Stick A Fork In Me…

Do some of you set down to tackle a post but then find yourself contemplating rather to actually post it? Perhaps you tuck it away in the drafts folder and sit on the idea for a few days, or months. Perhaps the post is controversial, or deeply personal, or maybe you just wonder if anyone will really be interested in reading about Great Uncle Fred’s prostate surgery.

This readers, is one of those posts. I have been stewing over this for some time. I need to write about the issue, the aftermath, and then let it go. I apologize in advance and caution you that if you don’t want to read another of my “post divorce” stories, stop now and move ahead with your day.

Not so long ago, in this post actually, I mentioned an issue that had been centered on the ex-spouse, because… aren’t all my real issues somehow related to him. The gory details include the fact that he was told that he was being laid off from his job of many years, likely right around Christmas. I was informed of this by him in a panicked phone call whereby he felt obliged to let me know that once the layoff occurred he was very uncertain about how he would provide our agreed upon alimony.

“Uh, how about getting another job…,” although I didn’t really say that to him.

I had to hear about how he was going to have to change his lifestyle, cut some things out -like his nearly $200 per month cable bill- and how he might just decide to retire. That idea apparently sent his CPA into near cardiac arrest and then into uncontrollable laughter and then into dismay when he realized that the ex truly didn’t understand why retirement at 60 wasn’t really an option.

I chose to keep my opinions to myself at that point, because really why bother. I did start planning however, and taking stock of my own finances. I was even able to find a bit of humor in the fact that the ex somehow assumed that I would just take his need to stop paying his court ordered alimony as a given. He truly seemed to believe that his only responsibility was to ask me to stop depending on the agreed upon amount we had set up every month. That readers is a hallmark characteristic of this man. Toss responsibility onto everyone else.

I’m sure he was caught wildly off guard when he learned that the only way to change a signed court order was to go back to court with a lawyer and attempt to get a judge to change or withdraw what was established in the divorce decree. As he chose to totally allow me to handle the entire divorce, (we filed an uncontested petition) and never had any intention of even showing up for the final hearing, I had little worry that a) he would even consider hiring a lawyer, because that meant paying someone, b) he would have no idea how to attempt any sort of changes himself, and c) he would find some means to continue the ordered payments while bemoaning his plight and the unfairness of it for the next 3 1/2 years.

His layoff notice was received in mid October. I saw him on Christmas day while the granddaughters opened gifts. I barely spoke to him and chose not to ask about the layoff, but assumed it was imminent or had already happened. He never brought the issue up to me.

In early January, in a conversation with my oldest daughter, I felt that it was important to mention that, given the fact that her dad was now not working, and had left me with the clear indication that somehow he needed our financial situation to change, she and I needed to have some discussions about my future as the granddaughters caregiver. Her reply to me, “I’m confused… did you not know that they rescinded his layoff?”

Clearly the answer to that question was no, I had no idea, even though he had apparently learned that his employment would continue somewhere back in November. Let me just stress here- I saw the man at Christmas. He said nothing to me. Nothing. No mention at all that the once looming unemployment was no longer an issue.

So I have sat with this news for the past two weeks. I have, just as I have done for so many years, even attempted to convince myself that perhaps he had just forgotten to mention that financially our world will not be turned upside down. In his initial rush to tell me just how his layoff would impact me by straining his ability to live comfortably he must have simply been so relieved to find he could keep his cable service that telling me just slipped his mind.

Old habits die hard readers, isn’t that what they say. Silly me to continue to find myself giving him the benefit of the doubt. Naive me to hold onto even a smidgen of hope that he would realize that I had no idea of everything that had transpired, that he might even manage a small apology for not telling me sooner. Stupid me to believe that perhaps he has come to understand that he must be responsible for his actions, or inaction.

I decided that in some way I had to end this, because I knew he wouldn’t. I sent this email to him last night, and yes…it is a bold lie…but I had to see how he would respond.

“Been wondering about your ongoing plans surrounding the layoff, as I assume that it has become official by now. I know you mentioned that you would likely be looking to use severance pay and unemployment for some time but would appreciate knowing how/when you anticipate changes and what you might be planning those to be–such as changes to the alimony order. 

