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Handicapped Hospitality

So I’ve almost always been a hospitality person…inviting people over, cooking for them, relaxing with them…it has always been my “thing.” I love it!!

Almost from the moment I left my parents’ home, I loved it. I remember running to the video store, renting a VCR and a movie, cooking and inviting people into the very old, trailer house that I lived in. I considered having people over the best part of life. That continued everywhere I have lived…until my divorce.

My life was upended by divorce. I moved from my home. I had to deal with all of the emotions of all the times I entertained for and with my ex-husband (for those of you who remember ‘What is Emotional Abuse Anyway,’ I had to work through the fact that entertaining was a way for me to “hide in plain sight”). I had to figure out how to live life again. Plus covid hit a year later, just as I felt that I was getting a bit stable.

And, to be honest, entertaining feels awkward without a spouse.

But, oh my gosh, do I miss it! I miss the joy of planning a meal…an afternoon or evening filled with people. I miss laying out all of the serving pieces and writing on sticky notes to make sure I have a dish that enhances the beauty of every single item I will make. It is truly one of my absolute favorite things to do.

Unfortunately, I feel sort-of handicapped now. I’m not sure if it has to do with being divorced or if it has something to do with the pandemic. All that I know is that if feels as if I am struggling to figure out how to do this again.

Women, I love you, but I don’t want to have women-only lunches. I miss the interaction of adults…men and women laughing and enjoying one another’s company. But everything feels weird and awkward.

So how do I do what I love and learn to be hospitable again? I honestly have no earthly idea.

But I know that I have to figure it out. Hospitality (or love, welcome, serve as Amy Hannon says it), is simply who I am.

I heard someone say that “brave, difficult, awkward hospitality” is how we meet people right where they are. It’s not the beautiful platters and place settings, but it’s whatever we have on hand that welcomes people to have a place in our lives.

So I am challenging myself to have at least one “brave, difficult, awkward” moment each month until it feels natural again.

I’m not giving up on this…I love the whole process of it too much to let it slip away forever!

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How did I forget?

I met with my counselor last week for the first time in about 9 months. As we were talking, she does her magic and asks a few questions…

(I’m going to stop here for a minute. I have literally just finished a grad school class on cognitive behavioral interventions. My entire final was a live “practice” combining and using questions to help a person see where they can make changes. I made a perfect score. I literally just learned questioning skills. Insert eyeroll.)

Continuing on…as I sit in her office, it occurs to me that I already knew how to manage what had spiraled out of control in my own life. My mind is reeling with the thought, “Are you kidding me?” I had slipped into behaviors without even a conscious thought about how much stress they were causing me!

The process of awareness and using tools to function in emotionally healthy ways simply need to be rebooted sometimes.

I’m going to be honest. On my way home from her office, I was annoyed that I had forgotten that I had choices. I was living in my past reactions within the abuse cycle, and I had totally allowed myself to slip into old habits.

As I have pondered it since then, I have chosen to embrace the fact that I slipped into old patterns. It happens, and I wasn’t paying that much attention. I have just been “getting through” each day.

The difference now is that I know what to do. I know where to look for help if I need it.

But here’s the thing.

I accidentally isolated myself. It wasn’t intentional. It really did just happen.

FYI-isolation is my thing. I am really, really good at it. It’s how I survived in years past.

We absolutely cannot isolate if we are to live meaningful lives!!

Period.

Yes, we get busy. Yes, it has been hard because of the pandemic. Yes, we are busy with work, kids, classes, church…whatever the things are that fill your time.

But we need people to connect with. People to keep us in the present. People to bring us out of our headspace.

(And if you know me, you know how stuck I can get in my mind. I a bit of a weird-o about that. I can also get stuck trying to disappear into reading. And sometimes, I can even get stuck just sitting in my living room doing nothing…it is kind of ridiculous.)

So here’s the deal. I’ve been moving forward, step by step, since the day I found out my ex-husband was gay. Sometimes we get stuck in old patterns of behaviors. Except now, once the a-ha moment comes, I know what to do to get unstuck.

Moving forward isn’t about never looking back and never having another problem.

It’s all about the a-ha moments. They should totally give us a boost of confidence that we are awesome at this moving forward thing. We know how to get ourselves out of stuff. And even if we don’t remember, we probably know where we can go to get a little help!

Keep going. We’ve got this.

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Fresh Eyes

It is 6:30 a.m. the Saturday before Easter. I am alone in a bed and breakfast just a few miles from home, and I have been consistently working to catch up on all of my classwork that has fallen through the cracks the last few weeks.

Why am I in a bed and breakfast? How am I even paying for such an indulgence?

After receiving my tax return, I put it all immediately in my savings to offset the lack of income I will have this next summer…although I also need new tires for my car, my computer is dying, and I have holes in my rental house walls that need professional repairing. (Yes, I am rambling…sometimes fear creeps in.)

But my mental health was failing. The busy-ness inside my home was creating a whirlwind inside my brain. My young adults come in and out. My teenager is struggling with his schoolwork. My home is cluttered. I have been in and out a lot these days. I could not seem to clear my head long enough to focus on what needed to get done.

I realized that I could push through, but I know me…at some point in the near future, I would eventually lose it and hurt someone’s feelings. I have been jumping from activity to activity, attempting to see progress within the house while also trying to get some of my schoolwork (and real work) done. I have been doing a minimal job of completing my schoolwork, not allowing myself to fully grasp the information I need for my future. And in general, I have been walking around frustrated at everyone instead of taking the time to process my feelings, deal with them appropriately, and communicate them.

So I gave myself a budget and permission to spend 2 nights away from the chaos. To clear my head and focus my vision.

Plus…there is this other thing that has sneaked in and has been causing me a bit of unexpected emotions. I needed to allow myself to feel those, so that I can continue moving forward.

