Thursday, May 21, 2015

CS Modification Hearing



I think my insides have finally stopped shaking.  Even though I’ve come so far, it’s hard to let go of the fear that is associated with my Ex.  I have a hard time facing him in such adversarial settings, and I did get a bit weepy beforehand, and it took two days for the aftershocks to calm down.  But hey, that’s progress!  In 2010-2011, I would have been cowering for days, sleepless for a week, I can still remember that knot of fear lodged in my chest.  So just keep swimming, right?

The basic rundown of what happened Tuesday was:  his request for continuance was denied.  We settled all disputes on income, child support, and healthcare.  He may save $100/month for the next three months, but it appears he paid three times as much for hiring an attorney in the first place.  Our next step is to prepare the modification effective August 1st, because that’s likely when DD2’s childcare costs will drop dramatically, although he may be forgetting it won’t completely disappear, because she will have costs similar to DD1.

I wonder…

So the part of me that hasn’t grown up just yet, and can’t help but be a big gleeful by the circumstances—apparently, he retained the attorney last week Wednesday.  Who took his sweet time notifying my attorney that my ex was represented and he needed a continuance.  Normally, attorneys will agree to continuances, because everyone is busy, but hey, he didn’t tell her until Friday evening.  In the mean time, I got a phone call from the CS people, saying that at my ex’s attorney’s request they wanted to continue the Tuesday hearing.  Of course in a panic, I wrote to my attorney.  So she was notified that there was another attorney involved because of my email—not because of any communication from him.  (Irritating my attorney was probably not best).  Secondly, on Monday, my attorney told me to call back the CS people to verify exactly what they wanted, and when they said they wanted to delay the hearing, I told them honestly and truthfully that I had known about this for a month and a half, had scheduled time off work to attend, and as far as I knew my attorney had advised me to attend.  Later that afternoon, we learned CS denied the continuance, however my ex was going to appear by phone, and me and my attorney were expected to go in person.

Tuesday morning, after I dropped of the girls and headed to the hearing, I lost it a bit (PTSD sucks!! I was crying and weepy—suddenly afraid he would change his mind and show up in person instead of by phone), but pulled myself together after a heart-to-heart with one of my best girlfriends ever.  (She said:  so he wants to pay less?  What’s wrong with him?  What a baby, he can’t figure out that supporting the kids is best for them?  Just imagine him dressed up in a big ole diaper!!!  Which made me laugh).

Once at the building, I overhear my attorney talking to my ex’s attorney—only it’s not my ex’s attorney.  It’s an associate that my ex’s attorney transferred the file to…the night before.  She had never met my ex before.  And I could hear her asking questions, i.e. why are we here when we have to come back in three months?  Why such late notice?  To which my attorney was responding, I know, it makes no sense, it’s probably a control/anger issue.  They’ve been fighting about private school, and then bam, he hits her with a modification, even though we have to come back in three months.

Then, my attorney has to hang up, because my ex has arrived to the office, and the associate attorney has to introduce herself to him for the first time, explain the issues, and she is certain his retained attorney didn’t tell him the file was transferred.  (that’s the part where I giggled with wrathful glee.)

In the end, he had more income than previously calculated.  There were changes in childcare/healthcare that are normal and to be expected.  And it was done.  We walked out and yet I still felt icky.  That somehow he “got one” on us, by making us go through all this, all this expense, for what is just a simple numbers game.

And then my attorney told me, “You need to consider this a win.”  Maybe she sensed my inner turmoil?  She said, “I’ve been doing this for 20 years, and it’s my job to shepherd people through this process, so they can move on and have a better life..
            Do you know why this is a win?  Because your kids are happy.  You have A.  You have moved on.  Unfortunately for him, he is stuck he is miserable.  And that’s why he loses, and you win.”

            She’s right.  I have to remember that I win, not because I’m at war with my ex.  I win, because my life is so much better now. 

p.s. DD1 is getting an award at her school today, and I get to go to her assembly.  Also, DD2 performs at her preschool tomorrow.  So life is pretty good.  *swoon* 

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Work (awesome!) and upcoming legal stuff (not awesome!)



I was offline for a week due to a work trip, and I got to tour the great city of Austin, TX! 

On a serious note, I learned so much at this conference, and my brain is percolating with ideas on how to help people and/or work with people in my state to help people.  It’s exciting that we have the support of our “big boss” in these endeavors. 

