Thanksgiving, Part 2

Writing my post late at night (early in the morning) brought back memories of Thanksgivings past, and of what could have been this year. It was a good day, especially considering everything that’s going on. At one point I thought my head would explode. That was back when the CDC, or maybe it was Fauci, was telling everyone to stay home for Thanksgiving and giving lovely alternate ideas, such as a recipe swap or a Zoom Thanksgiving.

Really? A recipe swap? What kind of bullshit is that? 

Hey guys! Instead of eating we’re going to do something different this year. We’re going to swap recipes! Won’t that be fun? I’ll tell Nana how I make my stuffing and she’ll tell me how she makes her famous pumpkin pie. Yeah, we’re not going to eat. We’re just going to swap recipes.

That was about the dumbest idea I think I’ve ever heard. Swapping recipes does not compensate for not seeing your family. It’s not even close. Just don’t even celebrate the damn holiday if that’s what you’re going to do.

I’m equally glad we didn’t have to have a Zoom Thanksgiving.

Hey, that stuffing looks fantastic. Can you put some on my plate? Oh wait! I forgot we’re at two separate houses. Of course you can’t. I’ll just look at it and think about how great it would be if I could actually eat it. At least it’s better than the recipe swap. This time there’s actually food there.

What is the purpose of that? To torture yourself with all the delicious food that you’re not going to be able to eat because it’s at someone else’s house? Why don’t I sit here and watch you eat an entire chocolate cake, too? That should be fun.

I know a lot of people were not going anywhere, instead choosing to celebrate with only their immediate family. I detest holidays like that. My other brother’s wife always talked about wanting to have Christmas with just the immediate family. She described it as her dream Christmas. It was my idea of a nightmare Christmas. I never understood that. To me, if you’re with immediate family only it’s just another day but with more cooking. Being with extended family is part of the magic of the holidays. It was the one time of the year that everyone was together. Maybe I spent too many years trying to celebrate holidays with only me, Jerry Lee, and the kids. There’s a big difference between choosing that and having it forced upon you. Once we moved to Utah we didn’t spend very many Thanksgivings with family. 

We spent eight Thanksgivings out in Utah and of those eight we went home only one of those. One other year my mom and nephew came out to Utah. There might have been a year that his parents came out but I’m not sure; probably not. The rest of the time it was the four of us, and it was not pleasant.

The first year I cooked and cooked and cooked. For four people. Hours spent in the kitchen. Maybe twenty minutes spent eating. And then I got to clean up and we had leftovers for days. Side note: My kids are not big fans of leftovers. 

That was it. That was our big Thanksgiving celebration. Me cooking all day, Jerry Lee holed up in the bedroom watching TV, and my two kids doing God only knows what. They were probably watching television as well.

The next year I tried doing turkey Manhattans to keep the leftovers to a minimum. That didn’t go over well, and I’m sure I still made a ton of side dishes. Jerry Lee always had to have dumplings and macaroni and cheese. Probably stuffing, too.

Finally, Jerry Lee suggested I order dinner from someplace so that I didn’t have to cook. Which I did. But, re-read the previous paragraph. There was still plenty of cooking to be done. Those places don’t let you customize the meal much. You may get a choice between this side or that, but you can’t list everything you want and they whip it up for you. He insisted on having macaroni and cheese. The kids wanted dumplings. They all wanted corn casserole. I wanted the green bean casserole. One year he started getting snippy with me and told me the whole point of ordering out was so that I didn’t have to cook. I told him if I was the one doing all the cooking and they were all getting their favorites then dammit I was going to have the one damn thing I really wanted!

One year I ordered from Marie Callender’s and I swear I spent an hour microwaving food. It was pre-cooked and had to be reheated. It was good, but it still took a lot of time. And there was no green bean casserole. It was a medley of vegetables.

Another year we ordered from Cracker Barrel. Their stuffing was horrible! The rest of it was fine but I usually only eat stuffing once a year so that was a big disappointment.

Yet another year we ordered from one of the grocery stores. The thing I remember the most about that meal was the amazing cranberry and orange salad they had. So good!

There was always more cooking to be done though and it always took about 2 hours. For four people. The same four people I saw every day.

I don’t want it to sound like every year was horrible. The first two were a bit wobbly. Then when I realized this was how our Thanksgivings were going to go from here on out I decided to take matters into my own hands and figure out a way to make the holiday more bearable when everyone else in our extended family was spending it together.

That’s when I came across Feast With the Beast at our zoo. Fortunately, Utah weather is fairly mild, even in the winter months, so we bundled up and headed out to the zoo every Thanksgiving morning. We got to watch the animals have their “feast”.

The elephants were always a huge draw. They would give them these huge, thousand pound pumpkins and let them smash them and eat them. One year the little baby elephant, Zuri, climbed into the pumpkin and just sat there in all her glory. It was adorable.

The first year we heard the mountain lions as they got their treats. They were big hunks of meat and bones. Our backs were turned as we were focused on something else but the snarls and sounds coming from their cage was something I’ll never forget. It was truly impressive. The next year we were all set to watch it from the beginning but for some reason we never got to see them get their feast again. I think maybe the feeding time was after the time we needed to leave to pick up our food. 

The monkeys and lemurs were always a treat, watching them pick through the food.

It actually wasn’t a horrible time. Sure, there were times Rock Star was playing chicken with Mother Nature, declaring she didn’t want to wear a coat and then complaining that she was cold. But she wouldn’t wear her coat. But she’s cold. So on and so forth until the end of time… 

And for some reason going to the zoo on Thanksgiving was a very popular idea out in Utah. The crowds started becoming an issue for Jerry Lee. Every year he got more and more disgruntled with the people there, complaining that nobody could see the primates eating or that you needed to get to the elephant exhibit about an hour before they were going to smash the pumpkins because the crowds were so huge.

Another thing we started doing was going to the movies. I can’t say for certain that we went every Thanksgiving but I’m pretty sure we saw both Frozen and Enchanted on Thanksgiving. Different years, of course. Same holiday. 

Let me tell you, movies are even bigger than the zoo out there. Like, theaters sold out big. Because I always celebrated with extended family up until that point and we didn’t leave the house I had no idea so many people went to the movies on Thanksgiving. It was mind blowing.

I never understood why there were so many crowds. I knew why we were there. We were over 1500 miles away from our families. It was just us. We were trying to get out of the house and create a tradition instead of sitting at home, feeling sorry for ourselves. But these people had families in town! Never in my life had I gone off and done “things” on holidays. Well, okay, one time when I was in my early twenties two of my friends and I went to a bar Thanksgiving evening. But that was well after dinner. Holidays were spent at the house with the family. We didn’t go to the movies or to the zoo. We socialized with one another.

When I was younger, or rather, before my parents divorced, my parents would host Christmas Eve at our house. My grandparents, great-grandparents and aunt would come over for our Christmas dinner. We always got to open one gift before dinner. Then we had to wait until the dishes were done before we could head over to the tree. Gifts would be opened. Toys put together. Clothes tried on. Eventually we went to bed and waited for Santa to arrive in the morning.

On Christmas morning we woke to see what Santa had brought us and then we headed over to my grandmother’s house for Christmas lunch. It was the same guest list, just a different location. We typically spent the entire day over there and as the day turned to evening my grandmother would unpack the refrigerator and lay out the leftovers.

Even once my parents divorced and we no longer spent the holidays with my grandparents Christmas Eve was all about celebrating with the family. No one else.

I still remember the time I went to the movies with my neighbor and her daughter on Christmas Eve. It was the first time ever that I had been outside the house doing something on Christmas Eve. I was astounded that people actually went places on Christmas Eve because that was always our big celebration. 

I remember, too, my ex-boyfriend’s younger sister wanting to go to a party on Christmas Eve and actually being allowed to go after opening Christmas gifts. Another one that left me shocked.

Things did change over the years. Once I started driving I began taking my brother down to my grandparent’s house so we could spend Christmas Day with them while my mom spent the day at her future husband’s house with their friends.

Through the years my mom and stepdad often invited friends who had no where else to go to celebrate with us. Even today my sister-in-law’s brothers will often join us for one or both of the holidays. It’s not as though we’re anti anyone-who-is-not-family. But for me, the holidays will always be about bringing people together, celebrating, eating, and making memories.

I’ve tried it though. This whole spending the day with immediate family only. It was probably Jerry Lee’s idea, come to think of it. It was a disaster. It was Picasso’s very first Christmas. As usual we drove the two hours to my mom’s for Christmas Eve; however; instead of spending the night down at my mom’s house and spending Christmas Day with her and my brother, we went back up to Michigan. I think Jerry Lee wanted to celebrate the day in our house with only us and the two kids. All was well in the beginning. The kids woke up. Rock Star, age two, was excited to see what Santa brought her. I think we may have even saved her gifts from us to open that morning instead of taking them all down to my mom’s.

