Giving Thanks

Those of you who have been reading for a while know that my journey has been filled with a lot of bumps and potholes. It was not easy. My mom has always said he couldn’t have left us in a worse position if he had tried; she absolutely thinks he did it deliberately. He let me install a $57,000 pool in our backyard, using up most of his available stock options. I couldn’t pay the pool off because I needed the money to live on so we never had it closed properly. That in turn meant I had to replace pipes in the spring and we never were able to use the pool again because I couldn’t get it clean from all the leaves and other debris that had fallen into it. He let the house go into foreclosure and of course, we ended up losing the house. After spending months lovingly decorating our new home and filling it with new furniture I had to turn around and sell off as much as I could and leave behind almost everything else because I had no way to pay for storage and didn’t know how long it would remain in storage (going on six years now, btw). He walked out the door without saying a word to his kids. Didn’t bother to tell us he was moving or that he had quit his job and taken another one in a different state. He didn’t pay support at all for 10 months; he paid it sporadically for another 10 months, all while I worked two jobs and was the only parent our kids had anymore. I spent $35k on my divorce and then another $5-$10k getting support modified. He paid what he was supposed to pay for about 6 months and then unilaterally modified child support. Refused to go through legal channels. Refused to pay the legal bills when I tried to. Lost another job. Modified spousal support for almost a year. But you know that old adage: No matter how bad you have it someone always has it worse. 

I thought I’d take a minute to say what I was grateful for in terms of my own betrayal story and divorce.

1. I’m thankful I didn’t have young kids when I divorced. I see these stories of parents whose hearts are being ripped out of their chests because their children are off with the other parent, sometimes in a 50/50 custody situation. I got to spend the majority of their years with them, being a very involved stay-at-home mom. I didn’t have to split holidays or summers. I didn’t have to deal with them thinking Harley was awesome. I cannot imagine a bigger shit sandwich than knowing the OW/OM is playing happy family with your young child/ren and they are too young to understand who this person is. As many people have said, “You can take my spouse but keep your fucking whore hands off my kids.” 

2. Sort of the same thing but not completely I am infinitely grateful that neither Rock Star nor Picasso has any kind of a relationship with Harley. I’m sure to many people that’s an awful thing to admit because we’re supposed to “think of the children” and “love our children more than we hate the other parent.” I know it would probably be better for both of my kids if their dad gave a damn and was a part of their life. But he doesn’t and he’s not and that’s not something I’m responsible for so I’ll take my wins when I can. I’m sure it’s horrible when you’ve been cheated on and you know your cheating spouse and the AP are playing happy family with your baby. I’m sure it’s horrible to have to listen to your young child talk about how much fun this new person is, or how nice they are. But it’s also horrible, I’m sure, having to share older children. I’ve heard many stories of the morally challenged new partner showing up at the kid’s games, recitals, assemblies, graduations, birthdays. I hear about kids that choose to live with the cheating parent or the older child is receiving expensive gifts from the side piece. There are weddings and the births of grandchildren, not to mention birthday parties for those future grandchildren. Having to share those milestones with someone who played a part in blowing up your life would be difficult. I keep trying to steel myself for the day that either one of my kids decides that putting up with Harley is worth it in order to have a relationship with their dad. It’s not what they want right now, but they are still young and there are still years left. For right now though I’m glad I don’t have to slap on a fake smile or remember to use, “Cool. Bummer. Wow,” as my only responses when they’re telling me about their adventures with the two of them.

3. I didn’t have to worry about 50/50 custody. Jerry Lee had already moved by the time our divorce trial rolled around. He moved out six months after his affair was discovered. I feel for those who have to miss out on so much of their children’s lives because of the actions of an unfaithful spouse. I have had every holiday, every birthday, every major event because he walked away. Thankfully they were both old enough to have a say in where they wanted to live even if Jerry Lee had not moved (not that Jerry Lee fought for them). And because of their age and the fact that Jerry Lee moved hundreds of miles away from them they were able to have visitation at their discretion, instead of being ordered by a court.

4. In a similar vein I never had to worry about him trying to alienate my kids against me. God, that has to be the worst betrayal of all. This person cheats on you, leaves you, leaves you destitute and then turns around and turns your kids against you. I cannot even begin to imagine.

5. I don’t have to co-parent. I’m a big fan of parallel parenting anyway, but there are so many people out there who have to try to co-parent with the ex. The horror stories I hear make me so grateful I don’t have to deal with Jerry Lee. He is not a part of the equation at all. I’m sure having full legal custody also helped with that but I didn’t have to consult with him on anything. Kids needed therapy? I got them therapy. Kids wanted to participate in a sport? I signed them up. I didn’t have to ask his permission. I didn’t ask for his help. I took care of it.

6. He didn’t fight me moving. He didn’t have a leg to stand on but I’m still thankful I didn’t have to go through that. I see stories all the time about people moving for their spouse who then cheats on them and now they’re stuck in this place where they have no support.

7. I did not have to deal with him having another child with Harley. I think an affair baby would be the worst but even knowing that my kids had another sibling that I knew nothing about is something I wouldn’t like. I would have loved to have had more children but alas I did not get my wish. Had he gone on to have more children with her I would have been pissed, even though it was completely out of my control.

8. I have always said I saw the writing on the wall. I knew that there would be no reconciliation even if I had been willing. Nonetheless I put on my big girl panties, called the lawyers, made the appointments, and got myself armed with information. I didn’t let on until I was ready to file. And once he knew I knew I gray rocked the shit out of him. It would probably be more accurate to say I went no contact- even while living with him. I’m thankful I didn’t chase after him. I’m thankful I didn’t beg and plead. I gray rocked his ass and pretended he didn’t exist.

9. I had a soft space to land. I absolutely realize there are people out going through the same thing who have no one to rely on. I was fortunate that my mom was willing to take us all in. She was also an incredible help when I was working two jobs and could barely keep my eyes open when I was home. I have a friend who was living in a garage and was damn grateful to be doing that because of the antics her ex pulled. I hear horrible stories all the time, reading Chump Lady and the Chump Nation FB page. People out there wondering how they’re going to support their kids when they haven’t worked in years. People who have no one who can help them out- emotionally or financially. People who have lost their parents and all their family. Even worse are those whose families side with the ex. 

10. I will always be infinitely grateful to The Saint for telling me about what was going on. Because of him and his willingness to speak up I didn’t sink every last dollar we had into paying our final bill for the pool. Instead I was able to follow my attorney’s advice and hang onto that money. I cannot even begin to imagine what would have happened to me and my kids if I didn’t have that money to put into my account. It would have been bad. Really bad.

11. I’m grateful I don’t have to worry about running into them. I had to live with him for six months after knowing what a shithead he was, but then he up and moved and I’ve only seen him twice since then- once in court and once at Rock Star’s graduation. Oops- three times because I saw him right before Rock Star’s graduation as well when I gave him his ticket to her graduation. We are hundreds of miles apart. I know the mobster had to deal with his wife bringing her AP to the kids’ games and then again to T’s graduation party. So many people ask for advice on how to handle it when the inevitable happens and they run into them. Some people have even had the ex and the AP move in next to them. Not me. I don’t think I’ll ever see him again.

12. I have never had to deal with her writing to me, trying to explain things to me or tell me how I should behave. There’s a lot of this going on over on the FB page. Usually the OW feels the need to intervene and give “advice” to the person she helped try to destroy. Things like, “Move on and stop being so bitter,” or “You need to be more grown up and put your kids first,” or, “You need to encourage your kids to have a relationship with their cheating dad and shame on you for being the reason they don’t.” Real classy things. I think we can all agree that if we felt we needed advice the last person we’d ask for that advice would be some home wrecking whore. And yet, they freely give it. Then again freely giving it up to anyone is kinda what they’re known for. Thankfully, Harley has stayed way, way over in her lane. Ironically, despite being married to her cousin for twenty years I never met her. I’ve never laid eyes on her. Might be able to pick her out of a line up (she does have an impressive list of mug shots from which to choose). Then again, I might not be able to. I’ve seen pictures but I’ve never seen her. With the way things are going I probably never will. Hooray!

13. He’s had his moments but for the most part Jerry Lee leaves me alone. He’s not texting me vicious messages or calling me or emailing me and harassing me. Like I said, he’s had his moments- his hissy fit when being called out way back in the day, the stamps on the envelopes, the text message to the mobster, his shitty messages and obscene emojis in his Venmo transfers, hacking my Facebook page… He hasn’t been an angel but I haven’t heard a peep out of him in probably over two years. Now that he has a suspended jail sentence hanging over his head it’s amazing how compliant he is.

