutt-puppy was a really bad decision, let’s just put it that way.

Within a few months of our separation, we had given away both of our dogs.  The mutt was a handful and since he didn’t end up getting trained at all, also very costly (think chewed up retainers, toys, beds, etc.).  For the first time I finally set my foot down and found a young energetic couple that wanted nothing more than to have a dog to do things with, and got rid of him.  I hated giving up a pet and adding more disruption and change to the kids’ lives (they still talk about him, but of course have a pretty skewed memory of the wake of his disasters), but knew I couldn’t take on one more thing to be responsible for.

At the same time, my beloved yet I-could-strangle-him border collie got himself into some hot water by letting his territorial behavior get the best of him.  He bit someone (let’s just say he has excellent judgment) over the fence, and was “convicted” by the city as a vicious animal.  We could keep him but only under extreme conditions that I had no way or energy to pursue.  Thankfully at the 11th hour we found a friend that not only lived outside city limits, but had been praying for the right dog to come along.  We brought him out to her place to meet her and her Great Dane, and she instantly knew she would keep him.  He now lives in the lap of luxury, is doted on, has lots of room, and very few mailmen or creepy guys to deal with.

The Chihuahua was a package deal when my wife came to live with us.  I love this little guy but never in a million years imagined I’d have a small dog to call our own!  What we do for love, right!?  J  The little dog did so-so with such a huge change (going from a house of 2 adults and a baby that hadn’t really started moving yet) to a busy home of 7 with kids in his face all day.  It was challenging because he could walk under the picket fence, had some accidents, and while he’s a rock star compared with many of his breed, he didn’t really appreciate the kids doting-to-the-point-of-harassment.  He was also getting too many table scraps which led to some tummy scares.  So after a few months my wife’s mom agreed to take him.  We get to see him occasionally and he’s also quite doted on.  I wish for my wife’s sake we could take him back someday but the kids will have to be a bit older.

Which brings me to Ruiari, the Vizsla hunting dog.  When our ex-husbands moved to their house around the corner from us, swapping kids and dogs became quite easy.  My ex-husband-in-law (EHIL) works a 24/48 shift, so we gladly agreed to take his dog when he was on shift or when he goes away.  What we didn’t expect, however, was that this Vizsla would love the noisy kid home so much!  Vizslas are also called “leaning dogs”.  They are the kind of dog that cannot get enough attention.  A medium sized dog, they will gladly sit in anyone’s lap they can find.  They lean into your leg when you stand, and follow you everywhere.  After a few weeks we noticed that this hyper, energetic dog was chilling out.  He was in heaven!  The more the kids pester and dote on him, the happier he is.  Think, “Someone is pulling my ears!  This is amazing!” kind of doggy thoughts.  (“So many crumbs under the table and sticky faces at my level to lick!”)  He started sleeping on #2’s bed at night.  (He’s also the kind of dog that likes to scoot under the covers and lay on you all night).  He tried sleeping with #1 for a while but one morning we woke up and our son was on the couch.  When asked why, he responded that Ru was hogging the entire bed and every night he wakes up in a ball or on the floor.  We asked him why he doesn’t just kick him off.  #1 replied, “Uh, because he is sleeping!  I wouldn’t want to make him get up, that would be rude!”
Last summer Ru seemed to be the only member of the family a bit torn and out of place at times.  You could tell he was unsure where his loyalties lay and we had trouble keeping him in the fence at our house (sometimes because the kids left the gate open), but if he was with us, he wanted to be with his original owner, but if he was there, he felt a pull to our house.  He never really ran off beyond the 2 blocks but we got plenty of calls that summer.

This fall and winter he has slowly shifted his loyalties to the kids and now when my EHIL comes to pick him up, it takes a bit of convincing to leave.  He slinks around as if he’s thinking, “If I just lay low, maybe he’ll forget me here.”  The boys are also very attached and often ask to keep the dog overnight even when his owner is at his house.  On the occasional night the kids sleep at their dad’s, the dog doesn’t know what to do with himself.  He spends the night pacing and whining.  A few weeks ago Ru jumped out of the truck when they got back and just headed over to ours.

