Archive for the ‘Anger’ Category

My desire to stay informed is directly challenged by my desire to stay sane.

Variations of the quote above have been floating around for quite some time, but in recent times (mainly driven by our political cycle for me), it has been ringing around in my head more and more.

For well over a decade I have gotten out of the habit of watching the nightly news that my parents had ingrained in me throughout my childhood.  When I left home and went out on my own, for a few years, I kept up this habit, but over time determined that the negativity and that outright spin and omission that drove every reporter to have you see things their way was a problem.  Somewhere in here I read “the Gift of Fear” by Gavin DeBecker (a book I highly recommend) and he had an epilogue in the book that really resonated with me, basically centered around the fact that the news industry is successful because they create artificial fear, worry and anxiety.  Removing this negativity from your life was something he preached to learn to actually know what to be fearful of.

Lately, as we have moved to the land of cord cutters and had less to watch, for some reason I started up on one nightly new program again.  After trying this for several weeks (and coupled with the fact that I am driving my wife nuts by not watching these news reports when they appear on our streaming service, already a day or two late, but binge watch them every couple weeks, so we are seeing very old news) it has started to bring back all those irrational concerns and skepticism and therefore I am going to remove this from our repertoire and go back to looking things up that I need to know about on the internet but staying away from all the sensationalism and junk.

A new temptation in this space are these new “reality crime dramas”.  The one we got sucked in to was “Making a Murderer”.  I was reluctant to delve into this as I thought it would be something similar; just a prolonged news story edited in such a way to cause fear, trepidation and panic in the viewing public about just how messed up the system is.  I found myself four episodes in to the ten episode series knowing where things were headed and really asking myself do I want to burn another six hours of my life to keep watching a highly edited train wreck.  After talking it over with my wife we decided we had already invested four hours of our life, so we might as well get the full payoff, a sentiment I’m sure was heavily discussed in the board room of Netflix when they were pitched the series.  “Most viewers will feel like they are getting the same information over and over by the mid point of the series and will see that we are painting a picture of Steven Avery as a tragically wronged soul, but we promise the series is just compelling enough to drag viewers into finishing it”.  My challenge with this logic is that had this been network TV, there would be ad dollars at stake to suck viewers in and make them stay.  I can see this with the FX American Crime Story that just started yesterday, I believe, and will have commercials to sell.  Netflix, however, does not make money by ads, but they already have it by subscriptions.  I suppose if they get me to keep burning hours watching things I should walk away from because I feel invested, that gets me further down the road to the next payment, when I can find something else to watch, so I suppose it works.  Thing is there are other shows on Netflix, like House of Cards or Orange Is The New Black that I KNOW are more entertaining than Making a Murderer, but that desire to stay informed won out over the desire to stay sane.  Maybe, I told myself, since this is a documentary, they will give me some great insight into how reforms are coming in the justice system to change it for the better.  Nope.

This all comes at an interesting time in my life.  I am having to find a new job, and in the last few days have been blessed with a lot of solid activity that now has me in the middle of four, marginally five, solid opportunities.  One of these is the typical, good job at a good company that could turn into a good career, and another is a really interesting company that really pulls at my soul as a thing I would love to be a part of but it is smaller, lots of remote staff and for all intents and purposes a start-up, at least for my department that I would be leading even though the company has been around for decades.  As I really step back and pray for guidance it slowly came to me that this impact of regenerating this fear and worry from getting back into edited and canned news is having an impact on things like deciding what truly is the best choice for a job.  Since the one opportunity is in a travel space I started taking the news of the Zika virus and all the hype around it and asking if it would impact this company and should I therefore stay away from it, but calmer, prayerful reflection showed me that that was not a sane response because the issues that are caused by Zika are really not ones that the target customers would be upset about.  If I had instead used a method of just learning about the real threats of Zika from a solid article versus the overhyped reporting showing the same three infants born with microcephaly over and over, my reaction would have certainly been less visceral.

It is this challenge that we need to guard against to keep our sanity, exactly as the lead quote indicates.  We need to find way to stay informed, but to do so in a way that is not effecting our ability to be rational.  We are constantly drawn to feel like if we are not informed we are somehow less, but I feel that is a societal pressure and not an actual reality.  We are made to feel like “what you did not hear what happened yesterday?” and that makes us feel inferior to the individual that is asking.  Are we really inferior?  No.  We can get informed in a few minutes from sources that we choose that are less entertainment and marketing driven.  It is this inferiority that led my wife to add a CNN notifier app to her phone, and me to think that watching news again, even if it is late, was somehow worthwhile.  It is not.  I can go out, as I had for over a decade and check a few sites to see what I might need to know about.  I can listen to conversations I have with others and if something peeks my interest, only then will I take time to go learn about it rather than have some news cycle determine for me what I should be informed about because they can make a sensational story about it.  I pray that in general my fellow countrymen will do the same thing as we move into a formal election cycle for an individual that can be our national guidepost for the next eight years as the world gets more and more complex, and when spun by the proper producer and director like in “Making a Murderer” or any nightly or weekly news show we can find, can cause us to lose our humanity and devolve into the fear and irrational behavior of frightened animals.

We all need to stay sane, and the first step in that is to understand the things that make it hard to do so. I’ll be removing these news programs from our cycle again, and we can dig into what we need.  This has been a blessing moving to streaming services has produced in that I can’t always get what I “want”.  American Crime Story is not appearing on Hulu.  I have been saved from my weaker self.  I’m pretty sure when I am looking for something good to watch later, this will not rise to the top of my list.

The greatest challenge that the Lord gives us at times is when He asks us to exercise patience.  For me it has been one of the items I still wrestle with.  I have been blessed with intelligence, logic and related attributes that tend to make me a high achiever and a quick thinker.  While most would say those things are good, I offer an illustration with food.  Many people would say that chocolate is wonderful and so is lobster, however, at least for me, the idea of eating chocolate covered lobster is not all that appealing; but chocolate covered raisins or lobster encrusted steak?  Mmm mmm good!  It is all about the right combination at the right time.

Similarly my Type A personality does not go well many times without patience.  It can be overbearing, arrogant or rude.  As I have gained wisdom and God has helped me reflect on situations I have been amazed at those teachable moments to show that those attributes of me, sprinkled with a little patience for flavor, turn mac and cheese into a five star meal.  At work, I still struggle as the drive to get things done many times overpowers me taking out the patience shaker, but over the years I have worked very hard to use it at home and feel I have more success there.

What I have discovered to my amazement is that doing so usually allows for more harmony in the household.  Once of the main reasons is that by being patient even when I may not be feeling that way inside offers me the chance to see differing perspectives and understand what other emotions may be at play, and so I would like to present you a few examples of recent events, but my method requires a little explanation.

