The Third Gift of Marrying My Ex

Just when I thought that I would get on a writing streak, I didn’t.  Whenever, I get ready to write, I just HAVE to clean the kitchen!  Like, CLEAN clean the kitchen and I’m not even someone who keeps their house all that nice???  On the days I have a minute to write, I start cleaning the kitchen in preparation and then before I know it, I’m out of time.  Anyway, I’m living large and trying to write with three kids in the house and a semi-messy kitchen.  We’ll see what happens???  

In my last post I asked myself, “If I could go back and not marry my ex, would I choose to do that?”   My answer was that I would skip out on those 2 1/2 years, because I like to avoid pain. However, I would, in turn, miss out on three HUGE gifts that I was given.  As a quick recap, I would miss out on full-on experiencing God’s huge grace that I experienced at a whole new level when I was no longer in the “tidy Christian” category.  Second, I would miss out on my newfound gratitude for even the smallest thing. (The latest being the most delicious breakfast bowl from Rudy’s – YUM!).  And now to expound on the third gift that I was given.  
My parenting changed and I think that perhaps I would have missed some important lessons . . . No . . . I’m positive I would have missed these lessons, had I not gone through that marriage.  
I have three kids.  All have their tricky sides, as we all do, but one of my kids has about 36 tricky sides.  When I was married to my ex, those tricky sides were loud and crazy and they became increasingly loud as the months of that marriage wore on. The interesting thing, is that my ex was particularly hard on her and now I believe it is because she saw right through his mask and she knew how to play his game of self protection about as well as he did.  Which served her well with him, but not with me.  She had been through layers of trauma and was now living in constant trauma.  Parenting her has been one of my life’s greatest challenges.  But it would be much more difficult right now, if I hadn’t change some ways of thinking and parenting. 
I always thought that I was pretty good at understanding her, but I REALLY began to understand her, once I started executing some of my own self protection tools and I started seeing myself do exactly what she would do.  
This was illuminated one week, when things were just soooooo bad.  And by so bad, it’s still hard to explain.  Tensions were just high in my own self.  We were sitting at dinner and I asked what everyone’s highs and lows were.  I answered mine and my ex got mad that I didn’t not say that our date the night before (which was crazy miserable, BTW) was my high.  At that moment, I just wanted to departicalize.  Disappear.  I could not have an opinion even on what my highlight of the week was, without him making it seem to all of our kids like I was some kind of disrespectful wife.  I felt completely hopeless.  I went in my closet and hid.  I was positive that I was acting like a 3 year old, but I just didn’t care.  I wanted to close my eyes and for everything to be different when I reopened them.   
Then the next day, one of my kids was hiding under her bed after some minor infraction and then one day after that, another one of my kids hid behind our bean bag for a reason I’ll never remember.  We were all needing to departicalize and then reappear in a normal world.  We were crumbling, bit by bit.  Normally, I would have been irritated and impatient with their hiding, when I needed to talk to them.  As in, demanding that they come out.  But knowing how I felt when I was hiding just a day or two earlier, I only had compassion and a truly broken heart for them.  So, I just crawled into their hiding places and sat with them in their mad quiet.  That week, life changed.  Even if I don’t always react well and with tenderness and compassion, I KNOW that there is hurt behind their behavior.  It may not be explainable, but the hurt took with me the lesson I learned about understanding the hurt behind the behavior.  
Let me tell you, I have read a fair number of parenting books and been to numerous adoption conferences on how to parent kids from hard places and I have heard it a million times that you need to see the hurt behind their behavior, but until I FELT it myself, I really had no concept of it.  When I was hiding, I knew I wasn’t being the normal 42 year old person I always dreamt of being, but I was not capable of anything else in that moment. 
Since I left, my tricky child and I have been through another very tough season and a season of great progress.  The biggest jumps we ever make, always comes from when I don’t react to her behavior, (which is easier said than done) but when I can just start to acknowledge her hurts.   When I do that, (which I truly feel comes from the Holy Spirit) her self protection begins to melt.  It’s kind of like she gets hotter and hotter and hotter as I focus on her hurt, rather than her behavior.  It’s like she wants me to look at her behavior, but when I look underneath to her hurting heart, she hits a boiling point and just begins to melt from anger to sadness to grief.  Even if I don’t know what exact pain she is experiencing, I KNOW how pain makes you react in ways you don’t want to be reacting, even in the moment!  
This is such a huge flyover of this concept, but I think I have captured what I wanted to say.  It’s good for me to write it down and remember all of this, so that I can keep remembering the power of pain in my life and the power of pain in my kids’ lives.  It even helps with little things, like when my kids leave their brand new water bottle at the park, (not that that happened yesterday or anything) I can say, “I know that feeling!  I leave things and lose things all the time and I hate it!” Or like the other afternoon I had an afternoon with a typically untrickier kid of mine, and boy was he/she ANGRY!   Without “Closet Week 2018,” I would have felt way too overwhelmed by this child’s unfounded (to me) emotions.  I would not have sat with this child as they fiercely scribbled on paper and just prayed, “Lord, help me not screw this up!”  He/She was definitely dealing with something???  My kids have a lot to be angry about!  I told this sweet child thanks for letting me see the pain, because normally he/she keeps it all wrapped up. About  30 minutes after the big flare, life was back to normal and our relationship was still fully in tact. Thank you, Jesus.   
I could not be more grateful for this particularly painful lesson.  I am a different mom after being married to my ex.  When I was in the middle of the insanity, it was difficult to employ compassion, because so much of my energy was used on managing my ex and doing the dances we had to do, in order to pretend things were normal.  But I was lucky and didn’t leave too early.  I caught that vision change, right near the end, and I am so grateful.  I’m positive I have more to learn and I can’t tell you how hard I pray for the Holy Spirit to help me out in my solo parenting, as I’m squarely in the middle of tween-ville right now.  When tween-ville feels like the Twilight Zone, the Holy Spirit often brings me back to lessons I learned when I was in my own Twilight Zone.  And when emotions run high, I always find myself asking, “Have I ever felt like that before?” and naturally, the answer is almost always a big fat yes, and then I can (not that I always do) parent from a different place . . . a place with, HOPEFULLY, more understanding and grace. 
P.S. – Now that I wrote this, I feel like I’ll probably be the worst parent ever in the coming weeks.  So, maybe if I acknowledge that, it won’t happen???
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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

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The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

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