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If you think this is about YOU, maybe you should go reconcile with your parent and work to get back your kids instead of continuing to be a jerk. If you think I am you, or similar to you, welcome! :-)

Friday, July 15, 2011

The IRS, Noncomments and Other Answers

It seems I've hit a talkative time. 

I wish people wouldn't fear that their adult children are going to pop out from under a rock and cause more problems or steal the custodial grandchildren. I well understand it, though. So, I'm not going to harp and say "Please follow me via Google" when I know what it takes some days to go out into daylight, court order or no court order.

My personal Battle of the Bulge? I'm working on it. It's about a pound a week. I am getting more exercise. I got into a pair of jeans that haven't fit for over 9 months. 

Sorry there were a few of you who felt my entry on the intercession of saints is somehow demonic. One Lutheran lady was nice enough to tell me about the festival days the Lutherans have in honor of certain saints, so that was a plus. 

And I am well aware that Adam and Eve were evicted from the Garden of Eden, AKA Paradise. That's why I said the suburbs of Paradise. I figured they hadn't gotten the riding animals or making handcarts or any of that worked out, what with figuring out farming and birthing then raising Cain and Abel, and were probably farming the region outside the gates. Why else would God post angels with fiery swords? No, I don't think Adam and Eve are in Hell.

Yes Gunny, I can see the resemblance, but I don't think my ex-husband is Cain still walking the earth. He was an airdale in the Navy, and that might have something to do with it. ;-) Just kidding, Navy Air! :-) 

For the Catholic lady who responded, yes, indeed, I have Masses said for Madame, my son-in-law and my grandson. They are remembered in our family prayers. I have a couple convents and a monastery praying for them as well. I try to offer up whatever pain I'm caused by this for their salvation and eventual restoration of the family bond. But I am leery of total consecrations to Our Lady of people who aren't very cooperative with graces. As the old saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, but you can't drag them kicking and whinnying to confession.

Mac, you are not the first person to have trouble with the IRS in regards to a related adoption. We are fighting this very same argument right now. The law, which you will find in Publication 17, as well as the instructions for form 8839, clearly states adoption of a SPOUSE'S CHILD, not a grandchild. Right, now the IRS is grasping at straws, any way it can to make a buck. I'm skipping the resolution center in Holtsville and taking all my stuff to tax court. So far, I've managed to settle the Mister's mileage to my satisfaction there. I think perhaps the court would love to know that the IRS thinks it can bamboozle grandparents into not claiming the adoption credit.

My friend: What a nice surprise after all these years! I'm sorry you're going through something similar. Yes, it does help to have the support of a good husband. Please don't be a stranger, and it was very clever of you to figure out I was the one writing this.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recycling an Old Custom- Friends in High Places

I have a group of readers who follow me, but don't want anybody to know it. We communicate via email through this blog. They are trying to protect the grandchildren living with them. They are so frightened their errant adult children will find them, they won't even use a screenname.

Some are petrified their adult children will find them. They didn't steal the grandchildren from the parent. But some of these adult children behave, well, like children, at best. 

The abuse is out there, the bullying, the nastiness, the false calls to social services, the drunken phone calls, the attempts at extortion, the pounding on the door in the middle of the night. These behaviors have forced grandparents to make a decision to chose the safety and stability of the grandchildren and themselves over contact with their children, the children they still love but who need to get their own lives together before they can interact with their children. It does come to that point too often, and if there is no order for visitation, it can be time to put physical distance between the adult child and the rest of the family. It hurts terribly, but it has to be done.

I'm not advocating violating court orders for parental visitation. The mess THAT can make, no thinking grandparent with custody wants! But those of you who have never had a drunken adult child pounding on your door at 2 AM seeking visitation with the grandkids at that hour, well, I've never known of a court to grant visitation starting at 2 AM, and a call to the police gets everybody out of bed who was not previously roused by the pounding of the drunken one.

This can cause a retread parent to get lonely, to think about what might have been, to second-guess himself or herself. There is also the ever-present thought of the adult child's safety, wishing and hoping that they will try to get out of whatever it is that is causing them to be what they presently are. Perhaps out there, there is that one counselor, that one clergyperson, that one law enforcement officer, who can reach out and make a difference in the life of that one wayward adult child. 

There is some anger over losing that lofty position of grandparent, and being regulated back into harness as parent, for all the love they bear their grandchildren. It's no fun to be the enforcer of "yucky" vegetables, late homework and TV supervision, all over again, when Grandma wants to bake cookies and Grandpa wants to go fishing.

