A Beautiful Girls Epiphany

A Beautiful Girls Epiphany

Recently, I noticed a poster for a movie soon to be released here in Minneapolis, which induced me to recollect my upbringing, at least for roughly seven of my formative years, in my semi-adopted childhood town of Warwick, NY. Creatively appealing to lost-soul twenty-somethings like myself, the promo for the film, Beautiful Girls, implores, “Sometimes you have to go home, to find what you’ve lost, to remember the friends you have, and to discover where you are going.”

Instantly mesmerized, for I fell smack dab into the midst of the target market for this film, I readily concurred with the poignantly truthful notion expressed in the ad, for I could relate wholeheartedly to the movie’s story line. This year, the summer of ’96, I experienced exactly what the Hollywoodesque message is trying to convey because, in a way, I had returned home. Not “home” by all typically understood definitions of the word, but home, somewhat symbolically.

The last time I had actually lived in Warwick was the day of high school graduation in June of 1987. The morning after walking the stage, which was set up on the front lawn of W.V.H.S., I moved away, driving halfway across the nation to the Midwest, with my sister and her husband, for they’d offered to put me up for a bit until I found my way a little more in the too-big world at the time, not yet sure about what route I was taking after high school.

This summer, I had flown into The City (and only those from the area realize that ‘The City’ is, indeed, New York City) and soon ventured into a nearby suburb to attend a wedding of a former girlfriend who was residing there. However, during my whirlwind stay, I at least had the opportunity to detour to Warwick for a mere half a day.

Shockingly, I was amazed at how it had changed.

Now, in reality, maybe the changes between 1987 and 1996 had not been that profound nor dramatic, for perhaps it was I who had grown the most. Maybe it was simply a matter of my perspective having been tweaked.

Once one’s perspective changes, it is difficult to re-tweak it to understand your former understandings of a place, even of yourself. Equal challenges exist in understanding your own erstwhile surroundings and your former experiences—or shall we say “the experiences of your former self”?

Surely, there had been physical transformations of Warwick during that span, for all towns, both progressive and parochial, go through evolutions over time—and, simply put, life is always about progress and growth even if there are cyclical downfalls from time to time.

It became obvious that, on my fast-paced, few-hour return, the most noteworthy changes had occurred within me, and, by extension, within all of us who’d grown up in Warwick and had chosen to move away, some distant, some close—in order to find something more (or to at least attempt to find it).

My folks and sister had also moved away in three separate directions by the end of 1987 (with extended family across the USA, otherwise), so there was no longer a reason-in-residence to be there this summer. Regardless, something drew me back there.

Now, when I was a teenager, I could, at times, barely stand living in such an ostensibly provincial place, and in the late 70s and early-to-mid 80s, it was a relatively provincial place.

Our creativity always tested, Warwickian friends and I constantly aimed to find the least-mundane activities to occupy our time.

After having lived in Minneapolis for nearly six years total, a city with a wonderful, lively performing arts scene, fantastic live music venues, and a variety of professional sports teams, etc., it is hard to imagine now how I’d/we’d ever survived the seemingly imprisoning environs of a one-Burger-King town back in the day.

However, like those before us for generations, and those who’ve followed, we did survive—and we were somehow better off for it because of Warwick.

I can vividly recall the second or third year of high school—for it happened on countless occasions, a group of us sitting in someone’s car, parked in the dark, at the end of a neighborhood out near Bellvale or down off of whatever shadowy lane at the edge of town, debating what we would do for the night. The video arcade on Main Street had grown wearisome after a few months of its initial novelty, Frank’s Pizza couldn’t sustain a consistent satisfaction for overly hormonal teens who simply wanted more action somehow, and there were no community rec centers at the time to keep us busy.

Typically, especially during the pre-girlfriend years of the mid-80s, for some of us, we usually couldn’t generate any form of worthwhile entertainment to pass the time, except for the occasional getting-into-some-sort-of-trouble kind. Thus, more often than not, we would call it an early evening, all the while dolefully lamenting about how we couldn’t wait until we’d grown up and moved away from the “God-forsaken place”.