14. I was awarded spousal support. That is HUGE. So many states don’t offer it. Period. Others only offer it for a very short amount of time. It’s scary to think so many women are at the mercy of their husbands. If he decides to leave her and take up with someone else after she’s spent fifteen, twenty-five, thirty years supporting his career and putting her own needs aside to focus on him, she’s just out on her own. Oh well. Looks like you live in poverty from now on.  I may have had to fight him on it. I may have never known when I was going to get it until just recently, but I got spousal support. It was enough that I could do things for my kids, buy groceries, pay the utilities, go out to eat, and have some semblance of the life I had before. Way too many women don’t get that at all.

15. I didn’t really lose any friends. Being married to someone anti-social has its perks, I suppose. I’m sure there were people at his place of employment who liked him, both in Utah and Virginia. I socialized with those people in Utah. Most of the people I don’t talk to anymore just because we weren’t all that close and we moved 2000 miles away. I was friends with the wife of the new production manager at his old plant. We still text or send a FB message every once in a while. We’re FB friends. We live over a thousand miles apart but I have an open invitation to get together whenever I come back to Utah. I never really socialized with those in Virginia so no loss at all. We didn’t have any couple friends. He never wanted to socialize so I did all of my socializing by myself. I didn’t hate Blockhead while we were married but I didn’t feel exceptionally close to him either. I guess I always felt kind of like he didn’t care for me so when we got divorced the fact that he wasn’t on “my side” wasn’t a big shock. Or a big loss. I had already distanced myself from most of his family by the time D-Day #2 came along so no loss there either.

16. I didn’t have to get rid of my pets. We did re-home our cats but we hadn’t had them very long either. It would have been nice had he told me he was having an affair and planning on leaving because then we never would have taken them in but let’s be realistic. Our cats were all re-homed and my three dogs were able to come with me. I’m down to two now. My sweet Beau died a few years ago. My luscious Laila Lou is almost fourteen. For a Boxer that is ancient. Far beyond their normal life span. She just had her check up and they were amazed at her good health. Little Milo Tim is almost 8. They will be with me until the day they die. Again, I hear the sad stories of people who were forced to relinquish their pets. I can’t imagine.

17. I won in court. Another huge thing in my favor and another thing to be grateful for. It could have gone badly for me. There were many times I worried about what might happen if the judge decided I didn’t deserve spousal support, or the amount was set at some very low amount. Winning in court, even if it didn’t guarantee him paying what he was supposed to, was a huge thing for me.

18. I’m thankful I had the means to keep fighting in court. And that goes back to my mom in part. I was able to pay the first two retainers (to two different lawyers) but the third retainer I had to borrow from my mom. At that time all of my savings was gone. I’m not sure I had a job yet and if I did it would have been my part-time job at Target. Hardly enough to pay a retainer. I did get lucky and had the funds to pay the retainer for the expert witness and I was billed as I went after the trial, but not everyone is so “lucky”. It also helped that I wasn’t paying legal fees on top of a mortgage and everything else.

There you have it. If I took another three months to write this post I could probably come up with some more things to be thankful for, but I’m not going to do that.

I guess it boils down to this: I’ve got my kids- full-time. I don’t have to see him or deal with him. She stays out of my way. Twenty years of marriage and it’s like it never happened. He’s just someone that I used to know. I don’t have to deal with him playing games in regards to the kids. And with a suspended jail sentence hanging over his head he pays what he’s ordered to pay me. Life is good and I’m thankful.

Why Not Getting a Job Might Not Be the Wisest Choice

I frequently see women who have been stay at home moms advised by well meaning people who have been through the hell of betrayal and divorce NOT to get a job. Many times they are advised by their lawyers not to get a job. I was advised not to get a job. As my first attorney said (and I’m paraphrasing), “I want to put you up on that stand as a stay at home mom with no income.” Let me tell you why I think this is bs.

First of all, I get it. I understand *why* the lawyers give us that advice. Child support and alimony calculations, many times, are based upon the difference between what you are earning, and what you need to continue living the same lifestyle you and the kids have been living. Your lawyer is trying to get you the best deal possible. In regards to child support it’s usually a set formula but when it’s an income share model the more you make the less he needs to pay. That’s why Jerry Lee was insisting upon current numbers when I first tried to modify child support. If I was making $1.00 more per hour that would mean his support would be cut. It wouldn’t be cut by much but any amount he could get out of paying was worth it to him.

With spousal support you are looking at all of your expenses and what you need to pay your bills. Every dime you don’t make is a dime that your spouse is, in theory, supposed to make up. Scratch that. It’s actually the difference between what you are earning and what you need to pay your bills. When Jerry Lee lost his job, forcing us out of the house, it benefitted him greatly. As my second lawyer told me it wouldn’t matter how much money he made. If all I could show was $3000 in monthly expenses then the judge would only award me the difference between what I was making and $3000. Obviously my expenses were higher when I was paying a $2100 a month mortgage, plus utilities that ran anywhere from $400-$600 a month. Regardless of how much or how little your monthly expenses may be it  stands to reason you want as much help as possible, especially if you haven’t had a job in years. You should receive more help when you make $0 than if you’re making $40,000, or $100,000. That’s what the lawyers are looking at, and that’s what the well-meaning people on support boards are talking about.

Let’s look at the big picture though. Most of these stay at home parents have been out of the workforce for years. 10, 15, 20 years. Many of them don’t have a college degree, and we already know that a college education won’t necessarily get you a great job right away if you’ve been at home for a considerable amount of time. My main point is even if they do manage to get hired right away chances are they are not going to be making anywhere close to what the ex is making. If you’re one of those women that has supported your husband throughout the years while he’s climbed the corporate ladder, or you helped put him through school while he earned his law degree, medical degree, or other doctorate, he’s light years ahead of you. He’s been making money and getting steady increases in his pay over 10-20 (or more!) long years. You’re starting out at square one. He is going to be making so much more money than you that it really doesn’t matter if you’re making $30-$40,000 a year. Compared to the $150,000 or more that some of these men are making it’s a drop in the bucket.

You also need to consider the likelihood that he’s even going to pay. I’ve seen it more times than I can count where women are counseled to not get a job because that will affect how much they will receive in child support. We keep ourselves in poverty on the promise that child support and possibly spousal support will be more. Sometimes we luck out and he is ordered to pay a significant amount of support; however, being ordered to pay and actually paying it are two completely different things. Ask me how I know.

According to the US Census Bureau in a report from 2018 only 43.5% of all child support recipients reported that they received the full payment. Honestly, I was shocked it was that high; at one point I believe the stats were somewhere between 25-35% of support recipients received payment in full. More than 30% don’t receive any support at all, although I was unable to verify if that included people who have never filed for it, or if that was strictly people who had an order that was not being followed.

I know anecdote doesn’t equal data but back when I was still a teller I remember looking around at my co-workers. There were four of us. We were all lined up in a row. At least three of us had been married to the father of our children; I’m not sure about the fourth. Not a single one of us was receiving regular support. I think I had the best situation out of all of them, which is a sad thing if you think about it. Some didn’t pay at all. Some would toss the mother of their child $30 once in a while. Make a random payment here and there. I will never forget that image. Four women working hard to provide (barely) for the four sets of children left behind by the four fathers who didn’t care whether their kids were provided for or not. Maybe they just figured we wouldn’t let our kids starve. Maybe they didn’t care one way or the other. Kids fed and doing well? Great! Kids starving and doing without? Not my problem!

Those statistics become even more important when you consider so many states don’t have spousal support. You can spend your entire marriage supporting your spouse’s career and taking care of the house and the kids, but once he decides he’s done with you and he’s onto the next willing victim there is nothing for you. Nada. So you’d better hope that child support is generous and is paid in full.

I’m not saying to go against your lawyer. God knows, if you’re paying hundreds of dollars an hour you should probably follow their advice. I am saying it might be a good idea to question your lawyer on why they are giving you that advice.

