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. 🙂


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..


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………



When You See One, There Are Always More….

My Mom and Dad moved back on to the family farm, when I was about four.  Dad had worked in the oilfield, but he wanted to farm.  Grandpa Pat was ready to slow down, and then died.  We moved into the old farm house.  It was a sea foam green two story house, that originally only had an outhouse.  Grandpa and Grandma had taken a porch and made it into a small den, bathroom and enlarged the kitchen area.  It sat on a dirt basement, with a coal burning stove that heated the house, sometimes.  In the coldest days of the winter months, we would all sleep in the living room, with a blanket blocking off the kitchen-half of the house, the door shut to the upstairs, and the furnace full of coal, trying to heat that little bit of house we were sleeping in.  We didn’t mind much; we were warm, and it was “camping out” to us kids.

The only thing we had to worry about on those nights, is that the mice wanted to be warm too.  They would come up from the basement, and risk life-or-death, by running around.  They especially liked to surprise you in the bathroom.  I would be sitting on the toilet, and a mouse, or two would come out and look at me.  We both had our jobs to do-me finishing my toileting and them trying to survive.

Dad would periodically catch a bull snake and release him into the basement, to try and control the population, but never seemed to make much difference.  It only made going down to get canned goods more interesting, as I was terrified, the mouse would survive and I would not.

Dad later gave the house away to the mover, who sold or gave it to someone in the White Earth Valley.  Dad told me in later years they used it for their animals.  We built a new house, whose only infiltrators were salamanders, or a calf or lamb, who were brought in by the humans.

I was lucky enough to have repeat performances of mouse escapades, when I lived in a 12×60 trailer house in an oil camp, in 1978-1982.  I was visiting with my mother-in- law on the phone, when I saw the tinfoil move, that was covering the roast beef on the counter.  I looked again in time to see a mouse pull a piece of beef off the plate, slide it across a bit of counter and take it down behind the stove.  There were times I would be laying in bed nursing my oldest son, and a mouse would come out from his hiding and look up at me, with no fear in his eyes.  We were outnumbered.

When we sold that trailer house, very soon after that, I pictured it going down the road to Billings, Montana; the mice waving goodbye as they began their new adventure.

An interesting insight into my life on the farm?  I have tried to give you a few of them, so you know who I am; based on my experiences you can see when we are similar.  So you can believe me, when I tell you I understand where many of you have been.

I was watching TV one morning, working on a Soduko puzzle.  I’m trying to keep my brain more toned than my body.  The announcement came on that Charlie Rose had been suspended.  I set my puzzle down and tried to take it in; I’m obviously not one of those people oblivious to abuse; I’ve had my share of it, in several different versions, but Charlie Rose…  I didn’t see that coming.  Many of the broadcasters have made the point of saying, how do we balance our feelings for someone we care about, who has done something so wrong.  I don’t care if it’s the Senator from Michigan, or Alabama, or our favorite morning news commentator,  the President, or family member.  It hurts when someone we respect, betrays trust.

How do we balance our feelings?  By lashing out at others?  The women in this case, and there have been men in other cases as well, are like mice…They for whatever reason, have held on for five, or ten, or 40 years.  Their lives were changed, but they survived by doing what they had to do.  Victims are like mice, stories of abuse are like mice…if there is one, there is more.

The stories in the news have been mostly sexual abuse of power, but my analogy can be any form of abuse.  I have thoughts and prayers in my heart right now for people who are physically, emotionally, and verbally abused as well.  Verbal and emotional abuse leave no outward physical scars, but the damage is so difficult to overcome.  Please don’t become so comfortable with it, because of your family, or culture that you don’t pay attention to the mice.

With all of my heart, I wish you..




I Could Teach Classes in Prison, and Start a Book Group.

Sometimes raising kids is challenging.  No one really trains us how to raise our children; of course there was Dr. Spock, and then someone else and then someone else who disagreed with them.  In the 70’s we didn’t swaddle our babies, much to our mother-in-laws chagrin, and now my grandson is swaddled!  Who knew?!  We learned from our parents, who did the best they could based on their parents.  It was either good, or bad or somewhere in between.  We all do our best and hopefully our children survive the job we do.

