Friday, September 28, 2007


I have always considered myself a moderate/progressive, and tried to keep an open mind about all candidates. Which means that I should examine each candidate's views on the issues, regardless of their political alliance. The recent crop of GOP candidates, all running on the 'Less Taxes/More Fear' platform, has made it quite easy to dismiss them as potential recipients of my vote.

This guy isn't running for President. Too bad, because he would at least be worthy of my consideration.

I don't know anything about any of his other policies, so I can't say for sure that I would vote for him, but I admire his honesty.

Like I said, too bad he's not running for President. Because he ain't gonna be Mayor much longer.


Thursday, September 27, 2007


Wendyno had a tooth pulled. She's on antibiotics, but is otherwise fine. She spent the night a the vets. I'll pick her up later today.

Lt. Trouble thinks it might have just been a a pinched nerve. He's found an inexpensive apartment just off base, and met his troops and his CO, and is thrilled and challenged by the amount of responsibility he has.

His younger brother is suddenly much more aware of the wants and needs of his sister. We'll see how long that lasts.

I'm reassuring my daughter every night that, yes, I will be up to kiss her goodnight. I'm going to do this for a couple of months, and then stop and see if she notices.

Last night for her homework, she had to write about her life. The structure was a comparison thing: "What do people say about/What do I know about" various things, like our neighborhood, our families, et c. The last question was about herself. Under "What do people say about me" she wrote that she's a model citizen, that she's nice to everybody, et c. And that's all true.

Under "What do I know about me" she wrote "I LIKE PIE!"

Love that kid.


Wednesday, September 26, 2007

False Evidence Appearing Real

"You're coming up to kiss us goodnight, right?"

This was my 9-year-old daughter's plaintive query last night. We had just finished snuggling in my bed for a few minutes, and it was now time for bed. It's a routine that we've had, nightly, for more than three years: they get their clothes out for the next day, brush their teeth, and then we snuggle in my big bed for a while, sometimes reading if there's time, but always snuggling and talking. And every night, for more than three years, I send them to their bedroom, then come in and kiss them good night.

And every night for three years, my daughter asks the same question:

"You're coming up to kiss us goodnight, right?"


Sunday nights are in a bit of a flux right now. There is conflict over what we as a family should do when we get home from church (one of the things I like is that the church we go to is run by a group of thirtysomethings who aren't early risers. The service is at five, and there's a meal afterwards). Especially since we ended up watching two of the weekend movies on Saturday night. My daughter wanted to play a game or read. My son wanted to watch Torchwood. Last weekend, we did what he wanted, so I told him that he could watch until his sister got out of the shower, and then we'd turn it off.

When that time came, he threw a fit. He went upstairs to his room and wouldn't take a shower screamed and cried and banged against the wall. Suddenly he was quiet, and a few minutes later he came downstairs.

"I've cracked the wall," he said.


Wendyno, my old cat, has been a finicky eater all her life. If it's not mouse-flavored, she'll take it or leave it. So, I don't really know how long she had gone without really eating. It was Friday night that I noticed she was licking her mouth excessively, 'chomping' her mouth, and generally acting miserable. Is this a dental problem, or something worse? Whatever it is, it's going to require a visit to the vets. I'm four years, nine months, and twenty-five days into a bankruptcy, and I've just spent money I don't really have on my divorce. Vet bills? Imagine strapping weights onto the ankles of a marathon runner three miles from the finish line. That's how I felt.

When the phone rings at 3:41 am, it usually means trouble. This time, it meant Lt. Trouble. He programmed a special song for my cel phone to play when it rings. So when it went off, I knew it was him. His hand was tingling, and he had a headache earlier in the day, so he went to Webmd and decided he was having a stroke.


What do all of these events have in common (other than really preventing me from having a good night's sleep)? They're all reactions based in fear.

Fear-based reactions are an easy habit to get into, and are hard to break. Voice of experience here on this, trust me. The real trick about dealing with fear is that often what makes us afraid is rarely the source of the fear.

When I asked my daughter why, after three years of me kissing them goodnight after snuggling, she was still asking the question, she dissolved into tears. I don't think that was a bad thing.

