Eight Years Ago Today

Eight years ago today I climbed in my minivan with my daughter, my niece, and my three dogs and 2 cats and began the drive from Utah to Virginia. It was supposed to be the beginning of a new life. In a way, I guess it was. Just not the way I had originally thought.

The trip would take 3 days. We would stop the first night in Grand Island, Nebraska. It was a good 12 hours into our trip. Maybe more. We would make it to South Bend the second day so I could drop off my niece. Plus, I wouldn’t have to pay for a hotel room because I would stay at my mom’s house. The third day Rock Star, the dogs, and the cats, and I would finish up the trip- a mere 8 hours.

If you remember anything about foreshadowing from your days of high school English then you should know I should have realized this move was going to be a disaster. The engine in my car was overheating, or doing some other funny thing. I took it into a dealership the following morning before our trip began. They couldn’t get the part in that day but were willing to try to rig something up for me so I could make it “home”. Looking back I remember thinking I absolutely HAD to be there for when the movers came. In hindsight I should have waited for the damn part and just hung out in Indiana. But no! I was so worried about poor Jerry Lee, and how he would deal with the movers all by his little self. So I got in the car and preceded to listen to the damn door chime for the next 8-10 hours. I had asked them to pull the fuse at the dealership and they looked at me like I had grown a second head. Jerry Lee helpfully sent me a diagram but I’m no mechanic. The fuse remained and I got to listen to the door chime all the way to Virginia. But wait! There’s more!

The trip to Harrisonburg from South Bend is mainly toll roads so why I had my GPS on from the beginning I don’t know. I had bought a new charger for my car. I’m not sure what exactly happened. Maybe the charger wasn’t pushed in all the way, but about 2 hours before we hit our destination my phone died and my brand new charger wasn’t working. My GPS was my only source of directions. I had been to my new house twice and both of those times had occurred over a month prior to this visit. I wasn’t sure I could find Jerry Lee’s hotel. I was panicking. With some quick thinking we managed to contact a friend back in Utah who placed a call to Jerry Lee. I think we were able to get directions off of Rock Star’s iPad. She wrote them down so we would have them if her iPad died. She told me later she feared I was going to drive off the mountain.

I don’t recall being that upset but between leaving hours later than we planned, the dinging that went on for approximately 10 hours, the fact my engine light was once again coming on, and having no fucking clue where I was going, I might have been a little stressed.

That trip was my harbinger of doom. I ignored it. Just like I ignored all of Harley’s pictures on her Facebook and the fact she had taken her wedding picture down. Just like I ignored the supposed name snafu where Jerry Lee was going to register the deed to our new house in his name only because one of our names had a typo in it. I still remember telling him, “You better make sure this is what you want because once I make this move you’re stuck with me.” I was telling him he had one last chance to pull the plug on our marriage and go chase down the gold digging whore. Go get her if that’s what you want, but if that’s the case then don’t drag me and the kids away to Virginia away from all of our friends and the lives that we love. You know the story. Liars lie. Turns out he wasn’t stuck with me. He just up and quit his job and moved out of the state he drug us to.

A year after moving in I found out Jerry Lee and Harley were back at it. If they had ever stopped. Two years after moving in I sold off all the furniture I could, had a giant yard sale, and left everything else behind when the kids and I moved to Indiana and in with my mom. Both of the cats that made the trip with us died while we were in Virginia and I only have one of those dogs today. My kids have grown up, too.

Eight years. A lot has changed. Looking back at those pictures and those of the days leading up to the move, I had no idea what was in store for me or my kids.

Thanks for the reminder, Facebook.

Stop Expecting Them To Parent!

I think one of the saddest things I see on infidelity boards are the parents that ask in anguish, “Why won’t the fuckwit have anything to do with our children? How can they just abandon their own flesh and blood?”

I frequently see posts from people who are frustrated that the fuckwit won’t help out with the kids, won’t take them for visitation, doesn’t show up when they’re supposed to, and of course, hasn’t seen the kids in months or years.

I recall reading a post on a blog from someone who was irritated that her ex wouldn’t help out with his kid. At the time I told her she needed to pretend that he didn’t exist and that she only had herself and her support system to rely upon. I think she was a little befuddled because her response was along the lines of, “But this is his child! Shouldn’t he be doing this for our child? He’s the other parent; I should be able to rely on him and expect him to do his part! This is for our child, not me!”

My response to that was, “Yes, obviously he should but he’s not going to so stop beating your head against a brick wall and control what you can control.” What she could control, of course, was herself. Not him.

I spent six months living in the same house as Jerry Lee after D-Day. Not one time did he help out with the kids. I believe he asked Picasso once if he needed a ride but that was it. Then he moved 6-7 hours away and he’s never lived in the same state as his kids since then. I had no choice but to take on everything myself.

Maybe that was a blessing in disguise. I never had false hope that the other parent would step up and do his part. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that he wouldn’t.

Maybe I spent too much time on other boards, boards populated by single moms who shared children with absent fathers. Their attitude was primarily, “Put on your combat boots and get shit done yourself.”

I think that’s why I advocate for people forming outside support systems. It’s why I recommend not relying on the other parent. And if you’re going to rely on the other parent then make sure you have a backup plan. It’s why I recommend having everything your child needs at your house and the other parent having everything the child needs at their house.

Stop begging an uninterested person to remain in your child’s life. That’s giving the fuckwit more power than they deserve. It makes them central. If they’re going to ditch your kid they’re going to ditch your kid and there’s nothing you can do to prevent it. The only thing you’ll be able to do is potentially prolong it. I have heard so many stories where once the sane parent finally drops the rope and puts the relationship responsibility on the now adult child and the other parent it fizzles out, or the now adult child puts an immediate end to it.

Stop being shocked when they flake on you. Expect it. Have that backup plan ready.