I don’t think a lot of people allow themselves to deal with their sh** after a divorce. They move forward and carry all of that mess with them…either that, or I cling to my sh** for a long stinking time. But I don’t think so. I think that as a society, we expect people to move on quickly from their feelings so that the discomfort for those around us can go away. And people move forward believing that the sh** will just go away if they keep doing stuff to push the emotions away.

For me, 25 years of marriage (and a whole lifestyle) was a lot to lose…it would be for anyone. It was only 3 years ago that I was pursuing intense therapy to try and figure out if my marriage could be saved. Back then, my then-husband was working to convince me that he wanted to be married to me. So I kept trying to have an open mind and to be logical.

But on Easter Sunday 2018, a decision was made that confirmed that my marriage could not be saved.

And on this Easter weekend (2021), I am working to reframe that part of my story. Bear with me as a S-T-R-E-T-C-H Jesus’ story to help me along.

Jesus died…betrayal set that in motion. And then He rose again.

A part of me died…because of betrayal. But I am rising again as a new woman. (Told you I was stretching it a bit!)

When I choose to look at my life in this manner, I see encouragement. I see the hope I am giving to others. Has this path been difficult? Yes, beyond anything I could imagine.

When I look around at those who have suffered betrayal, I see many faces. Some of us fall into despair and cannot get up. Some of us fall into rage and become angry women seeking revenge. And some of us pray (beg) daily that God keeps our hearts soft so that we can gently lead others to see Jesus.

My season of difficulty has not yet ended, but I am seeing the fruit of sharing my story and of me leaning on Jesus.

**At least 3 women have come to me and told me that they left abusive relationships…because I shared my story.

**2 young men came to me and told me that they were groomed by older men in trusted situations…because I shared my story.

I have thought that I needed to stop sharing my story, but my story is important. My story gives hope to those who have experienced horrible things…and it is not even the worst one you will ever hear.

But it shines a light in the dark corners that some of us try so hard to hide. It creates a space for people to have a voice.

So this time away has given me fresh eyes. Some things I see:

  1. I love what I am learning, and I need to take the time to create a space to absorb all that I can.
  2. My children are experiencing growing pains and need the space to feel those pains without my intervention.
  3. My heart continues to heal. Allowing myself to feel those pangs of confusion and grief as they pass through my body, not judging them, but accepting them as simply part of the healing process.
  4. I am doing great things. Maybe not from a huge platform, but in teeny, tiny private ways, I am making a difference.
  5. And this job I have but don’t love…I am doing pretty good at that, too. Messages from parents expressing their gratitude about what they are seeing and hearing from my classroom are confirming that I am where I am meant to be.

I encourage you. When your mind is filled with an overabundance of moving parts, and you cannot seem to see clearly, give yourself permission to step away from it all. Fresh eyes bring clarity and peace.

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Pondering…Am I Guilty?

Am I guilty of parental alienation?

I honestly do not know. This is something that I have been afraid of being blamed for ever since the divorce occurred. In fact, it is something that sometimes keeps me awake at night. My thoughts wonder how much I contributed to the negative feelings my children have toward their father.

Three out of my four children live with me. (The fourth lives on his own.) The three that live with me have observed the overwhelming nature of my divorce. It was impossible to protect them from it.

For the first little bit during and after the divorce, I regularly told my children that their father loved them to the best of his ability. Honestly, he wasn’t the nicest guy to live with, and during the divorce he became vindictive directly to them. But he is their father…

All three of them accused me of trying to force them into a relationship with him. All three of them said that I was trying to manipulate them.

So I stopped.

But am I guilty of this thing called parental alienation? Did I promote their feelings of anger directed toward their dad? Was there anything that I could have done to encourage them more?

There’s this: I only found out about my ex-husband’s attraction to men because my daughter told me. In the beginning, I attempted counseling, and I encouraged my children to see that I was trying to be open-minded.

And there’s this: My 2nd son and my daughter told me that if I stayed with their dad, I would not have a relationship with them. That they would make an effort to see me occasionally, but they would never again enter our home freely.

And then there’s this: My 4th child, from a very early age, disliked his father. I never understood it and often attempted to force a relationship. The only way he would spend time with his dad is if he was bribed.

Not to mention this: My ex-husband moved over 1000 miles away.

I was devastated by my ex-husband’s hidden life, and as my eyes opened to why our lives were the way they were, I realized what awful things he had intentionally done to keep his secret. (Some of them are still beyond my comprehension.) Did I share too much of that? Maybe. I don’t know how I could have kept it a secret. Their friends were telling them things, and they came to me with questions. I didn’t want to lie to my kids.

Regardless of all of that, am I guilty of alienating their dad? Did I overly encourage my children to dislike him?

My studies in social work tell me that this is a problem with some divorce cases, and I do not want this to be the story of my children. I want them to know that even if I cannot look their father in the eye or have a face-to-face conversation with him, they are more than welcome to have that. They won’t be hurting me. (FYI-that is a total lie…it will hurt me if they seek out a relationship with him. But I can keep that tucked inside of me to share with a friend instead of my feelings affecting them…(laugh out loud) is that even possible? They do live with me, and they are no longer young children. They can see through any attempt I make to “fake it.”)

How does a person navigate this? How do I prevent this from happening? I know that the emotional turmoil of walking out this devastating path has affected my children, but have I alienated them from their father?

What could I have done differently? What can I do differently?

Today, I continue to ponder if I am guilty. Part of me thinks no way, I would never do that. Another part of me thinks that it is impossible for me to have not negatively influenced them.

I will have to settle with this thought: I have done the best that I could in my situation.

I just pray that sinks into my soul one day soon.

