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From the Archives: February 29, 2012

**I wrote the bit below in 2012, just 2 years after I graduated from law school, a mere 7 years after my divorce was final.  It took a lot of years to get to the point where I wasn’t just continually emotionally ambushed by the most innocuous things.  To all of you who are in that place still, know that there will be an Other Side.  The pain subsides; you will be able to draw breath again without agony.

March

It’s late on Wednesday, and I was just thinking I’d do myself a favor and go to bed early, and passed the calendar in the kitchen and thought, “Well, I’ll just be an over-achiever and change it over to March before it’s like the 5th of March” and I did, and there, on the 16th, written in black sharpie marker in 8-year old handwriting is “Jackson’s B-day.”  And I burst into tears.  Jackson is my baby.  He is 9 on the 16th, and he clearly wanted to make sure I remember :).  I will NEVER forget.

 

Jacks was 2 years old and 1 day when my ex and I signed our stipulated agreement for divorce.  I signed, even though I was signing away my life, even though it was NOT fair at all,  because I needed out before I had to kill myself.  I couldn’t be married to him for one more second.  And he punished me for it to the enth degree.

 

The ex took everything–EVERYTHING.  Including my babies; including my Jacks.  March is a killer month for me.  There is not enough Vitamin D, Omega-3 fatty acids, not enough melatonin or xanax to ease the pain of March.

 

“Beware the Ides of March.”  That’s what my grandma told me when I was pregnant with Jackson–he was due the 15th, the Ides.  Had I known what was in store for me over the course of the years, I would have saved us all some time listening to me bitching and moaning, and all the tears and misery, and swallowed all those sleeping pills like I REALLY wanted to back then.  I didn’t.  Now I can’t.  Just gotta suck it up for one more March….

 

P.S.  I love my baby!  He’s WONDERFUL!  Might be the smartest almost-9 year old on the planet :).

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How to NOT Get Divorced: A Love Story

My parents celebrated their 47th wedding anniversary in January of this year.  47 YEARS together.  They have 6 kids.  They have gone through job loss, major moves, a kid with legal problems, kids with personal life issues, and are now raising my 2 young nieces.  Needless to say, their married life has not been all unicorns and butterflies.  And still, they are married.  And by all accounts, they are HAPPY in their marriage.  And how do we know…?

This morning my mom texted to our little family group message these pictures, with the message “Your dad is still a romantic!! we love him!!”

What you’re looking at is Valentines Day at their house, by 6:30 this morning.  My dad goes big on V Day.  That picture on the left is ALL the stuff he got for my mom and nieces; then you see my nieces with their individual gifts.  (M, child in the middle pic there, saw all this in the kitchen when they walked in this morning and said, “Where does he GO at night?!?!” 😉 ).  My dad does this every year.  He has gone big on Valentines Day for my mom for years; he’s added the Littles since they’ve been living with my parents (most of their young lives).  He’s retired now, but he did it when he was still working full time for the post office, and had to leave for work by 6:30 a.m.  He made sure he decorated my mom’s classroom at the school where she taught 5th grade until she retired last year, stealing her keys and getting in there BEFORE he had to leave for work, just so she and all  her students would walk in and see this huge deal being made of my mother by my dad.  He does this, and has done this even when it wasn’t easy or convenient.

Why???

Because My Dad Loves My Mom.  And this is one of the ways he shows her.  No, they don’t always get along.  They irritate each other sometimes, and they argue sometimes.  My dad is a night person; my mom is absolutely a morning person.  And now in their retirement, they have become parents of young children again, which is not how they thought their lives would go.  But they still LIKE each other.  They like spending time together.  They like going on long drives together, just to “see where the road goes.” They are on the same team.  They just like to Be together.

My dad gets Valentines and makes a big deal for my nieces because he wants them to see what it looks like to be treated well by a man.  My dad models being a good husband and father, and what a good relationship looks like to all of us kids.  Which is honestly one of the reasons I knew my first marriage was not okay.  I knew what it was supposed to look like and, more importantly, FEEL like, and mine did not.

Now, does this mean that unless you super go all out for V Day that you’re not a good partner?  Absolutely not.  But this is how MY dad does it.  And he isn’t just a good man on Valentines Day, and my parents don’t just work on being nice to each other on major holidays.  It’s Every. Damn. Day.  Just like anything you want to be good at.  You wanna be a great ball player? You practice.  You wanna be a great spouse?  You practice.

