One Small part of my life

View in September 2013I was talking to my best friend the other day.  Actually, I think I told both of them this.  More about the 2nd of my best friends later — but the important part is this:  All of this pain and difficulty and frustration I have with my kids and being an alienated dad.  All of that is one small part of my life.  Of the 168 hours in a given week, I maybe spend 1-2 of them thinking about and processing through stuff with the kids.  Much of that is in writing or in conversations with friends and family.  Even then, I might spend a small portion of that conversation on the ex and the kids, but then we get on to other more interesting and happier topics.  

I’m telling you this, because I’m fairly certain if you are reading this site, you are in the middle of a similar battle for your children, or you may be a friend of mine.  In either case, I don’t want you to get the idea that you live, breathe, eat and sleep this life of alienation.  Yes, it’s constantly in the back of my mind and comes up at times when I don’t expect it.  Watching TV yesterday, I got a bit, uh, verklempt, when I saw a dad on CSI talking about his son and how close they were.  Just hearing the word Dad in a song can prove difficult at times.  So there is pain and its fairly close to top of mind.

But at the same time, I’ve got a ton of very positive things happening in my life right now.

  • I have a great job
  • I have good prospects for advancement and promotion there (and fairly soon, too).
  • I have a girlfriend.  There, I said it.  First time I’ve really used that word in 25 years.  But it’s true.  She’s an incredible breath of fresh air and wicked smart and, well, she really gets me.  In a way that I don’t know many other people do.  She has 4 kids, three of them younger and one teenager.  I’ve spent a bit of time with them, too, amid the chaos and happiness that is pre-school and elementary age kids’ existence.  The joy and contentment that I’ve experienced from that relationship has been so different from past experiences.  And so good for me.
  • I have a phenomenal church where I serve each Sunday on a team of greeters and ushers.  This weekend I helped with the 3-5th grade class.  44 whirling dervishes in one room with 8 adults and an hour of loud and action.  Great for my heart.  I honestly can say that each time I leave church, I have this inner contentedness and strength to face whatever comes my way each week.  It’s a beautiful thing.
  • I bought a new truck this past week.  It’s kind of silly to throw in a “thing” in the pile of all this relational stuff, but the truck is something I’ve wanted for 20 years and it’s finally something I can afford to get and incorporate into my life.
  • I’m working on purchasing some rental property to live in and rent out.  It’s a way to use my “rent” costs to actually bring in more money and plan for my future.
  • I’m getting out of debt and concentrating on what to do for that future.
  • I’m writing music, blog entries, poetry, etc.
  • I’m working out regularly and playing a lot of volleyball still.
  • I’m travelling both for business and to re-connect with old friends and family.

But honestly, I’m not “covering” over the pain with busy-ness.  I’m not trying to ignore the problem.  I’m doing something very consciously and deliberately.  I’m living my new life.  I’m becoming the man that God wants me to be — that man began to finally emerge from a dark cave late last summer and smelled the sweet fragrance of freedom and peace earlier in this year.

In spite of all the bad I hear from the kids and their mom about me, I’m going on with my life and living it the best way I know how.  I’m not saying I don’t struggle or feel beaten down at times.  I do.  Almost every week.  But it doesn’t last near as long as it used to, and I get off the couch or walk in from the patio and turn to write it down or talk to a brother or a friend.  Then I set down that milestone where I walked past it in the road and keep focused on what’s ahead.

I’m not bitter.  I’m not angry.   I’m sad.  I’m often disappointed.  But at the end of the day, what I am more than anything else is hopeful and steadfast.  I’m not looking back in defeat, I’m looking forward.  And I’m enjoying the journey I’m on.  With all of the pain, all of the hurt, all of the joys, the peace, the contentedness.  I don’t want to rush it to get out of it.  I want to emerge from this with wisdom, with experience and with honest integrity.

So, thanks for reading and praying for me, those friends who see this.  For those of you who are alienated and are struggling to stand up under it.  Know that there’s hope.  That you are not alone and that it gets better.  Maybe the alienation will get better, maybe not.  But YOU get better, regardless.




