Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Truth About Divorce...part 1,000,347

     About an hour ago I got hit with a full-on blast of sadness.
I don't know why. I don't know what brought this on, except that it has been 13 years since my divorce and I am going to be 50 this fall and, while that got here very quickly and it doesn't feel any different than 35 or 40, it still is a milestone. It's a milestone that I never...not in a million years...thought I'd reach alone.
     13 years ago, my three-year marriage ended. I had an 18 month old daughter and a struggling career in the mortgage industry. In the 13 years since that dreadful day, I achieved success, owned two homes, made a nice amount of money, lost it all when the industry collapsed, fought through four years of homelessness, graduated from college while still homeless, wrote four books, started a small carpentry business, recently started my fifth book, began a Divorced Dad's life coaching service, and more than anything...refused to leave Nashville to rebuild somewhere else so I could stay in my daughter's life. I managed to be a great dad in the teeth of the worst period of my life.
     But tonight it really hurt me that I have gone through so very very much...without anyone else to share the good times and the bad. I met my father for the first and only time 6 years ago, and I would have loved to have had someone to talk my way through that with. Maybe I would have survived the mortgage turbulence if I had remarried. Maybe I would have had more children. Maybe I would not be so afraid now.
     What am I afraid of? Failure mostly. I am dreadfully afraid of ever going through the horrible pain of divorce ever again. I am afraid that there really is no unconditional love in this world outside of that which our children give us and God gives us, and if I have to perform for even one more person to love me I am going to be sick. Parents, spouses, churches...people never love us just because we are lovable. Almost never anyway. There is always an end game, always an agenda. If you can't benefit them somehow they don't want to love you. Not really love you the way we all need and desire.
     Now I've been blessed by some folks back home...folks who aren't even my family by birth but who became my family...who love me unconditionally. But they are 850 miles away and it's hard to remain in touch. I needed that here. I thought I had it when I got married but as it turns out...I did not. To know in your heart that your spouse's love for you is directly proportionate to what you are capable of providing and what kind of lifestyle you can offer is heartbreaking.
     It cuts deeply and once you get over the pain it causes, you never want to go back to that sort of relationship again. Not ever. The problem is somehow not becoming cynical and somehow believing that there is someone out there...anyone out there...who would ever just love you because you ought to be loved. Someone who recognizes a good man and who wants a good man simply because he is good. Love is hard enough the first time around...when you are older, and wounded, and cynical, and doubt that an honest and true heart exists in the world...good luck finding real, deep, true love again.
     The other thing is...I was always a romantic. I only ever asked one person to marry me and I was very much in love back then and it felt like it was supposed to. Giddy, reckless, innocent. Can that ever be recaptured? Can you fall madly and passionately and recklessly in love a second time with someone different? Can you ever be a hopeless romantic more than once in your life? Can innocence and wonder ever come twice in a lifetime?  As I've wondered about that, and thought about my once-romantic-now-cynical heart...I've had my doubts. And then that made me hurt even more. Because I want to love again but I want to be in love again. I want to be crazy about someone and find myself daydreaming about them and carving their name and mine in a heart on a tree somewhere.
     If that can't be...what is the point? I don't want a merger, I want a marriage. After 13 years I don't know if it's coming. And I feel like maybe it's because I waited too long. I grieved first my wife, then my marriage. I still grieve my interrupted fatherhood and always will. Maybe all that time spent grieving was wasted and I should have found someone else. But the truth is one does not find finds us. And if our receptors are damaged, maybe we miss it as it flits by us like a feather on a breeze and we never know how close we were to it until we look back and see where it almost found us.
     I am afraid I will look back one day and see the last time I had a near-miss with love and realize it really was just that...the last time.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


Hey guys...
After a lot of prayer and thought I am excited to announce that this year I am expanding the ministry GREATLY!
Some of my goals include
Return of the daily podcast "Dad Stuff"
Expand the radio show to two evenings a week AND a daytime show so that our European friends (And there are many!) can have the opportunity to call in
Revise and re-release my book "Sometimes Daddies Cry"
Develop and offer "Total Dad" Life Coaching services for divorced / separated dads
Expand materials to include DVD teachings and print materials for study groups
Develop a nation-wide network of churches and mens groups who meet each week during the broadcast time for the show and become a live audience for the show.
More to follow!

