But here are Some Things That Helped (A Lot):
-My pal Caity's suggestion for comfort food? A deep-fried Mars bar! I have no idea how one would go about frying a chocolate bar - but the thought was yummy in my brain. Thanks Caity!!
-My pal Nurse Nice gave me a shot on my knee at the coffee shop the day before and I could still feel it when I was in court. It totally protected me.
-My pal C is for Coffee sent me a lovely prayer with words in it like "triumphant", "glorious", and "splendid". I heart her. You would too. I promise.
-My pal DebR assured me that she doesn't like my ex either (even though she's never met him.) Aren't friends the bomb diggity?
-My pal VBGF sent me email AND telephonically pulled me out of my late afternoon, bad-mommy meltdown. (Ooooh - foreshadowing. Did you notice the "afternoon" part? Did you remember that court began at 8 am? It's like a cliff hanger and now you have to read all the way down to the part where I talk about Things That Didn't Help.)
-My pal Sweet Hubby kept his arm around my shoulders in just the right way - not too oppressive, not too protective - for the whole year (=one hour and fifteen minutes) we were in court.
-My lawyer, who drives me batshit before hearings to the point that I contemplate selling one of my organs to come up with enough money to pay the retainer for a whole new lawyer, was (once again) exactly, perfectly right for me in the courthouse. She was professional and still warm and pleasant. She was calm and confident and reassuring. The judge recognized her outside the courtroom before the proceedings, chatted with her, and smiled. THAT can't hurt.
Here are some Things That You'd Think Would've Helped (And Didn't):
-Listening to the cases before ours. One case involved the parents' dispute about child support for a child who is a) 21 years old now and b) in jail! Sad. Sad. Sad. In the next case the dad was so nervous (or mentally challenged) that he messed up stating his child's birthday FIVE different times - once stating the wrong decade and the next four times messing up the month. The next case was a contempt of court case against a woman who had not paid her child support (to the tune of $11,000!) I thought she was remarkably well dressed for someone who couldn't pay a penny for her child's upkeep - until I realized that that was her mother sitting beside her and they were the exact same size and wearing the exact same style of clothes. I'd raid my mom's wardrobe too if I could. The rest of that case falls into the same sad, sad, sad category as the first case. The woman (who in spite of her nice clothes had a sour expression about her whole being) tearfully pleaded (she had no lawyer) with the judge to honor her petition to have her child support terminated or at least suspended because she couldn't work. Her father is terminally ill with pancreatic and liver cancer and she takes care of him full-time while her mother tries to salvage the family business. The judge started flipping pages in the very fat folder of this case and the Assistant DA started asking her unpleasant questions about how long her dad had been sick (3 months), how long she'd lived with her parents (since she got out of jail this summer), why she hadn't paid her child support for the three years before her daddy got sick and how had she managed to pay for the drugs she'd been arrested for, etc...(The judge found her in willful contempt and she is getting a couple more days jail time! Yikes and more and more yikes!) I already knew and those cases reconfirmed for me that what I'm going through with my ex isn't (in the grand scheme) as icky as it could be. Why doesn't knowing that make it feel less icky to me? Why?
-Aside from the folks in uniforms, the druggie mom, and the two preppy couples sitting in front of us who were staring daggers at each other - the wardrobe selections made by the rest of the people in the courtroom were inexplicable and in some cases outrageous. I spent the two days before court in a complete dither about what was appropriate to wear to the hearing (ultimately deciding on brown slacks, short black boots, black mock turtle, brown jacket, and simple silver jewelry - if you are at all interested.) I then spent the 25 minute car ride to the court house having mild fits upon noticing (too late to do anything about it) my husband's very blue socks. ("Are you sure they're not gray?" he asks. I had to remind myself he's colorblind to keep myself from snarling. I am sooo pleasant when I'm stressed! Don't you wish you could have come with us?) Apparently I need not have worried about SH's blue socks much less my boring brown and black ensemble because it turns out you can wear anything - including (but not limited to) one or more of the following items: jeans with holes and scary stains, muffin top revealing sweatshirts, red shirts with thousands of sequins, and greasy sweatpants. You'd think this would have had a calming effect on me ("I'm ok, I look plain and clean") and yet...it was really quite frightening to look around the benches and think these people must have looked in a mirror somewhere and said, "Yep. That's the ticket." ***I don't actually remember what my ex was wearing. I am not objective about his looks anymore. Apparently my brain has given up processing appearance data on him in any trustworthy (or normal) way. I think this is genetic because I remember my mother telling me that once when she was really, really angry with my father during their divorce, she looked at him and saw, not a person, but a giant, slimy frog. I'm pretty sure my ex was wearing a blue blazer but I can't be sure because his warts were too distracting.***
-My ex was nervous. Really nervous. I overheard him talking to a security guard who apparently had given him a look when he tried to take some slow, deep breaths before we all went into the court room. I was weirdly glad that she reassured him and told him not to worry. For the record - I still don't like him. I was civil and even pleasant, but distant. He was there by his own choice without anyone representing him and without any friends. (<--I struggle not to use the word "fault" instead of "choice".) But I was glad that a random stranger was nice to him. When they called us up and we had our five minutes - all of which were taken up with my lawyer and the State's lawyer asking for continuances, my ex looked completely confused. He said he had brought the documents with him and got shushed.
(Ha ha ha - I have to interject here and point out that upon re-reading I noticed I had inadvertently(?) typed "smushed" instead of "shushed." How did people learn about their funny (yet not-so-kind) inner selves before they had word processors?)
