Thursday, November 8, 2012

Right Across the Jaw

This isn't a post about theology. I get that much of LDS (Mormon) foundational theology is out of the mainstream of Christianity. I'm comfortable enough in my own beliefs not to be bothered by the idea that somebody might think I'm "not Christian." Quite frankly, my religion is between me and God so I don't really care what anyone else thinks (I don't mean that flippantly, but I claim the same right my neighbors do, to worship according to my conscience). That being said, I gotta say I'm pretty disappointed in whatever number it was that voted for Obama (or didn't vote at all) because of the Mormon thing.

From almost the moment of it's founding, the Mormon church and its members, American citizens, mostly of hearty New England stock, were driven from their homes by violent mobs consisting of their neighbors. They moved from state to state, each new home eventually being taken from them at gun point; tar and feathers, beatings, women raped and children killed or dying from exposure. I'm sure they freaked the neighbors out after a while because they tended to stick together and generally ended up getting ahead no matter where they went. Long story short, my ancestors were eventually thrown out of the United States and ended up walking 1300 miles to a dry, ugly valley filled with sagebrush and not much else. Even the Indians didn't mind that the Mormons wanted it. Hell, the lake was full of salt! Yet they made it such a nice place that people came from all around to live there. Catholics and Jews were accepted with open arms and given the freedom to worship how they saw fit. Women voted earlier in Utah than women in all but one state in the Union, that is, until the U.S. came in, disincorporated the territory and took that right away... And even when they didn't want us, we were proud Americans who celebrated mightily when Utah entered the Union.

Mormons have served honorably in every U.S. war since our founding in 1830, my father among them. He lost plenty of friends in WWII just like your fathers and grandfathers did. Their blood didn't spill any differently than anyone else's. And I'm sorry about Harry Reid but the great majority of us have been reliably Conservative ever since we were told by our leaders to split up and join the two parties (pre statehood we didn't have a multi-party system).

And while there's an ass or two in every group (again, see Harry Reid), I never heard a Mormon say, "I'm not voting for that guy, he's Catholic!" Or evangelical, or Jew. I'm as American as any other citizen in this country, and my love and reverence for our founding fathers lives in the same place in my heart that my religion does.

When my dad first shipped off to the South Pacific he was confronted at mess by a guy twice his size whose only words were, "So, I hear you're one of those sonofabitchin MORMONS." My dad stood up, coldcocked the guy across the jaw and laid him out, while saying, "I AM! What's it to you?" He'd gone in with that plan because he knew it was gonna come up and he figured the only way to stop it was to let everyone know he wasn't anyone's target. And nobody on board ever had any more problems with the Mormon.

So why would I even bring that up, you ask? Because the real world still works that way. Conservatives are glad to be your friend but aren't naive enough to think two verses of Kumbaya will do it when some people just like to see Americans lose. Or die. So here we are, all the way 'round back to my original point, which is this: American patriots who believe this country was founded with the potential to be the best nation that ever existed under the sun are dwindling by the day. For those Americans who claim to be on the right, but who sat on their hands because the candidate wasn't perfect, was a Mormon, or anything else, the next four years are on you. And all the years it will take to fix the sh*t storm that's coming, they're on you too. So sit back and feel smug in your self righteous superiority because you stuck it to the Mormon, the Moderate, or whatever else you decided made him unworthy of your vote. If I had the chance I'd coldcock every one of you.


Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Once an Idiot...

Over the last year I've gone out of my way to try and play nice with my ex wife. There have been events that would have warranted involving the police or the court, but in my hope of finding d├ętente I've let things slide that could have been used to my advantage in dealing with a hostile and unstable ex. Besides wanting to keep it civil for our sons, I think one of my weaknesses has been that I don't hate my ex and have tried to give her the benefit of the doubt whenever I could. 

Over the last few months our children have become increasingly uncomfortable with spending much if any time with their mother. For two years they've dealt with never knowing if she'd even show for her parent time (Utah's nomenclature for visitation) and if she did, whether they'd be spending the afternoon or weekend with nice mommy, depressed mommy, stressed mommy, or worse. 

Not long after she was too hung over to even bother showing up on Mother's Day our oldest decided he'd had enough and announced he wouldn't visit at all unless I went with him. (He'd stopped doing overnights months before that but was OK going for a two or three hour afternoon visit once every week or two. Not now.) So three or four times over the last two months I've sat across the park or in another booth at McDonald's while the boys hung out with mom for an hour. Twice she threw a tantrum and threatened to leave, saying within earshot of our sons, "If they don't want to see me then I'll just go and try to forget I ever was a mother!" Bloody hell.

