disasters, divorce, Ex, narcissists, royals

How petty, toxic, narcissists take revenge, and the estrangement that follows…

If there’s one thing I’ve learned from having been married to a man with an apparently very narcissistic ex wife, it’s that narcissists love to take revenge. Many times, over my almost twenty year marriage to Bill, I’ve observed Ex being spiteful to those who dare to cross her in any way. On a few occasions, Ex has tried to take revenge on Bill by using his children and other family members as weapons. She doesn’t seem to care that her attempts to get even are usually not just hurtful to her targets. They also hurt innocent people, like her children. And now that she has grandchildren, I fear that they could also be harmed, unless their parents keep them far away from her, and her toxic influence.

I’m reminded of this truism as I watch and read the news about Meghan Markle and Prince Harry, abruptly flying back to California on a private jet before the Platinum Jubilee even finished. I think it’s safe to say that their return to Britain was not particularly triumphant, as Harry and Meghan were treated like they’re now second class. They weren’t invited to the balcony to wave to the public. They didn’t sit with the Prince Charles or Prince William when they were in church. And the public booed them when they arrived and left the Thanksgiving church service. The couple did get to introduce their daughter, Lilibet, to Her Majesty the Queen, and their son, Archie, also got to be reunited with his British cousins. But there were no photographs of the event, and the “Harkles” were reportedly not given close access to their family members. It’s been hypothesized that they weren’t allowed to get close because of their deal with Netflix and Harry’s upcoming memoirs. The family wasn’t wanting any private moments to be exposed on Netflix or in Harry’s expected book of woe.

After the chilly reception the “Harkles” got in Britain, the family didn’t bother to stick around for the grand finale of the Platinum Jubilee. Maybe they had other urgent business to attend to back in California, but my guess is that they were really pissed. Or… maybe only Meghan was pissed, and Harry simply went along with her to keep the peace. That was how it often was with Bill and his ex wife. He’d do what she wanted to avoid the pain of what she’d do to get revenge. On the other hand, I suspect that Harry has a bit of a temper and can be a little spiteful, himself. I obviously don’t know him personally, but I’ve read the news, and I pay attention to body language, too. It probably wasn’t a hard sell to get Harry on board, if Meghan was the one who instigated the abrupt departure from the festivities.

Jesus Enrique Rosas talks about the potential reasons why Meghan and Harry might have decided to curtail their brief return to Britain.

Consider the circumstances of this situation, though. The Platinum Jubilee was a huge party to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II’s remarkable 70 year reign. It wasn’t supposed to be a party to welcome back Prince Harry and Duchess Meghan. All of the working royals, to include Prince Charles and Prince William, their spouses, and the Queen herself, were going to be extremely busy. Also consider that the Brits can be delightfully snarky, and they have long memories. Did Harry and Meghan really think they could come back to Britain and not suffer some backlash? Of course people are upset with them, even if there is some truth to some of what they’ve said about the British Royal Family. To many people, Harry and Meghan are incredibly privileged people, and their behavior has come off as unbelievably petty and damaging. But– since I don’t know them personally, I will admit that it’s possible that Harry and Meghan felt the situation was toxic, and left only for that reason. I really doubt that’s what happened, though.

The Royal Grift’s video showing Peter Phillip’s chilly reaction to Meghan is referenced in Rosas’ video; I happened to see this two minute video yesterday, before I watched The Body Language Guy’s video today.

Narcissistic types don’t like it when people behave in ways they don’t expect, especially when they “push back” against the narcissist’s rude and entitled behavior. I suspect that the Harkles’ return to Britain was very humiliating, and it didn’t go off in the way they thought it would. And sadly, I think Meghan and Harry are going to try to make the rest of the British Royal Family “pay” for this treatment, which I think was probably deeply shaming to them. Why? Because I’ve seen the same shit in more ordinary circumstances with average, everyday people. And I know that narcissists, by and large, have a playbook that is uncannily familiar. It doesn’t matter if we’re discussing a royal family or trailer trash. Narcissists are capable of being unbelievably petty and spiteful.

Many years ago, when Bill and I were newly married, and Bill was trying to handle his business with Ex more assertively, he sent a “stern” and rather lengthy email to his ex wife. He was addressing the fact that she was alienating the children, insulting me, and being extremely greedy about money. She had demanded that he get another $500K life insurance policy, because she felt entitled to $1 million in coverage, in case he died before the children were grown. I wrote about that incident here, to include the actual emails that were sent. Bill was polite to Ex, but he made it clear that he wasn’t going to be her patsy anymore.

Ex was angry that Bill wasn’t going along with her demands without question. She sent a very brief and foreboding response, which I’ve posted below:

I would like to take a little while to absorb all that you have said.  It would seem my email to you was set in a very different tone that what I perceive is coming from you.  After all that you have done to the children, and me I find this …quite frankly …unbelievable and would prefer not to comment without having time to carefully choose my words.  You will hear from me again.

Bear in mind, this email was sent in 2003, just after the children had their one and ONLY unsupervised visitation with us. Bill saw them only once more when they were still children; that was at Christmas, in 2004. I famously opted out of attending that “celebration”, because I knew it would be a disaster, and I couldn’t see how my presence would make things better. We knew better than to tell Ex that I wouldn’t be attending the gathering, because my attendance was most of her whole purpose for setting up what amounted to a supervised visitation. She wanted to send me a message about my (diminished) place in the family, gather intel about me (the somewhat new and threatening wife), and still look like she was being generous by “sharing” the children. Most of all, she wanted to humiliate both of us, and shame us into doing what she wanted us to do. Of course, Bill had every right to see his kids, and now regrets not taking Ex to court and forcing her to allow visitation. But, unfortunately, that’s now water under the bridge.

As I figured it would be, that Christmas meeting was indeed a disaster. My conspicuous absence made things “weird” and awkward, and Ex ended up looking like a petty fool. Bill’s dad and stepmother were very embarrassed, although everyone basically fixed the blame on me for upsetting the apple cart. Ex decided to get revenge by completely severing Bill’s connection to his daughters and ex stepson. It didn’t matter to Ex at all that this would be very hurtful and damaging to her children. She just wanted to hurt Bill, and the children were the most effective weapons for that task.

A few years later, Ex wanted Bill to side with her, when ex stepson decided to leave home after turning 18. Bill was paying him child support directly, per the agreement he made with Ex in their divorce decree. As usual, Ex hadn’t thought ahead, and didn’t realize that having the kids paid directly when they became adults would give them the chance to rid themselves of her. So she called Bill in the spring of 2006 to ask– or really demand– that he not pay ex stepson any child support. Bill refused, and demanded to know about how his daughters were doing, since they refused to speak to him when he called.

Ex’s response was to send a nasty email that, once again, insulted me, even though I initially had nothing to do with ex stepson’s decision to leave home. Bill told me what she wrote, because although she had asked him to keep what she wrote about me a secret, Bill doesn’t keep secrets from his wife. I got very pissed off, and sent Ex an email of my own, which she promptly tried to weaponize. She spoke to Bill on the phone again, insulted me anew, told Bill that the kids hated him, and later sent him adoption paperwork, so that her loser third husband could legally adopt Bill’s daughters. She also forced her daughters to write letters disowning Bill, and sent several itemized packages of Bill’s possessions that she’d held on to for years. All of this landed on our doorstep, restricted delivery, as Bill and I were celebrating his 42nd birthday. It was very upsetting and TOXIC as fuck, but we handled it as best we could. Bill refused to sign the adoption papers, although he was tempted to for a minute. But there was no guarantee she would file them, and besides, he had no way of knowing if the girls had written those letters under duress (and younger daughter now confirms that they were, indeed, forced).

When her sick, manipulative tactics still didn’t work the way she’d expected, Ex doubled down even more, which led to ex stepson severing ties with Bill after we caught him changing his surname without telling Bill, as he was also accepting $850 a month in child support from him, and driving a used car that Bill gave him (as a 21 year old MAN, no less). That fiasco was, no doubt, very humiliating for ex stepson, who probably only did it because his mother influenced him to do it. Unfortunately, he hasn’t had a role model who has taught him that a little humility and contrition can go a long way in healing rifts. Instead of humbling himself, having an honest converstion, and apologizing to Bill, thus “mending fences”, he simply cut off all ties. The end result is that ex stepson is now quite estranged– not just from Bill, but also from the rest of his family. Younger daughter says he rarely has contact with Ex, or his siblings. He never liked #3, so it stands to reason that they wouldn’t speak. I don’t know if the estrangement makes him happy and gives him peace. Maybe, it does. Personally, I think it’s pathetic, especially since I know he once thought of Bill as his dad; but if being completely estranged from Bill pleases him, so be it.

