1/13/16

OMG Not Those People Again



Is going to a food shelf anything like riding a bike?

Well, if riding a bike makes you feel like a colossal, shameful failure, then yes. Yes, going to a food shelf is EXACTLY like riding a bike. If you stand next to your bike and have a hard time getting on, if you have to picture the faces of your kids and close your eyes and take a deep breath before flopping one leg over the seat and grabbing those handlebars...YES. Totally the same thing.

If I've learned anything over the 8-year long roller coaster ride my kids and I have been on, it's this: never get cocky. Never look around and think, "Yeah. Thank God I never have to do that again." Never assume that you got the all clear from the universe. Because guess what, friends? Shit happens.

Things are so different this time around, and yet it's as if nothing has changed. Yes! I do have a good full-time job. With sick days and full benefits and great hours. Yes! I am getting some child support for the two remaining high school kids. Yes! I do have a little bit in savings this time around. Enough for a car repair or to cover rent for a month if I get tuberculosis or break a leg, not anything crazy like college money or retirement.

On the surface, it all looks manageable. But strap on that snorkel and dive mask and look under the water...you'll see me frantically paddling just to keep my head, and the heads of the people who have looked to me to be their safe zone, above water. It's a reality for me, and for millions of other people. I've written about it in a lighthearted tone before, but here's a secret: it's a scary way to live.

The job? Love it. It is where I am supposed to be, where I am needed and where I fit. I love my boss. I love my coworkers. I love every single one of the kids at my school. I am that person who cheerily greets people at 6 mother effing a.m. with genuine happiness.

However, I am not earning a living wage. Maybe if I was still married and had a spouse making good money it would be enough. Or if I had a roommate or if I lived by myself in a little apartment. But it's not enough to support my family of five. It's not the fault of the school district I work for, they only have so many dollars to pay so many people. This is on me, for not having the education I should have and for not investing the time/energy/money to get it. No, the onus for not having what it takes to earn a proper living is on me. I own this one. I keep thinking "ooh next year will be easier. It will just be me and William and the other three will all be in school and out on their own." 

And then a kid or two moves back home. Christmas happens. Winter break comes and stays a while. The only other car in the family takes a $1000 dump and is rendered useless because who in the world has $1000 extra to fix a car? The driver's side door handle on my car has been broken for two years and almost every day someone at work jokes with me about it. "LOL Jenny your window is still down and it's snowing! Get that fixed!" and I LOL right back at them and say "Ha! Trying to figure out which month we don't need electricity and food hahahahaha" only I'm not kidding.

The child support? Honey. I'm not going to lie. If it wasn't for those two bank transfers from Secretary every month, I'd be sunk (yes, she pays it). My kids would be sunk. We'd all be sunk like the Titanic and I'd be Rose, all shivery and trying my darnedest to blow that whistle. That said, he still isn't paying what he should be paying. Somehow he's managed to get away with paying an amount that reflects him having the two remaining supportable kids every other weekend and eight weeknights per month.

So he's paying child support based on a 60/40 custody situation when it's actually 100/0. Yes, I have brought this up with him and you know what I hear in response? Not "Augh, you're right! Here, let me make it up to them (and you) and be a man and a father and really help support my children. I'm going to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do and not because my ass is being held over a flame." Nah. I hear crickets. Pretty, pretty crickets. On a related note, if you know of a family law attorney in Minneapolis who loves poor single moms and wants to help, call me!

This would also be the part in my post where I wax philosophic about the ridiculousness of child support ending abruptly at 18. Because I don't know many kids (and yes, they're kids) who wake up on their 18th birthday, turn to their parents and say, "Aw you guys! Thanks for everything. I'm off on my own now. I won't need anything else from you from this day forward." But that's a rant for another time.

So how did I happen to end up back in the parking lot of the food shelf, bracing myself for a good 20 minutes before I had the courage to walk in? Kind of a funny story.

Just kidding. It's not funny at all. It's a stack of obligations- some expected, some not- up against my resources. It was me wanting to give the kids an okay Christmas. It was a huge utilities bill. It was my 100% covered annual physical ending up to be not so covered and Park Nicollet sending me to collections over a disputed $500 bill (hey, by the way, thanks Park Nicollet! Happy New Year to you as well!). 

It was life, as it always is. I made sure the rent was paid, and the car insurance and when all was said and done I had $18.00 left in my checking account. I steeled myself, gave myself that old pep talk and damn if I wasn't all Rocky Balboa running around in a gray sweatsuit singing about how I was gonna fly now.

I transferred $50 from my meager savings to checking and wrote out a menu and headed to Aldi's, which, no offense to anyone, reminds me of shopping at a food pantry except you pay at the end. Aldi's is like going to a grocery store in Bizarro World, everything looks familiar yet different. Fiber One bars are Fiber Now in Bizarro Aldi world. My kids call it "bootleg food" but I have yet to see one of them perish after eating it.

It wasn't enough. It just wasn't enough to put dinner on the table every night. I tried. But things can only stretch so far. The kids know when I'm worried and they know when it's money that's worrying me. They are remarkable humans and sometimes I wonder how I got so lucky. Molly watched a neighbor's cat while they were away and when she got paid she stood in front of me, holding out the money and said, "Here. Take it." But I couldn't. This is the girl who is paying for her own college education (with help from some scholarship and grant money, of course). Nope. Not going to take that from her.

A long time ago in a galaxy not so far away, I sat in a bank and signed over a stack of my children's savings bonds in order to pay the mortgage on a house we eventually had to leave. We'd had a family meeting and the kids, who were kind and wise beyond their years, agreed to let me do so. That moment is burned into my brain and my heart and I will never forget how embarrassed and how ashamed I felt. And now here they were again, offering whatever help they could. Molly bought dog food. Henry bought lunch. William, who doesn't have a job yet, offered to put gas in the car with some of his Christmas money. Charlie, not working at the moment because of a transfer to a new school and a huge course load, has been on kitchen duty and keeps hugging me and telling me everything will work out.

