here is what happened | 24 feb 2015

Here is what happened: I am moving into a studio apartment this Sunday.

In journalism I learned the storytelling device like this, tell the most recent and most important thing first. I learned journalism from the old school (very old school, oldest journalism school in the country, so old I think sometimes bones woke up and walked into the J-school auditorium and listened in on lectures, it wouldn’t be the first time such a thing had been accused of happening at Washington and Lee University, it wouldn’t be the last), and in the old school you’re telling just-the-facts from whatever the latest development is in your story, every day there’s news.

But I’ve been a very bad journalist, I’ve missed deadlines every weekday and twice on Sunday for weeks now. It’s been 27 days.

Here is what happened: I was ordered to leave my house in 30 days. It was 27 days ago so that means Friday.

In AP style you use numerals for all the numbers 10 and up. If I was following Chicago style I’d have had to spell all this out, thirteen years I’ve owned and lived in this house, not quite eleven years of our marriage before I filed for divorce, the boys we have, twelve, nine and seven. The months I’ve had the boys five days a week while my not-yet-legally-ex-husband had them two: fifteen, although I was flexible. I did let him take the boys an extra day a lot of weekends. The months I parented the boys alone while he was in Kuwait: thirty-six. I don’t know how many months he was just unavailable to help me parent, unavailable for a bunch of reasons I won’t say but he admitted to in court. It was most of them. Most of our children’s lives. Twelve months it took the custody evaluator to come back with his recommendation, a few days before our trial date: he recommended that I be granted full legal custody, five days a week parenting time, and that we both agree to abstain from alcohol and illegal drugs-plus-marijuana during our parenting time. Pages in my pre-trial memorandum, that was only three, single-spaced, it would be the same in both styles; but I wanted to be clear, so I thought three pages would suffice. I just said we should follow the custody evaluator’s recommendation.

Given the outcome of the trial I can’t imagine more than three pages would have helped any.

Here is what happened: I lost legal custody of my kids and most of my parenting time because I chose to unschool my oldest son.

I know it could sound like I was angry or exaggerating or am blaming the judge for something not-her-fault. I know people make poor witnesses in their own defense. I know, in cases of law in which one woman gets to make all the decisions about how my family and life will look for the next 10-or-something years, and when my ex-husband’s superficial charm and military experience work in exactly the right ways, I do. But I’ve talked about this with lots of people who know some things about family law and I honestly believe my analysis is objectively correct. I mean I’m devastated. The judge leaned forward and wrinkled her brow when I started describing his unschooling experience — an experience I’ve chosen because our history in public school has been horrible, terrible, very bad, no good, and lots of it is him but way more of it is that the system doesn’t work for his brilliance, his emotion, his many diagnoses that make up a fiery nurturing eccentric whole of a fantastic kid, at all — and yes I became defensive but my life was on the line here.

She interrogated me, and I spoke in my child’s own defense, and she lectured me. She called me emotionally immature (this, for moving out of my ex-husband’s home when he refused to leave, and moving in with a love who unschooled hiskids). She said it was obvious I didn’t have my son’s best interests at heart because I hadn’t assigned him essays and let him direct his own learning and I got my two little boys to school late a lot. She deduced I didn’t help them with homework based on no evidence at all. She measured my ex-husband, his charm on and a nice measure of tears too, and found him reliable, trustworthy, mature, and a far better parent.

I believe the evidence before her showed exactly the opposite. My ex-husband had to leave court during our trial to appear in an eviction hearing. He lost.

Here is what happened: my husband was awarded possession of the house and child support, from me. I work and he doesn’t. I was awarded parenting time during weekends. I work weekends.

I don’t think I can write any more. At some point you can’t tell your story because the story is telling you. It’s riding me hard like a horse and it won’t even put me away wet, won’t put me away at all, keeps flogging me, wakes me up at night when I’m trying to sleep with the dreams, shows me copper outlet covers when I’m trying not to think about my sweet un-fixed-up house anymore, tells me to give away more and more and more, whispers platitudes in my ear and I’m done with platitudes, until I start spouting them myself like a drone who’s been programmed just to get through these 30 days.

I’m appealing. I think I have a case, want to fight for a mother’s right to choose the system that’s best for her beloved firstborn or no system at all if that’s best for him, but I can’t afford any of this, the judge knows I can’t afford it, she knows I can’t pay child support and first and last month’s rent, and she ordered all of this anyway.

Yes I need help. I’m stretched past my limits. I had to give up my pride weeks ago, I had to endure the ex-husband-encouraged atrocities, I’m asking please.

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