Wednesday, May 7, 2014

My Father-In-Law is Dying

Or maybe I should say my ex-father-in-law? It does not matter, a man I love dearly and hold many treasured times with is laying in a bed in Wisconsin dying. His son, my ex-husband, is a cruel and destructive man (did I mention unfaithful and lying?), but not his father. Not his father.

My earliest memories of my father-in-law are from long before I started dating his son. Since my husband and I grew up in the same church, all of the way back to 2nd grade, I knew of my father-in-law through many church youth activities. He was very involved, a kind and gentle and honest man, never needing the limelight or recognition for him many supportive and caring actions. He never said one thing to the youth of the church (be faithful and true, follow God's commandments) and then did another. He was always thoughtful and respectful of his wife, my mother-in-law. Their work at church was intertwined, one with the other. The hours that he spent at church were spent there with his wife (again so unlike the son he raised who left his wife months and years before a divorce to do “things” with his girlfriend). My fondest memories of him and my mother-in-law were as volunteer drivers to the youth retreats to a church camp in the beautiful, serene, and pure woods and lakes and rolling hills of central Wisconsin. As a youth, I felt it was worlds away from the daily life, a place to soul search and seek connections with other church youth who were developing their Christian beliefs. It was my father-in-law who took me there. 

Then, it was happy meals together as a family as I started dating his son. My mother-in -law did not enjoy cooking or hosting family meals, so I knew it was very special when I was invited over and she prepared a delicious meal—the menu of her son’s choice even—and was treated like a true guest. A beautifully set table, lovely real cloth napkins that often colored coded with the tablecloth AND dishes (she had multiple sets of dishes too). My father-in-law loved to eat her cooking, so these date dinners over with their family meant he was a very happy eater that evening. 

Next, it was he who kept the calm and sanity during the two year engagement and wedding planning that followed. The mothers of course were busy with their plans and preferences, he was, as always, a calm presence and genuinely happy with all developments, any developments that came and passed during that joyous wedding planning period. There were no limits from my father-in-law, no opposition, always just supportive, interested, authentic support. This I loved about him, welcoming me into the family that would be, not forever as the marriage vows stated, but only until his son decided he didn’t want to be married to me anymore. Just like that. 

I am a lucky wife indeed to have so many treasured memories of my ex-father-in-law. I still consider him my father-in-law, as I take my marriage vows seriously and was not the one to break them. 

And my father-in-law is dying.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Thanks Jada!

It’s been a happy, busy life for me away from the town where I lived most of my married life and Dave’s long term infidelities took place. There is so much joy for me now in my own accomplishments and successes, and those of my children, as we move ever further from the life Dave subjected us to with his affair with a woman employee from our church, his complete abandonment of his family, and his argumentative and contentious divorce.

But these recent activities in the news have caught my attention and it affirms what I know to be true: there is no excuse for what he has done and how he did it. There are no reasons good enough to be thoughtless, hurtful, and deliberately cruel to others.  Not just once by chance, but over years and years, thoughtfully and deliberately mean.

Dave chose the divorce and created the possibility for a blended family instead of an intact one—but the only thing that he has provided my children is a stepmother. One who is equally selfish, immature, and cruel as he is to my children. 

First, there has been this public message from a second wife out there (so unlike Dave’s second wife):

Jada Pinkett-Smith Pens Open Letter on Blended Families

The actress gives advice on marrying a man with children from a previous relationship:

"I can't support any actions that keep a man from his children of a previous marriage. These are the situations that separate the women from the girls. Your behavior is that of an insecure child who needs to recognize her own weaknesses that MUST be strengthened to take on the task at hand. We can't say we love our man and then come in between him and his children. THAT'S selfishness...NOT love. WOMAN UP... I've been there...I know. My blended family made me a giant… Taught me so much about love, commitment and it has been the biggest ego death to date. It's time you let your blended family make you the giant you truly are."

So my children’s stepmother is insecure, weak, and selfish. Affirmation!

Then there has been the media reaction to her message:

Huffington Post contributor Mary T. Kelly, Marriage and Family Psychotherapist

I agreed with your position regarding being non-supportive of "any actions that keep a man from his children of a previous marriage." Any stepmother who sets out to keep her partner from his children deserves to be labeled as "evil" and any father that would allow this is equally if not more culpable and would benefit from examining why he permits this.”

