Biggest Blessing=Biggest Regret

My biggest blessing is also my biggest regret.

The inner conflict of my life these days leaves me in a near-constant state of frustration. It has now been two years since I moved from my home. As messy as that home was, there was financial security there. Two years out, and I am feeling both elated and terrified every single day.

The biggest blessing of my life has been that I was able to stay at home with my children. There were moments when it was too much, but overall, I genuinely love/d being an active mom in their lives.

The biggest regret of my life has been that I did not establish a career. I often wanted one, but I could not figure out how to balance that as an involved mom with a spouse that was gone as much or more than he was at home.

I actually remember thinking that after we moved to Alabama, I would be able to go back to school and further my education. And then we moved to Virginia. I didn’t give up hope; I looked at classes and made plans to go back to school. And then we moved to Arkansas. That first year, I clung to my hope…if I could go back before I turned 35, it wouldn’t be too late. But I began homeschooling and had another baby, and before long we moved to Texas. My hopes shifted. Maybe after the kids began moving away, I would just take a few classes? Not for a full degree but something just for me.

And then my world cracked open. Sometimes I see that crack as bad (like falling into an abyss), and sometimes I see that crack as good (my eyes and my world being opened up).

Right now, my world is wide open, but I am also scared out of my mind. I am in graduate school doing what I love, but I had hoped to have full-time employment to balance out my expenses. I never dreamed how difficult it would be to find a decent job. Nor did I ever consider that the father of my children wouldn’t be helping them out with college expenses.

I currently feel frustrated and embarrassed. I am ashamed that I cannot find a job. What is wrong with me? Even the career counselor at the university said that I had a pretty good resume’ considering how many years I stayed at home…

Oh, I know nothing is wrong with me. I also know that we are in the middle of a pandemic. But I am discouraged and annoyed that I did not begin my career path before the age of 47.

It is frustrating and lonely to live with this deep, personal conflict in a season fraught with so much external conflict. Heaven knows that I don’t want to talk about it anymore. To outside people, it’s beginning to look as if I am not even searching. Each application, cover letter, and resume’ needs filling out, written, and tweaked, and that takes roughly an hour or two for every single one of them. They are mentally exhausting, and sometimes I apply to so many in a day that I live in fear that I have attached the wrong cover letter to an application.

All of this makes me want to dwell in a state of regret…but how can I possibly regret my life?! I made cookies and birthday cakes, went to parks, read books, had parties, and put my children to bed every night. I LOVE being a mom.

How is it possible that my biggest regret can also be the most wonderful blessing I have ever received?

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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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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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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.

A Daughter’s Grief

I woke and heard the sound of her tears. It was Tuesday morning and she had received an email from her father. Everyone’s investments were losing money and he told her to leave it be until after the coronavirus pandemic had passed.

Except she could not do that. She relies on that money to pay her rent as she goes to college. And that money was disappearing.

This scenario sounds like a loving father, giving wise advice to his child. Unfortunately, the way it sounds and its reality are two different things.

You see, my daughter continues to be ravished by the grief and rejection of her father. She doesn’t know this for certain, but it appears that he blames her for the loss of his family. And that simply isn’t true.

On Father’s Day, 2017, my sweet girl posted a photo of she and her dad on instagram. Later that day, a friend from the area reached out and sent her screenshots of her father on Grindr, a gay “hook-up” app. In a moment of time, my daughter’s world collapsed. And she didn’t have time to process it. She was leaving the next day to do mission work and then work at a summer camp…without regular access to phones and computers.

Fast forward to the whirlwind of August 2017. The beginning of her senior year of high school. Two weeks later, the destruction of Hurricane Harvey hitting our city. A family of 5, plus their fur-babies moving in with us for 2 months. Her father’s loss of a job. Her life was overwhelming. On the outside she continued to smile and laugh and pretend as if she had never heard that shocking information back in June.

Pretend would be the key word. Behind all of her smiles and laughter, she was investigating and searching for the truth. And she found it…and held onto it for several months.

(Oh, my word. My heart aches as I write this.)

Fast forward to February 4, 2018. Her father had been out of work for just over 3 months. I had been cooking for people to have some cash coming into the home. One of her older brothers had just moved back home. And she had just completed her very last high school musical.

Combined with the weariness of working nonstop for weeks on the musical and a verbal attack from her father, emotionally she collapsed. She could not keep his secret any longer. She decided to curl up into my arms and tell me what she had learned.

While I have vivid memories of that evening, I honestly do not know what she felt after telling me. I can only hope that she felt a small bit of relief, because our nightmare was just beginning. Neither she, nor I, had any idea of the information that would change the course of our lives forever.

