Wednesday, May 18, 2016


The past few years I've been very, very close to addiction.  My brother, my only full sibling, is a meth addict.  He has been for years.  I first learned of his addiction almost 9 years ago at a birthday party I had thrown for my aunt.  His then-wife came to me and told me that he had been arrested, that he was in trouble.  Until that moment, I really had no idea what was happening. 

My brother and I grew up in the same house.  He was 4 and a half years older than me.  We were never close as children.  We did not spend a lot of time together.  My brother was rebellious.  He didn't like school.  He had lots of friends, but they weren't my friends.  I was a rule follower.  I didn't like conflict and I wanted desperately to please my parents.  When he was 18, he moved out and worked a few jobs before my dad helped him get a great job.  He excelled at the job.  He made lots of money.  He married his high school sweetheart and had a few kids.  I was closer to his children that I ever was to him.

Fast forward.  I went away to college and then law school.  I never again lived in our hometown, which he never left.  The friends I made as a child were no longer my primary support system, and neither was my family.  I built a life, a family and community elsewhere.  I married, and started my own family.  I would spend time with his children, but he worked a lot, so we didn't really connect very often.  When we did see each other - the occasional wedding, funeral, Christmas dinner, we made small talk.  We didn't dislike each other, but we had very little in common.  We never really knew each other.

Then, everything changed.  In 2005 he quit his job and decided to operate a strip club.  He began actively lying to our parents, but somehow thought he and I should be on the same page and I should help him deceive them.  His behavior seemed increasingly erratic.  One moment he was talking a mile a minute and the next he seemed to be so tired he couldn't stand up straight.  He seemed volatile and unpredictable.  Still, I didn't really suspect drug use. 

In early 2006, he showed up at my house late one night to show me a contract.  He wanted me to review it.  I was 8 months pregnant with my son.  My brother was all over the place.  It was then I first got the eery feeling something was really wrong.  He came to the hospital the day after my son was born.  He was again all over the place, ranting and raving about how he wanted to kill our father.  I knew then something was seriously wrong. 

In June, 2006, I found out he had been using and selling drugs.  His wife told me.  In the car, on the way to try and see if I, as a lawyer, could see my brother.  She was crying, and knew things had spiraled out of control.  I had no idea just out of control things would get.

My brother spent the next year continuing to use, lie, hide from the authorities, and ultimately he was sentenced to federal prison.  The rest of the family spent that year trying to get him help (my parents paid for a lawyer and rehab) and trying to understand how things ever got this out of control.

I was at a distance from a lot of it.  I still lived an hour away, and while I spent time with my parents and niece and nephew, I wasn't living it every day.  I went to see my brother sporadically with my parents when he was being held, and ultimately in the federal prison camp he went to.  I listened to him talk, and hoped he had beat his addiction.  But, I had my doubts from the beginning.  He talked a lot about the raw deal he got.  About the dirty cops and the dirty lawyers.  He talked like he was still using.  It was everyone else's fault or issue.  I worried about what would happen when he was released.

After he was released from prison and living in a halfway house, I hoped that perhaps he had softened some.  And it seemed he had.  But then the cycle started all over again.  The signs of his use, the lying.  But now, add to it the stealing, manipulation and blaming.  He has stolen from my 84 year old father, his 17 year old son and probably from various others I don't know about.  He manipulates the truth, and has cut off ties with me to the degree he can.  He treats my mother, the one person who has continually tried to support him, with disdain and contempt.  He will likely wind up back in prison as he is on probation and has tested positive four times for drug use. 

What I'm about to say probably seems harsh.  And it is.  And I have no excuse for it, nor do I want to feel this way.  But there are days, more often than I'd care to admit, that I wish my brother was dead.  The havoc he has wrecked on my family and in particular his own children and my parents is something I can't quite forgive.  My parents have systematically sold anything they think he can steal, sell or otherwise ruin.  They lock their home now.  This is something they have never done in my nearly 40 years.  They lock it so their son won't steal more possessions from them.  He has stolen money, my dad's guns (which belonged to his late father), but mostly he has stolen their peace.  My mother doesn't sleep well.  My father worries that he will bury his son.  And what's worse is he tries to guilt them at every turn so he can manipulate more money from them.  He lies to them continually.  He has told his son that if he stops using meth, he will kill himself.  He has told his daughter she is a worthless piece of trash. 

And honestly I'm tired.  I'm tired of worrying about our next family event and whether my brother will (1) show up or (2) show up high or (3) steal something or (4) make everyone feel bad.   It's a strange place to be.  I don't know my brother.  Perhaps I never did.  But it's extremely hard for me to find compassion for him.  I want my parents to have peace in their lives.  I want his children to have peace in their lives.  And at this moment, I don't think that's possible if he's alive.

