Archive for the ‘Inadequacy’ Category

One of the things I do not recall sharing here, because it was not relevant to any of the posts I made, was that Marcia came out to us several years back.  At the time my wife and I decided we would not share this news with many, other than what was necessary.  We told a few family members and the youth pastor at church and that was it.  Anything else was up to Marcia, just as she had let us know.

Trying to recall back several years exactly what I said or did is impossible, but I do not doubt that I know I was honest with Marcia about what God tells us in this situation and that I believed Him.  Exactly how I shared this and the words I used are lost in the fog of faraway memories, but Marcia has shared with me recently that it was more direct than she appreciated.  We all make mistakes.  Could I have delivered the message in a more loving, God-centered way?  I do not doubt it, but over the last couple weeks I have come to terms with the fact that nothing short of denying all my beliefs in the Lord would have satisfied Marcia.  I think this fills in enough backstory to move back to today.

I guess I will approach this post as is the latest fad in so many movies and TV shows of the day.  I’ll hit you with the now, then flashback to walk you through how we got here.  As you might guess from the title of this post, Marcia has decided to move out.  Frame the picture, start the opening credits and zoom in on Marcia carrying out some containers with Nan to Nan’s car and watch them drive away.  Cut to them pulling into Nan’s mom’s house and them moving those boxes in.  Cut away again and splashed over the exterior gimbal shot of our home appear the words “Two weeks before”.

As weird as this story is, it all started with a kitten.  My wife has been on me for a long time to get a family pet.  We already have two pets, but what we don’t have I guess is a blended family pet.  She has explained to me that I obviously don’t get it, and obviously I don’t because I still do not see how this pet is any different than the pets we already had.  It lives, it breathes, it eats, it poops, and it looks cute for a second and drives me nuts for hours.  On the list of things that I view as joyful and necessary in my life, I think you can see that pets are not one of them.  I’m not opposed to them and Nan was a pet person too, so they’ve been a constant in my life for many years, but so has snow, cutting the grass and taking my car in for an oil change.  They are just part of the world.  They make my wife and kids happier and they usually have no significant negative impact on me, so I just let it go.  That’s basically how we finally got to the new kitten.  I explained to my wife that at no time will she ever see me leap off the couch in utter joy and exuberance and exclaim, “I just had the greatest idea ever!  Let’s get another pet!” and then proceed to run around the house clanging pots and pans and urging the kids to fall in line in a parade where we all chat “Time to get a kitten!  Time to get a kitten!”  If she wanted to get one, go ahead, but waiting for me to be on board was not going to happen.

Most of the kids and her went off to get this kitten a couple weeks ago, and from piecing together the story later, it seems that there was definitely discussion before they left when it came to naming the kitten, everyone could add whatever names they wanted to a list and there would be a vote (sometimes democracy works in a family) and that it might take up to a week if the voting was contentious or if Trump showed up and said we had to build a wall between me and the kitten and that we would have a little cat door in it.  Somehow, as is wont to happen with seventeen year olds, Marcia seems to have missed, misplaced, ignored or otherwise confused this discussion.  While at the humane society selecting the kitten and getting to know it, a name was suggested my Marcia, a few of the kids kinda liked it and started calling the kitten this as well, probably more to test drive the name, but in Marcia’s head, the kitten had been named.  If this were Inside Out, the little kitten name memory ball was created and shipped off across the canyon to long term memory.  It was far away and hard to retrieve and change, or at least that’s how I associate this incident with what was to flow from it, because otherwise it has no chance of making sense.  Think itty bitty molehill.  Like the smallest mole you’ve ever seen, maybe a new species that requires a microscope to see that has never been discovered yet and then picture Marcia Mountain that makes Everest look like that microscopic molehill next to it and you get to see where we are headed, at least in my interpretation of the events that are about to unfold to get us to the scene we started our episode with.  The journey from “here” to “there” was just not connected in any rational way, but then again if you parent a teen you understand they are not rational, so who am I kidding and why am I surprised?

Kitten came home.  It kind of resembled the stuff that happens around the house when a new baby is brought home from the hospital, except I was happy to note, I did not have to wake up in the middle of the night to an elbow telling me to go change a diaper.  In fact she was already potty trained!  Who knew!  Eight weeks old and we were past potty training, I didn’t have to feed her with a spoon, and the doctor had already fixed her so I did not need to worry about her meeting some addle brained boy in high school and getting pregnant.  Maybe pets are easier than kids?

However, despite all these unexpected joys, it seems, huh, some of the kids actually wanted to stick to the original plan and write down names and vote even though Marcia was already well down the kitten naming path.  She had already had the star engraved on Hollywood boulevard and you know, we can’t change a name after that.  So this comes out and Marcia goes into full flip out mode.  It is a version or mountain and molehill but we’ve not discovered the final ones yet.

Somehow this naming issue caused Marcia such distress that she had trouble sleeping.  It was now Sunday morning and since she had stormed off to her room last night in protest of actually doing what we said we were going to do in the first place.  Are you missing the justification for her righteous indignation here too?  OK.  Whew! Thought it was just me….and my wife…. And all the other kids… and anyone else we’ve talked to.  Figuring she might be less volatile (you’d think we would have learned after years of living with the most unstable element in the universe, the American teenager) my wife engaged with her about how childish she had been about simply going with the original plan of voting.  After all her name could go on the list and if it got the most votes, it would be the name.  Mt. St. Marcia erupted again.  She was going to call the kitten the name she had selected no matter what.  We were stupid, she was not being childish.  In fact, she was so upset all night that she could not sleep and did not want to go to church.  I explained that was not an option as the house rule is simple.  We go to church on Sunday mornings.

We then entered the valley between molehill and mountain.  Very quickly this went from her being upset about a kitten name and our reaction to her reaction and became about how we do not accept her sexuality and make her go to church where she is not accepted and so forth.  She brought up all kinds of stuff from all directions over many years about how I had said something and she took it as a promise and how she hated me and my wife.  I stayed pretty calm through things trying to steer her to some rational sense but it never really worked.  At one point she had said when she was eighteen she was going to live with her mom.  This is not the first time this has come up but it had been quite some time since she had brought it out.  As usual I did not make any comment about it when she mentioned it but after another fifteen minutes of her irrational screaming at me, I went down and had a talk with my wife.  At this point Marcia is less than three months away from being eighteen.  Even though we have been very accepting of her lifestyle choices do far not hindering her seeing her girlfriend in any way etc.  she still felt she was not accepted.  I had had conversations with her before when she had brought up that “you don’t love me because I’m gay”, and explained how nonsensical that was.  Her being anything did not change the fact that I loved her.  I thought a conversation we had had a few months back was very good and at this point I was at a loss.  My wife and I agreed to let her know if she felt it was going to be so much better at mom’s and that is she was set on doing that anyway, since I was not able to have an effective conversation with her about anything lately that I could discuss with Nan about making the change now.

Again, even a bigger mountain appeared.  Marcia started going on about how now that it was clear that I wanted nothing to do with her that she could not come to me ever over the rest of her life for any discussion or advice or anything.  I explained that was not what I was saying just letting her know that if she feels it is not possible for her to comfortably live with us anymore and she wants to go to Nan’s instead that I am not going to stand in her way.  Certainly I have no issue with her here, but if she feels it is so terrible then it is her choice.  It was really amazing to me how we went from naming a cat to this in about 12 hours, much of which we were sleeping.