I haven't told anyone about my situation, except for my homie Danielle. She offered to loan me some moolah but my next paycheck hasn't even been born yet and it's already screaming for mercy. No, I put on my happy face mask and do what I always do: carry on. I am Mr. Freaking Rourke on my own little fantasy island, standing there in my dapper suit with little Tattoo next to me, waving and saying, "SMILES, EVERYONE! SMILES!"



Yet, there I was. Sitting in that parking lot, a swirly blowy snowstorm whipping around outside while I wrestled with my pride. Took a few minutes but I pinned that bitch and then I stepped out of my car and into the building where I could get some help.

Because I'm Jenny and the universe likes to eff with me, the woman who took my paperwork this time around has a son who graduated with Charlie. Bless her heart, we didn't discuss that at all and when she said, "So it's been a while since you were here last! We're happy to see you again!" I replied, "I wish I could say I was happy to be here." I told her this was a one-time deal, that I just had a week to get through. Her eyes were kind but I wondered if she was thinking to herself heard that one before.

Not much had changed at the old food shelf. The carts were the same, the rows of groceries were the same. I hummed a Frank Sinatra tune (New York, New York) as I made my way down the aisles. No eye contact was made and I'm pretty sure I did that thing where you leave your body for a while. Astral projection. I kept thinking, "One week. One week. One week." I grabbed a bunch of soup. Some mac and cheese. A loaf of garlic bread. And thank the good sweet Lord, milk. There was orange juice, something I never buy but took a carton anyway because the kids would be thrilled. Ramen because even though I think it's not really food, William considers it a delicacy. Frozen chicken breasts. Eggs! They had eggs! Potatoes and onions and carrots. I kept thinking "One week. One week. One week."

The man who checked me out looked at my slip of paper and said, "Oh wow. Five people? That means you can get a container of laundry soap, too." I smiled at him and said, "I'm okay there. Plenty of detergent. But thank you." Because that's how it is. Thank God this time around we had plenty of toilet paper and detergent and ahhh, paper towels. Looking back, I probably should have checked to see if they had any tampons. Earlier this month I was MacGyvering a very unlucky package of panty-liners into something else. Sorry, but when a broke-ass mom has $7.00 to spare she's going to buy spaghetti and sauce, not a box of Kotex. #reality

So I packed up the one week's worth of stuff into two cardboard boxes and loaded them into my car. I drove home and waited until the coast was clear and then tucked the new goodies in alongside the bootleg Aldi's products. I don't want the kids to know. Why? Why would I be okay writing about it here and not wanting them to know? Simple. I feel like I've failed them somehow. What kind of mom can't provide for her family? I know they wouldn't care, I know they wouldn't judge. But still. I quietly broke down the boxes and put them in the recycling bin and later on when one of the kids said, "Orange juice? No way! Thanks mom!" I didn't say anything.

Last night I was in my happy place. I was in the kitchen making our trademark family meal, homemade fettuccine noodles. I made pasta dough and music was playing (The Man Who Sold The World, rest in peace beautiful Bowie) and kids were drifting in and out of the room, talking to me while I ran the sheets of fresh pasta through the noodle cutter. Later on, when all of this has passed, I wonder if my kids will associate that meal with being poor.

I wonder if they'll think being poor tastes like fresh pasta? I guess as far as memories go, that one is okay.

I hope I will look back on these times, these awful and wonderful and scary times and not cry. I hope there comes a day when all of us can sit down together, over a meal I made while listening to good music, and talk about the good old days. The days when we were those people.







84 comments:

  1. Girl, I was there too. Savings bonds and all. You don't need a lawyer to file for more support, and every state has free child support enforcement agencies that help you FREE. They get paid to help you. Don't wait, figure out how to file for a hearing, call the CSA (child support agency) and get more plus back pay. I hope you keep notes and records and calendars showing he doesn't take visitation. I didn't need a lawyer, you don't, there are resources. My friend just got 400 more per month from her dickhole ex by proving he lived with his girlfriend and had no housing costs.

    Thank you for sharing. You are not alone.

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    1. See, I think I've screwed myself, and not in a fun way. We arranged the child support between us, without the county or any child support agency involvement. I told him at the beginning it wasn't enough and he just doesn't respond. At the time I was desperate and happy to just be getting anything :(

      Thank you so much for reading, and for these awesome and kind and supportive words. I never feel alone and that's the best gift ever.

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    2. Even so, talk to them, my friend arranged it privately but when he refused to increase it she went to the DA and they awarded her a higher amount, that he fought then the judge awarded her an even higher amount! Here in Oregon he keeps paying as long as the kids are in college. Unfortunately my ex decided that living homeless and jobless was better than paying support and even though I'm working full time I'm a regular at our food bank too.

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    3. I agree - my ex and I have a private arrangement which he has upheld. However, as his income has increased, I have let him know that I will need to go through the state if he doesn't honor the increased support that would be ordered. We have online calculators that we use as a basis and I presented it to him. He upped his support to match what the calculator stated (that wonderful online tool helps it all be objective, I think). If he had not, I would have gone to the agency for help.

      It is worth looking into. I'm sorry for the struggle, but I sure admire your grit! We have been there, too!

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    4. Yes Jenny go! I doesn't matter that it was per-arranged privately! You are entitled to a review every three years!!! And they will make him submitted his pay info and review it! And make him pay what the law reads! Please contact your child support agency!
      On a different note...I was once in your shoes...now I am in a better place...and I try to give back to those who stand where I stood...please make a amazon wish list...that i can send you items from. Or email me...I don't care what items are that list..but I am in such a better place now..I would be honored if you let me help you. My email is tracylfleck@yahoo.com. Hugs to you my friend..hugs to you.

