Sunday, August 30, 2015

The Weird and the Wonderful

Last night I was finally able to go to one of Jakob's baseball games.  End of the season it may be, but there we have it.

It was fun to be back at baseball.  My son is a talented man.  And his giggles after the game refresh my spirit.  I was hoping he would rub Staci's face in his sweaty pit, but she kept a safe distance.

It was a weird night too.

For the first time, my husband was at a ball field as part of a different family with my former friend.

And you know?

I don't feel mad at them or hate them or wish them ill.  Instead, I feel a strange sort of compassion for them.  They both looked miserable.  Washed out and old.  Unhealthy.  Unhappy.  The kind of heavy that suggests they are eating the worst sort of diet.

At a time when I am stepping into the brightest future I never even dreamed of having, have they reached their pinnacle?  Has the best already happened?  Is this, then, as good as it gets for them?

If so, that's really sad.

My day surprised me in a multitude of ways.  And then something amazing happened.  It's so amazing, I can't even wrap my mind around it yet.  I'm left wondering… was God waiting for me to let go of my hurt and anger over the betrayal of my husband and the betrayal of my friend so my life could be open for even bigger and better blessings?

Dang.  Our God is most definitely an awesome God.


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

And Then, There is Mercy

Today was an important and scary day for me.  

I went to court for disposition of my latest legal issue:  probation violation.

My probation conditions seemed fairly simple and straight forward when I agreed to them last February 27, 2015.

I pled guilty to the charge of Obstruction of Legal Process - Interfere w/Peace Officer, Statute 609.50.1(2).

To be frank, I didn't know that what I was doing was an obstruction of legal process. It's a fairly broad definition, in fact. 

Once I was made aware, I pled guilty to the charge, admitted to understanding the officers were trying to help me the day they arrested me, and accepted the terms of probation.
I was doing a good job for the conditions.  Until I didn't do a good job.  

After my sexual assault and arrest in Avon - a story for another day - I did as instructed and contacted Wright County Probation.  I was told to come to my scheduled appointment in August, and I did.  It would have been my last required meeting with Probation for the two years.  I was informed during that session that another agent had discovered my arrest in Avon and reported my arrest to the court; a judge had signed a Warrant for my arrest the day before my meeting.  My Probation Agent advised me to voluntarily turn myself in, which I did.  After being fingerprinted, photographed, and booked, I spent the night in Wright County Jail.  That arrest was reported to the Monticello Times under the original charge rather than a probation violation.  It's sort of sad to me that I wasn't even embarrassed.  My life in the criminal system is very surreal.

The next morning I went before the judge and pled guilty to violating the condition to abstain from alcohol use.  The other charges for failing to remain law abiding were dismissed.  I was able to leave jail on my own recognizance with another Alcohol Monitor and an agreement to follow the probation rules.  I also agreed to return to court for disposition (sentencing).

The prosecutor asked the judge to sentence me to 30 days in jail as a consequence for my violation.  My lawyer had warned me I should expect that, but my heart sank.  

My lawyer asked for ten days in jail, and talked about my history and the facts and circumstances of my husband's behavior with someone who called herself my best friend.  He talked about the impact of that on my own behavior. He recalled how my intention last February was to "follow the rules" and simply abstain from alcohol abuse.  He explained how the first thing I told him when I saw him in Stearns County was that I wanted help and that I "couldn't do this myself." He called me intelligent and successful in most areas of my life, and requested that the judge listen to me talk about my treatment program.  

