|Look at that enormous Sloat head.|
I’m typing this from the doctor’s office. We’re here for a checkup on Isaac, making sure he’s growing like he should and hoping he won’t be covering his face for the next ultrasound.
I’m about to be brutally honest with you, and I hope you can forgive me for it.
I don’t want four kids.
Up until this morning, I have been dreading Isaac’s arrival, I’ve been worrying about my money, my time, and the fact that I’ve got three adopted children who might grow up holding a grudge against our sole biological child.
Akeeli, Aven, and Drake, if you’re reading this, I need you to know I never loved you any less than Isaac. Not for one second. I know you can’t help feeling like you might feel, but listen: I love you more than you could ever imagine. I love you so much I’d die for you.
On the way to Tulsa this today, I had to drop my truck off in Wagoner to get the oil changed. This is in no way a sponsored post, but the guys at Kevin Grover are seriously the best, and one in particular slapped me in the face with some truth this morning.
He walked over to me, and I spent some time trying to figure out if I was looking at his smile or the sun. That’s Neil being Neil though. I’ve never thought of him as car salesman, he’s a friend who happens to be exceptionally skilled at getting me to spend huge sums of money on things with four wheels.
My son weighs 2.6 pounds today. He’s grown tremendously in the last two weeks.
We’re sitting in the lab now, waiting on blood to be drawn. In fact, I’m almost positive Alicia is actually reading what I type as I type it. She’s talking about how much Isaac has grown over the past couple of weeks, and saying that he better slow down. I think she’s finally realizing that when you have a giant for a husband, his kids might be huge too. I don’t know, maybe just my head is giant.
Back to Neil. He came over and shook my hand.
“Two things to congratulate you for, Travis. One, you look fantastic, and two, your newest little one!”
Everyone always does that. If they’re familiar with our situation at all, they’re so excited for us; for me. I get that, and I’m thankful for the empathy, but up until today, it was a forced smile, forced enthusiasm. So I smiled back at him, and I gave my prototypical response.
“Aww, thanks! Be excited for her though, I don’t want four kids.”
Neil didn’t even blink.
“Oh stop that, Travis. You’ve created an eternal soul.”
I’m alone now, Alicia has gone back to have her blood drawn, and I’m fighting tears as I type this. It’s me and one old lady in the waiting room, and I don’t need her wondering why the behemoth four chairs down is blubbering quietly into his cell phone.
We’ve created an eternal soul.
My son is an eternal soul.
Isaac is an eternal soul.
Somewhere in my brain a switch flipped. I took a couple of confused steps and finally spit out a response.
“Thank you, Neil. I’ve never looked at it like that.”
“I’ll leave you guys alone, I know you’ve got a busy day planned!”
He bounced away, frustratingly happy, unaware of the chaos he’d just wreaked in my brain. Unaware of his creating a tectonic shift in the pangean plate that is my selfishness.
You see, that’s all it is, selfishness. One thing I’ve discovered since having children is that I am, by nature, a selfish person. I didn’t realize that until after we’d adopted the kids, but it’s true. I am a selfish person. I want my time, my money, my stuff, my wife. I, I, I, I.
I’m not saying all that changed instantly. I know somewhere between now and the next eighteen years, I’m going to be selfish. But I was given a new way to look at things today. I have four eternal souls that I am now responsible for. Five and six if you count mine and my wife’s, and that’s a whole lot of souls to be in charge of.
My dad figured it out. I don’t know how, but he figured it out. Reading his writings from when I was a kid, I know he was frustrated, unsure of himself as a father, and selfish. But at some point he cracked the code. He figured it out, and he took responsibility for the eternal souls he’d helped create, and he did a damn fine job of it.
Now I’m back at the doctor’s office, waiting for my beautiful wife and my son to come back from getting a shot, which is apparently what you have to do when your husband’s blood (A+), has a higher GPA than yours (A-). We’ll leave here and go pick up two other sons and a daughter, all of which are mine.
Today is a new day. Today I was verbally slapped by a friend who has obviously figured some of it out.
Here she comes. Gotta go. I’m gonna try figure it out.
So it’s day six over here on the #Write30 Challenge and today I’m presented with a thinker: I have to name someone who fascinates me, and why.
There are lots of candidates, really. My children fascinate me, because they make extraordinarily bad decisions a good portion of the time, yet I still love them. Coach Mike Krzyzewski of the Duke Blue Devils fascinates me because he’s amazing. My mom fascinates me because of her tenacity.
And really, tenacity is the word that turned me on to the person who fascinates me the most, my lovely wife Alicia.
You see, Alicia has been kicked pretty hard more than once. I’m sorry to say that some of those times have been by me, but not all of them have been. Life has thrown her some pretty tough situations, but it seems like whatever she goes through just makes her stronger.
“But Travis, that’s what happens. When we go through things, we get stronger.”
Untrue. Some break.
Have you all seen the picture of the Nagasaki Arch that’s still standing after the atomic bomb, and the tsunami?
|Please excuse that slight profanity.|
Well, it turns out that picture is a fake, but I think it perfectly encapsulates my wife’s tenacity.
There are days when she falls apart. I’ve been there for a few of those. But what impresses me the most is that after a few hours, a few tears, and a few hugs, she’s back to Alicia, back to raising three children who she made hers, back to babysitting a husband who has a penchant for saying the wrong thing at the right time, back to washing dishes and doing laundry and taking care of her family and grading papers and thinking of others and giving more of herself than she’ll ever get back.
So yes, I took the easy way out today by telling you that my wife fascinates me.
But she does. And I love her. She’s tough. She’s kind. She’s mean. She’s gorgeous. She’s battle-tested and time-worn. She’s soft. She’s my interpreter. She’s my translator. She’s probably pissed at me for doing this.
