To the Least of These

I’ve read my share of feel good articles about people helping the homeless or less fortunate. I’ve watched videos of people asking for food from those who seemingly have it to give but their requests are denied. I’ve paid it forward in the drive thru line. I’ve even offered to buy a guy’s grocery bill when he left his wallet at home. He was buying flowers and the makings of a nice dinner how could I not?

Today was different. I was picking up a few items for the fan4 aka my four children at the store when a lady approached me and asked me to buy her groceries. I was taken off guard then I did a quick scan of her basket as she talked. “I get food stamps but they don’t come in until the sixth. I’m just trying to get some food for me and my daughter.” Within a few seconds I sized her up, analyzed her basket and did a quick calculation of what I needed vs what she was asking me to buy and whether or not it was an expense I was willing to take on.

I wanted to talk to her about budgeting her food stamps. I wanted to ask what was her plan after the two pack of hotdogs, one can of chili, two can of Pringle’s and one pack of break and bake cookies were gone. I wanted to know why there was no fresh fruit or vegetables in her basket. I wanted to know her scam or her hustle. What I didn’t want to know was her struggle. I have my own.

I thought about telling her I’m a single mother of four working one and a half jobs on a tight budget. Then I felt a tinge of condemnation. Yes, I will buy your groceries. As I checked out I couldn’t help but wonder why the clerk didn’t ask her how she was paying. I had her items separated from mine. For some reason I wanted different transactions. Some how the clerk knew I was picking up the tab. As soon as her groceries were paid, she thanked me and disappeared.

As I walked out of the store I wasn’t overcome with any emotion or sense of pride for doing a good deed. That’s what bothered me. Why didn’t I feel good? Why didn’t I have a rush of adrenaline? Where were the endorphins? I don’t know. Does it count when you perform the action but your heart didn’t play a part?

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Casting Stones

Oh boy! Guess who’s back and giving a TED talk? I won’t keep you in suspense, it’s Monica Lewinsky. Freeze frame! Whatever your first thought or emotion was when you read her name I want you to evaluate it for just a moment. Was it positive or negative? How did you react when you first learned of the indiscretion?

Monica’s and President Clinton’s actions, back in 1998, created a media and governmental frenzy. Who of us, that were of age, doesn’t remember the blue dress? Who doesn’t remember the taped phone calls?

What we don’t remember are the many nights of weeping, insomnia, invasive and threatening calls, e-mails and letters. We don’t know her mother’s pain and fear for Monica’s life. We will never understand the depth of her shame. Her sin was made public for all of the world to see. She ruined her life at the age of 24 by falling in love with a married man. I don’t say that lightly. He was married and the president of the United States of America.

They made very poor choices with huge repercussions. But what if your sins or poor choices were highlighted for the world to see? I would be mortified.

Monica is speaking out against cyber bullying in her TED talk. Listening to her speak is a great use of 22 minutes. She shares her story, the impact on her life and then challenges us to stop participating or promoting cyber bullying.

I’ve read several articles recently where people are taking legal action against people who participate in this growing trend. It’s shocking and appalling what people post in comments because they think they are anonymous. It’s cowardice and hurtful not brave or funny.

As far as Monica and the mistakes of her past. How about we move on? Let her live her life. She has worn that scarlet letter for long enough.

Until You Do Right By Me

Have you ever cursed somebody? I’m not talking about calling them names and using profane language. I am talking about cursing the ground they walk on or wishing they would grow a third eye or hoping their children are born with flat feet or something along those line. I have wished a many of things on people over the years. Some of you may say, “I would never curse anyone!” Well, maybe you give underhanded blessings. I sure hope the Lord blesses you with a child who acts just like you or God will surely give them what they deserve.

One of my favorite movies is The Color Purple. If you have ever seen it then you know the scene where Ms. Celie curses Mister. She told him, “Until you do right by me everything you think about is gonna crumble!” That’s deep. If you want to see the clip, play the video below.

If I were to curse somebody today I would say something like, may you end up spending years in family court with an attorney who has questionable ethics never files anything on time charges you exorbitant fees per hour and insists on making unnecessary calls charging in 15 minute increments even if they only called some random person and left them a 30 second voicemail and wastes valuable meeting time drawing a court room on the whiteboard and telling you about their jazz band while charging those excessive fees then recommends an expensive and unnecessary expert to testify at your hearing then charges you for trips to the court-house including travel and those ridiculous fees even though they could file paperwork online and only charge you for 15 minutes instead of 3 hours!

Our legal system makes me weary. Everything in America is regulated and has a ridiculous amount of over site except for the legal system. They graduate from law school, take the bar exam, get some CEUs under their belt,  start a practice then charge $250 and up PER HOUR. But they are kind enough to charge you in 15 minute increments. Oohhhh they also require a down payment for their services. They don’t call it a down payment but it is. I know, I know they are in law school for several years studying torts and whatnot so they’ve earned the right to charge hundreds of dollars in fees.

