LOVE

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Every single person is born with the exact same innate ability, none of us are exempt from this gift.  We are all given it in abundance and all parents especially reap the great benefits and rewards of this gift given at our birth.

The gift we are all given is that of UNCONDITIONAL LOVE!  Children joyfully share this gift with all they come in contact with.  Even as small children, when nurtured, this gift grows abundantly and limitless, when not nurtured, this gift dies quickly.

A small child is able to do what few if any adults can do, they separate the deed from the doer.  If a child doesn’t like the meal prepared for them they will refuse to eat it, it does not impact their love for their mother or father preparing that meal.  A child does not base their love, nor withhold their love based upon a parents status, employment, education, wealth, physical appearance, nor any other reason.

A child simply loves, without conditions.

Sadly as we grow we lose this ability to love unconditionally.  We replace unconditional love with that of unconditional judgement.  We apply conditions to those we love based largely upon what we want them to be.  Many times as adults we stop loving another person because they will not be or do what we desire them to be.

This conditional love is in direct conflict and opposition to the true nature of love we are born with.

We can learn much from children, learning to love as a child loves will improve every relationship in our lives.

There are No Rules in Domestic Violence – My Story

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 I was asked to speak today to some of our state senators and representatives.   Here are my remarks:

I am a survivor and former victim of Domestic Violence.

I have been mentally, emotionally, verbally, physically and financially abused by my ex wife.  I have been bitten, hit, kicked, cut, and bruised.

There is a lie in our society that men cannot be victims of abuse and that if a woman abuses a man the man is somehow weak, or they did something to provoke her and deserve it.

There are no rules in domestic violence.  It is not conditional based upon gender or age.   It is not specific to your level of education, race, income, religion or social status.  It is a plague that is destroying families and our children and we must act to put an end to this scourge.  Abusers will blame the abused for making them into the abusers they are.  This is part of the manipulation process abusers use.  Sadly, many of us fall victim to this lie and believe it.

If we falsely believe that domestic violence will go away by ignoring it, or if we fall victim to the many lies about this plague we are abandoning our children and grandchildren to continue perpetually down this evil path in our society.

Domestic Violence impacts every one of us in this room.  Whether or not it is public knowledge or anyone outside the victims immediate family knows about it, such as in my case, we all know someone who lives this hell.  It could be your daughter, your son, father, mother, grandchild, or neighbor.  It could be a leader in your church or a teacher at school or your coworker and friend.  Most victims are silent, looking for help and not knowing where to turn.

In Utah we are surrounded by many who by outward appearances have great and amazing families.  From an outward perspective, I had it all, a great family, a great wife, a great job, a beautiful home and great kids.  No one ever suspected the hell I and my children were living as a result of her abuse.

Many have asked me afterwards why if things were so bad would I stay in the relationship for so long.  First and foremost I will tell you that I love my children and am a deeply devoted father.  I worried for their safety and well being if I left.

Remember I had been told by the many police officers and those in the legal profession that I turned to for help, that a man cannot be a victim of domestic violence and if it is happening then he provoked her to it.  Utah has a terrible history in family law, one that quite frankly we should all hang our heads in shame over and that is the blind obedience of the judges to mothers and custody.  This was the single largest issue that kept me in this abusive relationship.  I didn’t want my children to suffer without my protection for them.

In the end, like most abusers, she left when she found someone new.  My relief at this being over was minimized as the courts gave custody to her.  My biggest fear in leaving came true.

My other primary reason for staying is abuse doesn’t always start off being physical.  Abusers manipulate and make the abused feel worthless and that they don’t deserve anything better and that they deserve what they are getting.  This lie held me hostage for years.

It was upon finally being freed from this abuse that I began to know about the resources in the community like the Domestic Violence shelters and what they do.

I have spent countless hours volunteering to help with anything the local shelter was in need of, from painting, to moving furniture, to fixing toilet seats and washing machines.  I have spent the time to know and understand what they do and why they do it.    While a handful of the shelters will take in men, and shelter them from abusers, there are many that do not primarily due to funding issues.  I don’t believe I would have sought shelter as financially I was in the position to leave if I needed.