On a tourist note, I was able to pass by their beautiful capitol, watch the bats fly out from underneath the Congress Avenue bridge, eat full on Texas BBQ (along with local draft Fireman's Four!), and Tex-Mex, and Mexican, see Barton Springs and tiptoe into Barking Springs, and even get a taste of Texas Honky-Tonk and a quick two-step dance with a man wearing bona fide cowboy boots! 


(The beautiful Capitol)

(The Broken Spoke--The Best Honky Tonk Music in Texas!)


Real Texas BBQ from Stubb's!

 

And, on a networking note, I stayed up into all hours conversing with people from my state, states across the nation, as well as members on the national level in the work that we do.  It was truly inspiring and such an unexpected experience, for which I feel lucky and blessed.  Life is too short, you know?  So it’s best to tackle these projects with enthusiasm and grace (well, attempted grace, A for effort!).  It’s odd, that I feel like I can do these “grown up” responsibilities, and yet half the time, I still feel like that silly teenager who was always looking for love and fun and hope on the inside.  But I digress.

Just a quick update—next week is my CS modification hearing.  I’m also working with my attorney on sending my daughters to private school…I’m fortunate that I’m in the position to be able to send them without his help.  And even though I’ve made it clear that the legal custody rights that he is entitled to will stand—i.e.keep coming to the school events and participate in the fundraisers and extracurriculars and parent-teacher conferences, the answer from him for the past 9 months has been a big, resounding NO. 

The irony?  He (and his family) are products of private school, and for years before DD1 could start school, he railed against sending her to public.  The public vs. private in our state is quite the debate.  I’m from another state where public is just fine, so this was all a mystery to me when I moved down here many years ago.  To which I was enlightened and examined with careful thought as my children grew older.  

Anyway, he isn’t even on the hook to pay, and yet it’s still no.  I can’t believe we may have to go to court over the fact that I would like to pay for private school all by myself, but every day it looks like it’s coming one step closer. 

Where’s the purse brick, again?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Keeping an Eye Out on Ladybug



So little sister Ladybug is this energizer bunny, loving, hilarious, jumping bean; she is either in a state of motion or fast asleep.  There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground with her, ever since the day she was born—I remember her little body in my arms, and she was trying to hold her tiny head up in the hospital (I think so she could hear her big sister).  She’s embraced life to the fullest and with gusto that I wish I could bottle, especially when at a late afternoon meeting and I have to force my head to stay on top of my neck, rather than sag into an impromptu slumber, lol, because hey, I’m old now, and naps are AWESOME!  Sorry for the digression.

So over the last couple of months, Ladybug has suddenly displayed different behavior—I’d say skittish, like a cat—much more shy around groups of people.  We stopped going to gymnastics last month because she was displaying big reluctance (which was weird, because when she started last fall, she loved it.  We even had her birthday party there in February and she had a blast).  Sometimes she said she would rather go to "swim lessons with daddy," and I responded positively and told her she could do both.  And despite the reluctance, usually a third or halfway through the class, she’d finally warm up and participate again.  Plus, being the energizer bunny that she was, I thought it would help burn off some of that energy, and since she twirls and somersaults in the house, perhaps doing so with thick padding would help.  Towards the end, she became quite vocal about not going, “I’m scared mommy!” to which I would react with curiosity, “what does it mean to be scared?,” “does anything bad happen?” and I’d struggle forward saying we had signed up, so we had to follow through, and mainly so I could show Ladybug that during that 45 minutes of gymnastics, nothing BAD happened, no yelling, hitting, hurting, etc., I was hoping she could see with her own eyes and ears and body that she was okay.

Cut to the last lesson where she just sat on the mats the entire time, while the other children were bouncing and laughing and having a lovely time, and I decided, well she’s miserable, I’m miserable, let’s take a break. 

During this time, I also noticed when we went to a new place where there were lots of people, she would hide in the back of my shirt, clinging like a baby koala and refuse to let go, or if she did, her face hidden in my side.  And while my inlaws were just in town (the girls LOVE them!  See my last post), when they first arrived, Ladybug clung to me again repeating she was "shy."  After 20 minutes or so, she warmed up and was fine, cuddling, playing and laughing with them with her usual gusto.

I talked with the girls’ play therapist—who says not to worry, it could be just a normal phase with Ladybug, because kids can do this—and as long as we react with curiosity and support (rather than punishment or negativity), she’ll likely get through it.  That because Ladybug was so extroverted before it seems like this huge change, but really, it could be just a normal phase that many kids go through.  (Squirrel didn’t, which is probably why it seems like such a surprise to me.)