If we are really lucky, the prize for surviving parenthood is when you get to be a grandparent.  Could we love any one person any more?  I think it’s because they are our second chance; to soften, to say yes more, to hug more, and for a moment of time  to slip back into silliness.

Grandparents tend to be ferociously protective, because we are older and most likely don’t care as much what others think-or maybe it’s because we are wiser and more aware of the dangers that are out there.  I have made it perfectly clear what would happen if someone tried to hurt a grandchild.  I don’t mean helicopter parent protectiveness, where children aren’t allowed to feel loss, heartbreak, or failure.  I mean if someone is stupid enough to try and hurt them physically.

My oldest grandson was having a bit of anxiety and decided to talk to me about it.  He was probably nine.  His mom was newly divorced and for some reason, he was worried someone would come in to the house and take him.  He said, “Grandma, what would you do if someone kidnapped me?”  I said, “I would take every cent I have to hunt them down; we would get you back and then Grandma would kill them.”

He nodded his head, “That’s what Mom said you would say.”

“Feel better now?”

“Yep,” and off he went to play.

What a great feeling for a child to think his grandma would protect him at any cost.  I don’t know if he thought my comment was metaphorical or literal, but I know and so do you.

I would do fine in prison; I could teach classes, start a book group, discuss feelings……


Telling the Truth..

This is a story I wrote for a workshop a few years ago.  It’s a memory that makes me smile, for many reasons.  I raised my children and will still say to the grandchildren, “If you tell the truth, the punishment will be less than if I catch you lying.”  Sometimes it works, sometimes I still get a lie…with a smile…  My parents got it right many times…

I walked into the house, and Mom said, “Are you up to something?”

I looked at her as innocence brushed over my face; “What do you mean?”

“Charlene called me today and said that Brian had taken some paint out of the store and when she confronted him, he wouldn’t say anything. She thinks you’re going to paint on the water tower, “Is that true?”

My mind moved quickly; do I lie; do I tell the truth; how much trouble will I be in? “Yes,” I said defiantly.

“Dad is down summer fallowing on the Blatherwick quarter; you need to go talk to him.”

“Oh my God,” I thought.

“Ok,” and I turned out walked out through the garage, where my yellow Volvo was parked outside. My car, my freedom, was going to take me to talk to Dad, who would imprison me. It was a hot and dusty drive down the gravel road, the three miles south, where Dad was going around in circles, on his big tractor, tilling the earth, with nothing much to think about.. yet.

I turned left off of the road and onto the approach, driving across the freshly tilled field to a place where I could intercept Dad. He saw me and all of my dust coming towards him; stopped the tractor, came down the ladder and stood waiting for me, with his hands on his hips and an expectant look on his face.

“Hi Dad!” I said, with all of the “I just drove down here to say hi friendliness I could muster.”

“What’s up?” he said.

“Umm, Mom just thought I should come down and talk to you about something.”

He waited…

“ Well, four of us decided to go up and paint the water tower tonight and Mom found out, and thought I should come and tell you.”

Painting the year of your high school graduation was a time-honored tradition in my home town. It had been done for years and Marci, Colin, Brian and I had decided it would be us this year.

 I waited; he was thinking and you didn’t want to interrupt him on the wrong side of his thinking. He was going back and forth in his head about what he was going to say, weighing all the possibilities, and how we all would react to his decision. You didn’t want to stop him at the end of the “maybe I should ground her for the rest of the summer” pause in his thoughts (I had learned that one from experience). I was hoping for the “hey, I was a kid once too” place in his thinking.

Finally he said to me, “If I say no, you’re probably just going to do it another night?”

“Yea, probably,” I said honestly.

We were raised to tell the truth. Mom and Dad always told me, if I told the truth the punishment would be less than if I were caught in a lie. It wasn’t the first time, or the last, that I was counting on that being their truth.

He shook his head and thought again, for a while.   “What if we do this; you call me before you go up, and you call me when you come down, so I know you’re safe.” “Can you do that?”

