Bill, love, marriage

Every day is a gift with my Bill…

I just wrote a piece for my travel blog, that details our Christmas morning. So far, it’s been a nice holiday. I asked for a new vacuum cleaner, and Bill delivered a cordless Dyson. I hope it will be less cumbersome and annoying to use than the canister vacuum I’ve had for the past seven years. I just tried it out, although it’s not yet quite fully charged. All I gotta say about that is that our carpets are pretty disgusting. A new vacuum was definitely needed and appreciated, even though one of my former bosses once told me that no one should get appliances for Christmas. She criticized me for giving my mom a new hand mixer. That boss and I didn’t get along, as you might have imagined. I’m one of those people that other folks tend to love or hate. 😉

I’m better at Christmas shopping than Bill is, because I know what he likes and needs, and he’s easy to please. I’m a lot harder to shop for, because I have a tendency to get what I want when I want it. The vacuum cleaner was an outlier. I’ve been eyeing the Dyson cordless vacuums for ages, but never pulled the trigger. One of the reasons I hate vacuuming is because it feels futile. The vacuums never seem to do a good job– even other Dysons I’ve had have not been very useful. But downgrading isn’t the answer, either. I used a Dirt Devil when we first got back to Germany, and it lasted about a year before it started dropping parts. Our dogs shed a lot, and Noyzi, in particular, leaves tons of hair. So I needed something lightweight and portable. We’ll see how long I like the new vacuum, but I suspect we’ll get a couple of good cleanings from it.

As usual, I bought a lot more stuff for Bill than he did for me… although he did get some higher dollar items for me. And a few of the things he got were kind of surprising. Like, he bought me a weighted blanket, even though I just bought two new duvets for the bed. But maybe the blanket will turn out to be something I didn’t know I needed. And he bought me three shawls in different colors, but with the same patterns and in colors I probably wouldn’t necessarily choose. I do wear a lot of shawls on the rare occasions when we go out. He also got me a new chair for my office, which has heating and massage capabilities. I do need a new chair! I wear mine out pretty regularly.

As I watched Bill put the new cover on the weighted blanket, it occurred to me… every day is a gift with Bill. I smiled, and blurted “You don’t really have to buy me anything for Christmas. You have already given me the best life.”

It doesn’t matter what we’re doing or where we are. Some places are better than others are, of course. I remember when we lived in our first slummy apartment in Fredericksburg, Virginia on Christmas day, back in 2002. It was just weeks after our wedding, and we were pretty broke. We still had a nice celebration, with a tree and cheap ornaments from Rose’s, which was a discount store in the nearby strip mall. We had a nice meal and listened to music on the cheap CD player I owned that I had to weigh down with a jewelry box, because the lid wouldn’t stay down on its own.

The following year was full of challenges, as we lost our first rescue dog, CuCullain (C.C.) to a rare mycobacterial infection, my car got broken into, and Ex went on the warpath to try to get me under her thumb. We moved to Fort Belvoir, Virginia, into a Craftsman house that was meant to be “temporary” and came from a kit from Sears. I actually loved that house, even though it had its maintenance issues. We were there for three years, until we moved into a “brand new” house a mile away, where I mostly lived alone while Bill was in Iraq. We left that house after about eight months, as Bill finally rotated out of Virginia and into Germany. We had Flea and MacGregor, rescue beagles from BREW, a beagle rescue in northern Virginia.

Then, in 2007, we moved to a town near Stuttgart, Germany the first time as a couple, and we both fell in love with living here. We hoped to get three years, which is standard, but had to come back to the States a year early. We moved into a huge rental house in Fayetteville, Georgia, where we lost Flea to cancer, and added Zane to our family. Bill learned to brew beer. We spent two Christmases there, out in the woods with a family of deer, some black snakes, at least one armadillo, and chimney swifts who chirped incessantly for a month. I remember one of those Christmases was when I experienced my very first “White Christmas”.

Then, the post in Georgia where Bill worked closed down, so we had to move again. In 2011, we moved to North Carolina, where we had two more Christmases in different woods– one of those years, we visited my sister, who lives in Chapel Hill, not that far from Sanford, the town where we were living. We lost our sweet beagle, MacGregor, and adopted Arran, who is still with us.