In my quest to find an attorney in ten days to provide a response to the legal notice I was served, I asked several friends for references. One friend of a friend offered me their discounted rate of $650 per hour. What?!? I went with a firm that had been labeled the Cadillac of law firms. Well, I wanted someone really good. I didn’t want to make the mistake I had made with my divorce attorney who made lots of mistakes and could be credited with my current situation for leaving out important verbiage in my divorce decree. I ended up with a Geo Metro pretending to be a Cadillac. The office was swanky, I met one of the partners who was impressive as well as knowledgable and very polished. They said I would be represented by the firm not just one person. They failed to mention the charge I would incur if any of them so much as looked at my file. The person they assigned to me and I parted ways three months and several thousand dollars later after I questioned excessive billing and did some minor research to see he charged me for a trip to the court-house when he was there for another case. What he did for me could have been handled by a phone call. Let the online records search at your local county court-house be your friend. You are able to search records by party or attorney. (You’re welcome)

The whole process is a waste of time, money and effort. Why clear the court’s dockets of cases that could be handled in mediation? I mean why would we want to use the courts’ resources to process criminal cases faster when you can take up valuable time with family law cases? The way my county works is if you can’t successfully negotiate between the attorney you go to mediation then the case comes before the judge when you’ve exhausted those options. But you spend months attending hearings and waiting on the attorney to discuss your demands or wants or points of contention. Remember they are charging you $250+ for these conversations between you, the other attorney, court clerks, paralegals and whoever else they can add to the monthly billing. Unless you are able to locate someone who charges a set fee to handle your case you could rack up thousands and thousands of dollars in fees. I don’t know about you but I don’t have thousands and thousands of dollars to spare.

You wanna hear my suggestions? Go to mediation first. Skip all the other nonsense and use a reputable mediator to help resolve the issue. The drawback? The attorneys don’t line their pockets at your expense and they might be able to help more people cause they aren’t spending a year or three on one case.

One year, two attorneys, a social study, mediation and I don’t know how many court dates later, it’s still not officially over. But we are close. I hope.

March 5, 2014

It had been a regular day. I woke up early. Prepared breakfast for the kids. I got everybody off to school and I put in my time at work. I don’t remember anything exciting occurring. Like I said, it had been a regular day. 

I was preparing dinner. The Fan4 were completing homework. That’s when I heard the knock on the door. I looked out the window beside the door and saw a short unassuming man. I thought he was another salesman attempting to get me to change electric companies. I remember thinking it’s a little late in the evening for door to door sales. 

I spoke to him through the screen door. “How may I help you?” He told me I needed to sign for something. I asked, “what is it?” By this time the Fan4, who are always excited when someone knocks on the door, were behind me watching and listening. 

Let me take you back a few months to December 2013  kids and I were talking about some of the things we wanted to do for 2014. I want to play soccer, I want to attend a basketball camp. Can I go to a summer camp? I told them I wanted to take a trip to Virginia. Due to the cost, we would not have birthday parties in 2014. What can I say? We live on a budget. Everybody agreed on the trip. 

I opened the front door to sign the papers. The gentleman told me I had ten days to respond and needed to get an attorney as soon as possible. I had been served. My heart was racing and so was my mind. What! Who? I walked through the crowd of people, four kids does feel like a throng of people at times. As I stood in my kitchen I opened the packet and realized my ex was taking me to court. 

I don’t know what I did next or who I called first. 

I picked up my cell phone at some point and walked into my room closing the door behind me. I walked into my closet and closed that door as well. My closet is my inner sanctuary at times. It’s where I go to have private conversations and get a couple of minutes alone. It’s the only place I can go in the house without a Fan following. 

I remember the shock. I remember the heartbreak. I also remember being overwhelmed and afraid. I knew that a court battle could obliterate my finances. I also knew that depending on the outcome our lives would change forever. 

Happy Anniversary to Me

It has been a long time since I’ve written anything. The weeds had taken over my site and caution or wisdom or fear has taken over my creativity. But I’m back.

I’ve learned a lot since I’ve been gone. Some things I’ll talk about in the weeks to come.

There are certain events that I don’t think I’ll ever forget. I remember the birth of each of my children. I remember my three graduations. I completed my masters degree in August. I remember making the drill team in high school and crossing over in my sorority. I remember my wedding day and looking into the eyes of my friends and family as I walked down the stairs. But today I celebrate the day my divorce was finalized.

It wasn’t actually on this day, it was March 18, 2010.

After two years of going to court, arguing at home (we lived in the same house during those two years) and trying to keep it together for the kids, my life changed for what I consider the best half decade of my life.

Happy fifth anniversary to me.

A life time of things can happen in five years. It wasn’t easy. I cried a lot in the beginning. Divorce is like a death. It was the death of dream, a hope, a promise and so many other things. I mourned my past, my current and my future. It was life altering to say the least.

My days and nights are completely different than they were before the divorce. My prayer was to make it through the day with out a major or even minor argument. I lived in self-doubt and solitude. Nobody knew the depth of my sorrows. I hid it quite well. I’m sure my eyes told the story and the smile that never found its way to my lips spoke loud and clear.

But today, I’m celebrating. I’m not having anything formal or doing anything special but in my heart I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating the new me. I didn’t get plastic surgery or buy the Jaguar I’ve always wanted but I have more peace than I’ve ever had. When I say ever, I mean ever. I work for a great company. I have wonderful supportive family and friends and the loves of my life are healthy, growing and thriving. What else is there? 

I wake up in the morning expecting to have a great day and go to bed thankful. 

Happy anniversary to me!