There are people out there who will listen, for free, even if there are no social services in your area. They will pray for you, as well. If you are of a mind that you can't speak to them, well, at least look to their lives as examples, and remember that while this grandparent-raising-grandchildren phenomena is big in the US now, there have always been adult children for whom home training didn't seem to take, and grandchildren who needed to be raised. 

I realize some of my readers are not Catholic, but bear with me while I endorse the intercession of the saints. There are many Protestant preachers who claim we Catholics worship them. We don't. They claim we are necromancing, or talking with the dead. The problem with this thought: If we believe a Christian has made it to Heaven, then he or she isn't dead, just relocated. They might not have an earthly body, but they just as alive as we are. Now then, if you can ask your Bible study people or the people on your prayer chain to pray for you, then doesn't it stand to reason that you can ask some folks in Heaven who have been there and done that to do the very same thing? And yes, we have pictures of them, and statues. You have no photos of your grandkids, your spouse, your friends?

In any event, the lives of these people, upon investigation, have been shown to be holy. So, you have some good examples. And in the case of the saints I'll share with you here, they had more than their fair share of adult kid problems, or thought they did. I've also included a couple Old Testament folks who also had their problems with adult kids.

  • ADAM AND EVE- You forget about Cain and Abel. Bad enough to have the horror of losing the best.kid.ever. You and I both both know that having more children might bring comfort, but it doesn't replace any one child. Then there's the matter of having one son kill the other. Not a happy day in the suburbs of Paradise!
  • KING DAVID- He admittedly made his own problems with all the wives, the Bathsheba Affair, etc. But O Absalom!
  • THE MOTHER OF THE "SONS OF THUNDER"- Maybe not the worst adult children, but oh how they argued!
  • Ss. ANNE AND JOACHIM- Parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Catholic Church lists them as patrons of grandparents. Yes, it was a joy to be the grandparents of Jesus! And no, they didn't have to raise him. But we are told they raised Mary to be sweet and pure. We can only imagine what went on in their heads when Our Lady turned out to be in a family way and not quite married.
  • ST. MONICA- Mother of St. Augustine, who, in his younger years, was not always saintly. It's rumored he had at least one child out of wedlock, and seemed to spend his young adult years bent on aggravating poor Monica. Apparently, there were no grandchildren to raise, because she decided to be his conscience and follow him wherever he went to be away from her. The last place turned out to be Milan, where Augie converted. Also a good saint for those of African descent, as Monica and Augustine came from North Africa.
  • ST. AMBROSE- The bishop who converted Augustine, and Monica's spiritual adviser. So good he deserves TWO links!
  • ST. HELEN- While not having any records of being a grandparent in distress, her husband divorced her after a couple decades of marriage for the Roman equivalent of a Trophy Wife. Her son later became Emperor Constantine, who took her into the palace, and treated her as royalty. Point, match, game!
  • ST. MARGARET OF CORTONA- Margaret took up with a man, became his mistress, had his child, and lived with him for years. When her lover was murdered, Margaret took up a life of penance. It's nice to know people can change.
  • ST. ELIZABETH SETON- Her mother died when she was 3. Her husband died in a foreign country. Two of her daughters died during her life. And her sons aggravated the ever-living stuffings out of her! The boys, who were actually grown men, quit jobs she worked very hard to find them, but didn't take up further employment. They preferred instead to cause her to have money issues! It took her death and no doubt bending God's ear in person to make those boys get back in shape!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Quilt- Part II

The quilt was just as I left it, even had a threaded needle working around one of the hearts that decorate it. It was a little musty, but a good airing on a bright, windy May day helped that substantially. Spray fabric freshener took care of the rest. 

I spread it out on my bed, the only place that could accommodate it without the cat rolling in it, or everybody walking on it.  Other than being a little wrinkled, it was still in good shape. It's hard for bugs and moisture to penetrate those Rubbermaid containers!

Spring can really hang you up the most, as the song goes. It just brings to mind all sorts of good resolutions, I think more than New Years Day. It's the loss of the snow, the blooming of the perennials, the sudden warmth, the smell of the soil as it loosens and dampens. Suddenly, a person is losing weight and planting herbs and OH MY GOODNESS let's finish this quilt! 