Alicia, you’ve fascinated me for fifteen years. Hopefully I’ll get fifteen more.
“That’s it, we’re out.”
The bad news came from Travis, the driver of the vehicle, and he delivered the news to his wife with a slightly disappointed voice, although he tried to maintain a carefree demeanor.
“We’re not out,” she replied. “There’s always more in these old trucks, the gauge never tells you the truth. Try it again.”
Travis tried it again. The engine coughed, sputtered, tried to come to life, but then didn’t, and as it ground to a halt it ground the hopes of ever making it out of The Pit.
Funnily enough, Travis had created The Pit, back when he had too much time on his hands. He’d borrowed a backhoe from a friend, took it slow and steady at first, and then when that hadn’t produced the results he’d wanted, he’d bought some dynamite and blasted a hole deeper than he’d intended, but it was a hole nonetheless, something he could be proud of. It all seemed like a great idea at the time.
Now that pit was a trap.
It wasn’t just Travis and his wife in the truck, their three kids were with them. They’d stocked enough water and snacks, as well as more diapers than you can imagine, for the trip, but not enough to account for extra time.
Help wasn’t on the way. Travis had spent many hours alienating friends while digging the hole, so no one would be coming around to check on them. Not hearing from Travis was more common than hearing from him.
Travis looked at his wife.
“I think that’s it. It’s just not going any further. I don’t know what to do. I know we’re close to being out, but it’s still too steep for us to climb.”
Then he finally admitted, “Also, I don’t have any clue what to do when we get out.”
His wife was slow to reply, but when she did it was with a smile.
“Hang on, let me check something,” she said.
She hopped out of the truck—the truck he’d driven so recklessly—and went to the back, rummaged in the bed for a few moments, removed something, and then walked back to the cab.
Smiling that same, calm smile, she motioned to the item she’d pulled out of the bed of the truck.
It was a gas can.
“Where did you get that?” Travis asked.
“I don’t know,” she answered. “I just thought you might need it. You think it’ll be enough to get us out of here?”
“We don’t need much,” he said. “So I bet it will. At any rate, it’ll get us closer than we are now.”
As Travis refueled the truck from the can, he thought about all the times he’d wondered whether God actually heard his cries, his pleas, his fervent whisperings in the night for a woman he could spend his life with, a woman who’d share his fears, his happiness, his life.
Looking up, he caught his wife’s eyes in the rearview mirror. She winked.
He closed the gas cap, slapped the side of the old truck—the truck he knew he’d miss—and hopped in the driver’s seat.
“Alright,” he said, glancing at his wife. “Let’s try to get out of this pit.”
Just under two years ago I posted this blog.
I was full of resentment and hurt and all of those things that can make a very bitter person out of you if you hang on to them. You see, I was having trouble walking the walk I talked about so much when it came to other people.
I will assume you’re familiar with the phrase: “Just pray for God’s will.” You may have even spoken those words to someone, hoping they’d give comfort and peace.
I can assure you that living that phrase is harder than saying it. And I’m just about positive that you already know that, because undoubtedly you’ve lost a loved one, a job, or have been in a situation where you desperately wanted your will done and not God’s.
If you aren’t a Christian or don’t believe in God, that’s fine, I have to figure this would be the equivalent of someone telling you “Things will work out, just give it time.”
So fast forward to a few months back. The Missus and I got a phone call. The bouncing baby boy born back in 2012 was needing a new home. You were on the list. Be ready. He’s coming to you.
We might have freaked out just a bit. The Missus did a deep cleaning of the house the likes of which I have never seen in my life. Things were stored, things were bleached, things were thrown away, things were painted. Rooms were changed. My brother came over and threw his back out hanging up a ceiling fan, God love him. We were going to be prepared.
Then came an email.
“We’re going to give him to someone else instead. We’ll keep you posted.”
The pain The Missus felt was extraordinary. I felt empty. I was disappointed. I felt like nothing good would ever happen again. We cried, we yelled, and we questioned the very God whose will we were supposedly praying for all along. We sat down and had a giant pity party. We broke the news to the kids, and then everyone in the family was broken hearted.
I do not claim to know why that happened. I don’t know why we needed to feel that pain, and why we had to explain to our children that the new baby, their brother, was not coming to us after all. But we did. And we moved on.
Then we got another email.
“The someone didn’t work out. He’s coming to you.”
After swearing we would never get our hopes up again, we…well we got our hopes up again. We cleaned. We did background checks and home studies and physicals. We decided not to tell the kids until we were a bit more certain. Then we told the kids.
Then we made the drive. Just under two hours, and we had a Tahoe full of toys and clothes and baby, whose name I cannot give you for a while, for the same reason I couldn’t give you the others’ back in 2010. It’ll take a little bit. We don’t know how long, that’s up to the state and the Lord. This situation isn’t as fluid as the other one. There are a lot of extraneous factors that could result in us not getting to keep him.
However, I serve a God who is in control of this situation. He knows what’s going to happen already, in fact He saw it from the beginning of time. And what’s more important, He knows what I can handle. He knows what my family can handle. And if it’s His will that my family should now number five, then so be it. If not, somehow, with His help, we’ll get through it.
But right now the boy is home. He’s at our house, with his brother and sister, and they love him. We love him. He loves all of us. In fact, on the car ride home, he said something, and I turned and looked at him. He pointed right at me and said “Dad.”
