Surviving Divorce.

Writing about divorce is as personal to me as writing about abuse or death.  It sends a weight to the pit of my stomach.  I don’t write other people’s stories and that’s why I’m cautious about this subject.  There wasn’t just me.  There was a spouse and there were children.  Little children who deserved better.

When we pick spouses, we base that decision on many things, love, lust, need, fear, compatibility, escape, ambition, life goals, family suitability… When you are young, I had just turned 19, you don’t know yourself and you certainly are clueless about who you will become.  The newsflash is your intended spouse has the same feelings.  You start out with plans and they go awry, you fight, and pout and beg; there are a few good weeks, and the cycle starts over again.  Eventually someone says enough, or one or both of you make decisions that most people can’t come back from.

When my first marriage ended, I told the children.  One was very young, one was happy go lucky, and one cried and told me it was his fault.  When I assured him that it wasn’t, he said, “Mom, I’ve been praying to God, that you and Dad would get divorced.”  I knew that I didn’t have a choice, no child should bare that kind of responsibility, to want to protect his family so much that he should be pushed to pray for a divorce, in order to have peace.

No one starts out in a marriage planning on a divorce. We all start out wide eyed and innocent, hoping.. no planning…. on the best.  We bring children into it and sometimes we fail.  Typically it’s not just one spouse who fails, both play a part,  I firmly believe though that one person can’t make a marriage work by themselves, not year after year.  There has to be a commitment by both to the marriage, to the family and to the commitment.  In a bad marriage there is no  50/50, it’s 75/20 or sometimes even 90/10, but that isn’t sustainable without someone’s hurt getting too deep.

When I moved to Williston, after my divorce, I started dating and eventually remarried.  I remember distinctly, a couple of women in town who had been divorced twice.  It had been and I’m sure continues to be challenging to be a divorce’ once, let alone twice.  The stigma, even in this day and age, continues to suggest a harlot, a red letter A, plastered firmly on your forehead.  I smile when I write this because it’s archaic, but yet sadly in small towns, it’s true.  I looked at those women and said to myself, “That will never be me.”  You know how God loves that when you make ludicrous statements like that.  God says, “Watch this.”

Well watch I did, not just watch, but I experienced my second divorce.  I was one of “them.”  I had joined a club unwillingly; oh I had initiated the divorce, because I had apparently finessed the talent of poor decision making.  I dated a bit and frankly I lost my appetite for it quickly.  I had learned a lot and was still learning, wanted to learn, wanted to and had decided that being single could be great.  I learned to enjoy being single; the freedom was something I hadn’t experienced before.  I learned to survive divorce.

Do the children survive?  They do, some more quickly than the rest.  My children’s father and I were decent divorced parents; we kept the kids out of most things.  Children are smart though and they always know more and see more than you think.  If my mother had divorced my father, would my life have been better?  Sometimes the damage is already done and it’s hard to know.  I bare full responsibility for my poor decisions.  In a world where everyone likes to shirk their faults and shift the blame to their pasts, or abusers, I won’t.  I could have done better.  I have done better. 🙂

Peace…..

Close to the end…

When I started blogging, my goal was to be disciplined enough to write one years worth, 52 weeks, of blogs on surviving.  I jump in and out of my own sexual abuse survival experiences; while trying to find something that is humorous or will interest you the next.  What was I hoping to gain through this process?  I had many initial thoughts, but now I think it was my voice, and while I was finding my voice, so were millions of women in the “Me Too” movement across the United States and even other parts of the world.

The “Me Too” movement is part of a pendulum motion that has left some men afraid of flirting, not knowing exactly where the boundaries are, afraid of missing a cue and adding to the unsureness of their place.  Rest assured the pendulum will swing back into a place that most of us will find comfort…we will have found our voices…hopefully people will listen to them and if they don’t we can only get louder.  The movement is important, as uncomfortable as we sometimes feel dealing with it.  My blog has made people uncomfortable too.  My sense of knowing it was right comes from you who read it.  I have men and women read it; people from many different countries (Australia, China, Philippines, Spain, Germany, South Africa etc. ) have read it and that is exciting to me, not because those people make me think differently about my purpose of writing, but because I know we are the same..what matters to us is the same.   When we get past the rhetoric and fear, we are more similar than not, regardless  of color, religion, sexual orientation etc.