That was my intention that beautiful May day, to finish the quilt. I would get it ready for Christmas. I would send it to Madame's ersatz sister-in-law's address, as I have no permanent address for Madame. And even if she took a pair of little pointy embroidery scissors to it and yanked out every thread; even if she took a huge pair of pinking shears to it and cut it into scraps; even if she ripped it apart with her bare hands, destroying my hard work over a 13 year period, on and off; even then, I could at least express that while I don't agree with her, I love her, more than she will ever realize.

Spring can really hang you up. 

The quilt is back in a container, this one bigger to accommodate the size of it, so it doesn't wrinkle so much. I did get the back on it, so none of the batting is exposed. I finished that heart I'd stopped awhile back, and several others, and am on a new heart, when I can resume it.

The kids looked at it. Belle said, "It's a very pretty quilt" and left it at that. Baby was more adamant. "Why are you working on a quilt this nice for somebody who seems to hate your guts?" The Mister held his tongue, for like Belle, he avoids unnecessary confrontation, only when it is necessary, and then stand back.

I worked on the quilt, here and there, as I had time. I have a little more time now; not much, but some more time. The kids are older. May and part of June were idyllic, very restful, no running to meet deadlines for classes of various varieties. I once spent a good part of a Monday while the Mister taught a seminar, double-checking the construction, making sure nothing was loose or sloppy, then stitching around the hearts, all by hand.

That was a couple weeks ago. That was before I found out Madame had finally married her live-in boyfriend. That part was OK. If it had only been the marriage,I would have continued working on the quilt, and in fact started a new one for the happy couple. Despite my better judgment, I actually hold no grudges (at present) against my new son-in-law. I don't know him, how can I? 

It was, in my searches to check on Madame and guard these children against any action, that I discovered she is now "friends" with my ex-husband and his sister, her biological father and aunt. If he had been more of a father to her, instead of the man declared unfit by a court, I might actually be happy for both of them. If his sister had not been the woman who suggested I have abortions of both my elder children as a sound financial move, and who trashed me to a good friend, I might again be happy for them.

But when I think of the times I made personal sacrifices for Madame and her brother, sometimes based on basic physical needs, because Biodad hadn't paid child support but drove a new car and had a new house- Nope, can't do it. When I think of the phone call where he suggested phone sex only a year or so after the marriage to his present wife, with my then boyfriend in the room- Nope, can't bring myself that far. When I think of the lies he spread about me, not only to his family, but to our biological son- Nope, can't do it. When I think of the nasty letter his sister wrote my husband, threatening criminal action which she claimed was based on a phone call to the Cook County State Attorney's Office (Well, she claimed the "Chicago district attorney"), that I later found to be completely false and caused the CCSAO to investigate his own office- Nope, can't do that one, either.

Maybe Madame is lonely for extended family of her own and trying to create some, maybe for her child, without having to go through the hassle of the amends necessary for her to be trusted enough here. I don't know. I know she has a very short memory about the man who went to all her basketball games in middle school, the man who paid for Catholic school, the man who insisted we buy her 3 cars over time, the man who was there for her, the Mister. I don't see how she could choose poor grade horse meat when she has Filet Mignon here. Nothing I can do, I just don't know.

I'm working on Belle's quilt right now, the one I started from her receiving blankets and bibs. She's growing up, not just physically, but emotionally. We have our little moments, but by and large, she is, once again, not nearly as hard to raise as Madame was. Baby's quilt in the same format is there, as well. 

But Madame's quilt sits in a container in the garage, and will for some time.

The Quilt- Part I

I have in my possession a quilt, as yet unfinished. I started it a couple months before my eldest daughter's 20th birthday. She was in the military. It hadn't been an easy time for her, that year. Everything seemed to be a real challenge after flunking out of college. There were drinking issues the Mister and I hoped had stopped because of the new environment. I wanted her to be able to wrap home around her. 

It's various shades of purple: Soft lilacs, almost pinks, bright fuscias, darker violets, with touches of greens, tans and whites here and there. Purple used to be her favorite color. There are squares from her college friends, squares from relatives, all wishing her well for her 20th  birthday. It's BIG, comforter-sized for at least a queen, if not king, bed (I don't measure, I just wing it). Four large rectangles hold the smaller squares, 2 with a flocked white on ecru, and two with very bold yet homey purple calico. There are also hearts in all those various shades of purple. Some of the hearts are embroidered around the outside. I wanted it BIG, because my love for her was even bigger than the quilt.  

As her 20th birthday fast approached, I knew it wasn't going to be finished. I copied the squares from family and her friends in color, and sent those, along with a heartfelt note and some good books. I hoped to have it finished in six months, if not by her 21st birthday. It filled a place in my off-work hours.

