Archive for September, 2012

Turning on a dime

Posted: September 26, 2012 in Reflection

There have been a lot of stressful life events going on the last couple of weeks for us.  My wife’s dad fell and was hospitalized for several days and is still in the recovery process.  The kids had lots of activities requiring a lot of logistics and kids getting ill to complicate things even further.  Work and school related items got busier for my wife to put more demands on her time.

In the last month as well, two co-workers got news about cancer.  One was an actual co-worker who got the diagnosis and the other on had his wife receive the news.  It really put into perspective how things can go from fine to totally not in a matter of moments.  In the co-worker’s wife’s case I heard yesterday that they have given her about two months with pancreatic cancer.  That one is certainly devastating enough, but it was really the other that brought home how things can shift.

Less than a month ago, this guy was here at work just as he would normally be.  He was not feeling good so he went to his doctor and was told he had cancer in three different systems.  Just about a week ago he was told that his life expectancy was about six months.  He was in his mid-forties with a wife and kids and so they prepared to face the reality head on and he stayed very positive.  He still was in the office a few times and was in great spirits.  We all told him how sorry we were for his news and how impressed we were with his attitude given the prognosis.  Just before the weekend we heard he was moving to hospice care.  He passed away right after the weekend.  He and his family had gone from a normal life, to six months, to three days in the span of a couple weeks.  He had worked at our company for twenty four years and was known by everyone.  One of the guys who worked for him in his department went on a two-and-a-half week vacation.  Just before he left he was thanking him for working to get the extended vacation approved.   When he came back he found out his boss had just a few days to live. 

I know all the other things going on just add to the impact of how our plans can alter when we least expect it, but even if nothing else was going on, I think everyone can agree having this type of life changing experience happen in close proximity would cause anyone to re-evaluate their life.

How important is it to argue about anything?   What should our focus be?  Is the right way to spend your time to work every waking minute and not take time to smell the roses?  What if you suddenly find you can’t even get out and smell the roses anymore?  It is almost the opposite of the teenage tendency to make every little thing a matter of world impacting drama.  I try to focus on the big things that are important and really impactful and let the little things slide.  If I was to get news like this tomorrow would I care that today my ex had weaseled out of another commitment she had made to the kids?  There is nothing I can do about it anyway, so why spend the time and energy I have fuming over it? 

God never promises us a set time.  I want to make the most of the time I do have to love my family and make productive decisions.

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Time marches on

Posted: September 11, 2012 in Family, Gratitude, Loss

I know I have followers all over the world.  For those of us in the US, today is a day of remembrance.  Eleven years ago airliners were flown into the World Trade Center and over 3,000 people would lose their lives.  Other planes were involved in other places like the Pentagon and a field in Pennsylvania and more people who saw that day begin and though it was just another day in their lives, died.

As a parent with children, the march of time is ever present.  This year I had my oldest child begin high school hitting another milestone.  I recall as a child of ten how I thought ahead to being thirty and how old I would be then.  Now well past that milestone, I feel older because I have a child in high school, just as I will feel when I have a child in college, a grandchild and on and on.  Milestones in an individual life.  Milestones I hope I reach, but milestones which God never promises us.  It is on days like September 11th, a day which was just a point on a calendar until eleven years ago, but that suddenly changed the world, such as December 7th, July 4th, and July 20th that we take stock of our lives and remember and look forward.

It is amazing to think how much has changed in those eleven short years.  Driving into work today with my 7th grader, her response to what she was doing on September 11th, 2001 was “crying”.  As an adult my head immediately jumped to what most of us were doing, which was crying for the devastation, loss of life, the sheer horror.  When I asked her more, she quickly brought me to earth of why she was crying.  “Dad I was 1.  I cried all the time!”  For all of my kids, they will have no direct memory of that day, yet it will impact them forever just as those other days changed the world as well.

When the planes hit the towers, there was no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube.  Even internet news sites like CNN were very primitive.  I was just at work when the news began, and I distinctly remember someone bringing out a TV, not a nice flat screen which was years away along with HDTV, but a big bulky box and plugging it in and connecting the cable to get a good picture to see what was going on in New York.  Someone in the office had been paged and found out from someone else when they called them, on a phone…. With a wire…. Attached to the wall.  Yes cell phones were still quite new.  No one knew what a text message was.  They were still years away.    Kids in school were brought together and big 25” tube TVs were turned on in the cafeteria and they watched together.  Today all their phones would be buzzing with texts and calls and tweets moments after someone heard.

Today is the first anniversary in the second decade after this event.  I wonder how it compares to other such days in history.  What was it like on July 4th, 1787?  How about December 7th, 1952 or July 20th, 1980?  Do we now, eleven years after a momentous event even begin to truly grasp or understand what an effect this will have on the world?  Could an “American”, a still new term in 1787 really see what the country many of them were still alive to remember fighting for the birth of understand what future Americans would do in the course of the world?  Could they see their descendants waging a world war to stop the tyranny of a man who was responsible for the extermination of millions?  Or that someone from the nation they started would walk on the moon? 

