Defending Dads

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Tag: father’s rights (Page 1 of 2)

Bad ‘Shrooms

I aspire to activism. I have a cause, I have drive, I have conviction. What I don’t have are time, money or connections. In fact, I am so mired in digging myself out of post-divorce devastation, I barely have a life. My kids are worth any travails I must endure for their benefit, so I sally forth. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

The struggle to emerge from the ashes of divorce can be all-consuming. I am hamstrung with a mortgage, car note, taxes, child support and related expenses. I am working, but not currently earning enough to catch up. I’m treading water. Of course, none of the entities to which I am obligated is interested in my troubles. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

Every day, I work to reestablish discipline and order in my life in the face of pressing demands, and they are pressing. I get letters and phone calls every day demanding money that I do not have. I half expect to see billboards along the interstate bearing my name, photo and an itemized list of what I owe and to whom. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

With my firm resolve to bear all of this without suffering a total meltdown, one would hope that I could walk into a nationally known big box store and buy myself a pack of sliced mushrooms to enjoy as part of a wholesome, tasty meal that I would prepare for myself.

Not today.

I suffered my daily barrage of slings and arrows without complaint. I answered the phone and told the bill collectors the same thing I’ve told them for weeks and promised to pay as soon as I could. I suffered the daily two-hour odyssey home from work to a house barren of children but full of laundry, dishes and chores. Out on my feet, I chipped away at a to-do list that could be printed on a ream of paper. All of this I managed successfully.

What I could not do was buy a fresh pack of sliced mushrooms from this nationally known big box store because, as of July 18, this store had out for sale a pack of mushrooms with a buy-before date of July 7, 2017!

I am a single father beset with a range of conundrums that run the gamut from financial to technical to emotional and I manage them quite competently. Should I also be expected to check buy-before dates on perishable vegetables at a huge store chain that hires dozens of people who can and should be doing just that? Now, I’m crying out for help! Give me something!

You know, when I was preparing to cook my wholesome, tasty meal, I opened that pack of mushrooms and immediately noticed the slime coating them and the noxious odor that wafted up from the package. It was only then that I noticed the buy-before date. Ordinarily, I would have simply tossed the ‘shrooms and returned my focus to more pressing issues, but I felt compelled to stop: This, I thought, is a flash point. What kind of activist can I ever hope to be if I suffer this utter injustice in silence?

I have the mushrooms with me tonight. I’m going to march right into that big box store in the morning and demand my money back. This is not a cry for help, merely a statement of fact, an acknowledgement of resolution.

Hi, Joss!

I am happy to be posting again. I never wanted to stop, but I had real world problems to address. Meaningful posts require time and thought, particularly when the subject matter is advocacy for alienated parents. I knew that “mailing it in” would not only tarnish my reputation as a fledgling activist, it would also be a disservice to any readers looking for genuine guidance during the worst times of their lives.

The real world problems I mentioned have been relative to the foolishness typical of post-divorce support and custody issues. Imagine that working out when and how I see my children is predicated on petty manipulation at the level of what my children experience with their peers as rites of passage.

I’ve grown accustomed to the utter stupidity. In fact, I’ve grown numb to it. I’ve shifted my focus from trying to reason with those incapable of reason to putting my affairs in order once and for all. As an uncle often reminds me, I cannot take care of my children if I do not first take care of myself.

So why did I pick today to resume posting? My daughter mentioned to me a few days ago that she occasionally checks my blog for new posts. Done.

If memory serves, I last posted around Thanksgiving of 2016. Though circumstances for me as a secondary parent have been far from ideal, the kids and I have managed to make the most of our limited time together. For that, I am most grateful; I’ve heard horror stories. Still, I strive for more time and better opportunities to be active in my kids’ lives. The problem is I am unwilling to do so on terms dictated by bureaucrats who neither understand nor appreciate the strength of my bond with my children. Family courts have proven woefully deficient at serving the best interests of broken families.

I’ve spent my time away from the keyboard adjusting to what divorce literature refers to as “the new normal”. The thing is, I’m not a lock-step kind of dude. I want no part of this new normal. I am self-aware enough to know that this is unlikely to change.