In 2013, we moved to Converse, Texas, a San Antonio suburb, where I assumed we’d end up staying… but no jobs were forthcoming in 2014, when Bill retired. We moved back to another town near Stuttgart, where we spent four years, and now we live near Wiesbaden, and have been here for four years. Half our stuff is in storage in America. It’s hard to feel rooted, since Germany isn’t our official place of origin. And yet, as long as Bill is with me, I’m home and happy. And I can’t believe we’ve been in Germany for eight years. We lost Zane in 2019, but now we have our first non beagle rescue, Noyzi the Kosovar street dog!

We have worked together to make a great life, and we have succeeded, in spite of all the kvetching I do on my blog posts. I really do feel so fortunate for all we have, and the incredible man with whom I get to share my life. But honestly, we could be in a tent somewhere, and I think I’d be happy on some level, just because I’m with the right person… and he’s with me. I am amazed by all of the great stuff we’ve managed to do together, in spite of the pettiest of annoyances. And today, I was just reminded of that and just feeling so grateful… even to Ex, who divorced Bill. If she hadn’t done that, who knows where I would be? We make each other laugh, teach each other new things, and make life better for each other every day. I need to remember this feeling for when the going gets tough, as I know it will.

I know 2023 will have its challenges. I expect we’ll be losing Arran in 2023, because he has cancer. But we are lucky to live in a country where we can enjoy him for a little bit longer without going bankrupt. And there’s always the threat of something bad happening… but as long as I’ve got “my Bill”, it all seems bearable. No matter where we are, it “feels like home…” Today, I’m feeling really grateful, and I just wanted to share.

I recorded this a couple of years ago. It has 25 hits as of this writing, but I’m reminded of it today… even though it’s from Randy Newman’s Faust, and the character who sang it wasn’t one for true love. Ironically, it’s become quite a wedding staple. The lyrics are lovely, in spite of the character who sang it in Faust. The video contains photos of some of the incredible places we’ve been.

I might redo this song… maybe even today. Why not?

Younger daughter sent a video the other day while she was holding her newest baby. He was obviously hungry and was trying to get to her boobs, but he was so cute and good natured about it. I feel very grateful that she shares him with us, as well as her other two adorable kids. It’s so nice to have her and her husband back in our lives. It just goes to show that, in the long run, love always wins.

I hope you’re having a good holiday, if you celebrate. If you don’t, I hope you have a good day. Now, back to the festivities.

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Duggars, marriage, religion, wingnuts

A big bumper crop of new fundies in 2023…

Yesterday, I noticed that my blog was getting a lot of hits on posts I wrote about fundie Christian families. I know why people are visiting. Recently, there have been a couple of announcements that are making the rounds on the Internet. But no one should be surprised by the news… because it involves newly married, young, relatively healthy people having sex and getting pregnant. This shouldn’t be news… but when you’re in the Duggar family, or the fame lusting Rodrigues family, baby making is your one big job. Gotta make new quiver arrows for the Quiverfull… although if you were to ask them if they’re following the Quiverfull movement, they’d probably deny it.

So, Katey Nakatsu Duggar, wife of Jedidiah Duggar, is now pregnant with her second baby. She’s due in May 2023. Below is the video posted from Jed and Katey’s YouTube channel, announcing Katey’s condition. I don’t feel the need to snark on Jed and Katey. They are a young couple, and this is only their second child. I’m just glad they didn’t announce it the way they did the first time they were expecting a baby. But dayum, they just had their son in the spring of ’22, so maybe they will give Ma and Pa Duggar a run for their money.

Gotta admit, Truett (the baby) is very cute.

Katey is very pretty… and it looks like she’s already getting the voluminous hair that develops when women get pregnant. Not that I know from personal experience… but I do have a lot of relatives and friends who have been pregnant. I didn’t watch the whole video, but I do know that a lot of folks have been commenting that the annual Duggar party was pretty sparsely attended this year. I guess it makes sense, given the pall cast over the family by Josh Duggar’s incarceration. But at least we get to hear Michelle Duggar shrieking that Katey is pregnant at about 7:30 minutes in… sheesh! John and Abbie’s daughter, Gracie, has the best reaction at all. It’s practically memeworthy…

Gracie is also very cute.