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    5. I wonder if a threat to go "legit" with an attorney or the state authorities would motivate BD (Big Dickhead) to pay up?

      DeeDee

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    6. I love you ladies. So, so much!

      You know what, if I had the time and energy I would lobby to have Minnesota's child support laws changed. Child support ends the second a child graduated from high school. I'm currently supporting a 21 year old college student, a 20 year old college student and two high schoolers. Yes, all of them work but let's be real. How much can they really contribute to household expenses? They buy their own clothes, pay for "entertainment" and save for college. It's really frustrating. :(

      I did call one of my former attorneys and he suggested that I file to amend our divorce decree. Because in the decree it states the parenting time, and apparently the law goes by what the decree says, NOT what the parents do. SIGH.

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    7. Yes, it's true. Support is calculated by the percentage on the support order yet some people spend zero time with their children

      As someone on The other side of the desk, I find it hard to understand how the IRS considers a child in school to be a dependent through age 24 yet child support is over at age 18. Most children are truly financially dependent until at least 23. These 'living ' expenses should be paid by both parents, not just the custodial parent.

      I admire you and this blog which is so valuable to others who have 'been there, done that'.

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  2. Oh man, I hear you. I never had to go to a food shelf, but I was helped by my church and work church and strangers. I was also fortunate to have parents who helped me out if I asked.
    I also had to go after my ex for child support, and I went through the state agency. I finally did hire a lawyer (with my tax refund) because the state is overwhelmed.
    And I agree, child support should not stop at 18 (or high school graduation, as mine did), especially if that child is in college. My son got quite a a bit of financial aid when he started college because I was a single mom with a low income. Once I got remarried, the grants ended. :( Now that I have my daughter in college, I'm thinking of getting divorced so I can file the FAFSA as a single mom! lol

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    1. HA Staci! Don't get divorced!!! Seriously though, do you have to put your husband's income on the FAFSA even if he's not the "real" dad??

      My kids get some amazeballs student aid, and I suspect they'll get even more this year because I'll have three in college. This FAFSA is killing me.

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  3. You are an amazing writer. I can feel your pain and want to reach through the computer screen to help you. Have you ever thought about putting a PayPal button on your blog and asking your readers for help? Many bloggers do it and if you can get past the pride of asking for help,(but hey! we ALL need help) I'm sure people would be very willing to donate.

    It sounds like you are doing a wonderful job with your kids. They seem so kind and helpful and just plain good. Hang in there, Mama!

    And as for Aldi - it's my FAVORITE place to shop. Everything I buy there is as good as (and many times better than) what I buy at the other stores.

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    1. *HUGS* I know your kids are going to look back on this time and remember their amazing mom who did everything she could to provide and give them as much security as possible. *HUGS* (And home-made pasta to boot?!) *HUGS*

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    2. I second that paypal button idea - you've helped a friend of mine a lot when I couldn't, so I owe you.

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    3. AHHHHH ladies! You sure know how to warm a chubby broke old lady's heart. Smooches and hugs to all of you.

      I don't have a single clue how to do that Paypal thing. And I don't know that I'd have the guts to do it. I do have a Paypal account (from back in the eBay days) but don't know if it's set up to take money?? That's way more techie than I know.

      I like Aldi's too, don't get me wrong!! They sell stroopwaffels!! And their produce has never done me wrong.

      I adore you all and cannot thank you enough for being so kind.

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    4. Update: a friend called and "gently" suggested I do the tip jar. He walked me through it and I think it works. I'm not doing this pridefully, I'll tell you that. Aughhhh. Can a heart be broken and full of love simultaneously??

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  4. Huge hugs.

    I realize that you probably know the answer to this, but can you walk into the CS office and simply get them to take over? And ask for an evaluation of what he is paying? In some states, non-working students may be eligible for food stamps (the rules may have change on the federal level though).

    An attorney sounds like a good idea though, if all else fails.

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    1. I will call the county child support office and see what they can do...my only concern there is he has his wifey send the payments. I wonder if that's because he doesn't have a checking account anymore? I remember any payments he made suddenly started coming from her once I started fighting for child support. It's all so shady and slippery.

      Thank you for the hugs, they mean so much. For reals :)

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  5. I feel you, my friend. Thank God for my mother and sister because I would be homeless. One option (forgive me if this is a redundant suggestion) might be if there is a legal aid office in your community.

    Regarding your last question, I would imagine if I were to ask your kids what love tastes like, they would say that it tastes like fresh pasta.

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    1. Oh Melissa, not redundant at all! I would assume there is legal aid?? I'll have to look into that. It would be awesome to have someone who knows all the rules and loopholes to help with this situation.

      And oh my gosh. I hope that's what they end up saying! Thank you ♥

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  6. Thank you for sharing. It sucks. All of it. My husband of 24 years walked out on me for The Mistress. I don't have the money for a divorce and I feel like I am just sliding down a deep dark hole. I have 3 kids, two in their early 20s and one daughter in high school. My daughter and I are alone with a big house and big bills, I can't even sell the house (because I am still married!). We can't afford heat and we are freezing to death. I can't afford food and we are living off nothing but canned soup. The embarrassment? Oh, I totally understand that. I was a State Representative, a respected member of the community. Now I am a charity case. I just feel like such a loser. I loved my husband. I never imagined this would ever happen to me. At least I know I am not alone. There are other smart, passionate, responsible women out there who are experiencing the same hell. There ought to be a law against this kind of abandonment. Like you, I get some money each month, but not nearly enough to survive. The only job I could find is part time and does not pay a living wage. If I was still in the legislature I would file a bill and get hundreds of woman to come to the state house and tell their stories. These men should not be allowed to destroy the lives of their families without consequence.

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  7. I echo the words of everyone above. I am so sorry you are going through this. But please don't give up you are an amazing and talented writer.

