Posted in Family, IdahoAuthors, travel

Riding His High Horse to Death

As we were driving to pick up the kids from my Ex’s house yesterday, Keoni commented that he always has a knot in his stomach at pick-up and drop-off times, wondering if the Ex (or his wife) will kick up a fuss of some sort. I get the same knot. And sure enough—yesterday we got another taste of pointless puerility.

We had reminded the kids to bring their sleeping bags because we’re planning a camping trip this week. They each have a nice down sleeping bag (I know this because I bought them, back when I was still married to their dad), and the arrangement is supposed to be that the kids can bring their own things back and forth between the households, regardless of which parent might have bought the items in question. The kids’ things are the KIDS’ things, and they’re supposed to be able to have their things with them.

However, instead of the down-filled sleeping bags, my Ex brought out a pair of old flannel bags that he and I had bought when we were college undergrads. They would be fine for a living-room slumber party,  but in the Idaho mountains these weren’t warm enough when they were new—and that was almost twenty years ago.  So I asked if the kids could please bring their warm sleeping bags, since we’re heading into the mountains.

“They’re in the trailer,” he answered evasively, clearly intending that retort to close the topic.

Can they please bring them?

“They’re in the trailer,” he repeated. (The tent-trailer in question was not ten feet from where I stood, and takes all of three minutes to open.)

Can they please bring them?

“They shouldn’t need—it’s July—they shouldn’t need them,” he blustered.  (As if it hadn’t been a July-in-Idaho-mountains when HE got too cold in one of these same bags. They’ve served as picnic blankets ever since.)

In the mountains they might. Can they please bring their own sleeping bags?

(…reluctant pause…)  “Okay… But I need to talk to you over here.”  I followed him to the other side of the driveway, away from the kids, where he put on his most put-upon face and demanded to know: “How do I know they’re going to come back in any kind of decent condition?”

(Wait, what?? Seriously, where did that come from?)

What’s the productive thing to do at this point?  He already said the kids can take their sleeping bags; but he wants me to have this “talk” with him first… If he truly had reason for concern, I don’t know what I could say that would reassure him. As it is, there’s no history or habit or past incident that would render this question applicable, or even explicable.

I learned a while back not to get diverted into pointless pissing matches with him, and I can’t imagine this “talk” fitting any other description. He still feels a need to take (or create) any opportunity to deprecate and disparage. Yes, I gave him a brand new High Horse to ride with my alcoholic relapse nineteen months ago, but he doesn’t seem to realize that his nag hasn’t had anything to feed on for a year and a half. (Maybe that’s why he’s grasping at straws? No, wait—horses eat hay.)

Bottom line? Never mind beating a dead horse—he’s still trying to ride it.

And I choose not to serve as his saddle any more.  I chose not to engage in his inquisition about the imminent danger to the sleeping bags being released into my custody. If you’re not going to let the kids take their bags, say so and let me leave; if they can take their bags, let’s get them out so I can leave. I didn’t say that out loud, though; I just repeated myself… Can the kids please bring their sleeping bags? 

Keoni stepped over to join us. The Ex told him to walk away. Keoni didn’t argue, but also didn’t move. I repeated my own question yet again.

How ridiculous does this get? Only one thing derailed the Ex from his desired discussion of the doubtlessly-doomed bags: namely, his stronger desire to deliver his diatribe to me alone.  When Keoni declined to skedaddle, the Ex puffed up and tried again:

“Sir, you need to step away. This is between me and my wi—  …me and my ex-wife.”

The almost-“wife” slip made me chuckle afterward (given that I’ve been Keoni’s wife for several years now, and that the Ex himself remarried just a few weeks ago), but at the time I just had one response: “I don’t have to talk to you alone.”

He did get the sleeping bags out of the trailer, for which I’m grateful—truly, I would have been worried about the kids keeping warm in those other bags. And I confess he did manage to strike a nerve as he grumbled while he got them out. He was complaining about Christian bringing his (expensive) ear protection for shooting, and both of them taking their (expensive) sleeping bags, and he said he’s “tired of buying all the expensive stuff because you won’t.” If he wanted to hit home with derision, that one did it—the difference between “won’t” versus “can’t” buy expensive things. As if I were blowing off the kids. And at the same time, frustration that he’d send them with inadequate equipment rather than focus on what’s best for them. And that he’d try to blame me for that (he’s worried I’d damage the sleeping bags? Oh please…)  Why would he balk at letting the kids take their own (sufficiently warm) sleeping bags or their own ear protection?—it’s not as though I’M using his “expensive” stuff, so what’s the problem?

This is why I don’t talk to him alone. This is why I need a little time for prayer-assisted emotional recalibration after I do have to talk with him. His muddied view of our simple and joyful life can temporarily sully my own view of it until I manage to shake off his disagreeable influence. So here I am recalibrating, and looking forward to the camping all of us are excited about.

