Thursday, December 13, 2007

Venting For the Sake of Venting

I have two totally unrelated stories to tell, just because I feel like venting and I am hoping that things look a little brighter for me after I hit "publish post" and move on with my day.

The first story has to do with my upcoming 30th birthday. For the last year or so, I have been looking at this new milestone with some trepidation, not because I think 30 is SO OLD (relax, you over-30 friends, you) but just because I have really enjoyed being in my 20's and would kind of like to stay here. So, my bright idea was to take a trip as a birthday present to myself, to hopefully usher in the next decade of my life with a memorable vacation and get rid of any negative feelings I may have about my birthday. The first thought was taking a trip to Las Vegas, since I've never been there and have been wanting to go for some time.

After some thought, though, I changed my mind on my vacation destination. My grandparents are snowbirds who head down to Green Valley, AZ every winter to escape the seasonal hellhole that we have to endure in Wisconsin. They have been going down there for at least the last fifteen years or so, and I love going to visit them. Now that my grandparents are older and aren't in fantastic health, I see more value in going to see them than going to Vegas. After all, Vegas will be around forever, and unfortunately, my grandparents will not. So, my birthday trip will be to Arizona and I am so excited.

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a very fearful flyer. I have flown zillions of times and I used to tolerate it, but a bad experience that I had on a flight, coupled with the horrible images from 9/11 that have been seared into my brain, have left me terrified to fly. Sure, I'll do it, and I did it three times this year, but I am the type that is nervous about it two weeks before the flight and can't truly relax and enjoy a vacation (at least the last day or two) because I am stressing about the return flight home. So, my only concern about my Arizona trip, naturally, is the flight. Last night on my way home from work (see, I am already obsessing and my birthday is over two months away) I came up with a brilliant alternative...road trip.

(Ok, I know, I know. I am far more likely to die in a car accident than a plane crash. Unfortunately, this logic doesn't work in my brain for some reason. I can tell myself that I'm safer on a plane than on any other form of transportation thousands of times...I still don't calm down. I guess I just don't want this stress during my birthday.)

As a kid, I made the cross-country drive to Arizona several times with my parents. It was always a blast and I have tons of great memories from our journeys. I saw this as an opportunity to take one such trip with my new husband and daughter and maybe start a new tradition. Yeah, it's a long ass drive, but there is so much beauty along the way and so many cool places to stop that I think everyone should do it at least once. The journey there and home is part of the excitement. I couldn't wait to tell my hubby about this new plan last night at dinner. I just knew he would be stoked by the idea as well.

He wasn't.

After hearing my presentation, he was silent for a minute and then asked, "Drive to Arizona? You're doing this because you don't want to fly, right?" He then took this opportunity to remind me that our child is a preschooler and then made a very helpful comment about how small my car is. He also told me that we would have to have the brakes fixed before we would go. "Fine", I said--I have to do that anyway. And then he added, "You have been putting off getting your oil changed...when are you going to get your car fixed?" And then he did a quick financial analysis in his head and concluded that flying would be more cost-effective than driving anyway.

At this point I was beyond pissed off. After all, this was the man that had told me over and over "It's your 30th, we will do whatever you want." My hubby is a great guy, the best, but we are newlyweds and thus are butting heads over things like this because we are still finding our way together. And, I realize that perhaps I'm not being the most reasonable here, either. Yes, flying would be much faster and probably a little cheaper than driving (although my Saturn gets great gas mileage). I should probably suck it up and fly, but I don't want to. Not this trip. I want my new family to have our first road trip. I want my daughter to start making all of the great memories I got to make as a kid. And, I'm sorry, but I don't want to spend my whole vacation thinking, "You still have the flight home..." And I know having a three-year-old in the car for hours and hours probably won't be the easiest, but I at least want to give it a shot. I know there will be future vacations where I will have no choice but to fly, like when we go to Mexico or Europe, or even back to Disney. I guess I just wanted to do it differently for this trip.

So, we're stuck. Aaron obviously wants to fly and I am standing my ground, too. It's bugging me. I know disagreements are inevitable in marriage as they are in any relationship, but I wanted my way on this one since it means so much to me. And at the risk of sounding spoiled and whiny, it's my birthday trip, dammit. I'm sure we will eventually reach an agreement on this. It's just getting there that will be the challenge, kind of like the trip to Arizona itself.

The other story has to do with government bureaucracy. I should know better than to get worked up about this, especially being an Army ex-wife and having lived a few years filled with bureaucracy, but I can't help myself.

I have not received my regular child support payment from my ex in over a month. I used to get checks every two weeks like clockwork, but they suddenly stopped coming, and right before the holidays. I'm sure this has to do with the fact that my ex changed jobs some time ago and the state of Wisconsin doesn't know about it. I'm not going into a dissertation about how it's his responsibility to inform them and blah, blah, blah--this isn't the forum to hash that out. What does really irk me is that there is no system of checks and balances in place to prompt the state agencies to SEEK OUT that information to ensure kids get the support they are entitled to. Sure, parents can get tossed in jail after 180 days of non-payment, but what happens in the interim? Isn't there some sort of intermediate form of intervention by the state?

I know some parents go years without any support from their child's other parent, so I feel kind of bad complaining about just one month. It's not like the payments we receive save us from plunging into utter poverty. But, I see this as an injustice to my child, and like any mom, that bothers the hell out of me. That money is used to help pay for her day care expenses and stuff like that.

So, I did all of the things I thought I should do to try and resolve this situation. I made sure the child support agency had our proper address. I signed up for online account access so I could monitor all activity on the account. I updated my phone number. And, I waited.

Today, I finally broke down and did something I didn't want to do, which was call the state about this. I had been hesitant to do this because I know the agency is probably totally swamped and I wanted to make sure I let some time pass in case my ex had in fact informed them of his change of employer and they were just a little backlogged. Something similar to this happened when we started receiving support, and after a couple of weeks, things worked themselves out. I was hoping the same thing would happen this time.

After waiting on hold for an eternity with the child support agency, I finally talked to a live person. Armed with social security numbers, case numbers, and all of the information I could find, I explained the situation. Obviously the agent had heard this story a million times before, because she cut me off before I could finish and told me with a high degree of annoyance in her tone that they can't do anything for me until my ex reports his income changes. I asked her if there was something I could do, and she answered with an emphatic, "No." And then she asked me if I needed anything else and hung up.

Ugh, ugh, UGH! I feel really bad for those poor single moms or dads who desperately rely on this income to feed and clothe their children. One month of missed payments could be devastating to them.

I realize that it would be a huge undertaking to go after every single parent who misses a child support payment. I'm sure the funding simply is not's being redirected at other productive and helpful things, like funding an endless war and finding ways to deny that there is such a thing as global warming. But, I can't force my ex to call the state to report his changes to get the process going again, so there is nothing I can do right now except wait. And, waiting is something that I am simply not good at.

I'm about to hit "publish post". We'll see how I am feeling in a few minutes.


jay's worst nightmare. said...

ROAD TRIP! although i'm sure it will rule...nothing will ever compare to the Eau Claire to Two Rivers trip on a 110 degree day with no air and an overheating Nova.

do you want me to call jay? he'll never miss another payment. that bitch.

Sara said...

oh ang...i love you.