And my children’s stepmother is evil, with Dave being culpable and needing to be examined. Continued affirmation!

And knowing what my children’s stepmother has done to her own children and ex-husband is even worse, and so brilliantly captured here:

“Would you tell a woman that she must love the mother of her stepchildren who has dragged her through court, falsely accused her of being abusive, told lies about her and disrespected her time with her partner with constant texts, emails and shocking intrusions into her home?”
The only thing worse than nothing from the stepmother, is something from the stepmother as she is so severely crazed with her own broken family (ex-husband and her own children) that it is frightening! Police and court interventions required type of frightening!

The best thing ever about moving away and moving on is leaving that toxic environment where we all lived. Dave and the stepmother are dangerously negative forces. They have not demonstrated even the slightest ability to care for, care about, or nurture my children or honor the marriage he chose, and chose to end. There is something insidious and yes, evil, about their selfishness and callousness.  Their detachment from the reality they have created. Their disregard for the feelings of others, the others they should love the most—children. His children.
So good, so very good, to be away and onward!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Rainbows After the Hurricanes

I live in Minnesota, and I have endured hurricanes; first a 24 year marriage to an angry and controlling man, and then, the sudden ending to that long term marriage. You can imagine as my former husband became less happy with his own life, he escalated his anger by blaming others. He was not unable to work with his marriage partner to deal with the things that happened to him in his life that made him angry, he was just unwilling to do so. Sure, he had the skills to resolve his issues; he did it all (ok most) of the time at work, with his family, with friends, on the softball diamond, on the church mission trip. But he just did not want to handle issues without anger and control with his wife.

His anger had been brewing for years and years, it wasn’t anything new or startling. Others had seen it and were shocked, I minimized it (ah, the magic of his control)! The trash can thrown across the office, the canoe paddle hurled into the wall of the garage, making fun of his unemployed brother. It didn’t matter where he was working, who he lived with, where he lived, or how many outlets he was afforded. That’s the thing; he could have handled his issues without cruelty, arrogance, or control, he chose not to.

In hindsight now I can see that over time it was evident that he was controlling me and my happiness by grinding to a halt my progress in school and my career. I began my journey towards an advanced degree even before we were married, and it remained a constant goal of mine—but not permitted by my narcissistic husband.  I changed employment and my career path time and time again I count 7, including working in a grocery store delicatessen cleaning frozen chicken for broasting, and he, just two times as he grew his career. I started a graduate degree time and time again, I count 5, yes 5 times.

And now, right now, years away from the divorce and years away from his anger and control so keenly aimed at me, I am relishing every step of the progress in school (Yes, a Master’s Degree attained while working full time, and parenting two children full time, and maintaining a house/yard/divorce proceedings full time) and a career that is skyrocketing me to the largest University in the state, in the lovely and beautiful capital city of the state. It’s magical and challenging, so completely different and so completely uncontrollable; it is what I have wanted, what I have craved, all of my life.

It is so freeing to be away from him. I breathe deeper and more peacefully every day. I enjoy the randomness of life and nature, and I no longer enter into things dreading his reaction and how he will ultimately find it my fault, that I am to blame, how I didn’t do things good enough or to his specifications, or putting him first. Always him first.  Always my fault.

I am free from the disrespect, the control, the insults, and the devaluing. The hurricanes have passed. I see a bright and light filled, glorious day ahead, and many more days to follow. I see a brightly colored rainbow and a whole spectrum of opportunities laid out before me.

And I am deeply happy.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Big Happy Change, Bring it On!

I couldn't be happier writing this post, I have waited, hoped, dreamed about, worked for, and waited some more. There are many changes following a divorce, and I have had to take them on; I managed them and endured them; some so unpleasant (explaining the need for and being tested for sexually transmitted diseases), some educational (rebuilding my net worth), and many frustrating (asking for my ex-husband to pay his share of his children’s cell phone bills, clothing allowances, and even prescription drugs, all to which he said he has no intention of paying). But this Big Change is the BEST EVER, and it never, ever could have possibly happened had I still been married to such a narcissistic man as my ex-husband.  I finally have a career change that has catapulted me to work at the premier post-secondary educational institution in the state, our flagship state university.  I am back, living and working in the beautiful, vibrant, diverse community of a state capital city.

