Monday, February 20, 2017

Telling It Differently

Ariel and I were supposed to go ice climbing this weekend. We have a group of a dozen that meets in Ouray, CO every year for a weekend of amazing. Unfortunately, Colorado's weather has been so warm lately that on February 10th they closed the ice park for the season. (As bummed as I am, I also can't help think of all the hotel/store owners in Ouray who are not making the income this year they are used to).

So, with having already taken an extra day off work, and being in the mindset that we were going somewhere fun, we tossed around a few ideas for Plan B. We settled on Texas. I lived there for 8 years, still have a few good friends in the area, and Ariel has always wanted to meet my closest friend there. So, five days before boarding the plane we bought tickets and informed people we were coming.

Despite the short notice, we were able to visit with a few people who are very important to me, people who I spent 8 years of my life working and playing and praying with. And although it was wonderful to see them, and that IS mostly what I came away with, I was also extremely saddened by what I heard. You see, we all worked at a ministry together, and that ministry is crumbling, and crushing people as it falls. I was saddened by the common thread through the conversations. Adults who question their worth. Children in counseling. People who have no desire to step foot back in church. Marriages that are ending, some bitterly. People who are broken, disillusioned, angry, sad, and a myriad of other feelings that should never come from - as Ariel put it as we were driving home last night - people who were so dedicated/committed/gung-ho for Jesus that they gave up everything: friends, family, retirement, education, careers, relationships, houses, businesses, children...everything.

It also made me realize I am one of the lucky ones. I got out not because the ministry was not valuing people (although it was/does), or because there were dishonest things going on (which there were/are), or because it is imploding (which it is). I got out because my marriage was, ironically, doing some of the same things. And although the ministry had something to do with my marriage ending, and although I am still affected by what I experienced there, I do not feel most of my hurting can be blamed on the ministry. I got out under the wire, so to speak.

Many, many people are in the process of picking up pieces, whether they left five years ago (me) or within the last year or two. Though our issues are different, everyone is at different places of trying to get a good handle on life again. Everyone. There is not one person I have talked to, either on this trip or previously, who has left because of ministry-related issues and is also completely fine and not struggling with anything, though maybe there are some.

Yet one of the conversations offered all the encouragement I needed. It was a comment made after we had finished a dinner and visit that left me feeling just as filled fellowship-wise as food-wise. We were standing outside the restaurant door saying our goodbyes and one member of the couple mentioned how the conversations about their personal story were often good to tell, because they were part of the healing process. Then she said, "We tell it differently now than we did a year ago."

That really, really resonated with me. Because isn't that what it's all about? If any of us are telling the same story now that we told a year ago, no matter the subject, I wonder if there has been movement or growth or insight gained. It doesn't even matter if the story gets better or worse, because either way, if the telling is different, the story-teller is also different. Wiser. Better equipped. Less hurt. More informed. Smarter. Hopefully happier. More content. Hopefully less worried or bitter or fearful.

One of my other friends, also at the end of our conversation, told me how proud she was of me. I was so taken aback by that that my response was simply, "Why?!" She told me it was because I had put my life back together so well (I assume she meant since leaving Texas, and since my divorce). I would have to agree that that is mostly true. I am happy to say that I feel very whole and fulfilled in almost all aspects of my life. But there are thing in my life, too, that I am struggling through, though they are not ministry-related. There are stories that I look forward to telling differently a year from now. I have no idea how they will turn out. I don't know if things will get better or worse. Hopefully the retelling will be on an upward trajectory. But even if it's not, I do know I will be wiser, better equipped, and more informed, and that's something.


By the way, I cannot end this post without mentioning that the ministry I am talking about is called Gospel for Asia. Please do not support them in any way. If there are any doubts about what I am saying, googling them will shed more light.  

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Of Museums and Monuments

If you like planes, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum near D.C. is for you. I'm not even really that into them and this place amazed.









This is what I really wanted to see, and I couldn't believe how large and beautiful it was.
















We also headed to Arlington National Cemetery one evening. It was also impressive.















Saturday, November 5, 2016

Letter to my finace's ex

I am so over my fiance's ex and all her drama, insatiable greed and insecurity. Most recently, I am tired of her bringing up issues she thinks belong to him but are actually mine (my car, vacation expenditures, and home projects). Here is a letter I wrote her last month that, in some ways, I would really like to send. But wondering how much it really matters and pretty convinced she's not worth it. (Her name has been changed to one her older daughter used to lie/cover up her her being in town about a year ago).

