Thursday, March 30, 2006

Divorce and teens

From an article out of Georgia (the state, not the country):

"Messages from Adolescents:
"'At first I felt sorry for myself, doing more chores at home, plus holding down a full-time job. Then I realized I was handling everything and I felt great.' (Gaby, 17)
"'Divorce sucks! I can't believe my parents tell me to act my age when they certainly don't!' (Angie, 15)
"'Parents are always worried about what others think. Why don't they want to know what I think?' (Hastings, 13)"

"Gender Response to Divorce: Do girls or boys adjust better to divorce? 'Over time all children showed improved adjustment,' said Anne Copeland who researched adjustment to divorce in 160 families in the Boston area. A difference in how aggression is expressed was found to be significant. Boys generally display overt physical aggression. They are identified as bullies or problems in the classroom. Unchecked male aggression provides an early introduction to the juvenile justice system. Girls tend to internalize their aggression by crying, pouting, and manipulating situations. They also experience more headaches and stomachaches. Girls are more likely than boys to turn to someone of the opposite sex to find comfort and a renewed sense of importance which may lead to teen pregnancy."

CT Bible study

Another item of interest from Family Scholars blog:

Chrisitianity Today’s Bible Studies series has published a really nice one-session curriculum on Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce. It can be downloaded here (for $5.95).

Chicagoland opportunity

Posted on the Family Scholars Blog:

I’m beginning a project that will result in a short film about the inner lives of grown children of divorce, based on study findings reported in Between Two Worlds: The Inner Lives of Children of Divorce.
I’m looking for young adults (roughly 18-35 years old) who grew up with divorced parents and currently live in the Chicago area who would be interested in being interviewed on camera about their experience.
If that’s you — or if you have a friend who would be interested, or if you want to learn more – please contact me at elizabeth (at)
Please also forward this announcement to any relevant lists.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Memoirs of a Marriage

Sadly this is not available online for me to point you to for easy click and read enjoyment, but write this down and buy the magazine or make time to read it at the library or Borders. The March 27 issue of the New Yorker has a wonderful piece called "Alice, Off the Page" on page 44. Written by Calvin Trillin about his late wife Alice, the article is being praised elsewhere as "heart-breakingly beautiful" and "astonishingly beautiful," and indeed it is both of those. The prose, the stories, and--more to the point--the life they portray are beauty itself. I hope someday to write that well, to love that well, and to be loved that well. For that last part, I'll need to find a man smart enough to suggest that policemen who ticket me instead of letting me off with a warning in deference to my beauty and general cuteness must of course be gay. Mr. Trillin was obviously more of a catch than either he or his friends allowed.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

A note to our friends in France

I'm coming to visit your beautiful country in May. I'll try to speak the language, I'll be appropriately awed at the history and romance floating in the air, I'll spend Euros on pastries. In return, could you please not burn the entire country before I get there? S'il vous plait? Merci beaucoup!

The Virtuous Life

There’s enough good on Boundless to keep me going back to read, but enough just plain wrong to infuriate me. In a recent article, Candice Watters wrote of the benefits of living at home: “If you live on your own, your modesty and sense of propriety may protect you. But in the face of temptation, that's all you have.”

These are all you ever have. When Paul exhorts believers to put on the full armor of God, he lists the breastplate of righteousness, a protective covering I think we can rightly assume to include such things as modesty and propriety. In one of my favorite movies, Sleeping Beauty, the young prince is given a shield of virtue, a sure and powerful defensive weapon against evil.

Regardless of our living situation, and regardless of our marital status, you and I must make a choice for virtue, for truth, for chastity. This is not ultimately a choice for marriage; it is a choice for God. Protecting your chastity isn’t about snaring a mate who requires a virgin, nor is it about rewarding your virgin newlywed sweetheart with your own unbesmirched virtue. It is about obedience. It’s always about obedience.