    When I read your story I can't help but wonder what your ex husband must be thinking. This is the father of your children. I don't understand how he can't want to help and I REALLY don't understand how he can't help more with his own children. I can't even imagine how he justifies this in his own head.

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  8. Oh, God. This took my breath away a little bit. I feel like I'm constantly ossicalting between feeling like I've got this all under control and total, overwhelming fear and panic that I'm letting it all fall apart and being a total fraud. I lied about having life insurance yesterday. Because I was embarrased I don't. And just that morning I was feeling so good about having folded towels and remembering, and being able, to buy milk and grapefruit juice. I wish I had a better way of complimenting you for your writing and for your honesty. It's gut wrenching and so hopeful at the same time. I feel like people who know you and people who know your kids must be glad they do.

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  9. I have read your blog for awhile. It's one of my favorites. You are very talented and I can feel your emotion thru your words. I can't imagine at all what you're going thru. I married, and we're doing ok. So again I can't really relate. First I agree with the person above, set up a go fund me account. I am ready to send you money. No one deserves this. If I lived near you, I would pay my bil (lawyer) to help you, seriously. Instead, I would rather send you a check. Second, send the 18 yo over to big daddy and ask for moola. Dad I need money to buy gas, fix my car, food!! I get the whole dynamics there, I've been reading awhile, but give it a shot. If they're standing right in front of him asking for help fixing their car, what's he going to say? Please send me your address I really want to send you a check. I know you won't, you're too proud I admire the hell out of you. I wouldn't be as strong as you, but I would love to help. Please keep blogging, you are doing such a service to so many woman it there.

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    1. My sister has had to start doing that. Sending the oldest over for gas and school stuff money from his dad who is FIVE months late on his child support. Sickening to say the least. ((Hugs))

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    2. Ditto, Jenny - PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE put up a Paypal link here on your sidebar - My MIL in always giving me $$ to pass on to someone who is struggling - but helping themselves - just like you! You are doing your damnedest but still barely making ends meet. PLEASE PLEASE we really really really want to help! We are your readers, and your friends - please let us "hold you up" in your struggle to raise the great kids you are raising!! PLEASE - I'm BEGGING!!!!

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  10. I love your writing. I admire your candor and courage. You are raising amazing children. Wish I lived closer so I could invite you over for dinner.

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    1. Awww thank you!!! I wish you lived closer too! I'd totally come over :)

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  11. Thank you for sharing this with your blog world. I will be praying for you - whether that is your thing or not - it's my thing and I'll be praying for you daily.

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    1. I will gladly accept prayers :) I love that. Thank you so much.

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  12. Jenny I didn't want to post much on FB but you seriously have no idea how much this hits home. Constantly spinning wheels and it doesn't get any easier. It's gotten harder actually. People think that since the divorce is over, we should be okay. They have no clue.
    I had 2 girls in college at the same time. My youngest daughter had 4 surgeries in 18 months. And not one penny from their father. Not even a phone call to see how they were doing. Thank God for credit cards that have saved me many times although I'll be paying them off until I'm 6 feet under. It's the only choice I had. My youngest had just turned 18 when our divorce was final. So the judge said he couldn't demand child support. But he also said as he looked at my ex "There's a moral obligation and a legal obligation to being a parent. Your legal obligation ends at 18 and unfortunately that's the only one I can enforce" Obviously my ex thought this meant his moral obligation too b/c we haven't seen a dime. My kids have loans, they buy their own clothes, their own car ins, etc. They work and go to college. But I'm most proud of is their integrity and their will to survive and thrive despite what their father has done to them. They're not spoiled by having everything handed to them. And Your kids are the same...they will be just fine...they are good, strong kids who know how much you love them.
    It's going to be easier someday Jenny but for now we just have to keep going and do the next right thing. You're a good mom.

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    1. Oh Silvana. My heart aches for what you've been through. Credit cards helped keep my family alive for the first year or so of our "decline" (lol). Then I couldn't even pay the minimums and you know how that ended.

      I love what the judge said, yet I'm FURIOUS on your behalf that there wasn't anything he could do to force the ex to contribute.

      Amen to our beautiful, resilient and independent kids taking matters into their own hands and doing all of this on their own! In a way it's like a really polite "f*ck you" to their dads. Unfortunately, the dads won't see it.

      You're a great mom too, Silvana. Someday you and I will have a fun dinner together, okay?

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  13. What would it take for you to finish your degree? There are a variety of scholarships and grants available to single moms just for this exact purpose.

    I know you are probably thinking how in the H you would have time or energy, but you are smart, talented, and creative.

    http://www.mnsu.edu/wcenter/scholarships/
    http://oedb.org/single-mother-grant/
    http://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-scholarship-coach/2011/09/29/where-to-find-scholarships-for-single-moms

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    1. Joan, I have a little over a year left to complete. Not even sure how many credits I have...I'm so old my transcripts are probably carved in stone.

      You know, when the kids and I first moved into this house, I got a wild hair and started the application process to a weekend/evening college program. Then the shit really hit the fan and I had to scrap it.

      You're 100% right: it's time to revisit that little dream. Thank you for the links!!!

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  14. Just so you know, my friend (who had to divorce a nightmare of a narcissist) spent all her savings on a lawyer and she STILL got screwed in the alimony/child support agreements. Repeatedly screwed. Devastatingly screwed. Because her husband had a better lawyer and tons of family money to pay for him...

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    1. I will never, ever forget this: the day before Thanksgiving, 2008. I hadn't seen child support for a few months and had just obtained my pro-bono attorney.

      A huge, shiny BMW pulled into our driveway and a really smarmy looking guy got out and waltzed up to my front door. He announced himself as Big Daddy's attorney and then served me with papers. Papers for an emergency court date because Big Daddy was undergoing severe financial distress and was moving to change his child support obligations to ZERO.

