Monday, January 30, 2006

Once Again...

Once again, the Ex makes a move to make my life more difficult. The pickup of my son on Sunday didn’t go well. I think I’ve mentioned before that the Ex seems to think she can enter my car whenever she wants. She claims that she’s just saying goodbye to our son, but at that point she’s already said goodbye to him. I don’t like her going into my car, so this time I locked the doors on the passenger side after I put my son into his car seat.

So this time, when she tried to open the door, she found it wouldn’t open. She told me to unlock it, and I told her I wouldn’t, and that I didn’t want her going into my car. We’d had this discussion before, and I’d told her the same thing then.

She was angry – she said she was allowed to say goodbye to “her own son”, and demanded that I open the door. I refused, and she got even angrier. She made some bizarre accusation about me going into her car, which I’ve never done. It soon became apparent to her that I was not going to open the door, and she gave me the toy.

She stood right next to the car, staring in at me angrily, as I backed out of the parking space. I knew she was mad, but there’s no way I was going to allow her to enter my car at will.

She didn’t waste any time in thinking up a way to “get back” at me. When I dropped off my son she handed me a note that said “owe allergist”. I asked her what it meant, and she told me that it was the remainder of the balance we owed the Allergist, whom my son had just seen. She claimed that she had already paid her half. She told me that I hadn’t gotten the bill yet because they didn’t have my new address, so I should be getting it soon. She’d given them my new address.

Now, under the agreement we signed, I am responsible for 51% of unreimbursed medical expenses, so this wasn’t something that was totally unreasonable. I asked her how much it was, and she said it was a little over $200. I was very surprised at this, and asked her why it was so much. I couldn’t understand how so much of the bill wouldn’t have been covered by insurance. She again stated that she’d already paid her half, somehow thinking that this answered my question.

I asked her again, and she realized that she was going to have to give me more information. She admitted that it was the previous balance from approximately two years ago. This was not welcome news. Under the divorce agreement, this was one of the bills she was responsible for paying. She was trying to pull a fast one here.

I told her that this was her responsibility under the agreement. She told me that there was no way she was going to pay the whole bill. Apparently, she felt the agreement she signed no longer applied somehow. I didn’t want to argue in front of my son, so I just left, thinking that I’d have to deal with this later.

If she gave them my address for the bill, then I’d say that’s a pretty good indication that she is trying to make me pay it. That means that unless she changes her mind, I’ll have to take her to court to force her to honor the agreement. Yeah, I’m really looking forward to that. I’m confident that I’d end up winning (if you can call it that), I’m just really annoyed that she feels she has to keep doing things like this. I don’t think she’s ever going to stop, unless the judge makes it clear that she’d better.

It’s going to be interesting to see how she reacts to being told we’re going to court over it.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Life is Pretty Good

I don’t know what to write about. I’ve been trying to keep everything together. It’s catching up financially that’s the most difficult. Other than the Ex, most other things are going well.

Being unemployed was extremely difficult financially. I paid my rent, my support payments and kept myself fed, but not much more. I hope that I can catch up before things get too serious.

While my finances and my Ex are difficult, most everything else seems to be coming together. My job is going very well. I was worried for a little while because my manager seemed to get kind of withdrawn, but the other manager I work with was always very positive. I didn’t know if he was unhappy with me (for reasons unknown) or if it was something else. Turns out it was something else. He stopped by my desk last week and told me he wanted to talk to me. He told me that the review that had been done on me several weeks ago shouldn’t have been done, but that it wasn’t a big deal. The reason he was telling me this was that he had decided that he wasn’t going to do the next part of the review because I hadn’t been there long enough to meet the requirements. He went on to say that he couldn’t guarantee I would get much, but that he was going to put me in for a raise AND a bonus. I was very surprised – I really was not expecting to get either.

Things could not be going better with Curly. I think part of the reason we get along so well is that we treat each other very well, but don’t take advantage of it. Another thing I like is that she appreciates how I treat her (and vice versa). I sometimes find myself not knowing how to react, mainly because I went so long living with somebody who reacted with paranoia to nearly anything. I have to say it’s pretty nice to be in a situation where I have to learn how to deal with kindness.

