Sometimes an event happens that inspires a blog. Sometimes it’s a collection of events, and you never know when inspiration will rise, kicking and clawing its way to the surface of your mind, demanding attention, wanting to be released. In that instance, you have choices. You can choose to stifle the inspiration, and eventually it will consume your thoughts, hindering your creativity, and rendering your writing useless. This blog has been a long time coming. ***
It doesn’t happen often, and certainly not often enough, and perhaps that is what makes it special. Maybe if it happened everyday I wouldn’t appreciate it for what it was, just a dad and his daughter, riding somewhere together.
It’s not about where we’ve left from, and it’s not about where we’re going. It’s about all those moments in between.
Watching you get in. That’s my favorite part.
My truck sits high off the ground, and you have to almost jump to get in. I’m not always a perfect gentleman, I have to confess. I don’t always open the door for you like I should, to teach you that when you’re older, you have to fall in love with a boy who does that. I just like watching you as you clamber clumsily into the cab. You aren’t very graceful, but I think one day you will be.
You get buckled up, I get buckled up, and we take off. You’re smiling. It never takes long, and the question always comes.
“Dad, can you turn on the music?”
I do. I always do.
You always sing along. It doesn’t matter if you know the words or not. You still sing. I will give you an example, using Taylor Swift’s “Mine” as an example.
You don’t really know the words, not all of them, and so it sounds something like this:
“You were in college hmm hmm ahhh haaa mmmhmmm,Left a hmm mmm ahh haahmm ahhh.”
But then the chorus comes, and suddenly, you’re on a stage, you’re in your element, and your voice rises with the power of the knowledge of the words.
“DO YOU REMEMBER WE WERE SITTING THERE BY THE WATER!YOU PUT YOUR ARM AROUND ME, FOR THE FIRST TIME!”
I have another confession, daughter.
Sometimes I put on songs I know you’ll sing to.
My mind, in its ceaseless recollection of trivial information and recurring moments, flashes back to something very important in my life.
I sat at home the night before making the drive to pick you and your brother up. I was trying to think of ways to introduce you to our great big family before you actually met them, and I decided to make a picture slideshow on my iPad for you both to watch.
I placed pictures in order and captioned them, and then I set it all to the music of “Guinevere,” by the Eli Young Band.
On the way home from Watonga, you watched that video a hundred times. At some point, you figured out the words to the song, and you belted them out ceaselessly. Then you serenaded us with Christina Perri’s “Jar of Hearts,” which was the only other song I had on the iPad.
You were gorgeous. You were amazing. And you still are.
Listening to you sing, that’s my favorite part.
Inevitably, your interest in singing wanes, and you start talking to me. Sometimes the craziest things come out of your mouth. Last night, for example, you counted Christmas trees. Then you started spotting cars that looked like your mom’s.
Sometimes we talk about stuff as normal as how your day was, and then there are times such as the other night when you wanted me to explain to you what nihilism was. After telling you my best guess of a definition, you responded promptly.
“Well, I believe in Jesus.”
I know you do, darling. And nothing makes me happier.
You always ask for gum. For the last six months, I’ve kept a pack in my truck just for you and your brother.
You smack your gum. Loud.
Which brings us yet to another confession, dear daughter. If anyone else in my truck smacked their gum as loudly as you, I would pry open their jaws, rip the gum from their mouth, and toss it out the window. But you, you’re different. I guess it’s cute…for now.
Talking to you, that’s my favorite part.
You want to hear something crazy?
My truck has a sensor in the passenger seat that measures weight, and turns the airbag off automatically when someone doesn’t weigh enough. A little light in the center of the console indicates when the sensor has been triggered and the airbag is off.
When we first got you and your brother, that light was always on.
“Passenger Airbag Off”
Now? Now that little light flickers when you sit in the seat. Sometimes it’s on, sometimes it’s off. It’s not broken.
You’re getting bigger. You see, that light is an indicator in more ways than one. You’re older, bigger, smarter.
But it also tells me something else.
One day, you’ll stop riding in my truck. Instead, you’ll get a car of your own, and maybe you’ll start riding in trucks with other boys. It is just as inevitable as you singing, and just as inevitable as all of our wonderful trips together have to come to end when we get to our destination.
You unbuckle and slide out of the truck awkwardly, hanging on to the door handle for dear life. Your feet land on the ground, and your little blond head disappears into the house.
Watching you get out, that’s the worst part.
To end this, I think I’ll borrow another line from Miss Swift, one that happens to be in the same song as previously mentioned, and a line that I have definitely memorized.
“You are the best thing, that’s ever been mine.”