When I look at Harry and Meghan, and the obvious estrangement happening within the British Royal Family, I can’t help but feel pings of familiarity. They may be a lot more famous than we are, but the petty dysfunctional narcissism playbook is very similar to what we’ve experienced. Sadly, in Her Majesty’s case, it’s all on display on an international stage, for everyone to see, and for everyone to speculate.

This is a pretty cheesy video that sounds narrated by AI, but it makes some sense. It sounds like her friends could see this coming.

I have great respect for Queen Elizabeth II. She has not had an easy time of it. She wasn’t even supposed to be the queen, and she had that duty thrust upon her at a very young age. She’s had to endure as her children and grandchildren and their spouses and exes have been embroiled in all sorts of embarrassing situations. Through all of the scandals over the years, the queen has managed to hold her head high with dignity. She’s a good sport, even appearing with Paddington Bear for the Platinum Jubilee. And even at age 96, when she’s no doubt easily tired, she still shows up for her people.

This is just adorable and makes me weepy every time I watch it… and I think I’ve already seen it a half dozen times. I used to own a Paddington Bear from the 1970s, complete with genuine Wellies. I wish I knew where he was.

I noticed that today, a new picture of Lilibet has been shared with the public. It’s a solitary photo, showing a smiling little girl with ginger hair and what appears to be blue eyes. She’s definitely adorable, and the public will eat up the coveted rare photo. I suspect that the Harkles’ children could wind up being their ticket to relevance, since it appears that neither the Royal Family, nor the British public, are going to stand for their manipulative bullshit. I suspect Meghan had visions of being like Harry’s mum, the iconic Princess Diana. Well, she’s no Diana… and it’s obvious that almost no one is going to indulge that fantasy for her.

Actions have consequences, and you don’t just marry into a hugely famous and powerful family, such as Harry’s, and think you can call the shots. That idea doesn’t always work for “normal” families, either. Especially when people have had enough bullshit and refuse to be indulgent anymore. Moreover, this behavior is clearly nothing new. Meghan’s own brother even tried to warn Prince Harry before the wedding.

I hope that Harry will eventually be able to reconcile with his family. Sadly, I suspect that if he does decide to go “home” again, he will probably have to sacrifice access to his children, on some level… and if it doesn’t happen soon, he may also lose his Granny. She’s 96, and no one lives forever. On the other hand, if anyone has access to good legal counsel, it’s the British Royal Family. So maybe Harry’s situation won’t be anything like Bill’s was. I sure hope not.

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divorce, Ex, lessons learned, mental health, psychology, YouTube

“Kicking the cat…” What happens when anger is displaced…

Many years ago, when I was a college student at what is now Longwood University, I took a course called Interpersonal Communication. I took it because I was pursuing minors in both speech and communications, and the course counted for both minors. I don’t remember being particularly excited about the class when I signed up for it, but it turned out to be an interesting field of study. I remember it to be an examination of how people communicate in different settings, and while it was not a psychology class, certain psychological terms and concepts were covered. In fact, even though I took Psychology 101 during my freshman year, I distinctly remember learning about the concept of psychological projection for the first time in my Interpersonal Communication course. It was also in that class that I first learned about “displaced anger”.

Although Dr. Nancy Anderson Haga, the professor who taught that class, has long since retired, I remember that she was among the very first professors I met at Longwood when I was a fresh high school graduate attending orientation. I was struck by how energetic, caring, and positive she was. Then a couple of years later, when I was about 20 years old, I was in her class, and she was teaching us about how we communicate with each other. I didn’t know then that one of her lessons would come back to me in bold relief, two weeks before my 50th birthday.

Last night, Bill watched a video his younger daughter sent to him. She was thanking him for a box of goodies he sent to her, with stuff we picked up on recent trips to France and Italy, as well as some very superior German chocolate. In the course of the video, younger daughter talked about how much she loves to cook. Bill also loves to cook. So do I… or, at least I did before Bill took over the job. I used to be a great cook, and always enjoyed it because it was a creative activity. There’s an art to making something taste good, look appetizing, and be nurturing. Actually, I’m not that good at making “pretty food”, but I am pretty good at making food that is comforting. Bill is also good at that, and he’s also a fan of good presentation. He’s been known to plate our dinners with flair.

Younger daughter talked about how one of her in-laws really loves fresh bread, and he likes to have it at every meal. She likes to bake, so she was thinking she might like to make some bread to take over to her husband’s family’s house. I like to bake bread too, especially when I’m in a bad mood and need to pound the shit out of something. Bread baking is great for that.

As she was talking about baking rolls from scratch, younger daughter stated that she wasn’t always sure if people appreciated her efforts. Then her face got very serious and pained, and she said, “The only person who has ever complained about my cooking is my mother.”

One time, she asked Bill if her mother (Ex) had ever complained about his cooking. Bill had replied, “Of course. All the time!” As he was telling me about talking to his daughter about this, he laughed. But I can imagine that when Ex criticized his cooking, it probably really hurt his feelings. Here he had taken the time and expended the effort to make something nourishing for his ex wife, and her only thought was to disdain it in a mean way. Younger daughter then related a story that, frankly, I found heartbreaking. I could also see that telling us the story was making her feel bad anew, even though the incident had happened years ago.

Younger daughter and her older sister were tasked to cook for the whole family. If they didn’t cook, food wouldn’t be made, and someone would probably get into trouble. She explained that Ex and #3 were going through a particularly lean financial period. Consequently, there was very little food in the house. And yet, it was younger daughter’s implied duty to make dinner every night. There she was, faced with the task of making dinner for seven people, but there simply wasn’t much food in the house to accomplish that goal.

Younger daughter looked around to see what there was on hand to make dinner. She found frozen pie crust, instant mashed potatoes, some frozen vegetables, and a single chicken breast. Perfect! She could make a shepherd’s pie, of sorts. That would have been what both Bill and I would have done in that situation. It was quite genius, and she was able to make something edible and probably even tasty.

Younger daughter put together the pie, and was feeling pretty good and accomplished. Then Ex came home from wherever she’d been during the day. Younger daughter proudly presented the pie she had created out of the few ingredients in the house. Ex’s response was to declare it disgusting, refuse to eat, and lock herself in her bedroom for the rest of the evening.

I could tell that relating that story was very painful for younger daughter. But then she brightened and said she was grateful for where she is now. Ex no longer has the power over her that she once had. Like Bill, younger daughter was able to escape the FOG (fear, obligation, guilt). But the scars remain, and I know how that feels. Sometimes, old memories still come up that bring on the pain from the past.

Of course, Bill was pretty angry when he heard that story. I don’t know exactly when the incident happened, but it sounds like it might have occurred when Ex was still being paid child support. I believe younger daughter got the hell out of her mother’s house as soon as she could after turning 18. Either way, it was Ex’s responsibility to see that there was food in the house, and to make sure her children had enough to eat. Complicating matters was the fact that she wouldn’t allow Bill to help his daughters. She was too angry with him for that. We didn’t know this was going on, because they couldn’t and wouldn’t talk to Bill during that time. If Bill had known about this, he would have taken action. In retrospect, we should have taken action when she refused to let him communicate with his kids, but it seemed like it would have been a waste of time, since they were teenagers.

And that’s where the lesson about “displaced anger” comes into play. I remember learning about the concept in that college class at Longwood, and that’s why I titled this post “kicking the cat”. Displaced anger– otherwise known as “misplaced anger”– is when a person deals with their anger by directing it at a less threatening cause. It can take different forms. For instance, a person who was raised in an abusive home, with a parent who beat them, might try to soothe themselves by saying that it was okay that their parent hit them, since “that was how things were back in the day”. Or they might say, “he or she was just trying to make me tougher.” Meanwhile, the righteous anger is boiling under the surface, and it comes out against someone or something that is less able to fight back.

I remember in my Interpersonal Communication class, as she was explaining “displaced anger”, Dr. Haga talked about a man who comes home from work, angry with his boss for acting like a jerk. Instead of addressing the jerk boss, since that doesn’t feel like a safe thing to do, the man kicks his cat. Or he gets drunk and verbally abusive, and beats on his wife. Or he snaps at his daughter that the dinner she made looks and tastes like shit. Or maybe, if he’s a really sick and violent person, he takes the family dog out to the desert and shoots it (sadly, I do remember hearing and writing about a man who did this when he was angry with his wife).

