Sustained Incredulity

Here is a letter I wrote tonight, ostensibly to my children, sending it to their mother’s email, about the pressure of my 7-year-old daughter having been told to study to prepare for a “big test”, one she was told may hinder her from advancing from grade two to grade three, a test that does NOT exist.  

I have ample reasons to explain all that the issue entails because or the reasons I explained in the following text.  My ex is aiming to discredit me as a candidate for custody because, she claims in Court documents that I “cannot help with the kid’s homework”.  A Court investigator sent to my home to do an observation back in October asked, for her very first question, “How do you plan to support the children to do homework?” (in Chinese).

My letter is unaltered, here below, except for taking their names out.  My ex’s response is below it.  I am incredulous. 


My ex’s response is below, unedited.  I am fully aware that the Court custody verdict clearly stated that “If the two parties cannot get along, sole custody will be awarded to one.” That one line in the Court paperwork clearly reveals why such full-throttle false accusations keep coming, three years later.  Sure, I called the grandfather picky (he was incredibly picky about pronunciation while teaching me years and years ago, so that is not a fabrication), but the reaction is over-the-top drama.  Naturally, if I try to reply to stop the nonsense, she just throws it back full-throttle again, trying to get the last word in.


accusation

 

 

 

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An Open Letter to My Children

Dear I&D:

Kiddos, how are you?

I hope you are well, but, once again, since the last time I saw you (the evening drop off at your grandparent’s home on the eve of Christmas Day), no calls have successfully reached you.  As the last three years has shown, getting ahold of you, even though the Courts have established that we have a right to communicate, is incredibly difficult.  Why is it so? How could that be?  Well, unfortunately, the answer is all too clear.

Simply put, there are forces at work which are beyond my control.

I plead.  I implore. Yet the 150 cell phone calls I’ve made to your grandparent’s home (as my cell phone’s records show), and perhaps a 100 more Skype calls in the last year or so have ended in about a 10% success ratio, with the last few months undoubtedly resulting with about a 5% success, perhaps less.

To be honest, it kills me.  Killing me slowly, however, is the aim.

Moreover, the response from the forces explain, “He can call whenever he wants,” but although such an attitude is taken by the Courts as supposed willingness to let me call, there is not mandate by the legal system that my calls have to be successful.

I have sent COUNTLESS texts over the last few years to ask when I can call you, to know when you’ll be home, and/or to ask what’s the best time to reach you.  In fact, after every failed call (i.e., after every call resulting in either nobody picking up the phone, or when met with busy signals, or a rare, “They’re not home” reply), I ask via text how to get ahold of you. Yet, literally, there have been TWO replies in 2.5-years-plus that stated “Call now”.  The last was OVER two years ago! NOT once since have I received a return text.

The aim is to kill me, slowly.  And that’s what it does. That’s what they do.

When I cannot get you on the phone, my heart breaks a little bit more each time.

Friends have advised me to make a paradigm shift.  One recommended, poignantly, to call only with the aim of calling, to do it for you, but even to expect no contact. If my goal is to not actually reach you, she suggested, and instead to call just to show my love, then the gesture of calling might be satisfying enough to know that I tried.  However, that hasn’t worked yet, at least fully, for I do let it get to me that the forces beyond my control have practically DESTROYED our communication.

How could someone do that?  How cruel and coldhearted does someone have to be to NOT arrange a call back, from two children to their daddy?  To not return a text to let me know when I can reach you is simply calloused behavior.

Any parent, whomever it is in this world, should rise above animosity, bitterness, greed and retaliation, transcending their own self to realize that the children would enjoy talking to their father. The benefit of the calls is NOT just the father’s happiness, but rather, and I mean this with all of my heart, the beneficiaries are you children!

A child’s development would SURELY benefit from hearing his or her daddy’s voice, from daddy telling him/her regularly, “I love you,” or “I miss you.”  Hearing that would give them more love in this at-times-evil world.  YOU CHILDREN WOULD BENEFIT FROM A LOVING FATHER BEING ALLOWED TO SHOW YOU THAT LOVE MORE OFTEN!

For someone to not see that is unimaginable.  It is incredible.  How dare the people involved to make that choice.  How fucking dare they.

As you children know, I tell you every time I pick you up that daddy called.  I let you know, so you know that I love you and haven’t forgotten you between weekends with you. I ask if you know I called, often at the immediate pick up times, so that it is on video, so that there is no chance of anyone claiming I manipulated any video (i.e., that I forced things before the video like, “Tell the camera you didn’t know I called,” which has been claimed).

Yet after I query, you often seem quizzical, like you have no idea I called. And you’ve stated it clearly.

You’ve both told me clearly that you cannot call.  That you cannot talk on the phone, that “people” don’t want you to–even though you tell me regularly you’d like to talk.  You’ve both told me other things that make me sick to my stomach.  The fact you’ve explained to me that you’ve been told it is too late to call me when you get home after spending your evenings at that place of employment is shockingly wrong, for I am always going to be up after you go to bed.  It is never too late, I implore you to know.  Other examples could fill paragraphs here, but suffice it to say, it is all a vindictively cruel game, and YOU ARE THE VICTIMS.

