book reviews, celebrities

A review of Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir by Wil Wheaton…

As a card carrying member of Generation X, I grew up watching a lot of cable TV. Sometimes, I also went to the movies. In fact, I went to the movies a lot more often in those days than I do today. In any case, at some point in my adolescence, I saw the 1986 Rob Reiner film Stand By Me. Based on a spooky novella by Stephen King, Stand By Me was a coming of age film starring Wil Wheaton, River Phoenix, Corey Feldman, and Jerry O’Connell. They were four 1959 era twelve year old boys from Castlerock, Oregon, who set out on a mission to see a dead body. On their way to find the body, the boys bond and have some near misses with both nature and technology.

Stand By Me also had a great soundtrack.

As most of Stephen King’s stories are, this one– originally known as “The Body”– was very poignant, compelling, and sometimes even funny. It also had four teenaged stars in it who were about my age. Most of my peers loved River Phoenix, who was an up and coming star. Tragically, he died in 1993 at just 21 years old, a victim of a drug overdose in Los Angeles. I was telling Bill last night that if River had lived beyond young adulthood, he would have been an enormous star.

I liked River fine, but Wil Wheaton’s performance in Stand By Me was the one that always stuck with me. He played the sensitive, thoughtful, aspiring writer, Gordie Lachance. I identified with Gordie, because I had my own aspirations of becoming a writer. In those days, I wrote a lot of fiction. Also, my journalism teacher in tenth grade was named Mr. LaChance, and I liked him, and that class. I probably should have stuck with journalism.

Stand By Me was probably the only vehicle of which I’ve seen much of Wil Wheaton’s acting, except for maybe guest spots on 80s era television shows. I see he was a guest on Family Ties, which was one of my favorite shows, back in the day. He was also on St. Elsewhere, although I didn’t really watch that show, because it was on past my bedtime. He was on Tales from the Crypt, which was a great HBO show I watched when I had the opportunity, and he voiced Martin in the film, The Secret of NIMH. Wheaton also famously played Wesley Crusher on Star Trek: The Next Generation. Apparently, Wesley Crusher was aptly named, because based on Wheaton’s book, Still Just a Geek, it seems that he wasn’t very well received in that role. I have no opinion on that, since I never watched the original Star Trek, let alone the reincarnations. I don’t know why I never watched it. Bill is a huge fan. Star Trek just never appealed to me.

Wil Wheaton as Wesley Crusher.

Some time ago, someone turned me on to Wil Wheaton’s Facebook page. I started following it, and decided I kind of liked Wil. He seems like a basically normal, decent man who happens to work in the entertainment industry. He’s also a writer and award winning narrator. And, as a fellow child of 1972, I relate to a lot of what he posts on social media. We’re from the same era.

I was following Wil’s page when he started promoting his book, Still Just a Geek: An Annotated Memoir. I ended up downloading it around the time it was released last spring, but I didn’t get around to reading it until I read Jennette McCurdy’s book, I’m Glad My Mom Died. I figured Wheaton’s book would be a good follow up to McCurdy’s book about her “crazy” mother and chaotic upbringing in show business, against her will. Wil Wheaton has openly said that he went “no contact” with his parents, and had never actually wanted to be a child actor. Wheaton has maintained that it was his mother who had wanted to be an actress, and she pressured her children to go into the business. Wil happened to have talent, just as Jennette McCurdy did, and in the mid 80s, he was a household name. But what he really wanted to do was be a kid. He’s also found that writing is his true passion, just as Jennette has.

So anyway, it was Jennette McCurdy who prompted me to read Wil’s book, Still Just a Geek. Still Just a Geek is based on Wil’s first book, Just a Geek, which came out in 2004 and apparently didn’t sell well. He includes the original book in this book, along with annotations– explanations, contextual notes, and sometimes revised opinions of his that have changed since 2004. After the first book, Wheaton continues with chapters about his life today. A lot has changed since 2004, which it’s bound to do. In 2004, he was a young man, married to his wife Anne, and stepfather to her young sons from another relationship. In 2022, he’s still married to Anne, and has legally adopted Anne’s now adult sons, Nolan and Ryan. They changed their last names and everything. Wil has also stopped drinking alcohol– circa 2016– so some of what he wrote in 2004 doesn’t apply to his lifestyle today.

To be honest, I’m left with some mixed feelings about this book. I thought it was mostly very well written. I appreciated how candid Wheaton is, although there were times when I wish he’d shared more of the original stories that prompted some of his conclusions. For example, in the original book, it’s clear that Wil sees himself as his sons’ stepfather. He refers to himself in that way, although he also mentions that their bio father was a real jerk. He vaguely mentions that their bio father kept taking Anne to court for custody, and implies that he’s a shithead for doing that. Now… I don’t know much at all about Anne, other than seeing her in some photos with Wil, and reading his gushing comments about her. And, God knows, I totally understand about being the second spouse of someone who has a narcissistic or abusive former spouse.

