Archive for the ‘divorce’ Category

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The Holidays Are Coming! That means … visitation issues.

October 14, 2012

[I started drafting this last Monday – Columbus Day.  I didn’t finish, I guess.]

 

I should be packing for my trip.  But the dryer is running, and … I don’t wanna go.*  So I’ll write a post, instead.

Jules is now 5′ 8.5″.  She grew a half inch in the past week or so.  She comes into the room, and I look at her chest, because it’s where I expect her face to be.  But it’s not.  And she’s not done, yet.  I know she has more in her.  No wonder I can’t call her Mouse anymore (although, I do – in real life – call her that all the time).

She went for a quick prep-session today with a voice coach we know.  Neither of the girls had been to see her since the spring, but we were very surprised when we contacted her this month for help with some audition prep and she said, “I really want to help them, but just to let you know, I’m 40 weeks pregnant!”   Jules got very anxious.  “Can’t I go with Emma?  Do I have to go alone?  What if she has the baby while I’m there!!!???”  I tried to explain to her that first babies come sloooowwwww.  It wasn’t going to just squirt out between notes on the piano.  But she remained anxious.

And I’m not sure why she has these anxieties.  But she does.  Not only about babies being born instantaneously, but also about getting in an airplane.

So, here we are.  It’s October.  Jules is 14, and she’s a little more fierce than she used to be in her refusals to fly.  I really do acknowledge that this fear of flying is likely something deeper, but I found myself less than 2 months from this year’s Thanksgiving visit to the Middle of the Country and her NOT in therapy to explore why she’s really afraid to fly.  Maybe the Ex would just shrug if I told him that Mouse didn’t want to go because of her fear, and that Emma wouldn’t go without her sister.  But I think that the girls will be better served by having the opportunity for a relationship with their father.  And while J doesn’t really seem [again, with the need for therapy] to care if she ever sees him again, Em really wants to go, but ONLY with her sister.  So there’s this tension/conflict.

And I don’t want to test it.  I just don’t want to figure out what to do if one of them insists they’re NOT GOING.  So.

Well.

I mean, two years ago David and I went to New Orleans for Thanksgiving.  It was a great time; we loved exploring and tasting.  So — why not do the same in the Middle of the Country?

But then, since David is working now, it wasn’t a given that he could miss work on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving.  And Emma wanted to play a Powderpuff football game.  But there was no way we could leave at 5 or 6 pm on Weds. and get to the Middle of the Country (Hello, 18 hour drive) in time for them to even spend Thanksgiving with their father.

So – here’s the plan:

Jules and I take Wednesday off from work and school, and we get in the car.  Probably at 5 a.m.  We will spend that night in a motel somewhere in Indiana, and get on the road again the next morning by 7 a.m., the same time that David and Emma will get on a plane.  Jules and I will get to the airport at the same time that David and Emma land, and the Ex will meet us there.  He’ll take the girls, and David and I will drive to Chicago.

We have a couple of days there, including Thanksgiving day & dinner.  We have a huge list of things to do, and not enough time to do it in.  I’m hugely looking forward to it.

Unless, of course, things don’t go my way and I need to be in the Virgin Islands – again – on the Monday after Thanksgiving.  We are asking permission to attend a conference by phone, but we don’t know that will be granted.  Fingers crossed.

 

* Oh, yes, I am a roller coaster.  First I don’t want to go, then I’m excited to go, and now I don’t want to go.  I’m missing a lot this week, and I’m not happy about it.  I’ll be  in “airplane mode” while things will be heated in my case, and I’m not happy about it. It’s one thing to be nervous about my first deposition and my first mediation, and it’s a completely different thing to be worried about all of that on top of — do I have everything I need in my suitcase?  How many binders?  How many boxes of documents?  Will I have a printer?  It’s just too much.  TOO MUCH!  not to mention the other 4 cases that I’m active on and I will be GONE!!!  And – also – the real sadness – is the home life.  It’s a crazy week here, and I’m just —- missing it.  The girls are anxious, they have play auditions, games, meets, tests, quizzes — I want to be here.  I want to give them a hug and a kiss and tell them that they’re wonderful.  I don’t want to call them on the phone and tell them that they’re wonderful.  Bummer.

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Being the Loyal Fan

February 5, 2012

I was a very sad girl tonight.  I was such a loyal fan. I bought a shirt! I wore it every day this weekend. I went to a PARTY. I made FOOD!  And then they lost.  Ugh.  Seriously, the game was completely painful. There were almost no happy moments. It was just so hard.  Boooo!!  When I got home, and was done stomping and crying and gnashing my teeth, I took OFF my Gronkowski shirt and said, “I’m throwing this away!” But then I decided – no.  I’m better than that.  My fandom is bigger than that.  The shirt stays on, and I will happily look forward to September.

moving on . . . 

The Ex and I came to an agreement. I was proud of that.  It’s a good agreement.  It is fair. I could have potentially fought for a small amount additional money, but the increase he was resigned to was so large, and the cost to fight would be more than what I’d gain (financially as well as emotionally).  And like I said, it’s a fair agreement.

