Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain


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Childless

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BFFs

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I love these dogs!

Sigh…

Prepare for whinging.  Yes, I’d love some cheese with this whine.  Thank you for asking.

I’m not sure I should even be writing this.  It’s…personal. Perhaps it would be better if I didn’t but writing is cathartic for me.

I have helped to raise children that were not mine who I loved(and still do).  Because of my divorce they don’t really want anything to do with me.  I tried for a while to stay in touch but it became increasingly clear that maintaining a relationship with me was more difficult and awkward than it was beneficial.  I have gracefully bowed out.   They know I love them.  They know I’m here.  There are consequences to decisions we make and we don’t get to choose them.

When I met The Brit a whole new world opened up for me.  I began to hope against hope for things that I had long ago given up on. I was getting a second chance.  For reasons beyond my control but which had nothing to do with an inability to conceive(to my knowledge) I hadn’t been afforded the opportunity to have children of my own. When TheBrit and I got married we decided to start trying to have a baby.

I knew going in that my age was going to be an issue for fertility. I told myself not to get my hopes up.  A year went by and nothing happened.  My doctor prescribed Clomid.  Each month that has gone by since has been a let down.  I’m now in my sixth and final round of treatment.  I’m disappointed.  I’m beyond disappointed.  I’m sad.

I’m not just sad.  I’m angry.  I’m pissed at my ex for not allowing me to have my own children.  I’m pissed at myself for not leaving him sooner.  I’m pissed at myself for having waited too late.  I know it’s irrational to be angry about this.  It’s not fair for me to be angry at my ex for not wanting children with me.  He had a right to his feelings on the matter.  But still.  I am. It’s stupid to be angry at myself for hanging in there and trying to make a thing work that was busted from the start.  But still.  I am.

The what ifs in life can drive a person mad, you know.  If only this.  What if that.

This is the part where the old me would have prayed.  Then prayed harder.  Then prayed some more.  This is the part where I would have begged for healing and forgiveness. This is the part where the old me would wonder and search my soul to find out what cherished sin I had that prevented God from answering my prayers.  This is the part where I would have driven myself crazy wondering what I’d done wrong.  This is the part where I’d assume that God just said, “no”.

I know, I know, I have so much to be thankful for.  The Brit and I have each other.  We have Dottie and Sarah.  And just think of all the things we can do, like travel and have our freedom if we don’t have a child.  I’ve just never heard anyone on their deathbed regret not taking one more trip or having a bigger house or a nicer car.

We could try IVF but  I don’t think I can handle the roller coaster ride that would be.  Not only that, TheBrit and I both started over with nothing.  It’s a side issue, really, but it isn’t cheap. Insurance doesn’t cover it for obvious reasons.  I’m not sure we could afford to pay for IVF and then a child as well.  And if it didn’t work the money we spent on the IVF would eliminate the possibility of adoption.

Adoption is an option.  I may get there.  It’s quite selfish, really, but I wanted the experience of becoming a mother.  I really wanted our children.  Selfishly I wanted children that wouldn’t just flip a switch and just like that I don’t exist.

This is just a rambling rant about something I have little control over.  It is what it is.  It will be what it will be.  I’ll probably get over it.  Maybe.   And who knows…it could still happen.

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Blindsided

(TW: Suicide, depression)

Clark was beautiful and charming.  When I say beautiful I mean a heartthrob.  A real heart-breaker.

He loved to work out; lifting weights and building muscle.

At sixteen he’d lived more of a life than a lot of people at sixty.  He’d seen more, been exposed to more, and had more than enough heartache.

His father was a looker too.  A body builder.  A dope head. He’d gone to prison when Clark was just seven.

The other kids at school teased him unmercifully about his jail-bird daddy.  What do seven-year-olds know about jail-birds? They probably just parroted whatever they heard their mamas and daddies saying.

Clark found a way to deal with the bullying.  He found a hand-gun underneath his grandmother’s bed.  He slipped that hand-gun into his back pack and took it to school.  When the kids picked on him again he took that gun out of his back pack.

