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Friday, December 15, 2017

The Thrill of Hope.....

....a new and glorious morn......the phrase from this song has captured my heart the past few weeks. Even before the official Christmas season began (which is still way too early) the thrill of hope was rolling around in my head and heart over and over. As time marched us closer to the actual day of Christmas the phrase continues to dwell within me like a mantra repeating itself over and over again. Like that song you heard on the radio that now is stuff in perpetuity. Yet my phrase is not one of annoyance like the radio song, but rather a it is a continual reminder that this season too shall pass!

It has been sometime since I have shared what is on my heart and the happenings of my bunch and I. So let this blog post serve as my Christmas letter as the budget did not allow me to indulge in my annual Christmas card campaign as it did in years past. This was yet another indicator of this most recent season of life. I think the best way to describe this past year would be the phrase, "Due Diligence". I conducted all my affairs in life with a sense of due diligence. Not as an urgent race to get it all done, but rather a steady stream of progress and crossing my t's and dotting my i's. While unstated this years journey has moved me toward to SIMPLE and learning to be ok with that. Which as crazy as it seems has been hard to accept.

The past few years have brought many changes and challenges and stress points and issues that have taxed my heart and brain beyond belief. Now I long and am moving into a season of simple!

The most interesting components of my life tend to stem around that of the Bunch - also known as Courtney, Will, Lyric, Alexis and AJ. Here is an update on each of them!

Courtney graduated from high school after much angst and stress he completed his required courses and received his diploma. While the process what not what I had hoped for him, he did what he needed to do and accomplished his goal. He has since been accepted to a couple of different colleges but is taking his time to determine the best next steps in his life. He is living at home and works at Subway making subs! Keep in your thoughts and prayers as he plans for the journey ahead.

Will's attempt to move back home permanently last December lasted a couple of months. After much worry and hesitation it was decided that now 16 year old Will would not be able to live at home with his family anymore due to the issues he struggles with in the family environment. This was a blow for me as a dad, but in the long run we believe that Will's long term goals are better met in a different scenario. He is still our son and we still have visits and talk regularly him on the phone. He came home for Thanksgiving nand will be back next wek for Christmas. We are hoping that a planned transition for him in early January goes accordingly as he takes the next steps towards his own independence

My 13 year old daughter, Lyric, has definitely blossomed as a teenager this year. Along with the noticeable physical changes her 13 year old stare of death and angry outbursts seem to be spot on for the hormonal creature I call my darling daughter. She continues to struggle in her own way in the areas of social skills, basic life skills, responsibility and etc. Due to her mental illness, we have come to the conclusion that Lyric will require a different level of support as she grows and looks toward a life of independence. For those of you not familiar with the challenge of mental health support in America please know the challenges are immense, the resources are few and the only one getting hurt is Lyric. When she is truly engaged and present she has an infectious laugh, an amazing smile and a very creative mind that has the potential to take the fashion world by storm.

Alexis is what could be described as the darling of the family. This very intelligent 9-year old continues to amaze me in her resilience, especially since she is sandwiched between her older sister and younger brother, both of whom steal a lot of attention away from her. Lexi as we in the family are allowed to call her is becoming more determined and head strong in certain things in her life. She conquered her fear of heights this past summer when she did a 4 story ropes course all by herself while we were on vacation. I was so proud of her that day and she did it all of her own accord. She is her own little paradox when she goes from pretending to be a dog or cat when playing to having an in-depth discussion with me regarding the reason why U.S. Postal Carriers have to wear blue uniforms. She has a good sense of the world around her and yet stilll knows how to tune it all out when needed, including tuning me out! 

The biggest theft of my energy is a five year old named, Aaron Jeffrey, or AJ as we all call him. Everybody knows AJ and if they don't they will by the time he leaves the room they were in. He knows how to make his presence known to all near and far. I often joke I am glad I am deaf, because the boy's normal volume is LOUD much to the consternation of his teachers at school.Yes we have had his ears tested and he has perfect hearing. Entering the ranks of kindergarten has caused great stress for this happy go lucky little guy! Long story short, his early weeks in school resulted in many phone calls, meetings with the principal and teachers and long night at home. We continue to support AJ the best we know how through use of homeopathic medicine and other therapies. We are currently working off of a tentative diagnosis of PANDAS for AJ, please see this link to learn more.   We have found an amazing practiioner who is very familiar with this condition and is helping us to sort through it all. Keep us all in your prayers as we continue down this extremely challenging road with AJ!

