Let’s Stop With the Glue Already!

FB_IMG_1551971393186In Trotter family lore, the years of 2010-2012 will go down as the time of the great breaking. Because everything we owned broke. In a relatively short period of time we had a TV, a VCR, three DVD players, two cars, 4 kitchen chairs, our refrigerator, dishwasher, dryer, washing machine, nearly all of our plates and glasses, a kindle, two laptops, a business and what little was left of our financial stability break. (I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.) It got so bad that one day I went to take a drink of my coffee and the handle of the coffee mug I was using broke off in my hand. Seriously. We just started laughing about it after a while.

It was also the period when my marriage broke and my husband and I separated for about 7 months. So, lots of breaking.

When events pile up like that, it’s often not a coincidence. There’s a reason for it. (For the record, our house was only 7 years old and one of the laptops was just over a year old. This wasn’t simply a matter of things just getting worn out and breaking.) While we were separated my husband actually prayed about why everything we owned was breaking. He came back to me with what he believed he had been told. The reason things were breaking, he said, was because he had been the glue holding our material world together. When he left (or at least checked out), there was no glue left to keep everything from breaking.

When he told me that, almost without thinking, I blurted out, “but I don’t want broken shit that needs glue to keep it from falling apart!”

Now, glue has its uses. If nothing else, it can be a stop-gap to hold broken things together for a while longer. But it’s not a permanent solution. Things are always weaker at the spot where the glue is holding it together. And it can’t do anything to keep the next break in a different spot from happening. Duct tape may hold the world together, but eventually, broken things need replacing.

It seems to me that humanity has been depending on glue to hold everything together for a long time. We’re broken and our world is broken, so we just keep gobbing on the glue. We want money so it can hold everything together for us. We fight wars and each other, thinking that will preserve us. We lie and cut corners to cover the gaps between what is and what we need it to be. We lose our tempers, use intimidation and control others to keep them from tearing our world apart. We seek pleasure and comfort to fill in the breaks in our souls. We hold grudges and see others as enemies to shore up the weak spots where previous breaks have occurred. And we pass on the glue from generation to generation.

When God tells us to do something – not worry about money, not judge, love freely, give up our lives – we say “that’s nice” and go right on playing with our paste. Continue reading

Does God Get Angry?

If you haven’t contemplated murder, you ain’t been in love. ~ Chris Rock

“I will turn my beloved people over to the power of their enemies. The people I call my own have turned on me like a lion in the forest. They have roared defiantly at me. So I will treat them as though I hate them. The people I call my own attack me like birds of prey or like hyenas.” ~ God (Jeremiah 12:7-9)

Over the weekend I happened to come across an email I had sent my husband a couple of months after he left me and the kids. (Background here and here.) It was just a short note rejecting his request that we strive to be on friendly terms. Not that I wanted to be in conflict, but I wasn’t going to pretend to be OK with someone who had treated me the way that he had. In fact, I think it would have been really unhealthy for me to agree to be friend-like under the circumstances. I was very, very angry and I had a right to my anger. I had been betrayed, rejected and turned on by someone who I had done my best to love unconditionally through thick and thin. Emotionally, I was not in any condition to have anything more than a cold, barely cordial relationship with him. (As always, I am speaking of my own perspective here. My husband could give you an encyclopedic list of all the ways he feels I wronged him as well.)

During those days in between praying fervently for God to hit my husband with a bus, I was often grateful for the words of 1 Corinthians 13:5: “Love is . . . not easily angered.” It meant that there was room in love for anger. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. I hadn’t turned into a terrible, hateful, unloving person because of my anger. I didn’t have to be afraid of it or deny it or hurry up and get rid of it. In fact, being so angry was a legitimate part of being a loving person. I knew I would be able to work through it in time. Continue reading

Hi. Remember Me?

