Deadbeat Dad Goes To College

Hello Dear Readers,

I have neglected you, which isn’t something I used to do. I wrote religiously for more than two years and then I began to take hiatuses (often unannounced). This one stretched for more than a month. I have to admit I like it when there isn’t much to write about with regard to Ex. I like it when my life is too busy with the good stuff, the rich stuff, to find time to whine here.

The summer was busy with a double helping of the good stuff. I felt it important to shore up relationships with the kids before the start of the school year. It’s what I spent much of the summer doing because, generally, if we start on a firm foundation it buoys us through the overscheduled and challenging months ahead.

Little Man had his last start of elementary school after a great summer. Many things are new and controversial, but he seems to be adjusting happily. Blessing counted.

Zeep had his first start of high school which seems to be going okay. There are always bumps and the adjustment isn’t easy. He says it’s awesome. His main teacher says he is testing boundaries. Hopefully we’ll find some equilibrium soon. Last night his homework was to reflect on an in-class activity in which he and his peers were given mock resources to bid on things they wanted. These were abstract things like “athletic prowess,” “fame,” “wealth,” “sainthood,” “a healthy family,” and “the ideal spouse.” He put all his resources toward bidding on “the ideal spouse” and won it.

“Why did you choose that?” I inquired.

“Because of you and Pop,” he answered. “I thought about bidding on ‘healthy family,’ but then I realized that a perfect spouse would help make a healthy family.”

“Oh,” I said, “I thought maybe you realized that you weren’t likely to be an easy partner and would need a good fit.”

He considered this briefly. “That too,” he said. (I think he has someone in mind already. I thought about telling him she wasn’t up for bidding, but let it go. He’s only fourteen. That’s right. He had a birthday.)

Sissy had her last first day of high school after a great summer which for her included traveling abroad for the first time. She took some amazing pics and I’d love to link them here, but she isn’t eighteen yet so you’ll have to wait until February. She’s already into the thick of her senior year and extremely busy. Also, her Klout score is higher than mine, considerably higher. (Bitch.)

Which brings me to what I wanted to write about today. (450 words too late, huh?)

Sissy is planning to apply early decision to a certain very good school which she has her heart set on attending. Ex’s financial information is required for her to complete the common application. I sent him this email:


[Sissy] needs a copy of your most recent tax returns immediately. She is unable to complete her college applications without it.


That seems rather straightforward, right? I mean, he has known that she is a serious student intending to go to college. Of course she would need his financial information. Hello?

His reply?

 How soon does she need them?  The most recent I have is for 2009. I’ve not been able to pay a tax preparer since then.

I have it on good information that that sort of thing will get a fellow disbarred. I also have it on good information that he IS working, divorces mostly. Oh! The irony! (…or something.) I wrote:

Are you kidding? You haven’t filed taxes for two years? She needs them IMMEDIATELY. The common app requires your 2011 tax return. The deadline for submission of the complete common app for [dream school] is November 1. That DOES NOT mean your docs can arrive on or after that date.

What do you intend to do?

The short answer: nothing. He wrote:

Well a little advance notice would help. Do you know where I can come up with $1500 to get my records out of hock with my former cpa?

Can’t she use your tax returns?

Sweet Baby Jesus. Really?

His failure to provide these documents could sabotage her future. NBD.

I point out here that Ex is still mad at me. Extremely Mad. Madly Mad. He has known for a good many years that I don’t really care what he says to or about me. I don’t care what he does. The only way he can really hurt me anymore is by hurting the children.

[Insert choice profane and derogatory names. May his pubic hair be infested with the fleas of a thousand camels or however that damned curse goes.]

Seriously. SERIOUSLY.

All this is surely my fault because I failed to provide adequate “notice” that tax documents are required. Never mind that these docs are required by law to have been filed long prior to today. (Also, I believe this sort of thing could well—and probably should—jeopardize his law license.)

When I was a freshman in college, I remember vividly sitting in a plastic chair across the desk from a pretty financial aid officer. She shifted uncomfortably as I began to cry.

