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. 😉

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book reviews, LDS, religion

Repost: Review of Scouts Dishonor: A Personal story of God, Abuse, Recovery and Truth

This book review appeared on my original blog on December 10, 2016. I am reposting it as/is. This topic comes up because the Boy Scouts are in the news again because of rampant sexual abuse.

It’s time once again for another exmo lit book review.  It’s been awhile since I reviewed any books about the LDS church, but I decided I had to read this book when I saw it referenced on the Recovery from Mormonism Web site.  Written by Tommy Womeldorf and published in June 2015, Scouts Dishonor is Womeldorf’s true story of getting involved with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America.  Although many boys grow up Mormon and enjoy Scouting, Womeldorf’s experiences as a Boy Scout were extremely traumatizing.  Although he’d been a promising athlete who had dreams of playing sports professionally, what happened to Tommy Womeldorf would cause him to abandon athletics and turn to alcohol and drugs.

In 2012, Womeldorf decided he wanted to seek justice against the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Boy Scouts of America.  He was living in Arizona at the time, along with his wife Arlene, and daughters Sophia, Julia, Fiona and Lola.  Sophia was Arlene’s daughter from another relationship, but Womeldorf treated her as his own.  The family had been attending the LDS church for awhile, although Womeldorf had fallen away from Mormonism for about twenty years. 

One summer day, Womeldorf was working as a laborer for a job at a Marriott Hotel in Scottsdale, Arizona.  His job was to unload a truck.  On the side of the truck were the words “Boy Scouts of America”.  Twenty-nine years earlier, Womeldorf had been a Boy Scout, where his nightmare began.  Unloading the truck had apparently awakened something inside of Womeldorf that made him want to seek justice for what had happened to him when he was a thirteen year old boy.  He was in the care of Craig Mathias, a Mormon Boy Scoutmaster who happened to be a pervert. 

Tommy Womeldorf’s parents had both been raised in alcoholic households.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had seemed like a wholesome and stable environment for their family.  Womeldorf’s father was especially impressed by the church, though his mother seemed less interested in it.  She eventually came around and the family became regular attendees. 

Like many young male Mormons, Womeldorf joined the Boy Scouts, where he first met his abuser.  Mathias was a methodical, meticulous man who easily spotted the vulnerable and exploited them.  Womeldorf’s father had had to take on extra work and gave up his position as Boy Scoutmaster, giving Mathias more opportunity to groom his victims.  As he was growing older, Tommy was less interested in scouting.  He and his parents had been fighting about it.  His parents finally said he could skip church if he would go to Boy Scouts.  He relented when they also threatened to take away his Ozzy Osborne and Motley Crue posters.  It’s my guess that the tension at home, along with Womeldorf’s father’s extra work hours, had made a perfect storm for Mathias to strike.

Just a warning.  Womeldorf goes into graphic detail about what happened to him when he was alone with his abuser.  I had to stop reading a couple of times because it was sickening to read.  Womeldorf’s mother was totally trusting of Mathias and never had a problem with letting her son visit him alone.  She figured he was a Mormon who was divinely called by God to be a Boy Scout leader.  He had to be safe, right? 

Although Womeldorf and his father reported Mathias to Bishop Brent Griffiths, Griffiths discounted Womeldorf’s story.  Instead of being helpful and supportive, Griffiths changed the direction of the meeting by bringing up Womeldorf’s sins.  Five years later, Craig Mathias was convicted of sexually abusing five Boy Scouts.  However, Womeldorf did not get justice, since his claims were unacknowledged.  Womeldorf writes that had the bishop taken him seriously, those boys would not have had the experiences they did.

In the wake of the abuse, Womeldorf descended into drug addiction, drug dealing, and alcoholism.  His life began to turn around when he met Arlene Ryan, a single mother of an infant daughter.  They eventually started attending the LDS church again and were even profiled in a 2012 issue of the Ensign.  But Tommy soon started feeling very uncomfortable in the church and went inactive.  Two church members came over to his house to assign him a calling…  assistant Boy Scoutmaster.  It was at that point that Womeldorf told the two members that he was pursuing legal action against the church due to their negligence when he was himself a Boy Scout.  And then he sat down to write his book.

I paid 99 cents for the Kindle version of this book and I think it was money well spent.  I noticed a few minor editing glitches.  For instance, sometimes Womeldorf mixes up words like council versus counsel and prey versus pray.  Overall, though, Scouts Dishonor is a remarkably coherent account, especially given that Womeldorf abused many drugs and drank a lot of booze in the years after his abuse.  It appears that although he’s given up on Mormonism, Womeldorf is now living a clean and sober life with his wife and daughters.  I recommend his book.

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