Then we went to Cracker Barrel for lunch. Only it wasn’t open. Why? Because Cracker Barrel is closed on Christmas Day. I didn’t know that back in 2002. Long story short, we ended up having Christmas dinner at Denny’s. Instead of a home cooked meal with extended family I had a steak at Denny’s. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the rest of the day was spent with Jerry Lee watching TV and me wrangling babies. What a grand holiday!

Then we moved to Utah. The first two years we made it back home for Christmas. The next three years I would take the kids and we would leave the day after Christmas to spend celebrate the holiday with my family. Then after about a week I would drive on down to Jerry Lee’s family and celebrate with them as well. Finally two things happened simultaneously.

First, Rock Star finally became an optional in gymnastics. Their season began in January so taking 2-3 weeks off in December was not going to work. Her coaches would have killed her. Probably thrown her off the team. Secondly, and even more of an issue, was the fact that my kids’ school changed from a year round calendar to a traditional school calendar. When my kids were on the year round schedule they had about 4 weeks off at Christmas time. We had plenty of time to go back home and spend the holidays with family. Once we switched to a traditional calendar they had one week off.

After the first Christmas we spent out in Utah by ourselves, the one where the kids opened their gifts Christmas Eve morning and there was nothing to do the rest of the day, I made it a point to fill that day with activities. We went bowling. Sometimes we went to the movies. We went out to dinner. And then we came home and opened Christmas presents. 

The bowling alley was always packed on Christmas Eve and there was a decent crowd at the movies as well. Not as big as Thanksgiving but not empty theaters either.

I can’t complain about our Christmases out there. Aside from the year I nearly had a meltdown because I had been looking forward to our “Crabby Christmas” at Joe’s Crab Shack for months only to not be able to eat at Joe’s Crab Shack, they were pretty good days. Then again, I jam packed those suckers, too, and it’s not like we sat at home doing nothing.

All of this wandering down memory lane only to say I’m very thankful I was able to spend it with family after all.

Patience While Riding a Roller Coaster

Whew! Do I have a story to tell you all. Sit down, buckle up, and maybe pour a stiff drink (or not so stiff) before we begin because this is a long one.

When I last left you I was playing a waiting game. Nothing was progressing. They’d seemed all gung ho to get this over and done with; Jerry Lee’s lawyer was constantly playing “Let’s Make a Deal” with no actual deal offered. Then- radio silence.

Monday afternoon, around 3:30 or 4:00 I got an email from my attorney’s legal assistant. She was asking for my pay information going back to July of 2018, which would have been the month after Rock Star graduated. What’s that you say? I lost it! It was one of those moments where I wish I had been wearing a mask at work because I was muttering under my breath left and right. Motherfucker!

Here my lawyer had not balked one bit at calculating arrears at the full amount of the court order. Now all of a sudden I’m being asked to submit every single one of my pay raises, you know the big fifty cent ones, back to July 2018. Now it seemed that perhaps they were only going to go after the difference between what he should have been paying and what he actually paid. Really?

Of course my phone was almost dead so I couldn’t return the phone call. I had to wait until after work and until I walked to my car so I could plug my phone back in and begin to charge it. To say I was on edge for the next 60 minutes was an understatement.

Once I talked to her legal assistant (let’s call her Sally) she quickly put my fears to rest- mostly. She said according to the law Jerry Lee should have to pay the $902.90 difference but the judge did have discretion in this case. She wanted to be prepared with all of the numbers in case he decided to do it that way. She didn’t want him to have to continue the case and have me have to drive back. She did say that more than likely that’s the way he would rule (for the entire amount, not the difference) but better safe than sorry.

I also got an email from my attorney (let’s call her Jane) letting me know that Jerry Lee was claiming poverty- only $2000 to his name. Funny, because according to his bank records he (they) just rented a vacation home for $1800… His best offer was to continue paying child support after Picasso graduated from high school. She also told me he was going to claim inability to pay seeing as how I take over 50% of his take home pay. He has no way to pay towards the arrears or towards the lawyer’s fees. I’m going to refer you to the sentence above.

He’s got money to pay for an expensive vacation rental. He’s got money to rent another amazing house. Oh yeah, we found that, too. At one point I thought he might have actually cashed in his 401k to put a down payment on it but I believe he’s still renting. They’ve got $900 to blow at Better Homes & Gardens. They got a stimulus check; yeah, he wasn’t making nearly as much as I thought he was at the second job. If you deduct the spousal support he paid he’s under the threshold needed to get a check. He gets a tax refund each year. In other words, he has money he could pay towards his arrears and legal fees, but he chooses not to. It’s more important for Harley the Hillbilly Whore to live in a better home than she’s ever lived in in her life and for them to go on vacation than it is for him to fulfill his obligations.

Essentially, we went from me getting a lump sum, plus an additional $500 and him continuing to pay that amount until all arrears and fees are paid, to him being willing to continue to pay child support after Picasso graduated- which the courts would make him do anyway. I let her know I was not feeling charitable and listed all the different means from which he should be able to pay, or could have been paying more towards all of this- his stimulus check, bonus checks, tax refund, 401k. I also reiterated that it seemed to me staying out of court benefitted him more than it did me.

I went to work on Tuesday a little dejected. Even though not going to court was more his benefit, I do get nervous about it. You never know what will happen. I was hoping we could reach a deal that I could control and stay out of court. Plus, I would be able to drive directly to the mobster instead of making a layover in Harrisonburg.

I left at noon on Tuesday. I got a phone message from Jane about 20 minutes before I was due to leave. I was pretty much finished with everything I needed to do so I returned the call immediately. She conferenced in Sally. Basically, Jerry Lee’s attorney was doing his best to reach a deal. The offer was now a lump sum of $2000 (all the money he has to his name), an additional $1000 a month towards arrears, and he would continue paying support after Picasso graduated (a given).

That’s nice but it’s not enough. I decided to go for it. I asked Jane if I could get it ordered for him to pay me through direct deposit from his company. I am done playing these games with him. I’m tired of never knowing when I’m going to get paid, how much he’s going to pay, if he’s going to pay… This way I would know exactly when to expect the money. I also wanted it put in there that the spousal support arrears are tax free for me. If he gets to pay me over a long period of time instead of coming up with a lump sum then he doesn’t get to deduct that from his taxes. Even better I don’t have to pay taxes on them. She balked a little on that one but I assured her it was definitely possible if he agreed. She said she’d put it in there.

Then she added in talk of interest on the arrears. I had completely forgotten about that.

Finally I mentioned when Picasso graduates next June. I told her I knew it was small potatoes compared to everything else but I wanted to know if we could put something in there about how to calculate that last month’s child support instead of going through him prorating the amount down to the half hour once again.

“Oh, we’re going to have him pay the entire amount for June.”

How you like that, Jerry Lee? Fuck me over and prorate support down to 8:30 the night your daughter graduates? Now you get to pay for the entire month of June when Picasso will actually graduate sometime between the 7th and the 11th.

She said she was going to email Jerry Lee’s attorney and try to get this done. I let her know that I had about 2 hours once I got on the road to make a decision as to which city I would be going to.

Problems ensued. The log I was supposed to send didn’t get delivered for some reason so I had to resend it while on the road. We still hadn’t heard back by the time I was supposed to exit to go to Fieldale so I continued on to Harrisonburg.

We stopped in Ohio to eat lunch. While we were eating I got a call from my attorney. He had agreed to everything! She was literally hanging up with the other attorney to take my call. His lawyer point blank told him he needed to sign or he was going to go to jail. My own attorney couldn’t believe it. As she said, “What an idiot!” I’m not sure if she was referring to Jerry Lee or to his lawyer. She said she would have never agreed to what we asked for.

I was breathing a sigh of relief. Thank God it was over! I couldn’t believe it either. I was almost giddy as the tension left my body. Onward to Fieldale- even though I was now about an hour, maybe an hour and a half, off track. We exited the toll road and headed towards the mobster. Sadly my victory celebration was short-lived.

Around 4:30 I happened to see another email from her. She was forwarding a message she had sent to his attorney. Apparently they were just now figuring out that the child support arrears were not being calculated at the difference between what he should have been paying and what he was paying, but the difference between the original amount ordered and what he had been paying. I thought it had been too good to be true. I was shocked that Jerry Lee wasn’t fighting me on that. His attorney was trying to argue that it wasn’t fair for him to have to pay support for Rock Star because she had aged out of support. Jane went on to point out to him that she had told him there was no Motion to Modify; that was why we were now modifying the child support. More importantly, I was agreeing to modify it now at the same time we were getting this crap done instead of making him file his own damn motion. She was much nicer about it, of course, but that was the gist of it.