***

When  Christian called earlier in the week with questions about his packing-list for camping, I told him we’ll be heading up to Silver City, a mining ghost-town that Keoni & I  visited last summer when I wrote the cover-story for a travel magazine. On that trip we stayed in the 150-year-old hotel, but this time we’ll be pitching tents… And not in the established campground nearby, but somewhere along the river—REAL Idaho camping, for the first time in the kids’ memory. They’ve been out regularly with their dad and his wife, but  the trailer (with its heater, stove, and running water) disqualifies those travels from the Camping-category, in my [snobbish-outdoorswoman] opinion.

They’ll have a lot of new experiences mixed in with some old-and-familiar ones. Setting up a campsite with tents, digging a latrine, panning for gold below the old mines, starting a fire with flint and steel,  cooking in the campfire coals,  target-shooting with the Desert Eagle handgun, exploring the ghost town and its cemetery, bait-fishing (and fish-cleaning, and fish-frying over a campfire), working on carving our walking sticks, some hiking-exploring, campfire sing-along, some reading aloud from my favorite Idaho-outdoors-author Patrick McManus… And I’ll be interested to see the photojournalism-perspective of each of the kids, now that they’re taking pictures.

There, see? I just needed to realign my mind. And no, I wouldn’t trade our joyful, rich-in-experience life for the Ex’s agitated, rich-in-trinkets existence.

Our ‘Ohana ROCKS!

Author:

I am... a writer, an explorer, a coffee-drinker, a recovering addict, a barefoot linguist, a book-dragon ("bookworm" doesn't cover it), a raconteur, a sailboat skipper, a research diver, a tattooed scholar, a pirate, a poet, a spiritual adventurer, a photographer, a few kinds-of-crazy, a joyful wife, a mom... a list-maker! :)

59 thoughts on “Riding His High Horse to Death

  1. Fortunately, I’ve calmed down by the end of the post, so all I’ll say is that every time I read one of your Ex posts,I’m relieved that you and Keoni aren’t with them anymore.
    And of course, have a great time camping.

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    1. We’re glad of that too! :) As we say at home: “At the end of the day, they have to go home with their own damn selves… And WE don’t have to any more! We get to end the day with each other…”

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  2. Geez, I used to deal with this crap all the time with my ex and his wife…mainly his wife. I am soo glad my girls are over 18 now and I don’t have to deal with it anymore.

    I love your style of camping. It’s loads of fun…unless you live in Florida in the summertime. There are mosquitoes that can carry you away here and the nights are muggy and not restful in a tent. Trust me, AC and campers are awful nice when it’s 90 degrees in the shade and the vampire insects are determined to drain your blood. :-) Still, put me in the mountains in the fall…find a spot off a logging road that overlooks a valley or lake…a spot that has a running stream nearby…give me a fly fishing pole…wake up to bacon sizzling in a cast iron skillet over the fire and a cup of coffee brewed on the coals…yeah, baby, that’s the life.

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    1. “bacon sizzling in a cast iron skillet over the fire and a cup of coffee brewed on the coals”… You’ve just described HEAVEN!

      And yes–we’re looking forward to that aspect of kids-turning-eighteen (though I also don’t want to rush through their childhood)… We’ll get to be rid of Keoni’s ex in a year and a half when Kapena turns eighteen, so that’s one down… (And of the two Exes, she’s by far the worst!) Got a decade left of interactions with MY ex, though, since Elena Grace is just eight…

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  3. This boiled my Tylah Boy Blood and made me smile too! I guess he learned real quick who my Daddy is and who to not mess with! We gotchyo back Granny! I miss those days of camping. My favorite part was always breakfast! Breakfast while camping was the staple of my childhood! Both my little brother Christian and little sister Elena Grace will understand, appreciate and respect you more when it comes down to the “wont” vs “cant”! I love My Tylah Boys!

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  4. Great story. I’m guessing half the women (okay probably 2/3’s of the women of america would cheer you on (including the not divorced still married ones. I mean that in a nice way of course.) Great post. I’m betting your camping trip was a lot more fun too.

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    1. We’re heading out for that camping trip in just a couple hours… And yes, the kids are SUPER-excited for what we all call “real” camping. Me too–it’s been too long! :)

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  5. Oh, what memories sprung forth from my own life in this post! Love the reminder of camping in the Rockies … in my case, Wyoming … the smell of campfire coffee on those frosty summer mornings and fishing for breakfast before the sun breached the horizon. Enjoy your experience rich life …. and let the ex have all the trinkets he wants. In the end, the kids will remember the experiences – and the trinkets will be re purposed by a stranger. :D

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    1. Notice how we all mention COFFEE when we think of camping… There’s something about campfire-coffee that just makes it the best in the world. :)

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  6. Kana~hope your trip with the family is as precious as you each are. Loved your return to recalibration-ville. good for you for keeping your head under attack. love and prayers~kate

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    1. It has taken time to develop and practice that skill (recalibration, as well as “keeping my cool”), but my life is better for it. I used to spit fire back at him, and then I’d be stewing for days over every interaction. But as my sponsor says, that’s just letting someone rent space in my head–and he doesn’t deserve the space. ;)

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  7. Sooo much I could say about the front half of the post, but I’ll be respectful of your recalibration and cheer for the camping adventure. I never learned this skill set, and sure wish I’d had grown-ups in my life to teach me. Now I’m addicted to hot water and flush toilets. Oh, well. Can’t wait for all the pics to come.