I have 8 weeks left to write; to share my thoughts and continue to finesse my voice.  I’m going to stay honest and keep myself vulnerable.  When I’m done with my blog, I may continue to blog periodically but won’t post on Facebook.  If you are interested after that point, you can “follow” the post, which means whenever I write something, it will show up in your e-mail box, like a bad penny.  🙂 I have several book ideas roaming around in my head.  I started one years ago, but lacked the discipline, and to be fair, the time to finish it.  My priority first will be to write about my mother’s death.

When Mom was given the sentence of Lung Cancer; it happened so fast we were unprepared.  That’s how cancer works; it snaps up with no apparent provocation and slams the victim into the wall with its severity and the fear it so generously provides.  I don’t believe anyone can be prepared for it.  It also is a horrifying experience for the family.  I’m not going to say in any uncertain terms that when you are fighting for your life and fearful of losing it, that your families feelings are as important…….or are they?  They would be to me, but as my husband tells me, “You don’t know until you experience it.”  The hospice pamphlet we were provided with was helpful, but it didn’t help any of us prepare for what was coming, until the dying process that occurred at the very end.

I hate very little and very few.  I don’t want to give my power and energy away to anyone, or anything that doesn’t deserve it, but I have a strong feeling about cancer, and my way to work through that feeling is to give it a voice.  I hope you will continue my journey of survival with me the next few weeks.  If you are willing to personal message me any insight or thoughts you might have, please feel free to send them to me.  If you have a favorite blog of mine, feel free to share it, or PM me and let me know.  We have been in partnership the last year and I hope it has meant a fraction to you, what it has meant to me..

Peace…..

Love

Valentines Day is fast approaching; I hope you all are in the thralls of whatever your definition of love is.  I think talking about what love means, to each and every one of us is important.  There are so many miscommunications in our world, because we don’t talk to each other, and ask the important questions..  Sometimes we ask the important questions, but the answers we get aren’t honest.  Love is complicated! Here are some descriptions of love for you to think about:

1.Wikipedia says, “Ancient Greeks identified four forms of love: kinship or familiarity (in Greek, storge), friendship and/or platonic desire (philia), sexual and/or romantic desire (eros), and self-emptying or divine love (agape). … The term s’agapo means I love you in Greek. The word agapo is the verb I love.

2.The Bible says, “1 Corinthians 13:4-8New International Version (NIV)

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues,they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.

This is the definition my Baptist Grandmother read to me, when I asked her what love is.

3. Buddha has some wonderful things to say about love as well; the first being that you need to love yourself.  Not love yourself in a narcissistic, self-centered way, but love yourself in a healthy way.  Take time for yourself, your mental health, and your physical self.  Hug yourself and know you are good and worthy of love.

When I read through the definitions, I could see in my head examples of couples to fit every description.  Love works when two people have the same definition.  Love changes through out a relationship depending on life experiences and age. Love works the best when you both grow.

I have been fortunate to be loved, by men, children, friends, pets, grandchildren….. Most of those loves, of course, have been different from one another.  Affection will always be important, trust, kindred spirits, someone who will put me first just once in a while. I think love can be defined by who will let you put your cold feet up against theirs; who will let you have “just a couple” of their French fries; who will correct you privately when you’re wrong; and who will still love you when you are being stupid…

Survivors seek love, by their definition.  Loving someone means exploring that together; and coming through the relationship whole. This week let’s think about love, giving love, and receiving love.  I hope the warmth of it surrounds you and propels you forward.

Happy Valentines Week!

Peace……..

 

Grandma, Are You ?

My grandson had a situation in his school where a boy brought a gun to school.  In an effort to continue conversation, I asked him a question.  “Was he a Native?”  “Grandma, are you a racist?” he replied.  “No Carter, Grandma doesn’t think she’s a racist.”  Then why did you ask that first?” he rebutted, forcing his grandma to rethink her question.