I had just finished dictating a response to my mom when my attorney called me. She told me the lightbulb had finally gone off for them (maybe just Jerry Lee?) and he was balking at signing now. He claimed we had an agreement. I told her we had never had an agreement. She was able to pull up all of our correspondence and see that that was true. He refused to accept the numbers she threw out in early December. By January I had decided to go with the state because it was free.

The difference between the two amounts was approximately $20,000. She wanted to know what I wanted to do. Did I want to secure the deal by taking $20,000 less? When I balked at that she offered potentially splitting the difference as well.

I had pulled into a gas station so I could take the phone off of speaker. A million different thoughts were running through my head. I could take the deal. Screw myself and my kids out of $20,000. You all know I’ve been back and forth about whether or not I was truly entitled to that money. It should have been modified. At the same time, he dug his heels in and refused to do so, putting it instead on me. The pro to the deal is I would have the money directly deposited into my account. The $11,000 in spousal support arrears would be tax free. That would be huge. I could also give a little and split the difference. Same pros, same cons. I took a deep breath and told her I wanted to go to court.

Fuck that! I’ve already made enough concessions. I was supposed to have $25,000 by the end of 2018. He never paid and he made it very clear he had no intentions of doing so. His email response to my request was a blunt, “I don’t have it.” Period. No offer to work with me. Not to mention he didn’t even bother to sign his damn name. If I went to court the judge would more than likely order at least 25% of the arrears. Even though my attorney pointed out that they would only calculate the actual arrears and not the legal fees, he would still be ordered to pay a minimum of more than $4000. He was offering up $2000. I had been as gracious as I was going to be. I knew that if I went to court I would lose the tax free spousal support. I knew there was a possibility he wouldn’t bother with ordering Jerry Lee to pay me via direct deposit because, as Jane always pointed out, a Georgia company doesn’t need to follow a Virginia judge’s orders. I had given as much as I was going to give. I might lose some things I wanted by going to court, but I wasn’t going to face an ass chewing either- or potential jail time.

She told me she was going to call his attorney and tell him we would see him in court. I wasn’t going to budge. She would call me back after she had talked to opposing counsel; in the meantime, I should set my GPS to Harrisonburg. I love a change of plans; don’t you?

I had the directions to Harrisonburg on my phone while my mom had the directions to Fieldale on hers. I was still hoping his attorney could talk some sense into him. At the moment the course we were on could take us to either Harrisonburg or Fieldale, but at some point that path would diverge and I would be forced to take one path or the other. Onward we drove.

6:00 I get another call from Jane. She had been talking to his attorney. She had forwarded him all the documentation proving that we never had an agreement about child support modification. She point blank told him she was going to show he had money to pay towards arrears. She was going to ask for jail time. She wouldn’t be offering to modify child support at this hearing; he would have to make a separate motion. The legal fees she had computed would also be going up. After her phone call to him she said he had told her he would be telling Jerry Lee to sign the papers or risk going to jail. Apparently his attorney knew this was not looking good for Jerry Lee. She told me she would call back and let me know if he followed his attorney’s advice but she was confident he would agree.

At 6:45 I get another phone call from her. He was refusing to sign; he was going to fight it. His attorney told him if he wasn’t going to sign then he needed to get in his car and get up to Virginia. He had to be at the hearing. No excuses this time. Damn! Even my lawyer sounded dejected.

I have to say I was pretty calm considering I had gone from an incredible high of getting pretty much what I wanted, down to a low of thinking there was no deal, back up when it looked like he was being advised to sign, and now once again being told I was going to have to appear in court.

As I told Jane I still remember going to court and having the judge modify spousal support back to June when Jerry Lee didn’t make an effort to modify it until November. I knew it wasn’t a sure thing. I knew there was a possibility that child support modifications could be scaled back by $20,000. I wasn’t going to get tax free spousal support arrears. I probably wouldn’t get my money via direct deposit.

As I drove on I practiced what I was going to say if his attorney asked me about my efforts to get child support modified. I was terrified the judge would say I knew it needed to be modified and I had somehow agreed to take on that task by starting the process. I was dreading being interrogated on the stand once again, although Jane had told me all I would be doing is going over my support log and answering the question, “Did you want legal fees from today’s proceedings?” Sounds simple enough but it was terrifying nonetheless. I told myself to buck up. I’m a goddamn warrior. If I was going down I was going down fighting. I would drag that sonofabitch through the mud. I hoped that at least I would get to witness the judge throwing the book at him. I wanted jail time!

Meanwhile, because of all the twists and turns during our trip the drive to Harrisonburg took an additional hour, at least. Plus I was driving state highways instead of toll roads and interstates. Why is that important? It’s important because instead of driving to the hotel from a nicely lit, straight interstate I was driving around a dark mountain from approximately 11 pm until 12:30 am. I am going to lobby to have mountains and countryside roads well lit! We counted at least 6 deer grazing along the side of the road, with one of them deciding to run across the road in front of me. Delightful! We finally checked into the hotel at 1 am. I made notes for court until 1:30 and then set my alarm for 6 am so I could get up and run 3 miles.

I didn’t run after a mere four and a half hours of sleep because I’m an exercise fanatic. I ran because I needed to alleviate my stress. Get it all out! I sweated for a good 50 minutes before heading back to the room to shower and get ready.

My mom and I arrived at the courthouse about 8:40. Court was at nine. We were sitting on the bench waiting for Jane. I closed my eyes and took a few deep breaths. I dreaded seeing Jerry Lee. I didn’t think he’d bring Harley along. He’d waited long enough that I didn’t think she could reasonably accompany him if she had a job. Plus, even if she could have got the day off she probably didn’t have childcare for her youngest. He’s probably around 12 now but I still wouldn’t leave him home alone while I traveled 8 hours away. Then again…

We finally saw Jane coming towards us. She said she saw Jerry Lee’s lawyer enter the courthouse but she hadn’t seen Jerry Lee. We went on in and headed to our courtroom.

Inside the courtroom sat Jerry Lee’s lawyer. No Jerry Lee in sight. Maybe he was meeting him there.

He looks at Jane and says something about the signed Consent Order. She looks at him and says, “What?”

“I told you last night we had a deal.”

Uh, no. No you didn’t. She told him she must have misunderstood because she had been working on exhibits for court from 8-10 last night because he had told her Jerry Lee wouldn’t sign.

I’m a bit fuzzy on the details but I do know he mentioned something about Jerry Lee turning around and heading back to Georgia. It sounds like Jerry Lee was planning on fighting it but then decided it wasn’t worth it, or the pain that the judge was going to bring down on him wasn’t going to be worth the $20,000 he was going to save.

My lawyer apologized profusely and told me she didn’t charge me for the time she spent working on the exhibits. Hopefully that would offset the amount of money I had to pay for the hotel room.

By 9:45 we were out of there. The judge went over all the details of the Consent Order and made sure Jerry Lee was not claiming inability to pay. He did remember him from our trial almost 3 years ago. The case remains on the docket to follow up and make sure Jerry Lee is complying with the order.

Oh, and while I was reading the order I asked Jane if we were beginning the new amount next month or this month because the order said July 2020. She realized that was a typo and should be July of 2021. At that point she whispered, “I wish you lived closer. I would hire you in a heartbeat and I would pay you a lot better than what the bank is paying you.”

That’s my story. I WON! AGAIN! I didn’t cave. I’m so happy I didn’t take the reduced offer. Hell, I’m glad I didn’t take the “split the difference” offer. I don’t know and I don’t care what his thinking was. Maybe he figured he could bluff me and I would eventually back down and go the easy, surefire route. That might have worked if I had just as much to lose as he did. But I didn’t. I was willing to go to court and let the judge decide, even if it meant I didn’t get everything I wanted. I kept reminding myself that not going to court benefited him, not me. I was already being more than flexible. I was willing to let him pay me back $60,000+ over a period of years instead of having the judge order to him to pay me immediately, or at least a much greater chunk immediately. If he couldn’t see the allowances I was willing to make, well, he could try his luck with the judge. No. More. Concessions.

Now I get the entire $23,000+ in back child support plus interest. I get tax free spousal support arrears. I get an additional $1000 per month for the next 3+ years. True, it’s all going into savings, but I get it. Best of all he can no longer mess with me. I get that money directly deposited into my account every time he gets paid. No more nasty messages. No more obscene emojis. No more not knowing when or how much he’ll pay.

