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As some noticed, a new chapter of Azkoval has been posted.
I thought I'd posted it six weeks ago but it seems that I forgot.
To update the familial situation:
After many stressful months - and more than few sleepless nights - we finally were able last week to welcome the newest addition to our family.
I've written previously about my new granddaughter's less-than-glorious entry in this world so I won't go into that again - other to note that some people are really pieces of shit and I hope their lives are filled with anal warts and festering pustules.
I detailed the facts surrounding the Little One's early years in a blog post from last July if anyone is interested.
The adoption process is never easy. It's intrusive. It's exhaustive (in every sense of the word). The process moves at a glacial pace and suddenly somebody shows up needing to see something (or be paid for something) in 20 minutes.
There is literally never a moment when you're certain everything is going to work out right - and most of the time you're positive that something is going to go wrong. It was horrible to watch from the outside and it almost broke my heart several times as I watched my daughter and son-in-law go through anguish as first one thing and then another cropped up. The thought of having the Little One taken out of our lives was harrowing.
In the following narrative, I use the word "we" a lot. I probably should use the word "they." But my wife and my kids (even the one that really isn't my kid, at all) gave emotional (and in my case, financial) support throughout. So I'm going to claim a portion of the credit for us that we aren't really due.
The problem with the Little One's original adoption five years ago came because of the birth father.
The birth father is not a citizen or a resident alien. He had little interested in participating in any legal process -- even one that promised anonymity. The current political situation means everyone is a target, I suppose.
He was part of the DACA program five years ago and he signed away his rights at that point -- but the process officially ended before his signature was notarized.
His DACA enrollment lapsed and he disappeared into a city where about 2 million people have his skin tone. Add in a very common name and you have a real problem.
It took almost three months to even locate him and then two more to get him to agree to sign paperwork. Except he had no documents to prove he was who he said he was. It took the help of an immigration attorney to get things moving.
I have no strong opinion on immigration (or at least none that is based on well-researched facts). I've seen the rhetoric (or propaganda) from each side (which, as above, clearly isn't based on well-researched fact) and I'm unimpressed by all their arguments.
By all rights, this kid isn't a bad person in any way. He was brought from his place of birth as a mere child. He no longer speaks his native language. He has no ties to his former homeland. Sending him back serves no real purpose that I can come up.
He's just as "Americanized" as I am. But, every day, he faces the prospect that someone will scoop him from where he's lived for 20 of his 24 years on the planet and ship him off to a place he doesn't remember.
I don't want to get off on a political diatribe. I truly understand both sides of the coin and I don't really like either. There just has to be a better way.
This was the final step in a very lengthy, very expensive adoption process.
I get that we can't just put these kids anywhere. But you have two good people -- with little debt, no criminal history, a stable relationship -- who want to bring in a child from outside. A simple background check pretty much tells you all you need to know these days.
Why should it take 10 months and cost close to $25,000?
We wound up hiring three separate attorneys (including one to help with the birth father's immigration status) and a private investigator for something that probably could have been decided in two weeks instead of 10 months.
The low point was getting to meet the people who had arranged to adopt the Little One five years ago -- but reneged because of the birth father's nationality.
I've written about "pieces of shit" but I have a new standard now. I swear, if it wouldn't have adversely affected the adoption, I would have seriously hurt both of these assholes.
I worked as a journalist for close to 20 years. Some of that time was working cops and courts. I've talked to people who've murdered their parents; I've been around rapists and pedophiles; I've met people who hit their kids or their spouses or their elderly parents. I've spent time around people who are involved in narcotic and human trafficking.
I know despicable when I see it. And I don't say this lightly.
Given the choice, I should spend time with any of the people I just mentioned if it meant I'd never have to be in proximity to these upper middle-class "pillars of the community" again.
They were more than willing to sign anything we put in front of them - for a price. I decided that I was willing to meet that price - but not for them. I was willing to pay that much to anybody who would put them in intensive care for an extended period of time. I finally decided I would rather do it myself.
I have a (relatively) clean record. I might even get off with probation. But, of course, given the continual background and financial checks Youth Services did on every member of the immediate family, it would have been a Pyrrhic victory.
Thankfully, the judge in the case had common sense. She simply terminated any on-going rights they might assert when she found out about their little extortion scheme.
We also pointed out that their "bleeding heart liberal" friends would be pretty disappointed to learn that they were just as racist as the white-nationalists they denigrate.
I'm a prick at heart so I'll probably wait a few months and then find a way to fuck with their reputation anyway. You can bet that they'll turn up in a story at some point along the line.
