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.

A Woman’s Responsibility

I have another circumbendibus story for you. I guess it’s not that circumbendibus but I’ll let you decide.

Once upon a time in 1969 there were three precious babies born within 5 months of each other. Spoiler alert! I was one of those babies. The other two were my cousins- one born in January and the other in May.

The cousin that was born in January had a birthday- obviously. I believe he is now retired from the fire department and he has taken to driving buses. He doesn’t drive just any kind of bus. He’s not transporting kids to school. Oh no! He’s driven Lorrie Morgan, Luke Combs, Kane Brown, and Jesse Keith Whitley.

Because I’m Facebook friends with him I saw his message on his birthday where he talked about Jesse Keith (son of country legends Lorrie Morgan and Keith Whitley) calling him up on his birthday and singing to him. It turns out he’s actually friends with this guy now. Like, he’s not just Facebook friends. They go back and forth with each other.

Now, I don’t remember how I came to see this but in the not so distant past I saw a video of him singing his father’s song. I liked it and I downloaded it.

“That’s fascinating stuff, Sam, but why are you telling us this?” I’m sure you are asking. Hold your horses! I told you this was a circumbendibus story!

Because of the exchange between my cousin and Jesse Keith I looked up another YouTube video. In it, he had his mama on stage and sang his father’s hit, “Tell Lorrie I Love Her”. As I am oft to do I began reading the comments.

For those of you who have no idea who these people are I will give a brief overview. Keith Whitley was a country singer who also happened to be an alcoholic. His career was brief, but filled with hits. Maybe some of you might recognize his song, “When You Say Nothing At All.” Allison Krause covered it back in the 90s. He was married to Lorrie Morgan for approximately 3 years, from 1986-1989. They were considered a country superstar duo and then he died of alcohol poisoning.

I have now given you all the background information I need to get on with my main point. Ready?

As I was reading the comments what struck me were the number of people commenting on the relationship between Keith and Lorrie. Many talked about how you could see how much she loved him and how difficult it still was 30+ years later. Others made the comment that if she had loved him so much she shouldn’t have gone on tour. Apparently, it was while she was on tour that he died. And apparently, knowing he was an alcoholic she should have sidelined her career and babysat him.

Look, I have no idea what went on in their relationship. I have no idea how much he had been drinking before she went on tour, and I have no idea if she knew how bad the drinking had become. Hell, who knows if her breaking her contract and refusing to go on tour would have even saved his life? But to have someone actually call into question the love she had for this man because she went on tour? WTF!

Seriously? We women are caught between a rock and a hard place. On one hand we’re told no one is responsible for supporting us all of our lives, and especially not after you’ve been cast aside for the newest model; on the other hand, we’re supposed to give up our career for the sake of our husband if that will help him. Or at the very least, we’re expected to put our career on hold so we can take care of our husband.

I hate all the pretentious talk about “the patriarchy” and how it keeps women down, but damn! This is the kind of shit that drives me nuts. As women it’s our duty to disregard what might be best for us and concentrate on what’s best for the man in our life. You’ve got a tour with hundreds of people counting on you for their livelihood? Oh, but hubby needs you. Just cancel it. You have a job that you find fulfilling and allows you to support yourself? Your husband was just offered a promotion 1000 miles away. Looks like you need to leave that job behind in order to make that move. You want to go back to school in order to get a job that pays you well, one that you find personally rewarding as well? Oh, hubby needs you home to take care of the kids, do his laundry, and make his dinner. Just put a pin in those plans until the kids are older.

Most states in the US have no long-term alimony. I know Texas doesn’t. Indiana doesn’t. From what I understand quite a few will award “alimony” while the divorce is in process but it ceases once the divorce is finalized. Others will award rehabilitative alimony for a few years. Basically, the breadwinner has to pay alimony until the dependent spouse has had a chance to either go back to school or otherwise managed to get a job that will support them. It is the courts’ belief that this should only take a few years. Of course, they don’t really care if they have anywhere close to the same standard of living. It’s enough to merely be able to pay rent and buy groceries. If you’re living in a one bedroom apartment in the roughest section of town, who cares? You’re supporting yourself! Congratulations!