I have a 10 a.m. meeting tomorrow at work.  Unusual that I have to be there at a specific time, these days. I will try and put in a solid day, cleaning out files and working on transitioning my pro bono cases (the only ones I have left).  I have doctor appointments with the girls on Tuesday and Thursday (getting all of our check ups out of the way before the insurance change over), and so don’t really plan to go into the office on those days.

And – that’s that!  For now.  I have to go write another post about my failed monthly goals . . . embarrassing !!!

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Happiness and Headaches

February 1, 2012

Happiness

  • I’ve accepted the offer from the new job.  Man, does it feel good to know that I have landed without a gap in employment.  Hooray!
  • The new job agreed to my starting AFTER February vacation week, so I don’t have to be in stress-mode while Mouse is home from school and her friends are all away. Lemon will be traveling with her crew team, and we are not traveling without her.  We thought about it last February, when it was freaking cold out we didn’t yet know that I’d have this transition forced upon me.  But since today – February 1 – it was 60 degrees outside – we aren’t feeling too bummed about the change in plans.
  • The old job owes me 3 weeks’ vacation pay.  I didn’t know that until yesterday.  That will be a nice chunk o’ change. I am seriously considering a late-June re-do of last year’s vacation.  The house itself is very affordable, we will drive rather than fly, and we will all be happy with cooking in the house.  It could be great. It could be perfect.  Just what we need.
  • I’m home a lot. I don’t have much work left, and most of what I do have can be done at home.
  • When I’m home, I get to hang out with my kids.  And I like them.  And I have fun with them.  I love how much they make me laugh, I love how much they find what room I’m in, and hang out with me.  I love that Lemon came home today and laughed from the door way, yelling (to me), “Honey, I’m hooo-ooooome!” And that she then met me at her sister’s basketball game, and we went out for a sushi “snack” afterwards, chatting all the while.  Where are the nasty teen years?? (Don’t answer that.)
  • Mouse had a doctor’s appointment (annual physical) yesterday.  I picked her up early, we went and grabbed some burritos, and then went to talk about how damned healthy, tall, athletic and smart she is.
  • My girls are really enjoying each other lately. I may enjoy that more than them enjoying me.
  • Tomorrow is mine and David’s 5th wedding anniversary.  When we went away for our birthdays this year, we realized that it was also our 10 year “dating” anniversary.  He got a haircut today, and he looks super-cute.  Also, he probably noticed today at the basketball game that I raided his sock drawer, but he didn’t complain.  He’s a great guy.

 

Headaches

  • I had a 3 day headache.  For real.  Like, my head hurt.  An Advil fixed it, but I had to complain, because it just fits here so well.
  • While I had posted previously that the Ex “was less resistant” to the idea of kicking things back to the level they should have been at all along, I was being overly optimistic. We are going back and forth with proposals.  He’s dragged the sharing of travel costs and tax deductions into our discussion, and he pisses me off.  Then he throws in his usual condescending asinine comments (i.e., “I am very sympathetic to the financial and professional difficulties you face at the moment . . . “), and I want to rip his face off.  For reals.  I still think we can reach an agreement, but dealing with his bullshit in the meantime drives me bonkers.
    • I wanted to retort that while I am facing a paycut, it was something I always knew was coming, AND!  Another thing!!  This is not a “professional difficulty,” at all!  This is a very logical and typical move at this stage of my career, and is resulting in increased experience!  You dummy!  Instead, I ignored his blah-blah, and responded only about the issues at hand.  So, ha!  You cannot rattle me!  [except that, really, he did.  because he’s a jerk.]
  • Also, the Ex just canceled the girls’ summer visit again.  So now David and I will both be working, and I think that the girls will be home.  Without much to do.  Last year, with me making gobs of money, we filled the time with crazy-costly camps (no, really — the girls were in camp with the grand-daughter of the owner of the Patriots, and with the daughter of the owner of Newbury Comics … we paid dearly).  This year, Lemon will likely be looking for someone to pay HER, and Mouse will be, uh . . . .
  • Just after I came to terms with my reduced salary, I called the H.R. person at the New Job to find out about health insurance details.  They were bad.  Very bad.  I almost cried.  I didn’t know what to do – I was totally unprepared for the costs.  I know I’ve been spoiled and spoiled and spoiled, but this was a blow.  I have since spoken with some people that tell me that while the number was double what I pay currently, on a salary that’s half of what I currently have, it’s “normal” and “fair.”  Fortunately, they told me that AFTER I decided to negotiate this point with New Firm.  So, this maybe should be up there in “happiness,” because it looks like there will be movement on the issue.

So, thanks for reading!

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Never Easy Anymore

October 25, 2011

When the Ex and I divorced, I carefully planned our holiday schedule.  I would have Christmas during odd years, Thanksgiving during even.  This was important to me, because around the same time our divorce agreement was being finalized, my sister and her (horrible, pathetic, wretched person of an) Ex were separating.  We were craftily finding a way that we could still spend holidays together, with our kids.