He pointed it at them and then at the teacher who tried to stop him.  The gun was loaded.  The only thing that stood between a seven-year-old and revenge was the safety.

At seven he was promptly expelled from the public school system in that county.  None of the parents wanted Clark in a class with their kids.

His crack-head of a mother made a half-hearted attempt to keep him in some kind of school.  But out of work and a convicted felon, herself, she struggled to even get out of bed in the mornings.  She couldn’t afford a private school and other public schools in the area hesitated.

For a while he managed to stay in school, even scoring a spot on the football team.  When he got caught selling drugs at school that ended that.  Expelled again.

Perhaps he shouldn’t have been selling drugs but at thirteen, most likely, he didn’t have a choice.  Not one that he saw anyway.  A thirteen-year-old needs to eat.  A thirteen-year-old providing for his mother.

By the time he was sixteen he’d lived an entire lifetime.  He was trying to get his life together.  He’d gotten legitimate work in construction and was quite talented for it.

One brisk November night, two days before Thanksgiving, he and some friends had a bonfire.  By all accounts they were having a good time.  Clark waxed serious and cryptic, muttering something about there having to be more to life.  He decided to go to bed.

Minutes later his friends heard the loud shot ring out.  They ran inside to find the door to Clark’s room locked.  He wouldn’t answer.  He couldn’t answer.  By the time they broke the door down he was gone.  The shot-gun he’d lodged in his open mouth lying next to him on the floor.

We never know the pain of another.  I’ve always mourned the loss of a life so full of potential.  Clearly he didn’t see it that way.  He didn’t see anything better.  I’m sorry for that.   I’m sorry his pain was so deep he could not bear it.  And I’m sorry we were oblivious to it.  Blindsided.


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Powerless: Long Story Short

Rock….meet hard place.  I should have been more prepared but I had no idea how to even prepare.  Samantha, my step-daughter(the one I’ve raised since she was five), and I haven’t spoken much about the divorce or about my relationship with The Tour Guide because I knew she was uncomfortable with it and had indicated she didn’t wish to speak about it.

The last time we spoke about it was a year or so ago.  When I came back from a trip to visit The Tour Guide I went to see her to tell her that we were engaged.  I would prefer she heard these things directly from me than from someone else.  She reacted surprisingly well to the news given her reaction to our relationship up to that point.  When I told her we were engaged her immediate response was, “I guess I’d better get to know him.”  Given that I thought maybe we were past the animosity about it.  I still didn’t discuss it with her in great detail because, after all, I’m sure it’s still awkward for her and she really doesn’t want to hear about it.  I go to visit her and the children about once a month and we keep the conversation to the kids and local happenings.  She never asks me how I’m doing or what’s going on with me so I’ve taken that as a sign she doesn’t want to know and I don’t talk about it. That’s not meant as a slight toward me or her.  It’s just that it’s awkward for her and I know it so I don’t push the issue.

When The Tour Guide was here in September I called her to ask if she and her husband would like to go out to dinner with us.  I figured that a neutral public place would be best because if at any point she became uncomfortable she could excuse herself  and leave without feeling locked in.  “Let me get back to you on that,” she said.  I never heard back from her and decided to leave well enough alone.  I haven’t brought it up since.

With The Tour Guide arriving for good and wedding plans in place it was time, once again, to make the trek to her house to tell her myself rather than her hearing rumors about it. The Sunday before he arrived I went to her house. I don’t really know how to approach it with her so I play with the children for a while and then while they’re in another room playing I broach the subject.

Suffice it to say the conversation didn’t go very well.  It was long and at every turn she had all the answers for why I had to have been having an internet affair and how it was really all my fault that I was abused.  He only did what I allowed him to do.  I went along with things, never saying I didn’t like it, and then was resentful.  She knows so very much for someone who doesn’t want to talk about it all.  The thing is I can see where she gets the whole internet affair from.  As inaccurate as it is, I get it. I’m not really even offended by the accusation.