I guess maybe in many ways I was lucky that I was the one that handled everything that went along with Rock Star and Picasso. I could figure out how to get both kids to hockey and gymnastics on the same nights when Jerry Lee was at an out of town meeting. He seemed incapable, but I could do it. I was used to taking 2 young kids on a cross country vacation with no help from him even when we were married. I could figure out how to get Rock Star to gymnastics practice early and then return in time to pick Picasso up from school at the regular time. I could figure out how to get Picasso to his hockey tournament (three games played throughout the day) on the same day as Rock Star’s state gymnastics meet. I could figure out how to get a kid to orchestra and arrange a breakfast for the teacher’s at the same time. I could figure out how to arrange for childcare while I volunteered at church. And I even figured out how to arrange for childcare while I went out of town for a weekend with church friends so we could go to a women’s conference.

It involved about 16 hours of driving and leaving children in two separate states but I arranged it! I drove Rock Star from Michigan to Kentucky to stay with her grandmother down there and then I drove Picasso back up from Kentucky to Indiana to stay with my mom. From there I drove back on up to Michigan and my friends and I left for the conference the next day. And I got to turn around and do it all over again a few days later in order to pick them back up.

Is it better when you’ve got a 2 person tag team taking on childcare responsibilities? I’m sure it is. But you can do it without them. My advice, just like the advice I gave to that woman on her blog, is to stop banging your head against a brick wall. Be prepared to take on all the responsibility. Don’t rely upon the other parent. If they come through it’s an unexpected bonus. If they don’t, you’ve got this.

If the other parent is still involved and reliable I think that’s great. I’m not suggesting you attempt to oust them from their kids’ lives. But if you’ve got an ex who doesn’t take much an interest in your children then please stop giving them the power to hurt you and your kids. Your kids need one sane parent. Stop offering up your child like a lamb to slaughter. You don’t mention visitation. If the other parent shows up you send them with them. If they don’t show up they have no idea the other parent was even supposed to be there. You don’t call them and beg them to show up for birthdays or holidays. You take advantage of the fact that you don’t have to share those moments. You don’t ask if they’ll be using their visitation. You don’t remind them of the days they have. They are adults and I trust are able to read their visitation schedule. If you’ve got plans you get yourself a backup in case the other parent doesn’t show. If you didn’t have plans now is your chance to do whatever you want with your kids, whether that’s spending the evening at home, or going out and doing something fun.

Can it be heartbreaking for your child when the other parent abandons them? Of course it can be! More so I think if your child is old enough to remember the other parent being around. In other cases, if the parent disappears early enough they may not even really remember them. Just remember, this is not something you can control. You are not responsible for their shitty choices. You concentrate on being the best parent you can be.

What you can control is taking charge of your life. You can refuse to be at the mercy of a fuckwit. You can refuse to be held hostage to their whims. Put that support system in place. Make your backup plan. Have a backup for your backup plan if necessary. That way when they call you twenty minutes before pickup and let you know they can’t make it you’re not flipping out because you had planned on going out for a long overdue night out with friends. You’ve got this. You’ve already made arrangements. You’re never disappointed that your ex can’t pick up your daughter while you take your son to soccer. You’ve already got this handled.

Beating A Dead Horse

Honestly, I don’t mean to beat a dead horse but I am astounded.

“Why?” you ask.

I would love to tell you. I see women come to support boards. They’ve been a stay at home mom for years. Some of them homeschool. They are at the mercy of the very man who cheated on them and left them in financial disarray. And then they ask, “Will the judge award me enough child support (and/or alimony, in some cases) that I can continue to stay at home with my children?”

You continue the conversation and let them know that they are probably going to have to get a job. That’s when they hit you with, “But I homeschool!” or “But I have young children! They’ve never been in daycare.” Or even, “How can I even consider getting a job when daycare costs will eat up everything I make? I might even lose money!”

Honey, the judge doesn’t care. I know this wasn’t what you had planned. But it’s your reality now. For every one woman who tells you she is able to manage to get by on support payments alone you’ll hear from over 100 that will tell you they had to get a job. No judge is going to award you 90% or more of your ex-husband’s paycheck. You’d be lucky to get half and that’s a rare occurrence.

I get it. I really do. You’ve been blindsided. Your whole world has been turned upside down. You are grasping desperately for anything that might provide a semblance of normalcy.

I say this as gently as possible. You must let go. Holding on to that old life of yours is doing you no favors.

I was that woman once upon a time. I found out my husband was cheating on me six days after our $57,000.00 inground pool was finally filled. I lived off of what he was willing to give me (what he had incorrectly been told he would be ordered to pay) and the money I had transferred into my own account. And then I lived primarily off of the temporary spousal and child support, which gave me a lot more room to breathe, my half of what remained of his bonus, and the remaining savings. I found out in August and still didn’t have a job in June when my world turned upside down yet again.

I believe I’ve shared with you before that my plan was to start looking for a job right around the time my daughter was able to drive. That way she could get herself and her brother to the places they needed to go and they wouldn’t need to lose out on cheerleading, gymnastics, and band because I had a job and couldn’t leave to take them.

Of course, we all know how that panned out. Terribly. Jerry Lee lost his job. Stopped sending money. I had to sell off everything I could and what I couldn’t sell I left behind when the kids and I moved 600 miles away to Indiana, in with my mom. My kids received free lunches and free textbooks. We were on Medicaid. I might have been able to qualify for food stamps.

My advice is based on the shit storm of my experience. DO NOT RELY ON THE PERSON WHO BETRAYED YOU!

When you are reliant on child and/or spousal support you are at the mercy of the person paying you. You disagree with him? You refuse to go along with whatever it is that he wants you to do? He holds the support payment hostage. Or maybe he doesn’t hold it hostage; he just doesn’t pay if he has something better to do. You know- taking Schmoopie on a fancy vacation, buying toys or bikes or dogs or cars for her kids to impress them, putting in a pool, buying a new car. Whatever strikes his fancy because child support is simply a suggestion and it’s the bill he pays after he buys whatever he wants. Now what are you going to do? You can’t take him back to court when you have no money. Sure, you may be awarded court costs but you have to pay your lawyer in the meantime. How are you going to do that when your only source of income has dried up?

Let’s say you are fortunate enough to be awarded enough child and spousal support that you don’t have to get a job. Let’s even say you’re able to be comfortable on what you’re awarded. All worked out, right?