Anyone that knows me understands that one of my passions is Disney.  As a child I loved the magic and wonder and as an adult I add to that the appreciation of a business built for the most part on family and fostering togetherness and improving relationships.  One of the coolest ways that I feel Disney does this is through their animation groups, especially Pixar, which is one of my favorite studios.  Just like some of us will buy any music put out by our favorite artist without listening to it, I know that whatever Pixar comes out with will have me in the theater on opening weekend with my candy and my excitement, raring to go.  So it is with the next production, Inside Out.  For those who are unfamiliar with the film, it basically explores the life of a teenage girl by letting us be inside her brain with her emotions.  But as is so often the case with Pixar, they take what is a brilliant concept on its own and add in some twists that take brilliant to genius.  You see, with the new trailer released today, I was able to see that not only are they going to help us see the emotions of the girl, but also of her parents, and I imagine those around her.  What God has taught me through patience, Pixar is going to be placing on screen as we listen to Joy, Fear, Disgust, Anger and Sadness.  It is in this mode that I play out the rest of my story, which covers basically the last 12 hours of my life.

Last night, Marcia came home after a band concert.  Now to set the stage, my wife and I believe that the only reason Marcia is in band this year is because she wants to be with a friend of hers.  She used to love band but last year she did not participate and so it was with surprise that we greeted her announcement months ago that she was going to be in again this year.  In any event, her apathy has made me feel the same way towards her events and so during marching season I had not braved the cold and rain.  Nothing but the hand of God pushed me to decide to make the effort to attend her first regular indoor concert of the year now that marching has transitioned to the regular concert band season that will encompass the rest of the year.  I texted her a few times before and after and saw her when she got home.  She looked rather dejected when she came in.

Me: You look upset.  What’s wrong?

Marcia: Mom did not show up…. AGAIN!

Marcia Sadness: Why does she do this to me?  Why am I never a priority in her life?

Me Sadness: Why does she do this to them?  Why does she not make the effort to participate?

Me Anger: Because she is a selfish little b—h.  One day she’ll see how resentful the kids are and then it will be too late.  Serves her right.

Me Disgust: How can someone be so selfish?  Is sickens me to think I was married to someone like that.

Me: I’m sorry to hear that.

Marcia: It’s OK.  I’m used to it.

Me Sadness: If only Nan would understand how much pain she causes.

Me Anger: If only God would help Nan understand how much pain she causes.  He could smite the Egyptians, why can’t he wipe Nan of the face of the earth and remove the pain?

Me Sadness:  Because that would cause Marcia more pain.  I need to make sure I keep Anger in check.  It will not help Marcia if I get angry about Nan.

Marcia Sadness: What did I do to deserve this?

At this point Marcia just went upstairs and got ready for bed and school the next day.  My wife and I decided it was best to just leave her be as nothing we could say at that point would really make it any better, it would just prolong her sadness of what was a regular occurrence from Nan.  The issue here was that it was almost worse because now Nan’s mom has moved here so her grandparent who could also have attended now that she does not live several states away also was not present.  Now it is possible Nan did not make her aware of the event, but Nan’s mom has always been selfish as long as I have known her, so not sure the cause, and in the end, to Marcia, it does not matter.  Her perspective is that her mom and others do not care.  Again, I thank God for giving me the push to show up even though with other logistics with other kids we had that night it meant driving back and forth to the high school three times in about 90 minutes.  I think it was important in that moment for her to understand that I did care what she did and had I not attended no amount of explaining the difficulties would have helped.  In my perspective and other adults seeing what was going on that night it might have been a sufficient excuse.  In Marcia’s perspective it would have been the same type of crap she hears from Nan all the time about why she is unable to make it to events.  This was just worse because it was one of the few times Nan had actually said she would be there.  Normally her mode is to make the excuses well before hand and politely decline because of her busy life.  I cannot even begin to guess what Joy, Sadness, Fear, Disgust and Anger were doing inside Marcia for the rest of the evening, and even my narration above may be way off base, but I hope it allows you to see how things wrestle inside us.  Without patience I would have flown off the handle about Nan, but with it I understood it was not in either of our control and getting Marcia more upset would have just hurt more.

Let’s now move on to the next morning.  After being punished from driving privileges, Marcia has also been told that it is too expensive to pay for gas for her to drive to school every day so at least until her job hours pick up and she can begin pitching in once in a while they will only drive over when logistics require.  This effects Jan and Cindy as they also attend the high school and as freshman have enjoyed a rare event in the life journey of a teen; not having to ride the bus for most of the school year in their first year in high school.  Now that is being taken away and reactions abound.  This being the first few weeks of the change, everyone is still working on the system and with the business of last night I had not done my portion with all of the players to explain that today was to be a bus day, which means getting out of the house about 15 minutes earlier than a car day.

I had been downstairs, as is normal, for about ten minutes when Marcia came down.  It was about 25 minutes before they would leave.

Marcia:  Does Jan know we are taking the bus?

Me: I have no idea.  Go wake her up and let her know.

Me Fear: I had not told anyone they were taking the bus.  Something will go wrong.

Me Joy: Yippee!!!  It has only taken a week and Marcia gets that when there is nothing happening they take the bus and she is actually taking responsibility rather than being a defiant teenager and pushing back.  How wonderful!

Me Anger:  I bet Jan has no idea and it will be another crappy morning arguing about taking the bus.

We went about our morning routines and I got up to the kitchen about 5 minutes before departure time.  Marcia was present, Cindy had come down still sick so she was going to miss another day and Jan was nowhere to be found.

Me: Where is Jan?  Did you wake her up?

Marcia: Yeah, I did.  No idea.

Wife: Was she aware they were taking the bus?  You were supposed to be telling them.

Me Anger: I know that and I already beat myself up about that downstairs, thank you very much!  I know we agreed that I would be telling them, but rubbing it in does not help any!  Grumble grumble grumble.

Me Fear:  See, I knew she’d not come down.  Now I will have all that teenage drama.

Me Anger:  I had told Marcia to make sure Jan got up as she is terrible at waking up when not planned.  I bet she just rolled over and went back to sleep.  Why didn’t Marcia make sure she got up?  Why didn’t I make sure they were all aware last night?

Me:  Yes, I know.  With all the running around I did not get to see most of them last night.

Me Anger:  They are in high school.  Why can’t they assume the bus is the way to go.  Because they are selfish teenagers, that’s why!  Grr!

Me Sadness:  You were a teenager once.  Why are you so hard on them?  Meany!

I had to finish up some things on the computer downstairs so I went back down and in the meantime the bus came and went.  I walk upstairs to find Jan just running into the kitchen as we both hear the bus leaving the neighborhood in front of the house.

Jan:  I had no idea we were taking the bus today!  Now what do I do?  Not go to school?

Me: (Deep breath) No.  I will drive you over this morning.

Jan Anger: Why!? WHY!?  NO ONE TOLD ME!!!!  My life sucks!  Why can’t we drive?  This is stupid!

Me Anger: See!!  I knew this would happen!

Me Sadness: Yes you did, just try to get her to understand.

Me:  Give me a couple minutes to finish up and I will be ready to go.  You guys will be taking the bus normally so you need to figure that out.

Jan: I can’t get up that early! At dad’s I can’t get up that early and it is later than this!  I don’t understand (fade to Charlie Brown teacher warble as I tune out the tirade)

Me (calmly):  You’ll figure it out.

Jan: I’m too tired getting up this early!

Me: Then go to bed earlier.

Jan: I went to bed at 9!

Me: OK, then I guess your body is telling you it needs to be earlier.

Jan: I can’t go to bed earlier, I barely got my homework done!