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Tired of Trauma

The word trauma is on my mind this morning…honestly, I’m beginning to feel as if the word is overused. And yet, it is the most accurate word for what so many people have been walking through the last several years.

Someone used the word trauma on my facebook post yesterday in response to all that Texas has gone through. All day, I pondered it and began making a personal list of all that has occurred since Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

While I acknowledge all of the things that have occurred, I want those of you reading it to realize that I have made certain that I have had the help I needed to persevere through it all. I have not attempted to walk this out alone, nor have I powered through out of sheer will-power. I have leaned on the resources around me, and I believe that I have a relatively balanced outlook on all of it. It is a lot and I will not minimize that, but I want you to see that when you acknowledge that things are difficult and tap into resources, you will find that you can make it through stressful seasons without bitterness and anger, and you may even come out on the other side emotionally healthy.

  1. August 2017 — Hurricane Harvey — devastating for Southeast Texas, although not to me personally (a lot of survival guilt during that time)
  2. November 2017 — My ex-husband resigned from his job to avoid being laid off
  3. November 2017 — My oldest son had his first deployment…with submarines, you do not get to know where your loved one is
  4. January 2018 — One of my dearest friends was diagnosed with breast cancer
  5. February 2018 — I found out from my daughter that my husband of 25 years was gay
  6. Throughout 2018 — Struggled with guilt about my own family drama occupying my mental resources while wanting to pour my heart into caring for my friend
  7. March 2018 — One of my children had a complete meltdown and had to be admitted into a psych hospital
  8. March -July 2018 — Information beyond my comprehension was exposed to me
  9. April 2018 — My oldest son came home traumatized from what occurred during deployment
  10. July 2018 — Filed for divorce
  11. July 2018 — My ex-husband barged into the home and had to be removed by police
  12. August 2018 — I began working as the divorce court appearances began
  13. October 2018 — Sold my home and became technically homeless (thankfully, I have dear friends to took us in temporarily)
  14. December 2018 — Moved into new rental home
  15. January 2019 — Divorce finalized
  16. March 2019 — I am sued by my ex-husband
  17. April 2019 — Reality hits…some friendships die when there is a divorce
  18. May 2019 — I get accepted into graduate school
  19. August 2019 — My graduate program begins; my daughter moves into an apartment and begins college
  20. September 2019 — Tropical Storm Imelda unexpectedly floods Houston, trapping my daughter and me in my car downtown
  21. October – December 2019 — Ongoing harassment from my ex-husband’s
  22. January 2020 — I cannot pay my bills, so I make the decision to finish the semester, reduce my hours to part-time student status, and make plans to go to work full-time in May 2020
  23. March 2020 — The world stops because of COVID
  24. April 2020 — I begin searching for a job, because that was my plan…COVID or not
  25. May-June 2020 — Major race riots in America consume our cities
  26. August 2020 — No job in sight so I begin monitoring students for online schooling
  27. October 2020 — My students go back to in-person school, so I begin subbing in the school district and baking to bring in enough income to pay my bills.
  28. June 2020 – January 2021 — Major election drama and people are harshly divided…an insane amount of rage surrounding everyone
  29. January 2021 — I am hired part-time to teach at a small private school
  30. January 6 2021 — Our US Capitol was stormed
  31. January 2021 — My oldest son leaves for a 7-month deployment
  32. February 2021 — Winter Storm Uri wreaks havoc on Texas
  33. February 21, 2021 — Today

For 3 years and 5 months, there has been extreme stress in my life and many others throughout the US. That stress is trauma.

Trauma is real, and it affects us deeper than we realize. I do not want to dwell on all that occurred during these last years; however, I also do not want to minimize all that has happened. So many of us are taught to persevere through hardships without ever acknowledging that things were REALLY hard for a while. And that is simply wrong.

Just because you survived it and have made steps forward; the fact that it was a lot to walk through should not be negated.

I know that I sound like a broken record this morning. I keep seeing and hearing faith platitudes that are meant to encourage, but sometimes feel like reprimands for not having enough faith when we are just tired. There are times when we simply need someone to come alongside and hold up our arms as Aaron and Hur did for Moses.

Being tired is real. Pretending as if we aren’t is not.

Yes, for those of you who Believe, God does love us. God’s presence is real. God will sustain us. AND it is okay to say that we are tired and weary…and to rest in the knowledge that God loves us through it all.

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Something New

Here it is. The beginning of 2021…I am so glad 2020 has ended!

I am grateful for 2020. I have learned so much this last year, and as odd as the year was, I am appreciative of the insight it has given me.

As 2020 ended, I worked through an inventory of my life. What went well this year? What went wrong? What did I grieve? What brought me joy? What can I learn, and how can I grow from all of it?!

2020 was HARD. Not nearly as emotionally hard as the previous two years, but hard for different reasons. I have learned that I am a person who seriously likes to ignore things…I am an avoider. Let me clarify. If I have to deal with something uncomfortable, I will do it (eventually), but I will tiptoe around the issue as long as I possibly can.

I realized that I need to change the way I live. It isn’t healthy. Not physically, emotionally, or spiritually. This is where I want to blame others, which would be an easy out, but it would not be the truth.

It’s time to embrace my life as a single adult woman with children. I need to stop putting my kids first…3 of them are adults. They need my encouragement, but they are perfectly capable of stepping into their own lives. As for my 16-year-old, it’s time to begin empowering him toward independence.

Now that I realize all of this, how do I make the necessary change?

These two verses have been rattling in my mind for the last few weeks. As the end of the year has come and gone, I’ve decided to cling to them for this next year: Isaiah 43:18-19 CSB “Do not remember the past events; pay no attention to things of old. Look, I am about to do something new; even now it is coming. Do you not see it? Indeed, I will make a way in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.”

Faith and hope. Fully embrace the future. Keep my eyes looking forward, and allow the past to remain behind me.