Anyway, Mr. Tapioca then drops a piece of paper, knocks into the podium while bending over to get it, and almost but not quite, slips and falls on his ass. The look the judge gave him would have thrilled me if it had been for say, any one of the asshole manuvers he's pulled in the last little while, instead of for doing something I SO TOTALLY could have done (and may still in the future do). Grrrr. I don't want my ex humiliating himself; I don't want him there alone and unsupported. I don't want bad things for him ("smushed" vs. "shushed" notwithstanding.)
But THEN just about the time I start feeling compassionate - the man totally and completely pisses me the fuck off.
Here are some Things That Didn't Help (At All):
-My lawyer was herding my husband and me off towards the side door when I heard Mr. Tapioca Head (who was still over by the podium wrapping up some details presumably about the exact documents he must provide before the next court hearing) say, "Oh. Some of this information will change as I'm starting a new job on November 13th." WHAT???
This will make at least the SEVENTH job change since our divorce five years ago. And it will be the third job this year! I care less about the fact that his salary seems to remain exactly the same (although it does beg the question of why all the lateral moves from company to company) than I do about the fact that the insurance changing all the freaking time with three boys (who have asthma and who need couseling for all this parental crap) is extraordinarily difficult to keep up with. **Lucky for you - I have erased the four paragraphs of ranting, historical details, and nightmare insurance wrangles that came pouring out of me. Suffice it to say that had it not been for court yesterday, I have to wonder when I would have found out this important information. When there was a lag in the child support the week of Thanksgiving? When I got yet another bill for services denied due to lack of coverage? (Not that they've been uncovered. He'd sue me for even appearing to suggest that he would do THAT to his children - just that there is no way to keep up with where or by which company they're covered before the deadlinefor filing is up and I have to pay the whole thing out of pocket!) Did I mention that I really, really don't like my ex?
-After court, you'd think the day would get better, right? Well, I came home, listened to my voice mail and wrote the following email:
Dear Ms. Concerned Teacher – Thank you for your call. I really appreciate it.
Thank you for your message about Chaos' third write-up. He has gone to one write-up work-off day and he will attend as many as he is eligible for. I believe he can go to one of the two sessions offered next week, but not both? Is that correct?
I will say that his father and I were in court this morning (which is why I just now got your message.) I have said very little to Chaos about today’s proceedings, but I have no way of knowing what his father says to him. I try to emphasize that the legal wrangling is just between the adults – and that he is loved and supported by both of his parents even when we, as adults in conflict with each other, have to turn to the court for resolution of our differences. But there is no way of getting around the fact that the process is stressful and Chaos has been sensitive to family stress to a very significant degree since he was a tiny baby – much more noticeably so than any of his siblings. Please, I want you to be sure that I am in NO WAY excusing his disruptive behavior and I’m working with him to find positive, acceptable outlets for stress – but I also think it’s important that you know what else is going on for him. Also, just so you know, today’s proceedings have been continued and we will be back in court on December 14. I hope very much to have Chaos working with a counselor before then. I will do everything I can to stop this pattern and help him start a new one.
Thank you for your call. I really appreciate it.
-After that, you'd think the day would get better, right? Well, then I got another call. This time from Mayhem's teacher. Apparently Mayhem has been more scattered than usual. Apparently his disorganization is reaching alarming proportions. Apparently if he does not change something soon, it will catch up to him. Apparently if it does catch up to him, it will shake him viciously back and forth and possibly snap his spine because that is what Ms. Very Worried Teacher's tone of voice would indicate. Now, I have to say that I did not initially share her conviction of imminent doom for Mayhem. After all, I have heard a lot about my son's disorganization over the years. It is cyclical and we do have to someday find something that works for more than a week and a half - but really? Yesterday afternoon? I was about at the end of my cope-with-more-shit-ability. Then Ms. Very Worried Teacher asked if I had seen the Wednesday folder. Yes. "Well then," she said, "you can see by the many papers with reduced-for-lateness grades how this situation is affecting his averages. And that doesn't even take into account the grades you don't see, because he turned NOTHING in and so I have nothing to return to you. I just wanted to make sure you were aware of this problem." I then had to admit to her that I couldn't find the "reduced-for-lateness grades" she was talking about. I had about four papers from his folder in my hand and ominously - NOT A SINGLE ONE was from Ms. Very Worried Teacher's class - a fact I had not even sort of noticed the day before when apparently all I was good for was dithering about what to wear to court. I thanked her for taking the time to call me. I really appreciated it. I would be sure to talk to Mayhem not only about the fact that he was editing what I was seeing, but also about organizational systems to help him complete and turn in his work on time. And? Just between you and me - Mayhem's imminent doom? MUCH closer after that phone call.
-After that? Well, I made supper on auto-pilot and then pretty much had a meltdown about what a bad mommy I must be. Look how stressed out my kids are when I thought I was doing a pretty good job this week! Think about how if it was this bad on a day I was pretty sure was only going to be a continuance, then how bad is it going to be on December 14th, the week before middle school semester exams and oh, by the way, right before Christmas when everyone in the country (not just in my house) is going to be stressed to the gills?!!
And blah, blah, bad mommy-ness, blah, blah, didn't notice, blah, blah, can't afford, blah, blah, BLAH!
When I say meltdown - that's exactly what it felt like. I felt melted and down. Soggy and low. I cried and cried. I ate all those guilt cookies and swished them down with a final chaser of bad mommy-ness because I was simply waaaay too worn out to go to the Princessa's chorus concert last night.
Peace, peace, peace.