Most of these women are terrified. They have no idea how they’re going to make it once they’re divorced. I get it. I was one of those women. I was living in a nice big house. I had a nice, cushy life. I had no money problems. Then **POOF** it was all up in smoke. I went from going on shopping binges to fill my house with furniture and putting a $57,000 inground pool into my backyard to wondering how I was going to pay for insurance and where would my kids and I live? How would I pay for my daughter’s graduation party? How would I afford college (in a state that will not order college to be paid for)? How could I provide for my children? All questions I was wondering about while my lawyer wanted me to appear in court as a fragile little stay at home mom.

In hindsight the best thing I could have done was start searching for a job right away. What I probably would have made wouldn’t have prevented us from losing the house but it may have given me more of a cushion. I was actually pretty good at staying on a budget. When he did lose his job I would have had something to put towards bills instead of having to begin draining my savings. Even if I ended up having to leave my job six months later I would have still been in a better position to get a job once I moved to Indiana. Trying to get a job after a long absence in the workforce is a nightmare. This idea that when you’re finally ready to get a job you’ll find one is a fairytale. In a lot of cases it takes a long time. Far better to start that search before you want to, so that when you need to you’re well on your way. I also might have been in a better position to ask for more money. Between having more relevant work experience and having had an actual paying job I might have been able to make more, or at least been confident enough to ask for it.

It’s well meaning advice but I don’t think it’s very prudent. The difference between what a man who is making six figures will be ordered to pay you when you’re making nothing versus making a fraction of what he makes is not worth putting yourself in potential poverty. The chances of him actually paying out what he’s court ordered to are less than half- 43.5% to be exact. And finally, just because you start looking for a job doesn’t mean you’re going to find one right away. Once you find one it doesn’t mean it’s going to pay well. It took me almost four years to finally get to the point where I’m making enough to support myself on my own if I had to. Save yourself. Don’t wait on the man who cheated on you and abandoned your kids to rescue you. It probably won’t happen.

































































































Got Kids?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reframing Things

Final post for 2020. 

Earlier this year, one day in the summer, I made some comment about Jerry Lee bulldozing my life. My mom replied along the lines of, “Why not look at it as a chance to redo your life?”

I had actually already been thinking along those lines so I didn’t take offense at the suggestion.

I suppose that’s the biggest change for me during 2020. I’m finally reframing what happened to me. I’m not always successful. It’s best if I don’t dwell on it too much, but for small moments I am able to reframe the betrayal and discard, along with the absolute destruction of everything I thought my life was.

When I do this I’m able to tell myself he didn’t blow up my life; no, I got a second chance at a much better life. Sure, there have been speed bumps- financial issues continue to stress me. My kids are in therapy. I’m working a job that isn’t all that personally fulfilling and I feel like I never have enough “me” time, or time to devote to my kids. But it’s not all bad.

I’m back in my hometown. I’m reconnecting with old friends. It’s familiar. I didn’t have to start completely over and figure out how to get around the town.

Living with my mom isn’t a death sentence. She hates it when I say, “I had to move back in with my mom!” or “I don’t have a home of my own.” The reality is she does my laundry which is great because I don’t particularly care for doing laundry. She also has dinner cooked most nights when I come home. I joke with her that it’s nice to have a wife. I realize why so many cheaters don’t leave one until they have another one! I am fortunate enough to be able to spend huge amounts of time with my mom. I get to shop with her, go out to dinner with her, vent to her, and laugh with her. I have too many friends that no longer get to enjoy that with their moms.

Ever since moving back here in 2016 I have seen it as a source of shame- I was too fucking pathetic to be able to stand on my own two feet. I had to move back in with my mommy. I couldn’t take care of myself or my two children. I needed help. It’s very humbling, especially when you’ve lived in your own home for 20+ years. You go from living in a huge home to not even having your own bedroom; I slept on the couch for two years. Perhaps it’s simply the passing of time, but I no longer care. It is what it is. Living at home with her allows her to spend much more time with her grandchildren, allows me to see her all the time, and it’s a hell of a lot cheaper than a mortgage payment or rent somewhere. It allows me to be able to do more because my money isn’t wrapped up in housing. I’m finally accepting that this arrangement works for me.

When he left finding a new relationship was the last thing on my mind. I was in survival mode and honestly, I had spent so much time alone even while being married that I had no desire to ever pair up again. I was perfectly content to be alone for the rest of my life; I was good at it. Yet, him walking out the door finally allowed me the chance to experience a real relationship, one where I’m valued and loved.

The mobster and I have an amazing time whenever we are lucky enough to get together. He is the best and I would have never met him if Jerry Lee didn’t go off and fuck his cousin.

As for finances, well, I recognize that I don’t need as much as I used to have. I don’t need a huge house. I don’t need endless baubles. I do like shopping for clothes and my closet is exploding right now but I’ve always been a sale shopper. As long as I have enough to pay my bills, take care of my kids and spoil them some, and be able to have some fun with my friends, family, and the mobster I’m good. I’d like to be able to take a vacation here and there as well, but it doesn’t have to be an elaborate vacation.

I also realize it’s up to me to make that change as far as finding a better paying job. Writing about how awful it pays and complaining does nothing. I intend to change that this coming year.

Of course, my children and their well-being always weighs heavily on my mind. Fortunately, I am finally letting go of that as well. Not as in an, “I don’t care” way, but more in an, “I can’t change the past,” way. It still tugs on my heartstrings when I hear “Best Day Of My Life” or any of the songs I associate with Harrisonburg. The overwhelming desire to scream, “Why?” is always there, but that scream is slowly fading away. I do my best to reframe it as a wonderful moment in Rock Star’s life, one that wasn’t meant to last. Maybe the lesson to be learned was that her dad is an entitled jackass. I don’t know. Maybe it was to show her she was stronger than she knew.

My son seems happy and content. The medication has helped immensely. He has friends here. He likes his job. He likes living here. Hopefully therapy will soon be a thing of the past for him, but as long as he continues to get something out of it I will pay for it. He graduates this year and no one will be happier about that than me! He’s been complaining about school since second grade. I’m tired of fighting him.

My daughter has apparently resolved all of her issues surrounding her father and his abandonment in approximately three therapy sessions. She works fast, I guess. She has decided she is done with him and she’s no longer expending the effort to have a relationship with him. As she put it, “Why am I putting in all this effort when he’s the one that left?”

Despite Covid-19 wrecking havoc with her college life she is happy. She has a solid set of friends down at college. She loves her sorority and her sisters. She has a great boyfriend who treats her like she deserves to be treated. She is kicking ass in nursing school and will be a wonderful nurse in a few years.

She has said herself that everything she went through led her to where she is. If we were still married and in Virginia, yes, I would probably see her more and she would be happily reconnecting with high school friends over break, but she wouldn’t have this life she loves.

Despite the hurdles and all the worries these last few years my kids are okay. They’re not living the life I had hoped to have given them, but they are good. As my mom always says, “You guys had a helluva run.” Yes, my kids had an awesome childhood and they got to experience a lot of wonderful things. And then they experienced some really shitty things and a lot of loss. They lost their friends twice, and lost their mother in many ways. i wasn’t there the way that I wanted to be; I did the best I could with what I had and I hope in the end that proves to be enough. But ultimately they prevailed and they are both good and happy now. I have a great relationship with both of them, and that’s what counts.

I will never say that Jerry Lee cheating on me and destroying my old life was a blessing, or the best thing to ever happen to me. What I will say now though is he ended up giving me a second chance. He gave me the opportunity to live a much better life than the one I could have ever hoped to have lived with him. I get to frame this one. I get to choose. I can make this new life into whatever I want.

How’s that for change, 2020?

Change- The Year in Review

My word for this year was change. Boy, did I ever pick a doozy. I’m not saying my word caused the pandemic, but I’ve never actually picked a word of the year before. This was my first time and look what happened. Safe to say I don’t think I’ll be picking another word of the year again. I’ll go back to resolving to moisturize more. Floss regularly. Safe stuff.

I did choose the word “change” however so it’s only fair that I look back and see what, if any, change was made in my life. You know, aside from the whole world going to shit and being under lockdown and mask mandates.

When I picked the word I was really hoping that most of the change would happen in regards to my financial situation. As in, I hoped to either get promoted or get another job elsewhere. 

Technically, there were all kinds of changes in regards to my job. I got sent downtown to work for five and a half months. We’ve had to learn to do our jobs in a very different way because we’re not all together. I will probably never see my co-worker/partner again because she is working from home and is retiring no later than June 30th of 2021. We don’t have a lot of hope that everyone will be brought back by that point.