John David looks kind of like he’s got one in the oven, too…

The Duggars aren’t the only ones who had big news… nor is Katey the only pregnant Duggar (Joy Anna and Hannah Duggar — Jeremiah’s wife– are also expecting). Jill Rodrigues, whose daughter, Nurie, is married to Anna Duggar’s brother, Nathan, also shared the news that her second married daughter, Kaylee, is preggo. Kaylee only JUST got married in November, so that means she’s only been expecting for about ten minutes. Nurie and Nathan already have two babies– boys, I believe.

Again, I don’t think it’s a bad thing that Kaylee is pregnant. She’s young, healthy, Christian, and married, and that’s what people like her do. As long as they’re able to take care of the baby, that’s all that should really matter. It’s not her fault her mom is a bit snarkworthy. I sincerely hope she has a healthy pregnancy, even if I’m definitely not a fan of extremely religious people. I see from Jill’s Facebook that besides being newly married and expecting their first baby, the happy couple are also brand new homeowners, as of November 24th. They have a lot going on for being so young. I’m 50, and I still haven’t owned my own home or had a baby.

Nice to know they’ve been so busy.

I’ve found that I’m less interested in the fundies, lately. I’ve been too focused on the soap opera that is Ex’s life. But she’s been pretty quiet over the past few days, and besides, I don’t think most people are as interested in her as I am. Alexis has been busy with the big things in her life, and she’s pretty much the only one who pays attention to the drama that is Ex. So, even though I feel compelled to write about her, I know those aren’t my most interesting topics for regular readers.

Younger daughter sent us a video this morning. Her youngest child, who is a baby boy, is just adorable! He appeared to be very hungry, too. 😉 Guess he’s a breast man, like his grandfather.

And it’s also the day before Christmas Eve… which isn’t a big deal at our house, since it’s just Bill and me and our dogs. But this is the time of year when production tends to slow a lot and people are busy with the annual holiday ritual. So it’s hard to come up with anything exciting to write about that is new or fresh, and I don’t want to delve into politics or world events when people are struggling to be happy for the holidays.

I did get my new parka yesterday. It’s very nice, although I probably need to take more walks to get rid of my beer gut. 😉 People will think I’m pregnant… a la Sarah, elderly mother of baby Isaac. My parents would be so proud that I remembered something from Sunday School. But anyway, it’s a very nice new jacket. I will make good use of it. Especially if we have another cold snap like we did last week.

Well… I’m already kind of bored with this topic, so that about does it for me today. In spite of my occasionally snarky comments about fundie Christians, I do hope the expectant mothers in these families have safe, comfortable pregnancies, and they deliver happy, healthy, much beloved babies. And I also hope you have a great Friday! I think I’ll go back to bed and read more of Matthew Perry’s book. 😉

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blog news, Ex, love, marriage, musings

Today’s WordPress prompt is… “Tell us one thing you hope people never say about you.”

Not long ago, I wrote a post about how my blog host, WordPress, seems to think I need “special help” with my subject matter. Recently, I noticed that at the top of each new blank page, there’s now a “prompt”– a question or a suggestion on what my topic should be for the day. I think this is a new feature, as I’ve only just started noticing it. I see I can hide the daily prompts if I want to, but I probably won’t bother with that. Although I doubt I’ll need to use the prompts regularly, there are times when I could use a suggestion. Sometimes, even I get writer’s block– like if I’ve got a hangover or nothing exciting has happened. But I usually have SOMETHING I can write about, even if I’m the only one who’s interested in the subject.

Today, for instance, I could write about Donald Trump’s ridiculous “big announcement”, which turned out to be really embarrassing and stupid. He’s selling Trump superhero NFT cards for $99. Jimmy Kimmel put it as “QAnon meets QVC”. Seriously, this is “not a good look” for Trump. I’m sure a lot of his supporters– many (but not enough) of them former supporters at this point– are feeling kind of sheepish and humiliated now, as their former hero who promised “greatness” is shilling more worthless shit to the masses. Trump is legitimately embarrassing on so many levels now. Just like with Ex, whenever I think I’ve heard the worst about Trump, there’s another layer of rot to excavate. It’s unbelievable that so many people fell for his lunacy. That being said, I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard that one of my cousins bought Trump’s stupid superhero cards. There are too many people who still worship him, though the number is dropping.