We see the changes that have occurred because of the event we remember today.  We can speculate about what will occur with the policy changes, the world impact fifty years from now where this event will be invoked.  It is a day to remember and cherish the family you have and the people around you.  It was a crisp blue Tuesday morning eleven years ago, just like it is today, that thousands of people left their loved ones for the last time but did not know it.  In the last couple weeks two people in our office were diagnosed with serious illness.  Both not very old, still with a lot of life ahead, but that changed with a few words in a doctor’s office.  Time marches on, events will continue to unfold.  God promises us nothing in the area of how long we shall be here, and expects us to live for His glory every day.  Don’t waste today on something you will regret later.  Help someone, do some good, love someone, and lead the way.  Those who are no longer with us because of that terrible choice by a little over twenty people eleven years ago can no longer do that, but we can.  Take advantage of that.  What will you remember today?  What will you do with what you have learned?

“Even the most impossible parts of this story really happened”  —   Narrator, ‘Ghost and the Darkness’

Today we are going to get into a discussion of Bert.  This discussion is not focused on divorce or blended families other than the fact that is how Bert is involved in our lives.  It is focused on the effect a personality like Bert has on the world.  As I start this, just like all, my posts, I have no idea how this will flow or how long it will take to get all the points together, but my gut tells me this may be my longest post by far, so settle in, gentle reader, and buckle up.

I’ve stayed away from the depravity and disgusting darkness that makes up the man you know as Bert.  A predator is the kindest term that can be used to describe him.  Sick, twisted and without boundaries yet wily enough to evade capture fits really well too.  He fits very well into the context of the quote I used above, for the lions of Tsavo were so utterly terrifying and so horrifically twisted precisely because they maintained their intelligence and cunning yet added to that a lethality and pleasure in chaos that were not normal for their species.  They acted and appeared like a lion until you were too close to them to realize that they were different and the results were deadly.

Starting out with an “impossible part”, this story existed because Nan actually acted properly.  I had vaguely warned her about Bert and that he may try to initiate contact and that he was bad news, so when I received the voice mail from her indicating that she needed to talk to me about a few things about the kids and then also about something about Bert, I thought it was because he had contacted her.  The call topic, however, was unexpected.  The lions of Tsavo had proceeded to turn more sinister.

When I called Nan back and we got into it, I was expecting that he had called to convince her my wife was evil they way he does to everyone.  Instead, since it was Bert and Nan’s turn to have the kids this weekend he was calling to ask if my fourteen year old daughter could come over to a party he was having at his house.  His oldest daughter had talked to her about it and since they were at Nan’s my daughter had given Bert Nan’s number.  Nan was calling to verify that I thought this was a bad idea since I had warned her he was bad news.  I told her yes I would not allow our daughter there because Bert is very, very bad.  I left it rather vague and then called my wife.

So let’s pause here, and you as someone who had never met Bert put yourself in the situation.  Your wife’s ex, whose children are going over to his house that weekend is calling to ask your ex if your daughter can come over for a party.  Seems like a nice social gesture, right?  Labor Day weekend, the kids know each other; what’s the problem, right?  This is where the process begins of appearing normal, though I think any divorced parent would at least still call the situation awkward.  Now let’s walk through the rest of the day before we dissect things.  I’m still going to stay away from giving too many details to just let you focus on the behaviors of Bert.

I called my wife and we agreed we needed to open up with Nan as to the true nature of Bert.  We did.  Lots more on that later.  I called Nan back and shared, and she understood our concerns and now shared them.  Our daughter was not going to go.  My wife and I thought we should look into how my daughter learned about the party and if Bert had contacted her directly.  Looking over cell phone records I was able to quickly see that Bert had in fact exchanged a little over ten text messages with my daughter the day before.  Looking a little further I came across another time about five days prior when there were nearly 50 messages exchanged between 10 and 10:30 at night.  I’m now concerned on a whole other level and let my wife and Nan know.  At this point other friends and family are pulled into the loop as the parental protection klaxons begin ringing.

After the discovery of the 50 messages, we contact Bert and let him know that it is inappropriate for him to be having contact with a minor who is unrelated to him in any way.  Bert quickly responds that he did not contact her, she contacted him and he just replied.  We avoid a response.  If you are a parent I’ll let you insert your own.  Everyone one of our friends and family came up with the same one unprompted, so I’m pretty confident that the whole readership here just yelled out the same response as in a game of “Blatantly Obvious Charades”

These messages were forwarded to Nan as they were sent.  Within single digit minutes of just being told to cease and desist from contact with my daughter, Bert calls Nan’s phone and leaves a voice mail.  “This is Bert.  I haven’t heard from you about your daughter coming over for the party.  We’d love her to sleep over so I hope to hear from you soon.”  Hmm.  He appears human, but is he really?  Nan, again to her credit, immediately picks up the phone and calls my wife and relays this message along with comments about Bert’s inability to comprehend, about his seriousness and his mental stability.  The words do not matter.  You get the picture, a woman who normally has not exhibited motherly tendencies, has been so shocked by behavior that she is provoked into vivid understanding of the personality she is in contact with.  The discussion where my wife offers to reply back to Bert, is quickly rebutted with Nan indicating, that oh now the pleasure of a response is all hers.  Nan forwards her response in which she explains she knows my wife, trusts her and therefore no, expletive no, is there any way that our kids will be coming to his house.  None of them are to ever have contact with him, nor does she ever want to hear from him again or there will be legal consequences.  Bert’s reaction to this?  Nan hears from him again.  A small tirade about my wife is his response.  Discussions continued on through the evening and resulted in me filing a police report to document the day’s events.