What I wish with all of my heart and that would have saved me and saved my children from witnessing the abuse is the knowledge available through the community outreach efforts of the shelters.  The education and resources they provide that would have given me direction and support were not known to me.  I was unaware that anyone could help my children and I during this nightmare we were living.

The South Valley Sanctuary currently operates a community outreach center in West Jordan to assist those in need of resources and support prior to the need to seek shelter.  We need more of this in our communities.  We need to ensure that our children are protected and that the resources are given to those making a difference on the front line of this plague everyday!

The domestic violence shelters need your support to continue to operate and not only provide the shelter from the violence, but the ongoing community outreach, training and resources to those in need prior to the need to flee. It is far less expensive to make certain that resources are available to those in need than it is to prosecute and house the perpetrator and bury the victims when the violence turns deadly.

We cannot end the violence if we are merely reactionary.  We must provide the resources in addition to just shelter that many in this community are in dire need.

As you review the funding this year, I hope that my story resonates with you and opens your eyes to the need for additional resources that will help these shelters continue to provide safety as well as resources to your daughters and sons experiencing violence at home to get the help that they need, before your need to plan their funeral.

Love and Trust as Little Children

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Children are born with absolute trust and faith in their parents.  We as parents may or may not be deserving of such trust yet it is granted along with love unconditionally by these precious and tender souls.  A child’s trust can never grow stronger than it is at birth, for it is perfect trust.    The trust, love and loyalty of children are given fully and completely. It is in our actions as parents and not that of the child that will alter that trust, and nothing else.

As parents, we can continue to be deserving of that trust so completely placed in us at their birth that can last throughout our children’s lives, depending upon our actions. Our actions and not our children’s are critical for the continuation of that trust.  A child will not stop trusting until we violate such trust, in fact I have witnessed many times how a child continues to trust even after repeated violations of that trust.  Children are forgiving and loving, they desire the same.  As we break the trust of our children, through our actions, words and deeds, it will permanently damage our children and their ability to form trusting relationships as adults.  If we as parents destroy this amazing gift from our children, we create significant road blocks in their lives as they learn to trust others.

We are the first relationship that a child will have in this world, the magnitude of this is lost on so many.  We set the stage for our children and their emotional well being from they day they are conceived.  We determine if our child will feel loved and secure, or if they will live with uncertainty, fear and distrust.

This point has been driven home ever more deeply with the birth of our precious little girl.  The past year we have been more aware of our promises to all of our children, the way we talk with them and our interactions with them.  Unfortunately I have no doubt that as parents we have made some mistakes along the way and most certainly reduced the trust of our children.  Thankfully for us, children are deeply forgiving and loving, they give us more chances to be better and to learn from our past mistakes. 

As we recognize this extremely wonderful, unconditional love and trust from our children, we too can learn to love and trust as they do.  Our children are greater teachers than we could ever become.

There is No Tomorrow – A Fathers Heartache Part 12

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Oh how I have missed having my children with me.  These past couple of weeks without being able to see them due to the Thanksgiving holiday was difficult for us.  It is frustrating to think anyone would keep their child away from a parent, yet that is the unfortunate reality that my children and I face.  It was 14 days since my last 4 hour visit, and I only had 4 hours to spend with them last night, 4 hours to last us another week.

These nights are about what the kids want to do.  Interestingly enough they all wanted to go spend some time in our home.  My wife was working late, so it was the 4 of us at home.  Alexa and Londyn wanted to play together as they missed each other so much.  The girls quickly took off to the bedrooms to laugh and giggle, followed much later my a game of hide and seek with all of them.  My son Bridger wanted to shoot on his nerf hoop in his room, so we shot around for a little while, while our baby Bella chased everyone in the house in her walker.

The house was full of noise and laughter.  A far cry from the normal silence we face when the oldest 3 are away with the other parent.  I hunger for those moments of sweet music as the children laugh and play together.  My home is meant to have the sound of little feet as they pitter patter across the hardwood, the giggles and the joy that comes from them when they are together.    I treasure these moments in time as they are fleeting for us.  Our children are growing so fast and these few opportunities go by so fast as I try to hold onto them and stay in the moment.

