The betrayal

Something was not right. Her intuition’s sirens had been blaring for a few weeks. She kept silencing the alarms. She could easily tune them out while focusing on the kids. But as soon as there was some semblance of silence the alarms would sound again. Louder. More determined. Warning!!!

They had been married for almost a decade. They had five children together. The youngest was a baby. They took on traditional roles in the home. She was a stay at home mom and he worked outside the home. She did all of the cooking and most of the cleaning. He gave her a much needed break from the chaos of five active kids when he arrived home.

Some things changed. They were subtle. If wasn’t for the insistent alarms she might have missed them. He started working out. Consistently. No big deal. It happens all the time. People make commitments towards better health every day. He began leaving for work earlier than normal. Shrug. He could have had a major project he was working on. That’s not uncommon. He stopped answering her calls or they had abbreviated phone conversations even while he was driving home. Okay. He decided one day that he needed to start working from a coffee shop rather than at home after the kids and she went to bed. Why?

If you look at each of the incidents separately you find yourself asking, what’s the big deal? But the alarms. The alarms were telling her something was not right.

One day she decided to do what she had never done in the near decade they had been husband and wife, she signed on to their carrier’s website and checked his cell phone records. The alarms went silent. There was the confirmation of the feeling that had plagued her for weeks. Every morning on the commute to work, every evening on the way home, late at night when the household was quiet the same phone number was there. The number had taken up residence on the phone bill and owned more real estate on the pages than hers. She didn’t cry. She didn’t get angry, initially. She called him at work and asked who she was. He denied it at first. Cheating man rule #1 deny, deny, deny. Then he finally confessed. It was infatuation. He would leave her alone. But he didn’t. Things were normal for about a week. Then the alarm sounded again. This time she was angry. She wasn’t thinking logically. Maybe she was. She went to their closet and gathered up his clothes hanging the the closet and began tossing them in the front yard. Next were his shoes. After that she pulled the drawers out of the dresser and tossed those in the yard as well. (Perhaps she had seen Waiting to Exhale one to many times) After a quick trip to the hardware store boom bam bop, the locks were changed on the doors. She manually locked the garage door. Then she called him.

Come get your %#&! out of my yard before I turn the sprinklers on!! He talked to the other woman on the way home. She watched through the window as he filled his van with his belongs. Her anger subsided but her heart was broken. That day they began a journey down a path that was filled with twists, turns, forgiveness, and repeated betrayal. They would eventually come to a fork in the road and choose separate paths. They would no longer walk as one.

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Five Years Ago

Five years ago this month I moved out of the house I selected and we purchased in 2001. I remember being pregnant with my Honeygirl and she was born in 2002. She will be 13 this year. The divorce, that drug on for two years, was final in March but I was given 60 days to move out. Yes, we lived together for most of that time. 

The search

I have always been very budget conscience. I knew how much I could afford to pay in rent and I was determined not to pay more. Finding a place, in a decent neighborhood, zoned for good schools, that was relatively close to my job (less than a 30 minute commute) and near a good daycare was definitely a challenge. It doesn’t sound difficult but believe me it was. I wanted three bedrooms but had seriously considered a two bedroom apartment. 

That’s when I met this guy. He was tall, dark, handsome, single, he worked out, ate healthy, he was driven, determined and best of all he was a real estate agent. If you’re going to spend hours at a time looking at houses with someone it doesn’t hurt if they’re attractive. He told me I had too many children to even think about living in a two bedroom apartment and took on the challenge of finding a place for us. We had a very limited amount of time so we looked almost every night. I was running out of time. It was May. Then one day we were driving around and I saw some townhouses I had been interested in but could not afford. One of them was for lease. We walked in to look around but another agent and client were there and they were on the phone with the leasing agent making plans. My agent looked at me, as we walked out and said, “maybe there’s another one.” I told him, “no, this one is mine.” You see, when we pulled up I took note of the name of the leasing agent’s name that was on the sign in the yard, Mary Ann Turner. That name may not mean anything to you but to me it meant the townhouse was mine. My family and her family had been friends for years. I had dinned at her table. I had attended celebrations at her house. Her niece had been my best friend during high school. I got Mary Ann’s personal phone number from my mother and I called her. After explaining my situation and how quickly I needed to move she put everything in warp speed. I moved out before that agreed upon date. 