It doesn’t matter that expressing anger in this way is harmful to innocent people or animals. The anger feels like it has to come out, and it doesn’t feel possible for the man to direct it toward the appropriate person, so the man directs it at individuals who seem weaker and less threatening. I grew up in a home where I often got abused by angry people– especially my dad and one of my sisters. They would often take their anger out on me, because I was the youngest and, at least for a long time, the weakest. Usually, the anger doesn’t really dissipate, though, especially when there are consequences for expressing anger in such a way. I will also admit that I have expressed anger inappropriately by directing it toward the wrong source. I now try to do better, as much as I’m able. Therapy is a good thing.

Last week, I wrote a post about how I’ve gotten hooked on Code Blue Cam, a YouTube channel devoted to police work. In a lot of the videos, the perpetrators who get busted are clearly mentally ill or under the influence of something. A lot of times, they are also very angry and agitated. I watched a video this morning that featured a man who was extremely belligerent and defiant. The police were trying to be kind and helpful, but this man was consumed with rage. He was extremely abusive toward the police, as well as the civilians who were involved in the altercation which caused the police to be summoned in the first place.

This video begins with a drunk woman who gets hauled off to jail, but it ends with the belligerent man, whose tone goes from extremely rude and defiant, to desperate and pleading.

I found the above video kind of hard to watch… but it was also kind of fascinating, because before the guy was put in handcuffs, he was a complete asshole. I sat there wondering what in the world had happened to him that had caused him to seethe with so much rage. But then, when he was finally arrested and placed in handcuffs, his tone became pathetic. He openly said on more than one occasion that he hoped the police would just shoot him. This is a miserable person with deep problems and a lot of unprocessed anger, which was coming out inappropriately. It wasn’t that different than Ex being nasty to younger daughter for making something she didn’t want to eat for dinner.

Another video, this time involving young men who were in deep trouble and expressing negativity in a destructive way. One of the young men openly expresses disappointment in himself and how his life has turned out… and says he wishes the cops would kill him. He obviously needs help.

Maybe the teens in the above video were trying to be manipulative. I think the guy in the first video was very manipulative, and if these two young guys in the above video don’t get some real help, they will wind up like him and either spend a lot of time in prison or get themselves killed. But I could hear real anguish in their voices. Bad things happened to them that led them to where they are now, and unfortunately, they weren’t able to find the kind of help they needed to avoid ending up on the wrong side of the law.

I have no doubt in my mind that Ex has experienced some really terrible things in her life. I know that she suffered horrific abuse when she was growing up. I’m pretty certain that she’s an extremely angry person, and that anger stems from the people in her life who failed her when she was a child. I think she’s also angry with Bill. He probably had her thinking he could heal her and solve her problems. Bill is a very kind, nurturing, loving and gentle person. I know this for a fact, because I’m his second wife. He doesn’t have a mean or violent bone in his body. However, like most people, he does have a red line, and if you cross it, he’ll be done with you. I think Ex thought she would never reach that red line, because he is such a kind and patient man. But she did reach it, and he decided he was done. So, when she presented divorce papers to him in a very dramatic and manipulative drama held over Easter at Bill’s dad’s house, she never expected that he would agree that their marriage was over and offer to sign the papers. He went off script.

Ex was expecting Bill to say, “No, we won’t have any of that…” and try even harder to please her. That was what he’d done in the past. But, after almost ten years, he was just done. He had gotten away from her toxic influence while they were separated, and realized that there’s life beyond divorce. He found out that he didn’t have to live the way he’d been living. He knew he wouldn’t be alone, and that being broke was temporary. So he called her bluff, and fucked up her vision of what was supposed to happen. She had to adjust, and I think wound up with someone who was even less suitable for her. But she’s smart enough not to threaten divorce with #3, because it’s doubtful she’d find a #4. Or, at least she won’t be able to hook someone by having kids with them.

But she was still left with two tangible remnants from their marriage– their two daughters. So she decided to keep the girls away from Bill, as a means of punishing him for “abandoning” her. At the same time, she treated them particularly badly, because they probably remind her of Bill. As younger daughter got older, she started to develop the same kind of self-preservation skills that Bill has. She started to go off script, and she rebelled. Ex responded by being inappropriately angry. She “kicked the cat”– in this case, younger daughter– instead of finding a healthier and more appropriate outlet for her rage. Instead of being grateful that younger daughter had managed to cobble together dinner with very few ingredients, which were ultimately Ex’s responsibility to provide, Ex was angry and mean. And now, I think she’s paying a price, since it’s obvious that younger daughter is now alienated from her mom.

Younger daughter ended her video call on a happy note. She said she was so grateful to the other people in her life who are kind and considerate. She even said she was grateful to me, of all people. That made me feel really good. For years, I was angry with her and her sister, because I know their dad, and I know he was “kicked” by Ex for years. Now I have empathy for them, because I know they’ve felt the pain from Ex’s proverbial shoe, too. They have been on the receiving end of her misplaced anger. Thankfully for younger daughter, she’s managed to develop the skills to get out of the strike zone. Unfortunately, I’m afraid the people who have chosen to stay around Ex are paying for the independence of those who have left. I can only hope that someday, older daughter will get out of the strike zone, too.

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Bill, divorce, Ex, LDS

Lessons never taught– or, how to camp like a champ.

Morning, y’all. I hope all of you had a nice weekend. I know not everyone celebrates Easter, but if you did celebrate “resurrection day”, I hope it was a pleasant experience. Bill and I had a nice quiet day at home. I did some writing, of course, and afterwards, picked up my guitar and played “The Old Rugged Cross” with surprising ease. I was inspired by Rhonda Vincent’s beautiful live version, which is easily found on YouTube at this writing. Although I don’t play the song perfectly, I do play it reasonably well, especially for someone who has learned everything from Fender Play at this point. I might be a fairly decent player by now if I had an in-person guitar teacher. Maybe someday, I’ll get around to investing in one. For now, though, I am really glad I used the pandemic as an excuse to expand my musician skills/cred. I hope to eventually get good enough that someone besides Bill will want to hear me play.

After I played my guitar, I tried and failed to finish my custom made puzzle by Collage.com. My mother-in-law gave me a puzzle by them for Christmas. She found a photo I took in Slovenia and had it made into a one-of-a-kind jigsaw puzzle. I was so impressed by it that I ordered another one of a photo I took in Croatia. Unfortunately, I was not finished with the Slovenia puzzle when I made that decision, and didn’t realize that the quality of the puzzle wasn’t quite 100 percent. So, the Slovenia puzzle had five pieces that didn’t fit properly. I must have made a mistake, but obviously, there were pieces in the puzzle that were very close and fit convincingly. I had an even worse problem with the Croatia puzzle. Now, it could turn out that I put the puzzle together again someday, and somehow get the puzzle right. But I won’t possibly be doing that for some time, since I have several to do that I haven’t done yet.

Bill cooked baby back pork ribs on the grill that were delicious. We enjoyed some adult beverages and listened to music. We did some talking about current events, some of which have been pretty sad and dramatic, if you read yesterday’s post. Bill and I both feel kind of cut off from our families, and yet we do talk a lot about how completely dysfunctional some of our experiences have been. In fact, last night, we were talking about a post the actor Wil Wheaton shared by a Facebook page called The Holistic Psychologist, that we both could relate to with ease. Bill probably related more than I did.

Wil Wheaton, as many people know, has said that his parents were abusive to him. He describes them as “emotionally immature”. I’m sure Wil Wheaton’s observations are perfectly accurate from his perspective. I liked the link he shared, and commented that maybe it would be even more useful for younger daughter. There were many examples of “emotionally immature” parents included, and descriptions of how a child who was raised by such a parent might respond by their behaviors as an adult. Wheaton also shared another link by The Holistic Psychologist that might also be useful to anyone who has grown up with parents who never quite matured properly– at least in the emotional sense.

This morning, Bill got a video message from his daughter. She looked pretty, wearing pearls… like maybe she had come from church. She was talking about things she did on Easter and for her kids on Easter. Younger daughter is about seven months pregnant right now, so she’s pretty tired. She yawned a lot as she talked about her celebration, which somehow segued into talking about her experiences as an older teen.

Younger daughter says she doesn’t like to camp. She doesn’t find it appealing to pack up stuff, go out to the country, unpack, and sleep in a tent. As someone who worked for two summers at a Presbyterian church camp, I can understand why camping might not be so appealing. I lived in a platform tent for both summers, as I was the cook, and didn’t have camp programs to lead. It was rustic living for sure, although there were aspects of that experience that I really loved. For one thing, the camp where I worked was in an absolutely stunning area of Virginia. I would love to own property in that place– it was so tiny, unspoiled, and just pristine… We had so much fun there! Some of the fun included staff training, which included a short campout/canoeing experience– one or two nights in a tent, if I recall correctly. The first summer, we canoed on the Shenandoah River. The second summer, we canoed on the Potomac. I remember at another time, outside of our camp sessions, some of us got together and canoed down the Rappahannock River, but that was just a day trip.

