Friday, December 28, 2007

Looking Back-2007

January 2007

The divorce was final. I didn't even go to the courthouse to watch it happen. At that time, it was just me, Sparky, and Drew living in our little duplex. Sparky was a great comfort to me as a puppy and Drew was a challenge on a daily basis, being a 12 yr. old. Zach and Hayden (tdub's sons) were in and out from time to time, sometimes staying the night, sometimes not, and Daniel (my oldest) was home from college looking like some sort of leftover roadie from a disastrously untalented rock band. I'd become very unhappy with my work situation even though I loved going to school every day to teach and learn from my 7th graders. It was my extremely left-brained principal who almost put me over the edge last fall. His idea of "helping" deal with the difficulties of my new situation was to give me extra scheduling committments. HA! That would be like trying to raise George Bush's approval rating by having him read aloud on camera from Dostoevsky.

Lesson learned: Sometimes the very BEST thing you can do to help someone is to simply leave them alone, particularly if you are the polar opposite of them in personality and temperament.

February 2007

Having joined eHarmony (big mistake) a few months earlier, I'd met this extremely kind, generous and talented art teacher who lived in Oklahoma City.
Joining eHarmony did make me feel better- just knowing that I was a person that someone else would desire. However, that reasoning for meeting people who are seriously looking for a mate is quite selfish. It's a good system for matching women with men who have similar personalities and outlooks on life, but it was way too soon for me to have done such a thing.

Lesson learned: If you're wanting someone to desire you in a relationship, be sure you're ready for the same thing, or you hurt people unnecessarily.

March 2007

By this time, I knew beyond a doubt that I had to get out of Granbury. Having moved there 22 years prior when it was still a quaint little community, I'd made far to many friends and aquaintances to be able to venture even to a place as ominous as Super-Walmart without running into all sorts of folks who knew all about the tragedy that had become my life. It was a different sort of tragedy than say a death or even just a typical divorce. Alot of people responded to my desire to move with "well, HE should be the one moving, not YOU." But honestly, it wouldn't have mattered. Even if Tdub had moved away, I'd still have wanted to get out of there. I literally felt like every time I walked into any public place that I had this huge backstory I carried with me. Imagine one of those little pet shop turtles with a shell of the giant sea tortoise on its back. That was me in Granbury.

Lesson learned: Sometimes running away is not running away, it's just starting over.

April 2007

Having spent my spring break in Oklahoma City handing out resumes, I waited anxiously to hear something. Now, you'd think after having been in the school business for 18 years, I'd know full well that it's a rare situation for a school to be ready to think about hiring for the next year at this point. If they are, it could mean trouble. Nevertheless, I got discouraged because with each passing week I was more and more certain that I could not live many days past June 1 in Granbury. My mental health just could not take it. I managed, during that month, to eek out one last hurrah of a service project at church. I wrote and directed a drama for two groups of youth for our annual Leadership Training for Christ gathering which was held during Easter weekend at a hotel in Dallas. I'll never regret having done that. It was awesome.

Lesson learned: You can get by for a time on sheer will and guts.

May 2007

By this time I was getting extremely antsy about finding a job in Oklahoma. At school, we'd gotten past the state mandated writing test that I'd been preparing my students for all year. This was a major relief for me mostly because it finally tamed the bee in my principal's bonnet that had him buzzing around wondering if I were going to be able to produce the DATA he desired from me. As it turns out, my data was great and I still managed to form the sorts of relationships with students that continue to motivate them long after you're no longer their teacher. Professionally, it was my worst year ever simply because until that year, I'd never had a principal who doubted my abilities as a teacher like he did. He reminded me of one of those gingerbread houses I made with my little friends this year - everything layered up so sweetly and pretty to form a house perfectly balanced in form, texture, and overall visual appeal. Yet, underneath, just a cardboard shell with no real staying power of its own. OH....and it was during this month, that Daniel and Drew picked out Emma for me as a Mother's Day gift!