How dumb is this?

I haven’t bothered to watch Harry and Meghan on Netflix, because I haven’t been bored enough for that. I am reading Matthew Perry’s book, though. I know I’ve seen him in some things, although I was never a Friends fan– again, it aired at a time when I wasn’t available to watch a lot of TV. I bought his book because I like true stories, and his was getting some good press. So far, I’m enjoying it. Matthew Perry is engaging and funny, though some of his story is sad and scary. I’m four chapters in so far. I’m looking forward to sharing my thoughts on his book soon.

Or I could write about how the dishwasher that was supposed to get to us last night is coming this morning… (ETA: The dishwasher is still delayed) and Bill will be home later today, much to the dogs’ and my relief. I’ve been on the wagon all week, too… mainly because Arran has been getting me up every night , sometimes two or three times, so he can pee and beg for food. He left me alone for 3.5 solid hours yesterday after I yelled at him. He slunk away with a guilty look on his face, as if to say, “Gee mom, I didn’t realize I was imposing that much!” It’s hard to stay mad at Arran, even if he is a little stinker… and he always has been, so this is nothing new. Prednisolone just amplifies the effect. Luckily he’s adorable, sweet, loving, and very loyal. But I really need a full night’s rest! So does Bill.

Yes, I have a lot of topics I could write about, and I don’t necessarily need WordPress’s help. But WordPress has queried about what the one thing is that I hope no one ever says about me. That’s actually kind of a hard question to answer. I’m a pretty forward person, and I’ve never been one to hold back. Lots of people don’t like me, although I don’t think I have too many true haters. Most people just find me annoying for any number of reasons, ranging from my distinctive laugh to the fact that I drink and swear a lot. Most people don’t seem to appreciate the fact that I’m outspoken and opinionated. I’m sure a consequence of growing up with people who repeatedly criticized and disparaged me, often in favor of other people’s kids, is a major reason why so many people seem to think I’m an asshole today.

I suppose a lot of people would be horrified to be thought of as an “asshole” by so many other people. Most people want to be liked. I used to be that way, too. But I found that trying too hard to be liked by everyone was impossible, exhausting, and pretty pointless. Because those who would want you to not be your authentic self for them are not people who would ever be a true advocate. In other words, they’re “dead weight”. I’d much rather have a few loyal, true friends who love me exactly for who I am, than a bunch of “friends” who love me for what I can do for them or a false persona I put on just so I can feel liked and included in a group.

Does it hurt to be– or just feel— disliked and uninvited? Sure, it does. But at least I can wear my jammies when I’m alone, and no one will criticize my laugh, personality, looks, or opinions.

Also, I suspect that even those who feel like others think of them as an “asshole” are overestimating their real impact on other people. I, for one, agree with Eleanor Roosevelt, who said “You wouldn’t worry so much about what others think of you if you realized how seldom they do.” I think there’s a lot of truth in that statement. And, while it may take us aback to consider how little other people actually care that much about us, once you get past that initial shock, the end result is kind of freeing. Because when it comes down to it, people have their own lives, and their own problems… and the truth is, they probably DON’T think too much about you and any “asshole” behavior (from their perspective) you might exhibit.

So… I guess if I’m going to answer WordPress’s query, I would say that the one thing I would hope people never say about me is that I’m a fake. You may not like what you see or hear from me, but rest assured, it’s authentic. I try to be a good friend. I may not always say or do what other people want, but I do things with pure intentions. I don’t intentionally screw people over– which is NOT the same is letting them screw ME over without protest. The one kind thing my dad used to regularly say to me when I was growing up is that I’m a “survivor”. There’s a big part of me that doesn’t feel like that’s true, as I suffer pretty badly from anxiety sometimes. But, when I look back on my life, I realize that he was right. I am a survivor. A lot of times, that means I’m alone. But I am my true self when I’m alone, and I’m myself when I deal with other people. I’m never going to be popular, but what you see is what you get… ALWAYS. Or almost always… because I have to admit, there are times when fakeness is needed for survival. Like, for instance, being polite to an authority figure when you really feel like going off on them.

