Category Archives: Challenges

“Why are you doing this to us?!” (part 1)

I don’t usually engage in conversation with my ex. Most of our communication is limited to text messages. Why? Because he is selling crazy and I am not buying.

In recent weeks his level of crazy has increased by alarming proportions. First there was the domestic violence arrest. He received felony charges, was jailed for 30 hours and then bemoaned the abuse he was suffering at the hands of his wife. He claimed that the charges were dismissed, that the judge had said he had done nothing wrong. He played the victim and blamed everything on his wife.

Sound familiar?

This is the game played by emotionally abusive men — and women. They destroy the self -confidence of those around them. They torment, degrade, and intimidate … and then they play the victim. In situations of divorce with children they manipulate the court system, deny any wrong doing, depict the other parent as crazy, neglectful and abusive … and they win.

Those of us who have experienced this recognize the common thread. We feel betrayed and are unfairly judged by others. When I meet people I know that they assume horrible things about me. I try to not let it bother me, but it does. Sometimes I can see in their eyes the thought, “What is she hiding? She must have done something horrible to lose her children.” Yes, I did. I chose a narcissistic bully to be their father.

Immediately following their father’s arrest … did I mention that his arrest was hidden from me? My oldest son was told not to tell me by his grandmother. As soon as I found out I packed my toddler into the van and we drove to their city to pick them all up from school. I was stunned by the reaction of my older daughter.

She loved her step mom. She even would write her step mom’s last name on her school papers — that stung a little. When I told the younger kids that their dad and his wife had been arrested for domestic violence my daughter responded with, “Well, she started it.” Whoa! I started to wonder what her father had been saying about his wife to cause such a drastic change of heart. Quite frankly, it made me sad. This was their second step mom in just 4 years and I had hoped that things would work out so they could feel secure.

Their father was charged with felony assault. I heard from my 8 year old son that this wasn’t the first time there had been a physical fight. He had seen them slap each other and he saw his dad stand on his step mom’s chest. I decided that there was no way I was sending them back. I hoped that their father would be detained in jail and sentenced to several months.

Beyond all comprehension, he was released.

This began a series of texts and phone calls wherein I insisted that my boys would stay with me because they didn’t feel safe. All the excuses and the displacement of blame were staggering. I called b.s. on so much of it. I couldn’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of his claims, his distortion of facts and his declarations of enlightenment.

In the meantime, my kids had returned to his home. My older son and I talked about moving forward with the parenting plan modification.

(I cannot complete this right now. Too much to process.)

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Faith through the tough times

At church this past weekend, our pastor talked about crisis. How we get through it, how God works change within us, and our reactions to it. He quoted several verses about Jacob from Genesis.

One of the things he mentioned was that we each need to admit that we are the “problem.” Reality check? Yes, something like that. The talk was interspersed with scenes from the movie Fireproof. Dreadful acting aside, it’s a movie with a message worth noticing. Which reminded me, I have The Love Dare as an ebook from the library on my phone. And I hadn’t looked at it.

Hmm … Day 1 — say nothing negative to your spouse. I tried it. I almost made it through the whole day. I am trying again today. Our toddler woke up crying with a leaky diaper. While I was changing her on our bed my husband made grouchy, sarcastic remarks. I hissed, “Callate!” at him. Whoops! Let’s just put that one behind us and continue on …

I know that making God the central focus of my life makes my life better. Always. It is during the tough times when I get too introspective, too discouraged, and overly cynical that I struggle to stay close to Him. I don’t make time to read the Bible. I don’t focus on prayer. I get very caught up in the drama that is my life.

At this time I have an ex who is contentious and argumentative. My oldest stepdaughter isn’t talking to me because of something my younger stepdaughter told her. I have no idea what it is, but she unfriended me on facebook because of it. Trust me, this is a BIG deal. Before the end of her visit my younger stepdaughter got angry with me and told me that I am “just a stepmom!” Ouch. I sure cried over that one.

My husband is disappointed and angry with both of his older daughters. He carries a grudge against my older daughter. Blended family drama stinks! I honestly think we need to be in ongoing therapy with our children in order to navigate this life peacefully. (sigh)

These ARE tough times. I need to be more active in my pursuit of God. I need to replenish my faith, fill my glass. I don’t want to just muddle through life, I want to live it beautifully and joyfully.

