Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas has past and I am, at last, not mift or aghast.

God is good, even if we do take unholy liberties with His name, His Son, His season or His reason. God's abounding grace is never more evident than after my kids are back with their mom and I am alone with my heavenly Father. Nothing like a good ol' fashioned ass-kicking to make me see what a tiresome brat I can be.

Actually being a minister, some might think I have a grander view of the divine at such a time as Christmas. Good luck! If anything, the old man inside me is pissing and moaning so freekin' loud, nary a heaven-sent thought passes my least not until my beloved mom develops a pulmonary embolism or my dear sister-in-law suffers a massive coronary 3 days before Christmas. Funny how things fall into perspective during those times and after those times, as well.

Christmas day this year seemed a little lack-lustre. Because of my sister-in-law's heart attack, our family get-together for Christmas day was postponed 2 days. So when my kids came to my house at 9am on Christmas day, I was a little relieved that I wouldn't immediately have to drag my 12 year-old son away from his new electronic drum kit I got him. But as the sun seemed to quickly dive into the west, I realized I hadn't given any thought to what to have for dinner. The stores were closed and I had very little around the house to eat. I had a couple of russet potatoes, some frozen chicken, a soy chicken patty for my vegetarian daughter and some Ralphs brand flaky dinner rolls. Hey, I'm a decent cook. I could make do with that. Right? I over-cooked the chicken, and probably did the soy patty similar disservice. The dinner rolls came out a bit over-done, but I managed to salvage the most tender ones for my kiddos. They didn't touch their respective chicken. They sampled the roll, and while my son devoured his potato, my daughter only ate a few bites of hers. All in all, she had maybe five bites of dinner only exceeded by my voracious son's nine biter. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.

I got up early the next morning and decided to do a solid for my girl and refresh the load of laundry she left in the dryer the night before. So I set the dryer to 10 minutes and looked over the mess of Christmas stuff strewn over the entire floor of my garage. It had come to that state of disarray three weeks earlier when I emptied the big box of Christmas decorations I hadn't touched since putting them away January 2, 2008. I grabbed a few festive items to hang on the walls of a place I still fail to see as home. My home ceased to exist as of January 26, 2008 when my wife of nearly 15 years told me she wanted a divorce. I won't dig back into that history, but long-story-short, I was compelled this past morning the day after christmas, to put the items scattered in my garage, back into the box. This time however, I was actually looking at the items. Each one a vivid memory of a wife, life, and time that I adored. Each one a painful reverie of what was no more and probably never to be again. To make it all worse, the buzzer on the dryer was reminding me to retrieve and fold my daughters things before they wrinkle.

As I began pulling items from the dryer, I was awakened from my Christmas past reminiscing by the cold hard reality of my daughter's true age. I wasn't folding the tiny doll clothes of the sweet petite girl I used to cradle in my arms. I was being reminded with each item of clothing that my little girl was a woman who would be off to college—long before I was ready to give her up. I know dads and moms struggle with the same hurtful revelations every day. But that particular day, it was coupled with the painful reminders of a failed marriage with another girl I still love and miss horribly. A marriage that I thought would at least see the inside of a counselor's office before one of us threw in the towel. I guess that is the most frustrating thing about the end of my marriage. I wasn't given the opportunity to fight for it. My wife, Lucy, says that she fought long and hard for too many years. Trouble is, she fought alone. I wasn't aware of how unhappy she was. Actually I don't think she knew how unhappy she was until someone else made her compare what she what she could have. The grass being greener and what-not.

Suffice it to say that I got my ass kicked for Christmas. I saw how badly the world can beat me down when I dare to step out from under God's protective arm. I had those moments of close relationship to God when my mom and sister-in-law where close to death in the hospital. But as soon as the present dangers were past, so where my moments of closeness to God. My real crisis came in the morning after sending my kids back to their mom. I was alone when I called my mom regarding some mysterious bank information that suddenly turned up on my credit card account. Anyhow, after talking about lots of stuff and breaking down in tears several times during the conversation, I came to the realization that what I could do so easily with my mom, I couldn't do with my Creator. Well, I'm ready if you are, Lord.

Monday, December 14, 2009

They're So Adorable Until They Grow Up and Become Commentators

Hey John. Sorry if this is a beloved family member...but something around the eyes reminded me of Hardball's Chris Matthews.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The sense that the Christmas holidays are crowding in around me to smother me, has always made this season one that I would rather escape completely. After all, the whole idea of Christmas that our western culture has hijacked from pagans, has about as much to do with Jesus Christ as sea-weed has to do with outer space.