Growing up, I never thought about race.  There were no black people that I remember;  we grew up on a reservation, with many Native Americans, but while we were culturally maybe a little different, I only thought of my classmates as my friends.  We played whist instead of studying, partied and were just normal kids.

I wasn’t allowed to date a Native American, although there were some I would have liked to have dated :).  I never understood why we weren’t allowed to date and when I asked my parents their only answer was, “Because.”  When I pressed, Mom would tell me that there were too many cultural differences.  I’m guessing there were Native boys in my class who were told to stay away from the white girls.  I don’t know that for sure, but I wouldn’t be surprised.  It was one of a couple of times when I realized there were differences or at least perceptions of differences  by the adults.

I have told you before that we didn’t have a lot of money and that I was expected to work from an early age,  10 years old driving grain truck, which seems impossible by todays standards and at 14 was cleaning motel rooms, at the Sunset Motel.  I bought much of my own clothes (or they were hand-me-downs),  my saxophone reeds and many times, my own lunch (Snicker Bar and a Tab :),  and dinners.  I was a Jr. in High School when I first heard of JOM, The Johnson O’Malley fund, which was money appropriated for Native Children during the Johnson administration.  I found out about it when a friend told me that when they needed tennis shoes, that they went down to Gronos’s Department Store and charged them to JOM….instruments JOM etc.  I was at that time waitressing at the bowling alley, getting up at 5:30 AM many mornings to work until school started, then on nights when I didn’t have other activities, working until 10:30 or so, whenever closing happened to be.  I didn’t understand why some of my friends got free stuff and I had to work.

I don’t agree with all the furor over some of the things that are political hot points.  I have two grandsons who are 1/8 Ojibwa.  The Ojibwa ran the Sioux out of the Minnesota/Wisconsin territory sending them to the Dakotas, where they took over land from other tribes.  Land grabbing has gone on since the beginning of time, and frankly still is today, if a government entity thinks taking your land is in the best interest of the public, it will take your land, regardless of race or culture.  Is it right? no.  I think anyone who has had that happen would agree, but it does happen..

Something that I do wish I understood in high school was the treatment of Natives after the land grab; especially the schools they were sent to that were government and church sponsored; children were torn away from their parents, sent away to be abused and starved and treated like animals.  This I know: all people regardless of color, race, religion etc. love their children and would feel their hearts break into pieces, to have their child ripped out of their home (except for a few psycho cases which could fall into anyone of the above categories).  Personalize that for one minute…. children are an important part of culture,  families and communities.  The treatment was appalling and caused anger and angst that will take time to heal.  You and I know many cultures have not been treated well in the process or aftermath of war…Japanese concentration camps, the Jews in Europe, the Black slaves, the Irish slaves, the Chinese on the railroads…. the list goes on and on.  The Vikings didn’t start it as they raped and pillaged their way across Europe but they certainly perfected abuse, at that time.

We can’t go back and change our pasts, any of them.  There aren’t enough checks, in the mail to heal people.  Leaders of tribes and some members of Congress, who are trying to garner votes, have convinced many that money is the answer but it’s not.  The answer is to ask yourself, regardless of whether you are gay, black, white, male or female.  Am I a racist, a homophobe, a hetrophobe, a sexist?  Do I hate Christians, or am wary of white people?  Until we ask ourselves the questions and deal with the answers, it’s hard to move forward.  Until the intent of heart is there… Until we have the guts to question ourselves and put the conversation out there…. We have to at least try and understand the other perspective, if we don’t try, we miss out and we fail, all of us..

It sounds simplistic and I do not know everything; I do know victimization and I do understand survival.  Being angry about the past, stops us the survivors in our tracks; it glues us to this period of time, and it gives the victimizers the power.  Take the power back, let go of your past and look ahead to a future that you control..