Me: You’ll figure it out.

Jan Anger: This is stupid!  I don’t get it!  (Ongoing)

Me Sadness: Oh the joys of teenagers……

So now we circle back to patience.

By being patient I was able to see things from Jan’s perspective and not blow my stack, as this was a similar conversation to what has occurred every time the bus has come up.  As an adult I see no reason that the public provided transportation is not fine.  I can understand the “earlier” portion but I also struggle with the fact that it is 15 minutes, at most, earlier and if they are tired they have the whole bus ride to veg out.  Jan as a teenager does not see the problem with driving.  This is where her and Marcia have different perspectives, and Marcia’s has been provided to her by the fact that she has gone out and gotten a job and has paid for a few tanks of gas for the car she uses and has let us know how crazy it is.  Jan has not had the benefit of this reality yet.  She is still blissfully unaware that there is not a magic money plant out back, leprechauns do not arrive at my door just before they all wake up to let me grab all the money and more that I need for the day, or that I do not crap twenties out my butt like some variation of a human ATM.  She still exists in that nirvana of early teenhood where the world works and she does not need, or care, to know why.  Only when the world does not work (i.e. she is asked to ride the bus when there is a perfectly good car just parked out front calling to her) does she even attempt to understand how the big machine operates, but even then it is through teen colored glasses and hearing aids.  I say gas costs a lot.  She hears we are cheapskates.  I say everyone has to ride the bus.  She hears that we had to walk to school uphill both ways, with nuclear radiation and while carrying baby goats to market.  Not having the patience and willingness to understand the other perspective and empathize with the emotions those cause is truly the root of most disagreements.  I work hard to make sure that I keep that in mind even as Anger is pound on the control buttons in my head to get me to do something irrational.  To be a good parent, I think that is what God tried to teach us by giving us instruction to be slow to anger.  Once that short little fat guy (watch the Inside Out trailer) has a firm hold on the joystick, it is hard to break free of his control.  We face this with all our emotions and that is always the struggle.  What is happening in Marcia’s or Jan’s or my wife’s control center?  Sadly, unlike the movie or my attempt at some levity in this post, we do not get to know unless those people speak to us and tell us.  And for some reason we are all usually really bad at sharing that information in a constructive way.  That’s why the concept Pixar has is so brilliant and why I have been looking forward to this movie for years when I heard about the concept four years ago.  The new trailer is awesome.  The teenage girl has a tirade that starts out with the parents trying to be OK and ends with a punishment, but it is the emotions that play out that are so fascinating.  As a parent I could totally get the dad’s emotions and what they were doing and I still get the teenage perspective and what she was doing.  The battle between the emotions is awesome.  Can you tell I’m excited about this movie!?  I can’t wait until June!  Anyway, sorry.  I’m calm again.  Back to my post.  To operate better in our relationships it is important to have this perspective, I just wish we could find a way to see into each other’s brains and hear all the dialogue exposed in the movie, but we do not.  So we need to find other ways, mainly by patiently listening and then by patiently thinking before we act.  With our human frailty that is not always possible, but God demands of us to try.  I will just keep trying to do that knowing that my perspective is just that.  Mine.  Not my wife’s, not my kids.  I will continue to pray that they are understand that as well and that we work out of love for each other to get to a resolution for all life’s little episodes and we continue to encourage Joy, Anger, Sadness, Disgust and Fear to play nice.

Stupid.  Idiot.  Many of us can probably relate.  When you were growing up, was there a time when someone called you a name?  How did that make you feel?  As a kid I was one of the smarter ones in the class and that earned me several new names like dork, smarty pants or worse.  As an adult sometimes it still happens in more subtle ways when someone feels threatened or intimidated because they perceive they do not measure up in some way.  When on the receiving end, it is not always possible to understand the motivation, but if you have been on the giving end and you look back later, I’d venture to guess whenever you lashed out with a word, it was because you in some way felt inadequate at the time and you hoped the word would cause some pain.

I was certainly raised in the time when we all heard that sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt you.  However, unless or until you develop a pretty thick skin most of us also learn to understand that is not totally true.  As a parent, from time to time I hear of some of the kids being picked on at school or sometimes picking on each other.  For those instances at home when I witness it we certainly correct the behavior and let them know it is wrong and in all cases it was again a case of one lashing out to cause some pain.  I wanted to share a project that took place in May called Weapon of Choice, and the images that accompany this post are from a site that is raising awareness of verbal abuse.  What if words really did cause visible scars?  What if being called a name was just as bad as being punched in the face by that kid you were upset with and left you with a black eye?  Would it change our behavior, or at least make it more visible?  I’m not sure, but this artistic project certainly takes an interesting spin on the subject.  I’d encourage you to visit at www.hurtwords.com and see some more of the images, read the stories, and do some soul searching of your own on how we treat each other.

As with any resource some people take things and re-purpose them for their own means.  I’ve seen a few articles referencing bullying use these images as well, and I find it interesting that the site itself does not use that reference.  I fall into the camp that understands that bullying and name-calling are two different things.  Name-calling can be a tool a bully uses, but I think it is very dangerous to say a name-caller is a bully.  I also find it ironic that in doing the latter we become a name caller ourselves, even though we self-righteously think it is justified.  Is labeling someone a bully any different than labeling them a dork?  I know I might ruffle some feathers here with all the political correctness and such, but if you objectively think about it, we should always beWeapon_choice-159_SLUT-e9be42789e careful what words we slap people with.

For me bullying has always been more than name calling, and it is always more than a single or even handful of events.  A true bully sets out to systematically cause distress to someone, be it emotional or physical.  Again because, unlike what the Weapon of Choice project so arrestingly demonstrates, words do not cause visible marks a bully may use them as their weapon of choice, but it is the constant, repeated and unrelenting nature of the incidents that make that individual a bully.  We need to be careful to not knee jerk to labeling everyone who uses a name a bully as we seem to be moving closer and closer towards as a society.  Our kids are not well served by not being taught that there will be people who say or do mean things to them.  As parents we should make certain we help our children understand that and to get the different between the name-caller and the bully and to then appropriately deal with the effects.

More importantly giving them the understanding that verbal abuse, whether taken to the level of bullying or not, is a very hurtful thing to do.  Examples of how it feels when they are called something by someone need to be turned around to teach them to empathize with how someone else would feel if they are doing that.  I was at our kitchen table the other day and Jan was sharing a story about one of the teachers at their school and the “name” she believes she started for him amongst the other students.  It is not one of the words used in the project, just a goofy twist on the teacher’s last name, but it was certainly meant to be derogatory.  After a short while letting her proceed I just calmly chimed in and let her know that she needs to hope that no one finds the kind of Weapon_choice-027-Edit_STUPID-cafda5e076humor she has found in labeling this teacher and instead label her.  Will it sink in?  Maybe not, but as parents we must try or we will continue to make it more and more acceptable to just go on tossing worse and worse labels on people.  Projects like Weapon of Choice are terrific because they start a dialogue.  I hope it causes you to start one of your own.