I had an exciting day Friday. I was doing some experimentation at work with one of my products so I could write up a report. My manager, when he heard about it, asked me to document the results so we could give them to all the engineers, because it would put everybody on the same page. I was a good way through what I was doing by the end of the day. Then, literally about 10 minutes before I was to go home, I found something. Something that was previously unknown, and is the kind of thing that gets management’s attention quickly. I couldn’t believe I’d found it, so I spent an hour testing it, then decided to pick back up on Monday morning. Once I explain what I’ve found to my manager I have a feeling I’m going to be told to drop everything and finish testing it.

My son is growing so fast. On our last overnight, I asked him if he wanted to get a “spaceship and robot” movie. He was pretty enthusiastic about it. I went and got The Empire Strikes Back, because he’d seen some it one afternoon. I knew then that I’d have to get it and watch it with him because he was literally mesmerized by it. We watched it several times, but there were a few scenes he kept making me play over and over. By the end of it, several new words had entered his vocabulary, Artoo and lightsaber being two of them. It was great fun.

Now it’s getting towards bedtime – especially since I have to leave at 7 tomorrow morning to go pick him up. I’m thinking of bringing my laptop so I can rent another Star Wars movie. He’ll love being able to sit and watch it with me, then tell me what he thinks is going on. That can be quite funny.

I need to force time to write more – I always feel better after I finish a post. May the force be with you.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

This is Disturbing

This is going to be a short post - It's my weekend with my son and I don't have a lot of time to sit and type. We've had a great time, and he's discovered the wonderful world of Star Wars. We've watched The Empire Strikes Back twice this weekend. There are certain parts he really likes, and he makes me go back and watch them again and again.

Last night is when things got a little disturbing. The Ex called me at Curly's house. There's no telling how she got the number - as far as I knew she only knew Curly's first name (my son mentions her). Why did she call? She felt she had to reiterate that I should give my son medicine if he started coughing. I'm sure she wanted me to ask how she got the number, but I didn't.

What do I think the real reason she called is? Probably just to show that she knew what was going on in my life. It's a little disturbing to me that she did this - I don't like that she is constantly working to get information about me. I already know that she regularly pumps people for information, but nobody knew this number, or Curly's last name.

Scary.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Some Good News...

I decided to make this little bit of news a separate post. Yesterday I got a call from one of my managers asking me to come to his office when I got a chance. When I got there he gave me some great news – I was being assigned as the focal engineer for a customer. I was very surprised, mainly because it’s very early to be assigned something like this. I talked to a few people and found out that they all thought it was early also. The general opinion is that the managers must be pretty happy with my performance so far and confident that I could handle it.

It’s not a promotion, but it is a step towards one. It requires me to have a pager with me so the customer can call me when there’s a problem, so I just gained yet another gadget. And it’s a two-way pager - I’m really moving up in the world.

The down side of this is that I have to work even harder to keep learning – the customer expects me to be knowledgeable, and I don’t want to disappoint. There’s so much to learn that it boggles the mind. I’m not too worried about that, however. I’ve always been able to learn things very quickly, and I’m not expected to be perfect. I’ve decided that I want to take my first certification test early – I should be able to handle it, and it will be another thing that just looks good.

This was just the kind of thing I needed to dispel some of the bad mood I was in after dealing with the Ex this last weekend.

What a Weekend...

What a weekend. It’s one of those rare weekends that make you happy you’re going back to work – thankfully, those don’t come very often.

Friday night I went with Curly out for dinner with some of her family to celebrate her mother’s birthday. I was exhausted at the end of the night, so much so that I had trouble climbing the stairs to go to bed. That’s pretty tired.

I got some sleep and got up early to head out to go see my son. I picked him up and drove to my brother’s house. My son slept most of the way there, which was good. He had an ear infection and it was really bothering him.

It was the first family get-together we’d had in a long time. It was a great time, but I think it was a little overwhelming for my son. He sees my brother, his wife and their twin sons regularly, but he hasn’t seen the other two brothers there in a long time. He also hasn’t seen my dad and his wife in a couple of months. He stayed near me most of the time, except when he was running to grab a particularly interesting toy. He’d get down off my lap, run over to the toy, grab it, then run back over to me. It was very funny.

Sunday is when things got ugly. That was the day I was supposed to be able to move the rest of my things out of the condo. The court order specified a three-hour window, in which a third-part would be present and the Ex was required to stay upstairs. The following Sunday would be the rain/snow date.

