Category Archives: Talk

Marriage crumbling and soul in pain

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Annalee writes:

"I'm in the midst of a soul-crushing ordeal. I learned four
months ago my husband of 11 years had two affairs – one over the span of
two years with a mutual friend – that I was completely and totally
unaware of. While we struggled with issues in our relationship and
marriage counseling was suggested numerous times, he refused and I
assumed we were just worn down from kids, jobs, his promotion at work. Since
this discovery, I have examined myself pretty thoroughly (I'm a big fan
of therapy) and do not operate under any illusions that we were perfect.
I'm willing to work through it and find a way to make different
decisions to be happier together. We're both getting counseling and
attended marriage counseling for three sessions before he pulled the
plug on everything. He has been back and forth about moving out, ending
our marriage, working it out, taking a break, etc.

In our last session of counseling he suggested a 3-month trial
separation with strict guidelines. The next day he changed his mind and
announced he would not be going back to counseling (he felt the
therapist was biased and was judging him, none of which I experienced)
nor would a trial separation work for either of us.  He is angry that I
have told people about his actions and wants to be sure I include the
part about being unhappy before the affairs, which I perceive as

We have two small kids (ages 4 and 2), are still living
together and have ceased to communicate about our marriage. He made an
appointment with a mediator and is moving ahead with separation. Here's
what I'm struggling with – he says he doesn't want a divorce but needs
space to clear his head (I don't trust this at all), the back and forth
on a daily basis (until two days ago when I put a stop to it) is slowly
taking a toll and the instability is making me incredibly anxious. On a
daily basis we are living as we always have but sleeping apart. We have a
two-week vacation coming up and he is unwilling to split the time
evenly so either I don't go and miss the time with my kids or I find a
way to be there and not lose my head.

I accept that we are here and while I completely disagree with
his decisions they are his to make. I'm sad, angry and scared. I'm not
sure what I need at the moment or why I am even writing you but I just
know that weekly therapy isn't enough. Reading recommendations about
divorce and parenting through divorce also welcome."

I am so sorry you're going through this.

And I'm sorry you're feeling so in limbo about it. I think the not knowing is the worst.

First, it's unfair that he's attempting to control what you say. Just as you have to accept that his experience is his experience, he has to accept that your experience is yours. Additionally, attempting to justify his cheating by saying he was unhappy is complete and utter BS. Plenty of people are deeply unhappy who don't cheat. And plenty of other people who are unhappy cheat but take full responsibility for that as a choice that they made. Part of being an adult is living with your choices.

One of the best things about the divorce process (in my opinion), whether you end up getting divorced or getting back together, is that you learn to really own and take responsibility for your own decisions and feelings. (If you do it as fully as you can–if you try to hide in the middle of it you won't be able to get the good things out of the process.) Part of that is that you lose all the structures you had that kept you feeling safe (and in pain, sometimes, but an addictive pain), so once your life is stripped down all you have is yourself and your friends, and you can take an honest look at yourself and your choices.

This is another one of those things that is searingly painful while you're in it, but once you come out the other end you're both bulletproof and softer.

You don't really know what you want, but I'm going to give you some straight-up advice: Figure out what you want. Independent of what your husband wants. That means you're going to have to figure out a few options that you're happy with, because you can't control what he decides about staying or going. You can insist on an actual decision from him. But you can't control what he decides, or what he wants. So think, yourself, about what you want. What you want if your husband wants to stay. What you want if your husband wants to go.

Because no matter what happens in the next few months and what he decides, you need to be the strongest you you can be. It takes strength to repair a broken marriage, and it takes strength to get divorced. Either way, it will be better than this middle ground. You will feel good again. But only if you're doing what you know you should be doing.

Book recs:

Uncoupling by Diane Vaughn. NO JUDGMENT, just a timeline of how a relationship unravels from the perspective of the partner that leaves and the partner who's left.