By September of that year, I was informed via email that Madame was pregnant, and not sure what she planned to do about it. By Thanksgiving, I was entertaining family and a new son-in-law at the casual "generic" reception the couple requested, complete with hand-embroidered sweatshirts stating Bride and Groom. Madame requested we use the rest of the money we'd saved for a wedding for her to ship her stuff to her next duty station (It wasn't much- she didn't give us enough time). By the spring, I was grandmother to Belle, and the phone calls came every 15 minutes. By the next year, there had been 2 long-distance arguments, at least a month of the Silent Treatment and no contact with Belle, 3 lies regarding needing a loan from us, calls about baby-sitters, numerous calls about the in-laws who also lived at their duty station interfering in her life, a 6-month deployment by the son-in-law, and Baby was on the way.

They came to live with us by the next August, bringing along with them the new van they couldn't afford. Baby came home to our house. SIL left to go back on his ship, and they divorced. I've been caring for Belle and Baby ever since, first to help Madame get through college, then because Madame abdicated parenthood, along with treating her bipolar disorder through her own self-devised methods. 

I never stopped loving her. I never forgot about the quilt. I just didn't have a moment to spare. The year the Mister got so ill took up months of my time, and the children's time. We had a schedule to keep between the hospital, school, working with doctors and just making ourselves rest from the exhaustion having a critically ill spouse and parent entails. We moved, and all that entailed. We became more interactive in the kids' education. There was no time.

I brought too much stuff when we moved. We are talking a few walls of Rubbermaid containers, those big buckets that say they hold 18 gallons, and which can hold about 70 pounds of junk. So I have been going through them, one at a time, looking for junk.

And there was the quilt.       

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Recycling An Old Recession

People over 50 have lived awhile. They aren't old, mind you, but they've been there a couple times, for a couple decades, and have picked up a few things along the way. 

One of those things happens to be recessionary behaviors. 

When some of us were younger, going to college, getting married and starting families, there was a recession. Another President of the United States gave the people no comfort,and another Congress voted laws they seemed to think would help, but caused problems in the long run. Inflation was rampant, and if you were lucky enough to obtain a 15% mortgage, you had a golden credit report.

Textbooks were expensive back then, things haven't changed that much. Feeding small children nutritionally well on a budget is still a challenge. Gas might not have been as expensive, but store owners rationed it so people wouldn't buy it up, and the price rose significantly in comparison.