Although I have continued to progress forward, I have also felt tethered to the past…to Code Red, to the abuse, and to the horrors of what was. It is time to let all of that go.

It means that I am ready to come to peace with what was. It is part of my story, but it is no longer going to hold me captive.

So here I am, in 2021, feeling as if I am sitting on a hill, looking to see what God is going to do next?

Happy New Year, everyone!

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The Exhaustion of Psychological Abuse

Christmas will be here in just under 3 weeks time. This will be my 3rd Christmas as a single mom, my first Christmas where I don’t have to feel emotionally pulled into someone else’s mental chaos. But for a minute there, that psychological ridiculousness came close to interrupting my season of joy.

Psychological abuse is so sneaky that you don’t even realize it’s happening…or I don’t.

In this latest incident, I had a completely ridiculous and out of proportion reaction to something that was said. Once I paused and looked deeper, I saw that Code Red used his knowledge of my thought processes, a tiny bit of knowledge he gained from someone, and then created an assumption/lie/guess to make it appear that he was “in the know” of something that I had never, ever communicated with him.

In the past, I would have mentally reviewed my words and assumed that I had slipped up and been “stupid”…again, going so far as to label myself as crazy. But this time, I took a breath and thought rationally, and I saw the lie he was creating. Unfortunately though, for about an hour, I was in a full-on state of panic and fear…and if I am truthful, paranoia.

After successfully figuring this out, and (for the first time since leaving my marriage) I realized why my 16-year-old struggles with so much anxiety when it comes to communicating with his father. I was finally able to recognize that Code Red uses the same tactics on our child. The questions, the condescension, the “knowing” is absolutely crazy making. (I wish he would just be a “dad” or better yet, leave the poor kid alone.)

This latest incident took 3 HOURS of my day to help my child process what was happening and figure out a way to communicate effectively. The mental gymnastics required to process the emotional reaction and come up with a firm response exhaust your whole being! There is no “say what you mean and mean what you say” when you are 16-years-old, at least not without backlash. (During the divorce process, my then-14-year-old was told by the judge that he had to unblock his father on his phone. The judge definitely did not realize that his father does not know when to stop texting.)

My child receives texts beginning at 4am on most days. He receives texts throughout the school day that require thought and interaction…interrupting his education and stirring up unneeded anxiety and stress. He continues to receive texts at random each evening. It is a lot.

The only way I have started to heal my brain from the chaos of the last 28 years is by setting strict boundaries. My child does not have that luxury; and yet, healthy boundaries are what keep us sane. Learning how to protect our mind is incredibly difficult, and it is a struggle to teach children how to set boundaries when they are at the mercy of unhealthy adults in their lives.

I continue to hope and pray that by being present and encouraging my son to process and speak for himself, he will eventually learn to set strong, healthy boundaries with his father.

Psychological abuse is an absolute nightmare, and honestly, I am tired of dealing with it. My brain is weary from being switched “on” so much of the time. Selfishly, I am exhausted observing my child fall apart while trying to make sense of how to best communicate.

If I could, I would simply shout, “Go away!” and be done with it! But we continue to persevere, exercise, and grow the mental muscles we need to remain strong. Thank goodness, we have the privilege of knowledge. And one day…there will be rest.

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I Am Just Enough

Although I am 1-1/2 years post divorce and 2-1/2 years past the discovery, life continues to be hard.

It’s November, the month of my anniversary, my favorite month of each and every year.

I find that I am weary these days. This moving forward is difficult, and I am relatively annoyed at myself for continuing to have big feelings. They aren’t as cutting as they used to be, and I can tell that in time they will continue to be less and less.

But right now, those feelings hurt. My heart aches. My nose sniffles. My eyes tear.

I question, “How could this be my life?”

Do the emotions come because of the memories? or do they come because they were triggered?

Last month, my son ran away. Not for long but long enough to worry me. I desperately wanted someone physical to turn to. I wanted someone to hold me, allow me to cry, and to be weak…for just a little while. I am so very tired of being “strong.”

But I did not have that. In fact, when I reached out to my son’s father, somehow the messages got mixed up and ended with him angry and calling me names. It left me depleted and although it’s been a few weeks, I continue to feel the knife edge of his words.

When I began this blog, I did it as a way to move forward and chronicle what that process looks like for someone who had so much…a big house, a big wallet, a lot of stuff…but chose to leave it all to become free. I was filled with hope, in spite of the grief.

As I have moved forward, I have been hesitant to post when I have another emotional hiccup. I haven’t wanted to seem weak.

But there is enough room for the hopeful, the sad, and all of the feelings in-between. Our emotions are real, and it is okay for us to feel them and process them. There is enough room in this world for all of them.

The trick is to remember that the people who cannot help hold my emotions are simply not my people to share the emotions with. Those people need to sit on the sidelines of my life so that they do not interfere with my healing.

I am not weak. And I am not strong. I am just enough.

**When my child ran away, I did have my parents whose presence did help me get through the weekend but that isn’t what I am talking about here.**

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Beautiful Marriage

On September 13th, my siblings and I celebrated our parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. During their lifetime, divorce has become relatively commonplace. Many people the age of my parents have divorced, so celebrating their accomplishment provided all of us with a sweet joy as we saw them act like newlyweds…giggling, laughing, getting ready, and gushing about how nice each other looked.

Seeing them interact with their friends and family and remembering the day gave us a glimpse into the love they have for one another. I think, as children, we sometimes only see the mundane living of life (plus the irritabilities and frustrations) and not the beauty of long-time love. We know that it wasn’t always easy, but we also know that time and time again, they persevered.

For me, it gave a little zing to my heart. I am 48 years old, and it would be a miracle that I have another that would last 50 years.