There will come a day when my children will find this blog, I have no doubts.
They’ll look through the posts, and hopefully laugh, and hopefully see how much they mean to their mom and me. If they haven’t seen that by now, they need to know it.
And maybe they’ll find this post.
The post where they’ll see this was the day they had a brother born. A brother that I have no idea if they’ll ever get to meet. A brother that they’ll know about the second I think they’re ready.
There’s a chance we’ll get a phone call telling us to come down and pick the child up. However, that chance grows smaller by the minute. I could pick up the phone and make a call to a Case Manager at DHS, just to notify them of the situation.
After all, in the state of Oklahoma, once you forfeit your parental rights, you forfeit them for any future children as well.
Does that mean Alicia and I should follow this woman around for the rest of her life and try to snatch up any children she’ll have? Somehow, intrinsically, we know that’s wrong. She should have another chance. Our kids got a second chance. I’ve been given a second chance. You’ve been given a second chance.
But it’s a baby.
“I know that I took her kids and made them my kids because of who she is. Then I have to watch her discard my kids and want this other baby. A baby I can’t have one of own of and I am expected to act like it’s okay. It’s not okay, but I feel bad because I should want her to have normal life a second chance. But all I can think of is where is my chance to bring home a baby and not be robbed of first smiles, laughs, words, steps.”
There’s a glimpse into the Sloat family’s mindset right now. Those words may have come from Alicia, but they might as well have come from me, because I feel exactly the same way.
This is that whole “rubber meets the road” thing they always tell you about. You know, when you’ve done a lot of “Hey, God is in control. Just pray for His will to be done,” and now it’s time for you to actually live those words.
So that’s what we’ll do. We’ll pray that God works His will in this situation, and we’ll pray that the child grows up happy and healthy, with whomever God chooses. And Alicia and I would like to ask y’all to pray for that as well.
After all…he is His.
This is the final 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 Five: The Call
This post is from my lovely wife, Alicia. You’ve heard my story about The Adoption, and now, for the first time ever, she’s telling hers in a written voice. This has been lightly edited, but I’ve not added or removed anything that would detract from her words.
Greetings from the Missus.
Most anyone who knows me knows that I am not a writer. I don’t enjoy writing, as a matter of fact writing in general is the main reason I have not started work on my Master’s Degree. I do however feel that I want to share just a little bit about the importance of the month of May to me.
All of my life May was a great month. As a kid it always signaled that school was out and swimming was beginning. May, also was the one month out of the year that I knew we had standing plans for Memorial Day. Every Memorial Day weekend my Mother, Father, and I would pack up the car and take our family vacation. Please…Please hold your excitement. Our family vacation consisted of a weeklong visit to Kentucky. “Why Kentucky?” you might ask. Out of all of the places in the United States, why would we drive that 11-12 hour car ride just to visit? Well the answer was simple…Family. All of my family lived in Kentucky and, more specifically, Nelson County, Kentucky. So May has always, just like Kentucky, held a corner of my heart as my favorite month of the year. Now I am grown and no longer make that yearly trek with my Mom and Dad, but May still holds strong as my favorite month.
Last year in May we received a phone call from our adoption Case Manager, Jennifer. Jennifer made a habit of surprising us with phone calls and visits over the next seven months. This call in particular was to set up an appointment to learn all about these two kids that needed a Mom and Dad of their very own. So on May 12, 2011 Travis and I set down in a little room with nothing more in it than two stacks of paper, a desk, and three chairs. In those two stacks of paper were all of the details – some heart breaking – of these two little kids. We sat there and read each page trying to absorb all of the information, then came the fun part.
Jennifer asked, “Well do you want to meet them?”
At that moment all I remember is trying to keep calm while my brain was screaming, “Bring them to me now!” Instead Travis and I looked at each other and said. “Yes.”
One week later we were on a two hour journey across the state to meet these two little people at a Chuck E. Cheese. I remember the entire week before this trip all I could think about was will they like us? Will they be scared? Do they look like their picture? How am I going to be able to leave them? What if Travis changes his mind? What if I change my mind? What if we are not good enough?
I tortured myself for a week about all of the things that could go wrong. I remember praying for them. As a matter of fact I remember praying for them the day we decided to adopt. I didn’t know their names but I remember praying that they were ready for us and we were ready for them. I prayed that they were safe and being loved while we were getting our paper work done. However, all of the peace and assurance I had from the beginning was being rocked because of “what if.”
As always I was worried about nothing.