How did people survive in the 1970s to live to tell about it? Let's recycle some old ideas from the 1970s and see if they still work:
  • HANG ONTO YOUR MONEY. Sounds simple, doesn't it? But if you're in a pinch, don't spend your money unless you must!  This applies especially to grandparents who suddenly find themselves with 3 or 4 small children on the front doorstep. With all the pain, you're going to be tempted to ease it through meals out, trips to amusements, and "little" things to help the kids out of their blues over their parents. You're going to need that money down the road. If you haven't learned how yet, teach yourself some self-discipline and just wait. Your grandkids need your time and attention, anyway, more than they need your wallet right now. You'll be happy you did when your attorney tells you his or her retainer.
  • BUDGET. A budget is NOT a corset from the 19th century designed to cut off your fiscal circulation! It's a plan on how to spend your money to your best advantage. All you have to do is figure out where each dollar has to go, and when, then follow through, first of the month, every month. There is no law against making adjustments as needed. 
  • YES, AN IRREGULAR INCOME CAN HAVE A BUDGET. Have an income that doesn't always come in you need it? Dave Ramsey says to have an emergency fund, and to still make up that budget. He also suggest starting your budget with the basics of housing, BASIC utilities (lights, natural gas, water, sewage- not cable, Internet and multiple cell phones) and food. He then suggest to decide the most important item to pay after those are  paid, working down the budget one item at a time. 
  • LOOK FOR HIDDEN COSTS AND SEE IF IT'S REALLY A BARGAIN. A lot of young people like rental centers. They get pretty furniture for which they only pay a little a week, along with appliances and computers. Their friends pay them compliments. Their friends don't see the payment that comes every week. Their friends don't see the fear when the really good job becomes a layoff, or a new mouth to feed adds an expense. Nobody pays attention to the fact that rental centers make all those goodies cost 300% more than what they are actually worth. It's a temptation to use rental centers to purchase long-term items needed in a hurry such as bed for the grandkids. Don't. There's no sin in sleeping on the couch or fold-out for a few weeks, or even months, until a better purchase can be made.    
  • IS THE BEST REALLY THE BEST BUY? IS THE ECONOMY ITEM REALLY AN ECONOMY? For food, simply divide the price by the number of servings or ounces in the product (Take a calculator to the store, or use the one on your cell phone). Don't buy food you can't store correctly, or that nobody likes. As for all other items, it might interest you to know that truly rich people don't buy all new, all the time. They buy used, but look for good shape and a brand name with a good reputation. 
  • IT'S A BAD TIME FOR CREDIT CARDS, LET ALONE PAYDAY LOAN STORES AND TITLE LOANS. Credit card companies are bad enough, with their cubicled collectors and representatives waiting to pounce on you like wild animals in the zoo. They seem tame enough but watch it when they are allowed out of their cages! As for payday and title loans- I didn't think much about it until somebody with our information, somebody who looked A LOT like me helped herself to a payday loan she didn't pay. Yes, that's identity theft and fraud. It took an attorney to convince the payday loan collector, who was one of the most obnoxious people I've ever met. As I investigated, I discovered these loans have an interest rate of 300-500% on average. Title loans have you paying car payments all over again, same high interest rates, and if you don't pay, I'm told they WILL take your car. Stay away from all credit right now. It's a bad time.     
  • PAYING CASH HAS ITS ADVANTAGES. Walk into the store with a credit card, or sign up for the easy 48 month payment plan. Hidden charges, not-so-hidden charges- They will follow you home and haunt you for months upon months. Walk into a store with cash. You have bargaining power! The store will not have to chase you should you not pay your monthly debt. If a store will not negotiate prices for cash customers, walk away and find another store. It's a ripoff joint.  
  • LOOK FOR NUTRITIONALLY DENSE FOODS WITH A LOWER COST THAT ARE GOOD FOR THE ENTIRE HOUSEHOLD. Bananas come to mind first. The only people I can't think could use a good banana are dialysis patients and others with poor kidney ability. High fiber, high vitamins and minerals, low cost, often on sale for 33-39 cents a pound around here. There are other foods. Whole grains. Legumes. Popcorn. Brown rice. BEEF (yes, beef). Get out there, investigate, and see what works for your family.
  • YOUR PERSONAL RECESSION MIGHT BE DURING AN ECONOMIC BOOM. One of our worst times came during 2005-2008, when everybody else was having a lovely time out there, financially. Hard times don't have to be during federal hard times. Like the scouts, be prepared! 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

One Way to Find Out, I Guess

Belle is old enough for social networking, and that means more vigilance on the parental front, not less. I don't want people suddenly popping into her life and announcing themselves. The teen years are hard enough without biological parents and other as-yet unknown relatives popping out of cyberspace and onto Facebook.

This brought me to a discovery today. Belle's biological mother, my eldest daughter, finally married her longtime boyfriend and the father of one of my grandsons last week. I can't imagine why it took over two years for her to go to her county courthouse, but at $27 for the license and a judge who does marriages for free as a collateral duty, it certainly couldn't have been saving money for a big wedding.

Social networking is good that way. There was a Facebook event announcement, not invitations, so I certainly don't feel slighted on that score. 

I did not like discovering that she has decided to "friend" my ex-husband's sister. Normally, I am all for family. Not these two.

I won't go into why I finally pursued a divorce from my ex-husband, except to say he did not pay a paltry amount in child support for years. He also felt he should be able to simply show up whenever he felt like having visitation, which was hardly ever. Even after the Mister adopted the older kids, this person still hadn't paid support, even making good money in the semiconductor industry and owning a very nice motorcycle. He claims on his Classmates he has no children, only dogs he counts as children. How he intends to explain away a 30-something year old daughter should be a good trick.

But his sister, Mrs. Pro-Choice! During my tenure as Mrs. Ex, this woman strongly urged that I abort my children, despite the fact that I was lawfully married to her brother when I was pregnant. By giving up my unborn children, I would have a better financial position. To every person she has ever encountered, she has disparaged me. I know because she made the mistake of tearing me down to a dear friend she didn't know knew me (who didn't tell me for years).

It is one thing for my eldest to go off into a marriage, bipolar and untamed alcoholism notwithstanding. It's another thing entirely for my eldest to contact these people. I won't stand for another bullying cycle. I won't let Belle and her siblings be hurt. We're considering moving out of state to keep anybody from finding out where we live, even though the adoption of the kids here has been legal for quite some time.

So, yes, I hurt. And I am wary at this point. But I think I'll be OK as long as my kids here are OK.