Tuesday, June 28, 2005

What To Do When You Can’t Sleep

  1. Research Canada. File this under Know Your Enemy. I’ve always believed that Canada was planning a surprise invasion of the U.S. They try to fool us with their beer-drinking and their reputation as a good hiding place for draft dodgers, but I recognize Canada for what it truly is: a confederation with parliamentary democracy. Now if that doesn’t sound sinister I don’t know what does. So when are we going to take Canada seriously? How about when the current regime’s expansionist tendencies can’t be held back anymore and they invade Greenland, endangering the supply of Greenland halibut available to the U.S. We won’t be laughing then. Join me in lobbying President Bush to preemptively protect our interest in Greenland’s continuing freedom by removing Queen Elizabeth II before her Reign of Terror spreads across the globe.
  2. Look for more interesting blogs to read. Failing that, you go to blogs you regularly read and read their archives. Sometimes you find interesting stuff, sometimes not. Did you know that Marie has an army of small rodents she is training to attack on command? At least that’s what I think it said – it was hard to read, the text was moving and there were small gremlins running back and forth across the screen. They were saying something about how I needed to get to bed. Anyway, back to Marie. I’m quite sure the rodents are some kind of Advance Infantry – after all, she is Canadian. And don’t think I didn’t notice LaLa’s post of “All quiet on the home front”, which so “coincidentally” uses military jargon in the title. I spent several seconds trying to break her code, but was unsuccessful.

My bed is now calling me. I may decide to delete this post tomorrow, or maybe add more conspiracy theories to it. I am somewhat suspicious of several Latin American countries, including Rhode Island. And don’t get me started on Bulgaria.

Monday, June 27, 2005

The Scammers At Best Buy

All I can say to Best Buy is: Nice try. I went into Best Buy on Saturday and bought 2 cheap CDs. I had my son in my arm, and he had fallen asleep. The cashier turned to me and said that I had won an 8-week subscription to one of two magazines, Sports Illustrated or (I think) Good Housekeeping. I’m not a reader of either one, but she said there was no obligation and no charge. I told her fine, just give me the Sports Illustrated. I figured I’d look at them if I thought they were interested, then tell SI that I wasn’t interested in a subscription when I got the inevitable question of whether or not I’d want to subscribe at the end of the 8 weeks. I knew it was a sales ploy, I just didn’t care at the time.

I didn’t realize how far they’d go. I looked at my receipt today. To my surprise, I found a section telling me that I’d purchased a Sport’s Illustrated Plan #2. I’m going to annoy you all and tell you what the fine print says:


You purchased the following:


ORDNBR xxxxxxxxxxxxxx


You want the following service plans :


Yes! Sign me up for Sports Illustrated’s 8 issue trial offer with automatic renewal. I authorize Best Buy to give my credit or debit card to SI and SI to charge my card for the initial and six month renewal terms.

NO RISK: If within 8 issues you do not want the magazine, simply call Sports Illustrated at 1-800-284-8800 or go online to: www.sicustomerservice.com and you will NOT be charged.

AUTOMATIC RENEWAL: For your convenience, after the initial 24-issue subscription term, should you decide to continue with the magazine do nothing. SI will automatically continue your subscription unless you tell us to stop. You authorize SI to charge your credit/debit card fro the initial subscription term and every six months after that at the guaranteed low price in effect.

This is a little bit different than “winning” a free 8-week subscription. Normally I’m pretty careful about things like this, but this went further than I ever dreamed one of these would go. Not only had I authorized them to charge me for the subscription after the 8 weeks, but on an ongoing basis! And on top of that, I did it without even knowing the price! I was a bit annoyed. So I called the Best Buy store and asked for the manager. I waited on hold for about 5 minutes, then the line disconnected. The same thing happened on my second call. So I went to the FTC’s website and filed a complaint.

I called again and did not mention what I was calling about when I asked to speak to the manager. Strangely, I got right through this time. After listening to me explain why I was calling she said that to get the offer (now it was an offer, and not a prize) I had to bring a brochure to the register and sign it. I told her I had not signed anything, and asked why I would sign up for a recurring charge of an unknown amount to my credit card. She had no answer except to say she could take care of it and cancel the whole thing. I told her cancel it, but I’m also going to give Sports Illustrated a call and let them know that I am not authorizing them to charge me.

Another interesting thing, I googled for Best Buy complaints, and found that there is a possible class action lawsuit being put together for this very issue against Best Buy. Imagine my surprise.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

On Being A Dad and Being A Son

This weekend is my weekend to celebrate Father’s Day. The STBX had called me and asked me if I would be willing to switch because she had not realized that Father’s Day and her parent’s anniversary were on the same day. She had several relatives flying in for the celebration and since I did not have anything planned I agreed to take my son this coming Sunday instead of the 19th. I don’t really believe she didn’t make the connection, especially since Father’s day is one of the holidays specifically spelled out in the visitation agreement, but it didn’t cost me anything to switch, and there was no reason not to, so I did. A “thank you” would have been really nice, though. I called my father and made some plans to spend the day with him – I’m planning to bring some supplies with me and cook some dinner. I’m actually a very good cook and I know my dad will appreciate the surprise dinner.

I like to think I’m a great dad – but on the off chance I’m not up to some of the challenges of the future I’ve hedged my bets. I’ve got a great guidebook. It’s called Father to Son (Life Lessons on Raising a Boy). I keep it on my desk at home and take it off the shelf every so often because it’s so moving to read. I could do a lot worse than follow the advice of this book.

The first section is called The Five Keys. It starts with a couple of paragraphs:

Turning a boy into a man is a man’s job. Since the beginning of time, it’s been up to a father to make his son responsible. Kind. Courageous. Honorable.
A young boy doesn’t come with instructions. He just comes with boundless love and an adventurous spirit. But the journey to manhood begins very early… the first time he looks at his dad and thinks, “I want to be like him.”

I pray that my son looks at me and thinks that. The Five Keys are:

  1. Be around. I’ve got this one covered, even though I’ve had to fight to get the time.
  2. Be his father, not his friend. If you don’t understand the difference, imagine his confusion when you must discipline him. This is the hardest job of a non-custodial parent, at least in my opinion. You want every moment with your child to be happy, and that’s just not possible.
  3. Be a good husband. Show his mom respect at all times. I can’t do this one anymore, but someday, I hope I can show him the way men and women are supposed to treat each other.
  4. Be home for dinner. I can’t do this one either, but I can be with him for dinner sometimes. This is where I need to be creative.
  5. Be his hero. I think I already am, what a feeling.

I’m lucky that I can call upon some of the things my dad did when I was growing up. My parents divorced when I was ten, and there were a number of years that I didn’t really get to see him that often. In that time I found myself measuring other kid’s dads against mine. Even though I didn’t see him that often not one dad ever beat him out. My dad was always the smartest and best dad around. I’m one of those rare kids who never believed that he knew more than his father – my dad was always that hero I want to be for my son. I want to make sure my son sees the relationship I have with my dad, the love I have for him.

