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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! :-)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Questions and Answers- On a personal note

Q: You don't seem to like your ex-husband, yet you were once married to him.

A: No I don't, not that it's any of your business. And he doesn't like me either. When one calls on a person to honor the vows he made, and he does not, repeatedly, then lies about one's own participation in the matter, one is not required to like that person. Would you like to talk to his other ex-wife or ex-girlfriends? I think they'd agree with me.  

Question and Answer Time- Goverment Goodies

Q: If you are a conservative, why do you push food stamps and welfare? If you can't afford kids, you shouldn't have them.

A: Because it is there, and it can mean the difference between eating beans and rice three times a day, or worse, such as flour gruel; and vegetables and other proteins. Because kids are accident prone, and need insurance, and too many companies won't let Grandma and Grandpa get them some. Because Grandpa's pension doesn't always have enough money to buy the grandbabies school clothes and supplies.

These are not planned children in the household of their parents. These are children who for one reason or another can't cannot live with their own parents, either parent. Their grandparents might need a helping hand until they can figure this out. They are saving the taxpayers as well as state and federal agencies millions of dollars in foster care money in the long run.

There are some states where the law and procedure dictate that grandparents MUST apply for TANF, food stamps and some form of Medicaid/ Kid Care for the grandchildren of whom they have custody. It is mandatory because then the child support system of that state attempts to collect child support for the grandchildren. There the grandparents have no choice. If they want custody, they must do as their state bids them to do. I'm not saying it works, as from my own experience, I know it doesn't. I'm saying it's sometimes required to get anywhere with child support.

These grandparents or other family members are not Lulubelles and Juniors trying to get what they can out of the System, then starving the kids and sending them out half-naked. The Lulubelles and Juniors no longer have custody, nor do their spouses or significant others. Grandma, Grandpa, or even Aunt and Uncle, suddenly have the responsibility of a child, or a group of children.

I recommend such grandparents who are raising grandkids take help from all the sources that can help them, if they need it. This would include local food pantries, clothes closets, churches, Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul Societies, and other private charities, along with the local public schools and anybody else who sees fit to assist them fairly and equitably. 

The government funds in question don't go to Grandma and Grandpa. They go to the kids. Legally, the guardian of the child or children is known as a representative payee or RPY. Grandma and Grandpa have to account for those funds, either through the government agency from which they collect the money and goods, or to the court that has jurisdiction over the grandchildren. It is tighter scrutiny than simply being a custodial parent. When the Mister and I were guardians, we had to bring report cards, and the children themselves, to court once a year, so the judge could see they were well-fed and not abused, as well as an accounting of every dime we spent on them.   

One of the things I will do if I ever win the lottery is set up an organization that gives grants to grandparents raising grandkids, for everything from emergency beds to reasonable vacations. Until that time comes- and it's not likely, as I don't play the lottery on a consistent basis, which means twice a year or less- I recommend grandparents raising grandkids utilize all possible resources available to them, in an effort to keep their precious grandchildren from harm.   

Question and Answer Time- Relationship with Adult Child Extended Family

Q: Why can't you see having more people love a child is the best way to raise them? All you want to teach them is to hate. 

A: I never said children shouldn't have as many concerned, loving extended family members as possible. But somebody has to be in charge of the child's daily life. There has to be a boss. The boss sets the rules, and has the authority to act in the child's best interest. Raising children by consensus, where a bunch of adults have input on how the child is raised? Not only is that time-consuming, while waiting on everybody to cast his or her vote, but the paradigm for it requires adults who can put aside their own feelings for the good of the child. 

I'm not saying it can't happen. I've seen two couples pull it off in the thousands I've seen divorce and remarry. I just say it's not likely to happen.

As I've previously stated, having custody of grandchildren is not the same as the aftermath of a divorce. There are a very few similar situations, but by-and-large, divorce is not a helpful comparison to grandparents raising grandchildren.

Grandchildren don't live with grandparents because the grandparents and the adult child don't love each other any more, to the point where there is a separation. This isn't about adultery, or coming out of the closet to be gay and therefore not having a marital relationship with the opposite gender, or because a spouse has substance abuse problems he or she won't treat, or even falling out of love. 

The structure of the grandparent/parent/ adult child/ grandchildren paradigm is completely different. Two adult children chose to do things in life that caused both of them to lose custody of their children. When the kids live with Grams and Granps, it isn't about custody of one parent or the other. BOTH parents did something so radical that the children can't live with either one of them any more. 

It is usually not the grandparents who have a choice in whether the parents visit, in any event. It's the court that has jurisdiction over the grandchildren that decides these things.

As for the others, the extended family? That's up to the grandparents with custody. There are some states that permit certain family members to go to court and ask for court-ordered visitation. There are other states that have laws that the custodian, whoever that person is, decides what's best and who can see the kids. Visitation rights are a separate issue from custodial rights.

Question and Answer Time- the Debt Collectors, Redux

Q: Your recent posts on debt collectors is just wrong! You know they are all out to screw people, and yet you gave them not only your daughter's and son's names, but their friends' names. That's illegal! I hope she sues you, you b@#$%.

A: The ball of the burden of proof is in your court on that one! It is not illegal to cooperate with the location of an individual in the process of a debt collection agency trying to collect a debt.  She owes them money, lots of it. She either needs to pay up, or she needs to declare bankruptcy; in any event, she listed the Mister's cell phone number as recently as this year on forms. As she hasn't spoken to us in over six years, don't you think it's at least unethical to list either of us as a reference or contact? We get calls all the time for both Lulubelle and Sonny from their creditors, and we get calls from various companies claiming we've bought stuff on time from them despite having our credit reports frozen and tagged. This happened as recently as last week. 