My brother and I had a very difficult time getting there because it was snowing, and the road conditions and traffic slowed us down significantly. I could have been there by 9:30, but I decided to wait for my brother just so there’d be another witness. The weather made it very difficult, but we got there within the three-hour window, arriving about 11:15.

The first thing I noticed was that her car was running. I thought that was strange, but didn’t think too much of it. We rang the bell, but she didn’t answer the door. We rang it again a couple of minutes later, but still no answer. I went to the neighbor’s house who was supposed to be the third-party, no answer there. After about 15 minutes I used my brother’s phone (since I had lost my cell phone the night before) to call. She didn’t answer.

After about 20 minutes she finally answered the door. She definitely wanted trouble. She claimed that we were too late – she was under the impression that we were supposed to arrive at 9, and that there wasn’t a window. I explained that we were still in the window, and that we wanted to take my things. She then told me that she had told the third-party to leave. When we said she needed to let us get things, she just said that it was too late. She did not want to allow us to get anything.

This pretty much fit with her actions and attitudes that led to this point. She would make all kinds of noise about how badly she wanted everything out, but would make it extremely difficult to actually move it. She was enjoying herself, laughing and smiling the entire time. My brother was getting annoyed – he told her that we could get the police if she wanted, and while she claimed that doing that would be fine, she lost the smile and became a little worried. She said it was too late, and he said that was because she had us out in the cold waiting for 20 minutes. She finally relented – I think she got nervous because she wants to present herself as the victim in everything, and it was clear that he was not seeing her in that light. This is the same brother who saw her slap me across the face several times because she didn’t like the way I was loading the dishwasher.

She decided to make things even more difficult by refusing to go upstairs. She knew neither my brother nor myself were comfortable entering the condo with her present. We argued about it, then I said “I give up” and we started moving things, with me entering the condo as little as possible.

She got more cooperative, but only when it worked in her favor. She decided it was OK for me to leave the king-size mattress and box spring since she could sell it, especially in light of the fact that I planned to cut it up and throw it out if I had to remove it.

Another part of the court order she violated was having all of my property ready. There were several items not present, the most notable being my television set. She claims she’ll have it ready the next time I come.

I have to handle this a certain way. I want to have her email me that it was fine for me to leave the mattress and box spring first. Then I will list the things not ready and tell her I want them ready for the next time I visit. If she doesn’t have them ready, then she will have violated the court order in yet another way. I’ve about had it with her games at this point. If I have to go back to court, I want something from her in writing giving me permission to leave the mattress and box spring. If she thinks I won’t go in to court, she’s very, very wrong.

I had a very bad nightmare last night. In it, the Ex successfully managed to move away with my son. That would be very hard for me (and him). I’d like to think that she wouldn’t try that to “get” me further, but I’ve seen nothing so far that makes me think she’ll ever be reasonable. I was in a horrible mood for most of the morning because of that.

So that’s where things stand so far. If she plays more games and doesn’t do what she’s supposed to do, then I think she’ll be surprised. The court order covers both of us, despite what she thinks. Part of me is actually hoping that she does push it some more – she needs to realize that her actions have consequences – something she doesn’t seem to get right now.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

A Great Holiday

It's been a long time since Santa had such a prominent place in my life. I was 7 or 8 when I was told (by my classmates) that there was no Santa Claus. I still remember their sneers as they told me. I was shocked, and went home and asked my mother. She confirmed my worst fears. I love the holidays - it's a combination of the music, the movies, the lights and the change in behavior of many people, including myself. There are just a few things that inspire that feeling in me - one is Disney World. Santa came back into my life this year, but this time I saw him through the eyes of a parent. It was spectacular.

My son is almost three now, and while I'm sure he doesn't understand the more subtle aspects of Christmas, he did get the basics behind Santa Claus. He knew Santa was coming, but didn't know exactly when he would arrive. He definitely understood that Santa was bringing presents, however. I asked him a little bit before Christmas what he was going to ask Santa to bring him, and he replied "A car, a car, a tow truck, a race car and a car." Oh, for life to be so simple again.

A couple of times we were near Santa at the mall, but he was too scared to go and see him. He's going through a shy phase where he'll hide by burying his face in my shoulder or putting an arm up over his eyes when strangers are near. He got quite upset one day after telling me he didn't want to see Santa. He was upset because he wanted to tell Santa what he wanted for Christmas, but didn't actually want to talk to him. Luckily, Mrs. Claus came along and he told her. He also wrote Santa a letter.