Until he stops paying. Or he modifies it on his own. Or he dies or becomes disabled.

My temporary orders gave me $6600 a month. While that sounds like a lot my household bills, including our credit cards, mortgage, phone, insurance, and utilities totaled approximately $5000. I had $1600 a month for food, gas, pet food, and anything else we might need. I was planning on staying at least until Rock Star graduated. I was willing to stay until Picasso graduated if he decided he wanted to stay. At that point I would have probably moved back to Indiana. I could have managed just fine on $6600 per month without working if I was no longer living in such an expensive house. Living with my mom? Oh, I definitely wouldn’t have had to work.

I received the court ordered amount for all of five months. Then he lost his job, stopped paying, and decided it would be more advantageous to him to force me and his kids out of our house and go into this divorce with no job. I lost everything.

The lesson there? There’s a big difference between what you’re awarded and what you actually receive. The last statistics I read were 43.5% of people who are awarded child support receive the full amount. That leaves 56.5% who do not. Statistics also report that 30% don’t receive anything.

Let’s say he pays in full as he’s supposed to and it’s enough for you to live on. Great! You’re free to homeschool and be there to take your kids to all of their extracurricular activities. You get to be a stay at home mom despite the fact that you are divorced.

Have you thought about what’s going to happen when your kids are no longer in school? At some point they’ll graduate. The child support will stop. You are then going to have to support yourself. On what? You’ve been a stay at home mom now for twenty years, give or a take a few years. Who is going to hire you? When you get hired how much are they going to pay you?

I was out of the workforce for 15 years. I had a college degree. I stocked shelves at Target for $11.00/hour. I went in anywhere from 2 am until 4 am. That was the first place that called me for an interview. I put in endless applications and heard nothing back.

It took me four years at the bank before I began making close to decent money. Four years and five promotions.

Maybe these ladies will be very fortunate. Maybe one or more of them has a pharmacy degree or a nursing degree and they can go back to work and make fantastic money. I’m pretty sure pharmacists are making six figures now, and depending upon your nursing experience you can definitely make six figures. But from the way they present their situations I don’t think they’re going to enter the workforce after being out for 10 or 15 years and find a job making a huge salary.

All those years you spend at home, living off of child support, are years you are NOT advancing in your career. It’s years you are not being promoted or earning raises. It’s a longer period of time where your resume is blank.

And don’t even get me started on retirement! You might be able to live on child support but can you also save for your retirement? That is doubtful. Again, we’re back to years of NOT contributing to your future. You’re only going to be eligible to receive half of your husband’s retirement, and depending upon how long he’s been working and how much he’s contributed there may not be nearly as much in those accounts as you’d think. No job means no Social Security benefits of your own, and even if you were married 10 years and one day (and don’t remarry) you only get to collect half of what his benefits are.

I can tell you now, almost seven years after finding out about the cheating, that there is nothing more satisfying than knowing you can support yourself, if need be. I spent years being at his mercy. Wondering if this was the month he wasn’t going to pay. When his mom died he paid about a fourth of what he was supposed to pay because he was busy paying her funeral expenses. Didn’t have the common decency to ask if I would be okay with that. Didn’t even have the common decency to tell me that’s why he would be late. And then had the nerve to act indignant that I asked about it. He would pay when he wanted. He would modify payments when he wanted. He frequently waited until the very last day of the month to make his final payment. I dealt with 2 job losses There was always that fear that he would stop paying and I would have to go back to working two jobs and running myself ragged. Now, if he decided to test me and see if I really would throw him in jail (spoiler alert: I would) I might have to tighten my belt but I would make it. My bills would be paid. I’ve been fairly smart and I put money aside for taxes every month and I put money into savings. I won’t have to go get a second job if I don’t want to. That is an amazing feeling.

Yes, when you have young children daycare costs may eat up most of what you make. But you’re still advancing. You’re still getting raises. You’re still putting your name out there and creating a resume for yourself. Your children won’t always be in daycare. And as someone pointed out daycare costs are separate from child support; they’re also usually income based so if he out earns you by a significant amount he may be paying 60%, 70%, even 80% of the costs while you pick up the remaining amount.

We tend to focus on our children when they’re little. We don’t think about the future and what happens when they grow up and move on. We never seem to see what lies ahead. Please look out for yourself, and don’t rely on the person who tried to destroy you.

Two For Two

Jerry Lee is on a roll! Picasso recently had a birthday. Little munchkin turned 20! 20. Can you believe it?

Daddy Dearest texted him (yeah, we’ll get to that in a minute) a birthday message. This is not verbatim but pretty damn close: Happy Birthday, son. I miss you tons. Have a great day. I’m so proud of you. I love you. Hope the day isn’t too hot for you (yeah, we’ll get to that, too).

As Picasso succinctly said, “He apparently realized he couldn’t send his birthday message through Venmo because he wasn’t planning on sending me anything for my birthday.”

Yes, that is correct. Jerry Lee flaked out on giving either one of his kids a birthday gift this year. The man and his cousin bring home over 12k a month but apparently he is too broke to send his kids fifty bucks.

Or perhaps he has simply given up. He realizes his kids aren’t willing to give him the time of day because of his own actions, and instead of owning up to that he has decided he will stop sending them money because, in his eyes, they don’t appreciate it and are only using him as a wallet. Poor sad sausage. His kids don’t appreciate him. Because of me, of course. I brainwashed them.

I was the one that convinced them that him moving out of the house and out of the state to go be with his mistress was a dick move. Naturally they were fine with it until I pointed out, falsely of course, that he had abandoned them!

I was the one that convinced them that him spending hundreds, of not thousands, of dollars on the whore’s kids while letting his own go without was a bad thing. They didn’t have a problem with that until I pointed it out.

I was the one that told them they should be hurt that their dad could show up for cheerleading competitions and show and tell for the mulligans while he ditched his own kids. They were good with it until then.

In fact, every bad experience they’ve had since the separation and divorce can be boiled down to me not putting the correct positive spin on it and falling on my sword for him and all his glory.

