Sep 242013

kisssmallOne of the most glorious naïvetés of my adulthood was how I thought—hoped—Generation X would approach divorce.

Our parents were the first generation who divorced without significant social stigma, so they did it a lot. We, their children, got a good, solid look at more broken homes and stepfamilies than anyone previously had. I thought that would make us more careful. I thought we’d be more hesitant to marry. I thought we’d work harder to stay married when things got rocky.

And oh, rainbows, unicorns, and candy for everyone.

We aren’t any better at staying married than our parents were. In fact, we’ve made the whole thing worse. If our parents’ greatest contribution to the destruction of marriage was the ubiquity of no-fault divorce, then maybe ours is the destigmatization of children outside wedlock. Whatever the case, we’re certainly not burnishing the institution, are we?

Several years ago I enjoyed listening to Dr. Laura at work. I don’t have satellite radio, so I don’t hear her anymore. I didn’t listen every day then, because let’s face it, a big part of her shtick is being unbelievably irritating, and that’s only so much fun day after day.

One thing she had very correct was her approach to bumps in the marital road. When someone called her with marital problems, her basic attitude was:  has your spouse fundamentally changed? Or is s/he essentially the same person you married? If the latter, then guess what? You have work to do. Be about it.

“Be about it” means going to your spouse and opening the discussion as soon as you’re sure it’s a problem (whatever it is). Open the relief valve as soon as there is pressure. Don’t watch with morbid fascination to see what it can withstand.

One of the most depressing things I ever heard our pastor say was about the nature of couples looking for his help when things got rocky. He said they generally waited much too long to call him. By the time they were sitting in front of him, they were quite done. They wanted him to hold their hands while they got divorced, not try to save their union.

Marriage is forever. It is your reality, your world view, your paradigm. There is no Plan B. You promised him/her. You probably promised God. If it’s the fabric of your entire earthly existence—and it is—then tend to its health daily.

Fireproof doesn’t mean the fire will never come. It means when the fire comes that you will be able to withstand it. – Ken Bevel as Michael Simmons, Fireproof

Now that is a sweet and sincere Christian movie, but even if you’re not Christian, that’s as rock-solid a maxim as there is. You’re not going to avoid trouble altogether, so steel yourselves for it. When you’re certain it has arrived, don’t marinate in it. Talk.

So what is a good reason to bail? After all, some marriages do need to end. I appreciate that. I used to think that anyone who cheated was issuing his/her spouse a license to walk. I still think it’s enough in a lot of cases. Abuse? Yes, if you’re being terrorized in your own home, you need out. Addiction? That can do it too.

I think the key in any case is penitence (or lack thereof). If you cheat on your wife, but then throw yourself at her feet and beg for her forgiveness, and your walk matches your talk, you can put it back together. It will almost certainly scar, but it need not bleed forever. If you’re serious about an alcohol treatment program and demonstrate consistent sincerity in completing it, as well as following up with counseling, you can put it back together.

People do still make large mistakes and genuinely repent. You’re not a sap for allowing that possibility.

On the subject of allowing that possibility, and leaving it on the mat trying to save your marriage:  if you have children, then you have to. Choosing to break the home of a person you and your spouse chose to make exist is an exceptionally grave decision, and you should exhaust yourselves completely trying to avoid it.

My older son asked me not long ago what it was like to have a stepmother. I told him not to worry about it, because he’d never have one. I’m pretty confident in the strength of our marriage, and if something unthinkable happened to Lea, I believe that I would choose to be alone until both boys were grown.

A blended family certainly can succeed, and I’m not unequivocally claiming otherwise. But have your eyes open on this:  even when a blended family goes as well as it possibly can, it’s considerably harder. There are insecurities and emotional minefields present with no good resolutions. She is not your child’s mother. He is not your child’s father. You cannot simply declare otherwise into being.

If you break your home and amalgamate another one, your children will never be the same. Do you have a situation poor enough to warrant that risk?

In my long and consistent observation, nothing so reliably brings out the worst in someone as divorce. If there’s nastiness in there anywhere, then divorce will bring it out.

So do something original and unexpected—for yourselves and your children.

Stay married.

 Posted by at 12:01 am
Sep 222013

I’m co-teaching in Aaron’s Sunday school class this month. I’m co-teaching in Nathan’s confirmation class next month.

Our boys are jelling, right now, with the children who will comprise their church youth group. They’re almost there. Teaching at church gives me a good look at that process, and I’m excited for them.

I don’t think I can overstate what my youth group in my early teen years meant to me. It was a tempestuous time, and I think the love and stability at my church enabled me to navigate it.

