Monthly Archives: March 2012

thomas murray, epilogue

I have been waiting to write this post until the sad missives stopped arriving, and I believe that day has finally come.  The stream of emails to my inbox from hurt or deceived women has ceased.  Jenni is healing and has moved on.  Our blogging community proved itself capable of surrounding and protecting our own.  Thomas Murray, and all his ridiculous, self-aggrandizing attempts at dazzling (and possibly victimizing) women searching for their heart’s love, is a pathetic chapter I will be glad to close.

But not without some final words.

Sometime ago I received an email from a woman I will call “Kay.”  I am choosing to relate her story here because it demonstrates that Thomas’ approaches and avenues are varied and adaptable.  Kay, like a lot of women, found my Thomas Murray posts through a Facebook friend who had also had dealings with Thomas at some point in the past. (Is it just me or are there an exhausting number of such women?!  How in God’s name does he keep track? I’m envisioning a massive Excel spreadsheet…)

But I digress.

Thomas contacted Kay via Yahoo Personals sometime in 2006, using an alias of “Noah.”  She was living in Texas; he in Oklahoma.  She had no idea he was married, and they began “a whirlwind romance.”  She shared some of his loving and romantic phrases with me, and they were easily recognizable as his trademark “love bombing” technique.  (One of my commentators coined that term and, frankly, I freaking love it.  Makes me smile every time….)  According to Noah/Thomas, he was divorced, with two sons, and his ex-wife worked for his mother in their family-owned cosmetic import/export business dealing with high-end department store cosmetic brands. [Note to liars:  pick something you know something about.  There is no import/export business for department store cosmetics.]

Fortunately for Kay, the “in-person” portion of their romance was abruptly interrupted when he told her that his company was relocating him to the Middle East to “stop bad people from doing bad things.”  (Btw, I’m laughing so hard right now I can barely type.  Oh, Thomas, you are nothing if not entertaining!)  They tried to stay in touch, but Kay decided that the relationship didn’t have enough to keep it going.  They agreed to be friends and that seemed to be the end of it.

Reality check:  Sometime in late 2006 or early 2007, Thomas and his family relocated to the Virgin Islands, where they purchased the small resort building that they currently own and manage.  So, unless the Iraqis surreptitiously invaded St. Thomas without the U.S. press or government noticing, it’s a pretty sure bet that he moved to paradise and not a war zone.  But more on his war zone activities later…

Fast forward to 2011: Kay and Thomas stayed occasional email friends over the years, until last spring, when their emails increased in frequency.  Kay reports that Thomas had dramatically changed in the years since she’d really known him, becoming more aggressive and bossy and critical.  She relates how he immediately began offering her “advice” concerning the improvements she needed to make in order to be worthy of him (for those of you keeping track of red flags, this is a big one).  She also noted that he had lost a great deal of weight, which he attributed to the injuries he’d suffered from being ambushed in the Middle East and taking on shrapnel.  Once again, I’m chuckling so hard typing is difficult… Thomas never was one to waste a perfectly good lie.  Might as well get as much mileage as possible out of it, I guess!  As a side note, Kay surmises that he actually had lap-band surgery in the intervening years, as his diet was consistent with the post-surgical maintenance recommended for that procedure.  I find this small point particularly hilarious, given Thomas’ brutal assault on others’ lack of self-discipline….  Guess we all need a little help once in a while, eh, Thomas?  It was also during this time that Thomas began pressuring Kay to meet him in….. <drumroll, please>….  beautiful, sunny Puerto Rico!  She declined, telling me that his “life coaching” had turned her off and she simply stopped communicating with him.

Lucky, lucky woman, no?

Kay, as well as others I heard from, commended Thomas’ excellent taste in women as his one redeeming quality.  I would like to second that sentiment.  Loudly.  I have heard from some very articulate, intelligent women whose email signatures suggest impressive professional achievements.  At least he has that going for him.  What a shame he’ll never be worthy of any of those women.

A final reminder:  Ladies, be careful.  Noah/The T/Thomas/Tommy… a chameleon changes his colors, but not his nature.  I don’t care what his name is, if he’s love bombing you and he’s never met you, proceed with extreme caution.  If he really thinks you’re amazing, you “feel like home” to him, and he’s never met anyone like you, he’s going to be willing to hang tough while he earns your trust. We’re grown-ups now; we have to take care of ourselves and each other.  The Thomases of this world are the “bad guys doing bad things.”  And, in a dogfight with those “bad guys,” my money is on the smart, determined woman every. single. time.

And on that note, I close the book on Thomas Murray.  Good riddance to bad rubbish.

The End.

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47 Comments

Filed under dating, internet dating, love, relationships, single mom, thomas murray

the release valve

I encountered a small problem at work recently that left me stumped.  The nutshell version is that I needed an accurate map of our town, showing town borders, property lines, street names, and address numbers, and only those things.  Without this map, a massive project that I’ve been working on for months could end up unraveling at a pivotal point.

Given that I work in town administration, you might think that obtaining such a map would be fairly easy.  But, no.  This is a very small town with very limited resources and we had no such map.  We had other maps, lots and lots of other maps, but not a map like this.  I was beginning to quietly panic. I had to have this map, and I had to have it by next Tuesday.

And then I was reminded that when we are kind to people, it usually comes back to us tenfold.

A colleague of mine, whom I’ll call “Todd,” arrived in the office a bit ago, with a big smile on his face.  “Hey, T,” he called out, “I have something for you!”  Now, there are only 7 of us working here (ten, actually, if you include my colleague’s adorable 3-month-old baby boy who comes to work with her every day and the 2 dogs that serve as “canine ambassadors” to members of the community who stop by).  Most of us crowded into the break room to see what had our normally recalcitrant Todd sounding so buoyant.