If you are one of my adult daughter's friends, perhaps you should think twice about that close contact with her. Maybe you should advise her to work out a debt payment plan with her creditors. Maybe you could suggest she get a job commensurate with her education and skills, the education and skills she chose, so she can make more money and pay her bills. We offered her and her present husband Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University classes. She never replied, except to be nasty. Maybe your efforts should be to remind her that, despite her recent status as a Christian, Christians are expected not to steal anything, or covet either, even from their parents.   

Question and Answer Time

Q: I liked your post on Indian rights. Do you know any lawyers in Oklahoma?

A: No, I sure don't, but I bet there are plenty of reliable ones out there. I googled "attorneys oklahoma indian child welfare" and got all of these

Hire an attorney based on your and your grandchildren's needs. For more information on how to hire an attorney, look here

(Note: Some readers thought my answers were actually too brief. So, I'm editing the original post into several posts, for easier reading.-DRG) 

Question and Answer Time- Parental Facts & Choosing a Therapist

Q: Our grandchild's therapist recommended that we only portray our son and his ex-girlfriend in a good light, and never say anything bad about them. Our granddaughter is ten. She never met her mother except as a baby, and my son has only been to see her twice since we got her at 18 months. Why don't you say nice things about your daughter and son-in-law?

A: If your granddaughter's therapist is not court-ordered, I'd arrange for another one.  He or she isn't explaining what you need to know, such as, what defines "portray in a good light" for the therapist. 

I think there are too many therapists who equate grandparents raising grandchildren with parents who divorce. There are also attorneys, child welfare case workers, and a host of other experts who see things this way. The truth of the matter is, it is not. The laws are different, especially financial support issues. The case law, or how the law is interpreted through the courts, is MUCH different. The circumstances are different.

But too many therapists think of grandparents as custodial parents, and treat them as such. We are not the same. So, therapy skills for grandchildren living with grandparents should not be the same.

I don't believe absent parents who abandon children to run off and use drugs, etc., should be placed in the same light as absent parents who are serving their country or fellow man in some far-off land, either as military or missionaries (Doctors Without Borders comes to mind). The odds are with us that those parents are doing something noble, and will be back to collect their offspring one day. Even a parent who's pulled his or her head out of the dark tunnel and goes back to school- really goes back, not just goes to do more drugs, alcohol, etc.- deserves recognition for that. 

Kids are not stupid. Are Mom and/ or Dad doing something wonderful? They are not. Are they coming back? Odds are good that they are not. 

There are some therapists who feel that if the child is told the parents are alcoholics, made the choice to stay away to be with a boy/girlfriend, in prison, etc., that somehow the child is going to think he or she is a loser, too. That's just nonsense in most cases. The kid who is in a secure, loving environment knows better. There are some who go as far as to suggest that the grandparents buy birthday and Christmas presents for the child and put the absent parents' names on those.  This is nonsense as well. 

Our children's therapists do not suggest this at all. There have been three actual therapists at different times due to work conflicts and life in general. None of them have ever said that. They said to try not to be negative about the parents, if at all possible. They said don't bring up either parent until the child brings it up. They said keep the explanation on the child's level of understanding, and a lot of details were not necessary. They said to be honest, don't sugar-coat it, but don't make it worse than it is. They said to make it clear that the child is not the parents, that we are here to take care of them, and they will never be harmed or neglected again. They said children have their own feelings, and are allowed to have them, and express them in healthy, appropriate ways.        

I mention my adult daughter and ex-son-in-law here because my reading audience is adults. What we discuss here isn't mentioned in our home. At home, with the children, we say as little as possible about either one of them unless one of the children brings it up, and then we tell them truth if they are old enough to digest it, or ask questions and tell them as much as they are able to handle, per our children's therapists. It is on the children's timetable, as they see fit.

Getting a good therapist, when the grandparent has the resources or is allowed the choice, is no harder than choosing a good attorney. It's an interview process. You go in to see the therapist at an initial appointment, even if it cost some money. You have a summary of the problems, and the solutions you seek. You ask up front how much experience the therapist has with the issue of grandparents raising grandchildren. You ACTIVELY LISTEN to the prospective therapist's answers. You ask about prices and how insurance is billed. This person is working for you and your grandchildren, and will be compensated. You personally don't take any MMPI or other written test at this point. This isn't about you (get your own therapist if you need one). You do NOT bring the grandchildren!!!!! This is important. GET A SITTER IF YOU HAVE TO DO SO. 

You compare the answers you receive with what you've researched about grandparents raising grandchildren. If you don't think you, the grandchildren and the therapist are a good fit, you move on to another therapist.

And don't think for one minute you can be the therapist for the grandchildren! You are too emotionally staked in this. Your family is too staked in this. You also need an independent party when you go to court, an expert, not Aunt Martha who was a social worker before she retired to run the bingo parlor.    

(Note: Some readers thought my answers were actually too brief. So, I'm editing the original post into several posts, for easier reading.-DRG)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Question and Answer Time- Why Adopt Them

Some questioner grammar, punctuation and spelling might have been corrected. 

Q: Why did you adopt your grandchildren? Don't you think that maybe some day your daughter will get her life in order, and want them back? I think it is cruel of you to adopt them! They need their real mother, not some old woman. You hurt your family, and those kids, by taking them away from the one person who really loves them. 