I do remember learning how to pitch tents, cook food over a fire, and enjoy nature. But, to be honest, as fun as those experiences were– and as amazing as it was to be PAID to do that– I can admit that camping isn’t for everyone. It’s not always comfortable to sleep under the stars, even though it’s something that people ought to try. Yesterday, I even read about 8th grade kids in Alaska who camp out as part of their science class. It’s a learning project, yes, but it’s also taught because Alaskan kids, more than other American kids, may really have an actual need to use survival skills. But even though I think youngsters should learn outdoor skills, I know that not everyone wants to camp.

Younger daughter says that she went camping as part of her LDS church indoctrination. I wasn’t surprised to hear that. I know, for instance, that part of the LDS church experience for young people includes going to camp. From what I’ve read, those experiences are very “churchy” and religious, and they include a lot of emotional bonding around a campfire, testimony bearing, singing church songs, and discussing passages from the Book of Mormon. I don’t know how skilled the people leading younger daughter’s camping experiences were, but from what I’ve read on RfM, the people who lead the camp experiences in the LDS church aren’t necessarily super well-schooled on camping outdoors. In fact, from what some ex members have said, the camp experience is more about creating meaningful church experiences, in remote places where outside influences are few, than teaching youngsters the joys of camping.

Likewise, I’ve heard and read that a lot of the Boy Scout troops affiliated with the LDS church are not led by people who are very skilled outdoors. I know that wouldn’t apply to every church affiliated Scout troop, but apparently, it did apply to more than a couple. A lot of former members have shared horror stories about their times camping with the LDS church. Of course, since the Scouts are now letting girls in, I think the church is less invested in encouraging boys to be Boy Scouts.

Anyway, younger daughter says that her experiences at LDS Girls Camp led her to realize that she doesn’t enjoy camping. If her experiences were like what I’ve read on RfM, I can understand why camping doesn’t appeal. But what’s really sad is that her perfectly good father, who was not allowed any access to his daughters when they were growing up, knows a whole lot about camping and how to make it enjoyable. Bill is a retired Soldier, and he’s spent a lot of time in the field. He could have taught his daughters how to camp effectively. Maybe, if they had been allowed to go camping with Bill, those girls would have ended up loving camping. Or maybe younger daughter might not have liked camping, even if Bill had taught her how to do it properly and used good equipment. One of younger daughter’s complaints, for instance, was that she had to sleep in a leaky tent and didn’t get any rest. I’m not surprised, as people on RfM have written that the tents used at the camps were basically Army surplus variety– circa the Vietnam era. But she would have had a bonding experience that she might not have forgotten. I had a couple of camping experiences with my dad (in a pop top VW van, rather than a tent)… but then, my dad wasn’t as good of a father as Bill is.

I don’t know if Bill would have taken his girls camping if he’d been allowed to raise them. But there would have been the opportunity to camp. Maybe, if they came back after girls’ camp complaining about being outdoors, Bill could have showed them a better way. He was denied that opportunity, though, because his ex wife is a selfish person who is more interested in punishing people than doing the right thing by her children. And so, Bill and younger daughter have a lot of years to make up for. I’m glad they are, at least, getting that time now. As we’ve learned recently, tomorrow is never guaranteed for anyone. Ex meant for Bill to NEVER see or speak to his children again, all because– over Easter in 2000– Bill didn’t grovel enough. Bill didn’t succumb to her demands that he humiliate himself to an LDS bishop and confess to hating women… which he certainly doesn’t, and never did. Worst of all, in her mind, was that instead of refusing to divorce his abusive ex wife, who used his parents’ home to, once again, emotionally abuse and humiliate Bill, Bill decided to accept Ex’s proposal to split up. She very clearly did not expect Bill to say “yes” when she proposed a divorce; it injured her deeply that he agreed. She had expected him to fight for her, and the fact that he didn’t want to fight anymore deeply disappointed her. She was so aggrieved that she decided to try to destroy Bill’s relationship with his own children.

Now, we’re seeing the result of that decision, and Bill’s choice not to insist on having contact with his kids. In retrospect, he probably should have involved the court system and law enforcement. Or, better yet, he never should have gotten involved with her in the first place. Hindsight is 20/20, I know.

It’s hard for me to understand how a parent can be so hateful, selfish, and misguided that they would deny their children’s access to another loving parent. I mean, yes, if a parent is severely abusive and harmful, it makes sense to limit contact. Bill is not an abusive person. He’s a very kind and loving person, who simply couldn’t tolerate his ex wife’s abuse anymore. Now that younger daughter is an adult, we’re finding out that he was not the only one who could no longer take her shit. It sounds like she simply reached saturation. I relate to that. I am pretty saturated by abusive people, too. I can’t tolerate them like I used to.

As I was listening to younger daughter, living in Utah, and not long from adding her third child to her family, I felt sad that after her parents’ divorce, she never had a chance to go camping with Bill… or eat at a fancy restaurant… or visit a museum. And now, thanks to the way our lives have gone, she may never have that chance. On the other hand, at least they can exchange videos and talk on Skype. And now that the world has reopened, maybe Bill will go back to Las Vegas for TDY and take another side trip to Utah, to see his daughter and her family. Ex had wanted to deny Bill that. Thank God they’re no longer giving her that power to divide and drive wedges.

Every time I think I’ve evolved beyond the mess that is Ex, and the massive damage she’s wrought, I see evidence of more damage that was done. But again, I am grateful that she wasn’t able to permanently destroy Bill’s relationship with his younger child. There remains hope that maybe someday, the older one will wise up and reach out. Even if she doesn’t, though, Bill never thought he’d have what he has with younger daughter. So we can be grateful for that… and the fact that thanks to what happened on Easter 2000, Bill can still enjoy life.

However, I doubt he’ll convince me to go camping. 😉

Standard
divorce, Ex, narcissists, religion

Repost: Old emails…

In today’s fresh post, I mentioned a post I wrote in 2013 that appeared on my original blog. It was called “Ripple eff-Ex”. I indicated that I might repost that entry today, but now having read it, I don’t think it would add anything new to this blog. So, instead, here’s a post from August 2013… I think it offers more information about the type of person we’re dealing with. I warn you that this is really long and kind of fucked up… I completely understand anyone who doesn’t want to wade through this shit. But I also know I have a few readers who might find this an interesting read.

I found a bunch of old emails from Bill’s ex wife today…  Since I’m in a mood, I think I’ll post them for shits and giggles…

This first one was written after the kids’ one and only visitation with us.  It was sent on August 18, 2003, almost exactly ten years ago… before the shit really hit the fan in a big way.  Notice that she insults me by implying that I’m going to manipulate my husband into not taking care of his kids.  She also demands more money in the form of life insurance.  Bill had about $750,000 in insurance for ex and the kids.  She had wanted $1 million, but USAA would not insure Bill for that much.  So she’s basically saying that she wanted him to replace the then $250,000 SGLI policy if he decided to make me the beneficiary.  And she also wanted him to give her the original $1 million in coverage she wanted…  We did the math and determined that had Bill suddenly died back in 2003, ex would have missed out on about $300,000 in child support– and that’s if he had paid until each kid was 22, which he ultimately didn’t.  If he had died young, she would have stood to get quite the windfall.  We ended up making me the beneficiary of the SGLI policy, while ex had $500,000 in coverage until each kid came of age.  Now, I am the sole beneficiary of the insurance. 

Hi Bill,

Just a quick note about a few things, it is practically impossible to talk privately on the phone and I imagine you have the same situation at your end as well.  = )

1 – I have not asked for you to help with the kids’ medical bills for some time, as I have been able to manage them.  The girls have not been ill to speak of and [ex stepson’s] prescriptions and visits to the Dr., albeit numerous, are not exorbitant, though I have spent a few hundred dollars on his medical bills just recently due to office visits more often and changing prescriptions frequently.  He is now seeing a dermatologist and I have not yet received a bill; if it is outrageous and I cannot afford to pay it all, I will let you know, but I do not anticipate it being so.  I generally pay only about $50 per visit for [ex stepson] to the Doctor plus his prescriptions that run me about $25 a month. However, the girls both need new glasses.  I picked up [older daughter’s] this week and [younger daughter’s] will be ready next week. Could you help me pay for them?  They are a couple hundred dollars each; [older daughter’s] were $211 to be exact. This was the cost after insurance coverage that I purchased because Tri-West does not cover eye exams.  [Younger daughter] will not be getting her second stage of braces quite yet, so we have a reprieve for a little while.  Please drop me a line and let me know.

