She forgot me.

When MonoBoy was in the 6th grade, he played basketball for his middle school and their games were played on Saturdays.  I was very much divorced by then, but I still maintained a relationship with my in-laws and on this particular Saturday, my ex-MIL and her husband were going to ride with me to the gym for the game.  LoverBoy was playing at a friend’s down the street, so I called the house and asked that they send him home.  Then we loaded up into the Suburban and headed on our way.

Without LoverBoy.  Who apparently chased the Suburban a little ways down the street before turning back and sitting in the wicker chair on our front porch, since our front door was appropriately locked.

His absence went unnoticed until we got to the gym and piled out of the car.  “WHAT KIND OF MOTHER LEAVES THEIR CHILD BEHIND?” was all that I could think as I flew back to the house.

Well, folks, let’s just say that I come by that trait honestly and you are never too old for your mother to forget you.

Yesterday was hectic as most of my days are.  I had my very first (and hopefully last) root canal scheduled for right after lunch.  The weather was terrible and I was a little bit nervous about my mom driving around and picking up my sister’s kids, so before the rain hit, I suggested to my mother that she go ahead retrieve my niece from day care now.  You know, to avoid the rain that was expected at 1:00 when she normally picks her up.  She agreed and off she went.

I was planning to take my sister to the Houston Rodeo/Pitbull Concert yesterday evening and knew that I had to leave to pick her up straight from the dentist office, so I jumped in the shower to get ready for the root canal and road trip.  On my way to the dentist at 1:00, my phone rang from a number I didn’t recognize.  Turned out that it was my mom calling from the day care phone because why on earth would she want to carry around the cell phone that I pay for her to have each month?

Instead of picking up my niece at 11:45 as planned, she sat in the parking lot and waited until school got out at 1:00 to actually go in and get her from class.  Please don’t ask me to explain her logic here.  I’m at a loss.  Did she think it would change the rain situation if she waited for it in the parking lot as opposed to waiting in the house?  I don’t know.

She swears that she turned her car off while she waited, but her dead battery indicated otherwise, so I took a detour from the dentist to the day care to pick them both up.  By this time, I was going to be late to the appointment if I drove them home and dropped them off, so instead, I told her to drop me off at the dentist and take my car home.  We decided that she would pick me up at 3:30 on her way to pick up my nephew from school.  Because maybe the rain will stop at that point, right?

In the meantime, I texted my brother-in-law and LoverBoy and asked if they would go and jumpstart the car and leave it at my house so that I could address the battery issue the following day.

I finished the procedure around 3:20 and tried calling my mom to make sure that she remembered the plan.  There was no answer, so I assumed that she was on her way, leaving behind her cellphone, as was the norm.

Around 3:45, my brother-in-law texted and asked if my procedure was finished.  I said that it was and I was just waiting for my mommy to pick me up.  I joked that she must have gone to pick up my nephew first, since she was late.  He replied, “What’s the address?  I will come get you.”  When he arrived, we headed to the day care to go ahead and jumpstart the car.  On the way, he explained that when he stopped by his house to pick up jumper cables, there was my mom and both of the kids.  My car just sitting in the driveway.  He asked her where I was.

“She’s on her way to Houston.”

Apparently, she left the dentist office, picked up my nephew early (in the rain), took the kids home to their house, and promptly forgot all about me.  And then forgot that she forgot all about me because when we got back to the house with the car, she said, “What are you doing here?”

Me:  “You forgot to pick me up at the dentist at 3:30.”

Mom:  “I don’t remember anyone telling me to pick you up.”

Obviously.

Wat-ah

I have a lot going on. Stuff I’m not ready to type out and see in written form. That makes it real, and we all know how comfortable I am living in denial. I love denial more than a fat girl loves chocolate. And let me tell you, I L-O-V-E chocolate.

This week has been especially hectic and I thought I reached a breaking point last night. The local A&M Club was having a meeting for potential students and they were handing out scholarship forms. LoverBoy and my BFF’s son had other obligations, aka being lazy, spoiled-rotten teens, so we went as their proxies. (Let’s face it. Scholarships are more important to the person actually paying for the tuition.)