And I did.  I had prepared a written statement so I wouldn't forget what I wanted to say.  This is what I said:
In the last two years, I have made choices that were self-destructive, and I made those choices believing the only person I was hurting was myself. 
When I was here in February I committed myself to following the rules.  I was convinced I would be easily able to follow the rules for probation since I’ve been a rule follower all my life.  I failed at that time to examine what it was that caused me to choose alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors.  I have learned that until I change the way I think, I will continue to choose those same behaviors over and over again.  I do not want that to be the story of my life.  
In July I followed my self-destructive pattern after receiving some fairly devastating news.  In the ensuing days, as I confessed the truth to my support network of friends and family, I learned that what I have been doing has hurt people deeply.  Remaining sober has become – for me – a moral issue.  I am committed to remaining sober for the rest of my life, not just because there is a great risk of more punitive consequences, but because I want to be well and whole, and I definitely want to stop hurting those people I love.  I recognize that eventually I would wound them enough to lose them.  That would be horrible. 
My 20 year old son came home last week, and I greeted him as usual.  He said the following words to me:  I am so proud of you.  You have taken every single negative thing that has happened to you and turned it into a positive.  You don’t complain or blame.  And even with everything you have going on you still want to know about my life and encourage me.  You are the strongest person I know and I want to be like you when I grow up.  
If that amazing young man can love me like that, I should be able to love myself enough to stop the behavior that is destroying my life. 
And I will.  
I am attending an out-patient treatment program at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. My treatment plan is aggressive and comprehensive:  not only is there an individual therapy session and group sessions, there are assignments that make me stop and reflect.  It’s already a painful – but also very hopeful – journey. 
I also implemented other lifestyle changes:  I ran 28 miles last week, and have a 32-mile goal for this week.  I am eating clean and have lost 17 pounds.  I am actively seeking a new faith community while remaining connected with my current one.  And I am taking time every day for meditation or reflection, journaling, and art therapy. 
I would like to request that jail time is imposed in a manner that allows me to continue to attend therapy while also following all the guidelines in my care plan, including continuing my existing therapies, physical activity, clean eating, and completing assignments.  
I am also my sole financial support, and have some very important deadlines for my new business and the product I am developing. I hope to manage the consequences here in a manner that allows me to continue to pay for my home and support my son.

Unfortunately, I cried.  My body was visibly shaking.  It is intimidating to stand before a judge who gets to have dominion over your life.  It is potentially humiliating to share the secrets of your heart and the sadness of your story in front of strangers.  To do it while crying and shaking is not something I would ever choose for myself, but I wasn't humiliated.  The path that I am taking is right for me, I feel strong and well, and I am going to share my story with everyone who will listen.  Recovery is possible!

When I cried, I wasn't crying for myself.  I cried for the bright light that is my son.  He has seen me at my worst and he still loves me with his whole boy heart and longs for me to be strong and well.  He is yet a boy - but so much a man, and a better man than any I ever knew.  I am so proud of him and his heart.  He gives me hope that my bad behavior will fade from his memory and he will learn things about dealing with adversity and people who fail us in profound ways.

After I completed my statement, the prosecutor and my lawyer had a whispered conference.  The prosecutor then requested that rather than incarceration, he would request 30 days of alcohol monitoring to help through these initial stages of treatment that are so difficult for so many people.  My attorney agreed that would be an acceptable alternative and I had nothing to add.

The judge said that he had intended to assign 24 days in jail for my violation.  But he didn't.  With great mercy and an eye toward furthering my treatment plan and schedule, he granted me the reprieve of 30 days of alcohol monitoring.  My treatment will continue.  My lifestyle changes, directed by my treatment plan, will continue.  My work on my business will continue. The hard work is only just beginning, but at the end of the path, I will be a new creation - not who I used to be, but the me I was meant to be.  

When I sat down to wait for my paperwork, a stranger across the aisle leaned over and whispered:  "I am SO proud of you."  So I lost the battle with the tears.  It's hard to take people being kind and maintain control of composure under those circumstances.

I know this:  every person who was a prayer warrior for me created today's outcome.  The people involved were surprised by the outcome, including my new Probation Agent who told me in today's meeting that she fully expected I would be spending time in jail.

God is so incredibly good and his mercy rains on us all the time.  

I did not walk away from today's events with any sense of "beating the system" or manipulating people or even "getting my way."  