Whatevs!

Anyway, back to that whole texting thing…. Did everybody catch that? Mr. Genius, Mr. Mensa Member Material, has been claiming for years now that he did not have Picasso’s phone number. The story he told was his phone got wet or something and he lost most of his contacts. While he did have Rock Star’s number, Picasso’s was lost and he had no way of getting it. Interesting. You’d think a genius might be able to formulate a plan. Hell, I’m not a genius and yet I clearly remember tracking down a cute guy I met at a frat party using nothing except my memory, a student directory of the dorms, and some simple fucking deductions! I didn’t even have a last name for him at the time.

Now the question is: Was he lying this whole time, or did he somehow figure out how to get Picasso’s phone number? My son is wondering the same thing. “How did Jerry Lee get my phone number?”

I did check with Rock Star and she said she did not give it to him. Of course, he’s never asked either.

So that’s a little mystery that will never get solved. But hey- Jerry Lee has his son’s number now so no reason he can’t text him every day and say hi, tell him he loves him and misses him. Am I right?

Picasso and I were also both a bit weirded out about the whole, “Hope the day isn’t too hot for you.” The kid was born in July. It’s typically a hot month in the Midwest. I’m not sure Jerry Lee knows how heat adverse Picasso is; however, I recently posted about how proud I was of Picasso. I talked about how he had graduated with no fanfare last June and that as of January he had no job and no driver’s license. And then, just like that, he decided he was going to get his license and he was going to sign up with the carpenter’s union. I went on to say he did both of those things and that he was now driving and he had been working full time since April. In this specific post though I mentioned that the heat index was supposed to be around 110 degrees and to keep him in their thoughts and prayers as I was worried about the heat.

That seems to be a very specific “hope” for Picasso. Coincidence? Or do I have a spy? And is the spy malignant or misguided and benign?

Anyway, Picasso had a great day. His actual birthday was pretty low key but the following day his sister came up and we had a family dinner at a Japanese steakhouse and then everyone came back to the house for ice cream cake. His main gift from me had been tickets to the Fully Loaded Comedy Festival, headlined by Bert Kreischer, last month. Rock Star got the same gift. But seeing as I brought wine to her on her birthday I opted to give Picasso a gift card to a local home improvement store so he could buy some tools or whatever else he might be needing for work. It was a fun time, and while the mystery of Jerry Lee suddenly having Picasso’s number and potentially knowing something about his life was interesting to speculate about, it was but a tiny sidebar and soon forgotten. Quite like Jerry Lee.

A Son Speaks

The funny part about your kids getting older is you don’t always hear what’s going on. If you’re not there in the moment you may miss it altogether. Unless you have a mother who happens to be there and passes it along.

Apparently Picasso told her that one day he’d like to go to Jerry Lee’s house, knock on his door, and when he answered simply tell him, “I’m so disappointed in you,” before walking away.

My son was 13 years old when his dad walked out the door, went to work, and then moved to another state without saying a word to either child. He has not seen or spoken to him since. He might send the occasional birthday or Christmas card. Send a few bucks through Venmo along with a sappy message. And there was that one year he sent Easter gifts to them. But he hasn’t picked up a phone and spoken to or texted his son since February of 2016. He hasn’t seen him in that time either. Six years. Honestly, once his affair was outed he pretty much ceased functioning as a father to his son.

Picasso turns 20 this July. Six and a half years since he’s seen his father, almost 7 years since his dad stopped being a dad. 13 years old. Just when a boy probably needs his dad the most. He navigated all of his teen years with no dad in sight. All this time has passed and yet it still weighs heavily upon him.

He calls him by his first name, you know. Refuses to speak of “dad”.

“I’m so disappointed in you.” I think that one sentence speaks volumes.

I Am Doing Well

Rock Star had a birthday recently. My mom, the mobster, and I all went down to Muncie to help her celebrate. We went to a really cute winery right there in the city, not far at all from her house. Afterwards we went to a hibachi grill for dinner.

On the car ride over to the winery she told us all that her father had messaged her on Facebook.

Happy Birthday! I am doing well. So proud of you. Wow- 22!

She said it took her a few moments to wrap her mind around what had transpired. He made her birthday all about him. Hey, happy birthday, kid! By the way, I am doing great. Can I tell you all about it?

Apparently, this is the year he decided to cut off birthday gifts. Nothing sent to her. Just well wishes and a notification that he was doing well. Because isn’t that always your first thought on your birthday? I wonder how everyone else in my life is doing. Me? Oh, I’m just celebrating a birthday. Comes along every year! Let’s talk about you!

I am ashamed that I procreated with this man. Even more ashamed that I actually thought he was going to be a great dad.

Update: This took place June 3rd. I just saw Rock Star. Her dad still has not sent her a birthday gift. She thinks he’s punishing her for not immediately telling him that of course he would get an invitation to her graduation, and she’s pissed.

Look At This!

That was what my daughter texted to me, along with a screenshot from her father, about a month ago.

She was indignant because he had the audacity to text her and tell her he had seen on Facebook that she was going into her last semester of college, he wondered if that meant she was graduating in December, and he told her he hoped he would get an invite. Also, her boyfriend seems like a really nice young man and he’d love to meet him one day.

She was pissed that he was fishing for an invite to her graduation and more importantly, that he thought he got to be a part of her accomplishments when he was the one that put up stumbling block after stumbling block for her.

I’m not proud of this but I’ve always been honest with those of you who care enough to read my blog. Wait. That didn’t sound right. The thing I’m not proud of is my feelings when I read the text, not the fact that I’ve always been honest with those who read my blog. Let’s try this again.

I’m not proud of this but my heart leaped into my throat when I saw the text message, especially because I could see earlier texts between them. Then I realized she was wishing him a happy Veteran’s Day. This was May. That happened back in November. And then I realized those messages were from 2020. Now maybe they communicate in other ways but Jesus Christ on crutches!

You have no contact with your daughter for a year and a half and you want an invitation to her goddamn graduation? Fuck you! Who do you think you are?