A little more updates on me.... I am now working part time (15 to 20) a week for a local chiropractic doctor who specializes in working with kids who have neuro typical disorders such as autism, ADD, PANDAS and other similar issues. This is the first time I have worked outside of the home in 7 years so it has been an adjustment for me physically, but so good for me emotionally and cognitively. To learn more check out Covenant Integrative Wellness at our FaceBook page. Our new website will launch in early January

Another bit of news, I have moved yet again. I am grateful to my parents who do so much for me every year. We decided to sell the house we purchased for me to live in and for me to downsize once again. We originally bought the house with the intention of Will and I being primary residents, well when that did not work out it became clear to me I did not need such a big house to maintain. The house sold and closed in under 90 days and I was able to move out and move on. Which leads me to the next piece of my story.

As you can guess from the above descriptions of my kids, their needs are continual and sometimes quite intense and requires the support of both their mother and I on the bad days. It was decided that I would move into the basement quarters of Julie's home and set up shop. I have been here in the Daddy Cave since October and for the most part it is going well.  The kids enjoy having their parents under one roof and the hassles of kids transitioning between two households is no longer an issue. I am now officially co-parenting my kids with their mother and 95% of the time it works and benefits all involved. We don't see this as a long term arrangement (fingers crossed) and are doing this in an effort to support the diverse and unique needs of our children. We are learning boundaries and new ways of communication and learning to accept one another in new ways that we never did before! No this is not a step towards reunification, it is a culmination of Co-Parenting five amazing kids who need their mom and dad and sometimes both at the same time. I will probably blog about the co-parenting thing more in the year ahead. Stay tuned!

Returning to my initial thoughts of the Thrill of Hope.....all the things I wrote above set me into a funk or depression over the past few months likely most of the year. Having to downsize yet again and sell off many items I did not think I would ever part with (My Coca Cola Collection for one) have been intense times of growing pains. I now live in a large family room and one bedroom and a bathroom to call my own Daddy Cave. I am so blessed that Julie was able to put the needs of our kids over her own thoughts and feelings and allow this Co-Parenting thing to happen. This is also allowing me to reset some things financially and get better prepared for the future so yet another sorting out of things.

Learning to manage what I can manage! Learning to see what is important and what is not! Learning to take care of me! Learning that forgiveness is a powerful tool. Continuing to accept I am who I am because I am a Child of God and He did not make any mistakes. All these life lessons prepare me for what is ahead and gives me what I call, "A Thrill of Hope" for my family and for yours!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Don’t Help Me – Please Help Me – Ok You Can Stop Now!

Do you remember holding your child in your arms for the very first time? Do you remember the feelings that overwhelmed you in that moment? The strong sense that you would do whatever you could to help this child to grow, develop, bloom and be successful in life. You did not just become a parent in that moment; you became a teacher, motivator, disciplinarian, mentor, playmate, maid, and everything else that they would need during their lives. You have committed yourself to be there for you child in whatever possible. Of course, one of the goals is to raise our children to be independent and successful even without our being there to pick them up with each fall. But how many times do we stand there and cringe and even start to reach out to steady your child when you see a pending obstacle, yet you pull back to help them encounter the obstacle in their own way. No matter what your child’s age may be, do you ever stop wanting to help? Do you find yourself not wanting to put your hand in front of them as you step on the brake suddenly while driving down the street? The need to be there to protect and help our children is inherent from the day of their birth to the day of their death, or sadly their child’s death as occurs in some cases. Not trying to be morbid, but over the past few days I have become very aware of this position.

One of my greatest blessings comes in the forms of my mom and dad! Curt and Brenda Ballard are some amazing folks! And yes, they drive me absolutely crazy at times. And to be fair I return the favor. Being an only child is not something I do not take lightly and thus our lives are very intertwined. Clearly there are days where I want to cut the vines that bind us together and again I know they have felt the same way at times. It would be easy to be resentful of the fact that my being an only child is probably an unfair burden for me and for them as well. Not having a sibling means that my closest allies in life are my parents. For them they don’t have favorites so they are stuck with me as their only option.

This past week I have come to realize that while I am very concerned about my parents and their aging process that they too are concerned about my own aging process. I just turned 48 and am divorced with five amazing and challenging children. In addition, dealing with my medical and physical realities and unable to work while now facing a new chapter of medical drama that none of us are looking forward to. One of the things my parents did well, was to raise a very independent man! They never treated me different due to my physical and medical challenges and always encouraged me to do my best with what I had to work with in any given situation. Ok so maybe I was a little spoiled and to a degree still am, part of the only child syndrome! Yet there are some who are quick to point out that I may have taken my independence a little too far at times by tending to choose to travel the roads less traveled. Others might say that I am fooling myself and have become an entitled tyrant who does not like not getting his way. But who does not like getting their own way?
As my parents were here these past few days to help me with Spring Break and the kiddos as we awaited the verdict of my current medical drama to unfold, we clearly encountered our share of power struggles. They wanted to help me because I was feeling so bad, and yet my strong independent streak roared its ugly head. Yes, I can be a butthead sometimes and they know it and still love me. Yet they are aware that they are stuck in their ways and a bit stubborn themselves and I still love them. This unique combination is a special treat (noted sarcastically) for us when we are all together and stressed!