Lesson learned: Even if you're great at what you do - honest and humble in your efforts - some people just don't have the DNA code that allows them to appreciate uniqueness in others.

June 2007

My parents took a bus tour to Niagra Falls and were gone for a week at the beginning of the summer. I stayed at their house and continued what had become by now, in my mind, a desperate hunt for a job. Again, knowing full well that in all the years I'd been teaching we rarely ever hired anyone new until June. I had a few interviews lined up in Oklahoma City for art jobs but decided on a whim to call my Aunt Kathy in Sulphur to see if she'd heard of anything opening up over there. Sulphur is one hour East of my hometown of Duncan, and almost all of my aunts and uncles live there. My Aunt Kathy and her husband own and run the local newspaper, so she's usually "in the know" to say the least, about what's going on in town. Within 5 minutes she had two interviews lined up for me - THAT day.

Lesson learned: Sometimes it is who you know.

July 2007

I loaded and moved the final boxes from Granbury to Sulphur on July 4. Our last stop with the U-haul was at my school to load 18 years worth of accumulated and boxed school stuff. It was significant to me that we had to drive straight through the beginnings of the Granbury 4th of July parade as we made our way out of town. The Granbury 4th is the largest yearly event in town, drawing in thousands of visitors and bringing the entire community to town for the festivities. I literally saw most everything I was leaving behind as I pulled away. And it was okay.

Lesson learned: Sometimes you just know you're doing the right thing.

August 2007

After arriving in Sulphur, I quickly became reaquainted with my first cousin, Wes, who's a state representative for Oklahoma. Wes is 10 years younger than me and still single. (he's not gay) I say that because I have this gay theme that seems to run through my blog, so for the sake of his dating future, I feel the need to point that out! He is a democrat as are most folks here in this agriculture and ranch-based part of the state. I mention Wes because having him for a cousin has made this move so much easier for me. He gives me an instant connection to just about everyone. Well, he and the rest of my family who lives here and who have insured that I'm not more than 3 degrees seperation relationally from any other person in town. I had a great time in August helping Wes spruce up his brand new home with some decorating just before his open house.

Lesson learned/relearned: Family is a wonderful thing.

September 2007

School started and reconfirmed to me that I'd done the right thing by moving here. My 4th grade teaching partners are absolutely the BEST. They are the sort of women who can hug you with a smile or give you the real thing if that's what you're needing. They make me feel 10 feet tall when I know I'll never be more than the same old 5 foot 2 I've always been. And my class, oh, my class. They're absolutley perfect.
(blatant suck-up alert) And my new principal is the bomb!

Lesson learned/relearned: Life is good.

October 2007

I met pirate girl and she changed my life. This little urchin-like creature full of spunk and mischief, came bicycling by my back yard when I was outside with the dogs. I asked her what she was going to be for Halloween, and our relationship was born. Helping her and her family has become a mission for me. Not a mission to "save" anyone, God takes care of that stuff....but a mission to help those in need.

Lesson learned: Stay outside yourself and your problems go away.

November 2007

My family continues to bless me by joining in with my mission to help pirate girl and her family. One of my aunt's petitioned her Sunday School class for help and because of this pirate girl and her family now have their own washer and dryer in their home. Two of my aunts gave me large cash donations to buy coats, shoes, and Christmas gifts. My parents continue to supplement my income so that I can help others. My art teacher friend in Oklahoma City is now mentoring the oldest boy who is a senior in high school. Turns out he is an awesome artist and wants to pursue an art education of some sort after high school. I spent most of the month of November helping this family which made the holiday season much easier to bear. There's just no time to think about things gone by when there are things in front of you to accomplish.

Lesson learned/relearned: All things work together for good.

