So I figured that I owed you all an explanation as to why the blog has been a bit funky for the past couple of weeks. Less posts, longer time for my comment replies, and oh the typos. (Yup, even Mr. Attorney Man sent me an email about how many typos I have had lately and detailed exactly what they were. Thank you Mr. Attorney Man and for once I'm not even being sarcastic).
Things have been a little bit rough around here (to say the least) and it's really been wearing on me. I've hesitated to really delve into much of it because I feel like if I even begin to explain what has been going on, that I'm just going to come off as bitchy and whiny and that is exactly what I don't want. Oh yea and every time I talk about this topic I get heavily trolled and to be quite blunt, I've had just about as much trolling and hacking as I can handle these days.
But at the same time I promised to make this an open dialogue and I can't do that if I'm refusing to talk about a very real subject that affects many people in situations like mine.
So here, let me start by telling you what we are not going to be talking about today. We are not going to be talking about how my heart is still quite troubled over the break-up with Philosophy Man; not so much for the loss of him as for the reality check that I got in "dating with children" in the wake of his departure.
We are also not going to talk about how close to death one of my biological family members suddenly and tragically came about two weeks ago, which had me frantically wondering if I would forever regret the choices that I had made in disowning them and then left me wondering if there was a special place in hell for me because I still stand by my decision. Or if there was an even special-er place for me because I occupied my time by selfishly wondering if should this person actually not survive, should I, or would I even be allowed to go to the funeral? Would I even want to? Would I regret not going? Would my family murder me if I didn't go? Would they murder me if I showed up? Is it wrong to be stressing about this while someone is clinging to life? Does that make me a horrible person in and of itself? Should I just go to the hospital? Am I like karmatically required to go to the hospital? But wait, have I been put on some kind of list that the hospital has of "people who are not allowed to visit said person in the hospital?"
I HAVE NO IDEA. WHERE IS THE MANUAL FOR THIS KIND OF THING???
But nope, we aren't going to talk about that because it's such a mess in my head right now that I just can't even go there.
And hey, we already talked about the whole stalker/stolen mail/rape report situation on Wednesday so we don't need to cover that again.
Nope, we aren't talking about any of those things today, because today we are talking about....
Yes, brace yourselves people, we are going to talk about finances today.
Are you all ok? Does anyone need some water? Medic? Do we need to get a medic over here? GOMI'ers, should I pause long enough for you to make your popcorn and light your torches? Are we ready people?
Ok, well here we go.
Remember when I went through the emotional trauma of taking my ex back to court in an effort to get him to pay child support? Remember how I flipped and flopped between wondering if I could even get myself to show up for court and going all "momma bear is going to do whatever she needs to do to take care of her children?"
Do you guys remember that?
Yea, that was fun. Or not.
I'm going to go with "or not" for 500 please.
But I did it!! Remember? I eventually got my PTSD brain into court and agreed to take a 5 year payment plan/settlement amount with my ex.
Which would have been great...if he were actually paying it.
Well gee whiz, who would have seen this coming? Not me of course!!
Oh no wait. I totally saw this coming.
Yep, I absolutely saw this coming which was why I DID NOT want to agree to a payment plan in the first place and only came around to the idea of agreeing to a 5yr payment plan when Mr. Attorney Man presented some very logical arguments. Arguments that while I did not agree with, I ultimately decided to trust him on, not because I even thought he was right, but because I do in fact trust him. Which probably doesn't sound like it makes any sense, but it makes sense to me. Anyways...
So yes, my ex is not paying the agreement that he agreed to. He is paying some of it, but not all of it and wait... here is the real kicker.
What he is paying, is being intercepted and taken by the state.
Oh and wait, it gets even better.
The department that handles public aid benefits is under the impression that I am actually getting much more child support than I really am.
ALL BECAUSE OF A COMPUTER ERROR.
So here, allow me to explain this to you in layman's terms.
Example: "Eden Strong was supposed to receive $400 dollars a month in child support, but when the court order was handed off to the child support division, child support accidentally put it into their system as $1400 and also the order miscategorized the amount so that it does not reflect as a reimbursement in a settlement payment plan, but rather as a payment designated as a state reimbursement.
So what does that actually mean Eden?
It means that the child support division is withholding money from my ex's employer, but due to a computer error they are then taking the money that they are withholding and seizing it because the money is inaccurately reflecting in their computer system as a state reimbursement. To further complicate the issue, the public aid office has a completely different inaccurate order that reflects the wrong child support amount and does not have any mention of any amount being seized by the state. So public aid basically looked at my child support order and said "this lady is getting $1400 a month in child support, we are cutting off her benefits."
Except that I'm not getting that much in child support and what I am supposed to be getting is being wrongly seized by the state.
So to wrap that all up for you, a computer error has really fucked up my life.