2 – I know we forgot to do the bank paperwork and ID for [younger ex daughter] and [ex stepson] while we were there. I am sorry.  Please let me know what information you need in order to get the paperwork at your end so I can provide it to you.  I will then take them to the nearest military installation or (hopefully) reserve unit here to get them processed.  If you will sign your portion and send the paperwork for the bank, I will be happy to sign it for you and submit it to USAA thereby removing me from your bank accounts. (Note– this was over two years after their divorce!!!)

3 – Now that you are married, I realize you may need to adjust your life insurance policy needs to account for added responsibility.  Please keep in mind our agreements and consider having separate policies for knotty and us as it would make life a lot simpler for knotty and myself should anything happen to you.  If you wish to change the SGLI to show knotty as beneficiary, I would understand, as long as you have a separate policy, as agreed, with me as the executor on behalf of the children and for the appropriate amount, including what would have been covered by SGLI.  I recall that you originally only took out a policy for half the amount we agreed upon for the children only, as that was all that you could manage at the time.  I received information from USAA recently that their policy rates have dropped dramatically and hope that you will consider checking into it before they increase again.  Additionally, I wish you would extend the life of the policy from 15 years to 30.  It would be nice to have something for the kids …when we are gone.  I have similar arrangements myself because they deserve it and because I know how it feels to have no one at all to depend upon for help.  I’ll soon have “trust” accounts for each of them through USAA so that I will have a place to put money for them, for college, etc., both from the money you send me and from myself, until they are of an appropriate age to manage it for themselves.  I understand, from what the children and Papa and Mimi have said, that knotty is quite adamant about how things should be most of the time.  For this reason I am glad we made the provisions in our paperwork that we did; it will keep you from having to battle your wife over providing for your family.  I am truly glad for this and hope that the children are never a bone of contention in your relationship; I want you to be happy, always.  If you wish, we could set up the policy so that I could make the payments myself and you could slightly adjust the allotment I receive accordingly to cover that amount.  I am not sure how USAA would set it up logistically, but I am certain that they would allow me to be the responsible party for the policy though you were the insured party and let me do some sort of auto withdraw from my account for the premiums.  Please let me know your thoughts on how best we should proceed and how best to insure the children’s long-term future is stable.

Lastly, I am truly sorry we did not get a chance to talk while we were there but it was a wild and crazy trip, just no down time.  So much I wish I could say but…I won’t.  I do want you to know the kids are doing well.

Younger daughter told me your dog was injured; I hope she is all right (C.C., our blue eyed beagle mix got very sick with a mycobacterial infection after their visit. Sadly, he died a few months later.).  I know they have told you about the guy at my office who looks just like you.  They are driving him nuts, pointing and giggling, poor thing!!  It is highly amusing, I must admit, although it was a bit unsettling for me to be introduced to you from 15 years ago, mannerisms, looks, demeanor, he’s even a writer …although he has pursued it diligently and has been published where your path took you to the Pentagon instead …it is all a bit bizarre!!  The kids are all doing well in school so far.  The girls are in new schools this year, older ex daughter in Middle School and younger ex daughter in a school closer to home and where some of her church friends attend.  I became aware of some negative influences at her old school that I was afraid for her to have to deal with since older ex daughter was leaving for Middle School.  Ex stepson will be starting Aikido lessons in about a week and I am hoping the girls will attend as well.  They are tired of dance classes and can take gymnastics and swim through the YMCA membership I bought them; this would be a great extra curricular activity for them.   Ex stepson is buckling down and studying …at last …because he has decided he wants to try to get into BYU and is requesting transfers into several honors classes to try and improve the looks of his transcript and boost his GPA.  If he loses the $100 calculator I bought him he’s dead meat!! ::laughs:J.  He had a wonderful experience on his kayaking trip and was quite impressed by the BYU campus; he seems quite serious.

Thank you for calling them this weekend, they are always glad to get to talk to you and catch you up on what is happening in their world.  Please reply when you have a chance.  If email is the only way you and I can talk, then …email it should be.

I hope and pray that you are well …and happy,
As ever, Ex = )

Bill sent his ex an assertive response to this email, which pissed her off.  

Ex,
Good Morning.  There is a lot to cover here and I’m afraid I’m quite busy today.  I have a meeting with “now” BG Durbin, who was LTC Rossi’s XO back so many years ago in Germany.  We certainly live in a small world.  Let me know ASAP what you need for the girls glasses.  We are going to Dad’s next weekend, so I have to plan finances.  Also, I’ll send out the paperwork for USAA this week for you to sign and drop in the mail.

The kids look great!  I was very happy to see them, although our time together was limited.  They told me they liked Virginia, and would like to visit again.  Ex stepson also said he was interested in a career in acting, and was even looking at schools here in Virginia.  As it happens, the son of one of the contractors I work closely with is an actor, has done commercials and has a cable TV show in NY.  He  recommended JMU and I forwarded that information to ex stepson. 

Recently, I looked at the life insurance situation, and my responsibility to cover knotty as well as the rest of the family.  Currently, the children (with you as the executor) are covered by a combination of $750K of life insurance.  Should anything happen to me, that would cover their support payments almost three times over, maxed out till age 22.  Concurrently, I’m maxed out with USAA (500K maximum on AC soldiers), although they will review my file for a rate reduction this December.

I honestly feel since the dynamics have changed all around that we should reevaluate this situation.  I think that right now, the 500K I have with USAA will sufficiently cover the children.  You are remarried, and have a good job.  I don’t know if your husband is working now, but that is a second source of income as well.  Given this, I want to make my wife the beneficiary of my SGLI.  I have a responsibility to cover her as well. 

I know full well we have a legal agreement, and I’ve done my best to adhere to all of the tenets within that document.  You’ve always gotten support on time, without any complaint from me.  I’ve always been ready to help with medical bills whenever you should ask for that help.  Please recall that I helped with younger daughter’s braces while in Kansas, paying child support, alimony, and a mortgage.  I think we’ve seen a lot of give and take with that agreement–we’ve both done things above what was agreed, and failed to adhere to some things as well.  I’d like to think of it as a “living document” amongst the two of us.  I’d prefer to avoid having it formally reevaluated. 

Vacation is an additional matter.  I’d like to see them more often, and I’d like to bring them to Virginia, or be the one who brings them to see their grandparents.  I’m prepared to put them on a plane either up here, or with Dad’s permission, down there for the holidays.  I don’t think any threat of terrorism is a viable excuse to avoid this.  They have traveled on aircraft before.  Last year was the safest year for air travel in this country.  Let me know your thoughts.  I’m sure we can come to an agreement here.  

knotty is just clear with her thoughts and feelings.  I don’t have to play any guessing games.  We are a partnership.  She has never attempted to persuade me to neglect the children, in fact, she’s always on me to call them, Dad and my stepmom, and Mom.  I think the kids benefited from meeting her.  It helped to dispel the “evil stepmother” motif that seems to run through children’s minds.  Papa and Mimi have met her twice personally, although they have talked with her on the phone several times.  I’m hoping they will have a chance to form a deeper relationship as the years go by (sadly, that never happened). 

You should understand Ex that I know my responsibilities.  I don’t think that is in dispute here.  I understand (as do you) that I have to care for the children.  But I also have a responsibility to care for my wife, and together, we have a right to start our own family.  You have done the same with your new daughter, through your husband.  This will sound cold, but if I died tomorrow I’d have no faith that the kids would get $250K a piece.  I’d know instead that they’d be “cared” for, in the general sense of the word.  Any financial obligations benefiting you personally are ended on my part.  This may be hard to swallow, but it’s how I feel.  I perceive that you are in better financial shape with career and husband than you were four years ago. 

I think the idea of trust funds for the kids is a good one…one that I was going to recommend but you beat me to it. 

Bottom line, I want the same opportunity.  The opportunity to see the kids more, on different soil, and the opportunity to provide for a second family that I have started.

Think about it and write me again.  But let’s take care of the glasses issue right away.  I’ll also see about extending my coverage out to 30 years.  If ex stepson wants it, I’ve got a 2MB Handspring Visor PDA that I’ll send him.  It’s more than what he’ll need for school/work/personal use, and runs on Palm software.

Bill

This was her response.

I would like to take a little while to absorb all that you have said.  It would seem my email to you was set in a very different tone that what I perceive is coming from you.  After all that you have done to the children, and me I find this …quite frankly …unbelievable and would prefer not to comment without having time to carefully choose my words.  You will hear from me again.

Bill wrote this.