With a flourish, Todd handed me a large, rolled up paper.  I looked at him, with his shit-eating grin on his face, and frantically opened the bundle as if I were about to discover the Superstar Barbie I’d begged for at age 8.  And there it was.  In all it’s glory.

My simple, perfect map.

Me:  “How….?  Where…..?”

Todd:  “Will and I sat down yesterday and played with the software and figured it out.  I knew you needed it.  It took us a couple of hours, and it’s not been fully-proofed, but I feel pretty sure it’ll be accurate.  I went to Kinko’s this morning and got it enlarged for you.”

I honestly did not know what to say.  Todd is currently cramming to get things done so he can take off for a much-deserved vacation.  He absolutely did not have the time to do this for me.  And Will isn’t even employed by the town anymore.  I’d noticed that he was in the office yesterday, but hadn’t thought anything of it.  After thanking Todd profusely, I had to retreat to my office because I honestly thought I might cry.

Right now I am shouldering more stress and fear and moments of panic than I have in almost 20 years.  There are financial pressures that are weighing heavily on me, employment concerns that come with the territory when you work in a political job, and middle school looming for my overly-sensitive eldest daughter.  Add to that an ex-boyfriend who has showed up with no apparent intention other than to wreak further emotional havoc on my life, and you can probably understand that I’m feeling pretty lost and lonely and overwhelmed and unsupported right now.  It happens.  It’s life.  But it still sucks.

But it is also in those moments when we most realize our value to the people around us, the ways that we are connected and care for and about each other.  I drove to work this morning, reminding myself that I have friends I can turn to.  Annie will listen to me cry.  K.C. will give me or loan me any money I’d ever need.  Katrina will keep me company so I’m not lonely and panicked.  I don’t have to shoulder everything alone, always.  I don’t have to be a strong, together, poised woman every. single. minute.  I am allowed to be weak, and scared, and uncertain sometimes.  We all are.  None of us are superheroes.  Sometimes we have to ask for help, for friendship, for support.

I hadn’t asked Todd for his help, but he gave it anyway, and I know why.  Back in January, at a drunken going-away party for another colleague, Todd confided in me that he is in love with a woman 2,000 miles away and he is, frankly, heartsick over her.  Since then, I have listened when I didn’t have the time, and inquired how he’s doing when I could tell he needed to talk, and encouraged and supported their tentative steps to creating a relationship against the odds.  They are small things, to be sure, but when you’re in that space, is there anything better than knowing that someone cares, just a little bit?

That’s why he made me my map, I am sure of it.  To let me know that he appreciates me, too.

Sometimes a small, random act of kindness like that serves as a release valve for the pressure you’re feeling.  Locked in the crucible of a stressful situation, it’s easy to feel that something has to give — and fast — or you’re going to quietly explode.  But then a friend comes along and offers a hug or a favor or a word of encouragement and it’s just enough to release some of that force that’s pressing in on you.  And life goes on.  And somehow we muddle through.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go give Todd a big hug before he leaves on his vacation.

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Filed under friendships, general musings, relationships, single mom, work

always was

One cold January day in 2009, I sat in my therapist’s office and numbly contemplated the options before me.  I could leave my then-husband and break up my family.  I could stay and we could attempt couples’ counseling.  Or I could stay, not do couples counseling, and agree with my husband that it was all just a mid-life crisis that we could simply put behind us and resume life as (mostly) normal.  “Given our specific problems and their origins and duration,” I asked my therapist, “approximately how long will we have to do couples therapy before there would likely be any significant changes to our dynamic?”

She paused, obviously choosing her words carefully.  “Weekly intensive therapy with a real desire on both your parts’ to make progress… approximately 2 years… give or take.”

I think I just stared calmly at her at first.  My ears were ringing, my heart was pounding, and there was voice in my head screaming at the top of her lungs: “NOOOOO!!!  No way can I do this for 2 more years!  No way.  No how.  I won’t make it.  I swear I can’t do!”

Ultimately, I shook my head determinedly.  “No,” I said firmly.  “I don’t have enough left.  I just can’t do it anymore.”

The trouble with difficult relationship dynamics is that what we fear most is that things will be how they always were.  He will be who he always was.  I will be who I always was.  Nothing will change. What always was, will always be.

Always was is a powerful idea.

As a college advertising student, I was fascinated by the piles of psychological and sociological studies that confirmed, over and over again, in study after study after study, that past behavior is the best predictor of future behavior.  This applies as much to the way that we handle communication in a relationship as to the kind of toothpaste we buy.  We humans are amazingly predictable; at least from a scientific standpoint.  We are animals who fall into comfortable patterns that we cling to, even if those patterns no longer serve us.  Unlike other animals, who mostly have no psychological attachment to their pattern, we cling to ours, pulling in denial, projection, and blame to defend them.

Later, as a law student, I spent lots of time contemplating the various rules of evidence barring admission of most previous crimes and behaviors, unless they have a direct and immediate baring on the case at hand.  I sympathized with juries infuriated to learn, after issuing a Not Guilty verdict, that the defendant had been charged or convicted multiple times for similar or identical offenses.  Even some of our most poorly educated citizens know that “if he’s done it before, he’s more likely to do it again.”

But, of course, it’s not always true.  What always was does not have to always be.

I wrote a whole post not too long entitled “can people change?” and I am a firm believer in our human ability to arrest a behavior or pattern that we no longer like about ourselves and change it.  People overcome horrible childhoods, abusive relationship choices, and personal addictions everyday.  But the real tough part about change is when the pattern involves not just our own behavior, but our partner’s, as well.  That partner — and his behavior — is the uncontrolled variable in the equation.  As every successful rehab program knows, changing the addicted individual only gets you so far, if the people and influences around her remain toxic or undermine her attempts toward positive growth, she is most likely to fail in her attempts to affect real and substantial and lasting change.