Obviously, I am going to go along with whatever she wants to do. Right now she says she isn’t inviting him but she also said she’ll decide when it gets closer. I think she will end up inviting him and I’ve already told her I will support whatever decision she makes. But I can vent with you in my safe space.

For the most part I don’t think about him and I try not to dwell on what happened and everything he cost us. I’m not perfect. I slip up every now and then. I think it was realizing he hasn’t communicated with her except for the possible Venmo transfer since November of 2020 and then just casually slipping in, “Oh, I’d love to be invited to your graduation. I want to celebrate with you.”

Fuck you, motherfucker! Where in the hell was he when she needed rent money? Where was he when she needed money for groceries? Money for gas? Money for anything? To this day I still send regular Chewy shipments to her house for her cats. I buy them treats, kitty litter, and food. I paid what was left after financial aid towards her tuition her first year. Paid for her books. Her sorority fees. Then he lost his job mid-way through her second semester. My mom came to the rescue and paid the final $1000 until he started paying me again. Dickhead actually had the audacity to ask me why her tuition was not paid already because it obviously was all due at the beginning of the semester AND insinuated that I had filled out the FAFSA incorrectly because she shouldn’t owe a dime for tuition with my salary. Rock Star took out additional loans for her sophomore year because I didn’t know if I was going to be able to help her out. I ended up paying her rent once her first semester and from April on her second semester. I also paid all of her sorority fees. Junior year I paid her rent, utilities, and food bill, along with the sorority fees. Senior year I once again paid her tuition. And her sorority fees. And gave her money when needed. And paid all the bills for her cats. Where was he for any of that?

I remember him asking her one time to let him know if she needed anything. I think it was freshman year. She replied that she still needed to buy books. He went on to tell her some story, probably about himself, and finished up with (again), “If you need anything, let me know.”

“I literally told him exactly what I needed and he ignored it,” Rock Star told me.

I don’t believe he’s ever sent her money randomly. Maybe he has but I doubt it. And if he has I know it wasn’t a frequent occurrence.

He’s washed his hands of both of his kids but when it comes time to celebrate he thinks he should be there.

And it’s not just the money. Where was he when she called, convinced she was never going to make it into nursing school? Where was he was she was overwhelmed and wanting to drop out and come home? He was part of the reason she was overwhelmed. She felt the weight of the world on her shoulders because she knew how I struggled. She felt like she had to get straight As. She felt guilty telling me she didn’t have enough money for rent. She felt guilty anytime she had to ask for something. All of that was caused by him.

Everything she has experienced since she was 15 years old has been because of him. She lost her amazing high school experience because of him. She lost gymnastics because of him. She had to move out of her home with her roomy bedroom and her own bathroom because of him. She had to switch schools because of him. She had to worry about how to pay for college because of him. She ended up at Ball State instead of some school in Utah or Virginia because of him. Hell, she’s on anti-anxiety meds and anti depressants because of him. Just this past December she admitted she always feels like she’s not good enough. Why wasn’t she worth it? Why did her dad abandon her? How could he walk right by her and not say goodbye or tell her that he loved her? She feels like she always has to prove herself to him.

He took this young, bubbly, beautiful, confident young woman and turned her into an anxiety ridden mess. He did a number on her and her future, but by all means, let’s have him show up and take a bow. He took everything he could away from her, made things so much more difficult than they had to be. But by all means, preen about like a peacock. So proud! Daddy of the Year, right there. You were so instrumental in her upbringing.

No, you asshole, you were instrumental in attempting to orchestrate her downfall. But you didn’t succeed. I stepped in wherever you lacked. My mom stepped in wherever I lacked. I’m the one that told her she was exceptional. I’m the one that told her I was proud of her. I’m the one that was always there, always supporting her, always nurturing her, always encouraging her, always assuring her that she could do it. I’m the one that told her she was worth it and to never let her worth be measured by her father. I’m the one that told her she was going to be an amazing nurse. I’m the one that has paid for therapy, and I’m the one that has kept her going.

Here’s the funny thing. I don’t take credit for her accomplishments. I’m proud of her. I’ve supported her, both financially and emotionally. But I didn’t do it. I’m not why she succeeded. She succeeded because she’s incredibly driven. Disciplined. She knew what she wanted and she went after it. I didn’t take those classes. I didn’t do the labs or the clinicals or the homework. She did all of that. She has had an intense schedule for years. The achievement is all her.

It still chaps my ass that Jerry Lee thinks he should be able to show up and celebrate. Sit the fuck down! I’m the one that raised this kid. You were too busy off fucking your cousin and trying to impress kids that already had an involved father.

Back In Time

We got back from Utah last Sunday. Rock Star, her boyfriend, Picasso, the mobster, and I all went out for 10 glorious days. We went horseback riding, rafting, and hiking. We visited some of our favorite places and visited some new ones. The mobster finally got to see the Great Salt Lake and if asked, he would tell you, it smells to high heaven. We probably wouldn’t have gone if not for the fact we went horseback riding on Antelope Island and Antelope Island is in the middle of the Great Salt Lake. It was a great time and yet… I felt myself overcome with the feelz more than a few times.

I don’t know why. It’s not as if I haven’t been back since DDay and everything that happened. Then again, our other two trips were pretty quick and were for a specific purpose. First trip back was for Rock Star’s college visit. It was a long weekend and we weren’t even back in our area. We flew into Vegas and spent the entire time about 4 1/2 hours away from our town. Our second trip back was for our friend’s son’s wedding. We flew out Friday morning and flew back home Sunday afternoon. It was the mobster’s first trip to Utah and we tried to cram as much as possible into the time we were there, but the wedding itself took up almost a full day. Again, there was a purpose for the trip.

This time we were there to relax, reconnect with friends, and do all the things we used to do but could no longer because we don’t live there. There were a few bumps in the road but overall it was a great trip. I missed seeing some people but a week really isn’t long enough to see everyone, do everything, and eat all the food you’ve missed. You think it will be, but isn’t.