Ugh, I’ve been struggling to figure out how to write this post for several days, but no clever ideas have come to me so I suppose I may as well just dive in and vomit it out.  The last you heard from me, I was going to go curl up in the fetal position. Which wasn’t hyperbole. I was probably a couple of days out from complete nervous breakdown. As regular readers know, the last few years have not been kind to me and my family. It all culminated last summer with my husband leaving me with 5 kids which was a fairly stressful and traumatic experience. Around the start of the year, I felt like I was turning a corner. I went days at a time without crying and even felt happy for at least part of every day.  I knew that there would be bumps on the road, but for me February was more like running into the side of a mountain and then being hunted down by a pack of Chupacabra. I mean, under more normal circumstances, I could handle emergency gallbladder surgery and my mother almost dying within 10 days like a champ. I could maybe even weather not having my parents – particularly my mother – readily available to talk to when I needed to vent. But this time? Not so much.

I told my mom later that it felt like the only time I went skiing and crashed so hard that I never did find the rabbit fur ear muffs I had pressured my brother to let me borrow. I just crashed. It sucked to be me. But is that ever enough? No, of course not. Because I could see that the whole thing was part of a massive, cosmic set-up. You see, for several months, the ex had been making noises about moving back in. Seeing as he was still picking fights with me to argue that “humiliation is too a good parenting tool” and responding to my requests for a break from the kids that lasted more than 2 hours by accusing me of using the kids as an excuse not to create a real life for myself, this wasn’t a particularly tempting proposition. I did finally tell him that if he wanted to move into the basement I guess that would be OK, but I wasn’t prepared to raise so much as an eyebrow in order to help him move the boys out of their room so it could happen. Which meant that there was a close to 0% chance of it actually happening.

But I had also told him that I found his continuing crazypants talk frightening and perhaps he would want to get some counseling before I signed the kids up for lessons in self-defense. Which he finally did. So, right around the time that my mom was near death and I could feel myself coming completely unglued, he came and apologized. Apparently the counselor had given him an emotional intelligence test that he scored a zero on and it opened his eyes. Actually, I have no idea what he scored on the Emotional Intelligence tests, but just 3 sessions in he felt compelled to come and beg forgiveness and offered to help me recover from having to live with him the last couple of years. Which I may have rolled my eyes at if at that moment I wasn’t afraid that I was going to wind up like that Kony 2012 guy and run out into the street in my underwear to bang my head on the pavement.  Which would have been really bad because I’ve had 5 kids and look much worse in my undies than that guy did. Well, OK, I probably wouldn’t have ended up like that anyways – it takes too much energy to have a psychotic break. I’m more given to catatonic posturing; that only requires me work up enough energy to suck air. At any rate, I knew that I was close to losing it and needed help and lacking any other reasonable volunteers, he moved back in.

For the first few days I kept him up half the night with my sobbing. Because the idea that I was going to have to wake up to another day was that awful just then. He had promised that he was done complaining, criticizing and demanding – particularly when it came to my crappy house keeping. So I took him at his word and didn’t do shit for a couple of weeks. I got my anti-depressants and slept a lot. Obviously, I didn’t (couldn’t) write anything. And slowly, slowly, slowly after much time spent staring at walls, I started getting better. I stopped spending most of my time hiding in my room (or bathroom). I took the kids on walks and met people. The last few days I’ve felt almost normal. My house is cleaner than it’s been in ages. And I can actually think about writing again.

So, the qxh (quasi-ex-husband) has become the qh (quasi-husband). Quasi because I’m still not convinced that this is going to work. We had our first argument since he moved back last night (which isn’t too bad considering that it’s been almost a month and a half). But frankly, I’m just not at all confident that the man even likes who I am as a human being. Which is a real deal breaker donchano? And my tolerance for people whose views of me and my actions are delusional, negative and/or psychotic (a good description of his stance for the year before he left) has been reduced to just about nothing. I have family members I’m not speaking to for just that reason. There’s no way in hell that I’m actually going to live with someone who is likewise inclined to hyper-critical, reality-free thinking when it comes to me. I make NO claims to perfection, but frankly, I think I’m a fairly awesome person and have done a pretty admirable job with my life which is also completely imperfect, but pretty awesome nonetheless. Anyone who thinks otherwise can feel free to STFU. Or barring that, allow me to suggest a long walk off a short pier in the Everglades. I promise not to miss you when you’re gone!

