After a week of single digit weather & snow & grey skies, I woke up to sunshine & 30 degree in the sun.
After lounging in bed for a good long time, I got up & out & shoveled the endless sidewalk of the large corner lot I live on.
I performed the smooth foxtrot of pushing the snow until I would hit a raised bit of sidewalk & the shovel handle would dig into my gut. That freakin hurts every time. I tried several different hand holds with varying degrees of letting the shovel float along, but always, hidden, is a lip to another piece of sidewalk pushed up over time by roots and ground settling.
Anyhow, it got done & I soaked in some sunshine on my arms!
With no real agenda for the weekend, I wrote for a bit, then plopped down in my recliner, snuggled under a blanket and started reading. I have seen the movie Wild twice already & when I saw the book at the Atlanta Airport last week, I had to get it.
I am hoping it holds true that the books are always better than the movie. I loved the movie and am already really enjoying the book.
I am grateful so Saturday afternoons in my recliner.
Today was a very sweet day for me at work. I don't get many happy endings. Hell in property management, I don't really get a lot of happy. But today I did and it is worth documenting. Every woman who keeps getting up to face the day when the cards are stacked against her deserves to have her journey celebrated.
Two years ago I had a small six-plex, that while no where near a slum, we just couldn't keep good tenants living there. Eviction after eviction. This was one of the few properties where the owner hadn't set any real "requirements" for the renters.
For most of our properties we were moving to a strict 620 credit score minimum, no felonies, no evictions, two times the rent in verifiable income. This was only put into procedure in 2013. Prior to that the property management company I work for was the "bring me your poor, your homeless, your felons, your previously evicted, your sad story..." company of our town.
Most weeks I had several families standing in front of me with no place else to go and no family to turn to. Those are painfully hard days to get through. I hate when they cry. I feel less sad when they get all pissed and storm out.
Today my dear friend Mary called while I was waiting for the tenant to bring back the money order for her security deposit. It was cool that she called at this time because it made me pause and reflect on the people in my life, who have become my friends and my biggest supporters were all made at time when I was a homeschooling mom. When I had the time and desire to make connections. I try my best to maintain those friendships, but working full-time & being a single mom means I have to schedule time for those who are so important to me. I am blessed that they understand and are struggling with the same over committed schedules so while we don't see each other nearly often enough, the love is there & everything gets dropped when one of us is in need.
These families who stand at my desk, mostly single moms looking for a safe place for their kids, don't have the luxury of time to meet and maintain friendships.
Two years ago I evicted one right after another & took this property on as my personal project.
I moved one woman, my age, in with a pregnant teen daughter and her teen son. They had been in a hotel and needed to find a place, needed stability. I don't remember the specifics, but the mom wouldn't be approved for our other properties. I was able to get her into unit 3. The walls bore the nail holes from at least a decade of not being patched and painted and the carpet shows the wear of the Silk Road, but it was a clean 2 bedroom for $525 a month.
I moved three more sad single mom stories into this property. I felt so good. This was my calling & I would help these families get back on their feet. I would do what had been done for me. I would give them the chance that had been given to me. To have the key to my own door, as my Dad would day was a very powerful proud moment for me.
Like a chicken coop, each one squacked and bitched and moaned about the problems the other families were causeing. Two of those sad stories turned out tototally not be what they presented to me. One woman came to me with her wife telling me they were trying to gain custody of their grandchildren since the kids mom was in jail. I believe the one woman had a drug felony from a decade back, but she assured me she was clean & just needed someone to believe in her.
I moved them in. Turns out they sold drugs. They installed cameras on the outside of my building so they could see their drugs and see when the cops were coming. It took me over a year to get them legally evicted, but they self moved out after a family death gifted them with a home. When I walked in with out eviction crew the carpet was about 8 pieces all patched together like the Coat of Many Colors, the stove was missing and the garbage disposal was missing. Just a clean view from the sink to the bottom of the cabinet.
The next sad story I moved in was a single mom with a very new baby. She wouldn't get her utilities switched into her name and racked up a couple months utility bills before we could evict her. She was reportedly turning tricks in the parking lot where she could still use her baby monitor, so I don't know why she couldn't pay her bills? When we went to post the 3 Day Notice on her, she answered the door with her bathrobe open. She didn't seem to care that I saw her boobies and roll poly belly.
She left me a huge ass sofa and a 5 foot wide and 4 foot tall television. Both of these items cost a great deal to dispose of, at my owner's expense because the security deposit is never enough to cover the damage left and legal fees of the eviction.
I moved another sad story mom who was coming out of a program and trying to get her children back. I moved her into my home for wayward mothers. Turns out she wasn't as fixed as she had sold me on. She started buying from the scary grandma drug dealer and next thing I know she has several other grown ups flopping in her apartment. When a tenant doesn't pay their utilities we can call and have the utility company 5 Day Demand them. This demand states to pay or the utility company shuts off the electric, not the water as it is one pipe in & out for the entire six-plex. When her electric was shut off, she ran an extension cord out her window to the complex outlet on the exterior of the building.