A car accident in Tokyo, Japan. Español: Un ac...
A car accident in Tokyo, Japan. Español: Un accidente automovilístico en Tokyo, Japón. Français : Un accident de voiture à Tokyo (Japon). 日本語: 東京での交通事故 ‪Norsk (bokmål)‬: En bilulykke i Tokyo, Japan. Português: Um acidente de carro em Tóquio, Japão. Русский: Дорожно-транспортное происшествие в Токио, Япония Türkçe: Tokyo, Japonya’da bir araba kazası (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


Sunday’s message at church was about letting God show up in our weakness.  We were challenged to own up to our weaknesses and let God take them and make them something incredible.  So here goes.


There are so many times throughout this whole alienation process where I have been willing to let things go to avoid a scene or a blow up that would certainly result.  Much like during the actual marriage, I sacrificed what I believed in and what I valued for the sake of peace.  It is weakness.  It is unwillingness to stand up for what I believe in because I’m afraid.  Or because I don’t know what to say or do, so I don’t do anything.


Case in point — today at a soccer game, my daughter was walking past the snack bar where I was working (let’s just say it’s easier to have a job in the snack bar than to sit by myself in the stands…).  She was talking to a friend on her cell phone explaining her accident.  Apparently she was rear-ended by someone, from what I overheard.  Interestingly, she stood close enough and spoke loud enough that I heard almost the entire conversation.  I think that was purposeful on her part.  She wanted to make sure I heard the lines like, “Yeah, I called mom like 6 times and couldn’t reach her and I didn’t know what to do so I called you (about her friend).”  She walked directly past me, like two feet in front of the snack bar window on her way back to the bleachers and I asked her, “So, you got in an accident?”  She acted like I didn’t exist.  No response at all, just a firm scowl and a deliberate walk.


She’d left a very angry voicemail on my phone on Friday.  I had responded via email, explaining to her that I would love to have a relationship with her, but that it can’t be a yelling relationship.  That when she was ready to have a non-yelling relationship, I would love to see her.  That had been our last “communication.”


So today when she gave me the cold shoulder, I honestly just stood there not knowing how to handle it.  Feeling weak.  Feeling impotent.  Feeling like whatever I did would be hated, create anger and make things worse.  So I did nothing.  It’s two hours later, and I’m still not sure what I should have or could have done.  Writing helps me explore my true thoughts and feelings, so lets go through the options.


1)  Speak louder.  Say her name and ask louder what happened so she’s embarrassed in front of others if she doesn’t respond.  PROBABLE RESULT:  ignoring me or turning around and yelling at me to leave her alone.


2) Send an email to her mom, mentioning that this is “life-change” event and by judges ruling is required to let me know about them.  PROBABLE RESULT:  “You heard her talking, you see she’s okay.  You know.”  From her mom.


3) Walk over to her and make sure she’s okay.  PROBABLE RESULT:  see number one above.


4) Write her a nice email reminding her that her dad is still here and available and would love to help her in moments like that in her life.  Tell her I’m glad she’s okay and that I hope she can get her truck fixed without too much trouble.  PROBABLE RESULT:  no response.


So, I think I’m going with #4, mainly because it’s the only option left at this point and it is more in character with how I’ve treated the relationship for the last year: Return hate and anger with love.  Firm boundaries, and love.


But in all of this, I think I get the message from Church — I am weak.  I need God to intervene.  In my weakness.  To make me strong and make this relationship strong again.




Hope in a long odyssey of discouragement

Soccer game1
Soccer game1 (Photo credit: nebarnix)

Just realized that I hadn’t updated the blog in about two weeks.  That’s probably the longest stretch I’ve gone since I started it.  Look back on the last post and you’ll see some comments from someone who was encouraged by the blog.  That has been my whole reason to do this.  I KNOW there are men like me all over the country and undoubtedly women as well who are struggling with alienation and need to know they are not alone.

So here’s an update with some hope, in that light.  Many of you have been praying for some sign or God-fueled turnaround with my kids.  I have family and friends read this, even though I keep it anonymous to protect my children and their mom.  The purpose of the blog is not character – assassination, but helping others through this.  I was separated more than 8 months ago from my wife of over 20 years and have 2 teenage kids who’ve sided with mom and basically had nothing to do with me for the length of that time.  It’s been lonely, agonizing, incredibly painful and probably the single most difficult thing I have ever had to go through in my entire life.  I was a pretty involved dad — coaching for many years, working in their youth groups and children’s ministries, helping with homework, spending all weekends with them.  Like many of you, my life revolved around my kids.  So to instantly lose all of this in the separation and subsequent divorce was quite a shock to the system.  I’ve had to learn how to be me again.  Who am I?  What do I want to be when I grow up?  That’s been an interesting journey, but one of the most important I’ve been through in my life as well.