I walked away with the sure conviction that I would have been sentenced to 24 days in jail without God's mercy and love.  With his grace, the people with dominion over my life heard the words that were spoken. Today was a complete victory for choosing healing over punishment.  And that is a beautiful thing.

Incidentally, we don't have to do anything to be worthy of God's mercy and love, and we cannot do anything to make it go away.  But it sure feels good to know he's got his eye on me, his arm around me, and his angels protecting me.

Peace.  Peace.  Peace.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Galileo As A Logician, by Kari Hoglund Kounkel on July 8, 1991

Aww.  I wasn't even a mother yet when I wrote this paper!  It's from my philosophy 215: Logic course with Dr. William Myers at the then College of St Catherine in St Paul.

It's almost like reading someone else's work.  Of course, I was a different person then!

Here's what she wrote:


Since my weakest skill throughout the summer session of Logic was the translation of everyday sentences into symbolic notation, I wanted to do some research into the work of logicians in order to see how they do their work.  In Maurice A Finocchiaro's work, Galileo and the Art of Reasoning, I found two master logicians, whose work was far beyond my skill as a logician.  However, the primary work in the book is quite interesting, and since we are limited in the amount of space for this paper, I decided to go ahead and write what I learned about Galileo from Finocchiaro.

Galileo published the Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632.  This book caused one of the "greatest scandals in Christendom" (Finocchiaro xvi), namely the prosecution of Galileo by the Inquisition.  In the Dialogue there are three characters, Simplicio the Aristotelian, Salviati, and Sangredo, who are discussing the merit of the Copernican ideas.  However, the book is not a defense of the system, but only of the Copernican idea that "the earth moves" (44).  Galileo was trying to convince the church that the Copernican ideas were acceptable so that they would repeal the condemnation of 1616 (1).  Galileo was more than a scientist; he was a "logician-in-action" and Finocchiaro calls him "first and foremost a logician" (44).

The Dialogue has a logical structure.  The entire work is structured so that the idea that "the earth moves" is in the conclusion of the argument presented throughout the book (167). Within the argument designed to show that the earth moves are critiques of the geostatic arguments.  It is those arguments with which Finocchiaro is most concerned.  The critiques are structured so that it can be proven that "there is no real evidence against the earth's motion" (29), thus proving that the earth moves.  This main argument, which provides the framework for the Dialogue, is more complex and includes the statement that while there is no real evidence or sound reasons against the earth's motion, there is evidence that the earth does move (29).

Galileo was attempting "by verbal means and techniques to induce or increase adherence to Copernicanism (22), or at least to the main tenant of Copernicanism as discussed above.  He presents the material in three ways: logical, philosophical, and rhetorical.  The presentation, analysis, and evaluation of the evidence and arguments for and against Copernicanism are presented logically.  The discussions and clarification of the epistemological and methodogical concepts is philosophical.  The rhetoric in the Dialogue is used to show Coperinicanism in the best possible light, while discrediting Aristotelian (geocentric) ideas (23).  The rhetoric is very emotionally charged.  The speakers are very passionate about their positions and resort to trickery in order to win the argument (1). However, the rhetoric is intrinsically tied to logic in that one is not possible without the other.  Finocchiaro devotes a very long, but interesting chapter to this claim, all of which I unfortunately could not understand.

The final argument of the Dialogue is one that was added to appease the censors.  Galileo did not like having to add the argument, which can be discovered by looking at the argument more closely.

The final argument has value for a student of logic because it is not per se a foolish argument, although at first glance it seems that it is foolish.  The argument is presented by Simplicio, and least intelligent or fool of the three speakers.  Salviati does not agree wholeheartedly with the argument, but is casual and unwilling.  According to the reactions of the characters, ought we automatically to assume that the argument has no merit (8-9)?  The argument stated by Simplicio says that the tides move because the earth moves and God could create tides many other ways, but according to other evidence, the most non-contradictory manner for God to do so is by having the earth move (8).  If Simplicio is giving a good argument, then his intelligence appreciates to the reader, who may then see that his Aristotelian stance throughout the Dialogue is as devil's advocate more than as a simpleton (8).  Finocchiaro says that the argument is unanswerable because of the way Galileo presents it (discussed below).