Still I felt just as low, just as dirty, the shame of having been abused washed over me anew.  There it was.  It was all my fault.  I should have left sooner.  I shouldn’t have put up with it.  I should have tried harder or I shouldn’t have tried at all.  If I was going to stay and try to work it out, why didn’t I try harder?  Why did I go through counselling when I already had my mind made up?

“I didn’t come here to argue.  I came here to tell you something important and I’ve done that. I love you and I will always love you.  I hope that we can find some way to work through this and at least be friends.  I think it’s best if I leave now.”

It’s taken me nearly three weeks to even get to the point that I can write this.   I’ve cycled through all the emotions I went through when I left my marriage.  I’ve beaten myself up, I’ve gotten angry, I’ve felt sad and I’ve grieved.  Mostly now I realize that I feel powerless.  Just as powerless to stand up for myself with her as I did her dad.  Powerless because I made a choice not to tell her all the things that led me to this point.  Powerless because she didn’t ask for any of this, it isn’t her fault, and I can’t change the fact that she’s been hurt by it.  I can’t make it better.  The only thing I know to do is allow her to cycle through her own emotions.  Maybe we can be friends and maybe we can’t. It will be up to her.

And I didn’t even address the subject of why I’m not going to church.  I can only imagine what kind of response that will draw.  I likely won’t discuss this with her, at least for some time.  Sometimes I’m torn between coming out of the closet on it and remaining deep in the back.  Secrets have a way of biting me in the butt.  Just look at the mess keeping my private marital secrets has made.

In the end I did send her an invitation with a handwritten note from me reminding her that I love her and I always will and that I’d love for her to be there, but if she doesn’t come I will completely understand and my feelings will not be hurt.

It’s taken me about this long to remind myself of all the reasons I’ve done what I’ve done to and come out of the funk that all this crazy baggage puts me in sometimes – giving myself permission all over again.  I’m reminding myself that although I felt powerless in that moment and for a couple of weeks after knowledge is power.  She probably feels pretty powerless, herself.  I have knowledge she will never have.  Now I’m trying to put myself in her shoes and look at this from her eyes.  I will admit this is a struggle.


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No Babies for Ruth Part II

Not long after that Samantha and her boyfriend announced they were expecting.  It was like a punch in the stomach to Ruth.  They weren’t even married, and didn’t even know if they’d be getting married.  Once Carmen was born Charles said he hoped Mack would just move on down the road and let him raise Carmen. What?  Come again.  He couldn’t wait until Carmen got old enough to take with us to Savannah.  Huh?  Ouch.  Ruth waited until an opportune moment to talk to Charles about it.  “These are the very reasons you told me you didn’t want a child.  You didn’t want the responsibility.” “Yes”, Charles said, “but Carmen is already here and I already like her.”  Ruth understood some of that sentiment, but it hurt just the same.   It changed nothing.  She knew she could never have children with Charles now even if he said he wanted to.  She didn’t know what she would do if he ever put his hands on their child the way he had her.  What was the point of the discussion?  Maybe just to let Charles know that he was being insensitive.

Ruth continued to pray, and to try to put it behind her.  She asked Charles to consider getting a vasectomy. “What?  You want me to do what?!?  There’s no way I’m letting anyone snip around my man parts!”  This wasn’t some ridiculous request to try to get even or out of spite.  Ruth really wanted to put it behind her.  She didn’t feel she should have to be responsible for the birth control when it wasn’t her who wanted to control it.  It wasn’t that she couldn’t be trusted to do it.  It was that taking that pill was a daily reminder of what she couldn’t have – what she’d never have.

When Ruth had finally had enough, and the fairy tale was shattered, Charles offered to have a child with her.  “I’ve been selfish, we’ll have a baby.”  Ruth couldn’t even think about that now.  The reasons she was done had little to do with having or not having a baby.  “Do you think that’s what this is about?  Do you think having a baby is going to fix this?  You’ve made it perfectly clear you don’t want a child with me.  How could I possibly do that now?”  During all of their discussions of what had gone wrong in their marriage Ruth had never once brought up having a child.  This was just one more way she knew that this was done.  Charles was only dangling a carrot in front of her.  He no more wanted a child with her now than he ever had.