Instead of having me call she chose to call Nan herself and talk about it.  That led to several conversations with Nan and I about Marcia.  Nan took her normal stance that she was not going to tell Marcia no if she wanted to come.  I next talked to Nan on Tuesday and the main conversation she had was her concern about how her mom and her were concerned that this could be the end of any relationship between Marcia and myself.  Her suggestion was why could I not just do something small to show her I really accepted her, like drop my religion and beliefs.  Now for an unsaved person, that statement makes total sense.  I calmly explained that to her and said my God is a much who I am as Marcia believes her sexuality is and she would never ask me to suggest to Marcia that she simply give up being gay to show she accepted me.  This did seem to help her understand that irrationality of her request.  We had a good conversation about how God works everything for good and I basically ended up witnessing to her for about forty five minutes with Nan asking a lot of good questions and seeming engaged in the discussion.  My explanation really centered around the fact that if this somehow caused me to be estranged from Marcia, that I trusted that God would work some good from that, even though I may never know what that is.  That is what the Bible clearly tells us.  The right answer was not to deny my God and walk away from Him.  That would only lead to destruction and even more turmoil than I have now.  Nan seemed to understand, though I would not go so far as to say she agreed.

The biggest revelation of the discussion was that it appeared that the best solution was for Marcia to actually live with Nan’s mom.  She is in our town and closer to the school than Nan is and it seemed she would let Marcia use her car if needed while Nan had no vehicle to offer her during the school day.  Marcia and Nan’s mom have not exactly gotten along swimmingly so this did not seem like a great idea to Nan or I, but was the best option.  Nan was hoping that that reality would get Marcia to reconsider.

The kids were at Nan’s over the next weekend and other than a few texts clearing up what would happen to the school parking pass (it would go with Marcia if she had a vehicle to use), nothing else really transpired.  Marcia returned with the rest of the kids as per the schedule and basically proceeded to ignore us for the time she was here.  I had talked with Nan and found out that Marcia was portraying the environment here as one where I constantly pushed her to become straight, and so I asked Marcia why she said that to Nan when the only time her sexuality even comes up is when she chooses to use it to indicate that we are not accepting her even though she has no examples of what that means, it is just that she feels that way. Marcia said she never said that to Nan and that Nan was just fabricating the whole discussion.  I explained again that I loved her and was here if she needed me, the same message I had been sending for the last few years.  She did indicate that she still had not decided, but later Cindi indicated that was not at all the conversation at Nan’s, that it seemed very decided the whole weekend there.

As an aside, as all this was going on I continued to have conversations over the week and a half with my dad.  He was aware of the fighting and that Marcia wanted to leave.  What he had still not been made aware of was that Marcia was homosexual.  This had now become a big deal, because Marcia had made it a big deal.  She had made it the centerpiece of this entire explosion, indicating she could no longer live here because she did not feel accepted and that we made her go to church, a church she felt also did not accept her.  The problem was I could not have an open conversation with my dad about exactly what she did not feel accepting about, so my wife and I over several days decided that is Marcia was going to be making adult decisions, this was one she had to make as well.  I needed to let my parents know, even though I felt they would be infuriated and possibly never speak with her again, and that if she was making this such a core of her identity then we could not keep lying to my parents.  I wanted to give her the choice to tell them herself.  She did not want to and in fact just told me to tell them if I wanted to.  I calmly asked again that she wanted me to let them know and that she did not want to share this important news with her own grandparents.  She said no.

I told my dad and he was much more accepting than I had expected.  He was certainly disappointed but it helped him understand.  He had recently told me “something does not add up.  There has to be something more”, and that was the point when I knew that it was going to damage my wife’s and my relationship with my parents if we did not share this secret.  That is what was the final straw that made me decide now was the time to tell Marcia is had to be shared.

I took the high road and let Marcia have her space to decide, as I felt that influencing her in any way could only have the down side of making her angry at me if things did not work out as she wanted, which honestly I think will be the case regardless of whose home she lives in because she is a typical teenager and wants no rules and to do exactly what she wants with no questions or consequences.

The kids were over at Nan’s again for Thanksgiving, which is the first time since we have been divorced that Nan has taken them for the full Thanksgiving holiday.  It meant Marcia was back with us for only a couple days and Cindi had let us know that Marcia had told Nan she did not want to be back in my house after Thanksgiving.

For several days, I got hit with a very unexpected sadness.  I certainly knew all my kids will leave the proverbial nest, and was OK with that, but I think the way this was happening just felt wrong and my belief that this really could be the start of a very lengthy period of estrangement and that Marcia would most likely also have a falling out with Nan and her mom and then be left to make her own decisions just scared me to death.  The pure understanding that there was nothing I could do about it was huge.  All I could do was turn it over to God and if not for my belief in Him my sadness would have been very dark indeed.  It was still pretty bad.  I would find myself tearing up at random times for the next couple days at work, at home or driving.  I had to trust God knew what He was doing, but it was so hard.

I had also reached out to my pastors for some guidance.  I was able to meet with one of our Associate Pastors on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  I shared all the details above and more and in the end my pastor felt I was using great wisdom in handling everything and that my understanding of God’s will was all I could do.  He felt he has not really done much to help me, but I assured him that the reinforcement that I was not doing something wrong was very helpful.

I made sure I hugged Marcia and told her I loved her once again before I headed off to work the Tuesday before Thanksgiving as I knew they would most likely be gone before I got home.  It hindsight it may have been a bit self-serving to remove any guilt I might later have that I could have kept her from making a decision that really could backfire, but I also wanted her to know that no matter what she thought I loved her.

A few hours after they had gotten to Nan’s on Tuesday she texted letting me know they would drop the other kids off Sunday and pack up Marcia’s things to move to her mom’s.  I tried to keep the sadness at bay as the finality of everything hit home.  I had been looking at materials about how to handle the reality that a child of mine was homosexual and that I was a Christian.  I truly struggled with her not feeling accepted and wanted to get guidance as I knew this was not a process I should go through alone.  Neither our home nor our church was doing anything to actively encourage Marcia to change, but I know she knows what the Bible says about homosexuals.  One of the questions I asked our pastor was, “If she ever comes to know Jesus as her Savior but then wants to know how she can choose to be saved knowing that she will not be accepted in heaven, what do I say?”  The guidance was this is the same conversation we would have with anyone where spreading the gospel.  We are all sinners and we all need Jesus.  Nothing is unforgivable and he paid the prices for all our sins, past, present and future once and for all.  I understand that with my beliefs Marcia will always feel a distance between us but God is my center and I nor anyone gets to pick and choose what we feel is true of not.  God gave us His Word to very clearly indicate what truth is.  The world believes many unbiblical things about homosexuality and a friend I discussed this with at one point said, “your view is in the minority in society today”, be he also admitted that does not necessarily make it wrong.  Just because a majority believe something can simply mean that sadly a majority does not know the truth.

Returning to my narrative, Sunday arrived and Nan came over a little before the rest of us had returned home from church.  Marcia and her were already up in her room getting stuff together.  I gave Marcia a hug, said goodbye and let her know I was always here if she needed anything.  At that point she indicated she was still planning to return for the weekends when they would normally be here.  This certainly surprised me.  I went off to change and as I thought about it realized I needed to have a direct discussion with her as her returning would place what she said was at the core of her wanting to leave front and center again. I went back and started to explain to her that I was certainly happy to have her here for the weekends but was not sure what she was thinking about Sundays.  In mid-sentence she cut me off; “Oh I know I would have to go to church”.  I threw up my hands, “I don’t get it!” and spun around and started to walk out, but stopped myself.  Her stance was this way she was “choosing” to go versus being “made” to go.  I get it, yet I don’t.  It’s a teenager’s logic and I sadly had it once too and remember enough of it that I can see it for what it is.

