Wednesday, December 31, 2008

"Where's My dad?!"

This morning I was reading in Psalm 31 and came across this little line in verse 22:
"In my alarm I said, "I am cut off from your sight!" I really was touched by David's plea in these words. David cries out almost in surprise, "Where is my dad?!"
Have you ever walked through a store with your child and they let go of your hand and it took a second or two before you realized it? It's not hard! Their little hands are so tiny and their grip is so soft that if you get distracted you can easily lose grip and not realize it. Once when I was maybe 4 years old, I was walking with my mother in the old Almart store back home and without even knowing it I had let go of her hand somehow and by the time I snapped out of my little 4 year old fog and realized what had happened, I was walking hand in hand with an older man. I have no idea who he was or why he didn't say anything. He didn't try to lead me anywhere and he didn't say a word when I let go of his hand and went in search of my mother. Maybe he was an angel sent there to protect me, I don't know. But I was panicked for a minute or two until I found my mother a few aisles away. She was unaware I had even been lost, not because she didn't care but because in those days it wasn't a big deal. I never felt afraid for my welfare, just afraid I had lost my mother.
Sometimes we feel that way in our lives as adults. We don't realize that we've strayed away from our Father. Maybe by skipping time with Him on a daily basis. Maybe by letting the cares and concerns of the world intrude on our prayer times. Whatever it is, we suddenly find ourselves without a hand to hold and thinking our father has lost sight of us. The good news is He knows right where we are and with a simple nudge, guides us back to His presence.
As dads...particularly as divorced dads...we can feel like our Father has lost sight of us as well. We feel like we failed our church, our families, our friends and our God. We feel like we have lost the hand of our children and thereby lost the hand of God. But He has never moved and if you are listening, he is calling you back to His side, into His sight and holding out His hand for you to grip. He never stopped loving you, regardless of the circumstance. he knows you feel lost and need His hand to hold. David realized this in the second half of the verse: "yet you heard my plea for mercy when I cried to you for help"
David got it's up to us. Hold out your hand...your Dad is right here.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Part You Never Get Used To

I am taking my daughter home to her mom's this morning. I don't have her for Christmas this year because we alternate. So I will take her to her moms and then I am heading home to the Philadelphia burbs to be with family.
It's been nine years like this now and I never get used to it. A hole starts growing inside me around the 20th of December on the years I don't have her. It will seem a little less like Christmas this year. Actually a lot less. It always does.
Because of my Christian faith, I know the intrinsic, true nature of the holiday and that part never loses it's luster for either of us. But the sense of family and wholeness that accompanies this holiday is missing to a large degree on the odd years I don't have Morgan. There is an emptiness. This wound will never heal fully no matter how many years go by. When Morgan is an adult and marries and becomes a mom, there will be the forced choices about who to spend the holiday with. She will see us both, I am sure, but not spend the entire day with either. That is sad. Sad for me and very sad for her one day. It's part of the price that is paid when couples divorce.
I am thankful for my daughter and we will celebrate Christmas next week when she comes over for New Years. But Wednesday evening when I am with my family celebrating the "seven fishes", and then with her cousins on Christmas morning and Bob and Cathy's Christmas night, she will be noticeably absent, and my heart will be a little empty. I never get used to that feeling, and never will.
But I am thankful I have her and I see her regularly. To all you dads with similar arrangements...Merry Christmas. Remember the one Child we never are without on Christmas, and let His peace and tenderness comfort you while you miss your children here on earth. Rest in the Peace of Jesus, my friends.

God Bless you all at Christmas,

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stick it out!

Hi dads...
Merry Christmas to you all. I hope this season brings you joy and peace and you take the time to create wonderful Christmas memories with your children. Remember...they don't see you as a divorced dad...just their dad. Their love never changes.
I am writing an encouragement to those guys amongst us who are, or have been, or will be tempted to just "chuck it" and walk away. I know the way things can gang up on us and make abandonment seem like a viable option. The court system can do it. If our children's mom is bent on eliminating us from the lives of our kids it can happen. Job loss, career devastation...a thousand things can happen in our lives that make it seem like leaving and starting over someplace else is the only way we'd live. I know because I have been there...quite recently in fact. If you are a regular reader of my blogs you know that I endured a job loss, subsequent period of unemployment, homelessness, (I was actually sleeping in my car for 3 months) weekends in jail because my ex-wife petitioned the courts to do so because I had lost my income and then my ability to pay support. You name it I was there. I was broken and beaten and I seriously considered leaving Tennessee. But I knew my daughter needed me and would continue to need me. So I stayed. I stuck it out.
I knew the moment would come when it would matter and it came sooner than I thought. Yesterday I got a disturbing phone call from my daughter. She is almost 11 and at a stage where her mom and her are butting heads now and then. Now personally, I see it as her mom's fault. Her mom is 37...Morgan is 10. The adult needs to step up and grow up and not demand the child do the growing. Adulthood will come soon enough. Anyway my daughter called near tears and asked me how long she would be staying with me this weekend. She then asked if she could go home to Delaware with me. (It is her mothers year to have her for Christmas...we alternate) I knew then that something was wrong. I won't go into details but it looks like we are going to modify custody and she will live with me half the time and not once a week and every other weekend like we had been doing. When I hung up I was relieved. I was glad I stuck it out and stayed here...even though I would rather go home. She needed me and she needed to know I was only a phone call away and I could be there in her time of need in minutes and not days or weeks. Sticking it out was the right thing to do and I'm glad I did.
Dads...if you are being tempted to make this painful decision...wait. Pray. Find another solution. Your career isn't as important as your child. Your personal life and growth can be resumed when they reach adulthood. Your child needs you to be there. They need to know that daddy is only a few minutes away. Stick it out men. You never know when that phone call might come and your child will need you right NOW!
That's another way the bow is bent, guys. That's POWER. that's manhood. That's being a real dad.

May the peace of Jesus bless you and strengthen you all during this wonderful season...and forever.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pride and Joy

"My daughter is my pride and joy!" How many times have you heard that phrase about someones child, be it daughter or son? We throw it around like confetti at a parade; it's nice, but we long-ago stopped paying attention to what it is we were really saying. Think about it for a second...Pride and Joy.
Last night Morgan had a strings recital at her school. She started playing violin this year. Now from the outside, it probably looked like 30 fifth graders drawing bows roughly across a variety of stringed instruments and producing a sound that vaguely resembles music. To a dad it was the London Philharmonic playing Handel's Messiah. This was their second recital for the school year and the difference was already quite remarkable. They played some basic tunes and then the band director turned to the audience and announced it was time for some solos. He announced the children one at a time and upon hearing their name, each child stood and played a brief tune. I almost jumped from my seat when he announced, about halfway through the solos, "Morgan Daliessio!" Morgan was unruffled, (we found out afterward that the instructor told no one in advance they were soloing) stood poised and played a near perfect "Jingle Bells". I was elated and let out a whoop after snapping pictures of her masterpiece from every possible angle. Alison Krauss couldn't have done any fact maybe I'll ask her in church this Sunday. (Just kidding Alison, your crown is intact for another year or so!)
I was so proud. Probably annoyingly so to the other moms and dads, but I am usually the biggest in the room so it's not a problem. I was also very very happy. Pride and Joy That's what our kids do for us. In that instant I had an epiphany of what the Psalmist meant when he spoke of a man having a "full quiver" of children as being happy. I can't imagine how happy I'd be to have more than one child gracing this world with beauty and musical ability. I'd likely burst.
I am so proud of my daughter. She is like her own sun in a little galaxy. Always smiling, always funny, always inquisitive and always leaving me scratching my head at all that she comprehends and ponders in that 10 year old mind. Her love for God is infectious. Her sense of humor is raucous and contagious. Her compassion is mature beyond her years and her basic goodness of heart leaves me amazed. She fills my soul with wonder. She makes me proud and brings me joy. I think this must have been how God felt, (to an infinitely greater degree of course) when He opened heaven after Jesus came up out of the water upon being baptized by John, and said "This is my beloved son, I am very pleased with him".
Even God found pride and joy in His son.
These holidays are tough for divorced dads, particularly if, like me you have an arrangement that doesn't give you shared time every Christmas. We alternate Christmases because of our families being distant, so this year I won't have my daughter at all on Christmas. When you get lonely and miss your kids, remember the pride and joy they bring. Remember also dads, you are directly responsible for who and what they are, and the kind of pride and joy they are bringing. Enjoy the great memories and laugh to yourself all over again at the wonderful things they have done through the years. And plan some more. They are our pride and joy, those children of ours. Regardless of whatever failings got us to single fatherhood, we are still daddy, and they still make us smile, and make our chest swell just a bit.
Merry Christmas

Monday, December 15, 2008

It's Here! It's Here!!!

