Posts Tagged ‘college’

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Intensity

April 21, 2013

Right now, the sky is very blue, and the trees are blooming with pink, yellow, purple flowers.  It’s still only 44 degrees outside, but it’s beautiful.  I was happy to have a respite from what we’ve been dealing with during the past week here in the Boston area, to take an hour (or so) for a walk through the hills in town.  Despite living here for almost 10 years, I got lost.  I saw parks I’d never seen, and streets I’d never heard of.  Then I saw them again, because those streets were all called “Circle” or “Crescent” or something else that meant “you are walking in circles.”

A week ago today, I had scrambled to meet the latest in a string of intense and nearly humanly impossible deadlines for work, and got in the car at 11 a.m. to pick Emma up from a race.  She didn’t row in that race, so she was able to leave early.  She got in the car and promptly fell asleep while I drove us to Western Mass., to the first in a string of college tours.

I felt bad leaving Jules behind.  We invited her, of course, but she really didn’t want to come.  She’d done one college tour with us, and said it was just so boring, it made her feel snarky about the school, and she LIKES the school (Wesleyan), so she doesn’t want to feel snarky about it, and she thinks doing college tours when she’s a Freshman will be detrimental to her own process, when she’s ready.  Seemed reasonable, and David was staying home, so she did, too.

However, for the 10 days prior to this trip, Jules had been at home alone a LOT.  Because 10 days before, she got beaned in the head by a softball.  That was awesome.  She called me after softball practice and complained that she had to just SIT there the whole time, because her coaches “freaked out,” and asked her all kinds of questions (what’s your name? what’s your address? what year is it?  who’s the president?), and made her go to the trainer to get some ice.  She said she felt fine.  She seemed fine, although she had a bump on her head.

But then, mid-day on Thursday, she called me to say she felt dizzy and nauseous and couldn’t focus in class.

Then I had a freak-out.  A working-parent freak out.  It was 11:30, my kid obviously had a concussion, and I had a major filing deadline and a court hearing.  I called David, but I couldn’t reach him.  I called the doctor, and they said, “she shouldn’t be home alone, if her symptoms continue to escalate, she could slip into a coma.”  So I promptly closed my office door, sat at my desk, and started to cry.*  David called me back, he left work, he took Jules to the doctor, and hung out with her for the rest of the day, and the next day as well.  And I met my deadlines.  Over the following week, she was able to escalate her activity, and by the time I left on Sunday with Emma, Jules was back to 100%.

So – Emma and I got on the road.  We did one college tour (Amherst College) that afternoon, and drove through 2 other campuses – UMass Amherst and Smith College.  Then we went to my parents’ house, and had steak and baked potatoes and broccoli, and Emma made cookies, and I drank my father’s wine.

Monday a.m., my mom made Emma and I breakfast, and we got back on the road.  First, a morning tour and info session at NYU.  Then, in the afternoon, a tour and info session at Barnard College.

And that’s where we were — on the lawn at Barnard College, standing right outside the library, listening to our tour guide talk about her creative writing class, when my phone vibrated.  I took a peek, and it was an NBC news alert.  “Reports of Explosions at the Boston Marathon Finish Line.”

There was quite a moment of disconnect.  I get news alerts all the time.  Shooting in Colorado, shooting in Newtown (the town next to where I grew up in CT, by the way), earthquakes, actor deaths.  Always somewhere else.  This time it was “somewhere else,” but “somewhere else” was home.  [not to say that Newtown didn’t have that kind of feeling, too.  It did, but still different.]  My brain made some very obvious “clicks.”  Like I could feel them.  Boston.  Home.  Juliette.  David.  I texted J immediately “you okay?”  She texted back “yes, I’m at home” and then instantly called me.  I pulled myself away from the tour to talk to her, and she was a little shaken up because (a) 2 bombs went off 3 miles away from our house, and (b) if her day had gone as she initially planned it, she would have been a block away from the explosions  – shopping on Newbury Street.  If she had been on Newbury Street, she wouldn’t have been injured, but she would have been in the midst of the chaos, and I think it would have been horrible for her.