All that to say, my younger son had his first Soccer game of the season this week.  Of course, all of the friends we sat around last year while watching the games were crowded around my ex and my daughter and her boyfriend.  Didn’t want to make a scene — I’ve really worked hard at playing all of this low-key.  So I sat off to the side and quietly watched the game by myself.  At halftime, my 17 year old daughter and her boyfriend took orders from the group they were with and went off to the snack bar to grab some drinks and stuff.  Didn’t think much about it and checked email on my phone and chatted with the 2 different men that dared stop by and chat (albeit awkwardly) with their old friend whom they weren’t allowed to be seen with…  You can see previous posts for my theories on this.

When they got back with the snacks, a few minutes later I hear a voice from behind me…

“I thought you might be thirsty, would you like a bottled water?”  It was my daughter.

“Wow,” I said.  “Thanks for thinking of me.  Yes I was thirsty, I would love one.”

“No problem,” she replied smiling.

“Hey, _____________,” I said, “I got your new laptop for school today.  I have to pick it up tomorrow.  Could I bring it by Saturday morning for you?”

Her eyes lit up. “That would be great.  Thank you so much for getting that.  I really appreciate it.”

“Not a problem at all.  So I’ll see you Saturday morning.  Thanks again.”


And thus went the first conversation I had with my daughter in 8 months.


As I sat watching the 2nd half of the soccer game start, I tried to control all the emotions I felt.  Couldn’t cry — that wouldn’t go over well.  Honestly, didn’t feel like that.  Felt like jumping off the bleachers and doing a fist pump and screaming thank you to God.  Truly a miracle.  I couldn’t wait to call my friends and family and tell them that we had a breakthrough.

I am tempering my enthusiasm.  My mom said there would be ups and downs in this process, and I can’t get too excited about the first breakthrough because there will be other issues that appear to be sending us back into the same hole we’ve been in this past eight months.  I need to be steady and responsive and loving throughout.  That’s my mantra.

I have shared with you a lot of the struggles.  I felt like you deserved to hear the first steps of what will be a long journey out of the past.  Many of you have told me that this is just going to take time.  I have really struggled hearing that.  I’m impatient.  I’m an immediate gratification guy.  10 minute meals on the skillet are about as “delayed” I get in the food preparation realm.  So this.  This has been like a drop of water dripping on a rock for 100 years.  But I’m learning how to be the best I can be (independent of kids and a wife — just me).  I’m learning how to love unconditionally, and I’m learning how to live alone.

There is hope.  Hang in there all of you!


— Jim

How to respond to Negative and Cruel Texts and Emails.

With love.

Sample note from a son of an alienated dad:

“Leave me alone.  I don’t want you in my life, I don’t need you, you are note my father. I know the truth about you — you are a scumbag (this is a PG blog..).  Goodbye!”  Often they will call you by your first name.  They will cuss, they will find anything and everything that you are ashamed of from your past (mostly stuff that your spouse has told them about you — maybe 30% of it true) and use that as a sharp axe in an attempt to extricate your head from your shoulders verbally.

Sample response:  

“I’m not saying goodbye.  You are my son and I will always love you and want a relationship with you. If you already know it is the truth, why are you scared to discuss it?

I suspect that you really know there are two sides to every story and there are many things that don’t make sense to you about your family situation, but it is too painful to even think about these thoughts right now.  It is just easier to make me the evil enemy and then you don’t have to deal with anything, you can just be angry and that covers a lot of pain.

I love you.”

So maybe that wasn’t as good a response as I’d hoped.  Because I got a return email calling me a hole.  Not sure what a hole is, but I suspect it is not good.  But the dad response is still the right one.  Nothing that they can say or do will make me stop loving them.  They have to be told that — along with some truth as well.

“Love those who hate you.”  Jesus says.  You never thought that would be your kids, did you?  Maybe that’s why Jesus had to make it clear that this is our task.  He goes into detail about loving those who love us back and what’s the great difficult in that?  The difficulty is in loving someone  unconditionally — as we do our kids — and thus deeply feeling those words and the wounds they inflict, yet still shaking that pain off and loving back.  No matter what.  Men — we can do this.  It’s a challenge we can rise to.