The fear my two little ones have are similar: He's afraid that I love her more than I love him. She's afraid I don't love her at all.

Lt. Trouble's freak-out, I suspect had nothing to do with his tingly hands. He's 25, a 1st Lieutenant, and on Wednesday he's taking a position traditionally held by a senior Captain, in a west Texas town where he's going to be living for the next two years without his fiance. All that anxiety that he's shoved down below his consciousness needed to bubble up somewhere, and it did it at 3:41 am on a Tuesday morning.

Me on the other hand...well, my fears were a bit more on-target. I don't have a lot of money. What I do have is a fairly extensive support group, and the newfound ability to--gasp--ask for things. Sometimes I ask for what I want. Sometimes I ask for what I need. This weekend, I needed help.

So, at a 12-step meeting on Saturday morning, I talked about my cat, her needs, my situation, and my fears. A woman I don't know--who had just recently started coming to this meeting, caught my eye and mouthed "see me after the meeting." While the next person spoke, there was a meow from outside, and a cat leapt up onto the open windowsill, and jumped into the room and wandered around for a bit.

After the meeting, I spoke to the woman, who gave me information about a program that's just started in my town that offers one-time grants to people in financial trouble who have pets that need medical care.

Through this group, I was able to find a vet, and I've got an appointment with them tomorrow--with any amount up to $300 guaranteed to be paid. I don't know what the diagnosis is going to be (I'm hoping it's just a bad tooth), but at least I won't have to think about having to put her down for something that could be easily treatable.

The woman's name, by the way, is Kitty. I'm not making this up.

Trouble was pretty agitated. His Da had had a series of strokes that, along with renal failure, were the long, drawn-out cause of his death. Trouble didn't want to go that way. I wanted to point out that, among other things, his Da smoked a pack of Camel unfilters per day, and drank four cases of Genny Screamers per week for most of his life, and still, after all that, the strokes didn't start until his late sixties. But I didn't. I listened to his fears, told him it was OK to be afraid, and if he really thought he was having a stroke, he should go to the base infirmary. He conceded that it might, at worst just be a mini-stroke. I suggested that perhaps even that was a bit extreme, and--although the tingling was something to have looked at--perhaps the bigger issue is his anxiety, and to just sit with his fear until it went away. We talked for a half an hour, and I think I convinced him that the best course of treatment would be to get some rest, and see what happens in the morning.

His youngest brother and I had a bit of a talk. There were many tears, and I confessed that his behavior angered and frightened me. Next weekend, we're going to move his bed, and he's going to buy get some tape and joint compound, and repair the cracks.

I let his sister cry in my arms for a good long time last night. Sometimes that's the best thing to do. No talking, just love and understanding. Tonight, after we snuggled, and I started them off to their bedroom, I stopped my daughter. "I'll be up in a minute to kiss you goodnight," I said

I'm only one man. It's hard to deal with two kids who both think that the other one's getting the better end of the deal, but I don't have a choice--or much chance of success. I'll just love them both and let them know that the love that they get will be enough.

And I need to let myself know that I, too, have enough as well.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Big Movie Weekend

Tonight: Big.

Tomorrow night: Big Trouble.

Sunday night: Big Trouble in Little China.

I tried to think of ways to bring Big Night, Big Fish, and The Big Lebowski into the mix, but they just didn't have the flow of these three. Besides, I think they'll have to wait 'ti the kids are a bit older.

Have you seen these films? You should. I'm sure everyone knows about Big--the young boy who wishes he was big, and then turns into Tom Hanks. Hard for me to believe that this movie is twenty years old, and the kid who played Josh--David Moscow-- is now one year older than Hanks was when he made the film. I remember wondering at the time if he would grow up to look like Tom. Did he? You decide:

Big Trouble is a hilarious ensemble flick. Take a look at who's in the cast: Tim Allen, Renee Russo, Stanley Tucci, Tom Sizemore, Janeane Garafalo, Patrick Warburton, Jason Lee, et c. It's based on a hilarious novel by Dave Barry. It's directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, who did, among other things, The Addams Family and Men in Black. Yet it barely blipped at the Box Office. It had the unfortunate luck to be a comedy that involved a bomb on an airplane (among many, many other things) that was scheduled for release in September, 2001. Not good timing.