With all this transpiring, Nan piped up and asked Marcia is she was sure she wanted to do this.  She started to tear up and indicated she did not know.  She then proceeded down a path that my wife and figured she’d hit later, that of not knowing how to mend fences and find her way back and thinking it was too much.  First she indicated that Nan and her mom had already bought her a mattress and there was too much that had happened.  Nan indicated not to worry about that, she just needed to make the decision that was right for her.  Marcia then indicated all the awful and mean things she had said about my wife and how she would have to walk on eggshells and such.  I quickly jumped in and said we would need to call her up to talk with Marcia to help her decide if this was going to be a problem.  Marcia did not want to talk.  Nan and I said she had to.  My wife came up and they spent several minutes together.  In the end Marcia still was undecided.  All three of us let her know that this was only a decision she could make but the only caveat was that it was serious.   This will be what she has to live with until the end of the school year.  We are not a revolving door and there is a lot of disruption with this change and when she gets mad over there in two weeks, it’s not “I’m going to go back and live with dad”.  We had shared this message for the entire two weeks this drama was going on, and all the adults were on the same page agreeing that was a requirement.  My wife and I left Marcia and Nan to themselves again.

What I learned was that Marcia is still the typical immature teenager even though she insists she knows everything there is to know about the world and how to live in it.  We were all there once.  I get it and I can appreciate it.  I also know that if we made that decision for her and something happens she has us to blame again.  Making her do that and her living with the consequences she creates are part of helping her mature.  I also learned that God is always in control.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that final set of conversations we had on Sunday when Marcia was unsure.  On one hand it was exciting that the door was not as shut as I imagined, but on the other it was also heartbreaking because it exposes her inner struggle.  She is not comfortable in her own skin and she does not know how to deal with it.  None of us do, until we realize that Jesus is the answer.  I also know and my church community knows that that realization can only be made between two people, Jesus and the person.  Just as making the call for Marcia about if she will stay as things are or make a change and move to Nan’s mom’s is Marcia’s, Marcia’s decision to accept Jesus as her Savior is Marcia’s.  If any of us try to cajole, force or manipulate the result in either case is a poor one.  Acceptance of our lives and the choices we make must be ours alone.  Having God along as your co-pilot is wonderfully calming and peaceful, but we never know that until after the fact.

Since I started with the end, you know Marcia still choose to make the change.  She understands that we can revisit this as early as this summer if she wants.  She’s 18 in about two months so she is now also legally in control of her own life very shortly and we also get to treat her like the adult she is asking to become.  My wife and I already discussed the fact that if she does choose to come over for a weekend and Mt. St. Marcia erupts again, the dynamic is now totally different.  Marcia is no longer a child living under our roof who would get disciplined and sent to her room, she is now an adult who is behaving inappropriately in our home and will be asked to leave.

Life is always full of surprises.  I knew my kids would leave the nest and Marcia being the oldest I know would probably be the first.  I just did not expect it to come together so violently and so quickly.  In the span of two weeks three households have been placed in an adjustment scenario none of us expected sitting there in early November waiting for Thanksgiving.  With God’s grace I have had the strength and wisdom to move through this.  My wife let me know a couple nights ago how proud she is of me on how I handled these last two weeks.  That was a huge blessing.  My wife is a wonderful woman and a very helpful and supportive partner and we both follow the Lord but having that affirmation was very sweet.

Only God knows what will happen next year, next month, next week or ever the next minute.  I will still pray every day that Marcia along with all my kids eventually has a personal relationship with Jesus.  That’s the best way I know to weather this world and all the surprises it throws our way.

Psalm 30:5b – Weeping may last for a night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning.

I once heard it said that as you get older, you obtain more wisdom and a lot of that wisdom helps you to understand that the wisdom you had when you were younger was not actually real wisdom at all but our own human arrogance pretending to be wisdom when we really are not so wise.

Many of those lessons, or opportunities to learn wisdom, come at times when we realize we are not in control.  Earlier this month I had one of those lessons in the form of a physical problem that took me by surprise.  I ended up having what I later learned was a gallbladder attack a couple times this month.  The first time it hit me I thought I had strained my back from using our snowblower and thought my abdominal pain was just a reaction to some cream sauce we had for dinner.  It hit me around bed time and as the night wore on and I could not sleep or even sit still, I began to panic.  Thoughts started going through my head about if I could continue to endure the excoriating pain or if I’d go crazy.  There were moments when I seriously thought that I understood why some people with chronic pain must get to the point when they just want to die and have it stop.  This was my first growth of wisdom.  Sure I had this pain for going on two hours at this point, but it certainly was not days, weeks or months of pain.  It was amazing to me how quickly, I, someone who I felt handled stress and challenges well was able to be turned into a whimpering ball of goo nearly at the point of wishing for anything to happen as long as the pain went away.  It literally got to the point where I was rocking back and forth on the floor in tears praying that something, anything would make it stop.

The next day as I explained my ordeal through the night to my wife and later my father, both of them urged me to go to the doctor.  As the strong masculine type I of course made up every reason in the world not to go.  I have no idea how to tell them what was happening.  It never happened before and it might never happen again so I will just wait and see.  This was my human arrogance showing through the wisdom that I had that what had occurred to me was not normal and therefore should be examined closer.  I had gone through agony in the night, only to jump for joy in the morning and feel it was handled.

Three days later, God gave me another chance as the same agony hit me right after midnight and woke me up.  In the conversations I had the other day it was suggested it might be gallbladder related to I turned to the source of all knowledge.  No not the Bible.  Wikipedia and WebMD.  Once again, human arrogance but to be fair I do not recall any verses in the Bible that tell you how to diagnose gallbladder pain.  Once again after two hours or so I was at my wits end.  This time the pain was not really worse, but I was getting nauseous along with it and it was only two in the morning.  I called our nurse help line to see if they thought I should head in to the ER or just stick it out until morning.  I had no notion of not having it checked out, I just wanted to know if my doctor or urgent care would be good enough rather than heading out to a hospital in the middle of the night.  As I talked on the phone the nice nurse eventually used her womanly wisdom to push through my manly hard-headedness and told me to wake up my wife and let her know I was heading to the ER.  Once there they went through the processes needed to find that in fact I had a gall stone blocking the duct and that would account for my pain.  By 7 AM my pain subsided but I was now admitted to the hospital.

For me this was its own brand of horror.  Up to this point I had survived on this Earth without even a personal visit to the ER, let alone being admitted and facing the prospect of surgery. My blood pressure was through the roof as we waited for the surgeon to arrive and talk with us.  I played along pretty well and even had myself fooled that I was doing OK, but every time the nurse came in and took my blood pressure the truth was right there in digital red numbers.  The surgeon eventually arrived and while I pushed back a bit on if the surgery was really necessary, he convinced me (my wife helped just a little) to get this done before it really got worse.  I had the doctor’s wisdom, my wife’s wisdom and my lack of wisdom in this regard.  I also had the benefit of more wisdom from one of my friends who works in the medical field, who put it very simply.  “There are only two things you need to know to make this decision,” he said.  “First, you do not need a gallbladder to live.  Second, yours is not working right.”  I’m a logical guy, so this straight line logic made a lot of sense to me.  It took the emotion right out of it.  Never mind the fear I was feeling, the thoughts of never waking up from the anesthesia or having the doctor leave a bedpan in my abdomen during surgery, my friend just laid it right out.  Isn’t it wonderful how if you follow God’s wisdom of surrounding yourself with godly counsel that He will make sure you hear what you need?  We decided to go ahead and the surgery was scheduled for the next afternoon.