Because I’m a second wife, I am not so quick to automatically accept what people say or write about their exes (and just to be clear, I get that not everyone believes me when I rail about Ex in my blog). In my case, I wasn’t allowed to be a stepmother to my husband’s daughters, and he wasn’t allowed to be his kids’ “everyday dad”. And he was painted as a horrible, abusive monster to his daughters, which just plain isn’t true at all. Wil never explains much about Anne’s ex, other than to write that he’s a bad person. And, for all I know, he really is a shitty person, and Nolan and Ryan were totally right to ask Wil to be their legal dad.

On the other hand, Wil is himself estranged from his own father, claiming that his dad has always been abusive and negligent toward him. He doesn’t write a lot about that, either, at least not in this book. However, Wil did write a few passages that indicated to me that his father wasn’t all bad. Like, for instance, he wrote about his father’s touching reaction to Wil’s grandfather’s death, and how Wil realized that one day, he would be mourning his own father’s passing. That was in 2004, though, before he had ceased contact with his dad. So, I guess I just wish he’d provided more context to both of those stories, and the one involving his stepsons who are now his sons. Maybe it’s not my business– but if it’s not my business, it probably shouldn’t have been included in this book. I can, by the way, also relate to Wil’s having a rocky relationship with his dad. I had a rocky relationship with my dad, too, although we were never really estranged. I understand that going “no contact” is sometimes necessary for one’s sanity, but I also think it’s something that should be done as a last resort.

The footnotes were a bit distracting for me, although reading on Kindle gives readers the choice to read them or not. I enjoyed Wil’s notes, especially when they were funny or provided context. Sometimes, though, I found some of Wheaton’s comments a little annoying and self- indulgent. It stands to reason that people try to present themselves in the best possible light, even when they admit to not being their best. Wheaton provides quite a few examples of when he sometimes acted like a jerk, as we all do sometimes. However, there were a few times when I wanted him to just state, “I was a jerk,” and not make any excuses for being a jerk. He apologizes a lot for acting the way most of us did in less enlightened times. It gets tiresome after awhile, and doesn’t always ring as sincere. Sometimes, it felt like he was trying too hard to be sensitive and “woke”, and it came across as a little fake to me. I sense this on his Facebook page, too, especially when he posts about certain issues– like the pandemic, and how we should all be handling it. Some of his comments come across to me as more like what he believes he “should” be thinking instead of what he actually thinks, if that makes sense.

But that early career helped launch his current career… if he hadn’t been a child star, where would he be today?

I did enjoy reading about Wheaton’s experiences making Stand By Me, which I still think is a fabulous film. I couldn’t relate to his comments about Wesley Crusher, although I do know who William Shatner is. Reading about his encounter with Shatner made me cringe a bit for Wheaton… Shatner was allegedly quite the asshole to Wil. Reading about his encounter with Shatner made me glad I was never a Star Trek fan. I also liked reading about Wil’s experiences being a computer geek in the 80s. I wasn’t a computer geek then, but I did have a friend who was one. And some of what he writes about his experiences with BASIC and other computer languages remind me of the time when I still counted my former friend as my best friend. Those were fun times, before reality set in, and I realized she wasn’t actually a good friend, after all.

At the end of the book, Wheaton includes some interviews and speeches he’s given, along with a couple of “Ask Me Anything” posts he did. To be honest, I kind of skimmed through most of that stuff, because speeches are meant to be heard, and aren’t that much fun to read. I did notice that the fresh content of this book comprises only about thirty percent of the book. The rest of it is old stuff cobbled together into this volume. That was okay for me, since I never read the first book, and I’ve not followed his career closely. Super fans who pay a lot of attention to what Wil’s been doing his whole life might be disappointed by Still Just a Geek. I see some Amazon reviewers have given Wil low ratings and claimed he’s not a good writer. I disagree with that. I think Wil’s writing is fine. I just wish he’d written something fresh, and included fewer footnotes, which can be very distracting. And I wish he’d just write his story and explain why he has so much animosity toward his parents and his wife’s ex. I get that they’re personal stories, and maybe he’s already explained elsewhere. But in Still Just a Geek, he makes many references to those people without really explaining his feelings behind the negative comments. I was left a little confused and wanting more information.