And Big Trouble in Little China is regularly listed as the favorite film by just about everybody who worked on it. Kurt Russell plays his swaggering hero role for laughs in a great comedy-action film, and I'd watch it just to see Kim Cattrall in cheongsam. Yum.

What are YOU doing this weekend?


Wednesday, September 19, 2007


A tip o' the tricorn to comely wench Heidi fer comin' aboard with the news that it be Talk Like A Pirate Day!

Consider me timbers properly shivered.


Monday, September 17, 2007


The first weekend for visitation is slated for October 5. Already, EW's hinting that she won't be able to have them for the weekend.

She wants to move. After being in her current apartment for about five months, she wants to move. This will be, by my count, her ninth housing change since she moved out. This gives her 18 days to find another apartment and move all her shit.

I'm guessing it won't happen. I'm guessing she'll try and have them for the weekend with her at her current boyfriend's place--her fourth boyfriend since she moved out.

Four boyfriends and nine addresses in three years. A model of stability.

This weekend, she took the kids (along with her boyfriend's son) to a festival. Smugtown is filled with festivals. She lost them there. Luckily, our church had a booth at the festival, and so they were safe. When she called me she yelled at me for not teaching the kids to stay with her at festivals.

Funny--I never have a problem with them.

Like I said earlier, I just moved some fights down the road.


Thursday, September 13, 2007


It's official, as of 11am EDT.

I gave up too much visitation in the agreement. But I knew that going in. I'm confident the kids will vote with their feet. They've already told me that they don't want to spend both winter and spring recess with mom. I'll let them fight that battle on their own. It will mean more coming from them. I've given her a fair amount of rope. What she does with it is her business.

I've got to pay her $90 per month for the next three-and-one-half years. The judge said four, but there's the issue of the $500 she stole from me.

It's over.

Well, the legal part. As my friend Mike says, because we have kids, we'll still be together, more or less, 'til death do us part.


Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Do You Remember?

The sudden realization that something was wrong--very wrong.

Two cars, going different directions, trying to occupy the same space.

The swerve, the pedals, the instant prayer--

And it's over. You emerged unscathed.

Do you remember the time you almost got into an accident? Do you remember how you felt afterwards? Knowing how close you were to real, true, unavoidable tragedy--and yet you're OK?

That's how I feel right now.

After a very painful hour of mediation, STBEW agreed to my terms of divorce.

I get sole custody.

That's the important thing. I get sole custody. She gets every other weekend, we alternate on Thanksgiving, we split Christmas vacations (one gets the time up to Christmas night, the other gets the 26th through the 1st.)

And she gets winter and spring breaks, and a month in the summer.

That's what the agreement says. I think it's a bit more than she can handle. If it is, the kids will certainly let her know this.

I'm kind of counting on it.

It was a difficult meeting. She cried. She swore. She accused me of lying. She threatened. I was calm, and businesslike. It took a lot out of me to be that way, but it was the way I needed to behave.

I said in front of her much of the things I've written about in this blog for the past few years. So, in many ways, I have to thank you. You've been a great support for me, and a wonderful sounding board.

I may or may not write in more detail about the mediation. Right now, I'm just concentrating on breathing, and staying in the moment.

It's hard to believe that by this time tomorrow, I might actually be able to drop the 'STB' from STBEW.


Tuesday, September 11, 2007

My Demands

We have another go at mediation on Wednesday. The last one seemed successful until I read the boilerplate agreement that was drawn up. It had nothing about the criteria that needed to be met for STBEW to get the kids, and it had us discussing joint custody.

I'm not sure why I'm even going to mediation. I've given her my best offer. It's actually more than I think she can deal with at the moment. If I was going for that, it woul be unsupervised daytime visits for her. No overnights. No weekends. No vacation weeks. Because that's truly all she can handle right now.

Here's my offer:

I get sole custody. She gets every other weekend, every other holiday, and one month in the summer with them, provided that she meets the following criteria:

  • She has a place for them to sleep
  • She has food for them to eat
  • I know where they are, or at least can get in touch with them
  • No smoking in the house while they're there
That's it. Fairly reasonable, I think. But more than she can give right now. And we both know it. And it pisses her off. As an addict, she wants what she wants when she wants it, regardless of reason.