I had determined not to tell Emma until after the Barnard tour/info session, so she could focus.  But then I blurted it out anyway.  It was a struggle for both of us to listen to the virtues of Columbia’s sister school, and we bickered during the info session when I made her put her phone away.  10 minutes later, though, a woman yelped and said, “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there was a bombing Boston, and I need to leave!” She ran out to call her family.

Emma and I had intended to stay in New York for a couple of hours after the tour, but we were in no frame of mind to wander the city.  We got back in the car and drove to my parents’ house, listening to the news the whole way, where we could watch the news, and try to piece together what was going on.  It was so surreal, and so horrible.

Nevertheless, we were able to focus on Tuesday’s 2 tours/college visits, and were very happy when we got home to be with David and Juliette, and to be back home.  Funny how despite the horror and pain that was taking place at home, we both wished we were there. You’d think we’d be relieved to be out of town, but we were not.

When i got back to work on Wednesday, it was to continued pressure of deadlines, deadlines, deadlines.  Things are so busy in our firm right now, and the vast majority of the 30+ lawyers are working at break-neck speed.  I’m personally not happy with this pace.  I like to be busy.  I like deadlines.  But this has been all-out for over a month.  It’s not ok.

I thought I’d have everything under  control in time for the weekend, though.  My Friday would be busy, and possibly long, but I’d be able to go to Emma’s regatta on Saturday, and I was thinking maybe – just maybe – I could take Sunday off, too.

On Thursday night, David had to work late.  He is managing a campus book store at a nearby college, and they were having a 7 p.m. event.  He left work at 9:15.  but then something happened, and he thought he was going to have to go back.  In the end, he did not. I was exhausted, and knew I had a long day in front of me on Friday, so at 10:30, I went to bed.

At 4 a.m., I woke up to pee.  I looked at my phone and saw 2 seemingly disconnected items (gotta love these NBC alerts):  (1) a campus police officer was shot, a mere HOUR after David left the exact address where it happened, and (2) there were gun shots in another town – the one where we go to Target.  “Weird” I thought, and went back to sleep.

At 5:30, my alarm went off, and then another NBC alert came through:  The T was shut down.  Then the pieces all came together – everything was related, and the world was GOING INSANE!!!  I woke David up, and we were trying to figure it all out – first the big picture, and then how it would impact our days – with sirens going off in the background, with new reports of police activity taking place at one of the neighborhoods that borders our town and Boston, and where I almost NEED to drive, bike, walk, commute through to get to work.  It was feeling very close to home.

How could this be real life?

And I had panic over the fact that one of the deadlines I was dealing with that day was some initial appeal filings in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.  While federal and state courts in Boston were closing as quickly as the T and the cabs and the businesses, the court I was dealing with is in Philadelphia, and is known to be rather unforgiving when it comes to deadlines.  I was thinking that I would have to drive to work, since I couldn’t take the T.  At that point, my town was not on the list of areas being told to stay inside.  My firm had sent out a robo-call saying that while the office was open, everyone in the areas being told to stay inside should NOT come in, and anyone who takes the T to work was excused for the day.

Then my town was added to the list.

Our managing partner sent an email saying he really wanted everyone home.  Please let him know if you have critical deadlines.  I had to write back with a pretty lengthy email with my 3 critical deadlines.  While I was drafting it, my assistant called my cell, equally stressed about the Third Circuit filings.  Two of the partners (the managing partner and the partner who’s on the appeal with me) wrote me to say “call the third circuit, they’ll give you an extension.”  Then a client called me to say “I know things are crazy there, and you might not be able to get to work today, but what about meeeeeeeeeee?”  I gave him the finger while talking to him as if I gave a shit.

