Native American

Native American

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Of shepherds, sheep, and wolves in sheep's clothing - with guns and badges.

When I was trained as a law enforcement officer a long long time ago, we were trained to use only the force necessary to protect others and ourselves; to use deadly force only as a last resort; to always act in a way that deescalated the situation, not escalated it; and most importantly, to be willing to sacrifice our lives before we took the life of an innocent. That meant that in the split second of making a decision of shoot or don't shoot, your duty was to sacrifice your life before you harmed or killed someone you weren't absolutely certain posed a threat to you or someone else. We were repeatedly reminded that the people we were engaging with were the people we had sworn to protect and serve.
Law enforcement is an extremely difficult and thankless job when its done the way I was trained and I was in awe of the officers who trained us and did this thankless job every day. They were/are heroes - true heroes.
Today's LE officers are not trained as police but as an occupying army, and this shouldn't surprise us considering how many service members who came home from Dessert Storm/the first Iraq War were snapped up by law enforcement departments at every level of government, a practice that continues today. When today's LE respond to a call, everyone is considered a potential hostile, and their primary concern is protecting their lives and the lives of their fellow officers. As a soldier in a foreign land, where anyone not in a uniform is considered the "enemy" - this training makes sense. In war, shoot first and ask questions later is a valid and important practice, and there is nothing heroic about killing the enemy to keep yourself safe - it's just necessary for the mission to be successful. Heroics on the battlefield are very different than the heroism required of civilian law enforcement officers.
As the public, we've got to recognize and come to grips with the fact that although the job of law enforcement demands respect, just because someone wears a LE uniform - or any uniform for that matter - does not make them automatically entitled to our respect. It is hubris to believe that because persons puts on a uniform, or a title, or a black robe they can then act any way they want because the uniform, the title, or the robe automatically makes anything they do honorable and just. But hubris becomes normal if We the People are willing to go along with it.
Only sheep stand by and justify the wolf slaughtering their herd simply because the wolf is wearing a sheep's hide, and America wasn't birthed by sheep. We the People, people, We the People. Please figure it out before we don't have any shepherds left.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Machine ...

It DOES exist!

Recently, someone messaged me and remarked that because of my recent stint in politics, I must agree that there was no “good ‘ole boy network” in St. Tammany anymore.  I don’t know this person except through Facebook, but his posts, wherever I've seen them, are intelligent and respectful so his remark gave me pause.  After my year of living politically – that is, wading through an ever deepening river of slime and hoping I didn't step off into a deep hole – I am more acutely aware of the “good ‘ole boy network” than I ever was before.  Before I ran, ‘the machine” was just a concept that I understood about as well as I understand gravity.  I know it exists because I can see the effects of it all around me, but I don’t know how it works or what it looks like.  In fact, I was less certain that there was some political machine in St. Tammany before I ran than I was certain of gravity. 

Having now seen the machine first hand, contrary to the messager's assumption, I know it exists.  What I think surprised me, and what would probably surprise most people including the FB friend who gave me pause, is that “the machine” that most of us talk about is also very much like gravity.  We see its effects so we know something’s there but the machine itself – like the force of gravity – is essentially invisible to us.  It's so pervasive we don't see it for what it is.  And many of us think we know what it is when, in fact, we don't.  

Some are a cog in the machine but like and protect it, or at least what the rest of us call the machine.  They don’t see a machine. They see a system that functions as it’s supposed to, and they don’t think it’s anything other than normal. It’s the way of the world and the way it should be. 

Some, many of us in fact, are a cog in that machine but don't realize it.  

Before I ran for judge, I had never run for public office before and had paid no attention to politics except to try and make an intelligent decision about how to cast my vote.  I didn't have a positive impression of politics but truthfully, it was like watching foreign film without subtitles – what politicians say is usually meaningless to me and trying to figure out what’s going on requires paying really close attention to body language and context and a lot of cultural clues that might as well arise from an Amazonian aboriginal tribe for all I can relate to the world in which politicians live. I have found it maddeningly pointless to do anything but guess, usually voting against something rather than for someone.  