My wife sat with me through the evening and eventually left to be home with the kids around nine.  It was then that I became aware of my reality and it really brought me to my knees.  I was going to be in a hospital overnight for the first time in my life and it scared me to death and there was nothing I could do about it.  Sure I could say I wanted to wait for the surgery.  The surgeon had said that he could discharge me and we could do it a few days later when it was more convenient, even gave me the option to do that right until the last minute.  He had also made clear that these stones were not going anywhere so doing that would just postpone the inevitable.  That little sucker had to come out sooner or later and God would leave it up to me.  There in that hospital bed in the dark after my wife had left I had never felt so alone in my life.  I had moved away from family and friends to a strange city and not felt this alone. I had moved again to another strange city leaving the friends I had made again and then gotten divorced and had not felt this alone.  In each of those situations at the time I had turned to God to help provide me strength and I felt He had taken me to the breaking point, but here in this hospital room He had taken me to the depths of despair again and shown me that no, it could be lower.  His timing had brought me here that night and even so I could have made a choice to delay but I trusted God and knew if this was what was to happen that He would work it for good.  Even if something terrible happened I had faith that this was part of His plan.  As I sat there weeping in the night I turned to God and said your will be done.

Now I am several weeks out and His glory continues to be revealed in ways seen and unseen.  We learned from the surgeon after the fact that it was worse than he thought when he had given us the option to wait and he informed us it was good we went in when we did.  It may have escalated to something much more serious in a few days had I waited.   I was given an opportunity to share my faith just before heading into surgery with the nurse’s taking care of me and it may have moved someone in God’s direction.  The first part of that verse talks about God’s anger and favor.  Do I feel that I had an issue with my gallbladder because God was angry with me?  No.  But the wisdom I gained that helps me understand that verse more clearly is that if we trust in God we are always in a good place.  His anger lasts for a moment, the verse says, but His favor is for a lifetime.  Those three nights this month had me weeping, but the rest of the days were filled with God’s opportunity and blessing.  I found wonderful support in my church family, something I have never had in any church I have ever attended.  I was shown that I can go through surgery, have an unexpected outcome and make it through, which will give me wisdom to face the bigger health challenges I sadly will most likely have as I age.  I was worried about the medical bills from this event and was surprised to find I have received the largest bonus of my career.  All I could do at that time was look inside in shame and weep. My doubt was answered by the wisdom I had neglected to recall.  God provides.  Once again He shows that ours is not to worry, just as he sustained Israel in the desert after their escape from Egypt when they thought they would surely die, He takes care of His children now.  There are still other challenges hanging over us that have not resolved but in passing through my ordeal with a tiny “useless” organ known as the gallbladder God has given me another lesson to grow my wisdom.  When I am in doubt I need to trust in Him for in everything that happens, “this is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes.” Ps. 118:23

The greatest challenge that the Lord gives us at times is when He asks us to exercise patience.  For me it has been one of the items I still wrestle with.  I have been blessed with intelligence, logic and related attributes that tend to make me a high achiever and a quick thinker.  While most would say those things are good, I offer an illustration with food.  Many people would say that chocolate is wonderful and so is lobster, however, at least for me, the idea of eating chocolate covered lobster is not all that appealing; but chocolate covered raisins or lobster encrusted steak?  Mmm mmm good!  It is all about the right combination at the right time.

Similarly my Type A personality does not go well many times without patience.  It can be overbearing, arrogant or rude.  As I have gained wisdom and God has helped me reflect on situations I have been amazed at those teachable moments to show that those attributes of me, sprinkled with a little patience for flavor, turn mac and cheese into a five star meal.  At work, I still struggle as the drive to get things done many times overpowers me taking out the patience shaker, but over the years I have worked very hard to use it at home and feel I have more success there.

What I have discovered to my amazement is that doing so usually allows for more harmony in the household.  Once of the main reasons is that by being patient even when I may not be feeling that way inside offers me the chance to see differing perspectives and understand what other emotions may be at play, and so I would like to present you a few examples of recent events, but my method requires a little explanation.

Anyone that knows me understands that one of my passions is Disney.  As a child I loved the magic and wonder and as an adult I add to that the appreciation of a business built for the most part on family and fostering togetherness and improving relationships.  One of the coolest ways that I feel Disney does this is through their animation groups, especially Pixar, which is one of my favorite studios.  Just like some of us will buy any music put out by our favorite artist without listening to it, I know that whatever Pixar comes out with will have me in the theater on opening weekend with my candy and my excitement, raring to go.  So it is with the next production, Inside Out.  For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it basically explores the life of a teenage girl by letting us be inside her brain with her emotions.  But as is so often the case with Pixar, they take what is a brilliant concept on its own and add in some twists that take brilliant to genius.  You see, with the new trailer released today, I was able to see that not only are they going to help us see the emotions of the girl, but also of her parents, and I imagine those around her.  What God has taught me through patience, Pixar is going to be placing on screen as we listen to Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness.  It is in this mode that I play out the rest of my story, which covers basically the last 12 hours of my life.

Last night, Marcia came home after a band concert.  Now to set the stage, my wife and I believe that the only reason Marcia is in band this year is because she wants to be with a friend of hers.  She used to love band but last year she did not participate and so it was with surprise that we greeted her announcement months ago that she was going to be in again this year.  In any event, her apathy has made me feel the same way towards her events and so during marching season I had not braved the cold and rain.  Nothing but the hand of God pushed me to decide to make the effort to attend her first regular indoor concert of the year now that marching has transitioned to the regular concert band season that will encompass the rest of the year.  I texted her a few times before and after and saw her when she got home.  She looked rather dejected when she came in.

Me: You look upset.  What’s wrong?

Marcia: Mom did not show up…. AGAIN!

Marcia Sadness: Why does she do this to me?  Why am I never a priority in her life?

Me Sadness: Why does she do this to them?  Why does she not make the effort to participate?

Me Anger: Because she is a selfish little b—h.  One day she’ll see how resentful the kids are and then it will be too late.  Serves her right.

Me Disgust: How can someone be so selfish?  Is sickens me to think I was married to someone like that.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.

Marcia: It’s OK.  I’m used to it.

Me Sadness: If only Nan would understand how much pain she causes.

Me Anger: If only God would help Nan understand how much pain she causes.  He could smite the Egyptians, why can’t he wipe Nan of the face of the earth and remove the pain?

Me Sadness:  Because that would cause Marcia more pain.  I need to make sure I keep Anger in check.  It will not help Marcia if I get angry about Nan.

Marcia Sadness: What did I do to deserve this?

At this point Marcia just went upstairs and got ready for bed and school the next day.  My wife and I decided it was best to just leave her be as nothing we could say at that point would really make it any better, it would just prolong her sadness of what was a regular occurrence from Nan.  The issue here was that it was almost worse because now Nan’s mom has moved here so her grandparent who could also have attended now that she does not live several states away also was not present.  Now it is possible Nan did not make her aware of the event, but Nan’s mom has always been selfish as long as I have known her, so not sure the cause, and in the end, to Marcia, it does not matter.  Her perspective is that her mom and others do not care.  Again, I thank God for giving me the push to show up even though with other logistics with other kids we had that night it meant driving back and forth to the high school three times in about 90 minutes.  I think it was important in that moment for her to understand that I did care what she did and had I not attended no amount of explaining the difficulties would have helped.  In my perspective and other adults seeing what was going on that night it might have been a sufficient excuse.  In Marcia’s perspective it would have been the same type of crap she hears from Nan all the time about why she is unable to make it to events.  This was just worse because it was one of the few times Nan had actually said she would be there.  Normally her mode is to make the excuses well before hand and politely decline because of her busy life.  I cannot even begin to guess what Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger were doing inside Marcia for the rest of the evening, and even my narration above may be way off base, but I hope it allows you to see how things wrestle inside us.  Without patience I would have flown off the handle about Nan, but with it I understood it was not in either of our control and getting Marcia more upset would have just hurt more.