A: Let's pretend you aren't either a young mother who loves her baby very much, or a parent who has lost a child through some circumstance. Your emotion is showing, my dear. 

Is it fair to make a child wait for the day when either parent decides to parent them? What about after the child has lived with Grandma for a year? Two years? Five years? How long are these children supposed to wait for Mom and/ or Dad to get things together? 

What if it never happens? What if it happens when they are old enough to baby-sit for new, younger siblings Mom or Dad just had, or to do a good job on housework? Are these kids then supposed to give up the home they know, the school, the familiar, simply on the whims of their parents? 

First relational DNA is not always the strongest indicator of whom can successfully raise a child. And you know nothing of my real age or how strong I am or not. I bet I can outwalk you in distance and speed, and a year from now, I bet I can outlift you. Age has nothing to do with nurture, and I have maturity on my side, to boot. Even if I were disabled, I love these children and have been judged by a court to be a fit parent, as has the Mister.

The foster care system in this country is broke, both financially and in its paradigm of care. The child welfare in this country is broke, both financially and in its paradigm of care. Google the name of your state's child welfare program. Be it CPS or DCFS or CWH or OCS or CFS, you'll get stories on lack of funds, overworked case workers, and newspaper headlines where either parents were wrongfully accused, or the call was made to leave children where they were with tragic results.Case workers are only by a small percentage actual social workers, degree in social work and licensed by the state in which they work. And even those are worked so hard, it's a wonder they have time for themselves and their own families. 

My former state, Illinois, at one point had case workers set up their own form of answering machine or voice mail service. That means each case worker had to either bring their own answering machine, or get and pay for a number with voicemail.

There are stories everyday of child welfare agencies making not a couple mistakes, but thousands of mistakes in a year on placements. There are even organizations, clubs, who try to make sure foster kids don't have to lug their stuff in plastic garbage bags, what little they have, because these kids aren't given anything by the state. Would you want to expose your children to such a system?

WHY should children be taken from extended family who know them and love them, to live among strangers who may or may not have their best interest at heart? Who don't know their medical histories? Who don't know what side they sleep on at night, or if they like fruit on their cereal, or cheese on their burgers? Who don't know what scares them in the night? 

As it happens, my adult daughter signed away her rights to her older children. She tells anybody who will listen that I stole her children. That is a lie. I suppose it makes her feel better to think that, and to have other people believe that.

I took them from her home, so that she could clean the squalor from the townhouse the Mister and I rented with her so she could have a place to raise her children, children she badly neglected. She couldn't get a place on her own, as her credit was very poor. 

Prior to that, she had instances where she left a 5 year old and 3 year old alone for hours. She threatened to kill them and herself at least twice, locking and chaining the door on the townhouse, if we did not capitulate to her demands for things.

The Mister and I refused to rent her another place to live after six months of her not cleaning the second, smaller place, continued drinking, excessive shopping for her income, and other ranges of unmedicated bipolar behavior, including not maintaining contact with her older children in an appropriate manner. This wasn't done lightly. The apartment complex where she lived actually suggested we hire her a housekeeper who could come in once or twice a week. But I was the one who needed a housekeeper. We helped her move in with a roommate and helped her clean the second apartment.

She then went through a series of roommates who kicked her out for her behavior. One had to call the police on her. It ended with her staying in a single-room only hotel, with a bike from Goodwill as her transportation beyond the public variety. 

She didn't see her kids, wouldn't come to our house to visit us or the kids because she alleged it was "too hard" for her. This meant she was served a meal while we expected her to interact with her children, not sit on her rear-end and watch the SyFi channel.

We did not simply adopt the children, such as adopting a puppy. We had to process through a home study, a physical, a psychological profile, prove we had reasonable finances, have character references. It was a lot of work, but now nobody can take them away on a whim. If our adult daughter and her ex-husband had not signed, we would have had to take them to court and prove them unfit parents. We had sufficient evidence of that, but it would have meant more time and more money thrown at the problem. 

As to how much she loves them- She refused any attempts to be reunited with her older children. She claimed those conditions were too strenuous for her. These were pretty much the same conditions set for her ex-husband, who also signed away his rights to the children, in a courtroom, in front of a judge. He has other children, both with his present wife as well as other women.

You are probably an excellent parent. Please don't put your parenting skills, or your children for that matter, in the same category as my legal children and my adult daughter. This was not what we wanted for our grandchildren, but it is certainly a good choice for them. We are blessed at the outcome, and thank God everyday it turned out this way. It could have been much, much worse for these kids.   

(Note: Some readers thought my answers were actually too brief. So, I'm editing the original post into several posts, for easier reading.-DRG)


Saturday, July 21, 2012

26 feet of unused space...

Last year at this time, we tried to grow things. We had really, really good results with green beans, Kitchen King to be exact. Apparently, wild animals aren't fond of green beans. I gather that from my observations of last year's yard, in a rural (lakefront) setting, where every animal from otter to deer came to munch at my container garden. They didn't eat the green beans. They ate everything else, including the small watermelon two chipmunks carted away. They ate those, and squash, sweet peas, sunflowers, basil, oregano, rosemary, tomatoes and various lettuces. I put down cat hair. I borrowed dog hair. I put down various stinks. Nothing worked. When we moved, I didn't think we would attempt growing food again, sticking to roses, geraniums, marigolds and mums.  