Likewise, if the individual simply changes her surroundings, but not herself, the likelihood of repeating previous patterns is also high.  I think a good example of this is the woman who moves from abusive relationship to abusive relationship, always thinking that the next guy will be “different,” without ever examining her own role in those choices or that abusive dynamic.  The next guy might indeed be “different,” but if she is the same, the outcome might be eerily similar if not downright identical.

For most of us, these triggers and patterns are more nuanced than an addiction or an abusive relationship.  They manifest as small patterns in our relationships… the way we retreat or attack when hurt… how we approach conflict… what we expect in terms of attention or affection or affirmation…  how controlling or passive we are… the list goes on and on.

I recently had reason to consider my fear of what always was in the context of remarrying.  Since my divorce, I have sworn, without reservation, that I will not remarry.  Not because I am opposed to marriage as an institution, or because I don’t believe in commitment, or because of some feminist ideal, but because I came to fundamentally dislike who I was when I was married.  I see clearly the things I did wrong in my marriage, my contributions to its failing, and the woman I became during that time.  By the time I left my marriage, I didn’t really like her anymore.  She was scared and closed off and depressed and impatient and fatalistic about things.  She had sacrificed the best parts of herself to the altar of his criticisms and was left empty because of it, moving through a life that felt lonely and meaningless.  I don’t ever, ever, ever want to be that woman again.  But, I am afraid that what I always was then, is what I would always be the next time.

I watch with some degree of envy as other women assume that by trading out a mate, they are assured of creating a different outcome for their marital happiness.  I am not convinced that it is so easy.  True, the men I’ve dated since my divorce are almost complete opposites from my ex-husband in every way that matters, but that only accounts for half the equation, right?  What about me?  Have I changed enough to avoid all those old patterns?  Have I figured out alternative responses and behaviors for the triggers that made me so unhappy in my marriage?  Certainly a different partner will create a different environment and bring different trials and treasures to the table, but if I have not addressed my own dysfunctions, how will what always was no longer be?

And here’s what I realized:  I have done a ton of work on myself since my marriage ended.  I have no idea whether I would be the same person I used to be if I remarried, but if I’m really being honest with myself, I strongly doubt it. Not because of any particular partner I might someday share my life with, but because of me.  I have changed.  I’m no longer that woman I was and I can’t imagine letting her back in. Sure, I could hold onto that fear of what always was, and allow it choke away possibilities for my future, but that’s actually something that the old me would have done.  So freeing myself of that “always was” fear is yet another way to liberate myself from her influence. I have no idea if I’ll every marry again, but I guess it’s time to let go of that particular fear and acknowledge some of the progress I’ve made.  None of us gets any guarantees.  We can only do our best and keep trying to do better.

As for my ex-husband, we have now been separated for just over 3 years and he has been doing his own therapeutic work during that time.  He is also a different person than when we were married.  Could we be happily married to each other now, having both worked so hard on ourselves as individuals?  I don’t think so.  The fundamental differences in our personalities are still there and they grate in ways that are still so confounding and discouraging sometimes.  But we’re able to be pretty good friends to each other now, which might be all we ever should have been in the first place.  A few years ago, it was a friendship I might have wished for, but never really expected.

Yet another example that what always was doesn’t have to always be.

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Filed under dating, divorce, happy endings, love, marriage, personal growth, relationships

the dream house that nearly was

I spent the day today with a friend who is looking for a new home for himself and his kids.  The home he currently lives in is very beautiful and suits him perfectly, but he was forced to sell it in his divorce settlement, so at some point in the not distant future, he and his children will need a new home.

Property in our area is quite expensive, so our scouting expedition took us practically the entire length and breadth of our county, plus some short forays into neighboring counties.  We climbed roads accessible only by 4×4 vehicles.  We rode switchbacks that made me carsick.  We got out and walked through high prairie scrub to views that were truly breathtaking.   And then we’d get back in the truck and keep looking.

Last month he had a contract on a house that, almost as soon as I saw it, I pictured him comfortably in it.  He withdrew the contract because the house — once owned by the infamous “Marlboro Man” of advertising history —  is seriously dilapidated.  Too unique and perfect in some regards to simply scrape, it would require mountains of cash and construction expertise to rehabilitate.  Even so, there is something about the property — the  house, the barns, the trees, the views all the way to the Back Range of the Rockies — that makes me think he may yet wind up there.

The interesting thing about making these drives with him is that I have watched him building new dreams, post-divorce.  The house he lives in now was a boring, dark ranch-model home when he bought it for his then-new family.  He lovingly turned it into a dream house, complete with a man-made freshwater pond in the backyard for swimming and a giant deck for entertaining.  But that home is no longer his, and his family is no longer what it was.

Over the last year or so since we’ve been looking at properties together, I’ve watched him become increasingly comfortable with the idea of letting go of his current home and starting afresh.  I watch him survey a prospective piece of land or house, his arm arching the sky, describing what he’d build and how it would look.  I can see the memories he’s imagining that he and his children will make in each place.  I observe him moving forward, onward.

On our drive today, we passed a large farmhouse that is probably close to 100-years-old.  It sits solidly on its flat lot East of the foothills, facing the looming mountains across its fields.  The trees surrounding it are large, probably nearing the end of their lifespan, and the house itself has seen better days.  But it is solid.  It has, as we like to say, “good bones.”  As we motored past, I stared at it wistfully.  Renovating an old farmhouse was something I’d always dreamed of, and it was one of those dreams that seemed attainable, especially after I started my own interior design business.  I think I always kind of thought that someday my ex-husband and I would do that together, and then grow old in that mythical house, with grandchildren running about the yard.

But it turns out that Bryce never really liked home improvement projects much, and so that work fell to me.   And now, given my markedly different financial situation, the likelihood of my ever having a little farmhouse to renovate is decidely slim.  That dream  is yet another casualty of my divorce.