I didn’t spend my whole trip bemoaning the loss of my old life but there were times I did get hit with jolts of nostalgia. They were mostly tiny triggers but I could feel them some days. I would have the question, “Why was I being triggered?” but the answer to that is in the first sentence of this paragraph. I was constantly being reminded of my old life, the one that is gone, obliterated. I will never have it again.

So many things have changed out there and it was super frustrating. I kept feeling like I should know where I was going, especially considering the entire city is set up on a grid, but I kept getting so turned around. It’s not just that there are new stores and restaurants. They have new roads and highways. The Mountain View Corridor had just opened a year before we left, or rather, parts of the Mountain View Corridor had just opened. I remember it ran much further west than it did east. Now it connects to the freeways. 

I also remember driving along the opened parts, talking to myself or envisioning what I would say to Jerry Lee, Tammy Faye, or Jezebel, when shit first started going down. I remember screaming and crying after Tammy Faye had commented on how pretty Harley was in one of her profile pictures. I wondered at the time how on earth she could possibly compliment my husband’s mistress, knowing we were together still. It hurt me to the core that she could spend so much time telling her how pretty she was every two weeks when she changed her profile picture, but she couldn’t be bothered to tell me even once.

That new-to-me, finally completed corridor brings up a lot of memories, and not all of them are good.

The highway with the funny name (Bangerter) that ran from one end of the Salt Lake Valley to the other and which was dotted first with stoplights at the major streets, and then with weird left turn interchanges has been changed to overpasses with exit ramps where most of the lights used to be. There is still endless amounts of construction going on.

I would get on a freeway and think I would know where I was and then pass a store I recognized and realize I wasn’t where I thought I was. That, or the freeway was taking me in circles and I didn’t realize it before. Or perhaps I forgot.

There was the moment at Lagoon when we were standing in a massive line to buy tickets, only to turn around and stand in another line to enter the park. I looked over at the kiosks where the season pass holders could enter and recalled all the seasons we had summer passes. We’d go up for a few hours sometimes because it didn’t matter if we rode everything or not. We’d be back later that week, or maybe the next week.

I did laugh about the time I lost Rock Star and her best friend. They had gone off to ride the roller coaster and we somehow got separated. I came up with the genius idea to crumble up Doritos so I could spell out a message for them: Stay here! I came back twice to find the crumbs were scattered all over and thought birds had pecked at the pieces and helped themselves to a tasty treat. I found out much later that those two rotten girls had seen the message and just wiped the Doritos away so that they could keep riding the rides without interruption.

As our week progressed I pointed out places that meant something to us. Here’s Scheel’s, a huge sporting goods store with an aquarium that goes around the store and a giant ferris wheel in the middle of the store. That’s the aquarium I took the kids to; they just moved from Sandy to Draper as we were leaving. They’ve got penguins and an anaconda. Lots of cool displays and set ups. Here’s where we lived. That’s the grocery store I ran to when I was out of something. There’s Jordan Landing. Look at how much it’s changed! They’ve got a Cafe Rio and a Waffle Love now. That’s the Walmart where I grocery shopped. There’s my kids’ dentist office. This is where my kids’ pediatrician was. That’s where I used to get my hair done until my stylist started doing hair out of her house. Hey, where’s Lani’s Snow Cones? They used to be right here, in the parking lot across the street from my former vet’s office. And that’s the Real soccer stadium. Huge controversy when they built that despite the voters saying, “No!” Oh, and there’s the ER where I spent many a days with my kids. And here are the malls we went to. There’s the Trax station; that was just built about a year before we left. We used to take it downtown so we didn’t have to worry about parking. We even ended up stopping in Park City and going right by one of the gyms where Rock Star competed every February once she reached Optionals. And although we didn’t spend a lot of time hanging out downtown going back there and seeing the outdoor shopping malls, especially the one that opened shortly before we left, was difficult. This all used to be at our fingertips. There was so much and we gave it all up to move to Harrisonburg, VA where they didn’t even have an Olive Garden and the food court at their mall consisted of one Chinese place and an ice cream shop. There were so many memories that accompanied this trip.

The hardest part though was hearing my friend tell the mobster stories about me and who I used to be. It wasn’t a bad thing. She was being very complimentary. More of a, “Oh my gosh! Let me tell you how amazing Sam was!” 

Let me preface this by saying I don’t spend a lot of time talking to people in my day to day life about what my life used to be like. I’m pretty open about what happened to me as far as my husband cheating on me with his cousin, leaving Virginia without a word to me or the kids, and abandoning his children, but I don’t talk about what my life used to be like. I don’t go on and on about my former life as a stay at home mom, or a PTA president, or all the places I took the kids, or the things that we used to do. I do occasionally talk about missing my pool, but aside from that I don’t talk about the big house I used to live in or the shopping sprees I used to be able to go on. I don’t talk about my walk in closet or my multiple bathrooms or how I decorated the house because I had nothing else to do. The mobster and I talk about that part very little because it doesn’t matter anymore. It used to be. It’s not anymore. And to be clear it’s not as if that’s all my friend wanted to talk about but when telling the stories of our girls growing up together you end up talking about that previous life because that was the way things used to be.

My friend works full time. Always has. Our girls were the same age and best friends. I frequently took her daughter to Lagoon and the water park and hiking and the roller skating rink and all the other places we would go in the summer. Her daughter was the only kid I allowed to spend the night on a school night and vice versa. On late start days in middle school, if she slept over, I’d take them both to Kneaders for breakfast. The mobster was regaled with stories of how I did everything with and for my kids. I was constantly running them from one activity to another. I took them places constantly. I was always busy and always doing things with them.

My friend went on to tell the mobster how her daughter would come home and tell her, “She’s the best mom!” Yeah, that was me. I was the best mom, was being the important part of that sentence. Now I’m the barely-ok-sometimes-adequate mom.

The mobster was also treated to stories about how I was Ms. PTA President. I knew everybody. I did everything. I was so involved up at the school. As my friend put it, “Sam worked her ass off up at that school!” Yes, I did put in quite a bit of effort for Teacher Appreciation. I wanted my teachers to feel appreciated and loved. I enjoyed doing it. Everyone knew me. Everyone raved about me. Everyone loved me. I had a purpose. Today? I couldn’t tell you the names of Picasso’s teachers the last four years, with the exception of his biology teacher. That’s only because it was the same damn teacher I had for biology back in 1983.