Oh, and I forgot. There is a suspended jail sentence in the order which means if he fucks up and decides to play games again he goes to jail. Jane told me to text him my account information and if he gave me any attitude to let her know. She also said that all the arrears were calculated through this month so I won’t receive any spousal support but I will receive the $2000 lump sum he’s supposed to pay. That’s okay. I have money set aside and it will only end up being an $800 difference. She told me to let her know if he doesn’t get it set up because she will haul him back to court.

I’m also very glad I advocated for myself and asked for the things I wanted, like the direct deposit and the tax free spousal support. I stood strong. I refused to take less than my kids and I deserved. I put my big girl panties on and I marched forward even when my heart was pounding out of my chest. It wasn’t fast.  It took a lot of patience and a lot of determination. God knows I have dealt with roadblock after roadblock.

This saga began back in June of 2018. He refused to modify support and refused to pay any more towards Picasso. Then he refused the numbers my attorney gave him, being an ass about it all the way. I’ve been trying to garnish him since January of 2019. What was supposed to take four-six months took over a year and then just dead-ended when he moved out of Mississippi to Georgia. I never heard from my caseworker after I last emailed her in March. Jane took over a year to get through all of her pending divorce cases and finally work on my contempt case. But dammit, I just kept pushing on; I saw it through. I didn’t quit. I never gave up. The asshole tax is real and Jerry Lee will be paying it for at least three years.

I didn’t get the life insurance clause added in there like I wanted. I didn’t get as big of a lump sum as I wanted. We also didn’t bring up him needing to pay me bonuses and tax refunds to reduce his arrears and fees sooner. I’m sure he has the ability to pay; he just doesn’t want to. According to their bank records they bring home over $14,000 a month. That’s more than when we were together and he was the only one working. Even with the $4000+ he’ll be paying out for the next 3 years he’s got as much income coming into the house as he did when we were together. I’d say they’re doing quite well for themselves. I don’t feel a bit sorry for him. I’m sure he’ll spin it to whoever will listen that I’m a greedy, gold digging, vindictive bitch that has poisoned his kids against him and tries to take every dime from him. I’m sure it’s all my fault that he owes this because I lied and told him I’d take care of it for him. Guess what? I don’t give a fuck. Go be happy with your whore. Leave me alone and make sure that direct deposit is set up.

This saga is over finally! Thank God! I’m going to say it again: I WON!

The Beat Goes On

Happy Independence Day! I think I may almost be free of Jerry Lee’s stupidity. Here’s an update for anyone interested.

I did write my lawyer back and informed her that Picasso had not graduated from high school yet. I asked, “Doesn’t he have to pay until Picasso graduates from high school?” Yes. He’s going to have to wait to prorate child support down to the half hour until next June.

She wrote me back and let me know, to no surprise of my own, that what his lawyer was offering up was something that would happen anyway. In Virginia if your child has been emancipated and you still owe arrears you continue to pay those arrears in the form of your previously ordered child support. So whether he offered to do so or not, he would be ordered to continue paying child support until the arrears were paid off.

She told me that if we went to court he would probably be ordered to pay at least 25% towards his arrears in order to stay out of contempt. Why that would be acceptable is beyond me. He was given a year to pay the attorney’s fees; he was reminded at the one year point and his response was, “I don’t have it.” That was it. No, “Can we work together to come up with a plan?”. No offer to pay extra to meet that obligation. Certainly didn’t think to pay me a chunk from a bonus if he got one, a tax refund, or a stimulus check. Now it’s going on two years since it was due and the courts will only require him to pay 25%? Hard to believe, but that’s the information I’m being given.

With that in mind my attorney suggested we work towards getting a lump sum paid towards spousal support and then tacking on an additional $500 to his current obligation. Plus, he will continue paying child support and the extra $500 until he has caught up. By my calculations even if he begins paying the extra $500 in August it will still take him over two years to pay his arrears.

I let her know my problem with this is that Jerry Lee doesn’t follow court orders very well. I think that’s being generous. I told her I would prefer to see what he’s actually making and if there are any bonuses. I wanted to know if it could be written that he would turn over any bonuses and tax refunds to get his arrears paid off more quickly. I really do not like the idea of him having more than two years to play games with me.

Yes, the extra money would be nice but it’s not really extra money. That $25,000 was supposed to go towards paying off my remaining bills and going into a savings account to go towards taxes and possibly a house of my own. The $10,000+ he owes in spousal support will need to be set aside as well for taxes. And the child support? Well, that is extra money. It’s money I can use to help Rock Star while she’s in college. It’s money I can use to help Picasso buy a car once he gets his license. It’s money for Christmas gifts. It’s money for savings. It just seems to be easier when you collect it in one lump sum to put it away and do with it what you should. Getting an extra $500 a month requires discipline. Not that I don’t have it, of course. But, it’s also a matter of things taking longer as well.

Anyway, this is the best part. My attorney let his attorney know that Picasso was still in high school so his client would still be paying child support for him. At this news the opposing counsel  asked if it would still be possible to work out a deal and have his client continue paying support after his obligation would have ended. He asked about his client coming up with either a lump sum or a little extra each month for the next year and then putting the plan into place. So my attorney writes back and lets him know that currently his client owes me in excess of $50,000 and that’s BEFORE attorney’s fees related to this latest show-cause hearing. She even put before in capital letters. She gave him a proposal and told him that she did not think the judge was going to be happy with Jerry Lee seeing as how not only has he made no attempts to pay the original $25,000 he was ordered to pay, but also he has accrued more arrears.

For those keeping count, this would be the THIRD time he’s behind in support. He’s a goddamn West Point military graduate. They pound honor and duty into their heads the entire four years they’re there. Yet he regularly puts his cousin and her children, also his cousins, ahead of his own children and neglects to pay his support obligations in a timely manner.

She went on to tell him she thought that a negotiated settlement would be much better for him than facing the judge. As Bill Murray said in “Stripes”, “That’s a fact, Jack!”

Finally, she mentioned Jerry Lee potentially paying off larger chunks of his obligation with any bonuses he may receive, and suggested we exchange income information so that we can finally modify child support. Of course, Jerry Lee will be paying for this because he’s paying the legal fees for this latest go-round.

We’ll see if he takes the offer. Really I think I should have hit him harder but my lawyer jumped the gun a bit. I should have gone ahead and told her my proposal was that he pay the $25,000 in a lump sum. I would allow him to pay the back child support in regular payments after Picasso graduates. As for the spousal support he could either pay me in one lump sum, or he could pay me in payments with the caveat that if he chooses the payment plan, he will take the hit on the taxes, not me.

That would have been a much better plan, although I don’t know if he has $25,000 sitting around. Probably not because Harley likes to spend it as soon as he makes it. I try to be prudent instead of vengeful. I could demand the full payment but if even the courts wouldn’t make him pay it all in one lump sum I don’t know what good it would do. I’m just trying to get this done with the least amount of anxiety and money as possible. Of course, I’ll also be asking about some sort of clause we can put in there that says if he defaults on this for any reason something horrible happens to him- whether that’s we automatically go back to court and there will be no settlement talks, he goes to jail, or he faces an automatic fine. I’m tired of him playing these games and deciding on his own that he’s going to switch up the rules. Hopefully this puts an end to it.

Here’s What I’m Willing To Do For You!

I have court in a little less than 2 weeks. Supposedly Jerry Lee and his new lawyer were going to write up an offer. I haven’t seen one yet. I did get an email from my attorney today, though.

Apparently in reviewing his client’s file he “realized” that Jerry Lee was due a reduction in child support because Picasso had turned 18. Jerry Lee is generously willing to continue paying what he’s already paying and apply that to the balance owed. That’s his amazing offer so far.

Never mind the fact that yes, his son did turn 18 yesterday, but he just finished his junior year of high school. Never mind the fact that he won’t begin his senior year until next month. Never mind the fact that he doesn’t graduate until June of 2021. He’s 18 now so he’s on his own as far as Daddy is concerned. Oh, and never mind the fact that a quick Google search clearly spells out that child support stops at age 18 UNLESS the 18 year old is a full time student.

His big offer is he’ll stop paying legitimate court ordered child support on his son who has not yet graduated from high school in order to make up for the two years where he self-modified child support the moment his daughter graduated. It’s a two-for, if you think about it.

One, he gets out of child support actually being modified and reflecting what he should be paying for his son. Two, he gets to forego actually supporting his son and instead get a head start on those arrears he built up by being a stubborn, know-it-all ass.

Yeah, no. That’s not going to happen. I emailed my attorney back and informed her that Picasso was not due to graduate until next June. I’m not taking some half-baked offer to make his life easier. That man knows his son did not graduate, and he knows it’s not because he flunked his senior year. He is perfectly aware of the fact that we delayed sending him to school for an additional year. I cannot believe how stupid he is sometimes.