In a follow up to this article, Candice counsels a young woman that if she doesn’t meet the qualifications for lifelong celibacy then God of course intends for her to be married. There’s a logical fallacy here, though, and it’s a critical one to the issue of virtue and obedience. The idea being touted is that if you cannot live without sex God will give you a get out of sin free card in the form of a spouse. Whew! Dodged that one. But what about those who can’t imagine living the rest of their lives having sex with only one person? Do they get a free polygamy pass? The fact is, God has set boundaries for us. Some of us will be married and will need to live virtuously in our married state; the consequences of not doing so are often divorce and all the heartache and regret that accompany such the dissolution of a sacred bond. Some of us will remain single forever and will need to live virtuously in our unmarried state; this may be a joy or it may be a thorn in the flesh. But in either case, obedience is the only option, and it is possible for all of us. You may question whether God has called you to marriage, but you can be sure God has called you to be holy (1 Peter 1:15-16).

Thank you, Dr. Neil Clark Warren

"A man separated from his wife but not quite divorced is suing a popular online matchmaker for refusing to help him find a date." Hmm..."not quite divorced." Is that like "kind of pregnant"? Gee, he sounds like a real catch!

A vote for joint custody

I'm not a proponent of joint custody. Maybe we just adjust to what we have, but I know my life was more stable and in many ways better because I had one home, one school, one set of neighborhood friends. But in the interests of objectivity, here's an article that makes a good case for joint custody. Also in the interests of objectivity, I should mention that it's written by someone who works with the fathers' rights lobby who are firmly on the side of joint custody.

To search or not to search

From an article that offers hope to the divorced: “I think it’s usually not to your advantage to be looking for someone to marry, because if you can’t learn to be OK by yourself and with friends and learn to enjoy your job and enjoy living by yourself, it’s going to be very hard for you to find satisfaction and happiness in a relationship.”

Back to the drawing board

I have my first official rejection notice for the book, so the search continues for the perfect publisher. Searching seems to be a theme right now...

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Collaborative divorce

Here's a novel concept:

"In collaborative divorce, the parties have their own lawyers, but they agree to work together, along with financial experts, mental health professionals and other specialists who help them find common ground as they work out the details of the divorce." More here....

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Single, parenting, and dating

Here's a good article by a single dad on dating with kids. "What I've learned in 11 years of being a single parent is that parents often think they're ready to date, and they can't figure out why their kids aren't jumping onto the bandwagon. ...As adults, it's hard to put our hormones on hold, but sometimes we have to because our children need us."

Friday, March 17, 2006

When Dad Is Missing

My review of To Own a Dragon and A Dad-Shaped Hole in My Heart is up on BreakPoint.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thoughts from The Undertaking

I finished The Undertaking last night. Lynch waxes eloquent several times on the interplay of life and death, the way our lack of respect for those on the fringes of life erodes our respect for life itself, the way our care for the dead shows our care for the living. A wee philosophical in a sometimes-crass-sometimes-poetic way.

Lynch, on broken hearts: "Heartbreak is an invisible affliction. No limp comes with it, no evident scar. No sticker is issued that guarantees good parking or easy access. The heart is broken all the same. The soul festers. The wound, untreated, can be terminal."

On community and divorce (a longish quote, but worth the read; more of us need to reach out to others in crisis this way): "When my wife moved out some years ago, the children stayed here, as did the dirty laundry. It was big news in a small town. There was the gossip and the goodwill that places like this are famous for. And while there was plenty of talk, no one knew exactly what to say to me. They felt helpless, I suppose. So they brought casseroles and beef stews, took the kids out to the movies or canoeing, brought their younger sisters around to visit me. What Milo did was send his laundry van around twice a week for two months, until I found a housekeeper. Milo would pick up five loads in the morning and return them by lunchtime, fresh and folded. I never asked him to do this. I hardly knew him. I had never been in his home or his laundromat. His wife had never known my wife. His children were too old to play with my children.
"After my housekeeper was installed, I went to thank Milo and pay the bill. The invoices detailed the number of loads, the washers and dryers, detergent, bleaches, fabric softeners. I think the total came to sixty dollars. When I asked Milo what the charges were for pick-up and delivery, for stacking and folding and sorting by size, for saving my life and the lives of my children, for keeping us in clean clothes and towels and bed linen, 'Never mind that' is what Milo said. 'One hand washes the other.'"

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Thoughts from Lauren Winner

I finished reading Lauren Winner's Real Sex: The Naked Truth About Chastity last night. This is much more heavy theology than her previous books, bringing a very weighty perspective to a topic that typically gets a quick and light treatment. Here are some quotes pertinent to our discussion...