To be clear, doing YOUR best does not mean your marriage will last.  Marriages are made up of two people, and if only one is interested in working every day on it, and making their spouse a priority, that one person can’t carry the whole thing.  Which is really the saddest thing, truly.

But Today, on Valentines Day, here’s an example of how a long marriage can stay happy.  Happy V Day, ya’ll.Keep Trying

An Essay: In honor of my 43rd year of life, a new year, and to try and maintain my sanity insofar as is possible, THESE ARE THE RULES OF OUR HOUSE:

(**A year ago, on my birthday–which happens to be immediately after the New Year–I decided that it was high time that I expressed to my children exactly what was expected of them in our house.  I don’t have a lot of “Rules,” so to speak–Clean up after yourself, help out, be nice, don’t be a jerk…The basics.  By the time I hit my 43rd year, however, I had determined that this lack of actual definition of what the Rules are was being used against me.  And I decided to take action.  The following is a result of that decisionSent via text to those who live and hang out in my house:)Crack that whip

I am not the dishes fairy. If you come into our house and make a snack, get a drink, cook for yourself, etc, you WILL properly take care of the dishes. “Properly take care of dishes” is defined thusly: if you dirty a dish, you wash a dish. You either empty the clean dishes out of the dishwasher and load yours, load yours into an already dirty dishwasher, or RINSE AND NEATLY STACK your dishes ON THE COUNTER. Nasty slimy dishes in the sink is one of my biggest pet peeves, and y’all have lived with me long enough to know this.

You will clean up the counters after you have used the kitchen in any of the aforesaid ways. This means you put away things you got out, properly take care of your dishes (see above for definition), and wipe the counters. You DO NOT leave sticky yack on the counters, or popcorn kernels, popcorn popper, crumbs, any other appliances you may use on the counters.

You WILL properly take care of your dishes that you remove from the kitchen. This means dishes that you may have previously left in other places around the house. (See above for the definition of “properly taking care of your dishes.”)

You WILL clean up your own trash. Wrappers, plastic cups, cup o noodle cups, etc, are to be placed on a proper trash receptacle, NOT left on any surface around the house.

You WILL keep garbage in vehicles cleaned up and in the appropriate garbage sack. When the sack gets full, you WILL take it out of the car, put it into the outside garbage can, and replace the sack. You WILL NOT leave spilled drink yack, dirt, crumbs, etc. in the car after you use it. We are not driving around dumpsters! Every car has wet wipes in it. USE THEM.

Failure to comply with ANY of these rules by ANY person will result in the wifi password being changed, and not given out again until the problem is remediated. So y’all better figure out how to follow the rules PDQ or you’ll spend a lot of time watching basic cable, reading actual books (GASP!), or twiddling your thumbs.

I AM DONE. You WILL act more like responsible adults. I will not let you move off into the world as slobs and assholes who take advantage of those you live with.

Clean house

(The Epilogue:  Things got generally better.  I only changed the wifi password once, however, because as it happens, it’s more of a pain for me than it is for the kids.  Though I did make sure to spread my irritation at the pain to all of them, so they could share in my Joy ;).  And my oldest son moved out and into an apartment with friends last spring.  By December, he was ready to move back in with me…his roommates aren’t the cleanest, and it grosses him out.  Made my mama heart proud :).)

The Advisory Guidelines: Especially at the Holidays

I’ve written a number of blog articles about parent time and the holidays, but in the interest of making sure you are in the right frame of mind, I thought I’d do another one this year.  The holidays can be a really lovely time with your kids, if you and your ex can be grown ups about it.  I’ve mentioned this a few times before as well.  You have a parent time order in place; follow it.  You and your ex have family holiday parties going on that may or may not coincide with your particular parent time schedule; work with each other so your kids can be part of both of their parents’ family fun.

In Utah this aspirational “working together” thing has actually been made part of the statutes.  It’s called the Advisory Guidelines, and they’re found at UCA 30-3-33.  Some specific portions that are important to follow during the holiday season:Treat them as good as you are

(3) Special consideration shall be given by each parent to make the child available to attend family functions including funerals, weddings, family reunions, religious holidays, important ceremonies, and other significant events in the life of the child or in the life of either parent which may inadvertently conflict with the parent-time schedule.