I am not enchanted with the soil, although I am enchanted with convenience. What can be more convenient than walking into one's yard and snagging a piece of fruit or salad fixings? Don't have to walk or drive to the store. Don't have to spend money after the initial investment. Walk out back, pick it, wash it, prepare it, eat it, clean up. 

So it was with great reluctance that I tried again this year. The kids really, really wanted to start seeds again, as we've done for the past two years. What the heck?

The kids were the ones who suggested we try a Topsy Turvy
. They were on sale at CVS in April, so I thought, what the heck, get two. 

Well, the seeds we started didn't turn out as well as could be expected, giving us some scruffy spinach and malformed cucumbers. We did all right on the herbs we already planted. So it was a trip to Walmart and Lowes that produced our starter plants this year. 

It's not a sin in my mind not to be able to grow seed past a certain point. I am not saving my excrement, as I know one member of my extended family has done, to compost; in fact, I am not starting a major composting project. I make a compromise between plant leavings, purchased compost, good old earthworms (buy them at Walmart in sporting goods), Scotts soil, and half of what the bottle of MiracleGro recommends per application. The plants we chose were guaranteed to grow and produce, or my money would cheerfully be refunded. 

I got out the Topsy Turvies, let the kids construct them, stuck two tomato plants in each, and looked for a place to hang them. I checked the garage sofit for possible permanent hooks from past Christmases and the attending lights. No luck. I looked at the fence. No go. I was just about resigned to buying some device to hold the planters, such as a tall shepherd's crock, when I saw it, actually them, two, sitting in my backyard with nothing better to do.

We live in a suburban city in an older home that has been renovated. Walls have been removed, placed elsewhere. Central heat and air have been installed. What was apparently once a back porch is now a combo dining room/ sitting room. 

However, in the back yard is a set of poles designed to hold laundry lines. They appear to be cast iron. They are very well set into the ground with cement. Unless there is an earthquake, they aren't going to be moved any time soon. 

No, I don't hang out my laundry if I can avoid it, except the occasional sheets and blankets in the spring. The money it would save me in the short and long run doesn't compensate me for the time I need to perform the chore. Don't say have the kids do it. It's been tried. It involved even more time spent on supervision. 

The poles happen to have four hooks on either end to catch the clothesline. The hooks also happen to be a great size to catch the end of the Topsy Turvy.

So, we hung them there and waited. WHAM. In a month, we were looking at plants. We added two watermelon plants, along with two bell pepper plants, all in Topsy Turvies. We also stuck a cucumber plant on its last legs. By July, we had the first fruits from every plant except the cucumber, but we weren't expecting that one to make it.

I've been hearing in the news how the drought has been making it hard for things to grow. I've seen, first-hand and on TV, where corn is tassling but there is no ear to grow. Gas prices are already up for transportation of all goods. Prices are already up on produce this year, along with prices on frozen and canned goods.  There are no guarantees who will win various elections, so we can't count on that to change things in the grocery store.

That got me into a long contemplation. That made me reach for a ruler, a tape measure, a calculator, a pen and pencil.

If we raise our own vegetables next year in Topsy Turvies, and if the vegetables actually grow and produce fruit, subtracting the initial expense for more Topsy Turvies, cable or chain to run from each pole; then the annual purchases of soil, compost, fertilizer, seeds and plants; we could still save at least $800 by harvesting fruits and veg from the Topsy Turvy center. If food prices escalate, that $800 could be even more money.

I've already picked up 8 Topsy Turvies from Big Lots, and plan to look at the other Big Lots in my locale for more of them. They are $2.50 each. Do I care if they are last year's model? No. I've found blogs and sites (here, here and here) that also tell how to make a homegrown version of Topsy Turvy. If I can avoid it, I will, as the homemade don't seem to do as well as the real deal. But to fill up the space, it wouldn't hurt to try. 

They'll be more on my experiment next year. For now, we are about to have a bumper crop of tomatoes from four plants, and our watermelons look promising. The pot garden (can't really call it container gardening) produces plenty of leafy stuff, along with two experimental strawberry plants. I've got to get busy with canning jars or some such! 



Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Credit Where Credit Is Due- Part 5 (Skip Tracing)

Back at Part 3, we had information to offer creditors and collection agencies. Some of that information we already had. We had an old phone number for Junior or Lulubelle, the names of a few friends, names of the adult child's other parent and other relatives. Just where did we get all this information to offer?

It's the Age of Information. It's all around each of us. I'm sure you must spend some time each day on the Internet, or you wouldn't be looking at this. 

That doesn't mean the obvious should be ignored. My ex-son-in-law left behind a great deal of personal possessions, which I described here. One of the items he left behind was an address book, the other the directory from his parents' church in their hometown. When people seek to contact him by calling me first, they are supplied with some of these addresses and phone numbers, including the number of the pastor's office and the number of the volunteer fire department where he claimed to be a member of emergency services (he wasn't, exactly, it turns out, more of an emergency services groupie). Sonny came from a small town, with a small population, where he no longer resides. It's pretty easy to upset that quiet little community by letting collection agencies, credit companies, defrauded customers, and even former lovers now with children call around this bedrock small town and mention his name. While they won't always give up one of their own, they certainly know how to contact one of their own, Sonny, and do, when these things happen. 

Sonny really can't blame me. His mother published his location and his employer recently in the church's monthly newsletter. I know this because I keep an eye on that particular church's monthly newsletter. 