Co-Parenting 101 by Deesha Philyaw and Michael D. Thomas. You know Deesha is a good friend of mine and we teach the Writing Through Your Divorce workshop together, but part of what I love about her is how excellent this book is and how it hits everything exactly right about forming whatever kind of co-parenting relationship you can with your ex. Even if you eventually end up have an easy, great co-parenting relationship with your ex (which many people don't, and that's ok), it won't happen right away, so all the data points and situational run-throughs in this book are helpful.

I always feel like the worst part is the deciding part, when you just don't know yet and all there is is pain, confusion, and guilt. I hope you can come to decisions that are good for you and your kids soon, so you can move to the shoulder-to-the-wheel part.

Oh, and your "mutual friend" can go fuck herself.

Readers, what do you have for Annalee?


(Programming note: The next round of Flourish Through Divorce starts August 15, and I'll open up registration in two weeks. If you're thinking of doing it, Uncoupling and Co-Parenting 101 are texts for the workshop, so get them now and read ahead.)


Problem Solving Procedure

You could fix any problem if someone would just tell youwhat to do first.

Frustrated with the conflicting advice and wishing you could
get your feet under you to figure out how YOU want to approach problems your
baby is having?

This MoxieTopic: Problem Solving Procedure lays out three
different ways to approach unraveling and attacking problems your child is
having. Because it’s an approach to a process, not advice on a specific situation,
you can use it to help you figure out what to do for any situation you
encounter–leaving you as the expert on your own child, but helping you create
a framework that tells you what process to follow.

For people who don’t like to follow external advice, this
MoxieTopic will help you codify your own approach. For people who do like to
use external advice, this MoxieTopic will help you customize the process to
your own situation.

$5, five pages (big procedural thoughts but not too many
words to wade through). Once you pay through PayPal you’ll get an email asking
you to confirm, click through that, and you’ll get the email with the link to
download the PDF file. (If you don’t get anything within a few minutes, check
your spam file.)

This PDF is for your own personal use and allows you to read on devices
or print it out. Please do not share electronic copies with others or
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Sleep: Tension Increasers and Tension Releasers

Everyone’s telling you to let your baby cry it out, but willthat really get your baby to sleep?

If only there was a way to know if you should let your baby
cry, or keep nursing or rocking to sleep.

There is! MoxieTopic: Tension Increasers and Tension Releasers shows you. Crying is a physical act, and it helps some babies
release tension and fall asleep, while it causes other babies more tension and
prevents them from falling asleep. Figure out how crying affects your baby and
you’ll know whether to try CIO or not, what types of methods are more likely to
help your child sleep, and how your child processes high emotion.

Once you understand how your child physically processes
crying, you can decide how best to proceed.
This isn’t telling you what to do,
it’s telling you how to figure out what’s more or less likely to work with your
particular child, so you can decide what to do next. You’re the best parent for
your child, and this MoxieTopic will help you read your child’s signals even

$5, five pages (so you can read it in one session). Once you
pay through PayPal you’ll get an email asking you to confirm, click through
that, and you’ll get the email with the link to download the PDF file. (If you don’t get anything within a few minutes, check your spam file.)

This PDF is for your own personal use and allows you to read on devices
or print it out. Please do not share electronic copies with others or
print copies for others.



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Introducing MoxieTopics, in-depth PDFs on the topics AskMoxie readers are most interested in!

These are the topics I get the most questions about, so I’ve
written various posts over the years covering them, but this is the first time
I’ve written from start to finish on each topic. Priced at $5 each, they’re the
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I’ll add more as I write them, so keep checking back.