Though I thoroughly have relished the variety that life in Minneapolis has since provided, I oft find myself desirous of living in such a place, like Warwick, again. There’s something quite tantalizing about the prospect of one day returning to my hometown, or even a town like it, regardless of the boredom and humdrum existence we teenagers of Warwick once, collectively, felt (no, it wasn’t a horrible monotony on a daily basis, but for many of us, we needed to get out, in time—and I am well aware that many kids didn’t feel the same, and they’ve been there ever since).

Isn’t it peculiar how it happens that the banality of one’s teen years, within the confines of such a rural place, evolves into a settled, satisfying peacefulness in one’s older years, if given the chance to return to that place after years away?

On my visit this summer, I rushed from each significant site from my past to the next, ready to absorb and recollect on the go.

Naturally, I ventured past my elementary, middle, and high schools, even making it out to Pine Island to see where I’d first resided after moving from Washington State in ‘78 or ‘79. And I even drove around the parking lot at King’s Elementary since I had spent a few weeks there as a temporary student, until we had found a home to rent out in Pine Island for the duration of my elementary school years.

It is a quirky human tendency to be so riveted by the recollections of our school days when we head home after so many years, and no return “home” would be complete without revisiting the places from our pasts where we develop the most, at least for many a child: school.

Additionally, I toured through another requisite site, my old neighborhood up on Mt. Peter, Hillside Avenue. An overwhelmingly peculiar sensation rushed through me, as did the names of many childhood neighbors, as I recalled the route I had followed as a paperboy. To my surprise, many of the names on the mailboxes were the same. The Mayers were still there, as were the Fomins, Quackenbushes, and Mallons.

In some ways, things had not changed. The houses and their residents within were simply ten years older. New coats of paint and a few renovations were noticeable, but those changes barely hid the fact that all was essentially the same, at least on the outside.

Most chilling about the excursion around Hillside Avenue was that we children from my generation had simply been replaced, just as we had replaced the previous gang of neighborhood kids, and so on and so on, a pattern repeated over time in every suburban cul-de-sac, rural town dead-end lane, or big city back alleyway around the world. Incessantly, that cycle is repeated, without us. Without anyone from each previous cycle ever participating in the next.

If one could trace back the history of Hillside Avenue, all the way until it was just a field off to the side of Route 17A, to the time when one house had started off the domino-like development of the area, and then somehow magically visit each generation that had come and gone since, he or she could prove the point that the existence of each group of childhood playmates is so eerily ephemeral.

Yet when you’re heaving a baseball to your best pal, tossing a newspaper against someone’s window, or holding hands with your first crush after escaping from your bedroom window for a few hours of innocent—and not-so-innocent, fun, you aren’t cognizant of the it’s-a-fact-of-life fleetingness of it all.

Looking at the big picture, my neighborhood pals and I (and the group of Bellvale friends I’d spent more time with) were just a blip on the imaginary radar screen that monitors such activities.

In one blip, we were gone. We were off the radar, if you will, replaced by the next blip.

In essence, that brief visit allowed me an understanding that I didn’t gain in college nor in any self-help book I’d read beforehand: What’s really, truly essential is “the moment”.   It isn’t about the past, for you can’t live there, it isn’t possible. The future matters not, either, because it is merely to be replaced by the next moment, or the moment may not even be there the next moment. It is the moment, at the moment. That’s it.

Driving slowly on my quick tour through the horseshoe-shaped neighborhood, I passed by a group of kids playing kickball in the middle of the road, forcing them to call out, “Car coming!”, sending them scurrying to the left and to the right. Of course they stared through the windows at me, wondering who the hell I was. I fooled myself by envisaging if anyone knew that I used to be pretty darn good at the sport they were enjoying for the moment.

Rational understanding about the world clearly allows me to know it would be impossible for such historical relevance to be maintained—for I’ve never heard of public recordkeeping of such neighborhood nostalgia, but somewhere deep in our inner psyche, we foolishly hope we’d be “known” somehow to those who’ve replaced us.

By the looks on their faces, I knew they knew me not.

Of course they didn’t.

Caught up in the moment of memories, I additionally pondered if they knew where all the others had gone, what we had all done with our lives in the ten years since my generation reigned supreme on that street or down the hill in Bellvale.