Is it stalking? Let's see...NO. Sonny is married to a woman who threw a fit when she found out my adult daughter wasn't dead, because then she couldn't collect social security for my grandchildren; actually said that to my attorney, screamed it, in fact, when he called Sonny to see if he would sign adoption papers. Sonny and his wife have been proven to have committed fraud against people with special needs children. Sonny and his wife forged checks on the old marital joint checking account Sonny held with my adult daughter when they were married- several of which caught him on camera doing the deed. I still get phone calls for creditors looking for Sonny and his present wife. The church publishes this newsletter online to save mailing costs, and doesn't have it locked down for parishioners only. 

It's not stalking. It's prudently keeping an eye on a situation from a distance, in order to ensure that I am at least prepared should I encounter more creditors, or some other interference at the hands of Sonny. If it makes you feel better, how do you think marketing researchers find information about you these days? Your name turned up in a datebase or on a sheet for the product. They go out there and Google their little hearts out trying to find out more about you. It only becomes stalking when the person doing the research starts to threaten or harass the subject in question. I have no desire to stir up trouble. I do desire to stop creditors to whom I owe nothing from calling my house.

My Lulubelle, you will recall, co-rented a storage unit with us, for her things when she went through her homeless and semi-homeless phase. When she didn't pay, I brought the rent up-to-date, cleaned it out of what I wanted (mostly the cream-colored towels and photos of the kids), and informed the storage manager that I wouldn't pay any more. In the unit was an address book, a scrapbook, some other stuff which identified friends and in-laws. It's fairly easy to find her friends, so they too can share the love of creditors.  

It doesn't take a lot of money or a lot of time to find some people. Most people are creatures of habit. They like to be comfortable. They like to stay in the same place, if possible, and if not possible, those related to them tend to stay where they planted themselves 10, 20, 30 years ago. If they went to a particular school, they often join the alumni associations; ditto military service.

And a lot of people are just plain stupid when it comes to participation on online game sites and message boards. They tend to use variants of their names, nicknames, even their actual names. A good example of this is the time my ex-son-in-law disappeared, leaving no alleged trace, and no child support, either. The government couldn't find him, and so couldn't a lot of other people. Boo-hoo-hoo. I found him pretty easily on MySpace. I didn't violate terms of service to find him. He was out there for all the world to see. 

Sometimes, however, all the free stuff doesn't work. Facebook flakes out, Whitepages.com has no record, and Google only turns up idiocy. The answer, then, is two-fold: the Government, and paid searchers.

Intelius, USA-People-search.com, Spokeo, yansi.com, Pipl, 123- they all give some form of information on the person, and can give more for a fee. Sometimes the fee is really ridiculous, and sometimes the fee is really reasonable. I like Intelius, as it gives the names of the people related to the subject at hand. Those related individuals, in turn, can be researched next. Intelius and USA-People-search.com information, however, can be a bit stale.   

Once you have a rough idea where the person went, you can check government databases, right in the comfort of your own living room, to see if there's any trace of the person. Not every county in the country has a web site, and not every county court has its records online; a great many, however, do. Most are free, some require registration.

It's helpful to copy and paste this information into a spreadsheet or document, formatting it later into a letter or some such you can copy as you need to do so, and send it off to the creditor or collection agency when it's rep calls. Remember, don't put your name on it, and certainly don't put your address. These agencies talk to each other, sell information to each other as well, and if you put your address on it, you will soon receive enough dunning letters to repaper the biggest room in your house.        

Why can't the collection agencies and creditors do all this? The people who work for such businesses aren't detectives, and they certainly aren't grandparents with an axe to grind and grandchildren to protect. Most of the employees of such businesses are in it for the short haul, until they get another, real job, or until they pay off whatever it is they've bought that they couldn't afford. And let's face it, it's so much easier to bother you.

Credit Where Credit Is Due- Part 4 (ID Theft)

You might find, to your horror, that it isn't your adult child for whom the phone rings, but you and/ or your spouse. 

I am not immune to this. I was minding my own business in the big-box store, buying groceries while my husband, who was back at work after a horribly long illness and recovery of months, did his thing at one of his client locations, as he was still not cleared to drive the car. My cell phone rang, and there was exceptionally clear cell coverage that day in that particular store! 

"I need to speak with the Mister! It's urgent!"
"Well, this is Mrs. the Mister. May I help you?"

"Yeah." Not "yes" but "yeah." "You owe $1,368.72 to the Dumb Dork Loan Company for a payday loan he received on December 22, 20##. You will pay today!" 

Now, at that time, we had many debt collectors calling not only for our Lulubelle, but for unresolved charges from the hospitalization and treatment, where we still argued with the insurance company as to whom would pay what and how much. But I assure you, as faithful followers of Dave Ramsey, we would never even THINK of getting a payday loan

I told the man on the phone that much. He then proceeded to rip me a new one, accuse me of getting the loan in the Mister's name and the fraud that entailed, told me the Mister would be in jail tonight, and ended his tirade with, "And I'm sending deputies now to arrest him at work right now!"

If I didn't know what I know about the Fair Debt Collections Act, and about civil versus criminal law, even though I am not an attorney, I would probably would have been frightened out of my mind. Instead, I started laughing. 

"You think it's funny I'm going to arrest your husband?" the man demanded belligerently.

"I think it's funny," I retorted, "That, given the nature of his work, you think you know enough about him at this point in time to know his exact location to arrest him!" I knew the law, and I knew this guy was full of it. He couldn't arrest the Mister on a civil charge, and the Mister would've had to have a GPS chip implanted on himself for this doofus to find him, giving a lecture in a hall full of people.