He hates nap time. He hates bed time. He loves bananas. He has the reddest, curliest hair you’ve ever seen and looks exactly like a Sloat. Hates to be told no. Can high five with the best of them. Loves the rabbit, doesn’t really care for Fabulous, but he’s warming up to her. Loves to say “Bye” and act like he’s walking out the door. He cries when I leave for work or school, which breaks my heart. Gives pretty good hugs. Is calling The Missus “Mom,” and his brother and sister “Bubba” and “Sis.”
The addition to our family has also created an imbalance of sorts, as represented by the following pie charts.
|This seems natural and right and in complete harmony and accord with all things.|
|THE PURPLE AREA IS GROWING HELP ME BABY JESUS.|
In the past two weeks I’ve taken hundreds of pictures, the majority of which I can’t put on social media or my blog. I forwarded one picture to about 20 different people before I realized that it had my boob in it, clear as day. Here’s one that makes me proud, but I can’t tell you if it’s him.
|This could be him, this might not be him. I’m not telling you for sure.|
It seems as though he’s had a hundred visitors. Family, friends, and everyone who meets him loves him. They play with him, hold him, talk to him. God has blessed us with people in our lives who genuinely love us and who want good things for our family. It amazes me that He would take so many terrible situations: broken families, infertility, abuse, drugs…and combine them into something so amazing. Something I’m able to call a family.
The other day, the day after we brought him home, he was screaming his lungs out about taking a nap and I was there beside him to make sure he didn’t abscond from the crib. As I watched him tire himself out by crying, something struck me as humorous and I looked down at him and laughed. Then, the comparison hit me, I started crying while I was laughing. So I stood there like an idiot, chuckling silently while giant tears slid down my cheeks.
God throws me a lot of curveballs. And sometimes, when I’m right smack in the middle of something God knows I should be going through, I lay down and I kick my feet and I scream about it. I say “No” a lot and I think God is the worst person in the world for handing me the situation or set of circumstances. It’s so unfair. The world is unfair. It’s the worst.
And then I calm down. I realize that what I’m going through is what’s best for me. I realize all those things I wish I would have realized sooner. I realize that I serve a God who can handle me when I’m having my biggest screaming hissy fit ever, and he’s looking at me saying, “It’s for the best. Trust me. Just trust me.”
So yeah, I’m hoping God works His will in this situation. And even more than that, I actually believe that His will is best for all of us, including the new guy. Do I want things to work out the way I think is best? Absolutely. But what do I know?
I know that God is big.
I know that I am His. I know that my family is His. I know that you are His.
And I know that The Missus and I are officially outnumbered, and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
I sighed, and said to myself, “I’ll freaking close it, geez. I have to do everything around here.”
Then, as I walked over to do “everything,” I saw something else. The Powerwheel was sitting there, half parked in the garage, half out.
I got even more upset. I gave the thing a half-hearted kick and shove, then yanked the door down. Angry, I walked into the house…
“Christ looked at this screwed up world, turned to the Father and asked, ‘How can I help?’ And God looked at him and said, ‘Are you sure? Because you may not like what you have to do.'” – Andy Stanley
When I walked in, I slammed my keys a little too hard onto the rack, and I tossed my wallet on the refrigerator a little too hard. I made sure my face was good and screwed up so my wife would ask me what was wrong, and sure enough, she bit.
“Travis, what’s wrong? You look mad.”
“Alright, which one is this?”
“This one is Travis Sloat, sin number 4,555,291. He looks at his wife and says something really dumb. Something he shouldn’t say at all.”
“And I’m going to die for that?”
“In order for this to work, you have to.”
“Alright, done. What next?”
“Sin number 4,555,292: he uses several curse words while watching Duke play.”
“He’s kind of an idiot, but man I love him.”
I opened my mouth.
“I’d like it if I didn’t have to be the one that closes the garage door all the time. And the freaking Powerwheel was sticking out of it. Why can’t you at least check that before I have to do it?”
The very second I closed my mouth I knew they were dumb. I realized how stupid it all was. I realized, that if I owned my piece of the pie, the reason I was mad was because all I wanted to do was come home and not be bothered by trivial stuff…like my kids…my kids and their stuff.
Now, sitting here, I realize something. There are people out there that would LOVE to have the opportunity to put their kids’ toys away. They would love to come home, see something laying out, shake their heads and say, “Those crazy kids.”
“This is for Travis, and sin number 4,555,291. This is for Travis, sin number 4,555,291. I love him. That’s why I’m here. That’s why they’re beating me. That’s why these thorns are on my head. This is for Travis, because I love him, even though he’s an idiot, and even though he’s not always thankful for what I’ve given him. This is for Travis, sin number 4,555,292…”
“Travis, I’m sorry, I’ll start making sure they put their stuff up and the door is closed.”
What? What? This isn’t what I wanted. I WANTED A FIGHT. I WANTED YELLING AND LOUD NOISES AND TRIVIAL THINGS TO BE BROUGHT UP. I DON’T WANT APOLOGIES.
|“I think I ate your chocolate squirrel.”|
I didn’t want an apology because the second the words were out of her mouth, I realized what an absolute idiot I was. I realized that she loves me enough to try and fix something that isn’t even her fault.
And I couldn’t even find the ability to say “I forgive you.” Not because of pride, not because of anything other than the fact that I AM SO STUPID, and THIS IS SO STUPID, and WHY ARE YOU MAKING HER APOLOGIZE FOR THIS YOU JACKASS. It’s like saying the words “I forgive you,” would have been even worse than what I said in the first place.
“Oh I forgive you because you spent all afternoon filling out paperwork for something incredibly important AFTER you spent all day molding young minds and AFTER you fixed dinner you might have wanted to just take a break instead of closing the garage door.”
Right. That would have made it better.