The thing that really rips it, is that a time of year that is traditionally supposed to all about good cheer, unity, peace on earth, etc. has become for too many, a time of severe stress, depression, drunkenness, family squabbles, and widespread financial irresponsibility. Happy Birthday Baby Jesus!

Is there an alternative solution? I haven't the slightest effing idea. One thing I've decided is that amidst all of the other many many projects, brochures, year-end video for New Year's Eve that are job related,— gift exchanges, shopping, trying to find a parking spot close enough that I won't get soaked to the bone by one of southern California's freak and inconvenient gully washers...I WILL keep my cool. But you think that maybe God is less concerned with WHEN we celebrate Jesus birthday than HOW? I mean if we are going to pull a day out of the hat when the Savior of the World might have been born, wouldn't it have made more sense to pick a day that isn't at the darkest coldest most depressing point of the year? How about August, Lord? I do realize that being a ridiculous American means that I don't really have to give a squat about what season that would be for another country in another hemisphere. I mean we all know Jesus loves America the most...right? Well....RIGHT?

Anyway, I've made the decision to not do Christmas cards this year. Sad. That was the one thing I used to enjoy about Christmas before my wife left me. I would turn our Christmas photo into some Photoshopped construct that would amaze and entertain our family and friends. Now they only serve as a sad reminder that I'm single, with two teen-aged kids who are becoming increasingly harder to buy Christmas presents for. And that's only if I can afford to buy them anything at all. No wonder so many people blow out their brains during this time of year. Short overcast days, ridiculous stress levels at work, social demands, family needs, lack of funds, not enough hours in the day. If I hear Frosty the Shithead one more time in the grocery store, I swear I will scream so frickin' loud small children will cling to their mommies and shiver.

Don't get me wrong. I love Jesus. I think He deserves to be lauded and sung about EVERY day of the year. But the idea that I'm some kind of piss-poor Scrooge if I don't don the gay apparel and join in ancient carol, pisses me clear the eff off!

Jesus...I need strength. I need joy in this joyless of all seasons. I need grace for my petty angry moments that certainly bubble over onto my children in ways I'm not aware of. I need financial sanity to keep me from digging myself deeper and deeper into the effing hole every effing November and December.

I know its your birthday, Jesus...or at least the time everyone decided its your birthday. I also know that I have nothing that I could ever give you that will offset the unmerited grace you gave to me. I am a pauper who has virtually nothing to give a king. All I have is my faith. And even that isn't my own.

Lord, let me see you this Christmas. Let me simply see your face and know that you are there...for real...and still my advocate. Because right now belief is in short supply. Help thou my unbelief!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It isn't easy to be a single dad. I wasn't even very good at being a single man previous to marriage. However the need to be vested in other people's lives is what drove me from bachelorhood through the various states of bliss, insecurity, ineptitude, caring, selflessness, cluelessness, and eventually being completely and utterly subsistent upon the faith that saved me from self-destruction over 28 years ago.

This morning I found a blouse in my daughter's room all wadded up in the bottom of a Ralphs plastic bag. What I found odd, was that the blouse appeared to have already been worn, but still had the tags attached inside the collar. Now, I'm not one to jump to conclusions. At least not easily. But anything she has bought for herself, or that her mother bought, would immediately be de-tagged, laundered and hung in the closet. If it was a return, why was it in a Ralphs bag without a receipt? Hmmmm.

I was a teenaged shoplifter. Like most youthful offenders, it wasn't a crime committed out of need. It was the addiction to the thrill of pulling off a heist without getting caught. If the shoplifting is a peer pressure response to a dare, it usually is a one-time deal and isn't repeated.

Now I'm not about to pump my 14 year-old daughter for information about her wadded up blouse. I will just file the unanswered question mark in a drawer and go back to it if any other red flags lead to suspect that my sweet little girl is a thief.

I guess I have a hard time accepting the idea that neither of my kids have expressed any problematic behavior due to the break up of our family. Some might say I'm stupid for not thanking God for that fact. I guess a selfish part of me wants there to be some sort of disruption. I want my kids to show some sort of outward indication that this change in their lives is affecting them. If for no other reason, so we can begin addressing the big-ass gorilla sitting in the living room. I don't know. Maybe I'm the gorilla and the kids don't have the heart to tell their dad to shake it off and move on with his life.

Funny how my 3-D Faith blogs seem to be more about Divorce | Depression | Dejection. Oh well...that is just where I am today...most days, to be honest. But my hope still lies in that God will lead me to know when I'm ready to jump back into life on His terms instead of looking backward to see if any of those shut doors behind me are ajar. This blog is more about the pursuit of living 3D faith. It could be called a fail blog, but as long as I continue to struggle to achieve right decision, committed devotion, and determined delight, I haven't failed. I have just yet to achieve.