I looked into Carter’s dark brown eyes, at his high cheekbones, and his bright smile.  “Your grandma loves every ounce of you.”  “Please don’t ever think otherwise.”  He got me to thinking and while some of you will judge or disagree, or want to shut the question out of your head..  Don’t be afraid to ask yourself the questions?

Survive, don’t be afraid.

Peace…..

 

 

 

 

How to Be the Perfect Parent…

Don’t have children.  Sometimes I get an idea for a blog and I start a draft of it, so I don’t forget.  The post-menapausel Alzheimers I get sometimes has me forgetting things two minutes after I think of them. so I try to get a title and few sentences to lead me, when the time comes to actually write. .  I sat down to write the other day and looked at some of my thoughts and all I had written under this title, was “don’t have them.”  I laughed trying to remember what my mind set was that day.    Was it the day when there was an eye roll, or a sarcastic rebuttal to my advice?  I don’t remember!  🙂

I was not the perfect parent, nor am I still.  The news flash?  No one is.  Are you? Have you met one?  Do we love our children like they’re perfect?  Absolutely…  Are they?  Are we?  Depends on the day…

I wished I had done things differently; somedays I do.  There were days when I made mistakes, or came close to making mistakes, that I shudder at now.  I gave them quite a bit of freedom; freedom to try things, to travel, and to express themselves.  I let them fail, but if I had to step in because someone was unjust, my reaction was predictable and swift.  I didn’t helicopter; oh once in a while a rotor started to spin, but I would always try and think first, trust that they could take it and could figure it out.

I could have done better with father figures for them, by the time I figured it out and married Dave, they were grown and have had to figure out on their own what a good male parent looks like.  They have faced disappointment and sadness, but have survived. They are all very strong and very independent, sometimes more than I would like.. they don’t need us so much anymore, or at least don’t think so, at least that’s what they sometimes tell us.   🙂

When Dave and I were married, our youngest daughter wasn’t independent.  The two youngest kids had lost their birth mom to cancer and understandably so, were fearful about loss, about decision making…..  I worked hard to make them more independent.  I wanted them to know that loss was hard, but that they could survive.  I wanted them to be strong enough to survive the other losses that invariably happen.  There was a day though, when our youngest made it very clear to me that she was independent.  I was lamenting to my husband, when he reminded me that her independence had been my goal.   Huh…success?

My sister told me about a time when she overheard our mom tell our dad that they were shitty parents.  There were days when I felt that was true; there are days when my children think they had shitty parents; there are days when your kids have thought you could have done better.. later curfews, more toys, less toys, earlier curfews, less harsh words, more hugs.  We look at them with pride, not only because we feel like we had some small part in the greatness of who they are, but because we know they are surviving us..our mistakes, our youth, our lack of parental example or in spite of our parental examples.  They are not only surviving, most of us are lucky enough to see  them thrive.

Don’t get me wrong, I still worry; I wished I could wrap them up in bubble wrap, store them in a closet so that they are only mine, safe from harm and heartbreak, but that’s not the answer by any means and we all know better (except for that couple in California).   We have to loosen the reins, let them live their lives, and pray that God will keep them safe.  The alternative, if we don’t, is that they break free on their own, with no guidance, with no safety net for when they fail, or someone fails them.

There was this quote in the 70’s, “If you love something let it free, if it’s meant to be yours, it will come back, if it doesn’t it wasn’t meant to be.”  A cheesy quote that we can blow holes in a mile wide, but really the idea is to release what you love, with a glad and open heart, before it wants to escape.  Relinquish the control..we don’t get to be in control, we only pretend.

I told my kids one day, “I’m not going to live my life feeling guilty, I did the best I could”.  “If you think I did things wrong, be a better parent, show me how it’s done, but I did the best I could.”

When I write about our children, it’s with a smile on my face.  They are my biggest worry, losing them is my biggest fear, but they are my greatest accomplishment.  I love watching them parent, whether it is with one child, three, or practicing on a dog.  The growth doesn’t stop for any of us; the learning doesn’t stop and neither does the pride.

How to be a perfect parent?  Don’t ask me; you need to practice on your own.  🙂  You will do the best you can; they will survive it and hopefully so will you..