It suddenly has occurred to me that we’re not going to make the changes in the courtroom or in Congress. Too many cheaters in power. No way that they will pass laws that hurt themselves. But we can make a change with women. Maybe. Hopefully.

Women, stop putting your husbands first. Start putting yourselves first. Go to school if it betters your career prospects. Get a job. Keep it. Don’t buy anything that you cannot afford on your own. If that means you live in a shittier house than your husband wants- too damn bad. Have him put that extra money aside in savings so that if he gets a bug up his ass and decides to leave for some floozy 20 years younger you’ve got one hell of a savings account to split. Don’t quit when you have children. Don’t move all over hell’s creation for your husband’s career. Don’t be the only one to drive kids all over the place. Don’t be the one picking up dry-cleaning all the time. Don’t cancel your plans for his plans. Don’t be the one who tries to do it all. Period! Make your life count. Make your needs count.

I know it sounds selfish. That’s because we’re used to putting our spouse ahead of ourselves. Don’t.

Not long ago I was reading a woman’s story. She had helped put her husband through med school or law school. Something big. She’d helped him build his career and as they often do, once he became successful he tossed her aside for a newer model. One that hadn’t helped build shit but was going to reap the benefits of that woman’s hard work. The woman was actually chiming in to thank another long time member of the group. She said she remembered sharing her story and that member said to her, and I’m paraphrasing, “Imagine what all you can accomplish if you put as much work and focus into yourself. You helped your husband succeed. Now help yourself succeed.”

And so she did. She took that member’s advice and put all her time and energy into herself and her own career. She went back to school to become a nurse. Her standard of living is nowhere close to what it used to be but everything she has from here on out is hers. She’s not dependent upon a man that will turn on her the minute she’s no longer of use to him. She’s going to be far better off than most of us.

I will leave you with this wise advice I got off Twitter:

Eureka Moment!

Getting a divorce after being a stay at home mom, or simply being the lower income earner, is like going into business with someone and then dissolving that partnership. You get 50% of what that business is worth, minus 50% of the debts associated with it. Only… you’re the business partner that has to sign a non-compete clause and start over 200 miles away with a completely new business you have to build from the ground up while the other half of the partnership gets to keep the business, the customers, and the income generated.

Shock and Awe

My boss: Do you have time for a quick call?

Me: Yes.

Inwardly I’m groaning. Oh shit, what have I fucked up? Am I not doing the new task correctly? Am I too far behind on my alerts? Oh boy! What have I done?

She called me right away and asks, “Do you remember during our one on one how I told you I was going to make you an Analyst II?”

I replied that yes, I did remember that and once again I’m inwardly groaning thinking, “Oh crap. It’s not going to happen. She didn’t get approval.”

Well, folks, I’m an Analyst II now. One fucking week after she tells me she’s going to flip me over to a 2 in the next six months! Best part? I kinda figured I would get somewhat of a raise. Keep in mind I”m used to Deposit Services offering me $0.25 an hour as a generous raise. Yearly raises of around $1300-$1500. Yeah, that’s right. Per. Year. With that in mind I was thinking that maybe I’d get a 5% increase. Remember, I just got a raise a month ago. When I let myself go crazy I’d think maybe I might get 10% and that would be real nice. 18.74% is what I got. She told me my new annual salary and I just about cried. I don’t know why, because I already knew what 10% would be.

She laughed and said, “It’s a lot better than when I plucked you out of Deposit Services.”

I told her she was my fairy godmother.

She told me I deserved it and I work for it. She never has to worry about me or fear that I’m not going to get my work done.

I am making double what I made in my last year in Deposit Services. Slightly more than double. I am making over three times what I made when I first began at the bank.

Remember when I first got hired in this department and I said that I had almost closed the gap? I have completely closed the gap now. The next step is to get CAMS certified and get another nice bump.