My position is not a product of stubbornness so much as contempt for the growing ease with which our society dismisses violations of basic social contracts. The concept of “personal responsibility” is vanishing with the speed of a falling star on a summer night.

Had I never become a parent, I’m certain this unfortunate development would mean nothing to me. But I DID become a parent and I have no interest in raising children with diminished capacities to appreciate the real value of family as I understand it.

The “system” has temporarily inhibited my ability to be the kind of father I aspire to be. That’s fine, because the father that I aspire to be would never accept that. Rather, I choose to push aside the emotion that had clouded my judgment for months. I have embraced pragmatism and a willingness to do whatever it takes to be a genuine father to my kids.

My love for my children has not changed. My approach to being their father has.

Hi, Joss.  It’s great to be posting again, but better yet that YOU are my inspiration.

The Quest for Cheese

Rebuilding a life at middle-age is an unpleasant chore. This is a fact younger people cannot fathom, my contemporaries know all too well and older people try to forget. One has no choice but to schlep through each day like a lab mouse working its way through a maze to a hunk of cheese it can smell but not yet taste. The key to making it is to hold on to the grain of hope intrinsic to that statement: The mouse can smell the cheese. It works its way through the maze because it knows the cheese is there.

cheese_maze

Some days, I can’t detect a whiff of queso in the air. No swiss, no Muenster, no provolone. Other days, I think I might have a few slices stuffed inside my pillow case.

Cheese is tasty, wonderful and one of life’s great pleasures, but the metaphor grows strained. What I’m after is renewed contentment, specifically, a kind of freedom that can only come from carving out for myself a new career, new routines and new interests. What might the average day of this renewed contentment be like? I got it so cold, I can lay it out in military time:

0400 HRS: Wake up, pull back an 800 thread count sheet and make my way to the bathroom to wash up, slip on gym clothes and head out.

0430 HRS: Spend a good 90 minutes stretching, pumping and running my way to a healthy endorphin rush.

0630 HRS: Whip up a veggie recovery omelette and chow down.

0700 HRS: Blog, pound out prose, do research and promote my work via social media.

1000 HRS: Snack time.

1015 HRS: Back to the keyboard.

1215 HRS: Business calls.

1300 HRS: Lunch.

1330 HRS: Chores.

1530 HRS: Kid time. After school snacks, extracurricular activities, helping with homework and projects.

1900 HRS: Dinner time.

1930 HRS: Kitchen clean up, prep for down-time.

2000 HRS: Down-time. A neighborhood stroll, games with the kids or maybe some TV.

2200 HRS: Lights out.

Just a framework; Google Maps directions to MyNewNormal. It ain’t sexy, but after what I’ve lived through, just a month of days like that would be better for me than a stateroom on a seven-day Caribbean cruise.

I work toward the day when I can make my living doing what I love, taking care of my body and home and greatest of all, being a model of consistency and self-fulfillment to my kids and PRESENT for them. This is dreaming big for me.

Not there yet. Not even close. So begins another day of seemingly random events. As usual, I will exert whatever control I can and, pardon the backpedal, I’ll keep sniffing for that cheese.

The Day Of II

The morning of October 26, I walked into the Northampton County court house without trepidation. The proceeding was scheduled for 10 AM and I stood before the deputies at the metal detector at 9:55 AM.

To my chagrin, some schmuck had gone through the metal detector before me and he had a bin full of God knows what on the conveyor belt. The deputy running the conveyor belt, schmuck II, decided to stop the belt while schmuck I gathered his possessions. As schmuck I seemed to pick his things up in slow motion, schmuck II refused to advance the belt.

I had a wallet, keys and a sheet of paper in my bin.  I could have snatched that up in seconds and been on my way, but nooooooo. Schmuck I and the deputies had to go over schmuck I’s military career. Turns out schmuck I was a medic. So was I, but at 9:57 AM when I was due for a hearing at 10:00 AM, I wasn’t about to chime in with “No kidding? So was I!”

