From Sunday, August 26:
Today was a bad day.
I didn’t get enough sleep last night, and I woke up tired.
I looked at an article I had published in the paper this morning and I saw that they had “edited” in a typo. It bothered me.
We rushed to get to church on time as usual. We got to church, sat down, and listened to our pastor preach about death.
He talked about what was more tragic; the sudden loss of a young lady in a car wreck, or the loss of a old woman who hasn’t been in good health for a while. I’ve experienced both in the last eight months. You’d think I’d be qualified to make that decision, but I’m not. I have no idea which was more tragic.
Of course after thinking about that, I thought about dad. I thought about how much he’s missed. From there it didn’t take long for me to start blaming God for the fact that our children will never meet him. To them, Brian Sloat is myth, a legend, no more real than anyone else that they’ve never met. And after that, I contemplated my own mortality.
I’m afraid of death. It terrifies me. As a Christian, death is the ultimate reward. You are absent from the body and present with Christ. So why am I scared to die? What scares me about being with Jesus? Some would say that I have doubts. Doubts about my salvation, doubts about my faith, and doubts about my beliefs. Our pastor said I shouldn’t be afraid of death.
The Sunday School lesson we had talked about affairs. It talked about how easy they were to fall into, and how it is always a good idea to end them and tough out your marriage. It reminded me of the pile of crap I turned into for a year and half. Most of our class knows what I did. My mind played for me a constant stream of their judgement, what they would really say if they could.
Our kids didn’t get a nap today, and so they were terrible. When we were in the store, they acted out, climbed on shelving, and were just generally ill-behaved. I had to yell at them several times. I had to threaten to spank them repeatedly.
We were in Tulsa traffic today. It was so humid you felt like you were swimming through the air instead of walking. We waited over an hour for a table at the restaurant. I was sweating everywhere we went. I snapped at Alicia. I was sulky and petulant for most of the afternoon.
Today was a good day.
I woke up this morning. The Lord gave me another day.
I got to see an article that I wrote in the paper. I’m a writer. I am living my dream.
We got in one of the two cars we own and drove to church. We walked in the doors of the building without anyone trying to kill us for what we believed, and we listened to a sermon that taught me some things.
I got the chance to remember two very special people in my life. I remembered how they blessed me. How they both lived passionate lives before they were taken from me. I remembered the impact that they had on the lives around them, and how truthfully, they are both so much happier now.
I remembered dad today. I thought about the things that he’d say to our kids. I thought about how he’d hug them, squeeze them, and I thought about how that tough old Brian Sloat would probably be transformed into a giant softy by the introduction of his three grandkids. I found myself thinking about how I need to take them to see his grave, make him more real to them. Maybe soon.
I will not continue to be afraid of death. I will die. When I die, I will leave many people in this world, but I will be reunited with my father, my grandmother, a few uncles, an aunt, and Kambrin. I will not continue to be afraid of death.
I got to watch my newly saved and baptized daughter take the Lord’s Supper. I got to see her eat the cracker and drink the grape juice, even ignoring my own so I could sneak a little peek at her. I thought about where she might be without us. I got to thank God for them both.
The Sunday School lesson talked about love. It talked about how even sure-footed people can fall into traps. It talked about how coming clean is always the best policy. It reminded me of my wife’s forgiveness. It reminded me of why I fell in love with her in the first place. It reminded me that maybe I need to wash a few more dishes this next week, just to show her that I love her.
I got to spend a solid day with our kids. I don’t get to see them during the week, and I spent all day with them today. No naps, no real separation, and no breaks. They were active. They were joyful. They enjoyed being alive and playing when and where they could. There was a time when they couldn’t do that.
We hung out with some amazing friends today. We ate lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, and we laughed and fellowshipped the entire time. I was hot and sweaty, but I was walking. When I snapped at Alicia, she shrugged it off, knowing I was in a mood.
Today was a bad day. Today was a good day.