Hey's the big news of the day.
My first book, "Sometimes Daddies Cry" is available NOW through LuLu Publishing. If you're a fan of this site, a divorced dad, or you know one, this is for you. It's a very personal, very moving story of my own journey from the devastation of divorce and the effects that has on my fatherhood, to the healing I've found on my way. It was a long, arduous road and it was a painful path...but the end result was a vision for other guys like me. There is hope.
I found it, and share the source within the pages of
"Sometimes Daddies Cry"

Here is the link:

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Power of a Bent Bow

Hey dads.
resuming this blog here. It's been hectic around here lately, starting a new job, finishing the Divorce book and starting a new book on my recent time living homeless.
I had a tremendous response to my advance copies and I am almost ready to launch the divorce book.
The title is, of course, "Sometimes Daddies Cry" and it is already effecting guys who have read it. The release should be sometime in January, which would allow me time to release the homeless book and do some press promo for it. Then I can focus on getting the word out about the divorce book. In the interim, I may sell it online. I'll let everyone know.
I was thinking this morning as I was walking. Thinking about a blog topic I wrote about several months ago called "Broken Arrows and Missed Targets". It's on my other blog (shinnyandshavings.blogspot). The essence is how dads are the bow that launches their arrows into the flight that will take them down their appointed path in life. David refers to children as arrows in a quiver. That makes me an archer. right? It also makes me the bow. I am here to know my little arrow as well as I possibly can, and when the time comes, launch her toward the exact target God has in mind for her...the target she was intended for before the world began.
It got me thinking about bows, and being a bow. Not a compound bow...which I shoot. But a straight bow like David would have shot, and like he had in mind when he wrote the verses describing children as arrows and by implication, dads as bows.
A straight bow is actually powerless when it is straight. It has potential energy when it is straight but it only gets it's real kinetic energy when you bend it, and connect one end with the other via the bowstring. Once the bow is bent, it has tremendous power to be drawn back and send an arrow on its' flight.
Bending is so essential for dads. We must bend in prayer for our little arrows all the time. We must bend in prayer when they see us and when we are alone with God. Only when we allow God to bend us and harness our power can we be ready to launch our arrows. That brings up point number a bow, we attain our maximum power only when we let God bend us and harness that power. A bow with no string is a stick...nothing more. The string restrains the ends and forces the straight bow into it's gentle arc where the power is. Surrendering to the bending and restraining our power with wisdom and the power of the Holy Spirit is how we become powerful bows...and powerful dads. Children respect how powerful we are even more when they see that power submitted to God and shaped by bending to His influence and His will. It took me a long long time to learn that.
Divorced dads are no different. we are still dads. In fact it is a little tougher for us sometimes because, not seeing our children each day, we can sometimes slip into the habit of letting loose the string and straightening up instead of remaining bent before God. Bending in humility, bending in worship, bending in prayer for our little arrows. All are necessary and all need to be done daily...constantly. They are only in our quiver a short time and then that moment comes when God whispers in our ear..."there's the target...let her fly!
Bend a little more dads. That's where our real power is.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Signs of Success

Greetings Dads...
Greetings from rainy St. Louis...
It's good to finally be writing on this blog again. My recent life journeys have caused me to spend most of my time writing on my other blog, but this one still remains my "baby" because of the topic. This is where my calling is and this one is where I find the kindest remarks and the most encouraging moments.
I've talked to a good deal of divorced dads in recent months. One of the common threads in the guys I've talked to is how divorce just plain makes us feel like we failed. We failed at life, we failed our family, we failed maybe the one woman who was going to love us for all our lives, (or so we hoped at least).
Well in the months that I have been walking down the road I am on, (you'll have to read the other blog to catch up) I have come to grasp some very vital things. I'll explain it all in a story.
Yesterday my daughter got her first cell phone. I wasn't too keen on the idea because cell companies tend to recycle the numbers and I have gotten more than one wrong number call me in the wee hours looking for the previous owner of the cell phone. I have worried about her getting wrong numbers from some wierdo. But she needs one now. Her mom has gone back to work and so has her moms husband. Obviously I don't live with her, so she needs a phone in case she gets sick at school or whatever.
Anyway, yesterday I was sitting in my training class here in St. Louis, and I start getting texts from her...only I didn't know it because I had left my phone in my room. At lunch I went to my room to grab my phone and I see three voice mails from a number I didn't recognize. Then I see that this same number had called me about 12 times. So I was nervous because I assumed it could only be bad news.
Then I checked my text messages...and Morgan had sent me three and a picture of herself. I was so happy just to hear from her I got tears in my eyes. So over then next two hours we texted back and forth surreptitiously, (I'm not supposed to use my cell in the training class) and over that time I got 53 texts from my little girl...and 26 of them said "I Love You daddy" or a variant thereof. Allow me to boast just a little when I tell you it made me feel like I had done a good job so far! I might have grounded into a lot of double plays in other areas of life, but when it comes to my daughter I am a home run hitter every time.
A child tells her parent she loves him (or her) only if they feel they are, in fact, loved by that parent, and only if they hear those words themselves from that parent.
Regardless of how else I may have struggled in life, my daughter knows how much I love her, she hears me say it frequently, and she is comfortable telling me the same.
That's what really matters in this world, in a lot of ways. With my love and my blessing, she will go very far. Most dads I know feel that way about their kids. Some may struggle to say it. The odd few just don't feel any connect with their kids...and sadly that's where the stereotype of a divorced man is often forged...but not the average guy. Dad's, if you've given your children the enormous gift of your open, spoken, and most of all displayed love for them, than you have done far more succeeding that failing. Let yourself up off the mat a little and realize that if your kids know you love them, and they are so confident in your love that they feel free to love you have done the lion's share of the Daddy job. The blessing of the father is everything, as Ed Tandy McGlasson says. (You need to check out Big Ed's site at Ed is an amazing teacher on this topic) You are still the daddy, and divorced or not, it is you who has the blessing to bestow. The biggest blessing is the unquestioned expression of your love for your kids.
Have a good day fellas.

Monday, November 10, 2008

I'l be back...

Never fear, faithful divroced dads...I haven't left. Due to circumstances beyond my control, I've had to focus on the other blog. But I am going to be making a concerted effort to pick this back up next week. Lots to tell...don't miss it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

It's written all over your face...

I read a book about 15 years ago entitled "Tender Warrior", by Stu Weber.
There was a wonderful quote in this book and I wish I could remember it verbatim. The gist was "A father lends stability in a time of insanity, peace in a storm, comfort in the midst of sadness, and calm in the midst of chaos", or words to that effect.
With all that has happened in our life, and all that is happening in the world these days, my daughter is watching to see how I handle it. God's hierarchy is that I get filled from Him first and then His abundance of grace overflows from out of my life and spills over onto those around me, beginning with my family.
I have recently been learning the vital importance of spending substantial time in the presence of God asking for His filling, indwelling, grace, mercy, truth, and above all...wisdom. This is a crazy time and our lives have been greatly up heaved. Morgan needs to see her daddy calm and trusting in his Savior and Lord. If she sees me calm and enduring, she will feel secure and safe and she will trust in Him. I have to model that faith for her so that she will reproduce it in her own heart and be at peace. she is only 10, and I want her to be free to remain a ten year old and not have "grown=up" worries. I can only do this by preparing my heart by being filled to overflowing in the presence of Jesus. Moses...the peace and strength of God will be "written all over my face"

Thursday, October 9, 2008

I will never leave you nor forsake you...

Just got off the phone with Morgan a few minutes ago. Because of some odd scheduling issues and other stuff, I've not been able to see for her a while. This past phone conversation was a revelation to me because she was telling me something, but not directly.
She told me about her friend Tara who's daddy passed away 3 years ago. Tara's mom is now on an oxygen tank. I don't know what the ailment is, but Morgan is worried because I think she is concerned her friend might become an orphan.
Then she told me about a friend of her mom's husband who committed suicide this morning. He had a struggling business and the money problems and problems on the home front pushed him over his limit. He left behind two young boys, about my daughters age.
I fear we are going to be seeing a lot more stories like this in coming days. It's getting really bad out there, and not everyone has a basis for their hope. I have my Faith, but to be honest, it isn't always enough. Let me rephrase Faith is more than enough, but I don't always let it take it's proper place in my life and therefore I restrict it being enough.
I have been where that guy was, just maybe not quite that desperate. But I have thought about the value of my own life and wouldn't it be easier if I just wasn't here? Honestly, who amongst us hasn't been there at least once? I'm not saying I actually considered suicide, but I've thought about how much better it would be to not be in so much pain inside. I've seen those news reports where some poor guy, usually described as an "estranged husband" takes a gun, kills his kids, his ex, and then turns the gun on himself. I can say honestly, I know how that kind of pain feels. I can also say that without some sort of base for sanity, like my Faith in Christ, I'd be that guy. Divorce can hurt so much that the wound feels like it won't ever close, and over time, that can rid a person of all hope. I spent time reassuring my daughter tonight, that her mom and dad won't ever do that to least not willingly. I have dropped 26 pounds, Holly has always been very health conscious, and we are determined to stick around for Morgan for a very long time. Tonight, having not seen her daddy for a while, and having heard stories of abandonment in it's very worst form, she needed to hear my voice, and to hear me tell her that I won't ever take that path. I am doing what I must to remain in her life and be her God intended. I may not do everything the way I should...but I won't quit on her, no matter how tough things get. She has my word on it.
Sometimes we get there in our spiritual lives as well. We think our heavenly Father has left us on our own. He hasn't, of course, and He hasn't even done anything to intimate that He has abandoned us. But we see our situations and we think that what we see is what is. The fact is His word says "I will never leave you or forsake you". Just like my daughter...we have His word on it.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Taking a brief respite...

I'll be away from the blog for a week or so. Going to recharge the batteries and handle some personal issues. See you soon

Monday, September 8, 2008

Looking in the mirror

I made a new friend this weekend. His name is Brian and he lives north of Nashville. There is no sense going into where or how I came across this guy because it doesn't matter. Suffice it to say it was a difficult scenario in which to meet a guy and get to know him, but God, being the Infinite Practical Joker, (thanks once again to my buddy Rick Elias for that eternally clever quotable quote) had it in His plan for us to meet.
Right off the bat I didn't care for the guy. He is everything I hate about living here. He is a real "country boy". He lives up to that stereotype as if it were created especially for him. I didn't care much for him at all. Until we spoke...
I had begun a conversation about God with another man and Brian overheard me and was so angry about it he was visibly shaking. He's about my size and I thought for a minute he was going to lose his composure altogether and this was going to get ugly.
I hadn't been taking any sort of aggressive or proselytizing tone so I didn't know how to continue my conversation with the man I was talking with, and not send this guy over the edge. But I soldiered on and everything calmed down. I guess my non judgemental tone was the key.
Then an amazing thing happened. About fifteen minutes after I had stopped talking with the other guy, Brian sought me out in private. He plopped his big old country self down on the bench next to me and started asking me about my belief in God. Before I could answer he started relating his struggles with God. He is a divorcee with two boys ages 6 and 9. He is a hard drinking, hard living man with tattoos and a beer gut and a rough, uncultured way about him.
You might not have him figured for a broken heart but believe me...he has one.
He began to tell me how he lost everything when he got divorced. His wife was the love of his life and his two boys are his pride and joy. He feels like his life has no meaning without them. He said he once prayed for God to send him someone new to love and after a while it appeared that God did that. He met a woman he thought loved him and he loved her and her children. Lately, he says, she is acting differently and he fears it's over. He told me "I am so tired of starting over". Then he told me "you don't know man, how much I could just go over there in the corner of this room and curl up in a ball and cry...and I feel like that a lot. I miss my kids and my wife so much it is all I can do to live each day. I've thought about killing myself more than once and the only reason I don't is my boys." Then I looked right at him and I was able to tell him that I understood him completely. I told him my own story and he looked at me with that same, unmistakable "thousand yard stare" that divorced men have. He realized he had a friend and a brother who had been through the pain he is in right now. In my heart I was thankful for the pain I have been through because God knew all along that I would meet Brian that day, and Brian needed to hear what I had to say. Just the simple act of telling him that he wasn't alone in his pain was like a visible burden being lifted off him. I'm looking forward to staying in touch with Brian and hopefully helping him in his struggles and in that, gaining more strength for my own struggles.
My meeting with Brian was well-timed because I was doubting the validity of this fledgling ministry and of the vision I had for helping guys like me. Sitting next to Brian was like sitting next to myself about 5 years ago. I saw, from the third person, how much pain I was in back then. It was enormous. More people have to realize that dad's hurt too and we don't always get the same measure of compassion because we are men. Brian would qualify as a "man's man" by many standards and believe me...he needs a lot of compassion and healing right now. If you read this and you think about it...say a prayer for him.

