Everyone has been saying that 2016 has been “the worst.” For me, it’s actually been a really good year. These were the ups and downs of my year:
Completed and Defended Master’s Thesis – I turned in my master’s thesis for defense on March 16th, successfully defended it on April 15th, and submitted the final copy for ProQuest publication in early May. The thesis was called, As God is, Woman May Become?: Women and the Mormon Doctrine of Exaltation, and I was very blessed to have LDS feminist scholar Maxine Hanks serving as an outside reader on my defense committee. I had been working on my thesis off and on for years, so it was a amazing to finally get it done.
Septorhinoplasty – Yup, that’s right, I got a nose job. (more…)
I had thought that by my current age, I would have a husband, three healthy children, a PhD, a house, a growing list of publications, and a career that I was proud of.
I don’t. I have a divorce decree, two disabled children, a master’s degree that took me 7 years to finish, a tiny apartment I can barely afford, a small list of publications, and a job that could be much better.
I was scheduled for a job interview for a promotion last week. I was practically walking on air all week prior. I did not have the job, but I had the hope of having the job in the very near future. Hope is a powerful thing.
The interview was scheduled for tomorrow. They called me late on Wednesday afternoon, just before the holiday, and cancelled it. (It wasn’t anything that I did, it appears they decided not to create the position after all.)
I’m still a lucky woman. I had a great weekend. I went shopping with my kids, ate out several times, went bowling, and saw an amazing movie (Arrival—no seriously, it’s amazing, go see it). I had Thanksgiving with my kids, decorated the tree, and got to hear my autistic son yell, “Look at that!” for the first time ever. It wasn’t so long ago that I never would have spent a weekend like this.
It was only 3.5 years ago that I had no job, my then-husband was spending all of his time with another woman, I was pregnant and had no idea how I was ever going to take care of two kids alone, and my credit wasn’t good enough to get even a tiny apartment by myself. I wasn’t thinking of publications and didn’t believe I was ever going to finish my master’s degree. Hope found a way.
And while I mourn for my children’s struggles, I know it could be worse. I thank God they are a least physically healthy. They are beautiful and loving and like to run up to me and yell “CUDDLE PARTY!” I have great kids.
The first Sunday of Advent is the time to reflect on hope. I have a lot of it.
“So, we’ve decided that your son isn’t a good fit for our program.”
I froze in disbelief. A knot formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes.
She continued. “You should really have him evaluated for special needs. Has no one told you that before?”
I shook my head. She wasn’t mean about it, and she showed concern for my distress, but she was firm that their daycare was not the right program for my son.
It was only his second day with this new provider, and this was the second time in less than 2.5 months that my son had been abruptly dismissed from a daycare program without warning. It was the fourth time in that same time period that a childcare provider had bailed on my son.
In college I was intense. I don’t believe I ever took less than 16 credits, and usually took closer to 18. I was enrolled in three foreign languages at once, an officer in several clubs, and an enthusiastic participant in martial arts, self-defense, flexibility, and dance classes. I played guitar (though probably not very well) and sang in my church’s choir. I was as close to a Renaissance woman as I was ever going to be. The worst grade I got in anything was a B-; I had a 4.0 GPA or nearly a 4.0 GPA on a number of semesters. I had not started school with any academic scholarships, but began receiving them every year after my first full year at BYU.
Two things happened in 2003. I got married, and I decided to cram in a second minor in history in preparation for pursuing an American history master’s degree. It was too late to switch my major or add a second major and still graduate by 2005, but the minor would be enough to curry favor with graduate schools and show that I was serious about history.
My marriage became my undoing. I don’t want to go into all of the reasons why; let’s just say that duties and responsibilities that are supposed to be jointly shared within a marriage fell heavily and disproportionately on me. There was very little partnership. Instead, I found myself almost exclusively responsible for the well-being of two adult lives instead of one, to my exhaustion. Things got worse when my then-husband suddenly asked for a divorce in 2004, less than a year after our wedding. There had been no warning, and he did not want to even try to do therapy or work things out. He told me I was such a horrible person that I didn’t deserve any kind of a second chance with him, that he just wanted out of the marriage and away from me as soon as possible. Though we eventually reconciled, his gaslighting had an immeasurable impact on my psyche. I spent years walking on eggshells, believing that I had done something mysterious and terrible to drive him away in 2004. After our divorce in 2014, my former college roommates approached me to say he had been cheating on me shortly after we got married and they hadn’t known how to break it to me. The sudden and earnest request for divorce back in 2004 suddenly made sense. I believe he only reconciled with me because the Other Woman broke up with him.
