Saturday, January 29, 2011

Relief and a New Challenge

If you tell the truth you don't have to remember anything. ~Mark Twain

Some of you that follow my blog may know that I have been in the middle of court issue with my ex-husband.  It has been dragging on since last August when I was first served papers at work.   Not exactly how you want to start your day, but there is was.

Due to this and that, our court date had been postponed until this past Wednesday, Jan. 26th.

So, after months of trying to prepare my own paperwork (I did not  have money to hire a lawyer, he did),  taking a deposition, and having my bank records subpoenaed, we finally had our "day in court" so to speak.

As you can imagine, I was VERY nervous.  I have never done anything like this before.  When we divorced, we each had lawyers and settled everything outside the courtroom, so we never had to face a judge.

My ex had been trying to show that I had all this "extra" income that I was not disclosing,  and since he became unemployed last May, was asking for a termination of the life-time spousal support which he had agreed to pay when we came to our final Marital Settlement Agreement when we divorced.  We were married for a long time, over 16 years at the time of our separation, and almost 20 by the time the divorce was final.   I gave up any rights to his pension and took half of our debt.  I also paid all my lawyer fees that he was supposed to help pay, and eventually I bought him out of our family home.  In turn, he agreed to pay the spousal support, which I was entitled to based on how long we were married.  He asked that I have to start working full-time, and I did. 

Now, let's remember that I was completely devastated at that time, I had been in love with this man for 18 years when we separated.  I thought I would truly die of a broken heart.  Little did I know that time and maturity would become my friend, and I would learn to live on my own, be happy and come to realize that everything happens for a reason, even things that can hurt so bad.  I put up with so much bad behavior back then, I don't even know what I was thinking.  Love can really make you blind.  It's hard to even imagine that was me back then, but in time I realized that I fit the exact definition of "co-dependent".

I have worked very hard to keep my home and give my girls everything they deserve. My marriage did not work out, but what did come out of it are the most amazing children.  There is not a day that goes by that I don't think about how blessed I am to have them.

As you know, and I've been very open about this on my blog, I have tried to make some extra money since I lost the income I was receiving from child support for my oldest daughter, when she turned 18.  She turned 18 during the same week I moved her into college and we have been struggling to make ends meet since then.  I have been very "creative" with my finances, we have cut back on a lot of extras,  I sold all my gold jewelry, had a garage sale, tried selling crafts and baked goods, cashed out vacation time, used savings, etc. to get through the past 15 months.  Basically, I've tried everything short of actually getting a second job away from home, mostly because I don't want to leave my younger daughter home alone at night and want to try to maintain a decent quality of life.  No amount of money can replace the time I have with my kids, I have chosen to be with them and cut back a little, rather than be away from them by working a second job so I could buy more.

So, back to the trial.  I brought one of my best, most dear friends with me.  She has been with me through the best and worst times of my life for the past 14 or so years.  She is my rock, and I knew she was the one I wanted there with me on this day.  We have been friends since our daughters were in 1st grade together, they are now in college.

We tried to temper my nerves by joking around, and it definitely helped.  There is nothing like a little laughter to lighten things up!

The judge was a little intimidating!!  What I mean is, she did not mess around, but this turned out to be in my favor.  She saw right through all my ex's BS.  You cannot imagine my relief when I realized she was not going to consider even a bit of what he was trying to prove.  He was actually reading my blog posts in court!!  She told his lawyer that she was perfectly capable of reading them for herself, and made him stop.  His lawyer tried to object to many of my questions, she told him OVERRULED!!  I loved it!!  I was so worried about some of his false claims, and equally worried the judge wouldn't see the truth, but she did!!  Not only did she refuse to add to my income, as the ex and his lawyer were trying to do, but she scolded him for trying to make it look like he had nothing, because he was hiding it all in his wife's name.  Boy was he rattled!  I felt so good when I was questioning him, I kept thinking of more things to ask and when it was my turn to be questioned, his lawyer only asked 2 or 3 questions and then I got to give my testimony!!  I cannot tell you how glad I was that I did not hire an attorney.  I didn't have the money in the first place, but if I had borrowed it from someone, it would have just been a big a huge waste of money.  The end result would have been the same.  The judge did not terminate the support, she gave him 3 months to get a job.  She did have to temporarily suspend the spousal support, the key word being temporary.  She issued a "Seek Work" order and he has to report to me monthly, showing that he has contacted at least 20 companies a month. 