Nearly ten years physically removed, I was completely expunged from the reality of those Hillside Avenue kids. I’d been replaced, forgotten, and really, had become just an unknown. Of course, some of the parents would have recollected my being their paperboy, or if one of my generation had been visiting that day, I would have been a “known” for that moment again, but the point is, if a mere ten years later I had become an unknown in that plane of existence that was once ours, in that locale that mattered so much as a child, it surely proves that it is only in “the moment” that we live the most—and in some ways, that’s all that matters.

On any given day, at any given moment, at any given location, anywhere in the fucking world, it is just that moment that matters. Five, ten, twenty years later, that moment is gone, forgotten. Replaced. And even though I used to pride myself in being able to send a kickball over the heads of infielders and outfielders, alike, that, too, matters not. It was just at the moment that the greatest value of that moment existed. The past is meaningless to what matters now, for it truly matters not at this exact moment, any moment, anymore.

After scrambling the kids in different directions, interrupting their game, I soon parked across the street from my old house and then wandered over to gaze into a memory that had long escaped me.

In the front yard of that house back in the mid-80s, I had once practiced some silly break dance move, where one flips oneself over, landing on the ground, but in a manner that shouldn’t hurt yet looks like it must.

Because there was a slope heading down from my house to the street, it was easier to get bodily momentum going to do the flip, and the sloping hill added a few extra degrees to land the trick properly. I’d had no need whatsoever of that memory, theretofore, but it had come back because I’d entered that physical space again, momentarily. Odd how that works in the human head sometimes, how remembrances are triggered only by entering a specific physical space, hearing a song, picking up a certain scent.

I returned to the car and cried. Not for a particular person whom I missed, not for any unachieved goals nor failures in life since, but it seemed that I cried because of those moments. They’d mattered so much, or at least my more matured sense of self told me they should mattered have back in the day, yet they were gone, for good, at least gone from the “real world”—and memories are not the real world, are they?

Perhaps dozens of other similar reminisces bombarded my senses for the next handful of minutes which completed my visit to Hillside, just as countless more rushed back to me while touring other parts of Warwick that half day.

As the Beautiful Girls advertisement entices you to believe, such journeys home are needed to find out what you’ve lost. Those its-the-moment-that-matters-most moments are gone. Permanently. Although such a revelation saddens me, I’ll cherish the discoveries made that day, on my return to Warwick, for I’ve learned that the moment is everything. Even if they’re now gone.

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I Couldn’t Have Said It…


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Стойкий Мужик: Symbolism Galore

Resilient Man. Standing Man. However you interpret it, the Russian term Стойкий Мужик now means the world to me, at least the me that I’ve evolved into these last 2.5 years, having been somewhat forced to become one, myself. Surely, the underlying concept of the expression has long been an integral part of my life, of who and what I am. Nowadays, it is so much more.

However it has been expressed–and in whatever language, I have always considered myself to be irrepressible (not to mention persistent, meticulous, and tenacious).  Yet the characteristic that has given itself enough credit to become indelibly sketched into both my psyche, and now my physique, is the utterly applicable trait of… resilience.  Up until the fall of 2014 (and until now, a few days before the potentially final custody hearing on May 25th, 2016), I’d never needed to live it so deeply, employ it so consistently.

Thus, on May 23rd, 2016, I had my first tattoo done.

Tattoo Done

It represents my recent life, to the T.

Стойкий Мужик (Stoikiy muzhik). It feels right.

I hope that on May 25th, the day I might very well be informed of my future, and how the Court has decided to determine it, I will be able to draw inspiration and strength from the symbolism I now wear between my shoulder blades. I’ll take anything I can get as a reminder to stay resilient.

Although I had not been familiar with the exact term, “Stoikiy muzhik“, previously, especially not in Russian, until I saw the 2015 thriller Bridge of Spies, starring Tom Hanks, I had long understood all too well the notion of what it meant to bounce back up, to stand up once again after being knocked down, sometimes repeatedly.  Various events over the course of my 47 years required such resilience. Nowadays, however, I rely on and exercise, on a daily basis, that one influential trait–almost to the point of exploiting it unfairly, as if it is all I have to go on.

In some ways, it is.

Except my kids, of course.

You see, I’m exhausted. I am, admittedly, spent.  But I’m not done.

I’ve unfortunately been pushed to the verge of giving up, not on my children, the only focus I’ve had in life these last 2.5 years, but on court processes, in general, on getting my money back, on getting to the end of all the ridiculous legal matters that have burdened me all this time.