While Ru is far from the vision either of us had about owning a dog, we seem to have inadvertently ended up with the perfect dog.  He loves kids.  He’s quiet.  He’s mellowed out since he has kids around.  The best part?  We have a part time dog!  What to do with the dog for weekends away or vacations is not an issue.  Driving us crazy?  Send him to the other house.  We seem to have come to an unspoken agreement that my EHIL still buys the food but I end up picking up most of the dog poop.  I tease him a lot about it, too.  When we left for a week last month I asked him if he could take care of my dog for me.  😉  Sometimes no matter how hard you try to find or imagine the perfect dog, the perfect dog ends up finding you.

When it’s not just the 9 of us…(3-2-16)

A few weeks ago, my wife wrote about changes. That blog definitely struck a chord with me. The last year has been a series of unexpected changes and, unfortunately, given our situation we are likely to see more changes in the future. One of the questions I’ve been asked the most has been: “What happens when one or both guys falls in love with someone else?” The name of our blog is “Just the 9 of us.” It’s temporarily 9 of us. My wife and I understand that this probably is not the permanent situation. I’ve tossed around the idea for more than a year and I think I’m prepared to answer this nagging question. So, here it goes:
Are we so naïve as to think that our ex-husbands won’t ever find love again? No. Do we secretly pray that they won’t? No. Do we hope that we can keep our version of happy forever? Yes.
I love my ex-husband. Even though it makes perfect sense to me, that fact seems to startle others. “If you love him, why aren’t you still married?” I get the logic. Here’s the thing, though. I am gay. I am a woman who is physically attracted to other women. My ex-husband is a man. It’s as simple as that. I’ve had a few people question why it took so long to come to this realization. That is a valid question and one that is worthy of its own blog. Some friends have offered that he and I seemed extremely happy together. That’s the truth. We were happy. He’s my best friend. So, life with him was pretty easy. Once I realized I was gay (thanks, wife!!), I had a choice to make: a) try to turn that part of me off and continue down the path I had committed to or, b) change course.
I’ve been so fortunate to have a couple of really close friends to process this decision with. You know who you are, but you probably cannot fathom the depth of my gratitude for the support you’ve provided me in the last 15 months. I’ll spare the rest of our readers from the wretched soul-searching that goes along with making this kind of decision. Obviously, I chose option b.
I want to wander here for a moment. Stay with me, won’t you? Let’s say I had chosen option a. It wouldn’t have been the worst thing for me. I was comfortable there. I was happy there. I had an amazing life with a beautiful home, fun hobbies, financial comfort, a fantastic group of friends, a vision for the future, etc. So, that’s all great for me. But, what about him? I’d love to meet a man who would hope that his wife would do him the “favor” of sticking with him once she realized she was a lesbian. How does that conversation go? Him: “Well, dear, I know the package I come in isn’t what you’re into, but gee thanks for talking yourself into it each day! Am I a lucky guy or what?” Her: “Right…”
So, here I am. On a new path. Many parts of my life have been completely tossed upside down. Some days have been enormously difficult and painful- like it’s hard to breathe- kind of days. Others have been exhilarating. My change has ripples, too. Waves, really, when you consider what my choice has meant for my ex-husband.