Sometimes I don’t feel worthy to be this little boy’s dad – he’s as close to the perfect child as I’ve ever seen. Is this how my dad thought about me? Did he cry when he missed me? Did he worry about all the dangers the world has to offer a child?

This Sunday I have to make sure I get all of this across to my dad. I want him to know that he was my hero growing up – he got me through some of the difficult times even though all I had standing next to me was his memory. I’m a lucky man. My dad is the best dad I could have had – I just wish I could have realized just how good he was a lot earlier.

Thursday, June 23, 2005

King Erasmus Revealed! Posted by Hello

What Do You Believe In?

I was thinking the other day about what kind of person I think I am and the person I still want to become, and I began to wonder about what guides some of my beliefs. Some of it is experience, sometimes it’s a quotation that resonated with me. As my son grows I’d like to instill some of those beliefs in him, but the choice will end up being his – though I hope that I can at least teach him that HE guides his beliefs and actions, not everybody else.

I despise bullies, whether they be physical bullies or just the kind that try to take you down with a few cutting comments. When I was younger I was small for my age and for a while was a target for bullies. I grew a little bit, but that doesn’t really help you with bullies – the best thing you can ever do is stand up to them, good or bad. I found that one of them left me alone after I tried to fight back – I say tried because I didn’t do any damage, I’m not sure I even hit him, but I think he preferred prey that didn’t fight back. When I was living in Florida I saw a lot of bullying, sometimes I was the victim, sometimes I wasn’t. There’s a guy I remember who was one of my few friends in the high school I briefly attended before I moved back with my father. He wouldn’t speak. Ever. I now know that a refusal to speak is sometimes a reaction to an extremely traumatic event. We were friends I think because we were fellow outcasts – not many people wanted to be my friend and not many knew how to be his friend. He never said a word to me, but we somehow got along and managed to communicate anyway. I remember that one day I said something funny and I actually heard a short laugh from him. That was a moment I’ve always treasured. I think about him sometimes and wonder how he’s doing, where he is, if he’s gotten through his particular trial. He was a target in our school simply because he wouldn’t talk. One day I was walking down a hallway and I came upon him – he was being held in a headlock by a bigger guy than either of us. The guy kept telling him to talk and hurting him when he wouldn’t. I feel ashamed today that I couldn’t find the courage in me to even speak out and tell the bully to leave him alone. I was too scared, and kept walking. I didn’t know that that act of fear would affect how I thought about things the rest of my life.

I’m not sure when I first read the quote, and for a long time I remembered the basic message, if not the exact words or who spoke them. The quote is by Edmund Burke:

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.

I wish I could remember the moment when I first read that, or my first reaction to it. Maybe it didn’t have a huge reaction on me then, maybe it just grew on me. Now it is one of the things that guide many of my actions as an adult. I’ve been given a lot of gifts, a strong body, a fine mind, a sense of who I am and a sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. I can’t take these gifts and reject the responsibility that comes with them.

My brother had it worse than I did. He was smaller than me, had fewer social skills (not that I had a lot) and wore glasses, and later on, wore braces. He was one big target as far as bullies were concerned. I have a lot of shame over how I treated him when we were younger when I was trying to fit in myself, but as I got older and started to mature I couldn’t help but start to stand up for him. When we came to live with my father people in our school didn’t believe we were brothers sometimes. Something about me had changed enough that most of the bullies would leave me alone. Maybe it was because most of the bullies in the middle class school we went to were what I would consider to be amateurs. They had nothing on the bullies where I had been living for years. One came up and shook his fist in my face, thinking I’d be intimidated, and didn’t know what to do when I started laughing. Another literally picked me up and held me up against the wall, my feet about a foot off the ground, threatening me. I started laughing because it was clear he didn’t have any intention of actually getting violent, and he let me go, confused.

Those kind of people started leaving me alone, but my younger brother seemed to attract more of them. He decided to join the wrestling team, and actually toughened himself up pretty good, but unfortunately, one of the people who liked to hassle him the most was on the team with him. It got so bad that one day I came home and was told that my brother had been taken to the hospital. They had pulled a set of lockers down on top of him. Thankfully, the extent of his injuries was a broken nose. I think my dad saw something in me, because he told me not to do anything about it, that he would take care of it. It took a lot of restraint for me not to go visit some of the people who did that. I’m shaking as I write this – it still angers me thinking about it.

I was not as restrained with another guy. Somebody told me that my brother was having trouble with a kid I didn’t really know. I remember that he was one of the first people I ever knew who had a mullet. I asked my brother about it and he told me that the kid had given him a couple of candy bars over time and then suddenly claimed that my brother owed him money for them. He was at that time claiming that my brother owed him over $40. That’s pretty good interest for two or three candy bars. I started going out of my way to find this guy. I never told him why I was confronting him.

One day we passed on the stairs and I knocked his books out of his arms – a mortal insult in high school, if you remember. I remember he actually asked me “You wanna fight?” – I readily agreed. He had obviously not been in very many fights. One of my favorite teachers stood at the side yelling at us to stop, and (wisely) only stepped in when I knocked the kid to the ground. We spent the next couple of hours in the Principal’s office. He and the Vice-Principal were trying to make sense of what happened. It was pretty clear that I was the aggressor, and the kid’s cheek was swelling where I had hit him. When they asked me why I had started the fight, I told them. I told them about my brother and the candy bars and the supposed money he owed.

The kid actually asked me “He’s your brother?” He was clearly very uncomfortable at this point with his junior candy bar loan-sharking operation being exposed. I learned a little about political connections that day. His father was going up for the position of Vice Principal of the local middle school and probably didn’t want his son’s pseudo-mob activities getting a lot of attention. I think that was the biggest reason I wasn’t really punished by the school for the whole altercation. The best thing for me was that my brother was never bothered about his “debt” again.

I didn’t know what to expect when I went home. I had to tell my father about it, and when I did I think he understood why I did what I did. I think he was happy that I had stood up for my brother, as we did not always get along. He, being a good father, couldn’t let it go, however. He asked me if I knew what I did was wrong. I said I did, but I’m sure I gave a completely wrong answer for why, I don’t remember. He told me that while what I did seemed right, it was something I could never do again. He explained to me that if I had been older I would have been arrested for what I did because I didn’t need to get into the fight. I might have seriously hurt him or been hurt myself because the outcome of a fight is never assured. Before I resorted to fighting I could have come to him or a teacher at the very least. He never yelled at me or told me I was being stupid, he just taught me why I couldn’t act that way. He taught me in just a few short minutes that there were only certain times when violence was appropriate. I never got into another fight in school after that.

I want to be to my son what my father was to me. Somebody I respected enough that he could just tell me what was right and need do nothing more. There’s a lot of me in my son already – I’m told by people that he gets his smiles and attitude from me – that makes me feel good. So later today when I see him I’ll teach him just a little more, and I’ll keep doing that, day by day, visit by visit. Sometimes I think that it’s what keeps me going.