I looked at Jennifer and Travis took a deep breath and we all climbed out of the car. When that white state van opened a little blond haired girl came running around the back of the van and around the front of the car screaming. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy.” She wrapped her arms around me and just clung to me. The little blond haired boy was a tiny bit different. At three, I can imagine it was hard to understand what was going on, but he did understand that we were there to see Chuck. That little boy had us on our toes the entire day. I am telling you his eyes were as wide as saucers and he didn’t skip a beat. But we had fun, took some pictures, bought some flip flops, and said goodbye.
|The first time we met them. Also Chuck. Aven’s eyes are about the size of Chuck’s ears.|
Two days after that we were on a three and a half hour journey to watch a little ballerina perform her heart out for her “New Mom and Dad.” This was our first few hours alone with the kids. We were nervous and ended up lost with the kids and the low fuel light on, but we made it back. We got to meet the foster mom and say goodbye for the last time.
On May 27, 2011, a repeat trip in the Groom’s truck was made to move these two little people that we’d only met a week ago into our home. We had that truck packed with stuff. Now let me say most foster kids don’t come with anything more than a trash bag of clothes but it was easy to see that this little town loved these two kids. They had so much stuff it took me days to go through it all.
When we got home that night we had a house full of family just waiting to meet these two little people that were changing our lives forever. Most people would say that it would be scary for those kids to have all of those uncles, grandparents, aunts, and cousins there just to see you. You haven’t met these kids, because they fit in with our family better than most of your blood relatives probably do.
|First family portrait.|
As we are once again into my favorite month, we are celebrating our one year anniversary as a family by taking a family vacation. Don’t worry we are not going to Kentucky this time. We are headed to Florida so the kids can visit the beach for the first time on their first family vacation.
If I had any advice to give anyone looking to adopt it would be to look into the state system first. I understand that most children in the system have a history, and that you will probably not get that baby you have always dreamed of. However, you will find children that need love and who have so much love to return. I still want that baby someday, but I could never imagine my life without our two kids. They make my life have a meaning that it never had before.
|Alicia with the kids. I’m not there, so the smiles are bigger. Especially Alicia’s.|
My Corsica was hunter green not blue. Travis has trouble telling the difference between blue and green. Just ask him about the Fossil watch I bought him for his 19th birthday.
Editor’s Notes: That watch was green, and that car was blue. That’s my stance.
The Road is not over. It will be continually traveled for the next seventy years or so, Lord willing. Hopefully with less pain, fewer bad decisions, and not as many missed opportunities. I also hope you’re all there to share it with us. Thank you for reading.
The book of love, is long and boring,And written very long ago. It’s full of flowers, and heart-shaped boxes,And things we’re all too young to know.The Book of Love – Peter GabrielThis 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 fiveThis is the third 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 TwoPart Three: The Mistake
Author’s Note: This was an extremely difficult thing to write and post. I’ve never admitted any of this in such a public forum, even though many of you know the truth. I made sure Alicia knew this post was going to be part of the story, and I had her permission to hit “Publish.”
It all started with a Myspace message.
“Travis, I don’t know if you’re joking or not, but if you want something to happen, it can, and I’ll never tell anybody.”
Saying, typing, writing, or hearing the word “no,” can be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do as a person. Having the integrity to use those two little letters when no one else is watching, or when you know you won’t get caught, defines most of us, and segregates us into two categories: the honorable, and the opposite.
And on that day, when I was staring at those words flickering on my computer screen, when my right index finger was hovering over the “N” key, I made a decision.
So let’s go back a ways. I had been the youth minister at Okay FBC for right around two and a half years. The first Sunday I was to conduct youth services, I found out Alicia had been hiding her ex-boyfriend’s number in her phone under a different name, and I called her out on it. Absolutely nothing was going on, but she was afraid of how I’d react, so she hid it. That situation kept me from reporting to my duties on the very first Sunday of my calling.
I firmly believe Satan attacks those in the ministry harder and faster than anyone else.
This was just a small snag though, and otherwise our marriage was fine…to me. I didn’t know it at the time, but Alicia was miserable. I was busy trying to control things, and she spent her time trying to find the courage to end a marriage she no longer enjoyed. Lucky for me, she saw it through.
It wasn’t long after that when things turned around and changed for the better. Alicia got happy, I was happy, and our ministry was humming along nicely. I had signed up for a new-fangled invention called “Myspace,” and spent a lot of my time trying to find friends I had lost contact with.
One day, as I came into work and checked Myspace, I saw that I had a friend request. It was Tiffany. You remember Tiffany from Mexico? She and I had kept in minimal contact through the years, and she had seen that I was on Myspace now and wanted to keep in touch that way. We quickly caught up, and I found out she was married, and that her husband had applied for a job in Muskogee, which is about seven miles from Okay. She asked me to pray about the job. I said okay, and we spent the next few weeks chatting.