As our night was coming to an end last night, Bridger asked me about this blog.  I suggested he write a story and draw a picture for it that we could post.   He loves to write and draw, yet thinks he isn’t very good at it.  As the eternal optimist and wanting to encourage him to chase his dreams, i posted his story last night to show him that people would read it and like it.   Thank you for proving me right.

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I was once told by someone dear to me, whom is married to his first wife and has raised their kids in a traditional family that I spend more one on one time with my kids than they do.  This saddened me to think that could even be possible.  I yearn for time with my children and live for these moments when I get to see them.  I have spent my life wanting to be a great father and do the best I can with very limited opportunity.  I truly live for these moments.

Over the years as I have pondered these comments, I wonder if the reason that was said was due to the fact that I give my children the attention they need when I have them with me.  We pray, we play, we cry, we laugh and we love one another and spending time together,  Maybe its because we don’t get the time we would otherwise have that we spend every possible minute together.  Maybe others take for granted that time that we do not as a result of our limited time together.  Maye our time together becomes more important because we don’t have tomorrow to ride bikes, play and laugh.  We can’t procrastinate the time we spend together as a family whereas others might put things off because they can where we can’t.  Maybe by putting things off, they never get to it?  I have never fully understood his words, nor how it is even possible.  I can only guess.   I have learned over the years to always find joy in the journey.

Magical Meals – A Fathers Heartache part 11

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The unlikely moments of school lunch are often the anchor to my children that keep us connected.  As many who have read this series knows that except in the most extreme circumstances, my ex does not allow my children to call me.  I am relegated to my one 4 hour visit per week and every other weekend, with exception to the scattered holidays we get together.  My time with my children becomes limited and often times painful for us as we are apart.  School lunch allows me the moments with my children to make up some of our lost time.  I travel 25 minutes from my office to their school as often as possible to spend 10 minutes with each of them sitting at the lunch table with them and all of their friends.  These moments are what I refer to as the magical lunch moments in our life.  Simple and short opportunities for my children and I to laugh and talk about school and what is happening.  Our time together seems to go quickly, yet these brief moments in time help secure our bond together. I live for the smiles I get from their shining faces when they see me standing in the doorway to the cafeteria waiting for them. They never know for certain what days I can break away from the office to have this time with them so it is always a surprise.

Over these long lonely years of missing my children, I have needed to search for the magical moments when I can make a difference for them in their lives, when I can show them how much I love and adore them.  Our school lunches together has been one of these magical moments I search for.  I learn so much about them as I sit and laugh with their friends at the table as we eat, they open up and tell me everything that is happening, they feel secure and safe, just like home.  I discover the games they play on the playground with their friends and how they treat others as well as how the kids at school treat my children.  I learn about the homework, the books they are reading and any issues with school and their sports.   I treasure these moments with them and the opportunity to connect.

Our mealtimes have become some of the most amazing opportunities to connect with one another as we sit around tables talking with one another.  My wife and I have found that our children thrive at the dinner table together. We talk honestly and openly about the things that are happening in our lives and it is an opportunity for our children, where they feel safe and secure in our home, to relax and truly open up to us.  The other day while sitting at dinner together, my dear wife asked Bridger and Londyn what they liked most about coming to our home, with no hesitation whatsoever Bridger responds, “this is family.”  WOW!  The emotions I felt as I tightened my grip on my wife’s hand under the table were overwhelming.  Finally!  I received the confirmation that what we have been doing has been the right thing and we were making the impact we have been striving so hard for all these years!

These opportunities to connect with my children have provided anchors to my soul to help me through some of the dark times when they are away.  This connection is what gets us through times like we enter now, as over the next month we will only have two 4 hours visits, 8 hours in 30 days of time together as a result of the holiday and weekend schedule and the conflict created with the holiday happening on my regularly scheduled weekend.  It is times like this when our school lunches become ever more magical, precious and all important.   The times that will anchor our souls as one.