"Well, I am, right now," the man replied, without as much venom.

"Well, you better have the deputies bring a wheelchair, because he can't walk right now. You'll be doing this to a man who's just gotten over a major illness, and is giving a lecture in a hall full of people, all witnesses to false arrest. Oh- And I suppose you should call our attorney, so he can gather together bail and take your name, so he can file charges against you and your company."

"You have an attorney?" he asked, as if surprised that people have attorneys.

"Why yes. I'll give you his name and number, and then you quit bothering me. As it happens, we have an adult daughter, as well as an ex-son-in-law, who seem to delight in not paying their bills, as well as either opening accounts in our names, or selling our information to others, one of the two." I gave him the information, and rung off with, "Don't you ever call me again!" 

Yet the man did call again. Three times. I now had his number, the idiot. The first time, he called me to tell me that my attorney had said it was OK for us to pay the debt. The second time, he called to scream at me because my attorney called him, explained the law to him, and let him know point-blank that he wasn't getting doodly but a lawsuit if the harassment continued. The third time, he just left a string of obscenities on my voicemail. I then called my carrier and got a new phone number immediately.

So, you see, you are not alone in this. This happens to people all over the world, every day. 

Much has been written on ID theft. I'll supply you with links at the end of this post to assist you. 

But, the best advice I can give you now is to get Zander Insurance Identity Protection before your identity is stolen. After your identity is stolen, it's very hard to get the protection this affords. 

My second piece of advice is, as always, if it gets too complicated, or you're ushered into court, hire the best attorney you can afford. Interview at least three attorneys, and go with the person you feel will do the best job. Do NOT use your custody or adoption attorney for this, even if he or she doesn't specialize! Get somebody who knows about ID theft, finance, contract law as it pertains to credit and banks, and possible bankruptcy as a last resort. Do not be suckered into a bankruptcy immediately, by the way. Think before you act.
Creditors cannot arrest you for civil actions, which is what debt collection is. The alternate of this is simply that stealing your identity and using it to commit fraud is indeed a crime, and is punishable.

Visa's rules for ID theft. 

MasterCard's rules for ID theft.

Discover Card's rules for ID theft. 

American Express' rules for ID theft. 

Article on family and friends ID theft.  

How ID theft works. 

More on family ID theft.  

Freezing credit reports.

Dave Ramsey on ID theft:

Each individual jurisdiction has different laws for identity theft, check forgery and the like. If you find you are a victim of identity theft, or somebody commits an act such as forging your signature, go to your local police or sheriff department immediately and file a crime report. Get a copy of the report as soon as possible, and make a bunch of copies. When you are bothered by the calls, send the company or agency a copy of the police report, with a cover letter, return receipt requested.


Credit Where Credit Is Due- Part 3 (Giving Information)

Now then, you may want to help a collection agent in the search for Lulubelle or Junior. There are a few good reasons for doing so:
  • Unless you are dealing with an arrogant son of a gun whose only purpose is to collect the cash at all costs, you can catch more flies with honey than vinegar or poop. Your grandmother said it, your mother said it, you say it now and then. It's just as true today as it was 100 years ago. 
  • It certainly gets this particular agency off your back! This is especially true if, like me, you have a Junior or Lulubelle who's racked up quite a lot of charges with a lot of companies, and now has a lot of collection agencies looking for him or her.
  • If this your adult child's debt, they certainly owe it. If somebody has committed ID theft using your name, I should hope you'd want that person caught, no matter who it is. It IS a crime, and it is punishable by fines, restitution, and/ or imprisonment (more on ID theft in Part 4).  
And some of these agents are just nice people. They sit in a cubicle, day in, day out, earning money at a job (can't really call it a profession- high turnover rate), catching flack from people for the fact that these people haven't paid their debts. So, if a sweet, middle-aged voice spends a little time with them on the phone, they often visit a bit. And that visiting can share some information with you, about your Lulubelle or Junior, even though it might not be strictly legal. 

That collections agent or representative? They probably won't be there in six months. Debt collection, even on its best days, is an emotionally draining job. Nobody is going to come after you for:
  • Asking oh-so-casually if you can compare the address you have with the one the collection agent has; ditto social security numbers, phone numbers, places of employment, etc.
  • Asking the name of the collection agency. Number 1, they are supposed to tell you. Number 2, you might want to see if it is an agency that has called you before this (different agents with the same collection agency handle different companies).
  • Asking, if the agency has come up again, for which company the collection agent collects. Sometimes- not often but sometimes- the agent will not only give you company, but the amount owed. If the adult child owes you money, or you are trying to collect child support, that amount is a good indicator of possible information on what the adult child is earning these days, and where if you don't already know.

So, offer up a bit of information on the adult kid! Give them the last phone number you had for Lulubelle, even if it doesn't work any more. It could take the agent to Junior's former phone company, or the next phone carrier. If you have it, offer to confirm Lulubelle's social security number, because dear Lulubelle has not been above lying so far, and might have changed a few digits in hers to obtain credit in the first place. It will help in skip tracing (a process we'll discuss in part 5). If you know of any of Junior's friends, be sure to mention those, and their addresses and phone numbers as well, if you just happen to have that information. Let them in on the love from collection agencies. This is especially true if you have an ex-spouse who tends to blame the adult child's behavior on you, and any of those ex-in-laws as well.  