Now my guess is that for the most part just the facts above are enough to send any parent into the land of “creepy” as a descriptor for what Bert did.  However, I also feel that you may be thinking we over reacted.  After all, they were just text messages and it’s someone she knows.  This, ladies and gentleman of the virtual jury, is why Bert is the predator that he is.  This also shows the lack of boundaries and understanding that are in Bert’s head.  This is why Bert is so dangerous.  What Bert did was bad enough, but instead of choosing an unknown target, he is attempting to play his game with his ex-wife’s stepdaughter.  As humans we are always too concerned and unwilling to admit that there are bad, rotten, stinky, putrid, rank, slimy apples amongst us.  The only species on earth that analyzes and second guesses our instinct are humans.  Some argue that this is what sets us apart, makes us civilized, makes us sure we are created in God’s image.  Empathy and compassion are good things, right?  They are, but they can be used for advantage by evil people and could place us in harm’s way resulting in injury or even death.

I agree, that in most cases, had I discovered for example, that my best friend was texting my daughter I would just have a casual conversation with him and let him know it was probably not the best thing to be doing as it is confusing.  The reason I never have to have this conversation is that my friend, like most adults, understands boundaries and norms.  If he was going to extensively text my daughter, he’d let me know first and explain they were talking about what she might want to do when we come to visit next summer, as an example.  If she texted him to express frustration about me or my wife, for example, he would not spend all kinds of time responding and he would let us know she had reached out to us to handle it.  He understands we are her parents and the responsibility is on us.  He does not hide behind the warped belief that by engaging with a minor child, even one he knows, in extensive conversation that is not his place and it is wrong and inappropriate.  Someone like Bert does.

So what do I know about Bert?  The documented items with police reports (alas no convictions) are that he was arrested for breaking and entering while in the company of a seventeen year old girl on the night his wife was in the hospital delivering one of their children.  He gave the fourteen year old daughter of a neighbor condoms.  He got a seventeen year old girl pregnant when he was thirty and claimed he thought she was twenty-one when it went to court.  He later lost any visitation and custody of this child because the court said he was abusing him.  He lost his real estate license for lying.  The less formally documented items are much more vast, so let’s cover some choice samples.  He got a seventeen year old babysitter pregnant than beat her so severely that she miscarried and was afraid to report the crime to police out of fear of further injury.  She only exposed the situation years later after my wife had divorced Bert.   He sat on his daughter’s chest and force fed her when she was ten.  Child services determined he “didn’t mean to do that”.  Countless parents do not let their children near him based on actions or comments he has made.  While married to Bert my wife had to deal with several cases of “I do not want your husband anywhere near my house or family nor are we coming to yours”.  While married he  verbally, physically and emotionally abused her and continued to control her in ways that were demeaning and abusive.  He regularly cheated on her and has had children with three different women that are documented.  There was a situation where he wanted to sign the birth certificate of a fourth but his wife at the time (my wife now) said if he did she would leave.  It was a rare point of standing her ground in a relationship with a very sick man.   He was, or maybe still is, a leading member of a cult that paired sex slaves and masters and you can still find blogs on the internet from years ago with his name and current phone number on them from women who had been involved or recruited and left.

So the next questions certainly are, how is this possible?  How is someone like this not in jail?  I asked those questions over and over as I was dating my wife and we had very long conversations to get me to understand everything she had tried, everything she had done, and how the justice system looked the other way.  In their divorce he paraded friends and lovers through court who lied, one of which was actually cited for perjury, and still could not get full custody of her children.  When she brought the police with her to get her belongings out of the house after she had left, the police she had brought ended up threatening to charge her brother-in-law for blocking the driveway with his car as they waited to get in.  They then quietly suggested to her that she return on her own and break into her own house and get her things, after all it was still her house.  Her comment that if she did that they would find her dead at her husband’s hand was met with scorn.  It is amazing what I have seen and learned about our system and the holes someone like Bert can use to manipulate.  No one believes that someone like him exists except in a movie, and so signs are ignored or concern is lowered because it can’t be that bad.  Even in this story we will see evidence of that.

It was with this backdrop that we were reacting to the text message exchange and increasing contact and interest.  My best friend’s wife, who was herself sexually abused as a child by her neighbor and dad’s best friend, correctly pointed out that this was the grooming process.  Bert has been living on and off with up to three women in the house.  His kids are told they are his “workers” and they just help him.  We have been told they sleep in corners of the dining room at times.  Even with this environment, when child services visits, Bert can clean up enough and convince them everything is just being made up by a jealous and vindictive ex-wife and so they never moved to question the kids.  His newest concubine that just moved in just had her twentieth birthday as the kids happily informed us after one visitation.

The issue with a man like Bert in this situation is that he has some strange pull on young women.  My daughter, who had never met him, upon first seeing him come to the door to pick up his kids one day, turned to my wife and said “He’s good looking”.  I want you parents of girls to think about this.  When a teenager sees a forty-eight year old man, who is a little overweight with a pot belly, graying and balding and usually not dressed in anything but a t-shirt, jeans and sneakers, this is not a normal response.  As a co-worker who is the same age as Bert said, “I’m invisible to those girls”, and that is normally the case.  Yet for some reason this is not the reaction young girls have to Bert.  Given what he then does with this reaction, I hope you begin to see the evil and darkness that is here.  My daughter’s reaction to other men his age is “Ew. He’s old” not “he’s good looking”.  My wife’s description is that he exudes charm and that is as good as any.