So, yes, things are going to be very difficult financially the next few months for me and the girls.  I have already applied to two different places for a second job, and we will be trying to find more ways we can cut back.  I will be working on my taxes this weekend, hopefully I'll get enough back to help out with the money I'm going to lose.  The judge was sympathetic in the end, telling me, unfortunately, she couldn't consider his spouse's income in factoring the support, and because he is currently unemployed, that had to be considered. The law says that if the paying party's ability to pay has changed, that has to be considered.  Basically the numbers are punched into a computer program, and the judge has to go by those numbers.   But, she reminded me this is just temporary, and he will have to notify me within 48 hours of re-employment when he does get a job.  She acknowledged that she could see I was just squeaking by on my income and the support I have been receiving and with this reduction, it will put me below my standard of living.  The vindication alone made me feel so happy and relieved. 

The bottom line, we will survive. 

I do wonder how my ex can live with himself.  He must know, that he is not just taking money away from me, but also our kids.  He lives in a large house with a pool, and drives a BMW, it's a little hard to feel sorry for him.  He doesn't help with our daughter's college expenses and pays nothing more than his court ordered child support for our younger daughter.  That must be a very lonely home.

But, it is time to once again move on, and I have no plans to write of this again.  These past few months have been filled with stress and anxiety, to the point that I didn't feel like myself.  That is now gone, and I am ME again!  It ain't gonna be easy...but we do what we have to, right?!?

I also want to say thank you to all my friends, co-workers, blog-readers,  and family who have been such a wonderful source of support to me, especially these past several months.  I truly feel loved!

Wishing you love and happiness!
Happy Thoughts,

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Worry and something new...

Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia

The stress and pressure of life has been getting me a little down lately...maybe it's this gloomy weather we've been having lately here in Northern CA...or maybe it's just January, my least favorite month of the year.

The whole purpose of this blog is to stay positive and find bear with me here while I feel sorry for myself...I'll snap out of it soon! 

I still have a personal issue coming up in the next week or so that I've been worrying about, but I'm trying to remember that I can only do so much.  I am comforted by the encouraging words of my friends, family, and co-workers, the people who really know me and know that my first priority is and will always be my children.  Without this support, then I'd really have something to worry about.

On a positive note...I am still looking at several different volunteer opportunities.  One would be my dream job, but will require a large amount of training and time, so I'm not sure if this is the right time for it, but it's something I would really like to do someday.  The program is called CASA, or Court Appointed Special Advocate.  Here is a description I took off the website to best describe what a CASA does:

          The goal of Court Appointed Special Advocates is to prevent abused and neglected children from becoming lost in the Juvenile Dependency system. When matching a CASA Volunteer with a child, the objective is to ensure that the child's best interest is represented. The volunteer has four essential roles as an advocate:

1. To be the child's voice in court, representing his/her best interests.

2. To assist the Juvenile Court by researching and assessing the circumstances of each case and report their recommendations and findings.

3. To continue to monitor the progress of the case as it moves through the system.

4. To become a source of support for the child.

The CASA volunteer's ultimate goal is to move the child out of temporary placement into a safe and permanent home. This could mean return to the parents, adoption, the appointment of a legal guardian, or some other permanent living arrangement that satisfies the Court and fulfills the child's needs.

CASA volunteers are not attorneys, but rather they are citizen advocates. They are ordinary people from various walks of life who do extra-ordinary things in the lives of abused and neglected children in our community.

Doesn't this sound amazing?  Definitely something I would like to do at some point in my life.  For now though, I am joining forces with a local group that started up on FB in to help fight crime and the blight that is increasingly taking over here in my city.  The city that I live in has faced many changes over the past several years, and very few have been good ones.  Crime and violence have increased at a rate that is downright scary.  With the poor economy, it's only gotten worse.  Most of us have considered moving away, and many have, but that's really not the solution and for many, like myself, I can't afford to sell my home in this low housing market anyway.

So, what's the alternative?  For me, it's a no brainer...we have to find ways to improve our city, by coming together and fighting back.  I am excited to be a part of this children grew up here, I own a home here, and I still have a lot of friends in this city.  I can't just give up, I have to have the faith that things can get better.  I have seen before the amazing things a community can do when they pull together. 

One more note...I am starting another blog that is focused only on my cooking/baking passion, so come on over if you love to cook (and eat) like I do! . On this culinary journey, I will be sharing some of my favorite recipes, working on my own recipes, and trying new foods along the way.