I referred earlier to this whole thing as a “massive cosmic set-up” because reality is that it was going to take me being knocked flat on my ass before I would consider letting the qh move in or attempt any reconciliation. We were utterly done. Heck, we don’t even have our wedding rings anymore. The only reason he was the quasi-ex-husband and not just the ex-husband was that there was no money to file the papers I have all filled out and working out child support was going to be complicated by his already existing child support orders.  It could well be that with continued counseling for the qh and eventually for us together, we’ll be able to work things out. In which case, we’ll be able to look back and be happy that I had finally hit my wall. If not, I’m at least glad that he was able to step in when he did and get along well enough with me and the kids to give me time to recuperate.

So, yeah, that’s what’s been up with me. Anything interesting going on in your world?

Did the Ex Try to Poison Me? Plus, A Guide to Wine for the Newbie.

It is Friday. And Friday is a good day for wine. Because you’re too tired to do anything crazy, but something to take the edge off is called for. Wine is perfect for that! And let me tell you, if you are getting drunk off of wine, the wine you are drinking isn’t good enough. Or you’re not paying enough attention to it. Either way, you’re doing it wrong.

If you’ve never been much of a wine person but would find the idea of it appealing, don’t ask a wine person for advice. They will direct you to something which they enjoy and you will find either unaffordable or undrinkable. (Do ask liquor store clerks, though. Some of them are really excellent and they don’t get paid enough to buy $40 bottles of wine either.) For those of us who are past Boones Farm but aren’t yearning to gargle our alcohol before swallowing, allow me to share The Upside Down World’s handy guide to wine selection:

  • Whites are usually easier to drink than reds.
  • Blush wines are usually easier to drink than either white or reds but usually run a little towards the kool-aid side of wine.
  • Ask for something that’s not too dry and you’ll get a sweeter wine.
  • If you are drinking a red, ask for low tannins – those are the things that make your mouth pucker when you drink many red wines.
  • Interesting, quality, cheap, easy to drink red wines often come from up-and-coming new regions which change from time to time. South American wines are usually a good choices at the moment (or at least they were a year ago when I had money for a $10 bottle of wine!).
  • For an easy to drink white, wines with unpronounceable German looking names are good bets – but again, avoid anything described as “dry”.
  • Every once in a while, you can get a good wine pairing for what you’re eating. A sip of wine with food in your mouth will make you almost stop and gasp. It’s so good, it’s like magic. But it happens so rarely and unpredictably that it’s hardly worth going out of your way to find. Don’t get hung up on wine-food pairings.
  • You will appreciate the wine section at Trader Joe’s much more after a few trips into the liquor store by the gas station.

This is a movie about oenophiles. Every character in it is despicable. Moral: get advice on choosing wine from bloggers on the internet.

Myself, I prefer a Riesling. I’ve had magic really good Riesling, but that’s only because someone with money bought it for me. But Riesling can be quite good even at the $8 a bottle mass produced range. This is why when he’s trying to pass himself off as a nice guy, the ex will bring a bottle of Riesling over even though he has no money and doesn’t care for it himself. When I’ve been nasty and he’s feeling extra committed to passing himself off as a nice guy, he won’t just leave the bottle on the counter for me to find whenever I happen to make it to the kitchen. He’ll actually open it and bring me a glass. And have put the bottle in the refrigerator for later. Three weeks ago, I must have been pretty nasty at some point in the preceding days because he brought me a glass of Riesling in one of the crystal glasses my parents sent from Poland. They are strictly special occasion glasses. Because we have 5 kids and at least 2 of them are in the “I inexplicably drop only breakable things I’m not supposed to be touching” stage at all times.

Within seconds after taking a drink, I began to experience intense, clenching pain around the area of my diaphragm. Fifteen minutes later we were driving to the emergency room while I alternately stick a paper sack on my head to avoid hyperventilating and stick my head out the window to gulp in cold, numbing air. On the way, I theorizing that I was having a panic attack or that I might be one of those people who shows up in the ER with severe gas pain and just needed to fart. Another round of head out the window and then into the sack.