Rolling along today in the sunshine, I experienced a moment of deep melancholy.  Perhaps that is the most difficult part of divorce — relinquishing dreams that you held so dear, some of which were so close, but only just out of your grasp.  Some of those dreams are huge and profound — like the idea of celebrating a 50th anniversary with your partner for life — while others are simpler and smaller — like being able to sit together as one family at your daughter’s wedding.  But big or small, they are the dreams that we pin our hopes to, hitch our stars to, and throw ourselves headlong into life in order to —  just maybe! —  grasp them.

I think sometimes we don’t even realize that the dream is gone, until it suddenly hits us on a sunny spring afternoon, with the truck kicking up dust on the unpaved road.  As I craned my neck to look back at the farmhouse, I silently said goodbye to yet another small dream from my hope chest that slipped quietly away when I was wasn’t looking.

It’s easy to hold too tightly to those dreams that evaporate when we divorce.  We could spend years, or even a lifetime, looking back on what was lost.  But in doing so, we lose all possibility for creating new dreams and chasing those down. I had to remind myself of that as the road turned and I lost sight of that old farmhouse today.  There’s no use looking back and pining for what might have been.  Not when I could use that energy to manifest dreams that are possible on the road in front of me.

I asked my friend once if he was going to be sad to leave the house he’d built as his dream home for his family.  He was quiet for a just moment, and then he said, “Sure.  I’ll probably cry like a baby.  But then I’ll move on.  Because that’s over, isn’t it?”

Indeed.

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Filed under divorce, general musings, healing, relationships, sadness

thomas murray, redux

Wow.

I sit here at my desk, feeling incredulity, disgust, and sadness in equal measures.

Yesterday, I received an email from another WordPress blogger, PDX Running Chick, notifying me that one of her friends had forwarded my earlier Thomas Murray post to her.  She thanked me for the post and told me that she had been planning to board a plane on March 23rd to spend 4 days in… you guessed it.. Puerto Rico. Being a smart and competent woman, she has changed her plans and notified Thomas accordingly.

No fucking kidding.

Of course, I knew there were other women out there that he was trying to ensnare.  He is like a pernicious snake that simply grows a new head every time you cut one off.  But to actually be faced with one of those women.  To know how close she came to likely suffering the same fate as Jenni…. well, to say I was shaken is an understatement.

His audacity is shocking.  His arrogance, astounding.  You don’t need a clinical psych degree to see the sociopathy at work.  This is a man so caught up in his own ego and fantasy, that he appears incapable of discerning the effects of his actions.  It is this last part that makes him more than a laughingstock, in my mind.  It is this last part that makes him truly dangerous.

That earlier post of mine has been reblogged numerous times, and if my site stats are accurate, the news of Thomas’ duplicity and manipulation has circled the globe several times over.  And yet, there will be women who won’t have read it, women who won’t know, women who will fall for his madness and potentially pay a hefty price for their trust.

I have received many emails on this topic.  Some from women who encountered Thomas, some from women who encountered men who behaved like Thomas, and some from women who acknowledged a “there-but-for-the-grace-of-God-go-I” moment when they read the post.  We are all susceptible.  You only think you aren’t until it happens and you realize you are.  We all have a dream of some form of Prince Charming.  True, our particular versions may be vastly different, but deep down, most people want to feel special, and valued, and appreciated, and loved.  Absent a lack of conscience, it is not difficult to figure out what, for any given person, that might look like, and then become that chameleon.  We could probably all do it.  But, for most of us, the very thought is sickening.  To so completely manipulate anyone’s deepest heartfelt dreams and vulnerabilities seems cruel beyond contemplation.

I have also received emails from men.  Men who are — quite frankly — utterly pissed off that another man should behave in this manner.  These are men who have wives and daughters and mothers and friends that they feel protective and tender toward.  Men who would never, ever consider using women in the ways and on the scale that Thomas has and does.  Those emails make me particularly sad. One male blogger with whom I have corresponded a few times actually volunteered a method for me to confirm his identity.  The fact that he should — even for a moment — feel the need to make such a offer is truly awful.  Most of us are good people, but one bad apple really does sour the bushel doesn’t it?

His offer also made me think about the fact that, unlike my interactions with Thomas, I have never questioned this man’s identity or motivation.  Perhaps part of that reason lies with the fact that he is not attempting to romance me, but I think the bigger answer is that he has been very transparent in our brief exchanges.  There have been no red flags to explain or ignore.  No personality quirks that cause discomfort or hesitation.  It made me realize that con-men only succeed when there is the perfect storm of circumstances available to them:  they have to catch us when we are willing to overlook the obvious.  Because where there is a con-man, there are always red-flags and there are always reasons to doubt and wonder.  They succeed only when we overlook those.  And we overlook them when we are vulnerable or needy or distracted or overwhelmed.  That is when we are ripe for exploitation by people who are absent a conscience.  When we are grounded and focused and aware and confident, those people make no in-roads.

I have no idea what unsuspecting woman Thomas has in his cross-hairs today.  Or how many more Thomases there are out there.  Perhaps some of them are reading this now and cursing me.  I hope so. I never had any intention of becoming a lightning rod for this conversation.  I had no idea what would happen when I published that post.  I don’t even feel this story is really mine; it is Jenni’s first and foremost.

But I am enormously relieved and gratified and joyful that something that I wrote could have possibly saved a decent woman from being sexually exploited, emotionally devastated, and potentially drugged and abused.  I want to sincerely thank every single person who took the time to read that post, forward it, share it, or reblog it.  Well done, folks, well done.

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Filed under personal growth, relationships, thomas murray

the unsychronized life

If you bother to notice it, synchronicity is breath-taking.  It’s that experience of having your life fall into step, each moment seeming to blend effortlessly into the next.  Every thing that you attempt is completed, every goal that you set attained, with a minimal amount of exertion or hassle or trouble.  When synchronicity kisses your life, you hit every stoplight at green.  Each store has exactly what you came for, in the quantities that you need, and just when your old mattress finally fails, the Tempurpedic set goes on sale for 40% off.   Your house seems more peaceful, your office time more productive.  Life is good, in the simplest ways.