Haloscan and Previous Comments

My apologies to all who’s comments have been lost – I just added haloscan, and I didn’t know that the old comments would no longer show up. I’ll be updating the template slowly to keep up with the Joneses (greekchickie Jones and Cheekymoo Jones are two examples). I’m thinking of a Naked Don Knots theme – though I’m not sure I’m going to like the google hits I get from that…

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

A Scandal At Home

The perils of posting a picture of Brad Pitt on your blog… I was reading comments made on that post, and it was up on my laptop’s screen. I wasn’t paying much attention to it, and my landlady came walking by. She starts to say something to me, but stops as she sees the screen. I look down at it, and there’s Brad, shirt open, standing on the beach.

I decide to not even make an attempt to explain…

With Lawyers Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

I feel like I should fire my attorney. I have to talk to a few people and see what they think just to make sure I’m not overreacting. I won’t go into the details, but we had a discussion the other day about some things going on with the divorce. We were disagreeing on a couple of points, and she was getting a little angry. Now I’m more than a little bit angry at her.

What made me angry? My attorney’s advice to me. It wasn’t so much advice as “orders”. She (my attorney) has been getting frustrated with dealing with the other side in all of this and has been putting pressure on me to make things happen. Every so often she gives me advice that I would rather not hear or deal with, but I do, because I’m an adult. I don’t get angry, it’s just something that you have to do. She was getting phone calls from the STBX’s attorney that she was tired of dealing with, so she told me I had to do some things. Her attitude was “I don’t care if you like it, just get it done”, and it was definitely more a set of orders than advice.

This time was different, however. This time, if I’d followed her “advice” I would right now be in a jail cell, facing felony charges. I am not exaggerating. What do you do when your attorney tells you to do things that could send you to prison?

I am a pretty level-headed person (at least I think so) and when she issued me this list of things I had to get done over the next few days it just didn’t sound right. So instead of just doing them, thinking “my attorney told me to do it, so it must be ok”, I started making some phone calls.

I found out, unequivocally, that if I’d done what my attorney advised, I would be in a world of trouble. Prison-time trouble. One of the people I talked to (in a state agency) asked me “what the hell are you thinking? Are you stupid?” When I told them that I was calling because my attorney told me to do these things and I didn’t think it was right, the woman was incredulous. She told me, in no uncertain terms, NOT to do any of the things I’d been told. I don’t think she believed that an attorney would tell me this stuff.

So today I’m going to make some phone calls. I’m going to find out what the consequences would have been, then I’m calling my attorney. She’s not going to like what I have to say.

When I actually look more like this... Posted by Hello

She thinks I look like this... Posted by Hello

Love Me For My Remote Controls, Baby

Somebody, who shall remain nameless for the moment, thinks I am sexy because of the number of remote controls I have. Put aside your suspicions that she is a man, although I will admit that I would have thought the same thing at first. We were talking by IM last night (which is something I have never really done until recently) and I had finally installed a webcam that was given to me by a company I worked for about 5 years ago. It’s a quality webcam – I am positively “green” with envy on the screen, possibly because her webcam was in “this-dimension-color”.

So the talk somehow turned to remotes, and how nice it would be if the buttons really worked, say, in bed. When put into that context, the buttons on my remote have so many interesting functions.

I have:

The Play, Fast Forward, and Record buttons – all perennial favorites of men.

The Slow (as in: Slow Down), Pause and Rewind buttons – buttons women wished were perennial favorites of men.

The “Thumbs-up” and “Thumbs-down” buttons – throw ambiguity out the window (yes, there’s a window button)

Her favorite, The Do-Over button, which goes back 7 seconds in time.

My personal favorites, the Guide button (for those times I have no idea what I’m doing) and the Info button to provide me with any needed information.

And that’s just my Tivo remote.

This conversation could not have happened if she did not have the same kind of sense of humor that I have: slightly disturbed. She may be slightly disturbed in other ways: she drinks skim milk. As we all know, this is a sign of some serious issues.

She told me yesterday that she is coming to Boston on a business trip, so we may actually end up meeting! She will be the first person I have (knowingly) met from the “Blogosphere” (where did they come up with that word, anyway?).

I have not been completely honest with her, however. I sent her my picture (see post above this one), but I really look more like the picture above that. I also told her I was about 5’ 6” tall, when in reality, I’m 3’ 11”. Do you think she’ll notice?

Friday, June 17, 2005

Sorry for all the random pictures, but I was going through my collection of (now) 4244 pictures and decided to post some of my favorites. This is from Newport, RI on the beach that runs along the mansions. Posted by Hello

This lake is to the left on the horizon from the tree. I could not believe the view from where I was standing. Posted by Hello

Is this not the coolest tree? It reminds me of the movie The Ring. I took this picture about 2 years ago as I wandered through Northwestern Connecticut one day. Posted by Hello

The Rest of the Story

I had to post some more about my visit with my son yesterday – there was so much more than the stolen nose incident. It’s amazing that at some point, almost all little boys become interested in bugs. My son is no exception. If he sees a bug now he insists of going over to look at it, and sometimes picking it up. That’s not a problem when it’s a caterpillar, as most of the carnivorous caterpillars live down in Mexico and Australia, but I’m worried that he’ll try to pick up a wasp or something. You see, there’s precedent.

When I was about a year and a half old my mother was sitting on the front steps while I was playing in the yard in front of her. She tells me that I suddenly looked down at a big bumblebee and decided I wanted to pick it up. I was quick enough to reach down and grab it, and was rewarded with a sting to my thumb. She said I was a little upset about the whole thing.

As you can see, it’s not outside the realm of possibility that my son will try to pick up a stinging insect. Anyway, on to why this is relevant. When I picked up my son he came running over to me to show me his car, as is usual. We were just about to leave when he turned to the STBX and asked her “Where’d my spider go?”. I had no idea what he meant, but I assumed that he was talking about a stuffed spider or toy spider or something. No.

The STBX brought out some kind of plastic container, and in it was a little jumping spider, which was now my son’s pet. Yes, my son has a pet spider. And he likes to carry it around with him everywhere. Including Friendly’s.

So we’re in Friendly’s and he’s playing with his cars while his spider sat in it’s container in front of him. He explained to me that he wanted his spider to go into his car – I’m sure he had ideas that it would drive it around. We were lucky to get a male server who didn’t have a problem with the spider. I can say this with some confidence because he mentioned it to one of the female servers, and suddenly no woman would come near the table. How do I know? Because we were on the main path to the kitchen. And after he told them about the spider they all took the long way around our table to keep a maximum amount of distance between the perilous spider and their delicate skins. Because the spider was obviously just trying to lull them into a false sense of security. They knew that if they came close to the table the top would fly off the little plastic cup and the spider inside would jump out like one of the hatchlings in the movie Aliens. They’re life would be horribly cut short by a poisonous bite, just like in all those movies. The fact that this spider was a two-year-old’s pet meant nothing – it was a ruse to allow the spider to get close to more victims, preferably teenage girls.

It didn’t help matters that this was a jumping spider. As we all know, they jump only to go for the throat.

It will be interesting to see how long this poor spider lasts. I’m very sure that the STBX will not open the cup to put any bugs in there for it to eat – she’s a believer in the Great Spider Conspiracy against women. I figure next week I’ll have to find him a new spider.