I cannot even begin to tell you how good this feels. I have gone from being a stay at home mom who was convinced she would never make enough money to support myself and my kids to a freaking BSA Analyst II. Between spousal support and my own salary I am almost bringing in six figures. Me! The party of the second part who relied upon the party of the first part to supplement my lifestyle because I was incapable of living on my own merits. Jerry Lee is still supplementing that. The asshole tax remains high and he’s still got another 12 years of paying. But I truly believe that if I’m willing to keep working hard and willing to take chances I can be making close to six figures, or better, in the next 3-5 years. And that sure as hell beats the last 5 years!

I still remember those first days after finding out about Jerry Lee and Harley. I had no idea what I was going to do, how I would make it, who would hire me. I remember applying for job after job and not even being called for an interview. Then finally I got lucky and got hired on at Target. I remember getting up at 3:30 in the morning to go to work at 4. I remember going in at 2 am when we had double trucks. I remember working 2 jobs during the Christmas season in order to make sure my kids had a decent Christmas. I remember getting 36.5 hours at $11.00/hour when I first started working at the bank. I remember going into work at Target from 4 am until 7 am, running home to pick up my daughter to take her to school, and then returning home to get ready for my day at the bank. I clearly remember those days when I didn’t have enough money to take my kids shopping for new clothes. We couldn’t go out to eat or to the movies like we used to do. I was exhausted all the time. And then I transferred over to Deposit Services and thought that I had hit the jackpot. Only I really hadn’t. I still didn’t make enough money to support myself and my kids without Jerry Lee’s help. I remember that day he told me he hadn’t sent the second half of my spousal support because he had lost his job. I remember sobbing in my car in the garage because I just couldn’t deal with the thought of returning to Target and having to go into work at 4 am once again. I remember him modifying spousal support for over a year and me just being so grateful in the beginning that he was at least paying something. I remember being dependent upon him. And I remember feeling like a failure because despite everything I had endured I still wasn’t where I wanted to be financially.

That has all changed. I’m so excited and yes, so proud of myself for all I have accomplished. I was promoted from Analyst I to Analyst II in just over a year. Never in a million years did I think that would happen. I planned on a solid two years before I got bumped up. I spent three years in Deposit Services and never went from Rep I to Rep II. So I find this promotion to be amazing, especially the speed with which it happened.

Anyway, that’s all I have for you right now. I promise to write about something else in the near future. I’ve got lots of things to tell you and I even got a new computer. Just need to set things up. Until then….

In Other News, Part 2

I do actually have reason to dance in the rain. I am excelling at work.

Last week we had our remote workers come in for the week, which was awesome. It was my first time meeting these people in person. We had lunches together. We had meetings. We got together after hours three of the days. It was a lot of fun, although I was exhausted by the end of it.

Anyway, my boss had one on one talks with each of us during the week. It’s not a new thing. She tries to do this on a regular basis. But during this particular meeting she let me know I was doing a fantastic job. She continues to be amazed at how well I manage my work and get it all done (see the previous post about working those extra hours). They apparently interviewed a lot of people for this position and I was the hand-picked favorite. She’s giving me a new responsibility and because of that increased responsibility she is making me an Analyst II within the next 6 months. And with that comes another raise. She also told me to plan on taking the CAMS classes around 2023, 2024 and get ready to take the test to be certified.

I cannot tell you how psyched I am about all of this. Seriously. CAMS is a big deal. It’s a certified anti money laundering specialist. My boss told me a few months ago that once I was CAMS certified I could write my own ticket. This is definitely something I want to do and I’ve talked about it with both my mom and the mobster. It’s a big time goal with an even bigger payoff.

The caveat is my boss won’t send anyone to the classes until they’re an Analyst II. I’ve also heard that there are certain qualifications you have to have before you can even sign up. Extra training and classes and such. So, being promoted to an Analyst II was a big step in reaching my goal. I thought it was going to be at least another year before I was bumped up and then who knew how much longer until I was finally sent to classes?