(17) Each parent shall be entitled to an equal division of major religious holidays celebrated by the parents, and the parent who celebrates a religious holiday that the other parent does not celebrate shall have the right to be together with the child on the religious holiday. (emphasis added)

Note the “shall”s in those parts of the statute.  That means that this working together and being nice for the sake of the kids is mandatory.  And you should think it’s mandatory anyway, without having to have the law tell you how to be a good parent. Because honestly, that’s all the advisory guidelines are–the law telling you to be a good parent, not jerk the other parent around, do what you can to make your child’s life and experiences as full and peaceful and normal as possible, even though his/her parents are divorced.  Be a good person.  Communicate about the kids.  Think about how what you’re doing and how you’re interacting with your ex will affect your kids.  These are not hard things.  And if you’re the only parent doing it, STILL DO IT.  Somebody’s gotta be the grown up.  Take it upon yourself to Be the Grown Up.

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me….

 

30 Days of Thankfulness (Condensed Version)

A lot of my friends do the “30 Days of Thankfulness” thing on social media in November.  While I haven’t consistently gotten into that, there is much to be said for stopping for a minute each day and pondering the good in our lives, and what we have to be grateful for.  I don’t do the Write An Essay Every Day thing.  Quite frankly, some days it’s really hard to raise up my head enough to do anything besides keep moving forward and breathing in and out.  I’ve mentioned my struggles with depression and anxiety a bit on this blog before, but just suffice it to say that when we hit the holiday season, those two near constant companions of mine shift into overdrive.  But today, right now, I feel pretty good.  So here are 30 things I am grateful for, in no particular order.  And we’ll call that the condensed version of my 30 Days of Thankfulness.

  1.  My husband.  I have known my husband since we were both in the 6th grade at Harding Gibbs Middle School in Firth, ID.  We were friends, but not Friends.  We ran in different circles entirely going through school.  I saw him just twice in person between our high school graduation in 1991 and May of 2014.  But what a difference a couple of decades+ make!  The timing was awkward, but I don’t regret getting together with him.  I love him to pieces. He makes my life easier.  Which was a totally new concept for me in being in a relationship with someone.  I am ridiculously grateful for him, and I hope I let him know that enough.
  2. TSW
  3. MTW
  4. CMW
  5. JDW….who are
  6. My kids.  I have four sons, and I will tell you right now–they are the reason I have survived as long as I have.
    BoysLawschoolGrad

    My boys with me at my law school graduation

    From the “in honor of” note that I put in my law school graduation program: “IHO…my incredibly gifted and attractive sons.  I would not have come here (to law school) had I not needed to for you.  You are my reason for being.  I love you!!”  The only thing that’s changed since then is I love them more.  They’re pretty incredible young men and adults, and I’m beyond thankful for them… That’s why they get 5 spaces on this list 😉 .

  7. Also from my “in honor of” from my law school grad program: “IHO My phenomenal family and friends: For money deposited regularly (and sometimes surreptitiously) into my checking account; for car maintenance, tires, and tanks of gas; for innumerable pep talks; for cash stuffed into my purse and sent in the mail; for places to stay; for being there for my kids when I couldn’t be; for facilitating me being The Mom to my boys; and for flatly refusing to allow me to quit when it was too hard for me to go on.  I will forever be grateful.”  The only thing that’s not the same as it was then is that my family and friends have given me MORE support over the years.  I am so grateful for them!
  8. Cars that are (currently) running.
  9. Gas prices under $3/gallon.
  10. An actual Job, with direct deposit, paid vacation, paid holidays, and health insurance.  It’s pretty awesome, especially having NOT had one for a really long time.

    Tim&Wyo

    My hubby & Wyoming…a twofer

  11. Wyoming.  Wyoming has been very good to me.  In particular the Bank of Star Valley and the University of Wyoming.  Much kindness has been (and continues to be) poured my way in my difficulties, particularly from the Bank.  Those are awesome, solid people.
  12. Humidifiers to ease a cough at night.
  13. Bathtubs and epsom salts soaks.
  14. My nail lady and her fantastically long-lasting shellac nails that are so lovely and so inexpensive that I can afford to look at my hands and see pretty things 🙂 .
  15. My stepchildren.  I have 5 of them.  They’re good kids, and I’m learning a lot about being a better person from them.  So thanks, guys 😉 .
  16. Wide calf knee boots.
  17. Spandex in jeans.
  18. Air conditioning and central heat.
  19. Smartphones.  What did we do without smartphones???
  20. My cats.  They’re weirdos, for sure, and they shed like mad, the one is a diva, another is kind of a jerk sometimes, and the third is downright Odd, but they really do make my life better, and I’m very glad I get to share my home with them.
  21. Prisms and rainbows.  I’ve gotten a little obsessed with them…

    View from the front porche 2015

    The view from the front porch…with mountains.