For the future? My bets are that an Ant Farm is in the cards for him. It’s going to be very funny to see all the grey hairs my STBX gets as a result of his bringing bugs into the house.

This Deserves A Post All It’s Own…

I had a great time with my son last night, and I learned an important lesson that I’ll have to remember when I have more children. Never play “I’ve Got Your Nose” with a two-year-old.

I’m sure some of you out there are imagining him breaking out into tears and crying, but that’s just not my son. He is an amazingly happy little boy. We play different games all the time and he is always got a smile on his little face.

It all started when we sat down to eat last night at Friendly’s. We had already ordered, and once that’s done my job is to keep him entertained and distracted until the food arrives. He had ordered his favorite, Macsheese (with hot dogs), and kept telling me that he wanted it. Don’t ask me what made me do this, it was just a spur of the moment type thing. I reached up, put his nose between my fingers and pretended to pull it off. For those of you living in some remote part of Alaska, or, say, Killeen, Texas, you then put your thumb between the knuckles of your index and middle fingers to simulate an actual nose so you can tell the child that you have it.

I don’t know what I expected, but when he saw that I had his nose, a look of delighted surprise came over his face – the smile alone said volumes. It reminded me of Calvin in Calvin and Hobbes (ok, I looked, but couldn’t find a good example on google). The look said “Daddy took my nose! I had no idea it came off!” That look was funny enough. He then said “Again!”, so I did it again. His delight grew and he started laughing.

Then the real fun started. I went to do it again, and he held his arm up to stop me. He said “I wanna do it”, the same thing he says when he wants to feed himself, hold his own drink or otherwise assert himself. He then reached up, grabbed his nose between his thumb and forefinger, and pulled. His pulled his hand away from his face and looked down at his fingers. Not seeing anything, he opened them. Then he thought that he might have dropped it, so he looked under the matchbox car on the table. Then he looked under the table. Meanwhile, I am nearly in hysterics laughing. People were beginning to stare.

He tried again, a little less gently and looked at his fingers again. Nothing. I realized I had to put a stop to this before he actually pulled hard enough to hurt. A couple at the next table had seen the entire incident and were trying really hard not to laugh. The woman was actually turning red trying to stifle her laughter. Thank God I had a car in reserve. I pulled that out and within thirty seconds he’d moved on from his pre-school plastic surgery attempts.

I thought about telling the STBX about the whole thing so she’d know why he was trying to pull of his nose (or hers) later this week, but I figure she’ll try to claim I was teaching him to hurt himself or some other nonsense. I think I’ll keep this one to myself until he’s a teenager.

War of the Worlds

I was just reading about Tom Cruise’s latest news (the proposal) on his fan site ESSF, and had a funny thought. As you know, his latest movie, War of the Worlds, is coming out soon. In the original movie, the aliens weren’t defeated by a Will-Smithian jet fighter pilot delivering a virus by way of an Apple (which explains why the alien anti-virus software didn’t catch it – it was looking for PC viruses), a tough woman named Ripley, or any type of brilliant child. It was the common cold virus.

My thought was: It’s a damn good thing the aliens never heard of Dr. Tom Cruise’s vitamin loading treatments…

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Where I Draw My Strength

The simple answer? My son. There’s a lot more to it than that – some of it comes from the way I was raised, some of it from the way I saw my father respond to the challenges of being a divorced parent. I was a lucky child. While my parents did divorce, there was not a lot of anger involved and they remained friendly in the years afterward. I’m just beginning to understand the challenges my father was faced with. After my parent’s divorce was final my mother, my brothers and I moved to Florida. I don’t know, and may never know, if the move was a way to punish my father or if it was a situation where my mother needed to find a job that paid better. In any case, my father watched his three sons move 1200 miles away.

It could not have been easy for him financially, but he did it. He sometimes paid extra money when we needed it, and sometimes paid early if we needed it. I’d hear my mother talking on the phone with him, and it must have been hard for her to ask, but it was clear that he never made it more difficult. I wish I could have seen more of him in those years. There were times I needed a dad – I didn’t grow up in a pleasant place.

I don’t know if I’ve ever gone into the reasons why my brothers and I ended up moving back with my father when I was a teenager. DCF was about to take my brothers and I away from my mother. The biggest reason is that we were completely uncontrollable. She could not get us to go to school, to help around the house or to quit causing problems wherever we went. We kind of escaped before they managed to act – we were very lucky.

My father was married to a woman who had never had children. The three of us were an eye-opener for her. For a woman to allow three young boys come to live in her house is quite a leap of faith. To say that she rose to the occasion would be an understatement. She was just as good an influence on us as my father. She passed away about ten years ago – it was a big loss for all of us.

I remember as I was growing up in Florida how much I missed my dad. There were times I needed somebody to tell me how a man (or boy) was supposed to react to people and situations. There were times other kids laughed at me because my dad wasn’t around. I never want my son to have to go through that.

When this first started there were a couple of weeks where I did not get to see my son much at all. It was a very hard time for me and it got even harder when I did get to see him. He was so young and he was not happy being away from his mother. He wanted to go home constantly in those first few visits – that was very painful. Before she filed her charges I would take him for walks every day when I got home from work, I would help feed him dinner and play with him before he went to bed. I basically had to rebuild our relationship.

Over time I’ve managed to build a very strong relationship with him. I’ve done it despite interference from her at nearly every turn, and I’ll continue to do it. I’m now “my daddy”, and he is starting to not get excited to go back home. He had no problem with staying overnight with me, and we had a great time together.

One of my biggest worries is that once the divorce is final she’ll try to move away. One nice thing is that she’ll have to give me ninety days notice to give me a chance to fight it in court. Beyond that, she might be in for a surprise. One nice thing about being unemployed is that I’ve learned the relative value of a job compared to my relationship with my son. In the future I’ll have no problem moving if I have to so that I’m near him.

So where do I draw my strength? From seeing him smile at me, from hearing the joy in his voice when he sees me and says “It’s my daddy!”, from the hugs I get. I also get it from the memories of missing my father, from the example he set for me, for the example my grandfather set for me. He doesn’t know it yet, but he’s part of a family of good men. He also doesn’t know that he’s fitting in just fine.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

It’s A Small World After All

It’s amazing to me how strange life can be sometimes. Today GreekChickie told me that somebody who she knew from her blog had checked out my blog and told her that he thought he might know me. She asked me if it would be ok to pass some info to him to see if we indeed knew each other. To make a medium-length story short it turns out that we did indeed know each other. What’s amazing to me is that he figured this out just by reading the blog – and the last time we could have possibly talked was back around 1993 or 1994. The poor guy – what a blow to his self-esteem it must have been to realize he knew me.

Another Man Who Needs His Son

I found this on MSN, and I plan on writing more about him after I read more of his blog.

A Father's Struggle

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

What's Wrong With Big Business Today?

It’s been a busy day for my blog. Even before I posted the last few pictures and the post titled “Fathers, Sons and Family” I had, for the first time since I started this, exceeded 100 hits. I find that surprising only because it’s almost double the traffic I normally see for a day. What’s the reason? I have no idea. The last time I had a big spike in traffic it was because Chris mentioned me in Return to Happiness and linked here. I don’t see anything in the counter logs, so I don’t know what’s going on.