He made out pretty good. I got him a race car track (a simple one) and a Tonka Tow Truck. My personal opinion was that the tow truck would be his favorite. It made sounds and had lights and was a tow truck (little boys are genetically programmed to like tow trucks). The real prizewinner, however, was his Hess Truck (which, this year, is a fire engine). That was a present from Curly. When he opened it he literally gasped, and ran over to show it to me. Once I got it out of the box it took him all of 30 seconds to figure out that there was a button that opened a door on the back. Inside that door was another emergency truck! I didn't know about it, so it was a surprise for me. He fell in love with it, and the tow truck was quickly forgotten. I think I was having more fun watching him than he was playing.

We soon headed out to see my brother and his family. On the way he held that fire engine in a bear hug when he wasn't rolling it in his lap or playing with the ladder. When he fell asleep he held it like a security blanket. He made it a point to tell me something. "Daddy, Cousin 1 and Cousin 2 are not going to play with this truck." "They're not?" "No Daddy, they don't like it." He turned out to be wrong - that fire engine became the focus of all four toddlers present. In an attempt to head off any meltdowns we opened a few more presents so all four boys (another cousin was there) would have a toy to play with - it worked for the most part.

We had a wonderful time there. My son and his cousins get along very well (surprising, considering how my brothers and I fought when we were young), but we had to make sure everybody got a chance to play with the fire engine. I think Hess must add some kind of Toddler Siren Call to that truck - they were all mesmerized by it. I wish I had gotten a picture of my son sleeping with his arm around it - I sat and watched him for a little while, and I'd love to be able to see that again.

I also got him a simple little electric racetrack, but we haven't opened that one yet. I can only imagine the pandemonium that would have caused with four little boys. That's one present that will stay at my house so he can play with it when he's visiting. I found two books he'll love on the clearance table at Barnes and Noble. One is a book on muscle cars, the other is a book on "Things That Go". It's filled with cutaway pictures of cars, trucks, tractors and trains. I think we'll have a lot of fun reading that one. I can teach him how things work.

I mentioned before that this Christmas was shaping up to be a whole lot better than last year. Last year I got a Christmas card from my landlady's niece. I didn't visit anybody since I was sick. I was right about this year. I got to spend time with my son and my family and got an immense amount of pleasure watching them open presents. The funniest was the Belly Dancing Kit I gave to my sister-in-law. She loved the little finger-cymbals.

Although I've always enjoyed giving presents more than receiving them, I have to say that I got some really nice presents this year. Curly gave me a beautiful watch and a really nice North Face Fleece Jacket. My brother and sister-in-law gave me the box set of the Firefly series (which the movie Serenity was based on). I hadn't seen any of them, mainly because I wanted to watch them in order and wasn't able to record it the last time it was aired. I've watch it all, and it was surprisingly good. Now I can rent the movie. I gave Curly a Palm TX, which I was a little nervous about, as it's not a "romantic" present, but she loved it. I also got some little things so I could stuff a stocking for her, which went over surprisingly well. She'd never had a stocking before.

All in all, I had a great Christmas. The best part was just that I got to spend it with so many of my friends and family, but especially with my son. There's just something about the joy that he experienced...it's a wonderful experience.

Things are steadily improving in my life. There are still things to work out, there's still stress, but I'm heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

I'm Not In Contempt...

So today I went to court. It could not have happened on a worse day, weather-wise. I looked at what we had coming in for weather in the Northeast last night so I could figure out when to leave. I was not pleased with what I saw. Basically, I’d be heading into the storm at the worst possible time. To give myself the best chance of getting to the court on time I left at 6am this morning. Court wasn’t scheduled to begin until 9:30.

I had tried to organize myself as much as I could in preparation. I had written out all my reasons for what was causing the problems with me getting the rest of my belongings out of the house and printed out emails I might need. Usually, I can put stressful things out of my mind, but last night I had a very difficult time. I went to bed early, failed to get to sleep, got up and read, then went back to bed. I woke up at 2am, went back to sleep, finally waking up at 5 so I could get ready to go.

The drive was not fun at all. It didn’t start out all that bad, but about 20 minutes after I left it started getting really bad. Visibility was very poor and it was very slippery. There were lots of accidents along the way, but somehow I avoided any major traffic jams. I arrived with just minutes to spare.