Monday, September 1, 2008

You are not Alone

I enjoy tracking my readers from time to time. I don't sign on and obsess about how many hits from each region of the world I get. I don't have a huge map with colored push pins signifying every new reader and I don't have any target numbers to reach.
But the sitemeter information is interesting if only because it shows me the wide ranging variety of people who find my site and it tells me something else interesting...what they were searching for when they found my site.
This morning I logged on after not checking the Internet all weekend and I found several newcomers. One of them touched my heart and I wanted to write this as an sort of extended hello. The person from Brazil whose search words were "Divorced dad's lonely". More and more I am finding guys like this. More and more I am being brought face to face with the truth about what divorce does to a dad. Not that I didn't already know...God knows I do. But I think God has been pointing it out to me a lot lately. Bringing other guys into my little world, cyber or real, to confirm that yes...we do feel like this. To the new reader from gets more tolerable. Not better but more tolerable. There is life out there. We are hurting too and the more guys talk about it the more commonality you will find. It is likely that you are very lonely...but you are not alone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

House on the sand...

I have been going through some difficult days. Things I won't discuss here but suffice it to say maybe one of the very hardest times of my entire life.
I've learned a lot in the last few weeks and this morning, as I was sitting here pondering it all, I came to a few very difficult conclusions.
I suppose I could file this under the "Things You Lose in Divorce" series, and I might just do that. But this morning I am just too tired to organize it. I am just going to write and let things land where they land.
It's been very very hard watching my life disintegrate and the fragments dissipate into the wind. There isn't anything left of any plans or dreams I had two years ago. It's been whittled away like a pencil for 8 years now when I think about it. The dreams I had as a married man were stripped from me when I got divorced. The dreams I had as a father were cut in half when I got divorced. That left me to dream dreams just for me and some new ones for Morgan. Now almost all of those are gone too. My career has vanished, as it has for virtually every other mortgage banker I know. I have been so beaten up by this last defeat that I am, for the first time, afraid to dream anything else. I have no vision for the first time in my life. I am afraid to have one. I've lost plenty in the past. I've had failures and defeats. I have never before been one to shy away from picking up and starting over. I've always been an optimist and a believer. But for the last ten years I invested myself in this career, watched it blossom in spite of hard blows, and actually had built a nice plan with this vocation as a lynch pin. All that is gone now. I can't really remember feeling this alone in my life. These are the days when I feel the most divorced. This morning I was listening to Steven Curtis Chapman on Focus on the Family and he was talking about the strength he and his wife are finding in the middle of the tragedy of losing their youngest daughter. It's that bond that I so desperately sought while I was married. It's that bond I sought when I was looking for a wife in the first place. You can have all the money, power, fame, material things, whatever. Give me one person who cares about me more than I care about myself and I can make it through any storm. When the wind whips, and the rains beat down, and the boards come flying off the house, the only thing that stands is the foundation you built it on. Mine has been gone for a long time now. and when such a large chunk of your foundation is damaged and broken, the storm can make some serious inroads into the destruction of the home. Marriage is the last best stronghold of hope and strength in your life. When it's gone...what do you really have? My Christian friends would tell me that I have Christ and my faith should be all I need. why did God make Eve? Nobody was closer and more intimately friendly with God than Adam, and yet the Bible says God saw that Adam needed a soul mate. He didn't impose it on him, it wasn't a novelty or an experiment. God said "it is not good for the man to be alone" and He created him a best friend. There are all sorts of examples in the bible of God doing this but there is not ONE archetype for Him ever doing the opposite.
When the chips are down everyone takes care of their own agenda first. I'm not even upset about's human nature. But divorce has stripped away my life raft. There is a depth to which your spouse cares that no one else ever will. And right now when I need it most, it isn't there.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Just Get on With It

Once again I heard those words. I received an email from a well-meaning friend who was advising me about a recent incident with my ex wife. He gave me a full page of his views on what my next step should be, including advice on seeing less of my daughter for a brief period to facilitate some other changes. Then he inserted the ubiquitous "your marriage is over, move on from the hurt".
Really? My marriage is over??? You don't say! I hardly noticed! In the 8 plus years I've been divorced, I have learned that this is what people say when they really weren't listening. I AM over the dissolution of my marriage. My ex wife is married and I sincerely wish her the best. I pray for her marriage and her husband and their success and happiness. And I mean it when I pray it. However, the divorce still has long ranging effects and I still feel them. I wanted to write back to this well meaning friend and ask him to pick one of his kids and choose to not see them except for one day a week. I wanted to ask him to select 80% of his daughters life and just miss it. For the life of me I will never understand why people think they could possibly understand what this feels like. This is pain like few have ever known, I promise you. If you've had a spouse or a child DIE, that is closer to what divorced people go through. Except there is no closure because they keep coming back to life every week when you see them again, and in many ways that makes it hurt all the more.
My well-meaning friend just doesn't understand that, as members of my family didn't, other friends didn't, co workers, customers, etc. In fact, I've become increasingly suspicious of people who seem so able to compartmentalize the pain of divorce and just live as if nothing ever happened. Let me recap for those of you not getting it...I lost my wife, I see my daughter, the pride of my life, once a week and every other weekend. The very thing that defined me as a man, husband ship and fatherhood has been removed or limited. The reason I got out of bed every morning and dragged myself to a job I never really liked is no longer a part of my life. I had everything I needed to be happy and it's now gone or at least severely restricted.
You're right...what's not to move on from?? I shouldn't have ever missed a beat!
Now just shut up!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Never Be The Same...

In April of 1996 my family suffered the loss of my sister Collette. In the years that followed, my mom, Cathy, had a difficult time relaying what she was feeling in her devastated soul.
Someone had signed them up with "Compassionate Friends", which is an international support group for parents who've lost children.
The newsletter that arrived in the mail each month was often filled with poignant stories of survival from parents who'd faced such tragedy. Cathy would occasionally refer us to stories that said the things she carried in her heart but could not verbalize.
One such story applies to this blog, and to this topic of divorce and fatherhood.
The story was a piece of prose by a mom who'd lost a child. She likened the experience to getting lost in the forest. She had entered this forest forcibly, not by choice. She was lost...feeling her way along the dark trees and unfamiliar undergrowth. She was finding her way out, strictly by using her instincts and her Faith. She only knew two things for sure about all this new, uncharted, unfamiliar landscape. She was not going to leave this forest from the same place she entered, and she would not be the same when she left.
Entering that landscape of loneliness and sorrow was not a round trip ticket. The entryway was opened through tragedy...a tragedy so horrible that it defies description and precludes imagination. She never asked to take this journey, it was forced upon her. The only option was not really an option; not taking the trip at all. That would involve shutting down and ceasing to live. (A thought many parents consider when a child dies) She had no real choice but to grope along in this darkness looking for a way out. All she really knew was there was no going out the way she went in. The events that brought her here could not be reversed...that door swung only one way.
So she moved along in the blind darkness knowing one thing for sure...this trip was changing her at her core and she would not be leaving through the same door and therefore would not be the same person she was when she went in. She would gain strength in some places and lose it in others. She wasn't sure what she'd look like when she finally emerged into the sunlight again, but she knew she'd be different. She already was in so many ways.
Cathy photocopied that story and gave it to all of her family members (proudly, I am one of them)and hoped we'd understand. We did, although at first it was tough. I wanted the old Cathy back and she was never going to return. It took time and some maturity to grasp what had happened in her soul.
Today, Bob and Cathy are healed and basically pretty whole. You never get over something as devastating as losing a child, but God is good, and He provides healing in ways we never expect. He has been good to them and they have seen His love and grace.
The analogy of being lost in a dark unfamiliar woods is very appropriate for divorce.
I know this is a "Men's Forum" but this is really a universal truth today. Unless you wanted the divorce and had other plans for life once you were divorced, it is thrust on don't go looking for this kind of pain.
You enter this dark forest not by choice but by decree. "You are now it or not", and you have no road map and no light for your path. You grope along in the darkness, feeling for a familiar tree stump or a clearing but all you find is more darkness and nothing familiar to adjust your compass to. There is no sun, no moon, no stars in the pitch black night. The compass spins wildly at first and only serves to confuse you further.
So you grope along at a snails pace, stumbling and falling and bruising your knees on the low hanging branches and scraping your skin against the underbrush. One day a light starts to emerge in the distance and so you head towards it. You don't even know if it's where you want to be, and you know it's not where you entered. But it is a way out so you set off towards that faint glimmer in the pitch black darkness of this terrible forest of sorrow. As you work your way closer to the tiny glimmer and you are finally able to see a little, you notice that you aren't the same anymore. You changed back there in all that darkness and sadness. If you had a mirror you'd probably not recognize your own reflection.
One day you finally break through the treeline and into the sunlight and you find out how right you were. You really have changed and not all for the better. Your friends don't recognize you in a lot of ways and a lot of the things you desired and loved when you went in are changed or gone completely. There is a missing twinkle in your eye and your gait is slower...from banging around in all the darkness.
It's a whole new world on this side of that forest and it takes some adjustment. You find out that those who truly love you and really wanted the best for you were waiting patiently on this side of the forest, calling out to you and hoping you'd find your way. They know you've changed but they are so happy to have you back from the woods that they don't mind or even notice any longer. All that matters is they have you back...even in your changed form.
And the others who couldn't hang on and wait for you...they never really cared to begin with.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

How Does This Stuff Get Started?