Our two oldest daughter’s (one mine and one my wife’s) know that my daughter is not allowed to communicate with Bert in any way.  My daughter has been given some of the details and also a lesson on how people are not always what they seem.  On the advice of my wife’s therapist we are going to have to provide her daughter with many details, to avoid her becoming a victim.  As the therapist said, “we like to think their own kids are off limits, but you never know” and not educating her also opens her up to learning to date a man like her dad and being abused at his hand in turn.  This will take several conversations, and will involve weekly visits of her daughter to the therapist to help her process this information properly and equip her for how to handle her dad’s manipulation and rebuttal.  Once again, because Bert has no boundaries, we think he may reply in a way he did to Nan, by even going so far as to showing his thirteen year old daughter pictures of sex acts to paint her mom in a bad light.  Bert would not think twice about the appropriateness of this.  Bert just likes to make sure everyone understands why he is right.  He leaves out the fact that the reason mom was doing those things with him and others is that he had abused her so badly that she “consented”.  This is the battle we will need to wage along with our therapist.  It will be psychological warfare for a thirteen year old, waged with a master who has been doing it for decades.  Bert has never been formally diagnosed; though he is court ordered to do so as part of their divorce but has never complied.  Yet again, another example of the effectiveness of the justice system.

The need right now is straight forward.  We are involved in a situation that requires us to educate our two teenage daughters about the dangers facing them out in the world and about the men who might exploit them sexually and in other ways.  Unfortunately the case study we will need to use happens to be one of these girl’s dad.  Her mom was never given these lessons and she spent ten years in a world that took three years of therapy to get out off and more years afterwards to tweak things as things like this surface.  My wife has explained how her therapist explained that things like this can trigger a little reversal, or more appropriately, feelings as if you are “right back in it” again.  My wife said that the moment I told her about the other 40+ messages, that’s exactly what happened to her.  Because her therapist had equipped her with tools to stop that reversal and engage again she quickly moved back forward and we were texting Bert with the first cease-and-desist message that he parried away.

We do feel the conversations with my daughter should be easier.  After all, she has known Bert for at best three months since we have been married.  Prior to that she has certainly heard about him for her step sister, but the direct contact is recent and short.  Obviously this contact was also never alone, until the text messages, which is why we reacted so swiftly.  My daughter’s ability to view Bert as a stranger or accept his sickness and evil should be less of a journey.

On the other hand, his daughter has grown up knowing none of this.  As divorced parents know, decrees place all kinds of restrictions.  In cases with normal people, they avoid bad mouthing and such as children getting placed into hearing about things they should not in the heat of anger or otherwise.  In a case like ours, it helps Bert be shielded for all of his daughter’s life.

When they were still married, both because my wife was broken and in denial about her situation and its reality and because she did not want her kids to see their dad as a monster, this was hidden.  The abuse was never witnessed by the children and Bert was again, very knowledgeable in how to walk the line and not create any physical evidence.  After their divorce, the court system’s rules kept the children from learning of their dad’s true nature.  So to all his children, he is a fun, attentive father who has his quirks and is strange, but they look past that.  His oldest daughter tells everyone “my dad is brain damaged” as her way of covering up for his lack of boundaries and other inappropriate behavior.  She knows things are wrong, just not how wrong.  That will change with these conversations.  We knew we had to speak with her and begin being open, but only the therapist made us aware of how open.

My job as a father is simple.  I protect my family and provide for them.  I love my wife and my kids.  As this situation unfolded, I was certainly more aggressive in my leanings and I know my wife was a little less so just because of how we handle things with her kids due to her divorce.  It did not take much to get her to understand this was the time as I put it “to take the gloves off”.  Her therapist agreed the next day.  I have had the advantage of being forewarned about Bert and so I was on the lookout.  I would like to think that my normal vigilance as a father and a husband would have made me observant enough, but I don’t know and I am too humble of a person to discount the fact that perhaps without that Bert would have sucked me into his vortex the way he does so many others.  The thing is though, that Bert is so far in his psychosis that you can see it.  For example, one of the few times Bert visited my wife’s parents (and it was the first time), he did not spend the time getting to meet the family, he walked the neighborhood knocking on the neighbor’s doors and bad mouthing his soon to be in-laws.  Obviously these people thought that was rather strange that this man they had never met was over there talking poorly about their neighbors who they had known for decades.  Some of them asked to make sure that this man never came to their home again.  Bert was doing the normal process of abusers of trying to isolate his victims.  He was creating such a barrier and sense of dislike that they would not be invited back and that he could then keep his girlfriend/wife in his control and convince her that she was the one who was not doing enough etc.  This story was shared with me by my wife’s parents on the day I traveled out to ask them for my wife’s hand in marriage.  They wanted to be certain I understood the man who would be part of my life indirectly.  My soon-to-be-wife had already filled me in in detail so while this story was not known to me, it was not surprising.  Even then I had been prepared for Bert, but the neighbors who had not been saw it immediately.  Bert was not trying to groom them though, they were a tool.  In my case as a boyfriend/husband to his ex, I could have been targeted.  In fact, we were convinced I would be as he had done that with people my wife had dated before.  He had called them or found them and shared all the sordid details of their divorce and the evil of his ex-wife.   He has even tracked down other guys ex-wives when that did not work to try to create tension and fear on their part of this monster their children would be with.  Bert never did that with myself or Nan, which was out of character according to my wife.  Maybe it was because he could size me up and see I was different than her other boyfriends, or it could be completely unrelated to anything and he just did something different.