The move

I did what most of us do when it’s time to move. I rented a truck and recruited some people to help. When it came time to move the recruits were avoiding my phone call. I put out an SOS to some friends of mine on a moms group that I participate in online. These moms and I had seen each other through lots of moments in time. Besides, if you need something handled who do you call? A mom of course. After a couple of phone conversations and a few hours later my new moving crew was on the scene. My eyes still water up when I think back on that day. There were several families that showed up later that day to help me move. It was a beautiful thing. My good friend from high school came with her mom who had an oxygen tank. She moved things like pillows and supervised the little children when she was resting on the sofa. (We miss you!) By the end of the day I was moved, beds setup, kitchen unpacked and settled in to our new home. 4moms rock!!

Summer visitation

Five year ago my children were ten, seven, four and three. I had been a stay at home mom until two years before when I started working a part-time job on the second shift. February of 2010 I began working my current job. All of that was to say, I had never been away from my children for a significant amount of time. I remember spending one weekend with Yvonne in Missouri. But that’s it. The way summer visitation works for us is the ex has the option of splitting up his visitation into two time periods that equal 30 days or he can have 30 days in July. He selected 30 days in July. Oh. My. Gosh. Thirty days without my babies. Thirty days without their momma. So many tears were shed during those 30 days. He would not allow me to talk to them or see them during that time frame. I had to get creative. I went to their church. My sister in law went with me as my backup and support. I had never seen my babies look so lost and dejected. When they saw me they were timid. The younger two cried as they hugged me. The pastor’s wife told me they missed me and were struggling. I broke down. This was the hardest time of my life. Another time I cut up a watermelon and showed up at his house while he was gone. His girlfriend let the kids come outside while she watched me through the window of the house I had picked out. During that month, I was allowed to have the kids for a weekend. I selected Little Dude’s fifth birthday weekend. I invited some friends over and we partied in the pool. A few days later they came home and we sat on the sofa and cried together. They were tears of relief. Tears of sadness. Tears of joy. Tears upon tears upon tears. My babies were home. 

Today

That was the first and last summer of him taking them for 30 days. School is about to end and summer visitation is about to begin. We no longer cry. Their summers are filled with volunteering summer camps and vacation bible school. I can’t say they look forward to the extended visits but they no longer dread them. This has been a tough year for me. I have to admit I’m looking forward to the silence and the reduction in my grocery bill. We’ve come a long way. 

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!

What it boils down to

How many times have you heard the phrase, what it boils down to? I cook and watch my fair share of cooking shows. What it boils down to is what’s left when the liquids are removed or greatly reduced by cooking them out. Think of cooking rice or making a sauce. What’s left in the pot at the end of the process?

I had the opportunity to speak with another mom recently who had a marriage similar to mine and whose husband fit the description of mine. We have been divorced about the same amount of time as well. As a matter of fact 3/18 is my 4th anniversary. The way custody worked out this year, our ex husbands had the children for spring break. I took the time to refresh myself by sleeping, reading and sleeping some more. I would often sit without tv or music playing. The noise level for the Fantastic4 can get pretty high. I learned to let go of any anxiety and enjoy the time. She spent the time being distraught and stressed.

When I spoke with her yesterday she commented several times how difficult it was to have her children gone for so long. I get it, mine are gone as well. I listened. I let her vent. I let her cry. Then I said to her, what this boils down to is your trust in God. Either you trust him or you don’t. Once you make that decision then you move forward with your actions.

If you don’t trust or believe in him then your next action is to find the strength within to make some changes. She had already said she was weak. Then find the strength using outside sources. However, one of the things she told me is she is a Christian. If that’s true then she has put her trust in him.

I’m not saying trusting a being that you can’t see is easy. No, I’m not saying that at all. But if you decided to trust and believe then trust and believe.

When I was going through my time of adjusting to my babies spending a week or even a month with their dad, I was anxious and nervous. I had been a stay at home mom and the primary caretaker for the kids. I prepared 99% of all their meals and I was the person who did all the housework. He had never taken all four kids out of the house at the same time. How was this ever going to work? They needed me. I admit I didn’t sleep well initially. I was anxious. I was fearful. I had vented to friends. Then finally I said (interpret, cried out) to God, I know you love these children more than I ever could. Please, protect and provide for them while they are out of my care and out of my sight. Letting go isn’t always easy. I don’t have a five or ten step plan that I can outline for you. I know part of the process is surrendering your thoughts and trusting things will work out for good. Its realizing you can’t control or maniputlate the situation. It’s believing good things will come. I guess I had a three step plan.