Angie,                                                                                                                    October 5, 2016

Some errors in understanding have come to my attention that, although I owe you no explanation for anything, I want to correct, as you have brought them up more than once in completely inappropriate (court) and irrelevant (your phone conversation with my man in September) places.

First, you are clearly upset about some vacations he and I have taken. I have no problem letting you know that I paid for our flight to/from Puerto Rico (and then some, as we had an issue with our return date and I had to pay for the return tickets twice). I have also bought plane tickets for other vacations, and will continue to do so for future vacations as necessary. I do this because I am not in the strained financial situation he is in, and I want to travel, but naturally do not want to do so without him. Contrary to what you seem to believe (per your comment on the phone), he is not “living in luxury.” It is me that can and wants to afford the trips. Fortunately, not everyone has created a divorce like you have - my ex and I parted fairly amicably and with assets, and I often use them for travel. It is something I love to do, and I want to experience everything with my best friend. I don’t know where so many peoples’ notion came from that the man has to pay for everything, and it is probably what your assumption is based on. However, I am financially capable and stable, and have no problem paying for things that are a priority to me. That being said, not all vacations cost a lot. The other vacation you complained about was a trip to MN. That, too, was mostly an expense covered by me, because we stayed with my family. Therefore, we had no accommodation fees and our food expenses were the same as they would have been had we stayed home. Only gas was an expense over and above what it would have been had we not gone, not unlike your trips you take to visit your family. Our vacation to MN was trip that your daughter benefited from and enjoyed as well. However, since our vacations are so upsetting to you, I have no problem making a change and going from now on at times when she is not with us. I suggest a change for you also. If you have such an issue with our vacations being, as you say, “spread all over the internet how much love and fun” we have, then I suggest you stop searching for them.

Secondly, about the car. I bought the Subaru from my man back in 2013. I still owe thousands on it, and it is my name on the title. If he and I were to break up today, that car would stay with me and the van he bought is what he would leave with. So yes, you were right when you said in court that the “2011 Subaru Legacy is sitting in his driveway!” Because it is mine, it will continue to show up in pictures you (or anyone you enlist to do it for you) take of my house. The Toyota I owned before the Subaru I gave to your son free of charge because he needed a better-working vehicle.

Third, you mentioned house “renovations” in court. I would hardly call a new fence (or any of the other smallish projects done since I bought the house) renovations, but if that’s the word you’d like to use, I can accommodate that. I am so, so lucky to have my man here to fix things, but he is not paying for the renovations. I received a settlement from my title company for negligence on their part, so they are the ones paying for that.

As I said, I know I do not owe you an explanation for any of this, but I felt it necessary for a number of reasons: 1) You seem to think these things are keeping money from your daughter, which we know is errant, as child support payments have always been made. 2) As I mentioned above, to bring up things that I pay for and my financial expenditures in court sessions and phone calls that should only be about your and your ex's finances is unnecessary and makes you appear uninformed, which, of course, you are. 3) You have been assuming things, and we both know what happens when one assumes.

Also, from one divorced woman to another, I wish to express to you that I know how difficult divorce is. Unlike you, when I divorced, I hadn’t worked in ten years and didn’t know a lot about making it on my own. When I went back to work full-time, I made eleven dollars an hour and had to move back in with my parents. When my first job came along that I could actually “survive” on, I was making so little there were times I had less than $10 in my account at the end of pay-periods. I lived like that for a year and a half. I had to dip into my assets occasionally, but mostly I did without, as I prefer to live off my wages and not use savings unless it’s an emergency (or travel, as is now obvious - though I did no traveling until my next job afforded me more leeway). During that time my boys and I ate things like rice and beans a lot, and did a lot of free activities like hiking.

Last year you made a comment on one of your Sworn Financial Statements for the court that you were living at poverty level. I’d like you to know that at the time you made that statement, you were making 4 times what I was making as a teacher (and I was still saving a little). Perhaps it would behoove you to visit a financial planner, for your assessment of "poverty level" seems to come from your lack of ability to live within your means. As you know, child support is not based on what it takes to raise a child, but on what each parent earns. I get much less for two children than you get for one. What you receive in child support for your daughter each month is more than adequate to feed and clothe her. All the expenses on top of those necessities - her sports, private education, horse riding lessons, your new truck and closing on a $375,000 home in July - those are your expenses. You complained a couple times on the phone to your ex that he “never once considered your struggles.” But you left him (for which I cannot thank you enough)! The moment you walked out that door, they became your struggles. Own them. It is not his responsibility to worry about your bills; he and I have our own to be concerned with. On a personal note, my ex husband and I used a mediator for our divorce, and what I got, I got. I have never, as you repeatedly do, asked/taken him back to court for more money, accused him of taking everything, or complained to him about my situation. I left. I put myself in that situation, beans and rice and all. I encourage you to find someone else to care about your bills if that is a need of yours. And now that you have been paid in full for the arrears*, you must be feeling quite a bit more financially stable. You should celebrate somehow. Maybe take a vacation.