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Is This a Thing? Timeline of birth through 2

Here's a timeline of all the things can make your baby get weird (by which I mean stop sleeping and get cranky) at predictable times from birth to 2, including growth spurts, sleep regressions, and other phases. 8 pages of what's-going-to-happen-when-and-it's-not-your-fault. I'm writing a book on it, but here's the quick and dirty, ready now when you need it. Five bucks, eight pages. More info on MoxieTopic: Is This a Thing? timeline here. Click here if you know you want to buy now:


Sleep: Tension Increasers and Tension Releasers

Here's the whole start to finish on what it means to increase or release tension from crying, how to tell how your child processes crying, what that tells you about the way your child gets to sleep, and what else you can take from this that will help you help your child deal with big feelings. Five bucks, five pages. More info on MoxieTopic: Tension Increasers and Tension Releasers here. Click here if you know you want to buy now:



Sleep: Sleep Regression Intensive

What are sleep regressions? When do they happen? What can you do about them? Al these questions and more are answered in the Sleep Regression Intensive. Eight pages of more than you ever wanted to know about how kids sometimes just can't sleep and it's not your fault. Five bucks. More info on MoxieTopic: Sleep Regression Intensive here. Click here if you know you want to buy now:



Problem Solving Procedure

Not knowing where or how to start unraveling your child's problems, but annoyed at experts telling you to jump without knowing anything about you or your child? Here's the guide to helping you formulate a problem-solving process that works for you that you can apply to any kid-related situation. A little theory, some suggestions of things to think about, then the different approaches and pros and cons of each. Five bucks, five pages. More info on MoxieTopic: Problem Solving Procedure here. Click here if you know you want to buy now:



Sleep Regression Intensive

What are sleep regressions?

Sleep regressions–they rule your life as a parent of a
baby, but what are they and what can you do about them?

This MoxieTopic: Sleep Regression Intensive tells you what
sleep regressions are, how they affect babies (and older children and even
adults), when they happen, and what you can do to survive them. Yes, I could
have written an entire (gutwrenching) book about this (with a lot of filler), but instead I distilled
it down to 8 pages. Once you know when and why and how, you’ll know what to do
about it, because you’re the best parent for your child. Plus, you can make it
through 8 pages, even with your current lack of sleep. Move your sleepy index
finger to click on the button to buy it now.

$5, eight pages (the last few are a timeline so you only
have to read the part that applies to you now). Once you pay through PayPal
you’ll get an email asking you to confirm, click through that, and you’ll get
the email with the link to download the PDF file. (If you don’t get anything
within a few minutes, check your spam file.)

This PDF is for your own personal use and allows you to read on devices or print it out. Please do not share electronic copies with others or print copies for others.




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Discussion: Tulips, Water, Ash by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet

(This is a replacement post for the lost discussion post from June 26.)

I know that discussions of books are supposed to have a distance, and that we're supposed to be impartial and discuss all the parts and the symbolism and what the author/poet intends vs. what we take, but I just can't with Tulips, Water, Ash by Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet. I'm head over heels in love with this book and with these poems. And I don't think I can be impartial about it any more than I can be impartial about my best friends or my sister-in-law–I can't imagine how anyone else wouldn't be as impressed with them as I am.

These are the things I know about Tulips, Water, Ash:

Each poem is a world. Some worlds are about big ideas, some are about minute moments from ordinary life. Lisa Gluskin Stonestreet turns them each into an entire world.

You can't race through this book. You know how each poem is a world? You need to give it time. Read it twice, then read it slowly, roll that one line around in your head, move your lips while you read, read it twice more.

There is one line–sometimes two–in each poem that kicks you right in the gut because it's the essence of everything. ("When did she stop disappearing/ the moment she covered her eyes?" from "Girl With a Camera")

At the same time, LGS's approach, the way she writes around and into and through, pulls you inside her ideas until you're there with her, even though you start out thinking this one may be too opaque for you. It never is, and you get to her perspective neatly. The poem "Married Sex" is like that, starting out with words I hadn't thought of in relation to sex, but the second and third time you read the poem it gels and you see where it came from.

There's something both baroque and lean about most of these poems that delights me.

"Once Upon A Time" is me and is probably you, too: "there was a girl who started reading/ and couldn't stop. Holed up/ with a stack of books, she laid them out/ where the other girls had dolls, heads"

And then the last stanza of "We're Used/ By Sweetness":

Use me like the bow
uses the hunter: arrow
arm and eye, that one
moment of sweet forgiving
nothing-elseness. That thing
we're made for.