The difficulty with these men like Bert is that they are convincing.  People want to think it away.  Even when I was filing the report, while are the start of the conversation the officer clearly said that it was creepy for a nearly fifty year old man to be texting a fourteen year old, at the end he was talking himself out of it.  If it had been a complete stranger, he said, it would really be a problem, but given that this man has a daughter living in our house and my daughter is here to and it creates  “a kind of family relationship” it is explainable.  Really?  Isn’t this how relatives sexually abuse their nieces, nephews, sons or daughters?  What kind of family relationship is created?  Nan’s fiancé has no family relationship with my wife’s kids.  If he was texting them it would be wrong.  Bert is not related to my child in anyway by the fact that I am married to his ex-wife.  Yet people make these excuses for these situations all the time.  This is how abusers continue to abuse.  As my friend’s wife cited, the average child abuser goes through 200 kids before they are caught.  Why?  Because no one can admit that it is going on, they just look the other way and think they saw something else.  It would be great to wish away or think away evil, but we can’t.

The justice system itself is weak.  It was interesting that when I finally got my daughter to the point of “if he did these things why is he not in jail” her reason for why he should be is that the court system would do that.  When I asked her why she thought that, her response was because that’s how it works on TV.  Sadly many of us think that LA Law or NYPD Blue show the reality of the justice system.  They show how the justice system should be.  In that system, judges are tough, in our system with Bert every judge he has been in front of for years sees through him and threatens to jail him for contempt, yet no one has done it yet.  They are like a parent who cannot properly discipline and follow through wondering why their child does not mind.  The problem here is that the child being taught that they will not have consequences is an adult with malicious intent.

So how does he do it?  He goes to a meeting with the principal and nurse at the new school and argues that basic process for injecting his son with insulin should not be followed because he was not trained that way and did most of his shots while they were married.  But he leaves out the fact that that period was five weeks and the child has now had diabetes for six years.  He establishes authority by manipulating the facts.  He plays on people’s desire to be civil.  When he argues with doctors or administrators or others with potential power over him, they grow uncomfortable with the battle and rather than be stern they give him what he wants.  Just like a stalker learns when his victim returns his fortieth call in anger and tells him to stop that it just takes forty calls to get a response, so too Bert learned that if he keeps pushing a woman, his wife, his children, a doctor, a judge or anyone else it just takes enough effort and he gets what he wants.  This is why my tactic in this case was simple and direct.  No private exchanges with my daughter.  No loopholes of channel, time or anything else.  He will find with me that pushing that results in a response and not a slap on the wrist and a chance to play again.  I may be thwarted by the justice system I have talked about, but if there is another contact, the police will be contacted and I will do anything I can to make sure they respond properly.

I have seen that everything Bert does is only from a position of power.  When he got called to task for having his daughter turn on her best friend and the best friend’s dad drove over to confront Bert, Bert peeked outside through his curtains but was afraid to answer the door.  After this message to not communicate with my kids, Bert sent over one of his concubines to pick up his kids for visitation perhaps to avoid a potential discussion with me after he texted my daughter.  Bert is only comfortable intimidating people that are unable to defend themselves.  Yes that makes Bert a bully.   It also makes Bert a coward, and I do believe the my wife’s father is completely correct in the fact that when Bert is put in his place by someone he cannot control he runs like a dog with his tail between his legs.  Bert is the little runt pig who has to push his way to the trough to eat.  When he is stood up to, by employers who see his sickness and problems and fire him, by fathers who do what fathers should to defend their children, and by administrators who actually stand their ground there has not been a time I have seen or heard about yet when Bert has not been stopped.  The problem is that too many people give in because they are too lazy to finish the job or when the system is not strong enough.  Bert has been enabled by people his whole life and he has also combined that with a decades-old ability to select his targets.

There is talk regularly that Bert is “sick” and while he may have some sort of mental illness that contributes to his behavior, I do not let him off so easy.  Some may say this answer covers it all, but I see evil and malicious intentional choices as emerging from him as well.  As with any truly evil person, he does enjoy the pain and suffering he causes others.  I worry when others do not see him that way as I see that this is how he slips through the cracks.  This may be a little dramatic, but I do think he is a very ruthless, cunning and manipulative person above the general stupidity of the common thief.  This is how he has eluded reprimand for so long.  A little like master criminals needing to come against the right law man to finally get their due, Bert just needs the right combination of people to come together to stop him, and I think this has happened.