If the truth was told, most of my days are like this, and so are most of yours. We all take the good and bad, and at the end of the day weigh them on the scales of our temperament, and we draw our conclusions on whether the day was “good” or “bad.”
There is a story making the rounds on Facebook that I love. It explains the situation perfectly. According to the Internet, it’s an old Cherokee legend.
An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.
“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”
He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”
The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”
The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”
I will make every effort to feed the good wolf from this day forward. The evil wolf will continue to fight, for that is what he does best. I will be tempted with negative thoughts, pity-parties, and bad attitudes. I’ll have days where I want to be pissy and lame.
But I’ll try. I’ll give the good wolf Milk-Bones and organic, veterinarian-approved dog food. I’ll give him clean water every day and take him in for regularly scheduled vaccinations. I’ll brush his fur once a week and tell him that he is the best wolf a guy could ever ask for, and “Who’s a good boy? Who’s a good boy? Is it you? Yes it’s you.”
And maybe, just maybe…I’ll shake this nasty writer’s block and get back to blogging about things.
It is pretty well known that I have somewhat of a way with words. I’m no Plato, but I like to think I have a slightly higher than average vocabulary, especially being in good ol’ Oklahoma.
|Sometimes I get a bit wordy when I’m leaning on things.|
Every now and again I can put words in a certain order that will make some folks laugh, other folks cry, and piss others off beyond belief. Call it a talent, call it a gift, call it whatever you wish, but there is no denying that God has given it to me.
So why is it that I so frequently muddle my words in His house?
That’s right, I’m going to give you the top three most offensive things I’ve ever said in a church building.
Having been raised in church my entire life, I’m no stranger to being behind a pulpit. In fact, I preached my first sermon at the tender age of 13, and it was exactly seven minutes long. I buzzed through three pages of notes so fast that the congregation wasn’t sure if I had completed one point or the typical Baptist three.
Fortunately, the third most embarrassing thing I’ve said in church was nothing irreparable, but it did manage to make a whole slew of folks mad at me.
3. “The Revival/Basketball Game statement”
I was 16, I was athletic, and I had just recently gotten a team together for a church basketball league. I was excited, because I was basically the head coach, and I might have done a bit of “outside recruiting.” You know the kind, where you have to search outside the doors of the church for a few players, players that don’t really know anything about Jesus, but have a mean 14 foot jump shot, and so you sign them up all in the name of witnessing.
Being proud of the team I had acquired, and not knowing yet that we would be spectacular failures in front of both God and men, I wanted to encourage the people of our good church to be in attendance for our first game. I stood behind the pulpit and addressed them, saying, “It’d be real nice of y’all to come out and watch us play tomorrow evening.” Then I remembered something in the back of my mind. Weren’t we having a revival this week? No worries, I can handle that.
“I know we’re having a revival tomorrow night, but surely some of you can make it out to support us.”
You would have thought that I had just questioned the immaculate conception of our Lord and Savior AND mentioned predestination all in one breath. The sharp inhalation of all those old-timers in the congregation caused a mild vacuum in the building. My youth minister at the time practically dragged me off the stage by my earlobe. I’m pretty sure I had to sacrifice a small goat to make amends.
But it gets better.
2. “Pimp Juice”
I had just recently been named Youth Minister, and I was busy establishing myself as a “cool guy” once again. This took more work than I thought it would, and so I found myself hanging out with my youth, trying to absorb their culture, their language, and their customs. One of the things I really harped on was transitioning from secular to Christian music, and I knew that in order to do that I should listen to some secular stuff to get an idea of what the kids were being bombarded with.
Some of you remember Nelly’s song “Pimp Juice.” It is a tale of unrequited love in which Nelly seems to have captured the heart of a beautiful young lady, but he is concerned that she only wants him for his “pimp juice,” which I, at the time, thought was something served out of that big cup that rappers always carry around.