I feel like I came into Bill’s life for a reason. It was like the universe set it up. Matthew Perry writes about it in his book, about how, against all odds, he got cast as Chandler Bing on Friends. I think I was meant to be Bill’s second wife. I’m here to teach him new things… new ways of dealing with people. Maybe I was a washout as a career or family woman, but I think I’m here for different reasons… if only to show my husband that his voice counts, too. He doesn’t always have to appease other people and strive to be liked. His voice has worth, too. The real him is better than the fake persona he put on for Ex and other people who tried to force him into a place where he doesn’t fit. There’s a place where he DOES fit, just like a puzzle piece. And it’s with me, because I love him for who he is. He rewards me by loving me for who I am. It’s all I could ever ask for. If even one person can do it, it’s enough.

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divorce, family, love, marriage

The not so wicked stepmonster…

Last night, I did something I have never done before in 20 years of marriage. It feels kind of momentous, especially since I have technically been a stepmom the whole time I’ve been married.

I sent my younger step daughter a birthday card. If memory serves, she’s turning 29 today… although Bill thinks he might have been celebrating the wrong birthday for all these years. I know for a fact that he told me her birthday was on the 6th, but then last night, he said he remembered the day of her birth was on a Wednesday, which he thinks was the 8th. Now, that was a Wednesday in 1993, so I don’t know if he actually remembers the date properly. In any case, I tend to have a better memory about these things than he does, even though I wasn’t in his life when she was born.

I actually sent her an e-card from Jacquie Lawson, rather than a physical card. I like them, because they’re creative, interactive, and cool, and they’re easy to choose and send. Bill’s late Aunt Betsy used to send them to me, so I subscribed to the service, too. And then, as I was about to schedule the card to be sent, I asked Bill if he thought maybe younger daughter might like a gift card. He said she would, so I looked to see what was available.

At first, I thought maybe it would be good to send her one for Cold Stone Creamery, since I know she likes ice cream and she has little kids… Then I remembered we just sent her a box of macaroons from France, and that might be sweetness overload. Then I wondered about movie passes, but I wasn’t sure if she has AMC Theaters near her… Then I thought about getting a gift card to a restaurant, but then I remembered that she mentioned having car problems recently, which could make a date night problematic. I finally settled on a $100 Target gift card. I figured she could use it on anything she wants. If she has a pressing need, and is short on cash, she can use it for that. Or, if she just wants to splurge on something, she can use it for that purpose.

One thing I remember about being 29 is that I was always broke, mainly because I was in graduate school. And I didn’t even have kids, while younger daughter has three! Some of the best gifts I got during that time in my life were in the form of money… so I could pay bills. I remember one year, my sister sent me $100 or so, and I used it to pay my health insurance premium. It was a huge load off my mind and truly appreciated.

Maybe it seems odd for me to feel wonderment about sending my husband’s younger daughter a birthday card and a gift card. But you have to realize, I have never had a chance to be in her life, and for a long time, I never expected I would ever know her. For years, I was very angry with her for the way Bill was treated. And then, once they did finally reconnect, I didn’t want to intrude, as Bill gingerly tried to reconcile with his long lost child. They had a lot to discuss between themselves, and I felt that I shouldn’t get in the middle of that. One thing that I’ve often heard from stepchildren is that they often feel like stepparents, especially stepmothers, interfere and intrude too much. So I wanted to give them space to bond and heal.

I’ve only met my husband’s daughters in person once, and that was in 2003. At the time of our one meeting, Bill and I had only been married for about seven months. After that meeting, Ex determined that I was too much of a “bad influence”, and refused to cooperate with visitation requests. For the next fifteen years, I felt like there were these “ghost children” in the midst. Then, in 2017, Bill started talking to his daughter again. I started trusting her sometime in 2018, when I could plainly see that she wasn’t her mother reincarnated. In fact, she appears to be the complete opposite of her mother, thank God.