...on marriage:

[in years gone by] "there was a togetherness born not merely of affection but of mutual work. It didn't really matter if you liked your husband on a given Tuesday. You were stuck working with him all day anyhow. Your togetherness, your relationship didn't rely on the caprice of your feelings. You were bound together, primarily, by a common undertaking--making your productive household run." (This reminds me of Leslie Leyland Fields' autobiography Surviving the Island of Grace.)

"No matter how clearly we see ourselves and our fiances, marriage will prove difficult. We will both change. We will argue, and feel broken, and wonder why we ever married in the first place--and it is God who will sustain us in those spells."

...on singles living chastely:

"...the unmarried Christian who practices chastity refrains from sex in order to remember that God desires your person, your body, more than any man or woman ever will."

[quoting John A.T. Robinson on the importance of the body] "It is from the body of sin and death that we are delivered; it is through the body of Christ on the Cross that we are saved; it is into His body the Church that we are incorporated; it is by His body in the Eucharist that the community is sustained; it is in our body that its new life is to be manifested; it is to a resurrection of this body to the likeness of His glorious body that we are destined."

"In baptism, you have become Christ's Body, and it is Christ's Body that must give you permission to join His Body to another body."

...and on both chastity and fidelity:

"This is how sin works: it whispers to us about the goodness of something not good."

Conflict in marriage

From CNN Money:

many successful marriages are generously seasoned with episodes of anger and disagreement..."(I)n the ecology of marriage a certain amount of negativity is required for the union to thrive," Gottman writes in his book, "Why Marriages Succeed or Fail." "(A)iring a complaint -- though rarely pleasant, makes the marriage stronger in the long run."

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Dead or alive?

I went to the doctor recently for a check-up. It had been awhile—I’m not fond of doctors. My philosophy is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” And I come from healthy stock. My great-grandpa Bill had a stroke at age 92 and went to a nursing home for his last few weeks of life. The paramedics who arrived to transport him refused to believe my great-grandmother when she told them he wasn’t on any medication. Still every decade or so I figure it’s a good idea to get a professional opinion.

At the end of my appointment, I was sent down the hall to have blood drawn. The nurse tied her elastic tubing around my left arm and started tapping to find a vein. “Do you have tiny veins?” she asked. “Yep, and they’re buried deep—sorry,” I affirmed. She tried the other arm, before giving up and asking the other nurse to try. The second nurse approached with a look of impatience. She tapped….and tapped…and then said, “Uh-uh, this one’s dead! Why we got to take blood from dead people?”

Turns out I wasn’t dead and she found a vein in the other arm, but have you ever felt that way—dead spiritually or emotionally? I have. I’ve felt like the dry bones that Ezekiel prophesied over. “Son of man, can these dry bones live?” “Oh, sovereign Lord, only you know.”

What do you see in your life today that looks dead? Is it a ministry, a relationship, an opportunity, a hope? Does it look dire? Just remember, appearances can be deceiving. What looks dead may not be. It might just be mostly dead, like Wesley in The Princess Bride. Or it might be really, truly, dead as a doornail. That’s okay. You serve a God Who is in the business of raising the dead to life, don’t you?

Monday, March 13, 2006

Alanis Morissette on Fathers

Click here for the lyrics to Morissette's Princes Familiar. The verses describe what some women (unconciously more often than not) look for in a man based on the bad examples they saw growing up; the chorus is a plea for fathers to model things differently for their little girls.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Book update

If you've read more than just the blog posts, you know I'm in the process of trying to turn all of this into a book. Over the next couple of weeks, the editorial staff of a publishing company will be considering my proposal; please pray with me that they will view my proposal favorably. I'm hopeful that I'll have some news by the end of March.

Boomer perspective

I picked up The Undertaking: Life Studies from the Dismal Trade because the author, Thomas Lynch will be at a writer's conference I'm attending next month with my friend Lori. And the topic is not without interest to me. One of my uncles is a funeral director and I've spent many a Christmas Eve in the apartment above the funeral home, occasionally feeling sad for the rare family who were holding viewing services on that night. My friends always thought it was creepy that we went to the funeral home for Christmas Eve, but it's not like the corpses were sitting around drinking eggnog with us.