You might even feel the agent was nice enough to send the agency a follow-up letter. You don't have to get fancy. Don't include your name, and do NOT include your address! The object of this is to have collection agencies quit calling you, not have more of them call you. Just mention that you spoke with So-and-so on the phone on the date in question, and this is the information you offered that person. Stick a stamp on the envelope addressed to the agency, and you know you've done all you can to stop your wayward adult child from being a deadbeat.

Credit Where Credit Is Due- Part 2 (the Law and You)

What you need to know first: You are NOT, NOT, NOT responsible for your adult child's debt. You did not create this debt. It is not your job to pay it back. There is no law that says you have to pay it back. You do NOT, NOT, NOT owe any of your adult children's bills, any more than you owe any adult relative's or relation's debts.  You do not owe your grandchildren's prior debts, even if you have adopted them (and if you have not, you do not owe their present debts out of your own money). The exception to this is the Health Care Act, which means you must pay for health insurance for your adult child through age 26, if you have health insurance. But that will come directly out of your paycheck, and no nasty individual will call you to demand payment.

Moving along, this is the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act and its FAQ. You will see no way, no how the Government expects you to pay for that wild weekend in Denver you didn't attend, or the DVD club that extended your adult child 10 free DVDs for $162.85  postage and handling, or your adult child's satellite TV complete with the Porno Channel.

Also spelled out- how the collector is supposed to behave when he or she calls. Is it how debt collectors actually behave? Well, some do, and some don't. You will see, however, that they can call you, and ask for information as to the whereabouts of your wayward Lulubelle or Junior. They aren't supposed to blab about the amount of the debt. They aren't supposed to threaten you with jail, because nobody, not even the adult child, is going to jail over a debt. They can't call you before 8 AM, or after 9 PM at night.

Your first line of defense is INFORMATION. If you are dealing with a relatively professional individual, you should ask for the name of the collection agency, and its address. You can explain that this is your adult child, you know your rights under the Fair Debt Collections Act; that you do not wish to be called again on the matter, and that you will be sending a letter, return receipt requested, that they do not call you again, either here or at your place of employment.

When you send that letter, they cannot bother you any more. Period. They might, but they aren't supposed to do that by law. At that point, it behooves you to start a log, recording the date, time, name of the person who called, and what was said. You may even rig up the land-line with a recording device, so you have proof of what was said. You can find many an attorney these days whose practice is devoted to representing individuals who have had dealings with collection agencies that behave badly. And the FTC and your state attorney general are certainly interested in collection agencies who don't follow the law and try to frighten old people out of their money. It often takes them months to respond, and even more months to deal with the situation, but they are interested.

Or, you may just want to make sure you have caller ID on all phones, cell and land-line, and not bother. That's what the reject list on your cell phone does. Learn to use it. Eventually, they will stop calling. If you accidentally pick up the line and there is the collector again, hang up immediately. There's no law that says you must speak to anybody on your phone. And don't be so darned polite to people who, 100 years ago, the butler wouldn't have let through the front door!

The obnoxious, who won't take no for an answer, are another matter entirely. I have to admit, I've had these call me, and I kind of enjoy playing with these. But you have to understand, I am SO fed up with them, their inability to listen, and their extremely blatant lies, on top of my Lulubelle's actions, that I just can't resist. 

You can, of course, just hang up on these, as well. If you have an attorney handling the matter, they are supposed to call the attorney once you've informed them. But they don't listen. Seems as if they are hard of hearing. 

Therefore, if these sons of guns won't listen, particularly in the case of bottom feeders and/or the extreme jerks, take a tip from the olden days, when perverts used to make random (or not) calls to frighten women, with obscene language and heavy breathing: Get a big coach's whistle, or if you lack lung power these days, an air horn. Calm yourself. Hold the phone or receiver up to the whistle or air horn, and BLAST AWAY, LONG, LOUD AND HARD. I've heard of the alternative, leaving the phone or receiver next to the very loud TV or radio speaker.

You will have a certain sense of satisfaction, if nothing else. And the bully in a cubicle 1,200 miles away will think twice before calling you again!  

Credit Where Credit Is Due- Part 1

You are minding your own business, watching TV, cooking dinner, taking a nap, when the phone rings (could be the land-line, could be your cell). You don't recognize the number, if you have caller ID, yet you answer. 

If the person on the other end is a professional, you're told something such as, "I'm Ms. Jones from the Green Money Collection Agency, and I'm looking for INSERT NAME," which happens to be the name of your adult child, whose biological progeny inhabit your home. "The purpose of this call is to collect a debt."

Perhaps the person on the other end is not so professional. If this is the case, perhaps you will be treated to, "INSERT NAME?" with no time to respond. "You owe X Corp three thousand, five hundred and forty two dollars and sixty-two cents! You are a scumbag who hasn't paid what you owe! If you don't tell me you'll be paying that money TODAY, by wire transfer, I will have the sheriff at your house TODAY, to arrest you and take you to jail. I'll have you arrested AT WORK, you deadbeat, and your mug shot will be on the Internet for everybody to see! Got that? Give me your bank account or credit card number NOW!"  

When you try to explain to the screaming maniac at the other end that you are indeed not your adult child, and you're sorry he or she is so angry, you'll receive in reply something such as, "Well, you ARE his mother, aren't you? I'm an attorney, and I can have INSERT NAME jailed like that! You need to help him out! What kind of a mother are you, to raise such a deadbeat! What's your credit card number?"

And there are all sorts of debt collectors in between!