So, with that said, on to the real post.

I haven’t written a lot about the trouble my old company is giving me. First, I’ve heard rumors that they are going to try to fight my unemployment claim. I’m not sure exactly what their claim will be, but it sounds as though they are going to try to claim that because I was on probation for the first year (as are all new employees) that I’m not eligible.

I should be a little more specific here. It won’t be my company making the claim, it will be the company they hire to do it. I found this out today while on the phone with the man deciding my claim. It sounded like good news, however.

Another thing I’m not sure I’ve mentioned is how I was shorted quite a bit of money when they finally did end up paying me out. I called the company to find out why and was told that I had only been paid for five vacation days. This confused me because I had quite a bit more than that, but the woman said that I had lost a lot of it at the end of March. She said that the company has a “use it or lose it” policy. I wanted to say more, but I decided to go and do some research first.

I looked at the state laws on vacation time and payouts and found that the policy is permissible, but there are some requirements. First, the employee must know about the policy. This one’s so important that Massachusetts (my state) strongly encourages employers to have employees sign a statement for the company to keep, stating that they know the policy exists. Second, the employee must be given the opportunity to take the vacation time – they can’t prevent you from taking it and then take it away from you.

After reading this (and there’s more, but these two were what applied to me) I called again. Nobody answered the phones – I’d transfer back to the operator instead of waiting for voicemail and ask for them to try another extension, but I never got a live person. I thought this was strange, so I went ahead and left a message stating that I didn’t know about the policy and that I wanted a copy of the policy and any communications they sent me concerning losing my vacation time.

The next day I got a call from a different woman who told me that the policy was a company-wide policy “that everyone knew about”. She then tried to get off the phone hurriedly. I wouldn’t let her. I told her I had a couple of questions, at which point she tried to ask me to call back because she was on her way to a meeting, but I wouldn’t. I told her I didn’t know about the policy and that I knew of at least one other person in my district (a district is about 10 people managed by a District Manager) who didn’t know about the policy either. I told her that I wanted a copy of the policy and copies of any communications they had sent me regarding the whole issue, as well as an explanation of exactly how many days I’d lost at the end of March. She was NOT happy about this – clearly she had planned to get me off the phone quickly in hopes that I’d just give up. She told me she’d get it all together and send it to me.

That was four weeks ago this coming Thursday, and I’ve received absolutely nothing. I’ve called the Human Resources department several times since then and only once did somebody pick up the phone. The one time that the phone was answered was when I blocked my caller ID and called. The phone was picked up on the first ring. I was told that the woman in question was not in, and to call back. I don’t think so. Tomorrow I file a Wage Complaint with the Attorney General’s Office. That ought to at least rattle a few cages there. Especially when they have to explain why they haven’t provided me with any of the information they told me they would in support of their policy.

Another place they are playing games is with payment of expenses. When my District Manager sent me home, it was by taxi, and it cost $250 (yes, a $250 taxi ride!). At the time, my manager asked me if I would have a problem paying for it. He assured me he would send me a check to cover it the next day. As I’d never had a problem with him doing what he said he would do I agreed. It’s been about a month and a half and I’ve not received that $250. It’s also been almost a month since I submitted my last expense report and I’ve not received the money for that, either. After all is said and done with all of this they owe me over $2000, and I’m not in a position to be waiting for that.

I am usually a pretty nice person. I can get along with just about anybody and my ex-coworkers liked me as much as I liked them. I don’t normally complain about things and it takes a LOT to actually get me angry. One way to get me angry quickly is to play games with they money I need to support my son. If it were just me that would be one thing, but when I think about him I find myself understanding some of the extreme reactions people have in protecting their children. I will be a ruthless son of a bitch if I’m protecting him. If they don’t want to answer their phones in HR tomorrow, then I’ll start climbing the company ladder.

I was in the military for just under eight years. I got out, went to college and got my degree and went out into the civilian world to work. I’ve been shocked at the things companies will do to their employees. I was laid off at my last company last year with less than 12 hours notice. They played games also. I discovered after talking to some people in the department of labor that many companies will put just one barrier in front of you for whatever reason (like not paying you for the correct amount of vacation pay) in hopes that you’ll give up. They told me it works very well. I’ve seen one company that an ex-employee had to take to court just to get their paycheck out of. I’ve seen people who were fired for unbelievable reasons (one woman asked her manager (politely) to stop insulting her in front of her customers and was fired the next day for insubordination). My favorite thing that employers are pulling now is called “managing out”. Basically, the company decides they don’t want you working for them anymore, so they begin a campaign to make your life so incredibly difficult that you leave of your own volition. If they’re successful then they’ve managed to avoid having you apply for unemployment (which will raise the rates they pay for it) and they will most likely have a nice trail of “problems” documented to fight any legal action you might take. It works like a dream – I’ve seen it done several times, and read about a couple of court cases where the employees successfully sued the employer because of the practice.

So what is my point here? I have to think about that – I didn’t actually intend to start ranting here. I guess it’s that I’ve lost a lot of faith in big business in general and in those who support them (like the Republicans). I’m actually registered to vote as an Independent because there are things about both parties that I like and don’t like and I want to vote for who I think is best rather than for a party.

And so I announce that tomorrow I begin my fight against Big Business and their shenanigans with my pay. I’ve got a nice little rallying flag – a picture of my son. Hell, if I can deal with my STBX these guys will be easy.

Monday, June 13, 2005

This is a really cool photo. It looks like it's been altered, like an old "colorized" film. The trouble is, I have no idea who these people are. The man appears in another photo with a family member, so I know he at least knew some of my family, but that doesn't tell me much. I've emailed my mother the picture, asking her what she knew about it. Posted by Hello

This was my pet bird (she's a Goffin cockatoo) until about 10 years ago. This photo looks quite funny because it appears she's about to chomp the little girl's leg. She was a very gentle bird, however, and the little girl loved her. What really happened was she just tasted the sock. This one's been damaged too. Posted by Hello

This is me at about 4 years old. As you can see, the physical photo itself has been damaged by time and elements. Posted by Hello

Fathers, Sons and Family

So what’s up with the pictures? Well, one of the things I got back in the big return the other day was a bag. This bag was very important to me because it contained several hundred family photos from my mother’s side of the family. My mother had given them to me because I was going to scan them so that they could be shared, and also so that they would not be lost if the originals were destroyed somehow. When I found I had gotten this bag back I was very happy, and looking through it stirred a lot of memories. There are a lot of stories on both sides of my family, and those are just the ones I know of. I’ve always enjoyed learning about my family.

Some of the things I know:

One of my ancestors signed the Constitution

There’s a city named after another ancestor

My grandfather won several purple hearts and (if I recall) a bronze star in WW-II

My other grandfather had stories of living through the depression I used to love hearing

My grandmother left my grandfather (the one of WW-II fame) for another man – something far more scandalous then than it is today

My Uncle (not the one whose picture I posted before) is an idiot (and that’s being kind and generous)

I come from a long line of capable men and women.