I shouldn't even have picked it up. I still had to finish two other books for a review I'm writing for BreakPoint, and I was already in the middle of two other books; but there it sat, beckoning me..."open me, read me, just a few pages...." I caved. And read this:

"Wary of being caught unawares, we [Baby Boomers] planned our parenthood, committed to trial marriages with pre-nuptials, and pre-arranged our parents' funerals--convinced we could pre-feel the feelings that we have heard attend new life, true love, and death. And for all our planning, for all our micromanagement, for all our yammering about our parents' mistakes, we abort more, divorce more, and soon will kevork more than any twenty generations on the globe before us."

Friday, March 10, 2006

The Strength of a Mighty Warrior

I’ve always loved the story of Gideon. As a first grader, I remember sitting in chapel service in the gym of the Christian school I attended watching the fear-filled antics of Gideon as acted out by Pastor John. This was especially hilarious to us all because we knew Pastor John as a man of unnatural fear. We had seen him run—literally run—through the halls of our school, a tiny barking dog at his heels. I grew up with the legendary story of how he hesitated one day to get out of the car while on visitation ministry with my stepfather, claiming that people who owned a dog didn’t need Jesus. So he gave a realistic and very believable impression of Gideon, stealthily threshing grain inside a winepress for fear he would be seen by the Midianites.

As the writer of Judges tells us, the angel of the Lord greeted Gideon in a surprising way given his hideout location, calling him a mighty warrior. “The Lord is with you, mighty warrior.” Gideon, a mighty warrior? Maybe David, slayer of lions, but this guy? He didn’t believe it either. He kept questioning the angel, trying to convince God’s messenger that he was weak and insignificant; then he put out that infamous fleece. And still God wasn’t done. He made Gideon winnow down his small army to pitiful proportions before letting him go into battle.

God did this, we learn, to teach Gideon that he could not rely on himself. For all of his protestations, Gideon was relying on himself, a self he knew was inadequate. The second thing the angel told Gideon was, “Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.” Now before you take this to mean that God believed in Gideon and was giving him a ‘you can do it!’ pep talk, stop to consider what strength Gideon had. The answer is in the first words that the angel uttered: “The Lord is with you.” The Lord was Gideon’s strength all along. He had the power of the Almighty, but he was relying on his own paltry fighting ability.

As the catchphrase goes, “I resemble that remark.” I have found myself saying to friends, “I know God only gives us what we can handle, but sometimes I wish He didn’t have such a high opinion of how strong I am.” There’s me—climbing into the winepress, throwing out a fleece, thinking my 32,000 warriors will do the job, instead of remembering that the Lord is with me (Matthew 28:20) and going in the strength I have.

“But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praise to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God” (Psalm 59:16-17).

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Oh, the tangled web

I'm sitting here blogging and watching TV. ABC Nightly News just ran a piece about a guy who is suing (if I understand it right) his ex-girlfriend who told him after they broke up that she was pregnant. He's claiming his rights were violated because he's being asked for support for a child he didn't want. Newsflash buddy: don't want the kid? Zip it up and you could have solved that problem. No sympathy here. But the argument that "of course it's the woman's choice because it's 'her' body" just doesn't hold water either. And what about the baby? It's nice that mom wanted the little tyke, but dad's outright rejection is very sad--for him and the baby.

Children of Divorce on Marriage

From a review of a book of essays by women called Why I'm Still Married (which I can't recommend because one of the "marriages" is between lesbians):

"Nell Casey, a 34-year-old newlywed of only one year, admits she was a child of divorce who long yearned for 'normal' and loved the idea of marriage, unfashionable though that might be these days. 'We each inherit our own legacy of marriage, defining ourselves with or against our own parents’ marriage. … I do believe my sturdy sense of commitment sprang, in part, from the wreck of my parents’ marriage.'"

and later:

"Eve LaPlante, another offspring of divorce, gets my award for the title of her essay, '18,260 Breakfasts.' That’s the number of breakfasts a couple married for 50 years could enjoy together, and that’s the question LaPlante used to ask herself when dating. Looks, charm, a sense of humor and financial security are fine, she said, but her make-or-break question was, 'Can you conceive of wanting to wake up every morning and chat with this person over breakfast for 50 years?'"