Many scholars agree that the argument is very powerful. Augusutinus Oregius writes about the final argument in a report he was asked to write by the Inquisition on Galileo's  Dialogue in 1629.  He writes that in a discussion between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, the pope agreed with what Galileo set forth, but asked if Galileo thought it was possible that God could arrange the things in the heavens differently to make different things happen.  Galileo responded that if one denies that God can do so, then one must prove that for things to happen differently than presented implies a contradiction, and God can do anything, except that which is a contradiction.  The reason that the argument is powerful is that it presents Galileo's theories in the religious voice, making it acceptable to the people of the period though unacceptable to Galileo himself since he thought that the material presented in the final argument was already clearly presented four other times in the Dialogue (10).

In his chapter on the connection between logic and rhetoric, Finocchiaro discusses an interesting argument by Aristotle which Galileo cuts apart.  Aristotle said that:

  1. If the earth moves, a body thrown vertically cannot fall vertically.
  2. The body is seen to fall vertically.
  3. Therefore the earth does not move.
Galileo does not like the argument because it begs the question, or is circular.  By studying begging the question, says Finocchiaro, one can begin to see the difference between formal logic and rhetoric, but also the tie between them (277).  He also says something which I did not understand, but must include because his theory rests on the statement.  He says that begging the question is unobjectionable from the point of view of formal logic, but is "necessarily faulty for inducing/increasing assent," or induction (276).  Finocchiaro goes through twenty steps to show that the argument is begging the question because (2) is dependent on (3).  I think that the reasons he says it is acceptable in formal logic is that the argument is formally correct according to what I learned in class, but that it is faulty because the "knowledge of the premise derives from the conclusion, which is supposedly unknown" (280).  Professor's Note:  This is the key.  I found the argument very interesting, and it helped me to see the reason for learning translation.  I spent time trying to translate it myself, but failed.  Finocchiaro translates the argument in Chapter Twelve, but he does not give reasons like we did for our proofs.  However, I could sometimes see how one step led to another according to the eighteen rules that we learned.  I wanted to include the proof, but am out of space.  Professor's Note:  Oh, come on! 

The problem I had with the book was that the author assumed that the reader had also read the Dialogue, which I have not, so I had a hard time getting entire arguments together since he only implied certain things.  Finocchiaro discussed reasons why the study of logic is important, and also why more people are not doing it (Chapter Eleven).  I agreed with some of the points, or objections to doing formal logic, such as "How often can formal logic be used in everyday life?", "Isn't this an artificial way of reasoning?", and most importantly, "How often and when can I really use it?"  The author discusses these objections, and makes an interesting and humorous statement: "The encoding step is usually as debatable as the original problem" (256), which we know from class! Professor's Note:  Yes!  As a first time student of logic, I enjoyed the book and would like to go on in logic so I can understand the entire book.

Finocchiaro, Maurice A.  Galileo and the Art of Reasoning, Vol. 61.  Dordrect, Holland: D. Reidel Publishing Company, 1980.

Professor's Note:  Galileo is struggling with the key issues of the beginning of the scientific revolution: is scientific reasoning deductively certain or not (cf. Descartes).  His great contributions truly were in his observational method and his ability to reason from those observations to (inductively sound) conclusions.  He helped invent modern scientific method.  A-


Hell yeah.

That woman is the same one my husband is trying to assert was mentally incapable of making the decision to marry.



He could be right, actually. Marrying him forced me to leave behind this world of thinking and multi-syllabic words for the duration of the marriage.



Thursday, August 20, 2015

To Joe by Kari Hoglund on May 18, 1990

I wrote this poem to my then fiancé, Joe, during my English 201 course at the College of St Catherine (now St Catherine University) in St Paul, Minnesota.