The process was so much fun that we're willing to do it all again.
Last month, our ward's father passed away. It wasn't unexpected and they weren't particularly close but it still hurt her.
Her mother is incarcerated for the next decade or so and she has no other relatives willing or able to care for her.
She's made strides over the past several months. She's in a new school and she has found new friends (who aren't into the same shit that her old friends were into). She goes to school with my son and stepson and they've helped to ease her transition.
With some of the baggage off her shoulders, she's started to turn the corner. She's still on probation (and will be for 18 more months) but she's been granted a little bit of leeway. We got to take her with us for the adoption hearing last week even though it meant taking her out of the county for three nights and she now only has to visit her PO every other month.
Her grades have improved. She's never going to be accepted to MIT but she's trying to do better in school and it shows. She's making better choices and learning to think about consequences. I wish I'd have learned to do that before I was well into my 30s.
Mostly, her demeanor has changed. She still has bouts of "teenage angst" and it would be stretch to call her "pleasant." But it's been a lot of years since I met a pleasant teenager who wasn't pulling the Eddie Haskell routine.
All I can say is that she's at least as nice as the other two teenagers living under my roof (and the two teenagers before that who grew into adults over the past few years).
Her tough facade started to fall away when it became evident that her father wasn't going to get better. We spent time talking about what was happening with him and what it meant for her.
She certainly doesn't deserve to be alone in the world at 17 years old.
We have permanent guardianship over her and we've offered to "make it official" even though the process might not end until after her 18th birthday.
This one should be easier than bringing the Little One into the fold. Her mother doesn't really give a shit about her. She'll sign whatever needs to be signed if I drop $10 on her commissary account.
A couple members of her mother's family came out of the woodwork when her father died but they disappeared pretty quickly when they found out that any money from his estate is to be held in trust until she turns 25 (or earns a college degree).
I'm the trustee and I made it clear that they'd play hell on Easter getting a penny of the money even if they did try for guardianship. That was the only clause I insisted upon: the trustee isn't her guardian; it's me - unless I die, then it's my wife or my daughter.
The reality is that there is only going to be a few thousand left after probate. Her father's illness was lengthy and costly. Hospice care consumed the sale of his house and most of his assets. A lot of his medical bills have been written off by the hospital but there are a few that still need to be paid. All in all, she's not going to get a whole lot. But anything would be enough for some of the vultures in her life.
And she'd be right back to the sort of life she had when she lived her her father.
I just can't let that happen when all it will take is a bit of patience and time and money to help her decide if she likes her new outlook on life better than her old one.
We're going to wait until school is out in a few weeks to really sit down and talk about what comes next for her.
Whatever she decides, I think she knows that we're not walking away and we'll always be here to help.
If it's as another daughter, that's great. If it's just as someone who cares about her as a person, that's fine, too.
So, as we've done for the past few months, we'll keep muddling along for a few more.
So, it's February the Oneth. It's BRR-F'ing-Cold outside where I live (and that stupid groundhog is in serious peril if he predicts this shit to keep going).
I have a couple of things to note.
One: There is a new chapter of Azkoval in the queue.
As with the last, it's probably not the best in terms of grammar and punctuation. I'm sure there are a few missing words and some I probably duplicated. Please accept my apologies and ignore the errors.
Two: I have decided to plunge into the world of "Writing for Profit." Writing has became a bit of a job for the past couple of years so I figured I might as well give it a shot.
As with most things, I've decided to be different. To that end, I will let you in on what I've decided.
I will never, under any circumstances, charge anybody to continue a series that I've started here for free. That means, in the event that I ever finish Andy and Regan or Phil and Hailey, they will go on SOL just like always. If I write a sequel to anything currently on this site, it will be posted here and nowhere else. Some familiar characters might crop up now and then but only in ancillary roles.
I have also decided that I will not charge anybody for something I plan to give away for free in a couple of months. At times, I might offer a preview chapter of a coming story that will go here but I won't offer paid "Early Access."
Well, I suppose that isn't quite true.
The story I have posted on my patronage account and on the site named after a long river (no, dumbass, it's not Nile.com) is exclusive in that it will not appear anywhere else for at least 36 months.
Again, that might be disingenuous.
I promise that I won't post it anywhere else for at least 36 months. That doesn't mean some thieving prick won't grab it and post it under his own name. But there ain't shit I can do about that so I generally don't worry too much about it.
So, yeah, I'm not really sure about the rules for shameless self-promotion so I'll try to be vague with the names but you should be able to find it pretty easily.