I’ve learned that most people don’t notice synchronicity.  We’re so caught up in our chores and our bills and our work and our parenting that we don’t notice the utter perfection that sometimes occurs in our lives in a million small ways.

Synchronicity was first pointed out to me more than 20 years ago by a young man I knew when I lived in England, named Danny.  Danny had the sunniest of smiles, a creativity that astounded me regularly, and a peacefulness that I rarely saw flustered.  He had a lot of beautiful insights about the world and how it worked, and we would stay up all night, staring at the stars, talking about existential questions and positing the answers with the certainty of young twenty-somethings who had a lifetime in front of them.

Danny’s life was full of synchronicity.  It was pretty amazing to watch, once you were aware of it.  The simple things seemed to just come easily to him, always.  Jars opened, trains were on time, parking spaces were aplenty, and his size of jeans was always on the rack.  It was odd, but in a beautiful way.

Once I became aware of synchronicity, I studied how it came and went in my life.  I analyzed whether it was simply a function of my mindset — perhaps sometimes I focused on the positive and others the negative?  But I realized that, at least for me, there were definitely times when it was present, and times when it was not.  It was not simply my imagination.

On the flip side, an unsynchronized life feels like a series of minor hassles, like you’re moving in fits and starts, with no flow or constant forward motion.  Everything seems to take much longer and cost much more and consume more energy than you’d expected.

You lock your keys in the car.  The grocery store is out of milk.  The washing machine breaks down.  One of your children forgets her flute, you take it to her at school and discover the other forgot her sneakers for gym class.  The dog develops some kind of mysterious barfing illness.  You can’t figure out where your American Express card is.  Every time you try to log onto your bank to do your banking, they’re conducting “maintenance.”  You have a permanent bruise on your elbow because you seem to whack your funny bone at least four times a day.  Every single light is red, and your car is making a funny clunking sound.  You can’t seem to get anything done at work.

And that’s just one week.

See the difference?

You might not believe in synchronicity, or possibly it doesn’t happen in your life.  But try paying attention and see if you notice it.  I’ve no idea how common it really is.  What I do know is that my life right now isn’t synchronized.  Not at all.

I feel as if I’m moving through molasses, as if every turn I make causes me to run headlong into a wall.  I bounce off, and adjust my course, only to hit another wall.  It’s mildly frustrating, a little discouraging, and very tiring.

In the last 20+ years, I’ve realized that when my life feels out of sync, it’s usually because I need a course correction — somewhere along the way, I’ve made a minor misstep that has taken me off-course and is creating some general discomfort, like a sliding screen door that’s off its track.  The screen door still works, but not easily.  It grinds along beside its track, without its usual smoothness or efficiency.

But I’m not sure where I’m off-course at the moment.  Believe me, I’ve looked at it, but it’s just not clear.  I’m hoping that one of these days, it will hit me and I’ll know what to do to get back on track.  But right now, I’m just creaking and grinding along.

Eventually — I hope — synchronicity will appear in my life again and I’ll feel its warm glow.  Until then, I’ll keep muddling along through my molasses, rubbing my funny bone and cleaning up dog barf.

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Filed under general musings, relationships, single mom

thomas murray: a cautionary tale

I suppose I have known for nearly a year that this post was coming, but a part of me hoped not.  Then again, I suffered through Mike Boot-Camp, so I guess I know a cad and a charlatan when I encounter one now.  Anticipating the inevitable destructive outcome is just part of the territory…

Pull up a seat and grab a glass of wine.  This is a long one, and you’ll need both.

At the end of April 2011, when James and I were briefly broken up, a man known online only as “T” began commenting on my blog with some very provocative comments.  I noticed and was surprised.  At that point, to my knowledge, I didn’t have a single male follower.  His first comment is here, on a post I wrote on April 24th, entitled “how’s that workin’ for ya?”  I’d never read his blog or known of him prior to his first comment, but I promptly visited his blog and was oddly intrigued.  At first, I couldn’t figure out if his hyper-testosterone bluster (his blog was called “Morning Wood”) and blatant self-promotion were real or tongue-in-cheek.  Most of his commentators were women, and I noticed immediately how they fawned on him, fought for his attention, and flirtatiously bolstered his ample ego.  Obviously, that was a little off-putting, but I was  new to the blogging world and unsure what to make of it.  “T” and I began trading blog comments, and then I received my first email from him, on April 29, 2011:

You know…Darling, I would never do anything to offend you…it’s not my style.  What you think actually means something to me when most of the time, I don’t care about most  people’s opinions.  You seem to read me a bit too easily…the best part of that?  I enjoy it…

Since we’re not on the forum of comments, I want to know…what bothered you..and yes…complete honesty works here…I have my ideas of what could have done it, but I want it from you….

T.

Thus began an email and IM correspondence that lasted just over one week.  One tumultuous, heady, confusing week.  I became acquainted with “Thomas” and he attempted to romance me, to impress me, to lure me into his life.  All said, I received 57 emails from him, and sent nearly that many in return, along with 38 yahoo chats back and forth and 8 photos of him (all G-rated).  His attention was consistent and aggressive; his intent clear and unwavering:  he was looking for the love of his life and, just possibly, I was it.

