Nearly Divorced

The decree is signed and before a judge. He has promised to sign it next week.

Thus ends over a year of absolute hell. I have become a new person, through this journey, and am much happier now than I have been in the last 18 years. Funny how perspective changes when you’re finally alone and see your past life from the outside.

I will be writing again, as everything calms down and my routine comes into view. I won’t be saying much about the specifics of the woman I divorced, though, because I want her to succeed in life, as the mother of my six children, and my lover for 18 years. I loved that woman with everything I knew about love, which I now consider to be a faulty understanding.

I won’t even pretend to know what love is, but I now know what it isn’t.

Love you all. Thanks for reading and having the patience of a sloth who just found a pool of perpetually warm mud.

I. C.

Why I Write What I Write When I Write That Which I Write

In February, 2011, I had recently joined a “survivors group” of young people (I like to pretend I can call myself young) who were figuring out how to break free of a cult-like organization called IBLP/ATI (Institute in Basic Life Principles/Advance Training Institute). At a young age, I had become involved in this institution, my Mama even trying to get us into the homeschooling program, My dad stopped her by threatening a lawsuit, which was awesome. Her abusive ways would have made the isolated life of homeschooling unbearable for us. When the board heard about my dad’s threats, they “prayed about it” and God told them not to allow my Mama to homeschool us. Funny how that happens.

The survivors group was exactly what I needed at the time. I was beginning my walk out of Christianity and religion as a whole. This group was all over the spectrum. Some were still struggling with what they felt was the bastardized definition of ‘grace’. Some still believed in the inerrant and infallible word of God. Some, the ones that I gravitated toward, considered themselves “apostates,” against the grain, if you will. Some of them were even rabid atheists.

So I began to blog. I walked out of religion as I wrote. My blog became very popular in that circle. I found my voice in the anti-fundamentalist crowd. I befriended (I pretend) bloggers like Libby Anne from Love, Joy, Feminism, Lewis Wells from Commandments of Men, Steve Wells, the author of The Skeptics Annotated Bible, etc. My blog was getting 1000 hits a day, sometimes 5000, when I did a series.

People began to come out of the woodwork and asked me to publish their stories of religious or sexual abuse. I did that. Some religious people fell or went into hiding. Others ignored me and moved on with their lives, hurting more victims. Some of those that had their stories published turned their futures into something beautiful. Others are still struggling, but are still beautiful. Still others are drifting around.

Then I watched as bloggers in my sphere became popular. They not only had found their voice, but others found them intriguing. Worthwhile to start a movement that branched out from anti-fundamentalism, moving into more mainstream causes. Fighting homeschooling abuse. Fighting for the rights of women and minorities. They made money at what they did.

But I got bored. I had written for my journey out of religion and now I was done with the subject. I watched as the survivors group added more people who breathlessly thanked the group for helping them get out. Years after I had worked myself out of the need for explanations of why women didn’t need to wear dresses, and grace vs. works, and other weirdisms that the normal world doesn’t give two shits about, I was spent. I didn’t care about it all anymore.

But it was all I knew. And it was what most people had come to my blog for. Anti-religion. And it got my page hits. And I was addicted to page hits.

So I pushed myself to keep writing. Then I found that I could create havoc on my blog if I pushed a juicy morsel in politics. The pitchfork subject of the day would bring in the screamers. I could harness the angst of my choir by just saying a bad word about Trump. About Tony Perkins. Ted Cruz. Name the right-leaning politician – I could find and write about good dirt. I enjoyed spouting off faux rage. I tried to be articulate, but nobody cared about wisdom. That’s not what drives page clicks.

It wasn’t long before I discovered a common thread that wove its way through my blogging. Something that I enjoyed doing. Something that brought freaking tears to my cheeks, every single time I touched someone with my words and stories.

I loved writing about my kids. My own life. Normal stuff. Day to day goings on. Slightly embellished for a good laugh, but mostly, not embellished at all.

Last night, my two oldest daughters asked me for the links to my two blogs. A few minutes later, I heard them giggling. Then laughing loudly. Then spontaneous reading aloud to their siblings or me, the subjects of my ancient posts. They read stories from 2011. 2016. Stories of school. Parks. Simple things. We laughed together about the realizations that I wrote about each kid that still held true today. Fred and his girlfriends. Laura and her need to have everything be fair and in control. Felicity and her warmth. Analisse and her freakishness. Jack and his perfect love. Renaya and her…well…she’s just everything you want in a kid.

In short, my heart was full. My kids were appreciating what I wrote.

“Renaya, did you read that thing I wrote about God, the other day?”

“Nope! That’s boring.”

My audience is small. And they are who I want to write for. I love them with everything I am.