Earlier I used the words “accomplishment” and “persevered”…as if willpower is all that it takes to accomplish and persevere for a long marriage. Those words, while accurately describing my parents’ long marriage, could also be applied to my own marriage that ended in divorce.

Sometimes we use those particular words not realizing that they imply failure to those who do not achieve the same milestones.

I did achieve the longest marriage that I could. I did persevere in the face of difficulty. And I did choose to leave when my eyes were opened to the horrors hidden from me.

My parents’ long and beautiful marriage is just that. Long and beautiful.

My marriage was too long and too hard, and it was just that. Too long and too hard.

And I am ok with that.

There is joy for me, as well. I succeeded in getting out of an abusive, unfaithful marriage. I am thriving as I move forward with peace and joy.

Long marriages are beautiful, but it is also beautiful to witness someone step into a new life, away from something awful.

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Obesity Keeps Me Safe

This post is risky and hard to post, but I think it’s important.

In April 2014, I saw my doctor and told her that I was beginning to experience panic attacks. At the time, I honestly believed that I had no reason to be anxious. So she and I began to try medications to help prevent me from completely losing it.

Looking back, it seems as if it is a miracle that during that season I did not have a complete nervous breakdown. Here is what had been going on:

  • Code Red had been going on and off of medication for depression for years, and I never knew what kind of person would be walking into my home each evening…he might come in happy and hyper…OR he might come in on edge, ready to attack anyone who made the slightest noise…OR he would be so down and depressed that he would mope around talking about how “we never caught a break.” (That last bit was ridiculous. We had been blessed time and time again; he just couldn’t ever seem to see it.) And he was always, always drinking.
  • My oldest son was graduating from high school and seemed to be struggling against the world. Nothing I could do helped him find peace. My heart was sad, and I wasn’t sure if this was what normal growing pains felt like.
  • The herniated disc in my back had completely filled my spinal canal. I was in a ridiculous amount of pain most of the time.
  • Throughout the year, I think that between all 6 of us, there had been 4 or 5 surgeries.

After beginning the medication, I began seeing a counselor because I wanted to know how to best help my son. His high school years had been full of injuries, and he had not able to compete in athletics…and this son LOVES all things competitive. He was extremely depressed and I wondered if he was suicidal…how was I supposed to handle that? He had completely given up on academics (although he would get near-perfect scores on all exams), and he had turned down engineering school because he planned to join the Navy.

I was stressed, but I didn’t think that it was something that moms everywhere weren’t processing and walking through.

During the conversations with my therapist, small details began to come out about our family…and the more details that I shared, the more I began to shut down, and the more I shut down, the more I began to run through a drive-thru rather than cook a meal. (For those of you who know me well, this wasn’t normal. I love to cook. I love the details of putting together a detailed weekly menu, and I love to create enjoyable family meals.)

The pounds began to creep on. 5…10…40…80…100 all within an 8 month period of time, and I simply did not care. In fact, I tried to convince myself to care, but it didn’t work. The only time I even noticed the weight was when I had to dress to go somewhere.

I am pretty sure that the anxiety/depression meds were a bit too strong and created a numbing effect. I was simply grateful to have something to take away all of the stress that I had been feeling, and fast food was an easy provision.

Since 2015, I have fluctuated about 20 lbs but have remained significantly overweight…obese is the word that catches in my throat…never in my life have I been obese until this last season.

In 2018, during the bombshell of Code Red’s secret life, I decided to try a diet/lifestyle change with a dear friend. I failed. Time and time and time again. I set goals only to ignore them. I read information and absorbed it to the point that I know that I could teach someone exactly what to do to become healthy. I have spoken to my current counselor and we have worked through stuff.

But I have not been able to pull myself out of this strange pit.

In less than a month, I will be 48 years old. Just 5-1/2 years ago, I was 100 lbs lighter than I am right now.

What I have learned about myself is:

  • In 2014, I began to eat fast food as a “rebellion” against my family. If they weren’t going to have conversations and deal with stuff, I was not going to provide good, healthy meals for them…plus they like fast food, right?
  • In 2015-2017, I was heavily medicated/numbed. Mixing anxiety/depression meds with opioids and muscle relaxers prevented me from caring about anything. FYI-I did not struggle with addiction…my back pain was extreme. I am currently not on any medication.
  • In 2014-2018, I cooked enough to maintain appearances for outside people. This is weird, but even when I cooked for the family that lived with us after Hurricane Harvey, I felt as if it was keeping an appearance.
  • In 2015, I stopped wanting to be present for my then husband. I didn’t like going places with him only to be left by myself…and if I was overweight, he didn’t invite me. A win for me.
  • In 2018, my world collapsed. I simply survived that year. Fast food kept my kids fed without me having to think and prepare. I ate because it was there…I do not remember craving or enjoying food at all. That’s a lie…I did eat a lot of Captain Crunch…it’s strange how a childhood favorite brought comfort during that time. Food comfort is such a crazy thing…I don’t even like Captain Crunch now.
  • From 2019 – present, I now recognize that I provide fast food or poor food choices to prevent me from having hard conversations with my kids. Let me explain. Traditionally in our family, when fast food was purchased, we all went our separate ways to eat…never eating it as a family. If I cook, we eat as a family. If we eat as a family, we talk. And if we talk, I will begin to want to begin holding some accountability. I simply haven’t wanted to put in the effort. Yes, I know that isn’t emotionally healthy…

Do I eat too much? Yes, I love tacos and candy and soda and all things bad for the body. Not to mention that when you eat fast food nearly every single day, sometimes twice a day, you don’t have to eat astronomical amounts of food…you will put on significant weight without eating all day, every day.

So now that I know the root of what has happened, what am I going to do about it?

I honestly do not know.