Let’s now move on to the next morning.  After being punished from driving privileges, Marcia has also been told that it is too expensive to pay for gas for her to drive to school every day so at least until her job hours pick up and she can begin pitching in once in a while they will only drive over when logistics require.  This effects Jan and Cindy as they also attend the high school and as freshman have enjoyed a rare event in the life journey of a teen; not having to ride the bus for most of the school year in their first year in high school.  Now that is being taken away and reactions abound.  This being the first few weeks of the change, everyone is still working on the system and with the business of last night I had not done my portion with all of the players to explain that today was to be a bus day, which means getting out of the house about 15 minutes earlier than a car day.

I had been downstairs, as is normal, for about ten minutes when Marcia came down.  It was about 25 minutes before they would leave.

Marcia:  Does Jan know we are taking the bus?

Me: I have no idea.  Go wake her up and let her know.

Me Fear: I had not told anyone they were taking the bus.  Something will go wrong.

Me Joy: Yippee!!!  It has only taken a week and Marcia gets that when there is nothing happening they take the bus and she is actually taking responsibility rather than being a defiant teenager and pushing back.  How wonderful!

Me Anger:  I bet Jan has no idea and it will be another crappy morning arguing about taking the bus.

We went about our morning routines and I got up to the kitchen about 5 minutes before departure time.  Marcia was present, Cindy had come down still sick so she was going to miss another day and Jan was nowhere to be found.

Me: Where is Jan?  Did you wake her up?

Marcia: Yeah, I did.  No idea.

Wife: Was she aware they were taking the bus?  You were supposed to be telling them.

Me Anger: I know that and I already beat myself up about that downstairs, thank you very much!  I know we agreed that I would be telling them, but rubbing it in does not help any!  Grumble grumble grumble.

Me Fear:  See, I knew she’d not come down.  Now I will have all that teenage drama.

Me Anger:  I had told Marcia to make sure Jan got up as she is terrible at waking up when not planned.  I bet she just rolled over and went back to sleep.  Why didn’t Marcia make sure she got up?  Why didn’t I make sure they were all aware last night?

Me:  Yes, I know.  With all the running around I did not get to see most of them last night.

Me Anger:  They are in high school.  Why can’t they assume the bus is the way to go.  Because they are selfish teenagers, that’s why!  Grr!

Me Sadness:  You were a teenager once.  Why are you so hard on them?  Meany!

I had to finish up some things on the computer downstairs so I went back down and in the meantime the bus came and went.  I walk upstairs to find Jan just running into the kitchen as we both hear the bus leaving the neighborhood in front of the house.

Jan:  I had no idea we were taking the bus today!  Now what do I do?  Not go to school?

Me: (Deep breath) No.  I will drive you over this morning.

Jan Anger: Why!? WHY!?  NO ONE TOLD ME!!!!  My life sucks!  Why can’t we drive?  This is stupid!

Me Anger: See!!  I knew this would happen!

Me Sadness: Yes you did, just try to get her to understand.

Me:  Give me a couple minutes to finish up and I will be ready to go.  You guys will be taking the bus normally so you need to figure that out.

Jan: I can’t get up that early! At dad’s I can’t get up that early and it is later than this!  I don’t understand (fade to Charlie Brown teacher warble as I tune out the tirade)

Me (calmly):  You’ll figure it out.

Jan: I’m too tired getting up this early!

Me: Then go to bed earlier.

Jan: I went to bed at 9!

Me: OK, then I guess your body is telling you it needs to be earlier.

Jan: I can’t go to bed earlier, I barely got my homework done!

Me: You’ll figure it out.

Jan Anger: This is stupid!  I don’t get it!  (Ongoing)

Me Sadness: Oh the joys of teenagers……

So now we circle back to patience.

By being patient I was able to see things from Jan’s perspective and not blow my stack, as this was a similar conversation to what has occurred every time the bus has come up.  As an adult I see no reason that the public provided transportation is not fine.  I can understand the “earlier” portion but I also struggle with the fact that it is 15 minutes, at most, earlier and if they are tired they have the whole bus ride to veg out.  Jan as a teenager does not see the problem with driving.  This is where her and Marcia have different perspectives, and Marcia’s has been provided to her by the fact that she has gone out and gotten a job and has paid for a few tanks of gas for the car she uses and has let us know how crazy it is.  Jan has not had the benefit of this reality yet.  She is still blissfully unaware that there is not a magic money plant out back, leprechauns do not arrive at my door just before they all wake up to let me grab all the money and more that I need for the day, or that I do not crap twenties out my butt like some variation of a human ATM.  She still exists in that nirvana of early teenhood where the world works and she does not need, or care, to know why.  Only when the world does not work (i.e. she is asked to ride the bus when there is a perfectly good car just parked out front calling to her) does she even attempt to understand how the big machine operates, but even then it is through teen colored glasses and hearing aids.  I say gas costs a lot.  She hears we are cheapskates.  I say everyone has to ride the bus.  She hears that we had to walk to school uphill both ways, with nuclear radiation and while carrying baby goats to market.  Not having the patience and willingness to understand the other perspective and empathize with the emotions those cause is truly the root of most disagreements.  I work hard to make sure that I keep that in mind even as Anger is pound on the control buttons in my head to get me to do something irrational.  To be a good parent, I think that is what God tried to teach us by giving us instruction to be slow to anger.  Once that short little fat guy (watch the Inside Out trailer) has a firm hold on the joystick, it is hard to break free of his control.  We face this with all our emotions and that is always the struggle.  What is happening in Marcia’s or Jan’s or my wife’s control center?  Sadly, unlike the movie or my attempt at some levity in this post, we do not get to know unless those people speak to us and tell us.  And for some reason we are all usually really bad at sharing that information in a constructive way.  That’s why the concept Pixar has is so brilliant and why I have been looking forward to this movie for years when I heard about the concept four years ago.  The new trailer is awesome.  The teenage girl has a tirade that starts out with the parents trying to be OK and ends with a punishment, but it is the emotions that play out that are so fascinating.  As a parent I could totally get the dad’s emotions and what they were doing and I still get the teenage perspective and what she was doing.  The battle between the emotions is awesome.  Can you tell I’m excited about this movie!?  I can’t wait until June!  Anyway, sorry.  I’m calm again.  Back to my post.  To operate better in our relationships it is important to have this perspective, I just wish we could find a way to see into each other’s brains and hear all the dialogue exposed in the movie, but we do not.  So we need to find other ways, mainly by patiently listening and then by patiently thinking before we act.  With our human frailty that is not always possible, but God demands of us to try.  I will just keep trying to do that knowing that my perspective is just that.  Mine.  Not my wife’s, not my kids.  I will continue to pray that they are understand that as well and that we work out of love for each other to get to a resolution for all life’s little episodes and we continue to encourage Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust and Fear to play nice.

God presents us with chances every moment of our lives to learn something.  Those of us who use that gift and make something of it improve our chances for success in life by at times immeasurable ways.  In this truth I solemnly believe.  In the dark moments of life, I believe He provides us the most powerful ways to improve.

When we are young, everything new is scary but perhaps also exciting.  We learn that not everything is to be feared.  Different names are provided for those initial concerns.  The boogeyman.  Monsters in the closet.  Things that go bump in the night.  We learn that these things do not exist and we are able to overcome bigger fears because of that new found knowledge.

There are however some things that we find are not so false, and are not so easy to overcome.  Recently I came face to face with one of those things with my wife.  Like the lions of Tsavo, for some the ability to learn and understand is easier because they are not imperiled.  The hunter played by Val Kilmer is like that.  His past experience had taught him that even though these lions were more formidable than anything he had ever encountered he had built up the resilience to overcome that fear and prevail.  For others, like some of the workers, superstitions and never shaking the boogeymen of childhood for whatever reason, or perhaps seeing a family member carried off by a lion at one time or another taught a different lesson.  They were afraid, at times paralyzingly so, of something the hunter saw so very differently.