I have been diligent about watching the amount of my spending since learning of the layoff, but quite frankly I depend upon the alimony amount each month, even with a part-time job. My hours from that are minimal. I need as much notice as possible (as will C and my ability to be with the girls)  if income considerations are to change with the process of a new court order assigning any changed amounts each month. Obviously this is something we need to discuss in person, but as I haven’t heard any updates I needed to touch base at least.”

This was the reply I got a short time ago:

“My layoff was rescinded.  I should be good.”

HE should be good. Isn’t that great to know. The best news ever. HE is gonna be fine. HE hasn’t had any worries since Thanksgiving when they stopped the layoff process. HE has known for 2 months that there were no more issues or concerns.

“I should be good.”

Four little words that have allowed me to finally let go of the silly, naive, stupid me who held onto that teeny, tiny smidgen of hope that a 60 year old man had any potential to learn even a minute amount of responsibility.

I. Am. Done.

The answer is clearly a resounding no.

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Apartment Life

I haven’t lived in an apartment since roughly 1979. Back then I was young; a new dental assistant, relatively poor, and just happy that I didn’t have to live at home anymore. My paycheck covered the necessities and that’s about all.

In fact, funny story before I go on: My boss took the office (all 2 staff members plus himself) to San Francisco for a short weekend seminar. He paid for airline fees and hotel thankfully. I literally had $50 cash in my purse for the weekend. That was all my bank account could muster. The first night we had dinner in a fancier restaurant. I was panicked that I was going to have to pay for my dinner and that my wallet would be empty. I was trying to figure out how I could sneak seminar food back to my room to have something to eat until we left on Sunday. He (again thankfully) paid for that dinner, but I was still uncomfortable for the entire weekend wondering what else might come up that I would either have to find an excuse not to attend or how I could tactfully choose nothing more than an appetizer as my meal.

My situation is not quite that dire anymore. Now that the financial situation with my ex-husband has been controlled for the time being I can live in relative comfort with my income. That definitely has something to do with the fact that I purposefully chose to rent an older, semi-renovated but clearly older, apartment.

I have fixed this new home up quite nicely and everything, while being modestly priced and/or bargains and/or mine already, suits me and this place well. I have no real need for anything. However, and I am cautiously blaming this on the fact that I have been a home owner since 1983, I see projects surrounding me and it’s driving me crazy that I don’t own this place and cannot do anything legally to change my surroundings.

I don’t want to knock out walls or add an upstairs. Nothing like that. I am a fixer, and a doer and (yes, I am whining) when I see something that needs to be done I am used to doing it, within reason. Of course, the landlords will actually repair things that come up, like my kitchen sink that only allowed for a trickle of hot water. I got a brand new faucet when I reasonably asked what the problem might be and mentioned the things I had already tried to fix the issue.

I’m talking about those little projects, that when you own a home, you notice and say to yourself, “It’s time to update XYZ,” and then if the price to update XYZ is reasonable, you do it.

My current XYZ project, if I owed this home, would be to replace all the knobs and drawer pulls in my kitchen. They are original, I think, and without a doubt have seen better days. They’re some sort of coppery, brass-bronze devices that look a lot like a satellite dish. Most are chipped and water marked. No, I have not tried (yet) many of the do-it-yourself ways to clean copper, but that’s mostly because I’m not really sure what these things are made of and don’t want to make them worse. I also don’t really like these knobs either. This is where my homeowner wisdom kicks in and the local Lowe’s or Home Depot or even Amazon begins to whisper to me…”Just get some nice new knobs. The kitchen will look so much better, fresher. Go ahead…”

I have landlords that would likely give me the okay if I really did want to go ahead and change these things out. They would simply tell me to send the receipt along with my rent and deduct the cost of the knobs. They did that graciously and with (I suspect) much relief when I asked them about installing my own window screens last summer after moving in.