 A dear friend of mine recently said that she didn’t have time to NOT trust the government, and although I have serious objections to her perspective, I am sympathetic to where she’s coming from.  Most of us who have to work to pay the bills and who still vote have taken shortcuts to remain, at least ceremonially, engaged in the process and most of those shortcuts involve trusting someone or some group to tell us how to vote.  We are bombarded with information that we must accept or reject based on trust, or lack thereof, of the source. 

Therein lies the problem. 

This may surprise many of you, but I do not enjoy confrontation.  Agreeing to disagree is my comfort zone BUT I’m not afraid of confrontation when it’s necessary and as a lawyer – nevermind as a patriot – it is my job to confront injustice, especially when it emanates from those entrusted with dispensing justice.  As someone who chose a profession that requires me to swear an oath to stand for justice, I am confused and frustrated by the current culture of “go along to get along” that pervades the legal profession.  Go along to get along is NOT a compatible construct in an adversarial system where someone pays you a lot of money to fight for their rights.  This should be obvious to anyone smart enough to get through law school, which is to say, it does not require brilliance.  It does, however, require a willingness to resist significant pressure to "go along" from people you are conditioned to practically revere. 

After I announced I was running for judge, someone warned me that it was considered bad manners (in St. Tammany/Washington) to run against a seated judge and that it was going to offend the other judges and my colleagues that I was running.  This was my first glimpse of the machine, though I didn't realize it and I’m certain the person conveying that message to me didn't see himself as part of the machine.  He had just learned how to “go along to get along” and was trying to help me out to do the same.  Smart person – smarter than average in fact – yet oblivious to what he was promoting.  He didn't confront this practice and see “machine.” He saw structure and normalcy and embraced it.  I was stunned, then outraged, and that outrage continues. 

This practice of discouraging attorneys from running – which is just another element of the culture of not offending judges if you know what’s good for you – is the single most powerful means by which a small group of well-respected people control and manipulate the much larger community without the community even having a hint that they are being bilked out of their democracy.  

What do we say all the time about why it’s so important to vote? “If you don’t vote, don’t complain.” “If you don’t like the incumbent, vote him/her out of office!” 

Well, how many of you chronic voters voted for Judge Childress on November 4? How about Judge Hand? Swartz? Garcia, Burris, Cody, Gardner, Penzatto, Badeaux, Knight or Devereux?  

For that matter, how many of you who regularly vote voted for Walter Reed in 2008? Or the election before that?  In over thirty years, not counting the first time he was elected to the position, how many times did you actually go to the polls and cast a vote for or against Reed?

I already know the answer to all those questions: None, to the judge elections, and one time, to Reed. And yet Reed got re-elected every time without anyone casting a single vote (save once) and all of those judges just got reelected on November 4 the same way. So no more complaining from any of you about Reed or those judge who got reelected  – or Strain, for that matter, because he also has been re-elected repeatedly without opposition –because you didn't go cast a vote so you have no right to complain … right?  Right?!!

Did you even think about the fact that you didn't get a choice? Did you even realize all those judges were up for reelection? 

What about all those election years when Reed or Strain had no opposition, so there were no signs, no news stories, no debates or forums?  Did you even know you had been cheated out of a choice?

More importantly, have you ever done anything except sit back and passively wait for your candidates to be served up to you by one political organization or another?

Here’s the short story.  The machine is real, but it doesn't believe it's evil and most of what we see of it isn't evil either.  Which is what makes it so powerful.  It isn't blatant evil that is so dangerous to our community or our democracy.  It is the blind trust we put in good people who have put their blind trust in people who believe they are entitled to our deference and to their social position and to do whatever is necessary – including evil – to retain what they KNOW they are entitled to. 