The only physical, tangible aspect of this taxing, harrowing phase that I use as a guiding light, as an end goal, is my darling kids.  They are my everything, even if that sounds cliché, and I’ll forever maintain hope that I can be an active, relevant part of their lives.

As they deserve their daddy, I deserve them.

It is clear, as many can attest to, that I’ve fought for them as best I could, without relying on nor resorting to deceit in order to get them and keep them in my life (which has been the only option for some folks going through such dealings, over the history of divorce, I mean). Those two darlings, without any doubt or hesitation, keep me resolute and tenacious, even if I am spent emotionally, strained spiritually, and drained financially.

The only fulfillment I feel, founded fully on fatherhood, is and will be the foundation of my fortitude, forever.

If they are taken from me, unfairly, my base will be gone.

However, in addition to my offspring being the physical driving force behind everything I’ve done, when others may have given up or bolted, I’ve been told, it is an undeniable resilience that has been the ONE intangible factor that has mattered most, that has kept me from staying down for long.

After every fiasco and every bullshit moment, hitherto, I’ve repeatedly bounced back up.  I’m practically a fucking Weeble Wobble. Actually, maybe such a reference doesn’t apply perfectly, for those 1970’s toys, which I owned and played with back in the day, would never fall down. Like those inflatable boxing clowns, you could push a Weeble over, practically force it to be parallel to the floor, and it would spring back up, never capitulating fully.

Not me.

Sure, I’ve bounced back up, yet I have, admittedly, fallen hard a handful of times during these 2.5 years because I’ve been pummeled, repeatedly. What is more, I’ve taken punches below the belt, to the point that I’ve lost my breath, forcibly expelling every lick of energy I had at whatever moment such illegal blows occurred.

Yet, unlike in boxing, no points have been taken for illegal blows below the belt. No warnings given. That such antics have been allowed to continue is a blow in itself.

Periodic points along the way reveal when I collapsed to the floor, completely.

After one case was astonishingly lost in Court last year, I momentarily considered throwing in the towel. That night, the day I’d learned of the Court’s decision to reject my case, I dramatically wept on my living room floor, alone.

In a few hours, I was back to documenting the truths that should have helped me prevail in further cases pending at the time.

Another time, last fall, I found myself close to capitulating, after I’d received notice that my case had been closed.  Thinking that there was no chance to get a fair deal in this foreign country, for I had LEGITIMATELY submitted enough evidence to support and substantiate my rightful claims–and more than enough to counter all the nonsense–I felt like I had no choice but to surrender to the system.

As many foreign friends and local counterparts, alike, have said, I have no chance to win anything here.  The cards are stacked against me, and they are, undoubtedly, stacked.

However, in a short while, I was again ready to proceed–and back in action getting my documents done, countering nonsense claims, organizing, collating, etc.

Surely I weebled and wobbled, and I was done for a moment, but not for long.

Moments like those, even though I allowed myself to get knocked over, were ephemeral.

Facing proven prejudice and forgery, I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP.  Facing deceit and fabrication, I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP. Facing an uphill battle, language barriers, money challenges, and being alone without family here through these challenges, I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP. Having lost a few cases when I could have and should have won (and would have won in my own country, without any doubt in mind–or dozens of other minds), I remind myself that I HAVE TO GET BACK UP.

Стойкий Мужик (Stoikiy muzhik). That’s me. 

What about the rest of the tattoo, though?

It is full of symbolism, as most tattoos, I assume, are.

The foundation is Стойкий мужик, underlying the blue lotus flower, giving it a base on which to rise above all else.  As blue lotus flowers represent rebirth in various belief systems, and lotus flowers in general are said to rise out of mucky waters to blossom beautifully, using “standing man” as a pedestal seemed the right choice.

The lotus is oft seen as the seat upon which the Buddha sits, but I wanted to have the notion of starting over to stem from my own resilience, since bouncing back has to happen first before the process of rebirth can ever take place. And at this time, the time of getting the tattoo in May of 2016, I haven’t yet given focus to starting over, even though friends and family goad me to. My focal point is still survival and keeping going–which requires a resilient approach, which is the bedrock of all.