Let me go back in time and tell you about her relationship with her dad. Some of her first words were, “I’m Daddy’s Princess.” Early in her life, he openly favored her. He would spend time brushing her hair. He would take her on Daddy-Daughter dates. They had a saying, “Daddy-Daughter Power-DDP.” My friends thought that he had an unnatural fixation on her. I thought it was cute and didn’t listen to them. I have no idea how to decipher all of that now?

After she told me what her friend had shared, I began to question and grieve as more and more knowledge about my husband’s secret life came to life.

And then, one fateful day, a “knowing” shook my core. When I pushed for clarity and received it, the information was far worse that I could have ever imagined. The natural protective nature of a mother for her child kicked in, and I could only think about protecting my daughter. If only I could spare her from learning this…

I couldn’t. I tried. If she learned of this, I did not know if she would survive it. I honestly did not know what this would do to her. I even attempted to save just a tiny part of the relationship with her dad, by encouraging him to speak to her. Unfortunately, his shame was so great that he could not face her.

Regrettably, it was taken out of my hands, and I could not protect her from it. Someone from school found out and told her that her father had had relations with her very best friend. A young man that she trusted more than she trusted her brothers. A young man that had been her friend since she was 11 years old. A young man that had been in our home.

Our family had been destroyed. But now, her whole world was destroyed.

Father’s Day is awful for my children. It is a terrible reminder of abuse and indifference.

Please pray for my children today. Their hearts hurt.

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

It is awful to feel like a young-adult-starting-out when you are an older-adult-with-almost-grown-children. I am 47-years-old and attempting to begin a career that has to provide me with enough income to prepare for retirement while at the same time, immediately provide for the kids and me.

To be honest, I fully realize that I lived a pretty privileged life. Just over two years ago, I had a big house with a pool, cars, a boat, not to mention a pretty fluffy monthly budget. We had investments, retirement, and a bit of savings.

When I made the decision to divorce, we had already willingly depleted most of our investments, retirement and savings. In the months prior to filing, I had chosen to stand beside the man I believed in through the end of a tumultuous season with his last employer, including a major lawsuit. (By the way, it has now been 2-1/2 years since that lawsuit began, and it is still in process!)

I can do without “things;” I’m not so high maintenance as that. The issue for me is that I have a difficult time not being able to support my kids in the manner I had thought would happen. As 2 of them transition to adulthood, I currently provide them with housing, food and basic necessities. They are working, accepting grants and getting loans to go to school. I am in school. My youngest is still in high school.

Life is so incredibly different!

Above were my thoughts BEFORE Covid-19

After/During Covid-19…

I am in the process of transitioning from full-time student to part-time student as I also search for full-time employment. I haven’t worked a regular, 40-hour-a-week job in 24 years. And I have NEVER had to financially support myself!

I want to climb in bed and quit…not really, but…sort-of. With each new twist or turn in this journey forward, I have to consciously refocus and remember God’s wisdom:

“Let your eyes look directly ahead, and let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. Watch the path of your feet, and all your ways will be established. Do not turn to the right nor to the left; turn your foot from evil.” Proverbs 4:25-27 (NASB)

Keep looking ahead. Don’t look down. Don’t look to the side. Definitely don’t look back.

Look forward. Take a step. Just one step forward makes a difference.

Wobbly. Stumbly. Steps.

That’s all that is required.

I can do this.

Pushing Pause

Well…this last week gave us a new way of living. It is as if we are all pushing the pause button on our lives.

I’ll be honest, at the beginning of this week, I “poo-poo’d” the coronavirus. My opinion (I admit that I did not even consider fact-checking anything) was that as long as we were not being stupid, we could minimize this whole thing. I did; however, lecture my daughter (that already has respiratory problems that are naturally an issue during the “pollening” of our South Texas spring) to be smart and not behave like most 20 year-olds, to stop running around everywhere all the damn time. So I patted myself on the back and considered myself a non-panicky, smart mom. (Insert the eye roll.)

And here we are Sunday, March 15th, mostly self-quarantining because it is the smart thing to do. I did not buy toilet paper. In fact, I have a grand total of 12 rolls in my house at this moment. I even told my kids a story of an older friend whose dad only allowed her to use 3 squares, because it was the frugal thing to do…maybe we should think about using less. (Go ahead and give me another pat on the back for my awesome parenting.)