In a tired voice she said, “Look, honey, we have money for students whose parents are poor, not for those whose parents are assholes.”

As for the $1,500, it took every bit of restraint I could muster not to make the following suggestions:

(1) Get a job. If he were a custodial parent, which thankfully he is not, and he couldn’t support the children, he would watch them starve. No, actually he wouldn’t. BECAUSE I WOULD NEVER ALLOW THAT. I’d feed them a slice of my own buttock before I would see them hungry. If that wasn’t enough, we’d move to organ meats. Perhaps beginning with my heart.

(2) Cut out the beer budget. You don’t sustain his body weight on bacon alone. (Alternatively, cut out the bacon. Beans and rice can feed a body well in a pinch. Trust me. I know. Because $25 every two months doesn’t go far. In case you are wondering, I didn’t pay for that trip to Europe.)

(3) Beg, borrow, or steal. It’s what he has always done, isn’t it?

I said none of those things, but damn, it felt good to say them here. Thanks for that.

Instead I wrote, “Both parents’ information is required.”

Sweet Baby Jesus. Oh. I said that already. (I missed you, too, Readers.)

Also, as a special gift, here’s a pic of a poodle in a dress:

Mrs. Sadie Snufflemuffin (photo creds to Sissy)

#wegotout. Oh yes, we did!

Recently I posted something on Facebook which started a dialog about the way we deal and have dealt with breakups. It was a lively discussion. If you aren’t a fan of this blog on Facebook, surf on over and clicky the likey button. (There is extra content and we have a pretty good ol’ time chatting it up some days!)

A lovely woman named Mary Juleson Herrington posted this:

I’m sure my grandparents would have kissed like this.


I love the image of this strong woman dancing around her burning wedding dress, celebrating like my grandparents did on V-E Day.

Then Mary added, “Every August 4th, this will be the 12th year, we call Bagel and Cream Cheese day. My ex tried to kill me b/c I asked for more cream cheese on my bagel. That was the day I left.

Let that sink in a minute.

Twelve years ago Mary asked for a bit more cream cheese on her bagel and her then husband tried to kill her.

Mary walked out the door and she rebuilt her life. (I hope to publish Mary’s back story in another post.)

That, my friends, is something to celebrate.

Mary wrote: “So, every 8/4, I now have a gf [gluten free] bagel with tons of cf [casein free] cream cheese on it and we celebrate freedom.”

We draw strength from sharing our stories and from hearing the open-hearted and courageous stories of others. In celebrating our sister’s victories, we celebrate our own.

Another reader’s day is August eighth and she offered to have a bagel for Mary on August fourth if Mary would return the favor on the eighth. There was some discussion of designating the fourth National Bagel and Cream Cheese Day in Mary’s honor, and the eighth Kick ‘im to the Curb Day for Heather.

Let us celebrate the victories of these two women and of all the women who have clawed their way out of difficult, unhealthy, and often violent relationships. August is our month to encourage one another and to celebrate the reclaiming of our lives. Have a bagel with more than a schmear of cream cheese! Take a pic. Post it to Instagram and/or Twitter, send it out via Facebook, or email it to me.* Use the hashtags #freedombagel and/or #wegotout. Feel free to leave well wishes and/or to tell us your Un-Anniversary story in the comments below.

Happy Un-Anniversary!

Happy Un-Anniversary to those who join the party!


Also, if you can—it is always a good time to give to your local domestic violence shelter: goods, time, and cash—all are usually welcome. Don’t judge. Help.



As Liadan pointed out below, the Violence Against Women Act is currently up for reauthorization in Congress.  Parties are divided over different versions of the legislation in the Senate and House, with the Dem-sponsored Senate version favoring expansion of the law to provide more services to illegal immigrants and LGBTQ individuals. The two bills are currently pending reconciliation. You can contact your Congressman here.



I have been neglecting you dear readers but I have some news and reflections and such for you today, Dear Ones. Like the solar system, my life seems to run on an elliptical trajectory. When bodies orbiting the sun are closest to it, they move more rapidly. On the outer pass, slow, baby, slow. I’m at perigee now.