For the last several months I’ve been navigating through a new era in our household.  Marcia turned 16 earlier this year and we have been trying to get her into the workforce.  After getting immersed in this for the last five months it has been very eye-opening to me how much has truly changed, and sadly not for the better, since I was at that same age about three decades ago.  When I as a parent with a lot more understanding of what America is supposed to represent and allow have a hard time finding the silver lining, how is a sixteen year old kid who is learning to navigate the rocky road ahead supposed to feel upbeat?  The promise of anything is possible is no longer engaged in our schools, our workplaces or our country.  We have become a nation of robots, to use a term one of my colleagues mentioned at work today, this place has lost any soul.

I had been reading for the last few years the unemployment numbers in the 16-24 demographic and thinking it was typical media hype trying to raise the bogey man where things might not be so bad.  Just as if you watch the news and just take it at face value you might be afraid to leave your house assuming you’d be murdered while getting your identity stolen and being injected with heroin, I thought what can be so hard about getting an entry-level job at minimum wage when you come of age?

Well, what I’ve seen in the last few months has been interesting.  A lot of my information comes from just paying more attention to the actual situation; using my skills honed with three decades in the workplace to trying to figure out how to get a job by trying to place myself in a sixteen year old skin but with my experience baked in.  When I was working the only person over 25 on the McDonald’s crew was the manager.  Now the only person under 25 might be the customer on the other side of the counter.  It is staggering.  In a typical 10 person crew you used to have 9 teens or college students and 1 “adult”.  That ratio regularly appears to be about 8 adults to 2 work force newbies and as I said sometimes I walk in and see a whole crew of elderly folks.  So strike fast food off as an easy place to score a job for Marcia.

I cut my teeth in retail and grocery.  Surely that will be better.  Baggers no longer exist (that was my first job at the local grocery store) and even though my local stores still boast about 75% checkout lanes that need a human worker to 25% that only need the customer to do the self checkout, what is actually open on any given day you go into the store?  All the self checkout lanes (usually 4-8) and 1-2 humans required.  I went to the 24 hour grocery store around 11:30 earlier this week.  If I was afraid of computers I’d be going home with no food because my only option was the 7 self checkout lanes.  There was one person monitoring them, but not a single cashier.  I had a week’s worth of grocery shopping, not something I’d normally go through the self check for, but I had no choice, and also meant less job opportunities.  In my days at K-Mart through high school, every department was staffed by one full timer and then 3-8 part timers, 85% of which were high schoolers.  Today, try to even find someone working in the store to ask a question.  And just as at McDonald’s the demographic of those workers are adults as jobs have become scarce.  Retail looks pretty sad as a prospect for Marcia as well.

The next segment was restaurants.  The only option open to my daughter is hostess/busser or dishwasher.  Servers no longer can be younger because the bar is not staffed to allow drinks to be delivered by someone there which would make the age requirement go away for a server to be of drinking age or close to it.  (Where we live, I found out through my daughter that if you are 19 you can serve liquor though our drinking age is 21.  Where I grew up it was all 21).  You have one hostess a shift in most places and perhaps 2-3 bussers and maybe a couple dishwashers.  Again, the pool of available jobs continue to experience a giant sucking sound.

The process itself has shifted even in the last 5-10 years.  You used to be able to walk into an establishment, fill out an app, and usually be interviewed on the spot and at times offered a job.  Now most places simply say, fill it out online.  I sat with my daughter for these applications.  It takes a good hour to fill out one app due to all the personality questions and situational scenarios they have.  The Buffalo Wild Wings test was so complex I had to re-read the 80 or so questions multiple times to make sure they were not tricking me, which in fact at times they were, making the “right” answer on the scale actually be strongly disagree than strongly agree.  It’s hard enough for a kid with no job experience to find a job, do we need to make it so excruciatingly difficult to even apply that most of the hope is removed?  She also does not have the opportunity to talk to a human being, to make a connection, to show that she can speak without “umming” herself to death, can look you in the eye and all the other aspects of human interaction that have landed me jobs over my career.

Now I do not want to say the only problems with my daughter finding a job are the system.  She does not apply herself to the process as much as I think  she should, taking on the millennial generation view of work taking much less importance in her life (on that same BWW test she would only answer agree to questions that were clearly designed to see if she would put work over personal time demands).  I’ve talked with her about this and I do think it will cause her to have some problems, but I do see a lot of her peers exhibiting the same attitude.  On the other hand, I did not have to deal with my job hunting experience being sitting at a desk and using Google.  I got to drive from one place to another, ask for the manager and actually get an interview or two on the spot from two out of five attempts.  I ended up finding her a couple sites that seemed to have some aides for teen job hunters like teens4hire and snagajob.  Those appeared more promising but that’s where she still entered into the Buffalo Wild Wings nightmare of an hour long application with a lot of questions that do not pertain to someone with no job experience.  You ask the persons birthdate and/or age right up front on most of these.  Is it so hard to not demand information someone who has not worked would not have, like the last five years of employment?  I especially likes the Subway application that asked if she was over or under 40, and proceeded to not allow her to actually complete the application if under 40 due to a bug that would not allow her to submit her final application saying that her birthday in 1998 indicated she was over 40 and could not proceed beyond this point.  I tried for 20 minutes to find a way she could apply with no success.  The store had flat-out told us they accept no in person applications.  They still have the same help wanted sign out that they did three months ago.  Is it a wonder why?

Another source of jobs, helping your neighbors has all but vanished as people become less community oriented.  Ever notice that I when you move into a new neighborhood the only way to meet your new neighbors is to camp out on their driveway and intercept them on the way into their garage?  Once they pull in and close the door most neighborhoods are like a ghost town.  You’d be hard pressed to know any people actually existed.  Our daughters tried for many months to hire out as babysitters.  They received a call or two in a year.  Lawn mowing is done by a million landscaping services instead of allowing the kid with an old mower to walk around the neighborhood and charge $10 a lawn, thereby usually making a modest $10/hour.  This culture of fearing our neighbor and becoming most closed off and suspicious of everyone has made it virtually impossible for jobs to be available on a door to door basis.  Think about how often you see a little kid out on the street with a lemonade stand anymore.  I can’t remember the last time I saw one.  No one’s out to buy the lemonade.