 

Who’s with me?


Pursuing dreams

When my first marriage fell apart I had to let go of two dreams: having an intact family and becoming a midwife.

I think that is one of the most difficult parts of divorcing. Letting dreams die. Dreams of a happily ever after. Dreams of raising children and growing old together. Dreams of home ownership, developing new interests and changing careers while leaning on one’s spouse for support. And sometimes, it also means letting go of dreams that the other person will change “if only…”

In my quest to be self sufficient I tried out a new dream — being a teacher. It didn’t seem far-fetched. I love working with children. I believe that I have a calling to facilitate the building of healthy families and relationships. Teachers may touch those areas of people’s lives. I enjoy teaching. I don’t love it. It is stressful, exhausting, restrictive, and just downright hard. While it is an excellent career choice … well, maybe it isn’t. The pay is low. The job security no longer exists. One of my motivators in becoming a teacher was to have summers off to spend with my children. Our visitation schedule is still every other weekend all summer …

The truth is, I have a passion for working with moms and babies. Pregnant moms. Breastfeeding moms. Newborn infants. Laboring moms. I am drawn to them like a magnet. They fill me with bewildered awe. I want to assist during the transition of becoming a mother. To be a witness to the birth of a new family.

I need to be a midwife.


Putting it Back Together Again

My relationship with two of my children was fractured. After they refused to return from their visit with their father we didn’t see each other at all for more than three months. When visitation was enforced and I did finally see them, things did not go well. I felt like I barely knew them. They were sullen, argumentative, and withdrawn. I understood why they were behaving differently, but I still reacted poorly to it. I was hurt by their betrayal. I could have kept that to myself, but I didn’t.

It was so unbelievable to me that these children whom I was with every day of their lives – caring for them, nurturing them – could turn on me. I cried every day because I missed them. I was furious with them for lying about our lives, for accusing us of abuse, for leaving me. They were rebelling like crazy … they even rebelled against our faith.

Of course, our initial reunion was wonderful. They ran to me across the parking lot, hugged me and told me they missed me. I was so happy to see them that I cried. The remainder of the first day went well, but by the following afternoon things deteriorated and we all looked forward to them going home.

We alternated weekends with all three kids. This was my proposal. I thought that since the children weren’t all living together they should all be together every weekend. As a result, every weekend I drove 45 minutes each way to our exchange point. Twice. First and third weekends my youngest son left to see his dad. Second and fourth weekends all the kids were with me. I missed my youngest when he was gone. I dreaded the weekends when we brought my older two children home.

It has been a year and a half since these events shook up our lives. Our relationships have, for the most part, been healed. Someone told me that when children have a strong bond with one parent, but not with the other, they often run to the other parent out of desperation to feel loved.

My children didn’t have much of a relationship with their father. He was busy hanging out in bars or at the baseball field while we were all living together. After we split he often cancelled his visitation or had his mother look after them. It does seem logical to me that my kids craved a relationship with their dad. The idea that my loving care and the stability I created in their lives made them feel safe enough to leave my home does give me comfort.

They know that I will always be available for them. They are confident that I love them. I truly believe that they do love me, in spite of everything. We have had many enjoyable visits this past year. Sure, there are rough spots, just as there would be if we lived together full time. We are light years from where we were. The days of me worrying that my children would fabricate more allegations are behind me. I can finally relax and enjoy being a mom again.


Letting Go of my Kids

At one point in our premarital relationship, my current husband and I were both searching for employment. We extended our search to a neighboring state. My kids told their father that we were looking for jobs in an area about a two hour drive from where we currently lived. I received an angry phone call from him. He ranted for awhile and then finished with, “Over my dead body!” His rancor was wasted, we didn’t find employment out of state. I stuck with working as a substitute. My husband found another local maintenance job.

Fast forward … my ex remarried in June of ’09, shortly after my MIT graduation. In order to expediate bonding with their new stepmom I agreed to lengthier visits. They spent full weeks with she and their dad. I knew that she owned a house that was in a rural community — a two hour drive away. My ex also still owned the house we had lived in. Since I had custody of the kids I wasn’t concerned about the distance between our homes.

Unbeknownst to me, my ex had already put his plans into motion.

