365/365 – I’m finished

It’s been an amazing year in which I joined the venerable Catholic Church, married the love of my life, honeymooned in Paris, became part of a new family, and began to get over my past bruises and scars. If you look back at the beginning of this 365 Project, you’ll see another revealing self-portrait taken as I began this journey.  Now I am safely ensconced in my basement bunker, ready to write the next chapters of my life.

I never really intended this to be a personal journal — I didn’t really have a firm intention — this has been an exploration — although I hoped to find my voice, become some sort of commentator or pundit or critic.  That could still happen as my roots grab hold and I feel I am someone with significance who has something to say — and as I learn to look honestly at my life and the lives of those I affect and have affected. Yet it has become obvious I am fed up with this particular online experiment, and Dearest recommended I simply end it. 

So on this Sunday morning after we entertained her whole clan with spiral-cut ham and my special scalloped potatoes (of which her sister guessed my secret spice) I end it. The total: 306 posts, or about an 84% record. Thanks to all my readers and commenters. Peace.

359/365 – Christmas morning

Everything’s ready for Christmas morning. I’m up first, as usual. Things got wrapped last night in various shifts — looks like one of the boys used a magazine as wrapping paper!  I await the unveiling patiently, catching up on things like this 365 project.

Last night Dearest asked if I missed my son, and I said no because he is always with me and I know he has his own life to live and his own family to form.  He will be here next month as well.  I do miss my parents and grandparents on my mom’s side, of course.  We all lived together in a five-bedroom house we built in Mequon, Wis., back in 1957 (yes, I’m that old!), then one by one they died, first dad, then mom (I was only 24), then grandma and finally gramps.  So I honor their memory this Christmas Day as I celebrate my new family (we all went to church on Christmas Eve) and the good times to come, the things shared, the burdens lightened, the self-discoveries made, the growth and giving and all good things that come from Love.

354/365 – Our first official Christmas

A Christmas tree at dawn, not quite fully decked out but ready, fitting into the scene and providing a focus for joy — sort of how I feel as part of my new family, having added a wife and two kids to my single-parent-with-a-single-kid/empty-nest thing. [Peace to you, faraway son; your step-brother from Montreal  was sad he wouldn’t get to see you this time.]

Although it preceded this 365 Project, I was involved with Dearest’s Christmas last year — we got the tree together, for instance — but back then we were engaged, not married, and I still had my own apartment.  Now I am really and totally here, in the mix, in the thick of it, legally and emotionally and spiritually bound to my Love, and loving it.  She let me pick the tree, relieving her of a task that had become wrote after so many years and making it another gift and surprise.

So on this Sunday as I suffer with a cold, I look forward to celebrating the season, renewing and reinforcing ties, making some memories (why weren’t we waiting at the airport?) and being part of something good.

350/365 – Collaborative divorce

“Contemptuous behavior toward a partner” was the phrase that got me thinking about the causes and aftereffects of divorce. I saw this type of behvior in one friend’s marriage that ended in divorce.  In another, they’re still being contemptuous and still married.

(I’m researching collaborative divorce so I can write a brochure advertising a seminar on the topic for Wisconsin lawyers, which is my day job.)

I tried really hard to avoid contemptuous behavior in my separations and divorces, but some inevitably crept in.  I can think of one person who delighted in putting down her ex-husband, making jokes with their two kids about the poor schmo.  Now I read that this sort of thing “raises the likelihood of maladjustment in the children,” according to a Wall Street Journal article. (Click here.) It continues: “Children suffer when parents assign fault, justify their own behavior, compete for their children’s loyalty, bad-mouth each other, or ask the children to take sides, keep secrets or tattle on the former spouse.”

Yikes! Sounds like a war zone.  In one study, “when divorced parents were able to maintain a civil and at least minimally cooperative relationship with each other, the children experienced no long-term problems associated with the divorce. But when parents remained in conflict or totally disengaged from each other, their children continued to be distressed even 20 years later.”

So let’s get along in front of the kids, people!

(Illustration stolen from the Wall Street Journal.)

349/365 – I used to not like Christmas

 ’Tis the season – for bad memories. Maybe I shouldn’t share them, but at least I’m getting them out of the way early.

As a child, the legends of Christmas scared me. Something about flying deer and a fat man who fit down a chimney – which we didn’t have! – made me edgy. Only a wisp or two of the Baby Jesus thing got through to me, so I thought the crèche figures were just more toys, and mixed in some of my toy soldiers and cowboys to my parents’ amusement. “They’re guarding the baby,” they said I said.

Fast forward a few years and I’m nearly an adult, but my mother had four more kids with her second husband, so I often helped wrap presents in the basement. Okay, that should be a thing of joy, but I felt burdened by these kids, and also like it wouldn’t get done unless I did it because mom was drinking by then. I created a Christmas card, done in flock – that stuff they used to spray on trees to look like snow – that said “Flock Yule.”

Christmas always made me super-conscious of my family, or lack of same, lack of real connection to, at least. I didn’t want to think of disfunctionality, and Thanksgiving had probably already bummed me out so Christmas was a second blow.

My aversion to Christmas became so strong, I insisted on celebrating the Winter Solstice instead. Later I skipped it a couple times, once by going to Jamaica where there was no trace of it, and once by going to Mexico, where they celebrate about 15 days of it, so it was more like parades and bands, nothing Christmasy about it for a gringo.

Having my own kid made Christmas meaningful again (Thanks, Grant) and I’m all for it today, as subsequent posts featuring Dearest and my new family will attest.

(Photo taken at my manager’s condo,)