All My Parenting, I Learned From God’s Character

The other day, we had no food or water in the house. My kids came to me and begged me to go get some. I became so angry that they had the audacity to question my love and authority that I instead went to the pet store and bought them out of snakes. I brought the snakes home and set them upon the kids. As they began to get bit and started to die, they wept and screamed and apologized.

So I ran to the hardware store and bought a bunch of brass door handles, a firing kiln, a blacksmith table, and a set of large hammering hammers for hammering things to hammer. I brought them home and gave them to the kids who were left alive.

“Make yourself a statue of a snake so when you’re bit by one, look at it and you’ll live.”

They were so grateful. The ones that were still alive and could swing a hammering hammer for hammering things to hammer, anyway. It was and always is obvious how much I love them.

Numbers, Chapter 21

Today, My Mama Turns 70

I haven’t spoken to her since February, 2012. Sure, she’s written me letters, here and there, of which I’ve posted on my various dusty corners of the interwebs, with commentary, but we have never passed a word back and forth, since.

This complete lack of contact was my doing. My Mama was a very abusive human being, in every way that a human can be abusive to their children. That’s not to say that I didn’t have some very bright spots in my childhood. But punctuating good with a heavy dose of bad, doesn’t bode well for the psyche of kids. At nearly 38 years of age, I’m still trying to work through what real love looks like. I don’t think I’ve ever truly experienced it. Not to mention, the catalyst for me cutting her off was her complete lack of respect for my autonomy as an adult. I simply needed her to let me grow up. She wouldn’t allow it, so I did it on my own.

You are not obligated to keep toxic people in your life.

When Love Begins

I wrote the following post on my old blog on March 8, 2011. Going down memory lane is heartwarming, sometimes. I hope you enjoy it.

 

In January of this year, we bought an elephantine mansion in the small hovel of Farmington, Minnesota.  We passed up a much larger estate in the mature city of Orono.  The $62,000 annual property tax bill, not to mention the price tag of $32,000,000 for the place, was a bit much to swallow.  So, we settled for a 4000 square foot Victorian era mansion for the steep foreclosure price tag of $176,000.  The $3600 in property taxes was also a bitter pill to swallow, but, in my opinion, quite reasonable, considering our excellent schools and perpetually plowed streets.

Yes.  For those of you who are not from Minnesota, plowed streets factor into a home buying decision before location to schools, proximity to parks, city and county government’s ear to the public, whether or not the paint is falling off the house, running water, and even working electricity.  Without the streets being plowed, we have to remove our 13 inch Rolls-Royce Phantom spinners with the offset weights and install our 18 inch Blizzak LM-60 snow tires, wrap on our tire chains, snap on the snow plow, and hope for the best.  Doing this on my 1998 Saturn SL2 Dual Overhead Camshaft four-banger can be quite a challenge, but here in the great North, I have it down to a flat five minute procedure.

Speaking of snow plowing – the other day my wife and I were out shoveling the driveway, being too cheap to purchase a lousy snow blower,  when I heard a diesel engine behind me and a honk of a loud horn.  I looked over my shoulder to see a city front loader sitting back about ten feet.  The man in the cab was waving me off.  So, I jumped out of the way and he plowed out the six foot snowdrift at the end of my driveway.  After doing this, he jumped out of the loader and shook our hands, introduced himself as our neighbor, and left.  THAT is a consideration in buying a house as well, though I don’t recommend walking away from a home, based on lack of neighborly charity.

We moved to Farmington from the larger Twin Cities suburb of Eden Prairie.  The school district there was fraught with nationalistic politics.  The schools themselves were excellent at education, for the most part, but lacked the personal touch with parents.  It felt as if they cared more about the world’s perception of their medium sized community school district than what the parents needed or desired.  This fact played no small part in our moving away.

On the other hand, Farmington was full of back-country hicks.  My wife called the school office only one time to register the kids.  When she called back a week later, the office manager recognized her voice and bellowed out a hearty “Hullo!”, calling my wife by her first name.  The teachers have an agenda to get to know the parents and work in partnership with them to provide the smartest, directed educational program to each individual child.  The principal grabs little babies the minute they walk in the door of the school and prances around with them as if he has just won the Boston Marathon.  His smile twinkles through his unshaven cheeks and trimmed chin beard while he welcomes you with a personalized harrumph and hello.  With this family atmosphere, anyone would want to participate in extra-curricular school events to enhance the experience for the whole community.

On a cold night last week, Farmington Elementary held a Read-in.  My wife was busy troweling on Mary Kay make-up with a very good looking young lady who was wicked good with children – turning a carbon copy sheet of paper into a much desired toy of the century in thirty seconds with all five of my older squirts.  I left her to her personalized Home Shopping Network and took the four oldest to school.