If you haven't read the book yet, read it. Buy it or borrow it and spend the time to let these poems roll through you.

Does anyone else have thoughts? (And you don't have to be in love with the book like I am!)

(Next book in the Summer Reading series is American Sublime by Elizabeth Alexander on July 24.)




Dealing with a toddler during an adult church service

I set the post discussing Lisa Stonestreet's Tulip, Water, Ashfor the Summer Readalong to autopost on June 26, and saw it, but now it's not here or in my saved posts. Did anyone else see it? I'm scared I deleted it while clearing out spam. Going to rewrite it and will post later this week. Apologies to Lisa.

And now a question from Ruth. For those of you who aren't into worship services, think of this as being like having a kid at a fancy dinner. Also, "liturgy" = the order of the service (it stays the same every week with different Bible lessons and songs switched in), "homily" = the sermon (lesson the pastor gives, which can vary from 10 minutes to an hour, depending on the type of church you go to), "creche" = a daycare room for little kids during the service, "hymns" = songs the group sings together, "Christ candle" = a big lit candle on a stand that symbolizes the presence of Jesus at the service. Got it? Let's go:

"I wonder if you or your readers have any tips to offer;  My baby is
now a curious, walking, noisy 16 month old… lots of fun… until one 1
1/2 hour slot on a Sunday morning. 

church service has a congregation of about 40, and there are 6 children
under the age of 14, and mine is by far the youngest.  For the older
children there is a programme that runs in parallel with the homily but
there is not a creche for younger kids (obviously because there has been
no demand).  

Although our church is kind of old-school in its
worship and liturgy, with lots of quiet and candles and standing and
singing and kneeling, the culture is so open and gracious.  That is to
say, there are always at least a couple of people who will comment to me
afterwards that they enjoy hearing my boy "singing" and that I should
not take him out when he is noisy–even on my worst days this has been
said to me, so I am very grateful.  

I believe that children only learn how to be in
church by being in church (although missing the homily is no big
tragedy, in my mind).  And that little bodies were not designed to be
still or quiet for long periods of time.  More and more it feels like my
head is going to explode as my partner or I try to keep my son from
shouting over the top of the priest or from pulling the Christ candle
down on himself.  We try to "dance" with him during the hymns, and
indeed much of our liturgy is sung (and there is "action" that he can
participate in), so that makes it a little easier.  But there is
alllllllllllll that quiet prayer time and the homily and the readings,
and in spite of the goodwill of those around me, I find it less than
replenishing sitting there with my teeth clenched, anticipating my boy's
next move.

I guess what I would like to know is what can I
fairly expect from my toddler?  (I haven't really been to a church with
kids before so I don't know how others behave).  What are some more ways
that I can help him to participate meaningfully in the service?  What
kind of distractions do others use during quiet times?  How do other
faith communities incorporate their young children into their worship?
 Will I ever again feel like mass is a refreshing part of my week?  I
also feel like a big part of this is about the stresses of parenting in
public and the real+perceived judgement of those around me."

When my older son was around that age, he was veeery into vehicles of all sorts, and had a toy truck that he brought everywhere. He also couldn't say the TR sound. So he spent a few months in the adult church service occasionally yelling out "fuck! fuck!" excitedly. I knew I was at the right church because the pastor and everyone else (except for one sour-faced guy) laughed every time and then slipped my son cookies after the service.

So, yes. There are some known knowns here:

1. You want your son to learn to be in church. (Much like we all want our kids to learn to do the adult activities we do, like going to restaurants.)

2. The only way for him to learn this is to do it.

3. Doing it at this stage is extraordinarily difficult because 16-month-olds just can't sit still, and there's a lot of sitting still time in church.

4. Your son is normal.

5. It's upsetting to you.

6. The rest of the congregation aren't bothered by your son and are going out of their way to tell you how glad they are that he's there.