There is one more roadblock to overcome. There is the dilemma of losing weight and becoming more attractive. As arrogant as this sounds, I know that when I am even somewhat fit, I am attractive. And if I am attractive, someone might show interest in me. And if someone shows interest in me, what in the world would I do? I don’t know how to determine who to trust. It is probably better for me to avoid that possibility altogether.

As crazy as this sounds, until I find my voice, obesity keeps me safe.

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Code Red Comes Out… Clarification Edit

I published the post, “Code Red Comes Out,” yesterday morning, and then I panicked.

So I deleted it…

Something that I’ve learned throughout the last 2-1/2 years is how difficult it is to maintain boundaries even after leaving an abusive relationship. Oftentimes, I cannot communicate in the manner in which I typically do.

I have trained myself to soften many things that come from my mouth…but in doing that, my words lose their meaning. It’s as if what I am attempting to say are not even understandable.

In that post, I wanted him to fully grasp that being gay was the minor issue in our marriage. The primary issue was his abuse.

But being gay WAS his primary issue in our marriage.

Make sense? I’m republishing it…sorry to those of you who subscribe for getting it twice…this is still a little bit sensitive for me.

So. My ex-husband, Code Red, officially came out to me last Sunday.

It made my week a bit emotional. Having him finally put what I already knew into words was surreal. (I hate that overused word…but it’s accurate.)

Last Sunday, I received a email from Code Red. It was actually a very kind letter telling me the one thing (he refers to it as “the lie”)he wished that he could have told me so long ago. As I read it, I grieved. I grieved for the life that he lost. I grieved the life that I lost. I grieved the life that we led, because it really wasn’t a very good life for either one of us.

In response, I offered to send him a response telling him how his lie impacted the kids and me throughout the years. Honestly, it was some of the most genuine interaction I feel that we have ever had.

Here is an edited version…all quotes are paraphrased: (Code Red – Bold, Me – Italics)

“Here is something I should have told you and others a long time ago.” Lumping me in with others is offensive. I was your wife. I fully trusted you…even when my instincts told me otherwise.

 “I am gay.  That’s the easiest way to put it.  I’m at peace with that fact, finally.  I’m at peace with how I was made.” For this, I am genuinely glad for you.

I do hate the pain that my choices and actions caused.” Let’s name them so that they aren’t minimized.**I listed 31 occurrences for him to consider. In regard of the sanctity I still value in marriage (even a bad one), I won’t expose all of them here. I have touched on them at times, but I won’t share these deeply personal things.

**The knowledge of your gay affairs opened a clear path to safety for the kids and me.”

“I do not regret our marriage. I did my best.” There are only 2 benefits from our marriage: 1) Our children 2) It strengthened me to a point that I did not think was possible.

“I still have love for you, but I know we probably cannot have a friendship.” Honestly, I no longer feel any love for you. I have come to accept that I haven’t loved you for a great many years. The feeling that I mistook for love was really fear. **Fear that you instilled in me with careful manipulation and rage. I have no desire to be friends with you. You are not the kind of person that I want to have in my life.

Because you have been separated from us, you are able to romanticize the truth, making it easy for you to create your own personal narrative. I, on the other hand, have been face to face not only with the damage you did to my heart, but also with the damage you did to our children. Every single day, I see the effects your decisions had on them. No amount of romanticizing will create a better truth for them.

  • When we lived in Louisiana, I thought we struggled because it was the early years of marriage.
  • When we lived in Indiana, I thought we struggled because you had so much work to do with school.
  • When we lived in Alabama, I thought we struggled because you hated your job.
  • When we lived in Virginia, I thought that we struggled because of your many jobs.
  • When we lived in Arkansas, I thought that we struggled because of homeschooling.
  • When we moved to Texas, I thought we struggled because I moved forward in my walk with God, and you abandoned yours.

I wanted to leave you so many times, but I did not realize that I despised you until we lived in Arkansas. I didn’t think that I had a good reason to divorce back then…I didn’t even think that I had a choice. I thought that I had to just power through. After all, I knew you “loved” me, even though it didn’t feel like love. Throughout the 26 years, I have cried so many tears for the unknown. I had no idea what was wrong with our marriage, but I knew that something was not right. The best part of this whole situation is that I now know how strong and resilient I am.

Poem about his wedding ring

With my social work knowledge, I applaud your efforts to dig deep and pull this poem out of the grief. But I was your wife, and I know that this poem only touches one aspect of our lives. It’s as if this knowledge absolves you from the horrific life the kids and I endured at your hand.

  • You need to know that I do not feel the same as you. As you have sentimentalized the story of being gay, I have come to accept the depths of abuse the kids and I suffered.
  • The laughter and joy were not real, Code Red. They were coping mechanisms used to make it through each day. My humor is not your humor.
  • The friendship was also an illusion. When I think back, I am able to recognize my own desire to get away from the rural country life…something that drove me into a relationship with a person that treated me inconsistently even as a friend before our marriage.
  • The love from me to you was a commitment. The depth of my love was an illusion I created to be able to bear the burdens you placed on me. I literally rehearsed it so that no one would know how much I despised you. I wanted them to think that I held you in high regard…I did not want to be known as the complaining wife. I worked so hard at it that I even convinced myself…until I recall that I regularly told God, “It will be okay if Code Red dies today. The kids and I will manage just fine.” That wasn’t okay, Code Red. I should’ve known that having thoughts like that meant that something was very, very wrong.

I wish you well in your new life, but I do not want to be a part of it. There cannot be mutual respect. I have no desire to be friends with a man that harms his wife and children.

I plan to spend the rest of my life helping women and children overcome the trauma of abuse.