TENDER MERCIES – A Fathers Heartache part 10

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I have never seen my children on the first day of school.  I don’t know what that is like to see the excitement of the first day of school, their new teachers, classroom and friends.  Most often I am unable to find out how the first day of school went for almost a week, when they come to visit.  They aren’t allowed to phone, the only time I find out sooner are those occasions when I can get to the school for lunch with them.

I seldom get the opportunity to take my kids to school, maybe two or three times a year I get this treat to pray with them in the morning before school and wish them a good day as they head off to class.  Most people take these moments with their children granted as a regular occurrence, for me these are tender mercies and opportunities to experience a wonderful time with my children.

Today was such a rare wonderful opportunity to experience this moment in time with them.  This morning was extra special as I was able to wake them and get them ready for school, take them, pray with them and see them off. Today,  I got the extra special treat of picking them up from school on the same day.  Days like this are rare, I treasure them and realize the blessing that they are.  These moments with my children are what keep me pressing forward everyday.  I try not to focus on the issues my ex creates in her controlling nature and enjoy the moments that are mine.

My children attend a school with a year round track schedule and today was the first day back to school from being off track for the past 3 weeks.  With Veterans day this year falling as my holiday I was able to spend the weekend, an extra weekend with them and take them to school today.  As I watched their excitement and nervousness at going back to school after this break, I reflected upon this day and the similarities it must have to an actual first day of a new school year.

I have missed out on many opportunities, ones that I will never be able to get back with my children, today was a gift from God, an opportunity to experience ever so slightly something I have yearned to experience with my children for a lifetime.  Although today wasn’t an actual first day of school, I am grateful to have this opportunity to have as close to one as I have ever experienced.

I OFTEN SIT IN SILENCE, I OFTEN SIT ALONE – A Fathers Heartache Part 9

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Last night was my sons annual football banquet.  Each year I put together a highlight video for the boys and their families to watch, each boy is given a copy as a memento of the season.  Last night was no exception and after hours of preparation the video was again ready to go and copies made for each boy.

I arrived at the restaurant early to make certain that everything was ready to go and that video would play on their televisions. Once this was finished I anxiously waited for my boy to arrive.  I hadn’t seen him in days and was excited for the opportunity to talk with him.  I quietly sat and  waited about twenty minutes for him to arrive. 

Suddenly I felt him place his arms around my shoulders as he hugged me and said hi dad, I love you.  My heart swelled momentarily until I heard his mother sternly inform him that he couldn’t sit with me and had to sit with her.  I watched a sadness appear on his face as he gave me another quick hug, whispered I love you and went to sit near his mother.   As I surveyed the room, I noticed that the other boys were all sitting together in the center tables, my dear boy was sitting head down next to his mother as he quietly obeyed her demands.

I sat there, my heart aching for my boy as he humbly and dutifully did as he was instructed, all the while watching the other boys laugh and play.  I was grateful to see his mothers friend arrive nearly 30 minutes later when she finally allowed him to sit with his friends, so she could have her moment to “talk”. 

Alone I sat at my table, watching my boy both quietly sitting next to his mother and also as he laughed with his friends. I fought the tears and anger at the way his mother controlled him.  I thought to myself how much I would have loved  to have been able to sit with him, yet this was his night to be with his friends, it wasn’t about what I wanted, it should have been about what he wanted, this was his night for him and his team.

I often sit in silence.  I often sit alone.  The numbness from the continual hurt at watching my kids many times from a distance pierces my soul.  I hunger for the days when they can express their love for me, their dad, without fear of the reaction from their mother.  My only hope and prayer is that one day my children will come to grasp the magnitude of my love and devotion for them, even if at times it is from a distance created by others…

SMALL MOMENTS AND THE GRANDEST OF MEMORIES – A Fathers Heartache part 8

I finally had the most wonderful and  AMAZING time with my children on Halloween.   I have waited 8 years for this moment to come, when Halloween would fall on my day for a visit.  In years past I would attend … Continue reading

A NEW DAWN

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Halloween: a day where people dress up in costume to be someone they are not, or maybe to show the world who they really are or long to be.  As I spent the drive to work this morning pondering this phenomenon, my mind raced to thoughts of who I am.