Here's how you can help!
Click the link and find the Indigogo fundraiser site. Give if you can. Tell LOTS of others about the fundraiser!

Indigogo Fundraiser Please help support this ministry!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

The Way I Wish Things Could Be...

I am 49. This year I turn 50. When I was little, 50 was old. Now it seems like it’s barely the place to begin. I wish I wasn’t trying to make a new beginning at 50. Because it’s very hard. People don’t want to hire you because you are “too experienced” but the truth is that they know that at this age you won’t ever vest in any pension or 401K or stock plan so you are…in their eyes…a mercenary. You are working for a paycheck and as soon as something better comes along that pays more you will jump.
Actuarial tables tell employers that they make the most profits when they hire someone under 29. Most 401K plans take ten years to vest so you aren’t going to jump ship for that first ten years so it makes sense for them to invest in you and train you and move you up the ladder. The odds are that you’ll stay.
But not for guys my age. We aren’t vesting anywhere and they know it. I wish it wasn’t like that.
I wish my book had sold well this Christmas. I can honestly say that nobody who bought it was disappointed…in fact virtually everyone who read it was very deeply touched by it. But financially it was a bust. Another bust. I had hoped that my “Community of believers” here in town would have gotten behind it, but actually they never even heard about it. This baffles me. It shouldn’t I guess. I’m not famous, I don’t host a TV show and a radio show (well actually I do…sort of) and I didn’t write any of the Veggie-Tales. (Thankfully that has yet to be a part of my resume) so buying my book wouldn’t promote the general cause of the Faith, the way buying those guys books apparently did. But then again, neither of them will be sitting next to those folks in church ever again.  But it would have made a huge difference in my life personally and now I am picking up more pieces. Besides the practical aspects…they are sort of family to me. At least they are supposed to be. And a big show of support would have made me feel good about these last 4 years.
And I could really use to feel good about something.
Two weeks from today will mark 6 years since I lost my home. 6 Years since I packed up a moving truck and loaded the dogs and the cat and my belongings and said goodbye to only the second home I ever owned and the only one I truly loved owning. I have never stopped thinking about that house. And that yard and those 5 acres and that big vegetable garden. I never stopped thinking about the pony and the smell of hay in the morning. Or walking at night under the winter sky and seeing the Milky Way stretching out from me to Heaven’s door. I wish I still lived there.
I was in the park today, trying to get some fresh air into my lungs to fight this terrible flu and a couple came walking by with a beautiful black and white Springer Spaniel. It made me cry. I closed my eyes and for a moment I could feel our beloved Bonnie’s chin on my lap like she used to do. I miss our dogs and our cat. I wish I still had them. My daughter wishes we still had them too.
I wish my daughter was always with me. I say I miss her terribly because there just isn't any other way to say it. If there was another way to express how broken my heart is almost every single day without her I would. But I can’t think of any.
I wish I wasn’t divorced. I don’t wish I was still married to my ex wife. I just wish I was married. I wish I mattered deeply to someone and there was someone there to make it feel like I wasn’t facing every crisis alone. Someone who would walk with me through the dark days and never complain because they care. Not someone to tell me to “Trust God” “Pray About It” or “Keep your head up”.  People don’t have time for broken dreams anymore…or for broken dreamers. People…especially those who have been successful and who purposefully stay around only successful people have no tolerance for those who have fallen and failed.
I wish I could talk to my dad. I wish he'd seen my play hockey in college...or seen me graduate. I wish the losses would stop piling up. I feel like saying I wish I was home...but I don't know where that is anymore.
I wish I had a wife. A partner. Someone to bow my chest up and protect and to drop my guard around and cry. I never had that even when I was married. But I wish I had. If I had never been divorced, I would never have missed a day tucking in my daughter, or listening to her prayers, or helping her with homework. Instead I have missed big chunks of time with the most important person in the world to me. Time I can’t get back. But I wish I could. God how I wish I could.
I wish I was someone’s hero. I wish I was their hero because I was actually being heroic and not because I am their hero positionally.
I’m nobody’s hero. I’m 49, and another of my dreams has fizzled out and I’m too tired to dream again. I worked every job that came my way while I finished school and wrote that book. I installed a single window for $150, pressure washed a driveway for $200 and built a deck for $3500. If it paid I did it and in the end it hasn’t paid nearly enough. People are afraid to spend money right now and I am afraid to keep going in this job.
I wish I had an option. Right now I don’t.
I wish I was an adult in a different day and time. I wish it was the early 70’s…like when I was a boy. Or the early 80’s…like when I first went to college.