Kiddos, I write this because I love you.  You mean the world to me.  You are my world, which is what I was even told in the following photo of an email after separation.

I am so sorry.

I want to talk, regularly, even just two to three times a week is enough (but I’d surely take every day), so I can hear your voices, so that you hear mine.  You need to know that I call.  You need to receive my calls, but you rarely can because of those forces at play beyond my control.

How I wish it were different, I&D.  It should be.  By every definition of what the world considers good, wholesome, pure–and how that should be allowed to exist between a father and his children, it is all a violation of our rights.

On Christmas Day evening, right before leaving my home, before unplugging the lights surrounding our little trees and ornaments, I sat you down to hold you, to talk to you, to remind you of my love.  I had set up my phone on the coffee table to run on video mode, which captured our last moment together for the following three weeks (with one week already having passed now) before seeing each other again.  With tears in my eyes and the crackily voice to accompany it, I explained to you, “When you go to bed each and every night, stop to think that at that moment that you fall to sleep, Daddy is thinking about you, too.”  Tears flowed, as they are right now as I write this entry.

There is nothing I regret about the last three years, you two, yet I regret that actions have  been taken that are beyond my control. I am practically powerless to get that to change, but I know that one day, you will have the cognitive power to make the choice to call.  I await that day with an open, hopeful heart.

I miss you, beyond compare.  I just want to talk to you, my kiddos.  Please.

Yet it is beyond my control.

Daddy

PS These truths are self-evident in the following messages.

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great-father-to-the-kids-blocked-names

66-kidsare-yourlife-blocked-names

 

 

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Michael Brown, an expat in Taiwan, needs help! Here is why!

My Go Fund Me Campaign is here!

I am an expatriate in Taiwan, and I am being f_______d–and all is based on nonsense lies, utter fabrication, unsubstantiated claims.  I truly need help financially, so I have started a GoFundMe second campaign, after getting some help from friends and family 1.5-2 years ago.  I am in desperate need of retaining a lawyer.  My story is partially on GoFundMe already, and this attached PDF document shows email evidence of my ex-wife clearly stating (that it HARD EVIDENCE) that SHE OWES ME, at the time of separation, yet she is now trying to take me to the cleaners ($93,000US) based on nonsense!

Based on principle, I cannot accept this.  I am fighting on, but I now need help and need to hire a lawyer, having represented myself these past, roughly, two years.

The attached document shows the emails that prove the point I have repeated in Court: It is impossible to owe someone $93,000US three years after separation (a separation that included numerous emails that stated how she owes me money!).  Nothing can change the facts of the HARD EVIDENCE within her emails about her debts to me!

505-emails-for-go-fund-me-abbreviated

Six months after separation, my ex-wife sent a PDF letter to my friends, family and her friends (and who knows to whom else) that made these claims, wrongful, unfounded, accusations (in this next document attachment).  This attached link below explains how those false allegations were ridiculous claims.  2.5 years later, I finally need to share this.

376-pdf-lies-proven

This following (ONE) email is enough to counter any false claims that my ex-wife now fabricates about me owing her money.  IT IS IMPOSSIBLE to write she owes me money and then claim years later that I owe her $93,000US!  IMPOSSIBLE!  If the Court ignores that simple fact, JUSTICE WILL HAVE FAILED.

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This next email clearly shows that my ex-wife knows and believes I am a good father.  On October 24th, 2013, three weeks after separation and 1.5 months after an argument that effectively ended the marriage, when my ex kicked me out, she wrote I was a great father–and that she would never deny it. However, in custody case hearings and documents, she has falsely claimed horrible things about me–and her PDF lies (see the above document) sent to family and friends, wrongly accused me of frightening her and the children.  She NEVER would have written me that I was a great father if I had scared her just 1.5 months before.  Again, such lies are proven wrong.

wont-deny

 

 

Three days before separation, my ex-wife wrote that she must “have to move on”, in a FB message exchange with my aunt in America, yet she has falsely claimed in Court that I suddenly abandoned the family without warning.  That is NONSENSE.  She kicked me out and then secretly wrote family about the relationship being over–even BEFORE separation!  Moreover, telling my aunt that I am a great father, a month after our last argument, completely counters her false claims that she had to hide the children, shivering in a corner from me.  All her lies are proven to be lies.

great-father-to-kids

 

 

 

Finally, adding more proof that her lies are nonsensical, wrongful allegations against me, this email clearly shows how she KNEW that “the kids are your life.” Yet she continued to fabricate to others that I just abandoned them.  Never in a million years did I do that, nor would I.  She is incredibly hurtful and wrong.  She has destroyed my relationship with my children.

kids-life

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A Beautiful Girls Epiphany

In 1996, I wrote the following entry about Warwick, New York in a journal I had kept at the time. Having come across it recently, twenty years later, I thought I’d type it up to both save it electronically and to throw it onto my blog.

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 have mattered 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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRSIPvuYwOY

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.

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[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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