I did put myself out there and applied for the supervisor position. I didn’t get it but I did get exposure and I was told I’m a hidden gem. This little hidden gem had better get a new job title and a lot more money or I’m relocating to a newer mine.

I have been perusing online job postings but I haven’t seen much that excites me. I also checked out grad school but I think that is way beyond anything I can do. For starters, the deadline for one of the programs I was interested in had already passed and I would be looking at yet another year before I could start. Then there is the issue of getting transcripts, and taking entrance exams and getting referrals. Who the hell is going to write a recommendation for me? I’m not in college anymore. Do I ask friends who have jobs to write a recommendation for me? Based upon what? 

Another program would require me to do a bunch of prerequisites before I could start which would mean my two year program would probably take three or four years. Sure- I’d love to get a Masters degree at age 55 and then work for 10-12 years. I’m sure the employers would be falling all over themselves to hire me, a candidate that does not have much of a shelf life left. And no experience to boot.

I see people with no education beyond a high school diploma fall into these amazing jobs that pay well and offer great benefits. Why on earth can I not fall into one of those jobs? Why am I doomed to work a low paying job with crappy benefits?

Way back at the beginning of the year, before Covid-19 changed everything, the mobster and I made a lifestyle change. We began the Couch To 5K program. I am still running, although with the days becoming darker earlier I am not as consistent as I would like to be.

In March I began eating low carb. I say this as I’m coming off of a 5 day holiday from low carb eating. Nonetheless, at this point in the year I am somewhere between 40 and 50 pounds lighter. I say somewhere because I haven’t stepped on the scales in 2 or 3 weeks and I have no intentions of stepping on them for another 2 or 3 weeks. But, at my lowest weight so far I had lost just over 50 pounds. I believe it was 50.6 pounds. I’m wearing clothes I haven’t worn in 2 or 3 years, and in the case of my jeans, they’re all too big now.

I’ve greatly reduced the amount of diet Coke that I drink. That’s a huge change for me. I started that one in May. I have my moments where I go back to it, but I’m pretty good. I certainly drink a lot less than I ever did before.

The mobster has put his route up for sale so now we’re just waiting for someone to sign the papers. After that he’ll make his way up here and we’ll finally be living in the same state! Same town even. That’s a huge change.

I made the transition to being a parent of adult children. Neither of my kids is a minor anymore. After June of 2021 I will no longer have any kids in the local school system. Picasso, God willing and fingers crossed, will graduate this June.

My mom’s dog died earlier this month. He was 15 1/2 years old. He’d been losing a lot of weight recently. My mom took him in and unfortunately he never came back home. I miss that little booger with his big underbite. She swears there will be no more dogs but we’ll see. She said that before she got him, too.

I finally got Jerry Lee garnished. Basically. It’s not through the state but he did sign an agreement which was turned into a court order whereby he directly deposits his payments into my account twice a month. He also knows that if he tries to stop it or attempts to fuck with me I’ll take his ass back to court and from there he’ll find his ass in jail. For the first time since he took off to be with his cousin back in February of 2016 I know exactly when to expect that money. It is a wonderful feeling.

Plus, my saga with Mississippi is finally over! Everything is done. It took forever- it took them more than 3 months for them to return my money- but it’s done.

Bonus- once I got my money from Mississippi I paid off my car so there’s another change for the year. No more car payment.

I got my car in September of 2014, taking out the longest loan for the smallest payment with the intention of paying it off in larger chunks with Jerry Lee’s bonus check. As you all know that didn’t work out as I had planned. I ended up with a large car payment with no job, and then a large car payment with a low paying job. But I had so many miles on it that I didn’t think I could trade it in and by the time I realized it really would be prudent to do so my credit was in the toilet, thanks to Jerry Lee and his machinations. Honestly, it was the last thing left from my old life. I wanted desperately to hold onto it. I had already lost so much- my house, my furniture, probably 95% or more of everything I’d ever owned. I was determined to keep that goddamn car. I worked my ass off to do so. Now it’s paid off. A change in circumstances, and more change in my pocket. Not really. All my additional money is going into my HSA account so I can pay for my kids’ therapy bills.

My son got a job, so both of my kids work now.

And both of my kids are being medicated for depression and anxiety. In Picasso’s case it’s a blessing because he so desperately needed it. After almost a year of counseling which didn’t help the way it needed to he’s finally on medication and it’s working very well. He’s doing things he could not have done before. So that’s a great change. Rock Star, on the other hand, is getting worse and worse, especially now that she’s on nothing while she waits to see our nurse practitioner. As you might recall the medication she was taking caused her to be extremely nauseous so she was switched over to Prozac. That caused suicidal ideations so it had to be stopped. I don’t know why on earth she didn’t prescribe her something in the meantime, knowing she has an in-person appointment in December, but she didn’t so my poor baby has been suffering through it on her own for a few weeks now.

Everything seems to stress her out. She’s this interesting dichotomy where she can be so self-assured and opinionated at one moment and then turn around and be a blubbering mess another moment. She’s back in therapy and she seems to like it, but it’s not doing enough right now and she needs to be properly medicated. She is going to call this week and see about getting some new medication.

Here’s another big change, one I’m not really ready for, but it’s happened. My daughter won’t be returning home. She plans to stay down in Muncie over the summer and work, and then when the lease is up on her house that she is renting this year, she is planning on moving in with her boyfriend. My daughter no longer lives with me. I had no idea until this Thanksgiving break.

On one hand I understand. When I came home for the summer I looked forward to seeing my friends. We went to different schools so we only saw each other on breaks and over the summer. We got to hang out, go to the beach, hit the bars, see a movie. I don’t recall what all we did. I just know it was great being home and being able to hang out with them when I didn’t see them most of the year. Rock Star doesn’t have that. She didn’t make any close friends when she lived up here. Her life is all down at school.

I also didn’t have a serious boyfriend throughout most of college. I broke up with my high school boyfriend right before coming home for the summer freshman year. I broke up with the guy I was dating my sophomore year shortly after coming home for the summer. Hmmm… doesn’t seem to be a good time of the year for me. I just saw that pattern. I didn’t have a boyfriend the rest of college. She does.

So, like I said, on the one hand I understand. I really do. But on the other hand, I am so sick of being blindsided with the last time and never knowing it’s the last time.

I didn’t know that Thanksgiving 2014 was the last truly normal holiday we would have as a family. I had no idea that Christmas 2014 was the last one we would spend together as a family of four. I didn’t realize how much my life was going to change as we left to spend 3 weeks in Indiana and Utah that first summer after we moved. I had no idea what was in store for all of us while we were having fun and spending time with family down in Florida. I sure as hell didn’t realize that August 9th, 2015 would be the last semi-normal day in my old life. I suppose those are all things you never get forewarning on.  “Hey, honey, I’m planning on cheating on you with my gold digging cousin. Enjoy your turkey!” That just doesn’t happen. But other things you sort of do think you get a heads up on.

I watched those proud parents escort their daughters on Senior Night and envisioned myself doing the same. I didn’t know as I watched my daughter at States that February day in 2016 that it was going to be the last time I would ever see her compete in gymnastics. That was it. The end. No more. No warning. No fan fare. No flowers. No big announcement. It was simply the end.

I watched as the conductor would invite all the seniors to stand at their last concert and looked forward to the day my own senior would rise and I would clap and cheer. I didn’t realize that last year’s Christmas concert was the last one I would ever watch Picasso play the cello. He abruptly quit- at the beginning of the year. Look! More change!

And I sure as hell didn’t even consider that last summer was the last summer my daughter would live with me. I thought I had 2 more summers with her. I don’t. Last summer was the last time she was going to live under my roof. 

I wonder sometimes if it’s because I don’t have a home of my own. Maybe if I had been able to buy a house she would have felt like it was her home. Then again, nothing I did or didn’t do was going to change the fact we had to move midway through high school and she had no friends here. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because she feels like I’ve replaced her and am living a new life with the mobster, a life where she’s no longer important and doesn’t really have a place.

I really enjoyed having her home over the summer after her freshman year. I loved hearing her stories and spending time with her. In some ways it was more difficult saying goodbye that second year than it was the first year. Maybe because I knew how lonely it could be with her gone.

Last summer sucked. She worked during the week and was either gone or holed up in her room with her boyfriend every weekend. I’m not available during the week because I’m working. When she worked she worked 12 hour shifts and was usually exhausted when she came home.