I initially went to court in an effort to improve my families life by attempting to force my ex to pay what he owes, and instead a computer error has caused that money to be seized and have my state benefits cut off.
I'm in a much worse position now than I ever was before I went to court.
I will give it to Mr. Attorney Man though, he has been all over the situation; calling everyone from the states attorney to the courthouse, the benefits office, and the child support division. He has written letters to the public aid office stating the error and provided copies of the original order to anyone who will listen to him and yet, no one can seem to fix this.
This is a copy of a proof of income letter I attached with my benefits re-determination application, hoping to prove that I was not getting the outrageous amount of child support they think I am getting. Apparently when you "cut" info out on a white background it looks like no text was ever there!
So what now?
I have to go back to court on February 20th to have a new order placed into the system that will override the old faulty one. Then (and I'm a little less clear on exactly how this works but my understanding of it is that) the states attorney will petition the court on my behalf to have the state refund all the money to me that was seized in error.
Which I know, sounds like a crazy process just to fix a computer error, right? OH BUT WAIT, I'm not finished yet, oh no, get this; my ex has to either show up to court or waive his right to appear. Because that should be easy, what with him being the responsible guy that he is.
What is likely to happen is that he won't show up and the case will just get postponed.
I can't afford literally and financially to have this case postponed.
You guys, I can't live like this. My benefits have been cut off. Do you have any idea what that means for me? It means we are currently not getting what most of you would call "food stamps." It means that my state subsidized child care is ending. It means we have no medicaid.
Needless to say, I'm freaking out.
I was barely making ends meet before this happened and now I'm in a significantly worse position than I was before. As I said, not only am I not getting what I am supposed to be getting in child support, the food stamps that we rely heavily on have been cut off, and I can't simply work more (more than the minumim 60hrs I already work a week) to make up for what I've lost because I'm going to lose my state subsidized daycare. How can I work more in an effort to make up for what I'm losing if I don't have childcare?
I'm not lazy, I'm not someone who just sits around and waits for other people to fix her life. I work hard, every day, all the time, and I just can't seem to get ahead.
Just before we crept into the new year I met with a financial planner and went over my entire financial portfolio with her. We laid out my income, expenses, future career goals, the long term plans for my writing company and the nonprofit, we looked over my credit, and we came up with a plan for my financial future.
You guys I was excited. I was so excited. I had a blog post all ready to go where I was going to shamelessly brag on myself and how hard I had worked to get where I was. I was going to lay it all out and encourage those of you who are currently where I was a year or even six months ago not to give up, to keep trying, that it is possible to overcome financial ruin.
I was going to tell you that I had managed to get my credit score up to 850, that I have no debt, and how I am finally in good standing with my mortgage company. I wanted to surprise all of you with the news that because of the expansion of my freelance work that my slim budget was going to end up with an excess of $50 a month. I know that seems silly and stupid to most people, but to me that was it; the proof that I had made it. And yes that budget did still include relying on state benefits, but the financial planner and I had come up with a step-down plan to get me off of benefits. I was proud and I was excited. It's a proven fact that many welfare recipients go into the welfare system and just never get out. I wanted to get out. I was trying, really trying, to get out.
But because of an error I'm watching that all slip away.
My child support payments are being seized, my benefits were cut off before I was ready, and because of that I'm having to make choices such as "do I pay the mortgage or do I pay the water bill? If I eat dinner will the kids have enough food for lunch?" And "I need to make more money, I need to make it now, but how do I do that when I will no longer have childcare?"
And I hate this. I HATE THIS. I've tried so hard, I've put in the effort, I've done everything right, and yet I have no control over the chaos that is ruining my life.
I didn't do anything wrong and yet I'm possibly going to lose everything. I want to scream and yell and cry because this isn't fair. I've lived a lifetime of "this isn't fair" and yet I've dealt with it because you know what? Life isn't fair and it can always be worse. I know that this probably sounds crazy but I love my life. I wouldn't change anything because I do see more blessings than disasters, but right now, this financial failure that I'm facing, this sucks.
I feel like I am right back to where I was when my ex first disappeared. Wondering how I am going to feed my children, wondering if we are going to lose our house. Worrying that if we do lose our house that we won't have anywhere to go because my income will not qualify me for an apartment. Wondering how I will make any income at all if I am unable to keep my kids in the state subsidized daycare program. Worrying that I'll end up in a shelter and my nonprofit will crash and burn because it will have to take a backseat to me once again restarting my own life.
Worrying that I will watch the lives of my two children crumble and fall down around them. That of everything that they have already lost, everything they already go without, that they are about to enter a new level of loss and sacrifice.
I'm stressed, I'm upset, I'm angry, and I scared.
Above it all I want to scream and yell about how this isn't fair. That I did everything right and yet I still lost. How this is just another time in my life where really bad things are happening to me and I have no control over the situation at hand.