The Third Circuit gave me the extension without batting an eye.  Then they told me that if I’d missed the deadline without calling, the result would have been a letter, along with an extra 2 weeks to get my act together.  Huh.

I worked some for selfish-client yesterday, and again today – but it seems like Friday’s shut-down otherwise took place without the world ending.  I was a little frustrated that we were included in the lock-down zone, because we weren’t THAT close, but then I just reminded myself that they found a BOMB near a T Station that I go through twice a day.  And that’s why we were in the zone.  I thought it was possible that they were keeping us in our houses while they were sweeping the larger area for more bombs.  So I got over my frustration, and took a nap.

At 5:30, though, after a full day of constantly fluctuating news reports and stir-crazy teens, I said, “I’m going for a walk.”  David came, and we slowly strolled around the block.  We live about 2 blocks from the T tracks, and as we were walking toward it, David said, “it’s so weird not to have the train going by” – and then the train went by.  We were surprised, and I guessed they were staging to resume service.

We ran into a couple of dog-walking neighbors (one of which is married to a Cambridge Police Officer, and he was – at that moment – at the apartment where one of the bombers allegedly lived, and where they kept saying they’d be doing a “controlled explosion” – but never did), and another friend saw us out the window and came out to say hi.  While we were chatting with them, we could sense activity picking up; a bus went by, a pair of teens walked by, more people were on the sidewalks.  Then David got a text from work saying they’d be open on Saturday, and we knew the lock-down had been lifted.

It was kind of disappointing that we’d spent the day inside and the 2nd suspect still wasn’t caught.  But it was also nice to be able to leave the house.  A friend texted and invited us over for dinner, and we instantly accepted – happy to be with others, and happy to be out of the house – during this trying time.

And then – more news.  They found that boat, and there were gunshots, and I texted my friend to say “but I can’t leave the TV!”  She responded with “oh, please, it takes 5 minutes to get here!  Come watch with us!”

So we did.  We cooked together, and chatted, and nibbled first while the suspect was captured, and then while we watched Across the Universe (awesome movie) with the kids.

My hope is that this week, things start being calmer.  On all fronts.

*  Crying at work.  A working woman’s scarlet letter.  My tears are often family-related, not work-related.  I think the last time was when David was the one to take Jules to get her braces off.  I wanted to do it.

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Paralyzed

May 4, 2011

I hate that I have been divorced.  I hate when something happens in a conversation with someone I’ve recently met that requires me to divulge this information about myself.  For example:  “What do your kids do in the summer?”  Or, “Oh, did your husband help change diapers when the girls were little?”  Or even, “oh, you lived in California, what were you doing there?”  Well, I was there while my husband went to grad school.  No, not this husband.  The other one.

It’s not a huge issue in my life, and I don’t try to hide it.  It’s pretty much on par with the way I try to avoid the question of “and where did you go to undergrad?”  Because I’m embarrassed of that, too.

I’ve considered myself fortunate that the Ex and I do not bicker too much.  Whether it’s because we’re adults or (more likely) because he lives so damned far away, I’m pleased that we don’t invest too much time or energy in spatting with one another.

When something does come up, I prefer not to broadcast it far and wide.  I will share with my closest friends, and I will share with WD.  But I don’t bring it up with everyone I bump into on the street, or in the course of typical conversations with co-workers.

I don’t even tend to discuss everything on my blog.  Because the divorce and the disputes therein are not who I am.  They are not a part of what I consider my life to be.

But the most recent thing that came up is weighing heavily on me, and I’m going to use this cloak of anonymity to vent, and to try and think through the situation that I find myself in.  Maybe some of my very few readers will even have some advice for me.  To help me as I wrestle with my options.

_________________________

Last week, WD and I went to talk to a financial planner.  I think I’ve mentioned before that it’s time that we get a bit more organized in our finances.

