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The Dream Is Over

I remember the time I pulled the rear bumper off of my car thinking I had the perfect solution.

A neighbor from across the street at my old house had purchased new property and they were about to begin construction on it. Knowing how much I loved gardening she suggested that I get to her new property and take as many blueberry bushes as I wanted. All I had to do was dig them up. I was chilled, that’s how excited I was at the prospect of having mature blueberry bushes! I arrived at her property with a pick, shovel and well-worn work gloves.

Surveying the bushes, I appraised a few that looked well-rounded and plump and began digging around the roots. Trouble was I soon found out, wild blueberry bushes have deep and hearty roots. For a few hours I picked, shoveled and tugged at a few bushes but still couldn’t pull one bush fully out of the ground. So, I had an idea. I would wrap some rope I had in the trunk around the exposed roots, tie the other end to my car’s rear bumper and simply pull them out! Why didn’t I think of that before?

Sweating, but determined, I tied the knots as tightly as I could on both ends, took off my gloves (which revealed a few open blisters on my right hand), and started up the car. I gently pulled forward so I could see that the slack in the rope was gone and carefully pushed down on the accelerator. After a few tentative rocking motions nothing happened. I could see as I leaned out of the driver’s side door that the rope was taught and that the bush was slightly leaning toward the car, but no hint of uprooting showed itself. So I pressed heavier on the gas pedal. Still, no giving up the ground for that blueberry bush!

Bolder, I backed up maybe ten feet and decided that building some speed would pluck it out of the ground as easily as plucking one of the juicy berries would be. One foot on the gas, the other halfway out the door and my head cocked toward the rear, I bolted. The ten feet took only a slight moment to cover, but I remember the sharp buck of the car at the end of the ten feet and the slam of the brake at probably foot number fifteen.

I hurried out of my car and could see the damage I had done even before I strode to the passenger door. Fifteen feet away, the blueberry bush stood – still solidly rooted in its original spot. Tied to its exposed roots was the rope. On the other end of the rope was my car’s rear bumper, pulled much closer to the bush than to my car by the force of the pull.

Eventually, I decided that with all the investment of time and effort I had put in, not to mention my car’s rear bumper, that bush was going to be mine no matter how it happened. I left the site, drove back to my house, came back with an old saw and cut those roots one at a time until I could pull out the bush and hoist it into my trunk – dirt, stray leaves, bugs and anything else that was attached.

I planted that bush in a special spot in my beloved garden and tended it daily for most of the first few weeks in its new location. In the next few years it prospered, giving up wonderfully deep blue/purple berries that satisfied both the wild life that happened upon the free feast, local kids that regularly came to pick a mouthful (and stained their clothes) while playing in the neighborhood and enough left over for my own family to incorporate them into pancakes, muffins, ice trays and daily round the clock snacks.

I remember my little girl, who must have been about four or five at the time, in a billowy yellow sundress and a white, wide-brimmed sunhat jumping sideways, circling the bush singing “Here we go ’round the blueberry bush, the blueberry bush …” and laughing her little girl giggle as she sang and pulled berries into her mouth.

I remember both of my boys helping me dig a pit to plant the huge bush in. And after the initial deluge of water for the bush, how we swung into an impromptu water hose fight. We sat down in the wet soil, shared sips of iced tea and I remember hugging them both – one on either side of me.

I loved that blueberry bush.  Read more…

Supporting Them

 

When I became divorced, there was never an issue of supporting my children. While I am aware that a lot of men have issue with paying, or the pay amounts, I chose the opposite. My lawyer gave me a figure that stated the amount that she was going for and because I didn’t know any better, I agreed to the sum. Later, I began reading online and found a calculator provided by the state as to general guidelines. I filled out the form and found to my astonishment that I could be paying more!

I approached my lawyer at the next meeting, provided her with the material and said that I wanted to pay the maximum amount by law. She advised me against it, but after all, they are my angels, my light, the reason for trying to achieve a better future for them and my only family on earth. Why wouldn’t I want to give them as much as I can? The order was changed to the maximum amount and I’m proud to tell anyone that I pay faithfully, and on time, each and every week.

When I was out of a job last fall into winter, I let the ex know what was happening and that I was struggling and would pay her what I could – even as I edged closer to homelessness without a weekly  paycheck. I did payed what I could – an over payment, an underpayment, but I tried to keep it going even as I was unemployed. Even as I went out on endless and unproductive interviews. Even as Thanksgiving and Christmas were creeping closer and becoming unavoidable.

Then, she notified Child Support and told them she was not getting child support. A further move by her that caused me heartbreaking grief and wrenching disgust, was that she decided to not tell them of the amounts that I had given to her by hand. As far as the ‘system’ had been aware, I had simply stopped paying anything at all.