You see by this point Ruth knew that praying wasn’t solving anything.  She’d relied on God and his word and his rules for living and where had it gotten her?  Nowhere.  She’d been the submissive, giving, supportive, loving wife.  She’d been obedient to God and his word.  Ruth looked for God’s hand in this anyplace she thought she might be able to find it – in the little things.  Any small kindness she was offered, any tiny good thing she was given.  But at some point she decided God wasn’t interested in parking spaces and traffic lights.  She’s seen the world around her.  Some people call it brokenness, the result of sin and fallen man.  Ruth just thinks this is the way it is and maybe it’s time we grow up and stop blaming “sin” and “fallen man” and realize that.  Maybe it’s time we stop waiting on a miracle to fix it.

She enjoyed and still does enjoy a fantastic relationship with Carmen.  Ruth is her D’Ma.  Carmen is five now.  They have sleepovers and do manis and pedis.  They dig in the dirt together.  She has a sister now, too.  Alison.  The relationship with Sam is a little strained, but at least Sam hasn’t cut her out completely.  It would be easy enough to do.  

Ruth hasn’t given up totally on the idea of having children herself.   New possibilities are open to her now.  Where she once thought it impossible, she can see it as probable.  Truly the world is her oyster.  With the thoughts of the past behind her, she can see a bright new future.  One filled with love and laughter and the family she always thought she’d have.


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No Babies for Ruth Part I

It wasn’t Ruth’s fault.  It wasn’t Charles’ fault.  It just was.  For the first twelve years of their marriage Charles and Ruth didn’t discuss having children. They didn’t really discuss before hand either.  The only time they talked about it was the time they had a scare and thought Ruth might be pregnant.  Charles was really relieved when they found out she wasn’t.  He made some remark about not wanting more children.  Ruth asked him what he meant.  He told her he’d just gotten Samantha to the stage where she wasn’t in need of constant attention and that he just wasn’t ready for more children now.  Maybe later, but definitely not now. Sam was six.

At seventeen Ruth was in no big hurry, so she thought she had plenty of time.  If Charles didn’t want children now that was okay with her.  All throughout their marriage if anyone asked when they were going to have a baby Charles would pipe up and say, “I don’t know. I hope Ruth and her new husband are happy together, though.”  That hurt Ruth’s feelings, but she just wrote it off as a joke.  Surely it was just a nervous response to a question he didn’t really have an answer to.

It wasn’t.  Samantha had graduated high school and moved into an apartment.  Ruth hadn’t really brought it up before because Samantha had step-brothers in her mother’s household.  Her mother pretty much treated her as if she were a niece who would come spend the weekends sometimes.  She always felt like she was in competition with them because her mother loved them more.  So Ruth didn’t want Sam to feel that way at two houses.  Ruth finally decided that she’d ask Charles about having a baby.  He told her he’d think about it.  Looking back he probably just hoped Ruth would forget about it and not bring it up again.  When that didn’t happen Charles said, “We just got Sam into college and out of the house. We never had a chance to just be married and not have the responsibility of a child. We just got our freedom.  Maybe in a few years, just not now.”  He was right.  They hadn’t had their freedom.  They hadn’t had a chance to enjoy being married.  So Ruth let it drop thinking in a few years she’d bring it up again.  They still had plenty of time.  