Her husband wound up getting the job in Muskogee, and they started looking for a place to live. As fate would have it, the mobile home right next to ours had recently opened up, and the rent was something they could afford, although they were hoping they could find a house. They didn’t, so they rented the place next to ours.
They needed help moving, and Alicia and I provided it to them. We took a trailer up and loaded their things in it, and in a couple of hours, a friend from the past that used to live three hours away was now living within throwing distance of me. I was excited about the prospect of reconnecting, and was excited to introduce them to our church, which they both immediately decided they hated.
Tiffany and I still kept up with each other on Myspace, and we let them use our Internet service and washer and dryer when they needed to. There were also frequent visits to each other’s houses, and all of this was innocently done. It got to the point where we were doing something with them every night of the week.
And then I had a dream. In this dream, I had accidentally seen Tiffany naked. It was really funny, and I told her about it. She replied with a story of her own, telling me that she had thought that had happened once, because she had gotten out of the shower without closing the drapes, and I glanced that direction on my way out to my truck. I laughed, told her I hadn’t seen anything, and we joked about the possibility of it happening again. Then somewhere in the laughter, a line got blurred, then it got crossed, and then there wasn’t a line anymore.
“Travis, I don’t know if you’re joking or not, but if you want something to happen, it can, and I won’t tell anybody.”
The story should end there. I type “no,” we joke a bit more, things are awkward for a while, and the friendship goes on.
Only I didn’t type “no.”
Instead I told her I wanted to see her naked.
I have a theory, that, as does most of my philosophy, stems from King of the Hill. You see, I spent all of my time as a young man working on my “offense” when it came to girls. I had no “defense.” And so when the offer came my way, my guard was down, and I got sacked.
The physical affair didn’t actually start until a couple of months after that. We danced around it, talked about it, and then finally did it. I’m here to tell you, you have to kill a part of your conscience when you have an affair. You have to sear the synapses shut, and I can tell you something else, you don’t ever get that part back. It’s been almost four years since I ended it, and I still don’t have that piece of my conscience back. I don’t ever feel truly guilty about anything. I have to rely on my knowledge and past experiences to let me know when I should feel bad about something I’ve done.
In a couple of months, Tiffany went through a nasty divorce that I was the sole cause of. She lived with us for two weeks as she looked for a new place. Then when she found an apartment, we fronted her the money so she could move in. I essentially forced Alicia to be friends with her, making her feel guilty about it even though she was suspicious of what was happening. I was in control, only this time the number of people under my power was doubled. I was intoxicated by that, and didn’t ever want to give it up.
(Guys, I’m telling you this for a reason. I know you hate me right now. I know you do, and I’m sorry for that, but stick this one out. It gets better.)
Pretty soon I realized that I had to resign from the church. I might have a habit of making God angry at me, but I knew instinctively that if I continued walking down the dichotomous path I was on, I was going to face the full-fledged wrath of an Old Testament God who had very little tolerance for the kind of hypocrisy I was serving up on a daily basis.
While I was resigning from the church, I figured I might as well resign from my marriage also. I told Alicia I wanted a divorce. I spent that evening at Tiffany’s house, where I tried to fall asleep beside her and failed. After a few hours, I knew what I needed to do. I got out of bed, looked at her, and said, “I have to hurt you.”
And I left. I called Alicia, I told her I was sorry, and I told her I didn’t want a divorce, and I begged her to come home. And she did.
But I didn’t tell her about Tiffany.
You’d think that would have been the end of the affair, and that Tiffany would have been so angry with me that she never would have taken me back. And over the next few days as we fought via text messages and private phone calls, I resigned from the church as the youth minister, but assured the congregation that wherever the road took us, my wife and I would travel it together.
A couple of weeks went by, and Tiffany and I picked up where we had left off. We continued an off and on relationship, with one of us constantly talking about ending it with the other, but never actually doing it. I was drunk on power, and she was still under the impression that I was one day going to leave Alicia. I guess that was always a possibility, too. That is until March of 2008, when I walked outside, got in my truck, and found this sitting on the dash.
|It didn’t have the stains on it then.|
And inside? This.
|The list and letter that saved my marriage.|
Y’all remember the list I talked about yesterday? That’s what was in that envelope.
And so, on March 13th, 2008, I knew who I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I keep that letter in the glove box of my truck. I take it out from time to time and read it, and I thank God for my wife, and for the pastor that married us, who made us write them. That letter is the reason why I have a problem with people who say “actions speak louder than words.” I’ve never seen anything as loud as what I read on that day.
