For a long time, I’ve struggled with posting here. I used to think that it was because I’ve had writer’s block. But the truth is that I’ve had far too much to say, and the pipeline that I have is far too narrow to allow me to fully convey all that I want to say. I’ve struggled with it for so long. There is a veritble fire hose of words, a Niagara Falls of my thought process, that is stifled by my ability to convey it into text. Not to mention just a hint of self doubt that you’d even read my words and understand what I mean.
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I know where I stand in the world. It isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s where I stand. Take note.
Hamas is a bunch idiot cowards. I say that because only idiot cowards stockpile their arms in what is usually the refuge of innocents; hospitals and schools that, by and large, house those unable to defend themselves. Only when destruction rains down upon you can you parade those innocents in front of the cameras. Only then can you complain that you are the victims. Shame on you.
Israel is in no better position. Hamas fires rockets upon you, targeting civilians to inflict maximum damage upon innocent people to propel their own missive agenda. So, in return, you seek and destroy targets that you know house the ammunition of your demise, only to kill children. Defending yourself has become a public spectacle of mass murder of the innocent. But when it all boils down, you made that choice. You launched the weapons that ended the lives of children too young to understand that they’re being used a human propaganda to be paraded to cell phone cameras to be tweeted and posted for the world to see. Sick? Yes. But you fired those shots in retaliation. To make a stand.
You should all be ashamed. No god, no matter how twisted or sick, would see this as anything but killing for the wrong reasons. Hamas, Isrealis — you’re all sick. It is long overdue that you recognize that. Stop judging those who support or decry you and instead look long and hard into a mirror. Face that horror that you have become.
I hope you, dear reader, understand the point I’m trying to make. I take no sides. I see only death and destruction for absolutely idiotic reasons. I see those that call out one side or the other as weak-minded, sociopathic fools. You want death to “the other guy”, regardless of the cost. Fuck you entirely. And fuck you for calling out those that would try to make sense of senseless killing as somehow traitors against you.
Fuck you both for targeting innocent children. You’re both a disgrace to humanity. You are both a dark chapter in the greater volume of human history. You will both be judged by history writ large for the murder you commit today. Not by one another — but by those who bear witness and weep for the innocent blood spilled over absolutely meaningless violence with no outcome but generations of sorrow and regret.
You will both bear the shame. Make no fucking mistake about it.
I heard a story on MPR that was done by a 17-year-old father. He was recounting how his life had changed since the birth of his daughter a year ago, as well as that of his family. His father took off after three of his own sons became fathers around 16 years old. He had a brief telephone interview with his dad, who said that he was always a phone call away and if they felt he wasn’t around enough that it was their own fault for not contacting him. It also briefly touched upon the young mother’s life, who was 19 at the time of the child’s birth. She cried as she told of how her father was never there as she grew up. She spoke of how jealous she was of friends whose fathers picked them up from places and gave them hugs when they needed them.
Overall, the story was good. This kid, who initially had no clue how to be a father, is making steps towards being a real part of his daughter’s life. Good on him. But the real lesson, I feel, needs to be underscored — and it goes for both sexes.
Your job as a parent never ends; It changes, it evolves, but never truly ends. Even when you’ve successfully allowed your child to live for 18 years and get a diploma, you’re not done. If you end up walking away and leaving your children to effectively fend for themselves, you’re doing them a disservice beyond measure. This world can really suck — everyone knows that. But when you have a family you can turn to, it sucks a lot less.
Being a parent is no easier, nor is it any harder when your kid is 8 months or 18 years or any span between. The challenges are just different and you’ve got to learn how to adapt. You need to find a way to look at the world through those young eyes once more, when you were young, terrified, invincible and stupid. Remember that feeling of being utterly confused yet completely convinced of how right you were? Guess who’s going through that now. They need you to be their conscience, their sounding block, their occasional verbal punching bag and the arms that hold them close in understanding when they feel like the world is against them.
But really, is that much harder than waking up every 45 minutes to change a diaper and rock a baby back to sleep?
Is it any harder than trying to clean crayon scribbles all over your brand new painted walls?
Is it any harder than sending them outside to play and trust they don’t pull up your flowerbed but end up tracking mud all over the house?
Is it any harder than wiping their tears away when they’ve fallen and scraped up their elbows really bad?
Is it any harder than trying to get them to just sit down and do their spelling words for the umpteenth time?
Not really. It’s just different.
