This past week has been very…um…I’m searching for an adequate adjective here. Eventful? Taxing? Mind-blowing?
Let’s just say challenging.
So after Wednesday’s bit of vandalism at Trinity, the owners understandably decided that they didn’t want to deal with the liabilities of this little range war anymore, and they said that The Mighty Herd would have to go. This was a rough blow, because my friend the Doc and I had just been about to start fencing off the second, much greener pasture there on the same property and gradually expand the empire from six mother cows to about thirty. This would have been my first big step in achieving financial independence. Alas, now it is not to be. But if it was Steve’s plan to keep harassing my cows until I got discouraged and sold out so that he could move back in, it has backfired on him, because now nobody gets to keep any cows there.
I called the Doc and he said he might be able to help a little, and to just sit tight for now. Within a few days folks were coming out of the woodwork saying that they’d heard I had beef calves to sell and that they’d like to buy one. I also got a potential offer from someone who has a relative who has hayfields in Aguanga that have just been harvested and who would most likely let my cows come and graze the stubble for as long as it lasted. A temporary solution, but a good temporary solution. The next time I spoke to Doc he said he had a buyer who would immediately take every cow that I wanted to sell, if I wanted to sell any, so that I wouldn’t have to haul them to the auction. I do love that man. (In an appropriately platonic manner of course, since Doc is happily married to a sweet and lovely wife.)
Saturday afternoon while the kids and I were getting everything packed up for their trip to camp, a strange truck pulled into the driveway and a skittish-looking fellow stepped out, holding a sheaf of papers. I instantly knew that I was being served with Something-Or-Other by Steve in response to The Blizzard Incident. I stepped outside to have a look and the poor guy started babbling a bunch of soothing platitudes. I smiled reassuringly at him and assured him that I wasn’t upset or anything and took the papers. The top of the stack was a request for a restraining order, but that part already had DENIED scrawled across it. So I dug deeper into the stack and found…that Steve was filing for physical custody of Luke and Elizabeth.
I stopped smiling.
The server guy literally backpedalled away from me with a look on his face that I might have found funny if my brain hadn’t just seized up.
“That’s just not going to happen,” I said quietly to myself after a moment.
With one hand on the door of his truck, the server guy said I should fight it. As if there were any question.
We exchanged a few more words that I don’t really remember because my head was in a whole other place by then — although I do remember him thanking me quite sincerely for my courtesy, so I must have been nice — and then he drove off and I came back in the house and read every word of the stack of papers.
Steve was requesting physical custody of the kids from Thursdays at 4pm through Sundays at noon, every other week. He was also requesting overnight visits on the Thursdays of my week. Thursdays are their Youth Group meetings, of course. He’s trying to do to them what he did to me all those years: isolate them from social interaction with anyone outside of his own bottom-feeding social class.
The court had denied the restraining order but approved the custody request, and there was a hearing date set for July 22 so that Steve and I could hash it out in court. If I wanted to contest the matter I had to file a response no later than July 20.
This had been filed way back on the 9th, but they had waited to serve me the papers until the last legal minute. I had to get my response filed first thing Monday morning. I typed up a response and emailed it to my friend Jenny, who printed it out for me (my printer’s out of ink) and brought it to church the next day.
Church was…kind of an effort for me that day. Up till then I’d been walking around in a sort of suspended state of combined disbelief and shock, but actually telling the Pastor about it out loud made it suddenly real and sharp-edged and twisty. I cried a few tears and he reassured me that this was God at work and that when all the dust settled things would be better than ever for the kids and I. And then the service started and I had to sing with the worship team and I was really afraid that I might throw up all over my mike and I was really glad that Susan was gone this week and we had a guest worship leader that sings so loud and strong that no backup is really needed so I could just whimper along and it wouldn’t matter a bit. But the songs themselves were very comforting, and by the end my voice and my spirit had revived quite a lot. There is true power in that music, I think.
After the service I talked to Doc, and practical soul that he is, he sat me down and gave me a wonderfully long list of reasons why it would make no sense for a court to give Steve that custody schedule. Right now Luke and Elizabeth have a full, rich social life and a place in the church community and Steve has nothing to offer them but isolation and video games and late nights at Casa Gamino. And he works on Thursdays, Fridays and sometimes Saturdays, so they’d be stuck in some sort of child care situation during the day. And if he couldn’t even get through one night without drinking, how is he going to get through four days at a time? AND, the kids don’t WANT to go live with him every other week. The list went on and on. The sharp twisty thing in my stomach softened into something dull and manageable and my brain chugged back into something pretty close to normal function.
My friend the Doc is a treasure beyond price.
That afternoon I drove the kids up to Camp Wynola in beautiful Julian. We signed them in and found their cabins and they picked out their bunks and we unpacked their stuff and I put a few dollars into a spending account for them so they can buy juice and snacks at the camp store and then it was time for me to go.
And suddenly it seemed absolutely ridiculous to even think about abandoning my little boy there for a whole week.
I didn’t worry about Elizabeth, I knew she’d enjoy the break from home. And the camp itself looked wonderful and safe and fun. But…my boy! My snuggly Luke! What would he do without me?
I gave him one last hug and watched him skip happily back to his cabin with a careless smile on his little face.
And then I reminded myself that he’s going to be nine years old next month and if he can’t spend a week away from home by now then I have done a poor job of raising him.
Then I went back to the camp office and let the staff know that my friend Michelle would be bringing Luke and Elizabeth home on Friday along with her kids. Because part of the divorce process in California is that both parents have to attend a Parent Orientation Program to help them properly guide their children though the divorce process and Steve and I have to go to ours on Friday and won’t THAT be fun!!
After I got home I sat down and completely rewrote my response to the custody thing, this time bringing all of Doc’s advice to bear on the matter. Then I emailed it to myself. First thing Monday morning I drove to Temecula, went to the library, checked my email on the web, and printed out copies of the rewritten version.
Oh. I missed a part of my story.
Okay, baaack up to earlier in the week. I had found a website that carefully detailed the entire divorce process step by step and form by form, and I realized that I had Made An Error. I did not know that the divorce could not move forward until a Proof Of Service Of Summons form had been filed. And here’s the thing. Steve and I had still been on civil terms a month ago, so I had served him the divorce papers myself. Well. It turns out that that’s a no-no. Someone ELSE who is over 18 and NOT ME has to give him the papers and fill out the Proof of Service Of Summons form. Gaaaahhhhh.
So on Sunday Jenny had served the divorce papers to Steve all over again, and filled out the form, and I took that with me on Monday to get filed along with the other thing.
And this post is going to have to be written in many parts, because that was JUST THE VERY BEGINNING of what is shaping up to be one of the craziest weeks of my entire life.
But here’s a nicer note to part on: a post from the Camp Wynola blog!