I had no idea what to expect. Was the judge going to give me a chance to explain my side of things? I thought he would, but how much time would he give me to explain things. Should I bring up mental illness? It turned out to be very different than what I had thought might happen.

We were seventh on the docket, but the weather had kept lots of people from showing up, so we were actually the first case where all of the parties were present. We had not even gotten to the tables when the judge asked if an agreement had been reached. I had no idea what he was talking about. I said “no sir” (see, that military training came in handy!), and he immediately sent us to the Family Relations office.

The Family Relations Counselor we met there sat us down and asked each of us about why we were there. The Ex’s version was short – basically, she wanted all my property out of the condo. Then came my turn. I told him that I wanted it out too, but that I didn’t feel safe (not physically, but legally) entering the condo. This got a snort out of the Ex. I went on to say that the people who were going to help me move didn’t feel safe entering either. I also said that I had tried to get the police to escort me, but they had refused. I said more, but that was the most significant of it all.

To make a long story short, he told us that we had to work out an agreement on how I was going to get my belongings out of the condo. I am to show up on this coming Sunday (the following Sunday in case of inclement weather) and take my belongings. I have a list of everything that is supposed to be taken so that I can’t be accused of leaving things behind or of taking extra. She is to stay upstairs and not enter the garage where we are working. A neutral third party is to be present in the garage. If I take everything, we don’t have to show up to court again.

Sound good? It did to me. The Ex wasn’t as happy with it. She had come in thinking that she was going to get permission to sell or throw it all out immediately. When she found out that things weren’t working out that way she wanted to be able to stand in the garage and supervise things. When that didn’t get approved she wanted the agreement to say that I had to take everything she wanted me to take or nothing at all. That didn’t go over since there was already a property list. So at the end of it all, the only thing she got that she wanted was that my property would be out of the condo.

I’m not sure she realized the significance of some things. If I get everything out of the condo that I’m supposed to, then I won’t be found in contempt. That means I don’t have to pay for being served or anything else. When she realizes that I’m sure she’s going to be furious. I also think that the importance of the property list slipped by her. She’s not going to be able to dump a ton of junk on me (which she definitely has in her garage) by claiming it’s mine. She also won’t be able to claim that I left it and take me back to court (well, she can take me back to court, but the list will protect me).

I was disappointed that I didn’t get to put forth my favorite reason. The last time I tried to get stuff from the condo, she brought me out a box with some shale rock in it, about 30 small stuffed animals, three blankets and a big toy that belonged to our son. She said she “couldn’t reach” anything else. None of that is on the list.

Some other fun stuff has been happening. I received an email from a mutual friend concerning the Ex. It was a warning. She told me that the Ex had called her and told her that she’d been grilling (the friend’s word, not the Ex’s) our son about women he might have met while with me. So far she had two names. One was the woman I’m involved with (which just gets better and better, by the way), the other was Donna. Who’s Donna, you might ask. Good question, I don’t know either. But then, our son is not even three years old, so his accuracy might not be perfect. I’m just waiting for the Ex to figure out a way to ask me about them, or make an accusation. The way the friend was talking about it, the Ex was of the opinion that these were women that I’d been cheating with during our marriage. Ahh, the joys of paranoia.

Today I had a thought. It was something the Ex said at some point, and I can’t even remember exactly what it was. I suspect that my son is no longer in daycare. That would make sense, since my Ex is currently unemployed, but she should have told me. If he’s been out of daycare, then there aren’t any daycare costs, of which I’m responsible for half. That really bothers me, because I’ve been very generous. I’m going to find out if he’s still in daycare, and if I find out he isn’t, I’m going to force her to pay me back. If she’d told me up front I would have continued paying it to her to help her out, but something needs to be done to show her that cooperation is much better than harassment and lying. I think I’ve been more than generous, more than patient, and more than kind in all of this and I think this is a good time to push back. It’s not a lot of money, so it won’t be a huge blow to her, and it will make the point that she needs to be honest and much more cooperative.

Well, it’s nice to finally have internet access back and a few minutes to type out some words. I’ll have to write something about Christmas this year, since it was such an improvement over last year. I’m very confident that 2006 will be a much better year than 2005 was for me – I can hardly wait.