So my daughter is faced with a world that still needs her to have money, but that has made it very, very difficult for her to get it.  I had a job in three days six weeks before I was 16, and have been lucky enough to only be unemployed for one stint of 10 weeks in nearly 30 years.  Looking at people’s resumes and seeing the challenges my daughter faces now being 16 ¼ and still not even having been called in for an interview makes me understand her reality will be very different.  As we as a country have created this dynamic we push back wage earning, which pushes back consuming, which pushes back home ownership or home renting and car ownership which drags down the economy which pushes all these things back further.  I love this country and it saddens me to see this decline in the fortunes of our young people because I am educated enough about economics to know that is means very bad things for all of us.  How will these people be prepared to take over the higher jobs in a career path, when they can’t even get on the path to begin with?  What will be the impact on the tax base when higher costs of services are paid for by fewer workers?  I was able to go to a great private college for $6,500 per year.  That same college for the class entering 2013 is $33,390 per year.  I left college and got a job for $30,000/year.  Those students who leave college in 2017 will not be getting a job offer for $154,107 to keep pace with their tuition increase, they will have jobs open to them averaging around…… wait for it….   $30,000 per year!   And that’s assuming they can find a job.  The barriers my daughter and the rest of our kids and all the kids in America face are staggering.  The only mention I hear of the American dream anymore is in stories about how it is lost.  I honestly would not be surprised if I asked my kids and they said they had never heard the term.  In my household and my family growing up I know it well.  We were a family of immigrants and the opportunities that had afforded us the ability to sit around at the Thanksgiving or Christmas or Easter table and talk about the American dream, were a direct result of it.  My father who had barely finished high school and could barely speak English would not even get a call for an interview for the same machine shop job he started at today.  It’s not because the job has any different skills.  The job in the manufacturing company I work at is nearly identical to the job he had at 18.  We’ve added complexity to the job market that does not need to be there and we’ve removed hope from an entire middle class in this country that our kids may never reach because they can’t even get a job at 16.  All I can do is encourage my daughter to keep applying but I know her frustration as the calls do not come and the process gets more tedious.  We’ve all lived it applying for jobs but we at least have had jobs for years before.  Our state does not allow her to not carry car insurance even though she does not own a car and could certainly not drive anywhere.  So she has adult bills, but she can’t get an adult job.  I have to foot those bills right now because she has no income and no choice to have the bill or not.  This isn’t a cell phone or a video game, it’s a government mandated service from a government that is doing very little to improve her prospects of becoming a wage earning citizen.  She’s not looking to be on the government dole.  She understands work is many times boring and you stick with it.  Does she have quirks and traits that might not make her the perfect employee?  Sure, but we all do.  Would I as a hiring manager label her unemployable?  Definitely not.  She is bright, articulate and healthy.  She wants a job for the same reasons we did at her age, to gain some independence and have some money to spend with her friends.   However, the adults that ran the world before her someone screwed it up in such a way that all the “easy” ways open to us to go out and start making $3.50/hour are gone and those that are left are taken up by people who can’t retire or find good jobs outside the traditional teen workplaces once again because of adults who screwed up and can’t find a way to make the economy work again.  We spend more time and energy looking for a plane that will never be found than on trying to fix problems that actually have some possibility of being solved.  I try to maintain a positive outlook for my kids on their future but I have to do it knowing full well that I feel I am feeding them a line of crap.  When my parents told me what a great future I would have it was easy to believe because they believed it and because the world around it was delivering it.  We need to figure out how to right the ship or we are all going to go down with it.  It’s like the ferry that sunk recently.  All the adults worried about themselves and let a ferry full of kids drown.  As I watch my daughter struggle to get going in life I feel that’s what we’ve done with the American economy.

Sometimes I feel like being in a blended family makes you feel like you are living a bipolar existence.  This is more so when some of the other parties, namely Bert, try to turn things into something they are not.  It is this I believe that is the source of our most recent saga.

First, sorry I’ve been away for a while.  As we approached the holidays life was just crazy busy and no topics hit me with that “you can share something useful”  kick in the pants that makes me feel like what I have to say might be worthy to inspire, educate or get someone else to think differently about their situation.

So now on to what kicked me out of my writer’s block.  It relates back to the ongoing counseling of some of the kids from challenges we had this summer (“Expected Chaos” and “Dangers of Ineptness“).  In the interest of open disclosure I will say I am like a lot of men in that I feel that counseling is a tool not an ongoing service.  Like a man, I approach things in the world with “identify the problem, find some solutions, implement the solutions, move on”.  As I’ve talked with my friends it seems this is a universal guy view of counselors and over the last few months the overriding question I get from them is “when are they going to give you guys something to use so you guys can move forward normally?”

Sadly we are still trying to get there and a step in that process is what pushed me to get out what I feel and understand in this post.  Peter was initially working with a counselor for about three to four months who ultimately did very little if anything for him.  God has blessed us with a solution that makes the counseling of Peter and his sisters free of charge due mainly to the fact that Bert is on assistance and so fees are picked up.  If we were paying per session, my “man view” of counseling would have been pushing for a resolution much sooner.  In any event this woman eventually decided she was not equipped to help Peter (glad she wasted three months to get there, but herein lies a pet peeve of mine with counseling in that when they can have no goal, than means the counseling can go on forever providing said counselor with a steady stream of income) and she referred him to a place we wanted to go initially but had instead deferred to Bert’s desire to try this other counseling center.  It worked out because Bert went along without grumbling because it was not his ex who had suggested it but a third party.  Peter has basically had a handful of sessions with his new counselor but he seems to be opening up to this one where he would not really talk to the other one.  I get it, it happens.  Just wish the other bozo had not taken so long to understand that if your client is not talking and you’ve got no plan to get them to talk that’s not really a recipe for good counseling.

So feedback to my dear wife this week is what took what was pretty good holiday season with a good cheer and such as you can have with a house full of teenagers and in the course of 24 hours took her to state of frustration and worry.  At this point Greg and Peter’s counselors have not spoken to each other even after we asked them to.  This is the source of my wife’s frustration.  Completely warranted and it frustrates me to, because perhaps if they had talked a month ago like we asked she would not have gotten the comment she did that seems to have sent her into a tailspin.  There are two issues here, but let me stick with the one here which was actually the second issue.  Hope to not confuse you.

Since they had not talked and Peter’s counselor has no information on Greg and the assessment of the other counselor when asked what she recommended what we do to monitor the boys she made the ludicrous statement that we should never have the two of them together unless they are in “eyeshot”.  My friend said it best when he said that along with all the door monitors etc. is really a Fascist state and that this counselor should use her head and realize how unrealistic and stupid that recommendation is.  I understand she is just taking the ultra conservative route and not wanting to have something occur because she said we could use a more relaxed approach since she has no input on Greg.  My frustration on this is I feel what the counselor did was very unprofessional and borders on misconduct.  It is along the line of asking a movie reviewer, “Did you like Movie A or Movie B more?”

“I liked Movie A.”

“Why?”

“Because I didn’t see Movie B.”

What?  If you do not have enough information to make a recommendation then the responsible thing to do is to say that, not make some asinine statement that has no professional basis.  A more appropriate response would have been to say “I can answer that after I speak with Greg’s counselor which I will make every effort to do as quickly as possible.”  Instead what she did was launch a domino effect that sent my wife into a tailspin that was not necessary at all.  Pisses me off to no end.  I have to go in and meet with this counselor in a couple weeks in another one of her ill advised brainstorms, and I just hope I am past her incompetence enough to handle the circus appropriately.