Last night I was introduced to a guy who had gone through a divorce in May. Like virtually every guy I've met recently, he was saddled with this thing and wasn't dealing with it well.
I don't know when the shift occurred and it was suddenly fashionable for women to call all the shots but somewhere in the last few years it has. We live in a world of stereotypes. We are defined by them and in some ways, governed by them. Years ago, the man left, because he was cheating, and the woman left because the man was cheating or abusive. People didn't get divorced simply because "you aren't meeting my needs..." or "you work too much..." or "we've grown apart...". Now all those things are vital to a marriage but for God's sake, you don't DIVORCE over it! It's like Manny Ramirez' ridiculous whining about how Boston "is tired of me and I'm tired of them". Really Manny? Tired enough to count your 168 Million dollar salary and those two World series rings as a loss?
Meeting needs and working less and placing family first and growing together not apart are all crucial to a healthy relationship, but so crucial that you divorce if you don't get them? Last night I met a guy who was divorced in may. We got talking about our kids and as soon as I mentioned how much I miss Morgan, he welled up. The same stabbing pain I feel when I miss her he was feeling then. He had issues for sure, but at least from his version of the story, I saw nothing that counseling and work couldn't fix. Why does everyone leave? Why is marriage so disposable? And why does the mom get to call the shots? Why can she determine where the kids will live and how often they will see their dad? Because of stereotypes is my guess.
We are paying for the sins of every cheating, wife abusing, drunk, heartless bastard who went before us. Lifetime has built an entire cable TV following on the backs of bad ex husbands, But the facts are that most of us aren't anything like that. Most men love their kids and miss them terribly. Most men would crawl through hell on gasoline knees pads to reconcile and have our family back. Most men live with a lifetime of regret because most men are painted with the same broad brush as the crappy losers who went before us. And somehow many women find it perfectly acceptable to point to those bad examples as reason for never considering reconciliation. The stereotype gives them an excuse to "move on" to the next guy and the next situation who may very well be just another victim of the stereotypes one day...if not the reason for the stereotypes himself.
Divorce needs to be harder to acquire. Plain and simple. It's harder to beak a real estate contract than a marriage. That's just stupid. And I'm tired of it and tired of seeing another hurting man missing his kids.

Monday, August 4, 2008

"...You Can't Hide from the Emptiness Inside"

Today is Monday August 4. Morgan went home to her mom's yesterday after church. So today is traditionally my unhappiest day of the year. I met her mom's husband at McDonald's and she got in his car and they went home. I went riding around and avoided going to my house for a long time. My place always echoes in silence when she leaves. This summer has been the worst one we've shared in our ten years together, at least from a standpoint of what we did. We only got home once, we didn't travel much. There was an undercurrent of stress and concern about my financial situation. Perhaps the hardest thing we faced this summer was accepting the fact that she wasn't going to go to the private school she got accepted to. Her heart was set on attending this school and it's the best school in the area and she is perfect for it. We decided to pray every day, morning and night, for God to provide a miracle, but He has not. She accepted it and I made sure she understood that if God was saying "No", He had something better in mind. But the crap hole she will be attending is not my idea of "something better" and I don't understand God right now. But I have learned that He always has a plan and He is always in control. So I will trust him and show Morgan that she can trust Him too.
Last night when I finally went home, I laid down on the couch and cried. I always do when she goes home after my summer with her. Summer is over now...bring on the winter. I love summer. It is my favorite time of year and always has been. But when she is gone so is my fun. I missed her so much last night. I hear her voice and I see her sweet smile and I laugh at her jokes and I read her stories in amazement that my little girl is capable of such immense greatness. Bruce once wrote "well if the world was mine to do with what I want to do sir...I'd wrap it up in a ball and give it all to her" Ditto. She is the sum total of everything I have ever done right. She represents the completion of every dream I have. She is my everything. I adore her. I miss her today and I can't wait to see her again next week. I am thankful for the time I do have with her and for the wonder she brings me.
I Love You Morgan.


Thursday, July 24, 2008

Single dads...

I was thinking yesterday about my situation as a divorced man and how unfair the system is. And in an instant it dawned on me...perhaps the best example of the inequity of the whole worlds view of divorce.
My ex wife was single for 4 years after we divorced. During that time she referred to herself, and others referred to her, as a "single mom".
She was divorced and raising a child. But I was also divorced and raising a child and yet I have never heard of a man being called a "single dad" unless his wife died or abandoned the family. A perfect example of the inequity if ever there was one.
The term "single mom" alludes to a woman all alone facing the daunting task of making a living and raising a child. It illicits sympathy in some ways. It also implies that the dad isn't around to help, or isn't willing to help if he is around. Neither of these would be true in my case...or in the case of most other divorced dads. But we face this stereotype anyway. The poor divorced woman is seen as the sole provider for those poor children and the rat bastard ex husband is off somewhere with some 23 year old secretary.
Where did this idea get it's beginnings? I don't know. Female family court judges maybe. Women's groups. Probably a backlash against bad fathers. Who knows. All I know is that while there really are a lot of bad men out there who do reprehensible things to their families, I was never one of them. And most divorced men I know weren't either. I am starting to believe that the report I read was right...there are no "deadbeat dads" there are only defeated dads. Guys who just plain can't take it anymore. They give up 40-50 percent of their income to take care of their children, their wives don't have to pay taxes on it, they can't claim their kids on their taxes, and for all that they get to see them 7 days a month.
I have said this to other guys in private conversation and I will say it here...I have seen, we all have, those stories on CNN about some guy going over the edge and shooting his ex wife and his kids and then himself. Let me say this clearly...that's wrong and I don't condone it. But...I can see how a man can be in so much pain about his divorce that if he has no spiritual base, he can do something like that. I have been in so much pain in the past that I thought death would have been a relief somehow. I did NOT consider taking my own life...but I thought, at my deepest sorrow that it will be better when I am gone someday. Of course knowing the bond I have with Morgan and knowing the scar that would have left, I could never consider such a selfish notion. I want to live a long time and be there as long as she needs me. but I can understand how a man in this situation can become so overwhelmed with sorrow, fear, longing and dismay that without a spiritual anchor he sees tragedy as the only solution to his pain. Not that the act is right but it hurts THAT much. It can hurt enough to drive you to distraction.
The system that rules over divorce treats men with such disdain and second class citizen status that many just give up. Something as simple and seemingly innocuous as our ex wives being referred to as "single moms" while we are just divorced men only twists the knife a little further.
It's a silly thing really...unless you are on the receiving end. a single dad.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Things You Lose...Part 6

Self- Respect...
self·-respect (-ri spekt′)


proper respect for oneself and one's worth as a person

I thought I was done with the series on "The Things You Lose". But, as is usually the case, life reveals a new layer of the onion. ("Ogre's have layers, Donkey!")Yesterday I needed to communicate with my ex wife about something. when she calls me to discuss child issues or whatever, I treat her with respect and a sense that I am happy to hear from her insomuch as she is Morgan's mom and maybe we can at least be civil. When I call her, depending on whose company she is in at the time, it is as if I am the I.R.S. calling to inform her of her upcoming audit. Again, depending on who is in the room with her at the time, the conversation can either have the tone of someone who is pleasant and who at very least shares the common bond of a child, or she can be reduced to minimal grunts like a caveman. In about half of these cases, whatever I have to say is nearly ignored.
There are times I want to stop in the middle and scream "I'm Morgan's DAD Damnit! I have a say here too!" But I inevitably bite my tongue. One of us has to and it is always me because I don't "hold the cards" of primary custody like she does.
That scenario always ends up with me feeling like I have been emasculated and my "remnants" are in a snow globe on Holly's' mantle, and she just gave them a big shake. Why? Why do I keep allowing this reduction of my humanity?
Well I thought for the longest time it was just me and nobody else was feeling this way. Then I wrote a book about my experiences and the handful of men who have read the manuscript all had similar stories to tell. Then I discovered a term on a website that describes...and redefines...dads in divorce. The term is "Disenfranchised Fathers Syndrome". I thought, at first, that it was maybe just a bunch of angry men who went through divorce and were bitter about it. Then I found out that an entire book has been written about a woman. A woman psychologist. I only read excerpts but what I read was startling. I was right after all. It isn't delusional or bitter or just a group photo of angry men. Divorce is statistically harder on men in the majority of cases. The system actually is working against us, and we really are given second class status in the courts and in the entire system.
The biggest eye opener for me was the empirical evidence that backs up what my heart had been saying for quite a while now...that men are lumped together in post-divorce stereotypes and even the courts see us that way.
Many men abused their wives, or cheated on them, or had porn addictions, or gambled away the mortgage, or wouldn't get a job, or drank, or abused drugs, or any one of a litany of offenses. But not all of us did that. However...all of us bear the scarlet letter because of it.
I have seen the looks in the eyes of people when they first found out I was divorced. The look that said "you must have beaten, cheated, abused, must have done something!"
Now this article is not about self vindication, whatsoever. I made a boatload of mistakes as a husband. I let the strains and stresses of a young marriage and my poor decisions and the arguments that ensued get the best of me. I take full responsibility for my half...maybe even more than half. but in the 8 1/2 years that have passed since my divorce, I have realized that nobody really cares what I didn't do. They are too busy assuming what I must have done. And after a few years of those accusing glances and whispers, I began to see myself the same way. I can't tell you how many times I apologized to Holly for my part in the destruction of our marriage. Many times taking blame for things that I honestly had nothing to do with. Conversely I can't tell you how many times she has offered me an apology for her part...because she never has. I don't blame her really. She doesn't have to. Nobody expects her to be sorry. Not these days...not in this society. You can blame feminism or the courts, or social ills or whatever. But the truth is husbands and dads are replaceable as far as they are concerned. Unnecessary to begin with and replaceable throughout. Our feelings don't matter because we don't matter. Provide the child support, see your child...YOUR CHILD for a couple hours each week and two weekends a month and the rest of the time go away and keep your head down like a good little boy.
Enough years go past like this and you start buying into it. I have walked around feeling like every person who approached me could see right through me. Wondering if she "got to them" before I made their acquaintance and now they have a preconceived notion about me. I am nobody. Mention a story about a "deadbeat dad" and instantly every divorced man the teller ever met gets lumped into the tale. We're all deadbeats, we're all bad, we're all sub-people. You face those stares enough times and you start to see yourself as they do...and then you start to act like it. It effects your job, your social life, your happiness. In many ways I felt worse about myself five years after my divorce than the day it happened.
I have tremendous respect for my ex wife. She is beautiful, funny, extremely intelligent and perhaps the best nurse I have known, and I have actually known and worked with quite a few. I speak highly of her as a person, and as Morgan's mom. I have basically avoided becoming one of "those" guys who speaks of his ex in derogatory terms, as if he'd shove her in front of a bus if no one was looking.
But she has never returned the favor. She doesn't have to. The "system" established her as "the good parent" and me as the bad. She holds the aces and she doesn't have to be civil or kind. She had self respect granted to her by the court and I had a mountain of self degradation heaped on me. I already felt horrible about my divorce and then the system held a magnifying glass to it and then multiplied it exponentially. How can I have self respect when everywhere I turn I am force-fed disrespect and made to swallow it. And I pay for that privilege.
Of course the great X factor here is Christianity. I am a Christian and I write from a Christian perspective. But this is not a Christian based system we are under. I know I am supposed to get my self respect from my identity in Christ, but it is hard to retain that idea. It is a long way from what I am supposed to do and what I am able to do sometimes. I am a child of God. But on earth, I am defined by my membership in a group whose entire being is tied to the stereotypes born of the actions of the minority.
I want to stand up for my rights, I want to see myself as I once a man. I want to feel unhindered success again and I want to dream without the fear of being reminded of my failure. I want to feel whole and I want to not only like the image in the mirror, but I want to respect it. But that ability has been stripped from me. You lose your self respect in a divorce. And getting it back is a tough task.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Wounds and Scars...Tears and Smiles