So I think I'll go in and give her one last chance to agree to this. If not, well, see you in court. I like my chances much better than I like hers.

I just wish I wasn't so damned worried about the outcome.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

This, That, and The Other

Was the first day of school.

Here they are with their morning cuppa.* And yes, that's a 'G' on the welcome mat. Actually, it's not really a 'welcome' mat, since it says 'Go Away.' We're a friendly bunch.

We made it through the summer. And it was a good one. Lots of camping, lots of playing outside, they got to hang out with some good people, and we swam in one Great Lake, two Finger Lakes, one Adirondack mountain lake, a pond, and a couple of swimming pools. Pretty good, considering where I was at the end of June.

There she goes, loaded with supplies. Hopefully, they'll last.

That's my boy's uniform. He won't wear pants. It has to be twenty degrees and a foot of snow on the ground for him to cover up his calves.

the mediation was acrimonious is a given. That we got anything accomplished is a blessing.

The first part of the meeting was pretty much me stating that I really wasn't going to budge on much and her accusing me of trying to keep the children away from her. Then she went and had a cigarette, and the mediator tried a different tack. Once he started dividing up the days--who gets Christmas, who gets Easter, et c.--she became more willing. The mediator was able to get a framework hammered out. The only problem is she wants both winter and spring breaks, plus a month in the summer. I talked to the kids about this and they don't want that. I told them they will have to change their mother's mind. Also not addressed in this post-cigarette agreement was the stipulation that she have food for them to eat, a place for them to sleep, that I know where they are, and that she doesn't smoke in the house when they're with her. I had mentioned this earlier in the meeting, but I didn't bring it up in the second half. I will bring it up in the followup mediation, which will be sometime next week, since we go to the judge on Thursday.

The Other Thing
is that Lt. Trouble has his last day at his current post on Friday. Which is a very good thing, since his new post is under a different Command. Normally this isn't a big deal, but something happened last week that, according to him is "snowballing, except this particular ball is brown and smells really bad." And even though his base had nothing at all to do with what happened, it's in the same Command, and therefore everybody in the group is going to be under a pretty intense microscope for the next few days.

Which is a very good thing. As a civilian, I'm very glad that the Air Force is paying very close attention to this, and not trying to minimize it, or sweep it under the rug. Accorting to the good El-Tee, the top brass is extremely serious about examining procedures, and not from a CYA standpoint, either.


*Red Rose English Breakfast, with milk and sugar. My friend Nancy has turned them into tea drinkers.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007


There was a message waiting from me when I got back from the Adirondacks. It was from STBEW. I expected to hear her asking me when she could see the kids on Monday. That's not what I heard. I heard a message telling me I was rude for not letting the kids go to my nephew's birthday party on Friday.

I was rude.

Here's what I didn't say to her in response: "I'm sorry, but I didn't get an invitation to the party until Thursday. If you want to get technical about it, I didn't really get an invitation; rather, one of the kids told me one of your sisters (not the one who's throwing the party) told them about the party earlier in the day. And when I heard there was a party, I called them to tell them I couldn't make it. Since they never pick up the phone at their house because it might be someone asking for money, I got their voice mail. And on that voice mail, I left a message expressing regrets that we couldn't come, and an explanation of why we aren't coming, even though we really weren't invited in the first place, and what passes in your family for an invitation came one day before an event that they've known about for twenty years. I'm sorry if you think this course of action is rude."

I didn't tell her that. Instead, I called and left a message asking her what time she planned on getting the kids on Monday.

Monday morning she calls from her boyfriends house, and she says she'll come to get them "around 10:30." I plan my day accordingly, making a lunch date with my friend Mike at noon.

She had called early last week and asked if she could spend a day with them over the long weekend. I explained to her what was happening (which she conveniently forgot about when she called to tell me I was rude), and said that the Monday would be the best day. She said she was going to take the kids to the local amusement/water park. I thought that was a good idea. She then asked me to get tickets for her for the park. Since my office does a lot of trade with the park, we had passes, so it wasn't a big deal, and I got them. She then asked if I could get an extra ticket for one of their friends. So I did. The 'friend' turned out to be the son of her newest boyfriend--a kid they had met exactly one time. She also asked for another ticket for the friend's father. I said no.