Well…then the the girls came home from a week end at dad’s on Monday, and for the first time in 2.5 years, Ladybug said she was "shy" around A when he got home and was reluctant to be around him.  We assured her that A loved her and did our best to respond positively.

Ladybug still seemed upset though, and during the phone call with dad, she was audibly sad, and dad asked her what was the matter, and she said she didn't want to tell dad, because she was afraid he would 'get mad at her.'  Dad reassured her that he wouldn't get mad at her, and then she said she felt shy around A, because she hadn't seen him "for a long time."  Dad then repeatedly asked her if "something happened with A," to which she said no, repeatedly, then she wanted to get off the phone, and dad asked her if "someone asked her to get off the phone," to which Ladybug looked at me (confused) and said "no."  Then big sister Squirrel got on the phone and explained to dad that Ladybug was just shy and she always warms up later (because Squirrel always feels likes it her job to take care of dad’s worries…).  Squirrel went on to have a normal phone call with him.

Before the in-laws left, who are veterans at this blended family business (20+ years, and both their youngests were around 10), I touched on Ladybug’s skittishness with them, wondering if all the back and forth between the two houses was finally getting to Ladybug.  That up until now, Ladybug just went with the flow, because she was a baby when the Ex moved out, and she didn’t know any different.  Back then, it was big sister Squirrel who was grieving and having a harder time adjusting.  Now, four years later, Squirrel has her brownie scout friends, her music friends, her dance school friends, her school friends, lots of activities and support around her, and she’s older, more able to tolerate the two houses situation.  I wonder, if perhaps it’s little sister Ladybug’s turn to struggle, to not really be able to settle into each house because of all the shuffling, and if the stress of the schedule is wearing on her.

My MIL confided in me that she had wondered the exact same thing—they they both thought the middle of the week overnight is so disruptive to the busy school schedule and maybe Ladybug is having a hard time settling in.

And then not to assume, but I also worry about the negative speak that may be happening, overtly or inadvertently at their dad’s.  Ladybug mentioned that dad talks about A, and knowing what I know about Exie’s manipulative nature, my red flags are going off.

I brought these concerns to both the play therapist and the co-parenting counselor, and of course they are saying don’t assume, it could be a phase, etc. etc.  I hope they will address this with him, and in the meantime, I remain vigilant and supportive of both girls.  I think these counselors listen to me, but sometimes…I wonder.  And sometimes I think, I am the only person who truly gets and understand the length and breadth of his crazy.  :(

/rant  p.s. So… It turned out the co-parenting counselor had scheduled the Ex to come right after my appointment.  When I learned of that, I made it clear with her that while I am willing to put on a brave face at public events at school for the girls--which do go well, because I do that for the girls' sakes, I was **very** uncomfortable with being in the same place as him and that my PTSD was triggered, and I would need to leave early to be sure I didn’t see him. She apologized and said she didn't think it would be a big deal, and wouldn't do that again.  I left 20 minutes early.   And went to my personal therapist.  I’m okay with this now, because she said she wouldn’t do this again, but part of me was like, seriously?  You may see this educated, well-dressed man in front of you, so you assume he’s not as bad as I had experienced, and I will do what I need to do to be flexible and work with him for my girls’ sake, but I will NOT and do NOT have to be around the person who perpetrated his anger outbursts on us and threatened to put a bullet through my head.  NO.  Dammit.  NO. 

/end rant.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I love Staycations! (Or It’s so Hard to Say Goodbye)



The last week has been a whirlwind of activity—fun at the beach with our stepgrandparents, taking them sightseeing, eating new food they’d never eaten before (dim sum) that they loved.  I took my FIL surfing, and he caught three waves all by himself!  (He didn’t need me at all, lol.)  The girls had a blast swimming in the staycation pools with them, going to the beach, DD1 playing cards and monopoly and folding origami with both of them, and DD2 cuddling up with either grandma or grandpa any chance she could get.  We even fit in a girls day, DD1 has been asking to get a pedicure for ages, and in fact, we were going to do that earlier, but then I got the stomach flu (see barfmageddon ).

So Saturday, step-MIL, DD1, DD2, and I loaded up in the car and went and got our toenails done, then headed into town for some shopping (DD1 needs a training bra, GASP, and also asked if we could do that when grandma was here), lunch, and we all bought a new pair of shoes, too cute!  DD2 told grandma, “I really enjoyed our girls day.”  Awwww.