From my standpoint I see our role clearly.  I do not think this will be easy, being a parent as God wanted never is, but I understand that the Lord has placed us here at this time and at this place for this purpose.  He is using us as an instrument of His to corral this force of evil in the world.  In the past, Bert has been able to attack my wife in court and cause more doubt in people’s minds because there was not another adult present at all times to push back.  It was her word against his.  This may not the official version of spiritual warfare as described in the Bible, but I think that process fits well.  In our home we live in a godly way and there is nothing to hide.  If Bert were to try to indicate otherwise, his challenge is much more difficult than when he was dealing with a single mother who had no other witnesses.  It will be impossible for him to prove anything because there will be nothing to prove.  He may certainly try but I feel that the attempts will be short lived because I have a better ability than him to clearly piece together the facts.  I have to show how complex tasks and decisions come together in massive projects and sell them to dozens of skeptical people and I earn my living this way.  This process has very many similarities to showing evidence in a court of law so he will find a strong adversary in this case.   I know enough about Bert to know he knows this.  He has spent the last year looking for things to use to drive the wedges into the world that he uses.  I do not argue with my ex, I do not have issues with my kids, I do not have issues with my wife (his ex), I do not have issues with his children.  What he tried this week was the first wedge he found in a year, and it was quickly plucked from his hand and will instead be used to drive a wedge of light into his world of darkness.  With the help of God, this will begin to unravel his world.  It may not be a big change, but his daughter will never look at him the same way again.  The process will be long and painful but it is a war and there will be many battles.  Every time the kids move back and forth between the two households they are exposed to information.  This will be like a tug of war, but I have every confidence we will win because we have God on our side, while all he has are false gods and idols of power that will ultimately fail him.

At first when this landed in front of us, I spent an evening railing against it.  I have never felt that way my whole life and it got me very upset.  I was grunting in anger at myself because I knew I was struggling between what God wanted me to do and what the world wanted me to do.  On one hand the world wants me to focus on avoiding the possibility of court and legal fees and the extra time and effort needed to have tough conversations.  On the other, God calls me to lead my household and show them the right path no matter what the cost and trust that He will care for us as we do His work.  Into the night, after a good night’s sleep and then while mowing the lawn the following morning, God opened my eyes to His desire.  This is when I knew that He wanted us to don our armor and enter into warfare against the evil that is Bert.  My wife has been trying this in the past as an army of one, but now we are an army of two.  As I understood this and knew that we would prevail I looked forward to the task at hand.  God will allow us to further guide two more of His most loved creations, our daughters, into the world more prepared because He created the opportunity with Bert’s mistake.  God will use us to contain and continue to weaken Bert’s ability to damage His world and the people within it.  I wait with patience and always turn to God for guidance through our advisors of friends, church leaders and other Christians who will provide us wise counsel.  I believe Bert will make a mistake at some point and God will allow us to be His instruments to finally remove this darkness from the world.  I know not how, but Bert will either be locked away, lose his children through the courts or through their own hearts or come to some other result that God wants.  As we are needed, we will follow.  As Christians we are lights in the world, and by living daily that way, the outcome is certain.

This road was long and I hope you stuck with me.  I’ve explained in this post what has been going on in one tiny segment of the world for years as it circles around the chaos that is embodied in the man you know as Bert.  He has fathered children and fought to wrench them from their mother’s arms over and over to allow them to be controlled by him.  He has succeeded in his eighteen year old son whom he lost custody of but who now is drawn to the flame of Bert’s lifestyle and who sadly may walk in his footsteps.  It is against this influence we fight.  Our daughters may end up with an abusive and controlling man like him if they are not educated.  Our sons may find themselves looking up to his brand of machismo and swagger and getting drawn into the darker aspects of his personality.  Friends, parents, administrators, judges, doctors, lawyers and others are all impacted as they come into contact with Bert.  He walks among us as a mini-Satan spreading his lies and manipulations and idols of money, power and glory to bring others into darkness.  Some of us see him for who he is.  It is up to us, with the direction and power of God to support us, to do what we can to make a change.  The predator spends his days looking for his next exploit either of a young woman, a government agency he can milk for money or some other con he can play.  Darkness hates the light.  Bert screams against it every time he is exposed.  God help us all.

There come those times as a parent that we dread.  We try to do everything we can to prepare them for issues.  We teach them how to be responsible and how to deal with adversity.   We equip them with school supplies so they can learn.  We teach them that God loves them no matter what so that they have a way to be sustained in the bad times.  This last piece is all we can do when they are outside our influence and being impacted by the world.  When a classmate makes fun of them or some other person hurts them in some way, our only tool is their faith in God and His saving grace.

These situations are frustrating enough as a parent, but what about when the hurt is caused by another parent?   It is so difficult to fathom yet kids are left hurt every day in the aftermath of divorce when a parent let’s them down.

I recently had an incident when I took one of my kids to a doctor’s appointment.  Mom was supposed to meet us there.  I was pretty sure that would not happen, since it usually never does.  When the day before the appointment came and Nan had still not asked for the address I knew the writing was on the wall.  The test was a long one taking all morning and had required my daughter to not eat or drink for twelve hours before.  By the time we were done and grabbing lunch she had gone nearly seventeen hours without food or drink.  As we sat there I asked her if Nan had talked to her about the test.  “Yeah, about a week ago”, she said.  I told her I knew she had said she might come.  “I knew she wouldn’t.  She never does.  There is always an excuse”.  I continued to talk with her as I could see she was upset.  At one point, the root of the hurt came out in this exchange.  My daughter said, “I would be nice if she showed up to anything.  It just sucks”.  I suggested maybe she stop asking, if it hurts.  “I always ask because I always hope she might actually come.   She never does”.  Bam.  There it was. 