A challenge I faced was dealing with physical chronic pain and general blek feeling and wanting to do nothing, but also wanting to do what I could. I was not good at communicating what I wanted to do. There were moments when mom or dad was jerking their figurative hand out in front of me to prevent a potential obstacle disaster. Sometimes I was appreciative, other times not so much. For those times, I apologize, and I truly understand the unique position they find themselves in. I am so appreciative and blessed to have parents who have always supported me in good and bad times. When I made decisions, they didn’t agree with and then didn’t take satisfaction by saying “I told you so!” As there were clearly times they could have and even then, helped me develop a plan to clean up a Brock Mess. They have learned over time when to step back and let me do my thing and I know it has not been easy.

They are most incapable of holding back when I am sick or not well or my health is in jeopardy. There is something that triggers everything in them when it comes to my physical well-being. It probably stems from losing a child thirty seven years ago, and being afraid of going through that again. No I am not dying but when you are dealing with matters of the heart it is hard to not consider all potential outcomes. They were told after my older brother was born that they should not have more kids, but chose to do so anyway. Even when I was born I fought and struggled for 3 months before they could bring me home. They watched me struggle with hearing issues, bone and joint issues, genetic testing and other variables over the years. They feel for me with each added chapter of my medical history. Their internal desire to protect me is overwhelming and never goes away. May I continue to be more aware of their desire to protect me and help me along the way.

I totally get it. I have shared many of the travails and obstacles my kids have faced in their lives. While most not of their own doing and some of their own volition and I am always struggling with when do I reach out my hand or redirect them from encountering an obstacle. Every day I find myself trying to solve a problem for one of my kids to make their life a little smoother. Depending on how unwise they are being motivates me as to how much I want to help them (think teenagers). So yes, parents struggle with where the line lies as to when and when not to intervene. Clearly as I have seen in recent days this struggle is lifelong! The joys of parenthood are forever and amen!

All this to say a huge SHOUT OUT to my parents…. truly the best and most amazing parents around! I know they did a little happy dance in the car as they pulled away from my house this morning…. I am glad they didn’t see me behind the closed front door after they left. We obviously have more journeys ahead as we move into the days and years ahead. Let us all be more aware and thankful for our blessings. If you still have your parents please call them, go by and give them a hug or let them know you are blessed by them being in your life! 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

All about the Heart of the Matter...

WARNING: This blog contains information you may or may not want to read or know, but it all comes from my heart! Not graphic or inappropriate - just honest! So do with it what you will!

How many songs have we heard throughout our lives that talk about the heart! “The heart is not so smart” or “Achy Breaky Heart” or “Open the Eyes of my Heart” and the list goes on. What is it about the heart that has everyone’s attention. This has been a week of heart matters for me both literally and figuratively.

It all started Sunday evening when I went to the see the movie. “The Shack” and my heart was rocked at all the emotions that the film caused within my heart. Seeing how God became flesh in this allegorical film for a man whose family was rocked by the abduction and murder of their child. So many beautiful pictures were shown on the screen before me as I watched the Father, Son and Holy Spirit displayed in such a way to immense matters of the heart. Matters such as love, forgiveness, self-image, personal value, redemption and grace were all addressed and left me marveling at who God truly is for me and how He has lead me through life. I know some of you have issues with some of the theological ideas presented in the film and I have my own thoughts I will share on the subject in a future blog.

Then on Monday I was home alone resting after a long wonderful weekend spent with my kids and finally watched the final installment of ABC’s, “When We Rise.” For those of you who don’t know, “When We Rise” was a 4 night (8-hour bio docudrama) of the Gay community from the late 1960’s until present day. Being a gay man I can honestly say I was vastly ignorant on some of the issues presented in this program! I have known some of the basics of the Gay community and how it evolved over the years, but never truly followed it in such a linear flow. As the visual story came to a halt in 2016 I was overwhelmed with a sense of blessing for those who fought this battle. As a teen and young adult, I remember sneaking around the libraries (pre-internet) looking for any information I could find about being homosexual or gay. I still recall sitting in the back of the stacks in one library reading through a series of books on sexuality to determine if I was diseased or cursed or whatever “it” was I did to cause this to happen to me. I was trying to figure out what was wrong with me. Sadly, there was not much encouragement for a young man searching for answers in 1989! Rather it was all gloom and doom and shame! I allowed the shame that was born in my young life to control my life for far too long. As a result of that shame many people were hurt along the way in my journey to find peace.