And I’m the one sitting here now, remembering the blog I posted LESS THAN A WEEK AGO, about how I’m working on things, and here I am taking two steps forward, telling the world (the six folks who read this blog) about how I’m making progress, and then, BAM, three steps back.
|What my “progress” feels like most days.|
And I could just have easily not typed this, not written this up, and not left it here for those six people to see. But I can’t do that. This is what you need to know about me. Because I’m sure there are others out there who struggle like I do, and who need to be reminded that it’s an uphill struggle, but we do have hope.
“So what happens to Travis after a lifetime of imperfection?”
“Well, he’ll be forgiven because he accepted our gift.”
“Just like that? There won’t be a giant scale weighing out his good and bad that ultimately determines where he’ll spend eternity?”
“Nope. Just you, standing in the gap between the real and the ideal.”
“That sounds fantastic. He’ll never make it on his own. Let’s do this thing.”
Note to the reader: This may be a tl;dr post for you, and I don’t want that to happen. If you want to get to the meat and potatoes of things, skip to “So here’s what I’ve done.” If you want a cute story about how my wife loves me, scroll down to the bit about chips. It may just make you interested enough to read the whole thing.
I’m traditionally terrible at the New Year’s Resolutions. For example, last year I decided I was going to lose a bunch of weight, read twenty-four new books, and try to become famous.
- I lost about thirty pounds from January to April, then gained it back.
- I read 16 new books, and most of those were because of the Young Adult Lit. course I took.
- I became somewhat Internet famous after posting a certain picture online.
So this year I didn’t really have many resolutions. I kind of thought that I should eat healthier, but I probably won’t. I mean, it’s 2014, shouldn’t we have calorie-free nachos by now? We’re all looking at you scientists.
I just want to mention here that I am absolutely terrified about this Velveeta shortage happening right now. I know, I know, it’s not real cheese, but that’s neither here nor there. MY NACHOS WON’T BE MADE WITH CHEDDAR AND RO-TEL GUYS. I’ve called for President Obama to look into the situation, but I just about bet he’s too busy with his “healthcare” to worry about it.
I’d really like to get to those twenty-four new books, but I highly doubt that’s going to happen, mostly because of my insane school schedule this year. I’d really like to have audio books widely accepted by literary circles as actual reading, but I honestly think that would be tougher than calorie-free nachos.
As for fame, I’ve kind of realized it won’t happen for me because I’m not ready for it. I know that because the following thought has actually gone through my head:
“What if some famous Internet site actually offers me money for an interview because of the turtle picture? Would that be selling out?”
I’m not even kidding about that. It’s something I’ve spent at least an hour thinking about. An hour. A legit hour. So I don’t think fame is right for me. I’ll probably need to sort out a few priorities before the good Lord actually blesses me with real fame, and not just fame acquired by taking my shirt off on the Internet, a picture which, God help them, my children will probably find one day.
So what does one do then, if resolutions are not to be conceived in the new year? Does one set goals for themselves, which are resolutions cleverly disguised in a shorter word? Or does one proceed willy-nilly into the year, running amuck amongst the freedoms granted one by one not having tethered themselves to the “same old, same old?”
My hat is off to you if you understand that paragraph. If you sort of checked out after the first sentence, basically I’m asking if I should even try to set up some sort of guidelines for improving my life in 2014.
So here’s what I’ve done. I’ve just decided that I want to work on a couple of things in 2014. I’m not saying I’m going to perfect them, I’m just saying I want to see if I can’t improve them just a little bit. And here they are, in no certain order.
- I want to work on my out of control consumerism.
- I want to work on rediscovering why I fell in love with my wife.
Guys, I want stuff. I want guns. I want the latest Apple product. I want the Beats headphones. I want the brand new television. I want a new truck. I want, I want, I want. I am never satisfied, and I know that’s not right.
|Actually I want the new Hyperbole and a Half book too.|
It’s something that really went out of control in 2013. Something, that if left unchecked, could possibly drive my family into financial collapse. I don’t believe that a husband and father should do that to their family. And it’s not just stuff.
It’s coming home and eating the food that my wife has cooked because if I make something else I’m essentially wasting food.
It’s maybe not getting the brand-name body wash and shampoo, because that’s extra money that could go into my gas tank.
It’s maybe not taking that extra trip to hang out with friends because that extra gas money could be used to get me back and forth to work a couple of times.
It’s saying no to people, even when I don’t want to, because my family and their comfort are more important than my social life.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying at all that the occasional money wasted on good fun isn’t something that can’t be done. You should certainly enjoy those things once in a while. But can I cut back on them? Probably. Should I? Yes, it’s something I need to work on.
|My absolute nemesis may make a repeat appearance in 2014.|
As for rediscovering why I fell in love with my wife, I’m slowly coming to the realization that I’ve wasted a lot of time over the past decade ignoring her. It’s taking me meeting with a leader in my church to see it, and it’s something that I’ve recently started working on.
Instead of griping about the messy house, I’ve realized that God has blessed me with two hands and the ability to figure out the buttons on the dishwasher.
Instead of demanding things from her, I’ve started asking “How can I help?”
Instead of sending her text messages telling her things, I’m trying to talk to her more in person about the important things.
Instead of staring at the television (even during a Duke game) or my phone, while she tries to talk to me about her day, I’m trying to pause the television or put down my phone and just listen, because she needs someone to talk to, and I’m the guy she picked to talk to.
And here’s the kicker. Here’s the bee’s knees. Here’s the wasp’s nipples. Here, as Douglas Adams said, is the entire set of erogenous zones of every flying insect of the western world.
She bought me a bag of chips the other night.