I had insisted on a paper sack because you can suffocate from putting a plastic bag on your head. Even one with a hole in it. It’s just not safe. And who offers a person a plastic bag to breathe into? My ex, that’s who. You know, the pain had started right after drinking the wine he gave me. “Did you put something in the wine?” I managed to ask before I was seized with pain and stuck my head back out the window.

The ex was a bit startled to be accused of poisoning me, but my world moved right on to writhing around trying to find the least

He's going to die! Did his mother teach him nothing of the dangers of putting a plastic bag on one's head?

painful position to sit in. Thankfully, I made it to the hospital without throwing myself out the window and was taken into triage pretty quickly. About 30 minutes later, while I was sitting in a hospital bed feeling much better, a couple of police officers walked through the waiting area where the ex was sitting and were waved back by the receptionist. He said he just knew they were there because I had told them that he was trying to poison me. He told himself that the toxicology report would clear him.

I had forgotten that I’d even said such a thing of course. I was busy having what would have been the most painful panic attack in human history. (Since I was in so much pain that it literally took my breath away, I was convinced that I was having a panic attack. I am irrationally certain that anytime something might be wrong with me, it will turn out to be a panic attack.) The doctor assured me that as intense as a panic attack can be, it doesn’t actually cause breath-taking physical pain. Later he came back and offered to call the surgeon and get him to come in the next morning to remove my gallbladder. Or he could wish me luck and let me call him myself come Monday morning. “Those are my choices?” I asked. “Well, I do have you on drugs, so I can manipulate you pretty easily at the moment. If you’re not up to thinking about it, I can just go ahead and make the call now,” the kind doctor responded. Which is what he did.

Amy Winehouse was cleared by her last toxicology report. Would the ex be so lucky?

So, the ex was cleared of suspicion without even having to wait on a toxicology report. I am now a few ounces lighter and missing a green sac that once sat by my liver. (Actually, I have no idea if a gallbladder is really green, but it’s always colored green in illustrations, so that’s how I picture it.) And I have another 3 weeks before I’m supposed to pick up or carry the toddler. Fun.

Of course, I’m tough.  I may not be 25 anymore, but I was a good girl and took it easy for a few days.  It wasn’t going to knock me down.  Unfortunately, a week after my gallbladder surgery, my mother nearly died from septic shock. She had attended a church dance with my father just the night before, so we kinda didn’t see it coming.  She ended up in the ICU where the nurse called one of the surgeons and insisted that if he didn’t come in now, she wasn’t going to make it through the night.  Even after emergency surgery to remove a lodged kidney stone, it was touch and go for a while. My dad told me that the evening after surgery, mom had the same gray look my grandfather had when he died a few years earlier. The parish priest came out and gave communion and performed the rites of anointing of the sick on her. According to my dad, almost as soon as the priest put his hands on mom, the color began to return to her face. My mom told me that she started feeling better and looked over at my sister who had tears running down her face. “How sweet. She’s crying tears of joy,” my mom thought to herself. Life always seems impossibly good when God’s moving, I suppose. 😉 Fortunately, mom’s on the mend. But it’s been a long couple of weeks. I’m exhausted.

I’ve been convicted about the need to rest lately. I’ve been hearing it regularly when I pray. But it’s hard. I’ll rest when I’m not poor.

I lift this nap up to the Lord. May my snoozing honor him.

I’ll rest when I’m done doing what I’m trying to do. I’ll rest when I’m not surrounded by children 24/7 for years without a break. I’ll rest. Later. And then life comes along and just piles on until I get to the point of not being able to function. Again. I swear, sometimes I think that life is so hard because it’s the only way God can get us to stop and rest. One day maybe I’ll learn to do it before life has piled on so hard I can’t do anything else. It would probably be a good thing to get worked out.

I hope that your life is not nearly as crazy as mine right now (although if not, don’t feel too bad. It does seem to be going around!). But even if you’re just riding along on a bed of roses, we were made to need rest. We were made to need some recreation and entertainment along with our work. Hell, what good is a bed of roses without the freedom to relax anyways?