He has treated me with kindness, respect, and love throughout. If you know him, you aren’t the least bit surprised. I am lucky. Trust me, that is not lost on me. He and I share a vision for how we can parent our son even though we are divorced. Both of us come from divorce. We’ve experienced, first-hand, how children can be affected (good and bad) by the decisions made by adults responsible for their care. If
you know us, this won’t surprise you: we had our first conversation about parenting goals before we were married. We continued to discuss this topic in the eight years leading up to the birth of our beautiful baby boy. The evening I told him that I’d made my decision to leave, we talked again about our son and the life we hoped to provide him. We’ve continued a conversation we started more than a decade ago. Many of the details have changed, but the end goal is the same: surround our child with unconditional love, support, and opportunity. It’s that simple.
When (not if, because the guy is a serious catch) he falls in love, I can predict some of emotions I’ll experience: jealousy, gratefulness, and joy. How’s that for honesty? Of course I’ll be jealous. This man was THE main actor in my vision of the future. I’ve let that go. It will be difficult to watch someone else take the spot I vacated. At the end of the day, that’s what he deserves and what I hope for him. I’ll be grateful. Grateful that I haven’t completely ruined his life. She’ll be the evidence that I made the right choice for both of us. And, I’ll be full of joy. I want this man to be happy. He is the one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I could never wish for anything bad for him.
Now, here’s the part where I go out on a limb. If you are standing, you might want to sit down. Apparently, this is pretty shocking stuff. My loftiest hope is that this woman and I could be friends.
Is it possible? I believe so, although I don’t have many real-world examples. My mom and step-mother were not friends. My dad and step-dad were not friends. They barely spoke to one another. That seems to be the most common arrangement. Is this the only possible outcome? I sure hope not. If so, it’s pretty depressing, really. Won’t this future-love-of-his-life and I share a few things in common? Won’t we both want only good stuff for my ex-husband? Won’t we both respect the relationship that he has with his son? I mean, how could we NOT be on the same page? And, the best part is that she doesn’t have to worry about me. The jealousy factor has been taken off the table, so to speak. In terms of ex-wife-stress, it’s kind of the best scenario.
And, I happen to know, first-hand, that it isn’t IMPOSSIBLE. I see my wife’s ex-husband (my EHIL) on a near daily basis. He lives around the corner. He shares his kids with me. We do family things together. We spend birthdays and holidays and important childhood events together. This fall, I crashed parent teacher conferences. (It was entertaining to watch some of the teachers try to figure out who the hell I was.) We share meals and laughs and household chores.
I won’t lie, it was a little difficult at first. I moved into the house he bought with her. Many of the things in our home were accumulated during their marriage. He has known her for 20 years and they share all of this history and these inside jokes. His sense of humor is closer to hers than mine is and sometimes they laugh at things that don’t seem all that funny. I used to get frustrated by it all. Then, I realized about 9 months ago that I was getting in my own way over the whole thing. She’s with me. We are REALLY GREAT together. We were meant for one another. I trust that. And, you know what? Once I got past my own insecurities, I realized that I love the guy. He has only added value to my life.
Besides my own experience, I do have one other really great real-world example. My wife has become close friends with my ex-husband. She’s blogged a little bit about it. Their schedules allow them to spend a good deal of time together. And, if you’ve seen them together, their friendship is not forced. It is