Now I can understand how you might see that as a bit of weird thing to say. “Chips?” you say. “How can a bag of chips help Travis understand the incredibly deep love his wife has for him? Has he gone off the deep end? Has his love for food so completely blocked his ability to think/blog that we’re now forced to listen to his rambling about a deep fried potato?”
And to that I say, just bear with me. And also, she doesn’t know I’m blogging about this, so I may be in trouble.
Here’s why the chips were special.
1. She knows I love chips — She was thinking about me. She saw something in the store and said, “Oh I think Travis would like that.”
2. We didn’t really have the extra money to spend on them — We’re strapped from Christmas like I’m sure most of you are, and we’re trying to recover. But she did it anyway because she knew it would make me happy.
3. She didn’t let the kids touch them and she never asked for one or tried to grab a couple — She was completely selfless in the purchase. She could have easily allowed it to become a treat for the entire family, but she saved them for me.
I was talking to my buddy during our weekly meeting this morning and I broke down when I told him about the chips. I think it hit me, at that moment, that this was one of the reasons I fell in love with my wife. Not because she buys me chips, but because she’s seen me at my absolute worst, and still loves me enough to do the tiny things that she knows will make me happy.
The thought occurred to me, that, in trying to rediscover why I fell in love with my wife, I may be inadvertently helping her discover why she fell in love with me.
And that, my friends, is worth me trying to work on.
I may not have resolutions for 2014, but if working on things helps me get a few more metaphorical bags of chips in this new year, then I’ll take work over resolve every year for the rest of my life.
What are you going to work on this year?
|My word I’m sexy. Also my wife, my wife is sexy too.|
You got a fast car. I want a ticket to anywhere. Maybe we can make a deal, maybe together we can get somewhere. Any place is better, starting from zero, got nothing to lose. Maybe we’ll make something, but me myself I got nothing to prove.
Let me just tell you what can happen in a decade.
You laugh. You yell. You cry. You fight. You move into a terrible apartment, then get kicked out. You get pets you can’t afford, then give them away. You build friendships, then watch them fade away. You burn your stomach trying to make pancakes. You have to borrow money from your parents. You experience the pain of watching the other one pack their things, then the joy of them not actually leaving. Your wife kicks a dudes butt for you. You join churches, then you leave them. You try to start a family, then one day you do. You quit jobs, then start new ones. You worry about money. You worry about sex. You worry about the kids and how dumb they act. You go to school, then you quit, then try the whole thing again. You get caught up in online gaming and have to be yanked to reality again. You buy cars you can’t afford, then have them taken. You write a hot check hoping it won’t get cashed until payday. You take vacations that are stressful, and then vacations that are incredibly relaxing. You deal with others who try to take your happiness. You deal with each other’s issues. You realize how easy you had it with no responsibilities. You pack up one night and head to Kansas, Houston, or anywhere else you get a whim to go to. You win. You lose. You love.
|My first live Duke game.|
The Missus is not really great at gift-giving. Traditionally I have to tell her exactly what I want, or most always suffer a tinge of disappointment. Over the last week I’ve been thinking of the gifts we won’t be able to get each other this year because we’re broke, and I had a startling revelation.
The Missus has given me ten years of her.
Ten years of her life have been spent married to me. Ten years of babysitting me, laughing at/with me, and telling me time and time again, “We can’t afford it.” If not for her, I would not be a father, I would not be in school, and I would more than likely have died years ago in what the authorities would probably call an “accident.”
Turns out, The Missus is incredible at giving gifts.
|One of the first meals she made me. You can see why I’m fat.|
A few weeks ago my youngest brother sent me a text. He wanted advice on proposing to a girl. I asked him a couple of funny questions, and then this one:
“Can you imagine the rest of your life without her?”
I cannot for one second think about a life that doesn’t involve The Missus. I’ve thought about what it might be like to lose her, and my brain just shuts down, it won’t work. She has completely fabricated herself into every facet of my life, and I would not have it any other way.
|“Travis, put that down, you don’t get cake yet.”|
Here’s the thing. I like to say I wouldn’t change any decisions in my life, that I live with no regrets and no looking back. But that’s a lie. Had I known what I know today, I would have done quite a few things differently to make her feel more special, to give her more support, and to show her how much I love her.
And I’m sure I’ll screw things up in the future. Screwing things up is kind of what I do. Forgiving me is kind of what makes her so special. Forgiving me is kind of what she does.
|10 years. And a bangin’ bowtie.|
She’s not perfect. She never answers her phone. She drives WAY too slow. She won’t tell someone when she’s mad at them. She doesn’t like Mexican food as much as me.
But she can deep fry the mouse or phone you’re scrolling with and make you love it. She can light up a room with a smile and a comment. She laughs at my jokes. She laughs when I fart. She tells me I’m a good writer. She reads my blogs. She raises our children. She doesn’t make fun of me for crying in movies. She kisses me when I come home from work. She lets me touch her boobies. She drives on Sundays even when I know she doesn’t want to. She does my laundry and my dishes. She puts up with my whims, my obsessions, and my incessant need to try new things.
She loves me.
I love her.
And here’s to the next ten years. The next decade of Travis and Alicia Sloat.
|Young, stupid, happy.|
In a hundred years from now, I know without a doubt, they’ll all look back and wonder how we made it work out. Chances are, we’ll go down in history, when they want to see, how true love should be, they’ll just look at us.
Memoir Monday is where I take a look back through the old memory banks and extract a story, then feel it’s important enough to have its own special place on the blog. I used to have a fancy button, and a place where everyone could link up, but all of that is gone now. If you have your own story you wish to link up with mine, let me know!
There was a time when The Missus and I were young and dumb. A time when we circled our wagons of love around the idea of eternal matrimony, but were too young to do anything about it, and too angry with each other the rest of the time. Little did we know, it was our “heyday.”