2009 was the worst summer of my life. I was without employment, having just graduated with my teaching certification. My current husband was looking for work. My ex had stopped paying child support several months earlier. We were renting a large, beautiful house in a quiet neighborhood and we had to leave it. Fast. Our only decent option was to go live at my mother’s house. Not what I wanted to do. I knew how difficult it would be. I cried and cried about it. Not only is my mother a very challenging person, but she lives 6 blocks from my ex. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I had lived with chaos and abuse. But go, we did.

My ex and I had a telephoned child support hearing during this transitional period. He was livid and put down the phone more than once to walk around and rant to his wife. He specifically told the attorney that if I got the support order he would make my life “shit” and would take the kids from me. Well, guess what?

I bawled my eyes out after that phone call. I knew what he was capable of. I knew how he was about money. Within a month he had brainwashed the kids by telling them that they would have more money and more things if they lived with him. He fabricated abuse and sent CPS to my home. But the worst of it was that he took my kids. I got my youngest son from him. He tried to take him back, but I was vigilant about not letting that happen.

I soon found out that I was powerless to get my children home. We didn’t have a parenting plan. Under our state’s laws there is nothing to protect one parent from taking the children from the other. You simply cannot “kidnap” your own children. There is nothing in the law that requires one parent to allow the children to see the other — in the absence of a parenting plan, that is.

Sigh …

I think it is time to make a long story a bit shorter.

At the time when my ex took my kids we were living only 6 blocks away from each other. It seemed like it could be ok. The kids would be nearby, I could see them after school. I had already enrolled them in school before their dad announced that they would not be returning to me. But he took them to live at his wife’s house. Two hours away. And I was powerless to stop him.

I had to let go of my children. Physically and emotionally. Far earlier than a mother should have to. My son was 13 and my daughter was 9. I didn’t see them or speak to them for more than 3 months. I was utterly heartbroken. I spent many of my days lying in bed, reading and watching tv. And sleeping. I did a lot of sleeping.

I found that the only way to get through it and go on living was to let them go. I had to stop worrying about them. I had to let go of my attachment to them. Part of me had to stop loving them.

I know that all of this seems farfetched and unreal. The sad fact is that it happens. It happens to good parents. It happens to loving moms. It is all too common.


Loneliness

If you have read my previous blog posts you know that although we have six children in our family only our infant daughter lives us. It’s been very disconcerting to go from having an active home, full of children, to the quiet home we have now. While I relish the quiet time, I am also very lonely.

Yes, my baby keeps me busy. So does housework, but I miss social interaction. My husband asked me if I am depressed, but I’m not really. I’m just lonely. It’s the occupational hazard of being an at-home mom. Especially one with an infant who does not enjoy riding in the van. She cries. I cannot subject her to such misery.

I chose this topic today, not only because it is a common problem for moms with young children, but also because of what I learned yesterday.

My oldest bonus daughter had lived with us for about a year and a half. She became pregnant last year and left in the Fall to stay with her mom in Texas. At first she was only going to be gone for a couple of months. Then she decided to stay there until after her baby was born. Now, instead of returning to live with us, she is only going to visit with us for a month. I started to cry immediately when my husband told me the news. I was really looking forward to her return.

In all honesty, I was nervous about having another baby in the house. Our home is small, just two bedrooms, and I wasn’t sure how things would go with two infants who are only 9 months apart. I was concerned about extra stress on my husband’s part, which could lead to moodiness and arguments. Even with those concerns, I am so sad that she isn’t going to be here. That’s when I realized that my loneliness has reached a crisis point.

So how does this tie into blended family issues? Well, the main issue at hand is the mess that is created when a parent decides to move several states away. The mother of my bonus daughters moved them away two years ago this month. The oldest daughter returned within a month and lived with us. The youngest we see only during the summer.

I hate their mother. Truly despise her. I think she is selfish. Selfish to the extreme. I think that she has many of the same qualities of my ex. I think that she is a neglectful mother who puts her children low on her priority list. I blame her for not helping her daughter to make better choices in life. The only good thing about her moving 6 states away is that I no longer have to see her every week.

I miss my bonus daughters. I miss my three older bio kids. I am blessed to have my infant daughter. I am looking forward to meeting our grandson.

**~*

Proverbs 10:12 Hatred stirs up conflict, but love covers over all wrongs.