No, I can. He’s “conveniently” stupid. He doesn’t bother to research the law when it might not benefit him. He’ll just play dumb instead and see if I’m as dumb as he’s hoping I might be.

I am a little nervous about court. You never know how it will play out. I feel like I have the law on my side. Jerry Lee has not done the right thing at any point in this. But you never know. Cross your fingers for me, say a prayer, put it out into the universe, light a candle, meditate, do whatever you do to bring peace and luck to someone. Please and thank you!

As Joe Kenda Would Say, “My, My, My…”

My, my, my… what do you know? When faced with a contempt hearing it turns out he can pay what he’s been ordered to pay. At least as far as spousal support goes. He’s still holding out on modifying child support, of course, but he is paying the court ordered amount of spousal support. For now.

Life is so full of mysteries. Like, how even though he’s making more money now than when the original order came down, he couldn’t seem to come up with enough money to pay what was owed. I wonder if that’s because he doesn’t take into consideration his court ordered obligations before he decides where to live or how much he (they) can spend. Or, how he’s suddenly able to pay the full amount now that a court hearing is on the horizon. Do you think I would have seen that full amount unless he found out he was going back to court? I don’t.

I would have loved to have seen the look on his face when he found out I was taking him back for the missing spousal support AND $19,000 in back child support where he hasn’t modified the order. Even if I don’t get it just the thought of what he must have looked like when he found out is enough to make me smile. That doesn’t even include the legal fees he has yet to pay.

Thank you to everyone who mentioned the possibility of me getting his stimulus check because of back support. I don’t think that’s a possibility for several reasons, the main one being he makes too much money. He supposedly made $100,000 at the job in Kentucky. I would bet dollars to donuts that he got quite the nice raise when he made the move to Mississippi and yet another nice raise when he went to Georgia.

Then I started thinking about the possibility of them filing a joint income tax return so perhaps the stimulus check would be based upon their joint income. I don’t think she makes enough to disqualify herself from getting a check but I do think she probably makes over the $75,000 threshold, and together they make more than a couple can make and still get a check. I did think that would be hilarious though if they did get a stimulus check based upon the fact that she might qualify and then I turned around and got their check. I mean, I would find it hilarious; I’m sure they wouldn’t think it was anywhere near as funny.

Plus, I’m not even sure he’s on record as being behind. I really have no idea the status of my case, or if they’re at the point where they could take tax refunds and stimulus checks. I submitted my garnishment papers and have stated he never modified child support which makes him, oh, around $19,000 behind, but I don’t know that anyone at the state has actually entered that anywhere. In other words, I don’t know if any official enforcement office considers him to be in arrears.

Speaking of the glorious state of Indiana… I still have not heard from my caseworker. I emailed her close to a month ago, maybe more. I don’t know if she’s still working there, been fired or quit. I don’t know if she’s ignoring me. I don’t know if she told others to ignore me. I don’t even know if she knows at this point that he no longer lives in Mississippi. If she does she sure as hell hasn’t informed me. Maybe she’s hoping I’ll just go away.

Quite honestly, she may be getting her wish. My lawyer can’t understand why a judge in whatever state needs to be the one to modify the court order. I’m not going through this shit again. I won’t be able to get anything in place until December or January at the earliest. Picasso graduates in June. I’m supposed to go through all this crap in order to get less than six months of a garnishment? I don’t think so. My plan right now is to sit my lawyer down once I get the new order and have her help me fill out the forms I’ve printed off. Then I’ll send it directly to his place of employment. Once I know how to fill out the forms I’ll just keep a set handy for the next time he decides to switch jobs and I’ll send them to the next place as well. I hear the turnaround for that is pretty damn quick compared to the six freaking months it took to get… well, nowhere really. All that time only to finally get to the finish line and find out the motherfucker has moved again and no longer lives in Mississippi.

Oh well, in a world where people are being laid off left and right I still have a job, he’s still got a job, and he’s at least smart enough to continue paying.

Will I Ever Catch a Break?

Yesterday I told you Jerry Lee had hired a lawyer for the hearing and that the sheriff’s department reported his address was a vacant residence.

I also got word from my lawyer that thanks to the lovely coronavirus all court cases have been continued. Fortunately, as soon as I sign and notarize the affidavit she sent me the judge will sign off on re-opening the case. So while the Motions Day is not going to happen I will get my case re-instated. That’s the good news. Probably the only good news.

She also told me that she talked with Jerry Lee’s new attorney. She’s not familiar with him and all she could tell me about him was that he was young. Yeah, I think we all saw Matt Damon in The Rainmaker. I’m not taking anything for granted.

They (the lawyer and Jerry Lee) are planning on sending a proposal for settlement, i.e. a payment plan (or so she believes). I personally think he’s going to toss out some ridiculously low number and expect me to take that.

Yes, I know that I owe you over $50,000. What I’m proposing is that I pay you $10,000 over the course of 5 years.

His apparent eagerness to settle this out of court had me curious. Why so eager? What are you hiding, Jerry Lee?

Turns out Jerry Lee and Harley have moved to yet another state! And they are down yet another child. Again, I would like to point out I started this divorce out with 2 children; I still have 2. Harley started out with 4; she’s down to 1.

You know what this means, don’t you? My whole garnishment case is down the fucking drain. I contacted the caseworker over the weekend. Well, I emailed her. I told her what the sheriff’s department had said and asked if she had heard anything from the state of Mississippi. I have yet to hear back from her.

Regardless, it’s all now a moot point. Mississippi can’t do anything. I have no idea what Georgia child support laws are like or how tough they are on parents who don’t pay. It doesn’t really matter though. I’m in the middle of getting it modified through Virginia. I won’t have a court date until July. Oh yeah, that’s part of the bad news. No court until July at the very earliest. Hooray!

I couldn’t get anything done for months and now I finally have a chance to appear before the judge and get arrears. Do I try to reach a new agreement with him and get things like insurance coverage and medical coverage for my daughter, only to turn around and garnish him in Georgia? If my dipshit caseworker is correct and we have to have the judge in Georgia modify the court order, even if we’ve reached a new agreement, will I end up getting screwed? What happens if the case goes to Georgia and the judge there uses his actual income instead of imputed income, assuming he’s not out earning his imputed income, of course? I would have done okay in Mississippi because they’re a single income state. They’re one of only four, so my chances of Georgia doing it that way as well is pretty slim.

In addition to those worries, if we reach a new agreement, and the judge only enforces it instead of modifying it, we still can’t move ahead with it until July. Then I need to give Georgia 60-90 days and the county another 45 days. That’s 4 1/2 months. After July. That brings us to the beginning of December at the earliest. My son will be halfway through his senior year by the time Jerry Lee is finally garnished at the rate this is going. Will they continue to garnish him for spousal support once the child support ends? I don’t know.  If they don’t it seems kind of silly to go through all this hell for six months of garnished child support.

I turned my garnishment papers in on January 25th, 2019. More than a year ago. I had my interstate meeting on September 10th. Over six months ago. He’s still not garnished. He’s not even close. He’s moved twice, each time to a different state, since I’ve started this. We’re back to square one. Now I get to wait. Once again. And be at his mercy. He gets to continue to pay what he wants, when he wants. It’s lovely. I’m going to go cry now.

The Wheels of Justice

The wheels of justice don’t seem to move one damn bit. Okay, I’ll start with the “good” news.

I got notice that my lawyer will be appearing in court to get my case re-instated on the 18th. It sounds like Jerry Lee was served right around Valentine’s Day, if not ON Valentine’s Day. I suppose that explains the new amount of spousal support he paid on the 29th.

He’s still off. As you may know he modified support on his own back in May last year. Upon finding out that he had had a job pretty much the entire time I let him know he was $700 a month short and asked him if he was going to continue to pretend like he didn’t have a job and was paying all he could, or if he would be paying the correct amount. From that moment he upped the amount he was giving me but he was still short by more than $370. Now, he’s taking the amount he has been paying me (the one that is $370 short) and then adding the $370 onto it. Of course, I don’t know if this will be a long term thing or not because he’s only done it once. If he is planning on keeping this up until we go to court then the end result will be I’m getting a little over $200 more than what he’s court ordered to pay. We’ll see. I don’t have high hopes for him.

Nevertheless, it’s a small victory of justice. It only took four months to finally get before the judge to put it on the docket, and it will probably be another two-three months before we actually have a court date, but those old, rusty wheels are moving finally.

Now for the bad news. I still have not heard anything from my caseworker or the state of Mississippi. Hell, it’s possible the judge there took jurisdiction and my attorney will go before the judge and he’ll have to throw out most of her case.