I wish my daughter could have grown up under Reagan and not…this.
I wish I had the strength to dream myself one more dream and get behind it. But I don’t think I do. I think that somehow this weekend…after assessing the dismal and disappointing failure of yet another dream that I had wanted desperately to succeed…I think I’m done hoping for greatness. I wish I could be great. But I think I’ll have to settle for survival. And I hate that. Because survival is what homeless people do.
And after all this time…after five years and all I’ve accomplished…nothing that I thought might happen has happened. And for the first time since I lost everything…I wish I hadn’t. I just wish I had it back. I wish my daughter was 9, and it was Sunday night in Thompson’s Station and I was tucking her in and taking her to school tomorrow and we were saying bedtime prayers and reading a book.
I can’t ever go back there again…
But I wish I could.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Dad. Interupted

It’s January 10, 2013
Another long winter season is upon us. It’s that time of year when there is nothing really going on until Easter. A few scattered holidays for Presidents and leaders but nothing that lasts more than a day here and there. Something to break up the monotony of the bleak, grey winter outside and the bleak grey shroud in our hearts as we wait for the signs of Spring.
The Christmas Holiday is over and my daughter has returned to school. There is a normalcy to that for most people that divorced dads miss out on.
The Holidays get started in November, with the long Thanksgiving weekend. Then they race toward us and we have Christmas and New Years and then the kids go back to school and we resume the pace of the other 11 months of the year. There is a transition that starts to take place around mid-November. By Mid December, you are in full Christmas mode. Christmas is busy and overflowing with sights, sounds, smells, and family moments. Same with New Years. We visit family and friends and spend far more time together than usual. Then some time right after New Years day we feel ourselves sliding back into the routine of the rest of the year. It is a smooth transition and for intact families it is almost imperceptible.
However, for me, it’s staccato. It’s broken pieces linked together with cords of desperation and sadness. There is no smooth transition from School year to Thanksgiving to Christmas to New Years and back to school year. There is no thought of “She’s back in school and I’ll see her tonight at dinner”. For me…and for millions of dads like me…this Holiday period was jagged and broken. Pick her up for a weekend to make cookies and do our Christmas traditions. Take her back to her moms. Pick her up to go home to Wilmington for Christmas. Spend a few days with family, and then take her back to her mom’s. Instead of a smooth ebb and flow, it’s broken and irregular. It’s like those old movies where someone was sending a Telegram and they would be dictating to the telegrapher and at the end of each sentence instead of saying “period” they said, “Stop”. I found out that the reason you did it that way is that telegrams used to be sent using Morse Code and it takes more characters to send a punctuation mark than it does to write the word “Stop”.
My fatherhood reads like an old telegram… “Pick up my daughter. Stop. Spend a weekend. Stop Take her home. Stop. Go home for Christmas. Stop. Take her back to her mom’s. Stop” The time apart is infinitely more painful because there is no transition. She is simply here one moment and gone the next and she’ll be back in a week. 
But my father’s heart isn’t built like that. I think of her every single moment of every single day. I can’t begin to explain how I miss her when she is not with me or how it hurts when I see her rocketing toward adulthood and I have missed so much time.
I never get a real rhythm going. I never get the easy transition. I am a dad who spends much more time missing my daughter than being with her.
I cannot explain how badly that feels.