The kids and I don’t understand what it means to be really frugal. Even on a limited budget, we don’t consider living without certain things. As I walked through the grocery store, I realized that I am a natural preparer. I don’t like to run out of “stuff” so I always pick up some of the same things: flour, bread, milk, butter (I have at least 10 boxes of butter in my fridge and freezer), hairspray (heaven knows, I am not going to live without fixin’ my hair), toothpaste, etc. This isn’t the panic buying that many people have done…this is just a woman who likes to have a fully stocked pantry. We didn’t need much, so I bought a gazillion goldfish and cheez-its, because I didn’t want my kids to have to never eat another cheese cracker…an honest to God food staple they have never lived without.
(And like the normal, privileged children that they are, one of them even pouted that the others might eat most of them.) I did the “good mom” thing again and sat down with my picky eater and told him that he might just have to adapt his eating habits. I didn’t know, but he might even have to eat soup…you know, if this whole thing gets really crazy.

I think that this season of withdrawing might actually benefit the kids and me, although I really hope that it is a relatively short period of time. I honestly don’t want too many hard lessons.

So for now, I am taking it seriously and pausing our lives. But I am also going to laugh a bit, because I am pretty appalled at how much the kids and I have taken for granted.

Breathe In, Breathe Out

                                                   “Breathe in: Lord, I receive.                                                                                                           Breathe out: Lord, I give thanks.                                                                                 So there’s that: You don’t get to make up most of your story.                                                                            You get to make peace with it.                                                                                             You don’t get to demand your life, like a given.                                                                                     You get to receive your life like a gift.”                                                -Ann Voskamp

I woke up this morning with this quote on my mind. In the past week, I’ve struggled. A LOT. There is a part of me that wants my old life back…but not really. Although I was unhappy most of the time, I had made peace with it as best that I could.

What began as an innocent discussion the other day ended up causing me to reevaluate my decisions from the past year and a half. You see, there is this young adult man that I love. And this young man wants to believe that his dad is broken and sad about the choices he has made. This young man wants me to know that his dad really does love his children. And I desperately want to provide him with the security of a father’s love. But that is impossible for me to do; it is not my role.

For myself, I have had to reconcile that an addict’s love is not the right kind of love. An addict’s love is filled with conditions, lies, and illusions of caring that deflect from their true actions. Unless an addict comes to grips with his need for help, for the rest of his/her life, they are incapable of making the changes needed to provide true love.

And my heart hurts. I want to erase the damage that has been done. I want to wash over all of the bad so that maybe my children can find peace, although it would be a false sense of peace.
Unfortunately, that is not my job.
My role is to be their mother. To love them unconditionally as they traverse through the painful realities of their lives. I cannot wash over what they have experienced. I cannot minimize their truths. I can only love and support them throughout this difficult, difficult journey.
In the past, I would have reached in and changed the story a bit, hoping that it would feel better to them. I now know that in doing that, I made the truth something false. But whenever I have softened things for them, I have also softened them for myself and allowed all of us to live in denial. That benefits no one.
As I sit remembering Ann’s words, I choose to make peace with the story our family has been given. I choose to see it as a gift that has made and is continuing to make me into the woman I am today. I pray that my children see the truth, see me accept it, and then see me grow from it.

Today is Father’s Day

I have an incredible dad and I have lived a life surrounded by good men who loved their families well.

And yet, I look at my children and my heart is filled with grief. They cannot say that about their dad. Code Red brought unbelievable shame into the lives of my kids and today, I am angry about it. I absolutely hate that his actions directly affected them.

Why, why, why does this have to be their story?

Not too long ago, one of them said that he was telling the story of when his dad slammed him into the wall and his head left a dent…his friends were appalled (and I was horrified). I never even knew that happened!! I had known that when Code Red got angry he was rough with the boys, and I’ve heard their stories of being held against walls. But I had no idea that it had gotten that bad. And I feel ashamed.

As I think about Father’s Day, I am so sad. I am sad that I couldn’t shelter my babies from their father’s actions. I am ashamed that instead of getting them away from him, I minimized it and tried to make it not as bad as it really was. It wasn’t until I began telling my story over and over again that I realized that we lived with abuse. I honestly thought that I was ridiculous and that I exaggerated everything. I am sad that they don’t have a positive and sincere relationship with their dad. One of them won’t even acknowledge him as “dad;” they refer to him by his first name.

Dammit, I am angry.

Today I choose to refocus. I step back and look around. My children have grown up with young grandparents. My children have witnessed good, solid men providing and caring for their families and neighbors. They have seen what it looks like for men to work hard and love well.

Even though their father failed them, the other men in their lives modeled what fatherhood should look like. I pray that they remember the legacy of security, firmness, and loving kindness their Papaw, uncles, and great-uncles have passed on to them from the distance. It won’t ever take away what they have lost, but hopefully, it will give them a bit of security.

With all of our struggles, it would be easy to forget the wonderful experiences that have blessed our lives. Although I am sad and angry, I choose to recognize the good men that have been a part of our lives.