I got a phone call this morning from a good friend in East Tennessee. My friend Elizabeth is a single mom of two great kids. Her son Hunt is 16 years old and she speaks about him with the admiration and pride of a mom who invests all the love she can in her kids. Her ex husband is not, shall we say, up for Father of the Year anytime soon. He has essentially ignored his kids and been difficult their whole lives. So much so that Hunt decided almost two years ago that he no longer wants to see his dad. While this decision was necessary, it was difficult for him. Difficult because regardless of how poor a job a parent might do, or how badly they might treat us, they are still our parents after all. When you are a little kid, you see them as gods and whatever they dish out must surely be what you deserve.
Hunt dealt with this dichotomy in his heart but he had never been able put it into words before.
This morning, Elizabeth called me in tears. She had read my post about "The Necessity of Dads" and then she forwarded it to Hunt, who is in Mississippi at his grandparents farm. She told me her son was sitting in the cab of a huge tractor reading the post on his Blackberry crying because someone finally said what he held in his heart. He heard a grown man describe the longing of his heart for his fathers love and approval and he finally heard someone say it in the words his heart could grasp. It was at once sad and joyful. Sad because he saw another person with the same wounds, but joyful because an adult man had been where Hunt finds himself now and managed to put it in words, and in those words Hunt found some peace about it all. It doesn't make the rejection hurt less but it relieves him from the pain of thinking it has something to do with his value as a person or whether he is a good, lovable son. Hunt was able, maybe for the first time, to say "I deserved better". It freed him from trying to figure out what he might be able to do to change his father. Some people won't be changed and hearing an adult man say that set Hunt free in many ways.
When your dad rejects you, you have an internal urge to blame yourself and do something to get him to accept you. Hunt saw my struggle and seeing a grown man saying "I've been there too, and it's okay to get off this treadmill" was what he needed.
I am not saying this to boast. I say this because, less than two weeks ago this new blog was just an idea in a conversation between myself and James Ryle. Two weeks the day...a young man in Mississippi is freer because of what has been written here.
The wounds turn to scars as healing takes place. The tears can bring a smile if yielded to God, and while I may never understand the path I have to walk, I am thankful that my gift is telling the story of the journey and helping others who walk behind me.
Thanks to James for suggesting this site. Thanks to my new friend Hunt for finding your freedom today, and telling your mom about it. It makes my pain worth it.
It's more of the "Victorious Limp" in action. Now make sure that someday you are the dad you always dreamed of having, young man!
You'll be great!
For everyone else...this illustrates the vision for this blog completely. One guy, speaking openly about hurts that divorced men feel, setting someone else free.
Pass it on...

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Absolute Necessity of Dads

Today is Monday. I have Morgan for ten more days this summer and then I go back to the doldrums of my once a week / every other weekend life. I've been so absolutely miserable lately and I've had friends ask me why I endure all of this.
Yesterday I was driving with a friend to a lodge in a very rural section, to pick up a generator. Noting the beauty of the landscape, he asked me "Why would anyone want to live anywhere but Middle Tennessee?". He, like myself, is not a Tennessee native.
I told him, in no uncertain terms, that my time here is quite limited. I joked, tongue-in-cheek, that the day Morgan leaves for college, I am leaving with her. Not to the college, of course, but back home. Open an Italian Ice stand in Ocean City MD and live out my days from whence I came. I hope my friends here in Tennessee will understand that I am not railing against Tennessee. I am miserable and the only thing besides time with Morgan that seems to change my mood for the better is going home. Family, friends, familiarity. I need that desperately right now and it's nowhere to be found. I have good friends here, and the most wonderful church I have ever attended. But something is missing and I only seem to find it when I cross the Millard Tydings bridge at Havre De Grace and I know that I am 30 minutes from home.
There is nothing like a cheese steak, there is no sports talk like W.I.P. there is NO lake on this planet that can match the sun rising over the Atlantic, or the beauty of the Chesapeake Bay.
So why do I stay? I've had friends suggest that given the current situation I should just go home. Call Morgan every day and see her when I can during the year and still get my two months every summer.
Of course these friends fall into two categories...those who don't know me very well or those who don't have a perception of what it actually feels like to not see their children every single day. I imagine that regardless of how much you love your kids you could grow weary every once in a while and need a break. But I never get that chance with my schedule. I couldn't even picture a scenario where I don't see Morgan every week. I get her on Tuesdays and every other weekend and that's not enough for me, so I have lunch with her once a week at school. She loves it and it makes her feel very special. If I were to move back home, I'd be useless. I'd be curled up in the fetal position in a darkened room somewhere.
And it isn't just me needing her, she needs her daddy as well. All little girls do. All children do. Dad's lend stability to a crazy world and they shine a light in the darkness. Dad's make sense out of things that seem senseless and they are a calming voice in the great cacophony that tries to shout us all down. They can be anyway, if they choose to be.
Morgan needs me so I stay. It's as simple as that. Whether I am happy here or not is immaterial. Being here is my job, and besides the fact that the time with her is more than a fair exchange for the unhappiness of the rest of the week, I will always do my job as a dad. Nothing else on earth matters.
Morgan will always need me in some way. Right now she needs me a lot. She needs me to make sense of this life we thrust upon her when we divorced. She needs to know that just because her parents divorced, it doesn't mean they change their feelings for her or the execution of their parental duties. She needs to know that just because I don't live in the same house, she can always call me and talk about whats on her mind and if she needs me I'll be right there.
Saturday she called me in tears because her Beta died. (A beta is a fish) She loves animals and the fish's passing broke her heart. She is the most tenderhearted person I've ever met. I can't ever put myself in a position where that call would be hard to make or she would know in the back of her mind that I was too far away to get there in a hurry.
She will need me in the future too. She will be a teen ager before I know it. She needs a daddy who is present in her life to define womanhood and run off the ill prepared suitors. Daddies can instill a sense of beauty and purpose and self esteem that nobody else can do for a little girl. And I can't abdicate that privilege just so I can live somewhere else.
She will need me when she grows up too. She will need me to help her pick a college, a vocation, a spouse. I will be there, regardless of the cost.
She will need me when the waters get turbulent and the way seems dark. She will need me when life throws a spitball and the ump let's it go.
I know this full well right now. I am 45 years old and my life looks nothing like it did a year ago. My world has essentially crumbled and my dreams with it. And right now I could use having my dad around to talk with, about what is happening and what I am going to do about it. But he is not. He will not. And it hurts. I will never ever do that to my daughter. I will give up whatever I need to at whatever personal cost so that she doesn't have this sort of fear in her heart when the trouble comes, and this sort of knot in her stomach and this sort of pained feeling about the phone call she can't make.
It's a privilege not a burden, and it's an honor not a sacrifice.
Dad's are too necessary and I will not fail my daughter.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Identity Part Two...