Then too, there are what are known as "bottom feeder" collection agencies. These are companies that buy bad, written-off or even already paid debt from companies that extend credit, or even from other debt collectors, for pennies on the dollar. They then try to force people to pay it, and they don't care if your husband is Joseph Johnson, Sr., with a different social security number and age. They are trying to make big money out of a very small investment. They are often cruel to those they call, totally ignore the law, and have been known to scare old folks into giving up their bank account numbers just to keep the people working there from constantly calling and screaming at them.

To make matters worse, there is identity theft. This is where somebody, someplace has gotten hold of some of your identifying information, and opens credit in your name. It is most tragic that stranger ID theft exists. It goes completely against the grain of familial bonds to note that more commonly, it is indeed somebody to whom you are related who has stolen your name, social security number, address, etc. and charged up a bunch of stuff in your name.

So, that professional person or screaming jerk may call and ask for you! And you know for a FACT that you don't drive a 2012 Audi with big payments, or attended the Sturgis, ND motorcycle rally, and you would never, EVER get a subscription to five magazines about sex! 

You're dealing with thugs, pure and simple. If the debt collector is professional, even nice, you are still dealing with a thug who stole your identity, or sold it to somebody else. And as hard as it may be, it is probably that adult child who thinks he or she is entitled to what you, and/ or your spouse, has earned.

But we can learn to successfully deal with this.   

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Count your blessings.

It's easy to get bogged down in the fertilizer of Life. You're not as young as you used to be, after all. The kids can run you ragged, and then there's the adult child who caused all this, who still might be involved in the situation. Money's tight these days for everybody, and getting kids what they need is hard enough, let alone getting kids what they want. 

It sounds trite, but count your blessings. Count them on your fingers in a quiet room, or list them on a sheet of paper, or type them out. But take time to think about what's good in your life, and in your world. You'll be a lot happier if you do; at the very least, you'll see there's a reason or two to hang in there.

Friday, July 6, 2012

I'm not yelling, I just have a loud voice.

It never occurred to me people assumed I was angry or yelling at them. It's so hard to be heard above the din. I grew up with five siblings, and have six total. My father had hearing issues. I was in the military. It just never occurred to me that people thought I was angry or upset, because I'm neither. I just want to be heard!

I have no problem speaking to large groups of people. Put a microphone in my hand or on my person, and I'm a chattering fool. And I'm generally enthusiastic. I've come to realize all that enthusiasm can be sometimes misconstrued as anger.

It's hard for me to communicate that to kids. I bet some other grandparents are experiencing the same issue, especially grandfathers who don't realize just how loud they can be with a hearing problem. Kids themselves are loud enough, and getting things across to them without tears and overreaction can be a challenge.

SO, in an effort to make things might quieter, calm down thousands of kids, and help grandparents raising grandkids everywhere communicate effectively, some tips: 

  • STOP. If this isn't an issue of immediate danger, stop what you're doing. Just stand or sit there. Say nothing. Do nothing. Wait until everybody is looking at you, wondering why the heck you're not doing anything. Then, say something. Quietly. As softly as possible. Only bring up the volume as necessary. 
  • THE SIGNAL. Anybody who's run a scout troop or the like knows to place one's hand high high above one's head and say, "When the hand goes up..." to which the scouts reply, "...the mouth goes shut." You don't have to use the universal signal of your hand above your head. Come up with your own signal that it's time to quiet down. 
  • MAKE IT A GAME. Ever heard of the quarter game, the dime game or the nickel game? If a child can be quiet for 5/10/15 minutes without one peep, that child gets a coin. There are dozens of ways to make children listen to you, and to be quiet. One of my favorites I learned from a first grade teacher. It's called "Marshmallow Toes" and it involves simply walking quietly on tip-toe. The name makes it fun.
  • POLL AND CLARIFY. If you're not sure, ask, and try to ask neutrally, without making the kid feels as if this answer hinges on all that is holy. I learned this when I did a tour with the Census Bureau. Most questions have a dozen answers. Make sure you have the right answer.  "Is this what you're telling me?" "Do I have this right?" "Do you have another idea on how we can do this?"
  • LOOK ME IN THE EYE. Look the kid or kids in the eye if at all possible. Focus on what they are saying. Make them look you in the eye. There is nothing so frustrating as not being able to read a face simply because the kid is talking to the wall or the floor! With the hearing challenged, even those equipped with various sound input devices, it is imperative that we look at them while we speak, and in turn look at them while they speak.
  • SPIT IT BACK. "OK, then (smile), you're telling me you need a new notebook because you used up the old one. OK then. "So, what you're saying is, you have to finish the report by Friday. Is that right?" No need to grill the kid. But spitting back what was just said clarifies without shouting what is actually being said. No need for sarcasm. No need for defensive moves. Just check it out. It will save you yelling later on.


Sunday, July 1, 2012

"House" Burgers & Other Signs of the Times

VULGARITY WARNING! Eddie Murphy is not known for clean speech. 

Have you been told that you are out-of-touch with the modern world because you make "house" burgers? Do you make your teenage granddaughters wear panty hose for important occasions where a skirt is involved? Do you actually believe a driver's license bring with it responsibility as well as privilege? Do you enforce bedtimes for smaller children, and curfews for older ones? Do you expect honesty, integrity and good moral behavior, according to age, especially from adults even though they think their poor behavior is "OK" no matter what you taught them?

Eddie Murphy's mother was out-of-touch before out-of-touch was cool.