  22. My home.  My husband and I moved into our house in July of 2015.  At the time we found it, it was for sale, but we didn’t qualify for a home loan.  So we talked the owners into doing a lease purchase agreement on it; we closed on September 30, 2016.  My dad co-signed on the mortgage for me.  I love my house.
  23. My piano.  I just recently inherited this from my mother, as she has just inherited HER mother’s piano.  It’s 111 years old, and it’s seen better days, but it’s been a fixture in every Home that has ever felt like Home in my life.  I love it.

    MyPiano

    My piano

  24. My family in law.  My husband’s family has welcomed me into their world with open arms and a little bit of sarcasm to boot.  They’re fantastic.  I’m grateful for them all.
  25. Facebook and Instagram.  Social media can definitely be a double-edged sword, but it’s how I keep in touch with people I wouldn’t otherwise ever see.  I love that I can share in my brother’s life, even though he lives in Malaysia, on a day-to-day basis.  And I’ve met some fantastic people in the far-flung reaches of the country that I love getting to have friendships with, that I otherwise would never have met.  I’ve reunited with old friends, and truly appreciate the circle of support that comes with social media.  So with all its many flaws, I’m grateful for it.
  26. The Bloggess, aka Jenny Lawson.  She has a blog that has been a huge boon in the lives of thousands of people.  My first experience with her writing was a post about a giant metal chicken named Beyonce.  Her books have made me laugh my tail off, and cry my eyes out.  She is an asset to all of us who have dealt with the Invisible illnesses.  I’m thankful for her. (You can read that first post that hooked me here ).
  27. My garden, especially homegrown tomatoes and basil.
  28. My washer and dryer.
  29. Electricity.
  30. Mountains.  For most of my life I have lived near mountains.  They are grounding and settling and orienting, and they give me peace.  Thank God for mountains.

Yeah, that was a pretty random list.  But life is random, and I am grateful for so many Random things.  I will use this list to help me maintain my personal peace as this holiday season crashes in on me….there is much to be grateful for.  Weirdo cats and all.

Fear

Fear makes the wolf bigger than he isAs a noun, fear is defined as “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or a threat.”  As a verb, to “be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening.”  Fear can be a huge motivator to either do, or NOT do, a particular thing.  Sometimes fear is based in reality; sometimes, just in the perception of reality.  Fear can be crippling, can prevent one from taking necessary, reasonable action, or can motivate one to take actions that are unreasonable, dangerous, or out of proportion to the circumstances.

So what does that have to do with the law?

Family law actions are emotional things.  While the divvying up of assets, assignment of debts, allocation of custody and parent time, and awards of child support and alimony are black and white things, underlying the entire process is a mess of emotions, largely unpleasant ones.  Anger, pain, rage, desperation, panic, despair, sadness, frustration, helplessness, hopelessness….Swirling in with that horrible mix is Fear.

Fear is a huge part of any major life change….fear of the unknown–what happens with my budget when I’m limited to x amount of dollars a month?  What happens to my retirement goals when I have to pay out x dollars a month?  Why should I have to pay money to this person who is hurting me?  When will I get to see my kids?  What if my ex makes my kids hate me?  How will I pay all the expenses I need to for my kids?  What if I can’t pay the rent on this child support/alimony amount?  How am I supposed to get a job and take care of my kids at the same time? Who’s gonna hire me???  Is anyone ever gonna want to be with me again????

I would suggest that much of the reason people behave irrationally, do dumb things, say dumb things, try to avoid legal action, or any of the thousands of different ways people end up hurting themselves in family cases is out of fear:  “If I avoid the process server, they can’t serve me, and this will all go away.”  “He said there’s a warrant out for my arrest if I try and show up to court….I can’t get arrested!”

Mark Twain CourageWhile legal proceedings can be scary, the best way to deal with them is through Knowledge.  Be proactive–don’t wait until the last minute to seek legal advice.  If you’re scared about a threat made by the Other, ASK someone who knows or can find out about whether there’s any truth to the threat.  If you married a bully, be ready to deal with a bully.  Is it scary?  Hell YES it is.  But avoiding it, hiding, pretending it’s not happening, remaining willfully ignorant will do more to hurt you in the long AND short run than squaring your shoulders and addressing the situation.