The real question though seems to be, “Where will all this lead?” I don’t own this home. I borrow it in a manner of speaking. Will I live here forever? If so, then it might be worth giving in to the voices. Is it wrong to want to put a little of myself and my own preferences into this home, especially when these wants are relatively minor? If I’m here even 3, 4 or 5 years it seems like the enjoyment of changing a few things still outweighs the legality of being a renter.

Obviously asking permission, instead of just doing, is something I am struggling with. I am also struggling to remember that this space is really not mine. I have to find a way to overcome the owner mentality of the past 30+ years.

Should I just be grateful that I have a home and stop fixating on changing things. It’s okay to tell me that I sound a bit spoiled, or to tell me to stop sulking and whining.

What would you do?

Let’s Catch Up…

Just thought that I’d catch you up on the goings on in my world in case anyone is interested…

Here in my little 4-unit building we have some new neighbors. It’s only taken the landlords four months to gut and renovate the unit once lived in by controlling (and probably abusive) curmudgeon Sam. I have not met them yet, but I understand they are siblings, 3 of them, although I have only seen 2. I suspect they work a lot as they are young and it seems relatively quiet there so far. Even when they were moving in this past weekend they did so rather unobtrusively so I don’t suspect wild parties will be very common. In an ironic twist, one of them drives an old Jeep Wrangler that reminds me in noise level and looks of my Alison’s old car. Her’s was white, verging on dinged up, dingy gray and this one is black but it has the familiar engine sound, some odd wires or connectors hanging from underneath it and even duct tape helping to hold up one of the rear windows. Seems that aging Jeeps must fall apart in a universal manner.

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I spent a good two weeks with some sort of toxic germs living in my nose and bronchial passages. I really thought that I was going to escape relatively unscathed this season as I had managed to avoid most of the germs my two little angels seemed to be spreading non-stop since September. Somehow though, even obsessive hand washing and bathing in hand sanitizer didn’t help this time. Working was interesting. I screened quite often in semi-dark rooms so that the parents (hopefully) didn’t notice all the snot dripping into my pretty yellow (but not very absorbent) masks. I also feared leaving unsightly snot trails under my nose when the masks came off.

In other work news, I had an interesting weekend there a few days ago. We had a baby born with a number of congenital anomalies, one of which might have involved hearing issues so I was asked to screen the baby right away in the NICU. She passed easily so at least that’s one less issue to deal with although she may still have a rough road ahead.

I had screened my first baby of the day just prior to that NICU baby. Thirty minutes later, standing in the NICU talking with Alex we heard “Code Blue, 3rd Floor, Mother/Baby Unit, Room 340.”  Room 340 was the baby I had just left. Code Blue means respiratory issues… as in not breathing. By the time the nurses wheeled her in and the code team arrived she was pink and crying. Apparently she gagged on a substantial amount of fluid and then began to turn blue.

A few other, non-baby issues came and went and I set out to screen my last baby for the day. I really didn’t need to do that one, but I suspected Sunday was going to be busy so I thought I would try to get one more finished. Mom was exhausted and sleeping, dad was also exhausted but very much needing to be the overly helpful dad that I sometimes run into. I have found an interesting cultural phenomenon with dads from Ukraine and surrounding Eastern European countries. They want to be very hands on when I come to screen, as in having the full intent to actually place my sensors and ear hugs for me. This dad was no exception, but I’ve found that if I give them a very specific task, as in helping to keep baby calm, I can get them to let me do my job.

Anyway, this babies coloring was wide ranging. She would fuss and be nicely pink, then gradually her color would turn. I watched this occur a few times and was just on the verge of stopping my test when she passed. It was pretty clear to me, although dad was unaware, that she wasn’t getting oxygen at an adequate level. I quickly gave dad his paperwork, turned to look at baby who had just been fussy and pink, and saw that she was dusky. This is dusky:

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Needless to say I made a beeline for the nurses who moved quickly to check on her. The next thing I knew she was being wheeled into the NICU. Her oxygen level: 88. I found out on Sunday that she had been transferred to a higher level NICU. She was unable to stay adequately oxygenated even with a CPAP unit. Scary moments for sure and no one wanted to think what the outcome might have been.