Everyone thinks the Machine is about money.  But money isn't what the machine wants – money is what it needs to get what it wants, and what it wants is to be in control. In every case, except perhaps George Washington, the people who have risen to the most powerful political positions in our communities, both locally and nationally, have done so not because they seek money but because they seek power.  It’s why I ran for judge, frankly.  I wanted to have that power and authority that the office would grant me.   Power, like money, is a tool.  Having either doesn't make you good or evil, but what you do with them can. 

Most people, though, want to feel important far more than they need to actually be important.  The need for social acceptance into a particular group is part of all of us, and sadly, it is the means by which the machine continues its control.  Those who aspire to be liked and admired by "important people", i.e., people with money and power, are easily used by the machine to benignly spread the Kool Aid.  Give most people the feeling that they have the inside track; that they have a connection, or a connection to someone who is connected to “important” people, and they will put their faith in that connection, and treat whatever they hear from that grail as if it is gospel.  It's not wrong or shameful to to do this, just not very wise.  

How many city and parish council members went and told their supporters to vote for Amacker? How many pastors? How many judges? And how many people voted the way they were told because they trusted those people, and will do so again this Saturday?

Do you know how many of those council members, pastors, and judges ever met me? Interviewed me? Cared at all about what the real issues were or what was a stake?  Very few. Too few.  Those "important" people supported who they were told to support or who they were paid to support, and then they went out to people that trusted them, and told them how to vote.  To NOT do so means that they will face very well funded opposition next election.  Or lose a tithe and be kicked out of the fold. Or have some secret spilled. 

That's the machine, in all of its glory.  And all of us are entrapped by it because most of us want to like and believe in the people who we have entrusted with power.  It can seriously mess with your zen, depending how far down the conspiracy theorists track you're willing to go, to realize that people you respect from a distance are not so respectable up close.  

One thing this campaign taught me is just how much most people want to believe in someone and have someone to trust and look up to.  They want to believe that someone in leadership actually does care about them.  When they believe that, they will follow them blindly.  The problem is, you can never be sure who the person you're following blindly is following blindly, and why. 

Several months before the election, I had a meeting with someone who point blank told me he was very politically connected and that Amacker was not well liked by his connections but she would likely be reelected anyway.  I asked him how it was that this small group of powerful people hoped to control an election that involved 30K to 70K voters and he told me, and I am grossly oversimplifying, that almost everyone wanted to be in their "club" and the majority of voters would vote as they were told to vote so they could feel like they were a member of the club.  

It was a bizarre interview, to say the least.  I suspect my political naïveté must have frustrated and surprised my host.  I think he thought I was kind of stupid.  We had a fundamental disagreement about what it meant to be ethical in politics, and it struck me afterward that he had lived with his particular perspective for so long without any dissenting voices that he was as confused by my perspective as I was by his. I think he was take aback by my failure to be persuaded to come around to his perspective, which frankly, deeply disturbed me.  

Although I had gone into that interview with the impression that this person was already willing to get behind me and support my campaign - he made it clear during our discussion that he had no respect for Amacker and what she was doing on the bench – I did not leave there with his support.  I was not willing to come into the fold, so to speak, and take the oath of blind loyalty to his group, which I think I gave away when I could not be persuaded to adopt his view of what it meant to be ethical in politics.    

I have never done blind loyalty and don't recommend it.  I don’t even follow myself with blind loyalty.  Everyone is capable of error; of getting it wrong; of being unfair, biased, prejudiced.  Injustice lurks in the blinding light of absolute certainty just as much as it does in the dark hallows of deliberate ignorance.  A surprising number of us are frightened by uncertainty and out of a need to feel certainty, will believe anything without question, and will tolerate no questions from anyone else.  There's nothing wrong with faith - but we would all do better to discern between what we believe because of faith - and what we actually know.  