Don’t get me wrong. This new life is not the path I thought I was going to take; it’s not the life I thought I was going to live. But it’s a good life. Most days I enjoy it and I’m happy. I met the love of my life. I have a job finally that will actually support me. I just moved into my new office. I didn’t sacrifice my kids for this new life and my happiness. Despite both of them struggling with mental health issues they are doing well. Rock Star is entering her senior year and moving in with the boyfriend. I have high hopes Picasso will return to work soon. I have accepted that the old life is gone. But damn- all of those memories, even if what my friend was doing was bragging on me and lifting me up, they still hurt. It was another realization that that life was over. Who I was back then is nothing like who I am now. I went from PTA mom who knew all the teachers to the mom whose son barely graduated high school. I went from being the mom who kept my kids busy five days out of seven (I rarely took them places on the weekends) to the mom that can literally stay in her pajamas all weekend long. I went from having good, close friends that I hung out with, went to lunch with, went on trips with, to having mostly acquaintances. I am not the same person I was and I don’t necessarily think it’s a positive change.

I think my kids got cheated out of a great mom. I had to go back to work and I had to work a lot in the beginning- 6 and 7 days a week in the beginning, crazy hours, very little sleep. Even now I don’t have time to myself like I once did and they suffer because of it. Instead of running everywhere with them and trying to find things they might like I would rather hang out at home and chill.

Going back there brought back how much Jerry Lee took from us, especially how much he took from Rock Star and Picasso.

It’s a bit overdramatic to proclaim that I will never forgive him for what he did; however, out of all of the things that he’s done moving us out of Utah and then ditching us for Harley is definitely one of his all time lows. I truly don’t think I’ll ever forgive him for that.

Ironically, my daughter’s boyfriend fell in love with Utah the moment he landed. They are legitimately looking into moving there after she graduates. It’s not only because of the boyfriend. 

Rock Star recalls her childhood as being amazing (and it was). Her friend told her she really appreciates how I didn’t let them stay on their screens all the time and took them places, which I found a little funny. I never restricted TV or phones. I just found things to do with them and took them. Plus, I didn’t have a smart phone myself for most of their early childhood. They didn’t have phones either until they were 5th or 6th grade so it wasn’t even me keeping them off of them. Rock Star envisions raising her children the same way, keeping them off of their phones and making sure they have plenty of adventures outdoors. The problem is my kids had that life because I didn’t work. I’m about 99% sure we would not have had season passes to the amusement park if I had to take them on the weekends throughout the summer. The lines are horrible. I hate crowds. I wouldn’t have done it. Our weekends probably wouldn’t have been jam packed with activities because I would have been tired after working all week. She’s comparing what I did for her and her brother as a stay at home mom to her being a working mom. I hope she’s better at balancing the two than I am. But she also talks about how everything feels so much safer out there. She wants to feel comfortable letting her kids ride their bikes and wander around their neighborhood.

If going back to Utah is what she really wants then I hope she gets the chance to do that. I know Picasso would return in a heartbeat as well. The mobster loved it out there and was ready to move, too, but he needs to be practical. His kids are all in the eastern part of the United States- West Virginia, Virginia and New Hampshire. As for me? I would love to return but there’s no way I could ever afford it. Thanks to the smartest man you’ll ever meet we sold our house for $20,000 less than what we purchased it for 8 years prior in order to make this cross country move for his “dream job”. Seven years later it’s going for around double what we sold it for. His genius continues. Because he let our house go into foreclosure neither of us has any money for a down payment, not that we would have made much of a profit seeing as how our mortgage was less than a year old when Jerry Lee took up with his cousin again.  Average homes in average subdivisions are going for $500,000 or more out there. I can’t afford a $200,000 home, much less a $500,000 home. You need a $100,000 down payment and your mortgage is still over $2000 a month. Unfortunately, it looks like I’m stuck here because returning to Utah permanently is out of the question for me. Instead, I’ll have to be content going back every few years and trying to relearn my way around the valley. Grrr!

Here’s to my next trip and fewer triggers.

Got Kids?

“You’re lucky you don’t have kids with him/her.”

Whenever someone finds out their spouse is cheating, or they’ve just left their cheater, and it turns out they don’t have children with that person, they are frequently told what a blessing that is for them. They’re “lucky”. They can go no contact. They dodged a bullet.

Naturally, some of those people don’t feel that way. For some of them, the fact that they don’t have a children, is a crushing blow. In a lot of cases they’ve spent their fertile years with their cheater. Now he’s gone and he got someone else pregnant; he’s created a new, happy little family. Meanwhile, their chance of ever being a parent is gone.

It reminds me of the argument that would occasionally break out on an email support group I was a part of over twenty years ago.

The group was for women who had suffered multiple miscarriages. Some were already mothers. Others, like me, didn’t have any children. We all had our own unique set of problems. Those who were already mothers felt they didn’t get a lot of sympathy. They didn’t appreciate the people who would tell them, “Be thankful for the one(s) you have.” Many people didn’t understand how they could be so upset about a miscarriage when they already had one or more children. Meanwhile, there were those on the no child side that felt their pain was greater because they didn’t have a child yet; every time they miscarried they dealt with the reality that they may never become a mom.

I fell in between the two groups. At the time I had no children. I was one of those who wondered if I would ever become a mom. I also knew I had a balanced translocation; this meant I had a 50% of miscarriage each time I got pregnant. So, if I ever did become a mom, chances were good that I would be in the other group one day. Ironically, although it took us four years to finally have Rock Star, it only took about 16 months to get pregnant and stay pregnant with Picasso. No losses in between them, and because the early stages of the pregnancies were so stressful I didn’t have the fortitude to attempt to have a third child.