I suppose more than anything I wish I knew how to magically fix it all.  What could I do to make him see that he needs to get cleaned up?  Is there something I'm missing?  I wish I didn't feel the way I do.  But I also know this is no time to be dishonest about where things stand. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015


This is the year I will turn 40.  I've never been big on numbers, mine or others, but 39 (and 2014 in particular) has been a rough year, and I've never felt my age as acutely as I have in the last year, so approaching 40 has me feeling anxious and a little ill-prepared. 

Then, as if some sort of cosmic joke, at Christmastime I also learned I was expecting a third child. This realization came down on top of my head like the figurative sky falling in.

When I married my husband over two years ago, we talked about having a baby. We both had our children from prior relationships. We thought about it, considered it and ultimately we made an unspoken decision that we were too old, too tired and had our hands too full with the children we already had and our lives, jobs and responsibilities.  We started dreaming about the next chapter.  The post-children-living-with-us one.  I had never really considered it before.  I always assumed I would have a third child.  We could move wherever we wanted to, we could go out to dinner when we wanted to, and we could start over in 10 short years when the kids were grown and out of the house.  We became excited about the possibilities.  My 40's were going to bring a new normal, and I was ready for it. I've settled into the busyness of kids' sports, school events and continuing to develop the middle of my career as an attorney.  But I also had my eye on the future.  I began cleaning out the basement of all of the baby/toddler/little kid stuff.  The kids even helped me.  We donated things, gave them to friends and generally moved post-baby.

I also mourned in some way. I had always wanted a third child. And I felt like it would be fun to have a child with my husband. Seeing what we would create, and parenting a child together were things I thought sounded wonderful. But I didn't stay sad long. I was comfortable with our life together.  And besides, after the year we've had, another child seemed unthinkable.

2014 brought a lot of things our family's way.  A few close friends were diagnosed and treated for cancer.  This scared me, and shook my foundations more than usual.  These were women I knew and loved.  Their journey through cancer treatment and the pain of facing their mortality, brought mine to the surface as well.

My brother relapsed into the abyss of drug addiction.  After some years of sobriety, this past year brought a full and complete relapse for him.  He is engulfed in his addiction, and all of the behaviors that go with it - stealing, lying and creating chaos for everyone.  His relapse brings me to the realization again that my own anxiety, depression and addictive traits could spiral out of control.

My father is dying.  As he loses his sight, his hearing and his mind, the rest of us wait and watch and hope that his passing can be easy for him.  He is reliant on all of us, and especially my mother.  It is hard for him and probably even harder for her.  His loss of his memory and ability to talk about things is sad, and of course reminds me that perhaps one day I will be in his shoes.

My daughter is growing up so fast.  She is officially taller than I am, she started her period (she'd love me sharing that), has hit the "I don't tell my mom everything anymore" phase and is turning into a young lady.  While I am enjoying seeing her grow and change, there is a bittersweet feel to it all.  No
longer my own, but now becoming her own person.  Her eyerolls and attitude frustrate me, but her growth makes me happy and proud.

Michael Brown was shot in the streets of Ferguson only 8 miles from my home. Tamir Rice was shot in Cleveland.  Eric Garner was choked in New York.  None of the people who killed any of them has been held accountable (yet).  These events have brought back into the forefront the race, socioeconomic and class issues our country, and closer to home our community has to deal with.  While I could've predicted the non-indictments in these situations, I am saddened by it.  I am disappointed and angry at the world we live in, and the failure of our systems of justice.  I worry about my children growing up in a world that remains divided and not just.

I have left my church home in search of something different.  So far my journey has been more discouraging than encouraging.  My visits to churches have confirmed my own suspicions - we remain a divided community on Sunday mornings in much the same way as every other day of the week.  This leaves me sad, and feeling a bit homeless.

So, in the face of all of this, I stand in the middle.  Expecting another child.  A child I did not plan for, and that when I learned of his/her existence I cried tears of fear.  How do I bring a child into the world I experienced this year?  This child will likely never know his or her grandfather or uncle.  This child will have very few extended family members.  This child's siblings will be 9 and 12 years older than him or her, and therefore not have a playmate as my other 2 had in one another.  This child's mother is OLD.  And so is its father.  This child is born into a family without a church home.  This child is born into a world where his or her race will still matter.  While I feel more financially secure, and my marriage is certainly stronger than it was when either of my first two children were born, I feel even less prepared this time around than I did the first two times.  I know too much.  You can't unlearn life experience.  I know about children who have cancer, friends who have miscarried, had stillbirths and have lost children to illness.  I have known women who have died in childbirth, died of cancer and in car accidents. What if I die and my child grows up with his or her mother?