Who do you trust for guidance about how to vote? Do you know who they trust?  It’s not a bad system if you know everyone’s agenda.  The problem is, most people in politics these days, or close to politics, don’t want to admit to themselves that their agenda is not at all about service to the community, but about gaining social standing, power and prestige.  And most of us don't want to admit that we don't really "know" what they tell us is true - we just choose to believe in it, and them.  Faith.  

Right before the November 4 election, someone connected the dots for me between Trainor and Reed, and why Black initially endorsed Montgomery and then flip flopped to Trainor. There aren't criminal dots.  Again, I think that's what people misunderstand.  It’s not so much about money and graft as it is about what circles you run in, and how close you are to the inner circle; whose cell phone numbers you have access to, who you can call when you have a brush with the law, or a neighbor. 

I knew that Black had been Amacker’s campaign manager before he decided to run for DA, but I didn't know that he and Amacker had been close friends for years.  Because of their friendship, I was told, he fully expected her camp’s full support when he decided to run, and her camp included Reed and his supporters.  This probably accounts for Reed’s honorable mention of Black when Reed announced he wouldn't run again and, in the same speech, sang the praises of Brian Trainor, who had only just announced he would run a day or so before.  This is also very likely where the wheels started to come off for Black because he might not have counted on the ties between Amacker’s husband, Ted Ditmer and his partner, Chuck Hughes and the Sheriff’s office.   

I was told, though obviously I can't say myself that it is true, that Chuck Hughes' brother is Brian Trainor's godfather.  Chuck Hughes is, of course, a partner at Talley, Anthony Hughes and Knight, along with Amacker's husband, Ted Ditmer  - the firm that represents Sheriff Strain and any suits brought against his office or deputies.  Sheriff Strain is, of course, Brian Trainor's boss, and Trainor's father was also chief deputy to the Sheriff prior to Brian assuming that post, or so I’m told.  

Sheriff Strain and Walter Reed have a long and rich history of working in lock step with each other, and that’s a fact that either of them will happily confirm.  There is no way Sheriff Strain would endorse anyone for DA that Walter Reed didn’t.  Anyone who insists that Brian Trainor has no connections to Reed is either attempting to delude everyone else, or is actively deluding themselves.  Either way, the easiest way to confirm this, if you don’t want to take my completely unsupported testimony here as gospel, is to just go compare the campaign finance reports between Reed and Trainor.  It’s obvious if you know who’s who and who owns what.   

According to a different source, Trainor was being groomed to take Strain’s job when Strain ultimately decided to step down, but then Reed got into trouble.  With rumors circulating that Reed would be indicted at any moment, the decision was made for Reed to step down and put Trainor in the DA spot to ensure that the “structure” that Reed and Strain had built and managed over the prior 30 years was not threatened.  Again, I’m not suggesting that, even if true, these people are planning anything nefarious.  Reed and Strain and those closest to them sincerely believe that the system –what most of us who aren’t in that circle refer to as “the machine” – is a legitimate means of governing. They are not deliberately scheming to commit evil. They are deliberately strategizing – or scheming depending on your perspective – about how to retain their power and influence in the two parishes with the change in Reed’s position – all for our own good. 

So Reed anointed Trainor privately, where it counts, more so than publicly, where it was a problem.  Black got ticked off because he didn't get the support he expected from Amacker and her connections, so he outed Trainor during the primary as an insider and part of the machine, and Black, himself an insider, would know.  The flip flop, of course, was inevitable. No offense to Alan Black, but he's one of them and unlikely to know how to act for long outside the fold.   But I think the voice message to Montgomery on November 4, speaks volumes to how deep that rift got over the primary.  For a while, Black was serious about breaking away.  Kind of a shame he didn't make it. I was rooting for him (at least to break away from the machine. Never for DA).  

In that same vein, I am not suggesting that Brian Trainor is evil or even corrupt.  I don’t know Brian Trainor well enough to know his character, though I can say that the people he has surrounded himself with during this election have caused me to lose some confidence in him.  But I’m still willing to believe that he’s a nice guy who means well. 