I am with the children and Kindest Man and his family on beautiful Chincoteague Island, one of my favorite places on the planet. In the early morning we drove to Assateague Island National Seashore before sunrise to confirm the existence of God. It looked like this:

God. (Image creds to Sissy.)

Sissy, again. She’s good with a camera, no?

We have house sitters so if you happen to be a would-be robber, don’t bother.

I started this post last night on the Fourth of July. It was after a stunning sunset and after everyone was mostly settled. I sat on the dock and there were fireworks in the distance. I could hear them over the water and then I looked and could see them blossoming far away. I was reminded of Midwestern Independence Days long ago, the dysfunctional family cookouts and the fireworks displays in all the little towns on the long drives home. It’s good to be whole again.

Headlines, Dear Readers, I promised headlines:

MTSWW— He is a great guy. Yup, I love him. I do. Also I don’t want to do what one much-loved blogger and certain friends have encouraged me to do. I don’t want to eff him. (‘Eff’, in the verb form. Hat tip, Mama.) (Also, MTSWW appreciates Twain but he disses Shakespeare. There are a lot of layers of incompatibility and some of them involve roasting pigs whole.)

(Yeah, I love him and NOT in the I really want to have sex with him sort of way. I mentioned that, right?)

Also he bet $1 on the content of any comments, so win me some money, Dear Readers!

ZEEP— He did something really—cover your virgin ears—shitty. He stole something. I am prohibited from telling you much more. I can say that the clerk who called me “a good mother” for marching Zeep back into the store was a saint. I can say that Zeep is a better person for the experience.

“I am ashamed of what you did,” I said, crying.

He hated that.

“I want you to be proud of me,” he said quietly.

Part of the reason we are here is —well, it’s a long personal story and it involves NASA and Zeep. He gives plenty of food for a mother’s pride not just for a mother’s worry.

Ex and The Outlaws—There was an unfortunate exchange of emails with Ex’s sister in the aftermath of Ex’s visit. It all started when she sent a friendly and wholly condescending thank you which I could not have—and probably should have—ignored. She praised me for making such a nice visit for Zeep and expressed her appreciation that Ex and I could be civil to one another for the kids’ sake.

(A dragonfly just alighted on the screen of my laptop which was lovely.)

I responded with a lengthy email explaining that I have nearly always been civil toward Ex, even while he was throwing tantrums in front of the house. I didn’t stop there either.

What goaded me was this idea—oh let’s call it what it is: prejudice—that some people have. They think that in any high-conflict situation, there are two parties and it takes two to tango. Both parties must be responsible for the conflict, probably equally.  I got a note recently from a reader/friend asking what I was willing to do “to take the bitterness out….” Let me just be clear for everyone once and for all:  I CANNOT TAKE THE BITTERNESS OUT.

A tango is a beautiful dance with two partners dancing together. It is harmonious. What we have here is one partner consciously stomping on the other’s toes. If I could “take the bitterness out” I would have done so years ago. I have not been perfect, but God knows I’ve wearied myself trying. When I was upset with Zeep recently he told me that Ex and his sister had told him that “pissing people off is a family trait” that he “unfortunately inherited.”

“I don’t think so,” I said. “You have choices.”

“I know,” he said, “I’m not going to be like that.”

In my email response to Ex’s sister, I appreciated Ex’s new efforts at civility, even though he still takes no responsibility for the discord. I also expressed my frustration:

Regardless, your implication is either that I have had to let go of past grudges—say for [Ex's] abuse—or learned to ‘grin and bear it’—say for [Ex's] abject refusal to support the children despite losing in court three times, and the ongoing stress to the children of his on-again-off-again interaction including two years since his last physical visit. I do of course whatever I can for the children, including posing in that photo with [Zeep] and [Ex], but please appreciate that no amount of politeness and false grins does a thing to compensate for past and ongoing harm. This is a question of paternal responsibility, not bad manners, and [Ex] has deliberately all but failed. He has and is still committing serious wrongs that cannot be ignored in the name of comity. (Thanks to Kindest Man for the verbiage.)