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Boys without dads

My copy of To Own a Dragon arrived yesterday and I read it last night. It's a pretty quick read; I finished it in about 4 hours. While much of the book is sobering, Don Miller's humor lightens it up and made me laugh out loud at times or stop to read a particularly hilarious passage to my brother (who was over for dinner) or my mom (who is staying with me temporarily). We all laughed together at his description of a pitiful pine car derby entry, painted to resemble Bo and Luke Duke's sweet ride, but with no wheels, screeching to a halt at the first flat spot in the race track. "That General Lee, always breaking down," Miller as a boy thought, while his mother realized in horror that none of the other Boy Scouts' fathers had helped him as promised.

The title comes from Miller's comparison of fathers to fairy tale dragons. "...I feel as though I am writing a book about a dragon or a troll under a bridge. For me a father is nothing more than a character in a fairy tale. And I know that fathers are not like dragons in that fathers actually exist, but I don't remember feeling that a father existed for a way I don't miss having a father any more than I miss having a dragon."

Miller discovered, however, that not having a father was something he missed in profound ways that he had never acknowledged. And he learned "that wounds don't heal until you feel them." Through a pivotal friendship with photographer John MacMurray (credited as a co-author because of the depth of his inspiration for Miller's thoughts on fatherhood), Miller begins to explore what fatherhood really means and what it means for God to be a father to us. MacMurray tells Miller, "...ultimately, we all belong to God. In Scripture He refers to Himself as our Father and I think He really longs for us to know Him as that. So I would say, none of us is really without a father."

Still, Miller acknowledges that the image of God as father was a difficult one for him. "...if our earthly fathers are God's way of communicating His love for us, then, apparently, God only loves some of us." But he goes on to realize that "our fathers aren't God. They can help us understand who God is and how good He is, but they can also do a lot of damage. But God is God regardless, and if we take the Bible as true, it's good to think He is fathering us perfectly."

In the end, Miller concludes that all of us face challenges. For some of us, our big challenge is life without a father. We can wallow in self-pity and fruitless rage over that, or we can realize that it's a challenge and deal with it. "Christian spirituality," writes Miller, "does not tell me to close my eyes and pretend life is beautiful and there are no problems to confront. I am told, instead, I am out of water, and finding water again will require a different kind of water...We will have issues, we will have brokenness."

And he leaves us with a challenge: to become Wounded Healers, a phrase taken from Bishop Desmond Tutu. Miller's exhortation is to see your pain as a road to empathy and healing for others. "It makes you wonder, doesn't it, whether or not God calls specific people who have specific pain into the authority of empathy? Experience is, after all, the best education."

Miller lives by this exhortation, having established a foundation to help single moms and provide mentors for fatherless kids. Here are some sobering statistics from his foundation:

63% of youth suicides are from fatherless homes--5 times the average.
85% of all children who show behavior disorders come from fatherless homes--20 times the average.
80% of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes--14 times the average.
71% of all high school dropouts come from fatherless homes--9 times the average.
75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers come from fatherless homes--10 times the average.
70% of youths in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes--9 times the average.
85% of all youths in prison come from fatherless homes--20 times the average.

Dads, you make a huge difference in your kids' lives just by being there!

Empty nesters divorcing

Divorce doesn't just affect kids who are still in childhood. When mom and dad divorce after the kids are grown, issues just take on a different tone, as in this article:

"When children are under 18, parents may try -- or may be forced by courts -- to shield them from the nastiness of divorce. Adults often can't help knowing every unsavory detail of their parents' split. Amy Thompson, 23, never imagined her parents would part until her mother left her father three years ago while Thompson was in college. She became her devastated father's counselor. He called her sometimes twice a day to rehash the demise of his marriage. To her dismay, Thompson's father even divulged to her details of his sex life with her mother. 'If I was 10,' she said, 'he wouldn't have been talking to me about these issues.' In some ways, Thompson felt she lost a parent and became one to her father."

More here...

I'm reading the book referenced in the article and will post some quotes and thoughts on it soon.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Virtual visitation

Technology helps long-distance parents stay in touch with kids.

"Mr. List's divorce agreement guaranteed him 'virtual visitation' — the chance to talk with his daughter through an Internet video connection — and he and Ruby Rose, now five, usually connect at least twice a week. The chats sustain them in between their in-person visits, which come only a few times a year." More here...