      Funny how he found the money to pay Sleazy Attorney but not to help feed his kids.

      That's what stinks about your friend's (and my) situation. They have deep pockets, and we don't.

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  15. And, yeah, that stress - oh, the stress! Always another place that needs your money! I used to lie in bed and try to figure out ways to spend less on food. Every number of our monthly budget was burned into my head. It was awful, and I spend every day now being grateful that I don't have to agonize over buying a bottle of ketchup anymore. Tell me, what sort of things do you like to find at the food pantry? Every week at Costco I pick up an item for our local pantry, and I always wonder if I am getting the right things.

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    1. Tuna, peanut butter, macaroni and cheese, shelf stable fruit juice, canned fruit, boxed meals, just think what would make life easier for a mom who just got off of an 8 or 10 hour shift and is too tired to cook.

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    2. Feminine protection, ha!! Seriously.

      What namian said, too. Find out if the place you donate to has refrigeration/freezer space, and that way you can donate ground beef or turkey. My heart leaps when I find ground beef because it can become ten million different meals!!

      Meal kits, too. Taco kits, sloppy joe sauce, etc.

      When I went last week, I did grab a little bag of dog food, too. We had some but you just never know.

      And always, always mac and cheese. Maybe even the heat and eat kind, because some people don't have butter and milk regularly :(

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  16. Ok, so our very different paths took us to the same place. And while I didn't enter the pantry, someone who works at the Church pantry knows our situation and brought a bag to me...at the time, I didn't know whether to cry from the shame or from the relief... Here is the thing, you write, "I feel like I've failed them somehow. What kind of mom can't provide for her family?" But from where I sit, you could not be further from the truth....you are the one who provides for them day in and day out, no matter the emotional or financial cost to you. You are a brave and wonderful mom who puts her children's needs above all else. You should be proud and hold your head up high...b/c I have learned that there is no shame in accepting help. The shame would be/is in ignoring the obvious....the shame lies with your ex and his wife. To look the other way when your children have needs is disgraceful. That is on THEM. Not on you. You power on...you got this!!

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    1. Perfect! Beautiful response! I whole heartedly agree! Hugs!

      Andrea

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    2. I'm so sorry to learn this. I had thought it was better lately. You're a great mom and that includes provider.

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    3. Also, I'm ready to contribute to the gofundme page and I'm willing to set it up for you, with your permission of course.

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    4. AUGH here come the tears again!

      Oh anonymous. Thank you. Thank you so much. Sometimes it's hard to be proud of what you've done when it seems like you haven't done anything worthwhile, you know??

      You guys are so wonderful. So, so kind and supportive and loving. It's making me feel so good. Thank you.

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    5. Gail you're so sweet!! It does seem like things were getting better, and I guess they were?? But never "good" if that makes sense. Always jumping from check to check, having to come up with big chunks every few months for our massive utilities bill (water, recycling, etc). Then I helped one of the kids out with some money to help pay a bill. And then Walter gets an ear infection.

      It just seems as though every time I start to get a little bit of breathing room, something else comes up.

      I'm just thankful that this year, for the first year ever, I'll get taxes back. Big Daddy had it arranged so any money he paid me was considered "alimony" so for the past 8 years I've had to pay. Oh the irony of the poorest lady in the city having to scrape up money for the IRS :)

      Delete
  17. It just doesn't seem right to me that in this country a person with a full-time job does not make enough money to live on regardless of education. It's not right. I hope people remember stories like yours when it's time to vote -- remember who is going to cut services and who is fighting for people!

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    1. I agree - anyone working full time should be able to support their family (and that includes things like dental visits, etc., that so many in our country seem to think should be optional for lower-income people). Life is really expensive, even if you are frugal as all get-out.

      Delete
    2. Kirsten and SC: EXACTLY. It isn't right. I've run the numbers and I need to make about $7.00 an hour more in order to really, truly support myself and whichever kids are with me.

      I'm beyond grateful that I have this job, though. Given my lack of a degree and my destroyed credit, I'm lucky to have it. I'm hopeful that in time I'll make a little more. And there are always different positions, with better pay grades, opening up. Every day I learn something new in this job, and that means every day I'm more qualified for something that pays better. Just wish I didn't love it so much. Makes it really hard to leave.

      As it stands now, I'm going to get a second, part-time job in the very near future. I'm thinking Target, or maybe at the gym we belong to. I'll be tired and pretty much constantly working, but you gotta do what you gotta do. And I gotta make more money :)

      Delete
    3. I should add, my health insurance basically pays for the gym membership! And it is the second home of my 15 year old, plus the other kids play basketball there frequently. And sometimes I drag my fat butt there too.

      I always feel like I have to explain it because I've had my life and expenses ripped apart before, ha!!

      Delete
  18. If you're not comfortable accepting donations directly, would you be comfortable setting up a fund to pay for an attorney who would tear BD a new one? That would be such an awesome two-for-one deal... help Jenny, kick BD in the ass!

    Deborah

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    1. Oh Deborah! You, and all of these other kind and generous people, are way too sweet! I'll think about it. I love the two-fer aspect of it, ha!!!

      Thank you. Seriously, from the bottom of my heart.

      Delete
  19. Thank you for posting this. It's so raw and honest and makes me feel like I'm not alone... as a stay at home mom who's husband walked out when our kids were 4 yrs. and 4 months old. I've been able to scrape by because we still share the same bank account and I was always in charge of finances, but the future is really scary.

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    1. Oh my friend. YOU ARE NOT ALONE! It's terrifying, right? I think the worst thing about this situation (aside from the kids having to deal with all of it) is how we get so USED to the fear. Living with the constant stress and uncertainty becomes the norm. I hate that part. I don't know if I'll ever not feel this way, no matter how things turn out for us in the end.

      I was down to $11.00 in my checking account this Thursday. When I got the notice from the bank (I have a minimum balance notification alert, LOLOLOL) I didn't even blink. It was like "Huh. Eleven bucks. Okay."