And I'm crying, even now, right at this very second, because I want a real mom. Real parents who I can call without hesitation and who will help me out. Who will help ease not only my literal burdens, but also my fears. People who will tell me that I'll be ok and that I would actually be able to believe because I would know that they wouldn't let anything bad happen to me. I just want a mother who will show up with dinner because I'm hungry and crying and just want her to sit with me.
I'm really hungry.
I had met Mr. Attorney Man for breakfast to go over all 500 of our business endeavors and was explaining that yes, I was going to take eggs home and actually reheat them because they were going to be my lunch and my dinner. He responded by politely telling me that I "had not adequately expressed how dire the situation had become."
But I don't have that and because of an error I now have a lot less.
A fucking error.
As Mr. Attorney Man has innocently reminded me no less than 10 times in the last two weeks, "I have never seen someone with such a black cloud hanging over them. Your case constantly finds new and twisted ways to go wrong. I've never seen or heard of anything like this in my entire career and I find myself saying that every time I work on your case. I mean even the petition that I sent in vanished from the courthouse for three weeks. That just doesn't happen. This stuff should not be happening and yet it happens every single time with you."
Yea thanks I got it, my life sucks, I am well reminded!
But here is the thing. I can't do anything about this. This is clearly a situation that I have no control over. I am unfortunately at the mercy of the courts and the public aid system. I've spent the last couple months standing in enough lines and crying in enough offices to know that at this point there isn't a damn thing I can do about it until it works its way out in the court system, and that may come too late to salvage anything that I left of my current life.
So, I'm going to do the only thing that I can do and try and make the best out of this situation. I've been busy selling off what belongings I have left to try and pay the bills and I'm looking at rental companies to see about renting out my house so that it doesn't fall into foreclosure if I can't afford to stay here. I'm trying to see if I can pick up enough freelance jobs that I won't have to rely on the income I make from cleaning houses since I might not have affordable daycare anymore and obviously can't take my children with me.
"For sale, two chairs in like new condition" Thankfully sold within 5 minutes of listing them.
I'll get through this, I will.
I'm trying my best not to freak out about having to go back to court as you all know that I do not handle going to court very well. I'm stressed to the max and hanging on by a thread these days. I simply can't imagine having anything else piled onto me than I already have, but apparently life has some pretty nifty lessons that I still need to learn because they just seem to keep coming!
So as I said, I am going to do the only thing that I can do and make the best out of this situation. I'm learning to be calm in my fears and I'm trying my best to remember that life is not a black and white situation. It is not all good or all bad. My life is not bad just because I am not enjoying every part of it right now.
In fact this morning I woke up to this little dude climbing into my bed only to raise his arms above his head and exclaim "I so big I oh-most touch da cee-wing!" (That is, "I'm so big I almost touch the ceiling" for those of you who don't speak 3yr old.)
Then after school I got to kiss the cheek of this little girl, a kid who took her hard earned dollar to school for a long awaited candy sale, only to bring her precious purchase home and surprise me with my Valentine's Day gift.
And now, if I can find any room among the stuffed friends, I'm going to climb into a toddler bed with this dude:
Because I don't have everything. At this moment, I don't even feel like I have enough, but the reality of the situation is that I do.
This is fleeting, simply a moment in time. I can handle losing a lot, I am losing a lot, but I still have what is most precious to me. I have my life, I have my children, and I have hope for the future. Short of losing a child I will always have everything I need.
I don't know what is going to happen to us. I don't know how everything will work out but I am confident that no matter what happens, I will rejoice in the lessons that I am learning, the moments that I have survived, and I will hold tight to the blessings I find along the way. They are there, the blessings. Sometimes they just get hidden from our view because we are too busy looking at the wrong things.
It's sort of neat thing really, the perspective that you gain as you watch everything around you slip away. You watch yourself grab hold of the things that are the most important to you and you look at them in a new light.
Happiness does not come from material goods, a beautiful home, a lavish vacation, and an easy life; happiness comes from appreciating what you have.
Happiness is not given, it's learned.
Joy is not wrapped up in anything that you can tangibly hold onto, for joy is a feeling that comes from a perspective.
I'm scared, I'm terrified really, but I'm willing to accept what comes next. I'm going to focus less on what I'm losing and more on what I'm gaining; less on what my kids might lose and more on what I have to offer them.
I've lost a lot and it's been a blessing really, to be able to see what others can't, to see clearly what I wish I had seen all along; that I truly appreciate my life in all it's forms, wherever it has been lived, however the surroundings have looked.
I'm losing a lot you guys, by societies standards I may lose it all, but thankfully I'm not living by those standards anymore.
Get ready guys, this could be a bumpy, beautiful, ride.
I don't have what everyone else has, but I see such beauty in what remains.
A life and everything in it, is only as valuable as the value placed upon it by its beholder.
You are the only one who can determine how wonderful your life is and that determination is made only in how you view it.
Just Breathe Photo Credit