In the aftermath of our few weeks in the summer brought on by machinations from Bert, Peter and several others are still going to counseling.  Recently Peter’s counselor said she was going to refer him out because he needed to talk with someone who had a specialty in the issues that occurred and this created a situation that tossed my wife into a tailspin.

For reasons that make little sense to a rational person, Bert like to take these opportunities of a new individual to replay all the past history, as he sees it of his and my wife’s life together.  These situations are never pleasant for my wife and this was no exception.  What transpired was sadly similar to the analogy I provided above.  My wife had indicated ahead of time to the new counselor that due to her past abusive history with Bert she was not comfortable having a joint session with him and especially with Peter.  For whatever reason, when she arrived there her request was not granted.  As best I can tell, the counselor felt like the hunter, that she had seen a predatory lion before and knew how to handle him and could therefore disregard the concerns of the superstitious laborer who did not have the experience she had.  As we were to find out, just because the hunter is comfortable and believes the laborer should be, the mind will do what it will when confronted with the ghost of abuses past and the darkness of being ignored by those who mean to help yet again.

For whatever reason, my wife walked away from the intake session in a very bad place, and she stayed there for several days.  She visited her counselor after a few days and was encouraged to withdraw from things for a few days and process.  Again, we ran into two perspectives, where she was reeling from this and I just wanted our life to go on and her to shake it off, which she was having a nearly impossible time doing.  We had some direct conversations as she pulled out of this but I did my part and remained as caring and focused as I could.

So what did I take away from God’s teaching moment?  Ultimately that we emerged in a better place and with my wife having a clearer picture about what set off this chain of events and that she needs to stand her ground with any future counselors and not let them play the hero who can reconcile the irreconcilable creature that is Bert.  If they want to try that on their own, that’s their business.  Stalking the lion in the rushes is up to them.  My wife does not need to be used as the bait.  The lesson was that worrying about how she would be perceived by the counselor when she refused to simply go along and attend the joint session was the wrong choice over standing firm and asserting the position God had graced her with.  He had pulled her out of a terrible situation and created a new life for her with someone who cares and loves her and there was never a reason to re-enter that old world, even at the behest of a counselor who claimed to know better.  She was right back in the darkness where Bert had the control and she felt she had none and even though she would like to be strong enough to handle that, it turned out she was not.

Why does God reveal things when He does?  We will never know.  Many things came to light over the last several months as we lived through the situation caused by Bert’s malice.  For my wife many of them were revelations from the mother of Peter’s half brother and who lived with my wife and Bert for a time and with Bert after my wife left.  The details are not important so I will not go into them here, but the key to understanding is that things my wife believed she understood and that the kids might not have been aware of were shown to be untrue in several conversations she had with this mother.  Adding all the burdens together these revelations, the pressures we were going through to get past the false accusations, the frustration of the children, the added schedules of the counseling sessions and other new requirements on an already very busy schedule and finally the ill advised choices by Peter’s new counselor resulted in the pot boiling over.  I certainly do not understand God’s timing in this and why there was just more and more, but we relied on what we knew to be true, that He loved us and it made sense to Him and just did the best we could.

Without the blow up, perhaps my wife would never garner the fortitude to realize that no matter what in the future she stands her ground on this.  She may have continued to pacify any future counselors to not “make waves” because it was not so bad.  By hitting the bottom, maybe this was God’s way of telling her to realize that she never need again subject herself to these situations.  That’s a lesson more than worth learning.

Our pastors have indicated that this entire process is perhaps just a tool God is using to hone us even further for our purpose of helping other divorced people through the process.  We certainly have new understanding of police, agencies and counselors than we did in the past and certainly it will adjust our advice on those topics.  It also provided us with situations with the children and others that also add to our experience.  We take these and look for future lions in a different way.  We will continue to have encounters with other ghosts and other darkness in the future and trust that God is always preparing us for the battle, if only we will listen and learn.

Oh what fun life can have for us at times.  You ever feel like you are watching a train wreck, but can do nothing to stop it?  This is where we are at today.

We have been having an ongoing situation with one of our kids that is coming, or I guess has come, to a head in the last few days.

Marcia, our oldest, has been pushing her boundaries and rebelling strongly for several months.  She is going to a counselor and we have been doing what we felt we could to enforce consequences and keep her in line. 

Recent developments are she and Jan has been experimenting with witchcraft and was told in the fall that we would not condone this in anyway in the fall when we found out about it.  Nan was always into fortune telling and other such practices so was little help in discouraging her.  After Memorial Day weekend one of the other kids told us that Marcia was trying to smoke something in the woods behind the house prior to Memorial Day.  She told us it was kitchen spices.  The next day her room was searched and nothing relating to that was found but a few bottles with liquid and herbs labeled with their uses for summoning witches and the like were found under Marcia’s bed and she was told she was losing a party for school friends she had been planning for end of the school year because she disobeyed the rule to keep witchcraft out of the house.  This Monday she asked if she could instead go to get frozen yogurt with a few friends.  After being told she was grounded that day and she could not simply exchange one activity for another, she was upset and texted Nan to complain.  Nan then proceeded to text me to intervene on her behalf.  When confronted with this, Marcia lied and said she had not talked to Nan.  Her consequence then was to lose her phone and iPod touch for the night and she refused and was so confrontational it was obvious she wanted things to escalate to a physical confrontation.  We told her if she did not back down and stop we would be calling the police, which we eventually did.  They arrived and explained the consequences and that if parents feel they cannot control an unruly child any other way what we did was appropriate.  Her counselor also agreed this was the right course of action when we let her know what had happened.  She was belligerent in front of the officer to the point that he made it clear to him that with her behaving the way she was in front of him, when most people are on their best behavior, he could only imagine what she must be like when he is not there.  At one point during this whole episode she said she wanted to go live with Nan and that Nan was going to work on that.  Nan had been aware of all these goings on as we had kept her informed and that night we called her to fill her in on the latest episode. In that conversation I directly asked Nan if she wanted to go down that route and she said she was not interested in Marcia living with her but that she never wanted her to feel that she didn’t love her.

For the last two days, Marcia has been giving us the silent treatment.  At her last meeting with the counselor she expressed that she hated living with us and wanted to go to Nan’s.  She was told to make a pros and cons list for both houses to discuss with us if it came to that and Nan let me know she had called her to tell her about that.  Nan claimed she gave her a whole list of cons.  Normally they would not go over to her until after 6 pm tonight.  Nan has asked if they could pick her up straight from school because she wants to have a “good conversation” with her.  I called her to discuss and her intent is to make sure Marcia knows she “loves her” but that she would have all kinds of things that would change like schools and friends and such.  I feel saying anything more than we understand her frustration but her situation is what it is with visitation and we still feel that is best just gives a teenager hope they can change it.  In the end Nan said she would tell her that “in her own way”, which in my time with her always just confused the kids and gave false hope. 

The background is that Nan has said several times, either to the kids directly or to me, that she wishes she never had them.  I do not believe she has any interest in making the change but she also is driven to appear like the good person and twist it in a way that she is not to blame.  I have no issue with her blaming us whatever.  I just think with a rebellious teenager this is not a good approach and will only escalate things.  If ultimately it were to change, Nan’s history makes me feel she will simply allow Marcia to do what she wants with no consequences or guidance and this is why Marcia wants to live with her; because she knows Nan will let her do whatever she wants.  We also feel there is shoplifting involved and there was an incident around that this weekend where they came back from the mall with a few items even though they had no money and claimed friends bought them but they have no proof.  We also found a letter where the two oldest were conspiring about “a better way to steal”.  We found another letter last night where Marcia shares that she tried booze at a friend’s house. 