During this time, we owned a couple of spectacular cars.
Hers, a dark blue, 140 horsepower, V-6 Chevrolet Corsica, circa 1992.
|There’s a story that involves the backseat of this car and a wooden bridge in Kentucky, but I digress.|
In my corner — and mentioned in such blogs as the one where I let my baby brother drive my car, and also the second time I got slapped, along with stories such as anytime it snowed I did something dumb — a 1997 Ford Escort with a 2.0 liter, 4 cylinder powerplant that cranked out 110 horses, as well as a paint job I liked to call “Silver Surfer.”
|There are no backseat stories in this car. A couple of front seat ones though…|
Obviously, we both had dads that cared about our safety, as well as not wanting their insurance premiums to go up because of teenage stupidity.
Obviously, we were going to be stupid anyway.
The first day I got my car I tried to see how fast it would go. I got to 100, got scared and braked, but eventually capped it out at 110.
Enough about the cars though. Lets get back to the night The Missus and I had our first race, and the night I performed a movie-esque getaway.
We were both driving home from something, I can’t remember what, when we both started accelerating pretty fast. It was plain to see what was going to happen next: we were going to push those poor little cars to the absolute limits of their paltry performance.
The Missus gunned it.
To be fair, although she “won,” I think it had more to do with her cars engine being bigger than mine, and nothing at all to do with her driving ability, which pales like a Democrat faced with an assault rifle in comparison with my own driving ability.
I put my foot on the pedal of that poor little Escort, and gave it all she had.
What happened next was just an unfortunate turn of events for all involved.
The speed limit on the road we were on was 45 MPH. The speed we had reached when we got to the surprise was about 85 MPH and climbing. All of the sudden, around the corner ahead, we see it.
The Jacket. The Fuzz. Five-Oh. The Blue Steel. The Coppahs. The Donut Squad. The Heat. The Brass. Johnny Law.
A solitary police car on a routine patrol, definitely not expecting two cars rounding on him at twice the legal speed limit.
I’ve taken the liberty of drawing out the scenario.
|The blue = The Missus. Silver = Me. Red = The doomed policeman.|
The large green circle is obviously where The Missus decided to challenge me to what would ultimately be my finest driving moment ever. The yellow sun looking thing is exactly what you think it might be: a convenience store named Sun-Up, or as I took to calling it, “The Promised Land.”
I still maintain the only thing that saved our bacon (heh, cops) was the fact that we had cars behind us which prevented the cop from making his turnaround in an efficient manner.
We both saw him though, and we both had different reactions.
The Missus floored it. She laid into that car like it owed her lunch money. I’m almost positive I heard the RPMs turn 9000 as she roared off to the spot on the map marked “Freedom.”
I, on the other hand, turned crafty.
I waited till I got the rest of the way around the curve, braked, and coasted up into the previous mentioned convenience store, where I immediately unbuckled, jumped out, popped my gas cap off and shoved the nozzle of the fuel pump into my car not unlike the first time…well, never mind.
Then I watched as the unsuspecting policeman roared down the road, lights blazing, siren wailing, driving like mad to catch the two crazy teenagers driving like banshees on his watch.
For a moment, my chivalrous upbringing yelled at me in the voice of my now-passed father.
“WHY DIDN’T YOU TAKE THE TICKET! NOW SHE’S GOING TO GET A TICKET! YOU KNOW SHE BARELY LIKES YOU KNOW, WHAT IS SHE GOING TO FEEL LIKE IF YOU GET HER A TICKET!”
Thus began my careful and methodical destruction of my chivalrous upbringing, which, now that I think about it, might have actually started when I took her to Arby’s on our first date…and asked her to pay.
All tension was allayed though when the cop made the turn shown on the map, figuring it was the only place two cars who suddenly disappeared into the dark could have gone.
I’ve asked The Missus to contribute this morning in the form of a text message.
|Seriously, y’all don’t tell her about this.|
And thus was the day we became unbreakable partners in both love…and crime.
Until that next prom.
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.”
I think it all starts with the first time my dad took me rabbit hunting.
He had gotten me a shotgun for my thirteenth birthday, an old Stevens Savage 12 gauge that I still have to this day. We wanted to get out and test it, and rabbit hunting seemed as good a test as any.
My dad was a paragon of gun safety. He made sure he drilled into my head all the proper procedures for safe and happy hunting, then we went out.
We walked about 25 feet apart so we would have a greater chance of scaring up rabbits. All of the sudden, one appeared in the distance, about thirty feet ahead, and in between us. My dad looked at me and said, “Shoot it son.”
I drew a bead on the rabbit, who was frozen momentarily, deciding which way to run. As I looked down my shaking gun barrel at the supposed doomed creature, it suddenly decided which way it wanted to run: right at us.
Being an ambitious and aspiring new hunter, I did what I thought was the smart thing. I kept a bead on that rabbit as it came closer, closer, and eventually passed in between us, when I realized I was now pointing a loaded gun at my father.
He spoke quietly, patiently, but in volumes.
“Put the gun down.”
***My brother Brad has the hunting gene in our family. I read a lot and am generally considered the “book smart” one, Brad is the hunter/gatherer and has the best work ethic, Jordan is incessantly teased about being the milkman’s son, and Josh is…well, Josh is now The Marine, but that’s another blog.
In the past few years, my want to go hunting again has increased slightly. I’ve been rabbit hunting with a few friends since then, and I haven’t pointed a gun at anyone, and I think our Sunday School class (which is filled with hunter/gatherers), has kindled a long-dead interest.