So, please don’t wait for life to pile one you. Take some time to rest this weekend. God said so, and I’m here to report that not resting doesn’t work all that well anyways. If you’re not sure what to with yourself, you can always kick back with my newly re-vamped site. I worked all week making it pretty (or at least not dreadfully plain anymore). Plus, a lot of people who only started reading my blog recently may not realize how much there is on the site. I figured out recently that I’ve published close to a half a million words on the site over the years. Which is far too much sorting for most people to go through to find what you want to read. So I’ve been busy organizing as well. I’ve added menus that will make it easier to find what you are interested in reading. There is now a page with my favorite memoir pieces (Look under the “About” menu). There’s also a menu for “Hot Topics” which includes “Spiritual Parenting“, “Theological Concepts“, “Christianity and Evolution“, “Study of the Book of Job“, “Women and Scripture“. I’ve also created a menu for my poems as these seem to be particularly popular. I’m going to get to work on more Hot Topics just as soon as I can function again, so if you have requests/suggestions, please let me know.

If poking around the blog itself isn’t tickling your fancy, may I suggest the newly released eBook version of The Upside Down World ~ A Book of Wisdom in Progress for your recreational reading this weekend? It’s $5. Just like a movie from the bargain dvd bin at Wal-Mart. But better. And if you use my tips above you can add a nice bottle of under $15 wine to read by. For $20 bucks, you have the perfect night in, courtesy of The Upside Down World. If you really want to splurge, grab a bar of dark chocolate to munch on and it will be just like a visit to heavenly realms. I’ll just be curled up in the fetal position in my bed if you need anything!

I Need an Editor. Or Something. . . Forgiving. For Real.

A few years ago, I was writing an obituary for a friend’s father who had passed away suddenly.  As many of you may have noticed, I do alright with the writing part of things most of the time, but I’m not quite so skilled as an editor*.  So, you shouldn’t be too surprised at the fact that I accidentally put the word “believed” where “beloved” was supposed to go.  So the first line read: “Mr. Bob Kennedy, believed father of Teddy and Linda Kennedy. . .”  Suddenly it seemed like not such a bad thing that Mr. Kennedy’s ex-wife hadn’t shown up to help her children handle the arrangements. 

(I spent the weekend with Mr. Kennedy a couple of years earlier when his son Teddy got married.  We were both just-outside-the-inner-circle participants in the wedding.  My ex was the best man and Mr. Kennedy was the now sober  and present father.  I am quite certain that Mr. Kennedy absolutely laughed his ass off over the whole thing.  I mean, he valued his children more than men who never went without them sometimes do.  But the whole thing was pretty rich.  He would have seen the humor.)  

I keep thinking about that story, because I keep thinking about her – the former Mrs. Kennedy.  Continue reading

The Prophetess of Doom and Gloom

I met a woman a couple of months ago who may have saved my life.  At the very least, she brought a much needed spark of laughter and joy into a dark time.  And I don’t even remember her name.  She was a short woman, with slightly beaver like teeth, but it was a faux-masquerade ball at the local science museum for geeky adults and she was wearing a sequined mask, so I never saw her face.  I went because not only am I a geeky adult, I’m also a member of the museum so it was free.  

In the course of talking I mentioned that I had 5 kids and was separated from their dad.  Turns out she was divorced as well.  I listened to her story and expressed sympathy for her painful experience.  And then she turned to me and said, “well, and I hate to be a Debby Downer here, but you do know you’re never going to get another man again.  Not with 5 kids you’re not.  No way.  You’re going to spend the rest of your life alone.”  At which point it took every ounce of self-control for me not to burst out laughing.  Who says something like that?  What is wrong with this person?  How do you even respond to something like that?  Do you burst into tears, confess your fear of being alone forever and let her shake her head knowingly at the shame of it all?  If you try to protest that you’ll be OK she’s just going to assume you’re in denial and maybe humor you.  I could have told her she was rude, but she was such a character I hated to see her leave in a huff.  I told her I hadn’t started processing that aspect of my loss yet. 

Now, if this had been all the woman said, that would have been enough to make it worth my drive out that night.  But I will take it that God knows my sense of humor and put this dear woman in my path that night.  Continue reading