The feedback we have from her counselor is Marcia is extremely resentful of Nan for the years she spent with her and how she was treated.  She has been trying to work with Marcia to get through these issues without lashing out but right now Marcia is ignoring all the tools and suggestions she has given her, effectively rebelling against her counselor as well.  She feels this is a critical point in her life where she is making the choice of which path it will take and she is fighting against our household that has consequences for her actions because Nan never enforced any and when I was at work or traveling the consistency in discipline was not there.  She has only really had that since my wife and I were married because even prior to that she was at home alone while I was at work and could do things she shouldn’t.  If I ever caught her she was punished, but if she was doing things she hid them well because it was very infrequent.

In the end, we trust God has the control that we do not have.  Divorce always makes things fun. We are not only faced with the problem of a rebellious teenager, we have the added issues of two ex spouses who are not at all on the same page with us on how things should be handled and who we have no control over.  Consequences such as refusing to allow her to get her driver’s license, which even the police officer agreed is the “golden ticket”, are not available to us when the other parents have told us if we try to delay for six months or something then they will just take the kids to get their permit and license.  This is just one of the unique challenges we face.  About a year before our divorce, Nan and I had an argument that strung out over three weeks because she wanted me to agree that she should go out with her co-workers and try pot because she wanted to see what it was like.  This is a woman in her late 30s talking to me about pot the way a teenager would.  Do you see why I have little faith that she would support our decision to tell Marcia that drugs are absolutely not to be toyed with? 

I know text does not express anything but the words.  There is no tone, no body language.  My wife and I are calm.  We are certainly disappointed, but we know we have been doing everything possible to set the right tone, provide the right guidance and parent as we should, but we are not in a frenzy about this because we know God will work this out as He wants it to be resolved.  I may not agree with His choices or what results, but I know he has the ball.  As a divorced parent that is the only way I can cope with this; knowing that the other parent is wanting to be a friend and not a parent and therefore will ultimately give in to whatever Marcia wants to do, maybe even to the point of offering to experiment with pot together with her so they can be “besties”, for example.  I witnessed this type of giving in all through my marriage and it broke the ability to consistently discipline.  Now in the context of divorce where there is even less influence over that other parent, all I can do is trust God.

I’ll get into more of what we are concerned about and why we think this has to potential to really screw up Marica’s life in the next post.  The stage has been set so to speak, the train is coming, and I’ll explain the impending train wreck I see next time.

Well it was only a matter of time until I got sick of discussing the kids without some kind of names.  Given that every time we introduce ourselves to anyone and mention we are a blended family with six kids we get “Oh!  The Brady Bunch!”,  I figured I was as likely to get another naming convention to stick as Congress is to pass useful legislation, so I give up (hmm, that also sounds like Congress, but this isn’t a political post, so I digress).

As you are aware, we do not fit the mold quite right as we have four girls and two boys, so I have to take a little creative license with the names.  I am just going to use the names in order of age, so the boys will be Greg and Peter, and the girls will be Marcia, Jan, Cindy, and Bobbi (my creative license).  All four girls in our case are older than any of the boys, so that should clarify the sequence for you if you care to follow along at that level.  No need to give my wife and I names as it’s easy enough to keep track of us in any narrative.  Our exes have been named long ago, so for now all the characters in the saga as it continues have been identified.

Today’s episode of the modified Brady’s will feature Greg.  While Greg is going to turn ten this year, he’s always been a challenge in that he is quite intelligent and uses those skills as you might expect, sometimes to amaze, sometimes to confuse and as any parent of a boy will tell you many times to frustrate. 

Last night my kids were back after their regularly scheduled weekend with Nan.  My wife has noticed that Greg is more difficult to deal with the first day or two after they return from Nan, and Greg was always the one that Nan would ignore most, and this has really affected Greg’s personality and how he deals with things.  Lately he has returned to his place of solace, playing on the computer, where he is in charge and he can control what happens, rather than being at the mercy of everyone and everything.  As I was picking Cindy up after school yesterday, so informed me that “Greg was on the computer for like, 52 hours, at Mom’s house!”  I made a mental note that this would likely not be a good thing.  This means, if nothing else that Greg was ignored while at Nan’s.

Now I can only speculate, but my guess is that since Marcia and Cindy have always had the typical “I hate my brother because he’s my brother” thought process and Nan does nothing to encourage they stop that since she seems to dislike Greg most of all of the children, that this weekend involved much activity that excluded Greg and that no one but Greg cared.  Not Nan, not her fiancé, not Marcia or Cindy, not their dog nor their new baby.  If I was to speculate, since the new baby is now crawling for the first time since they have visited, everyone was focused on her.  That’s fine, but since Nan  makes no effort to try to engage Greg he, even when Nan and I were married, tends to simply avoid getting involved in things to avoid getting yelled at or disappointed.  So he stays on the computer.  Normally if you ask him to stop and come do something he might grumble a little, and even when I got home with Cindy and told him that I heard he was on the computer a lot at Nan’s and that he should do something else, he said OK and was off in a couple minutes without really any whining, so I do not as yet picture that the computer is a problem as such.  I view it more as his security blanket, for possibly many of the reasons I mentioned above.  He has full control and he will not be surprised by anything or be rejected by something that should support him. 

In counseling with Greg this was discussed and due to his intelligence I was told he seems to get the fact that Nan is just not interested and he has made what peace he can with that.  I understand that to a degree, but I do not think there is any area of peace that a nine year old or younger boy can have when his Mom really could care less about him.  Nan had made the effort to pick him up from school Thursday because as she told us she felt Greg could use some alone time with her since she mostly does that with the girls.  Then whatever happened resulted in the rest of the weekend being without Greg, and Greg sat on the computer.  In Nan’s form, she spent a couple hours with him alone, and then he probably did something boys do, made some stupid comment or acted out since he always looked for negative attention from her because it was still attention or something else.  Rather than realize parenting takes work, because Nan can’t handle that, kids should just be your puppets after all and do exactly what you want at all times, at the first sign of stress, Nan most likely disengaged, which is what I would witness her do all the time.  And Greg’s time with Mom was over.  And Greg in all his brilliance and intellect has no idea what he has done again because this piece of his life has never made sense.  So Greg sat at the computer.

So now that Greg was back at our house, we just happened to have a concert for Marcia that required us to run out almost immediately.  I got home from work, said hello., noticed he was sad which usually means time at Nan’s has not gone well, asked him how he was and received the normal “Absolutely great!” and had to eat dinner and leave.  Cindy and Greg were no interested in the concert and so they stayed home like they have done many times.  When we returned we found that it appeared Greg had cut some of his hair as we found some hair and there were scissors next to the bathroom sink.  Greg had also done this a few months back while at Nan’s during a really crazy weekend there.  Talking to our counselor, she had indicated that this type of behavior usually is the result of a child not knowing how to deal with stresses they are facing, so they lash out in physical behavior.  Greg denied it was his hair this morning before school however Cindy explained later when she arose that Greg had asked to play the computer again that night and when she told him we had told him he should do something else, she believes he got upset and went an did the hair cutting, which she found later.  So as I assess it now, with all my past history with Greg, he had a terrible weekend at Nan, came home where it normally is better and was basically ignored again because of the prior commitment we had for Marcia, was unable to use his security blanket (computer) and lashed out.  We will speak with him tonight and certainly spend some time with him that we could not yesterday.  Tomorrow we have another concert for Bobbi, so I want to make sure Greg is in a good place.  Normally he’s fine and these episodes are infrequent, but something is changing for him and we need to figure out what that is and determine what the appropriate actions are.  Maybe he needs to go and see a counselor again to discuss things.  Maybe he just needs to vent.  Maybe he just needs to be reassured that he is not overlooked.  We had told them we would be watching a show they like tonight, so spending that time together will help, but we will need to see if it is enough for now. 