The docudrama created a shift in my heart as I followed the stories of people who had spent decades fighting for what they believed and then seeing their dreams become reality. The sense of victory that they experienced both individually and corporately was inspiring and left me wondering, how did I miss all this? I know many of you have very different opinions than I about issues of sexuality and etc. I want to first of all say, I respect each and everyone one of your perspectives and views. I just ask that you do the same for me. If there is one thing I have learned about my heart over the years is this, I don’t like confrontation and if you come at me in a confrontational manner I will shut down. Yet as I get older I am finding that I am not as hesitant to confront as I used to be. The reason being is that I allowed my own personal shame to shut me down. Now that I am no longer controlled by shame the need to hide from confrontation is not as necessary.

Shame is a powerful force in our lives and a lot of what I have personally experienced in the church has resulted in shame and self-doubt and even self-loathing. Those patterns of thinking became entrenched within my being as I journeyed through the various phases of my life: being scared as a teen that I had done something to create my attraction to guys that would no doubt send me to hell not to mention infect me with AIDS and die; to my young adulthood when the only door on my closet was a revolving door wrought with secrets and bad choices; to my early 30’s with my first partner; to my mid 30’s in the antigay movement and the anti-gay Christian conversion therapy; and into my 40’s and marriage to my former wife and on to the point where I am now looking down the nose of 50 and single and by the way gay and ok with no shame. The absence of shame equals peace and understanding of what is in my heart and whom He created me to be.

My heart is defined by the truth of who I am! I am many things: believer, man, father, son, cousin, friend, partner, writer, dog lover, junk picker and a bunch of other things to boot. Not one of these components totally defines who I am. Do I place more value on some of these than others, oh yeah! I have always been and always will consider myself first and foremost a believer – a Child of God! This was the number one principal I learned when going through the anti-gay conversion therapy in my mid-30’s.  Though it may not have been their intention when they taught me this principal, but truly the idea of accepting my identity as a Child of God was brilliant in that it showed me no matter what I am His child. This is the single thing I am grateful for during my two years within the conversion therapy movement. Even though I was temporarily convinced that I could pray away the gay, I learned, believed and still believe that above all else I am a Child of God. None of these other aspects of my heart and being changes that fact.

Tuesday brought my weekly visit with my 3 youngest kids. According to the latest revision of the parenting plan approved by the all might wise Cole County Court, my youngest three kids spend every Tuesday night and every other weekend at my house. Not enough time in my book, but sadly that is something that was and is still soooo out of my control. I truly believe that will change in time but for now it is what it is. Every Tuesday is a booster shot for my heart as I spend time with my kids as I cherish each moment we share together. I have blogged about my kids in the past and each of them bring their own challenges with them when they come to my house. My heart soared Tuesday evening as I watched AJ (the five-year-old) participate in soccer practice. This whole team sport thing is a new concept for him and he is at that age where it seems like he changes and develops a little more each day. How fun is that? To watch this little dude just do his thing and do better than I ever expected in that environment. I love being a dad and it holds a good chunk of my heart.

Moving on to Wednesday of this week, I had the privilege to spend the day with my mom and two of my cousins just being together eating, pickin’ and hanging out touched my heart more than I thought it would. They took time out of there busy lives and drove 2 ½ hours to see me! It was a time of fun and reminiscing and laughter and more. I moved to Jefferson City 11 years ago, and I admit I struggle with the fact I am still here all these years later, but I am here for my kids and am not going anywhere. Yet being in Jefferson City has separated me from my family and close friends. I miss the relationships I had when I lived in Springfield and St. Louis. I grew up surrounded by family and friends and I was blessed. It has taken me nearly a decade to finally feel like I am home and have some good friends here. Could I use a few more people in my corner here in Jefferson City, of course, but maybe another decade and I will pick up a few more. People who know ME and know my heart. Who knew that my moving to Central Missouri would be a necessary part of my journey on many levels. My heart was touched and blessed by the visit of my cousins and mom and I can’t wait until we do it again. All other cousins welcome to join us next time!

Today is Thursday and I started my day off at the Cardiologist office trying to determine the cause of my recent episodes of chest pain. They did an EKG and nothing major was indicated. I was put on another medication (which I have to wait until tomorrow to pick up since none of the 4 pharmacies I went to had it in stock – more joy of small town living). I have been scheduled for another stress test at 8 am Monday to determine what is going on. Most of you know I have been struggling with heart issues for almost 6 years and frankly I am tired of it. Cardiac catheter, stents, by pass, widow maker arteries, high blood pressure, cholesterol levels, among others are all too common terms in my vocabulary these days. No fun, not working.

I spent this evening eating dinner with my best friend and partner in life. We laughed and talked and just shared the ups and downs of our day. The relationship we have, while far from perfect it is truly full of heart for one another! While the odd couple we might be, we spend a lot of our time looking out for and taking into account each other’s needs as we truly desire only the best for one another. He knows my heart and knows what will break it and what will heal it. We have dreams for life and what a joy it is to support one another with our individual and joint goals in life. My heart is truly full.