His words were romantic and passionate:

…if nothing less, I’ve found someone who stimulates my thoughts and evokes the mystery of needing more to be revealed…  Intimate strangers reaching to start a solid foundation of friendship.  I put no limits on any opportunity I see…   To limit my conversations with you would be limiting who I think you are capable of being..and since I know so little but enough that I’m intrigued to put myself out there means I don’t take you lightly.  I NEVER put myself out there…however, where there is risk, there is reward.  I’m expecting nothing from you, however a woman like you seems more than interesting….I’m not a reader…  but I read everything that you have to say… it’s more than that, it is how you say it…  do I think you have your devilsh moments?  of course..as do I…but for now, the man who has everyting is looking for sanctuary…  the only way I will find it is to prepare for that moment when you see a fleeting opportunity that looks inconsequential and it becomes everything you ever wished for.  Those are the opportunities that I have always been able to see and what has delivered me.

But it wasn’t just his poetic words, it was the dashing life he had — an incredibly successful real estate developer and high-end financial consultant living the grand life in the U.S. Virgin Islands.  Multiple properties scattered across the Caribbean and the U.S., and a chateau being built in rural France.  Luxury boats and a penchant for Hemingway-esque feats of daring.  A divorced father with a devoted group of friends and business colleagues.  A career so flexible and in-demand that he could move anywhere, and within days was assuring me that Colorado was not out of the question.  He seemed beyond perfect.  By the end of that week, he was persuading me to visit him in the Caribbean — to meet him in Puerto Rico for a long weekend of fun and romance.

And that’s when the little voice in my head kicked into gear.

I’m not going to reveal here what he did to slip up, as he might be reading and I hope he continues to make those mistakes, but slip up he did.  And the bells in my head went off.  I decided that a little background investigation was necessary, and within 5 minutes discovered that he was collecting women far and wide.  I wrote him an email, politely informing him that I wouldn’t be visiting him in Puerto Rico or anywhere else.  After a few terse exchanges, our short “relationship” ended.   I mentioned it on my blog here.  I didn’t hear from him again until August, 2011, when he sent me the following:

For all the sweet things you say…you should know…  you’re an unforgettable personality…sexy…and you effin wear it well….

I wanted you…and i wanted you in the most real way possible..

T.

By that time I was in love with James and had decided that Thomas’ self-aggrandizing ways were nauseating, but I wrote back kindly and sent him on his way with wishes for good luck.

That should have been in the end of the story.  But it wasn’t.  Not by a long shot.

You see, on the very same day in April that he first emailed me, he also contacted, for the first time, another blogger, named Jenni.  Jenni authors a wildly popular blog, and I actually discovered her thanks to Thomas.   After my contact with him ended, I kept an eye on her blog and on his… something in his manner toward her worried me a bit.  I knew that he was a sophisticated manipulator and that she was easily manipulated by men.  Bad combination.  But, to be honest, I held out some hope that perhaps he could rise to the occasion and be the man she needed, and that she could be the strong woman to finally corral him.  It seems ridiculous in hindsight, but I’ve never claimed to be anything less than a hopeless romantic about love…

Sure enough, in the fall, Thomas began pursuing Jenni relentlessly.  By December, he had convinced her to visit him in the Caribbean later in the winter.  Against his wishes, she blogged about it all, and I stood by, reading as she fell madly in love with a man I knew to be a conniving liar.  But, at that point, I really only knew the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

Jenni went to Puerto Rico and spent four days with Thomas in early February.  Four days that vacillated wildly between utter bliss and utter nightmare, culminating with being drugged with a roofie on her last night there, and awakening bruised and battered and confused.   She has recently written about all the sad, sordid, heart-breaking details on her blog (if you’re interested, visit her there and read the posts about Puerto Rico and those immediately following).  After reading about her experience upon her return, I grew suspicious and began investigating Thomas more fully, as did a few other bloggers.  What we turned up was nothing less than shocking.

“Thomas” is Thomas Murray.  He does, indeed, live in St. Thomas, with his wife(!) and at least two children.  While Thomas was cavorting in Puerto Rico with Jenni, his wife was writing a charming and achingly innocent blog post about her gardening and subsequent rum cocktail (she has since pulled down her blog).  Thomas is not a successful financier and real estate developer, but just a guy who owns a small vacation condo rental block with his wife.  All those boats in the photos and stories of sailing?  That’s because he owns — or maybe just manages? —  a used boat company, and blogs about it here.  There is no chateau in France, no running with the bulls in Pamplona, no climbing mountains in New Zealand.  He is, however, a chronic womanizer — the hotel staff in Puerto Rico told Jenni he was a regular there.  Yes, Thomas Murray is a less-than-average man in nearly every way imaginable.

But in one way, Thomas Murray is extraordinary:  at the very least, Thomas is a sociopathic liar who preys on the feelings of vulnerable women.  At the worst, he is a sexual predator capable of drugging an innocent young woman who flew 4,000 miles in the hopes of finding her true love.

When Jenni returned from Puerto Rico, Thomas — most likely terrified that his house of cards was about to come crashing down — began threatening her, should she be tempted to reveal anything about him or write anything negative about him.  Jenni, still believing that the whole thing was a horrible misunderstanding and hoping that she could salvage something, was judicious in her treatment of him and circumspect in writing about their time together.  But then the emails started rolling in from women like me — women all over North America! — whom he’d romanced and invited to Puerto Rico.  And then, the clincher:  when I found his wife’s blog and confirmed — once and for all — that they were indeed still married.  Jenni used that blog to contact his wife and the two have since talked, sharing their joint misery and utter disbelief.   The whole sad debacle is incredibly painful; I get knots in my stomach just thinking about what those two women have been through, and what his wife still has to wrestle with.  I am not one to typically cast stones at a spouse who strays — no one knows another’s marriage unless they’re living it — but the depth and breadth of his lies and deceptions are what takes my breath away.  The number of unsuspecting women he has involved in his web is truly staggering.

And I also feel guilty.  In November, a mutual blogging friend asked me if I shouldn’t contact Jenni and try to dissuade her — after all, I had all the emails and IMs to show her — but I demurred, feeling that she wouldn’t believe me and would be certain that she was “different.”  Jenni has since confirmed my reading of where she was at that point, but it does little to assuage my sense that I had a suspicion that this man was more than a garden-variety cad… I did wonder what he was capable of.  But it was poor Jenni who had the bad luck to find out first-hand.