      Still trying to decide if that's good or bad.

      You hang in there, my dear. I'm thinking of you and wishing you nothing but happy and good and fortunate things. xoxoxox

      Delete
  20. One day at work I was trying to assemble a salad for my lunch with wilted lettuce. It was all I had and I was trying to make the best of it. One of my good friends and co-workers told me about a time she and her husband had to rely on our local food bank and that I should really consider it. After a good cry I decided to go ahead and give it a try. The volunteers there do everything they can to preserve our dignity. I try to bring at least one of my kids along so they can help me choose what to get and so they are aware of the wonderful people who care. It is nothing to be ashamed of. Five years ago I was donating to this organization and now I need their help. Hopefully I'll be donating again in the future.

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    1. Oh namian! I've had that same exact salad :) I agree with you re: the volunteers. The kid who was manning the carts this last time I went couldn't have been any sweeter or more welcoming.

      I have donated to mine, too. In fact, I did just a few months ago (because I was feeling flush, LOL). I figure it's the circle of life thing.

      And I know you will be donating again. Hopefully sooner than you think! Love and hugs to one broke mama from another.

      Delete
  21. I want to say something from your kids' perspectives, because I was one of them. My (drunk) father did not pay support pretty much ever. As a kid, I remember my mother constantly asking for it, and asking me to remind him (not a great idea, btw), and he rarely paid and was never caught up. He also never paid a cost of living increase, so even if he did pay, it was like $200/month (and he paid for nothing else - I remember my mother begging him to buy me some new running shoes for school and him flat out refusing... and yet he could drop $50 at the local pub while I sat eating cold fries for 2 hours without batting an eye...)

    My mother did her best, but could never keep up. I remember a neighbour paying for my summer camp, and having to stay at the school by myself during field trips because my mom couldn't afford the ticket to the play, or the admission cost to the museum. [And yes, of course these are luxuries... I had food and shelter and clothes... but none of that was thanks to my father, and there were always bill collectors calling]

    When I was 15 I got lucky and landed a waitressing job in a small busy cafe, and could make a good amount in tips. My mom and I decided that since I was able to pay for what I needed on my own, and we were sick of the stress of asking for the $, I could tell my dad that instead of "paying" (or, really, never paying) every month, he could just put the money towards a college fund. He was thrilled, and said "Great idea! I'll invest it and you can use it for tuition." Of course, that never happened. I went to him the summer before my first year to learn that there was never an account (he had told me there was many times.) I couldn't even get a student loan because he wouldn't sign a form saying that he was unwilling to pay for my schooling.

    But, here's the thing... as shitty as it was having a deadbeat dad and having to work every weekend from when I was 15 to 30, and being stressed about money while my friends got to travel and volunteer in the summers and actually focus 100% on their studies during the school year (while I worked 2 jobs in the summers, and took full time classes and worked 30 hours a week during the school year), would you believe that I am grateful for it? Because all of that added up to a whole lotta grit. And wanna know the best of it? Not only did I finish my degree with honours and NO DEBT, but I went on and did both a masters AND a PhD... 12 full years of university and NOT A CENT OF FUCKING DEBT! I worked my ass off, partly because I wanted to ensure that I am NEVER, EVER in the situation that my mother was in, and partly just to shove that all down my father's throat. Yup, that's right dad, did this all by my fucking self. Your daughter is a DOCTOR now, with a great job and a healthy bank account, and you had not a fucking thing to do with it.

    Was it easy? Not at all. Would it have helped to have some financial support? Yes and no. It absolutely would have made things less stressful at times, but to be honest, I think knowing what was at stake, and having to really earn my stripes was the best life lesson I could ever have. I'm proud of what I've accomplished, and I know I did it myself. I'm a better person for it, and I can credit that experience for making me a better mother, wife and employee.

    And that's the thing... the grit, and confidence, and reality of knowing what is at stake, will guide your children through their education, careers and relationships more than you'll ever know. Your example, and tenacity, and honour, despite their father being a complete ass, will teach them the value of hard work and respect. I know, because I'm proof :)

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    1. If I didn't know any better, I would think that these are the words of my daughter. Congratulations. I hope you know though, it'll always bug you until you forgive him. Don't let it eat you up. She finally forgave him and now the space in her life she devoted to hating him is filled with love and appreciation for all the good things.

      Delete
    2. Damn if I didn't read this like you were standing at a pulpit and PREACHING, sister! Tears in my eyes and all. Thank you for sharing your past, and your beautiful present.

      I don't even know who you are and I'm filled to the brim with pride for what you've done. I hope and pray that my kids accomplish even half of what you've done. Good job to you, friend.

      For what it's worth, I have never and would never get my kids involved with the finances thing...asking their dad for money? Nah. I have had them approach him and ask for things like money for a choir trip, money for new glasses and rides to and from places. But one thing I have never done is involve them in the shitty financial dreck. Ugh.

      My heart is breaking for the little you eating cold fries while dad drinks :( Wish I could give you a hug ♥

      Thank you for this fierce and lovely comment. I'm going to keep reading it, picturing each of my kids saying it. xoxoxo

      Delete
  22. Dear Jenny your words reach me in Zurich, Switzerland. I read every post, since I found your blog. You are a very talented writer! And I am glad that you are so totally honest to blog about THE tabu topic: divorced women and poverty (at least here in rich Zurich). Bravo!

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    1. Oh Marianne! Thank you so much for this sweet note.

      And yes. Why isn't it spoken of? Why does society at large seem to be pretty much "okay" with all of these men who blithely walk away from their families and start anew without a glance back?

      Every single day I hear of more women, just like me, who are struggling and scraping by and it is just so not fair.