I guess I was hoping this summer would be better. Turns out there is no next time.

I understand this is the natural progression of things. Honestly, I do. I wasn’t prepared for it at this point, though. I thought I had more time with her. I was prepared for her to move out in December of 2022, after she graduated. I was not prepared for this.

2020 has brought with it a lot of changes. Some good; most bad. I’ll roll with it as I always do. I would pick a word like “prosperity” but it would probably turn into one of those “The Monkey Paw” things where horrible shit would happen instead of it resulting in money in my pocket. So yeah, I think I’m going to be content with trying to moisturize more and floss regularly. My dentist will be happy.

A Little Bit Of Whine

I’m going to do a bit of whining right now so pass on by if you don’t want to listen to me bitch for a moment. Tomorrow or the next day I’ll probably have some memes for you. But today I’m going to whine. I’m also going to coin a new term- financial exhaustion. Why? Because you guessed it- I am financially exhausted.

Financially exhausted? But Sam, I thought you won all that money in court?

Yes, yes, I did. Unfortunately, I took a hit in July. Instead of getting my usual spousal support plus the small $2000 lump sum, I got only the lump sum. Plus, I’m getting my money in smaller amounts over a three plus year period. Right now though I have a daughter in college and a son starting his senior year and who is in therapy. I have a car that is six years old and has over 130,000 miles on it. I have a lawyer that would like to be paid and she doesn’t want to be paid over a 3 year period. Imagine that!

That takes me right up to my whining portion of the post. I told Rock Star I would take care of her rent this year. I’ve already paid the first month, plus sent her money for groceries and utilities. I’ve also sent her $25 for sorority dues. She moved into a new house this year; she’s rooming with her two best friends. Unfortunately, this house isn’t furnished like her apartment was so she needed a bed and a dresser. She found a dresser and desk for free and only needed $70 for a mattress and the plywood for her frame. Next she needed specific shoes for her nursing clinicals; that ended up costing me $125. She also texted me the other day to let me know she needed to buy two access codes to two of her classes. That was $233. Per code. And then I received a final bill from the apartment complex. That is going to be over $300. Hooray! I added it up and I think she’s going to cost me about $1500 this month. Her alone. $1500.

The check engine light is on in my car. I took it into my mechanic last week. He was hoping I had recently bought gas and just hadn’t tightened the gas cap enough. Wrong! Several days after getting it back the light came on again. He’s already told me whatever leak there is is very small and that the smaller the leak the harder it is to find it. I am expecting to pay at least $300 in labor alone. I dropped the car off tonight after work. I’ll hear how much I owe sometime tomorrow.

I finally got up the nerve to open my final legal bill. I was psyching myself up. She only charged Jerry Lee $2500 total for the case. I knew I had around $700 sitting in trust with her. How bad could it be, right? Maybe $1000?

Oh no! That’s child’s play. Final bill- over $2300. And that’s after she applied the more than $700 she already had from me. That bill alone totaled more than $3100. How in the hell did she come up with $2500 in legal fees? I’ve been paying her since February. I think the total legal fees should have been more in the $3500-$4000 ballpark. It’s good that he’s got 3 years to pay the $2500 she charged him. I, on the other hand, needed to get almost that entire amount to her within a month lest I be charged an additional 18%.

Finally, I’m dealing with Picasso’s therapy bill. I’ve been paying $22 each time he goes. That’s what they told me my portion would be. It has taken my insurance company eight months to tell them that they won’t pay anything until I’ve met my $5500 family deductible. I now owe the therapist’s office over $1100. Isn’t that great?

My original plan was to save, save, save. Keep the spousal support each month and put everything else aside. Live only on the spousal support and what I make. Then I decided it would be a hell of a lot more prudent to get my car and credit cards paid off. It’s not a huge debt, especially considering what kind of balances I carried back when I was married, but for me it’s a lot. My first priority was paying off my car. I think the last payment is due in October anyway. I don’t owe a whole lot on it anymore. But once it’s paid off I can take the money I would have spent on the car payment and put that towards one of the credit cards. Now instead I’ll be putting out all these fires and paying off bills will have to wait.

Fortunately, this whole thing hasn’t got me too down. I do have money set aside- just not the $5000-$6000 needed right now. I also don’t want to use every single cent I have saved up in case Jerry Lee has stopped his direct deposit already. Instead I borrowed money from my mom to pay off the entire legal bill. I should be able to have it all paid back before the end of September; I’m hoping it will be sooner. I emailed Jerry Lee tonight to give him the invoice; our court order states he is responsible for just over 67% of the bill. Again, hoping to have it paid in full by the end of September. I’ll also be expecting Jerry Lee to pay his share of the $78 each time Picasso has therapy. I would have covered it at $22 a session. I have been covering it. But I’m not going to do it on my own when the cost is $78 per session.

This is just a matter of everything coming due at the same time. Next month I won’t have legal bills anymore. The therapy bills will be settled. Hopefully I won’t need car repairs again any time soon. And my daughter? To be fair, this, too, is a beginning of the school year maelstrom. But come September she’s going to get a set amount of money each month and she’s either going to learn to manage that, or she’s going to have to get her ass home and work some during the school year. My savings is dwindling but hopefully once all of this is over and I’ve made some progress towards paying off bills then I can build it back.

See? Not quite as much whining as you thought. Bonus time- I’m offering up solutions and not letting it get to me as much.

Dating While Divorced

I’ve seen over and over again women (it’s almost always women) say they aren’t going to date because they’re going to focus on their children and/or their children aren’t ready for them to date. Someone actually threw out this idea that once you divorce your focus should be on your children and you shouldn’t think about dating until they turn 18.

It’s a nice idea. I have no problem with someone choosing that for themselves. To be honest, before I got divorced I thought that same way. Okay, maybe not the exact same way but I did feel that there was no need to rush into another relationship right away; I also thought it was important to make sure you gave your kids the time and attention they needed instead of getting your own needs met. But as with most things there is the theory on how things should work, and then there is the real life application.

I think there is a huge gulf between jumping back into dating an hour after your spouse has left, and not dating for the next 1-18 years because you have minor children. I’m not suggesting moving the first person you meet into your home a month or two after your divorce is final. I’m also not suggesting that a person absolutely must date again after a divorce. If you have no interest in dating for whatever reason then I fully support your right to not date; this post is not about declaring that everyone should be putting themselves out there or that not dating is a horrible tragedy. It’s the opposite. I believe this notion that we do our children a disservice by dating before they graduate high school is kind of ridiculous.

As the mother of an 18 year old and a 20 year old I can tell you my kids don’t really have a lot of time for me anymore. My daughter has been exceptionally busy since beginning competitive gymnastics back when she was still in elementary school. Practice 3-5 days a week. As an optional she went to school and went directly to the gym where she practiced from 3-7. She came home, ate, did homework and went to bed. That was 6th-8th grade. As she entered high school she was busy with friends, extracurriculars and sometimes even a boyfriend. She added a job to that list of things that took her away from me when she turned 16. This summer I spent five days with her. Five. Out of the entire summer. Every weekend she was either running down to Muncie to spend the weekend with her friends and her boyfriend, or her boyfriend made the trip up here. The only reason I spent five days with her and not two is because one weekend I took her, her boyfriend, and Picasso to Ohio to spend the weekend with the mobster for his birthday. That was the weekend we rented a cabin, went fishing, and went out on a pontoon boat. Aside from that- nothing! She also spent the majority of her time in the house in her room where she kept the air conditioning on a chilly 64 degrees. It’s not that I didn’t see her. We just didn’t do anything together. She worked mostly 12 hour days when she was scheduled to work. I work Monday-Friday, 8-5. Weekends she was always busy with her boyfriend.

My son still spends most of his time at home in his room. His meds seem to be working and he’s much chattier lately but he would still prefer to spend his time playing video games, drawing, watching YouTube and hanging out with his friends.

My experience isn’t uncommon. The mobster has four children. Four! His oldest son lives in New Hampshire. He rarely sees him. A and his wife, Little Miss Sunshine, are busy with careers, each other, raising his son, and hanging out with their friends. Taking off for a long weekend to drive 13 hours and see his dad isn’t a regular thing. His next oldest is married as well; even though he lives in the same town as his dad the mobster rarely sees him. He’s busy with his wife’s family and they both work full time. His third son just moved to West Virginia, about 2 hours away. Even before the move the mobster said he didn’t see much of him; he spent all of his time with his live-in girlfriend. This is kind of funny in a sad sort of way because they lived in the apartment that is above the mobster’s garage. Finally, his youngest, his only daughter, is now 19. She works full time and she spends a lot of time with her friends. There are many times he’s all by himself in that big ol’ house because T is house sitting for her brother, or is off with friends. She’s also got a new boyfriend so she’s beginning to spend time with him as well.