To Joe

It was never said that I would go to Hell
     If I decide to eat meat on Friday

I was never made to learn the names
     Of all the saints

Kneeling is not just a way to get sore knees
    And the sign of the cross is not silly

I never had to memorize the prayers
     For the Rosary

And I never go to private confession
     And tell the priest ALL my sins

I do not pray to the Blessed Virgin
     Because I think God cannot listen

Priests should not marry; they should be like Christ
     Because they love, not as a punishment

I do believe in the sanctity of life, not to
     Deny women rights but because life is a gift

The pope is not God; he is a politician
     And Vatican City is his Washington

The Church is not the focus of my life
     But my faith is

I cannot turn my back on everything I love
     And trust in for you or anyone else

But I can tell you that I know the truth
     Lutherans are simply lazy Catholics!


Bad poetry, for certain.

But back then I was still a girl and unmarried.  And I was addressing things that played a HUGE role in our marriage.

My husband was too stubborn to come to faith.  He hated Catholicism and he hated that I practiced it.

It's ironic that I have evolved into a believer who is in constant communication with my Father God and - though still a practicing Roman Catholic - I would still define myself as spiritual and faithful rather than religious.

It's more ironic that my husband is seeking an annulment and belonging in this beautiful, ancient faith considering that we had this conversation in the last days of our marriage:

Me:  I was reading about that (I can't remember what "that" referred to) in Ephesians.  It says…
My husband:  I don't even know why you read that Book anymore; it's so out of date.
Me:  Oh.

He really needs to read Ephesians before he celebrates the sacrament of marriage for the second time - and restates the vows he said to me four times for the fifth time with someone else.

He also needs to read Corinthians, the Psalms, Proverbs, and… errr a few others.  It wouldn't hurt his bride-to-be either.  Reading this beautiful love letter God gave us is never out of date.  God wouldn't have given us such a gift without it being a timeless transcript of His love for us.

As for me?  Thank GOD I held firm to my faith. I faltered for a time and did let my husband take first place in my priorities.  I came to my senses though!

And praise God for all I have and will have!  God is SO VERY, VERY GOOD!


Monday, August 17, 2015

Not So Dangerous Liaisons

1999 was a tough year for me.

It was two years after our tragic school bus accident, and I hadn't talked about the emotional impact of that event yet.  On April 10 of that year, exactly two years after the event itself, we were served with lawsuits from the truck company that employed the driver who ran the stop sign and hit our bus, killing three of our students.  By early that summer, I was sleeping nearly 18 hours a day and trying to keep up with work and family.  Finally, I succumbed and started taking anti-depressants.  I started with Prozac but hated the side effects and switched to something else.  I took that medication for almost a year, and was actually glad when I stopped taking it.  It helped me through a tough time, but it also made me feel much like a zombie most of the time.  It felt good when I could feel things again.

That was the year that my husband opened our CompuServe account and started going to adult chat rooms. Eventually, I found I really liked that environment - it was like a party only you didn't have to get dressed up and go out in the cold to be social.  But ridiculous things happened there, primarily people falling in "love" with people they had never met in person.  Honestly, how can you fall in love with someone when you don't even know how they smell?  Dumb.

I met someone online who agreed with me.  His handle was Pjcjr34 and he was hilarious.  He thought the couple/love thing was ridiculous too and we started to have private chats mocking all the online lovers.  Eventually, we agreed to meet online every Saturday night at 11:00 pm and he'd tell me stories about his life and I'd share stories about mine.  We talked other times too as family life and his dating life allowed.  We were the best kind of friends - we could be as honest and open as we wanted to be because neither of us knew the people involved, and so we weren't being disloyal or creating an awkward situation for anyone in our lives.  For me, the people in his life were more like characters.  I fell in love with his children and enjoyed the comedy of many of his dating stories.