My assessment, and I can’t read anyone’s mind last I checked, so it’s just what I have put together in my head, is that because of my wife’s fear or worry about Bert turning everything into a made up fallacy she has placed more power on this counselor that is really there.  We are not in some court mandated assessment.  This is personal counseling entered into voluntarily and therefore protected by all that is HIPAA.  At this point the counselor has Peter working through understanding that the first steps to inappropriate action by someone is usually talking about it.  This does not mean that if someone talks about it they will do it.  It’s the old version of I saw a bird.  I saw the bird fly.  Therefore all birds fly.  Yet we all know an ostrich does not fly but is a bird.  His action does not automatically cause the event.  The counselor explained that Peter is having a hard time making that distinction and that is making him hypersensitive to comments by others.  First thing this counselor has said that I agree with.  However I believe because of this worry about Bert taking the fact that natural youngster and teenage banter about sexuality and such occurs in a household somehow makes the household a problem.  Think back to when you were a kid.  Did you talk about inappropriate things?  How often?  As often as possible, right?  That’s the nature of childhood.  When I discuss with dispassionate folks they all agree.  It is when adults create meaning that is not there that it creates the crazy train.  Greg’s counselor has pointed this out to us, and for some reason it seems my wife feels that this counselor has jumped the fence and is somehow calling something what it is not.  I’m only seeing a overprotective counselor who spoke out of turn ad should have waited to say ANYTHING until she had enough info to speak with a grain of intelligence.  Instead she created propaganda that has taken on a life of its own in my wife’s head.

You see one of the other issues that has now expanded beyond reason is that because this counselor might be worried about Greg, what would in most cases be passed off as normal behavior is viewed with a lens of adult added angst.  From time to time when Greg and Bobbi watch TV they will share a seat and hang over each other.  They will toss legs over each other or Greg will lean on Bobbi’s arm.  When I discuss this with my friend he says his son and daughter so this stuff all the time.  My brother did it with me.  I think Greg likes the fact that he has a sister, even a stepsister, who’s first reaction to him sitting within five feet of her is not “get away from me, I hate you” which is what Greg has gotten from his two sisters his whole life.  Bobbi does not get upset when Greg leans on her in fact they are usually giggling and talking.  It’s just normal human interaction.  Yet because this counselor has raised the specter of not knowing Greg because she spoke out of turn this has turned a knob in my wife’s head that what if Greg is overly affectionate?  As long as he’s not groping people etc. what parent would not be happy to have their pre-teens not be happy in each other’s presence rather than loathsome?   Yet this is what our over-sensitized counselor-fueled existence has become, and all I can think is “STOP THE MADNESS!!!!”

I certainly do not want to stick my head in the sand, so I have sought other opinions.  As I said, friends are saying their kids do this all the time and we are being ridiculous and are being driven to this stupid view by all these counselors.  Again, I have a lot of guy friends so their solution is simple.  Tell the counselor we need to get to a point where we can go forward as normal because we have crossed the line into the territory of counseling doing more harm than good.  Given the tailspin this is moving us into I find it hard to argue.  Do we want to be dumb and unobservant no, but do we want to react to everything with the result that we eventually have every child in the house walking around in an inflated bubble and my wife and I never sleep or go anywhere because we have to watch everyone?  Hell no!  Peter is already expressing his frustration with the fact that his life is not as he would like because he is basically under house arrest and constant surveillance, yet if we listen to crazy counselor we are not being Gestapo enough!   How is that going to raise a healthy child?  You see Peter and Greg were upset because on New Year’s Eve while all their siblings got to party all night they had to go to their rooms behind their door alarms because the adult’s were going to bed and they could not be watched.  Think about that statement for a bit.  In hindsight it was perhaps ill advised for me to voice it out loud as the reason for their having to go to bed while the other’s did not, but it was the reality of our existence.  It was at this moment that I realized this has gone on long enough and something needed to change and then all hell broke loose with mouthy counselor not using her supposedly educated head.

You see we are in a never ending stream of counseling on this event.  Why? Because the counselors have no set goal.  Is that our fault?  Perhaps, but because of my regular lack of relying on others to handle my problems for me I have not had to deal with counselors a lot until I started marriage counseling before my divorce.  I went to a marriage counselor, who I felt was very good.  What was the result?  I got divorced.  Now I have this situation.  Excuse me for not being too upbeat on the success of counseling.  I think we need to get the counselors to set a goal for the two remaining kids in counseling and that goal is simple.  We want them both to understand how to interact with others appropriately and to live a normal life.  The counselors should then be able to articulate a plan on how we will get there.  Peter’s counselor at least has a semblance of that, but Bobbi’s counselor is continuing her clueless trek down “let me talk with Bobbi and bill the state” land.  I have been content to just leave it be because it was not costing anything but now there is a cost.   Our family’s sanity.  Am I going to demand a change?  No not right away.  I realize I’m really upset and venting, but I do think we are being stupid ad doing our whole family a disservice by not demanding some professional responsibility from the counselors.  After all if I went to anyone else for a service would I just tell them, “Hey I’ll just pay you every week without any end in sight and you just take my money and do whatever you want, OK?” you’d call me an idiot.  And you’d be right.  I want to have a discussion with my wife on what our family’s goal with this is and get off the incorrect assumption that we must just let it go on forever because of the source.  Sure the events of the summer need to be dealt with and they have been, are and will be.  If your kids used drugs would we send them to rehab forever?  No.  Would they perhaps do something again that made the go back?  Perhaps, but all we can do is give the tools to make a good decision and the guidance to know what that is and then let them get back to life.  Yet in this case we are not.  My wife and I have discussed the imposition of the door alarms and so have the rest of the kids so we acknowledge the problem, yet we have taken no action to solve it.  Who’s fault is that?  We need two big fingers pointing right back at us.  Will the door alarms ever be off, honestly because of Bert’s meddling, probably not, but we did tone them back from shrieking sirens to simply loud obnoxious ear splitting beeps a while back.  This is making all of us edgy and so is it a wonder that when we get a little shove from a stupid counselor who speaks out of turn that one of us falls off the edge?  No!

This leads me to the counselor’s first recommendation and what started the discussion that led to her dumb second recommendation that I have just beat like a dead horse.  They have been pushing for about a month to get the adults from the households with the three boys involved with this summer’s activities into a room together.  When I told my friend about this his first response was “I hope you said no way in hell!”  His reasoning?  Bert is totally incapable and unwilling to be anything but productive in that meeting.  He will monopolize that meeting.  My reaction.  He is 100% accurate.  With what just happened with my wife because of the other comment this week I am frankly terrified about how she will handle this session.  I understand the counselors are doing what people in that field try to do.  They think they are being helpful, yet this is the same counselor who when my wife said she did not want to be interviewed with Bert in the same room insisted that “this was the process” and then my wife went through it, Bert used his manipulation over her to make her feel hideous and she had to talk it over with her counselor over multiple sessions and was not her wonderful self for weeks.  Yet here we go into this again.  Are we stupid?  I’m beginning to think so.  Yet I do not know another option, because I am also willing to give it a shot but the only way we succeed in there is if Bert talks we all shut up and let him go.  He will lie, say things that are untrue, but we cannot react.  If we do he wins.  My concern is I will blow up in there and call the counselor the bumbling fool she is for calling this meeting in the first place.  She witnessed what happened with Bert and my wife, and she knows the other mom has similar issues with Bert.  The only one who can deal with Bert’s shit is me.  But what I can’t deal with and I am having a real time sucking up is some “professional” placing my wife into a situation that she is not at all comfortable with and demanding she do it with a smile.  God made it clear that a man is supposed to protect his wife.  I am prepared to do that to the death someday if needed.  My wife is the most important person in the world to me and the fact that she deals with this shit on a regular basis tears me up.  Even though I know it is un-Christian I pray for God to remove Bert from this world often and vehemently.  I then pray for forgiveness that I did that.  I do not understand God’s point in these trials and testing, but I worry that I am not doing what I should.  Should I be saying “hell no!” to this meeting?  If you were to ask me today, the answer I would shout from the mountain tops would be a resounding yes.  I need to pray on it and see.  I have almost no confidence; no I do have zero confidence, that this meeting will do anything of value.  My wife had basically said the same thing.  It would seem that then we are not very smart for proceeding.  Maybe we talk with the other mom and decide that way.