The story, called Contact Point, is almost 600 pages and totals 53 chapters and an epilogue. You'll find new characters and a few old friends stop by. There is no explicit content. It's more like Lifeline than Daze in the Valley.
I set the price at $5 at the patreon site. Because the site named after a river is all official and shit, I will increase the price there at $6.99. I hope that isn't too steep. I think it's worth that much but I'm a legend in my own mind.
The download from the patronage site comes in a variety of formats - .html that will look much like what you see here; pdf for reading in Adobe and Apple products; simple text for use in almost any word processing program; and a version for Kindle (that I hope I did correctly).
I think I figured out how to post it directly to the site, but just in case, you'll be given a link to a third-party site for the download. It comes in a zip file but you'll all four versions at the same time.
The river-themed site comes in Kindle because I wasn't paying for a paperback version.
The pain in the ass of producing all those formats almost made me jack the price up! Christ, what a fiasco.
So, where was I?
Oh, sure, I remember. I've gone full mercenary.
I actually enjoyed writing Contact Point. And it helped me produce a few chapters on Azkoval and do some work on the final part of Andy and Regan I promised.
So, if this proves to be worthwhile (financially and creatively), I plan to produce an "Exclusive" every year or so while I continue to be active on this site.
In time, I might go the G. Younger route and start my own website where I'll keep all the works I've finished (including a couple that never saw the light of day) and some unfinished projects. I've looked into it but have yet to decide. It seems like it might be a lot of work.
You should be able to find my stuff by using Jay Cantrell as a search term at either place.
I've complained enough to you fine folks about the home life so I won't belabor that situation other than to say it's better but still not the Cleaver family. Think the Bundys instead.
So, off we go!
Edit: It appears that PayPal forced a certain site to make all NSFW accounts unsearchable. Wish I'd have known that early. Anyway, just add /JayCantrell to the sites name and you should find me.
I posted the beginning of the next part of The Rise of Azkoval on the site this morning.
Posts will still be sporadic but I will try to let everyone know via this blog when chapters arrive.
On non-SOL topics, life is still hectic but we're starting to make strides.
My new granddaughter is a catharsis. The little girl has led a rough life. I've touched on some of it generically. But she is full of life and laughter and love.
Yes, she's only 5 and doesn't remember much of it. But she remembers enough and she is still happy. The members of my household have discovered they've lived a pretty charmed life in comparison (and I am included in the voyage of self-discovery).
My daughter and her husband succeeded in getting a new caseworker (and this one isn't a horse's ass) so it's been easier for everyone to see each other. The adoption should be finalized in the spring.
Even the newest member of the household is doing slightly better. She was almost pleasant for the entire time that family was around. My two older daughters made it a point to include her in things and my granddaughter took an immediate liking to her.
We offered her the opportunity to move to a different school -- the school where the boys go -- at the start of the second term. She agrees that it might be better to find new friends than to maintain the ones that led her (or followed her) into so much trouble.
Her father's health is deteriorating quickly and I will be surprised if he is still living in six weeks. He is in a care facility and she has been spending Saturdays there to visit.
I truly don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. My mother and I had a strained relationship for many years. I was a child of the 70s and 80s. She was a child of the 20s and 30s. We didn't see eye-to-eye on much when I was growing up.
Then I came home to take care of her when her health worsened. Now, almost 25 years later, I still miss her. I'm not sure I would if I hadn't spent so much time with her during the last months of her life.
My son spent Christmas with his mother at her parent's house. He wants her to move back to the state so he can live with her.
He was almost an "only child" at her house. He's one of three at ours. Plus, the amount of child support I paid meant no want was left unprovided.
His mother pays far less than I did -- for a reason I cannot understand -- and I'm not a believer in handing out things for no reason.
If he wants something, I expect him to work to earn it. If he wants something I don't think he should have, I simply tell him "no."
That's not a word he's heard a lot, I've come to understand. It baffles me because it was exactly opposite with my oldest daughter. Oh, to be sure, she had to earn her privileges but her mother was the hardass and I was the "easy mark."
But my ex-wife is happy out west -- and I am still not willing to give up on making this work. I told him we will take a fresh look at things in the summer but he was staying here until then. That went as well as you'd expect for a 14-year-old boy. But, tough shit. I'm still the dad and it's still my decision.
So, in the past six or seven weeks, we got one problem pretty well solved. Another problem is working itself out. I think the newest member has figured out that we're not going away. We're not going to push her off on a father who doesn't want her because we're more interested in feeding out vices.
We're not going to leave her to raise herself because we're more interested in furthering our careers or making more money.