Now I have a date and a timeline. I’m getting *another* raise sometime in the next 6 months. It won’t be long before I can write my own ticket. I can go pretty much anywhere I would like and I can ask for a whole lot more money once I’m CAMS certified.

I’m dancing, folks.

Never Again

I read this somewhere and I wanted to discuss this:

The inability to receive support from others is a trauma response.

Your, “I don’t need anyone, I’ll just do it all myself,” conditioning is a survival tactic. And you needed it to shield your heart from abuse, neglect, betrayal, and disappointment from those who could not or would not be there for you….

…From all the situation when someone told you, “We’re in this together,” or “I got you,” then abandoned you, leaving you to pick up the pieces when shit got real, leaving you to handle your part and their part, too.

From all the lies and all the betrayals.

You learned along the way that you just couldn’t really trust people Or that you could trust people, but only up to a certain point.

Extreme independence is a trust issue.

You learned: if I don’t put myself in a situation where I rely on someone, I won’t have to be disappointed when they don’t show up for me, or when they drop the ball… because they will always drop the ball eventually, right?

Extreme independence is a preemptive strike against heartbreak.

So you don’t trust anyone.

And you don’t trust yourself, either, to choose people.

To trust is to hope, to trust is to be vulnerable.

“Never again,” you vow.

But no matter how you dress it up and display it proudly to make it seem like this level of independence is what you always wanted to be, in truth it’s your wounded, scarred broken heart behind a protective brick wall.

Impenetrable. Nothing gets in. No hurt gets in. But no love gets in either.

Fortresses and armor are for those in battle, or who believe the battle is coming.

It’s a trauma response.

by Jamila White

There was more but this encompasses most of what I wanted to write about.

I read this, and my first thought was, “Wow! This is so profound. So true. You’ve got to open your heart. Learn to trust. Not let the bad experiences shape you.”

And then I thought, “This is nuts. Of course the bad experiences are going to shape you! You should learn from them, not put your head in the sand and pretend that the next time it will all be okay.”

I suppose I should start with this: I don’t think I engage in extreme independence. I also don’t think I deny others the chance to support me.

Am I perfectly fine being on my own? I sure was. I didn’t think I would ever date again and I was pretty okay with that. I didn’t go looking for the mobster. He found me.

With that said I absolutely love having someone like him in my life.

Now, having said that I’m still not ready to throw caution to the wind, move in together, chuck spousal support out the window and cling to the notion that, “This time it will all work out!”

Yeah, last time it damn near killed me. I’m not exaggerating when I say that. I sometimes forget how awful it was because five years have passed and my life isn’t horrible anymore. And you know, you would think that would be a big help.

Hey! You survived it before! You thought you wanted to die and that your life was going to suck forever and ever. But look at you now! It doesn’t suck. If he walked out the door you’d pick yourself up and carry on. You’re in a better position now even because you already have a job! So you wouldn’t be back to square one. You’d be on, like, square two at the very least. Maybe even square three. You couldn’t lose everything all over again because you already lost everything and you never really rebuilt, right? It’s not like you bought a house. You don’t have any furniture. There’s nothing to lose! You’re good!

Ah, Happy-Go-Lucky Sam! I’ve missed you. Unfortunately for her, Baptized Through Fire Sam also shows up. And she’s like, “Are you crazy?”

My answer to that is, “No!”

I’ve thought about this a lot and it comes down to this. Let’s imagine there is a lake I swim in quite often. For years I go to this lake and I jump in and I swim around and have a grand ol’ time. And then one day, I go to the lake and I jump in and I swim around just like I always have. Only this time… an alligator bites my leg off. Now, I don’t know how the alligator got in the lake. It’s not like I live in Florida. Maybe it was a pet and it got too big so someone let it go. Maybe it migrated. I don’t know. I just know it now lives in the lake I used to swim in. And it bit my leg off. I was lucky to survive. It was a miracle. Kinda like me surviving my damn divorce and losing everything. Hmmmm…. Anyway… if someone asked me, “Hey, Sam, why don’t you swim in that lake anymore?” I would have no problem with saying, “Because a damn alligator bit my freaking leg off!” And if they tried to tell me that the chances of the alligator biting my other leg off was slim to none I’d tell them I wasn’t going to take any chances. I know there’s a damn alligator in that lake!