It took five more months for me to extricate myself from the mess I’d made with Tiffany. Five months of me trying to figure out how I could get out of the whole thing without Alicia ever finding out. Five months of me controlling Tiffany, which was what I loved to do, even more so than physical aspect of the affair.
September is a terrible month for me. Traditionally, if something bad is going to happen in the year, it will happen in September. The year 2008 was no exception. One night, Tiffany decided she was going out on a date. I told her she wasn’t, and she went anyway. She turned her phone off so I couldn’t text her, and I sent her about two hundred text messages, and left her about ten voicemails while she was on that date. During that time, Alicia and I watched “Walk the Line,” and I heard the song “Ring of Fire” for the first time in my life. I don’t know what grabbed me about that song, but it spoke powerfully to me. The realization sank in that I was was pulling myself into an endless ring of fire that only I, with the help of God, could pull myself out of. That song set a chain of events into motion that turned our lives upside down at first, but around in the end.
The next day I told Tiffany I was considering telling Alicia everything. If she was going to start dating, then I wasn’t going to be a part of her life at all. Her answer was simple: “Don’t tell Alicia, and I’m going to continue to go out. You can’t control me anymore.”
My whole life has been about control.
So I took a deep breath, I shut my phone off, and I called Alicia into the living room. Eye contact was impossible. I looked in her general direction and asked her to promise me that no matter what I told her, she wouldn’t leave me. She agreed.
Then I told her everything.
There was anger, there were tears, and then she spoke the words, “Your dad would be so disappointed in you.” Sticks and stones might break bones, but those words broke my heart. Nothing anyone will ever say to me hurt as much as those eight words, and yet I knew that it was a mere fraction of the hurt she was feeling. A few minutes later, she looked at me and said, “I’m going to be really pissed off for a while. But we’re going to make it through this.”
I fired my phone back up, and sent one text message.
“She knows. It’s over.”
And I was free.
Today is the second 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 OnePart Two: The Matrimony
It all started with a phone call.
The young lady who drove that Chevy Corsica was named Alicia. Most of you here might know her as “The Missus.”
I asked her out on a date, and we went to Arby’s one night after work. She wound up paying.
My brain is really bad at remembering all the smaller details of life. But I remember laying on my trampoline one night, talking to Alicia on the phone, and telling her that I was pretty sure I was going to marry her. I remember walking into her house for the first time and being attacked by an eighty five pound Husky. I remember breaking up with her several times, and always coming back. I can remember proms, and the horrendous yellow dress she wore to mine. I can remember laughing so hard at something that I farted in front of her for the first time. I can remember falling asleep in her bed, and her dad being absolutely furious. I can remember one night in particular, after church, Alicia looked at me and said, “We have to talk,” and she took me to that same blueberry farm, parked in the parking lot, and looked up, and I could see it in her eyes.
I wasn’t an idiot. I knew what was going to happen. I was about to get dumped.
She looked at me, opened her mouth, and I waited for the ax to fall. It was then I realized how very much in love I was with this woman, and I realized that it was all going to go away if I didn’t do something.
But I couldn’t get words out.
“Travis, I want to apologize for how I’ve been acting lately. I know I’ve been treating you terribly, and I just want you to know I’m sorry.”
I had a million questions, but the big one was, “What are you talking about?” You see, she hadn’t been treating me bad. I hadn’t noticed anything different at all. But I was thrilled, because I still had Alicia.
I planned the proposal. I was going to rent ad space before a movie in a theater, and have them post in big words, “Will you marry me?” on the screen. Details were lined out, theaters were contacted for pricing, and then I made a huge mistake. I mentioned it to a mutual friend of ours, who immediately went and told her what I was planning. The whole thing was botched.
I got her parents permission. Lord that was tough.
My mom helped me finance the ring. I was nineteen at the time, and didn’t really have a credit history to speak of. Alicia had picked out several that she wanted, and I didn’t think any of them were good enough for her. However, I got her the one she wanted. Then I waited for another brilliant proposal plan to strike my conscience.
Sometime in November of 2002, Alicia looked at me and said, “Travis, we’re going to a football game tonight, and I want my ring. My friends need to see that I’m getting married.” After those words were spoken, she went to finish getting ready, and I was left wondering what I was going to do.
Her parents had a bowl of mint Life Savers on their kitchen counter. I quickly tore open a package, pulled the mint out, ate it (I was really hoping she’d want to make out after this), and put the ring in the mint package. When she came back out, ready to go, I asked her if she wanted a mint.
“Are you sure? They’re really good.”
“Travis, shut up. Let’s go. Do you have my ring?”