The Read-in was split up into three classroom sessions where teachers, staff, and members of the Farmington Community would do nothing more than read their favorite book to those who came to listen.  They had fifteen minutes to do so and then everyone would move on to the next classroom.  At the end, we were to meet, all together, in the auditorium.

When we walked into the school, my third grader pulled us in the direction of her classroom, my first grader yelled that her classroom was where we needed to point our feet, my kindergartner shook with excitement and then channeled that excitement into loud boasting about his school knowledge, and my three year old walked right up to the registration table, grabbed a cookie and a cup of apple juice, and walked down the hall.  We obediently followed her, right into the first classroom that had a teacher in it reading a book.  Yes, she was reading a book.  My cackling crew yelled their way into the door, bursting with pleasure, fighting over who had the bigger cookie or even a cookie at all.  My first grader was grabbing cookies away from everyone else at random, making darn sure the portions were even, across the board, regardless of age, weight, or fatherly favoritisms.

The whole classroom looked back at us.  I giggled (yeah, I do that sometimes), shoved the kids toward the reading carpet, grabbed away their cookies, ate two of them, spilled a cup of juice, shoved their coats down in a chair, grabbed a little kiddie chair, spun it around and straddled it.  I was in.  The parents looked at me with awe.  Here I am – a dad of six kids and I can take them to school at night all by myself, getting enough to snack on in the process.

The three sessions went fast with only one awkward moment that was actually quite sweet.  My three year old daughter was sitting in my lap in the back of a classroom with a dad from the community reading a book about modern day New York horse stables, sucking her thumb.  In a flash, she popped her thumb out of her mouth, jumped off my lap, scooted right up to the man, knelt down, staring into his eyes, and began rubbing his leg.  I rolled.  Why bother teaching them “proper” social graces?  They’ll have their lives ruined soon enough, by attempting to “fit in” in their middle school years.  I’d rather they enjoy being themselves now, and maybe get used to it, so they stay individuals, throughout life.

We made our way to the auditorium.  When we walked into the large room, my first grader yelped that we should make the long climb to the top of the risers and sit with our backs against the wall, thirty feet up from the floor.  Of course, being a man of adventure, I obliged.  I sat down with my three year old on my right, cuddled up to me, sucking her thumb, my third grader to her right, and the other two on my left.

My third grader piped up, “Daddy, I’m going to go sit with my friends,” and she subsequently disappeared.  My kindergartner then noticed that a classmate of his was sitting twenty rows below with her mother.  He informed me that he was going to sit with her and climbed down the risers and squished up to the girl.  The mom was pleased and commenced with a long conversation, asking many pre-relationship questions.  I’m happy that I’ve prepped my son with all the right answers to win the heart of the parents of the girl he has the hots for.  She was won.  Then, my first grader left to sit with my kindergartner, then moved off to disappear with some of her friends.  My three year old rubbed my arm, looked up in my face and said, “Daddy, it’s just us twos.”

 That it was. That it was. I felt slightly alone in the world, but very, very proud.  My kids had made friends.  They were much more advanced than I was at their age.  I never made any real friends until ninth grade.  Life was good.

After the final reading, we all found each other and walked back to our car to make the short trip home.  Everyone chattered away loudly.  But, through it all, my kindergartner could be heard, mumbling under his breath – “I miss Anabelle.”

Give A Man a Fish….

You know the saying:

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach him to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

I hate fishing. Hate it with a passion.

When I was a kid, my dad took me and my older twin brothers to Alexandria, Minnesota. My great aunt Jo lived on Lake Latoka there. She owned a large pontoon boat and had a lot of old dude friends who liked to fish. She made fruit punch slushies, filled up ice cream pails with it, and sent me, my brothers, the old dudes, and my dad off to the lake.

We caught 109 fish that afternoon. I remember running from one full hook to the next, taking off fish and throwing them in the water basket. It was an exhilarating time.

The next year, my dad took the three of us to a lake in St. James, Minnesota. That is the exact opposite direction of the northern city of Alexandria, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Down there, the lakes are shallow, green, smell like toilets from hell, and give you the runs just for walking past. We had no boat and stood on the dock. There was no wind and it was 98 degrees, with high humidity.

We caught a frog and a bicycle.

On the way home, I asked my dad a very important question that would change the course of my life:

Was our success last year in Alexandria what most fishing trips are like, or is it closer to the misery of St. James?

Dad, not knowing that he was about to give a young gentleman an enormous distaste for an absolutely pointless and boring activity, answered as honestly as every fisherperson should answer:

St. James is the norm.