You know, I feel better already!

Happy Thoughts,

Sunday, January 9, 2011


“If there is no passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you and BECAUSE of you.”-T. Allen Armstrong

I love this quote, it really fit what I wanted to write about today.
My favorite brownie recipe from Baked, New Frontiers in Baking.

If you've gotten to know me at all through my blog, you know that I have many passions.  My children, home, cooking, baking, gardening, decorating, crafting, all things I love and feel very passionate about.

The passion I am writing about today is cooking and baking.  It is a passion I learned from my grandmother and mother, who were and are, both amazing cooks. 

I grew up eating wonderful food, so it's something I know a little bit about.  My mom never served us canned pasta, or packaged noodles.  Not to say say we didn't eat Campbell's soup once in a while, but it is my mom's homemade minestrone I remember the most.  My Grandmother started up her own bakery in the early 70's, which is still open today and run by my Aunt & Uncle.  Mazzetti's Bakery, in Pacifica, CA.

I truly believe cooking and baking are gifts from the heart.  You cannot really cook a delicious meal without putting your soul into it.  I love using fresh ingredients and making everything I can from scratch.  I make all my own salad dressings and do a mean Ceasar salad with homemade croutons, one of my kids' favorites.

I love cookbooks and trying new recipes, but I often don't follow them exactly.  I use them more as a starting point, or a basis for something I have in mind to make.
One of my favorite salads:   Roasted butternut squash, feta, and spinach, with homemade balsamic viniagrette.

It goes without saying I am addicted to Food Network, and love that cooking has become so "in" these days.  I've been watching cooking shows since I was a kid on PBS.  I was a fan of Julia Child  and Jaques Pepin growing up.

I dream of having a little cafe, open just for breakfast and lunch, where I could have a standard selection of salads, sandwiches, hot dishes, and baked goods, but also have a seasonal menu using what is fresh and in season at the time.  I'd also have daily specials, so I could constantly try out new recipes.  I love cooking for other people, trying out new recipes on my friends and co-workers.

My youngest daughter has shown an interest in cooking as well, and is often right beside me in the kitchen.  She has even started making dinner for us on her own.  Last night she made a recipe out of Giada De Laurentiis' latest book Giada at Home.  She only allowed me to grate the parmesan cheese and prepare the steamed broccoli on the side (:
This was the past we had for dinner last night, courtesy of my 15 year-old daughter.  Giada's recipe for  Pasta with mushrooms and mascarpone cheese.  We improvised just a little.

I love being able to share this passion with my daughter. I hope to find a way to make this passion more a part of my life, or  maybe someday I will get to watch my daughter on Food Network?

Wishing you a life filled with all your passions!
Happy Cooking and Happy Thoughts,

Caramel Apple cake from Paula Dean's The Lady & Sons cookbook.

Zucchini Cakes, something I make every summer from our homegrown zucchini.

New York Crumbcake

*All pictures cooked, baked, and photographed by me.
Edited- oops, I originally listed the wrong link to Giada's recipe, the recipe actually came out of her book, Giada at Home.  It's fixed now :)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year

Nobody can go back and start a new beginning, but anyone can start today and make a new ending.
~Maria Robinson

Just a few quick words to say "Happy New Year". 

I'm feeling a little blue today, my oldest daughter had to fly back to San Diego for school, and my sister and nieces left on Thursday.  Needless to say, that was two sad goodbye's at airports for me this week.

My sweet little nieces, I love them so much!
Photo credit - Me
 I thought I'd be more used to having my daughter living away at college by now, but it actually seems worse.  In the beginning it was new and I was so excited for I'm still excited, but it's not so new and I know it will be a while before I see her again. 

Luckily, with technology the way it is, we can chat and skype to keep in touch.

Photo credit - Meric Velasco

I spent most of the day, besides a drive to the airport, taking down my Christmas decorations, so all in all, it was not the best 1st day of the year I've had.  My youngest is sick on top of everything else, so it's been pretty quiet around here.

I have had some time to think about what I want to accomplish this year, and even research some volunteer options...but I'll be talking more about that in upcoming posts.

For now, I'm considering my options and dreaming, as any good Dreamgirl should be doing in celebration of a new year.

Wishing you peace, love, and...

Photo credit- Meric Velasco

new endings!
Happy Thoughts and Happy New Year,