Yesterdays topic apparently revealed something to my soul. I had a crappy day yesterday and a semi-sleepless night and this morning I am miserable.
I started thinking about it on the way to my office, (to face another day of disappointment and defeat) and I guess another layer of the old Ogre Onion must have been peeled off.
Yesterday I talked about Identity. I gave some very good examples of how my identity changed after my divorce. The past 24 hours have shown me some more. They hurt. I don't even like addressing them but this blog was intended to help guys like me who truly lost all that mattered in their divorce so I am going to post on the topic again today.
I don't think I knew just now much of my identity I lost when I got my divorce. Not until I wrote that post yesterday. Being a husband and a dad was not the most important thing I was all I was. There's a story here, so hang on to your grocery bags...
When I was 21 I found out that the man I had always been told was my father was actually my stepfather. My mother and father never married and, depending on who's version of the ugly tale you believe, my father either wanted nothing to do with me or he was so sick of being manipulated by my mother he relinquished his parental rights. The story has been altered by both sides so frequently I get motion sickness from the constant change.
Anyway, at age 21 I was suddenly re-identified, if you will. On the one hand I had this man who I loved and thought was my father, who had no capacity for love whatsoever and who took no interest in me whatsoever. I loved sports and he hated them. I loved humor and jokes and he hated that too. I wanted a dad to hang with and throw a baseball with and he wanted to come home at night and eat dinner and then be left completely alone for the rest of the evening. We had two things that we ever had in common and did together: deer hunting and going to drag races. In both cases, once we got to the venue, we basically separated for the day. I'd go to my tree stand and not see him until dark. Or I'd go hang out with my friends who were at the track with their car, and he'd walk the pits and sit in the stands. We never talked and we never did anything together that really mattered. But I always wanted to.
When my mother informed me of the whole sordid mess my first reaction was relief. I finally had an explanation for why this man didn't like me. I finally knew why that wall just wouldn't move no matter how much I pushed on it.
On the other hand...
My father is a lot like me. More than I know, I'm sure. He loves sports. He loves education and values it greatly, even achieving a PhD. He has been a wonderful father to the two children he has with his wife. He was a teacher and his students adored him. He was his sons' best man when he got married and they are very close. My sister readily admits she is still "daddy's girl" and she points to him as a hero.
He is funny. He likes people who are funny. He has an engaging personality and enjoys people in general. He is everything I needed when I was a kid and I never even met him until May 2007. He also doesn't recognize me as his son.
I grew up in a home where love was rationed out and used as a weapon and a tool. Nobody loved us just because we were their children. Nobody ever considered themselves blessed to have us around and enjoyed just the sound of our voices. (The way I do with Morgan.) Love was very conditional and you could lose it easily and it was near impossible to gain.
It drove me to near distraction to live like that and it had a similar effect on my two brothers and my sister. (the children of my mother and stepfather...)
All of us have struggled, all of us have been broken at times, all of us have tried to become something...anything...we thought we might need to become to win the permanent affection of our parents. But we never could.
Add my whole lineage issue to the mix and it gets even more cloudy. Here I was, in many ways free at age 21, from ever having to try to win the love of a man who had non to offer. And yet I was thrust into a quest for the love of a man with lots of it, who didn't, for whatever his reasons, want to give it to me. I simply leaped from one treadmill of rejection to another one.
God mercifully brought two families into my life back then who filled so many of those wounds. Pop and Jewell and Bob and Cathy literally saved my life. I was so torn apart inside and so damaged when they found me. They loved me as their own and they claimed me as their own. They considered me family and they meant it. But for all the love they displayed to me, it was scary at times. here were two sets of parents who had made the conscious decision to love someone Else's son. Somewhere in the deep recesses of my heart I simultaneously longed for it and accepted it, and feared it being temporary and conditional...just like always. In many ways it became self fulfilling prophecy. I tested their love many times. Fortunately they never buckled. They kicked my rear now and then, but they never stopped loving me. I never realized it then, but years after my divorce, when I could still go home to them and it would really still be home.
When I met Holly I thought I had finally found one person who would love me unconditionally. I mean, that's what a wife does, right? (or a husband, in case any women strayed in here unawares) I thought, "Now I can finally be me and not worry about performing in order to keep the love I've longed for. Someone finally loves me as I am". Marriage was finally going to let me sweep all the embarrassing mess of my identity away and I could redefine myself on my terms. That lasted about a month. When the problems started, I began hearing those terrifying words, "if things don't get better I'm leaving". I lived with that devastating fear for two and a half years. Conditional love again. Obviously I didn't perform well, or I wouldn't be hosting a divorced man's blog.
Being a husband was supposed to be my one thing. The thing I could finally do right, by simply being me, and I would have a lifetime of love unconditionally. I was finally identified in a way that I thought would make me happy and stop my endless "love safari". I was a husband, and marriage means that with all the other worries in the world, losing the love of your spouse was not going to be one of them, right?
Then we moved to Nashville. Until then I never knew how much I loved my home. Until then I never realized how much I identified with my hometown. Phillies Eagles, Flyers, Sixers. Cheesesteaks and Tastykakes and Italian Ice. Rocky and the Franklin Institute and Vince Papale. Going to the beach and the Mummers parade. That was, and is, who I am. It was never more evident as it was when I moved here. There is nothing wrong with this place. But it isn't my home. Not by a long shot. Maybe if I had remained married it might have become home to me. But I think Philadelphia is a little to embedded in my DNA.
But we came here and I was once again stripped of something that identified me.
Then we had our child. I was finally a dad. I was identified by fatherhood. For all the failures I had endured, I was great at being a dad. I still am. It comes naturally to me. I think I get that from my father. I love every single second with Morgan. I could fill volumes with the amazing things she has already done in her ten years thus far. I know everything about her and I treasure her beyond measure. No matter what befalls me I am the luckiest man alive being her dad.
So the man who thought he was a part of one family finds out he is actually from another family, and that makes him feel like he truly belongs to neither.
The Man who belongs to two other families wrestles with where and how he really fits in with them.
The Man who finally found a clear, unmuddied identity of his own in marriage and being a husband is now identified as a divorcee.
The Man who identified himself most importantly as a dad, is now limited in his ability to perform that most important task.
The Philadelphian lives in Nashville, and longs for Philadelphia.
Where marriage was supposed to clear up my identity, in many ways it just made it more cloudy.
And, apart from my daughter, unconditional love seems to still be a riddle, wrapped in an enigma, surrounded by mystery.
And my identity with it...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Things You Lose Part 5

Todays Topic...contentment

con?tent?ment ?? (kn-tntmnt) KEY ?


The state of being contented; satisfaction.
A source of satisfaction: the contentments of a comfortable retirement.

I was beginning to worry about having another topic to write about here. Many of the subjects I've written about overlap other subjects so my original list of about a dozen items was whittled down simply by writing what I've written thus far.
But this morning I was sitting here pondering this blog and the list I've submitted so far and it dawned on me that amongst the things I lost was my sense of contentment.
I love the definition above. It's near perfect.
When I was married I was very contented. I was very satisfied. And, like the second line says, I enjoyed the contentments of husbandship and fatherhood.
Is this to say we had all we wonated and things were perfect? Obviously not or we'd still be together. But in my heart I was content because at that point I thought my search was over. I had found what I longed for and together we had brought a wonderful little girl into the world. Everything from that point on was icing on my cake...a gift from God...the bow on my present.
I was contented that I had someone to work for and achieve dreams with. Content that I was the daddy of the greatest little girl in all the world and that contentment was the fuel which drove me and the light in whatever darkness came our way.
Maybe I was going to be restless in other areas of decisions, where we'd live, what kind of house we'd buy, where we'd go to church, etc. But who I got there with was settled and I was very contented with that part of my life. "Go ahead and rock my boat if you want, world..." I thought to myself..."I am content inside with my wife and my child." With them at my side all you are is a storm and some big waves. I wasn't driven by desire for exorbitant wealth or fame or materials things. Whatever we could achieve together was going to be plenty for me because I was content with those I loved. The picture frame had a picture in it finally, and that equipped me to face the dragons each day.
But these last 8 years have stripped that contentment from me. A job that I once liked and appreciated and was content with because it was going to allow me to provide for my family, was now just a drudgery and I hated it most days.
When we moved here from the Wilmington DE, I was moving here to start a life with my wife and the child we were expecting. I LOVE my home and I miss my family and friends. But I was content to move here because my wife needed to live where she was comfortable and I was content if she was content. So I left family and friends and familiarity and was content to start a life...just us...and see what we could make of it.
Without the source of my contentment I find myself picking this place apart. It will never be home for me, I'm afraid, and I will never lose the longing in my heart to be home. Home where I consider it to be anyway.
I hate my job. Plain and simple. I long ago grew weary of the mortgage business. I am good at it so I stay with it. A bachelors in Pre Med biology doesn't get you much accept med school and I can't go there. So I write loans...when I can...and grow more discontented each minute with my vocation.
I am no longer content with my life. When Morgan is with me it is different, but mostly, it's mundane and drab. (not depressing mind you, just dull) Contentment adds life. It adds hope and brightness. When you are content with the biggest parts of your life you can explore other areas that need attention. Maybe you make a career move or maybe you don't. maybe you try writing a book or a song or painting a picture. You feel a safe haven in the happy contentment of your little patch of Earth. From that center you can move about the place...further knowing who you are as an individual and as a couple and a family.
Since my divorce, I only see myself as stuck in a place I like visiting but where I don't want to remain forever. I see myself as working a job I don't like because I don't have many options and my daughter matters too much to me to not provide for her. I long for the older, better days, where my friends were just a phone call away. I was contented with where things were heading. Now I don't always know where they are heading, and that leaves me very discontented indeed.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Things You Lose part 4

The Things You Lose
Part 4

Today’s topic: Identity

iden?ti?ty ? ? ( -d n t -t ) KEY ?

pl. i?den?ti?ties
1. The collective aspect of the set of characteristics by which a thing is definitively recognizable or known: "If the broadcast group is the financial guts of the company, the news division is its public identity" (Bill Powell).
2. The set of behavioral or personal characteristics by which an individual is recognizable as a member of a group.
3. The quality or condition of being the same as something else.
4. The distinct personality of an individual regarded as a persisting entity;
5. individuality.
6. Mathematics
a. An equation that is satisfied by any number that replaces the letter for which the equation is defined.
b. Identity element.