There’s so much more I could keep writing all night. Part of the reason I’m suddenly so interested in all of this is that I want my son to learn all about this. I want him to know what kind of people he’s descended from and to be proud of that. I want him to have a firm sense of belonging to a line of good people. I guess it’s an identity thing.

I’m in a difficult position right now, but part of the reason I’m getting through it is the sense I have of who I am. I look back at the things my family has done in the past and can say to myself “we’re survivors, and so much more”. I like to think that my grandparents are looking down on me and hopefully feeling proud of the way I’m conducting myself.

My son – I miss him every day. I love that we’re developing a closer relationship now. He wants to spend more time with me and is not as happy to go back to his mommy as fast. I look at that as he wants to spend more time with me than as a slight on the STBX. He still loves her, he’s just beginning to feel the same thing for me.

When my parents divorced I was ten years old. It wasn’t hard at first, as I remember. I remember missing him, though. I remember walking a couple of miles down to see him one day. He was surprised, but happy. I just wanted to see him. We moved to Florida not too long after that and my life got a lot harder. We didn’t live in a great place and my father wasn’t there to be the example I needed. I can only imagine how hard it must have been on him. I plan on telling him this on Father’s Day this Sunday. I want my son to spend a lot more time with him because I wish I’d gotten to spend more time with my grandfathers before they passed away.

I have to start collecting the stories of my family before they’re gone. There’s so much that’s been lost already – it’s so sad. I have to look at it as my responsibility because if I want to teach my son where he came from I have to find out for myself.

I look more like this guy, my uncle, than John Locke. I've been scanning a lot of old photos. Why? I'll tell you in my next post. Posted by Hello

You know, he does sort of look like me.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Just call me Locke - the knives in question.

Just Call Me Locke...

Today I went to pick up a whole bunch of stuff at the condo. I was amazed at the things that were being returned to me. I was fairly sure that she had gotten rid of my hunting knife (I told you about it here), but it was placed in a box along with some other things. Some of the other things surprised me too. I had a little leatherman-type tool that I carried around for a while (I’ve since switched back to a regular swiss army knife) that disappeared. In fact, in the time I was married to her I seemed to be cursed. I could not keep a hold of my pocketknives – they just kept disappearing. Well, nearly all of them were returned to me today. I realized as I looked at all of them together (along with the hunting knife) that she had been taking them and hiding them. I say hiding them because she always claimed she didn’t know what had happened to them. You might question why I think she was hiding them instead of just happening to find them in the course of packing up all my stuff. It’s because, looking back now, I realize that she never complained that I was losing them and having to replace them. This was a woman who would complain if I went and bought a coffee at Dunkin Donuts if we were out of coffee at the house because it was a “waste of money”.

So now I have a surplus of knives. For those of you who don’t recognize the title of this post, Locke is a character from the TV show “Lost” who brought a bunch of knives with him in a suitcase. The little red swiss army knife is the one I carry with me know. I’ve owned several of them, but they never disappeared, only the bigger ones. The little ones I’d end up just breaking in one way or another. I was also surprised to find that the boxcutter-type knives had been taken. Those I never really thought twice of about losing, but apparently I didn’t lose all of them.

I have to wonder, seriously, if she had them examined by somebody to see if there were bloodstains on them. One of the things she thought at one point was that I owned the hunting knife so I could kill her with it. She had also decided that I had killed people in the past and hidden the bodies because I’d criticize the incompetent criminals on CSI and other shows.

I really don’t know why she suddenly decided to return them all. It seems strange, but I’m not going to complain.

An update on the kissing dreams – I didn’t have one last night. I was severely disappointed. I want more of them. It turns out that Marianna had a similar dream and posted about it. She also put a link up to a dream site that I went and checked out. It turns out, according to this site, that: If you are kissed by a stranger, then your dream is one of self-discovery. You need to get more acquainted with some aspect of yourself.

That’s pretty accurate. There are so many changes going on in my life right now that there are a lot of things I’m finding I have to learn all over again. So I’m hoping that my journey of self-discovery involves the dating aspect of my life, if for no other reason then I don’t want it to involve all the knives I find I suddenly own…

Saturday, June 11, 2005

I can feel myself fighting…

There’s so much happening in my life right now that sometimes I don’t know how to react to it all. There are factors that are increasing the stress level on me and factors that are decreasing it. The biggest increaser? It’s a tie between the divorce situation and the loss of my job. The biggest reducer? I have to say that is my son. There are times I feel myself fighting against the stress. Where part of me wants to be in a good mood and is struggling to get out. I usually realize what’s happening and let the stress go. How easy that is depends on what is going on at the time.

Today was easy. My son and I were having a great time at the mall. We rode elevators and escalators, we played with his cars all over the place and explored the Discovery Store. The Discovery Store was great! He found a toy that spun multi-colored LEDs inside a clear globe when you pushed a button on the handle. Once he made the connection he couldn’t stop playing with it. He paraded around the store with it in hand like a little scepter. The women working there were having just as good a time watching him. They had a bunch of remote control cars, motorcycles, hovercraft etc in there, and he admired every one. I wanted to get him one, but he’s not really old enough to make it worth getting, and I have no business buying toys right now anyway.

We had some ice cream and he started saying “Daddy, I want to go to Daddy’s car”. He was getting sleepy and I knew he’d nap, so we started making our way back to my car. The ice cream usually energizes him for a while, but then he crashes hard. We got to the car and it didn’t take long for him to fall asleep as we drove off. I parked in a shady spot at a park and thought about things for a while. He woke up after sleeping for about an hour and a half, and he was a little bit unhappy. I think a car blowing it’s horn actually woke him. When he wakes up on his own he’s usually very happy.

When we got back to the parking lot down the street we started on our way back to the condo. He has discovered bugs, and wanted to examine every possible place where they would be. He saw ants (I don’t think they were Pharoah ants, you know who you are) spiders, flies and others. Usually when we’re on our way back if he’s stalling somewhere too long I’ll mention going to see Mommy and he’ll stop dawdling and start moving again. Today was different. He didn’t want to go back. When we pulled into the parking lot he said “No!” and started to whine. He didn’t care that we were going back to see Mommy, he wanted to take his time and look at all the bugs. When I was saying goodbye to him he wanted to come with me. I love it! Not for any reason against the STBX, just because he and I are developing a closer relationship. It’s a great feeling.

He is easily the single best way for me to get myself out of a bad mood. Thinking about the fun we have and the smile I can put on his face is all I need to do.