My devotion, delight, and decisions must all be led by faith. Hopefully, the practice will be made perfect.

Friday, November 6, 2009

There are many moments in the day that I recall a better time. Believe it or not, doing the dishes early in the morning after they had stacked up from the previous evening, was always a thing I enjoyed doing. When Lucy and I talked about the division of responsibilities early in our marriage, she said that since I was the cook, she would wash the pots, pans and dishes we ate off of. Certainly there were other tasks that Lucy took on without any formal understanding between us. The laundry, for instance. Lucy began washing all of our clothes together and this would have been wonderful if someone had taught her some things about laundry that I had learned along the way of bachelorhood.

First of all, I'm a slob. I can't seem to consume any sort of food without some portion of it bouncing off my belly and leaving an oily stain on my shirt to deal with later. As a matter of course, I always checked every shirt for grease or oil stains prior to washing and pre-treated greasy blotches with stain remover or just a concentrated rub of the Tide® detergent. I always washed most items in cold water. Lucy didn't know about my laundry needs because she stealthily did loads of laundry without ever telling me when she intended to do a couple loads. Too many times, a favorite shirt was passed over for pre-treating and the stain was set in by a hot wash and hot drying cycle. I couldn't stand wearing stained shirts so letting Lucy do my laundry became too costly. I forgot how I said it, but I can imagine it wasn't expressed with much diplomacy or caring. I was getting tired of throwing shirts away each month so in so many words I said, "Thanks, but no thanks!" I took over my own laundry responsibilities. It probably seemed to her that I was hyper critical, but I didn't want to hear from friends and co-workers about my grease-stained t-shirts.

In my mind, I thought taking responsibility for my own laundry would be a plus. I mean, not too many other husbands cooked, cleaned, did their own laundry and was handy at fixing things around the house. In fact one of Lucy's best friends was sort of jealous over how much more of the household responsibilities I took on compared to her husband. Even by Lucy's own affirmations, I was getting good marks in that area. At least that was my impression.

As time went along, I noticed that Lucy's commitment to cleaning up the pots and pans fell off little by little. It got to where I had few clean utensils in the morning to make breakfast for the family. I began doing the dishes early in the morning so I wouldn't have to wait for her to get up. I was an early riser and an early eater as well. I don't know...maybe that bugged her. I know that having body clocks in different timezones certainly put a crimp in our sex lives. Lucy was a night owl and wanted to be intimate in the evening. Unfortunately, I had gotten up three to four hours ahead of her, so naturally I was three to four hours ahead of her in the evening. She was frisky and I was having a hard time keeping my eyes open. In the morning at 6:15am, I was already up 30 minutes and I could have gone at least 2 rounds under the sheets if she had been awake when I was at my peak.

Things only got worse after our two kids began sharing our bed almost every night. Finding the right mood, moment, and opportunity for intimacy became harder to find. I know that shouldn't have been an excuse, but because neither of us would properly address the elephant in the living room, the uncomfortable silence hung heavy like the stench of death over our relationship. The sparse opportunities for sex became an issue of my own failure—at least as far as my wife was concerned. As Lucy so indelicately informed me, I wasn't satisfying her with our scant sexual habits.

The stress of that awareness combined with the pressures of caring for our two young children at night while Lucy went to school, had me at an even greater disadvantage to assail any plan of action to be more intimate with my wife. I was usually asleep as early as 8pm on the couch.

After suffering a bad blow to the head while building a patio cover on our first home, the Urgent Care doctor examining me said that I had slight hypertension. He handed me a handful of pamphlets and information that I never bothered to read. I just began taking the medication he prescribed. I never gave much thought to treating the cause of my high blood pressure instead of the symptom. I wasn't aware that most hypertension is caused by stress and worry. Man! I had plenty of that. What was secretly poised to assist in the destruction of my marriage, were the side effects of the Lotensin® most likely combined with a developing chronic depression. Both were compounding my waning libido, and evoking an insomnia that virtually put my wife and myself on opposite schedules. I was reduced to being a room-mate helping to raise our two children. Sex was non-existent at that point. Whether the depression came first, causing the hypertension, insomnia, stress, and dead libido...or the other way didn't really matter any more. I had become too detached to really give a crap. I was a dishwasher, thinking about how impossible it was to meet the needs of a woman who lived in another timezone. Every morning Lucy missed her window with me. Every evening, I missed mine with her.