On the other side of our blended family I was not present for the dialogue, I just have the gist of the exchange.  For the first day of the new school year, in the new school that she gets to go to, my oldest stepdaughter wanted to spend the night before back at our house so my wife could do her hair and she could ride the bus in.  For the two weeks before she had been dreading the answer, as she too has learned how Bert works.  Never would he allow time to be taken from him, even when his children are asking for something they really want.  She had asked him when they had their time a week before and of course the expected answer, no, came.  When she returned to our house and we were returning from church, my wife was driving them back and she heard an exchange with Bert again asking if she could please just be at our house the night before.  In the context of the exchange it was obvious to my wife that Bert was just ignoring his daughter.  She kept pleading with Bert, and eventually simply gave in, which is the normal tactic he uses.  Later, she talked with my wife and expressed her disappointment.  Bert will not let them ride the bus home, thinking it better to cart some of the kids around in the car for two hours every day just to avoid the possibility that they get to see his ex (my wife) on his days for a bit. My wife has explained to Bert that Nan does this without any issues, but Bert will have none of it.  Bam.  There it was.

With anyone else the kids most likely would have given up and moved on, but with their parent this is something they do not want to do at the very core of their being.  Why do these people not see what they do to their children in the name of their own self-centered focus?  We all know the sterotypes of the child waiting for the parent to come pick them up who never shows up.  That is gut wrenching to think of, but I’m not sure it’s so bad.  In those scenarios, the kids eventually get used to being ignored as they never see that parent.   I think it is much more difficult and hurtful to be ignored and not there when you are.  Our kids see Bert and Nan in some cases every few days or at most every 10 days.  Each time they get to experience being with a parent, but being ignored.  As an adult I cannot even come up with an analogy for this, and I’m pretty good at analogies.  This is what makes it so hard to try to help.  If I can’t even wrap my head around the warped sense of being this environment is, how can I try to equip my kids with a way to deal with it?  As an adult we never have a situation where we are forced to be with someone who is not interested in us being there or caring of what we’d like to experience while there.  We have the option to sever those ties and not deal with someone who is harsh and cruel in that way.  A minor child in a divorce does not have that option.  Through visitation schedules they are forced to subject themselves to this macabre environment on a court approved schedule.  It’s supposed to be good for them.  I agree, contact with each parent is crucial, but I wish I could find a way to make that contact better, but the only way to do that would be to change the other parent, and that could not be done when married to them.  We (the exes) have no chance now.

So that task is left to our kids.  On top of all the stupid logistics the shared parenting process places on them, they must bear the burden in these situations, of fixing their broken parent from a position of zero power.  If Bert and Nan could have been influenced by love of their kids, then this would not be happening.  They are dead to that influence, yet children know no other way to influence the heart of a parent.  It is hard wired into the nurturing relationship.  They should be able to expect that a parent truly cares for what is best for them.  When that is not present, they know it, and worse are powerless to do anything about it.  What impact will that have on our children?  I know not, but I shudder to think of it in the dark of night as I wait to drift off to sleep at the end of a day when either Bert or Nan (or both) have done something to one of the kids.  Sure, I have heard all the psychobabble about them understanding when they are adults and being able to have that fight when they are on more equal footing and can choose to not have the relationship.  I’m sorry but that’s bullshit.  Not every child can handle that until then, or even have the strength as an adult coming out damaged from this screwed up relationship.  More importantly, the fact that we even feel they should have to is a sad commentary on our society. 

 I know that the age for laws being based on some moral principle passed away a long time ago.  Now we have laws based on psychology that tries to confirm that even if a child sees a terrible example from a parent, it is still better than not seeing the parent at all.  I understand the difficulty of determining the line.  What action is reprehensible enough?  Is it really so bad to dash a child’s hopes over and over because you continue to make up excuses every time they need you somewhere?  What’s the harm in refusing to ever let something change in the schedule that moved the needle by ten minutes?  The truth is I do not think there is a way to ever know the answer to this, nor is it consistent from one person to the next.  I do feel it is important to the kids to see the other parent, I just wish there was a way to get them to do something different for the kids.  We are not sitting there asking for things that benefit us.  It certainly is easier to attend events without Bert or Nan there.  It certainly is less obtrusive to switch schedules than to just have the kids be where they are scheduled to be.  However, for people we love we make efforts to accommodate.  That is the one thing in this process I am sure of.  I think that the actions Bert and Nan clearly show there is no love, or at least very little love, for the kids.  They only have love for themselves and their priorities.  If they did have love for the kids, points like the two examples above would not even be on our radar, much less a common enough occurrence that the kids understand the futility of their efforts.  I have no doubt they will continue to shout into the hurricane and continue to be unheard and snuffed out.  With nature we expect some destruction.  How sad, when destruction comes at the hand of a parent.

Today or shortly thereafter you may hear a loud scream.  It will be the sound of Nan reacting to her being served with a motion to end spousal support.  I know in our family the sound will be deafening as I know Nan, but I also think it might be visible from space.  Obviously I exaggerate a bit, but personally the impact will be huge.

I have as solid a case as my attorney has seen in twenty years of law and I even have a proverbial smoking gun , so if it does not work, it certainly will not be for lack of giving it the good old college try.  I do understand that nothing is guaranteed so all I can do is trust in the Lord that the right thing will happen and spousal support will be removed.