Today’s topic is Identity. Not everyone will see himself in this topic, at least not right away. Because our society is so adamant about defining a man by his career or his bank account or his car, or his boat, or his house, or his alma mater, we don’t usually place any emphasis on what really identifies a man.
I will give you my personal definition and use it as a mooring for today’s topic.
To me, Identity is who I am, and how I am known, to those I love the most.
Let’s start out side and swoop in…
First, if I am going to use this as a definition, I should define who I love the most.
Who really matters most to me? Well as a Christian I should start the list off with God. In reality, He is on top of my list but I struggle daily to keep Him there. (Or to allow Him to remain there would be more appropriate) Next would be my daughter, of course. No conversation about love ever happens in my world without her name being mentioned.
After Morgan would be my family. My brothers and my sisters, Bob and Cathy and Pop and Jewell and their families. My cousins and my uncles and aunts.
Then of course are my friends here in Nashville and back home. And the ones scattered around the country.
Then there is my church family. My small group, and the guys in our men’s ministry.
This is my circle of friends and these are the people I love and care about. These are the only people whose opinion of me matters in the end.
For the purposes of this article, I’m going to narrow it down to a few of these.
In our society today men, more so than women, fall victim to allowing themselves to be defined by their careers or their possessions, (an offshoot of their careers) or some other tangible thing. I’ve seen enough examples of this in my life. I used to belong to a local fitness center here in Franklin, TN where I live. I remember two guys in particular who worked in the mortgage industry as I do. I believe they owned their company and I once heard them discussing a $90,000 loan for a customer in between sets on a bench press at 5:30 AM. I laughed to myself. I figured they were in the business about 3-5 years at the time, because most guys in this business lose the “newbie” attitude after that period. A few days later I happened to be walking out of the club at the same time they were and I saw that they both drove Tahoe SUV’s and one license plate said “HOMLOAN” (Tennessee has a 7 character limit) the other guy’s truck said “HOMEMTG”. Perhaps it was clever advertising. But I doubt anyone ever saw that plate and followed either of them to their office and filled out an application. It was probably more a case of two guys being defined more by what they did for a living and less by how they lived. I don’t know these two guys so I don’t have any reason to think they were bad men or whatever. But I saw two guys who spent the extra 80 bucks each to have their careers on their license plates. I’ve known other people who did that too. In most cases, if not all, their desire was to tell the world what they did, because they wanted to world to know them by what they did. One guy I know in a service career had the abbreviation for his career on his license plate. (i.e.; if he had been a “certified city planner” he would have had “CCP” on his plates) The ONLY thing you could get this man to talk about was his job. No sports, no politics, nothing whatsoever about his family. He was known and defined by his job. So if you had no interest in his line of work, you had nothing to talk about. That’s extreme but it happens. You see it in other forms too. Go golfing with guys you don’t know, and one of the first questions is “so…what do you do”. Look on the back of a guy’s boat. How many lawyers have boats named “Jurist Prudence” or “Legal Eagle”? (As a side note…my childhood hero, Bernie Parent, the hall of fame goalie for the Flyers has had a charter fishing business since before he retired from hockey…every boat he has owned has been the “Carol Anne” named after his wife. With all the obvious hockey references available to him he still chose his wife’s name). I once owned a boat, briefly, with someone else. The one and only name I could think of for the boat was “Morgan Wray”, by sweet little girl. Why? It’s because I am not defined by what I do for a living. She is the most important thing in my world and so if I have a venue where I am going to be publicly displaying my allegiance, even on a license plate or the back of a boat, I want to be proclaiming what matters most to me. When I first moved to Nashville, I had a small vending business. I sold Italian Ice at big events in Nashville. The first thing I did was develop a flavor especially named after my daughter. (Strawberry lemonade…appropriately named “Morgan’s Pink Lemonade”) Why? Because she was about a month old when I got started and she was then, as she is now, the only thing that really matters. When people walked up to check out Italian Ice for the first time, within mere moments they saw my daughters name, and I had the chance to brag about my precious little angel.
That is how I am defined. To my Lord, my family, and my friends I wanted to be known only as a loving husband, a great father, Holly’s husband and Morgan’s daddy. Success in business can be fleeting but those things matter forever. I wanted to be thought of in terms of how easily I showed my love for my daughter and how much I adored my wife. I wanted to be seen not as a successful businessman, but as a successful head of a family. Not as a single man in his forties in a sea of married people, but as a married man with a happy family. What I did for a living was just how I provided for what was really important. I don’t understand men who don’t think from that center. Your career is so fleeting, and if that is all you really are…what happens when you can’t be that anymore?
Everyone retires someday. Lots of companies have layoffs. People have accidents and can’t work anymore. What becomes of their identity once they can’t do the thing they identified with?
Divorce forces that on a man too. I was a husband, and I had a complete family. I had a picture of how I’d hoped it would be and I was working towards that goal each day. That was what defined me…not my job. When I went to pick up Morgan at daycare I was there as “Morgan’s Daddy” not “the mortgage guy”. When I saw her in her school plays and spelling bees I was their as her daddy, not some guy who was writing a book.
When we sat down to talk about what was on her heart, I never brought up interest rates of loan amounts. I am her daddy…first and only. What I do for a living is inconsequential as it relates to that role. Divorce took part of my identity and changed what it didn’t take. I was no longer identified as Holly’s husband. I was now identified by my failed marriage…and by the stigma that went with it. I was still identified as Morgan’s daddy, but now I sat somewhere else during the school activities because I wasn’t her mom’s husband anymore. In church, when groups of couples would go out for lunch after services, I am identified by what makes me different from them. I am single, in a group of married folks.
What I do for a living makes no difference when my identity has been changed.
I longed to be identified as a good man, but divorce changes that perception of me. My identity as a dad is restricted somewhat by time limitations because of the divorce.
All I ever longed to be known as was a great dad and husband and now one job is impossible and the other is a little more difficult. I am not identified as a success in the areas that mattered to me the most.
If I had a custom license plate it would say “MORGANZDAD-E”
That is my real identity.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Things You Lose Part 3

The Things You Lose
Part 3


fa?ther?hood ? ? (f伩mg align="ABSBOTTOM" border="0" src=""> r-h d ) KEY ?

1. The state of being a father.
2. The qualities of a father.
3. Fathers considered as a group.

I wasn’t even going to put the official definition for fatherhood on this post.
But in keeping with the previous entries I did so.
I’m glad I did. According to this definition, you can have the qualities of a father and that constitutes fatherhood. And you can possess the "state of being a father" (you fathered a child) and that also defines fatherhood. But I find it interesting that you can be the former without the latter. You can father a child and not have any of the qualities of a father. Conversely, you can have wonderful fatherly qualities and not have any offspring, or you can demonstrate fatherly qualities to children other than your own.
Today’s thoughts are about something else you lose in your divorce…fatherhood.
Now, right up front let me say that you don’t really lose your fatherhood from the perspective of it being taken from you or you not actually being your kid’s dad. That only happens when a man abdicates his position as daddy, either by his actions or his attitude.
Just as you can be a wonderful dad who sees his children on a limited basis because of visitation arrangements, so to a man can see his kids every day and fail miserably as a father. Being a Dad is not positional…it is earned and kept. Any man with working plumbing can father a child, but a dad is something different.
Even in this day and age of 50/50 parenting plans, a divorced dad still loses much of his fatherhood, in the tangible sense. I am a daddy 24 hours a day 7 days a week. But I only see my daughter on my assigned days. I get a phone call or two during the week and I try to go to her school at least once a week to have lunch with her, to give us more time.
But I will tell you this…regardless of how much time I see her each week it is never enough. It is not enough because it is controlled and measured. I have almost no spontaneity available to me. I can’t just walk in the door and say, “Hey let’s go to dinner tonight and then go for a walk by the river” I can’t just wake up on a Saturday morning and decide to take a trip to the lake, on a whim. I can’t play hooky from work and keep her out of school for a day and go to the zoo. I don’t have the chance to help her with her homework or take some Tae Kwan Do classes with her. I only get to tuck her in 4 times a month. (Just seeing that statement in writing brings tears to my eyes…4 times per month!) Only hear her bedtime prayers on those four nights each month. Yet my heart yearns to hear them everyday. Each night around her bedtime I try to make it a point to be praying for her and I imagine kneeling by her bed. You never lose your daddy heart, but you can lose the chance to function as a dad. I never stop worrying but I don’t have the chance to check on her and make sure she is okay. I wonder how she is doing in school but I don’t get to help with her homework. That is how a man loses his fatherhood in a divorce. He loses the exercise of his fatherhood. I have lain awake at night while a thunderstorms rages outside and tornado warnings are flashing on the TV screen and not been able to protect her and gather her into my arms. I have worried about her when the news reports another abducted child or a traffic accident claims the life of a girl her age. I have sat in church by myself on “Family Sunday” and worried about her spiritual health, and how am I going to influence her relationship to Christ in our limited time together. She went through a phase recently where she was rather self conscious about her need for braces and her glasses and I worried that she needed some extra reassurance from her daddy and I could only provide it on certain days. There are moments where she will be sitting next to me watching TV or reading a book and I will silently turn my attention to her. Just looking at her, noticing little things like the shape of her nose or the look of concentration on her face when she reads a good book or the way she laughs at cartoons. I commit as much about her as I can to memory, in storage for those days when she is not with me. Any dad worth his salt has looked at his children in wide eyed wonder and been amazed at the privilege of being their daddy. That doesn't end when your child isn't with you. You remember it and long for it.
Your fatherhood never ceases simply because you are precluded from living with your children. If you have a father’s heart, you are never not a dad.
I’ve heard stories of men who lose a limb in a war or an accident and get “phantom sensations” and reach to scratch an itch that only exists in their heads. Their minds tell them something exists that in reality is no longer there. In divorce, fatherhood can sometimes have the same cruel, phantom effect on you. You occasionally have moments that make you think of your kids and you might even reach for them or catch yourself almost calling out their name to show them something you think might interest them.
Then you remember they aren’t there.
You are trying to be a daddy and your little person isn’t there to receive your gift of fatherly affection.
Divorce strips away so many important moments of contact and influence and bonding. Things are gone that you can’t get back. In those ways…you lose your fatherhood when you lose your marriage.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Things You Lose, part 2

The Things You Lose

Today’s topic is Hope.

hope ?? (hp) KEY ?

hoped , hop?ing , hopes

To wish for something with expectation of its fulfillment.
Archaic To have confidence; trust.

To look forward to with confidence or expectation: We hope that our children will be successful.
To expect and desire. See Synonyms at expect.

A wish or desire accompanied by confident expectation of its fulfillment.
Something that is hoped for or desired: Success is our hope.
One that is a source of or reason for hope: the team's only hope for victory.
often Hope Christianity The theological virtue defined as the desire and search for a future good, difficult but not impossible to attain with God's help.
Archaic Trust; confidence.