Because Bert takes wicked advantage of everything with his sociopathy I believe my wife has added a lot of weight to this that is not there.  We recently read some excerpts from a book where the author said stop worrying about the worst that can happen because the worst rarely does, yet that is basically what is happening here.  I feel that we are letting some fear of what Bert could spin things into drive us into not demanding more from the counselors and instead taking a very passive attitude and into walking into situations that are set up for bad outcomes.

At this point however we sit at a point that my wife feels “there is a counselor with power for the county” which I feel is utterly false but she is so worried from this woman’s inappropriate statement without any of the facts she needed to make it that she will not move from that.  If we continue this way for the next few days I know my resolve will grow much stronger to say we are not participating in that joint waste of time.  The counselors have this hope that the changes they want Bert to make will be made through these types of meetings.  That is what is driving my wife and this other mom to agree though every ounce of their being does not want to do this.  They are being driven for their kids just as I am being driven for my wife.  Should I be the voice of reason?   The most dispassionate one in the bunch?  Should I stand up and say this has no chance of success?  The counselors will be disappointed but the carnage that I anticipate Bert wreaking in that room will not have a chance to take place.  If I felt one iota of possibility that he could be reasoned with and the counselors could get him to listen I would feel some hope.  As my friend said, “This better be the best fucking counselor the world has ever seen, or you are just headed into a nightmare.”  I think I’ve already established on a much smaller point that we are not dealing with that type of counselor here.  I’d really like some thoughtful comments on this one.  We’ve got a couple weeks before this meeting is to take place.  I understand that everything I’ve written says stop the madness.  Sadly that’s not always so easy.

Fissures

Posted: September 21, 2013 in Anger, Divorce, Family, Kids, Parenting

One of the first things that I covered in this blog and that comes up in divorce recovery is the subject of relationships.  With children involved in the divorce it is something that is stressed even more and our state had a parenting class we needed to go through that made mention of not bringing anyone into their life for at least several months.  Nan had chosen to avoid this information and the kids were aware of her situation in some cases before we were even divorced.

Now as we sit here nearly three years after it all began, Nan had a situation that showed the wisdom of that guidance.  It was nearing the end of one of her weekends and I received a call.  Listening to the message a bit later, it was Cindy sobbing so uncontrollably that it was difficult to make out what she was saying.  I had my wife listen to the message as well, and she was unclear either, but we knew she was asking us to come pick them up early as there was something going on.  I called Nan, and in the background her daughter is crying, all the kids seem to be yelling and we can barely hear Nan.  Shortly thereafter we were on our way to get Cindy.

Piecing everything together from when Cindy broke down at breakfast in tears again the next morning and then said she wanted to talk she explained how Nan’s fiancé had left after complaining that Nan wanted to spend time with the kids.  Nan had shared some stuff with my wife when we picked up the kids.  I went to wait in the car, as I was not going to get sucked into Nan’s dramatic life.  That part of my experience was done with, and my focus was on the kids.  By the time we left all three had decided to come home and it was obvious whatever had happened was big enough that they were all shaken.

Nan was convinced this was it.  She had said he had done things like this before, but never in front of the kids, and she would have none of it.  I’ve heard Nan pontificate like this before and did not get too excited, as I’ve found that has little value, as Nan usually does not stick to her choices but rather continues to make poor ones.  If what I heard was correct, that he said what he did in front of Cindy (Cindy says Marcia and Greg are not as upset as her because they were asleep when this incident occurred), which just continues along the track for my kids of adults telling them they want nothing to do with them, that the source of this was that he felt Nan was spending time with the kids and he did not want her to, that he resents having to spend any of his money on my three kids for the short time they are there, and that he’s done this type of thing in the past, Nan’s decision to part ways, while tough and certainly difficult, was the right thing to do.  I do not see anything changing in the future, since it has not in nearly three years and the longer he is around the tougher it will be for everyone when he does leave.  Right now their daughter is barely one.  So right now his leaving upsets my three kids.  Later it will upset his daughter as well but by the next afternoon when Cindy called Nan she found out that he was already back, so my expectations were fulfilled in less than 24 hours.

My interest in this lies in the impact on my kids, and that’s where I focus caring what happens.  If this man is truly as he appears, even though I felt this was the case from the start when I met him, I do not gloat in being “right”.  I worry about the emotional impact on my kids as I saw it first hand that Sunday night with a crying child who was totally withdrawn and convinced it was her fault.  It was another divorce all over again.

To recap since it has been a while since I explained the situation, Nan’s fiancé is about fifteen years older than her in his mid-50s.  He was no other children, was married for a brief time before and I was told his wife died.  He was supposedly sterile yet Nan got pregnant less than six months after our divorce was final.  Now that the alimony ended he is struggling with the situation since he’s got to man up and take the “package deal” as my wife says.  He wants the situation to just be Nan, him and their new daughter.  My three kids are a problem.  I felt since Nan basically did not see them for months when the divorce first was going on that he felt over time she might get there again, and his actions seem to indicate exactly that.  Nan shared that he wants her to come down to the docks and sit around and kibitz with his friends.  She reminds him the kids are there, he says bring them, she says they have no fun there with a bunch of adults sitting around drinking and talking.  He gets upset that Nan does not want to hang out with him, and when she suggests he come spend time at the house with them, he’s not interested.  To me the writings on the wall and now that the gravy train has dried up with the alimony that should have ceased a year ago when she was pregnant and we already knew they were living together, the pressure has just ratcheted up and he’s not liking it.  He blew up, they made up.  I do not fantasize at all that this is the end of it.  My kids are taking the shrapnel in the meantime and it is not making me happy.

So now because of Nan’s choices, naiveté or just sheer stupidity, she has no clean way to break from this guy even if she wised up and saw that he just does not want this.  She said herself when we picked up the kids that “It was stupid to think you could turn a fifty something guy who’s basically been single his whole life into a family man”.  She gets it, but just as the Nan I was married to, she never gets it.  She just does what is easy, and what is easy right now is to get back together with him and keep living the fantasy that it will all work itself out.  Our marriage was constantly that way and her pattern appears to be the same and it confuses the kids and gives them a poor example of a healthy relationship.  There is nothing I can do about it except provide them a stable alternative as we do for Bert’s kids as well.

She has a child with this man which ties them together for life in some way, a poor choice to say the least.  They have not been married, and may never get married, which sends a contrary example to what we are trying to instill in the kids in our household.  Instead of making certain that the character of this man was what she should connect with, she made the decision too many make in having a child before she understood who it was she was having it with.  One of my friends said it best.  “She makes the mistakes and poor decisions many people make as teenagers except she makes them as a 40 year old woman and still does not learn from them.”