genuine. They enjoy each others company. They care about one another. It’s pretty amazing to see. And, there is no jealousy. They both love me and the children and want only good things for our family. And, that, it seems, is enough to overcome the bullshit most adults interject into interpersonal relationships.

I am excited for the two days in our future when each of these amazing men tell us that they’ve found that someone. I look forward to meeting these women and sharing as much of this loud life that they want and are comfortable with.

I’m an…(3-7-16)



So, here’s a secret few people know. Maybe no one. I’m kind of an asshole. I didn’t even realize this til recently. Now, before I delve, this is not a blog to get sympathy, or to garnish a bunch of people reassuring me that I’m a really great person or that someone should try to brighten my day or think I’m being mopey.  I’m serious people.  This is a blog to be an open book but also to serve as a learning beacon for the world, not to rake in compliments (hey, if my 2 college peeps are reading this, remember “fishing for compliments” game?).  I’m being as honest as one could get. I just realized I’m apparently really an asshole. It’s been a long, tough week once this truth hit me. And I’m upset I’m an asshole and have been one most of my life and didn’t know. So now I’m a sad asshole.

I’ve been doing a lot of self-work in the recent months. Being with your soulmate will do that to you. I’ve blogged before but a soulmate it turns out isn’t someone who you live happily ever after with or are so compatible you never fight. Nor is a soulmate someone who you try to be something or someone different for because that’s what they want. No, a true soulmate is basically a mirror held up to your ugly mug, and you realize 2 things:  this person loves you anyway, even when they see the you no one else is unfortunate enough to see. And b, you see yourself so plainly that you can do nothing but either run away screaming (but can u run from yourself?) or realize you have some work to do. After I get over being sad that I’m an asshole, I think I’ll realize that I’m going to turn out pretty well and that’s exciting. You hope you can do it in a timely manner, however. That’s key. But the road ahead of you is pretty long, and lots of uphills. (Reminds me of the run I went I when I realized I was in love with my bestie. 8.5 miles on a country road in Kansas. I saw rolling hills that rolled larger and larger as they stretched out but my future wife tried to convince me it was an optical illusion. )

And I’m sad because it’s a lot of work and I’m exhausted after a few days of work and I’m really hoping someone out there will convince me that it won’t always be so hard to silence the asshole part of you and it will eventually change. (Optical illusion hills?). Then I’m sad because every time I start being an asshole I have to catch myself and re-think things. I’m catching myself 95% of the time. Which is good and bad. Good because I’m catching it most of the time, bad because when you’re working so hard and you slip up, it’s pretty damn frustrating. So here I am, catching 95% asshole-ness and I’m freaking exhausted!  Which is horribly sad because it just proves that if I need to catch myself every few minutes…well, just shoot me now.  So I don’t know whether I’m more sad or exhausted. All I know is I’m working hard and have a lot of correction to do.

Now, my fellow readers with a Christian mindset will tell me that I won’t be able to change without help from above. I’m not arguing that point, I tend to agree but I also think prayer and petition is an awfully convenient way to get out of the work. If we just pray hard enough, the situation will change or God will change me and voile!  Mission accomplished!  I think God works more practically than that. Like, God is the one who tapped me on the shoulder and said, hey, you’re being an asshole. Here’s some cool references to better self-work, so let me know if you need more. Also I’ll be sure to give you plenty of times to screw up so you can really learn this stuff.

It’s clear from history of the world in general and our personal lives that God loves teaching via hands-on experience. It’s a very powerful way to learn. Ask any farmer or small business owner and he’ll tell you that he only knows what he knows because the other ways he tried failed. Every single one of them.

Now, my lovely readers, you’re skimming thru this to the parts in which I tell you specifically how I’m an asshole. I’m deciding right now whether to give some examples or not. Let me give you some general assholedness examples. Say you’re upset with your friend for “never calling you. “. First (and I’m paraphrasing from an interesting gal Byron Katie and other sources), does she never call?  Well, ok, maybe she hasn’t for a couple days. So it’s not super true thought. Then, here’s where the fun starts,  you turn it around on yourself. I never call my friend. Hmmm.  Well, I can’t say never but it’s true I’m not always the one doing the work. Have there been times I don’t call her for various reasons, even non legit ones. Well damn it. I’m kind of an asshole.

Second example:  Say you start to convince yourself that your spouse is going to let you down. A. You’re an asshole for thinking this because they may occasionally but usually they don’t. B. You are thinking the worst of them when you should be assuming the best. C. You may be wishing something into truth. D. You find the smallest examples to prove it instead of the real work of finding examples to DIS prove it. Ouch. Asshole. Top grade.

Then you start looking back on your life and realize there were a lot of times you were actually the asshole and even when you weren’t your General assholedness may have caused the other person to just feed off that and act like an asshole too. Because in general negative wears off rather than positive.

Or, the whole “it’s not about you sweet cheeks, ” and the “it’s always you, dumbass” truths.

Well, sweet cheeks, you say, you’re pretty hard on yourself. A little grace, yes?  No, I say. Being an asshole doesn’t allow grace. It demands 100% change and work. You can’t end the day with, well, I was only an asshole 20 times today instead of my normal 50. It’s a good direction to head but you can’t stop there.