So last night I was cleaning up some online stuff and happened across some online posts my ex made that basically described me as Satan and the founder of my church in even worse terms (a church in which she too was raised and professed belief in while we were married). The details don't matter other than to say some of her comments were regarding our boys and how I'm manipulating them into being distant from her. That one's about as self aware as a goldfish, she is...

So I'll leave you to figure out who the idiot is, but I'll mention that it seems a little foolish in hindsight for me to have thought all this time that we could at least work as a team for the benefit of our children. I decided two years ago that I loved my kids more than I disliked my ex and have done my best to act accordingly. It seems she hasn't come to the same conclusion, so I may have to adjust.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

And On a Completely Unrelated Topic

Ever since the mid to late 60's the media, intelligentsia, and pop culture zeitgeist has ever increasingly painted men as overbearing, loutish, and threatening to women. As a group we've been described as stalkers, abusers, or just plain predators (and if you think I'm using hyperbole it may be because that's what Gloria Steinem et al. have used to describe us). While some men certainly deserve the rap, most of us don't.

If you wonder why we're less inclined to throw caution to the wind and boldly chase after you, it may be because we never know if we'll be seen in the above described terms when we do. In the real world alcohol often serves to lower those walls by releasing inhibitions and allowing both men and women to revert comfortably to their natural roles of pursuer and pursued. In Mormonland we don't have that luxury (or curse if the beer goggles are in effect) and all guys are left with is talks and articles telling us what louts and wusses we are for not stepping up. But until we get to know you we don't know whether you're the kind of woman who likes the chase or one that will be insulted by it. And some of us are tired of being burned.

So women, if you meet someone in whom you might have an interest you might consider being a little more bold in letting him know it. If he feels the same he'll probably appreciate the heads up and feel more comfortable about initiating his end in the game.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

I Fought The Law (well, my attorney did) And I Won

This post is literally two years in the making, but like many stories it wasn't ever going to be worth telling until it was over. And today it ended. What makes this story worthwhile to me is that it entails the dumbest thing I did throughout my divorce, and in the end I was lucky enough to dodge a bullet. I'm right chuffed about that.

If you've ever been divorced or know someone who has, you know that they are nothing if not the ultimate in he said/she said productions. Depending on who you talk to or whose "side" you're on, you might possibly hear a completely different tale than those listening in on the other side. It's not that big of a deal, except that sometimes a person in that circumstance can get a little desperate if they feel like they're about to get crushed by the narrative.

Two years ago in August I was in that exact predicament. My divorce was a longer time coming than I understood at the time. My ex was unhappy for a lot more reasons than she ever let on at the time, but either way let's say some of the ways in which she chose to make her exit weren't exactly above board. For legitimate reasons I don't really care to go into I was aware of a multitude of PM's, emails, and Facebook posts she made at the time (even after being blocked from her feed), and it's fair to say her version of events wasn't quite the way I saw it. I'm fairly sure I do not have Narcissistic Personality Disorder. I know I didn't "torture" her for nine years. I know I was never violent toward her or our kids, nor did I ever threaten her with violence. I wasn't a doormat but I wasn't an ogre either. Suffice it to say anyone who'd ever known me through her might not have believed that based on the multiple tailored versions of "what happened" that she was sharing. And while I wasn't too bothered about what her high school friends from 1987 thought of me, I took offense at her siblings and extended family being led to think that way.

In our July divorce mediation I'd asked for sole legal and physical custody, basing that request on many factors including behaviors, activities, and trajectories that I didn't want displayed for our children. After protesting for about five minutes she agreed, to the literal shock and disbelief of our unsuspecting mediator (who tried to talk her out of it - kind of a no-no in mediation situations). But her communications with me and her correspondence with others gave me the impression that she was considering disregarding our signed agreement and "lawyering up" for a fight (one I was not in a position to afford). With most of her family and many of her friends being primed to describe my shortcomings, I started obsessing about how I might get her hidden "rest of the story" out there. After about two weeks of worrying about it and picturing what would happen in court with her story being spun, I ended up logging (at midnight) into a blog she'd abandoned without bothering to change its login credentials. Years earlier she'd invited me to post what and whenever I wanted, so I wrote four or five posts in which I pasted her own writing describing the various events, opinions, and activities she'd neglected to share with her cohorts. And yes, I gave them the full compliment of my own sarcastic introductions, posting as the "new and improved (ex who won't be named)." It's not like she had more that ten or fifteen people following that blog, but they were the right ones, if you get my drift. And of course, after the glow of having hit enter wore off I thought better of the wisdom I'd displayed in posting such nonsense.