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    1. I’m quite appreciative of hot water and flush toilets myself–and a couple days of doing without them makes me all the more appreciative when we get home. There’s nothing quite like a hot shower after a few days of getting completely grubby! ;)

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  8. Though I’m not a a happy camper, I admire those who are. You and your family are bound to have a great time. Can’t wait to hear about it.
    Have fun!

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  9. Great post. Why do so many people have their attitude set on “complicate” instead of “enjoy.” Wish there was a simple way to switch out the attitude adjustment dial when it gets stuck. :D

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    1. I often wish I could switch out HIS attitude-dial… But my Sponsor reminds me that I can’t change other people. Her prayer-prescription for an Ex is “Bless him. Change me.”

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      1. Love the 12 step. I went because of my daughter and son-in-law. I learned so much through the counseling, Al-Anon, etc. It helped me deal with my emotions about “them.” You are so lucky to be away from such a materialist person. Too bad he hasn’t figured out a simple truth, it’s not what you have it is who you are inside, in your heart that counts.

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  10. Sounds like dealing with the ex is a real pain. I’m glad you finally did get the sleeping bags (even if you did have to practically beg for them and endure his insults). Have fun camping. Oh, and try not to ruin the sleeping bags, okay? :lol:

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    1. I don’t know about “brilliant,” but at least I hang on to my sanity this way. ;) And WE get to go camping, woohoo!

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  11. Have a great time camping! Admittedly, you are a much stronger person than I when it comes to your ex. I probably would have walked away and soothed myself with sweet dreams of his head on a pike in my front yard. (Love the Tina Turner quote and the “I respect me” meme. I used to beat myself up over cutting my family out of my life. I no longer do, but quotes like those help remind me why I need to give the guilt about it the boot.)

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    1. Oh, I’ve had plenty of those daydreams myself… When I find myself imagining how I could burn down his house without getting caught, I get my ass to an A.A. meeting! ;)

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  12. I think my response to the “they’re in the trailer” would have been something like “oh great, they’re right over here; you want me to get them out?”

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  13. Sorry to hear about the continuing pissing contest between your Ex and yourself. I understand. I’ve had one of those going for about 20 years.

    Devil’s advocate begs to ask a question: Earlier in your post you mentioned YOU had purchased themwhen you were ‘still married to their dad’. Is there no fairplay after divorce? I feel sorry for the kids.

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    1. We didn’t have separate finances at the time I bought the sleeping bags–I just meant I was the one who went to the store for them (so I KNEW they have decent ones)… Either way, there’s not supposed to be any interference with the kids bringing their own things back and forth—so yes, we feel badly for the kids, who are the ones unpleasantly caught in the middle. :(

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  14. WTG with repeating the question until the dipshit gets the sleeping bags … also great idea to never be alone with him!

    Looking forward to all the camping stories … hope the mozzies don’t carry you off.

    We’re dealing with plague-like numbers at the moment … the Fraser River has returned to its usual level, and there’s huge standing pools of water on the farmland that surrounds out little island in the lake … a perfect storm for the little bloodsuckers to breed.

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    1. I’m working on a bit of “kitchen chemistry” in the form of bug repellant before we head out… I’ll be posting that one if it works! (If you don’t hear from me again, I got carried off by the buggers…) ;)

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  15. Kana,
    Holy crap… And I thought I had it hard with the ex… Good for you and Keoni for standing together. Now shall I give you my address for more solidarity?
    Le Clown

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    1. Solidarity it is! And actually, Keoni’s Ex is far worse than mine… For a couple of (otherwise) very intelligent people, he and I sure made some STUPID choices in previous marriages!

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  16. Dear Kana,

    Please accept my hearty congratulations on your successful self-control, and its resultant “making the ex look like a spoiled brat!” The worst thing you can do to him is not engage in his crap; he must be frustrated and disappointed that he couldn’t get a rise out of you. Yay for you, and your fun-loving, unspoiled family!!!

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    1. I think you’re right–this frustrates him. That’s just a bonus side-effect, though; the main thing is hanging onto MY sanity.

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  17. You go, girlfriend! Oh my goodness, I don’t know how you managed to keep your cool with his ridiculous behavior, but I’m sure understanding his shortcomings helped. ;)

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  18. Praying that you guys will enjoy your camping trip so much that the antics of the “ex” will simply fade away into the nothingness for which they are extremely well-suited!

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  19. As I was reading this I was thinking how very, very far you have come. And what a wonderful example you are setting for those of us reading, for your children and, as far fetched as it may sound, for your ex. To play this chess game on your terms, to anticipate his predictable and easily countered moves – these are strengths and wisdom and rewards that money cannot purchase. Checkmate, sucker!
    And enjoy that much deserved time away from the chaos, Nikki

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  20. Kana — I read your stuff like I’m riveted to my chair. While it makes it tough for me to go to the john, consider it a compliment. I don’t know you from Adam, but I consider you my friend. Travel well this week. Dan

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    1. I have to admit I didn’t FEEL calm through this one… But I thank you for making me sound a little braver than I really am. ;)

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