One morning early last month, I woke up, fixed a cup of tea, and sat to check bank balances. I was stunned to find that my account was frozen – a lien had been enforced by the state division of Child Support. I could not even withdraw money to pay for gas which would allow me to travel to work 22 miles away. I don’t have sick time accumulated yet. If I don’t work, I don’t get paid. Without pay I can not meet any financial obligations – rent, phone, electricity, basic cable. Child support.

I declined to put up a post at the time about the tale of having my assets frozen. It’s humuliating having that done. It’s a desperate situation that stops your heart and has you thinking lunatic thoughts. It’s embarrassing knowing that you are unable to gain the necessary money to support your children. And mostly, it was a deepening of the chasm that seperated me and the ex because she had verbally said to me that she would be fine with repaying the back amount on a weekly basis as I could afford it while I was searching for employment.

Plans for children do not stop. There are sports to be paid for, gas for two and three times a week pickups and drop offs, groceries to be bought and entertainment for them. All while unemployed.

Then she notified child support.

I was devestated.

Thankfully, I now have a job. I have a paycheck that again has my child support taken out automatically, I have weekly taxes to pay and I have a new health plan that decimates my weekly check. All this on less money – much less money, than I was earning at my last position.

Read more…

Non-negotiable

Our divorce agreement states that she would take control of, and pay, the mortgage on our home.

I called CitiBank mortgage company last week to ask about the status of account.

Long months ago she told me that she wanted to restructure the loan to make it more affordable for her to pay. She filled out the application and needed me to sign it to make it legal. I stated that if she wanted to change part of the agreement, I wanted a chance to change part of it it also.

I wanted the chance to see each of my three children individually, every so often – alone. I’m in a continual struggle to find anything to do that would satisfy three radically dissimilar children in differing developmental stages – a fifteen year old boy, a twelve year old boy and a ten year old girl. There’s no appropriate movie for an ten year old girl that a fifteen (almost sixteen) year old boy wants to see. And there’s no movie for a fifteen year old boy that’s appropriate for an ten year old girl. Let alone movies, what activities do I choose for the three of them that would keep all three satisfied, curious or simply be fun? Each weekend that they’re here, as they are now getting older and establishing individual identities, it gets razor thin to impossible to stop the arguments, confrontations, bitterness and resentment that they feel toward me and even more so, toward each other, for having to attend something, or do something together, that they don’t want to go to. So, I wanted the chance to see each child, alone, at least once a month.

The chosen date would be one of my weekday nights and it would come out to three and a half hours per month for a chance to see my only daughter alone, see my middle boy alone and time with my fifteen year old alone. For each child that would come out to a total of only fourteen hours a year! It would be a time for us to do something age or gender appropriate that they alone wanted to do with their father without the pressure of having to be coerced into something generic for the three of them. This is something that married parents never even think about when they take one child alone to the store for shopping, go to an age appropriate movie, attend one of their team sports events … the others can be left alone at home, at a friend’s house, a neighborhood friend if they want to be, and still remain content. I don’t have that option or luxury.

On the Tuesdays and Thursdays that I see them, I travel about twenty-five miles one way to pick them up at 4:30PM. Then I drive the four of us twenty-five miles back to my apartment. By 7:30PM, I have to bring them twenty-five miles back home again, and then twenty-five miles back for me. For one night, that’s one-hundred miles. For the two day weeks, it’s two-hundred miles. On the opposite weeks when it’s Mondays, Wednesdays and Friday, it’s two-hundred and fifty miles for a two week total of four-hundred miles. I asked if she could pick them up only one night a week from my apartment for a total of fifty miles a week, or one-hundred miles total over two weeks.

I also asked if I could get access to my storage area (in the basement room that holds my clothing, books and various other items) once a month. Come fall (like it is now), when all I have are summer shirts and light jackets, I’m usually freezing and dressed inappropriately. Same for when spring hits – I’m still in winter clothes. I wanted to be able to quickly sift through boxes and gather belongings that I needed and drop off boxes with what I didn’t need. I don’t even venture up the stairs into my own home when I’m there.

Lastly, I asked that the difference between what she was supposed to pay for the mortgage, and the new payment amount be deducted from her side when the house was sold. I didn’t think it right that when the house was sold – having less equity because of the restructured payment schedule, that I should be penalized in profit. I wanted to have enough money to put a down payment on something small for my kids and myself and because of the restructuring, I would have substantially less.

 Those were the four items I asked in exchange – see my children alone once a month, have the children picked up once a week, get stored items when I needed them and not suffer economic penalties for a restructuring of the mortgage in her favor.

More, after the break

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