Peace…

 

Can We Be Grateful?

The last couple of weeks, there have been several moments, when I was caught up short by how grateful we could be.  I am an avid reader and it plays a huge part in my education, and my opinions, based on my education.  Traveling to many interesting countries: China, Cuba, Ecuador, England, France to name a few, have also changed many of my perceptions.  Even traveling to different states, has been an eye opener, as we are such a big country, with so many different cultures of our own.

I will never forget, as a young woman, who was raised in a God fearing, gun carrying, anti-abortion family, driving a brand new pickup truck, off of the interstate, on to Lake Street in Chicago.  I and my friend were the only two white people on the streets.  All of the advertisements had black people in them, everything seemed different.  When i reflected on the trip, it changed me; it didn’t change my opinions of issues, but I understood that we are a complex country, and that there are different opinions than my own, because other people’s experiences are different than my own.  What I find interesting, is that as I age, as my experiences change, my opinions, while not entirely changed, have modified.

I read a book last week called A River in Darkness: One Man’s Escape From North Korea. While I have never been in either of the Korea’s, it brought back memories of Cuba and thoughts of conversations with Cuban people.  I was in a salon receiving a pedicure one day, and was visiting with the woman next to me.  I remarked that we were going on an educational tour to Cuba, through my alma mater, the University of North Dakota.  She said to me, “I think we should just leave that country alone, in it’s natural state.”  I about choked.  I said to her, “It is a country with great culture, but people are giving up their lives, and their children’s lives to leave.”  I had to choke back my dismay, and probably didn’t do a very good job of it.  Cuba is not a zoo, to entertain us when we want to see how people lived in the 50’s.  Cuba and North Korea are Socialist, ha! Communist countries, where they were promised wonderful things and ended up getting nothing that they were promised.  Nothing.

Masaji Ishikawa tells us about his mother, and later his wife, going into the hills and picking weeds to cook to try and survive.  Stealing food from the animals, boiling bark, being so constipated from the horrible diet that they had to dig their own feces out of their bodies, with their fingers.  I’m sorry; I know that’s more graphic than what you needed.  We can’t sugar coat socialism and it’s rapid fall into Communism.  We can’t close our eyes and pretend that they are these cute, eccentric countries that we can ogle like the lion in the zoo.  If the lion were allowed out, he would be dangerous, so is Socialism.

Two conversations with Cuban people  have stuck with me: One was with a Cuban woman I met, on the flight to Cuba; she told me how glad she was that some of her family members were able to live in Florida, because the schools were so wonderful..  American schools wonderful?  Yes, she was adamant.  She had been a teacher in Cuba and was so impressed with our schools.  Another conversation was with an Uber driver, who was also Cuban.  He talked to us of his hatred of Socialism and that he liked Trump.  He offered the information, I didn’t coach him.  I was surprised honestly, but couldn’t help thinking how lucky we are to be Americans.

On the heels of reading this book, my husband and I went to the movie Darkness last night.  It is the movie about Winston Churchill, right as Dunkirk was happening.  He became the Prime Minister in the darkest of times, as Hitler was getting ready to invade England.  He was dislike by everyone, including the King, and Churchill’s own party.  He couldn’t seem to control his emotions very well, and said a lot of things without thinking first; does that sound like anyone we know?  I saw many correlations between now and then.  There were conspirators behind his back, as much in his own party as the others.  Corruption, greed, selfishness, time doesn’t make us much smarter or our souls any less black.

I was at the Salvador Dali museum in St’ Petersburg Florida.  So many painters, writers and designers of that time, were eccentric, and the opium was plentiful.  If they weren’t using drugs, many of them were alcoholics.  After seeing Darkness, I thought about how horrific it was in Europe during that time.  Between WWI and WWII, and in the aftermath, there was chaos.  I can’t imagine what the people of Europe were going through for at least two generations of peoples.  What they saw?  What they experienced?  They understood that their lives could be snuffed out in a unexpected second; they needed to forget.  It is understandable that in there attempts to explain their feelings, or to express their fears, they reached out to substances opening them up to abusive use.