Branching out to the left and right of Стойкий мужик are the names of my children, in Russian.  Admittedly, one reason I chose to not put their names in English is because it clashed a bit with the Cyrillic lettering in the middle, but there was more to it than that.

In January of 2014, I made a choice to stand by my principles. And following my own heart in knowing what was right prompted certain parties to act in a way that shattered my heart, starting off a nightmarish 189 days without my children.

If, on January 5th that year, my good college friend William had been in town for a visit, since I’d posted on my Facebook that I could use help and support–after a hellish first three months of separation, I would have taken him on an outing with my two kids. If my childhood best friend (40-year-long friend) Derek had been here, too, I would have done the same. The same goes for my high school friend, Mike (now known 34 years), or long-term friend Robert. Instead, an 18-year-long friend came for a visit, and on the Sunday she was here, a day before she left, I invited her on a four-hour tour with my kids.

I’d met her husband and first child in 2001, in Canada, and even stayed in their house with my then girlfriend, at the time. So I told her that it would be ridiculously unfair that she NOT see my children on January 5th, especially because I was proud to be a daddy and wanted to introduce them to her.  To have her return to Canada without even seeing my kids would be absurdly wrong. The principles that told me that I will forever stand by.

However, on the same night of her visit, I received messages that I had done something wrong, unsubstantiated and egregiously inaccurate accusations that I had had an affair in front of my kids. There was no such thing, and I will take that truth to my grave with me, knowing that my principles were right–even though I was beaten down for 189 days without my children because of standing by them.

Because the start of the pure hell that has been this 2.5 years began in earnest from that experience (though it started before that), I wanted to have Russian in my tattoo to reveal the commencement of absurdities is connected to that language.

When I saw Bridge of Spies, I immediately wrote said friend to ask for clarification about the meaning in Russian of Стойкий мужик, and she told me that “standing man” is not fully accurate, but that it rather means “resilient man”. I trusted her translation, just as I trusted her in front of my children two years before.

As you can see in the video clip from Bridge of Spies here, this notion is a powerful one.  When I watched the film last year, I couldn’t help but focus on this part, for I definitely have felt like the man who’d been beaten down, only to recuperate and stand again, repeatedly.


I’ve watched the video clip countless times since first seeing the film. It inflates my hopes each time, just as my tattoo will prove inspirational.  That’s why I’ve gotten it.  I need to draw inspiration from it.  My resilience is the foundation of all intangible strength, with my children being my tangible wingmen, if you will, helping form the foundation from which my rebirth will eventually emerge, once I get through this hellish nightmare.

Стойкий мужик. Resilient man. You better fucking believe it.


[Thanks must go out to the people who helped fund the tattoo. An ephemerally important, erstwhile gift was hocked to provide the cash for such an endeavor. That one tangible item meant nothing to me any longer, and, in fact, it was a bittersweet eyesore to behold. Thankfully, it is now gone, and with it physical presence forever absent, so to will be the connection to the people who gifted it to me. The tattoo is far more valuable than platinum, or gold… or silver, for that matter. It represents my resilience, and that is invaluable.]



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Compassionate Epiphany

Out of the woodwork. That’s where the expats in this country who have experienced utter bullshit in the court system here are coming from to share their stories. For the first few months of 2016, I’ve been finding more and more of these expatriates online, having also met a few in person. Their willingness to share their stories impressive, their stories, themselves, often astonishing, they tend to be eager to learn about similar experiences.

Since I put myself out there as willing to help and yearning to listen, it has increasingly become more of an arduous task to keep track of just how many foreign folks have been fucked by this system, or at least some facet of the judicial process here (or related, oft overlapping systems, such as social welfare organizations or immigration help services). Listening to most of their stories, hitherto, tug at heartstrings I never knew I had until divorce and custody proceedings smacked me across the face so many times that a punching bag in a boxing academy would gloat about being hit less.

However, I met someone here that helped tone down my growing frustration about what expatriates like myself are going through here (and perhaps in other locales around the world, with those abroad naturally dealing with similar issues overseas).

On April 5th, 2016, I met a female Taiwanese, whom I’ll call Tina, willing to share her story about going through divorce, a relatively casual divorce from a Western European bloke, to whom she’d been married for a mere couple of years.

The man cheated on her, for many, many months.

Yet that’s not all.