Everything about this opportunity and the actions it set into motion confirmed my independence from an unhealthy marriage and a disrespectful divorce.  Every thought, every decision that presented itself during the job offer decision making and transition was free from the constraints of my previous adult life as a married woman.  My family and life circumstances could not have been better to support this change, in work and living and life. I made the plans, considered the risks, evaluated the benefits all with my welfare, my happiness considered; not “the husband’s”.  It was finally my turn, my time, to have the fabulous job offer, the one which simply could not be declined! It was finally my turn to make the decision to accept it, my turn to choose to move, and when, and how, and all of those other details. It was finally my turn to take on excitement and change, achievement and new enterprise.  

I have never looked forward to a job change and move with the sheer excitement that I have this time. The unknown of a new work environment, within a new employment setting and system that have come to me as a result of my skills, abilities and talents alone was simply breathtaking for me. I thought about it all the time, with wonder at what I would see, how it would unfold, who would I meet, what opportunities and activities would I now have the chance to experience? At the new job, at the new home, in the new neighborhood, in the new city, it is all wide open and beautifully sparkling, beckoning me like the sea to a sailor. Not some stogy aristocratic sailor from the safe and traditional shores of the Old World, but a new, fresh, eager sailor unencumbered by formality or rules of a role predefined for me, heading out into the New World!

Perhaps though, best of all, is the knowledge that this Big Happy Change was all about me and my strength and skills to accomplish it at all, and on my own merits! The end of a long term marriage through divorce takes a terrible toll on a person’s sense of self-worth and trust.  My ex-husband never did take responsibility for his own actions; the divorce was no different, nothing wrong in his mind with unfaithfulness and lying. He was, and ever is unkind to me and so many others (like his own children, like his co-workers, like his own parents and brother) .So the achievement of this Big Happy Change finally, finally affirms my lifelong career goals and dreams, but also—really comes with it as a bonus—my personal goals and dreams for an amazing, wonderful, exciting, life outside of work.  I did it! I did it! What a fantastic achievement I never was allowed to imagine for me when I was Mrs. Churchill.

Big Happy Change, I have been waiting my whole life for you. J

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Mother's Day 2013

It's a beautiful day in May. The sun is shining, the just mowed grass smells wonderful, and happy people are working in their gardens after the long winter. I have the great pleasure of reflecting on Mother’s Day and of being a mom, one of the best jobs, no THE best job I've ever had. My children are in their 20's now, but always my children,  and I am very blessed. 

I have been given the great opportunity to be a part of their life every single day of their life.  I know them as small young kids in strollers, as growing kids with bicycles, and nearly grown kids with cars. Through the destruction of our family by divorce my children and I have grown ever closer, and again I am very blessed. I did not have to fight for physical custody; my ex-husband gave it up. I did not have to fight for parenting time, my ex-husband didn't even use the parenting time which the court awarded him. I have not had to worry about birthdays, holidays, vacations, graduations and sharing my precious children with their biological father. I have not had to worry about the treatment of my children when they're with their biological father as they spend no time with him. No worry that fad diets, self-imposed food restrictions, or age inappropriate "education" on the ramifications of fast food.  I have never had to worry that my children were forgotten at a bus stop or that they had to find a safe place on their own in temporary group housing by knocking door to door and taking refuge with strangers. I have never had to seek testimonies from acquaintances, my college faculty, or social service providers as evidence of my parenting competencies. I have never had to explain needle marks on my children arms. I have not had to bribe them with pets, bicycles, trampolines, or video games.

No, that is not my co-parenting experience and I am very blessed. It is a sad world indeed because I have not had to make this up. This has been the experience of some children who are still under the influence of, the unfortunate court ordered care of
 my ex-husband and his new wife. I thank God every day that is not my world those are not my children, but my heart breaks for those children who are in that situation. That's what a mother feels, she feels for children, all children.
Happy Mother's Day to all true mothers and grandmothers who love children.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Business of Divorce

Divorce it seems, at its core, is steeped in tradition; the tradition of a marriage being a business transaction, a business partnership—no messy emotions at all. So its no surprise that when a marriage is being legally dissolved its focus is on the business of assets and liabilities, and how to distribute them among the former partners.

The tangible property we co-owned as married persons was an easy distribution. Dave took what he wanted within the first week. He made one very showy trip (with his attorney in tow) to the house one Saturday to pick up some of the other items that were awarded to him. And the other items that he was awarded and evidentially did not want, he left behind.