I decided to stop by my house after work to change out of my heels and freshen up before the meeting. When I went to wash my hands, I discovered that I had no water. I tried another faucet. I checked the backyard for a potential flood from a pipe leak. I asked LoverBoy how long the water had been out.

“What? There’s nothing wrong with the water.” [insert eye roll]

Yes, thank you, Mr. Observant. I couldn’t do it without you.

Since I was running late, I decided to multi-task and call the Water Department on my way downtown. I tried looking at their website on my phone for a phone number, but obviously, they don’t want you to call. When I got to my BFF’s house to pick her up, I asked if she had a water bill so I could get the number off the back.

“Oh, I throw those away as soon as I pay them and I paid it last week.”

What? You don’t feel my insane obligation to keep every scrap of paper related to finances? Wow, you healthy-person-with-a-less-cluttered-house, you!

I called LoverBoy en route and asked him to pull a water bill out of the expanding folder marked “expenses” in my room. “Look in the Utilities section.”

“Geez, there are a bunch of papers in this section. Why am I doing this again?”

Me: “A bunch? Are you sure you’re in the right section? Read some of the names to me.”

LB: “Mom, I’m not an idiot. They say Cigna Explanation of Benefits.”

Me: “Ok, genius, but those are medical expenses. Try the other Utilities section. As in, the ONLY one.”

Finally he finds the bill and gives me the number.  But not without a few sighs of disgust.  As I continue to maneuver my way downtown, I dial the number.

“Wat-ah.”

Assuming that the gentleman meant, “City Water Department, how can I help you,” I launch into my explanation of no water and surely, there is a busted line somewhere.  He disagreed.  He insisted that no other customer on my street had reported a water outage, so I must not have paid my bill and then he proceeded to hang up.  Yes, he hung up on me.

Now I’m no expert on PTSD, but I’m pretty sure that being hung up on is a trigger for me.  My ex loved to hang up on me.  And scream obscenities at me, but that’s an entirely different story.  Another trigger is having my utilities shut off, as I am no stranger to losing my lights or water due to nonpayment.  Or payment with a rubber, bouncing check.  It’s part of the joy of being married to a compulsive gambler.  He pulls the money faster than the check can get to the bank.  I swear to you, though, my utilities have remained intact since I separated our bank accounts in 2008.

As I started to hyperventilate and missed my exit, my friend offered to call the guy back.  I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or even more angry that she got the same response from the guy.  And even though I knew that I had paid my bill, Mr. Can’t-Speak-Proper-English-even-though-its-his-native-language from the Water Dept made me nervous.  When we got to the A&M meeting, I used some of the time that we had waiting in line for an application to log onto my water bill account.  Just in case.  Alas, it clearly showed that the Water Dept had mailed a bill on Feb 1st and received my payment on Feb 10th.  It showed a zero balance due and an “ACTIVE” status.  And yet, I had no water.

After the marathon meeting, I returned home and STILL NO WATER and me with even less patience than before.  I called my sister to ask her if I could come over to shower.  I was expecting our Regional Vice President at work the next day, and I really didn’t want to smell bad.  My mom got onto the phone and said, “Hey, don’t pay it.  I already took care of the past due balance.  It was a lot.”

Me: “What on earth are you talking about?  I don’t have a past due balance.”

Mom:  “That’s because I paid it.  They were here to cut off the water when I was home this morning.  I took the notice down to the city and paid it for you.”

Me: “Mom, there has been some sort of mix up.  How much did you pay and what did the notice say?”

Mom:  “I don’t remember, but I did notice that it had the wrong street after I paid it, so I went back in.”

Me:  “Okay, what did they say?  Do you have the receipt?”

Mom:  “I don’t remember.  I think something said one street and something else said another.  It’s all in my car.  I’ll bring it in when I come home.”