Most of these definitions are really good and really applicable. I like that first one, "to wish for something with the expectation of fulfillment". It ties so well with what follows; “To look forward to with confidence or expectations.” Isn’t that so true of what marriage gives? It brings us hope. “Two is better than one” the Bible says, “because if two lie down they can keep warm, but one cannot keep himself warm.”
It’s more than just keeping warm at night and the cushion of two incomes. It’s the hope that comes with knowing someone in this world has your back. It’s the confidence that comes with having one person in the world who wants to see your dreams all come true as much as you do and vice versa. It’s knowing that when the chips are down and all the world is lined up against you waiting for their turn at your pound of flesh, someone close by will go down with you if necessary. Hope says, “I couldn’t make this by myself but with you I can do anything". Hope is looking at each other on your fifth wedding anniversary and wondering what you will both be like on your fiftieth, and eagerly anticipating the journey. Before Holly and I divorced we were invited to the 50th anniversary of our dear friends Terry and Mary Chapman at our former church here in Nashville. We were seated at the table with them and I happened to start thinking about how many days a fiftieth anniverary is and I counted it up in my head. I turned to Terry and Mary and said, “Do you guys realize that you’ve been married 18250 days?” Terry chuckled and said he’d never thought of it in those terms. Mary had been rendered nearly mute by Parkinson’s and so her words were slower to come. I asked her how many of those 18250 days were lovey dovey and romance. She laughed out loud, which for Mary, by that point had become quite a feat and she said, slowly, “Maybe half!” which made Terry chuckle even more. He said “you know, you don’t get to your fiftieth anniversary by looking for the exit every time things get rough and you don’t feel like you are in love anymore” He said “you get there by hanging on to the hope that you will grow closer together a little more each day and you determine not to quit. The hope gets you through each day until one day you hit 5 years and then 10 and then 25 and then you have a day like today, a 50th anniversary”
Mary passed away just a few short years later, and Terry lives now with a different hope. It’s the hope of being united with his bride again one day soon and never parting.
When two people divorce, each of them gives up the hope they had invested in their marriage and in the other person. Some start over with someone else but many of those people will confess that the next time they are a bit cynical and they don’t put their hope in someone else for their fulfillment. There is a psychological value to that and people will tell you that is healthy. But it also very sterile and it doesn’t lend itself to a lifelong bond nearly as easy as letting yourself put some hope in another person to help you get where you are going.
Hope appears in other forms in marriage as well and it is stripped from there too. The ability to create warm, wonderful family memories and cherished traditions is something a lot of people put their hope in, in a marriage. Sadly that too is devastated when two people divorce. Children have to alternate between parents homes at holidays, mom and dad show up at school functions and don’t sit together, spontaneous events with your kids are nearly impossible. The hope for a traditional family life is tarnished. If you came from a setting where that life was missing and you hoped to create it in your own marriage and thereby heal some of your hurts, you’ve lost that hope too.
There is the hope that your soul mate will be there every time you walk through that door, in good times and bad. The hope that the dreams you dreamed together will, one by one, come true as years go by. The hope is that with each passing day, the hard times and difficulties decrease, and the bond between you grows greater and greater.
It’s what you see on the faces of the bride and groom as they walk down the aisle for the first time after exchanging their vows. The hope for a wonderful life together and the total expectation that the life they dream of will come to fruition. Divorce takes that hope. Once you get divorced, from that day forward the picture can never look the way you dreamed it would. You might get your nice life, big house, good job, healthy kids, financial security, but not with the person you first thought you would. You might grow old with someone but not who you first planned on growing old with. And even though you love this person as much or more as you ever loved the other, the other will still be a part of the picture but in a different way and in a different role. At least if you have children. And so even if you regain hope, it takes on a different form. It is changed.
It might very well even be a greater hope than before, but it is still different.
Antoher of the things you lose in a divorce...that primal, original, fresh-off-the-vine hopefulness about the future that you planned together, and the expectations of that hope coming true. You are now faced with the task of rebuilding your hope, either with someone new or on your own. And that can be a diffcult task.

Friday, July 11, 2008

The things you lose...

I am starting a series today on this site. You lose a lot more in a divorce than just tangible belongings and child support money. You lose a part of your heart and soul and all that goes along with that. On the advice of a friend I am beginning a series of thoughts about what it is you lose and how it effects you and those around you. Some of this is basic and some of it is stuff most people don't think about unless they've been through a divorce. I'm hoping that it will explain some of the lingering sadness many folks feel who endure a divorce and maybe it might shine a light of reality on divorce and save one or two folks from having to walk down this road. PLease keep in mind that some of these posts may very well be about the way I once felt during the course of the last 8 years, and some of them are how it still feels. It isn't a state of perpetual grief.

Today's topic is Love.

love ?? (lv) KEY ?


A deep, tender, ineffable feeling of affection and solicitude toward a person, such as that arising from kinship, recognition of attractive qualities, or a sense of underlying oneness.
A feeling of intense desire and attraction toward a person with whom one is disposed to make a pair; the emotion of sex and romance.

Sexual passion.
Sexual intercourse.
A love affair.
An intense emotional attachment, as for a pet or treasured object.
A person who is the object of deep or intense affection or attraction; beloved. Often used as a term of endearment.
An expression of one's affection: Send him my love.

A strong predilection or enthusiasm: a love of language.
The object of such an enthusiasm: The outdoors is her greatest love.

I lost a lot when I got divorced. I lost hopes and dreams and holidays and daddy moments. I lost my love.
Those of you who knew us, knew that Holly and I experienced a lot of non-loving moments in our marriage. But there was a time when we were in love with each other. I am now able to admit that I was probably a lot more in love with her than she was with me but regardless, we had our times of happiness and felt love for each other, brief as it might have been for her.
For me it went deeper and lasted much longer. Marriage was the final step in one dream for my life and the first step for about a hundred other dreams. The final step in so much as I believed I had found my "one thing" and planned on spending the rest of our lives together. The first step in all the dreams I was now making as a married man and as half of a whole and no longer just me, myself, and I. I had formed some life plans before meeting Holly and I altered them after we married. Instead of continuing with college, finishing my last 3 classes and waiting for acceptance to med school, we moved to Nashville, had a baby, and I tried to patch together a "plan B" for a career. I failed miserably and that was maybe the biggest contributor to our demise. I knew I wanted to be a Physicians Assistant and then ultimately a Pediatric orthopedist, I just didn't know what to do after that was no longer an option. It was a shame because I would have made a terrific Ped surgeon. I had the privilege of working with Dr. J. Richard Bowen, Chief of Orthopedics at DuPont Hospital for Children for 2 years as a student observer / preceptorship and I fell in love with that discipline of medicine. Dr. Bowen wrote a wonderful 3 page reference letter for me for admission to med school and to this day I cannot read it all the way through without getting teary eyed. To know that a man I admire as much or more than any other man alive, and who is the preeminent in his field, thought that highly of my abilities was an honor I can never fully comprehend.
But that was not to be. Holly and I had a baby coming and we celebrated out first anniversary in February and Morgan arrived in May. I was a dad, I was 850 miles from home, and I had a life to build. I worked at construction for a year and after nearly losing my thumb to a table saw, I decided I needed something that paid better and beat me up less. So I entered the mortgage industry and am still in it today...although just barely these days.
I worked hard to become very very good at my job. But it takes a long time to achieve success in this field and it cost me my marriage in the end. I didn't mind the struggles financially myself. I always knew that Holly and I could make it eventually. We were both educated professional, and hard working. In my mind it was simply a matter of time and we'd be fine. A year, maybe two, and then we'd look back on all this struggle and chuckle to ourselves. It would one day migrate from a fight-causing, stress inducing, minefield, to a great set of "remember when we..." stories. We would regale our kids with stories of our early poverty as we strapped them into their own BMW's and sent them off to Harvard, (or Liberty...always the faithful alumni). In my mind you plant the seeds of struggle and leanness early and year later you reap not just monetarily but emotionally. In my mind I was just waiting for that one moment when our struggles would bond us and we would be united in our battle against the wolves at the door and then in that moment we would start taking back lost ground. In that moment we would discover the real depth of our love for each other and for what we had created together.
I'll pause while you finish snickering at my romantic foolishness.
Honestly...I really did feel that way. All we endured was worth it to me because I was enduring it for them...for Holly and Morgan and our future. My one and only hearts desire was to take care of my family. They were the object of my love and desire and I gladly gave up my own pursuits to try to accomplish something for us. My love for Holly had expanded from simply the love of a man for a woman who had become his wife and whom he thought was breathtaking, to the love of who she was and the love of the thoughts of seeing her dreams come true. I now had a daughter that I loved as well and the enormity of my responsibility to take care of her and see her dreams come true weighed on me as well. Not only was I in love with Holly-I loved her. I thought she was really cool. I loved the sound of her voice and her mannerisms. We are very very different people. But the things that were so different about her were the things I found that I loved the most. Tragically I only realized all of this after she was gone. I had never seen the sort of loving admiration demonstrated in my life. I didn't grow up in a home where two people treasured each other and valued the differences between them. I wasn't equipped for the life we were trying to lead and I blew it. Disappointment turned to anger and anger led to battles and we ended up divorced.
I wanted so desperately to be able to show the love I held in my heart but I didn't have the resources to do it. My pride was wounded and I was losing the object of my desire and love and I fought back with anger instead of gentleness. We both did.
Now, eight years later, I have the same heart, the same emotions, I am the same man, but I don't have an object of my desire and passion. I'm not even remotely referring to the physical here...there are plenty of dates to be had if I was so inclined. I mean someone else to want to dream for and with, somebody else who might become so dear to me that I would want only their best before mine is even considered. I invested so much of my spirit and failed so terribly. The love I speak of keeps you working when the job is miserable and the pay is low. It keeps you believing even when common sense tells you to give up. It guides your thoughts and it shapes your dreams. It's the scene in "Cinderella Man" where James Braddock is taking an awful beating and his mind flashes to his three kids starving and his wife in tears, and it gives him the strength to wade back into those punches and start punching back until he beats the foe into submission. "I'm fighting for milk money" as Braddock said. That is love. Take that away from him and maybe the boxing world might never have seen the display of courage and heart that it took for Braddock to become a world champion as his family lived in a tenement basement.
Take that from a man and he drifts through life...the punches hurt more and there is less and less reason to wade back into the firestorm. Love endures, the Bible tells us...without love, it's so very much harder to endure.