Last night I was feeling generous… and then Bill reminded me of how, when he finally got to see her in the flesh back in March 2020, she sent me a beautiful and sincere “Thank You” note for loving Bill. This year, she sent us a lovely card congratulating us on our 20th wedding anniversary. And it’s very obvious to me that in spite of what Ex claimed, back when Bill tried to assert his parental rights, younger daughter never forgot who her real dad is… nor did she ever regard him as a mere sperm donor (don’t even get me started on that). I do think she was afraid to talk to him for a long time. Ex had told her a lot of lies about Bill, but I also think maybe younger daughter worried that he’d be angry with her. She had no way of knowing that her father is one of the most even-keeled, reasonable, decent men there is. All she had to go on were her own memories of Bill, and the ridiculous stories her mother told her.

I don’t expect that younger daughter will ever see me as anyone more than Bill’s wife… but I can, at least, be better than #3 has been, and show a sincere interest in her. I can be a better, saner example than her mother has been. Aside from that, I like to shop, and I’m damned good at it. 😉

Hopefully, I got the birthdate right. Bill has already sent her a gift, which she accidentally opened sooner than she was supposed to… a Le Creuset Dutch Oven, as well as a couple of other kitchen implements. I’m sure she’ll be surprised to get something from me. 😉 But I can be full of surprises, you know…

By the way, the featured photo was taken on my birthday last June… We were in Antwerp, Belgium. I’d probably pick a different dessert for younger daughter, as I believe I had a Colonel– that’s citrus flavored sorbet with vodka poured all over it. I suspect that would not be something she would ever order. But I know Bill would look as happy as he does in that photo, if he could be in Utah to help his daughter celebrate in person.

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divorce, Ex, family, marriage, narcissists

Carolyn Hax says, “There isn’t enough hell for this no!”

This morning, as I was waking up to another Monday morning, I happened to read a letter to an advice column in the Washington Post (it’s unlocked for people who don’t subscribe). Sometimes letters to Carolyn Hax trigger me a little bit. And then I read other people’s comments, and I get triggered all the more. That’s what happened this morning. So now I need to vent in my blog. Below is the letter that got me all hot and bothered:

Dear Carolyn: I very recently had a baby with my boyfriend of several years. We were both married when we met, but after developing feelings for each other we divorced our spouses and committed to each other. Neither marriage was fulfilling, but I’m on very good terms with my ex as we co-parent our children as a united team.

My boyfriend’s ex-wife, however, has continued a pattern of manipulative and controlling behavior. For example, she told my boyfriend that the pastor at their church expects him to apologize to the church leaders for having divorced his wife. When my boyfriend sought to clarify this with the pastor, the pastor was stunned and assured him she never had a conversation like that with the ex-wife.

His 16-year-old, “Sam,” also refuses to meet the baby without his mother present. And JUST his mother present. My boyfriend is desperate to reconnect with his son (whose estrangement is enabled by the ex) and thinks meeting the baby will soften his son’s heart. I’m incredibly uncomfortable with the conditions. For context: I’ve learned his ex-wife has on multiple occasions made fun of the name we chose for our daughter. She also demanded to know all sorts of intimate details about me, such as my plans for breastfeeding.

His ex-wife has been pushing hard to meet the baby. My boyfriend says she and Sam are a package deal. But my mama instincts are screaming that my baby is not safe around this woman. She recently made it clear she expects to meet the baby soon, whether Sam does or not.

I am obviously sleep-deprived and hormones are crashing, but am I being unreasonable? I know she will someday meet her, but I don’t see why it’s necessary for her to have this experience with my newborn.

— Mama Bear

I actually liked Carolyn’s advice. Her first sentence summed it up nicely. She wrote, “There isn’t enough hell for this no.” I totally agree with her. I’ve never had a child, but I can plainly see how inappropriate this demand is. But other people didn’t see it Carolyn’s way at all. I probably shouldn’t be surprised, because we’re dealing with people in a culture who automatically see men and any subsequent female partners at fault when a heterosexual relationship falls apart. And some people seem to think that the jilted woman is automatically entitled to whatever she wants. Can you believe the ex wife in the above example thinks she’s entitled to meet the baby even without her son in tow?

To Carolyn’s credit, she simply looked at what was written in the letter. She didn’t attempt to recreate the letter from the ex wife’s perspective, as one reader did. It’s not that I don’t think it’s useful to consider the ex wife’s perspective so much, as that the person who did it added details to the situation that didn’t exist in the original letter. I saw a lot of people projecting their own opinions and experiences into this situation, complicating what, to me, looks like a pretty cut and dried situation. The letter writer has a brand new baby. It’s HER baby. She’s the mom, and she gets to decide who is around her newborn baby. Ex wife has ZERO standing to demand anything regarding the letter writer’s brand new baby, her son with the boyfriend notwithstanding. Below was one commenter’s take.