People going through a divorce are a lot like those ladies on the multiple miscarriage support group. There are those who have no children with their cheater. Obviously, they aren’t going to have to navigate the joy of co-parenting. They don’t have to stand by silently while the OW or OM plays a major part in their child’s life. They won’t ever hear their child talk about how nice that person is. They can completely cut their cheater out of their life because there is no need to talk about shared children. And yet I realize that for some of those people they desperately wanted children. Maybe they already had a child but they wanted more and now that’s not going to happen. Maybe they didn’t have any and now it’s too late. Having been in a situation where I thought I was never going to be a mom, I can sympathize and somewhat understand what they’re going through.

Then there are those of us who do have children with the cheater. Some of us have older children. Others have very young children. Some people deal with 50/50 custody and others have had our children abandoned by the other parent. All of those factors mean we have different issues to deal with.

As a parent whose children were older at the time of the divorce I was fortunate that my kids were able to have a voice. I’m sure a lot of this was influenced by the fact that Jerry Lee moved out of the state, but my kids were able to have visitation at their discretion. They’ve never spent a single day with him. They’ve never met Harley. They’ve never met her kids. 

They were also aware of what had happened. At their ages I couldn’t have hidden it even if I wanted to. My kids were old enough to form their own opinions on what their dad was doing and on the reactions from his side of the family.

On the other hand, because my kids were older, the mobster and I will never truly blend our families together. Three out of his four children live in their own homes. Two of them are married and the other is living with his girlfriend. My daughter apparently no longer lives at home. There may be very occasional moments when all six are together but for the most part my kids are separated from his kids. Had we met each other when our kids were much younger we probably would have been able to blend our families together. The mobster would be a father figure to my kids, and I would be a mother figure to his kids (assuming, of course, that everything else remained the same with our spouses abandoning the kids). They wouldn’t remember anything different. 

Then again I can’t even begin to imagine how difficult it must be to hand your young child over, even to their other parent, for long stretches of time. I can’t imagine how difficult it is to miss holidays with your children. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be if your children have another life that is completely separate from their life with you. I would absolutely hate missing half of my kids’ lives, especially when they’re little.

I also realize that the above is all about me, and what’s convenient for me. I know I have an ideal setup for me. I have my kids 100% of the time (or I did until Rock Star went to college and then moved out on me). I get 100% of the holidays. They have no relationship with their dad, his wife, or her kids, their step-siblings. I don’t always think it’s the ideal situation for them. Having a parent who walks out on you is incredibly hurtful. I’ve spent a lot of money on therapy for my kids. I get that it needs to be this way because of his choices, but ideally he wouldn’t have abandoned them. Ideally, he would step up and be a dad. They would have a relationship with him. He would interact with them. He would let them know he loves them and that they are important to him. And yes, I realize that even parents who do stick around don’t necessarily do those things; however, as I said, in an ideal situation he would make them a priority.

Ultimately, I guess I understand the sentiment behind, “Thank your lucky stars,” and “You dodged a bullet.” I can empathize with those who wanted children but didn’t get them. Unfortunately, as the mom of two children whose dad basically abandoned them, I tend to agree with those who say, “Thank your lucky stars.”

As painful as everything I went through was it’s not nearly as painful as watching your children be destroyed by a fuckwit’s choices.

Why Do We Force It?

Following up on my lovely post about parental alienation, I’m going to tackle the subject of forcing a relationship between the abandoning parent and the child one more time.

So often I see others admonishing a parent to extend grace to the abandoning parent. They’re told to offer up an olive branch, be the bigger person, love their child more than they hate the ex. Make that phone call. Offer up that extra time. Remind them of the school conference. The dance recital. The football game. The Honors assembly.

You hear over and over again: That’s still their other parent. You should encourage a relationship between the two of them. It’s the only mom or dad they have.

Why? Why does everyone put so much stock into this idea that because you share DNA you must have a relationship with that person regardless of how poorly they treat you? Why do we continue to sell this idea that abusive behavior is love?

I’m not suggesting that you tell your kids to cut off their other parent. What I would suggest is that you listen to your children when they tell you they want nothing to do with the other parent. You don’t force it. You don’t lie to them and tell them that this other parent loves them; you don’t know that. And even if it’s true what a shitty example of love. Love is not putting the other woman/other man ahead of your children’s feelings. When the amount of time that has passed since you last saw your child face to face can be measured in years, that is not love. Love is not telling your child you hated every minute of being a parent. Love is not walking out on your responsibilities because you put your happiness ahead of all else. Leaving your child’s other parent, moving out, disrupting their lives as they know them, moving in with another person and their children and/or having another baby, all in the time span of a few months while your child’s head is still spinning is not love. Love is not disappearing and never being heard from again. You don’t get to put another person’s kids ahead of your own, do things with them and for them that you didn’t do for your own, and then get to claim you love your children. Love is not waiting for your children to call you or text you, to reach out to you.

It’s no wonder so many people end up in dysfunctional relationships. We are sold this idea that when people love you they treat you badly. They ignore you. They minimize your needs. They put everyone and everything else before you. Then when you get into a relationship and that person does those things you think, “Oh this feels familiar. It must be love.”

It is okay to have boundaries, even at a young age. It is okay for a child to say, “This is unacceptable behavior. I don’t want to be around this person.”  As the sane parent I think it’s inappropriate to try to convince them that those feelings are wrong, or should be stifled so as to not damage a potential relationship. When someone has done something wrong admit it! Stop trying to whitewash it and convince your child that it’s completely reasonable to do the unreasonable. 

It’s also perfectly fine to tell your child, if they ask, “I don’t know why your other parent does those things,” instead of rushing to assure them that the other parent loves them. As my own son says, “He loves me? Really? He’s got a funny way of showing it.”

Again, I’m not trying to encourage people to damage a healthy relationship between a parent and child. I’m not encouraging anyone to badmouth the other parent or to create chaos where there is none. But for the love of all that’s holy, please stop trying to convince your children that people who don’t behave as though they love them, who actually do things that are very hurtful to them, love them. Stop selling abuse and toxicity as love. Stop telling your kids that people who love them hurt them and that’s perfectly normal and acceptable. Give them a chance at a healthy relationship.