I’ve had to help him work through this before.  The key is to not let it fester and that is certainly not the goal.  The problem I have right now is that all our other commitments with our other kids do not always make us as available as we might need to be.  Normally I would have walked with him to the bus stop today, and I had to drop out of that because Marcia needed an early ride to school for an extra credit project she is doing.  He was frustrated with the questions about the hair this morning.  I know he will not be able to verbalize why he did it when I mention that Cindy verified he had.  If he stays true to form he might weakly deny it again, before he admits it.  Also, the next thing that happens is he just needs some time with me or my wife to understand he is not forgotten.  This usually starts the healing process.  Some weeks with Nan are better than others.  This just seems to be one that was not and our schedule this week does not help.  It sucks that the kids need to deal with this, but as any divorced parent knows you cannot force the other parent to step up no matter how clear you make it. 

I pray to God for guidance.  I pray to God for healing.  I pray to God for strength.  I pray to God that He can help Nan see the effect she has and care.  These are prayers I’ve had before and will certainly have again.  I try to guide and assist and intervene.  There is never enough time.  I want to help my son.  I believe Nan is just happy he’s gone and back by me.  So far he seems to still be OK, but it is my job as his father to keep a diligent eye on if he is not.  Perhaps when I speak with him today I will find that is the case.  I pray every time that it is not.  That Nan has not hardened his heart to caring in such a way that he has also shut off to me.  I fear that one day that will be the case and that this little guy who can be so fun and full of life will just shut down and never care.  That he will one day embrace the feeling that I do everything I can to help him avoid; “If my own Mom won’t love me, why should anyone else, or why should I?”  When I was married to Nan I would see Greg get so defiant and so angry and mean, and in discussing it during counseling it was explained that this was a way for him to avoid getting hurt.  Keep Nan away and if he never asks for her love he won’t be heartbroken when it is not given.  There is a battle he wages inside himself every time this goes on and I an only lend aid from the outside.  Ultimately Greg and God control the outcome.  I only pray that his little heart is strong enough to keep loving others while Nan continues to push him away.  Two Sundays ago he was baptized, something he asked for a few weeks back.  Greg did not specifically mention Jesus’ love for him, but I look to that love to help Greg as well.  I know when Greg gets older he will be able to more easily cope with this terrible thing he has to deal with from time to time with Nan.  Every time I seem him struggle it just tears me up because there is only so much I can do.  I can love him and guide him and know that God will support him.  And I have to trust that is enough.

OK, so I’ve been silent for quite some time.  Certainly life has not been event free, however, every time something happens, it just has not felt like something worthy of expounding upon, or it would be more of the same old, same old.  Even though life is that way, I don’t know, I just feel like if I’m asking you to come to the blog and see what I have to say that it should be worthy of your time.  I wrestle with the reality of that though, because if it is just musing from a divorced dad, then I should just muse, right?  Even if it is what has happened before, or a continuation or a variant, just as I talk to my family and friends, maybe I should just lower the standards, so to speak, or this medium and just let you know what is in my head on a regular basis rather than waiting for some new nugget of wisdom to share.

After all, when I first started, I had shared nothing, so I had all this pent up material.  It was like meeting someone for the first time.  You knew nothing about my journey, so anything I could share was new.  I was obviously very prolific then, since I felt I had so much to share to get you up to speed.  Now, however, you know the critical things about my journey and are up to speed enough to follow along without a lot of work.  Just like everyone else, thank goodness, I do not have monumental events happening all the time; otherwise I might just have a nervous breakdown or something.  I’m like a lot of other divorced dads out there.  I went through the cycle of divorce, recovery and finding a new love.  I’ve had issues taking care of my kids, disagreeing with my ex, and other work and life events that we all have.  So now it has just settled down and this blog, will I guess need to move a little differently, similar in fact to all the other ones from similar authors who have traveled the same road.

So lately, I’ve still been dealing with my legal troubles that should not be about the old house I had.  I’ve been doing my job to the best of my ability and juggling family and work responsibilities as best I can.  I guess the biggest problem has just been trying to stay as unchanged as possible through what is happening.  If I think about it, it’s almost the same process as going through the divorce with some key modifications.

I am trying to make certain that the financial strain of the legal issues has as little impact as possible on my family, very similar to how things went in the divorce.  While adjustments needed to be made I took great pains never to tell the kids we could not do something because I had no money because I was divorced.  In many cases they would not understand, as even my fifteen year old still lives in the blissful nirvana of having no real clue how much it costs to live.  Sure they see purchases as the store, but all those hidden adult expenses like utility bills, insurance, mortgage and now legal bills are not something that they can easily comprehend.  It’s my job as a parent to cover their needs of food, shelter and clothing.  When we go to the store, they should not have to use their allowance to purchase their jeans, underwear, etc.  That’s our job as parents.  Sure if they want to go over the top they can always augment what I am willing to spend, but it should not become the default.  I think both my wife and I are in danger of falling into that mindset more easily with the current situation and I push back strongly to avoid it.  It has not really caused any fights yet, but I can feel it may, and I am trying to get her to understand my point of view while understanding that her point of view of how she grew up, the struggles she had to go through as a single mom after bankruptcy and other things make her look at things on the financial front more conservatively than even my rather conservative self. 

As a man, God has made it my responsibility to provide for my family and lead them.  In today’s culture we have pushed this aside and said women can do some things and I’m certainly OK with assistance, but at the end of the day, God has ingrained in me the need to make it all work out and to shelter those I love from the tribulations of the world. So while my wife is OK with telling the kids they can buy something on their own, I am not.  So far we’ve worked this tap dance during the last few months well, but if it is through just briefly discussing or agreeing to disagree, I’m not always sure.  If the kids want to go to the mall, I’m OK with giving them a little money to use.  If they do it every week, that amount goes down a lot, but I see no reason they have to fund every trip to the mall on their own.  God has blessed me with the ability to support them in that way and I feel that is right.  There is always the danger of spoiling them or of being taken “advantage” of by begging children, but I do my best to keep that in check.  For the most part my wife and I are on the same page, however, as I said earlier, the implication the kids can do something carries with it a lot more of the self-funding variety than it did before the legal bills started coming. 

I am very upset about the fact that they are coming.  I have talked to my pastors, and many people I know about what I should be doing, seeking wise and godly counsel as Scripture instructs me.  They all are confused why this lawsuit is even occurring as I had done everything I was required to do and no one can see any issue other than unfortunate circumstances for the new owners of the home. While they may want someone to blame, it does not make it right.  For now we have a way to handle the extra expense through the grace of God and His grace to allow me a healthy bonus from work this year, so I view it as handled for now and trust that God will continue to provide and allow me to continue to manage my family and their finances as I did before the situation began.  I am being prudent about the reality and certainly there has been some cutting back, but I have done it more where I normally do, on things that impact the adults, rather than the children at this time as it has nothing to do with them.  So we go out to eat less often on our kidless weekends than we did and that saves us a few hundred dollars a month, as an example.

I certainly have been honest with the older kids that some expenses are being avoided right now because of the situation.  There are activities they would like to attend that just are not in the budget right now.  They understand and are saddened but they get it. 

So all this is what has been weighing on my heart since I last wrote and it keep me from getting too excited about other topics because it would only serve to further irritate me about the situation as it is and the drain of our funds when I can certainly do much more productive things for my family with them.