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Finally, in totally unrelated news, I have come to the sad realization that (and I don’t really know who said this, or even where I might have heard it) but when you divorce and expect to be relatively free from issues with your ex-spouse it never really works out that way. They are always a presence. They will always (inadvertently or perhaps not) find ways to irritate, anger, annoy and just generally plague your existence.

This could be a long story and this post is already long enough so very short version: There was an issue that arose way back in late September, but that I chose not to write about at the time. It could have been rather devastating and I have been planning and adjusting for the past few months. Of course it involves a financial component. Long story short, after more extended angst and worry, after new sleepless nights, in a rather accidental and unintentional way, I just found out (NOT FROM THE EX-SPOUSE WHO SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE ONE TO TELL ME) that all is just fine, peachy-keen, no problem, no worries, over and done. Apparently the knowledge that the looming crisis was no longer a crisis came to the ex around Thanksgiving. That means that I have had the pleasure of added stress for over 3 months now and was not even afforded the courtesy to be told that the world was good, that I could still plan for uninterrupted income, and that I didn’t have to spend inordinate amounts of time doing silly things like trying to figure out how to stay warm while not using any heat in my apartment.

I will close this post by saying that I added that image of the dusky blue color not only to illustrate that sweet baby girls issues on Saturday, but also to highlight, after learning all the information above, what I pictured the color of my ex-spouses face to be as I throttled the life out of him.

What Do You Think?

I preface this short post with a confession. I enjoy, as a relaxing and mindless hobby, coloring in those “adult” coloring books that have become popular. I worked my way through most of my collection and recently found a good deal on Amazon that combined three books for a reasonable price. They are all Mandala designs, some very simple, others incredibly intricate.

I knew at least one was being delivered today. Two others were supposed to arrive, but an early morning tracking update told me that there was a delay with those books. Even if all three were arriving today I pictured a simply shrink-wrapped shipping bag, or at the most a small box. I mean, these things truly are coloring book size.

For a point of reference:

My regular adult sized chair, placed by the window, where I tend to sit to color.

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I’m sure you can’t miss the open box that takes up the entire seat of the chair. You can’t see it, but the shipping label says “Amazon.”

The inside of the box when I opened it.

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Hmmm… looks like someone sent me a nicely arranged piece of brown shipping paper.

Oh, but wait…

Look here! A Mandala coloring book!

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That’s one of my books delivered from Amazon in a box big enough to hold 50, 75, maybe even 100. I kid you not. The box is huge and in it one 8×10 book that is roughly 1/2 inch thick.

I don’t know about you all, but I think Amazon deserves the “Smart Packaging Award” for this major faux pas and waste of resources, and I think I will tell them that when I review the product.

Blame It On the Dog

Cece Mae turned two in October. That’s her there sitting on Santa’s lap with big sister Gisella.

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Cece has a strong personality. Cece has perfected the word NO! and the phrase I DON’T WANT TO! Cece clearly understands what we say to her. We know this because she can, when she chooses to, actually converse in long sentences and sometimes even paragraphs. We love Cece, but Cece will look directly at you and do exactly what you just told her not to do.

Cece has started down the long and arduous road of potty training. Her parents are having no more luck than I do, although I think they are resorting to bribery to get her to practice. She loves to read the potty book, but is she impressed enough with the baby in the book tossing aside his diaper, grinning from ear to ear as his proud parents applaud his obvious tinkle, tinkle, toot into the potty? Nope. Is she encouraged by wearing “big girl panties” rather than diapers? Nope.

Today grandma decided that we would be a bit more diligent about the practice. Pants came off, big girl panties came off, and Cece got to run around with a naked bottom to make things that much easier for getting onto the potty. Success? Nope.

Cece and I went downstairs for lunch. She gobbled up her taco salad and it became evident (to grandma anyway) the the squirmy bottom on the chair was feeling a certain urge. Climbing down off of her chair Cece ran off to the other room while grandma tossed dishes into the sink. My intention was to head Miss Cecelia into the potty. It was awfully quiet out in the front room and just as I turned I was sure that I noticed a tiny little naked bottom squatting down near the front window. In my head I uttered “oh crap” and out loud, using my grandma voice I had just started to say, “Cece…what are you…”

“Grandma, dog poop on the floor!”