Certainly, 

But I recommend you take a moment and read both emails in entirety. I didn’t have a problem with what you said until I read it again more carefully. You are reminding me of my obligations to the children and to our agreement. I don’t need this reminder. I’ve been faithful as best I can be, and I’ll continue  to be faithful to them long after they leave home and are free to chose to visit me anytime and anywhere. I believe they know I love them, and wouldn’t want to hurt them in any way. They are still under the impression, by the way, that I just up and decided one day to leave them, and that I’m consequently lost to them forever. What a cruel uncertainty for them to have to face, and it places the burden all on me.  I think you know I’m not a deadbeat dad.  You get (on their behalf) 30% of my salary.  You get all of the tax breaks as well, including the big one this year!  I’ve always been there to help with unexpected bills whenever you’ve asked.  I’ve put up with your reluctance to let me visit our kids on my own terms, and to see my parents visited by my ex-wife, with our kids, while I am unable to.  Also, I’d like to heal the rift between the kids the their other grandmother.  Granted, a lot of it is self-inflicted on her part, but I think they have a right to settle any problems they have with her before it’s too late.  Recall as well that I covered your move to Arizona for almost a year.  What I paid into the house (equity that neither of us realized) could have covered braces for the entire family, or nearly all the 15K of their inheritance from your father that you intended to recoup by selling the house yourself.  

Later, in your letter, you insult my wife. You insinuate that she’s manipulating me into breaking obligations with you. You also allude to observations that my parents and my kids have made about her. Dangerous, and potentially embarrassing if I were to ask my mom and dad what if anything, they’ve said about knotty. Let’s leave her out of this. She came into the picture well after our marriage ended. In fact, our marriage was over long before I even met knotty. She never lived in our house nor came to visit while we were still married, she didn’t break the two of us up, and she certainly hasn’t influenced me to be anything but a stronger father, and a better son. If the children should think she’s a bad influence, then I’ll work through it with them personally. They have a right to meet with her and make their own assessment of her character. I expect my parents will be honest with me concerning their feelings as well.

Interestingly enough however, if she were to meet you, she’d probably thank you. 

All I want to do is work with you where our children are concerned. I don’t want to fight with you at all over any of this. It was my sincere hope that we could work together as two more stable, and stronger adults, but you reacted to my letter with a lot of scrutiny and anger. You are immediately on the defensive, when you shouldn’t be. I am asking for equity, that’s all. After all you call all of the shots here.

You leave me with the impression that I should do whatever you say out of guilt, and that if I don’t, I’m a deadbeat. That it’s all about money, and that I don’t care about my children. Sure, I plan to have something for them in the future. I’m not going to forget them. When I’m gone, there won’t be fights over inheritance, no ugly situations similar to what you had to go through with your father. I just don’t want to be ordered to be generous to my own children.  I will no longer be manipulated by you or anyone else. You act as if I have no right to life and happiness, as if that is an adequate penance for whatever sins I’ve committed in my past.  That my wife and potential family should do without, and have no say in our finances, when there is plenty to go around– especially since you’ve covered them as well against your own life. That’s good to know.

These are my feelings, and I have a right to them. I have a right to be angry, to be hurt, and to be frustrated. 

Regardless, I still want to work with you. Again, let me know what you need for glasses and I’ll have a check in the mail either next day or same day. 

Let all of me go, Ex.  Accept that things happen for a reason and move on.  Father (he’s referring to Heavenly Father– Ex claimed that when she went to the temple, HF said she wouldn’t be alone) told you you wouldn’t be left alone, didn’t He?  When our children have left, you’ll still have a husband and child unique to the both of you. 

Bill

Several years later, the shit really hit the fan when ex stepson decided he wanted to move out of his mother’s house and go to Chicago.  I think it was because he didn’t want to go on a mission.  But Ex called us all upset and tried to strong arm Bill into getting him to stay in her home.  He refused.  The first two sentences of the email are about getting ex stepson’s bank info so Bill could pay him directly.  Apparently, Ex had been on ex stepson’s bank account and was helping herself to the money Bill was paying him.  Of course, Bill shouldn’t have had to pay for ex stepson, since he has a real dad.  But real dad wasn’t making the same money as Bill, so there you go.

Ex,

Thanks.  I can make the change online and parse it from the rest.  I’ll do that either today or tomorrow.

I didn’t sleep well last night after your call.  I imagine you’ve had more sleepless nights than usual lately yourself.  I will talk with ex stepson again, and reinforce my feelings with him.  I’ve told him before, he has several options…he doesn’t have to go through with this plan to move to Chicago.  I sense there is quite a bit of tension in your household at this point, and this facilitates his want to leave. 

For what it’s worth, I asked him earlier last week if he’d spoken to you of his plans.  When he hesitated, I reminded him that he’d regret any “midnight moves”, and that regardless of any differing points of view the two of you might have, you are still his mother, always will be, and deserve respect accordingly.

Ex, you and I are not on good terms.  Our relationship is tenuous at the very best.  However, when I’ve had contact with our children, I’ve always supported you as their mother.  I don’t feel that you can say the same of me. 

I’ve gone over our conversation in my head these past few hours.  You alleged that I didn’t care, that I wasn’t interested, and that I encouraged ex stepson to blow his money.  I’ve done nothing of the sort.  I reminded him that it was his, because I wanted him to establish a separate account that wouldn’t involve yours in any way.  But I recommended he save his money and put it toward college, or a house, or a future marriage.

In five years, younger stepdaughter will be 18.  Sooner than that for older stepdaughter.  If you perceive that there will be problems similar to what ex stepson is encountering now, and you want my help, then we have to make some changes.  Ex stepson and I have remained close enough that I believe he will listen to me.  After our discussion last night, I’m not so sure about the girls.

Consider this.  Over the past six years, they’ve never called me, even though I’ve given them more than one phone number.  Since I remarried, I haven’t received a Father’s Day card/call, Birthday card/call or a call on Christmas.  I’ve never failed to send them a card or a gift or call them on special days.  That’s my job as a Father, but if I’m not to be treated as such, at least they should have the courtesy to thank me for a card or gift with another card, or even an email. 

This is partly your responsibility as a parent in direct contact with them.  If they aren’t going to treat me as their father, then they should at least learn the courtesy to say “thanks” as if I were a friend.  I’m not telling you to force their hand, but I will tell you this:  If our children have given their stepfather one Father’s Day card, or Birthday card, or Christmas gift and either of you not asked them to consider the same for me (even if they refuse…it’s all about asking), then both of you are passively alienating them from me.

The fiasco that was Christmas 2004 is a perfect example of actively alienating me.  I wanted to take the kids to the movies.  Very quickly your husband turned an opportunity for me to spend time with our children into a “supervised” event. On another occasion, younger stepdaughter called her stepfather “dad” within earshot of both him and me and he said nothing.  With exception of your summer trip to DC three years ago, the only way of spending time with them has either been in Arizona, or Tennessee.  Again, all of these amount to “supervised” visits where either you or my parents are nearby.  Your telling the girls that they should never “separate” around me only adds more relevance to the argument.  The fact that you won’t send them on a plane to see me, for danger of terrorism, but allowed ex stepson to fly to NY drives the point home quite loudly.

Please try to be objective and see things from my foxhole.  I’m not here to start a fight with you, I’m just being honest.  We don’t have to be friends, but if you consider me their father, then at least give me a little respect, and encourage them to do the same. 

Also understand my skepticism.  You say ex stepson has all but dropped out of school?  School ends for him in a month.  Why haven’t you asked for my help sooner?  If ex stepson is having trouble, what about the girls?  You never speak to me of such things.  Equally, I’m guilty of never asking you.  But I can only help when I know the whole story, and early on. 

I am not the same man you used to know.  Our children are missing out on what I can offer them, and even on what knotty and her family can offer them.  There’s 350 years of Virginia history in her family.  She’s a classically trained vocalist, writer, and former Peace Corps volunteer who served in post Cold-War Eastern Europe.  We’ve got two beagles that love kids and plenty of room in a secure location.  They really enjoyed their time here three years ago, although very brief.  They seemed to bond with both of us.  I don’t know why all of a sudden, they won’t talk with me.  Only you can tell me. 

I really didn’t want this to turn into a rant.  I have as much responsibility for the way things have turned out as you do.  I’m only advising you to consider that I’m virtually ineffective as a father/mentor to the girls.  If that’s never been your objective, then tell me now that I’m wrong, because every indication is that I’m not.  I won’t be able to help you at all with them in the future if you consider me a threat.

I have to get back to work.  Please read this carefully and thoughtfully if you intend to respond in anger.  I’ve written this as detached and objective as I can.  I just want you to understand that for all intents and purposes, I feel that over the years you haven’t thought of me as a capable parent, (in fact the word “unworthy” has been used more than once).  I wanted you to see the impact of that impression…it severely limits your freedom of maneuver.

