Showing posts from 2011

9/10ths of the Law

One thing that makes me sad is that the kids don’t seem to be able to love both yet – to be connected to their dad and me and their mom at the same time.  Saying “don’t seem to be able” makes it sound like a failure on their part.  It’s not.  It’s just the grief of the circumstance.  They remain in the discomfort of dichotomy – a subtle feeling of having to take sides still clings to them.  If they are connected to and present with their mom, then they are disconnected and actively avoiding us.  I don’t sense them actively avoiding her as much but that may be simple mechanics.  Their dad is always present.  If they need him, he is there.  It sounds biased, but it’s just true.  They break down, they’re out of gas, they need something at school, they want to sign up for an activity – things like that they always call their dad and he always comes through.  Their mom has a greater tendency to disappear, to get busy in her own world.  They want to be with her when she is available to th

The Confinement of Jesus

I looked into my heart the other day and was surprised to find Jesus there. He was sitting in a barren one-room cabin, its walls and floors composed of ashy-brown, worn, wooden planks. It was the sort of house I’ve envisioned situated on the Midwestern Plains when reading a Louis L’Amour novel or Little House on the Prairie . Where I would have expected to find a cowboy or Laura Ingalls Wilder, I found Jesus. The air was a tad stifling and the lighting was dim. He was seated in the center of the room on a ladderback chair with no cushion. Disconcerted, I asked him what he was doing there. He reminded me that I had invited him. I wanted to roll my eyes. I knew that. My question was more basic. “No, I mean in this room – why are you sitting here? Wouldn’t you rather be romping through that meadow out there?” I pointed toward a small, four-paned window through which grasses and wildflowers could be seen swaying in the breeze. At least he had a view. I don’t r


I am selfish.  I did not know that.  I managed to avoid that fact by living alone for most of my adult life.  Then I joined a family.  It turns out I’m a serious narcissist.  Narcissus, enraptured with his own beauty, died while gazing at his face reflected in still waters.  In truth, I may be more like the pond, looking up at the face of Narcissus and hoping to find herself reflected there, certain that he must be bent over staring at her. My husband predicts I’ll die choking on my own spit – I sometimes forget to swallow properly.  It’s usually because I’m so fixated on what is going on with others around me that I neglect that basic reflex.  I am taken with hypervigilant attention to how others react to me.  I study others in earnest, hoping to discover myself in their word, look, or deed.  I assume that others are as taken with me as me. I always thought I was self-effacing, deferential, and considerate of others.  Rather than feeding prideful vanity, a trait I always treated

The Absence of Motherhood

I probably ought to be careful talking about motherhood.  I’m not one, you know.  Mothers are highly esteemed and much is expected of them.  I’ve no doubt it’s a difficult road.  I would stand up and defend my own mother against some of the stuff I’ve said when whining about how uncomfortable the role of non-mother stepmother can be.  In the midst of critiquing this cultural plight, I encounter Little One once again trying to map out the family tree.  Recalling a gift my dad gave us, she asks, “He’s my grandpa, step-grandpa, right?”  My Handsome Man mumbles a response to the effect that at the grandparent level we don’t usually add that term. She follows up with this little stunner: “I don’t see what’s the difference between moms and stepmoms.”  What?  I’ve been feeling like an outcast, an imposter, an incompetent stand-in and it turns out that’s just parenthood? Motherhood is one of those edifices that we idolize, like marriage, because as a society we desperately need it.  I

Play Your Position

“When I grow up, I really want to be a stepmom.”  Who says that?  Understudy, back-up quarterback, substitute teacher, adjunct. Know the role, play it when something bad happens to the lead, the star, the tenured one. Get ripped by critics, commentators, students. Are these all people who missed the mark? Are stepmoms just failed aspirants? Mother. Step-Mother. Real Mother. Wicked Step-Mother. Mommy. Step-Monster. Mommy Dearest. Dad’s Wife. There is a chasm of difference between a “real mom” and a stepmom. A mother can fix her identity on her children regardless of her actual success in performing her role – she is a mother by basic biological fact. Even if she abandons her child at birth, she is a mom. A stepmother is the father’s wife. Being a biological mother is a great burden and responsibility, but I’m not particularly interested in talking about that right now. This is my rant. Mothers have tremendous presumptive benefits on their side. I’m not debating the meri


“Well . . .”  “Well,” followed by a long pause is a much more frequent performer in my verbal repertoire now than before I met and married a man with five children. I think it may have first come on stage in response to T-Man, age 12, plopping down beside me on the couch one morning and relating that something strange was happening to his bed sheets. Though he knew he wasn’t wetting the bed, lately there had been small damp areas on his boxers and his sheets when he woke up in the mornings. He thought perhaps something might be leaking through onto his bed from the ceiling.  “Well . . .,” I replied. . . . “Well,” followed by a long pause came up again one summer day when Little One started talking about relatives.  She had just returned from spending a week at her aunt’s for “Camp Melssa” – a summer tradition for the little girl cousins to craft and raft with Aunt Melissa and Uncle Mike.  Little One wanted to ask about how she is connected to my family but she couldn’t think o

It's Personals

I wanted a really good story about how I met my husband. I didn’t know who he was going to be, or if he even ever was going to be, but I knew wanted an enticing answer to “So, how did you two meet?” when it happened. My husband and I met online. Neither of us wanted that story. We’ve struggled to come up with another one that we could both tell with a straight face, but we get too embarrassed about lying and find it’s easier to just mumble and walk away. Of course, the longer we are married, the less we care about how we met.  But at the beginning, it seemed devastatingly serious. We could see people assess the odds of our relationship and the trustworthiness of our selves immediately upon hearing our disclosure, and the judgment on both counts was low. I met one guy at a college casino night. He was dealer and a professor and seemed so mature and intellectual. I was an administrator and played my cards right. I knew I was in love and went overboard. He knew