Um… did this person miss the part where the EX said her ex husband needed to apologize to church leaders for the divorce? And the church leader said the conversation never took place? Also, the original letter says that the couple had been together for several years, and made no mention of the mom’s age. And personally, I think gifts related to breastfeeding are inappropriate, unless it’s something the person specifically requested.

As for “Sam”, my comment would be that it’s regrettable that he evidently doesn’t want to meet his half-sister. He can meet her when he grows up, if he wants to. But his mom is not in this, and needs to butt out immediately. She has absolutely no right to demand to meet the baby, at all.

I write this from the perspective of a second wife whose husband was denied access to his daughters for many years. One of them finally came around five years ago, and we continually find out more about the total fuckery that went on during those years they weren’t talking and continues to go on today. I know, in our case, there really is a wacko ex involved. I also know that when there’s a wacko ex, you have to be careful not to give ’em an inch, or they will take a mile. The bit about the fabricated church leader story, coupled with the demands to know about breastfeeding habits, makes me think the ex in this story could be a bit looney.

I also write this as a woman who DID NOT have an affair with a married man, but many people assume that I broke up his marriage to his ex wife, simply because people often think that about second or subsequent wives and girlfriends. Many people commenting made the assumption that this couple had an affair. Nowhere in the letter does it say that. It’s entirely possible this couple met and had a platonic relationship until they got divorced. That’s how it happened between Bill and me.

We met online in a chat room back in late 1999. Both of us were lonely. I was single and in graduate school. He and Ex had separated because he had decided to rejoin the Army full time. She was already dating #3. Bill and I chatted for three whole months before he finally sent me an email explaining his situation. I was shocked by the email and sorry about Bill’s marriage breaking up, but I never expected to ever meet him in person, let alone marry him. I had never thought to ask him about his marital status, because we weren’t talking about or doing intimate stuff that would necessitate my knowledge of his marital status. Our relationship at that time consisted entirely of chatting online and emails. We also lived in different states and time zones, and at the time, I had never met anyone offline that I had originally met on the Internet.

A couple of months after Bill explained his situation to me, it was time for that infamous Easter confrontation in his father’s house, where Ex dramatically presented an ultimatum that Bill bend to her will, or dissolve the marriage. She knew nothing about me or my existence, and I had absolutely NOTHING to do with her ultimatum. She didn’t find out about me until we had been dating for about eight months; by that time, #3 was already living in the house Bill was still paying for, and had proposed to her a couple of times.

At the time Ex demanded the divorce, I was just Bill’s Internet acquaintance, anyway. We were completely platonic until after his divorce, which happened less than nine months after we encountered each other online. Bill decided to accept Ex’s divorce proposal because he knew his marriage wasn’t working and wouldn’t get better. He was tired of living hand to mouth, and wanted to have a job that paid better than factory work. He loved the Army; it’s his vocation. And he and Ex have nothing in common, other than their kids and where they went to high school.

To be honest, I was a little uncomfortable with the idea of meeting Bill when the idea first came up. When were still talking online a year later, I agreed to it. And even after the first in person meeting, I wasn’t sure where our friendship was going.

About three months after that dramatic Easter scene, their divorce was final. Bill and I met in person almost a year later, when the Army sent him on a work trip to the city where I was living at the time. That’s when we started dating offline, as Bill later relocated to Virginia, which is my home state. On long weekends, I would drive from South Carolina to Virginia to see him, and he would sometimes return the favor. We did not have a sexual relationship until two weeks after our wedding.

I know some people might not believe me, but I swear it’s the truth, and yes, of course it’s possible. Neither of us were much into dating when we were growing up. When I met Bill, he was my first boyfriend since high school, and he is my only sexual partner, ever. Besides Ex, I am his only partner. And if we can do it that way, anyone can.