Meanwhile, Hubby and his dad went kayaking across the ocean to a little island that is also a bird sanctuary, a four hour outing, then they had their guys lunch, and we all met back up at the staycation condo for a swim.  And we played and talked and laughed and had a wonderful time some more.  I just love my hubby’s family so much.

Today, grandma and grandpa get on the big plane and head back home, and DD1 is being quite brave about it.  She said, “see you next Sunday!” because we Skype with them regularly, but like DD2 says, it’s so much BETTER when they’re not on the T.V.  I marvel at today’s technology that links us together with our people near and far, how I counted the days to see my grandmother when I was little.  The school year would take FOREVER to end into summer vacation and then FINALLY we’d make the four hour drive that took another FOREVER to get to our grandmother’s house.  I love that the girls love Hubby’s family—and again, since my fathers have passed, and so has my ex’s father, they have bonded with their step-grandpa like little opihis clinging naturally to the rocks by the sea.  And Hubby’s family has accepted the girls with all of their hearts.  Swoon.

I’ve been teary the past couple of days, in the face of their departing on the big plane.  I love Hubby’s family so much, which brings up some kind of primordial fear about losing loved ones, since my loved ones have disappeared over the years.  I’m sure it’s related to my adoption story, abandonment is something I’ve long struggled with, sometimes embraced, sometimes clung to, a pre-verbal, primal experience which is another therapy blog story altogether.

But what I was thinking about with my divorce and with building a new life—leaving behind family is the part we don’t talk about as much, or maybe we do, maybe it’s something I haven’t talked about so much.  I didn’t just lose a husband, I lost a family.  Granted a weird family, but one that loved me in some kind of way, for a time, all the same, and I them, but now those bonds are gone, due to lines drawn in the sand.  And I understand that his family has to stand by him, and it wouldn’t make much sense in any other way, just like my family stands by me, but it’s sad anyway.  And though the girls will have their bonds, I think somehow it’s okay to be sad and grieve, even though it makes sense to lose the mom who promised that I could bring the girls to see her if the violence didn’t improve, the mom who told me in hushed whispers how she was worried about his temper too, especially with how he treat(ed) DD1, the mom who cried and begged her son to let DD1 out of the locked bathroom that was so dark you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face when she was 3 and a half.  The mom who asked him quietly to stop shouting at DD1 after he kicked her in the stomach, only to become the target of his shouting.  She no longer looks me in the eye at exchanges and I wonder and worry about her…and I’m sad that she went on the stand and perjured herself, because of the lines in the sand.

I was thinking about my former BIL, who was the one person who stepped in when the girls were targets for their father’s anger, who bore the brunt of the nasty reaction that ensued and the invitations to fight and the whispered (and shouted) degrading threats.  At the final stages of our crumbling marriage, the girls were flower girls at the Ex’s cousin’s wedding--this was the last family outing we did together after he moved out, when I was still hoping that somehow he would change, he was in therapy, he would fight for our family and win.  I know the girls are in their wedding pictures, and I remember how happy, young, hopeful the couple were, how happy the girls were to stand next to the beautiful bride.  I put on a brave face, hoping somehow we would be okay, too.  Except then we weren’t.  And so a family was lost to me.

*****

I am building a new family now, and it’s full of love and hope and hugs and no secret threats.  We are already making plans to see each other again, and hopefully some more of Hubby’s family will be here over the rest of the year.  Maybe I’m all emo because my own family is full of so much loss, and experiencing the fun and closeness that Hubby has with his, and by extension, experienced by the girls and me…just fills my heart up so much.  (Not that they don’t have their irritations with each other, and every family has drama, but they all get along and genuinely enjoy spending time together!)

And maybe I’m emo, because I’m sad of the loss from before and honestly, I’m scared.  Getting married again, I didn’t just marry Hubby, I married his family, too, and if I lost him AND his family, I would just be bereft.  The thought of that makes my eyes well.

I really just suck at saying goodbye.  I don’t know how people do it, they say goodbye and the world keeps on moving, never skips a beat, because they know everything will be just fine.  It usually is.  I say goodbye, and my heart trembles and I get all sniffly and worried and emo, hoping that there will be a next time, there will be a return, hoping above hope that “fine” really is what is normal, not the exception.