And yet, here I stand, expecting my third child.  I am in a different place than I was at first.  This baby feels more like defiance.  Like hope in the face of incredible tragedy and sadness.  Choosing to bring another child into the world at 40 years old, knowing so much more than I did when I brought my first into the world at the age of 28, feels like a statement, a manifesto.

This baby feels like hope.  It feels like shaking my fist at the sky and saying "I refuse to give up on this world and these people."  It seems like I'm saying that my husband and I and our love for one another and this child will be enough. That despite my fears and doubts and uncertainties and worry and sadness and anger, I can do this.  I can carry and deliver a healthy child.  I can raise this child to know love and certainty and joy.  This child is the manifestation of the things I could not find on my own.  This child is exactly what I needed and a gift I had no idea I would receive.  This child is my hope for my world.  And for my husband's.  And maybe for other people's worlds, too.  Even at 40, this baby is offering me more hope than I know what to do with.  May it always be true.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Binding and Loosing

I made a fairly strange New Year's resolution this year.  I committed to binding those things and people that needed to be bound to me and loosing those ties that needed to be loosened.  I got the idea in the final days of 2012 when I heard again the text from Matthew regarding loosing and binding.

"and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."  Matthew 16:19

I am, to put it in an odd way, a "hanger-oner."  I have a hard time letting go of people, ideas and places.  It's been part of my make-up since I was a little girl.  Even after I've seen that it's time to move on, let go, do something different, I still struggle with doing so.  By way of example, I knew years before I ever married my first husband that this was not who I needed to be with.  I knew in ways that I didn't or couldn't express that we were not meeting one another's needs.  And yet, I hung on tight for over a decade after that realization.  I've had friendships that if I examined them closely, I would've seen clearly needed to be let go of.  Still, I struggle with being able to walk away.  It's part of who I am.

The problem is...when I hang on to people, things or ideas that I shouldn't be hanging onto...I am not attending to that which needs to be bound up.  Those peoples, places and ideas that serve to make me a more loving and just human being.  Those are the things that I need to be binding on earth.

So...this year my New Year's resolution has already been one I've had to think about and act upon.  I've had to let go of two different friendships.  Quite honestly, I didn't want to let go.  I wanted to see if I could somehow figure a way through or out.  But, ultimately I reached a point when I realized (in the past few days) that the friendships aren't healthy.  Not for me.  Not for the other two people.  So, at last, I've decided to loose those ties.  And already I have seen how this has allowed me to refocus my time and energies on those things which I want to bind.

The relationships that are the most integral for me are my husband and my children.  They are what need and deserve my attention.  My husband is an amazing man.  And he has sat by while I have struggled to loose that which needed loosed.  He has listened, held my hand and loved me through it.  I couldn't ask for more from anyone in my life than what he has offered.  And I know that regardless of whether I made the choice to loosen willingly or not, he would be there, willing to hold my hand and love me through the process. 

Binding and Loosing in 2013.

New Year - The Bird's Nest

I've discovered something I love.  New Year's.  I love to formulate ideas and think about all I want to accomplish.  I will admit up front, execution is not my strong suit.  I recently thought of an analogy that reminds me of these two things.

A year or so ago, a bird built a nest in my hanging basket plant.  I didn't realize the nest was there at first, but one day, when I took the plant down to water it adequately, I noticed the nest, and I noticed 5 small eggs in the nest.  One egg looked a little strange, but the other 4 were the ordinary blue robin eggs one sees all the time in the Midwest.  Over time, I watched the eggs, and I talked with my kids about the eggs and how they may hatch soon, but we shouldn't disturb the next or touch the eggs for fear the mother bird might abandon them.

Soon the eggs hatched...or actually in reality 4 of the eggs hatched.  The strange looking egg never hatched.  Of the four babies, one died quickly.  Another fell out of the nest at some point.  The last two grew, and I assume flew away at some point, as they no longer returned to the nest. 

All of my ideas and thoughts are like the eggs.  Sometimes the idea never makes it past simply rolling around in my brain, never hatching at all.  Some of my dreams or hopes make it to hatching and the sharing with another person, but because of time, money or practicality, the idea never makes it out of the nest.  A few of those ideas though, they make it.  They take wings and eventually a life of their own. 

New Year's is a time to develop eggs for the year.  This year I decided to write them down as a way of solidifying what I want to see happen in the next year (and beyond). 

I ended up with 5 major (and somewhat lofty) goals.