Even if your folks weren’t there for you, you can be better than them and be there for these young adults. Yes, they can grow up and be “adults” at different times. But that’s why I call it adapting — there is no manual for this.
If there is, it’s a simple one-line instruction: Be there for them.
To fully appreciate the sacrifices you’ve made, I fear that my only chance at understanding would have been if I had donned the fatigues, picked up a weapon and fought alongside you. Had I come to know the horrors of war through your eyes, only then would truly identify with what you feel. I want to understand. A small part of me needs to understand, but it can never be so.
It would be all too easy for me to get on my podium and speak of the injustices that you suffered upon returning home in the tone of pointed shame and anger of a country and a government that seems to forget you the moment you return home. But we’ve all read the stories in the news by now. I feel it would almost be self serving to recount stories of battles with the VA, the feelings of rage, the emotional isolation, and the struggles of finding a way back to normalcy. Or even to sullenly recount the lives ended too quickly on foreign soils.
Just know that the vast majority of the people you fought for are so grateful to you. Wars in all corners of the world, spanning decades of history, and seemingly endless attitudes towards the very meaning of the act itself that covers the broadest of spectrums. Your sacrifice meant something to us. It meant everything to us. Even if we didn’t understand or agree on the premise of why you left us in the first place, it meant something priceless. You fought for those who, for a myriad of reasons, did not or could not fight for themselves.
Thank you, soldier. Thank you for laying down your life.
After Obama was first elected in 2008, I made a vow or sorts to avoid public political commentary. I realized that after several years of doing this, I was about as popular at parties as a leper. And rather than helping people understand the sometimes quizzical nature of American politics, I was only rustling jimmies and upsetting people. Some of them were grotesquely stupid people, but they can’t help that. The point was that I really wasn’t helping much. I was only adding fuel to the fire. I was also at the point where I was ready to take my position in the political middle again. It was my hope that by having a solidly blue track ahead of us for the foreseeable future that the country would pull back from the Right Wing that it had been dancing on for nearly a decade.
So while I was retooling for a less confrontational existence, I let the world go on as it wished. It wasn’t easy, and I have to say that I did manage to become presentable in public gatherings again and even managed to rescue most of my sense of humor from the pits of caustic cynicism. Not that I could ever truly let that go, but I was much funnier before I let it engulf me. But something you cannot shake after delving into the depths of the political cesspool are the facts that you learned on your journey. And unlike many of the commentators out there, I prided myself in allowing all facts take root and letting my conscience guide me. (more…)
In case you somehow miraculously avoided the news yesterday, Justin Bieber was arrested. DUI, drag racing, resisting arrest — in general for being a douchebag. And I think that’s why the majority of the civilized world is getting off on it.
I tend to avoid celebrity gossip and such. It’s pretty simple reasoning in that I genuinely don’t give a flying petunia what these people are like. When you stop to consider how much money is spent on public image, it’s a wonder how anyone can take anything they say as being serious. While I don’t like thinking about the personal lives of celebrities, I do tend to get wrapped up in the phenomena of what it must be like to be a celebrity. Quite frankly, I wouldn’t wish the experience upon anyone.
It’s sort of become the standing joke that once some kid gets famous there’s an invisible countdown that’s set off that ticks down to the moment where that kid finally implodes under the weight of their own success. The public at large seems to get reap great joy in making predictions and celebrating when it finally happens. For the record: Bieber hasn’t hit that moment yet. But it’s because of this recent news that I thought it was finally time to say something. (more…)
I tend not to make New Year’s resolutions. It’s not that I don’t see the value in wanting to make positive changes to one’s life, I just don’t see the necessity to feel automatically compelled because of an arbitrary change in a number representing a trip around a burning ball of gas. Perhaps that a bit clinical, but it doesn’t change the fact that people have all kinds of reasons to make changes and they shouldn’t save them up to make the commitment at midnight on New Year’s Eve.
If I were to be bluntly honest with you all, I’m perfectly aware of my shortcomings that could easily be changed if I just made the proper choices on a day to day basis. But that would mean actually changing my habits; routines that I’m perfectly comfortable with, thank you very much. Probably the most offered resolution around this time every year is to “lose weight”. Well that would be nice, now wouldn’t it? I could stand to lose a few, myself. But is the period just after a holiday period that encourages eating not only too much, but incredibly rich foods really the best time to reach this conclusion? What, are you people masochists or something?
