"It was my decision to split," says Elizabeth Aitken Pierce, discussing her marriage with Peter Cruikshank. "At first Pete was against it. He didn't see it coming; it was a shock to him. He tried to figure out what happened, but I knew I wasn't happy any more, and it was not getting any better. I wanted more out of life than I was getting from him. I wasn't going to stay married and watch it get worse in 25 years."

Elizabeth is lean, outspoken, unbending. Asked if she is tougher than Peter, she says: "He is a lot more sensitive than I am. I look after myself and those I care about."

Four years after her divorce, Elizabeth remarried. She and her second husband have an infant son. Her children from her first marriage, Beth and Billy, stayed with her.

"He wanted the kids, but I told him he can't have them," she says. "He didn't fight it too much. I don't know if he accepted it. He was living with his mom, and I didn't think it was her job or responsibility to take care of our children."

She names youth and lack of communications as reasons for the divorce. "I don't know a divorce that's not painful," she says. "But time takes care of it. We're lucky: we can talk. Now we're friendly . . .

"If I've got a problem with the kids, he backs me up. We never had any problems with visitation rights. I'd like him to see them more often. I told him he can see them whenever he wants to. But it is tough with the children's schedules."

For the past few years Elizabeth has been taking care of other children in addition to her own and has been studying for a degree in accounting. Her father, an Army general, had wanted her to go to college before marrying Peter. "But I didn't know what I'd to go to college for," she says. "So I didn't go." She says she has no regrets.

She still calls Edna Cruikshank "Mom." "What am I going to change to?" she asks.