At 11:30, she calls me and tells me they're 'about ready to come over.' She doesn't get to the house until noon. She tells me to be ready to pick up the kids at 9 that night. At 9:30, she tells me they're just about ready to have dinner. I don't get them home until 11.

I didn't tell her that picking up and dropping off the kids ninety minutes to two hours late was unacceptable.

At least not yet.

I think I will bring this things up on Thursday, though. That's when we have our mediation hearing. I think what I'm going to do is print out a bunch of my posts--like the one about when she stole from me, and the one where she enlisted my son's help in hiding another theft, among others--and take them with me.

I'm sure she'll bring up some stuff from my past, too. Although the stuff she'll bring up happened during the Clinton Administration. And I'm sure she'll accuse me of trying to hurt her. I'm not trying to hurt her. She may get hurt in the process, yes. But it's not what I'm trying to do.

I'll print the stuff out, and bring it, but I don't know if I'll use it, or even need to. My friend Mike, you may remember, went through all of this 20 years ago. His attitude is that she will make my case for me far better than I ever could.

Ill make sure you hear about the outcome.


Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Weekend

I need money.

That's a given. With all the changes that are happening in my life, the one constant thing that I can say, four years, nine months and one day into my bankruptcy, is that I need money.

This Labor Day Weekend, I was offered a gig at the local stadium. There was a Big Event coming to town, and they needed a crew. I would be in charge of Media Transfer.

Which meant that I would babysit a DVD burning array. It's what I call monkeywork: I push a button, and fifteen minutes later, I push a second button. Repeat 14 or 15 times over the weekend, and walk away with an easy $700. It's the sort of job that Sudoku was invented for.

I turned it down.

Instead, I loaded up a van with batteries, a camera, lights, microphones, tapes, sleeping bags, and my kids, and drove five hours into the Adirondacks, and shot three hours of footage, and two hours of interviews. For which I receive nothing.OK, it was part of my fulltime job, so I'll get my regular salary (which I would have gotten anyway), but will get to take two days off someplace down the road.

Best $700 I ever lost.

One of my clients at work is an organization that runs a summer camp. Back about 47 years ago, this organization bought a lake in the Adirondacks, and opened a camp. They want to have a documentary about the place ready for its 50th anniversary, and they wanted someone to shoot it. So I did. I worked 20 hours, lugging my camera, tripod, and accessories all over the camp, while my kids made friends.

That's what they do, they make friends. We got lost going to the campfire Friday night (hey, I had never been to this place before in my life), and bumped into a family that knew where to go. Before we got to the fire, my daughter had a new best friend. I had to wait until morning to find out who these people were. Luckily, they found us. There was only one guy in camp lugging around a $15,000 camera, so we were easy to pick out.

The whole weekend was like that. I was afraid that all the interviews were going to be these fairly dry reminiscences of the good ol' days--and they were--but there were also two guys who had been friends at camp back in the early 1970's, who hadn't seen each other in thirty years, yet could still finish each other's jokes like no time had passed.

I kept getting asked what I was doing, and when they could see it, and where would it be shown. And I really didn't have a very good answer for them. We were contracted for a 'shoot and hold;' I don't know when it will be finished, or even if I'm the one who will be finishing it.

The work I did this weekend is really just the tip of the iceburg: There's going to be a whole bunch of archival stuff to go through and digitize. Plus hours of transcription, writing, rewriting, editing, voice work, and music to add to it before it's done. But it's a start. And I want to finish it. I hope I get to do that.

I did get a great compliment this weekend: I was asked by the camp director who should he write to request I be the one to work on it. Which surprised me. I didn't know my enthusiasm was showing.

For some time, I have been trying to figure out what it is I want to do with my life. No, that's not true. I know what I want to do, at least in a broad sense: I want to tell stories. I just wasn't sure how to do it.

And then this thing just drops into my lap.

Sometimes it's good to just ask for what you want. You'll never know when you might just get it.

There are some things I need more than money. I got some of that this weekend.