I don’t think anyone would fault me for that.

I think I tend to trust but verify. Trust but not put all my eggs in another person’s basket. Trust but not blindly. Trust but don’t be stupid. Any of those could be my new motto.

The mobster spent a few weeks with the guy who sold him his route. They talked a lot. The guy had 2 children from a previous relationship. He was currently with his girlfriend of 7 years. They had a child together and she really wanted to get married. His father ran routes all over for years until he began the Missions routes, which were basically given to him. Between him and his two sons they owned multiple routes. The guy who is selling the mobster the route makes quite a bit of money between the three or so routes he runs and his investment properties. One day the mobster came home and he was relaying the stories he had heard from him. I don’t remember how it came up but I remember him saying that at one point B was explaining that while his girlfriend worked a full-time job as well “all of this is me”, meaning that while she worked, too, the reason they had the giant house and the waterfall features in their yard and the Tesla and the million other things they had, was because of him.

My first inclination was to think, “Well, that’s not very team-like of him.” But my second reaction, which quickly followed my first, was, “He’s absolutely correct. It is all him.” Or rather, it’s all his.

I’m sure she helps him out logistically. She may even provide insurance for him and his two other children. But the reality is she makes a fraction of what he makes. Her lifestyle is funded by him. If she walked out on him tomorrow his life wouldn’t change. He might have to scramble to find someone to help out with his kids, but he’s not going to be wondering if he can afford the mortgage. He won’t be worried about whether or not he has to take his kids out their school because he might need to move. If he walks out on her? Oh you can bet your ass her life is going to change. She may have a full-time job. She may not be destitute. But she’s not going to be living in a house like she does now. She won’t be driving around in a Tesla. A lot of the things she can afford to do and purchase she wouldn’t be able to afford or purchase if he left.

That is still my mindset. I went through my house and I put price tags on all of my belongings. What I couldn’t sell was left behind. I lost my home. I lost my pool. I lost my brand new furniture. I had to move out of the state and back in with my mom. I live in fucking Indiana once again, for crying out loud. 

I will never financially depend upon another man again. That is still my stance. If I can’t afford it it’s not mine. If I can’t afford it on my own I don’t want it. I see all of these happy people who live these amazing lives and they’re doing it because they’re married. Their husbands fund their lives. It’s the ol’ “teamwork” concept. We’re a team! What’s mine is his and what’s his is mine. We don’t have his money and my money; it’s our money. I sometimes think how nice it would be to be able to do that again. To think that because I have a husband who can buy us a second home on a lake that I somehow have a home on a lake. To think that because my husband can afford a boat that I, too, have a boat. To think that because I’m married to a man who can afford a half a million dollar home that I have a half a million dollar home.

Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that that is not true. If my fictitious future husband decides to walk out on me for some gold digging whore then I no longer have a lake house. I no longer have a boat. I no longer have a $500,000 home. And I do realize that I got a very raw deal because Jerry Lee let our house go into foreclosure as opposed to getting up off his ass and getting a new job, hoping to wait me out. But I probably wouldn’t have been able to keep that house anyway. 

The way I look at it is this: As long as I follow my own common sense advice and only live on what I can afford on my own then I don’t have to worry about losing my home and everything in it should the man I’m with suddenly decides he wants to fuck a gold digging whore. If I acknowledge the fact that I only have access to his huge house, or his pool, or his boat or his lake house, because he wants to fuck me then I’m not shocked when I no longer have access to any of that if he dumps me. I don’t have to pack up my house. I don’t have to put stickers on everything. I don’t have to move back in with my mom. Would I be sad? Of course! But I’m not having every single goddamn thing I own taken away from me either. 