My life has taken such a non-traditional path.  My trajectory is so different from that of most of my peers:

  • Work hard at building a career while single;
  • get married in the late 20s/early 30s;
  • continue to build your career as well as your financial portfolio;
  • buy a house,
  • have a baby or two,
  • maybe buy a bigger house;
  • tweak your career to accommodate your family, but not so much that you aren’t still adding to that portfolio,
  • raise your kids with confidence that you can pay for their college and enjoy your own self once they get the hell out.

No.  That was not me.  I did this instead:

  • put choice career on hold for the sake of getting married at the ripe old age of 21;
  • continue to put choice career on hold for the sake of having babies at the ripe old age of 23;
  • work at non-choice career to support baby-faced husband as he pursues his choice career;
  • continue to work at non-choice career while said husband decides his choice-career is actually something different, and requires 7 more years of schooling;
  • divorce said husband;
  • continue to work at non-choice career for another 2 or 3 years while figuring out how to be a single mother and to pay off divorce-granted 1/2 of ridiculous debt accumulated during ex-husband’s non-working student days and while paying for full time child care for 2 preschool aged children and for a decent apartment in one of the most expensive cities in the country;
  • decide to pursue choice career;
  • get remarried to a great guy who also did not follow typical life-path;
  • finally graduate from law school;
  • realize your pre-teen and teen children are getting really fucking old, and you have very little savings to speak of because you’ve spent so long hoping that there will be enough money for food.
  • freak out.

And that’s what brings me to a financial planner.  At long last.

I’ve long-ago come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to ever buy a house.  Not in this town I chose.  This town that I’m now pretty committed to, both because of my kids’ community, and also because of my own.  We’re also committed because of the great schools and other opportunities, the location, the culture, the politics.  We love where we live.  So we rent.  For half the monthly cost than we’d be paying if we chose to buy a place with half the square footage of what we’re renting. (I’ve kind of come to terms with it.  I still lust over houses.  I sometimes have searing pangs of jealousy when someone buys a house.  But it’s fine.)

But I’m not coming to terms with the fact that I may not be able to fund 100% of my kids’ college expenses.

When I went to college, my parents were able to pay for 100% of my college.  True, through the power of the purse, they insisted upon that school (or one like it), and they refused to pay for the schools that were academically sound and that I was very eager to attend, based on both finances and on what they perceived as “moral depravity.” (i.e., there were signs up on campus about a pro-choice rally.)   Back then, college cost $10,000/year.   It was not a drop in the bucket to them, but it was not 1/4th of their salary.  It was a single digit percentage.

Today, a year’s college tuition is 1/4th of my salary.  Which I know puts me in better shape than most, but the reality is that I do not know how long my salary will stay at the level it is currently at.  I may have a different job by the time Lemon heads to college in 3 years.

3 years.

God.  When I think about how quickly the last 3 years went by …

So – financial planner.

She tells me I need to seriously consider paying for half of their college instead of all.  If I pay for all of it, I can retire when I’m 95.

She asks about grandparents, the Ex – can they help?

Nope.  I say.  My parents are way too stressed about their own retirement, in light of the fact that they didn’t start saving until relatively recently (because of their own kids’ college, etc.), and there is no way they are going to have money to contribute.  The Ex’s parents might have a little money, but not much.

But what about the Ex?

Oh.  He can’t.  He makes very little money.

We move on.

Later, I’m chatting with a friend about college expenses.  She is currently married to a college professor, and is wondering aloud why we both made choices to marry people who make so little money. Why did we not marry investment managers or even fellow lawyers.

While I was chatting with her, I found myself – FOR THE FIRST TIME – questioning the Ex’s salary.  I mean, he’s been a professor for a very long time.  He has tenure.  While still chatting, I employed my sweet friend Google.  After all, the Ex teaches at a public university – his salary is likely public record.

Why is this the first time I thought about this?

I guess because I really did think we were adults.

Google tells me, no.

The Ex makes 2x the amount he has told me that he makes.