All this to say that it truly is a matter of the heart! Who made my heart? Who knows my heart? As I was leaving the doctor today trying not to get bummed out about the unknown potentials of the days ahead something came to my mind, a line from an old song I learned as a kid, “…. cause you gave me a HEART and you gave me a smile, You gave me Jesus and made me your Child, I just thank you Father for making me, ME!”

Really I do! Sing a long with below!

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Who is they?????

I find it more than interesting that when offering encouragement or advice or well wishes that it usually starts with. "You know what they say?" Who the heck is THEY???? Where was THEY when I needed a hand to hold. Where was THEY when I needed an ear to listen? Where was THEY when I needed someone to sit quietly when I needed to grieve? Where was they when I needed a shoulder to lean on? Where was THEY????

Today has been another one of those challenging days in the life of a parent of a child who is hurting. Another test of my strength, resolve, love and compassion! It is cold, grey and damp outside so it fits my mood and countenance and yet I search for answers!

So what do THEY say to those of us who just do not know what else to do? What do THEY say to us as others cast stones? What do THEY say when you are rejected by a loved one? What do THEY say when there are no good options? What do THEY say when the system is broke and the life of a loved one is damaged? What do THEY say when you say Enough is Enough!

Let me tell you what THEY say! They say nothing! The silence is deafening as there are no words that can describe the feelings that I and the mother of my child feel today! Words are hollow today! Feelings are real today! I am not emotionally overwrought but I am wondering what "THEY" would say to a hurting parent who only wants their child to grow and develop and have a happy successful life!

I do have hope! I do know the source of hope! I am not without hope. I just hope and pray the same can be said for my hurting child today! My child did not deserve to be hurt, damaged and abandoned by a selfish biological parent. My child did not deserve be physically and emotionally abused by foster parents and foster siblings for years. My child did not deserve to be placed in a home where they were not the only child so they could get what they truly needed? My child did not deserve to be in the position that they are in today.

What do THEY have to say to my child today? Lord knows I don't know what to say!

Thursday, September 22, 2016

The JUNK of LIfe

It is no secret that I like my junk. Like Violet Crawley here.....

I have had a life long love of junk, antiques, sentimental pieces of paper. Did you know I have an entire pile of handwritten (yes handwritten in ink) on white lined note book paper of notes written back and forth from my high school best friend Shari? It is a hoot. You can still see the creases of how we folded those notes and hand them off to one another in between classes or maybe even during the classes we shared together! LOL I am telling ya folks this is the stuff life is made of. Why do I still have this pile of slightly faded yellowing aging paper? Well it represents one of the few positive spots of my high school life. Shari was a light in a dark time of my life and I don't think she ever knew it until now. Some day with her permission I may share some highlights of the importance of high school life in the 1980's!

Then there is the big junk! Recently in preparation for moving and downsizing, I have spent many hours and days and night sorting through boxes of junk or crap as some may call it! I have made countless trips to the closest donation store getting rid of old clothes, games I will never play again, stupid ugly plates I once thought were funky, excess items from my Coke collection, excess items from my Scottie Collection, excess items from my comic book collection, excess items from my trading card collection, excess items from my mission style furniture collection, excess items from my hoarded office supplies and school supplies, and oh my! I have 14 boxes of stuff to drop off at my church next week for their annual Fall Give Away. I have taken full van load of things related to building houses and etc to Habitat for Humanity. I have donated stuff to the kids school. I have been busy sorting and dividing and donating and it has been liberating. Yet when someone looks in my basement (before yesterday) and they say wow you have a lot of stuff....I have to remind them of this!

I have a collection of collections! At one point I had a collection of unique pens from various places and stores and tourists traps and etc. Thanks to my kids help that collection has now been depleted and disposed of! Why do I have this incessant need to collect and gather and keep and border line hoard. I have an extensive collection of Santa Clauses that I like to display at Christmas. I am thinking probably 5 plastic bins of neatly wrapped Santas and such. I even have a dedicated tree just for Jolly old St. Nick. Why? Because I like him. I know and firmly believe in the fact that Christmas is about the birth of savior! Yet the whimsy and joy that the myth of Santa brings is fun and I am a child at heart. Back to the point! JUNK - I have told myself several times that my Santa collection needs to be reduced. I have so many I don't even have room to set them all out each year and that is here in the big house at Ballard on the Green. So I may be having a Santa sale soon. I swear I just had a chest pain when I typed that last sentence. IT IS JUST JUNK! I have to keep reminding myself of that. Stay tuned for details on the Santa Sale....tear, sniff, sigh!

In January, I started selling some of my crap out of a booth in a Flea Market/ Vintage Resale shop here in Jefferson City. This place where I have found other lover of JUNK has become such a joy for me! Almost like a place of majestic wonder.