And I shared my life.  At first, it was completely innocent.  I'd say something and could tell he disapproved.  As the level of intimacy evolved, so did the amount of information I shared. He was the first person who told me to get out of my marriage - and he was the first person who knew enough to say that with conviction.

One morning after a long night of intense conversation - by that time on the phone - I got to work and opened my email.  I had one from him.  I opened it and read these words: "I'm just going to say it. I love you."  My world sort of imploded in that moment because I realized I cared for him too.  It still seemed safe - he was a long ways away and sort of a work of fiction.  I kept that single sentence taped inside my drawer for a long time and when my life was most unbearable, I opened the drawer and reread it.

Things were evolving in my marriage too.  My porn-addicted husband started talking about which of my friends might agree to a threesome, and he talked of adding another man to our relationship.  He wanted me to wear certain things and do other things.  There was a very strong divide between who we were as a couple in public and who we were in the dark.  And it was too hard for me to reconcile the two sides and not feel shame and guilt.  That's when I stopped going to confession.  I knew that part of our life was wrong, and I knew there was nothing I could do to stop it, so I erroneously thought I would be making a false confession if I went.  I have since learned that I could have and should have kept going.  It would have helped.  Instead, I tried to deal with the shame and guilt on my own.  Sex became cheap.

Meanwhile, my relationship with PJ was a steady source of peace and lots of giggles.  I sort of envisioned him as if he were my husband (all the good parts) but also as someone who cared what I had to say, made special time for me in his life, and treated me with respect.  I was wrong about that.  He's just as flawed as anybody else, and he doesn't have all my husband's good qualities.  He also doesn't have his bad ones, and for that reason will remain a friend for the duration of my life.

One day something changed for him. "The relationship has to move to the next level or it needs to end.  It's stagnant," he said.  He wanted to meet in person.  A year later, I met him.

Without lying directly to my husband, I left for the weekend and drove to Tomah, WI, for the Cranberry Festival.  PJ met me there and we had a great time.  We crashed a wedding, went to the Festival to shop for cranberries, and ate some amazing meals.  It felt like hanging out with my best friend, except we shared a bed too.  That was a little surreal to me even though sex with my husband was not the religious experience it should have been.  I knew that PJ and I were not meant to be together as lovers.  But we made great friends.

After that weekend in Tomah, I stayed with him a few other times.  Twice we stayed in Chicago and twice in Nashville.  I agonized over keeping that relationship, but it was a really good thing at a really bad time, so I kept on keeping on.  There's no justification for an affair.  It's wrong.  I knew it was wrong.  I didn't care that it was wrong.  It gave me a friendship I valued and still do.

When my husband found out about it, I was relieved.  I had debated telling him repeatedly, but thought I was only doing it to purge my guilt, and I rationalized that it wasn't fair to him to do that.  He found out eventually, though I never told him all the details.

His response makes me sick to my stomach to this day.  "Had you told me, I could have watched."

Yeah.  There's a broken man.  A sad man and victim of a wife's poor choices.  Or maybe that's a man who has spent far too many hours watching and dreaming of pornographic sex.

After that my husband and I opted to renew our marriage vows and make a new creation of our relationship.  I believed we had, and that things were going in the right direction.  It wasn't long before he discovered Watcher's Web with amateur housewives posting nasty pictures of themselves and it because his new home.  By 2009, he was engaged in a relationship with an employee who denigrated me both in my workplace and via her social media; he believed her when she denied it and maintained that relationship for eight months.  His loose ideas about sex and about other women led to him wanting to have sex in public in San Francisco during our anniversary trip.  What he said the day after ("You are the best wife ever [for having sex with me in public]!") killed any hope I had of experiencing a truly good and intimate marriage.  I resigned myself to living with his needs and desires for the rest of my life - with the full knowledge that he would never appreciate my whimsical nature, intelligence, or care-giving self as I was.