I’m going to do a little PSA right now. Start garnishment proceedings immediately after your divorce is finalized. Some people are lucky and their state requires payment to go through them. If you’re not one of those lucky ones run directly from the courtroom to the clerk’s office or wherever you need to go in order to get the payments garnished. Especially if you have a very special ex who moved out of state. Doubly so if not only did your ex move out of state but also if your ex forced you into leaving the state in which you got said divorce. That’s an even more special kind of clusterfuck.

I turned my papers in on January 25th. Back in 2019. It’s been more than a year and he’s still not garnished.

I realize I stopped the process in the summer based upon the information I was given. The caseworker scheduled the interstate meeting. I told her I was withdrawing my case. She told me all I could do was NOT show up. There is a month between my last email to her (June 12th) when I told her I was withdrawing and when I found out he had a job, and had in fact had a job the entire time (July 15th). My original interstate meeting was scheduled sometime in that month. In August I gave my caseworker the go ahead to set up a new interstate appointment so that I could move forward. And keep in mind, me hitting pause didn’t matter anyway. By the time I had my original interstate appointment and she sent everything off to Kentucky he was already living in Mississippi. We’d still be on the same time frame. Hell, we might even be a little further behind because Kentucky wouldn’t have been obligated to let her know he was no longer a resident for 60-90 days. That would have brought us to September- which is when I ended up meeting with her anyway- or possibly, October.

Now it’s been six months since my interstate appointment. When I walked out of her office she told me to give it 60-90 days. Maybe I’m a little fuzzy on the day to month ratio but I thought 60-90 days was basically two to three months. Not six.

Of course, once we get close to the supposed 60-90 day timeframe I’m told that now the county has another 45 days to make a decision. Again, a little fuzzy on the ratio but I could have sworn that amounted to approximately 6 weeks. Are these business days or calendar days? The caseworker has never said. Apparently they like everything to be a big surprise.

She’s never said if I’m notified, how I’m notified, what else I have to look forward to, what kind of timeline I should expect. I flat out asked her for a time frame on when I could expect garnishment to begin and her response was a decisive, “I don’t know. I don’t have a timeline for you.”

I, too, have a job. It might surprise her to know that I’m frequently called with questions. My answer has never been, “I don’t know.” If I don’t know the answer to a question I either ask around or I point them in the direction of the person or department who would know.

I’m not asking for a minute by minute play. I’d simply like to know what’s going to happen next and what is the general time frame for this to occur. For example: First, we need to do A. Then we will do B. Then C. Then D. Then E. Obviously I can’t give you an exact time that this will be over but A usually takes x amount of time, B usually takes Y amount of time, C usually takes about z amount of time, and so on and so on. That’s business days, not calendar days by the way, so you need to mark out all weekends and federal holidays. This is what you need to do at each step. You will be notified in this manner.

Is that so difficult? I don’t need hard and fast dates. Just a damn timeline. The 60-90 days has come and gone. The last time I heard from my caseworker was February 5th, over a month ago. She had called the Child Support office on January 29th and reached a person working at the help desk. The caseworker was supposed to call her back. Over a month later and I’ve never heard any follow up. Maybe the county decided not to take the case. Maybe all of this has been for nothing. Who knows? Not me! It’s one big surprise!

In the meantime I get to keep guessing when, how much, and if Jerry Lee will pay me what he’s supposed to. Actually I already know he’s not going to pay me what he’s supposed to. He hasn’t in almost two years.

My son graduates in 15 months. At that point this whole issue will be a moot point. I’m laying 50/50 odds on whether or not this is completed by then.

P.S. Also just found out the address I had for him is a vacant residence, which means he’s moved again. It also somewhat explains why he didn’t pay as he was supposed to in November. Sounds like he’s got a new job- yet again. If it’s in another state and I have to start this all over again I’m going to cry.

And… he’s hired an attorney for this show cause hearing.

Life’s About Changing… Nothing Ever Stays the Same

As you know my word for the year is change. Since choosing that word I’ve noticed how much change happens, regardless of what we may choose. Honestly, I’ve known that for a while but with this being “my” word for the year I will probably be writing quite a bit about it.

Change is inevitable. People die. People move. Friendships fade. New friendships are made. I’ve experienced a lot of that over the course of my life. When you move every 2 1/2 years for the first five or six years of your marriage you get used to the constant upheaval. Then you start to settle in after that 2 1/2 year mark and you begin to think, “Maybe this is it. Maybe this is the place I’ll remain.”

I thought that way after we moved to Michigan the second time. It was different. We had a child now. It wasn’t just the two of us. Jerry Lee settled in. Until that call came six years later, telling him they had an exciting offer for him. They wanted him to take over as the production manager in Salt Lake City.

Salt Lake City? I knew nothing of Utah except Mormons. I’d never lived west of the Mississippi. Nevertheless, I gave him the go ahead and we moved. I called my best friend crying only weeks before we moved. I watched my precious children flounder in their new surroundings. I missed having family close by and missing out on so much. Yet somehow it all worked itself out. I fell in love with the state. I made great friends. I got involved. My children made friends. Rock Star devoted her life to gymnastics. Picasso fell in love with hockey after trying out just about every other sport under the sun. We spent eight amazing years out there.

Jerry Lee always said we would never leave so I began to feel like Utah was the place I would remain. Until Harley came along.

But this isn’t about Michigan, or Utah, or even Virginia. It’s about my 2 1/2 years living in Olive Branch, Mississippi. It’s about the fact that living there was one of the happiest times of my life. It’s also about the fact that now Jerry Lee and Harley are there, defiling this place that I once loved so much.

We had been married less than a year when Jerry Lee took a job with PCA up in Michigan. While living there we took a week long vacation at the end of May and visited Memphis to see Graceland and the zoo, and then headed over to Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. I’m sure the fact that Michigan was experiencing a very cold spring (that morning I left for vacation the wind chill brought the temperature down to zero) didn’t help, but we both fell in love with Memphis. I loved Beale Street. I loved the food. I can’t explain it; I just loved it. I didn’t even mind the humidity. A little less than two and a half years later he was offered a job in Olive Branch, which is right outside of Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, when I lived there I would often hear it described as, “Memphis’s fastest growing suburb”, which I always thought was interesting considering they were in different states.

We had an amazing group of friends. Jerry Lee was actually social. There were quite a few transplants working at the plant so they hung around together quite a bit. It was nothing for us to go out to dinner in a group of 12-14 people. Robert and Judy. Bev and Tommy. Arch and Alice. Kevin and Kelly. The good Aunt Judy (who would later turn out to be the bad Aunt Judy) and her daughter, Sheri. Julie. Eric. We went to each other home’s. Some of us bowled together. We had parties. We went out to dinner. We went to football games (okay, once we went to Knoxville to see a football game but we couldn’t get tickets). I had a key to Bev and Tommy’s house. We were such good friends we were at the point where we just walked into each other’s homes. I spent a lot of time in their above ground pool and hot tub. I went out to dinner with Bev, Judy and Judy every week while Jerry Lee and Tommy played golf. Arch and Alice trusted us enough to leave their son with us on the rare weekend they managed to get away. We exchanged Christmas presents and spent holidays together if we didn’t go home. We would go to the restaurant Robert and Judy owned, The Oasis, and eat dinner, talk with the locals. One time the place got overwhelmingly busy and neither Judy nor Robert was  there. Bev and I jumped up from our table and began helping out. We ran the register, got drinks, ran food out. I got pregnant while living in Olive Branch. I had three separate baby showers and lovingly decorated a nursery in classic Winnie the Pooh. I  brought my baby daughter home to that house. They had a brand new high school there and I envisioned my little Rock Star graduating from that high school one day. Rock Star was surrounded by people who loved her. Judy, Judy, Bev, and Tommy were all at least 10 years older than me, and in some cases 20 years older. A baby was a welcome addition. We finished our upstairs and now had a five bedroom house. I had a life there and I loved it.

Then Jerry Lee got fired. Seems he and his boss didn’t get along. So he was hired back on at PCA. He had an area VP that loved him and had stayed in contact since he left the first time.

At first he was assigned to Manufacturing Services, which is a team of people that travel to various problem plants and try to help them fix whatever issues are plaguing them. That lasted for four months before a position opened at one of the plants. As luck would have it we moved back to the same area and he was at the same plant as he had been before.

We moved, and despite the fact I would once again be only two hours from most of my family, I was devastated. I was losing my friends. I had to start all over.

Now, Jerry Lee and Harley are living there. Funny aside- I think he’s actually in the subdivision his old boss that fired him lived in. Her kids are going to be the ones graduating from Olive Branch High School. She gets to shop at all the great places in Memphis. She gets to visit Graceland and go down to Beale Street. She gets to marvel at those beautiful red clay roads. She can eat all the fried catfish and BBQ she wants to. She can go to the fantastic Memphis Zoo. In short, she gets to pick up where I left off, in one of my favorite cities.