It’s kind of like if I had a job where I got free concert tickets as a perk of the job, or they allowed me use of their corporate condo in Hawaii. I would expect to only get to use those perks as long as I worked there. I wouldn’t be thinking, “I have a condo in Hawaii.” No, I’d be thinking, “My company has a condo in Hawaii and I get to use it as a perk of my employment.” If I leave the company I don’t have access to that condo in Hawaii anymore. I no longer get free concert tickets. All of those goodies are contingent upon my employment, just like my access to anything I can’t afford on my own is contingent upon my partner still wanting to be with me.

I think the point of this is to not let your bad experiences rule your life, but it doesn’t mean you don’t implement some safe guards. Instead of declaring, “All men (or women) are bad and I’m not getting involved with anyone ever again!” you examine the red flags you missed and the behavior you tolerated in order to stay in that relationship. It’s not, “I’ll never let down my walls!”, or “I’ll never trust again!”.  It’s being willing to have deal breakers. It’s being willing to say, “This is not acceptable to me,”- and meaning it. It means not overlooking bad behavior and coming up with excuses for it. It’s demanding reciprocity and leaving when you don’t get that instead of continuing to wish upon a star that things were different. You don’t twist yourself into a pretzel trying to get someone else to love you and you’re willing to walk away when you realize this person is never going to be who you need them to be.

I don’t think it’s so much that I’ve built up walls or have trust issues. I think I’ve seen the stark reality of what happens when you go into a relationship thinking you’re a team and that you’ve built this life together, and then one person decides they want out. I can love deeply. I can love fiercely. I can let down my walls and I can trust. But I’m not going to be stupid. I’m not going to put myself in a bad situation like I did the first time around. For me, that means I won’t rely on another man financially ever again. I don’t think that means I have trust issues. I think it means I learned a very valuable lesson. I no longer swim in lakes that are known to have alligators in them.

It’s Not Fair

I often read about people lamenting the fact that their cheating spouse has escaped the marriage with no consequences. They seem to have everything and the cheated on spouse is left with a life in shambles. “Where is the justice?” they often ask. “Why does he (or she) get to ride off into the sunset with a new partner while I’m left all alone? Why has my entire life been firebombed and his (or her) life gone on unscathed? Why isn’t my cheater hurting like I am?”

It goes beyond that, of course. There are feelings of despair. They’re tired. Everything is difficult. Life is a struggle for those left behind. And yes, the cheater does seem to have it all- the new house (or maybe the old house), the new partner, vacations, toys. It sucks. It’s unfair. Why do the cheaters get it all while the ones that are cheated on are left to rebuild?

Of course it appears they have it all! They’re cheaters. No, seriously, they’re cheaters. I don’t mean that only in the sense that they physically cheated with another person. They cheated. Period. It was never a level playing field. They got a head start. They already had everything planned before they walked out the door. They’re not mourning the end of a marriage because they’ve either already done that, or they are incapable of doing that. No one dumped them. They weren’t blindsided by you. Their life was not turned upside down against their will. And life will continue to be unfair until you have a chance to catch up.

Yes, they’ve already got a new bed buddy and you’re all alone? Of course they do! It’s not because you’re unworthy and your cheater is awesome so naturally someone else has glommed onto them. No! It’s because they’re a cheater who already had their next victim lined up. You didn’t do that. You thought you were still in a relationship with this person. If you had known what they were up to you could have got your ducks in a row as well. But the “game” is rigged in their favor. They know and you don’t.

Them knowing what’s going on while you don’t means they can prepare for their new life while you’re preparing their dinner. They can hide money. They can blow marital assets on their accomplice(s). They can get you to sign things and take on debt you wouldn’t take on if you knew what was going on. Every move they make is designed to give them a leg up while keeping you mired in the muck.

They’re financially fine because in most of these cases the cheaters are the high earners while the one being cheated on keeps the home, shuttles the children, makes sure everything runs smoothly, and so on and so forth. It’s a non-paying gig. So they walk out the door and your income goes with them.