Thank God my husband's subsequent choices forced a different resolution.  I many never have a 50th wedding anniversary like I imagined.  But I will also never be 71 years old looking back at my life in sadness and regret for living fifty years like that.  Instead, when I am 71, I am going to look back over these next 25 years and be grateful for the opportunity to start fresh and to maybe find someone who will value all of me and the gifts I have to offer.  Or maybe I'll be happy just as I am, independent and content in the new world I am creating for myself.

My husband continues to threaten me with then possibility of revealing a chat message he found between PJ and I from 2004.  I'm not sure what relevance that had or has after more than a decade, a forgiveness, a restatement of our vows, another decade of marriage, followed by a pornographic relationship with a former friend of mine and a nasty divorce, but there it is.

And guess what?  I know that I value the friendship I have with PJ, and am thankful for his presence in my life.  He is a Christian man who acknowledges his own failings, and accepts mine.  He recently married and is happy in his new life as a husband and grandpa.  I still love hearing his stories, and know he will listen to mine and be a champion in my corner.  He still makes me laugh out loud at his sheer unadulterated goofiness.  That relationship has evolved from something sordid and shameful to a real, loving friendship I value.

I no longer feel the need to live in shame and guilt.  I did what I did and paid the consequences.  The truth isn't scary, nor does it need to dwell in darkness.  It just is what it is.  I don't mind talking about it; in fact, I told my friends, including the one who now lives with my husband.  And I will attest that I am thankful that my choices didn't destroy three families, four children, nor any friendships or community connections.  My husband never had to look PJ in the face or suffer me meeting him around town at the racquetball courts, the community center, various parks, and the local Walmart.  I will cling to that little bit of integrity that remains.  Even doggies don't poo where they eat - or something like that.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

The Hand That Rocked the Cradle

I wasn't blessed with a mother who could nurture me.

She was a wounded person who struggled  - and continues to struggle - with her own self care.

When I met my husband's family, I found someone I thought could be a mother figure.  I liked about his mother that she was patient and calm, that she used respectful language, and that she was a Christian woman.

Over the years, my relationship with my mother-in-law was rocky at times.  I remember the first year I was in college and my family and my husband's family came to celebrate my birthday with me at St. Kate's.  Joe was there too.

In his first year of college, Joe made it home to Monticello most weekends.  He hated being away at school, and felt most happy at home.  By the time I was in college it was evident that "home" for Joe was where I was.  He didn't go home nearly as often as that first year.  Instead, I went to Stout or he came to St Paul.  If we did go home, we went together.

Apparently his mom was dismayed by that change. It was embarrassing observing her behavior the night of my birthday.  She sat on Joe's lap the entire night fawning over him.  Eventually she stopped that behavior, and our relationship developed into a tenuous friendship.

Later, when we were planning our wedding, I was excited to bring her one of our invitations when they finally arrived. She wasn't as excited as I thought she'd be, but in my own excitement, I sort of ignored her response.  She called me later and invited me to meet about the invitations.

"It's like the Hoglunds are having a big party and we're just invited guests," she complained.  The wording on the invitation was traditional ("Mr and Mrs Gordon Hoglund invite you to the marriage of their daughter, Kari Ann, to Joseph Lawrence Kounkel...").  She asked me to reprint the invitations and I agreed, but said she'd have to pay for them.  She readily concurred and the reorder arrived not long after.

Years later - a decade or more - my mother-in-law and I went to lunch together one afternoon.  After we ordered, she pulled an envelope out of her purse and handed it to me, saying, "I owe you an apology."  I read the enclosed invitation to her wedding - and it contained the same traditional wording my original invitation had contained.  I'd forgotten about the invitation fiasco, but she hadn't.  It was nice, I guess, to apologize after all that time, but how petty and ridiculous to have held a grudge that long over something that didn't even matter to me!

We settled into a relationship that was one part mother-in-law/daughter-in-law, two parts mother/daughter, and eight parts friend/friend.  She became my confidant, my cheerleader, and my spiritual advisor. I became her sounding board and friend, a beloved wife to her son, and a loving mother to her grandchildren.  She knew my family struggles, and she comforted me in my grief over both the absence of a mother and the cruelty of my father.