Let’s be clear about something though: Brian Trainor and his campaign may say he’s not connected to the machine but what he’s really saying is that he doesn’t believe a machine exists, just like my FB friend.  Brian has spent his entire life in that machine and he can't see the machine for the cogs he's surrounded by. 

He doesn’t have to be Reed’s puppet; he is Reed, essentially.  He sees the world the way Reed does; the way Strain does; he understands power and authority the way they do.  He doesn't see a machine because it surrounds him and orders his world like gravity surrounds us and orders the world.  To do away with the machine, for Brian, would be like doing away with gravity – impossible. To Brian, it's not a machine, it’s good, it's the way the world works and should work, though obviously, like gravity, if you don’t respect it, it will hurt you. 

So vote how you will, but I hope you will not delude yourself that there isn’t a machine/system in place that desires to perpetuate itself through Brian Trainor.  Reed and Strain, and all of those people who feel entitled to their position of power and prestige, have chosen Brian for a reason, even if Brian himself doesn’t understand it because, like the force of gravity he can’t see but takes for granted every day, the machine is all he knows. 

I’m voting for Warren Montgomery because he’s got much more experience in life and law than Brian Trainor; because he appears to value justice over conviction rates, unlike Brian; because he has a defense attorney’s perspective of what it’s like to be at the mercy of an unjust justice system, and, in no small part, because he isn’t Reed or Strain’s choice. 

And if you want to be rid of the machine, but don't believe that I have any idea of what I'm talking about because you KNOW the people you trust KNOW what they know, then just take a chance.  Vote for Montgomery because he is most definitely NOT the machine.  

Happy voting!

Friday, September 26, 2014

FREEDOM - it cannot be bought, but it can be sold.

The accumulation of wealth is not a virtuous or even meaningful pursuit. 

Sorry, it just isn't.

Regardless of your faith, all of the mainstream religions are founded on the fundamental principles of love and service to others, not making a buck at other's expense for the sake of a new car, a bigger house, yet another pair of shoes (guilty), every imaginable new toy or gadget, whether for ourselves or our children, or any of the other material objects we devote so much of our incomes to obtaining. Every time you or I pass on making a contribution to a worthy cause - and there are so many worthy causes - so we can buy yet another adornment for ourselves or our lives, we are failing to be virtuous; we are failing our fellow humans; we are failing ourselves; and if a person of faith, we are, in addition to all of those things, also failing God.

Which is not to say that you are not free to devote your life to the pursuit of wealth for wealth's sake. Hey, it's a free country - or it's supposed to be. Because I believe in that freedom to the core of my being, I, for one, will defend your individual right to pursue wealth for wealth's sake, and to eschew the christian values of service and sacrifice that this country was founded upon. I hope the irony is not lost upon you.

But here's the thing, at least for me. That pursuit is enslaving us. We are enslaved by the rhetoric that justifies the endless pursuit of more stuff; we are enslaved by our adoration and envy of all those who have more stuff than us; we are enslaved by our contempt of all those who have less stuff than us; we are enslaved by the condescension we feel entitled to every time we actually act upon our christian values and do any little thing to help someone we deem as "less fortunate" than us; we are enslaved by our sense that we are entitled to have more than we do, which relieves us of any sense that, perhaps, we should be doing more for others who actually have even less. And if you are a person of faith, you are also putting more and more stuff between you and God.

I'm guilty. I'm not above all of that. I am at times filled with resentment because I don't feel rewarded or appreciated enough for all the sacrifices I have made for others. There are days when my frustration boils up in me and I lash out at those closest to me in anger and, sadly, entitlement. And I feel perfectly justified, at least in the moment, in feeling that way and acting that way. Feelings are powerful, and we are all "entitled" to have our own.