YaYa (3-11-16)

PictureA recurring theme in our blog is family is what you make it. I want to share about an amazing person in our family that we call YaYa. YaYa is the name for our #5’s paternal grandmother. (My ex-husband-in-law’s mom, AKA my wife’s-ex-mother-in-law???) She lives nearby and he gets to see her lots. We love that this hasn’t changed from the first year of his life and he can’t get enough of seeing her and being with her.
It was important to my wife that her son not lose any connection with his dad’s side of the family. She worked hard in the beginning of our relationship (and her divorce) to keep the lines of communication with them open. She also loves his family and counts them as her own. YaYa has been such a blessing to all of us!
Of all the people in our “previous” and present lives, she could have easily cut ties with my wife, never interact with me, and been justified in many eyes to be “right” in doing so. Perhaps the most justified of anyone. But she didn’t. She is one of the people in our lives that has shown grace, acceptance, and love. We all choose how we want to live and interact with those around us. She could have chosen justification, scorn, rejection, and hurt. But she chose love. She chose relationships. She welcomes us to her home with open arms. She stops by our house, eats dinner with us on occasion. She spent Christmas morning at our house for our family gift opening. She went Christmas tree hunting with us. She hugs me, the person she could hate, every time she sees me. We talk. We laugh. We share. She talks to all of our kids.
Our littlest loves going out to her ranch on days when we are gone or working. But here is where she gets even more amazing: Lately our 4 year old, #4, begs to go see her too. (Remember, they aren’t related). She’s so good at getting down on the floor with both little boys and just playing. He quickly warmed up to her, which is unique because he’s super shy to most people. A while back we told #5 that he was going to get to spend the night with YaYa. He got super excited. Then #4 heard and started jumping around. “We get to go see YaYa!” He ran to get his suitcase. I told him that I thought just his little brother was going to get to go, but he refused to believe me. I gently tried to talk him out of thinking he was going too. I asked him where he would sleep if he went. Matter-of-factly he answered, “Well, she does have 2 pillows on her bed!” When she arrived to get #5, before I could even broach the subject, she asked if I wanted her to take both boys. The 4 year old was beside himself. The next week rolled around and she was going to watch the 2 year old again. Once again #4 excitedly got ready. We called her to talk about it honestly. I would never want her to feel like she was being forced or expected to take him. She certainly has no obligation! She said that she was always happy to take him and enjoyed him a lot. She added, “And I could never say no to him when he looks up at me with those eyes of his!”
We’ve been so blessed to not only have not lost a connection with her, but especially for our second youngest, have gained another grandparent to love him (as well as the rest of them) up! She’s a rare treasure for sure.

The Airport Adventure (3-13-16)

Praying For You! (3-22-16)

Recently an acquaintance informed me that upon learning about my situation, has started praying for me. Usually, prayer is considered a kind gesture, appreciated on any level. It struck me, kind of suddenly, how strange it feels to know that for perhaps the first time in my life, this type of prayer is not only unsolicited, but strangely not helpful, wanted, and potentially damaging. You see, this past year and a half, I know there are lots of folks out there praying “against” me. I’m walking around, while people are praying for me for something I not only don’t want, I don’t feel is God’s will for me, and, if their intercessions are more successful than mine, quite damaging as well.

It occurred to me that we may do this often, assuming that we know God’s will for others, their situations are clearly defined, and that we know exactly what God must do to right the situation. In my case I not only divorced my husband of 16 years, but am now married to a woman. Two pretty huge strikes, two large “sins”, blighting (in others’ eyes) my otherwise pretty wholesome life. When we look at someone and can clearly pick out the major sin, and then begin pleading to God on their behalf, we are assuming an awful lot. Thankfully, my previous marriage did not include ANY type of abuse. But for argument’s sake, let’s look at an example of a divorce based on that kind of situation. She divorces her husband because of abuse. A friend, family member, acquaintance, anyone who knows her (but we can safely assume probably doesn’t know anything about the situation), says she’s praying that God will reconcile the marriage, because divorce is a sin. What if this person’s prayers were successful? Could prayer work this way? I suppose the best case is that the husband suddenly became non-abusive, repentant, fixed his shit, and the wife forgave and forgot, and they get back together and live happily ever after. What if prayer worked to the point of getting them back together, but the situation didn’t resolve? What if he changed, but she could never go back because it was too traumatic? Is this really the best thing? My point is that while I agree that divorce isn’t great and should be avoided when we can, we seem to put this idea that it is NEVER right, above all else. Above safety, above health, above letting go of situations that aren’t good.