The finances were a completely different experience. I find it funny now that the thing that gave me the best business advantage through the divorce is what he used to mock me about; which was my thorough knowledge of our finances and my years and years of successful money management. These continue to give me the best business advantage as my financial recovery from the divorce progresses, and my economic decline stabilizes to a new and much lower level. I am confident in my finances; I continue to manage credit card and personal spending, investments, retirement accounts, loans, and mortgages. But now, the most liberating and freeing knowledge is that these are with my own resources, my own decisions, with my own needs, desires and preferences being addressed.

I read once that is takes a divorced woman five years to recover financially. That in the beginning it is often the man who appears to have the greatest gain financially and through the recovery, mostly because most men do not have the care or custody of the children, which is difficult to receive full financial compensation for (a nanny can run $50,000 per year). But after about five years, women have made the same recovery as men, and continue to recover and improve while men start a decline which often lasts the rest of their lives. Not just working lives, their entire lives.

So I am feeling, with the five years of being divorced benchmark approaching, that I have achieved that financial recovery and am making my gains. No surprises, no unexpected or untold financial demands, no arguments about investments or personal purchases. It’s simply a magnificent place to be!!!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Continuing Where I left Off

My marriage to Dave was a long one, over 24 years. Now though, I like to rephrase that; it was a long 24 year marriage. 24 years where I was Mrs. Churchill; I gave up my identity with that name change (it really was the social norm at the time), and oh, how lovely it is, how strengthening it is to regain my full birth name.  It represents who I am, who I always was, even through the years as I was molded and pressured and formed to fit into a different shape—a Mrs. Churchill shape. The pain of being Mrs. Churchill, that’s a future post. For now, it is about continuing where I left off, the me I left behind 24 years ago.

Even before I was married, I proudly finished my undergraduate degree in four years. During that time I worked part time jobs, student taught, fostered friendships, and connected regularly with my extended family. I even began my graduate degree, right there at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. And then, the marriage.
Within one year of marriage I began the Dave career chase, and we moved wherever he found a job, whenever he wanted a new job, for his career advancement. Time and time again. I did that for the next 23 years but also chased after my graduate degree. Everywhere I lived throughout the marriage I tried, unsuccessfully, to complete my graduate work.  I had acquired graduate coursework from six postsecondary institutions across two states, Wisconsin (Madison and Eau Claire) and Minnesota (Mankato, Bemidji, Moorhead, and Minneapolis). I earned merit scholarships and fellowships to pay my way. I worked in my chosen career field for all of those years too. I used my undergraduate degree, I put it to work, never once leaving it behind to “try something else”.  It was always what I loved to do. I birthed and raised two fabulous children, much of the time on my own as Dave traveled for work constantly, .
So when Dave left me, his wife and his two teen aged children and filed for divorce, among other great realizations it became clear to me that I had before me, finally, unencumbered paths. Paths to do what mattered most to me, that were valued by me, that I wanted—and not overshadowed by every interest and whim of Dave, from his work (front and center, always) to his reborn faith (where he had an affair with a church employee, his new wife) to his recreation (mission trips, skiing, volunteering for the Red Cross, hiking, camping, running races, working out, flying airplanes, canoes and canoe trips, being a lumberjack with his chain saw-- we’ve been through all of this before). The first path I happily took was to complete my Master’s Degree.
Not only did I pursue a graduate degree program, and I have completed my Master’s Degree! I have, finally, my Masters of Science in Education. It took me 22 months to complete, endless numbers of APA style papers, time to read assignments, time to complete assignments. Being pushed and stretched in my learning, and I loved every minute of it. I paid for it all on my own in time, learning, and money-- not my parent's money or my husband's money. My money. It was a great adventure, and even before I was finished, my increased knowledge and skill set was recognized at my workplace. Authentic, applicable, valued. Whoa, these were all very new expressions showered upon me by others….and never from my husband.
When I attended my graduation ceremony, my children and my dearest, closest friends were there with me as I celebrated something that I thought I would never be able to do, was never encouraged to do. Texting me during the graduation ceremony, me and my children were laughing about Keynote Speaker Bill Clinton’s Secret Service entourage. It was a remarkable day. For a remarkable accomplishment. I was indeed, after so, so many years, finally, with such unconditional love and support, continuing where I left off.

Master of Science in Education

Specialization in Adolescent Literacy and Technology