Sheepishly, I pulled the ring out of the mint bowl, got down on one knee, and asked the smartest question of my life.
She said yes.
We went through marriage counseling. During this, the minister asked us to each make a list of ten things we loved about the other.
The engagement lasted seven months, and then one morning it was June 28th, and I was up 8 hours before the wedding, getting ready, and driving ninety miles an hour to that little church in Okay, Oklahoma. I got there early, still not convinced in my mind that I was really about to be married. But I was.
|That was my, “I’m about to have so much sex,” face.|
|That was my “I’m about to have so much cake,” face.|
The honeymoon ended, and life set in. I worked a midnight shift for a while during the first year of our marriage. It was pretty rough working that schedule and being a newlywed. I started to revert back to some of my old habits, being controlling and possessive. Our first fight was over a cat. She wanted to get one, and I said no. I wound up leaving a very hateful message on our answering machine that my younger brother heard. We made up.
I tried to impress her by making her pancakes. She “caught” me. We bought a German Shepherd that ate the entire house, costing us not only our security deposit, but also any good will we had with our landlord. We eventually got that cat, then gave her to my mom. We went broke when I took a job selling vacuums. We moved three times in two years. I discovered XBOX Live. She discovered she didn’t have a tolerance for me playing video games forty hours a week. We cried, we laughed, and we explored our options as a couple.
Then one day, we finally went back to that little church in Okay. Then we went again. It felt just like home. After a few months of this, the pastor pulled me aside and said, “Travis, you know we’re looking for a youth minister, right? I want you to pray about it.”
We did, and shortly after I had my first stint in the ministry, leading the youth at Okay First Baptist Church.
And then I made The Mistake.
part threeToday is the beginning of 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 One: The Girls Before
“The book of love is long and boring,no one can lift the damn thing.It’s full of charts, and facts and figures,and instructions for dancing. But I, I love it when you read to me. You can read me, anything.”
The Book of Love – Peter Gabriel
It all starts on a blueberry farm.
When I was fourteen, I had the opportunity to go to work at the blueberry farm in my hometown of Okay, Oklahoma. The blueberry farm was the only place around that hired kids that were fourteen, and most parents wanted their kids to get a taste of work around that time. It was also pretty nice earning my own money.
Getting up at five forty-five every morning so I could be out working by six was not a fun way to spend half of my summer vacation, and getting paid two dollars per gallon of berries I picked was outrageous, but I soon met someone who made it worth it.
Her name was Mindy, and she was by far the most interesting girl in the blueberry patch. She was home-schooled, she was five foot one at the most, and weighed maybe eighty pounds. She wasn’t bad looking, either. She went to a church in Muskogee, and she was every bit as knowledgeable as I was in all things spiritual. We had some pretty in-depth conversations out there in that field, and I’m pretty sure I was the most annoying person she’d ever met.
Try as I might, Mindy would not give me her phone number. I asked every day, and every day she turned me down. It took a bit of devious planning on my part, but I had another really good friend working with us that was also home-schooled, and he got her number for me out of some sort of special phone book they had. Victory, it seemed, was mine.
Mindy and I spent the next two years talking on the phone almost every single evening. We never quite got around to “going out,” and somehow that was fine for both of us. We really did enjoy our friendship. We visited each other’s churches, and we even went to Falls Creek together.
During one of my visits to her church, my eyes fell upon a young lady who I became quite enamored with. Her name was Kim, and she soon became the recipient of my nightly phone calls. Not long after that, we began dating. She was the proverbial “first love.” We had a lot of good times together, and I learned a lot while dating her. For instance, I learned that I was a possessive jerk who took delight in trying to control a young lady of sixteen and making her into someone who only existed for my enjoyment.
In between this time of me finding out how badly I could treat someone and trying to figure out God’s plan for my life as far as women were concerned, I acquired a job at our local Walmart. I was a cart pusher, and I was darn good at it too. There had been a couple of weeks where my relationship with Kim had gotten rocky, and Mindy and I had spent a lot of time working through my problems. In fact, Mindy had helped me realize that I was being a possessive, misogynistic jerk, and was trying to give me advice on how to change. In the process, I began to wonder which one of them I should date.
So one night, out in the parking lot of Walmart gathering stainless steel buggies and putting them where they belonged, I asked God for a sign. You see, Mindy drove a Buick Skylark. Kim, a Chevy Corsica.
“God,” I said. “I want to marry the woman that you’ve picked for me. So I’m going to count all the Skylarks and Corsicas I see, and whichever there are more of, that’s who I’ll marry.”