With all of this going on, I finally lost my intensity. For the first time since high school, I began failing classes. (more…)
I attended a women’s theology conference in February 2014. The theme of the conference was “purpose,” and the other women at my table were chatting excitedly about figuring out God’s calling in their lives.
I didn’t feel like I could join them. I’d had my son on September 29th of the previous year and asked for a divorce exactly one month later. As I sat at that table, my car was in the shop, undergoing expensive repairs. I didn’t have a job. My estranged husband was looking into apartments so that he could move out, and I had no idea how I was ever going to care for my children. I wasn’t chatting excitedly about mission or ministry; I was thinking of those two human beings whose lives depended on me and how I was going to feed them.
When it came my turn to talk about what I believed was God’s purpose for my life, through my tears, I told the other women at my table my fears and concerns. I said that I really wasn’t sure what God had for me in terms of mission or ministry anymore because I was just struggling to survive.
And one of them said, “Right now, God’s mission for you is to take care of those children. Don’t you worry about anything else for the time being.”
I was barely into the second trimester of my pregnancy when I first told my then-husband that I was separating from him. I had not held a full-time job in 7 years. Our rent history, credit history, and low income had kept us out of large, amenities-laden apartment complexes and forced us to utilize dishonest landlords who took advantage of their tenants. Our then-landlord was a source of enormous stress to me and I wanted no more of it.
My dreams were simple:
A job with good benefits. Any job, just so long as it had good benefits.
A two-bedroom apartment in a nice complex for me and my children. I would share the master bedroom with the baby, and my daughter would have the second bedroom.
I would paint the walls of my room deep forest green because I found it soothing, and the baby would have a nice, sturdy crib that could be changed into a toddler bed when s/he got older. 
No more borrowing money from friends, no more “please send money” pleas to family.
It may sound pathetic, but at the time it was all I wanted—a decent roof over my children’s heads free from the stress of bad landlords, a way to provide for my family, and personal space that was entirely mine. But it didn’t matter how simple it was. Pregnant and unemployed, it was entirely out of my reach; any apartment complex I applied to me would have denied me based on lack of income alone.
You are a single Christian parent and you have a goal of giving a fixed percentage of your income to God.  You are also either paying or receiving child support. When you calculate how much you intend to tithe, do you include child support payments received as part of your income? Or, if you are the one paying child support, do you deduct child support payments from your total income before calculating how much you are going to give?
Tithing and otherwise giving to God can be a touchy and personal subject. There is always going to be someone out there ready to condemn the amount you are giving or the parties you choose to give to. I want to advocate a position here, but first I want to say: if you’ve prayed about your giving, pondered it out, and are giving with a cheerful heart, I am not here to tell you that you are wrong. I firmly believe that God honors special circumstances and that there is no one right way to give or right party to give to. 
Got it? Good. Because, that said, my position is this:
Make chocolate rum balls for Halloween potluck/party
Pick up utility belt for Black Widow costume
It was an ambitious schedule for a woman who arrives home from work at around 6:30 PM every weekday night, but I wanted everything to be perfect for Halloween. My divorce had been finalized on the previous day and I wanted both myself and my children to remember this weekend as one of fun, not sorrow.
I got home and set about the work of cleaning out and then carving the pumpkin. My live-in brother helped. My 8-year-old daughter selected a skeletal grim reaper for the pattern and my 13-month-old son played with (and tried to eat) the guts and seeds while we worked. When it was all said and done, the grim reaper looked pretty good:
God has made me mighty in that he gave me the strength to walk away from abuse – Infidelity is abuse. It just is. Emotional infidelity is almost certainly either a precursor to physical infidelity or a cover for it (i.e. the emotional affair is not an emotional affair, it’s the regular kind).
I had been on PBS Religion & Ethics Newsweekly and in The Washington Post, talking about my marriage to the man who had abandoned me. I’d had interfaith couples writing to me for years, asking me for advice on how to make their relationships work. Do you think I wanted to initiate a divorce? Do you think I wasn’t embarrassed?
If an arsonist sets your house on fire, you get out. It doesn’t matter that you’re going to be standing on the street in your underwear. It doesn’t matter that it isn’t even your sexy underwear, it’s your granny panties. You still get out. There will be contemptible people who will point and laugh and say, “Ha ha, nice granny panties!” The decent people of the world will say, “You just escaped an arson attack, thank goodness you’re all right!” That is what infidelity is. Marital arson.
I stand before you now in my metaphorical granny panties and say: divorce was my escape from that house, and I’m glad that I escaped. No, I rejoice that I escaped from that house.