What was even more tragic, were the awkward moments after coming home from work and her going off to night school. She would play back recorded segments from the Today Show or The View, suggesting how to spice up a stale love life. I winced inwardly, unable to bear the pain of telling Lucy that making sex spicier wasn't the problem. Not wanting sex at all, was! This was something I couldn't begin to figure out or admit...particularly before the era of ED medications.

Oh well...all this water under the bridge and now I sob over the morning dishes while my kids still sleep. The task that I had happily assumed to make life easier for Lucy, has become a painful remembrance of a life and love that I cherished, but lost.

My love for Lucy is not lost, though. It isn't easy to maintain a loving attitude. And please understand that I don't count "civility" or "amiability" as anything similar to loving. My ability to love is under constant attack. I have thought and said things about Lucy—to myself and in my journaling—that are petty and vindictive. I know they don't help my happiness or health, but I look back and admit to myself that I rarely had the strength to fight, let alone admit there was even something that needed to be fought for. I still freeze in the headlights of self confrontation and become divided against myself. My daily remider as I wash my pots, pans, utensils, glasses and I can eat again, make meals for my growing kids again, and pretend that God will eventually be victorious in my own devastation. I die each day when I wake to the realization that the girl I committed to love for a lifetime, is now gone from my life.

"Dear Lucy— I miss you so much in the morning. The time of day I could've best made you feel loved. Yet, unreasonably frozen by my fear of rejection...I just let you sleep. I'm so sorry."

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Surviving the hand dealt by dissolution

I have taken to texting my estranged wife. Certainly not because it is easier to communicate that way, but it has become a way I can distance myself from the audible reminder of the one I wanted to love until the day I died.

I thought I would be strong enough to be emotionally isolated from the hurt of this loss, but nearly 2 years of getting used to being without Lucy, hasn't made the change any more natural or bearable.

I see the advances in telecommunication as a convenient work-around for those of increasing number of social emo-phobes...who have come to prefer the more hands-off modes of communication like email and text-messaging. It brings a level of detachment that is probably not a healthy thing for me to be doing, since detachment is an aspect of my depression that I need to overcome. But similarly, the sound of Lucy's voice evokes too many painful reminders of a life and love we shared. The distance I hear in her voice is hard to bear. However, when the same information is transmitted via email or text the distance is undetectable. The tenor or emotional inferences within the spoken word are a fading dimension that used to be a part of the communicative arena. Less painful for me, but not necessarily a good thing.

I have to wonder if the communication was always spoken person-to-person, would the added emotional dimension of that discourse lend itself to any greater possibility for reconciliation? Am I strong enough to continue hearing the ring of my beautiful love's voice in the ear that is attached to a wrecked mind? It seems to me that the ultimate rejection can only be left behind if a person hopes to move ahead on their path. But personally, I cannot move ahead so easily when I am tied to the one who hates me.

I love my kids so awfully much. But sometimes I regret the fact that they keep Lucy strung to me like the carcass of some rotting albatross...preventing me from being completely free. I know such outlook isn't healthy or right in God's economy, but for now it is just what I am having to deal with.

Still, every time I get a text from Lucy, I hope that it holds some promise, no matter how slight, that she might be willing to salvage our relationship. But after nearly 2 years, her openness to the possibility of a re-start...clean slate kind of thing seems even less likely than it did immediately after she asked for the divorce. She no longer resembles the woman I married and raised kids with. She is a stranger that has moved farther and farther away in her heart from me. I'm sure my voice is as much a unwelcome reminder to her as hers is to me. They just evoke different emotions. Emotions each of us would rather be free of forever.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Blue Posts on John Shore's Blog

It has recently come to my attention that when signing up to respond to John Shore's Blog, I inserted the URL of the my church website (not really thinking it would show as a link from my name....oooops!). I serve as a minister in the media/publishing department of Maranatha Chapel. I'm not really a hands-on minister that counsels and teaches in the conventional sense. I'm more the rebrobate saved by marvelous grace who loves Jesus and was brought on staff as a janitor with a sick and twisted bent.

I retrospectively need to apologize for some comments I've made that could put my church and pastor in a bad light. Finding that the name over some of my more provocative responses, leads readers back to my church's website could lead some to think that people like myself have no business working for a church. But then I have to say that Jesus' disciples were just as fouled up and they did alright.

I'm not trying to excuse my departures from spiritual satiety, but I will be the first to admit that God's abundant grace has given me a sense of His inexhaustible forgiveness that I can't help but pay forward. I've changed my link to forward to my Blog (the one I rarely write to). Maybe the few posts will give my fellow posters on Shore's blog, a little insight to my addled and peculiar mind.