After Puerto Rico, I had warned Thomas, via comments on Jenni’s blog, that if he didn’t leave her alone, I would out him here with a hate blog to verbally castrate him beyond recognition.  I have his phone number,  I have his address, I have the names of his wife and children, I have lots of photos, I have all kinds of emails and IP addresses.  I was ready to post them all.

But I’m not going to.

Out of respect for his wife and the brutal pain she must be enduring now, I will not eradicate any measure of privacy she may have to deal with her current situation.  I do hope against hope that she does not allow the silver-tongued liar to slither out of his culpability, but that is her choice rather than mine.  All I can do, as a measure of sisterly solidarity, is to offer her some modicum of privacy. Hopefully, he will reap what he has sown without any further assistance on my part.  Leading Jenni to his wife’s blog was my contribution to his inevitable discovery, and will hopefully lead to some very serious therapeutic (if not criminal justice-based) intervention.

But I can’t stand the thought of his next victim.  You see, I feel certain that Thomas will lay low for a little while and then resurface — perhaps with a new persona.  I think he will entrap more women and ruin more dreams.  And that has literally cost me sleep over the last two weeks.

So, I am offering my very own little public service:  If you think that you or a friend is being wooed by Thomas Murray online or through a blog, email me — there’s an email button on my blog — and I will try to confirm or refute your suspicion, based on the information I currently have.  I absolutely despise the idea that Thomas Murray should ever, ever be successful again in ensnaring another wonderful woman. Don’t feel foolish — just ask.  Let’s help each other avoid the kind of man who ruins good and decent women for the more-deserving men out there who would treat them properly.  There is probably little I can do to stop him, I know, but I feel better making the offer.

I think the lessons here are obvious, but clearly worth stating again.  Ladies, if he seems too good to be true, he probably is.  And no man whom you haven’t met — no matter how much you’ve emailed or texted or talked on the phone — can possibly know that you’re amazing and wonderful and the woman of his dreams.  Real men who are grounded in reality and not lies do not talk like that.  Real men know that you might be interesting and special and lots of great things, but they have to meet you before they really know that.

One final thought.  My ex-husband has a lot of handy phrases, some of which make me crazy, but some of which are so accurate that I can’t deny them.  One of the latter is this:  “If you’re the only one saying it, then it probably isn’t true.”  So, when a man is so busy telling you what a Man he is and how giving and generous and smart and successful and romantic and loving and perfect he is — RUN!  That’s right, Run, Don’t Walk!  And find someone who waits for you to say it.  Because chances are, he’s none of those things.  And you don’t want to find that out the hard way…. like Jenni did.

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Filed under dating, love, relationships, single mom, thomas murray

the year of the dragon

It is, I am told, the Chinese Year of the Dragon.  My Asian friends sigh when they tell me this. Sighing Asian friends do not set me at ease.

I don’t know much about the Chinese zodiac, but given that it’s been around for at least a couple thousand years, I suspect that they’ve ironed out a lot of the kinks and are probably onto something at this point….

Ling, my Korean friend, told me that the Year of the Dragon is something to get through rather than something to really celebrate. This is not what I wanted to hear.  Given that I rang out 2011 (the Year of the Rabbit) with a tearful and gut-wrenching end to my last relationship, I was rather hoping for a Year of Sunshine and Happiness.  Or a Year of Puppies and Kittens.  But it is apparently not to be.

Ling explained that the year of the Dragon is full of chaos and change and shifting.  In her imperfect, colorful English, she described it this way:

It’s like the dragon is breathing fire and burning everything down and everything is chaotic and unpredictable and scary and then afterward, everything start growing again, and you realize that it all feel clearer and healthier than before!

It would seem that Ling might be onto something with this scorched Earth theory of hers…

As she was talking, it dawned on me to ask Ling when the actual first day of the Chinese New Year was…  January 23, 2012.  Quick check on my phone confirmed it:  that was also the last day I spoke to James.  The day that I told him to go away finally and leave me alone.  I told Ling, and she beamed. “See?!  Chaos, then clearing out and healthy!”

Perfect.  So, apparently, this is to be my life between now and February 9, 2013, when we enter the Year of the Snake?

Awesome.

Because, seriously, I can’t think of anything I need more than a whole year full of days like January 23rd.  Really.  That’s, ummm, … perfect.

But, in fairness, I’m not in this boat alone, it would seem; no, the Chinese zodiac apparently did not single me out for this form of chaos torture.  I am watching the world around me and see people — friends, acquaintances, strangers — tossed about by shifting winds (some not metaphorical) and the vagaries of fate. I can’t even count anymore how many times in the last couple of weeks someone has uttered the phrase, “I just didn’t see this coming…” to me.   That damn Dragon is plenty busy….

When I hopefully asked Ling if there was anything I could do to avoid all the chaos and just get to the new growth stage, she cheerfully responded, “No!  Have to have the chaos to have the clearing!”

So, here’s to the Year of the Dragon, and all the apparent chaos it brings with it. My plan is to hang on tight and see what’s not charred or trampled or simply blown out of my life at the end of it.

But I’m still wondering when the Year of Puppies and Kittens is…  Anyone?

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Filed under dating, general musings, relationships

mama bear

I arrived home this evening to find a letter from the principal at my daughters’ school.  It opened by informing me that Sabrina (my 5th-grader) had been missing a lot of school recently, proceeded to explain that her absences would henceforth require a doctor’s note, and closed with a threat to file a petition in county court against myself and my ex-husband if Sabrina missed any more school.

Really?

Bring it on, sister.