And in a few years she did.  About four years later Ruth brought it up again.  Charles, once again, told Ruth he’d think about it.  They discussed it several times.  By this point Charles was forty-two and Ruth was thirty-five. He told her all the reasons he didn’t want to have a baby.  He was too old, he was afraid he’d die before the child was grown.  He was enjoying not having that responsibility.  When they went to Savannah every summer for a School Board function what would they do?  That was no place to carry a child.  When Ruth became sad over it Charles got angry.  Ruth tried to hide her sadness, but she became quite depressed over it for a time.  She’d been crying about it on the way home from work one day and when he asked what she’d been crying about she just said, “nothing, it’s no big deal.”  He pressed her for an answer so she told him how sad she was.  He came unglued about it.  He threw things, threatened her, slammed hands down on the table.  He said, “I’ll leave it up to you.  You know how I feel about it, but if it’s what you really want then go ahead.”  He walked out the door and didn’t come back for hours.

Ruth wondered what she’d been thinking. As temperamental and abusive as Charles had been, why would she even consider having a baby?  That’s when she gave up the hope of it.  She couldn’t bare the thought of bringing a child into that situation, no matter how badly she’d love to have one.  She couldn’t stand the thought of the resentment she knew Charles would have toward her and their child.  She hadn’t married Charles to give her children, she’d married him because she loved him, thinking that a child was just a natural outflow of love.  Ruth obviously thought wrong.  Charles was entitled to the way he felt about it.  Ruth was wrong to push.  So she dropped it, even though it did make her sad.  Ruth knew she could never force that kind of responsibility on Charles.  It wouldn’t be fair.

Ruth prayed and prayed over the years about this.  She felt like Hannah, even opened her Bible to that scripture and prayed over the scripture.  She’d begged God to take away her desire for a child and she’d prayed for God to give Charles the desire to have a child.  Neither happened.  Ruth decided this must just be God’s plan.  He must be using this in her life for some greater good.  She knew that she’d never have it, so if God wasn’t taking away that desire there must be a reason – something she was supposed to be learning.


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Continued Conversations

We pulled ourselves together, washed our faces and poured ourselves another cup of coffee.  Larry headed off to his man-cave to watch the Georgia-Florida game.  So I was wrong before.  It wasn’t mid-November, it was the last weekend in October.  Rachel, Tessa, and I met at our usual conversation spot – the dining room table.  Sipping on our coffee and making small talk, my mind still racing with questions.  

Tessa knows me well.  She asks me what I’m thinking about because she can tell I’m still troubled.  Those same passages of scripture are still bothering me.  But I tell myself I’m just not walking in the grace I’ve been given.  If I keep telling myself long enough maybe I’ll start to believe it.  Rachel speaks up and says she thinks that whoever confesses the name of Jesus will be saved.  I speak up and ask what role repentance plays.  What is the relationship of the law to grace?  She says we’re supposed to live by the law but repentance and grace are there where we fall short.  I know all that.  I’ve been to church a few times.  I want to know what role grace plays when we deliberately break the law.  It’s the same she reassures me. 

Earlier in the day she’d been talking about absolute truth.  She and Tessa had a big discussion about that being the “problem with America”.  They had just hours earlier said that the Bible was absolute truth and that people not recognizing it as such and deliberately disobeying the commands found in it was the downfall of the nation.  So, again, I ask about adulterers.  “Are they going to heaven?  That’s pretty deliberate.”  “Well, no, not if they don’t ask forgiveness.”  “What about liars?”  She says the same.  “So all they have to do is ask forgiveness?  They don’t have to change anything?”  Tessa speaks up.  “Sure they do, they have to stop having an affair. They have to stop lying. That’s what the Bible says.”  “So what about gay people?”, Rachel inquired.  “Are you saying they won’t go to heaven?”  Tessa says, “Absolutely not!  God says that’s an abomination!”  I speak up again.  “What about people who are remarried?  That’s adultery.  Are they going to heaven?”  Without hesitation Tessa responds, “That’s different. Sure they’re going to heaven. Being gay is a lifestyle and it’s a sin, being married as a heterosexual couple is not a sin.”