I see good kids with good parents surrounding Nathan and Aaron. I’m so pleased that they’ll grow in Christ with the support their youth group will give them. I’m further pleased that I think I really can remember what it feels like to be a teenager, and therefore recognize this value on the front end.

I’m also wigged out and a bit teary that so much of their childhoods are gone.

Guess this is no time for me to go wobbly though, is it?

 Posted by at 4:39 pm
Sep 202013

alabamasealI’ve been following the sorority debacle at the University of Alabama with some interest. If you’ve not been paying attention, the basic story is that a black student applied to four different sororities; the girls in the respective houses wanted her; and the respective alumnae thwarted it, procedurally or whatever.

That may be a smidge oversimplified, but that’s the gist.

Now my entire direct experience with the Greek life consists of spending about three weeks as an Alpha Tau Omega pledge at the University of Alabama in Huntsville 24 years ago. But a high school classmate of mine—someone whose intelligence and values I respect—spent her college years in a sorority. So I emailed her and told her the situation at Alabama looked pretty repulsive to me, and asked her if there was anything I was missing.

She agreed that it was an appalling situation, but bristled a bit at the university administration dictating to the sororities. She said the real change needed to come from the national chapters—as in sororities and fraternities needed to establish meaningful incentives for chapters to integrate.

So that begged a big question. At how many other schools is this happening?

The answer is a lot.

This is hardly an Alabama-only problem. There’s just a bit too much glee in pretending it is in some commentaries I’ve read. Alabama is king of college football, but didn’t integrate the team until 1971. Alabama is where George Wallace stood in the schoolhouse door.

And look at those stupid racist hicks in 2013, who still haven’t learned.

Yes. And no. This has nothing specific to do with Alabama. It has everything to do with racist attitudes inflicted from previous generations, with all-too-real effects on present ones.

I know almost no one younger than his/her mid-40s or so who is racist, and the few I can think of are directly informed by particularly vocal and/or committed “elders.” Hey folks? Us current generations are nearly all the way over this.

If you can’t feel it in your heart, at least be polite and keep your mouths shut.

National organizations, please take a productive and unambiguous lead in incentivizing your chapters to integrate.

 Posted by at 12:29 am
Sep 192013
  • Planning to give Bar Louie a whirl today with some old high school friends. Still just hate that The Tavern is gone. I find stuff I like, and I stay with it, and it pisses me off when it gets screwed up. Ever noticed?
  • Speaking of eating out, I have it from an off-the-plane, native-born Japanese woman that Mikawa is the finest sushi in town, and it’s not even close.
  • As I type it is looking quite wet for both Alabama and Auburn this weekend.
  • Considering whether I want to weigh in on the sorority debacle at the University of Alabama. There are some things I really don’t care for in how it’s been covered. Maybe tomorrow.
  • Remember Lazlo Hollyfeld, the guy who lived in the closet in Real Genius? Check this out.
  • Jordan in that movie is Judy in Revenge of the Nerds, by the way. Funny, eh?
  • Ever consider what it would be like to be blind from birth? That’s one of the more intriguing philosophical situations, to me. If you can see for a bit and then you lose your sight, then you know what color means. Think you ever really get it if you never had it? How could you?
  • I have firm and detailed memories of mechanical cash registers. I’m probably a youngest member of the very last generation for which that is true.
 Posted by at 7:07 am
Sep 182013

A movie you probably haven’t seen but should:  UHF. This was “Weird Al” Yankovic’s movie, and it’s a scream. Unfortunately it opened against Lethal Weapon 2; Batman; When Harry Met Sally; and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. It never had a chance at the box office. However, it’s greatly redeemed itself at home. If you don’t take yourself too seriously, and especially if you’re a child of the ’80s, see it.

An album you probably haven’t heard but should:  Shelter, Lone Justice. I fell in love with Maria McKee watching the video for the title cut, and well, 27 years and counting! Bought the album nearly immediately. It’s some of the best songwriting I’ve ever heard. Jimmy Iovine and Little Steven got just a bit slick with the production—it was 1986—but the offense usually stops short of heinous. (I’d still love to hear a raw, live version of this record.)

A book you probably haven’t read but should:  Lost Boys, Orson Scott Card. This might be the creepiest book I ever read. It’s not the straight-up scariest, but it got under me viscerally. Rippin’ good story, and you won’t be quite the same after you read it. From Publishers Weekly:  “A withdrawn eight-year-old in a troubled family invents imaginary friends who bear the names of missing children in this absorbing thriller.” That’s all you need to know about the plot. Pick it up.

 Posted by at 7:37 am