The thing I wish I could change is the impact on my children.  Nan will use all her resources to paint a dire picture without any of the facts that do not impact her self-centered view of the world.  She will confide too much in the kids about what is going on and I will be vilified and need to deal with that.  In the end, assuming things go our way, it will allow us to more easily pay for the eyeglasses, school supplies, food, clothes and all the other things that kids need but that Nan and Bert fail to provide.  Nan is certainly not required to use these funds to do anything for the kids, after all it is not child support (not that courts do anything to insure that is used for the kid’s versus a vacation to the Carribbean), it is spousal support, but I still do not understand how she does not to some degree.  All I hear from the kids is how Nan tells them she has no money.  I can only imagine what she will tell them now.

In preparation for what I expect to occur I have been trying to determine how I will answer the accusing, perhaps angry and very loud questions of my kids about how I could do this to their mom.  It is none of their concern about all the adult reasons Nan should not be getting spousal support, but what is of relevance is for them to simply understand.  As people in society we must abide by rules.  If we violate those rules, just as when they violate household rules, there are consequences.  Nan knew the rules and with the choices she made, this is the consequence.  This is not something I did, this is something she chose to do when she violated the rules that cover the spousal support agreement.

Once again, Nan will place the kids in an awkward position where she will be cursing me up and down and demanding they get mad at me and stressing the kids out because they will understand at some level that they still have no idea why they should be mad at me.  Rather than point out what the purpose of spousal support is and how it no longer applies here, which they cannot grasp, I will focus on a message they can.

As I explained to a friend, it would be ridiculous for me to expect my kids to understand why even though Nan is still their mom, that my relationship with Nan is not the same and that includes finances.  I hear their arguments all the time.  In the beginning when they came home with stories about how Nan is struggling financially they did not understand why I would not give her money since she needed help.  An easy way out would be to take her approach and burden the kids with all the details about how money is tight in this house too.  How the economy is rough, no job is safe and that we still are in a precarious position if we have a financial hurdle we cannot clear.  I will not be telling them how we even had to discuss if we wanted to go ahead with this motion given the retainer we needed to pay the attorney and knowing we might still lose and owe the support payments going forward.  Nan would bare all this to them, much of which they would not understand, and which would only add to the anxiety over the parts they would understand, that we could have problems.  The kids will have their whole lives to wrestle with adult problems.  They do not need to begin that now, but that is just one of many views Nan and I do not share.

They will also not hear about how I delayed this filing a few days to not ruin their weekend with their mom, knowing she will be fuming.  In the end that costs our family some money as I keep paying a little longer on something I should no longer need to pay.  Again, Nan or Bert would share something like that to puff up their value in their kids eyes.  As a parent we sacrifice for our kids.  As a husband I sacrifice for my wife.  These are not things a modest, godly person seeks recognition for.  These are just things that are and should be.  Nan does not understand this.  She has never really taken ownership that she contributed to the failure of our marriage just as she will not take ownership that if she wanted to keep her support going all she had to do was what she insisted she was leaving for.  She wanted to live alone and make her own life without a man.  If she had done that, none of the conditions to terminate support would have ever been met except the one that limited the support to a specific number of years. 

Nan will spin this as me being my typical mean-spirited self who will do anything to save a dollar, even hurt people.  In her self-centered way she can never understand that this action is a direct result of choices she made going all the way back to the choice to leave.  She will spend hours on the phone with her family and friends cursing me and how evil I am.  That’s all OK.  I just dread what she will drag the kids through in this process.

This is your life

Posted: September 2, 2012 in Biblical, Blending, Christian, Kids, Parenting

In a Christian household one of our primary concerns is to provide the kids with solid, godly lessons on how to live.  Within our four walls this is easy.  In a blended family this can be circumvented by the other households involved, and this is certainly the case with Bert and Nan.

Both of the other households are non-Christian.  Nan was having an affair, lived with someone prior to marriage and has had a child out of wedlock as well.  There is nothing indicating this will change other than the fact that she is engaged, which shows some possible improvement but the modeling for the kids has already occurred of what you can do before you follow a more appropriate direction.

Bert has women in and out and is currently living with someone who is nearly three decades his junior and who has yet to obtain legal drinking age but is openly drinking in front of the kids while at the house.  He is still involved with at least two other women and this is not something his kids are unaware of.  Marriage isn’t even something being discussed in that household.  The concern with Bert is that he seems to have proceeded to be no longer be at least attempting to hide the situation from the kids and my wife has concerns about the impact this can have.

The sad reality is there is really nothing that can be done to eliminate this problem.  Bert and Nan have a right to see their kids and as long as the kids themselves are not in any immediate danger, all proceeds.  Bad parenting, no parenting or terrible moral and ethical standards do not impact a parent’s right to expose their kids to it. 

Our impact is again through what happens in our house.  We can show how a family should function according to the Bible and do our best to live in that way.  We can provide insight and guidance about situations that the kids bring up at the other house, while balancing that against violating our divorce decrees and what and how we can say.  It is a challenge parents who are not divorced so not face.  We are basically censored in our own home about what we can say.  If this is foreign to you, really think about what that would be like for you.  I’m pretty sure the unanimous reaction is that is not something you would want to have to deal with in parenting, which is already challenging enough.  And we need to face this while trying to guide children who have poor influences on Bert and Nan.

You’ve seen some examples of how we do this already, and there will be many more to come I’m sure.  We try to get the kids more involved in church and with God and hope to see changes in them over time.  This has been happening but it is a gradual process.