By now, I am livid.  I have realized that the city cut off the water at the wrong house and they are basically telling me that I’m screwed until the morning because they don’t leave their uneducated help-line employee with the tools to verify service.  He basically reads from a card that says, “Call Custom-ah Service ‘tween 8 ‘n 5.”  Click.

While waiting for mom to return, I started firing off emails to the Water Dept.  I’m afraid to go back and read them now, but I vaguely remember sarcasm and abrasive opinions.  Fun things like “not-so-help line” references and a list of my grievances over the inconvenience my bladder was experiencing over their incompetence because you know what happens as soon as you find out you have no water?  You have to pee and it’s all you can think about.

When Mom finally got home and presented me with the red door tag and payment receipt, I verified that, sure enough, they were at the wrong address AND she paid somebody else’s bill.  Someone that I was contemplating visiting in order to use her bathroom because she owed me by this point.

I took a deep breath and called the Wat-ah Dept back and after several, “No, that’s not my address” statements, I convinced Mr. Congeniality to come to my house and turn my water back on.  His parting farewell was that I would still have to call Customer Service between the hours of 8 and 5 to get my mom’s money back.

So I did. I was explaining the situation as the gentleman on the phone looked up my account.  He interrupted me, “Um, ma’am, I do not see a disconnect order on your account.  You are paid in full.”  Keep up, Dude.  I know that’s how things SHOULD be, but it’s not how they are.  He finally turned the page and caught up when I hit him with the fact that my mom had gone to the City and paid the other person’s bill.

“You’ve got to be kidding me.”

IF ONLY.

After a discussion with his supervisor, he said that I could bring the receipt back to the City and retrieve her check.

“No problem.  Just don’t read your email before I get there.”

 

[I need to add an aside.  In January, my ex rented a house TWO STREETS OVER.  On the street where the water SHOULD have been cut off.  Everyone’s first thought, including mine, was this was somehow a mix up with our last names or even possibly that he had used my account to set up the utilities on the account.  Stranger things have happened, but in this case, it was some other moron causing me grief.]

PTSD sucks

PTSD sucks.  I mean, it really, really, REALLY sucks.  I’m trying to figure out how to explain it.

It makes mountains out of mole hills.  Normal situations feel like 9-1-1 situations.  For example, seeing your ex’s name on your Caller ID might cause you to roll your eyes.  The sound of his voice might feel as annoying as nails on a chalkboard.  That’s understandable with a messy divorce.  In my world, the sight of his name with a text message makes my stomach immediately cramp.  I can taste bile, and the urge to throw up is great.  My shoulders become tense and I find myself panting or breathing heavy, or alternating between the two.

The reaction just isn’t normal.  Of course, neither is my relationship with my ex.

Sometimes I am strong.  I can shrug off his contact and roll my eyes like normal people.  This is not one of those times.  You see, on the day that MonoBoy moved home, my ex was served with papers to appear in court (next week) for a review of his child support and arrears.  I saw a missed call from him that day, but I thought it was about MonoBoy, and since he didn’t leave a message, obviously I didn’t call him back.

He called me again on the following Monday and I answered the phone.  In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, “Big Mistake.  Big.  Huge.”  I didn’t know about the serving of the papers and I’m sure I looked like a deer in the headlights.  He asked if I had filed for a review.  I panicked and said no.  I just wanted to get off the phone as quickly as possible to throw up.

In truth, way back in May, I received a letter from the OAG asking for verification from the school of LoverBoy’s graduation date, as he will no longer have to pay child support for him after that date.  I got the information to them, and as a follow up, they sent me the standard “You are entitled to a review every three years or if financial circumstances have significantly changed.”  I get those letters every so often but I have NEVER requested a review.  I did ask them enforce the child support order when he was working and not paying it (resulting in almost $10,000 in arrears due), but I never wanted to place any additional burdens on him by increasing it.

In all actuality, when we first divorced, I agreed on child support based on his base salary, excluding his bonuses and overtime as a gesture of generosity.  (I secretly still wanted him back then.  Gag.) And when we went to court to reduce the visitation, my attorney told me that I was generous for not increasing it with his new job and lack of visitation.  At the time, I didn’t want to rock the boat any more than I had.