      Thank you, from Minnesota to Zurich ♥

      Delete
  23. Jenny, please look into having the child support go through legal channels. I worked in the legal system in my state, and what another poster said is excellent advice: document everything. Keep records of missed visits, keep receipts of everything, etc. Please call your state's version of legal assistance. I was a seemingly calm court reporter for many years, while inside my blood boiled at the many ways so-called fathers tried to rationalize their not paying child support. Many people (men) seem to forget that this is not money going to their "greedy" ex-wife. It is to feed, house and all those other things those human beings they brought into this world need to survive. I know (as much as another person can) how weary of fighting BD all these years you must be. But, I sincerely hope you can find it within yourself to bring this to legal aide in your state.

    I'll add my voice to the many that wish you'd put some sort of contribution button on your site, or an Amazon wish list...whatever you feel you can do. Please consider it.

    Wishing you strength for the uphill battle of child support ... and hopefully some peace of mind. Sending you cyber hugs.

    You are a great mama and your children are blessed to have you. And you them. But, you know that. ;-)

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    1. Oh anon. Thank you. It does my heart (and I'm sure the hearts of many other broke moms) to know that at least someone in that courtroom was listening and getting mad on our behalf!

      It sickens me to know how many of us are in this boat. And how our world seems to think it's just perfectly fine for it to happen. So many kids who aren't getting the upbringing they deserve, and so many good women working themselves to death just to keep the lights on and food on the table.

      You're right, I am weary. So freaking weary. But I will look up legal aid tomorrow and see what, if anything, can be done.

      Thank you so much for your kind words. They mean more than you will ever know.

      Delete
  24. Jenny - you are DEFINITELY NOT failing your children - you are providing them with what really matters - - LOVE, support, guidance, your time! They have everything they need. They'll become better people in the long run for enduring what you all are going through together! PLEASE put a contribution button (Paypal) or link to an Amazon "wishlist" - pretty please!

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    1. Okay Anon!! You guys win. Actually, a friend of mine who is also a reader here called me and pretty much made me put a contribution button on this old blog. He walked me through it and yes, in case anyone was wondering, I kicked and screamed the whole way. I'm rich with pride and asking for help has never come easy. But I figure it will be a little emergency $$ in Paypal for weeks like the one we just limped through.

      From the bottom of my heart, thank you. Dammit I'm crying again. This sucks :(

      Delete
    2. Augh, I meant having to ask for help sucks. Having to accept help sucks, puts a big ol' dent in the ego.

      But people wanting to help? That is beautiful and it makes my heart leap and cry and cheer.

      Delete
  25. Jenny, this post makes me so angry and so sad. Your ex is an abomination and how he can go on to spawn more children when he doesn't give a damn if his first four eat or have a roof over their heads is beyond me. He is disgusting! I think Chump Princess over on Chump Lady has the best description: He is a flaming turd shit straight out of Satan's ass!

    Don't you ever feel like you've failed those kids! YOU are the one who had been there for them. And YOU ARE providing for them. If they were in a burning building would you run in and do your best to pull them out? Damn straight you would! Guess what? They don't need you to run into a burning building; they need you to feed them. And you did that. Perfectly. Don't ever be ashamed of that. (((HUGS)))

    I would also, like others before me, encourage you to set up a GoFundMe or PayPal account. I'm sure someone out in Internet Land knows how to link one to your page.

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    1. Ahhh you guys are KILLIN' me! I love this. Thank you so much for the love. And LOL@ flaming turd straight out of Satan's ass! That's perfect. Flaming turd with a gross goatee.

      I love your hugs and believe it or not, I can feel them. Thank you :))

      A friend of mine insisted I set up a Paypal tip jar on the blog. I did so with great hesitation and with lots of pride swallowed. But it's there!

      Already blown away by the love.

      Thank you!!

      Delete
  26. Yes, definitely look into the court system, I have a friend (we're also in MN) who was able to get free legal help to get child support from her ex. I can send her a message and ask for the details.

    I need every last cent of my child support, and I was lucky (can one BE lucky in a divorce??) to get spousal maintenance but that runs out. It was just cut in half. My rent is almost as much as a month of pay from my entry-level job (and I have a college degree and pre-2003 work experience, it just doesn't seem to matter after having been a stay at home mom) and I have four kids who will be needing braces soon.

    I'm sorry you and your kids are getting the support needed from your ex, that is so reprehensible. I hope you can get some assistance and receive the money you all are owed. In the meantime, keep doing what you're doing! Your kids know they are loved and you are raising them to be mindful, responsible humans. Doesn't take the sting of a low bank account away, I know, but I console myself with feeling that, at the very least, my kids will know a thing or two about money management and sacrifice once they leave the nest.

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    1. I would LOVE to know more about your friend's experience! I contacted a former attorney of mine but all he said was to look online for forms on the Hennepin County website. And I'm waaay to distracted for that.

      Girl I hear you. All I had for a loooong time was some spousal maintenance. He took me to court to have his child support obligation reduced to zero and have everything/anything he paid earmarked as "spousal maintenance". You know why? So he could get a tax break. So there I was, the poorest mom in Minnesota (or so it felt) scraping up $2,000 to pay in taxes every spring. Life is funny.

      And P.S., I had one who needed braces. She didn't get them. She said to me, and this still kills me: "That's okay. I'll be one of those grownups who pays for their own braces." Gahhh.

      And yes, my friend, there are so many good lessons buried here in this pile of crap. My kids know the true value of money. They know how to save and how to determine a want vs a need. I hope they remember all of this and I hope they don't resent me for having to be the one to teach them.

      Thank so much for this. So good to know another Minnesota mama.

      Delete
  27. This is in response to Suburban Correspondent, I somehow can't reply to her comment: Food shelves love donations of food, but what they love more is donations of money. Instead of going to Costco you can give them the money directly and they can actually buy more food with it that you can! It's a great idea, either way, but your $$ goes further with a direct donation.