The winner of my love would not have a choice in the matter. It would be, after all, ordained by God.
The Corsicas won out. It was decided. The woman I was to marry would be driving a Chevrolet Corsica.
Kim and I patched things up, but unfortunately I hadn’t learned my lesson. It took her a year and a half to see my abusive ways weren’t going to change, and she was gone. Our last phone call consisted of me telling her that my dad had cancer, and then trying to squeeze information out of her about the new guy she was supposedly dating.
There was a mission trip to Mexico scheduled for that summer. My dad didn’t want me to go. His thought was that he didn’t have much time left, and he wanted to spend that time with me. My argument was that it was just a week, and he wasn’t going to die in a week. I was in denial, and he was taking things too seriously.
On the way down to Mexico, I found out that Kim and this other guy were officially dating, and I didn’t handle it well. I spent a lot of my time dealing with that by playing basketball and asking everyone of our mutual friends if she was really happy with this guy. Everyone said yes, and I don’t think they were lying. They eventually got married. I’ve tried in several different ways to apologize to them both for being such a terrible person then, but I’ve never been able to get the words out right.
On the mission trip, I had an emotional connection with two other young ladies. One was Linda, the other was Tiffany. Tiffany was the tallest young lady on the trip, standing an inch shy of my five feet, eleven inch frame. She was very interesting to talk to, she had the cutest southern Oklahoma accent I’d ever heard, and she was attractive as well. There were two problems however; she lived three hundred and fifty miles away from me, and…she was thirteen. I was seventeen. Once I found out her age, I tried to move on.
One night on the way back to the church we were bunking at, Linda and I held hands. The song Entertaining Angels by the Newsboys was on the radio. To this day, I can recall every word of that song and the moments it shared with our hands clasped together. I was in love. And I remember the moments right after that, when she told me she had a boyfriend back home and just wanted to be close to someone while she was in Mexico. A part of me knew that wasn’t right, and again, I tried to move on.
I survived Mexico. My dad also survived – for another three months. By that time, I had found a “rebound” girl who I was spending a lot of my time with. Her name was Barb, and she was an extremely nice – if not a bit socially awkward – young lady with a permanent blush in her cheeks and a sunny disposition. We had been hooked up by a mutual friend who was tired of me trying to get with her, and finally just found someone else to take her place.
Barb was really a great girl. She hadn’t really dated before me, and she was caught up in the whole new relationship phase, but I was busy trying to deny the fact that my father was not long for this earth. Barb would give me bracelets to wear every time I saw her. I took so much crap for those bracelets. Barb went golfing with me once, she introduced me to Ford Broncos, and her family was astonished that I could eat four things from the menu at Taco Bell. She worked so hard to make our relationship successful, and I think part of that stemmed from what she knew I was going through.
Again, I was an idiot. Barb was the victim of me wanting to know what it was like to break up with someone before they could break up with me. I honestly thought I could dump her, come back a few weeks later, and then pick up where I left off. I just wanted to be in control.
My whole life has been about control.
Barb and I never did get back together. I’m not so vain as to think I scarred her for life, but she was definitely a “fool me once” learner when it came to me. We went our separate ways, and I was finally starting to see some things about myself that couldn’t exist if I wanted to ever have a fulfilling relationship. And yes, I was worried about a fulfilling relationship at the age of seventeen.
And it wasn’t too long before a young lady at work caught my eye. She was cute as a button, friendly, and spent time listening to me tell her how awesome I was when she was giving breaks to the door-greeters.
Oh, and she also drove a dark blue, 1996 Chevrolet Corsica.
One of the great things about having children is marking all the milestone moments you have. All the “firsts.” As a family, the Sloats have had their first Fourth of July, their first birthdays together, their first Halloween, Christmas, and yesterday, their first Easter.
|Straight ballin’, yo.|
In this recent post on comfort zones, I talked about a ministry that I’m involved in at Eastgate, an assisted care living facility for elderly folks. In short, a nursing home. Once a month, I go out there and teach Sunday School. Couple of hymns, a lesson, another hymn, a prayer and then they all go to lunch. I’ve talked about what a struggle it was for me to go in there, and what a struggle it was for me to involve our family as well.
The second Sunday I went, a virus had swept through the place and it was very contagious. This caused me to rethink the “involving the family” thing. The Missus and I made the decision that it would probably be in the kids’ best interest to not be exposed to that sort of thing, whether it was discovered yet or not. So they haven’t been back, and I’m okay with that.
A few weeks ago, I approached the director of the ministry about the fact that my Sunday was going to fall on Easter during the month of April. I asked him how that worked, and if I would still be responsible for my lesson, or if I would be able to come to church with my family. He said he’d get back to me, and I spent the next couple of weeks thinking that surely the Lord wanted my family together on Easter Sunday.