I can’t explain my momentary lapse in fear and generosity back in May.  Perhaps it was that MonoBoy woke up from surgery and told me that he hated me and I blamed my ex for it.  Perhaps it was the fact that I knew I would soon lose child support for LoverBoy, and HELLO, college is expensive as heck.  Whatever it was, for the first time in seven years, I checked the “yes” box and mailed the form back in.

I was probably proud of myself for half of a second, and then forgot about it.

Until two weeks ago when my ex confronted me and SURELY there had to be some mistake.  Pant, pant, pant.  I called the Attorney General.  I called my previous attorney.  I begged anyone that would listen to please get me out of this.  Make it go away.  I don’t want this to happen.  I’m not strong enough.  This will turn out bad for me.  It always does.

Things are too volatile with MonoBoy just coming home, and LoverBoy already nervous about college tuition, researching scholarships and financial aid on a daily basis.  Just a few weeks ago, he asked me if I thought his dad would pay for half, like he promised.  I said, “You’re putting me in an awkward position here.  What matters is what you think.”  He said that he wanted my opinion, which of course, is NOT NO, BUT HELL NO.  Although, I was thankfully able to refrain from stating it that way.  He asked me what I was basing my opinion on, and I simply said, “The past.”  He asked me to give an example, and I mentioned the medical expenses.  He responded with, “Yeah, but he doesn’t see the value in paying medical expenses.  This is different.  He’s proud of me for this.  It makes him look good.”  I simply ended the conversation with, “You are certainly right about that, and I hope he does contribute to college.”

Now I have given him the perfect scapegoat.  “Well, I was going to help pay for college, but your greedy mother took me back to court for more money.”  It’s on the tip of his tongue.  I know it is.

Of course, right now, he is too busy berating me about my “knee-jerk reactions” and how I thrive on drama” and so on, etc.  It’s more important to him that I lied when he asked me about it, than he is about the actual event.  He LOVES that I made a mistake.  Today, I think that I received a total of twenty texts in less than five minutes, full of snide remarks about it.  Oh, excuse me, those statements were “factual” not snide remarks.  He corrected me on that when I asked him to refrain.

Look, I know that I haven’t technically done anything wrong, other than the lie I told about not checking the box on that stupid, stupid form.  (I have kicked myself a zillion times for that, so I certainly don’t need him to remind me every twenty seconds.) I also know that I am entitled to a review of child support every three years or with financial circumstance changes, of which BOTH apply here.  Normal people are thinking that I am absolutely crazy for giving this a second thought.  It’s the law.  It was created for a purpose.

But being well within my rights of the law and being able to stand up to a bully and not believe all of the terrible things that he says about me and to me, are worlds apart.  No, galaxies apart.

He probably won’t believe it, but I have done everything I can these past two weeks to make this go away, despite my therapist friend telling me not to let my PTSD make decisions for me.  Today, the Attorney General told me once and for all that there is no way out of it because he still owes $8,000 in arrears.

Yeah, well, that’s news to him.  I mean, this is the guy that paid me $200 and thought that his 50% portion of the $1400 medical bill was done.  He remembers things in his own way.  The World According to Him is galaxies away from reality as well.

So for the second Friday in a row, I have been accosted through texts.  I have swallowed back the bile that threatens to spew out of my mouth and I have furiously wiped away the tears that have spontaneously erupted from my eyes.  He’s off on Fridays and has nothing better to do than harass me.  Or “get at the truth” as he sees it.

The truth is that we go to court on Thursday.  We could go in there and calmly agree NOT to increase the monthly child support despite what his new W-2 and check stubs say.  My PTSD is certainly pushing for that.  Or he could present his financial records and we could let the court decide.

My therapist says that there is no wrong answer.  I could let things go in an attempt to save LoverBoy from potentially being pulled into the middle, or I could stand by my rights and force The Ex to do the right thing for his kids.  I seem to be the only one in the world that holds that man to task and forces him to do the right thing.  It’s not like it wins me any points.  It actually wins me the title of “Vindictive Bitch.”  Do I really want that role?  My PTSD says no.  Stay the same compliant, good girl who generously keeps the child support the same despite rising costs and increases in his pay.  Don’t rock the boat.