Sabrina was born 5 1/2 weeks prematurely, before her lungs were fully formed.  Do you know what happens to humans when their lungs don’t fully form?  They have trouble breathing, and their immune systems are compromised because our lungs provide that necessary oxygen stuff that keeps us healthy… and… well, alive.   She spent the first three years of her life sick almost non-stop and I hauled her from doctor to doctor trying to find out what what wrong with my baby.  I fought with doctor after doctor who tried to tell me that she “just had a cold.”  We finally got a diagnosis — an unusual form of asthma known as “cough-variant asthma.”  Most likely not life-threatening in her case, but complications resulting from it could be.  And it was definitely compromising her ability to fight off even the smallest cold.  Thank goodness we live an hour from the best respiratory hospital in the country; we were so relieved when we finally got the diagnosis.  Now, we thought, she’ll finally be okay.

Boy, were we wrong.

Turns out the diagnosis was the easy part.  Developing an effective treatment plan proved to be much harder.

I can’t even remember how many specialists I saw, how many tests she was subjected to, how many alternative approaches we tried to no avail.  Sabrina and I met with doctors up and down the Front Range of Colorado, from Denver to Fort Collins, looking for solutions.  From October until May each year, she was sick on average of 5-7 days a month.  She did so many courses of steroids, the doctors warned us she could suffer stunted growth because of them.  On too many nights, I bundled her up and raced off the ER, to sit by her bed while they hooked her up to machines and pumped her body full of medicines, while she looked terrified and I choked back tears.

Her poor little body couldn’t fight off anything; every cold, every virus left her incredibly sick.  Almost every child gets the rotavirus at some point or other; Sabrina got it and landed in the hospital for three days, hooked up to all variety of monitors and IVs.  The worst was an illness that no one was able to identify.  Our hospital stay that time was four days, and the senior national expert on communicable diseases was brought in examine her after specialist after specialist and test after test brought us no closer to an answer.  SARS?  No.  H1N1?  Nope.   Cystic Fibrosis.  Thank God, no.  The virus — whatever it was — eventually went away, but not before it ravaged her small body.

When she was 3 1/2, I quit a job I loved, in part because I was missing so much work due to her illnesses.  Bryce and I decided that it was time to finally figure out her health.  I began keeping a binder of everything I could find out about her kind of asthma and what each of the doctors had said.  Gradually, I formed a team of doctors around Sabrina and coordinated her care in a manner that finally began to show some outcomes.

We were lucky in some regards.  She had wonderful doctors devoted to her.  Sabrina is the kind of child that hugs everyone, including the doctors who had just poked and prodded and hurt her.  I remember one evening, when she was in the hospital with the mysterious virus, her fever raging and her body expelling liquids almost faster than the machines could pump them into her.  It was 3:00AM and I was awake, worried about her, checking her breathing and sponging her fiery body.  I went out into the hallway to fight back the tears and discovered her primary care doctor, off-duty, pouring through Sabrina’s chart with a stack of medical journals and references spread out around her, desperately searching for something the experts had missed.  I suppose I should have been more frightened, seeing her like that, but I was so touched by her dedication that I actually felt better.  How could Sabrina not get well when so many people were working so hard for her?

It has been a long, long road.  Every year the doctors  adjust her medications, and we now combine traditional Western medicines with Eastern herbal remedies, acupuncture, and chiropractic adjustments to manage her illness.  By the time she was eight-years-old, Sabrina had had two surgeries;  each offered some relief but she still struggles.  Slowly — very, very slowly — her incidents have lessened in frequency, but not intensity.  Her doctors have speculated that she will likely outgrow her asthma eventually, and that is our greatest hope.  But every time I think we’ve made progress down that road, we have a month like this February, and I wonder if we have lost all the ground we gained….

When people first meet Sabrina, they usually assume that we must be exaggerating her health problems.  Contrary to the doctors’ early concerns, she is tall for her age — about 5’1″ at 11-years-old — all legs and arms and long chestnut hair and pink cheeks with a smattering of freckles.  But once someone has seen one of her attacks, or seen her when she is sick during one of those periods, they realize what she is fighting.  Her asthma attacks are not like the regular wheezing attacks.  They start slowly, with a dry cough and escalate over a period of hours.  When they are in full force, they can be very frightening to someone who has never seen one.  The first time my mom witnessed one, she became nearly hysterical and I had to make her leave the room.   Sabrina’s preschool teachers overcame their initial shock and became experts at trying to calm her down and help her with her medicines.  Indeed, throughout her school career, she has been blessed with caring and compassionate teachers who worked with us to keep her in school and learning whenever possible.  All the educators and administrators that we’ve had the pleasure to work with have collaborated with us and shown Sabrina incredible kindness.

Until now.

Tomorrow morning,  Bryce and I will go into the principal’s office.  I am taking Sabrina’s medical binder, with the names of the nine specialists involved in care written in Sharpie on the front.  I will ask the principal which doctor she would like a note from.  I will show her the peak flow meter — the device that alerts us to when Sabrina cannot breathe.  I will tell her how nice it would have been to have received a call from the school asking us if Sabrina was okay, rather than a letter implying that we are poor parents because we are “in violation of district attendance policy.”  I will explain to her that the next time she threatens me with a lawsuit over my daughter’s care, she had better do her research.  Because if there is one thing in this world that I am sure of, it is that I have been a good mother to Sabrina.  I have cried more tears over her and worried more over her and held her hand through more scary times than that principal can even imagine.

But she’ll find out.  Tomorrow morning, she’ll find out.

Wish her luck.  Because I won’t need it.

Blogger’s Note:  It took 9 minutes the following morning to go from a rebuff from the principal (“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to make an appointment.”  “Sure.  That’s fine.  Which of the 9 doctors on her medical care team would you like to attend that appointment?”), to an apology, to a commitment to work with us to develop a district medical plan for her on-going care.   After we left, Bryce told me I’d handled it well and that he was glad it was her I was angry with and not him.  😀

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Filed under parenthood