[In my opinion, our joint divorces are 1000% a testament to the sheltered upbringing and college educations that we both had. There was no reason for either of us to get married at 21 or younger, and no reason for either of us to have children half a second after that.  But, whatever, moving on … ]

This year, for the second time in three years, my Ex is forcing a reschedule of that carefully laid plan.

The first time was when his first child with his new wife was born, in 2009, the last time he was supposed to have our girls for Christmas.  The baby was due on 12/27 – or something like that – and it just felt too close for comfort for him. (Understandably – if his wife went into labor in one small city while the girls were due to land in another smallish city an hour away, it would have been very hard for him.  As it turned out, the baby was born 3 weeks early, and there was no conflict.  That wasn’t foreseeable.). It was fine with me, because I’m always thrilled to have my kids around.  He wasn’t able to swing Thanksgiving instead that year, because of ticket costs, so I just had Lemon and Mouse for all of the holidays that year.

Last year, Thanksgiving was his, and the girls went as planned.

This year, he had them for April vacation.  But then Lemon had a conflict.  He was quicker to accommodate than I anticipated, and it went okay. I got some me-time in, and my car got some additional miles.

Then this past summer — it was also a bit odd.  First, he said they shouldn’t go there, he would come here. Then he couldn’t come here, so he wanted them to go there.  But we’d already made plans to keep them busy because he said they shouldn’t go there, so it was tough.  But, again and as usual, we worked it out.

This coming winter, the schedule again says it’s his turn to have them for Christmas.  But in the universe of My Ex Is a Weirdo, his kids are in Turkey (not the part that was just devastated by an earthquake), even though he and his wife are in the Middle of THIS Country.  His son (who will be 2 this December) has actually been there since April.  His daughter since May (she was 3 months old when she left the U.S.).  The Ex left Turkey in June, and his wife left in September (or August?).  So . . . he really hasn’t seen his baby girl since she was 4 months old. Hasn’t seen either of his babies since June (maybe July?).

I do not understand.

But he and his wife want to go visit them (the babies are staying with his wife’s family; his wife is finishing her dissertation in the MIddle of THIS Country, where the Ex works). They plan to visit at Christmas-time, which I suppose makes a lot of sense, since the Ex and his wife are currently operating in line with a college academic calendar.

Therefore, he cannot (will not) have a visit with Lemon and Mouse at Christmas.

Again.

This time, we figured it all out in time for reasonable Thanksgiving airfare prices. Very reasonable. But his budget is so-very taxed (as one is wont to be when flying across the Atlantic  several times a year . . . visiting Europe and the Middle East) and so he could not afford 50% of tickets that kept the girls from missing meaningful school time.

We went back and forth several times about the best travel time.  I balked when he suggested they fly on Thanksgiving Day.  Really?  What kind of holiday is that?  He pushed back, insisted I ask the girls.  I was again pretty appalled when they just shrugged . . . but shrug they did.  So the tickets were bought.  Thursday to Monday.  They would miss school on Monday.

So we said in September.

Since then, Mouse got the lead in her play. Lemon’s dream-team was going to be missed. And the trip has seemed a burden to both girls.  WD and I looked into a repeat of our amazing Thanksgiving of a year ago, but the timing was too tight, and prices were too high, and things just too tense. So we can’t do anything with the time, except to stay home and – well – breathe (not such a bad thing, when you stop & think about it).

But it recently became clear that the Monday that Mouse was going to miss was a crucial day for her play rehearsals.  The play is soon after Thanksgiving, and the dress rehearsals start right after Thanksgiving.

I said too bad.  It’s the only day she’s missing, it will need to be fine.

She was miserable over it.

So I tried to swap some rehearsals around — we have two casts, because so many kids are involved in our shows (everyone who wants to participate gets a part … this is elementary/middle school, after all), and so I checked with her  counterpart, after talking to the director, to see if a switch was feasible.

It was not.

I said too bad again.  Mouse remained miserable.  I told her it was up to her to raise it with her father – and she did.  She wrote him a very kind, loving email, asking if the tickets could please be changed.

Once again, he’s being relatively accommodating.  Of course, it’s after I offered to pay the full change fee (stupidly).  But we still don’t know if it’s something I can even swing.

Maybe he’s being accommodating because in the same email that he discussed his semi-flexibility for Thanksgiving, he also discussed his already-changing plans for the summer.  Probably reducing the girls’ time there to 1-2 weeks, rather than the 3-4 that we worked out.

It’s just getting harder and harder to make this work across state lines.  And the distance that geography has brought* makes the relationships harder to prioritize.  Not by me – not at all – but by him and by the girls. I wonder, also, how much their relationships with him are treated as a lesser priority now that he has more children that are shared with a person he is actually married to.

* I maintain that his personality brings more distance than geography. But that’s just the ex in me talking . . . or not.

 

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Disappointment, for a Fifteen Year Old

October 7, 2011

My poor daughter has had an avalanche of bad news.