The point of these examples is that our kids develop lives independent of us. If we decide we owe it to them to remain single until they turn 18 there is a great chance that we’ll be sitting at home all by ourselves, waiting for our kids to throw us a freakin’ bone in the form of their undivided attention for an hour or two.  Please, child, may I buy your dinner in order to enjoy your company?

Rock Star actually tried to pull that bullshit with me towards the end of the summer. When I told her I felt like I never really got to spend any time with her this summer she actually had the audacity to blame it on me being gone to spend time with the mobster. Oh hell no! I quickly pointed out that the time in particular that she was referring to was when I went to court. I didn’t exactly have a choice in that matter. I also invited her to come along (not to court but to Virginia) and she conveniently mixed up the dates. To put it into perspective she saw her boyfriend every weekend this summer. I honestly don’t think she went a single weekend without seeing him. I, on the other hand, saw the mobster three times this summer. Three whole times in the three months she was home. One of those times was the weekend I took Rock Star and her boyfriend with me. Another time I had to go to court.

Maybe she’s not representative of all kids but there are enough of them out there that would prefer their parents don’t have lives of their own so that they are better able to be at their beck and call.

It’s not just at age 18 that they’re off on their own, leaving you to find something to do in their absence. I’ve heard a lot of parents say that once the kid gets his or her driver’s license it’s a whole different ballgame. No longer are they dependent on mom or dad to take them from Place A to Place B. I spent a lot of time in the car with my kids, especially Rock Star since she always needed to be somewhere. Once she could drive that completely changed.

How far does this extend anyway? Is it anything that might take your attention away from them? Am I allowed to volunteer? What if my kids want me to take them over to a friend’s house at the same time I’m supposed to be packing backpacks for the local food pantry? What if I take a night each week to answer phone calls at the domestic shelter? Can I go out with my friends on a Friday night? Do I get to go to grown up concerts or movies ever? Can I go listen to a band playing at a bar? Is picking up a new hobby allowed? What if I join a community theater group and I have practice every night for three months? What if I immerse myself in knitting or playing hockey or paint pouring? Can I sign up to run a race? Can I even go running several times a week? I don’t see the difference between me dating and doing any of those things. All of those activities take time away from my kids. If I’m doing any of those things instead of spending it with my kids then I’m taking time away from my kids. Are we not supposed to do anything except sit around waiting for our kids to want to do something with us?

Look, I believe I was an involved mother. I’ve received some positive reviews from my own kids. I chauffeured them around plenty. Most summers were spent on the go- museums, amusement parks, water parks, lakes, rollerskating rinks, arcades. I took them to horseback riding lessons, we hiked in the mountains and toured caves, and on Rock Star’s late start Fridays I took her out to breakfast. We went shopping and got pedicures. I went on field trips and volunteered at their school. I took them to Moab where we toured Arches National Park and The Hole In the Wall, went white water rafting and took a HUMVEE tour up on the red rocks while Jerry Lee stayed behind in the hotel room. I took them to Yellowstone another year; we toured the park and went white water rafting (again!) and horseback riding. I took them to the Grand Canyon, Disneyland, and Florida. I even made a trip up to Twin Falls, Idaho to go camping. I made numerous cross country trips with them and always did my best to stop at attractions to break up the time and make things interesting for them. I took them to the movies and to play putt putt golf and bowling and a whole lot of other things.

Of course, that was all while I was married. Then I got divorced and worked two jobs and was exhausted all the time. Getting up at 3:30 in the morning will do that to you. Yet, even if I hadn’t gotten divorced my kids would still be growing up. They’d still rather do things with friends than with me.

I’m not saying you never see your kids once they get a driver’s license or once they hit a certain age. I am saying you’re a fool to think that once they’ve hit that magical age of 18 you’re suddenly free to go build a life for yourself independent of your children. It’s far better to have an actual life outside of your kids before they graduate high school and/or college and move away.

All of those things that are listed above- volunteering, going out with friends, hobbies- I did all of those things as my kids got older. When they were pre-kindergarten age I spent most of my time with them and didn’t do very much on my own at all. Then again, I didn’t have a supportive husband. But once they got a little older I started to spread my wings. Yes, most of the volunteering I did centered around their school and was done while they were in school. And true, most of the time I went out with friends I did so when they were in school as well. But there were the occasional times that I wasn’t around in the evening. They survived.

I wouldn’t recommend that a person who is married close themselves off that much and live a life completely dominated by child rearing. I sure as hell don’t recommend it for a person who has divorced and is forging a life with no other parent to help out.

I think the mobster and I have done a very good job of balancing our relationship and our kids. From the very beginning we agreed that the kids came first. That’s why no one moved when we had kids in high school. At our best we got to see each other every other weekend; that left plenty of time to do things with our kids. Most of the time we did not see each other every other weekend; it could be 4-6 weeks between get togethers. If either of us had a kid related event we scheduled around that. One weekend that meant meeting up on a Saturday instead of our usual Friday because my daughter had Prom on Friday night and I wanted to see her and take pictures. Another weekend he didn’t leave to meet up with me until after his daughter’s softball game. There were weekends we had planned to get together and he had forgotten it was his daughter’s birthday so the weekend together was canceled. We’ve stopped phone calls in the middle of the conversation because a child needed us, and we’ve delayed calling because we’ve been busy talking to our kids. It is possible to balance dating/being in a new relationship and raising your kids.

I want to say once more that I don’t think you absolutely must date. I know there are plenty of single women and men out there that have no desire to do so. They find the single life suits them just fine. For those people I say, “Good for you!” I wouldn’t advise that they change a thing. But I do have a problem with this idea that if you have children under the age of 18 and you choose to date, you are somehow not focusing on your kids and they are suffering for it.

If I can spend time with friends or take up a new hobby or spend time volunteering and not somehow take away from my children, then I can go on a few dates and/or begin a new relationship. And if the people who think you shouldn’t date also think you shouldn’t do anything lest it take away from your kids… well, I would advise everyone to have a life outside of their children. It’s not a bad thing for them to realize you are a person, too, and that you have things you like to do. Sometimes you might even do those things without them <gasp>! If you spend every moment of your life focusing on your kids, and only focusing on your kids, you are going to end up a very lonely person.

Your kids are going to grow up; they’re not going to live with you forever. They’re not even going to want to spend all of their time with you. Their own boyfriend or girlfriend, sports, high school activities, and weekends spent with their friends are going to take precedence. Getting their license is going to be a game changer. Enjoy them! Cherish all of those memories that you get to make with them. Gobble up every minute of time you get with them. Celebrate their achievements. By all means, put them first. At the same time, don’t be afraid to spread your own wings and develop a life of your own- with or without a new partner. It’s a lot of pressure on kids to be the center of their parent’s world.

Father’s Day 2020

Another Father’s Day is here. Neither of my kids have any plans to wish their dad a happy Father’s Day. To my knowledge neither of them bought him a card (not that they have his address, of course) or a gift. My daughter did say she messaged the mobster to wish him a happy Father’s Day. Picasso mentioned how he should buy him a goofy mug because he knew he would love it and use it. Basically, we’re doing nothing around here today in honor of Father’s Day.

My first Father’s Day without him my daughter recognized me on this day. Maybe the second year as well. I don’t remember. One year I bought myself a fire pit for Father’s Day and one of my co-workers texted me to wish me a happy Father’s Day.

I know I’m not Dad. I’m simply a mom who is doing the work of both parents because Daddy Dearest is busy with his new life, pretending to be a wonderful father to a kid that isn’t his.

I am part of a Facebook group called Chump Lady Nation. If you’ve been cheated on feel free to look it up and ask to join. It’s open to anyone who has experienced infidelity.

Someone asked what fathers who abandon their own offspring must be feeling today, or what do they say to justify it? Interesting question.

Mainly, I think they feel just fine. You don’t abandon your kids if they’re important to you. He walked away. He’s got Harley blowing sunshine up his ass, telling everyone who will listen what a great father he is. I guess she doesn’t count those two kids he abandoned and never sees. They don’t fit the narrative. Just concentrate on everything he does for her child. See? Great dad!