Regardless, I’ll do what I can for ex stepson.  And I would very much like to be a better part of the girls lives.  After all, I could be gone tomorrow.  I know for a fact that you’ve been angry with your father in the past.  But I also know you love him and miss him.  I ask you to consider our children’s feelings accordingly.

Regards,

Bill 

The above email caused Ex to really go on the warpath.  She sent Bill an email that basically said the kids hated me and didn’t want to have anything to do with me.  She also asked Bill not to tell me any of this stuff, in order to “spare my feelings”.  Bill immediately shared the email with me, which got me really pissed.  So I wrote to Ex and ripped her a new asshole, then let her know that the kids could feel however they wanted to about me, but they shouldn’t throw away their father.  I also let her know that I have seen her emails, know how she feels about me, and didn’t appreciate her asking my husband to keep secrets from me.  There was no point to doing that because he doesn’t hide things from me; he has no need to, because I don’t go ballistic when he’s honest with me. 

A couple of months after that, Bill’s daughters disowned him…  So Bill wrote a letter to them.

Dear older daughter,

I’m saddened to read that you don’t want me to be your dad anymore.  I will not sign anything that would allow your stepdad to adopt either you or your sister because I don’t feel that it is the right thing to do.  I told this to your mother several weeks before you wrote to me.  It’s a shame that she would lead you on this way.  You must think that I don’t care about you or your sister.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

You write that you want an “everyday” daddy, not a “once in a while daddy”.  I agree with you, but “everyday” daddies do more than help with homework, chores, and spend time with their kids.  They also have responsibilities to others outside their homes—they work to provide and protect their families, and see to their futures.  I am still your “everyday” daddy even though you don’t see me.  When you and I were together, I spent time with you, helped you with schoolwork, dressed, cooked for, and cleaned after you.  When you went to bed at night in Arkansas, I went to work to make sure our family would have food and a place to live.  When I returned every morning, I took you to school and I was there to pick you up most days.

You and I have a connection that your stepdad will never have.  As my daughter, you are a part of me.  We share similar characteristics of both mind and body and this will never change.  I was there at the moment of your birth.  I named you and was the first of us to hold you in my arms.  For the first few months of your life I checked on you every night.  I stayed up with you when you couldn’t sleep or were sick, and took you to the hospital more than once when you needed a doctor.  This all true, and even though you were too young to remember, it did happen and I remember it.  

I’ve never stopped being your daddy, nor was it ever my intention to do so.  I returned to the Army because I knew I could provide more for all of us, not because I wanted to leave you and your mother.  I asked your mother to come with me to Kansas, and she refused, telling me that I’d make a better father to another family.  Despite this, I had to go and leave you and your siblings in Arkansas.  In the beginning, I thought you might join me, but this didn’t happen.  Since then, I’ve provided for your food and clothing, housing and healthcare every month without fail.  As I said before, this is what daddies do.  You must understand that if your stepdad adopts you he will have to do the same since it will no longer be my responsibility.  You will probably see less of him than you already do.

Over the past six years I’ve tried to have a relationship with you.  You’re smart enough to know that I can’t be there with you very often.  My duty to the Army won’t allow me to leave at a moments notice, although I would have liked to be with you on your birthday or at other special times.  Instead, I’ve called at various times to speak with you.  I’ve tried to discover your likes and dislikes so that I could give you meaningful gifts at Christmas and your birthday.  Mostly, my conversations with you have been “one-way”.  You are old enough now to write, call, or email me anytime you want.  You and I share responsibility for our relationship, despite what others may tell you.  You will be considered an adult in three short years, and this is how adults behave.

There are aspects to adoption that no one has shared with you.  Adoption is not a matter of simply changing your name.  If you think it is consider this:  when you marry you will change your last name anyway.  If your stepdad adopted you, I would no longer legally be your father.  Your birth certificate would be changed to reflect your stepdad as your natural father, and it would be as if your last name was always his.  Legally, my parents would no longer be your grandparents.  Your stepdad would have to provide for your future as you would not be my heir anymore.  Adoption is serious, but even so it wouldn’t change the fact that I’m your father and always will be.  

You write that I will feel better if I allow you to be adopted.  That’s a lie and if anyone led you to believe otherwise they are lying to you.  Your mother may have said that this was my idea and I did make a remark to that fact in an email to her, but I was angry after reading that you didn’t want to see me.  Have you ever said or written anything that you didn’t mean?  I have and I wrote your mother later to tell her that I wouldn’t consent to your adoption.  I won’t change my mind.

Older daughter, I can’t control you, nor would I ever want to.  If you still feel the same way about me in three years when you are 18, then you are free to let stepdad adopt you.  It will be your decision as an adult.  You should consider however that your sister will still legally be my daughter, since she is three years younger than you.  Regardless of your decision, I will still consider you my daughter and that will not change.

Despite what you write, your letter is filled with anger.  This is a good thing.  If you didn’t care about our relationship at all I don’t believe you would have written as much as you did.  I told you that I would always listen to you, and would never leave my door to you, even if you were angry with me.  This hasn’t changed.  I would still like to talk with you.  There is still time to work through your anger with me.  Only then will we truly feel better.  Call me and I will talk with you, write or email me and I will answer you back.  If you want to see me, then I will arrange a meeting with you.

Daughter, I am your father and your daddy.  I am not Bill to you, nor will I ever be.  I love you very much, and I will not sign you away to stepdad.  Someday you will understand.

Love,
Daddy

Of course, there was no response.  After younger daughter turned 18, they apparently changed their names and/or got adopted.  I wish to God Bill had never laid eyes on his ex wife.  This is why Bill felt compelled to trash those photos (referring to a post I wrote about how he had thrown out old photos that caused pain).  The above letter was written in 2006.

On the original post, Alexis left me a comment asking a bunch of questions. I answered them in a separate post, which I have reposted here.

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divorce, mental health, Reality TV, YouTube

Once again, a Dr. Phil episode leads me astray…

The featured photo is a screen grab from the first Dr. Phil episode Bart was featured on.

Last week, I wrote a post about an episode of Dr. Phil that I happened to catch on YouTube. I was kind of blown away by the family whose drama was presented, especially afterwards, when I went looking for more information about their story. It turned out that as crazy as that family’s story was, circa 2013, it has been even crazier since then. Probably against my better judgment, I connected the dots and wrote about them.

Well… today, I’m going to do the same thing, because I haven’t yet learned my lesson. I may regret it, but I figure if the people involved don’t want people to react to their story, they might try harder to fly under the radar. Because friends, it wasn’t hard to find more chapters to this particular hair raising Dr. Phil episode from 2014. It seems to me like this dude WANTS to be noticed. He has a very troubling pattern with the women in his life.

This guy has a talent for attracting personal drama. I wonder if some of it is deliberate.

A few days ago, I was randomly watching YouTube, and this episode of Dr. Phil came on. It was a shocking story about a man named Bart who was catfished THREE times by the same woman. The story goes that Bart had divorced his ex wife and had two small kids. He was lonely, so he tried online dating. He “met” a young woman named Megan who was a very pretty blonde and had a job as a nurse in California. Bart traded messages with the young woman for some time, and it seemed like she might be “the one” for him. But just as they were about to meet in person, the young woman suddenly got very sick with cancer and died. Supposedly, Megan’s brother knew that Bart was so in love with his sister that he sent some of her ashes to him.

Bart was “devastated”. He had a friend named Ali who helped him get over his loss. Ali told Bart that Megan would want him to find another love. Before long, he met another beautiful young woman; this time, she pursued him. The new woman was a brunette named Alison who supposedly worked undercover for the Drug Enforcement Agency. I would immediately be suspicious of Alison’s story. What kind of undercover agent tells someone online that they’re an undercover agent? That doesn’t make any sense. Did he really believe her story? I guess it could be plausible if one doesn’t know anything about cops. But then Bart says he noticed a discrepancy in the photos “Alison” had sent him after he reverse Googled them.

Sure enough, just as they were about to meet offline, Alison ended up in a very weird and improbable situation that prevented it. And sure enough, she also “died”… but then it turned out she had “faked” her death. Bart was “devastated” anew, and Ali comforted him. Then he supposedly realized that Ali’s name was actually Jeannie. And then he found out that Jeannie had ripped off Facebook photos of people she’d gone to high school with and completely fabricated stories about them. Jeannie apologized profusely when she was confronted by Dr. Phil. The women whose photos were used in her ruse were also on the show. They both said they felt violated by what happened. I could hardly blame them for that. I found out someone used one of my pictures on Facebook and turned it into a fake profile. I reported it four times, only to be told by Facebook there was nothing they could do about it. And yet, they can “punish” me for something I posted in 2017.