When it boiled down to it, my faith and trust in God is what was left. It’s not an easy process for some of us. But eventually after you’ve done all you can, when you’ve prayed, cried, worried, lost sleep, sought professional help, vented to friends; you stand. Stand on your faith. Trust God. He cares for you. Everything may not look the way we want it to all the time. Living in a state of despair, if you’re a Christian, boils down to a lack of trust. Even in the midst of the pain and despair, trust him.

If you’re not a Christian and you’ve continued to read, believe things will get better, make things better, change your actions and your thoughts. I believe it all boils down to the same thing.

Courage, Redemption, Grace & Mercy (part 1)

As I’ve previously stated, I don’t typically use my blog as a forum to discuss my divorce or previous marriage. On the rare occasion that I do, I will speak MY truth. He has his version, the Fantistic 4 will have theirs and I, the person holding the pen, have mine. Since this is my blog, you will read my version as lived from my perspective.
This is a three-part post, I reserve the right to add more as needed.

Courage

I was a stay at home mom. I was laid off from work while I was on maternity leave. I worked part-time about half the time to keep my skills current and to add a small amount of income to our very tight budget. I can’t tell you how many people were surprised by my decision. I was told I was wasting my degree. But it was the right one for us and I have zero regrets. Leaving the workplace and depending solely on your spouse to support you is an act of faith. Is comparing it to sky diving a little extreme?

I won’t go into the details but I will say things were rocky from the beginning. As the years progressed and three more babies came the rocks went from pebbles to boulders. We went to counseling and I prayed for my marriage. We received some good as well as some questionable advice, doctrine and guidance. The good was good but the bad was bad. One thing that really sticks out to me is being told he was the priest of our home and blah blah blah blah. I stopped slowly listening at priest. Let me say this, I refuse to bash “the church” or its misguided representatives. The people who counseled us were trying to help us. They loved us and didn’t want to see our marriage dissolve. I will ask, where does the Bible say the husband is the priest of the home? Please don’t give me weak implication or your broad interpretation. I was reading the OT to the 4 last night. We read the part about when the lineage of priests was established and the tabernacle was built. I could be wrong but every husband is not a descendant of Aaron. Besides, if you read NT the curtain that separated the Holy of Holies was torn. This established our ability to have a one on one relationship with God instead of the priest representing us. Now where was I?

There are a few things that happened that gave me the courage I needed to begin the mental process of divorcing my husband.

We had a friend of the teenager over for dinner. After we blessed our food, we all began to eat in silence. This had slowly become the norm in our home. The friend asked the question, “why don’t you talk during dinner?” I lifted my head to look around the table and all of the children had their heads down with sullen looks on their faces. That question created an eye opening moment for me to begin looking at all the places where we no longer had joy and laughter.

I started updating my resume and mentally considering single life with four young kids. At the time they were around 1, 2, 5 and 8.

The second incident occurred at a local water park. My mommy friends and I would buy season passes and take our children to this water park multiple times a week. It gave us a much needed break and lots of time with each other. On one of these excursions I spent some time with another friend who told me she was going through a divorce. That was quite the shock for me as I had always seen her and her ex as a good example of a married couple. You never really know what goes on when the door is closed and the blinds are shut. When I listened to her story, I knew I would survive. Her concerns were different but the same. She had been a stay at home mom for many years and had real concerns about finances. She hadn’t completed her college degree but She didn’t need a degree to walk in her calling and giftings one being a fabulous photographer. I spoke with her often. She gave me hope and courage.

I went to a birthday party one January many years ago. The guest of honor and I went for coffee afterwards. I was watching the clock because I knew the ex would get upset if I was out too late. I was suffocating under a blanket of control but didn’t realize it at the time. After a short conversation, she was able to assess my situation and knew I needed to get out. I don’t know what tipped her off or if she was just that tuned in. I may have said, “he won’t allow…” one too many times. She talked to me that night and when I left, I was building up the courage to take the next step to leave.

I received a phone call a day or two later from a woman who is highly regarded in my circle of friends. After hearing about my marital situation from that friend, she told me I needed to leave. I didn’t have a full-time job yet and I was uncertain. But after talking it over with my sister-in-law, she graciously opened her home to us so I could leave. The husband of the birthday girl came over after my ex left for work and helped me pack a few things and I left. That was almost six years ago.

Courage.
For me it was a series of events that lead me away from a bad marriage but left me at the doorstep of redemption.