But I did, and these choppy waters have me extremely seasick.

Lessons from Rosie O’Donnell

I might have mentioned two or two-hundred times that raising teenagers is hard.  I’m really just trying to prepare those of you that are still enjoying raising children that don’t act like the spawn of Satan.  Yet.

Also, I’m whining.

I recently watched Rosie O’Donnell’s “A Heartfelt Stand-Up,” and I laughed until I cried.  (I urge you to google it immediately.)  Like Rosie, I thought that those pitiful parents struggling with teenagers must be doing something wrong.  My sweet, little, bright-eyed, cherub-faced angels would NEVER act like that.  Until they did, and I found myself feeling like the failure that I judged other parents to be.

In more news about Rosie, within the past two years, she and her wife had another child to go along with her current FOUR teenagers.   (I know, I gasp at the thought too.)  She explained that it was because she has four teenagers and wanted to be reminded that she really did like kids that she chose to have another child.  That makes perfect sense to me because the other day, I just happened to watch our local news and saw a clip of a 10-year-old boy who is looking for a forever home with a family that loves sports.

And I was like, “Hey, we’re a family that loves sports!  We might not like each other all of the time, but we LOVE sports!”  They showed him shooting a basketball with some local college players and his sweet little voice announced that he hoped for a comfortable bed and game system.  My heart melted into a puddle.    I want him.  He belongs to me.

I remember a time when my kids were happy with the things that I provided, like a comfortable bed and a gaming system.  They were just plain happy kids, not the brooding creatures they are now.

I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out how to convert my unused formal living room into a bedroom, complete with a bed and gaming system.  My friends, like Rosie’s friends, think that I have lost my mind.  I am so close to having an empty nest, free from the angry people who currently live in my home.

I guess I just figure that I will have six good years before I will want to put him back up for adoption.  Or ship him off to boarding school.  Or sell him on eBay.  Or any of the other ideas that I have come up with to deal with my current teenagers.

I told my boys about my idea and they just rolled their eyes, as if this confirms just how crazy they already think I am.  Shoot, maybe I am just one kid shy of the Funny Farm.

But if Rosie can do it, can’t I?  Oh sure, she has way more money than me and probably a larger support system of people.  And sure, she did suffer a MASSIVE heart attack.  But let me remind you that she has FOUR teenagers, while I only have two.  My heart attack should be much milder.

So what do you think?  Is it worth the risk?

 

You never know about a stalker

If some days my life looks like an “I Love Lucy” episode, the other days must resemble something more like The Twilight Zone.

It all started as a normal Tuesday last week.  I went to work.  The boys had soccer practice.  A couple of teammates came over to spend the night afterward.  While the boys were all in the back of the house, I settled into a comfortable position on the couch with full control of the remote and an entire season of “Damages” on Netflix.

At 11:30pm, my comfortable evening was disturbed when my neighbor knocked on my door.  He was holding a small garbage bag and I thought, “On no, he’s killed one of the cats.”  (Or maybe that was just wishful thinking.)  He told me that he was taking some trash out when he saw a guy looking in one of my bedroom windows.  He said that he looked to be about the boys’ age and he was on a 10-speed bike.  He made sure that I knew that fact, since the bike was in HIS driveway and he almost tripped over it on the way to the garbage.

He asked the kid what he was doing, but he was having trouble understanding him, or so he thought, until the third time that the kid repeated, “I’m watching the soccer players.”

My neighbor promptly state, “Well if you know those kids, go ring the damn doorbell,” but the boy chose to hop on his 10-speed and ride away.

Listen, if you know me, you know that despite all of the weird and crappy things that have happened in my life, I’m still…optimistic?  Okay, stop laughing.  I just like that word more than the accurate term, naive.  I told my neighbor that it was probably one of the boys friends trying to scare them.  I promised to talk to them to make sure that the bike thing didn’t happen again.