2x.

Meaning, the amount he had been letting me believe he makes, and then that amount again.

The amount he had been letting me believe was low enough that I said, “oh, never mind the child support guidelines, I understand things are tough for you, you can pay $300/mo less than that.”

And when he made tenure, and I said, “did you get a raise with that?”  Did he say “yes, approximately $40K!” (And that it was on top of an already-much-higher number than he’d been leading me to believe.)

Nope.

He said, “Only about $3K.”

Huh.  Because according to the website, the first # was the right number.  Not the $3K number.  The $40K number.

And last year, when I kind of put his back to the wall about who gets to claim Lemon for tax-purposes, he surprisingly caved on the issue.  Now I know why.  Because if he fought me on that, and we went to court, he would have to submit financial records, and then I would know that he’s been lying to me.

I was pretty upset.  Not tears upset (I’m not a cryer, after all), but angry.  Because he and I were in the midst of a very cordial email thread (wherein he told me that no, his parents won’t be contributing to college, and either will he), I just told him what I saw.  He basically said, “yeah, well, fuck you” in response.  First, he tried to say that he didn’t tell me because “it didn’t come up.”  Which is, of course, bullshit.  He didn’t just “not tell me” – he lied on multiple occasions.  He let me fill in erroneous numbers for our little child support calculator without correcting me.  He outright lied about whether he’d received raises more than once.  Of course, I obsessively checked my email history to gather proof of these transgressions.

He left it as, “So, have your lawyer contact me.”

And then I slipped into a funk.  For at least a couple of days.  Mostly feeling disillusioned over the fact that I’ve prided myself in being fair, and in being, even, kind.  And in response, I’ve been lied to.

I am no longer in a funk, but I still haven’t done anything about this.  I know now that when taking into account my salary and his salary, he should be paying more than twice the child support he currently pays.  But you know what?  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want to open up a court file here in Massachusetts.  I don’t want to take him to court, from 1/2 way across the country, to get more money out of him.  Is it my fault he has two new babies?  No.  But I still feel like if I drag him to court to insist on some higher amount of child support (any such increase would, of course, go entirely to the girls’ fledgling college accounts), I’m a jerk.  A real jerk.

I know that when it comes down to it, the court cannot (will not) make him contribute toward tuition.  And even with his true salary being 2x what he had told me he was making, it’s not a huge salary.  He likely cannot pay for half of their college.  So increasing child support to the appropriate level and using that increase to supplement the savings is the most I can expect.  I can probably also extend child support past the girls’ 18th birthdays, until they graduate from college.

But even if I do get this increase … it won’t help tons in the overall picture.  In the three years between now and when Lemon heads out the door, the increase maybe will have accumulated to equal 1/2 year of college.  One semester.  But there’s two kids.  So …. ?

Is it worth it?  I just don’t know.  I really do not want the fight.  I don’t want to be that person.  I don’t want the fact that I have been divorced to take up that much of my time and thoughts.

Not one person I have spoken to thinks that it is appropriate for me to let this go.  Every single person thinks I should take him to court and get the higher number.  Of course, if I were to talk to his mother, or perhaps another divorced non-custodial parent, I would get a different perspective.

Also to note, if I were to get the increase to the levels that the MA guidelines state as the true level, he would be paying considerably less than 10% of his gross salary to child support.  Which means, yeah, he’s currently paying about 4% of his gross annual salary toward child support.

Another thing – I do not know that his salary is all he makes.  He also has several speaking engagements per year, and participates in many other professional endeavors.  Those could be supplementing his salary in a significant way.  And since I know that he does not feel like it is his responsibility to ensure that he’s providing Lemon and Mouse with support appropriate to his income, I know he would not volunteer this information.

For now, I have asked him for his last 2 years’ tax returns.  I don’t know if he’ll provide them.  I’m guessing if his salary is it, he’ll send them.  If there’s more, more to hide, then he will not.