And that is the end of our exchange. I’ve read it and reread it so many times this last week. To be able to finally share my voice to him about how his behaviors impacted me has been such an empowering feeling. His words, and then my words, weren’t exchanged in anger. They were shared in a manner that creates closure. It’s as if each word is flying from my hand into the sky, never to return.

For this, I am grateful.

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Crisis? of Faith

For as long as I can remember, I have struggled against the Christian beliefs of my friends and family. I have rarely felt as if I truly understood or was understood when discussing Scripture.

It has been a long-time joke among my friends that I am the “wrestler.” I will wrestle for years over what something means and how I should live out my life. Many times, this has left me a bit insecure and uncertain as to whom I can trust to converse with about these things.

However, I have never once strayed from my belief that Jesus is real and that God is truly for me and every other person on this earth.

What that looks like to others, I do not know.

I refuse to argue my core beliefs. As for many things, I honestly am not willing to waste my time in aggressive disagreement. If you would like to discuss/debate it, I am more than happy to engage, but the moment one of us creates a line in the sand (with anything other than my firm belief that Jesus is the Son of God and the only way to God is through Him), I’m out. I believe that if we aren’t willing to listen and change, we lose all of our credibility as Christians.

To the depths of my soul I believe that God loves EVERY.SINGLE.PERSON.

As I have observed people these last few months, I have been shaken by what I’ve seen. Lines in the sand are regularly being drawn, and it grieves my heart to see the losses that are occurring. If I am to be completely transparent, I have been tempted to draw some lines of my own…and I hate that about myself.

During this season, I haven’t known how to walk out my faith. I do not want to lose people I love, and I do not want to make allowances for things that appall me.

  • How on earth do I navigate my personal Christian faith walk among the issues running rampant throughout our country these days?
  • How do I pray?
  • How do I remain true to God’s word among the many voices shouting?

Since I have been struggling a bit, I wondered if others might be as well? So I decided to share what I’ve been doing to help keep me grounded.

As someone who came from the Charismatic “movings” of the Holy Spirit, someone who believed that if she simply prayed and had enough faith certain things would center and become right and good, I am now a woman who believes that simple practices of faith are grounding, create steadfastness, while also creating safe spaces within the volatile Christian community.

  • It began with the simple practice of reading a Proverb each day. No prayer, other than “God, You know my heart. I do not have the words.”
  • I then added The Book of Common Prayer. Meditating on the words set before me each morning, noon, and night have given me focus.
  • The Apostles Creed – repetition and grounding.
  • And my latest (in the words of the creator, Aaron Niequist) “A New Liturgy No 8: The Lord’s Prayer is a 25 minute guided journey, line by line, through the Lord’s Prayer. It’s designed to help people create holy space every day by entering deeply and creatively into this historic prayer. And not “holy space” to escape the world…but to get free enough to engage the world with courage and compassion.”

I do not share all of my practices to try and convince you of any one right way of doing things. These are my practices that have helped to guide me through a borderline crisis of faith. Not my faith in God, but my faith in humankind.

Your journey is your journey and I do not assume that I know best. I do; however, know that when we share our journeys, there are moments when our hearts and minds connect to encourage one another. That alone is my hope today.

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Frustrated Kids + Self-Reflection = Change

My kids (the 3 that live with me) have been frustrated with me.

I am guilty of saying, “Your dad loves you the best way that he knows how.”

In saying that, I have undermined their feelings. I have inadvertently been telling them that they have to accept his love…even if it hasn’t felt like love.

It is so ingrained in my head that ALL parents (to the best of their abilities) love their children. Maybe that’s true. But just because they love their children, it doesn’t make reality any different.

Love is not enough. It is time we stop forcing our kids to accept love that hurts or makes them feel bad.

It’s not just me that has fallen into the trap of believing this ridiculousness. Just last week, I listened to a friend excuse her mother’s actions because, “You know mom. She’s just like that.” This friend is just like me, brainwashed into believing that a parent is excused from reality because of love.

Bullshit. What even is this kind of love?

As adults, when we acquiesce to a toxic parent, we are letting them know that their behavior is ok. They never feel the consequences of their actions because as young children, we are taught to overlook and ignore how we feel because of duty or “respect.”

Making older adults feel good was more important than our, or our children’s, pain.

For years, I forced my children to overlook a certain family member’s behavior. My children would come to me hurt and angry, and instead of acknowledging and understanding, I expected them to dismiss their feelings because that person was older.

  • Older = respect.
  • Older = deference.
  • Older = no accountability.

I was wrong. I ignored my children and trained them to be accepting of abuse.

And I have been doing the same when it comes to their father.

It doesn’t matter if their father loves them. He has harmed them. He has put conditions on his love for them. He has abandoned them. He has been cruel to them. He has minimized his wrong, and he has not apologized to them.

By the way, this is not a beat up Code Red post. This is a reality check for myself.

In the training of my children, I have been complicit with abuse. For years, I continued to place my children in harms way. I cannot undo my actions, and for that, I am very, very sad.

I have decided to turn my sadness into advocacy and education.

Here is what I can do:

  • I can apologize.
  • I can model what it is like to learn something new.
  • I can change.
  • I can listen and actually hear.
  • I can come alongside my children and others.
  • I can stand up for mistreatment.
  • I can carry it forward by educating others.

Looking inward to see truth is one of the most difficult, yet rewarding things I can do, both for myself and for my kids.

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Gay for Pay

For the most part, the lives of my kids and I are pretty peaceful these days. Occasionally, something will come up (like Father’s Day), and our discussions will reference our past. Still, as a general rule, we are all moving forward. I have been divorced 18 months now, separated for 28 months…many of the emotions have settled.

But something happened a month ago that bothered me, and then this other thing popped up last weekend. So if you will indulge me, I am going to process it here.