Not only do I have the ability to off load my junk and continue the hunt for more junk to sell, but I have found others who have this incessant need to hunt and gather. My friend, Joe Bocklage, he is a man among men of hunter sand gatherers in the land of junk, When I first met him, he took me to the bowels of his family kingdom where he kept his collections beneath the bright colors of JStreet Vintage and wow was I overjoyed to see there was a Junkster more enthralled than I.

Yesterday I embarked on an journey I had never taken before! I went to a Surplus Auction at Mizzou in Columbia! I have to tell ya there are several observation I want to share with you.
1) I takes all kinds to make the world go around.
2) Why do so many college kids leave their bikes behind (there must have been 75 bikes that they auctioned off - and the majority of them sold for five dollars or less. One guy bought 7 bikes for 10 dollars. Maybe a couple of flat tires here and there, but these bikes were in near mint condition. If I had more room I would have bought some myself.
3) A 2004 Honda Element Green - one of my dream cars sold AS IS for $1700, It drove and had a few nicks and dents and maybe some transmission issues, but even spending some money on repairs this thing was a deal. Not to mention the three minivan which all sold for under $1000 each and were driveable.
4) Be careful when  the auctioneer starts lumping everything into lots towards the end of the day! Ooopppss! Can we say 27 computer monitors for $11 or what about 17 computer bags for $7.
5) The prices overall were unbelievable.
6) I am sure most normal people out there would not understand the Auction environment and what makes people buy what they buy. But hey...I have the t-shirt....

7) Most of those buyers are there looking to make money off their purchases. Some take the items and recycle and make money off the scraps during recycling. Some are looking to resell in their own shops (that would be me!) and others are there looking how to fill up the bowels of their kingdoms very inexpensively!
8) I should never go to an auction along again - I have no reasoning power. If we are ever in a situation that involves junk and you here me being reasonable - you know we are in trouble

9) Never buy more than will fit in your vehicle.
Nope thats not my vehicle! Thanks to the nice folks at Uhaul I was able to accomodate my purchases and get them home.
10) Oh dawg I was tired by the end of the day and can barely move today!
So all this JUNK talk to say - that as I indicated above, I love junk! Junk loves me. We have had a life long love affair - here lately it has transitioned into a love/hate relationship. My garage is far from full. All my newly acquired junk is in their neatly and nicely! Life is good. Now to sell it all and double my money!

Yesterday was a good day! It was fun, entertaining, educational, tiring, and thrilling in an odd sort of weird Brock loves his junk way! Yet if I were Lucy Ricardo and if I had a Ricky Ricardo person in my life this is what would have happened when I arrived home last night with my Uhaul!

Unless my Ricky is my father or my real estate agent then I am good! 
Babaloo for now!

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

One month later....

One month later…(theme song plays in the background – now if I just had one!)

It has been four weeks since the judgment came down that has changed my life drastically. It was on that day I learned that I no longer had custody of my five children. Now I have tried hard not to be a Debbie Downer since then overwhelm you with woe is me tales of my life since that day. I think I have been fairly successful in doing that and hopefully this post won’t be a downer either. But just a gentle reminder for my family and friends to keep praying for the kids, me and even Julie.

The first few days weren’t too bad as there were reminders of the kids everywhere I looked and it was easy for me to deny the fact they were not coming back anytime soon. Yet within 10 days, Julie finally was able to move into her new home and get all of her belongings and furnishings out of the house we once shared. I wanted the transition to be easy for my kids I gave many things I would have actually kept for the kids to Julie to take to her new house for the kids use.  Beds, bedding, minor furnishings, wall decor, toys and etc. While it would have been easy for me to be greedy and vindictive and not give her anything that wasn’t included in the divorce settlement, I could not do it as I truly felt such opportunities to give to my kids would only benefit them in the transition and for the long term. I did ask Julie to pay for some of the items and she did willingly. She even allowed me to help each of them get things settled in their new rooms in her home. 

After all of her belongings were gone I spent a very long week cleaning and rearranging and setting up the house to be put on the market. I could not believe how dirty this house had gotten. I could not believe how much dirt and grossness my kids could create. I won’t gag you with the gory details, but just know that there were gloves and very long barbeque tongs involved a couple of times that week. Ewww…bad scenes from a movie became my reality. LOL

Once the house was set and staged and then placed on the market was when reality set in and it was ugly. There was a day or two where I became near paralyzed with grief. Yes grief finally hit me as I sat in my redefined large home that was near spotless (though I still find dirt spots from time to time I missed). There were days it took every ounce of strength and courage to get out of bed and do something productive. I am thankful for family and friends who checked on me frequently and encouraged me on those bad days. While I am generally feeling better I still have moments that hang heavy on me as I think about my kiddos and what they may be doing at that moment.