He admitted, blatantly, that he was “seeing someone”, roughly a year into their marriage, coming out with the reality quite readily when Tina confronted him about his behaviors.

More shockingly, and ever so sadly, he then attacked her verbally for not having any sympathy for his new partner, blaming Tina for being cold and aloof to the second woman’s own challenges of having been through a rough marriage, herself.

Yet that’s not all.

He argued that Tina should help emotionally support the “other woman” because the second woman was going through the drama of an affair, too, yet it was actually this second woman having an affair with Tina’s husband.

Needless to say, Tina was flabbergasted (and obviously shattered) that her man was practically forcing her to not only condone her husband’s choices but to also have some sort of sympathy for the mistress.

A tangled web he’d woven about how he felt sorry for his lover, which is why he had gone to her, to serve her needs, to help her transition through a rough patch in marriage, neglecting his own along the way.

He had also secretly been regularly taking his two-year-old child on outings with his bedmate and her two children for some time, well before being “discovered”, spending their time together under the guise of friendship, but all along having and doing much more.

In a nutshell, the guy seems like a real a-hole, which does appear to be the appropriate label to assign him, even if I’ve never met him nor heard his side of the story.

[Side note: Because of rumors I’ve discovered here in my city, I know all too well that each side in such disputes will have their perspectives—and folks sometimes outright fabricate nonsense to gain sympathy.]

However, the details of their sordid situation are not the focal point of this journal entry. Rather, it is Tina and her choices in dealing with it all.

The upshot?

In our face-to-face conversation on the aforementioned date, Tina revealed more of the details about their marriage, how it had had challenges caused by communication and a lack thereof, how culture had created barriers to a peaceful coexistence, more often than not, and how her ex-husband and her daddy didn’t get along. Listening to her story, which coincided with her producing plenty of damp tissues, I couldn’t help but relate to many facets of what she divulged. My interests piqued, I wondered what the percentage is of mixed-culture couples that endure (or fail to endure) the extra trials and tribulations brought on by one half of the marriage equation living in a foreign land, dealing with language barriers, cultural idiosyncrasies, expectations of family sometimes far different than the cultural “norm” of her/his upbringings.

In many ways, it was therapeutic to listen to her side of such a story, both in being able to have sympathy for her and also being able to relate to her issues, sans any sort of understanding of affairs or the romantic infidelity of a partner. I realized quickly that I could put myself in her shoes to some degree—and she could do the same.

Open-minded and displaying a “growth mindset”, I wanted fervently to see a local female’s perspective on dealing with the culturally related challenges of being married to an expat here. I, keen to listen, tried to understand all she explained, wanting to open my eyes and heart to those differences in viewpoints about cultures. If I could learn to understand an opposite point of view on divorcing from a Westerner, maybe I could learn something of value, for my own gain, to help get through what I’ve been burdened with for 2.5 years.

I bawled. Almost too much.

In fact, I’ve not cried so much during one conversation in the last few months, even though I’ve cried many a times, usually just for short spells (tears still flow when I see a daddy with child, hand-in-hand, or hear the laughter of children as I pass a park). My t-shirt was clinging uncomfortably to my chest when I finally finished, and I could have wrung out the cluster of tissues in my grasp like a chamois cloth after a carwash.

Yet the experience of shedding so many tears is not all that has been stuck incessantly on my mind since meeting her for that first conversation. What she admitted so openly was profound.

Something during the initial chat altered my understanding of human nature, specifically here in this country, an understanding that has been steadily skewed and slowly tainted over the last two-plus years: Not only does the woman have a heart the size of this country but she also has a deeper sense of understanding of what her child needs than the cumulative, collective conscience of everyone involved, hitherto, in the divorce and custody processes that have been my burden to bear since the fall of 2013.

And, yes, I did say EVERYONE involved.

Tina’s husband cheated on her. Clandestinely at first, and then openly. He then criticized her for being heartless because she wouldn’t show sorrow for his mistress. His actions, it can be readily debated, deserve a stronger reaction than what Tina has provided.

Yet she admitted, through a fairly heavy veil of her own tears, that she is willing to let her ex-husband take her daughter to his home in Europe because, “My daughter has a right to be there with that side of the family… she has a right to get to know them, too.” She’d one day experienced an epiphany that revealed to her a fairness in her mindset that she didn’t know existed.