I did my best to disguise my impatience, but I can’t be sure I convinced the deputy running the conveyor belt. Was he holding me up just because he could? When it comes to law enforcement types, this is hardly beyond the realm of possibility. It could have been that I am impatient and paranoid and the deputy was just following protocol. Who knew?

When the deputies had finally worked out schmuck I’s military history, schmuck II flipped the switch on the conveyor belt. At 9:59, I grabbed my stuff from the bin and hot-footed it to the waiting area outside the hearing room.

As a military veteran, I’m familiar with the concept of hurry-up-and-wait. That’s what I did once I got to the waiting area. The remarkable thing was that I still felt calm. I downed a few cups of water, visited the facilities and carried myself like a gentleman.

When I was finally summoned to the hearing room, I spoke when I was spoken to, kept things simple and otherwise endured an exercise in utter futility.

There was a moment that the hearing officer seemed to be gunning for me, but just then, I remembered that court proceedings are as full of game as any routine pre-hook-up negotiation that takes place in nightclubs around the world. When she threw me a curve ball, I simply watched it fall out of the strike zone and waited for the next pitch.

The proceeding lasted about 45 minutes, and at its conclusion, little had changed. I walked in with nothing but an affidavit that the hearing officer didn’t bother to take into the record and walked out with the goals of resuming my life and once again being the father I had been before the divorce.

The divorce has changed my life immeasurably, but it has also given me the freedom to pursue my dreams. I am in the unique position to be living proof to my kids that pursuing their dreams is not only admirable, but essential to living a fulfilling life.

What I’m doing is by no means easy, but it’s well worth it to me and to them.

Prepping for the Big Day

Here we go again.

Read More

100 Posts — A Milestone

A little humor to mark the occasion…

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What happens when you have a bad divorce lawyer…

Major Study Of Child Support Planned – DadsDivorce LIVE

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howigotcustody.org — Check it Out!

Forty-One Years Gone I

No one lives forever. Not even matriarchs. But when matriarchs die, those who had been under their influence are buffeted by shock waves long after the event.

My grandmother Ruby had been perched atop my maternal family tree for some sixty years. She had six children. I am the only child of her eldest daughter, born three years after Ruby’s youngest. Ruby had been my guardian for so much of my childhood that, in the eyes of many of our relatives, I am her seventh child.

Ruby had a strong personality. Her difficult life demanded that. While I understand and respect this, to hone my personality, I needed to escape the umbrella of hers. And I did. I estranged myself from my maternal family for seven years.

I relocated my former wife and children to Pennsylvania during the estrangement. Then, the unthinkable happened: My marriage began to fail. The tension in my home had grown so intense, even months before papers were filed, I was compelled to live elsewhere for a time. My grandmother gave me shelter, no questions asked.

Eventually, I returned to my home. Despite counseling and making every reasonable effort I could to heal my home, nothing improved. In fact, things grew worse. And in the middle of this were the innocent babies I would never have brought into the world under such circumstances. The only family they had ever known was a shambles. Then, the papers were filed. Soon after that, I was evicted from my home…though I was still responsible for the mortgage.

This was the cruelest blow to me because I understood the implications for my children of our sudden, court-imposed separation. I was crushed. I called Ruby. Once again, she gave me shelter, no questions asked.

I stayed with Ruby for over a year as I fought to maintain my connection with the kids, worked, paid down bills and weathered the storm of a needlessly contentious divorce. I could see even through this deluge of issues that Ruby was fading, but I found it difficult to accept. She had been in and out of the hospital several times before eventually succumbing to a variety of ailments last August.

Neither I nor my immediate family were prepared for Ruby’s death. She had been the heart and soul of our family for so long, it was all but impossible to imagine a world without her. Ironically, she had equipped us so well with the tools to handle adversity that we jumped right into that world, strange place that it was.

I moved back to Pennsylvania and focused on establishing myself there not long after Ruby’s passing. I left her apartment vacant and, as I continued to deal with grief, the divorce and sustaining my life, failed to maintain tenancy. I needed to be close to my children. The decision for me was easy.

In seemingly the blink of an eye, a year went by. Ruby’s possessions remained in the apartment. I was the member of her immediate family living closest. No one appointed me to any role. Clearing out her place was something I simply had to do.

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