But just because you or I "feel" a certain way, doesn't make us right. Feelings are not facts. Just because I feel entitled and unappreciated, doesn't mean that I am entitled to one more blessing in my life, or another iota of appreciation than I've already received. But as long as we give in to that "feeling" that "I" deserve more, so I am entitled to turn my back on others; I am entitled to put wealth over service; I am entitled to use whatever means I can to get ahead and make the big bucks, or just one more buck, regardless of how I earn it, or who or what I earn it from, then we are willingly participating in the demise of our democracy and this amazing, beautiful country that was founded as a nation under God.

I saw Gasland 2 last night and whatever you might already "feel" about fracking, I dare you not to be shaken to your core by the degree to which we actively condone, on a daily basis, the abdication of our democratic process in favor of Corporate control all for the sake of money and stuff, and how we routinely abandon our neighbors out of fear and greed.

We are, as a community, as a nation, as the people of the world, in desperate need of a collective Counting Our Blessings day, every day, no matter how few they may seem on any given day. Because once you manage to step outside your own personal sense of entitlement, it is absolutely humbling to see how much you have been given and not feel compelled to give for the sheer privilege of giving, and to honor God, or the universe, for all that it has given you.

Stop today, and count your blessings and then just do one random act of kindness to someone who looks like they are in desperate need of it and remind yourself that being kind to others is the greatest kindness that we can give ourselves.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fracking St. Tammany - why I say, not in my backyard, not in my parish, not on my planet.

The more I read, the more I am convinced that fracking is "safe" like smoking was safe; like thalidomide was safe; like agent orange was safe. Safe for whom? In each of those cases, billions were made by a few at the expense of thousands of lives before the sheer weight of the devastation could no longer be denied. Then, finally, came the acknowledgment by those who should have protected the public from the beginning that, not only was it not safe, but the evidence of the threat had been there all along.

In the case of fracking, we are talking about the "safety" not of the individuals who voluntarily expose themselves and their property to it, but of our water supply. And by "our," I do mean, all of us. Not just this community, but our country and the world. Clean water is fast becoming the most valuable commodity of our time. Just ask Texas, Colorado, and California.

We in south Louisiana, surrounded by water, deluged by it almost every summer afternoon, take water for granted. We take so much for granted. Have we learned nothing from the past? Do we really want to wait for the evidence that fracking is destroying water supplies to become so overwhelming that it can no longer be denied, even by the oil and gas industry? It's frightening to me to guess at how much worse it has to be before we wake up. Again, look at, and I mean really look, at what's going on in Texas and California as they are beginning to realize how much of their clean water they have sacrificed in the name of profits and the assurances by oil and gas that fracking is "safe."

The rhetoric of "economic benefit" and "responsible natural resource development" has put us in a trance from which we must awaken before we experience first hand that you can't drink money, no matter how much of it you've made off of fracking, or anything else for that matter. Sure, you can buy it with your wealth, but only if it exists to be bought.

Wake up, people. Please, wake up. Unlike the deaths and injuries caused by smoking, thalidomide and agent orange, to name only a few, this devastation cannot be eradicated with money judgments, apologies, and television commercials. Once our water is contaminated, the only thing that will repair it is time. I'd guess a few thousand years. And even if I could live that long without clean water, who, especially here in south Louisiana, the sportsman's paradise, would want to?

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Reality Check

I grew up in a dysfunctional home.   Bored yet?  I don't know ANYONE who didn't grow up with some level of dysfunction going on.  I know there are people out there who claim to have had very normal, loving parents and families, but I've never actually met any of them.  The kids next door to me were raised by their grandmother because their mother was an alcoholic and their dad just couldn't be bothered; the kids across the street, their mom died in childbirth with the youngest, who suffered a permanent brain injury during the birth and both were raised by their heartbroken single dad and his mother; my best friend's family was like a whole season of Law and Order - someone was always being arrested, being shot, disappearing, or involved in a serious, drug related accident; another friend's father tried to stick his tongue down my throat in his garage while my friend and her mom, his wife, were inside cooking dinner.  I was 12.  What do you think was going  on in that house?  Even my husband's family, by far the most normal I've encountered so far, had its dark side. 