She gave me marital advice too.  When I went to her about some of the things my husband wanted in our marriage, she advised, "A man wants a wife who is a lady in public and a whore in the bedroom."

Umm.  Okay.

When I went to her after my husband's lover invited us to resume playing cards together on Friday nights so they would have a legitimate excuse to spend time together, she advised me, "Keep that woman away from your husband.  She is a predator."

Good advice.  Too late.  But good advice.

When she stopped working outside her home and her world narrowed largely to her home, she changed.  She was more angry and bitter, and her medical conditions multiplied.  More and more our conversations focused on her health issues, medication she was taking, and physical issues from both the various health conditions and her use of medication to treat those conditions.  Because of my own mother's struggles with health and medication, I have issues with the reliance on medical doctors and medication.  I couldn't stand to listen to the litany of medical complaints or the comments about how "they gave me (fill in the blank) medication..."  We spent less time together, and I didn't want to visit as frequently as I had.  I especially didn't want to visit if my husband was just going to sit in the living room in front of some sporting event and leave me to listen to the complaints alone.

The last Thanksgiving of our marriage, during the "I'm thankful for" part of the evening, my husband was thankful for his sons after years of being thankful for his wife and family, a change I should have recognized as a warning sign.  By then he had been having an affair for more than a month.  My mother-in-law was thankful for a daughter-in-law who knew how to be her husband's best friend and an example to everyone of what a Christian wife should be.  My husband refused to make eye contact and my sisters-in-law rollled their own eyes.

As the marriage came to an end, I was in conversation with my in-laws.  Their advice was to keep working on things and that eventually my husband would come around.  They had no idea, of course, that his "friendship" with my former friend, the predator, was anything more than friendship.  Once they had given him money for a divorce attorney, lying all the blame for the demise of the marriage at my feet, they stopped talking to me altogether. It was a second abandonment by parental figures, and devastating to me.  I'm sure they were disgusted by the perfidy* of their son and the astonishing magnitude of the lies he'd told.  I'm sure they were saddened by the demise of the longest-lasting marriage by one of their children - a marriage that had been good and solid for two decades.  I'm sure they were embarrassed by my own behavior and legal issues.  And I'm sure their hearts were broken for the two boys most wounded by the shocking betrayal of their father.

Still.  My mother-in-law was the biggest supporter of and cheerleader for my marriage.  When my husband filed his request to nullify the marriage so he can remarry in the Catholic Church (a topic for another day, for certain), I listed my mother-in-law as a witness to the marriage.  When that marriage was made, we celebrated a sacrament.  My husband was mature and responsible, a man I thought would grow into a great Christian husband and father.  I was achieving at a high level, and had the makings of a wonderful Christian wife and mother.  We attended all the required classes and retreats.  We opted to study and practice Natural Family Planning.  And then we celebrated the sacrament.  We renewed our vows three additional times during the marriage and both acknowledged how those restatements renewed our marriage each time.  We welcomed and raised two beautiful children.  Had we cherished the gift of the marriage, we would have stayed married and made it through the tough times.  She knows that and I'm sure her heart is broken.  An honorable Christian wouldn't be afraid to say any of that in a quest for truth.

Of course, in the "real world" we all have to worry about the repercussions we face for telling the truth and standing on the side of what is right.  A possible consequence for her would be the loss of her relationship with her son, a price far too great to pay for most people.

In the end, it doesn't matter.  My husband and I know the truth.  So does God.

My great hope and prayer remains that my husband and former friend have actually recognized that they cannot live life without Christ at the center of their lives and that their eventual marriage will not succeed without Christ.


*Perfidy: N. A treacherous act. "Perfidity" is not a word. The adjective is "perfidious."  From the Latin fides, from which we get "fidelity." Thus, someone who is perfidious is lacking in fidelity.