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Living Apart: Cathy’s Story December 25, 2014

Filed under: Family Issues — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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Last week, in Part I of our series on couples forced to live apart, we listened to the story of Carol We heard about her experience as the mother of three teens forced to live at a distance from her husband. And we heard some great advice on how to cope with this unusual situation.

This week, we’ll be talking to Cathy, a military wife. Like Carol, she and her husband have been forced to live apart on multiple occasions – first when he was in the Marine Corps and then again as he pursued a career as a civilian helicopter pilot. “We lived in a military community, so there were a lot of examples of what you were supposed to do when your husband wasn’t there. There were people whose husbands, if they weren’t on the same cruises your husband was on, were gone at other times. There were a lot of us young wives just getting through. We hung out together and that kept your spirits up.

I think there was more frustration the second time because we’d started a family and he wasn’t there to help with a lot of the little day-to-day decisions that you don’t necessarily think about like establishing a bedtime or deciding when to put the child on a certain type of food. I never expected to be a single parent!”

Taking time to make such decisions together is important. “When Don and I were first married, when he was overseas, I just made decisions,” Cathy explains. “I didn’t worry about trying to consult him as long as they weren’t big things. A lot of the little decisions I just made on my own. Then, after I got saved, it seemed more important to me to make sure that I was consulting Don on as many of the decisions as I could.”

Fortunately, living apart also has its blessings. “I think if Don and I hadn’t lived apart the second time, I never would have gotten saved,” Cathy explains. “Don was living away an awful lot and I wanted it to stop… but no matter how hard I tried, I could not control that situation. It was the first time that I had to really accept that there are things that I have no control over. That’s a very scary place to be. I think that’s why I started reading the Bible. I was scared and I was lonely.”

When asked for her top advice to other women living with equally difficult circumstances, Cathy replied:

  1. Put your spouse first. “If you put the other person first, it keeps you from feeling sorry for yourself.”
  2. Live each day. “One day at a time, one step at a time.”

It sounds simple, but it isn’t. Sacrifice and focus play a key role in maintaining healthy long-distance relationships. And both of those elements feature in the story of Lori… but her tale will have to wait until next week. In the meantime, feel free to share your own thoughts on living apart in the comment box below!


Living Apart: Carol’s Story December 18, 2014

Filed under: Family Issues — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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I had always viewed long engagements in a negative light. In my mind, two people who were in love ought to get married as soon as possible. To wait was a sign of doubt. For this reason, I was deeply surprised to find my own engagement dragging into its second year. My fiancé and I had chosen to postpone the nuptials to allow him to finish school. The only problem was that doing so left us struggling with being deeply in love while living 2,000 miles apart.
A few decades ago, such situations were uncommon. Today, however, more and more women find themselves living apart from the men they love. Reasons for these long-distance relationships can range from war to finances, family issues, education, or employment. The difficulties we face as we deal with that “missing part”, however, are often the same. Loneliness, financial planning, child rearing, and even the household chores can become seemingly insurmountable burdens to those left behind. In situations like these, it helps to have a friend who understands our struggles… and that’s exactly what I found in the three women you’ll meet over the course of the next few weeks! All three have been forced to live apart from their husbands at various times in their lives. And all three have plenty of advice for those walking the same path.
This week, we’ll focus on Carol and her story. Mother to three teens, she spent her days shepherding them to various events, counselling them through difficulties, and advising them on their futures. Her life was fairly normal until her husband lost his job during a government cut-back. After failing to find adequate work in the local area, he moved the entire family across the country… only to become the victim of yet another workforce reduction. With few available options, he ended up taking a job in another state, leaving his family behind. And as the government sequestration made finding jobs in his field of expertise a challenge, the situation at home was growing more difficult as well. While it wasn’t the first time that Carol and Mike were forced to live apart, this time was different.
“When Mike was in the military, he was gone all the time, but we didn’t have any children. His being active duty was more of an adventure.
It’s a whole different ballgame when you have children. Wanting to somehow be sane and stable and keep your kids sane and stable is a lot more of a challenge. It’s hard to see it as an adventure when people come downstairs crying because they don’t want to move or they miss their dad or, “What are we gonna’ do about my lizard?””
But as Carol explains, such consultation isn’t always easy. “You talk to him all of the time, but when he comes home, he doesn’t always have a sense of what went on there. Things have changed. There are a lot of little things he does that I don’t do the same way or at the same time because I can’t.”
This can lead to difficulties for both parties as they try to readjust to the “new normal”. “I wish I’d recognized how frustrated Mike was getting,” Carol continues. “At least we could have talked about it. When you’re the 24/7 parent, you would love to pack your bags and get on a plane and fly somewhere. That sounds pretty good to you after a while. You’re like, “Well, great. I’ll go to work and you stay here. We have two dogs and two cats and a lizard and three teenagers and my mom, so have a nice six weeks and I’ll see ya!”” Carol confesses that she really didn’t understand just how tiring it was for Mike to be living out of a suitcase. “I wish I’d been a better communicator.”
Asked for her best advice on living apart, she offers the following:

  1. Don’t panic. “Sometimes you do something that’s just going to be for a couple of months and it turns out to be a long time. God knows about it, so don’t panic.”
  2. Take care of yourself. “If while you’re apart you can do things individually that really help you to grow as a person, it makes the little bits of time that you see each other a lot more valuable.”
  3. Don’t take it personally if people don’t understand your situation. “It’s a unique animal to live that way and stay married this way.”