My parents did the best they could. My dad was a workaholic and an alcoholic and very passive, but as a dad, he was nearly perfect.  He did a lot of things wrong, but I grew up knowing, without question, that he loved us - me - unconditionally. 

Mom did her best too, but the truth of the matter is, her best just sucked.  She did a lot of things right - probably saved my life several times over by the things she taught me - but what she called "love" had a greater resemblance to being marched at bayonet-point through a minefield - one wrong step and BAM! everything went to hell, and NO AMOUNT of begging would get her to stop the march.

As a child, dad was heaven and mom was hell.   Dad was safe, predictable, comforting, joy.  Mom was  volatility, unpredictability and a constant source of fear, stress, angst.  I was infinitely happier with my dad - completely relaxed and safe.  I skirted around my mother, struggled with wanting her attention and being terrified of gaining it.  I never knew what to say or do to get any given response from her.  She was completely random to me, sometimes kind and affectionate, the next minute oblivious, even if I'd been on fire I think, and the next a raging maniac, with the coldest, deadest eyes I'd ever seen.  I had nightmares about  her flat, green-eyed gaze for years after I grew up and left home. 

When I was in the 4th grade, my parents separated.  Mom moved out and left my safe, predictable wonderful dad to look after me and my siblings.  I remember how much more fun it was getting up in the morning for school, even though we had to get up earlier so dad could fix us breakfast before he left himself.  I remember how nice it was the way my dad would wake me up in the morning, standing at the foot of my bed, grabbing my foot, or gently shaking the mattress with his own bare foot, saying "Up, up up; rise and shine, hit the deck,"  his lovely, deep baritone, resonating love and ... sadness. At the time, I thought he was sad because mom had left, but now, I wonder if it was more because he could see the terror in my face every day - the terror arising from my fear that my crazy, volatile, scary mother, WOULD NEVER COME HOME AGAIN. 

Even though my parents didn't really go to church and rarely brought us to church, I knew there was a god, and every day, on my way to and from school, I would pray to that god with every ounce of my childish will for him to send my mother home.  I didn't think about how scary she was.  I didn't think about how much nicer and quieter it was to go home after school, and how fun it was to hang out with dad, who would hold court in our small kitchen and get us to help him fry shrimp, or redfish, or whatever.  All I thought about was that my mother had to come home.  It was like living with a fist around my esophagus for those months that she was gone.  I felt like I was choking all the time, like the earth had dropped from beneath my feet and I was in free fall everyday. 

I spent everyday trying to get my breath.  Until she came home.  And then the world was right again.  It was cured.  I went back to tiptoeing around her, missing my dad, b/c I saw him less, and worrying about what her mood would be at any given moment.  But she was home and all was right in the world.  I could breath again.  I could pay attention in school again.  I could think about something else again. 

In my line of work, I hear a lot of people tell me that they love their children, and would do anything
for them.  Anything.  Except stay with that child's other parent.  Or give up drugs/alcohol/gambling.  Or the mistress/paramour.  Or put aside whatever differences he/she might have with the other to make it work.  Obviously, this isn't an option when there's violence or abuse involved, but that's not the case in most divorces.  In most divorces, one or both spouses is just bored with the other.  The thrill is gone; the infatuation is worn, the chemistry is stale and suddenly, you can't be bothered. 

Don't fool yourselves, though, and tell yourself you're leaving "for the kids."  Before you decide you can't take it anymore, take a few days or weeks to consider what you're going to do to your kids.  Because I can assure you that most kids will run headlong into a beating from a parent rather than go happily with the other in a divorce.  No, it doesn't make sense to most of us adults, but kids aren't adults.  They don't see or understand the world the way we do, and we don't see or understand the world the way they do.  Try to remember that when you're reassuring yourself that your kids "will understand."  They don't; I promise.