Now remember, this was the middle of the night. I figured OK, I need to delete this crap and get it together... And as I sat down to do so an email from a mutual friend of the ex popped up. It said, "Dude, did she really write all this?" I was mortified. I deleted it all and wrote back with a mea culpa, explaining myself. But in that few minutes my ex had seen it too (it seems she had her blog set up to send an email announcement to her followers whenever she posted a new piece). Oops. I emailed her the next day and apologized, but I guess the damage was done.

And out of the many police reports my ex filed over the seven or eight months following our separation, that one ended up in charges being filed.

A few months after the incident I got a call from a cop who, unlike all the others I spoke to, seemed to be intent on intimidating me (rather than asking to hear my side of the story). After his threatening to arrest me and on the advice of an attorney I was using as a result of other shenanigans my ex had pulled, I declined his invitation to "come in and talk about it." And a year after the incident I found that I had been charged with a class B misdemeanor, "Computer Crimes." Of course the court and/or prosecuting attorney never contacted me. I found out because I started receiving junk mail from criminal defense attorneys and I knew from the ex's previous DUI that that meant I was in the system somewhere, so eventually I got online and looked it up. But you know what? The court never did contact me, serve me, or subpoena me. They just filed a $1000 warrant for my arrest and waited to see if I'd get popped at some point... It's a good thing I don't drive my old Camaro anymore...

Anyway, a month ago I started wondering what had ever happened with that charge (because again, they never told me I was charged) and I sent a note to an attorney friend to ask what I should do. He sent me a note five minutes later saying, "Call Me. Now." That's how I found out about the warrant (six months after it had been filed). So after plopping down a discounted but still substantial (to this poor student) retainer, my friend the attorney became my attorney attorney and he got to work getting the warrant dropped and a court date set, which finally came today.

Long and short of it: He informed the prosecutor that my actions, while technically not nice, didn't really violate the statute under which I was charged. He also told him my ex wasn't at all interested in testifying or pursuing the case (which was true, we're in a workable truce these days), but he thought I might be willing to plead to an infraction level disorderly conduct charge (I think that's what it was... similar in seriousness to a parking ticket). The judge seemed amenable and after informing me of my rights she pronounced sentence, I went downstairs to pay my $90 fine, and went to pick up my boys with no more legal threats hanging over my head.

And while I didn't really enjoy the stress of this stupid episode, and while I know I really shouldn't have posted that stuff, at the end of the day $90 is not a bad price to pay for yet one more ridiculous story about my adventures in the land of crazy which was my marriage and its assorted cast of characters.

The End.

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Unsolicited Piece of Advice

You know those things in life that you just figure most people should instinctively know?  Yeah, that's not always the case.

If you've had certain views your whole life; political, philosophical, religious... whatever. If you've espoused a certain ethic, and if you've built a life with others using that ethic as its foundation, but then come to a point where you decide it's not for you, then cool. I get it. Happens to the worst of us. (Oops, did I just write that out loud? To be honest it happens to the best of us too but I was feeling mean.) Anyway, here's the thing: your new found enlightenment doesn't give you license to ridicule your previously held beliefs or those who still espouse them. Because when you do, you just come across as an even bigger ignoramus than when you were still pretending to live your old beliefs (but were actually sneaking around, doing otherwise).

Your new beliefs don't make you any more clued in than the rest of us, my friend. We're all just trying to get by...

And here's the thing. One of my closest friends in this world went through a realignment of his beliefs a while back and we've spent hours over the last few years talking about it (and even more years discussing our views both positive and questioning of our own religion and a million other things) and we've never done it with contention, a lack of respect, or condescension from either side. It's perfectly acceptable for friends to have differing points of view, even where they once had full agreement. But that's not good enough for some people...

So here's a dollar. Go buy some candy and complain to the bum out in front of 7-11 about how your old religion ruined your life. He might actually be interested in hearing what you have to say.

And yes, I feel better now. :)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Another Day, Another Candle

So I turned 47 last week. My boys woke me with a home made card from the older one (awesome) and lamentations from the younger one, "I can't make you a card because I have a broken arm!" (Equally awesome in its strange humor.) It's amazing how quickly he adapted to playing the sympathy card after he broke his arm falling off the monkey bars last week. We were on our way to have dinner with relatives on Sunday and he said with utter nonchalance, "They're going to feel real sorry for me because I have a broken arm." That one already keeps me on my toes. He'll be five next month.