So this year I borrowed a bow and arrow from Brad, bought a license and archery tag, bought a deer blind (since I cannot climb trees due to my symmetry), and The Missus started calling me “The Great White Hunter.”
I did not shoot a deer with a bow and arrow.
While I have a knack for hitting an archery target, I seem to have trouble actually getting the deer to come towards me, even though I stood really still and smiled a lot.
When rifle season opened, Brad and I talked about going together. So I bought yet another tag, and the date was set.
On Thanksgiving morning, I woke up at five a.m., took a shower with scent-free soap, purposely neglected the brushing of my teeth, and drove 40 miles to a remote location in the woods with my younger brother, two guns, and a package of wafers that supposedly smelled like deer vagina.
We set up the blind, loaded the guns, and Brad placed a deer vagina wafer delicately on a tree beside us.
We waited. Then we Facebooked. Then we heard crows for two solid hours. Then he stuck a deer vagina wafer under my nose. Then he pulled out a deer “call” that sounded like one of those things you get as a prize at Chuckie Cheese.
We did not, however, see a single deer.
***The morning after Thanksgiving, I decided to go hunting on my own terms.
I woke up at 7:30 or so, got around slowly, and made it to the woods at 8:45. I loaded up my deer blind, my gun, my camera, and The Missus’s Nook Tablet, and traipsed through the woods like the proverbial bull in a china shop.
I found a spot near a deer feeder that was not mine. I thought, “you know what, I bet I can kill one here.” I looked for a hunter, did not see one, and set everything up.
The Lord, as you know, moves. After setting all of my stuff up, I realized I had forgotten my chair.
I am fat. I need a chair. Sitting on the cold ground does not become either my buttocks or my spirits.
So I walked back through the woods, got my chair, and started back through the woods to my blind. On the way, I realized that the spot I was set up in was probably not very ethical. I had not spent the money or the time feeding these deer, so I decided I should move.
I got back to the blind, packed it up, and moved it to a new location, where I set everything up and got everything inside it yet again.
And…yet again, I realized I had left something behind.
The Great White Hunter strikes again.
By the time I got everything set up and gathered in the blind, I was exhausted. I sat in a chair for 25 cold minutes, got up, gathered it all back up, and left.
***As I sat in my recliner that evening looking at the pictures on Facebook of all of my friends who had shot a deer, I realized something. I realized that in all honesty, I’m just not a hunter. But that didn’t shake the want I had to keep trying.
I looked at a certain picture of a very good friend of mine, and I commented on it to The Missus. She said, “I bet Zac took him, you should send Zac a text. I bet he’d take you just for the laughs.”
Sometimes my wife is a genius.
So I sent the text message.
***The next morning I woke up at 4 a.m. I decided there was no way I was taking a shower/putting on deodorant/brushing my teeth. I drove to a convenience store where I was to meet Zac.
The night before, he had told me he would supply everything. The gun, the blind, all of it…except one thing, a chair. I needed to bring a chair.
“No problem,” I said, because in fact I had the chair in the back of the truck already.
So at 4:45 a.m. I gathered The Missus’s Nook Tablet, the turkey hat she’d knitted me, a Red Bull, and the rest of my gear and got in Zac’s truck.
Approximately 15 minutes later I realized something. I’d left the chair.
“No problem,” Zac said. “I’ve got a bucket you can sit on.”
When we arrived at our hunting destination, I told Zac I had brought the Nook with me to read in case I got bored. He told me that was fine, but he was going to keep a lookout because you had to really pay attention to see the deer out there. Sufficiently shamed and feeling like a kid, I left the Nook behind and made up my mind to be the most attentive non-hunter in the world.
So I sat there, on a bucket, in the cold, for two hours, looking. The sunrise was absolutely breathtaking, and even though the deer blind was nowhere to be found, we both blended in perfectly with the surrounding landscape.
All of the sudden, I saw a flicker of white around 500 yards in front of me. I asked for the binoculars, and sure enough, there was a deer.
I made some sort of herky-jerky slapping motion at Zac’s arm, trying to ascertain the universal sign for OH MY GOD IT’S A DEER LOOK IT’S A DEER.
Zac saw what I saw, and he told me to watch it until it got closer. “It’ll come down the ridge,” he said.
“IT’S A DEER I WANT TO SHOOT IT NOW LET ME SHOOT IT,” was my interior monologue.
So we waited. And sure enough it got closer…according to him. You see, I had lost sight of it. He kept giving me reference points to its location, but I could not for the life of me see this deer.
Then, finally, she marched back into my view, but unfortunately, still too far away. Right after that, she walked behind a group of trees, and left me shaking and amped on Red Bull and adrenaline, waiting for her to come out in a clearing where I could get a better shot.
Zac leaned over to me and said, “Travis, she’s walking that way, but she may all of the sudden pop up a lot closer, so you need to be ready.” We got his rifle loaded up and got me into a shooting position, and I just did everything in my power to sit still.
Afterwards, Zac told me, “Travis when I told you it could pop up closer and to be ready, you started breathing real heavy. It took all I had not to laugh.”
Then we waited again.
I got a swat on the arm, signaling me to look right in front of me. And there she was 175 yards away, right in the spot Zac predicted she might pop up in.
“Travis. Shoot her.”
“Travis. Shoot her now.”
“Travis. Just pull the trigger.”
“Travis. Just shoot at her. Now.”
For some reason, my gun wouldn’t stay still. I’m not saying Zac intentionally gave me a gun with a bunch of loose parts and a scope that kept jiggling around on the target, and I guess it could have been that I was all jacked up on the afore mentioned Red Bull, but the scope wouldn’t stop moving and all of the sudden I just decided to squeeze the trigger and before I knew it the gun had gone off and there was a lot of smoke and through that smoke I saw a deer jump once, twice, three times, and disappear.