Little did I know, “pimp juice” stood for something very different in the eyes of my youth. One Wednesday evening, as we were preparing to start the lesson, one of my kids was joking with another about how he thought this girl liked him, but the girl was in the room, and she was vehemently denying it. I looked up and addressed the situation by saying, “Yeah, she only likes you for your pimp juice, man.” The entire youth group stopped and looked at me.
|I love this picture.|
It took two or three of the older guys in my group to take me aside and explain to me what their translation of “pimp juice” was. Suffice it to say, I could not look the young lady in the eyes for the rest of her days in the youth group. I was, to put it mildly, mortified.
And it gets even better.
1. “The unknown sexual innuendo”
This took place only yesterday, and was in fact the inspiration for this post.
We have a very diverse and incredibly awesome Sunday School class. I know I’ve raved about it before, and I’ll continue to rave about it because it is amazing. The people are real. They have problems, we have problems, and everyone will share them with everyone else so no one has to feel left out or alone in their struggles. We are also…a tad immature.
You know how when you were twelve and someone would say “sex” and you’d giggle for thirty minutes with your friends? Well, our class has never really grown out of that phase. In fact, I’d venture to say that those reading this from that class just giggled when they read the word sex not half a paragraph ago.
At the moment, we are going through a series called “The Five Love Languages.” This is a very popular curriculum in churches, and it honestly does help a lot of marriages. The five languages of love according to the author are quality time, gifts, affirming words, physical touch, and acts of service. In our class, you can pretty much substitute “physical touch” for “sex.” Imagine that, a bunch of mid to late 20 year olds having sex. Anyway, when we start discussing physical touch, it inevitably leads to giggles, laughter, and someone, usually me, saying “SEX” really loud, just for the laughs.
Anyway, back to the situation yesterday. One of the class members is the mayor of the fair town of Muskogee. He does the announcements for our class, and is sort of the “warm-up” act before the main lesson. He addresses everyone in the room with a question of the day, and gets everyone comfortable. Some days that works splendidly. Other days he has to fight for control like the producer of “Toddlers and Tiaras.” So yesterday, Bob looked at me and, referencing a newspaper article I wrote last week, said “Travis, I bet you at a lot of peaches last week, eh?”
“Absolutely not. Why would you eat anything with hair on it?”
I stopped myself too late, as the duality of the words I had just spoken washed over me the way they can when a man offhandedly refers to cunnilingus during Sunday School. For a moment, some semblance of order was maintained as those around me began to grasp the painfully obvious. I just hung my head. Then the giggles started. And they kept going. And I just sat there, eyes downcast, wondering why in the world the good Lord lets words even come out of my mouth.
Bob, I’m sorry. Next time I’ll just talk about how much I love oranges instead.
This is the fourth post in a five-part series on my blog called “The Road.” This series will chronicle the events of my life leading up to meeting my wife, the events that transpired after, and how it has led us all to where we are now. The series will end not by my hand, but by my wife’s. Some of this will be very hard for me to write, and as a result, will be hard for you to read. Some of you will think differently of me afterwards, but I ask that you please don’t get halfway through this series and stop. In the end, maybe you will find something here that let’s you know you aren’t alone. The roads we travel are unique, but they intersect often. I have changed almost all the names in this story in order to respect individual privacy.
Part Four: The Giving Up
It all started with me giving up control.
My whole life has been about control.
Whatever she wanted, I complied with. I deleted the Myspace account. If she asked to check my phone, I let her. If she wanted to know where I had been, I usually had at least one witness who could verify.
To this day, and not by her request, I still offer her my phone. She knows my Facebook, Twitter, and email passwords. Anytime she wants, she can check up on me. She doesn’t, but I’ll never stop letting her know she can. To me, it’s a small price to pay for her peace of mind, and I’ve discovered that when you aren’t hiding anything, being honest becomes a great deal easier.
I’m here to tell you, ending an affair is not an easy thing to do. For months after, I had dreams about Tiffany sleeping with other guys, I fought the urge daily to pick up the phone and text her, and I dreaded running into her in town. I also feared the day Alicia ran into her, knowing full well that I might have to bail her out of jail afterwards. That dorky example where a youth minister will glue two sheets of paper together and tear them apart to represent what happens after you commit a sexual act with another person is ABSOLUTELY true. That’s how it works. Remember that before you take that step, whether it’s your first, or your first after a commitment.