Next week, we’ll hear from another woman living apart from her husband. But for now, feel free to share your own experiences with this unusual situation in the comment box below!


On the Usefulness of Grief December 11, 2014

Filed under: Reflections — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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This has been the best year of my life… and the worst. The ups and downs have been almost staggering by contrast. At the one end my future is hopeful, filled with grand adventures, new relationships, and sparkling opportunities. On the other is the loss of life as I knew it… both in the form of deceased friends and in the need to let go of “the old way” of doing things.

Both joy and grief have intermingled and both have been acutely felt. Oddly enough, in the midst of these extreme and, oft times, conflicting emotions, a chord is struck. And as I sit here at my laptop, words begin to appear. Expressions of thoughts which are often so deep, they cannot quite be spoken.

Some would attribute this phenomenon with my introverted nature. I learned many years ago that if you sit silently for a long enough period of time, someone else will eventually express your point of view for you. And the less your voice is heard, the more it is respected (or at least listened to) when you have something important to say.

But I think that these words are more than that. Grief, in particular, unlocks something within me that joy cannot. It opens the door of my heart to introspection – to a deeper consideration of those things which I so often take for granted. In grief, I find the root of my joy.

Only in the pain of loss do we recognize the depth of our attachment. It is a striking paradox – as though we must first lose in order to win. Our greatest growth is not found in places of plenty, but in the heat of the desert – where we must faithfully seek for those things which will sustain us.

It is a place of both danger and opportunity. Danger from those thoughts which, if nurtured, have the power to destroy, to dampen joy, to cultivate hopelessness and helplessness, to weaken our resolve. But scattered throughout like an oasis is opportunity – as we examine where we have been, how we have gotten there, and where we are going. Grief is a catalyst for growth… and for change.

A new year is now on the horizon. I don’t know what lies in store, nor do I want to. What I do know is that I may choose what to do with the trials that confront me. I can allow them to cripple me or I can turn them to opportunities. In my grief, I can become more than I am.


How Borrowing a Book Might Have Saved My Life or a Treatise on the Danger of Empty Intersections December 4, 2014

Filed under: Bicycling — acgheen @ 12:00 am
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I confess that I do my best to be a careful and conscientious cyclist. I know and obey the laws… and I do my best to keep an eye open for those who don’t. I know where the dangerous intersections are and at what points I’m safer using the crosswalk than the road or vice versa. I always look in every conceivable direction before crossing a busy road (even when I have the clear right of way). And I obey the laws for motorists whenever I encounter situations in which the motorists may be unaware that there are separate laws which govern legal cycling.

On this particular evening, however, I was being extra vigilant. A friend of mine had loaned me a rather valuable book and had charged me with its protection and preservation. (Including a directive that I was not to spit in it… something I wouldn’t have thought of on my own.) Despite the humor involved, I viewed the charge as a serious one and had carefully wrapped the volume an over-sized beach towel and nestled it into my backpack alongside another, similarly protected work. I also determined that I should work extra hard to ensure that if I were in a wreck of some sort, the book would be preserved.

Realizing the unlikeliness of any scenario in which I was sent sprawling across the pavement while my backpack and its contents remained unharmed, it became imperative for me to keep my ears open and my eyes on the road. I made it quickly and safely through downtown without incidence and was feeling pretty good as I approached the empty crossroads.

The particular intersections was used sparingly even at the height of traffic and was usually quite empty at this hour. My light was green and there was no car in sight, so I headed across.

I was about a quarter of the way into the road when an old car appeared over the crest of the nearby hill. In a split second, I recognized that its speed was significantly over the posted limit… and that stopping for the red light was the last thing on the driver’s mind. Gripping my brakes, I halted my bike mid-lane and watched as the vehicle sped through the intersection.

To be honest, it didn’t feel like a close call, despite the fact that it might have looked that way to an observer. I saw the vehicle coming and I reacted appropriately. I didn’t even have to slam on the brakes. What I did wonder, however was whether I’d have seen the vehicle in time had I not been trying to protect my friend’s book.

While I’d like to think that I would have been riding safely with or without the volume, I’ll never be quite sure. What I do know is that I will never view an empty intersection as a danger-free zone again. Cars can come out of anywhere and it pays to be vigilant!


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