I went on to appreciate that Ex didn’t drink during the visit even if he said his newfound sobriety was really for his “new sweetheart.” I expressed my hope that it ‘sticks’ and that he is finally getting the treatment and support he needs. I thanked Ex’s sister for her support of the children and for arranging and funding the visit. It was a polite note but it was not well received.

She wrote that I had dashed her hopes of continued civility. Did I mentioned that I have been almost unfailingly civil since the end of the initial litigation? (The notable exception being the day Ex injured Little Man and that was a brief tirade after which I gritted my teeth and regained composure and was perfectly dignified.)

I replied that she was rude which was true but shouldn’t have been said. Anyway, they got some nice photo ops out of their visit.

The StormLike much of the rest of the country, we had a storm in the DC area last week. It wasn’t a little storm. It was a derecho—a straight wind storm or land hurricane and it was scary. It downed trees and knocked out power around the region. When we left there was still an enormous tree blocking one of the main roads. Men from the neighborhood had worked all day with saws to try to remove the tree to no avail.  They finally gave up and resolved to wait for the county to come with their big equipment. It may still be there.

It reminded me of another other derecho I experienced. I was eight months pregnant with Zeep. Ex and I were living on a rambling and rundown farmstead just inside the city limits of our small Midwestern college town. Ex was in law school and he had taken his bicycle to class. Storm sirens sounded even though it was a perfectly clear, if stiflingly hot, afternoon. I was puzzled and walked out the front door to look at the sky and I saw the darkness coming fast. I snatched up three-year-old Sissy and ran for the cellar steps. The dog and cat had already wisely retreated. The wind slammed into the house before we made the landing. I heard glass break as I ducked through the door into the cold damp cellar. The power went out and I sat on a stored cooler holding my daughter tight in my lap in the darkness as the house rumbled, water seeped in through the walls, and the dog whined from somewhere deeper in the cellar. I sang to my daughter for a full fifteen minutes and then, as suddenly as the storm had hit, it was eerily silent. We emerged to find the carpet and furniture drenched—I hadn’t had time to close the windows. The heavy patio furniture was gone and windows were broken. I began to clean up as I worried over my then-husband’s safety. Twenty minutes later, Ex was at the door, covered in mud.  He had bicycled home through the fallen trees, debris, and downed power lines. He hugged me as though it was for the last time. Symbolically, it was. Zeep’s birth was a few weeks later and it heralded Ex’s betrayals and long decline.

The hole. (There was no caution tape the night of the fall.)

Last Saturday the boys and I walked to a nearby pizza place. Much of the neighborhood remained without power. The heavy rains had eroded the ground beneath the bricks around a storm drain. On the darkened streets I stepped on a loose brick and I fell into a hole. It was entirely unlike Alice’s adventures. It was a lucky fall, nothing was broken but I scraped up my legs pretty bad, lost my shoe—which Kindest Man later retrieved—and sat bleeding on the sidewalk for awhile.  We delayed our departure by a day to give me an extra day to recover and it has been tough to keep the wounds clean while at the shore but I am healing.

I am healing, body, mind, and spirit. Life is good and you know, Readers, there was a time when I didn’t think it would ever be good again. I hope it is good for you, too. If it isn’t and you are doubting, as some of you surely are, that it will ever be good again—I hope with all my heart that it will be and it will be soon.


Gollum’s Visit

Hello, Readers!

I have a few bits of news to report and though I tried to keep this post on the short side, ya might want to get a cup o’ tea. I’ll keep it punchy, I promise.

It’s Saturday, officially the first day of summer vacation for everyone who lives in my house, except for me. It’s the first day of my second job: kid-wrangling.  It isn’t going well so far.  It seems the boys and I have different visions of how things are going to work around here on the unscheduled days. They thought they would indulge in screen time all day. Um, no.

To read the rest: clicky, clicky. →