This idea that we can pray that God can fix what went wrong isn’t necessarily bad, but when you don’t know the WHY’s, it’s awfully presumptuous. I think it falls under the premise that most people take at face value: Divorce=bad, marriage=good. We always compare bad divorces to good marriages. We assume divorce equals a broken home, damaged children, pain, hatred, incomplete family, and if it could just be “fixed”, then it’s happily ever after. When we think of marriage, we picture the good kind: mom and dad are in love, loving, present, happy, growing. So when we compare these two side by side, the winner is obvious. But that isn’t always real life. Sometimes marriage can be a family that is in a never ending cycle of frustration, resentment, codependency, pain, and unhappiness. Sometimes that doesn’t go away no matter what they try. Are the kids better off just because from the outside it looks intact? What if the separation frees the 2 adults to be healthy, happy, adjusted, focused, present, and can co-parent better apart than together? Is this automatically the wrong thing? At any rate, my point is that when we assume that because it’s labeled a sin, we assume it is never a good choice for those involved.

Now going back to the reality that many people are still praying that I come to my senses, leave my choices behind and return, let’s look at the ramifications of this: I just asked my ex-husband if it was weird that people are praying we get back together. He replied with a resounding “Yes! Definitely weird!” This is an option neither of us want on any level. I think I could understand it if one or both of us were hoping for this to be an option, and requesting people pray on our behalf. This could make sense. It’s hard to come up with another situation I could think of that someone would pray for something in my life to happen that I don’t want. I’m just glad that prayer doesn’t work this way, that as long as you have enough people, you can sway “the vote” per say. What about the ensuing damage of breaking up the current family? Would that not “count” because it would be really trying to right a perceived wrong? Would the people involved not feel any pain or damage because it wouldn’t count?

The other problem with praying like this on someone’s unsolicited behalf is that it again assumes that this is obviously the best outcome for everyone and God’s will. Perhaps a more biblical prayer would be praying for the people involved and that God work in their lives how he sees fit or leaving it to God to do what’s best. I think we sometimes are so sure we know what’s best, that if we left it up to God, we would be pretty surprised. Thankfully God doesn’t have to stay inside our idea-box of what He wants or can do.

So what’s a better way? My hope is to get the prayers going in our favor. That God’s hand is seen in our situation, not only for us, but for those we affect and interact with. That we grow daily in love. That our family gets stronger each day. That our children continue to feel our love, our stability, our strength, and God’s hopes for them. That the parents continue to rock the co-parenting. A mind-blowing thought? We are living God’s will. This was in His Plan all along. That ALL things work for the good. That we are a living example of the extent of God’s grace and love. That God uses us, our family, to spread His Love, Joy, Mercy and Grace.

I did it! (3-22-16)

Picturei did it! 2 years after my wife signed me up for a half marathon, I finished one today! It’s hard for me, a former distance runner, to be super impressed with myself but I know I should be. Now the accomplishment isn’t huge but I’m proud of myself. Mostly for sticking with a goal. I blogged last December about our fitness goals and the challenges of squeezing in runs with our family life. Two years ago one of the first things she did when we were just getting to know each other was sign me up for a half marathon. While this was a pretty big motivator, I wasn’t able to do that race for one because it got cancelled and I was suffering from shin splints.

I’ve been telling people lately that when I started running again two years ago after a decade long hiatus as well as bearing 4 children, it was harder than I thought. It was kinda painful. I never want to feel that out of shape again or feel that terrible on runs. I realized that time is catching up to me. I don’t see not running as a real option (my wife is 7 yrs my jr so I need to keep it together!) so I don’t want to ever have to start over. I limped along this past year and a half, realizing that when there were times I couldn’t make running a priority, even once a week was enough at least to maintain without losing it all. So I’ve been barely keeping fit and trying to squeeze on at least a 3-4 mile every once in a while. This Christmas Day we upped it to a 10k and I felt so accomplished! It seemed like a really long distance.  I wanted to complete a half marathon in May while my wife ran a full. We upped our long runs a couple miles each week. It turned out that when I registered for the May race it had already closed so we registered me for one nearby this weekend. I’m glad I only had a few weeks out to worry about it but was already running 11-12 anyway.