Many people in our country feel fear, get caught up in the drama of over sensationalized politics, have a sense of doom and gloom.  We are blessed; we have never gone through what Cuba, N. Korea, Europe have had to go through.  Individually we have had our traumas and our losses, but if we look to others, we can be grateful; we have survived; we will survive.  We can gain wisdom, modify our opinions, educate ourselves and be grateful….

Peace…

Creating Family

When I was teaching and working with at-risk students, I taught them things like interview skills, how to iron, how to set a table, etc.  We also talked about finding mentors for ourselves.  I shared with them examples of people that I had looked up to and ways I had set a plan for who I wanted to be and how I wanted to live my life.  “Find someone, or someones, that you respect, emulate them, copy the parts of them you want and disregard the rest.”

My Grandma Patten was a huge influence on me.  Many of her coping skills have become mine: reading, sewing, working outside, baking … Her love and devotion to her grandchildren, I have exceeded at, only because they all live closer to me and I have more freedom and the finances, to travel and have additional experiences with them. Many of these are obvious traits that were developed because of my loving relationship with her.

There was a woman in town, who was a second cousin of my Dad’s.  Valdean was tall and classy.  She was a member of the sorority in NewTown, she and her husband were considered wealthy (they lived in one of the largest houses in town, which would seem normal, by today’s standards) and she was a great hostess.  We, as the poorer side of the family, the country mice as it were, were invited for a few occasions.  I remember a couple of parties and dinners.  I, very carefully, watched what she did and how she handled herself.  I appreciated that when I would talk to her, she appeared to listen, and I think she was curious about how I would turn out.  My love of hostessing was developed because of the confidence I had, from practice and from remembering Valdean and her confidence.  I knew what I wanted my home to look like and the feeling people should have when they walked in.  I was unable to mimic tall, and only on my good days, do I pull off classy.  🙂

It would be unfair and untrue if I didn’t consider the effect of my mom, on me.  We would have very early jazz band practices, and I hated and still do dislike getting up early in the morning.  Mom would make it a treat for me, by getting up and making hot chocolate, before waking me and enticing me up the stairs, for my ride to town.  It was Mom who argued fervently, as I listened through the door, with Dad about why I should be able to be in band.  The saxophone they bought me was expensive enough to be considered an investment.  It was Mom, who stood by the school bus, as I got on to travel to a band trip, who apologized to me because I had cashed in my savings bonds to be able to go.  She took me to 4-H and participated as a leader.  I wouldn’t have learned how to make hospital corners, when making the bed, or  the practice at making kettles of homemade chocolate pudding.  (My Family loved it.)  She loved her kids the best she could, it was apparent she tried and succeeded in getting us to adulthood, before relinquishing us to life.  Mom taught me many things about how to do the best you can, and about surviving.

We watched the “Waltons”, if you don’t remember it, you are missing out. The Waltons were a family that was imperfect: John Boy was condescending, Mary Ellen was a straight up bitch sometimes, the grandparents interfered, the mother was overwhelmed…but they loved each other and protected each other. They were my fantasy family.  I distinctly remembering laying on the floor of our living room, in the semi-darkness, with my family watching the weekly drama unfold.  I’m not sure what the attraction was, or why I thought their family was any more normal or attractive than ours, but they were my ideal.

I was pregnant with my third child when his Dad said he thought we should be done having children.  I was 26 years old and had a tubal ligation.  I wan’t happy about it, I had always wanted a larger family, a Walton’s family.  Life works out; I had a round-a-bout way of forming my family.  It’s not everything I imagined, it’s more.  There has been more sadness, more laughter, more arguments, more fun and definitely more marriages!  Lol.  As of today, (it could change at any moment) I have three children I gave birth two, two I didn’t and a step-daughter from my second marriage, all of whom  I love very much; My step-daughter has three children and I have 6 more grandchildren.  Every single adult child is happy, healthy and in love. I hold my breath……..  Grateful…..

Goodnight John Boy, Goodnight Mama, Goodnight Shanna………

Peace..