Five weeks ago, Code Red came to visit our youngest child. He had not seen him since February due to COVID-19, and honestly, I felt pretty good about this visit. I continue to hope that Code Red will figure out how to love them the way that they long to be loved. But then my son left his glasses in Code Red’s rental car. Not a big deal, just something that a phone call and a stop-by should fix.

BUT. When Code Red came by early the next morning to deliver the glasses, he had a young man (about the age of our older sons–22-24) in the car with him. That would have automatically be suspicious given Code Red’s preferences. However, it would have been less suspicious had the young man not been lying back in the car seat, attempting to not be seen. My youngest nervously came back into the house, bouncing from foot to foot, telling me how uncomfortable it was.

If any of you are single parents, here is a bit of advice. Just introduce the person with you. I honestly believe that had Code Red introduced the two, a bit of trust could have been established. Our son might not have liked the situation, but it would have made the interaction upfront and honest. But Code Red didn’t do that.

Fast forward to last Sunday. One of my children was checking their Venmo account balance, and when they clicked on the app, they saw this: “Code Red paid _______. Gay for pay.”

Right there for the world to see.

These kinds of things continue to occur and affect my children. I cannot protect them from this happening. Their father does not appear to care what they see or think.

I have divorced him. He is free to live the LGBT life that he must have always wanted. And I am free from him.

The children did not divorce him. Outwardly, they do not want anything to do with him, but I have to wonder if deep down inside, they long for a loving father.

I have to accept that my role is to love my children well and to ask God to lead me in each and every step of this journey.

Defining Moments or Defining Me?

These days, I am feeling as if I am a bit of a cliché. I was sitting with a new friend the other day when she casually mentioned her observation about how many forty-something divorced women there seemed to be. While the comment was innocently made and had absolutely nothing to do with me, I felt it deep in my bones.

I am a forty-something-year-old divorced woman, and it is an identity that annoys me. I do not want to be known as “the divorced woman.”

But simply because that is a part of who I am, does that have to define me as a whole?

I’ve spent quite a bit of time pondering this, and I refuse to allow myself to fall into the trap of accepting that…because I am so much more.

These are just a few pieces of who I’ve been:

  • A girl that grew up in rural North Louisiana
  • A piano player that would get lost in music
  • A teenage band member that loved performing
  • A young college woman trying to figure out who she was
  • A young married woman
  • A new mom
  • An active mom of littles
  • A homeschooling mom
  • A victim of domestic violence
  • A “church lady”
  • A mom of teenagers
  • A woman that cooks and entertains
  • A betrayed woman
  • A divorced woman
  • A mature college student
  • A late forty-something woman beginning a new life
  • A survivor

Not one of those things define the whole of me. Every single one of them is simply a small part that makes up the whole of me.

At this point in my life, these are the only things that won’t ever change:

  • I am a woman.
  • I am a child of God.
  • I am a mother.

I think that sometimes we (maybe just me) get stuck in accepting one definition of ourselves, and we forget that who we are ebbs and flows with our personalities and our life experiences. It can be difficult to recognize that we are more than our circumstances.

But it is possible.

Transitions & Mistakes Along the Way

Transition periods are on my mind.

As I was speaking with someone the other day, I could hear the exasperation in their voice with me. They are tired of me struggling. They are annoyed with me for continuing on a path that they think is wrong. And while they did not directly say that they were annoyed, they did clearly state that they believe I am wrong for doing what I am doing.

Here is the truth about my life. I am struggling. And the path that I have chosen is a bit more difficult than some other path. But it is my path, and I made the decision to go on it. Once I started in this direction, I have never looked back. This decision is mine. I can honestly say that it is the first decision that I have EVER made on my own without changing directions to make someone else more comfortable.

And although it is a hard path, that is all that it is. It is hard.

It is ridiculous that I am 48-years-old and am just now beginning to make my own decisions. Honestly, it feels completely awkward and uncomfortable.

The thing about transition periods is that sometimes they are quick and can be over in a matter of days, but sometimes it takes a few years to transition into a new way of living. The speed of a person’s transition is not something that can accurately be compared.

I’ve become a part of a group of single parents, and one major thing that I have noticed is that it has taken most of the people in this group (especially those who take the time to heal) somewhere between 5-8 years to settle in to their lives after divorce.

So whenever I hear someone begin to sabotage my efforts, I have to consciously step back and recognize that they are the ones uncomfortable with my life. And that maybe I should not be sharing with them some of my questions or hiccups…because a hiccup is how I see most obstacles. Yes, sometimes I cry. And yes, sometimes I get scared.

But the one thing I never lose sight of is the proverbial “light at the end of the tunnel”…there may be twists and turns, and I may make a few (or a lot) of mistakes, but that’s okay.

I’m learning that mistakes do not mean that I have to stop moving forward.

They mean that I simply need to readjust the process.

Tentative Hope

Hope…but do I dare? Is having hope in hard situations simply not living in reality?

Over and over, Scripture talks about hope. It is definitely something that God wants us to grasp and hold onto.

But for me personally, I am afraid to hope. I want to hope that relief will come, but it is just so very hard to keep hanging on.

Isaiah 40:31 says, “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Do I believe that? Do I really believe it?!

I want to. I do know that when I plug my soul into God’s word, my hope is strengthened. I truly believe that if I can just hang on, I will see God’s glory in a magnificent way.

But right this minute…hoping is hard. Doing what I can to prevent weariness, is crazy hard. It almost feels as if I am trying to trick my brain into believing something that isn’t true.

It is true. God’s word says it. And as if this is a new revelation or something…all that I have to do is believe it. Nothing else. Just believe. Believe in hope.

Maybe I am a bit stubborn, but I am choosing to hang on. If I let go of my hope in Jesus, I might miss seeing what he has in store for me.

I believe hope is one of our greatest gifts.

My prayer these days: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Romans 15:13