The upshot is that it's all good for your son, who is learning to do the things and go the places that will make him a participating adult. It's all good for the people in your church, who enjoy having your son there, and understand that he's a toddler. But it's not good for you, because it's taking a time that's supposed to be a time of rest, contemplation, and renewal, and making it an obstacle course that exhausts and demoralizes you.

I sometimes skipped church because I just couldn't deal with it that day. It felt like I needed help but no one knew how to give it to me.

But here's another known that's unknown to you, but known to some of the rest of us: It does get better. As your son grows and matures and develops new skills, he'll be less of a whirling dervish burden during the mass and more of an annoying sidekick. And then one day you'll realize that he's quietly coloring during the homily and singing along to the liturgy and you haven't felt that anxious feeling in church in weeks and how did it happen? But it does.

I would love some stories of toddlers in places that are largely adult space doing things that mortified you at the time but are now making you laugh. And some survival stories about bringing your kids into situations they needed to grow into, like houses of worship or restaurants.


Helping Anon and lawyer rec in Denver and

The randomness:

1. Julia from Mom Meet Mom created an Indiegogo link for all of us who want to help Anon who has the daughter with grieving issues about her father and the toddler twins. The funds are going to go to childcare so Anon can find a job and get back up on her feet again, and get some help for her daughter. Here's the link to Anon's help fund. I'll report in updates from Julia as I get them.

2. A reader needs a rec for a good collaborative divorce lawyer in Denver.

3. Writing Through Your Divorce is starting Monday, so get in now if you've been considering it. (If you don't like writing, I'll be running another round of Flourish Through Divorce–which is thinking-heavy but not much writing–in August. But if writing is your thing, or if you're attracted to the idea of writing but afraid to do it, Writing Through Your Divorce is for you.)

4. I am house-sitting at my parents' house this month and am feeling a little dislocated in space, but not really in a bad way. Thoughts about dislocation? As challenge, and as opportunity?

Review: Above All Movers and my last two insane weeks

On June 15 I got in the car with the kids and drove to Minnesota. I dropped them at camp that Monday, went back down to the Twin Cities and stayed with family and friends, then on Saturday the 22nd drove up to get the kids and then drove straight home (1100+ miles in one day).

The next day, I gave the kids to their dad and drove to Toronto to attend the "Communicating Motherhood" conference. I presented the next morning ("Beyond
the Good Mother/Bad Mother Dichotomy: Bridging the Reality of the
Relationship and Jobs of Motherhood Using Economic Theory"), and drove back from the conference on Wednesday night.

On Thursday the kids and I packed up my whole house. I was renting and my lease was up June 30. Through a series of miscalculations and being too choosy about which neighborhood I want to live in (mostly to stay close to my kids' dad so they can go back and forth easily), I have no new place to move into right now. So I hired movers to come put my stuff in storage last Friday. The cats and I are currently house-sitting for my parents, who are out of town for the summer. (My kids are on a big family trip with their dad.) I'm looking for a new place to live up here to move into in August.

This was all a little stressful.

But the moving part was fantastic. I wanted to make sure I put a review of my movers, Above All Movers based in Ann Arbor, MI. JT the owner is fantastic–just the kind of straight-up, straightforward guy who does what he says he's going to do with good humor, and can fix whatever problems come up. It was pretty much like being moved by your favorite brother-in-law. He and his crew member Ben were fast but careful, in really good moods the entire time, great with my cats, and did not judge the random stuff in boxes (I'm pretty sure my 8-year-old packed an entire box of uncapped markers). Ben and I got to play Toledo Geography because he has family there, and JT and I talked about our kids, and the whole thing was just really fast and really easy and really stress-free for me.

When I need to move my stuff out of the storage space to my new (hypothetical) place I'll call them back, and I've already recommended them to a friend here who's moving next month. And I wanted to leave a little trail of goodwill for them on the internet since they were so great to me. A little SEO to help people find the breadcrumbs: 734-369-2594 above all movers moving michigan movers mi ann arbor ypsilanti jt mover james thomas movers.

What's been happening with you?