I’m not implying that what happened in my case is what happened in the letter writer’s situation, only that it could have happened that way. There’s nothing in the letter to indicate that this couple had an affair before they divorced their ex spouses. All it says is that they were both in unfulfilling marriages, and that they had been together for a few years before their daughter was born. No, they aren’t married, but not everyone wants or needs to be married to have children. God knows, that happens every day, although personally, I would not want to have a baby out of wedlock. But that’s just me… and at my age, it’s no longer a possibility, anyway.

“Sam” is estranged from his dad. Regrettably, that’s not uncommon when parents divorce, and it’s often the fathers who wind up alienated. The letter writer’s boyfriend obviously loves his son and wants to be in his life. It sounds like his ex wife is not facilitating things, which is also a common and, perhaps, even an understandable reaction after divorce. A lot of people are bitter after a divorce, and that leads to asking other people to take sides, especially if they are the custodial parents of a child that came from the relationship. But you know what? In two years, Sam will be an adult, and he can make his own choices.

If Sam’s parents’ divorce is the most painful thing he ever deals with, he’s going to be lucky. Maybe his father is a jerk, but maybe he’s not. It will be up to Sam to decide if he really wants to jettison his father forever. He may eventually realize that this isn’t a decision that should be made lightly. But, it could turn out that after a few years and some perspective, Sam may come to realize that he was used as a weapon. Or maybe that isn’t the situation. Either way, it’s not up to him or his mother to dictate, if, when, or how he meets his half-sister. At age 16, he’s allowed to say no to visitation with his dad, even if it’s not the wisest decision. At age 18, it will be entirely up to him, legally speaking. Of course, if his mother is anything like Ex is, she might still make it extremely difficult for the wounds to heal. It might take a few years of adulthood before the blinders come off and Sam is ready to have a relationship with his father on his own terms.

In twenty years of marriage, I have only met my husband’s daughters in person once, and that was many years ago, because his ex wife refused to cooperate and actively sabotaged the loving relationship Bill once had with his kids. She did this for purely vindictive, selfish, narcissistic reasons. And now, younger daughter can see, plain as day, what happened, because she’s been treated in the same disrespectful way that Bill was. Now that they’re finally speaking, younger daughter is finding out things she hadn’t known, and I have a feeling that some of what she’s learning is very upsetting. Pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together… and if I’m honest, I worry what will happen when she finally understands just what she was denied when she was growing up. Her mother betrayed her by alienating her from her father and trying to force her to bond with #3, a man who clearly doesn’t care about her.

For Bill’s part, he now very much regrets not fighting much harder for his daughters. That was a terrible mistake. All he can do now is be there for the present and future, if they want him around. On the other hand, we’ve also learned that life continues to go on if there’s estrangement. There are some things you can’t control, like trying to force a horse to drink water. I would say reconnecting with estranged children often falls into this category. Sometimes these situations happen even when there hasn’t been a divorce. One person can’t control how another person feels or reacts. Ha ha… Ex actually said that to Bill once. “I can’t help how you feel.” Well, that goes for her, too… It goes for EVERYONE.

Another one of Ex’s expressions that Bill brought into our marriage is “Murder will out.” I had never heard that expression before I married Bill, but he’s said it many times over the years. And I can see by Ex’s very public social media accounts that she says it, too. Things are coming home to roost now, and I suspect they could get very dramatic soon. I probably shouldn’t read Carolyn Hax’s advice column, because letters like the one I read this morning are still very triggering for me. Our situation is extreme, but it’s been educational for me, and it’s taught me that stereotypical explanations of situations aren’t always accurate. Many commenters were assuming that the boyfriend in this letter was a spineless coward who cheated. I’m sure there’s a lot more to it than that.

But… bottom line is, the ex wife in this situation has absolutely no standing to demand that the letter writer surrender her baby for a private meeting with the ex and “Sam”. As I mentioned up post, I have never been a mother myself, but I would imagine that those mama bear instincts are there for very good reason. Yes, she’s the girlfriend, but she’s also the MOM of that baby, and it’s her job to protect her child. So she should politely tell the ex to fuck off, if she deems it appropriate. If it means Sam doesn’t meet his half-sister for the time being, so be it.

Edited to add…. Sorry, this letter really got under my skin. Lately, we’ve been getting a lot of upsetting new information that has me a bit spun up.

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