When I first heard the news that they were living in Olive Branch I’ll admit it took me back a moment. I had this, “WTF” moment and probably a brief feeling of jealousy. They moved back to one of my favorite places and they replaced me with her. How did I feel about that?

I’ll be honest. When I heard that the Olive Branch Catfish Company was no longer in business I felt a little better.

Oh, such great memories of time spent there. Our realtor took us there when we were down looking for a house. If you like catfish you would have loved this place. It was amazing. And always packed. They had added on at least twice to the original restaurant. Our large group of friends would gather there on a Friday or Saturday night. Wait an hour or more to get a table. And then enjoy that amazing fried catfish (although you could have it grilled if you chose). We always took visiting friends and family there as well.

I’m glad Harley doesn’t get to experience the Olive Branch Catfish Company. I’m happy that Jerry Lee doesn’t have access to it either. Ha! It’s a small, selfish, silly victory.

That aside, I realize that my Olive Branch no longer exists. Kevin and Kelly moved away probably a year before we did. Robert and Judy, who had been together for many, many years, went their separate ways and Judy spent most of her time in Hot Springs, Arkansas after that. I found out years later that Robert had died. As I said earlier the good Aunt Judy turned out to be the bad Aunt Judy. She had an affair with Tommy, Bev’s husband. They divorced. Bev put the house on the market and it sold within 24 hours. I held onto my key to their house for years until finally I threw it away. Bev eventually moved down to Jackson. Judy and Tommy got married and then divorced 2-3 years later. Arch and Alice moved back to Chicago. Eric moved back to his hometown of Corinth, which was probably 2 hours or so south of Olive Branch. He got his ex-wife pregnant and married her again and then went on to have one more child with her. He left Menasha sometime after Jerry Lee got fired. Julie went to work at a different corrugated plant and then eventually remarried her ex-husband and moved back to Tennessee, although I’m not sure what order that took place. Sheri, who was just a young teen back then, is married with a daughter and a son on the way. She lives in Florida now and is a stepmom to two older girls.

Life’s about changing; nothing ever stays the same. Even if he didn’t get fired the Olive Branch I knew and loved wouldn’t be there. All of our friends are gone. We would have watched as Arch and Alice moved back home, and we would have had a front row seat as Bev and Tommy’s marriage exploded and we were faced with the fact that Judy was the other woman. And then I would have been left behind when Bev made her move to Jackson. Maybe there would have been new friends as Rock Star, and then Picasso, began high school. Or as new people were hired on at the plant. Then again, maybe those few years were like lightning in a bottle- never to be captured again.

That high school I envisioned my daughter going to? It had only recently been built and they were already using multiple portables because they had outgrown the building. Apparently a lot of parents were not fans of the Memphis school system. That high school probably doesn’t exist anymore. My guess is they have already built a new one.

If I were to visit I’m not sure I would know my way around anymore. It’s been 19 years since I lived there and 17 years since I last visited.

I can still see that shopping area with the Kroger, the cheesesteaks, Applebee’s, and Cookout. I think there was an eye center there as well. I remember where the new Wal-mart was built. But who knows what’s there now?

I would love to take my kids to Memphis one day because I love the city. Maybe I would take them over into Olive Branch as well. Show Rock Star where she lived when she was a baby. Show them where Bev and Tommy lived. Show them where the Olive Branch Catfish Company used to be.

I know it’s no longer the Olive Branch I once knew and loved; it’s only a treasured memory now. What made it so special was the people, and the people are all gone.

I’m fine with Jerry Lee and Harley living there. It takes nothing away from me and my memories. It won’t ever be replicated. I doubt very much that they’ve made friends, and that was the best part of it. Even if they have it doesn’t change the fact that they’re not living in my Olive Branch. My Olive Branch is gone. They can have this new one.

Two Weddings & a Funeral

I took a last minute trip to Virginia the week before Christmas. My great uncle died.

He was the last of nine siblings. At our last family reunion, which occurred 3-4 weeks after I found out my husband was cheating on me, there were two left. My Uncle Donnie and my Uncle Gene. Uncle Donnie was actually the youngest of the nine. He died a year later on Christmas Day.

I loved my Uncle Gene. He always told the best stories. He was an amazing storyteller. He spent over 30 years as a state trooper so he had a lot of stories. I hadn’t seen him since 2016, a few days before I moved back to Indiana. I went mainly to be a support for my mom. Originally I hadn’t planned on going at all. I didn’t really have the time to take off. But this was going to be difficult for my mom so I went. She drove and I flew. It turned out they planned the visitation on Tuesday and the funeral on Wednesday. I couldn’t take that much time but there was a flight that left here at 6 in the morning and would get to Virginia by 10:30 so I could make it in time for the graveside service.

Why am I telling you all of this? I will tell you why. The first thing out of the mobster’s mouth upon hearing that he had died and we would be attending the funeral was, “I want to be there for you; I want to support you and your mom.” He rearranged his route and put things off all so he could accompany me to this funeral.

To most of you that might not seem like anything out of the ordinary. To me, it was extraordinary.

During the twenty years I was married to Jerry Lee I lost both of my grandmothers and my sole surviving grandfather.

In 1999, almost five years after we got married, Jerry Lee accompanied me from Mississippi up to Indiana for my grandpa’s funeral only after my mother threw an absolute fit upon hearing that he might not come with me.

“What do you mean, ‘He might not be able to come?’ That’s your grandfather and he’s your husband. He should be by your side.”

Yes, you read that correctly. He wasn’t sure he could take that much time off of work. Ironically, my grandfather’s visitation was on a Saturday (could have been Friday and Saturday) and his funeral was on a Sunday. I remember because my dad and aunt talked about how my grandma paid more to have it on Father’s Day instead of waiting until Monday. So Jerry Lee wasn’t missing much work. Three to four days at the most.

The funny thing is this was my dad’s father, not my mom’s.  Yet, she was still incensed at the idea that Jerry Lee would allow me to travel 8-10 hours on my own and attend my grandfather’s funeral by myself.

So, he acquiesced and made the trip with me. Had my mom not thrown that fit, which in turn made me lean harder on him, he would not have gone with me. I have absolutely no doubt that if I hadn’t pushed he wouldn’t have gone. The sad fact is I’d come to expect that from him already at only five years into the marriage. It didn’t seem that unnatural for him to choose not to come with me.

My Mamaw died in 2007 when we were living out in Utah. I made the 30+ hour drive by myself. Well, with my two young children I should say. They were 7 and almost 5 at the time. Not big helps when it came to driving by any means.

I got the news on a Saturday that she had taken a turn for the worse and they didn’t expect her to live much longer. Father’s Day was that Sunday and so as to not ruin Father’s Day for him and take his kids away from him on “his” day I waited until later in the day on Sunday, probably around 5 or 6, before I finally left. I remember driving until around midnight and stopping at a hotel in Nebraska. Picasso had no interest in sleeping for some reason so I locked the door, put the chain on it and went to sleep, letting him stay up as long as he desired. I was woken up by a small boy straddling me and staring down at my face. When I reluctantly opened my eyes he greeted me with the chipper greeting, “Wake-y, wake-y!” It was five or six in the morning.

I got back on the road and discovered a few hours later that the air conditioning that had just been fixed was once again broken. The mechanic had warned me the belt might break. I forget why now. As luck would have it my father-in-law worked at the automotive center at Wal-Mart and if we could get to Kentucky and buy a belt he had a co-worker that could put it on for us. We drove from Nebraska to Kentucky with no air. I started driving at six in the morning and didn’t arrive at my in-law’s place until just after midnight. I was exhausted.

The belt was bought and replaced. I drove the remaining four to six hours and finally we got there. My Mamaw was still alive. She held on for four days, I think, if not more, before she finally let go.

He was not there with me. He didn’t even have his company send flowers. I made a 30+ hour drive to watch my beloved Mamaw die and he couldn’t be bothered to be with me. He had to work. We’d been married over ten years at that point.

Four years later my sole remaining grandparent died. We were still in Utah. Again, he couldn’t bother coming with me. He didn’t have the time to spare. So once again I grabbed the kids, put them in the minivan, and made the drive. This time the drive was only about 24 hours so I got a bit of a break. But once again I was alone while burying a loved one.

In contrast, when his father died in 2010 I got the kids excused from school, got their homework, boarded our two dogs at two different places, finished up the laundry, cleaned the house, put both kids in the minivan and drove all night long to get to him so he wouldn’t have to go to the family visitation or the funeral without me. I pulled over around 8 in the morning at a rest area to sleep for a bit. I left the van running, the air on, a SpongeBob video in the DVD player, and locked the doors while I took a nap so I didn’t run off the road and kill us all.