That conversation is why I walked away from that table feeling just as guilty, just as depressed and just as alone as when I’d sat down there.  I discovered that day that absolute truth was absolutely relative.  Even if Tessa didn’t want to admit it.  Because the absolute truth is, it’s easy to apply absolute truth to everyone else’s sin.  It also started me down a road of wondering if every remarried couple I know is going to hell.  Is every homosexual person I know going to hell?  Is every liar I know going to hell?  Is every addict I know going to hell?  Is every person I know that habitually sins going to hell?  That’s an awful lot of people, everybody I know.  Hell, there won’t be anybody in heaven.  

Hell wasn’t reserved for monsters.  It was there for regular people just like me.   It’s not like I hadn’t known this stuff before.  It’s not even like I hadn’t said this stuff before.  But had I ever REALLY thought about what that meant?  Had I actually ever pictured what it meant for someone to go to hell?  Just for not believing exactly the right thing?  People who where decent, honest, kind human beings? 

That’s when my doubts really flooded in.  That coupled with the fact that when I got back home I still felt horrible.  I still didn’t think I needed a doctor.  I need spiritual healing.  I was under Satanic attack, fighting the spiritual battle of my life.  Every day after that for a month I got down on my knees in my closet with the door closed, my head covered, my heart crying out to God for forgiveness, for peace, for love.  I prayed the armor of God on myself every single day before I walked out the door.  I wouldn’t say my prayers aloud in fear that Satan or his demons might hear me.  I lost weight, I’d cry at the drop of a hat.  All this was just under the surface waiting, begging for an outlet.  I kept telling myself, “Get it together, girl.  What is wrong with you?”.  Still nothing happened.  For the first time I realized there was no one on the other end of the line when I cried out to God.

For the background detail to these conversations you can catch up with The Hard Stuff.


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Conversations Around the Dining Room Table

For some reason women tend to gather around the dining room table to chat.  Something seems familial about it.  So there we sat, the three of us like sisters, with our big mugs. Steam rising from the heat of the fresh coffee, each of us blowing to cool it so we could take a sip.

It was mid-November and I was still steeped in belief.  Reading scripture only made me feel guilty about my divorce. It was only getting worse and I was going pretty deep into depression and self-condemnation, having panic attacks about going to hell.  This was certainly not normal for me.  I’m normally level-headed and rational.  I can usually figure out how to turn the lemons into lemonade.  And if I can’t, well just add some vodka and it’ll all be okay.  That just wasn’t happening this time.

That’s where the conversation started.  Rachel called her husband in and the three of them began trying to expound on God’s grace to me.  They weren’t telling me anything I didn’t know.  I just didn’t feel it.  I could get no relief.  I knew I had done what I had to do, but it was in no way satisfying.  I knew in my mind I hadn’t committed the unpardonable sin, but I also knew I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone.  Remarriage was adultery.  I’d researched it as much as I knew how to.  I know what the Early Church Fathers have to say about the matter.  I know what John Piper has to say about the matter. I know what David Instone-Brewer has to say about it.  And I know what they’ve had to say to each other about it.

The fact is remarriage is adultery according to scripture, the New Testament anyway.  Adulterers do not inherit the kingdom of God.  Mind you I’m having this conversation with two women who have been divorced and remarried.  They ask me if I’m telling them they’re going to hell?  I tell them I don’t know.  I can hardly see how they would be destined for hell.  Neither one of them were saved at the time of the divorces and remarriages.  “But”, I tell them, “don’t google this question”.  With good reason I say this.

They decide what I need is deliverance.  So the three of them anoint me with oil, place their hands on me, and begin to pray.  I’d never been party to a “laying on of hands” like this before.  Larry prays a sweet, comforting prayer for my peace and for discernment and to feel God’s grace.  Tessa prays for me and my ex-husband because she’s friends with both of us.  Rachel, Larry’s wife,  prays in tongues.  She chants the same short phrase over and over for what seems like ten minutes. None of us know what it means, not even her. I confess my sin of divorce for the hundredth time. We’re all crying when they’re done.

I believed I would be delivered.  I wanted to be delivered.  I wasn’t.  I walked away from that dining room table feeling just as guilty, just as depressed, and just as alone as I did when we started.  Nothing changed.