“Cece Mae! Coco is outside. Did you poop on the floor?”

Entering the other room (which thankfully is not carpeted, I was greeted by both a spreading puddle of pee and also Cece’s “dog poop” gift.

After cleaning up I truly regretted not having taken a picture to send to mom and dad at work although I have no doubt that Cece will give me more opportunities for pictures before she finally accepts that the toilet is the place that big girls go potty.

And that it’s not very polite to blame the dog…

OMG

Perhaps I should subtitle this post Label Me A Nitwit…

You may, or you may not remember a post I wrote about my panic and terror as winter was approaching and I had the displeasure of trying to figure out how to use my baseboard heating system. Even if you don’t remember I’ve decided not to link the post. At this point it’s old news, and with a very recent discovery, I imagine should be completely irrelevant.

Before I reveal my amazing news I just want to assure every one of you that I really, really have tried to make this home as insulated as I could. I invested in my own weatherstripping and put new and thicker material all around my front door. I hung thermal curtains over the existing blinds. I got thick draft blockers for my doors and even my horrid single pane window frames. The non-carpeted floors seem to reflect the chilly outside temperatures. I’ve invested in various rugs and tried to place them strategically.  I have judiciously used my heaters, trying not to turn them on unless necessary. My two front windows get full sun on the days that it makes an appearance. If given the chance, that sun does a nice job of providing warmth during the day.

However, November around here was damp, dark and getting progressively colder. I layered socks. I layered clothing or used sweaters. I ran the heaters only as needed and not at all at night, even in my bedroom. My electric bill, while not extreme, did rise quite a bit between mid October and mid November. Since Thanksgiving it has been getting even colder. I have been feeling a sense of dread looming as the temps at night have been sitting below freezing and I can’t seem to keep these rooms heated.

A few days ago, as the temps dipped lower and my anxiety started growing I even resorted to attempts to keep the heat from the baseboard heaters from traveling right up under the curtains and out through those front windows.

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Yes, that is blue painters tape holding the thermal curtains securely to the wall so that the heat cannot escape. Please don’t judge me. I felt as if I was running out of options.

Then today, as I was crawling around by the front door/dining room doing some crevice cleaning I was being blasted over and over by a persistent draft. Now I’ve stood near my front door since I placed the new weatherstripping. That made a huge difference. The landlord had already placed one of those rubber strips on the bottom of the door, both inside and outside, which also helped to block drafts from under the door. I really thought that the door situation was okay, until today when I crawled up to the door and placed my hand above the rubber strip, and above the metal plate that holds the rubber strip on. A gale force wind was blowing in and it felt like ice.

The rubber on the outside is not as tight as the rubber on the inside, which actually scrapes the floor as the door moves. Cold air was coming under the outside rubber and shooting it’s way up behind the attachment plate and directly into my house negating any heat the baseboards were putting out. Everything suddenly made sense, like why, when I sit on my couch, I always feel a cold draft on my neck. My neck is directly in line with the blasts of frigid air coming under the door.

Lacking the financial, or legal means to 1) place better weatherstripping on this old door, or 2) actually get a new, better door, I used what I had on hand and the results were instantaneous.

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Notice dear readers that you can see the metal sill. You can see the gray rubber tucked nice and tight to the sill. You cannot see the metal band that holds the rubber onto the door. Why? It has now been sealed over with duct tape. Yes, it is tacky to look at but the gap that existed is now covered and that is more important to me than looks at this moment.

How do I know this is the answer? At this moment it is 32 degrees outside. I have one, and only one, baseboard heater turned on to a fairly low setting. My floors are warm. My feet aren’t cold. There is no draft swirling around my neck. My hands are warm. I am WARM with only one damn heater on!

A 4 foot by 1/4 inch gap has been the bane of my existence for the past month and all I needed was a little duct tape and Voila! Eureka! Holy Cow! Life is GOOD!

I will gladly live with some duct tape on my door.