I’ve learned a lot of things in twenty-nine years, but the one thing I guess I haven’t learned is how to accurately predict the all-divine will of the Lord.
“Travis, we still do that on Easter Sunday. In fact, the residents actually look forward to it. Are you okay with continuing as planned?”
To quote George Clooney: “Dang. We’re in a tight spot.”
You see, I got selfish. I thought (and rightly so, I’m sure some of you would say) that I should be able to spend my family’s first Easter with, you know, my family. It would have been very easy for me to tell him, “No, since it’s our first Easter with kids, I’d really like to spend it with them in church.” He might even have been expecting that. I certainly expected to say it.
But I didn’t.
So yesterday, I took some pictures with the kids, explained to them that they better behave, and sent them and The Missus to church with her parents, while I loaded up my stereo, my notes, and my iPad and headed to Eastgate. I had a lot of selfish thoughts on the way. Then, as I was pulling in to the facility, I got a notification on Facebook for a wall post. I assumed it would be a request to play the latest Super Duper Slot Machine Deluxe Ball Drop Extravaganza, and I was going to delete it and go on.
However, it turned out to be a post about my dad. The gentleman said that he wished nothing more than to hear one of my dad’s lessons this morning, and wrapped it up by saying what a great man he was. It’s been almost twelve years, and it turns out I’m still not the only person who wants to hear his voice.
It was the proverbial slap in the face. I started thinking about what my dad would have done in this situation. Then I thought about whether or not he would be proud of the parent I’m becoming, and the man I’m growing into. Then I thought about how it wasn’t fair that he hadn’t gotten to see the kids, or my niece Briley. Then I thought about how he didn’t get to see me graduate, or get married, or see The Groom get married, and how he wasn’t going to see The Liar or The Youngest get married or see their kids.
In about ten seconds, I was angry, crying, and telling myself I was a stupid, selfish, and pity partying crybaby. I was going on and on about how life wasn’t fair, and how it wasn’t fair that I had to be separated from my family today, and how terrible I had it. To top it off, I had about ten minutes to get myself together before I walked in the nursing home and began telling people how joyous of a day it was supposed to be.
I don’t know how, but I got it together. I walked in the door, and the nurses started wheeling the people in.
Time for smiles, right?
About five minutes into the procession of wheelchairs coming through the doors, a lady looked up from her chair, introduced herself, and asked me what time it was. I looked down at my watch and said, “10:30.” She then consulted her watch and said, “I have 10:25.”
+1 to that lady.
Then she asked me what day it was.
I said, “It’s April 8th, ma’am. 2012. It’s Easter.”
She threw her hands in the air as a huge smile lit up her face and said,
“PRAISE THE LORD!”
She went on to introduce herself again, then tell me three times that she was German and Indian, then told me four times that she had only been there two weeks, even though I’d seen her there for three months. She obviously has some sort of dementia.
But in the span of a second, with her reaction to the fact that it was Easter Sunday, she reminded me why I made the decision I made. She showed me that even though life had taken from her all sense of time, she remembered enough to know that Easter Sunday was special. She instantly validated my reason for being there, my reasons for splitting up our family on our first Easter. She reminded me of the excitement I should have had.
I stood there, genuinely smiling, and listened to her tell me over and over again about her heritage and how she used to beat up people for messing with her brother, and how her parents loved the razor strap, and how her nickname used to be “Hitler.” At one point during her stories, another lady fell asleep and her dentures fell out.
I stood there, once again unexpectedly blessed by these folks, and finally I started the lesson. I told them how we should never forget Easter. How each day should and could be Easter to someone else who didn’t know about The Gift.
And at some point, during what I thought was a pretty inspired and amazing lesson, that same lady fell asleep and her dentures fell out again. Then I had a lady get mad at me because I couldn’t control the thermostat. Then I had a lady wheel up to me afterwards and tell me how much she enjoyed me coming today.
I got to my in-laws for dinner and hugged my kids.
To end the day, I stopped by and saw dad. I’ve been thinking about taking the kids to meet him, you know. I reached his headstone without crying for the first time in eleven years. I told him I was trying. Told him how much I wished he could see his three grandkids. I got mad again. I fought with God, yelled at him for a while. Then the tears came, and with it, the self-pity. I Almost fell back into that same spiral. I saw a couple of headstones and was reminded of what some of my friends of mine had lost. The realization came to me that no matter how amazing my Easter Sunday was, my dad had a better one.
I left smiling. Crying…but smiling.