When she admitted that, my tear ducts opened like the main release outlets of the Hoover Dam.

How I wish…

She went on, “I think that for my child, she would even have a better upbringing in Europe. It is a cleaner, safer environment. So I am thinking that perhaps until age six she’ll be here, but then I would like for her to be raised there. Maybe I could go there, too, to help raise her when I can. I want to talk to his parents to see if they are willing to help raise her, even though I can just visit her sometimes.”

Between my elbows, which were resting on the table to allow my hands to slightly hide my peripheral vision from nearby customers at the café we’d gone to, was a pool of tears, prompting me to occasionally swipe them with a Kleenex. My shirt started to moisten. We jointly went through nearly two packets of small facial tissues in about two hours.

Continuing on, she mentioned, “My parents are busy here, and even though they love her and try to help as much as possible, I think his parents have a right to provide for her, too.”

Listening to her perspective, especially because her ex had been so callously demanding that she support his both clandestine and blatant lover, that he had an affair in the first place, I couldn’t help but wish…

A profoundly understanding heart she possesses, one that is focused on the rights that her daughter has—and how exercising such rights for her own child, whom she loves, will benefit the young girl. Anyone can take a lesson from her sympathetic kindness, given all she has gone through herself. How she hasn’t attempted to seek vengeance should be a message to anyone in similar situations.

Tina has a compassionate empathy, having come about in an ephemeral epiphany one night, one that should be lauded by all. Her willingness to have the best for her child, even if that means letting go of her own grip of her daughter, had been unknown to me until I heard her story. How I wish more people were like her. The world would be a better place if there were.


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Стойкий мужик Symbolism Condensed

Tomorrow is my (possibly) last custody hearing (the first in over seven or eight months, since I was told the verdict would come in “about 1-1.5 months”). So on Monday, I got my first tattoo, by hocking something that once was very special–yet now could allow me to get this tattoo. I should thank the people who allowed me to afford it.

I’m writing a blog about all the symbolism here–and why I needed it NOW, but suffice it to say (if I don’t finish my blog by the time of the hearing tomorrow) that I am a “Standing Man”. Really, Стойкий мужик, as you can see in the video clip from Bridge of Spies, to follow below, means “Resilient Man,” so I placed it as the foundation of the tattoo. Blue lotus flowers also have significance, as does ‘aum’/’om’, represented in the middle petal.