I struggled with lying about the most simple things. I struggled with trying to regain some of that control I’d given up. In fact, one of two physical (wrestling, not hitting) fights Alicia and I have had happened at that time. All because I still desperately wanted to cling to my precious control. I lost my job at one point because of something stupid. I also struggled with breaking a pornography habit I had picked up during the affair. And I tried to do all of this without the help of God, the church, or my family.
Just a couple of months later, I gave up control of something else. I was diagnosed with Type-2 Diabetes, and it broke me for a few days. I was no longer in control of my health, medicine was. To this day, I take diabetes medication, but with gradual weight loss, I’m gaining back control over my health in small segments, and fighting like crazy to not lose them again.
A while after that, I voluntarily gave up control of our finances. I knew that I was slowly driving us towards the poor house, and so I gave the reigns over to Alicia, and ever since then, we’ve been alright. We’ll always be in danger while I maintain possession of a debit card, but her threats of taking it away like I’m a six year old with a piggy bank usually work.
And even after that, I gave up the control I had over us not going to church. Ever since the resignation, I had fought going back. You see, in my mind, I had been the one who was burned when I left Okay FBC, and not the other way around as it truly was. So after the fourteenth phone call from my younger brother’s Sunday School teacher, we finally picked up one Sunday and went to Muskogee FBC, which was one of the greatest decisions of our lives. We’re members now, we’re still in the same Sunday School class, and we still love it.
During this process of healing and giving up control, Alicia started talking about babies again. We had been trying since around a year after we got married to no success. We’d never had the money to do anything but try, but now we had a little extra (maybe because someone else had the checkbook), and she wanted to see a doctor about everything.
So we went to a fertility specialist. The lady was nice, she took a – ahem – sample, from me, she poked and prodded at Alicia, and then identified the problem as PCOS. If you asked me to explain in technical terms what that means, you’re much better off asking Google, which you can do as soon as you get done reading this blog. The nice doctor also handed us a nice pricing list of the services available to render m’lady with child, but the numbers on that pricing list were ridiculously astronomical.
The insurance Alicia had wouldn’t cover it, and there was a brief period of sadness where things got rough again, but one day Alicia came to me and asked me about adoption. I wasn’t really sure, but I thought if we didn’t have the money for infertility work, we probably didn’t have the outlandish sums of money demanded by adoption agencies. She then explained to me that the state offered free adoptions, with the only caveats being that you had to pay for your own costs to get to training and to go see potential child matches.
And so, once again, I gave up control and let her start the adoption process. I honestly thought I could just let her go at it, offer minimal help, and the whole thing would blow over. The next thing I knew, we were heading to Tulsa for a six week adoption training that was going to take place on my favorite day, Saturday. I was so pissed about having to give up six weeks of college basketball just to go get “trained” in how to raise a kid. I’ve said this once, and I’ll say it again. If I have to get training to become an adoptive parent, how come new mothers and fathers don’t have to get training to become birth parents?
We completed the training at the end of November, and from there we both knew the waiting would start. We’d been told all kinds of things. We’d wait two years. We wouldn’t ever get an actual baby. We’d get pregnant the second we adopted (guys…not true). We’d run the chance of having the child(ren) taken away from us in the trial period. The kids come with baggage.
We questioned whether or not our families would love a “natural” child of ours the same as the adopted child(ren). We went to an adoption party. We turned in our paperwork on the cutest little twin boys from Kansas…a day too late. We cried. We asked for prayer. We leaned on our families, and our church family. We talked with our case manager. We sat down in a little room with hundreds of pictures and files of kids that needed a mom. That needed a dad. That needed someone that actually loved them and wanted them. We went through a list of physical and mental attributes we wanted in a child.