I had missed.
I looked at Zac and said, “Man, I missed her.”
“Travis, I don’t know. She acted hit. Did you see her actually run out of that thicket?”
I hadn’t, but it didn’t matter, I knew I’d missed. The gun was simply shaking too much, it was the first time I’d ever shot at a deer, I knew I’d missed. I was sure excited though. I took out my phone and sent a message to The Missus, “I SHOT AT A DEER.”
Zac, firmly believing I had scored at least a hit, decided to go track it. He left me at the site of the shooting, to give him directions on where to walk. He got to the place where the deer had been, and all of the sudden he was waving me over.
Could it be?
I practically ran to where he was, and he said, “I see blood.”
I didn’t stick around to see it. Instead, I walked to where I thought I hadn’t seen the deer anymore, and as I walked over, I saw her, laying there, still.
“Please, oh man, please be dead.”
She was dead.
The Great White Hunter had finally won. After three days of trying, forgetfulness, and not brushing his teeth, he had won.
I pulled my phone out and sent the following to The Missus.
|“I KILLED A DEER!”|
I got a short and sweet text message back.
“TODAY YOU BECOME A MAN.”
I absolutely love this life of mine.
Those two words have never been used to describe me, ever. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they have never been used to describe anyone who knows me, simply because I have that effect on people.
“Hey, is that Travis?”
“You know, I want to go buy a boat. You want to get a boat?”
“I have never wanted to get a boat so badly.”
That’s a perfectly normal conversation when I’m around.
I hate to “blame” things on my upbringing. I like to think my parents did a perfectly fine job of raising me and my brothers, and they did it cheap, too. My dad worked, my mom stayed at home, and we went without a lot of extras that others had. One of my favorite examples of this is the basketball shoes I had to get when I was younger.
Nikes, Adidas, Reeboks, Jordans, those were all out of the picture. We didn’t go to places like that to get my basketball shoes. We went to Walmart. My selection consisted of Voits. Voit made the only basketball shoe for Walmart at that time. The design was simple, and it really only had one functional flaw.
The bottom of the shoe was made out of KY Jelly.
|They actually sell them with “warming” soles now I think.|
I think I’ve told y’all this before, but I could start running, hit full tilt at half court, stop running at the top of the key, and slide into my position at the post. I seriously had it down to an art form. I’d do a little pirouette turn at the end, and then the defender would shove me around because I couldn’t get any traction.
We didn’t go without anything that we needed, and I’m truly not bitter about not having a lot of extra money, but I do think it contributed to some issues that I have currently. For instance, take a look at the budget I would have developed for today had I not given control of the checkbook over to The Missus.
|Don’t judge me.|
As you can see, I may have a problem with my priorities. So when The Missus came to me and said, “I’d like to sign us up for the Financial Peace class at church, I said, “Eh, why not?”
What she didn’t bother to tell me was who the author of the book and series was.
Let me tell you about the first time I was introduced to anything about Dave Ramsey. I was driving down the road listening to what I call “Preachin’ Radio,” and I tuned in about halfway through a broadcast. I still have no idea what show was playing, but all I heard was a man furiously berating a woman for wanting to file bankruptcy.
“WHY SHOULD YOU JUST BE ABLE TO NOT PAY EVERYONE? WHY? WHY? YOU THINK YOU SHOULD JUST BE ABLE TO GET STUFF AND NOT PAY FOR IT? HOW IS THAT RIGHT?”
I really wanted to add to that, but I didn’t, because now I can say that everything I just said there, I actually heard.
Then the lady, scared to death, barely spoke into the phone, saying, “But I think it’s the only way?”
What followed was another furious tirade of how wrong it was, and why should she get to do that, and she needed to get her budget right, etc.
Needless to say, he failed to make a good first impression on me.
Well, The Missus waited until about 5:29 on Sunday evening to let me know who was the creator of the course. By then, I was committed. So I went to the class, parked my rear end in a seat, and prepared to be pretty much angry the entire time.
I feel like I should mention here that the harshness of Ramsey’s presentations were softened by the fact our pastor’s wife is facilitating the class, and that helps out a lot.
I’m not going to lie, Dave made some pretty cogent points during the video. He also tried to be funny, and sometimes he actually pulled it off. At one point, he said the words, “If you don’t agree with me on that, then you’re wrong.” I briefly considered punching the TV, but it looked as though someone had already done that, and also I didn’t want to embarrass my wife.
Then came the words that got me more riled up than…well, Dave.
“If you’re planning on making any big purchases, put them off until you’ve completed the class.”
|Wait. Wait. What?|
I have a few purchases I’m planning on making in the next few weeks. As in two. Two weeks. And now, here’s this guy, telling me not to make them for another nine weeks, which is the length of the class. And if it was just me in there, it wouldn’t be a problem, but he spoke those words while my wife was listening.
You see, I’m a “in one ear and out the other” guy. Always have been, always will be. Think back to the last time we talked. That’s right, you and me. What was our conversation about? Chances are, you might remember. I don’t. I forgot the moment you walked away. Don’t judge me. I have kids.
So now I have to spend the next week on total “convince The Missus to let me have money” mode. It’s not a good mode for me to be in, mostly because it involves her essentially having a third kid, which means that she’ll yell at me more.
All in all, if I give the man a fair shake, I’m sure he’ll “turn my life around.” I’ll pay off all of my debt, start saving with reckless abandon, and soon be a millionaire so I can die in my fifties and let our children fritter away all my self-denial and hard work. But I still plan on hating Dave when I achieve my financial peace, because hey, no one said anything about being at peace with him.