Tattoo Done








Close Up Tattoo








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Every Accusation is Wrong

My name is Michael Brown, a ten-year expat here in K-town, and my life has been a living hell for two years-plus. I’m over a million NT in the hole so far, I’ve made over 400 documents to get translated for the Courts, and I am not giving up on keeping my children in my life to some degree or another.
I am a good/great father, and I love my children with all of my heart.  I want everyone to know that, especially because of the accusations against me–allegations I was recently told are still being thrown around even publicly.
Recently, someone told me that more allegations were made against me, publicly, allegations which are unfounded, unfair, and ridiculously wrong.
I am writing this to defend myself.  There is no attack here.  There is no libel nor slander. I am only defending my reputation by stating the following allegations against me are completely untrue
I have never perpetrated any of the following accusations.  They are unfounded, absurd, and incredibly hurtful:
1) I have never put my hands around my daughter’s neck to attempt to strangle her. Never.  Any such claim hurts me beyond compare–even when I know the allegation are 1,000% false.  If such accusations were true, why do my children stay with me two weekends each month at my house?
2) I have never hit my daughter in the head so that my son went home to talk about it. Never. If such accusations were true, why do my children stay with me two weekends each month at my house?
3) I have never beaten my children. Never. If such accusations were true, why do my children stay with me two weekends each month at my house?
4) I have never threatened my children with violence at my home so that they only smile when they run to me on the weekend pick-ups (all videotaped), when they come to my house for two days.  The children run to me or smile or kiss me on the cheek or hug me because they love me–not because I threaten to beat them if they don’t. If such accusations were true, why do my children stay with me two weekends each month at my house?
5) I have never threatened to beat my children so that they only smile on videos I take of them when they are with me on the weekends.  They smile, laugh, giggle, dance, etc., because they love me. Hundreds of videos reveal and prove that love, just as families take videos of outings, in general. There is no falsehood to my videos of the children, no coaching, no brainwashing. Never. If such accusations were true, why do my children stay with me two weekends each month at my house?
6) I have never had parties at my house when the kids were there, which allegedly caused the kids to go back crying, because they were so tired because of lack of sleep and that they didn’t get food.
7) I have never had sex with woman while with the children present, nor had woman sleeping at my house, with the children there–so that they awoke and were confused why I had women there at my house. Never.
8) I have never taken my children on romantic outings with my alleged affairs.  There were no affairs and the children were never placed in such a situation.
9) I have never made anyone in my family fear me. Never.  
10) I have never told the children not to like seafood nor to not eat beans or anything like that.  There is absolutely no allegation about me regarding food and the children that is accurate.  Trying to paint me as a bad father is absurd.  I have emails from the same accusers, which state I am an “excellent father”.
11) I have never left my children “frightened and crying” and “shivering in the corner”.  How could a man who made the children allegedly “shiver in the corner” be labelled as a great father in private emails to my family and friends, just a few days and weeks after separation (emails AFTER the accusations)?!?!  
13) I have never shown favoritism to my daughter so that my son feels neglected. I love both my children with all of my heart, fully. 
14) I never neglected to visit my mother on her deathbed because I “wanted to spend more time” in other US states traveling, first, on my 2013 trip to America. That accusation hurts.  Even though totally wrong, that hurts.  My mother dying of cancer two years ago should never have entered court documents, especially with such a claim.  NOBODY IN MY FAMILY KNEW THAT SHE WAS ON HER DEATHBED.  NOBODY KNEW HER STATE WAS SO GRAVE.
15) I never abandoned my children.  Never. Abandonment does not include having the children at my house every M/W/F night and on Sundays immediately upon moving into a new two-bedroom apartment, specifically rented to have them at my house, on shared time scheduling.  Nobody who abandons children asks for shared custody from the start (and sole custody after…).
16) I have NEVER threatened to take my children back to America. In fact, I have email exchanges to prove that for years I told my family I’d always stay in Taiwan even if my marriage faltered.
17) I never neglected to pay for my children. I have proof of all.
18) I have never stolen money. Never. I do not owe money. Nothing at all.  And, in fact, I have evidence on the contrary.
I could continue this list of false allegations and absurd accusations AGAINST me and my family. Suffice it to say, my defense against these allegations is my right, even publicly. I have not attacked anyone by doing so.  There are no lies here and I am not fabricating anything.  I am purely stating what accusations are wrong, totally.
I have NOT brought accusations, real nor fabricated, against anyone. Everything above is to defend myself.
My children mean the world to me.  Emails from the past, upon separation, state, “The children are your life.” That is still the whole truth. Undoubtedly. I have been fighting to be in their lives ever since that accurate email. Another email to my Aunt stated “He is a great father to the children, and I respect that, as did emails sent to my good friend in America around the same time. Those emails are STILL the truth.  No accusation since is accurate nor real.
A month after separation, in a recorded conversation, I was told that the best caregivers for the children include… “you, Michael” (there were only four people on the list). Nothing has changed except the ridiculous accusations against me since.
I am Michael Brown, and I am a good/great father. I have evidence to prove it.
[This posting will most likely result in an attempted volley of “explanations”.  I am comfortable with hearing out anyone in response. I have evidence to defend the accusations. I feel comfortable and confident in doing so.]
[For those expats interested in how the process has gone, going through all in a foreign country, I can share this: 1) a professional interpreting service told me via email when I asked why she’d altered my document and omitted sections in her translations, “I left out that paragraph from your document because in Taiwan, grandparents will…”, i.e., a professional translator CHANGED my document because of her cultural differences and biased blinders, 2) a social worker’s report stated, “the mother should get custody to protect the children from the influence of language and culture,” (even though my children are bicultural, biracial, bilingual), 3) a face-to-face interpreter changed my answers in a meeting with social services from “I don’t think so,” to “He doesn’t know,” completely changing the meaning of my answers, 4) and a woman assigned to investigate the parents said, “You are not a good father, you show no insight into being a good parent, you’re not capable, you never want to change, and you always think you’re right.” Her report came after a FIVE-MINUTE observation of me and my two children in their room and a letter she read that I wrote my children, a letter my family said made them cry! The system here is pure, utter travesty.]
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