*Because of an error made by the court regarding child support, my man owed her money, which was recently paid to her in full.

Friday, October 21, 2016

Guam


We took off from Denver and flew straight west over the Rockies. Not sure I've ever done that before. 

Shot of the Bay of Alaska, through a tinted plane window. I tried to figure out which mountains those were on the left and right based on the map on the plane, which was not very detailed. Perhaps that's Mount Fairweather on the left?

One rarely sees other planes in the sky, so this was an interesting sight. My Alaskan friends could probably tell me whether it was more likely heading for Fairbanks or Anchorage.

We arrived very late Sunday evening. Late enough to not see any water as we flew in. 

Monday was beautiful, and one of the only days without rain. We, of course, hung out on the beach and drove around about half the island. It is not large. Population is about 165,000, and 60% of that is military. We visited the War in the Pacific Museum and I paid $9 for a small tube of sunscreen. 

View from my balcony at the Westin.





There are many war memorials and parks on Guam. It was the location of a major battle for control of the Pacific during WWII, and Guam remains the U.S.'s major military presence in the Pacific. Above is a photograph of a beach during the war. Below is the same area today. 








I would love to say Guam was paradise, but there were a couple things I did not like about it. It was extremely humid. So much so that doors were literally dripping with water. Also, we were there during the rainy season, so we didn't see the sun much. However, it certainly was still beautiful.


This is an area called Two Lovers Point. Of course the story has something to do with two lovers jumping off the cliffs to their deaths together. 

People now buy all these wooden hearts, write messages on them, and lock them to whatever they can. Usually fences...

but even trees. 


My first dinner in Guam, at a place called Terry's Comfort Food, which was recommended by a local. Some kind of chicken in spinach, and with red rice, which is a staple in Guam. 


Our first night there was the only night we saw a bit of a sunset. All the other evenings it was either pouring, or threatening to. 


We did get to spend a little time on the beach Tuesday evening, and then went to a restaurant called Fisherman's Cove at the Hilton for dinner, where I had a delicious salmon, with stingy amounts of kalamata olives and grape tomatoes. 

Every Wednesday night, at a place called Chomorro Village, vendors market their wares and there's lots of delicious food. We heard there was also native dancing, but we were unable to find it. We tired of the tourist trinkets sold at most of the stalls, but we did find some amazing food. 


I wanted to try the stuffed squid, but at $12 apiece, I didn't spend that on something I wasn't sure I'd like. 


I got the spicy sausage instead, and it was my 2nd favorite meal on the island. Delicious! 

Here I am with Paul Lockhart, Astronaut Extraordinaire, a co-worker, and boss.

This is a photo of my favorite meal on the island, eaten at a restaurant called Proa. 

Taro cheesecake for dessert!


At the Pacific War Museum this wall caught my eye. This is the list of 1,548 Marines, 226 Army soldiers, 55 Navy corpsmen, and 55 sailors killed in action on Guam after only 20 days of fighting, liberating Guam on July 21 through August 10, 1944.









We were so fortunate Sunday to wake to no rain, which meant a couple hours of paddle-boarding on my birthday before setting out to drive around more of the island we'd missed the Monday before. 

We came across this amazing bay that was completely protected from the pounding waves just outside the rocky boarder. Locals were swimming and jumping into the water from what looked like an old lifeguard station. There were ruined walls and steps up the side. If they fixed this place up, it would be even more amazing. 




A random statue. 

Unfortunately for us, we didn't realize this place closed at 5:00, or we would have hurried to see it. Below is a diagram of the cave that a Japanese man named Yokoi lived in for 27 years while avoiding capture. 

Read a little about it here.

On Monday evening we were honored with a private tour of a B1 bomber, given by it's pilots, WSOs, and the men who keep her running. Although Sunday was my birthday in Guam, by the time it was my birthday in the rest of the U.S., it was Monday, so I considered this a birthday present, too. 










We ate burgers and fries for the first time - at a restaurant called The Beach Bar, where waves lap almost to the tables. I washed mine down with a Sunset on the Beach.

Tuesday morning, time to head home. Of course the day we leave it's bright and sunny for the first time in a week. With no time for a swim, I just snapped a few photos and made sure to do a little wading. 

Rainbow in the clouds. 

Goodbye, Guam.