1.  Take control of what I can control about my health.

For me this means eliminating candy and fast food from my diet.  It means eliminating artificial sweeteners and taking vitamins again.  It means exercising 4-5 days per week.  It means trying to learn to like vegetables (one a month is what I wrote down).  It means accepting my body today, but realizing that I have to make the changes I know are necessary to live a long, healthy life. 

2. Write.

For me this means getting back to blogging, but also getting started on the 2 books I've been wanting to write for sometime now.  In an effort to make my goal more attainable, I have decided to set aside 2 hours each week (at a minimum) to write.

3.  Build money in retirement.

I'm not getting any younger.  Someday I won't be able to do what I do for a living.  I want to feel like I'm doing something to prepare for that day.

4.  Work on the nonprofit I started in 2013. 

This means setting aside two hours per week to work on the direction and administration of this Board.

5.  Set aside quality time each week for my husband.

The primary relationship in my life deserves more intentional time than I always give it.  I want to nurture this relationship and be sure that we stay connected.  Thankfully I have an amazing partner who wants to spend his time with me.  I need to take advantage of this.

So, that's it.  My set of resolutions for this year.  I'm hopeful as I always am at this time of year.  2014 will be a good year.

Monday, December 10, 2012


These past few months have been full of joy for me.  I met a man several months ago who I fell in love with.  But, deeper than that, I chose him. And he chose me.  We decided to marry.  And then we did. It didn't seem like a hard decision to make, but that isn't to say I took it lightly.  In fact, I take the decision very seriously.  I have no desire to live through the pain of a second divorce.  My husband is in all ways the man I want to spend the rest of my life with.  I often think about how strange life meet such an incredible man now.  In my late 30's. 

However amazing my marriage has been thus far, my life has been marked by sadness over other situations.  My law partner and friend's husband was diagnosed with two forms of cancer in August.  Her life has changed in ways she could have never imagined.  Her pain and sadness is palpable.  She is far braver and more loyal than I ever could have given her credit for.  My husband is searching for a job.  One that will make him feel good about working and a job that he can feel is contributing to our world to make it better.  My best friend and I are at odds.  Again.  This time I see that perhaps there is no way forward together.  And of course that brings with it a sense of sadness and regret.  My former husband is behaving in ways that cause my children pain and fill me with rage. 

I have had to consider, and draw conclusions about what I will seek as primary in my life.  There are few open spots in life.  From early on, we are forced to choose primary relationships.  And I have over the years had to choose these things.  My first husband never really occupied a primary place in my life.  I had friends, church, kids and other things that filled those spots.  The man I have chosen at 37 is occupying the central place that another human can occupy.  And I made that choice.  To let him in.  To love him and make him a priority every day.  That wasn't in the vows necessarily, but I have chosen it nonetheless.  What perhaps is even better is that he has also made that choice. 

What this choice means is that my ex-husband's antics no longer get a central spot in my life.  My best friend's decisions and choices take on a secondary role.  It doesn't mean that I don't care.  It simply means that I won't allow myself to invest in these situations as I would have in the past.  The losses aren't made easier necessarily.  But they are losses I am choosing.  My responses are less emotional and more matter of fact.  There have been moments when I have been angered or saddened by what has happened, but ultimately I can let go in a way I would have struggled with a year ago. 

What I have discovered in the past few months is that when we seek to be someone's primary relationship knowing that the other person isn't fully available to us...for whatever reason...we are not loving that person by seeking the relationship. My ex-husband was not capable of placing me in a primary role.  For many reasons and perhaps the reasons don't matter.  And when our relationship failed, it was at least partially because of the lack of primacy that either of us placed on it.  However this is not to say that primary relationships can be sought out.  In fact, I would say it's the opposite.  If we are fortunate enough to pass into someone's life at the right moment, it is an amazing thing.  But asking someone to choose us who is not free to make a good, sound choice is selfish.  And the relationship will never have the quality it needs to last the storms.  And trying to force ourselves into a primary place in someone else's life is manipulation in it's worst form.  It seems life a loving thing, but in fact it is only to meet our own need to belong to someone.

The moment I knew things had deteriorated in my marriage was when I began to lie to those closest to me about what was happening.  When I could no longer maintain friendships and familial relationships because I knew things were a mess and I feared everyone's judgment.  While I care less about others' judgments now than I used to, I still recognize the gauge as a valuable one. 

I believe in primary relationships and the importance of choosing with not just our desires but also with our minds and hearts.   And I'm finally in a place where I'm choosing healthy ones rather than ones that can only end badly.  Life is good.  Even when my days aren't always so wonderful.  And I'm excited that the man I have chosen to be primary in my life wants to hold that spot.