It was easier than I thought.  I’ve struggled to keep chugging along if I have to run by myself.  My wife met me around mile 8 or 9 and ran the last few miles with me (she actually ran a 20 mile run that morning!), but I found I was able to get into a rhythm on my own as well.  I think I’ve finally hit my stride so to speak!

Next up?  I would love to complete a few sprint triathlons this summer and get back into the sport that I love the most!  Of course, I would be nothing without my pit crew!

Zebra Stripes–Part 2 (3-23-16)

I wanted to update my blog on the progress since one of my first posts: How do you get a zebra to change its stripes.

Progress for me, usually comes in spurts. It’s how I operate. I get intense levels of energy for periods of time, then back off, maybe get interested in something else, need to rest, or become disinterested. It’s my dance I guess. I’m not going to say it’s bad, it’s just how I am, and I’ve learned to ride the waves of energy instead of get frustrated when I’m not energetic or productive, or feel like I’m going to burn out if I keep going. I know it’s in cycles.

The house goals have been the same way. I feel like January of 2015 I went through a major purge of the house, ridding it of boxes and truckloads of things. This was where I started. It was a great start. Then another a few months later, as we merged 2 households together. And then another. I’ve stepped up the cleaning. We’ve stepped up the kids taking responsibility for their own things. It’s not easy. It’s super hard. Kids don’t learn habits overnight, and the energy it takes to follow a kid around is for me 10x the work of doing it myself. But slowly it’s paying off. I can’t say we are anywhere near the end, but I have to keep looking at the small changes.

While it’s important to my wife to keep the house at a pretty clean level, I can honestly say it’s always been what I’ve wanted as well, but, between my personality, my habits, my surroundings, and my frustration of knowing WHAT I want but having no clue how to get there, hasn’t gone very far until this year. I don’t want it to seem like her expectations are “up here”, and I’m just trying to meet them. The depressing part is, today I came across my journal from 2003. My number one goal? Keep a clean house, declutter, and simplify. On one hand, it made me want to cry. That was 13 friggin years ago. And I’m still struggling? Holy shit, what is wrong with me? On the other hand, it gives me a boost. Because indeed, 13 years ago it bothered me. ME. No one else. And if you know me at all, you know I live for my own goals, never for what I think others think I should do. I remember feeling super frustrated that I had this pipe dream of simplifying, decluttering, living in a welcome space, and NO ONE COULD SHOW ME HOW. So, no, I am not just trying to meet someone else’s expectations. I’ve just lacked the fire under my butt. I can see that while I’ve made progress faster recently, I can acknowledge the baby steps looking back. Not that I wanted it to take 13 years, and I certainly want to wrap things up here permanently in a timely matter, but I have changed. Very, very slowly. I also need to take it easy on myself. If I felt that frustrated 13 years ago, making this my number 1 priority, BEFORE kids, it clearly hasn’t been an easy battle. If it was that much of a struggle for me then, (adding children made it more mandatory), but the thought of keeping after myself to change, my ex-husband to change, and then teaching a child, forget it. While I learned the basics (seeing my home when I had 4 young children looked a lot better than when I only had 1 because you just HAVE TO), I was drowning in the seas. I had to choose to keep my head above water, or fight what seemed an impossible task of also trying to get the kids to help. So I let certain things slide. I only had so much energy.