The other thought I had is that this is the perfect time to play the victim. It’s his chance to post a public message on Facebook and talk about how much he loves and misses Picasso and Rock Star. He’ll get another chance to tell the world that even though they probably won’t see his message to him he loves them to the moon and back. He loves them more than they will ever know. It tears him apart to be away from them. Poor, poor, sad, wittle Jerry Lee, longing to be acknowledged by his children who have been brainwashed by me, the evil, satanic, demonic ex-wife.

People will rally around him and tell him to never give up! They’ll assure him that one day the kids will know the truth! They’ll tell him that as they grow older they will be able to make their own decisions and come to their own conclusions. No longer will they be manipulated by their horrible mother who uses them as pawns.

Of course he doesn’t mention how he lived in the same house as his two kids for six months after his affair was discovered and outed and yet he never bothered in all of that time to go downstairs and talk to his daughter. The last time he talked to her she was crying and demanding to know where he was. He never texted her, never called her back. He had one conversation with his son, who was 13 at the time. He told him he wouldn’t deny he had a girlfriend but we hadn’t been happy since we had kids, which I suppose makes him fucking his cousin an okay thing to do. Not sure how appropriate it is though to tell your 13 year old that he and his sister are the reason for the demise of their parents’ marriage. But after that conversation with Picasso where he played the sad sausage, complete with telling him that I took all of his money and I had a lawyer and he didn’t, he walked past his son’s room every day for six long months and never popped his head in to say hello again. At the age of 13 my son was astute enough to realize that he was the child and his father was the adult so his dad should be checking up on him; not the other way around.

He doesn’t mention that in the time he remained in the same house he never took them out for a meal, or a walk, or an ice cream cone, or on a shopping trip. He told them they would never do without and then he turned around and made sure that the whore’s kids had everything their little hearts desired while turning his back to his own kids.

I know he doesn’t tell his well wishers about walking out the front door as though he was going to work and then driving off to his new home in a new state with a new job. He won’t admit to any of them that he couldn’t even bring himself to tell his kids that he was moving out of the house, never mind the fact that he was moving out of Virginia. He won’t tell them how he didn’t even take any of his possessions. He was just living in the spare bedroom one day and gone the next. It took me almost a week to figure out he was finally gone. Of course, he didn’t bother to tell me he had left his job either. That was going to be a wonderful surprise when my checking account was repeatedly overdrawn with all the bills I paid the day after his regular payday.

If I had to place a bet I would lay odds on the fact that he has not told all those sympathizing with him that he has not yet told his kids that he has remarried. It’s been two years now. He still hasn’t found a good time to mention it. Okay, to be fair it’s not quite two years. Give it another week and then I can truthfully say that.

They probably also aren’t aware that the only reason he has had almost no contact with his son in the four plus years since he walked away is because he doesn’t have his phone number. Yes, the man who is so intelligent that he could qualify for membership in Mensa has no idea how to get his son’s phone number. What a pickle!

I’m sure he also neglects to mention that while he could drive 12 hours roundtrip every weekend for six months to see his whore of a cousin, he has not made that drive one time to see his children and spend a weekend with them. Major props to him for being able to tear himself away from her pussy long enough to see his daughter graduate; however, once again he made it all about himself and didn’t so much as say hello to his son. See above: Doesn’t have his phone number so no way to contact him. 

I’m also positive he never mentions the fact that he neglected to send a dime in child support for ten months, refused to pay the correct amount of his modified child and spousal support for another ten months, or that he has dodged at least two attempts to garnish his wages, whether on purpose or not.

The reality is he has shut his kids out of his life. He hasn’t bothered to tell them where he currently lives. That’s not surprising considering he didn’t bother to tell them he moved out of Virginia after moving them 2000 miles away and destroying everything they had ever known. Nor did he tell them when he moved from Kentucky to Mississippi. I think the only reason he put his correct address on their Christmas cards is because he knew he wouldn’t be there much longer.

He does not contact them regularly. He has not talked to them on the phone in almost five years. He sends them a card or a Venmo transfer twice a year- if they’re lucky. He might have a little more contact with Rock Star (because he has her phone number) but she hates interacting with him because he always tries to guilt her.

Abandoning fathers don’t have much of a conscience. At least not in my opinion. The one in my kids’ lives is being fed a lie by his complicit whoring cousin/wife. You’re so sparkly and shiny; you’re just the best daddy out there! Then he takes that lie and he plays sad sausage for the rest of the world, never ever taking any responsibility for the state of his relationship and certainly not telling the truth about how it ever got to that point.

I’d wish him a happy Father’s Day. Sure I’d throw in, “Fuckwit,” after it, but I’d do it; however, he doesn’t deserve it. No, worse than that, he’s no kind of father. My kids deserve better.

My Son

I know I always tend to write about Rock Star. Mainly because she’s the one who has a lot going on. Picasso sticks to his room, playing online video games with friends far and wide and organizing Dungeons & Dragons campaigns.

This pandemic has not been easy on him. As much as he hates school he said it’s so much easier when he’s in a physical building and knows he has to do the work. We did make it though. I sat with him night after night after realizing just how far behind he was and he passed the semester with nary a D or F in sight. I’ll take it!

Within the last 6 months or so he’s expressed an interest in getting his driver’s license and getting a job. Him driving scares the shit out of me. Oh, I’m fine with the idea of him finally getting his license and him driving off on his own; I just don’t want to be in the car with him. That scares me. I think it’s because he was so terrified of driving for such a long time. Rock Star was easy. She was confident and she was itching to drive even before she was legally able. Picasso was in absolutely no rush. He only got his learner’s permit when his cousin tried to get his.

Recently he applied for a job. One of his good friends and her mom both work at this place. It’s a grocery store. No need to be super secretive. Anyway, her mom pulled his application and made sure he got called for an interview. The interview was on Saturday. He got the job offer today and has orientation tomorrow.  I’m so excited for him.

I know he really struggles with his social anxiety. It manifests itself in a much different way than Rock Star’s does. But he went to that interview and did a great job and now he’s a working man! I hope this job gives him some new friends and a newfound confidence. The mobster was a grocery man before he left it behind. He has told him store managers can make some really great money.

Picasso also went to a graduation party and out with some friends these last two weekends. Both were major scores, simply in getting him out of his room.

He’s a very interesting boy. He keeps to himself and plays online with friends most of the time but if you get him out of his room and talking he won’t shut up. He’ll talk for an hour straight once he finally gets going. I have learned so many interesting things about him lately. For example, he thinks he would like to live in Alaska. He wants to go fishing again. He would like to go tent camping. He’s really looking forward to our weekend away with the mobster (we’re renting a cabin). He thought fencing seemed like an interesting thing to do although he didn’t want to sign up for a class. He thinks he will appreciate road trips more now as an older teen than he did when he was much younger. Because of that we plan on taking a trip after he graduates to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont. Maybe a few other states. We’ll have to see. He really wants to go to Maine though.

He remains the same sweet boy as always. He’ll give me hugs without me asking. Tells me he loves me. Just the other day when we were talking about our weekend getaway I mentioned checking into horseback riding. He started talking about the summer he and his sister took riding lessons and how much he had enjoyed that. He told me I had provided some really great experiences for him growing up. I sighed and replied, “I used to be a good mom.” He was quick to tell me I was still a good mom; I just didn’t have the same mom budget through no fault of my own. He went on to say that he thought they probably took it all for granted back then because it was so plentiful.

This sweet, gentle, not so giant boy turns 18 in a few weeks. It’s hard to believe that both of my kids will be legal adults. I’ve got one more year of him being in school. Who knows what he will accomplish after graduation? I’m looking forward to hanging around for the ride.

Quarantine Craziness, Part 2

I realize Chump Lady has a niche audience. She’s amassed an incredible following and it can be very easy to dismiss them as a bunch of rabid, group thinking know it alls who only preach divorce, distance, and disdain. However, what most of them (us) have in common is that we’ve already been through this and it didn’t end well.