(This is the verse I need to keep in mind)


Growing pains

Building relationships in the blended family

While watching the movie “Timer” this morning I was reminded of the main theme of my blog. Blending families, blending cultures. In this little gem of a movie was a subplot where the son of a semi-wealthy Caucasian family is matched with a Hispanic girl. The Hispanic family reacted with revulsion, while the Caucasian family desired to immediately unite as a family.

This reminded me of my experience with my blended family. I was bewildered when my husband’s family members were taken aback because I am white. Racism? Really? I was not anticipating it. And yet it seems that perhaps it is a common theme.

What I am grappling with is the concept of a population that is marginalized in the U.S. being racist towards the traditionally dominant group. Why would my new boyfriend’s family dislike me because of my race? They acted welcoming, but in reality they just wanted me to go away.

Their attitude persisted and the false friendliness turned into open dislike. One male family member crossed the line at the family Christmas celebration. He actually said that even though we were together, it would only last for a little while. My husband, being the amazing man that he is, immediately stood up and we said our goodbyes. He has since terminated his relationship with that group of the family.

I find it sad that people make presumptions about others.  How can they dislike people without first attempting to get to know them?


My Faith Carries Me Through

I have spent the past 15 years engaging in discussion and sharing ideas online. During that time I have set rules for myself. The two most important being: don’t talk politics, don’t talk religion. There is one caveat to those rules, I may discuss them if I’m “preaching to the choir.”

I am breaking that rule on my blog. I’m going to talk about my faith. If it were not for my faith in God, I would not be where I am today and I don’t know where I would be tomorrow.

I became a Christian late in life. I was raised by an atheist and an agnostic. I dabbled in Eastern philosophy and considered myself a Hindu for awhile. In my early twenties I developed rheumatoid and psoriatic arthritis. These debilitating diseases caused me to frequently ask, “why?”  In the midst of this questioning phase I attended a weekend workshop with Ram Dass (google him). During a meditation we were directed to visualize the person who was our greatest spiritual teacher. Who popped into my head? Buddha? No. Krishna? No. Bhagwan Rajneesh? lol  No. Jesus. Jesus appeared in my mind’s eye. Glowing, hippie-like, dressed in robe and sandals.

“No! What is he doing there?!” I relaxed, cleared my mind again and Bam! he was back. Sigh.

That wasn’t the turning point that led me to Christianity. It wasn’t until about 9 years later that I claimed my faith. Like many people, I actively sought God after losing a loved one. What I didn’t realize was that I desperately needed God to carry me through an abusive marriage. He did just that. At times I was nearly drowning in despair and feelings of helplessness, but I would call out to the Lord to help me and He was faithful. And I made it through another day.

God has worked miracles in my life. At one time during my first marriage I had requested information on teacher certification and a Masters degree from a local university. I looked it over, stuffed it in a drawer and thought, maybe later, when my kids were older. While decluttering my cabinets I grabbed that folder, ready to toss it in recycling. A voice in my head rang out, “No. Keep it. You may need it.” I stuck it back in the drawer.

Two days later my ex went sideways, ranted at my children and I. He was absolutely terrifying. He scared our children, he threatened my life. Within a week my kids and I were out of our house and in an apartment away from him. I took that folder with me. I applied to the program and earned that Masters degree. God had warned me on that June morning in 2006. I am so very grateful to Him.

During those early days, weeks, and months of being a single mom I spoke with God daily. I prayed for strength. I prayed for the well being of my children. I prayed for our safety. Taking care of three rambunctious children on my own was not easy. Being alone was hard. I constantly leaned on God. He frequently gave me tangible evidence that He was there for me and working for good in my life.

About three months after I left my ex he called in the middle of the night. He was drunk and in Las Vegas. I think it may have been his birthday. (He called in the middle of the night on several occasions, always intoxicated. I learned to turn off my phone at night.) He decided to unburden himself to me. He cried and whined about how sad he was. He went on and on, drunk and rambling. I only listened because our relationship was horribly  co-dependent.

The next day he called back and then he dropped his bombshell. He had been having an affair while we were together. For the last three years of our marriage. Before our third child was conceived he had been cheating on me. My life had been a lie.