Strangely, cheaters always seem to profit, regardless of what side they’re on when it comes to financial matters. If the cheater happens to be the one being supported they’ve already figured out what the poor unsuspecting spouse is going to have to pay them in order to get out of the marriage. They have no conscience. Everything is about them so they don’t give a damn about what they’re doing to you.

It would almost be comical if it weren’t so damn tragic but I see it all the time. The stay at home wife that gets cheated on generally ends up getting screwed over by her cheating husband. She spends the rest of her life living way below the standard of living she enjoyed while married. But the cheating stay at home wife, or the cheating stay at home husband, always seem to end up flush with cash after their divorce. Again, cheaters cheat. And not just sexually. In all areas of their life.

New marriage? New baby? New house? Yes, of course. They have those things because their plan was already in motion. You’re still trying tto come to terms with the fact that you were married to a monster and the monster has been planning their exit for months, if not years. While you were planning a future with this person they were planning their exit strategy.

In the end I guess what I’m trying to say is that of course it seems like they have it all. And it’s easy to get down on yourself when you compare.

Remember though that the reason it seems so easy is because they’ve been laying the groundwork far longer than you can imagine.

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.

The Terrible Tragedy That Time Forgot

Do you know what today is? It’s June 11th. That means yesterday was June 10th. It went by without notice by me. I mean, obviously I knew the date. I wrote several reports that day at work citing the date, but it did not give me a single pause.

I went back to see what I wrote about the date last year. Apparently I forgot about it last year as well. The year before I didn’t realize the significance until the day was almost over.

When my world came crashing down on me on that date back in 2016 I thought for sure I would never forget that day. That was the beginning of a very dark period in my life.

These last two years it’s gone back to being just another day and I am so thankful for that. Life does indeed go on. 

If there is one thing I could burn into the brains of those people who are just now going through what I went through it would be that it gets better. It really does. You may not believe it now but the pain will go away. You will gain a life. You will smile and laugh again. You may or may not find love again. You will find happiness. And you will forget those horrible dates.

I’d Love To Be That Naive Again

I’m jealous, folks. I don’t spend much time on Facebook anymore. I get on to check in on the Chump Nation page and take maybe 5-10 minutes to scroll through my feed. I send out a few birthday wishes/happy anniversary wishes, etc. Even with the limited amount of time I’m on there I still see the feeds of seemingly happy couples.

The co-worker I mentioned a few months ago is pregnant and quit her job; she’s going to be a stay at home mom. She’s living the life she’s always wanted to live- living on a farm surrounded by animals with the love of her life and a new baby. My cousin is still at home, baking bread, knitting, and being all domestic. She is honestly rocking this stay-at-home thing. The meals she cooks, the desserts she makes, the fucking artisan bread she bakes, the projects she takes on… it’s amazing. Truly.

I’m not jealous because they’re able to do those things. I’m happy for them. No, I’m envious because they, for whatever reason, have the luxury of believing that this new life they’re crafting with their partner won’t go belly up; the thought that things might not work out and they could lose everything doesn’t even cross their minds. I don’t blame them. I didn’t spend any part of my marriage thinking, “Oh my God! What if he leaves me?” I didn’t prepare for a future without him. I certainly didn’t live my entire life with him in preparation for a divorce. That’s the root of the envy.

I learned the hard way that you can’t ever rely on the other person doing what they’re supposed to do. I learned you need to be prepared to do it all on your own because when you don’t, you’re completely blindsided. I’m envious because they don’t seem to know that; they can throw caution to the wind and depend upon another person. They are quitting their jobs. They are without an income. And they’re fine with it because their husbands will support them. They’re able to take this new life they’re creating for themselves and not think beyond now. It’s all excitement- new houses, new lifestyles, babies, new pets, photo shoots, artisan bread, home projects, and vacations. They’re building a fantastic new life with someone, and they are able to throw themselves whole heartedly into this new chapter of their lives. There is no, “What happens if I quit my job and this person leaves me?” It’s simply a brand new life where they can depend 100% on another person and trust that that person isn’t going to betray them. I really wish I could be that naive again. That is what makes me envious. All that I am I give to you and all that I have I share with you. I wish I still believed that without reservation. I wish I could put my life in another person’s hands and have faith that he will always have my back. I wish I still believed that you work as a team, you build a life together, and you reap the rewards together. You don’t have to keep a tally sheet of who does what and how much your contribution is worth.