Monday, October 1, 2012


I'm a planner.  I like to plan things.  Whether it be a special dinner or a party or just when I'm going to read a new book, I enjoy thinking about how things are going to go.  I must admit that this sometimes lends itself to disappointment.  When I "plan" in my mind how things are going to go and then...something or someone interferes.  My plans are either thrown out the window or have to be revised.  This never makes me particularly happy.  I have a certain rigidity about my personality that makes me irritated by the sort of haphazard way life really is. 

This brings me to my latest revelation.  My life, thus far, really hasn't gone according to my plan.  That is...when I was a young girl, I was like many other young girls I think.  I thought I would grow up, "find myself", get a job, get married, have babies and live happily ever after.  What I didn't plan was that I would struggle with figuring out what to do with my life.  That I would fight to find a job that I could really love.  That I would get married, only to subsequently get divorced.  That my baby would have health issues.  None of that was part of the plan.  Still, I survived it.  And ultimately came out the other side of those times stronger and more whole than before.

Now I find myself in love.  It seems strange at 37 to be so enamored with another person, but I am.  And I'm enjoying getting to know him and his plans, hopes, failures and losses.  The more I know, the more I find myself drawn in.  Still, this is outside the plan.  My amended plan when I divorced at 34 was to remain single.  Raise my babies.  Enjoy their lives.  Live somewhat vicariously through them.  They have been the sun I have revolved around for the past three years.  There is a certain comfort to that.  Of course I know children grow up and life moves on, but still...I thought they were enough for me.  I didn't need another marriage.

Recently I have come to realize that I am now called into another adventure.  This one, I will travel with a partner.  A man who is my equal.  He doesn't want to be rescued from anything or saved from something.  He is smart, loyal, funny.  In the beginning, I wasn't sure.  I wondered if this made sense at this time, in this place.  But eventually I was able to let go and accept the gift standing before me.  It's been an awesome journey so far.  I can't wait for the next 6 months, 5 years, 50 years. 

I have to admit, life hasn't went according to plan. And yet I'm more optimistic than ever about what direction I'm heading in.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thomas (Still)

Every year it happens...I listen to the Gospel of just after the Resurrection. And I sit and think about Thomas. Usually the story makes me cry.

"But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger in the mark of the nails, and my hand in his side, I will not believe. A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, Peace be with you. Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe. Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe." (The Gospel according to John)

Every year I feel some mixture of pain and shame when I step into Thomas' shoes in this Gospel. I feel as if I lived Thomas' life 2,000 years later. I want badly to believe, but I doubt. And I look for the signs around me. Some days I'm pretty good and accepting the unbelievable story of God's grace and love for humans. And other days, I must confess I think maybe we're all part of some strange cosmic joke. It's complicated. The past few years my life has become about embracing the doubts that once plagued me and accepting they are just as important to my faith as faith is. This year my view of Thomas has shifted a bit. This year his story made me cry. But not because I knew in that moment this man's shame. Instead it was I knew in that moment his disbelief and then his elation.

I cannot imagine being Thomas. Following the rabbi known as Jesus around. And then ultimately watching him die a horrible death. The feeling of abandonment and loss had to be excruciating. And the fear of what was next and how to go on had to be weighing the man down to the ground. So, when he hears the rumors - that Jesus is alive - well...what should we expect? There had to be a part of him that simply could not allow that possibility into his mind and heart. The news was simply too incredible and amazing.

The past few years of my life have been about trying to learn how to manage my expectations. I left a bad marriage only to find myself wandering around a bit lost. While I was hopeful I would find a partner, I really didn't allow myself the genuine hope that this was possible. And to find someone who was smart, loving, loyal...well that seemed like something that was just too wonderful to hope for. And then I woke up from the past few years and there was someone standing there, wanting to be those things for me. I have to admit, I reacted a bit like Thomas. Unsure, doubting. Part of me was frightened enough that I had to fight the urge to run away. Not to be misunderstood, I do think there are good things in life. And I think there is more love most days in my life than I can hold in my heart. But still, that hope. For someone to be my beloved is a really big hope for me. One I almost can't quite grasp. So I understand Thomas differently this year. Not as a doubter who just didn't have enough faith. But as a man who was afraid to hope for something as wonderful and life-changing as his teacher rising from the dead. And ultimately as a man who cries tears of relief and elation when he finally lays eyes on Jesus and is able to touch him.

And as for me, I feel like I finally have the thing I lost several years ago. I have a real sense of hope for my future. Not as mommy or lawyer or friend...but a hope that my future includes someone amazing who can be my partner, my lover and my friend.