I can't believe it's been another year. They really are speeding up. The boys and I started our awesome summer a few weeks ago and are gearing up for a trip to Houston soon to see GrandJack and GrandJo, the kids grandparents. We're in for a fireworks show and sailing in Galveston Bay... it's the highlight of the boys' summer every year. The cast comes off two days before we leave. Thank the Lord for tender mercies, 50% of our Texas trip every year involves swimming or water; hard to do with a cast and your arm in a sling.

I'm trying to find a new bass. My band lost its drummer and we're doing a stripped down trio at the moment. Still plugged in but with the emphasis on vocals, harmonies, etc. I may break down and finally buy that Hofner Beatle Bass I always wanted...

And yes, my mind is jumping around like that all the time lately. Things are in flux. Like they haven't been in the past three years? Yeah... I've got my boys and I've got food in the fridge. Not much more but I can't really complain. I could use some more work though. If you know anyone doing a film I know a colorist that can help them out. Just send 'em my way.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Just Because it's Change Does't Always Mean it's Growth (pt. 1)

One sad truth I've learned over the years is that, while there are still lessons to be learned in my middle-aged life, a good many of them will come as a result of much pain and sadness. One thing I cherish about my kids is that they've allowed me to see the world again through eyes that haven't become cynical through experience. I see them each day and wonder if my dad had the same trepidation as I do now, watching them grow and struggling to find a balance between protecting them from the hard parts of life and letting them experience enough to become inured to them.

I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Each branch of my family history is replete with stories of the faith and sacrifice of my ancestors, who chose this path before the cast was even set. My parents were raised in an old fashioned Mormonism that began to fade in its cultural mainstream before I was even born. As I grew up I realized that my home existed in a generation of Mormonism that was at least 30 years behind the one in which my friends were being raised. I appreciate that fact and have always been thankful for the parents who raised me. The LDS church is not only my religion, it defines who I am and is the prism through which I see my life and my whole family tree.

Over the years I have questioned my faith a number of times. I often get the feeling I know a bit more about Mormonism's storied beginnings than the average congregant, but I've still discovered doctrines, events, and questions that called for answers I had to find to my own satisfaction. I don't make a habit of looking for answers among those who spend their time denigrating the LDS church, but I've never accepted the idea that I should only look to sanitized sources either. I'd rather learn the truth about things (where it can be established) and decide from there. Each time this has happened I've come to the ultimate conclusion that "the church" is where I belong. It's where God wants me and where I want to live my life. It's who I am. I feel God's presence most in my life when I strive to live in the way I was taught.

Before my first son was born I found myself questioning almost every aspect of my life. I'd been pondering the meaning of truth and whether I identified as a Mormon because my parents and family did or whether I truly believed it was the restored Gospel of Jesus Christ. Joseph Smith taught that truth is something to be embraced, no matter where it ultimately leads. The question that came to my mind was whether I was following the truth (God) or following man. Any man. I came to understand that following God was the only choice I wanted to embrace and that I needed to do so even if it meant His leading me out of the only church I'd ever known. I didn't think He was going to, but I had to be open to the idea if I was going to ask for God's guidance and be willing to follow it, no matter what.

It was at that point that I made the biggest mistake of my marriage. Not that it was wrong to do so, but it proved to show a divide between my wife and I that, ultimately, was never closed. I approached my ex and explained everything I'd been pondering. Over the few years we'd been married she'd often complained that I didn't trust her enough; that I wasn't open to her in sharing my innermost thoughts. I wanted to though, and here was a chance.

My ex was also raised in the LDS church. Her past was a little more colorful than some, but when we dated I made a point of inquiring about (and she made a point of expressing) her commitment to and belief in our shared faith. When she was pregnant and I explained to her what I was thinking she didn't say much, but I knew immediately that I should have been silent on the matter. Within a few days she confronted me with a lecture and made sure that I understood she would never allow our son to be raised outside of the church. The best way I can frame the conversation is to describe it as less than charitable. I found later that she'd gone to various family members and others to express my "apostasy," and our relationship was never the same. There were at least two major events later in our marriage when she brought up these events. Each time it was done to emphasize that I would never measure up as far as church matters were concerned, and that she deserved better. The circumstances behind her bringing that up struck me as quite ironic once I (later) learned why, but that can wait for my next post.