After a misunderstanding this past weekend I had to actually explain to Julie how this change has affected me. I could believe I had to explain it to her. In my own words I told her that I have gone from managing nearly every detail of the lives of our children (even during our 19 month separation) to having little or no contact with them and in some cases don’t know what they are doing at any given moment. I continue to feel that little pieces of my children are vanishing everyday from my life. I literally spent most hours of my days taking care of my kids and their needs to now being blessed to see them once a week as Julie allows. I will say for the most part Julie has allowed me to see them, but I have to tell ya it is very humbling to have to ask someone if you can see your own children. Think about it? What would it be like for you if couldn’t just get up and see your kids whenever you wanted, but you had to ask? How would that make you feel?

It does not make me feel very good. It makes me feel like some kind of criminal. Makes me lfeel ike some kind of less than. It makes me feel like I am not good enough. Yet until 4 weeks ago I was good enough and then boom overnight  - YOU SUCK – do not pass go unless you ask permission first. If that doesn’t make you go WOW then I don’t know what will. So I buck up and I ask! I don’t always get an immediate answer and sometimes I have to wait and most times I get a, “yes you may see your children.” It is like sitting in the waiting room waiting to hear your name called, "Mr. Ballard the doctor will see you now!"  Ahhh the deep sigh of relief as you prepare yourself and put on your happy face to go see your kids and be with them and pretend all is well. It is not their battle, it is mine! 

Some of you are wondering how the kids are doing. Overall they have been so entrenched in settling into a new house, getting back into school for the year, and making adjustments to life that I don’t think it has truly occurred to them that they are not seeing me as much. And that’s ok. When I do get to spend time with them I try to spend a little one on one time with each of them. Which isn’t always easy as they are all vying for my attention when we are together. I have had one weekend with them, as my parents are allowed to supervise visits. So my folks were here and the kids were here and it was a good weekend Lots of playing and hugs and kisses and snuggles and etc. When I see them they are happy to see me and engage me accordingly. Julie has been great in keeping me in the loop of educational, medical and other appts and issues as they have arisen. In some ways she has been supportive.

On the legal front, I have started the appeal process. We have filed the notice of intent to appeal with the Missouri Western Appellate division or whatever they are called. Now my lawyer has a certain period of time to write his appeal brief that will outline how we feel the judge’s ruling was unjust given the testimony and evidence presented in the divorce hearing to justify our request to overturn the ruling. We cannot enter new evidence or materials or witnesses. This appeal is solely based on the ruling the judge made and how it does not fit with the evidence presented. Once the brief is sent to the Appeal Court there is a panel of 3 judges that will review the brief and then make their determination. The determination will be sent back to the original judge with hopefully direction on how to correct the ruling based on what they see from the evidence provided. Then the original judge has to rewrite his ruling in accordance with the guidelines provided by the appellate panel. There is also a chance that the appellate panel will just tell the original judge that they disagree with his ruling and he has to change it and not give him any guidelines in which to follow as he rewrites the ruling. And there is a chance the appellate court will concur with the judgment and nothing will change. I am hoping the new 50/50 law will give some additional credence to my appeal. If you are not familiar with the new 50/50 law that just went into effect here in Missouri then Google it and read about it. Mainly it forces judges in divorce/custody matters to vacate the previous mindset of automatically giving wives and mothers preferential treatment right to win in such cases and look more at how custody can be more equitable for both parents.

Financially I am gonna be honest I am completely tapped out. I have not been this broke in over a decade and it is freaking me out a bit. I have been selling things like crazy. Every day I try and ensure I sell something online and even if it $5 it has been a good day. I have food and the basics of life right now. I have a roof over my head and the mortgage company has been somewhat supportive and aren’t pulling the repo plug just yet. The house is on the market and the traffic of people looking at the place has been very steady so I am pleased about that. I need this place to sell soon. I am looking into filing bankruptcy as the judge also placed 80% of the marital debt on my plate. It is all crazy. So my new motto is that if it is not nailed down it is for sale! Except for my dogs.

While I have been able to come up with quite a bit of cash to pay the attorney fees I am still behind. I am working on a payment plan that works for all parties involved but I still have so far to go. If the house sells I will be able to pay my attorney with the proceeds of the house, but I worry that won’t still be enough. God knows and day by day, I count the cash in my wallet and coins in my jar and check my bank account online. I have not had the credit card people calling me yet, but I am afraid that is about to start any day now.

Days can be long at times as I miss my kids, try not to stress about finances, keep then house neat and clean, wonder where I will be living in a couple of months, wondering when I will see the kids again and keeping myself healthy. Ok I said this wasn’t going to be Debbie Downer posts…so let me bring this back around. So here is what I KNOW right here and right now.

1)      I still see my kids at least once a week.
2)      Julie keeps me mostly informed about what’s going on with them.
3)      My oldest has been over at least once a day for the past 3 days to say hi!
4)      I have a roof over my head!
5)      The utility bills are all paid.
6)      I have food in my cupboards.
7)      I have my dogs and dog food for them.
8)      I am selling a little bit every day.
9)      I have amazing neighbors who are there for me.
10)   I have a couple of great friends who check on me each day.
11)   I have my mom and dad who are being so supportive.
12)   There has been a lot of traffic of people looking at the house.
13)   A plan is developing for my next step in housing. More on that later.
14)   I am loved by God and family and friends.