December 2007

What a year. And yet, with all the turmoil and all the change, I'm able to sit here amongst the mess of things left to clean up from the holidays and feel at peace. For the first December of many, the worries that had worn on my mind and become part of me, the way bronze or copper sculptures grow a patina, are gone. While patina can be beautiful in its own right, cleaning it off now and then adds a brand new shine and a beauty of a different sort. I feel I've come out from under a veil and can breathe free and easy, no inhaler needed. I love being able to step outside those issues and look back at them now more clearly. Some have wondered aloud to me at how that clarity seems to have bred more compassion than bitterness in my heart toward Tdub. I just call that the love of God. That's the beauty of a life given to Christ. Either way you go, worn patina or freshly cleaned shine, you're bound to end up in a place of compassion. That's how the love of God works in the hearts of those who seek him. At least that's the way I choose to look at it.

Lesson learned/relearned: Love wins.

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

Random Pictures

Remember last Christmas? I received the awesome digital camera from my parents. I've had more fun with it than I can tell you. My parents generously included a 2GB memory stick and I tend to fill the thing up over several months time. Here are some random shots with rambling to accompany them from the last few months.

Back in October, we took our 4th graders to a Chickasaw Indian Festival. There were craft booths, displays of historical artifacts, traditional Indian games, and even tastings of traditional Indian foods. This is a shot of me with the llama from the animal petting zoo. I found it odd when I first arrived here in Oklahoma that the word "Indian" is thrown around as if it's an okay thing to say. Back in Texas, were were taught to refer to Native Americans only by that title. And then, I arrive in the "land of the red man" and find that the red men and women refer proudly to themselves as Indians. Go figure.
I like this picture of Sparky. He's my man.

Speaking of "my men,"
here's a shot of Drew decorating this year's Christmas tree.
One of my very favorite ornaments.

A shot from the kitchen into the living room. I love Christmas decorating!
My baby.

My Aunt Judy raises dachshunds. I want another one!!! I don't have a red one, after all. The voice of reason and restraint controls the fact that I don't have $100 lying around to spend on one....not to mention shots, feeding, etc...

This is one of my new best friends here in Oklahoma. We spent a fun day a few weeks ago making gingerbread houses.

Merry Christmas to all!
love and grace,
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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Problem with Advice...and Sin, and some other stuff

The thing about giving marriage advice is this; every situation is different. So, while I can't imagine a situation in which I'd encourage a woman to marry an ex-gay, I do have a great deal of respect and admiration for those couples who are already married and in that situation. I'd have no difficulty whatsoever encouraging a woman to "hang in there" if already married to an ex-gay.

The overwhelming majority of wives of struggling men that I met while married to Tdub weren't aware of the struggle with same sex attraction when they entered their marriage. This, to me, is a sad reality which reflects the truth of what an astoundingly crappy disservice the church has been to gay folks in general. The church is supposed to "serve". Instead, gays and even those with unwanted attractions get beaten over the head with how abhorrent they are for being attracted to the wrong sex.

Let's just say, for the purpose of this argument, that a long lost dead sea scroll turned up where it turns out Jesus held a question and answer session on homosexuality. OK. Now. Think about that picture for a moment....or maybe two or three if it hasn't sunk in to you yet what that would look like.

My point is this. Jesus didn't operate that way. He did address people "caught in sin" or he would call people by the specific sin (murderers, adulterers, liars). But, he didn't do what a big chunk of the church does. He didn't campaign against a certain behavior or hold conferences or rallies based on wiping out certain behaviors. He seemed more concerned with the person and less concerned with the specific behavior. When he did meet folks "caught in sin", like the woman at the well, he could have a conversation with them and send them away HAPPY. I think one reason that woman was so happy was that Jesus let her know that she still had worth, even though she struggled with sin. We must be doing something wrong. I think church folks, as a general rule, get the whole sin thing completely wrong. The church does more to empower sin than the devil ever could. It's one thing to sit in a class and admit that you are a sinner, "just like everyone else," but it's quite another to have your particular sin singled out for "judgement". The thing is, ANY sin is a really BIG SIN. Sometimes I think it's my "little" sins that ARE the biggest.

I'm thinking out loud and I'm beginning to confuse myself! ha! What's my point?