Today, things are a huge step from when I blogged 5 months ago. But not quite there yet. Add in another mind shift. I don’t think anything has really backslid, but perhaps plateaued, and needed a shift in thinking. Here’s where things fall apart for me: I am not a person who likes to put things away. I wish I could embrace the “everything has a place” mentality, bins galore, save it all, just keep it neat kind of organization. That’s definitely not me at all. I am smart enough to know that I need to figure out a method that works for ME is the only way it’s ever gonna happen. I would LOVE to live in a world that’s simple, decluttered, peaceful. It would mesh with my young pipe dreams of a simple life. To pick up and go at any time. Not be tied down to materialism. But I also grew up with savers. Save every memory. Save in case you need it. And that works for some people. Nothing wrong with that if you can do it well. I hate the feeling of getting rid of something only to need it the next week! I hate that! I am also a guilt saver. I attach feeling to the objects. I don’t want to hurt the givers feelings. Or things like toys. Or cups. I feel guilty throwing things away. Putting it in a landfill? Wasting the money I spent buying it? Might as well keep it and give it some use once I have it, right? I keep cheap plastic crap around, thinking, well, maybe this will provide a toddler a bit of entertainment. Might as well keep it. Better than in the garbage. So between the 2 poles, I get into a hot mess. I can’t justify getting rid of things, but it’s a big struggle to keep it organized. It’s a huge struggle to get a toddler to pick up an entire bin of toys he’s just upended. It’s a huger struggle to constantly organize toys, keeping most in storage, rotating them out routinely, keeping the stored ones organized. I know that works great for some, but not for me. So I need that next mind shift.

I’ve been straddling these two worlds for a very long time. It either paralyzes me or I swing from one extreme to the other. I go through purging phases, but not long after I go into frugal mode. I see a good deal, I take it. I want to shower the kids with a nice surprise for their birthday. I can’t say no when someone wants to buy them a bunch of stuff, or brings an entire box of books. It’s like I’d be depriving my children because I have a vague lofty goal of not having stuff that I waver on constantly. It’s such a big battle! I think I waver so much because I’m not listening to my original, true compass. I started off not wanting things. Not wanting my kids to have so much. I felt strongly about this. But sometimes life bulldozes you in ways that make your true instincts unclear. I’ve also felt super frustrated when I’ve tried to have people help me figure out how to meet my goals, knowing other people have kids and can do it and aren’t always tyrants about it either, but feel patronized when the best answer is usually “don’t be so hard on yourself!”. It’s like struggling in math and getting a C, but when you ask someone to explain how to do the work they pat you on the head and say, “you shouldn’t worry, you are just being hard on yourself.” I need practical solutions, people!

I’m a little worried this is just another phase and 3 years from now I’ll look back and say, no, NOW I’m really going to do it! This is it! I’m hoping that’s not the case. I don’t think it is, but want to be a little cautious in my optimism. But it’s exciting to have all these pieces start to fall into place. Slowly gaining ground until it all seems doable. The kids, I have to say, are doing AMAZING!!!!! At first I thought it would never happen. It took 6 months to get them to remember to clear their own plates. But they are doing so, so, so well! I have to remind myself how far they’ve come sometimes. Of course, we could find a bunch of things to still work on. Sure, I could beat myself up for not having them here sooner, or that it should be an expectation to put away shoes, not a celebration. But it is! They are learning! It’s coming together. We’ve also come up with a way to merge allowance, responsibility, chores, etc into one system, but that’s a blog for another day.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not aiming for perfect. That’s not me. I want to stay true to me at the same time. I think my hair can explain me perfectly. I love dreads for their naturalness, their carefree statement, the ways they look, the low maintenance, the free style of them. BUT, I also have the dreads that are almost perfectly uniform, loose ends tucked in, formed, bleached, washed. I started them on purpose. I started them with the goal of perfect formation of them. Planned. That’s me. Imperfect perfection. No. Perfect imperfection. There are things I will never stress about. They aren’t important to me. And I’ve been a mom for 12.5 years. I KNOW there are days where you let things go. Because a sick kid is more important than the dishes. That there are days where I ditch scrubbing toilets to take them sledding. That watching them play in the dirt in the yard, knowing they will track it in the house, is much more important than keeping the dirt off the floor. Or that while I’m busy trying to keep the house, they are getting ignored, or getting into a mess because I’m at the kitchen sink. There are days I will let them run off to their friend’s house without doing their chores because relationships should always come first. Or go to the park because it’s one of those perfect days that are so, so rare. The flip side of this is that I will run to meet a friend even if there’s a pile of laundry because I treasure them. There will ALWAYS be laundry. There will be the next morning when I feel so rejuvenated by my relationships that I can tackle the extra. It’s all balance. But I think I am moving toward a world where both are entirely possible at the same time.