On the surface, Bart seems like a victim of a very cruel hoax perpetrated by a mixed up, lonely woman. I wondered what kind of person ends up in such a situation, so I went looking for more information about Bart. His story was completely outrageous to me. I wanted to see if he was doing better today. A lot of times, people who have been on Dr. Phil’s show are easy to Google.

Much to my shock, I found out more about Bart with ease. It turns out Bart is an entertainer, and his two kids are magicians who were on America’s Got Talent back in 2016. They made it to the semi-finals. They also appear in shows around the country. I found a negative review of a show the kids did in Destin, Florida, where the reviewer complained that Bart basically got up and recited his children’s show biz resumes. They are cute kids, and are no doubt talented. However, pairing this with Bart’s appearances on Dr. Phil’s talk show (he was on a second time, too– I haven’t see the later show, but I think it’s also about being catfished), I’m left with a puzzling picture.

But that’s not the craziest of it. Last year, the kids were featured in a Daily Mail article about how they sued a Missouri judge for false imprisonment. It seems that in 2019, they refused to go to their mother’s home for visitation. The kids, now teenagers, allege that they were jailed in cockroach infested jail cells and kept in solitary confinement for two days without due process. They allege the judge, Missouri Circuit Judge Eric Eighmy, was directly responsible for their confinement. According to the article:

[Eighmy] personally took them down to his courthouse cells and had a jailer lock them up with no shoes – or due process – for an hour after their first refusal to live with their mother in October 2019.

The complaint claims the judge also had no legal authority when he ordered local sheriffs to arrest the children in November 2020.

Bart and his ex wife divorced in 2009. After the split, both parents and the children moved to California, where the kids pursued showbiz/magician careers. When the ex wife began a relationship with another man, she decided to move to Arizona, but agreed that the kids should stay in California to develop their careers. But then in 2013, the mother decided that she wanted full custody. She filed in California, and then apparently filed again in Missouri in 2018.

The Missouri case was assigned to Judge Eric Eighmy, who had a previous involvement with Bart’s family. Before he was a judge, Eighmy had represented Bart’s mother in her divorce. According to the court papers, Bart was estranged from his mother, Linda Luttenbacher, and sided with his father in their divorce case. The Daily Mail reports:

Bart’s mother and Eighmy ‘had a falling out over his alleged negligence in defending her in a traffic ticket case,’ but ‘did not recuse himself [from the teens’ custody case] over the prior representation issues related to Mrs. Luttenbacher.’

Likewise, the kids apparently were, and perhaps still are, at odds with their mother for interfering in their careers “by ‘causing the cancellation of a South American tour, and refusing to let the kids leave her custody for auditions, even as the children wanted to continue their careers'”. But, the two parents supposedly reached an agreement in October 2019, which granted the mother physical and legal custody of the kids, but allowed them to go to California for the first ten days of each month during the school year, the first fifteen days of summer months, and all month for TV pilot season (January through April). As a side note, this agreement doesn’t really seem much like much of a change in custody to me. Sounds like Dad has the kids about half the time.

After the Missouri court proceeding, the kids refused to go home with their mom, so Judge Eighmy proceeded to “lecture” them about the “evils of Hollywood”. The kids then evidently argued with the judge and even told him that his actions were illegal. Maybe this happened, but it sure sounds like the kids are pretty audacious. I can’t imagine talking back to a judge and I haven’t been a kid in a long time!

So according to their federal lawsuit, filed on their behalf by their dad, Bart, they spent an hour, barefoot, in separate holding cells. Then, rightfully terrified after that experience, the kids went to a hotel room with their mother, who apparently was by then living in Utah and had come to Missouri for the court proceeding.

In August 2020, the kids had another run in with the judge. The kids were living at a family farm with their dad in Louisiana, sheltering from the COVID-19 pandemic. Apparently, the kids were mourning the death of their grandmother. According to the Daily Mail:

Judge Eighmy issued a ‘writ of bodily attachment’, allowing police to seize the children from their father after ruling that they had not been spending their court-ordered time with [their mom].

Cops showed up at the farm and the kids were arrested. A viral video of Bart’s children shows that the kids were handcuffed. Both children were taken in police SUVs to the parish sheriff’s department, where their mother awaited them. Once again, the kids refused to go with their mother, so they were taken to a juvenile detention center in Louisiana an hour from the sheriff’s office. At the juvenile detention center, they were strip searched, then awakened from sleep without being fed, and subjected to mental evaluations. They were then held in solitary confinement for two days. When they were eventually released to their father’s custody, Bart wrote on Facebook:

“My “babies” are FREE and SAFE!!!! I am not allowed to post any court details at this time because of a gag order but I can tell you they are free and safe!!! (and very very very happy and hungry right now!!!! ),” Bart said in his caption l with a photo snapped at the detention center. “Thank you, thank you, thank you for all the prayers and support!!!! We can never say thanks enough. I have tears in my eyes trying to type this. It appears this lengthy nightmare may just be over.”

Judge Eighmy was taken off the case, and all of his orders were vacated. However, the damage was done. The kids now have nightmares and don’t trust the police. Both children suffered injuries to their wrists after having been handcuffed. Bart’s comments to the Daily Mail were:

‘It’s absolutely unbelievable. As a father it’s very difficult to stand by and watch your kids that you love go through something so traumatic,’

‘As you can imagine it has greatly impacted their lives. It would impact any adult, let alone children.

I can only imagine how horrifying it is. For a minor that would have to be 10-fold. They’ve never been in trouble with the law. They’re honor students. [Son] is on track to graduate a year early. They’re hard-working.

‘It’s been my intention for it to be peaceful. That’s always been my goal. This whole thing has gotten extremely out of hand.’

Now… this story about the magician kids is shocking enough on its own. But remember, I found out about their story because I had seen Bart on Dr. Phil, on an episode about how he was catfished three times by the same woman. In that video, he was depicted as a victim. Now, in the wake of this custody drama, he and his kids are being depicted as victims of the court system and the mother of the children. I don’t know a thing about the mom, but I do know something about parental alienation. Something about this case kind of stinks of it. Consider too, that Bart was estranged from his own mom, just as his children evidently are from their mom. The kids evidently told the Louisiana cops that they are “afraid” of their mother. Sounds a lot like Bill’s kids years ago. They were “afraid” of Bill, who is one of the kindest and gentlest people I have ever met. Now, his younger daughter is talking to him again and telling him the truth about the years when they were estranged. She’s not afraid of Bill anymore, but I don’t think her relationship with her mom is so good anymore.

As I was digesting all of this stuff a couple of days ago, I wondered where the truth lies. How is it that one man can end up with so much drama in his life and so much negativity involving women who got close to him. He apparently had a nasty split with his ex wife that led to a very public custody battle. He is estranged from his mother. He got catfished three times by a lonely and sick woman who manipulated his emotions. I also saw evidence that Bart advertises his appearances on Dr. Phil, as if it’s something to be proud of. He has a very public Facebook page, and thousands of followers. If you look him up on Google, you will see public posts by him on Facebook and Twitter about how he was on Dr. Phil’s show, as if it’s something to put on a resume. I have also seen the video of his kids being arrested in Louisiana, which was no doubt taken by Bart. I can’t imagine wanting to put such a thing on the Internet, but it seems that it’s all a part of the show.

So… Bart says this whole thing has gotten “out of hand”, but I see a lot of evidence from Bart that he is the one who is publicizing it and blowing it up in the media. I had never heard of him or his kids a couple of days ago. I used to watch America’s Got Talent when I lived stateside, but I haven’t seen it since 2014, so I didn’t see his children’s performances on the show. And I don’t make a habit of reading tabloids like the Daily Mail or the NY Post, both of which have lengthy stories about Bart’s kids and their legal drama. Hell, I had quit watching Dr. Phil for years, and only recently started watching old episodes because of boredom brought on by winter in Germany and the pandemic. Now, I’ve fallen down this rabbit hole.

I truly wish the best for Bart’s children. It sounds to me like they’ve had a very dramatic and challenging upbringing. They are definitely attractive and charismatic, and I’m sure they are talented and skilled as magicians. But it also looks like their dad is a bit of an attention seeker and uses them in his pursuit of fame. And if there’s any truth to that notion, I feel sad for them. Hopefully, their mother really isn’t as bad as she’s been made out to be. That’s got to be hard on her, too.

Anyway… I probably should go back to watching dog grooming videos. Noyzi likes those better, anyway.

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