1)  No call back for the musical.  After all of her prep, hours of practice, a financial contribution by me, and her feelings that the audition went very well, hers was one of the very few names NOT on the call back list.  As I said before, she’s dealt with rejection at the higher competition of the high school, and she’s dealt with it with grace and dignity.  This time, however, in combination with nos. 2 and 3 below, she was in tears.

2)  As I may have said before, she is a huge fan of Team Star Kid, a fun & irreverent drama troupe comprised of college age kids (at least initially) who she discovered through their creation A Very Potter Musical.  They have also done other shows.  Ones that she knows I will never watch with her.

Well, a couple weeks ago, she found out that Team Star Kid was going to be going on tour.  From a fun little teaser that they put together, it was pretty clear that Boston was a possible city.  Her adoration for this group goes well beyond its most famous celebrity, Darren Criss, and may be equally as large for the young woman who plays Draco Malfoy in the show, Lauren Lopez.

Lemon was ecstatic.  I still support this fan craze fully, as I think these kids are pretty cool.  I’d be thrilled if Lemon did with her love of theater what they are doing with theirs.  Fun, witty, creative, entrepreneurial.  I think it’s amazing.

I was excited for her, and told her, sure, I’ll help her get tickets.

On Wednesday night – the same night that we were waiting for the call-back list with baited breath – she was refreshing her computer every 3 seconds to find out when the concert would be in Boston.

We went for a walk to check the call back list at 8 p.m. (she wanted to wait until morning, but had to give her crew team notice if she was going to miss practice)  The list wasn’t up, and we had reason to believe that it would not be posted until the morning. So we went back home.

She refreshed the screen again.

Boston on November 25th.  The Friday after Thanksgiving.

A few weeks ago, her father asked me if we could switch holidays this year … if the girls could go visit him over Thanksgiving instead of Christmas, so he would be free to go visit his babies (who are living in another country with his in laws for the year — yes, without their parents).  Lemon and Mouse both rolled their eyes and said, “Fine, whatever.”

They’re flying out on Thanksgiving morning and coming home the Monday after.

She’s missing the concert.

So upset.  Ranting and raving against her father, insisting she wasn’t going to go, insisting we switch it back! Or she just skip the visit! She can’t miss this concert!

Then – mid rant – she gets a text from her friend – “hey, the call back list is up, and N has a picture of it – she said I got a call back!”  So Lemon calls N and says “hey, did I get a call back?”

Nope.

The tears come down in full.  Which is rare.

I took her for another walk to the high school, just in case her friend missed her name.  She was so unhappy, “this is the worst day EVER, but these are BIG things!  Things that aren’t just today!  They affect EVERYTHING. Why do I never get into shows?  Why can’t I go to the concert?  I just want to be in a show, and to go to this concert.  But obviously, I just suck!” (She doesn’t suck.  Singing may not be her strong point anymore – even though she used to be strong enough to get several leads when she was younger. But she does not suck, and I certainly hope she bounces back.)

She really wasn’t on the list.

WD and I were in separate rooms while all this was going on.  We later found out that while I was looking at drive times to the other cities that Star Kid is visiting, he was checking airfare.  Neither seems feasible (duh).

Then:

3) She accidentally threw away her retainer (we found it); and

4) Her throat was feeling horrible, and she woke up the next morning with a horrid cold.  She went to school and was able to listen to all of her friends (SEVERAL of them) talk about their call backs and the parts they were called back for and yadda yadda yadda, while holding her swollen head and longing for her bed.  She skipped crew, and I gave her permission to make a giant vat of rice and sit in front of Veronica Mars all afternoon.  Today – she’s home from school.  She has no voice & says she feels worse than yesterday.

Poor kid.

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Out of Town Guest

August 22, 2011

Last week, Lemon was in the Middle of the Country with the Ex.  On Saturday, they flew together into Boston.  He’s here to spend time with Mouse, who really wasn’t interested in heading out to his house on her own.

Mouse & I picked them up from the airport.

Seeing him – every time – is stressful.  I know he appraises my appearance, and is smug about the fact that I have weight to lose.  He used to say so every time, until I snapped his head off, “You have lost the right to comment on my appearance!” I also do not know how we will get along.  If he will be cool, rude, warm … what?

He was pretty cool (as in chilly, not as in …. a cool dude).  But not rude.  We drove to my friend’s house where he was staying.  I went in with him and the girls to make sure everything was in order.  We were pretty reserved in our conversation.  I drove him and the girls to the restaurant they chose for dinner.  During that short drive, we relaxed a little, had more conversation.  I dropped them off and went home, and WD and I went out to dinner.

The girls came home at 8.  A little puzzled about why he sent them home that early.  But we had fun watching a couple of Gilmore Girls episodes.  I asked Lemon, “do you have plans with him for tomorrow?”  She said, “I guess, but I was kind of hoping to have a sleepover with some friends.”  I told her we’d figure it out with him.  If he was going to be done hanging out with the kids at 8, she could probably get together with friends at that point.  Then I asked Mouse, “did you make plans for the morning?”  And she said, “Daddy said if we’re having breakfast, he doesn’t want to invite himself over, but it could be nice.”