I hung up on him and went outside. I was crying. I had just walked down the pathway towards my van — I always cried in the van back then — when the orange maintenance cart pulled up next to me. There was the maintenance man, looking at me with a concerned look and then saying, “You’re too pretty to cry.” What a cheesy line! lol  But it broke through my tears. He asked what was wrong and I told him. He then shared that his ex-wife had cheated on him and he understood how it felt. We spoke for a few minutes, sharing briefly some of the pain that betrayal brings. He gave me a little pep talk and smiled at me, told me that my ex must be really stupid. His words made me chuckle and smile ruefully.

I went back into my apartment and prayed. My pain was lifted. I knew that whatever my ex had done didn’t matter. I am a child of God. As a child of God my life is important to Him and He will make all things work for the best for me, my children, and everyone.

What a strange and wonderful blessing God gave me that day.


Evil Exes

When a divorce with children happens, there is always an ex to contend with. Whether the person is present or absent in the life of the child, they are forever intertwined with our lives. I always advise young women to be careful who they choose to have children with. We so often make poor choices and our children suffer for it.

My ex has done just about everything in his power to destroy me. Funny thing is, he’s the one who wanted out. Yes, a marriage is made by two people and I am not blameless. But vindictive? No. Desiring to deprive him of involvement with our children? No.

My evil ex has used our children as pawns. He has used them to get back at me. He has used them to entice a childless girlfriend and two childless wives. He succeeded in taking custody of all three children, simply because I obtained an official child support order. I am not making this up. He is on record at our child support hearing saying that he would, “make her life shit” if the order for support went through. It was no coincidence that abuse allegations were fabricated less than a month later.

I mention three relationships of my evil ex. The first, the girlfriend, was established before my kids and I were driven from our home. I was ignorant of her existence. She moved into our house a week after my kids and I left. Less than a year after our split, my ex married a woman he met online. That marriage lasted less than a year and then he was quickly remarried to a friend from high school. With each relationship he would threaten to take the kids from me. In each relationship the new woman was pronounced better able to care for our children than I was.

All of this was about money. All of it was about child support.

My evil ex is a dirtbag. I cannot count the number of times I have longed to turn back time and change my decisions. Run the other way when I met him.

Our exes can continue to abuse us long after we have removed ourselves from their daily lives. They abuse us with the courts, they abuse us by manipulating our children, they abuse us emotionally, verbally, and spiritually. Any small window of opportunity is thrown wide open and the abuse floods through. We think that by getting away physically we can escape. They don’t let us.

When we start new relationships, evil exes will do whatever they can to impede them. My ex tried threats, bad mouthed my husband to my children, spouted racist comments regarding my husband, and finally, when all of that failed, he fabricated wild stories of child abuse.

He won, in his way. He got the kids. I pay him child support. But he didn’t destroy me. My older children may not live with me, but they are still my children. He cannot take that away.


Losing “the Dream”

I don’t think that I can do this topic justice. There are so many feelings I have that are tied up in my dreams of family. I know that I will need to edit this later, but this is so essential to blended families that I want to get it off my chest and get it out there.

I had a dream of how our blended family would look. We were on our way, things looked beautiful, then it all came crashing down.

Valentine’s weekend 2009. My husband and I took a road trip to visit his family. We had a great weekend, bonded like crazy, enjoyed his family, talked marriage. The marriage thing was settled, we would marry before the end of the year. We had never felt closer or more in sync.

On Wednesday afternoon following our weekend of bliss … call from his older daughter … they are moving in less than two months … 6 states away …

There went my dream. My two bonus daughters were taken away by their mother. My husband didn’t fight it. He was depressed. He was frustrated. Our relationship took a turn. He became emotionally distant. I could not fix it.

Around this time my ex was fired. He stopped paying child support. My husband was able to carry the burden of our expenses. We lived in a big, expensive, rental house. It was ok, but then he lost his job. Boom.  It was summer. I’m a substitute teacher. We had to move.

With no work and no savings, we made a temporary move to my mother’s house. I was despondent. I cried daily while we were packing up. I did not want to live with my mom. I did not want to return to the neighborhood where I lived with my ex. Nothing about it was ok for me. We had no choice.

Shortly after we vacated our rental house my ex and my children fabricated abuse allegations. I lost two of my kids. With no parenting plan in place I could not force my ex to return our two older children to me. In turn, he could not force me to give him our younger son. We lived in a state of extreme stress. I had my younger son, but had no idea where my two older children were living.

This was the beginning of the most painful year of my life. I did not anticipate the outcome. I don’t think anybody who knows me could have.


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