“Yep.” “Thanks Dad.”

“Just be careful up there.”

“We will.”

I picked up Marci and we drove to meet the boys. All of us had last names that ended in H, so we thought it was a great idea for the four of us to take this project upon ourselves. We hadn’t asked anyone else’s opinion on that, but it was going to be our night. We were well prepared. We had silver paint to repaint a huge portion of the water tower to make sure the black H and the 77 would be easily read from the ground below.

I recounted my “visit” with Dad to the rest of them, as we drove up to the water tower. (I had already called the folks from Colin’s house.) The water tower was a typical small town water tower; sitting on four long legs, it was painted silver. There was a cage on the bottom of the ladder, with a lock and chain on it. The boys scouted the tower out ahead of time and had brought along the proper tools to “disengage” the chain from the cage and ladder.

Fortified with a couple of beers to steel our nerves, we one by one, propping, pushing, and pulling, climbed up the ladder to reach the top. There was a small widow’s walk and railing around the perimeter of the storage tank that held the water. We started off by tackling the silver paint first. We deftly covered up the 76 from the year before, about the time we noticed a lot of traffic showing up and driving by. The silver swath widened to cover an area as high up as we could reach and wide enough to give us room for the real artistic work.

We were starting into the black paint, when there were a couple of honks, and hollers from the cars below. The class of 76 hadn’t left for college yet and apparently felt we were usurping their class.

“Fuck them.” One of said and all of us felt.

Word was apparently passing quickly, we hurriedly painted on the 77 and then the H appeared a foot or so away. We looked at it, felt a lot of pride that we were pulling this off, and brazenly decided to paint on our first initials, so a L, M, C, or B appeared in each corner of the H. We stood there and it was decided we needed to celebrate before we went down.

We sat on the walk, our butts on the grate, and our feet swinging in the air. A joint was passed around and we shared a couple of quick beers all the time teasing each other about who had spilled the beans to the others driving around below us, who’s idea was it for me to wear a white sweatshirt, and how cool were we to have pulled this off.

We quickly descended the ladder, jumped in the car and planned what we were going to do next.

“Colin,” I said. “We need to run back to your house quick; I have a call to make.”

“Dad, we are done.”


Peace…. 🙂

Quilting Together the Past and the Present

The handprint quilted into the quilt above is mine.  Surrounding it are the handprints of my husband and grandchildren.  Twenty-seven years ago, I was sitting in the passenger seat of a pick-up truck headed to Wyoming.  We were delivering some oilfield supplies.  My children’s father was driving; it was late at night; the marriage was failing and I was thinking about my friend who was dying of cancer.  The idea for the quilt came to me; I don’t know how or why, but it did, and I started it the next week.  Different shapes, of different colors, were hand appliquéd onto a white piece of fabric.  I bought the thread intending to hand quilt it, with the different colors running through the quilt, an alternating triangle border pulling it together.

I often wondered why, when you would hear the stories of quilts, uncompleted, “discovered” in an attic, or box in a closet, they weren’t finished.  I learned, and understand now, life has it’s own plan sometimes, and it might not include finishing a quilt.  I carried the quilt, and it’s thread, from home to home, town to town, from the end of one marriage, through the failing of another, until now.  Children grew up and had children of their own; I found a good marriage, a happy place and decided I was ready to finish it.

The quilt like my life, metamorphised a bit; I needed to find a couple of replacement triangles that almost match; a couple spools of thread disappeared and had to be replaced; the stitches are bigger, and there were stains from the colored fabric bleeding onto the white.  My quilt and I have aged.  The colors match others I have chosen for our house, it will still keep a child, or grandchild warm, and if my husband wants to snuggle under it, while the fireplace warms up the house, it will keep us warm as well, while reminding us of the love of the handprints-the best warmth of all.

Our pasts never really leave us.  We can modify them, redirect them and flat out lie about them, but they are still our pasts.  Bring your past into your future, embrace it and quilt it together with your future.  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving, with many things to be thankful for, both past and present.