I checked in with WD – is he willing?  Willing, yes.  Enthusiastic, not quite.  So I went back to the girls, “do you want him to come for breakfast!”  “Yes!!”   Clear answer.  I asked them for a time and a menu, and texted the invite.

“French Toast, 11 a.m.” (sleepy-head girls).

I had evening plans.  And was thinking of cooking.  And baking.  Figured the Ex would take the girls out – wouldn’t be so eager to stick around.  Maybe gone by noon?

Try 4:30.

I ordered pizza for my company, instead of cooking.  I bought cakes at Trader Joe’s, instead of baking.

In the meantime, the Ex and I talked about the people we both knew.  The places we’d both been.  Some memories about the girls when they were small.  The moves we made.  Etc.

My friends came by at 6ish, the crowd ended up larger than anticipated.  We had fun.  Ate pizza, drank beer & wine.  A friend & I arranged for her husband – who is entering the Ex’s field – to talk to Ex.  So the Ex brought the girls back at 9ish, and hung out while my friends and I played Mah Jongg.  I was betrayed by my friends, when they laughed at his stupid jokes.

The boys talked.  The party left.  The Ex did not.

Not until 1 a.m.

This conversation, from 10:30 to 1 a.m., was a bit more …. intense.

We talked about What Happened.  The divorce – the crumble of our marriage.  The ignorant children we were at the time.

He was … very decent.  He accepted responsibility, didn’t point fingers.  Not sure there was an all-out apology, but there was definite acceptance of responsibility.  There were compliments toward the girls, and the job I’ve done with them.  Sharing of regrets and disappointments.

Neither of us said (or thought) that we wished we were still together.  That’s not what it was about.  Even with us both being a lot more mature, thoughtful, careful, and fully-formed adults, we aren’t the right people for each other.  We are both a lot happier with the people we are with.  And who knows – if we were together, still, we may not have ever been able to become the mature, thoughtful, careful, fully-formed adults we are today.

So, that was intense.

I wonder how long until our next argument?  😉

 

 

 

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Foggy-Headed

August 17, 2011

Yeah, I’ve been quiet.

The girls have been in & out, but mostly out.  And work has remained slow.  Most of my peeps are out of town visiting this island or that country, or maybe some other part of this country.  I feel listless, and a little bit pointless.

Mouse has been at camp since last weekend – she comes home this Saturday.  I’m looking forward to seeing her, but it’s a little odd in that once she gets home, we have to go to the airport to pick up not only Lemon, but also the Ex.

Having him in town, or even intersecting with my life, is never my favorite. Lemon is with him now, and already, it’s impossible to speak to him without there being some sort of crossed wire or subtle dig.  It’s just not-fun.  I say, “Lemon had more stress than anticipated about flying alone, there were tears.  She’ll love a big hug on your end.”  His response, “I always hug them when they get off the plane.”  The assumption that everything *I* say is a subtle dig bothers me, too.  Because it’s not.

This past weekend, WD and I saw three movies.  Friday night, we saw Lincoln Lawyer, in our living room.  On Saturday, I went running and then met my running partner for a shopping outing, and while we were out, we realized we were both free that night.  So we thought “movie night!” All four of us (both couples) brainstormed movie choices.  We had every movie known to man on the list (in the theater).  Independent films, documentaries, etc.  Consensus could not be reached.  Where did we end up?  Captain America.  I was entertained, nonetheless.

Then on Sunday, WD and I brought Lemon to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes.

Two days; two big dumb movies (as we refer to them).

My vacation is in 8 days.  I think I can tread water through this funk knowing that’s around the bend.  Then, school starts and life gets back to normal.  Hopefully, once the deadness of August in New England passes, work will pick up again after Labor Day, too.

And that’s all I’ve got for now.

Off for drinks with a colleague who is also bouncing off the walls.

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By the Numbers

July 7, 2011

Remember the whole dispute, with my Ex, about his salary and appropriate child support and college savings?  I eventually went to talk to a lawyer – one I’d consulted with before.  I met with her on May 18th.

In the meantime, I’ve been asking the Ex to help out with some of the girls’ summer expenses.  Because I’ve paid $10,000 (this includes only a slight amount of rounding — mathematically acceptable rounding.  Meaning the literal number is something north of $9,500) toward camps and sports activities in order to keep the girls engaged and happy all summer long.  Typically, I would pay approximately $2,000, maybe a little bit more, because he usually has them in July.  So I thought a contribution would be fair.

But he refused to agree to any amount of a contribution until he knew how much additional child support I’d be asking for.

Despite his apparent willingness to contribute some money, I was very doubtful.

If, say, he was thinking he’d give me $1,000 toward summer expenses, and then I said, “I think that in light of the fact that you make DOUBLE the salary you’ve previously admitted to, you should pay an extra $100/mo in child support,” my belief was he would say, “well, I was going to give you $1,000 toward the summer expenses, but now I need that $1,000 to cover the extra child support that you’re demanding, and that I cannot afford.  I don’t know what I’ll do after the 10 months is up.”