Another that tops the list is quitting smoking. To anyone who finds solace in burning tobacco, this is something akin to removing molars with no anesthesia — only less traumatic. And what makes it fun is when you combine this resolution with the aforementioned. It makes for the perfect storm of unpredictable emotional outbursts. Pro tip for my non-smoker friends out there: Quitting an oral fixation (don’t get cute with that) tends to make eating an all-too-perfect alternative. Trying to moderate your nutritional intake while quitting smoking has been a dominant astronomical theory in the collapse of certain galaxies. Ask Neil DeGrasse Tyson. (more…)
As I’ve raised my kids, I’ve become more and more aware of an activity that frightens me to my core. And no, I’m not talking about my kids coming of age, realizing they don’t have to listen to me anymore, and moving out. (Although that is somewhat scary.)
There is something of a disorder that I’ve come to see in a lot of teenage kids out there — girls, mostly — and that is what is known in the lexicon as “cutting”. Now, to the brazen, jaded souls of the internet, this is a pitiful cry for attention from spoiled teenagers; I’ve seen the comments on various websites. And while other kids and even some adults can easily dismiss this in such a fashion, as a person who has seen this up close and personal, I’m affected a great deal more when I hear about. Especially when it concerns kids that are friends of my kids. (more…)
Letting go of the anger and pain is an exercise that can give you a lot of false positives. Just when you think you’re beyond it all, something sneaks up and bites you in the subconscious and can leave you reeling for a while. I like to think of myself as a rational-minded person. In fact, sometimes my thinking can becoming to sickeningly logical to leave me checking to see how pointy my ears are.
But there are moments in which a memory will set off a chain reaction in my mind. A whirlwind of emotions takes shape and can leave me listless for days. All because of a song, an image, or even the turning of a particular phrase that would be otherwise meaningless to the rest of the world. And for me, to somewhat of a surprise, guilt is not something I experience. It’s more of a frustration or anger at myself. And the sorrowful regrets inextricably entwined to positive outcomes that I wouldn’t change for the world.
Something I’ve noticed after going through an 18-month divorce is that I am now, apparently, an expert on the subject. I find this sort of funny because I hardly consider myself an expert. I read a great deal of articles during my own divorce. It shouldn’t be any surprise that most of them basically say the same thing:
- If you have kids, keep them out of any discussions
- Do as much as you can on your own because if you make the lawyer do it you’re paying a lot of money to do your busy work
- Do not get petty and vindictive (the best advice I read was “those who seek revenge in divorce should start by digging two graves”)
This is all very good advice. The problem is that it is counting on two rational-minded people to follow the same mature course of action. Now I can’t speak for all people who’ve gone through divorce, but when you’re separating a marriage, rationality tends to be a very rare commodity, indeed. You are, after all, dealing with the separation of a life that you’ve built with another person. Regardless of the circumstances surrounding that decision, it is an emotional time. Hell, even if you’re a greedy, money-grubbing bastard, you’re going to get emotional about your finances.
Most of the people who have approached me (of course I’m not going to name names, here) have done so because they’re putting serious thought into divorce and want to know what they’re facing. The very first thing I always do is ask them if there’s anything that can be done to change the situation that, to them, has become so unbearable. “Have you attempted counseling?” “Have you talked to them about how much you hate hamsters?” etc. To my surprise, a couple of people hadn’t even entertained the idea of addressing the problem directly. And for the sake of their kids, I told them flat-out that they absolutely needed to address the problem before looking at pressing the mutually-assured destruction button.
The second tier are those who have addressed the other party, either directly or through professional counseling. These are the folks I really feel for. And their demeanor towards marriage is very different. The aforementioned people, who haven’t addressed issues with their significant other, tend to view marriage as something of an inconvenience — a buyer’s remorse of sorts. The latter people are genuinely hurt that the marriage they put their bets on as being a life-time deal went south. And I’ve talked to a couple of people like this. Sometimes this emotion is buried underneath a great deal of anger or outward defiance, but the underlying feeling is the same; “What the fuck happened and what can I do to make it better?”