Twenty years and he went to one out of three of my grandparent’s funerals with me. Hell, he didn’t go with me to his step grandfather’s funeral. My mom accompanied me and a year old Rock Star. That funeral took place only a few days before 9/11. I remember driving home that day, wondering if we were going to be safe or if there might be another attack. I actually asked him if he thought it would be safe if we drove back or if we should stay there. Naturally he didn’t think there was any danger. Aside from one gas station with some high gas prices he was correct, I suppose.

The mobster has been with me for less than three years and he volunteered to go to a funeral with me. He brought it up before I ever had a chance to. His attitude was, “Of course I will be going with you!”

It wasn’t just that he was willing to go to this funeral with me either. There were many family members there that he had never met. Jerry Lee had never met them because he never went to Virginia with me. Yet here was the mobster. I was taking him by Mamaw’s house, sharing memories with him. He met my uncle (my mom’s brother). He met many of my cousins. He chatted with them. The restaurant was filled with family and the mobster didn’t bat an eye. He was amazing.

He kept asking me if Jerry Lee had been there or if I had shown him these things I was showing him. I had to keep reminding him that in 20 years of marriage Jerry Lee had never been to my Mamaw’s town with me. He’d never been to her house. He had never met any of my Virginia relatives aside from my Mamaw. He had no clue.

He was supposed to go to the cemetery with me that summer (2015) so we could plant flags on the veterans’ graves. That was something we had just started doing on Memorial Day. Most of my uncles served and my favorite cousin’s son was KIA 4 days after arriving in Iraq back in 2012. That year we would have been honoring my family. Of course, Jerry Lee was knee deep in his affair with Harley so he couldn’t come out of his room and be with us. I once again went by myself. Or rather, the kids and I went by ourselves.

That was all a foreign concept to the mobster. He kept saying he couldn’t understand that. Yeah, well, in hindsight, me neither. Probably should have been a giant red flag.

The mobster has been a godsend. My cousin adored him. Everyone I’ve ever introduced him to has come away with that feeling. They all tell me they really like him (and believe me- I’ve let them all know I’m vetting the shit out of him!). They comment on how easy he is to talk to. He really is. He’s one of those guys that never meets a stranger. He can always find something to talk about. And it’s not in that fake, schmoozy way either. He has a genuine interest in people and can always manage to find a topic to talk about. You never get the feeling that he’s making small talk to kill time or because that’s what he’s supposed to do; he’s trying to find a real connection with the person he’s speaking to.

It’s been two and a half years for the mobster and I. In that time he’s been to two weddings and a funeral with me. Jerry Lee has him beat on the weddings so far. We went to six together, I believe. Then again, he had 20 years and most of the time he was more of a pain in the ass than as asset.

These few short years with the mobster have shown me how a relationship is supposed to work. At least for me. Maybe other people enjoy doing everything on their own. I did it because that was the hand I was dealt. I did it because that’s what I saw in my parent’s marriage for the most part. I did it because I didn’t think it was all that unnatural. I did it because “I didn’t need anybody holding my hand”. Well you know what I’ve discovered? Having someone hold your hand is pretty nice.

I’m rambling now. The point is the mobster is once again showing me everything I missed out on in my twenty years of marriage. He shows up. He wants to be there for me. He is amazing and I am the luckiest woman in the world.

He Paid

I do a great job of ignoring his shit. but I’m human. I’m not proud of this but I lost it a little bit on Wednesday.

Rock Star texted me and asked if I could send her some money so she could buy groceries. This was four days after the end of the month when I was fairly certain he had found out I was taking him back to court and he was refusing to pay. I had just paid her rent on the 1st and given her about $35 extra, which I found out she used to buy gas to get back to school. The girl has taken out approximately $16,000 in student loans; she’s paying her entire tuition, all of her books, and has paid all of her rent up until this point. She works on her weekends home and on her breaks. I don’t want to put anything else on her; she’s already doing enough. Nevertheless, I was losing it.

My nest egg keeps getting smaller and smaller. Cello lesson here. Grocery money there. Dog grooming. Oil change. It never ends.

I sent her the money. It was only $25 but that’s what she asked for. I Venmo’d it to her and in the section that asks what’s it for I wrote: Food, because even when your ex refuses to pay his support your kids still need shit.

It was set to public because I don’t care if people read it and see what a shit he is. I want them to know when he’s being a deadbeat. Frankly, I hoped he would see it.

Oh, he saw it. I happened to notice a text message which said I had a comment on a Venmo story. Naturally, I thought it was added under my comment on Rock Star’s account. He had written back: Because sometimes the pay cycles are off and you happen to be 6 days off on paying. Grow up.

Then I realized his comment wasn’t attached to mine. He had actually sent a support payment. Holy shit! It’s a Christmas miracle!

Seriously? I’m expected to believe somehow his pay cycle is off by 6 days? I’ve got bad news for him. The court order states he’s supposed to pay in full on the 1st of the month, or he’s supposed to pay every other week. He does neither of those things. In fact, despite asking for the every other week payment schedule based upon his pay schedule, he has never paid every other week. He typically waits until the second half of the month and then he pays the entire balance over three payments.

I love how he conveniently ignores the part where he is currently not paying what he is ordered to pay. I guess going to court to plead your case is for pussies. Real men like him just do some calculations, come up with what they’re comfortable paying, and then do it. No judge needed.

I also love how he justifies his behavior by saying his pay cycle was off so I should be understanding of that, yet he never once communicated that. That would have been helpful. He didn’t even need to explain what happened. “Hey Sam, I’ll be sending the remaining support for November a little late. You should have it before the end of the first week of December.” Yes, that would have been a huge help. Oh silly me! I forgot- I don’t count. I’m not worth communicating with. He owes me nothing.

Let’s not forget his track record. It’s not good. Between this upcoming court hearing and the reality that he has no problem not paying what he owes, I don’t think I jumped the gun. I gave him until the very last day of the month. Then I panicked.

I feel no guilt and no shame in calling him out. What I do feel bad about is blindsiding Rock Star. I honestly thought she knew he wasn’t paying. Her last day at home before returning to school we were going to go out for dinner. She asked if we even had enough money to go out. So I thought she knew.

When she saw my comment she asked me if he wasn’t paying again. At that point I told her he was not. She told me she thought he was paying which meant we were more financially stable. I told her I did, too. She also told me that if she had known he wasn’t paying she would never have asked me for money, which made me feel like a complete failure as a parent. I told her I thought she already knew and that if she didn’t know I didn’t want to tell her because it stresses her out. That’s when she let me know she wanted to be kept informed because it affected her life as well. Then she said she was going to be working a ton over her Christmas break so she could make some decent money. Again, I felt like a total failure as a parent.

Without his money I can’t do anything for my kids. It pisses me off. I’m so disgusted with my life choices sometimes. Instead of focusing on a career I stayed at home with my kids, moved all around the country, and helped to support his career. Now I’m 50 and barely above the poverty level. If only I had been smarter.

The story doesn’t end there. Jerry Lee texted her. Of course he did.

Just so that you are aware of the truth, I pay your mother over 50% of my salary every month. She gets $XXXX from me each month. I just wanted to make sure you knew the truth and not whatever she tells you. I don’t expect you to respond, just wanted you to know.

You know the funny thing? I give him credit all. the. time. They are both completely aware of the fact that his support payments are what give us any kind of financial security. They both know that my job pays the bills and that’s pretty much it. They know that him paying support is what allows me to do extra for them. Hell, they watched it play out during the ten months he wasn’t paying a dime. They’re teenagers, not toddlers. They knew I was working two jobs to make ends meet. They knew I was exhausted all the time. They saw me fall asleep sitting up in a chair. They knew when he began paying and I could do more for them. They knew that I was finally able to quit my second job because he was paying support.

He doesn’t pay? Picasso stops taking his cello lessons. I can’t pay Rock Star’s rent. There’s no money to go out. I worry about how I’ll buy groceries. I again start looking for a second job. Lots of fun things happen when he doesn’t pay support. Stress. Tears. Angry outbursts. So believe me he gets all the credit for paying.

That’s the problem though, isn’t it? He wants credit for paying (and I have no problem with giving that to him) but he doesn’t want to have to face the consequences when he doesn’t pay. It’s easier to portray me as a liar who tells the kids all sorts of falsehoods about him. It’s easier to believe that I never give him credit for the support he pays and that I take all the credit for everything they get. He can’t accept that if he’s going to get the credit for paying then he’s also going to have to take the blame when he doesn’t.