But nevertheless, I started to harass that attorney I had spoken to (meaning … a full 4 weeks after I met with her, I called her.  Then again.  Then again.) I had left her office on May 18th, with the promise for an estimate of appropriate and realistic (i.e., what a judge would order) child support in light of the Ex’s true salary.

Finally, on July 1st, she sent me a letter.

Now I’m going to talk numbers (his, not mine).

The Ex had been leading me to believe that he made something like $58,000/year.  Based on this belief, I believed that my salary was some multiple of his.  Based on what I saw as fairness, I had agreed – upon the start of my job in BigLaw, to $500/mo – total – in child support.

I waived contributions to extra curricular activities.  My thinking was that it was unfair for me to make unilateral decisions on what the girls would participate in and require him (with such a low salary) to contribute equally.  So we decided that when they were with him, he would pay for activities, and when they were with me, I would pay for activities.  (Which, of course, only resulted in them sitting around watching t.v. all day during the time they were with him.)

This was also a considerable reduction in costs for him because he was no longer paying toward child care.  Because the girls got old.

From the point of that decision to accept $500/mo (knowing that the Massachusetts child support guidelines suggested that the right number was $850+/mo), my salary increased each year, while he shared tales of woe and budget freezes and increased expenses and general poverty.

So much so that one summer he convinced me that if he had to send me child support while the girls were visiting him, he would be unable to feed them.

That began our summer waivers.  Because how could I possibly deprive my own daughters of FOOD?

So, my recent discovery was that he is in fact making over $100,000/year, plus significant income ($30K, approx) in the summers.  And this is in the Middle of the Country, where the cost of living is approximately 60% of what it is here.

Now – just to be clear.  I am actually not looking for more money to flow into my budget right now.  The entire inquiry into his salary came out of a meeting with a financial planner to talk about funding the girls’ college education.  Because the Ex and I together made the decision to have our children when we were young (22 and 24, to be exact) and not yet done with our own educations, we did not begin saving for college during our marriage.  He did not finish his dissertation until months (years?) after our separation, and never had a salary during our marriage.  I supported our family with various part time jobs and my own business while we were married.  After our divorce, I struggled to make ends meet as a single mother of two pre-school aged children, and again, was not saving for college.  I think that after our divorce, it didn’t even dawn on him that he may have some responsibility toward the girls’ college education.  He did not save.

As I told him, my proposal is that any amount that any increase in child support will be deposited – either by him or by me – into a savings account for college.  Whether alongside my own aggressive monthly contributions, or in a second account. (Although I’ve also made clear that any arrangement we make is contingent on me keeping my current job.  If I move on from BigLaw, I will not have the same considerations, as this salary is only available from this kind of job.)

My lawyer took the new salary figures, taking into account my salary, and told me that she believes that the proper figure for child support paid by him is somewhere between $1,800 and $2,000 per month.  This only includes his annual salary, and not his summer income.  (He insists that his summer income is variable, and refused to come to any agreement if summer salary was factored in.  In reality, adding in the summer income changes the equation by approximately $60/mo, and so I don’t care.)

Under the current arrangement, he makes $107,000/year (at least), and contributes $5,500/year toward the support of the girls.  If we were to take the low side of the lawyer’s numbers, he would be contributing, instead, $21,000/year.

But I think that $1,800 is too high.

I did tell him that is what she came out with, and of course, he freaked out.  “I can’t afford that!” And then regaled me with a full explanation of his budget.

I told him to stick it.  I don’t give a crap about his budget.  Child support is not made of whatever is left over at the end of the month.  It is a starting place from which you create your budget.  It’s one of the very first line items.  Like rent, and loan payments.

But, still, I think $1,800 is too high.

I told him that I’d been thinking an additional $500/mo, deposited into a savings account.

Funny how talking to him about an additional $1,300/mo affected his thinking about an additional $500/mo.

He was completely receptive.  Fine.  What kind of account?

I guess this just goes to show that he knows he was wrong in deceiving me about his true income. Like he was just waiting for this shoe to drop, and is resigned toward it.

Also – he’s sending me $750 toward the summer.  Which is fine.

So there’s that.

I guess next up is a dispute over next summer & the girls’ time.  As Lemon has increasing commitments for school sports, and Mouse just does not want to go there – like, ever – it is only getting harder.

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A Different Kind of Summer

July 5, 2011

Since 2002, when the Ex and I separated, the girls have spent a significant amount of time with him in the Middle of the Country over the summer.  The amount of time has varied over the years.  Started off as too much time the first year, cut back significantly the second year, then settled into the 3-5 week range for a few years, with one spike for a 7 week summer because of a vacation with his extended family.

Every year, the girls dread going.  They don’t want to leave “home.”  (3-5 weeks in the summer plus one holiday visit and one spring break have not worked to create a second “home” for them at his house.)

Every year, there is a part of me that looks forward to the break.  I feel guilty, because they are unhappy and they are tearful and I am sort of “Go!”