Here’s a piece of news – I think I’m single and carefree again. I haven’t heard from the woman I was dating for days. She seemed to get a little upset that I couldn’t see her while my mother was visiting and that I couldn’t call her as often as she’d like. I called her a couple of times and left messages, but she’s not returned my calls. In a sense this is good – I have enough on my mind right now. I had a strange dream last night. I had several different women kiss me at various times, and it was very enjoyable. I haven’t really just dated women in years, so it’s a learning experience again. What’s strange is that I find I’m receiving a lot more interest now. I truly have no idea why that is. I don’t look any different than before, and the interest isn’t just in random women (why can’t they try to kiss me like in the dream, by the way?). I’ve had several people try to fix me up with friends (or enemies? Maybe they’re lying when they say they like me) despite the fact that I’ve yet to finish a very ugly divorce and I’m now not working. You’d think that women would avoid men like me. I just don’t get it. I think there are three of you out there who have actually seen pictures of me, for the rest of you I can tell you that while I don’t look like Peewee Herman, I’m also no Brad Pitt (close though, heh heh). I would find any insight into this very interesting, so if you’ve got ideas, let me know.

Well, I need to get to bed, I couldn’t sleep last night because it was too hot here, so I need to catch up. Hopefully I’ll be meeting some kissing women in my dreams again.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

The Impression That I Get

Have you ever heard a song and thought “That describes what I feel like right now.” These are the lyrics to just such a song. This song touches me because I feel like I’m one of “the tested” he’s singing about. I’ve been through a lot so far and I’ve survived – I wish I’d done better sometimes, but surviving is good enough. I guess that means I’ve passed. So far, so good. My only worry right now is how desperate my STBX might be getting and what she’ll do. Will she continue to try and dig up dirt on me? There isn’t much out there – but the constant calling around will start people wondering I’m sure.

The Impression That I Get – The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

Have you ever been close to tragedy
Or been close to folks who have
Have you ever felt a pain so powerful
So heavy you collapse
I've never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if i could
It makes me wonder if
I've never had to knock on wood
And I'm glad i haven't yet
Because I'm sure it isn't good
that's the impression that I get
have you ever had the odds stacked up so high
You need a strength most don't possess
Or has it ever come down to do or die
You've got to rise above the rest
I've never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if i could
It makes me wonder if
I've never had to knock on wood
And I'm glad I haven't yet
Because I'm sure it isn't good
that's the impression that I get
I'm not a coward,
I've just never been tested
I'd like to think that if I was,
I would pass
Look at the tested and think there but for the grace go
I might be a cowards,
I'm afraid of what I might find out
I've never had to knock on wood
But I know someone who has
Which makes me wonder if i could
It makes me wonder if
I've never had to knock on wood
And I'm glad i haven't yet
Because I'm sure it isn't good
That's the impression that I get

One thing about his lyrics – it’s not good to be tested. It’s painful, it’s stressful, it’s sometimes even debilitating. I used to think that I could take just about anything, but I’ve learned that when you’re “tested”, it’s a situation that takes you right up to, if not beyond, your limits. Otherwise you’re not really being tested.

I know I’m not the only one out there going through hard times – The Anti-Wife is somebody who comes to mind immediately, probably because she’s also dealing with a mentally ill partner. I never dreamed I’d ever have to deal with something like this, it’s a consuming process, there never seems to be a break. I know that even as I sit her typing she could be on the phone with my ex-employers, telling stories and trying to wheedle information out of them. She might be calling friends and relatives telling them stories, and I’ll bet her version of yesterday’s meeting will be quite a bit different than mine. I’m thinking it will involve my horns, hooves and pitchfork, as well as tales of me lying and being mentally ill myself.

Have I mentioned that before? She believes I am mentally ill, and will tell everybody she can about it. I actually began to wonder, especially with the research I was doing about schizophrenia. Since schizophrenics have a lack of insight into the abnormal aspects of their behavior I wondered “What if she’s right and it’s me who’s sick?” So I asked my counselor about it. Thankfully I’ve got a clean bill of health in that regard. What he told me was that he wasn’t surprised that I’d been suffering (and receiving treatment for) depression, but that I wasn’t showing any signs that he could see. He also said the fact that I was questioning if I could be mentally ill was a good sign too. I wonder, however, how many people she’s convinced that there’s something wrong with me.

So, the testing continues. For me it’s almost over, but for the Anti-Wife, it’s pretty much just beginning. Good luck.

Picture me dancing in the streets…

…cause I ought to be. The meeting. It really could not have gone any better for me, with one exception – it did not go well for the STBX. That could cause problems, but I’ll get to that later. It started out with some questions for me about my job loss, some of which grew out of the STBX’s accusations. I don’t remember if I posted this before, but recently my attorney told me that she had gotten word from the STBX’s attorney that STBX had uncovered valuable information. According to her, I had been fired for misusing my corporate credit card. First, that’s completely untrue, and second, how would the STBX know about it if I had? I was asked about where I was applying, and I told them. The STBX immediately began scribbling furiously on her little pad, for what reason I don’t know. It soon became apparent. She had been calling all of my old employers trying to get dirt on me.

Well, once my grilling was over (which was not pleasant, by the way) we started moving into other areas. We’ve been having trouble with the health insurance my company switched everybody over to this year – it’s called a High Deductible Plan. Basically, that means they don’t pay anything until you reach a very high deductible, and there’s a health savings account to cover that deductible over the year. The trouble is that they break up the payments to the health savings account over 12 months. So what happens if you go over what was contributed to the HSA for the month? Nothing. They still don’t pay until you reach the deductible for the year. It’s truly the stupidest plan the company could have gone with.

Anyway, the STBX had some accusations here. She accused me of changing the plan without her permission. Well, that was easy enough to counter. The company switched every employee over to it, we had no choice. She next claimed that I should pay all the medical bills because she wouldn’t have gone if she’d known that the plan was such a problem. My attorney then sweetly asked her “So you would not have brought your son to the doctors if he needed it?” The other problem was the assumption that I knew the plan would be such a pain in the neck. By the end of it both attorneys agreed that it was a non-issue, which made the STBX quite angry.

We began to go through the debt. My debt came first, as it was the easiest to deal with. I don’t have much in credit cards in my name. The STBX, however, argued that it was not marital debt, but mine alone. That got shot down pretty fast. Another thing for her to stew over. We had some real fun when we got to hers. She has a little over $25,000 in credit card debt. First, she made the claim that I “forced” her to charge to them. When asked to elaborate, she said it was because there were times that there wasn’t enough money in the checking account to buy what she wanted, so she was forced to use her credit cards. That didn’t get very far either. My attorney suddenly perked up. She had just realized that I had not had charge privileges on these cards. She had thought all this time that I had been using them and helped run up the debt. This discovery definitely meant something to her. The STBX was getting a little frantic at this point because she was realizing that she might not be able to foist off all of the debt onto me.