My advice to any who reach this level is to prepare for anything and everything and get a lawyer. Every single relationship is different from the next, so there is no clear road map to follow — But getting a capable attorney is key, and making sure all your business is in order is absolutely necessary. My Ex would complain that I somehow failed the lawyer portion of this, and she may be right. But to me it clearly demonstrated that having a solid, knowledgeable and professional attorney is worth his or her weight in gold. My original attorney ended up being disbarred for embezzling money from his clients, his partners and even his own parents. Thankfully I wasn’t one of his targets. (If anything, I think I got a deal because the guy didn’t know how to bill for his own time properly.) Had I done a proper background check on him, I probably would’ve seen the warning flags from his history and gone with someone else. But having an attorney familiar with family law helps to successfully navigate the Ethereal Realm of Legaleezia, where they have their own customs, codes and language. Those who cross into its borders without a proper guide are looking to get run over by the Judge or opposing counsel.
And to reiterate the point I made earlier: Get your shit in order. If nothing else, you’re going to have to do this for your attorney who will need it for the divorce decree. Know every last asset and debt in your financial history. Get a copy of your record, including driving record, and be ready to have it reviewed. Get your medical history from your doctor — this is especially important for those who have a complicated medical history, physical or mental, and they’re seeking custody of the children. And as you’re doing all of this, recognize that your soon-to-be-ex is probably doing the same. And remember the golden legal rule: It doesn’t matter what you know, it matters what you can prove.
Now for the last-but-certainly-not-least part: Child Custody. I assume the reason most of the guys who’ve approached me asking about divorce stems from the successful result of the three-month child custody evaluation fun-time-party-land I went through. I’d just like to point out a couple of things about this, because I think it’s relevant. One, I was successful because had it been 100% up the kids, that would’ve been the result. Two, it didn’t hurt me any that they were of an age where their voice mattered in a court of law. While it is true that the modern day family court has come a long way from the “Mom always gets the kids” model from as little as a decade ago, the fact is that what matters to the legal system — meaning the court, the lawyers, the custody evaluator and even the court reporter — is what’s in the “best interest of the children”. If you end up going the route of having a custody evaluation done, it’s going to come out very clearly to an unbiased party whether or not your parenting skills are a weakness or a strength.
I had one person ask me about the idea of working out a way where one parent gets one set of kids and the other parent gets the other set. The advice offered here is simple: Don’t separate the kids. They’re not furniture or decorative flatware. I know it seems like a logical course of action, but the fact is that the kids in a divorce are already going through an emotionally traumatic event wherein Parent A no longer lives with Parent B and “is it my fault?” When you throw separating their siblings into the different households, you’re literally destroying the only world they’ve ever known — and now their sibling has “chosen a side”. And, by the way, if you re-read my previous statement, how will it look to a custody evaluator that you want to do this? How does it rate on the “Best Interest Of The Children” meter? (Answer to both questions: Terrible.)
Now this is for all of you out there who are in the midst of divorce: Look in the mirror. Okay, wait until you’ve read this and then look in the mirror. Ask yourself, “Is <InsertExName> really someone who has an active and loving role in the life of my child/children?”
The answer should come quickly. Don’t over-qualify it. Normally that snap answer that comes to mind is the right one.
Now ask yourself this: “Am I a good parent who will go to the ends of the earth for my children?”
Again, this answer should be quick. Even if you’re an asshole.
Here’s the fun part of this little exercise — if you answered “Yes” to both questions, you’re going to share custody with your Ex. Get used to this idea. It doesn’t matter what ill feelings you may have with them, fundamentally, the kids have absolutely nothing to do with that. And all your kids care about, if you answered “Yes” to both questions, is that they’ll be able to see both of you as much as possible. That’s ALL that matters.
Now for the nitty gritty…Child Support. *Insert Scary Music Here* Here in Minnesota, child support is determined not by the old “full/shared physical custody” anymore so much as parenting time and disparity of income between the two parents. Why did I just smack you with that? Because your kids need your support. Even if you’re of the opinion that the other party is simply going to spend the money of themselves and not the kids, pay it anyway. Pay it happily and on time and don’t try to weasel out on technicalities. Why? Because even if the other person is using the money that they get on child support to buy collectable spoons of the 50 State of the Union, they’re still the ones who have to buy groceries, pay the heat bill and get money in the school lunch accounts. Unless you find that your children are being seriously neglected (in which case you immediately sue for a new custody hearing), how your ex spends their money is their business. Their personal finances are not your concern and, as an added bonus, your finances are none of their business either. You’ve been divorced and one of the better spiffs is independence from one another.
That’s all the advice I have for now. Just remember that if you decide the pull the trigger, it’s a long, tedious-to-the-point-of-madness process for those who are in contention. So do your own personal best to avoid turning the process into a way to punish your ex, and get through it.