I think I started out trying to make the point that it's a shame that SO MANY women end up in the situation I was in while married to Tdub. Blindsided by the fact that he struggled with same sex attraction. No woman should have to go into a marriage unaware of that fact. There are other things a woman shouldn't go into a marriage unaware of, but this happens to be my particular issue. I say that because I often have people come back at me with arguments like, "well, all marriages have struggles", or "this isn't any worse than X or Y in straight marriages". For one thing, YES, it is worse and if you doubt that please read the last 21/2 years of writing here.......and secondly, I'm not talking about ALL marriages, I'm talking about the ones where gay guys marry straight women.

One other thing....while I'm at it. I'd love to demystify the word "gay" for the fundamentalist Christian world. I kid you not, if you followed my writing in all the circles I frequent from time to time, you'd see that one must spend almost as much time defining words as making points. It's crazy. When I use the word gay, I just mean a man who is attracted to other men sexually. That's all. I don't mean an orgy-attending, HIV-wielding, substance-abusing psychotic. Just for the record.

Thanks for listening!
love and grace,
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Friday, December 14, 2007

Marriage (1st bit of rambling)

Everyone who reads this blog knows by now that I support the rights of gays to marry each other. I phrase it that way because I've had this argument thrown in my face before; "Gays do have the right to marry, as long as they marry someone of the opposite gender."

That argument sounds like fightin' words to a woman who's been through what I've been through. I realize there's a bit of a paradox when I can talk about being thankful for the experiences of being married to an ex-gay, and in the same breath say that knowing what I know now, I'd not have married Tdub. I've found paradox to be an integral part of living for Christ. It just is. The fact of the matter is, I can't change the past so I choose to view it in a postitive light and learn from it. So, while I'd very likely advise another woman against marrying an ex-gay, I can say that having gone through that marriage was a good thing for me. Good like running your first marathon. You want to give up much of the time, you'd not make it at all if it weren't for those people on the sidelines with the oranges and paper cups of water, and you occasionally have to stop and puke your guts out. No pain, no gain.

More later. :)

love and grace,

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Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Gay families eat donuts too.

Somehow Tony and I have given our four-year-old the impression that donuts are an intregal part of Catholic liturgy. In the Catholic mass there's this pause right after communion where everyone's silent and people are either sitting or kneeling in prayer. It's very solemn.

And that's when the kid turns to me and says "We get donuts now?!"

And I whisper to him, "One more song. Sit down."

Then all the other kids look at eachother like they're saying "Donuts? Did he just say donuts? That's what I'm talkin' 'bout! Donuts!"

So this past Sunday, as is my custom, I drive us to the donut shop, me, Tony, Nick and our friend's 13-year-old. Now pulling into the parking space in front of the donut shop, I hit the breaks too hard, and spilled the kid's water bottle, so the three of them went into the donut shop, while I cleaned up the puddle in the back seat.

As I walk into the donut shop, some worried-looking lady about my age looks me right in the eye and points to Nick, who's standing in line with Tony and the 13-year-old and says "Are you adopting him?"

And the question kind of takes me by surprise, because why would you ask me if my child is adopted, right? We look alike, and most people just assume he's my biological child. And why would she say "Are you adopting him?" (indicating that the adoption is not yet final) instead of "Is he adopted?"?

But anyway, I answer the lady in the affirmative, and she asks me where I'm adopting him from, and I tell her the name of the adoption agency Tony and I used.

Then she says to me "They allow gays to adopt boys? Homosexuals?"

And that's when I knew this conversation was not going to a good place, so I just said "Yes," and turned away, and as I did the lady said to no one in particular, "Gays, these two!" and she left.

And I didn't know to feel glad that she left or disappointed that she didn't stick around and ask more questions. I remember Barbara Jordan (one of my heroes growing up) used to say you should talk to people about their prejudices, not just walk away from them or shout them down. But I find that's not always so easy in practice.