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  28. I'm really sorry you had to go through all that. I know that life is not easy and definitely it's not fair but if you let us, I think all of your readers would like to make your life a little bit easier by sending what we can to your PayPal account. I don't know if this is proper expression in the english language, but wishing you good fortune with everything you do.

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    1. Oh Zara, this is beautiful. Thank you, so so much. It is absolutely the proper expression and it is so very appreciated.

      Thank you ♥

      Jenny

      Delete
  29. The thing is, BD will never steps in. BD is so steep and deep in the vitriolic and putrid Secretary's hole. BD wants his Satanic cult member Secretary, and being a coward, he will not do anything to anger his Secretary because Secretary will smote him to ashes. From my sleuthing around, I'm pretty sure I found who Secretary is, and man, does she look evil. Do you see her eyes staring down at you from her profile pics? She looks demonic and possessed. BD permanently lost his balls and manhood, and he will not get out from the she demon's lair and snare. And that means, he will not ever step up his game to his other four kids. Shattering as it is, to him, they are dead. BD sacrificed his own children so he can get a new lease in life with the demon.

    BD will get his due, mark my word. There is always a consequence for every decision and action. He many be skating well right now on smooth ice, but he will hit a wall.

    I pray you and your children will flourish. That in each step, each day, you are building and giving a lifetime of solid blocks, full of love, and that all of you will make it, be successful, and will get to have all your heart's desire.

    Be strong.

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    1. Wheeee! Oh anon. This comment is everything!

      You know what? I wouldn't know Secretary if she walked right by me. The few times I've seen her have been completely spontaneous and horrifying. I've heard that she and I look like we could be related, although I'm hoping it's not because of the whole demon/possessed eyes.

      I hate to say that you are pretty much right. Despite a few attempts to be a dad, he's out of their lives. And that sucks. I don't wish ill on anyone, even those two, but I have to admit it would be nice to see them have to deal with even one tenth of what the kids and I have gone through. They'd crumble, I can tell you that much.

      Thank you for your prayers, and for your amazingly awesome words.

      Delete
  30. You are inspirational...your situation is not who you are...it is what makes you who you will become and you, my dear, are on a good track. Keep writing, keep going, keep laughing.

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    1. Thank you so much, anonymous :) I sure hope it's a good track. I really appreciate your sweet words!

      Delete
  31. why don't you identify BD? Then maybe he would be shamed into doing the right thing!! His kids already know how despicably he has behaved, so outing him shouldn't cause them any additional grief and it would shed a light of truth on his dog and pony show of a life.

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    1. You are right, the kids figured this stuff out long ago. I still don't talk smack about him, even though it would be so easy to do so.

      I don't want to identify him here for a couple of reasons: first, to do that would put me in a really bad place, legally. Although everything I've written about is true, and it's all happened to me and the kids and therefore is my story to tell, it would open up a can of worms that I'd rather leave shut.

      Secondly, despite what he's done, and hasn't done, over the years, I feel as though he deserves privacy. It's bad enough that everyone in our city knows him and her and what they've done. I can't imagine walking through the grocery store or Target knowing that chances are really good someone within spitting distance knows all of the crappy things I've done to my kids and ex. For right now, I think that's punishment enough and obviously hasn't shamed either of them one bit.

      In fact, their first kid is (I think?) going to be kindergarten age this upcoming fall and I'm DYING to see if they enroll him at the school I work at. DYING. Of course I'd never do anything negative but jeeze...the staff here, the teachers: they're my friends :)

      Thank you for thinking of us. Here's to hoping the dog and pony show doesn't last.

      Delete
  32. I gave some money - hope it helps a bit. I couldn't be as strong as you - what a great mom you are!

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    1. Melissa, I've been crying like a baby for the past few days. Thank you, thank you, thank you. I don't know what else to say. Your kind heart, and the other kind hearts out there, have shown us love. It's mind-blowing. Thank you.

      Delete
    2. Oh man, been there--I am there too often. Hope it gets better for all of us.

      Delete
    3. I'm late to the party (and broke, alas), but a thought about the car- I don't know what you drive, but this worked on my last car and a few friends'. A lot of models have the same handles/motors on the front and back doors per side. When the driver's side motor burned out, I swapped it with the one behind it since I never need to roll that one down. You can watch a video on Youtube about how to make the swap, that's what I did, I'm not a 'car person' at all.

      I was embarrassed but it beat rain in the car.

      Delete
  33. God, that MacGyvering line made me laugh!
    But I was tearing up at the end. Your kids are a testament to how awesome you are as a mum and role model. I hope it gets a bit easier again.

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  34. Jenny, I am just now catching up with your last few posts. Stupid FB never showed me the link to this one or the follow-up, and I was having some, well, "issues" (thank you, perimenopause!) that had me too distracted to remember to look for new posts...Anyway, I feel so bad I'm so late in seeing this, and adding to the "tip jar"...but I just added a little something :) I hope you don't need it urgently anymore, but please know it's there for later just in case. And most of all...please oh please do not EVER feel ashamed or embarrassed about needing that help from friends, the food pantry, or whoever. Just to give you some perspective about what motivates SOME people to ask for help...I know someone who started a GoFundMe page to get her friends to fly her to Vegas to see a musician she loves who's playing there this year. Never mind that this person -- who has no problem paying for her basic needs, and NO extra mouths to feed either -- could EASILY afford this little vanity trip if she would actually save some money for it! Her doing this is selfish and inappropriate, YOUR needs are anything BUT that. And we are more than happy to help you meet them...and you owe us NOTHING, EVER, so please don't feel otherwise. We just love you and want you to have peace of mind about making ends meet, and everything else. Oh...and about BD, who I (like everyone else here) ultimately blame for your situation? I'll just say this, again...karma's a beee-atch. And someday, he'll find that out. Hugs to you, the kids and Walter!

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