When they were little, and I was dealing with tight budgets and tight timing (work, daycare, school), it really was a break.  Also, by the second summer that they were gone, WD and I were beginning our relationship.  We took things pretty slow, in light of the girls, and so the summer was our time to really try on the relationship.

But as our family blended, as the kids got older, the stresses less, summers became sadder.  Throw in a dash of tearful miserable phone calls from the Middle of the Country, and summers became almost unbearable.

WD and I tried, over the years, to capitalize on the time that they were away.  We went on trips.  Hikes. Dinners out.

During my first law school summer, we were too broke – I don’t think we went anywhere.

During my second law school summer, WD and I went on a fantastic trip to Bar Harbor, Maine.

After my third year of law school, we went to Europe!  (My post bar exam trip.)

But then, WD went to school.  He got his masters in fine arts (creative writing), and starting that first year of my employment, he went away while the girls were away.

Huh?

I had 10 days to myself?

Well, not so fast, sweetheart.  That was the year we moved.

So I had 10 days with empty boxes, cans of paint, and very “helpful” parents.  (The quotes aren’t fair – they really were helpful.  But they were also “helpful.”  Just because they’re my parents.)

And last year, I really did have 10 days to myself.  I was so looking forward to it.

And then it kind of sucked.  It just wasn’t as fun as I anticipated.

Now, this year is happening.

No trips to the Middle of the Country.  Just girls, at home, every day, every weekend, all the time.  (For the most part.)

But WD is still heading to his alma mater, where he still functions as a graduate assistant for 10 days in the summers.

10 days.

10 days with no WD.

The cook.  The grocery shopper.  The one who is home to make sure that Lemon has her snack before her transition between activities.

10 days without him.

Gulp.

It was hard enough last year, when I had to come up with things for my own self to eat every evening for 10 days.  But now I have to do it for the girls?   But they eat a lot!

Which means I have to be home at a reasonable time?

[Fortunately my department continues to be very, very slow.  So I don’t have to worry too much that work won’t let me out.  Never mind the other worries that this causes – that’s a post for another day.  Or not.]

I was sorting through some of the girls’ various activities today – looking at where and when they are doing what, and found a secret little golden nugget:  A week that they’re both away!  Mouse’s second week of sleep-away camp is the week that Lemon has decided to go and visit the Ex.  It’s not a full week, but it’s something.

I wonder what WD and I will do?

[Especially since every one of our pennies are paying for this very full summer!]

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Flashbacks v. 2 — A (Gilded) Brush With Poverty

June 14, 2011

For the past two plus years, I’ve been working closely with a medical/legal partnership organization on a pro bono project at my firm.  I really enjoy the work, and I enjoy being involved in the leadership of a very important endeavor.

This morning, the organization I work with ran a “poverty simulation” for several firms, including mine.  This wasn’t the first year they did it, and it’s often very well received by the associates and summer associates who participate.  The idea is that the young lawyers and lawyers-to-be role play to see what it feels like to live at or under the poverty level.  To “experience” the hard decisions that must be made when your resources do not cover your liabilities.  How once you find yourself in a hole, everything in your life tends to topple right into that hole.

I was sitting with a colleague as the introductory remarks were being made, and she leaned over and said, “have you done this before?”  Meaning – have I played the roles?  In the past years that the firm had the event?

Um.  Yeah.  I’ve “played the role” of being at or under the poverty line.

Only, for reals.

There is no doubt that always, in my life,  I have been very lucky.  Or charmed.  Or both.  I am aware of that.  I’m aware of the fact that my brush with poverty lasted three months – maybe six – makes me so much more fortunate than most who find themselves slipping down that horrific slope of Need.

But back in 2001, soon after the Ex and I split up, I was in dire need.  I left him during a time where we were in an elective state of poverty – otherwise known as living the student life.  We had no savings.  We had no assets.  No accounts to empty.  Nothing.  We barely had available credit.  We had low rent, but that was because he was a student, and we lived in graduate student housing.  But HE was the student.  Not me.  Not me, who had the kids (never was it a question that he might take the kids).

There was nowhere in my very expensive student town that I could afford to live.  First, last, deposit?  Impossible, it seemed.  I was working 28 hours a week in a job that paid ($10/hour?  $12?  I can’t remember – but I took the job as a way to pay for the family’s groceries, not as a way to support three of us entirely).  I was also doing a good bit of freelance work, but it was erratic.

I ended up moving an hour away from my job, from the town that had become my home, to live near my sister, and to pay crappy-town’s rent levels.  $550/mo instead of $1500/mo.  And I drove to and from my hour-away-job, while trying to figure out what I was going to do. My sister watched my girls a couple of nights a week, and the Ex had them on the weekends.  Until he moved.  Very Far Away.  (The Middle of the Country is far away, no matter which coast you live on.)

The situation wasn’t sustainable, but it got me through the initial separation, and helped me to have my sister nearby.  It was such a dark time for me, and for her.  She was struggling through the end days of her own marriage.  She later told me that she had just geared herself up to leave her husband, and I announced to her that I was leaving mine.  So she felt she had to wait.  I think she ended up waiting another year and a half, if my memory and math is right.