If you’ve never been through a checklist like that, I strongly encourage you to do it. Sit down and do it. Until you have, you’ll never know what it’s like to disqualify a child from your lives because he/she has attachment issues, likes to play with fire, or maybe has a degenerative disease and might die in a few years. That checklist is to date the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.
We wanted younger children. We wanted siblings. We thought that by adopting siblings our chances of getting an infant would be higher. I set a firm age limit on the kids. No older than five. I stood firm on that, even when Alicia wanted to get an eight year old who stole her heart. I knew that we didn’t need a child over five. I was slowly learning how to be the head of the household without keeping a controlling thumb on all aspects of it.
And we waited. And it seemed like an eternity.
But I’ve often found, when you’re doing something that God wants you to do, results can happen fast.
And in five short months…we got The Call.
part fiveAdmitting is the first step, right?
For the last few years, The Missus and I have been mostly slogging through life on our own. We haven’t had a lot of friends, just one or two between us. Kid Funk was seriously one of the ONLY friends I had for a long time. It didn’t bother either one of us that we had a lack of friendships, we were mostly okay with it, and we spent a lot of time watching TV and eating, which may or may not be partially responsible for the fact that I have my own gravitational pull.
However, we’ve recently joined a church and gotten involved in a Sunday School class, and we’ve made quite a few new friends. Good friends, really, ones that you could call in the middle of the night and they’d be there. Unless you call them about an orgy. For some reason, we haven’t gotten a yes out of anyone for that yet.
Another thing that has happened in the last year is that I’ve started viewing life like it’s a game of Sims. You know the game, incredibly lifelike characters go through mundane daily tasks, and you spend most of your time just trying to get the characters to do it, and when they do you try to watch even though it’s blurred out. However. There is another aspect of the game that I can relate with. I’ve started viewing every social interaction I have with either a plus sign or a negative sign over the other person’s head representing how the interaction went. I’ve taken the liberty of illustrating this.
There you go. You’re all caught up. Fast forward to present day, actually a couple of nights ago, and put us in the house of some new friends who have invited us over for dinner. Great people, great food, and fun fellowship, which involves me telling stories. That’s what I do. I tell stories. I told them about The Time The Missus Kicked Someone’s Ass For Me, and I told them about Being On The Tyra Banks Show, and a few more. The hours passed in conversation. And they continued to pass, with me being oblivious of them.
I FREAKING TALK A LOT, OKAY?
So essentially, the time comes where The Missus almost literally has to DRAG me from their home. We get into the car, and the first thing she says is, “Geez Travis, don’t you know when to leave, or are you too retarded?”
She loves me so.
I was shocked, and I was also concerned. Had I overstayed my welcome? I asked her that question, and she replied. “You ALWAYS overstay your welcome.”
Color me astonished.
Apparently, I am a social rapist. I force myself into your home, and I force my conversation into you over and over again without invitation or consent, and I refuse to leave when it’s over. I am very fortunate that this crime has not become as frowned upon as REAL rape, although The Missus sure made it sound every bit as bad. I think it was when she said, I think people would rather you rape them for real, Travis. I know I would, geez.”
So I’ve moved on to re-evaluating my social skills. I’ve thought about starting a timer and only staying somewhere until it goes off. I’ve thought about doing things the Costanza way and leaving the second after I get a big laugh. I’ve also considered just never going anywhere again, and holing up here in the house with a fine, loving dog by my side. But I think I’d eventually grow concerned that I was socially raping the dog, and dogs are obligated by nature to wag their tails and try to jump on you when you talk to them. Wouldn’t be fair to the dog, and I know it.
From here on out, if anyone of you ever invites me anywhere, please present me with a flowchart that explains how many stories are acceptable, which stories you have heard, the appropriate duration of said stories, the decibel level I should talk at, how many children are in the house, whether or not I can use words like “gay” or “douchebag,” how long I am allowed to stay, and whether or not you want me to use lube.
Cause I’m a social rapist y’all. Hide yo kids, hide yo wife, hide yo husband, cause I’m tellin stories to urrone out there.