When the people tell newbies who are trying to figure out whether they should leave or try to work things through, they’re telling them to get out because they’ve already tried the reconciliation thing. There are very few people on that site who kicked the cheater out immediately after finding out about the infidelity. Almost all of them are repeat chumps. They tell the newbies to get out because they’ve been there. They’ve forgiven the cheater who wasn’t sorry. They’ve forgiven the cheater who lied and made promises, only to find out they took it further underground. They’ve endured the repeat D-Days, some of them coming 2… 7… 10… 20 years later. They can tell the newbies their stories of all the humiliating things they did while doing the so-called “pick me dance”. So many who say, “I can’t believe how I gave and gave and gave, how I made my needs smaller and smaller, for a person who didn’t care.”

The people that seem to find her are the ones who forgave their cheater, who thought they had the exception, only to find out the cheater was only buying time to set them up. Drained college funds. Drained retirement funds. Switched jobs to decrease their income. Used them until the money dried up and then moved on to greener pastures. The people who are screaming, “Don’t trust him/her!” are the ones who will never be able to afford to retire because they trusted a cheater.

When they urge the newbies to protect themselves- to get a post-nuptial if they’re going to stay, to do a credit check, to verify accounts- it’s because they learned through financial devastation about the need to do those things. When they say don’t quit your job, don’t move across the country, don’t take on their debts, don’t declare bankruptcy with them, don’t give them second and third and fourth chances, don’t take pity on them it’s because they’ve done those things and they have lived to regret it.

When they tell the newbies to maintain no contact or gray rock it’s because they’ve already learned the hard way. They came to realize the first step is creating space between you and the cheater; it’s difficult to fall for their bullshit when they’re not around. They’ve learned that contacting the employers, the in-laws, the affair partner’s family, generally doesn’t pay off. They’ve learned that any kind of interaction gives the cheater kibbles and maintains their centrality. They know that phoning or texting or emailing angry or maudlin outbursts is not going to benefit you; if anything, it’s going to make you feel worse. They know that begging your ex to take an interest in their children or to do as they promised does nothing except infuriate you because it sure as hell doesn’t change the cheater’s behavior. They realize that trying to figure out why the cheater did something is pointless. They know that arguing with them or trying to reason with them is a waste of time. They know this because they’ve lived it. It’s not because they’re angry, bitter people who want everyone around them to be just as miserable. They’re trying to save people some grief and misery.

Imagine this. I have an office building that overlooks an isolated sandy beach. The sand is white and pristine. The waters are a deep blue. It’s very inviting. As I stand there, looking outside my window, I see someone venture onto the beach. I see that person wade into the water. That person is swimming happily, minding his or her own business. Suddenly, from out of nowhere a shark attacks the person, throws him up in the air, and then gobbles him down in one bite. Naturally, I would be horrified. I call the police. They investigate. No body, no crime. They don’t see the shark. No signs are posted. I’m just a crazy woman.

A few days later I see another person venture onto the beach. Again, the person goes into the water, is having a great time and then BAM! Shark attack. Person devoured.

It happens again and again.

I start posting banners outside my office window, “Don’t go into the water! Shark!” People continue to dismiss me and they continue to get eaten.

Finally, I go down to the beach myself. When someone dares to dip their toes in the sand and head towards the water I implore them not to get in the water. “There’s a shark in there. It’s killed dozens of people in the last month. DO NOT GO IN! You are going to die!”

Am I telling that person not to go in the water because I’m a heartless monster who wants to prevent people from enjoying a refreshing swim? Am I trying to deny them their bliss? Am I angry or jealous that they don’t have to be stuck in an office all day and can take time off to swim?  NO! I know there’s a fucking shark in the water and this person is going to be chum. I’m trying to prevent a death, not stop them from having fun.

That’s how I view the fans of Chump Lady. They’ve seen the shark. They know the danger.

I think also that what some people don’t get is that for many of her followers the concept of a tidy, mutual conscious uncoupling has not been possible. It’s not because we are bitter bunnies who refuse to seek “a future relationship where we can both be happy for each other and our children and show them happiness and being whole are vital to a person’s future.” It’s because the people we are divorcing suck!

As one person put it: He tried to kill me so that’s going to be a hard no on any interaction.

I have a friend who had a police officer pull her aside and tell her, quite bluntly that her address was flagged as a frequent domestic violence call and when it came up they treated it as a potentially fatal call. They even told her, “One day we’re going to get that call and when we show up we’re going to find he’s killed you or one your girls.”

This man attempted to strangle one of his daughters. He’s a violent alcoholic who indulged in a three year long affair. She does not need to share birthday dinners with him. She does not need to model gracefully moving on or civility towards him. She needs to get the fuck away and stay the fuck away. Period. And she has.

The mobster has dealt with his STBX telling people that he was controlling, he made her dress a certain way, and that he was physically and emotionally abusive towards her and towards their kids. Why would he want to maintain a friendship with someone like that? Why would he want to share holidays or care one little bit about how she’s doing?

In my own situation I can still clearly remember Jerry Lee coming downstairs after I had given him a bill for the monthly living expenses. After telling me he couldn’t pay his half (yeah, when you blow over four grand on an engagement ring for your whore cousin it can be difficult to pay your share of the household bills) he told me he could give me $750, take it or leave it. Then he so graciously let me know that this could all still be civil.

The jackass was living in the family home. He cut me off financially and gave me only what his lawyer had told him he would have to pay. I got less than 50% of his paycheck and I was responsible for 100% of the bills. We had a $2100 monthly mortgage, utilities that ran around $400-$500 per month, and multiple credit cards. Plus, a pool loan. The money he was told he would end up paying me didn’t always fully cover the household bills. Meanwhile, he had approximately $5000 a month to blow on Harley and her kids. He didn’t give a fuck if his own kids went without.

I never yelled at him. I never dumped his shit on the front lawn. I never showed up at his place of employment, screaming and outing him as the lying cheater he was. I didn’t harass him or her. As far as I’m concerned I was the perfect STBX. I took care of the bills and the kids. Never bothered him. Never made life miserable for him. He, on the other hand, used our house as an extended stay hotel while he left every weekend to go fuck his cousin and played the sad sausage to everyone who would listen.

How much more civil could I have been?

We’ve seen this rouse time and time again; that’s why we don’t buy it. It’s why we urge others who are new to this to step away and refuse to engage. We’ve experienced giving them an inch and them taking a mile. We’ve experienced reaching out and doing something kind or thoughtful and having it thrown back into our faces. Apparently, some people love that shit! Abuse me some more! I want to show people what a great person I am!

For others it’s simply recognizing that this person is toxic and you need to get away. There’s nothing to work with. Nothing you say is going to make a difference. Nothing you do is going to make a difference.

I think for most people it’s very difficult to go against our basic instincts. We have been conditioned to give chance after chance. We want to try, try, and try again. We feel it’s our duty to exhaust every potential solution. What if I don’t forgive my cheater and this time, the ninth time, is the time it finally stops and we end up happily married for the rest of our lives? If they’ve already cheated nine times I’m pretty sure your chances of discovering it a tenth time are pretty high, but so many are determined to give one more chance. Chances one through eight notwithstanding. I also think it’s very scary to realize you don’t control anything. You can forgive until your brain malfunctions, until your heart stops beating, until your eyes glaze over, but it doesn’t mean a thing in a lot of cases.

Yet, it’s still pushed. You’re doing your kids a disservice if you aren’t friendly towards one another. Your children will be scarred for life if you aren’t sitting together at their concerts or school plays or football games. We took smiling divorce selfies at the courthouse because even though we’re divorced we are still family and that will never, ever change- even when one or both of us gets remarried, even if one or both of us goes on to have more children, even if one of us moves away with the new, improved family. No one can even tell we’re divorced because we do everything together- parent teacher conferences, volunteering, extracurricular activities; we’re the envy of everyone! I let my ex live with me on the weekends for the sake of my children and I accompany them on all of their outings like we’re still one big happy family even though he has a mistress and a love child six hours away in the town he moved to away from his original children. Only bitter exes who can’t get over the divorce refuse to host joint birthday parties, vacation together, go out to dinner together, and spend the holidays together as one big happy family. I’m sorry you’re not demonstrating to your children how to gracefully move on and let someone go; they’re probably going to be in dysfunctional relationships and will never forgive you. My children admire me because they can see all the sacrifices I have made for them, and how I will always put their comfort and needs ahead of my own, even if that means every time my ex asks me for something I jump up immediately and make sure it’s done. No matter how humiliating, painful, or debilitating the request may be I will always do it and I will never think about my own physical or emotional well-being. Because I’m a good parent. Unlike you, you bitter bunny who can’t move on.

To be continued…