So I headed back toward “home.”  I needed to find a place to live, a daycare for the girls, and I needed to find a full time, real-money-paying job.  It may be the topic of another post to discuss how unhappy my parents were that “home” did not mean their house, my home town.  But for many, many reasons, that was just not an option for me.  I believe the primary reason was that running back home to mommy and daddy felt like failure.  I wanted this to be transition, not failure.

So I was heading back to the San Francisco Bay Area with no savings, a part-time barely-more-than-minimum-wage, 2 kids, and a car.

I looked into subsidized housing, but the waiting lists were forever long.  I spoke to daycare centers, and was shocked that I was going to be paying almost $2,000/mo for two children.  (I was making $1200/mo, total.)

It felt impossible.  I really wasn’t sure how I was going to make this all work.  Looking back and telling the story now, it seems almost more impossible than it did back then.  Back then, I was determined.  Now, I look back at that Suzie and shake my head …

Not too long into looking for an apartment, a friend put me in touch with her landlord.  One of those who doesn’t want to keep her several properties up to code, and is happy to charge a little bit less rent to get her tenants to keep their mouths shut.  Fortunately, “not up to code” meant she didn’t have all 3 units in the (very nice Victorian) house split onto separate utilities accounts.  I really didn’t care.  I paid $1,400/mo for a 3 bedroom house on a great street around the corner from a Whole Foods.  And while she took 1st month’s rent and a security deposit, she waived the last month’s rent.  So, that went on my credit card, but how was I going to pay the second month’s rent?  I needed a job.  But how could I look for a job without childcare?

And this is where I went looking for public benefits.  In the form of subsidized day care.  I took my $300/week pay stubs and went to a city office, and I applied for a daycare subsidy.

The miracle?  What I now know to be a miracle, after working with clients who are wholly dependent upon public benefits?

I was approved that day.  I had my voucher within 2 hours.  The woman who helped me was kind, caring, interested.

Wow.

Within a week of the girls being in full-time care, I had a new job.  I was a paralegal in a small firm, making $40,000/year, instead of under $15,000.  And when I got my first paycheck, I brought it back to the office that gave me the childcare voucher, and canceled the voucher.  Boy, was the Ex pissed (since he had to pay for 1/2 of childcare).

So while my truly rocky days lasted less than 6 months (I left the Ex in October of 2001, and I moved into my apartment and started my new real job in February of 2002), the repercussions lasted a lot longer.  Other than the childcare voucher, I didn’t have much financial help in those first months, and I put a lot on my credit card.  I ended up overwhelmed with credit card debt pretty quickly.

Soon after I started working at my new job and was settled into my new apartment, I was able to realize just how lucky I was.  Not just lucky that I got the job – but lucky that I had the education I had, the experience that I had, the credit score that I had – things that were, essentially, handed to me early in life that allowed for these pieces to click into place.  How easy would it have been to fail at my reestablishment if only one of those pieces weren’t in place?  If I didn’t have work experience, or I didn’t have the option to put those start-up costs on a credit card?  Or if I had a sick child? Or if that child care subsidy person wasn’t actually my Fairy Godmother?

I had a lot of hard times in the next several years.  Like the day that the bank decided to put a 3-day hold on my paycheck, locking my funds over a weekend when I had no food.  I was so very angry talking to the customer service representative – how can you put a hold on a paycheck?  The same paycheck I get every single week?  I ended up hanging up on him.  If using the term “hanging up on” is typical for “throwing my phone into a concrete wall so that it shatters into a thousand pieces.”  [The kids were not around to witness that.  But I did do it.]

And when all of that credit card debt came home to roost, and I found myself choosing to give up my car (and my car payments) so I could start digging out of the hole — the mornings and evenings of being dependent on public transportation, being so very anxious that I’d be late to pick the girls up from daycare or from after-school care.  And it was all compounded once Lemon started school and Mouse was still in daycare.  I had to get to Mouse by 5:15 and then strap my bike to the front of a bus (one that came “every 30 minutes”) and get to Lemon by 6 on the other side of town.  Getting home so very late because “every 30 minutes” on the way home really isn’t.  Do you wait for the bus, even after 45 minutes, with 2 very hungry and grouchy children?  Or do you hook their backpacks to the bike’s handlebars, and walk them 30 minutes home, stopping at the grocery store to grab some food before their bedtime?

[They pick on me today – when they look back at those days of eating Annie’s Mac & Cheese more often than we’d ever eat now – they think I made those choices because of a lack of cooking skills.  They don’t remember what our evenings were like.]

But I still look back on that time as proof of my good fortune, and with gratitude.  And I won’t ever let myself forget just how hard that was, and how much harder so many people have it.  Bootstraps had nothing to do with my fortunate transition.  Happenstance – of birth, of education, of privilege – gets the credit, and no one else should be discredited for not having the same.

No one should be judged – ever – for not having things click into place as easily as I did.