I understand I’m pulling this together kind of like a voyeur, just knowing the bits I see since I do not have nor do I want to know the details.  I am not going to quiz my kids on what happened, though I know it was pretty serious to make them act the way they did.  I’m going to have to help them sort this out and it will cause confusion in their ability to forge relationships.  Marcia posted on Facebook (which I think was a bad idea in general, but it’s the way of the world these days) and was surprisingly reserved yet gave Nan support by saying Nan will be stronger without him.  Now he’s back and who knows what confusion that will create, but it does not show a good model.

Having a fight is one thing, but when you get involved with a woman who has kids and then express, loudly as I understand it and repeatedly that they are a burden and are not your problem and other things, that should send alarm bells.  To Nan it did for a time, then the fire was out and she’s trying to convince herself that it was all made up and the fire really did not happen even though the burned shell of a house is all around her.  This is what I expected, but for my kids’ sake was hoping would not happen.   For those going down the same path, learn from this mess I’ve written about and avoid putting your kids through it.  I’m hoping this does not escalate or turn uglier, but all I can do is help my kids as I can.  Certainly a few people have pointed out that it is good that they feel our environment with all the blending drama is comfortable enough that in a crisis all of them wanted to come to it.  I get that and it is good, but it does not make the pain for them any less, and when I’m sitting there trying to console a sobbing Cindy at the breakfast table it’s little consolation.

“In the end what will hurt the most is not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” – Martin Luther King Jr.

It’s been no secret to followers of this blog that Bert is a bit of an overachiever when it comes to creating divorce drama.  Over the last month our household has been dealing with one of those moments which would easily have been resolved if Bert and his household would even attempt to communicate normally, but one that was expected given his pattern in the past.  I have waited to begin writing about this situation until it started to clarify itself a bit and now feel we are coming out on the other side and at least have a semblance of understanding of what might really be going on.

The start of this entire episode was that Peter was caught doing something with his younger half-brother over at Bert’s house.  It seems Jan walked in on them and reported the incident to Bert who then proceeded to escalate the situation through his normal tactics of fear and overbearing behavior with his kids until it resulted in involvement of social and law enforcement services because there were false accusations around myself and Greg.   Greg had already been used in a ploy earlier this year when Bert tried to create some additional drama.

During this time our household had been asked to separate so my wife had spent the time she had with her kids for summer vacation at her mom’s while I had my children with me at our house.  In the course of all this, probably due to Bert’s barrage of accusations against about seven or eight other people he suddenly found himself also being asked to not be in his house over night with his children.  Sadly, our initial hope that perhaps this time the authorities would do something about Bert and he inappropriate behaviors and environment in his household seems to be fading away as things have just devolved into confusion and ineptness.

The facts as we know then now, and are dealing with them, is that there was in fact, according to the counselors involved with the kids, some age-appropriate activities that we certainly want to stop, along with situations at Bert’s house that go beyond the age-appropriate level.  The advice of social services was to get most everyone into counselors and this has been done at this point, but what has resulted is that the professionals we were sent to are at complete odds for the most part with social services.  What is more frustrating is that multiple counselors have told us all the same thing:  that social services tend to overreact and make poor recommendations.  So under the advice of several professionals we are proceeding according to the direction of the professionals to move forward rather than to remain stuck in a non-solution proposed by social services. 

I’ll get into some more of the explanation of how confusing this whole process was, in another post.  On this side I want to share some of what I experienced to try to provide help to others who may find themselves caught in a similar nightmare.

There are no statistics I could find about how often blended families find themselves on the receiving end of serious accusations that have no basis in truth.  I was not surprised by this because I’m not sure how you would gather those figures.  In my situation, I was put in contact, via a contact through church, with another man who went through a similar false accusation so I know of at least one, but in our work with divorced people we hear stories all the time of exes making things up for whatever reason.  Just as in this situation, we can usually only speculate about the driver of this being bitterness, revenge, anger or whatever else.  Sadly, too many people place the emphasis on themselves rather than on their children, and the children end up suffering in the process.  In the case with Bert, my wife has tried numerous times to show how he harasses her using the various agencies and creating false investigations, but the system is to messed up to respond.  Perhaps as more of us talk about this challenge faced by divorced people everywhere, changes can be made to the system.

One of the most upsetting things I learned in this process as I consulted an attorney to guide if I should speak with someone or what we might hear, is that since this entire accusation against me was false and therefore there is no evidence and I was informed of that, that is all we will hear.  No one will call me to say an investigation is over.  I was amazed.  The attorney said even with their “access” to the legal system, they would not be told either.  I’m sure some of it has to do with manpower in already understaffed and overworked government agencies.   It is hard enough just doing the work that needs to be done.  Where would they find the time to call and let people know they nothing is going to happen.  Even though it is the nice thing to do. 

At one point in cooperating in this process I was not able to see my wife for over a week and while I was at home with my kids, and they knew most of what was going on since they had to talk to people too, it was still a very isolated existence.  I spoke with friends and family, but it was very disappointing to say that for the most part I feel much as MLK did.  The accusations were bad enough, but the lack of communication or outright unhelpful communication from friends was staggering.  I know Bert has it out for anyone not aligned with him, this was not news to me and certainly did not “hurt” in the common definition of that word.  Even though family and friends knew the accusation was false from the first second, I felt the focus was not on helping me deal with what I was feeling and understanding that, but on placing blame or slinging anger, which frankly was totally unhelpful.  I ended up stopping communication with several people because I would leave the conversation more drained or upset than when I started because I was spending time trying to help them, rather than obtaining the support I had hoped to receive from them at the time.

This is not a foreign situation to anyone who goes through divorce, and I have told my wife and a few others how surprised I was to find myself in the same emotional roller coaster that I had been through during my divorce.  The benefit was that now I know how to handle it, so it was not nearly as long lived, but for a couple days it was easily as intense.  Sitting alone at night, up in my room, with my wife and half my family elsewhere, it was sheer misery.  I had one friend and several church contacts that helped, but otherwise it was really the “silence of my friends” that really smacked on me. 

Through it all it was my faith in God and on leaning on other Christians that allowed me to not lose my composure and ultimately my mind in the last few weeks.  I cannot tell you how many times I dropped to my knees in tears and desparation telling God how I trust him yet not understanding why this trial had come my way.  During this process it was the first time my wife ever heard me tell her, “I know you understand I can take a lot, but even I have my limits, and I’m basicaly there”.  I know that statement must have scared and frightened her because she and her family have regularly commented about that I am her “rock” and maintain control and stability when she is not always able to do that.  Having me in that state certainly must have challenged her.  I certainly learned more than ever before the my “rock” was Jesus and the trust I had in him and his ability to navigate through what I found very uncertain.  Ask yourself the question of “How do I prove I didn’t do something?” and you can understand what I was facing.  Doing something produces evidence.  Not doing something produces nothing.  It certainly did not make sense to me, but I knew God could figure it out and so I leaned on him when my other means of support were lacking.

Looking back had we had the ability to have any conversations that border on normal with Bert and his household none of the last few weeks would have happened and we would have been well into counseling the kids who do need to work through some issues.  Again, for the most part they are lying, covering up and all the things that kids do to avoid getting in trouble.  Instead we have a lot more work for everyone to get through.  More on that next time.