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Sunday, December 02, 2007

Keep On Keepin' On

There have been probably 3 or 4 times during the time I've been writing this blog when I've come to a crossroads sort of place. During those times I get the idea that maybe my blogging days have run their course and it might be time to focus that energy elsewhere. I began blogging with the notion that it would be an outlet for my own thinking as well as a chronicle of the journey I was on as the wife of a guy who struggled with same sex attraction. At the heart of anyone who blogs there has to be the idea that you have something to say that is of some significance, at least somewhere to someone. Hence, the outrageously awesome (when you think about it) perk of comments. Not only do I get to tell the world, should they care to listen, what I'm thinking about, but that world can comment on my thinking. It's brilliant. I guess it follows that one who blogs as a venue for thinking would eventually spend a portion of that time thinking about the act of blogging. Thinking about thinking. It's called metacognition, and it's a higher order thinking skill. (teacher talk)

At each of those crossroads sorts of times, when I've wondered if I have anything left to say that's of significance, I've received a comment from out of the blue which reminds me of my purpose. I woke up this morning to this comment from a new reader:

GrantJM said...

Grace- I was led to you by a fan of your blog. It's refreshing how you take time to talk about those of us who struggle to find our place in this world after living so long closeted and in shame. I am one who after 29 years of marriage is just waking up and it is both a nightmare as well as some kind of dream finding myself. Thanks for not candy coating your words, but just talking from your soul. It's what we all need - it's where we hear and are heard by God best I believe.

Thank you, GrantJM, for taking the time to comment and for sharing a bit of your story that puts your thoughts as well as your compliments to me in context. Your comment was exactly what I needed to hear when I needed to hear it. I'm inspired to go back to doing some of the same sort of blogging I did when I began. I'm still processing so much of what I've been through. It seems time and even physical distance from the events can be healing in an of themselves, but the nitty-gritty work of processing things is still required in order to move forward and grow.
Grant's comment takes me back, and I'm finally at a place (emotionally) where I can do that and not completely fall apart. It truly IS a nightmare. Dealing with all this stuff. As Grant well knows, and is living this moment, his nightmare has become the nightmare of others, specifically, his wife. Over and over again, I'd be reminded by therapists, other men who struggled, other wives of strugglers, or even friends who knew nothing about the dynamics of same sex attraction and it's toll on a marriage; You didn't cause this. You can't fix this. You aren't the reason for this. You're doing the right thing. You're doing all you can. It's not about you.

While those things were true, right, good, and easy to comprehend intellectually, it was like taking an emotional enema. I always felt like all of ME had to to be gutted out so that I could intellectually respond correctly to a situation that ripped at the fiber of my emotions as a woman. Not trying to fix something actually becomes doing something when you have to work so hard not to do it. It was hell. That's the best English word I can think of to convey what that part of it was like. When I talk about that part of it, I'm talking about the sexual part. Looking back, I'm sort of amazed that I didn't drink more than I did. And while I know beyond a doubt that I used alcohol as a sort of sedative during much of that time, I can't say I ever developed an addiction to it. It's not something that appeals to me now at all. At least not in the way it did then.

And yet, there were so many things that I enjoyed about being married to Tdub. We had great rapport when it came to talking about things that interested us like movies, people at church, theological stuff. His brain had been programmed, it seemed to me, with Church of Christ doctrine (which doesn't really exists, btw hehe!) and my brain was constantly trying to figure out what it meant to really be a Christian. This made for some great discussions where we'd sometimes disagree but with a great deal of humor. We did the sorts of things together that keep couples together. But there was always this nagging issue, like a gnat that won't die, swirling around the boundaries of all our good times.

I will process more. Thank you Grant for your inspiration and encouragement. I've got mucho sewing to do. I'm working on some fund raising projects for Christmas money. I'll post some pictures later...maybe even later this evening.

Sparky is wonderful in his stubborn, impish, dachshund way. Having figured out that momee gives treats from the fridge (cut up cubes of spam) when he comes in when called from outside, he's now decided to bypass the outside step altogether. He will get my attention that he wants outside. I follow him as he prances down the little hallway to the back door. I open the door, and he turns and prances back down the hall and stops in front of the fridge with his tail wagging. Gotta love that!

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