And finally, I admire Wil for reinventing his career, doing what he wants to do, making healthy choices, and loving his wife and sons so much. I’d give this book 3.5 stars out of 5 and would recommend it to those who haven’t read Still a Geek and are interested in Wil Wheaton’s story. I think it will particularly appeal to those who care about Star Trek, which I don’t. But I was sincerely interested in the parts about Stand By Me, and enjoyed reading those sections.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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domestic violence, LDS, true crime

Lori Vallow Daybell’s son, Colby, is now in jail…

In February of this year, I finally got around to reading about Lori and Chad Daybell, when I reviewed John Glatt’s 2022, The Doomsday Mother: Lori Vallow, Chad Daybell, and the End of an American Family. For a long time, I had purposely avoided reading about this horrific murder case, because it was just one of those stories that had the potential to give me nightmares. But I finally got around to reading the whole, comprehensive story about Lori Vallow, who was born Lori Cox. She’s a woman who has had many husbands, all of whom have eventually ended up alienated. More than a couple of them are now dead. In fact, many people with dealings with Lori and Chad Daybell have died, either due to medical conditions, or foul play.

Lori Vallow Daybell’s daughter, Tylee, was one of the two children who were allegedly murdered by Lori’s current husband, Chad Daybell, and buried in a pet cemetary on Chad’s property. The other murdered child was Lori’s adopted son, J.J., who was her ex husband, Charles Vallow’s, grandnephew. Charles Vallow was killed by Lori’s brother, Alex Cox, who shot him twice in the chest. Chad’s first wife, Tammy, was poisoned until she died. As I mentioned… a whole lot of people who have had dealings with Lori and her associates are now dead or suffering.

Even a woman who had taken part in a 2007 radio contest run by Alex Cox, who had been a morning disc jockey at the time, wound up dead because she “held her wee for a Wii” and became afflicted with water intoxication. Alex Cox is now himself dead, having died of natural causes just a couple of weeks after getting married. His alleged crimes against Charles Vallow were still being investigated when he perished. There was some speculation that Alex may have also been involved with the murders of Tylee and J.J.

It seems like most everything that has been touched by Lori Daybell has turned into tragedy. That includes her one living child, Colby, who was born to Lori and her second husband, William Lagioia. As was Lori’s habit, she alienated Colby from Lagioia, then got her third husband, Joe Ryan (father of Tylee) to adopt him. Ryan, of course, was later alienated from his biological daughter Tylee, when he and Lori split. After surviving an attempt Alex Cox made on his life, Joe died alone of heart disease. Of course, if there is such a thing as an afterlife, perhaps Joe Ryan and his daughter have reconciled in the great beyond… Who knows?

This morning I read that 26 year old Colby Ryan is now in jail in Arizona, having been arrested for sex crimes. According to county public records, this past weekend, Ryan was booked into Maricopa County Jail on two counts of domestic violence sexual assault.

Colby Ryan in court.

The woman who complained to the police about Colby Ryan’s alleged sexual deviances, explained that he had visited her last week, two days before she went to the police. They had watched television, and Colby had apparently decided he wanted to have sexual intercourse. The victim tried to rebuff him, but Colby was determined, even after she clearly said “no”. She claims he forced her to have sex with him. After the assault, the woman locked herself in her bedroom, and Colby slept on her couch.

The next day, the victim secretly recorded a conversation she’d had with Colby Ryan. In it, he admits that he raped her. She later sought medical attention and a nurse completed a rape exam kit. The victim’s clothing was tested for DNA. On Saturday evening, police arrested Ryan, who allegedly admitted several times that he had sexually assaulted the woman after she had said “no” to his advances more than once.

Colby Ryan is expected to appear in court next week. He’s now in jail on a $10,000 cash bond. Given that most of his immediate family is either dead or incarcerated, my guess is that he’s going to be sitting in jail for awhile.

I’m not sorry to hear that Colby Ryan in in jail for what he allegedly did. The woman did all the right things, particularly in seeking medical attention promptly and reporting the crime to the police. Clearly, if what she’s said about Colby’s behavior is accurate, he belongs in jail. Rape is a felony, and it’s important that rapists are held accountable. The judge did tell Colby Ryan that if he is released, he will have to wear an electric monitor.

On the other hand, it does make me kind of sad to read that another member of Lori’s family is going down a dark road. I know some families have their share of tragedies, and clearly Lori’s has, even though most of the tragedies have been caused by her incredibly selfish and criminal behaviors. I do think Lori Vallow Daybell is mentally ill, but I also think she’s a criminal. And unfortunately, sometimes criminals share their proclivities with people who are close to them, either through genetics, or by setting a very poor example. I don’t know why Colby Ryan did what he did. It does sound like he had some remorse. However, he still has to be punished.

I feel sorry for all of the children who were raised by Lori, even Chad, who was the only one to survive, but has apparently turned into a criminal himself. His start in life was racked with instability, to include being alienated from his biological father, adopted by his stepfather, and then alienated from him, too, as his mother moved on to Charles Vallow. Chad has lost so much in his 26 years– his bio dad, his stepdad, his sister and adopted brother, and another stepdad, are all dead. His mother and current stepdad are now sitting behind bars. And now Chad is behind bars, and will likely do some time in prison.

I’ll probably keep an eye on this case, even though the whole Lori Vallow Daybell drama gives me the creeps. Talk about a fucked up family…

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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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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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