I summoned LoverBoy to the living room and said, “The neighbor just caught one of your friends looking in your window, probably to scare you.  Find out who it is because we don’t need the neighbors calling the cops AGAIN.”  I described him as the neighbor did – an African-American teenage boy wearing a peach shirt driving a 10-speed with the old-fashioned curly handlebars.

LoverBoy’s mouth dropped.  He said, “OH MY GOD!  You know who that is, don’t you?  It’s the guy that’s always taking pictures of me at school while I’m playing soccer!”

Okay, so let me back up right here and tell you that LoverBoy is convinced that the boy on the school Yearbook Committee has a crush on him.  If the number of pictures of LoverBoy included in the yearbook is any indication, he might have a point.  But still, let’s not get all paranoid over here.

“No, Mom, really.  And you know he knows where we live because during school last year he saw me when he was at the neighbor’s house for a bible study.”

“Did you hear your statement?  BIBLE STUDY.  Knowing where you live and saying hi to you from across the street does not make him a stalker.”

This is where MonoBoy interjected and said to his brother, “He texted me last week and asked for your number, but I wouldn’t give it to him.”

“What?  Oh my go, NO!  Don’t give it to him!  I can’t believe this is happening.  Mom, I sleep naked!”

“Wait, what?  Since when do you sleep naked?  That’s just gross.  That’s TMI for a mother.”

By this time, all of the boys were sufficiently freaked out, so they headed out to sit in our car to watch for him.  (It was past curfew by then and one of the kids had a bat, so no one was going anywhere, Mister!)

I chuckled to myself because why on Earth would the kid come back if he wasn’t just one of their friends playing a joke?

See what I mean?  Ever the optimist.

[Sigh]  Or naive.  The kid came back, and sure enough, LoverBoy was right.  It was the boy who really must have a crush on him.  LoverBoy stepped out of the car to confront him (gulp), but the kid screeched to halt and did a 180 turn to get the heck out of there.  The boys came running back into the house to give me the news.  Somebody mentioned calling the cops.  Boy, have you lost your mind?  They’ve already been here enough this year. 

So they moved the security camera for our alarm system into his bedroom window and taped the curtains to each other and to the wall.  There you go! Problem solved.

It wasn’t until later that the reality of the situation hit me.  My boys have wooden blinds and black-out curtains.  (Teenage boys love their sleep.)  There is usually no way to see in, unless a cat forces its way into the window, which let’s face it, with four cats happens OFTEN.  That kid only had a sliver of space to see through, probably the size of a stick of gum.  He must have had his face pressed to the window.   He said that he was “watching the soccer players.”  I initially thought that the boys were playing FIFA Soccer on the X-box, but no, they were watching a Disney film that had no reference to soccer.  That meant that he was really just watching THEM.

I find myself conflicted.  Part of me feels sorry for the kid.  He’s different.  He isn’t part of the pack.  My boys are lucky to be surrounded by a great supporting group of friends.  I don’t know if this kid is that lucky.  There is a chance that he will suffer scrutiny at school next week because of this foolish act.  Word spreads quickly in a small town.

However, can you say CREEPY?  How long has he been peeking in the windows?  And who does that?  I described the kid and the situation to a friend.  I pointed out that he has never really approached LoverBoy other than the recent text request for his phone number.  Her response gave me the chills.  “I hate to play devil’s advocate, but this probably wasn’t the first time he did it, just the first time he got caught.  Stalker type people are usually meek and passive, so don’t let that fool you.  His calmness doesn’t translate to compliance.  You never know what a stalker is capable of.”

So now I am officially freaked out.  Whenever the dog lifts his head or raises his ears, I’m on high alert.  (Once again, with four cats, do you know how often that happens?)

I worked at the school for registration all of last week and I was hoping to run into the kid, so that we could have a frank knock-that-shit-off-or-I-will-call-the-cops conversation.  I never saw him.

Who knows?  He could have been outside the school peeking in through a window.  Or maybe he was at my house peeking in there.

[Shiver.]