At this time, what more can I truly ask for? If you would please continue to pray for my kids and I that would be greatly appreciated. Also if you would like to help me out financially please see the link below to contribute.

So for one month later (cue the theme music) I am doing ok! Keeping my head about me. Not totally freaking out. Trusting God each day to supply what I need. So ya, I am doing ok! Now to find my6 theme song.....

Friday, August 5, 2016

Nearly Undone.....Wait I am Undone.....

It seems almost surreal as I look around this house today and see packed up rooms and furnishings stripped down and ready to go and knowing I am not going with it. Finally 19 months after leaving me and moving out of our home, Julie, is moving out and taking the things that are going with her. Not only is Julie moving out, but so are my five beautiful children. Each of their rooms are packed and ready to go for the movers tomorrow.  Even my 17 year old son, Courtney, who has lived me since the first day he walked into my home 15 years ago. long before I ever knew Julie. Just thinking about it brings tears to my eyes. Yet as a 17 year old, he can't process this transition emotionally and just becomes flat and unemotional and does not want to talk to me. Makes me feel as though I have failed him and I guess to a degree I have. Him and all his brothers and sisters too. I am finding I am more emotional than I expected thru this transition and at times nearly undone! I keep doing everything in my power to keep busy and focused on things I can do. Yet I feel like at some point it will blow. I truly am undone.

The truth is that grief comes in phases and at odd times. Once the movers are gone tomorrow and this home is just a house with empty rooms that will echo I am sure I will find it very hard. A couple of nights ago I had the privilege of being with my children for a few hours and putting them to bed at Julie's mom's house. As I laid an adorable little sleeping AJ in his bed and tucked him in I felt a tear slide down my cheek knowing that I don't know when I will be given the privilege to do that again. To caress his warm cheek, to run my fingers through his hair, to feel his arms around me and to hear him yell "Daddy"  as loud as he can when I am literally a foot away from me. I am undone....

To you parents out there who are just glad to get your kids to bed at the end of the day, (I get it) treasure every moment There are no guarantees in this life! It is a privilege to be a parent.....You need to get that. We take it for granted. Yet it seems that judges can base decisions on anything but actual fact to take them away from loving parents. I try hard not to be bitter, yet it is so difficult. It is clear that the judge stepped outside the bounds of his jurisdiction on this issue, yet hides under the guise of "what's in the best interest of the child!" It leaves me undone!

Yes I am looking at all my legal options and I clearly have several. I will do whatever I need to get my kids back. Yet I have to be able to afford such action and still be able to live. Due to all the stress my health issues have started acting up again and requiring some additional medical intervention. Nothing serious but annoying nonetheless. Needless to say, today is not one of my better days. I  am thankful that my children will finally have some stability and an established routine again in a home of their own with their mother. The part that makes me sad is that I won't be a part of that routine and daily life issues unless their mother allows it. Yes the judge gave her full control of when I can see my children, for how long I can see my children, how often I see my children and to determine who is appropriate to supervise my visits. Ridiculous is what it is! Never have I heard of such a crazy messed up way of managing a father's visitation with his children. I DID NOT DO ANYTHING WRONG TO JUSTIFY THIS!

Truly I am not trying to put down the children's mother as for the most part she is being reasonable. She didn't ask for this arrangement from the judge. She testified on the stand she had no issues with my parenting and said I was a good father. I am so confused about it all. The only thing is that I do think she could have influenced the judges final decision, but chose not to. Thus throwing us all into more legal wrangling in the months ahead. She is mistaken if she thinks I am just going to let this go. Even if it appears I am not doing anything to pursue custody, trust me the wheels are in motion. Just everything takes time and money! Time is something I have plenty of, now if I could turn that time into money all would be good. I am making progress on selling as much as I can to get extra cash. Yet I have come to realize that even if I sell everything I own it still won't be enough! Any body know where I can sell a kidney on the black market? Ok kidding, sort I think. Just leave it as I am just undone!

Trust me, I am not feeling sorry for myself, but rather taking the time to acknowledge my feelings and emotions right now. I  am not looking for pity or some such thing, but rather just encouragement and support as this journey continues. I am facing some difficult decisions ahead and I cannot deny they will not affect my children on some level, yet I am between a rock and a hard place. There are days when I will be fine and other days like today when I will just feel undone.

So as I close to go find something to do to keep me busy and occupied I just ask you keep my kids in your prayers as well as myself and even Julie. She has a lot on her plate! If there is anyway you can help financially please see the link below. I know you are not my source, but God is my source. I know when all is said and done it will be ok but right now I am just undone!