That was it for me. I never fished again – on purpose.

 

It’s been almost six months

Short version: I’m getting a divorce.

Now, for all the lurkers who read my blog to get the skinny on my life, have at it. Now you know. For everyone else, I won’t be providing much detail about the proceedings of the divorce for several reasons.

First and foremost, this blog is public. Second and most importantly, I absolutely and unequivocally love and adore the woman I am divorcing. The divorce is a mutual decision. We will both be much happier apart than together. My greatest concerns are also two-fold – that my kids are strong, safe,  and happy, and that the woman that has defined my life for the last 17 years flourishes and becomes better and more successful than I could ever dream of becoming.

Now…onward to more writings…

 

I’m Getting Sick

sick-manI WILL NOT SUCCUMB!

I never get sick. But when I do, I do it with abandon. Problem is, I already took two days off last week, just to write on Incongruous Circumspection, and clean the house. I told all my myriad bosses that I was sick. Now, when I’m really sick, I’m going to have to go in and sneeze on everyone.

But that would actually work in my favor. Everyone else would get sick, causing them to wave me off and fall back to sleep, when I announce I’m really not coming in.

Maybe I’ll just take the day off and not tell anyone. Not like they’d notice I’m not there.

How People React When a 6-Year Old Girl Takes Her Shirt Off

downloadAs all my readers know, I have a daughter who we call, The Freak. She’s six years old. She embodies everything good about that label, as well as everything bad, being re-translated into good by me, because I love her so damn much.

Yesterday, I took the family to a semi-local apple orchard. It was a balmy 70 degrees, which meant my shirt was too hot. I took it off and enjoyed the corn maze, pumpkin hunting, apple picking (and sorting the rotten ones on the ground), and petting goats and alpacas.

And so did Analisse (The Freak). The moment my shirt came off and was tucked into my back pocket, I felt little fingers shoving something into my other back pocket. I looked behind me to find her, half-naked, pretending to not notice that I caught her. I didn’t care. As a dad, I’m a pack mule, wherever I go. I’m okay with it. Also, I encourage my young daughters to take their shirts off, if they want to. It’s not illegal. If the activity was illegal, as it is when they are older, I leave that up to their mother to determine how much is too little cloth.

About an hour into our visit, I was kneeling down by a goat, feeding it grass, when the old man who owns the orchard rode up on his four-wheeler. He hops off and catches my eye, obviously nervous. In short order, he strode over to me, bent down, and nearly whispered into my ear:

Now, I don’t know if anyone really has a problem with this, but, your daughter, with her shirt off, may cause some people to have a problem, so…

That’s it. I thanked him and he straightened, looking very relieved, got back onto his four-wheeler, and rode away.

Now, I could have argued and told him to fuck off. But I cared more about making the day enjoyable for my kids, getting plenty of apples, and doing the pumpkin thing. It wasn’t a life or death situation. In fact, I figured that really, only the old man had a problem with it, and he would be dead in a few years anyway. Jumbled thoughts ran through my head as I went and told my bride what the old man had said.

We agreed that she should probably put the shirt back on. I spoke to Analisse about it, telling her that some people here wanted it on and so I was putting mine back on too. She agreed after a tiny bit of protest, but quickly brightened up when I pulled my shirt over my head.

Without skipping a beat, she was back playing in the sand.

I don’t know what my point is in writing this, but I was sad. Sad that my daughter couldn’t just enjoy who she was, legally. Sad that some people are so bothered by the skin of a little child, they have to dictate my parenting choices. Sad that it is 2016 and we still shame little children for their natural bodies. Sad that it’s 2016 and we still shame older girls for their bodies. Confused that I was bent over a fence, mostly naked from the waste up, possibly even showing a plumbers crack, and the old man rendered me perfectly normal, and yet didn’t see my daughter that way.

I’ll be back there next year. And next year, I won’t stop her from taking her shirt off again. And when he tells me to have her put it back on, we’ll do the dance again. Or maybe I’ll confront him nicely. Or maybe one day he’ll change.

Grocery Store Trip with my Analisse

The last time we went on a grocery shopping trip alone, Analisse (6) and I were in Colorado in the middle of nowhere. She wore her sister’s tiara and begged me to wear another one. It was made of plastic and was too small for my head, so I was afraid I was going to break it. Laura (13), the owner, would have wept. I wore a hat instead.

Tonight, we went shopping again and she wore this:

img_4846

You can’t see it, but one of her socks is an ankle sock and the other, a mid-calf sock.

We went to Costco and ate dinner. There was a small mishap:

img_4848

A full cup of Pepsi, all over the floor. She dropped it and then loudly and publicly blamed me.