Now I see people working as a team, building lives together, making the decision to stay at home, and I think, “You better hope he doesn’t leave. If he does your life is going to spiral out of control. Everything you know to be true today will be over in the blink of an eye. Better yet- you’d better have a backup plan so you can take care of yourself if he does leave.” 

Even worse, I can’t allow myself the luxury of thinking of myself as part of a team. I am horribly aware of how no couple is really a team. You say the words, but the reality is, when that new person catches your eye, you don’t give a fuck about your former “teammate” and you’re certainly not trying to give them a fair share of everything “the team” has accumulated through the years. The team member that was making a six figure salary gets to walk away and move in with the new teammate while still making six figures; their life goes on as normal. Meanwhile, the teammate that wasn’t making the money but was raising the kids, cooking meals, doing all the grocery shopping, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, running the pets to vet appointments, running the kids all around, and generally supporting the money earner from behind the scenes is left alone with no income. Their life changes dramatically.

I know this probably sounds odd coming from me. Or maybe it doesn’t, which is even scarier. I’m very happy with the mobster. Far happier than I ever was with Jerry Lee. I love him and want to spend the rest of my life with him. I still can’t get comfortable with the idea of giving up spousal support in order to marry him or even live with him. Every time I think about it and start to believe that this time would be different because he’s the right person that little voice in my head says, “Listen up! Don’t be an idiot! You’ve already learned the hard way what happens when you can’t stand on your own two feet. You would have to be amazingly stupid to voluntarily give that up and depend on him. You don’t make enough money to be able to afford anything on your own without spousal support.”

That little voice is right. I do know what happens when you depend upon another person. I know what happens when you can’t support yourself. You wind up moving in with your mother and getting rid of almost everything you’ve ever owned and sleeping on the couch. I wish I didn’t know that.

Things have changed a bit since I first began writing this way back in October. The biggest change, of course, is my new job. I actually could support myself now if I gave up spousal support and moved in with or married the mobster. It’s still a good chunk of change though so I’m not eager to give it up. It would also be rather tight because as I said I’ve almost closed the gap. I haven’t done it completely. And when you look at actual take home pay… well, let’s just say I’m not where I want to be without that extra boost.

I like to think I’m mostly unscathed from my divorce; however, I can’t shake that idea that if I can’t afford it on my own then it’s not really mine. It was a hard lesson to learn and I’m not sure if it will ever be unlearned. The funny thing is I think that the mobster and I really would make a great team and could build a fantastic life together. That little voice in the back of my head continues to question though: What if he leaves you? Can you still afford that? Will you be able to take that (whatever “that” happens to be) with you? Will you be able to stand on your own two feet or will you have to return to your mom’s house? Funnier still is the fact that I have no reason to believe he would do that to me. He’s been through all of this himself. I don’t spend time worrying that he’s got one foot out the door or that he’s checking out other women. Hell, we live 600 miles apart and I have never worried about him cheating on me. Maybe that’s stupidity on my part, or maybe it’s a testament to the strong foundation of our relationship. Either way, it’s not something I worry about. And yet… I’m not able to fully commit to joining finances and letting Jerry Lee off the hook.

Fortunately for me the mobster understands. He recently said to me, “You’re terrified to give up spousal support, aren’t you?” Oh yeah. That’s my safety net. I lost everything. I’m not prepared to do that again.

I really wish I could be as naive as some of the people I know when it comes to relationships. I wish I didn’t feel like I always needed an exit plan in case I get discarded. On the other hand, I’m really glad I’m in a position finally where I can stand on my own. I don’t see myself ever giving that up.