Next came the real fight. The equity in the condo, which is about $70,000 according to today’s calculations. The STBX was adamant that I was not entitled to one red cent of this. She started out by saying that I was in major debt when we started dating, and pulled out an old Amex statement to prove it. It was for the month before we started dating, and the amount due was $8000. Sounds bad, doesn’t it? I might until you realize that this bill covered two months of expenses (it’s not uncommon for expense reports to not get in on time, pushing payment by the company back a month) and my average expense report was about $4000 per month. It took some explaining, but eventually everybody, except the STBX, understood that this was not a “debt”, but simply a statement. I asked where the rest of the statements were so we could go through them to show this, but she said she’d found only the one. Right. The other statements in the folder in the filing cabinet are on vacation in the Florida Keys

We did some calculations and it turned out that even if I paid for half the debt I’d be entitled to about $8000 after everything was said and done. You can imagine how this went over. The attorneys started looking at the financials for the STBX and came to the conclusion that she’d either have to file for bankruptcy, get a home equity loan or borrow money from a relative to pay off the debt. The STBX has always been terrified of bankruptcy. I could tell she was hitting her limits just by looking at her. The attorneys realized that she was the only one who could file because the debt was in her name and I’d never had charging privileges on the accounts. I guess the bankruptcy court cannot come after me for it. There’s also a homestead exemption, so the condo would be safe. The STBX was in literal disbelief that she might have to file for bankruptcy.

I’m not exactly sure when this came up, but we talked about the money disappearing. This was very interesting. My attorney said she wanted to talk about the money that disappeared. When I pulled out the paperwork I had gotten from the bank the STBX got nervous. She stiffened up her resolve and then claimed that she had taken the money out of the checking account and put it in the savings account. I only said “No, you didn’t. I have the bank records here that show that the money was removed from both accounts just before I was served.” She did not know I had brought the bank records with me. She then said that “of course” she had removed the money, she had to pay the bills. My next question was “So you admit now that you took the money?” and she said that she had never denied taking it. My attorney stopped her right there and told her that her first attorney had told her (my attorney) that she (the STBX) had said that I had taken the money. The STBX was upset, but claimed her attorney told her she could take it and she had never denied it. Next, the extra $1000 came up. She immediately claimed that her attorney had told her she was entitled to take that. This was really interesting – both attorneys said at the same time “No you weren’t”. Her attorney explained to her that once the agreement had been made it was binding and she had had no right to take the money, so it needed to be credited to me in the calculations. I found out after the meeting that the STBX’s current attorney is angry because the first firm made his job a lot harder. Apparently, they are the source of all the bad advice the STBX had gotten, like how to file the false charges. They had also told her she was going to be getting a lot of money in alimony which her current attorney had to reeducate her about. My attorney told me the group is considered very sleazy by most attorneys in the area. Yes, this is the group of business attorneys the STBX hired to represent her in the divorce.

I was expecting the next question – the STBX’s attorney asked me what I was willing to do if she did file for bankruptcy. What he meant was that she’d be taking the hit for a debt that I would be partially responsible for otherwise. I’d already written a note to my attorney in anticipation of this. I had written that if she decided she wanted to file bankruptcy, then I would be willing to give up my interest in the condo. It was a lot more than I needed to give up, but it would be hard to convince her to file otherwise. We suggested this and the STBX’s attorney was obviously very surprised. I think it was this point it got through to him that I was truly not out to screw over my STBX. He wanted this to work, because he knew I was being VERY generous. The STBX was actively fighting this, falling back on the argument that I should take on all of the debt, and that it wasn’t fair. Her attorney explained. He told her that he had not seen even one instance of me trying to take advantage of her, that I’d paid a lot more than I’d needed to, and that I was entitled to more than I was asking for. He made it clear that if we went into court I’d end up with much more than I was asking for. The STBX was very, very upset at this point and the attorneys felt that we all needed a period of private time. My attorney turned to me after they left and asked me if I was sure about this, that I could do a lot better. I told her that this was good for a couple of reasons.

What I said next to her seemed to make a real impression. I don’t think she’s ever really taken seriously the fact that my STBX might actually be schizophrenic. I think she really thought that I was just saying this to gain some kind of advantage or because I was angry with the STBX. I think I dispelled that. I told her that we were pretty much at the limit of what the STBX could bear – if we pushed much harder than she might literally lose control. This is pulled from a medical site called “The Doctor Will See You Now”:

Cheryl Corcoran, M.D., and Dolores Malaspina, M.D., M.S.P.H.

Stress seems to be particularly harmful for those suffering from the psychiatric disorder schizophrenia. For a patient with schizophrenia, the death of a parent or other loved one, a change in therapist, moving from one apartment to another; these events can trigger acute anxiety, depression and psychotic episodes, which may lead to hospitalization. Even seemingly mildly stressful events such as a job interview or a date can have a devastating effect.

In the past, the STBX has reacted badly to stressful situations, and I told her that the stress we were causing her right now was at least equal to that. When she lost her job she was suicidal for months. I told her that giving up a couple of thousand dollars was worth it to me to make this easier on her, and therefore, my son. I had to keep in mind that I have to deal with the STBX for many, many years to come. My attorney seemed to “get it”.

Over the course of the entire meeting the STBX would start weeping or crying at times. It was actually very hard to watch, I felt very bad for her. I did love her very much before all of this happened – otherwise I’d never had stayed with her as long as I did. She was a wonderful woman, and in some ways still is (she’s a great mother to our son). It hurts to see someone suffer like this and not be able to do anything. I felt myself wanting to comfort her somehow, and realized that I couldn’t allow myself to think like that. As much as I feel sorry for her and wish she didn’t have to suffer from whatever mental illness she has, the fact remains that it’s the mental illness which is making her target me. No matter how I feel I can’t relax as long as she is targeting me, it just isn’t safe. I pushed the sorrow for her to the side, which is very difficult, but thinking of the things I’d gone through made it easier.

She didn’t end up agreeing to the proposal, but her attorney told my attorney that he was going to talk to her about it after she had calmed down some. He shook my hand on the way out, and the “Thank you” he gave me seemed to be very heartfelt. He seemed to get that I was trying to be kind also.

I’m almost in tears now thinking back on that. I’ve been through so much and the people who need to know seemed to understand that I wasn’t the problem. It’s not perfect, but it’s a damn sight better than where I was before.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Wish Me Luck Tomorrow

Tomorrow is the four-way meeting between myself and my attorney and the STBX and her attorney. I'm going to print out the pictures both of the garage pile and under the deck. I'm going to have bank statements to confront her about the extra withdrawal and the cleaning out of the accounts before I was served. That last one ought to be interesting. She may not have realized at the time that the divorce orders applied to me when I was served, but to her as soon as she filed with the clerk.

It's nice to have an idea of what her plans are ahead of time. She's going to try to convince us that I'm not entitled to any of the equity in the condo and that I should take on half of the debt. I've already decided just how far I'm willing to go and I plan on making it very, very clear to my attorney that if she can't accept it then we let the court decide what's fair. Since I'm being very generous I don't have much worry about that. Basically, I'm giving up between five and ten thousand dollars in equity in my offer.

I'm feeling the pain of working out, but the great mood it puts me in makes that more than worth it. Tomorrow morning I'm going to apply for a job, then head down to the meeting. The job is way below my capabilities, but it pays well and it looks like a great place to work. We'll see how that goes.

Ok, time to go to bed. There's way too much to think about, and I could be up half the night thinking if I'm not careful.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

One of my favorites. I was on a spiral staircase and I saw this stained glass window.

Another window inside the same jewelry store

This was a window inside a jewelry store

This one came out pretty cool too.

I loved this car

Here are a few photos from Northampton, Massachusetts I took about a week and a half ago.