Case in point:

I got divorced in 2005.  At the time, I’d been a stay at home mom, had 4 kids, the oldest of which were 8 year old twins, and had no money to my own name other than what my husband brought in.  My marriage had come apart, and my mental health was deteriorating.  I couldn’t stay married and live.  And No, I’m not being dramatic when I say that.  I was scared to death.

So how did I handle it?

I rolled over and died, in a manner of speaking.  My husband hired a lawyer, who drafted an agreement taking everything away from me except for some really minimal bits of Stuff.  I didn’t fight to get custody of the kids I’d been primary caretaker of for their entire lives.  I didn’t even attempt to stay in my house, or get alimony, or ask for half of the rest of our marital, not-insignificant assets.  I signed my husband’s agreement.  That became the terms of my divorce, and gave him custody of my kids.

I flat out gave up.  Out of paralyzing, crippling Fear.  Everything my husband said about how miserable he’d make me if I tried to get even statutory minimums under the law for ANYTHING, I believed.  All the little demeaning, demoralizing comments he threw out at me, I believed.  I was terrified–terrified of a legal fight, terrified of my kids getting hurt any worse than they already were, terrified of losing my mind before it was all said and done…Terrified.  Scared.  Panicked.

And so, out of blind, crippling, numbing, paralyzing fear, I gave up.  Everything–my kids, my home, any portion of 10 years of marriage…all of it.  Without a fight.

Ask me how much I regret that.  And when you do, bring tissues, because I’m going to cry my eyes out on you, even though it’s been nearly 13 years since all that happened.fear-is-the-mindkiller

DON’T YOU BE LIKE ME.  You be BRAVE.  Find your support people.  Face your fears, even if you have to face them quietly, by seeking out help online, or at a victim’s crisis center.  Get real information.  Do a little research.  DON’T GO DOWN WITHOUT A FIGHT!  For the love of all that is good and holy, I am begging you, do not let fear take your life from you.  You can do it.  I swear, it’s hard as hell, but you CAN.  And you Must.

A final Scene from the story of fear in my life:  I am at my Aunt Nancy’s house, curled up on the floor in her bathroom, sobbing out of fear and the misery that came from letting my fear cripple me when it counted most.  She is sitting next to me, on the floor, knees pulled up to her chest, her arm around my shoulders.  She is saying, “I wish I could poor courage into your spine so you can stand.”

I say to you–Imagine me pouring courage into your spine.  Stand up. You may be afraid, but don’t let it control you.  You are not alone.

Be Brave.

Bitching on Social Media: KNOCK IT OFF

This is gonna be a little, short post, but it’s gotta be said.  STOP airing all your grievances on social media!  Keep your snarky little comments OFF Twitter!  Keep your personal, thinly-veiled jabs at the other party off Facebook!  You’re. Not. Helping.  Being pissed off about the ex boyfriend or ex husband or ex wife or ex girlfriend in a public forum is ugly, dumb, and completely immature.  ESPECIALLY if you have kids who have access to your vitriol about their dad/mom.

If your child support isn’t being paid, I’m sorry.  Stuff happens in people’s lives, and sometimes they CAN’T pay you AND keep the lights on.  And even if they’re just being hateful and refusing to pay?  Public shaming doesn’t make them any less hateful.  For real.  You’re not solving your problem.  You’re simply ramping up the conflict, creating drama, and adding more tension to BOTH of your lives.

If you and your ex are engaged in some sort of court case, DON’T GO SPEWING ALL OVER YOUR FB PAGE.  You look like a vicious b*tch–and that term applies to men who do it as well.  And then you provide evidence to the other person that they can simply blow up 16″x 24″ on a poster in court to show how horrible you are.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve advised a client to SHUT UP on Facebook or Twitter.  You’re only hurting yourself with that kind of behavior.  You think your page is totally private?  Maybe it is, and maybe someone is seeing stuff and passing it on to the ex.  You will sink yourself, and you’ll have no one but yourself to blame. Because in the words of my Uncle Terry, and the Great John Wayne,

229378-Life-Is-Hard.-Its-Harder-If-You-re-Stupid

 

 

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