We're a family that wants her to be a part of it. And we'll take the warts that come with her. We'll ask her opinion on things that affect her -- even if we decide on a different path. She knows that she's been heard and we've considered her thoughts.
I'll be frank: It's taken a lot more patience than I thought I had. My wife is an absolute saint and every single day I thank her first husband for being such an idiot to let her get away. The two children she brought into the marriage are amazing. They're just ducking and dodging right along with their mom and me, proving a moment of levity or of seriousness when it's needed.
We're slowly but steadily starting to see daylight.
Of course, it might be a train!
P.S.: I am remiss in not mentioning all the kind words I received from people on this site. We truly are a community here at SOL and I appreciate your support.
I know I haven't been around much in the past few months.
Life has become a bit complicated.
I'll try to keep this short and sweet but the past four months have been a relative whirlwind for me.
I previously wrote about one new addition to my extended family. That situation hasn't gone smoothly.
There are issues with child services in the county and some of the rules they insist upon are contrary to state law on the subject. There have also been boundary issues with other family members.
The new arrival lived most of her life with simply a foster mom and dad. Now she's with a group of lunatics that number in the hundreds.
It's been hard to convince the extended family members that we're not just integrating her into our lives. She's forced to integrate all of us into her new world.
There have been harsh words and hard feelings but I've got enough going on now that I don't have time to play diplomat (not that diplomacy was ever a strong suit).
You see, my new granddaughter isn't the only new addition in my life.
Circumstances have dictated that my wife and I also open our home to two new faces.
One face really isn't new. He's my son and he's been a part-time resident at our house for the past 10 years. Now he's full-time. His mom wanted to move him 2,500 miles across the country. I said no. The courts backed me up. She went anyway.
As with above, the transition hasn't been without problems - because he would prefer to live with his mother.
But 250 miles had become increasingly difficult to navigate for visitation and custody. I wasn't about to let the distance be multiplied tenfold.
If I had inkling of what was coming a few weeks later, I might have let him go west with her if only to preserve my sanity.
In mid-September, my wife and I accepted guardianship of yet another child.
A long-time friend was diagnosed with a terminal illness and he was no longer able to provide full-time care to his daughter (not that he really ever did).
The mother wasn't in a position to help. The grandparents had no interest in taking her in.
The girl is 17. She spent the first half of her life with a mother who was addicted to alcohol, painkillers and opioids. She spent the last half of her life with a man who was more interested in career and money than fatherhood.
To say she has issues would be the world's worst understatement and her decisions reflect the lack of structure in her life.
She was busted driving a stolen car and charged with extreme DUI - at age 14!
She can't get a driver's license until she's 21. She won't be off probation until she's 20.
We can no longer have alcohol in the household or even go to visit my daughter without getting prior authorization from the probation department.
Of course, child services in that county is thrilled to death that we're bringing a juvenile delinquent to visit a foster child. (You'll be thrilled to know that the term "juvenile delinquent" isn't just a trite expression from the 1950s; it's a real legal term. At least I was thrilled when that bit of information was revealed).
The terms of her probation mean we can't leave her "unattended" for "extended periods" either. It's a mess and a half.
And she gives less than two shits about it.
Some changes at work had already increased the stress level at home. The addition of my son and the situation with my daughter and her husband added to it.
I thought we were pretty close to the max, to be honest.
Then the stress doubled with the addition of this teenager to the mix.
We'll keep trying to show her that she matters, that she is important. In a few months, she'll be 18 but she has a year-and-a-half of school left (and the probation department won't let her quit unless she wants to do jail time instead).
So, yeah, finishing Azkoval and writing anything new has been pushed down the list pretty far. I'd like to write. I need the distraction; I need to immerse myself into a fantasy world where all problems are solvable, all people are salvageable.
Right now, pretty much every second of the day is spent focusing on things that might not reach a conclusion I like.
My job might go away. My new granddaughter might be sent to live somewhere else. My son might not be able to adapt to living with me full-time and I'll have damaged our relationship for nothing. And our newcomer might just hop a bus one afternoon, bound for a future that's uncertain that will certainly be filled with difficulties.
For now, my family and I are just putting one foot in front of the other until we fight our way out of the forest.
I delved into my folder for the next chapter of Azkoval -- only to find it empty.
I was certain I had one or two left that were ready to go but, as often happens, I was full of shit.
I have a couple more chapters hanging around by nobody has looked at them but me. I'll get those off for Zom to peruse so I can buy time to finish writing the damned story.
The upshot: No post this week.
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