The expectations on me as a child and young man were great, and I often felt overwhelmed as a result of them.  I remember many times being told by my family, teachers, religious leaders, and neighbors that I would do great things in life. I expected this of myself as I had heard this my entire life.  As I graduated from High School and then left to serve a mission for my church, I felt the overwhelming weight of the world on my shoulders as these expectations had hit a fever pitch.

There is nothing quite like it in the world of letting down those whose expectations are so incredibly high.  Through personal choices, circumstances beyond my control and the choices of others my life has been quite different from what everyone else envisioned for me, and who and what I was to become.  I find it amazing how people will place incredibly high expectations on another persons life and then abandon them in times of need, despair and discouragement.  It has taken me a lifetime of dealing with the disappointments of others because my life had not turned out how they wanted it to and the accompanying reactions that went with it.

So that brings me back to who I am now.  I am a son of God.  I am deeply in love with my beloved Wife, I absolutely adore my children. I am a devoted husband, father, brother, son, uncle, cousin. I have been very successful in my careers and I do my best to serve others and help my community. I am extremely happy with every aspect of my life, for which I have control over.  I feel confident that I can overcome anything in life, because my life,  the life that I have been given that upset so many other people along the way for letting them down, has created strength in me, an inner peace,  that not many understand, nor recognize.  It is a quiet strength within me, a certain and unshakeable knowledge in who I am, and what my deep potential in life is.  This potential has nothing to do with what others desire, it has everything to do with what my Heavenly Father desires.

There were many discouraging, hurtful and frustrating challenges that I faced with others opinions of who and what I should be and what my life should be.   It was upon overcoming the obstacles that they placed in front of me that I was able rid myself of the chains they placed upon me and become more than they could ever have imagined.

This certain and complete knowledge provides untold strength that resonates deep within my soul, strength I know that will keep my feet firmly planted on solid ground, regardless of what life may bring.

I have learned, just as every sunset brings us closer to a new dawn, every challenge overcome brings us closer to the Son.

A BLESSED WEEK – A Fathers Heartache part 7

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The school that my children attend is year round.  They are on a track schedule where they are out of school for 3 weeks and then go back for 12 weeks and then off again.  During the 3 weeks from school, I am able to spend time with them for one week during each off track cycle.   I look forward with great anticipation for this golden moment in time.  This is a time for my children and I to reconnect, a time when we can let our walls down and strengthen our relationship.

Last week was one of those precious moments in time that I treasure above everything else.

I left the office at noon everyday last week in an effort to maximize every single second I could with my dear children.  We went to the movies, the arcade, the ballpark.  We carved our pumpkins and went for hikes.  We laughed and we cried together.  It is in these tender moments of mercy that I am able to have with my children that keep me energized and capable of continuing on during the difficult times in between.

My children were able to participate in the primary program on Sunday. I fought the tears as I watched them sing and give their little parts during the program.  It was the first time I had ever been able to see them in a primary program, I savored the moment watching them.  During dinner Sunday night, my dear wife asked the kids what they liked most about spending this week with us, the answer that my son gave me brought tears to my eyes as he replied, “our family and being part of it.” Words are incapable of expressing what I felt at that moment.

Sunday night, as I sat on the couch with Londyn laying in one arm and Bridger laying on the other, we reflected together on the fun times we had during the week.  I was able to tell both of them how deeply I love them and how grateful I am to be their dad.  We cried together as we felt the realization that our week together was coming to a close.  We took courage and strength in knowing this would be a short week apart as the coming Halloween and weekend would be spent together, our first Halloween that had fallen on a night with dad.

As I dropped them off early Monday morning, on my way to work, I thanked my Father in Heaven for the time I was able to spend with them.  I pondered the coming silence I knew would take place without the phone calls and communication.  I looked forward to the coming weekend and holding them in my arms again.

I live for these moments with my children.  I yearn to be a full time dad to them, to tuck them in each night and to hug and kiss them each day.  It is through the weeks like we just shared that I know I am making a difference in their lives, and they in mine.