Some of my tenants were pissed since they all pay a portion of the common area utilities. When we showed up, we unplugged the extension cord & placed a letter explaining that she can't use the outlet. We were no sooner down the road that we got a call that she had plugged it back in. She was running her refrigerator off the cord. When we got back, we unplugged it again and Jason used scissors to cut the extension cord. We kept it for a while as a trophy (couldn't find a photo).
Later that night the tenant strung a new extension cord from the downstairs apartment to one of the top floor apartment tenants who felt bad for the poor woman.
Mean ole Melissa! The tenant who allowed the extension cord into her house later regretted that move as the mooching tenant did not pay her back. She was out a couple hundred dollars for her friends electric.
Not long after, the eviction finally went through.
Then sad story #4 moved in. Single mom with the sweetest little baby. She also was down on her luck & needed to move, like that same day. I told her it hadn't been cleaned yet. The cleaner (my girlfriend) was due that evening if the tenant could just wait until the next morning. She said she could not wait and it did not matter, she had to have a place that day for her & her baby. She had seen the apartment twice and said she would clean everything anyway. I made it happen on a Monday when I leave work early to pick up my kids. I made her a priority.
The next day, she called screaming & cursing & threatening me that she was going to call the city. She was going to call the news. She was going to call Code Enforcement.
I said bring it on bitch. Ok, maybe I didn't say bitch, but I was thinking it and I am pretty sure I was giving the cell phone my middle finger. Good thing we weren't using Facetime!
She didn't call anyone, but she left me endless hateful phone messages and text. Then each month she would sashay in ever so sweetly and hand me her money order. She took in some "friends" and word has it that they her friends were part of a gang & were causing all kinds of problems in the area.
My biggest problem was that my drug dealing grandma was supplying drugs to everyone at the apartment & bringing in buyers all day. One by one they were all evicted and replaced with fairly decent and quiet tenants, but it took me another year of trial and error.
Every one of these tenants has worked my nerves over the past two years. Living in such close quarters does not bring out the best in people. But my original mom came in at the beginning of this month to see if we had any place that fit her budget & would accept her. For once, we did. We had just received word that the tenant of a 3 bed/2 bath was giving his notice. It is not a single family home, but a duplex with an attached garage under $1000. She made it happen, site unseen, just based on my word that I would move my kids in it. She got her case worker to get her into a program that would cover her first months rent and she came in with the security deposit in cash.
I don't take cash anymore because back in the day, we would have $10,000 to $30,000 in cash sitting in the office during rent week. It scared the hell out of me to be in charge of cash. But when she came in with her $995 in cash & asked me hold it for a week until she signed the lease. She was terrified she would lose it or have to do something else with it.
I took the cash for her new future & handed her a receipt.
Today she came in to sign her lease. She took the cash from me and sent her son to go get my money order. During this process, we agreed to rent her old unit to her son, who is now an adult.
After signing her lease, she kissed the money order, handed it to me with a huge smile on her face and gave me a big hug. I am very proud that I got to be a part of this celebration of her continuing toward a much better life.
P.S. The daughter is due to have baby number two next month.
I am reposting this piece because while I was on my trip home for my dad's funeral I found some of the vhs tapes I had created and sent out to 5 different family members in hopes of having back ups in an emergency. That emergency happened in 2010 when I started my divorce.
While itching and crying and feeling gross wading through my dad's stuff, I found a vhs tape with my handwriting scrawled on it. Then I found another, and another. Suddenly it did not matter to me what I was croutching next to, or how much dead bug dust and cobwebs I was touching. I was finding the treasure I had prayed I would find. While I did not find them all, I brought home far more than I ever expected to have again.
Now to find a vhs machine so I can watch them all. Once I am on my feet again financially and have a little extra money each month, I will have them transferred to dvd and backed up on my external hard drive. Mine forever and always! I wish you could see the big cheesy smile from ear to ear!
The Big Screen 10/9/2014
This morning I saw this image on Facebook and it struck me as brilliant. How would my movie fair on the big screen? How would it be categorized? As a comedy, a tragedy, a thriller, a drama, chick flick?
Would I even watch it? I lean towards fast cars, fast women (boobs) and guns! When I chose to sit still for 2 hours, I want to be blown away and bouncing out of my seat. Having said that, I am very happy that my life is not about fast cars, fast women and guns.
Ok, well maybe I would totally enjoy the fast cars in a safe controlled, non-patrolled strip of highway. And to tell the truth, I enjoy the hell out of my girl friends who are sorta, kinda, absolutely fast women!
I would love to watch my time with my girlfriends. From the laughter and connection to the tears from broken hearts and destroyed dreams. Every minute of it would recapture my attention and captivate me.
Truth be known, I was the queen of video taping my children.
I would give anything to watch my time with my kids over again. EVERY SINGLE MOMENT!
I would give anything to get the promised copy of all of the videos I have taken of my children. When the judge gave me permission to leave my family home with my children after 7 very long scary months of living under the same roof after filing for divorce, I ran.
My girlfriend and I entered the house for one last time to collect as much of my stuff and the kids as we could pile into our two cars. Let me tell you that conversations with the staff at TESSA, our local domestic violence shelter, flooded my head as we walked up to the front porch. You know your girlfriend loves you when she agrees to walk into a terribly volatile situation after hearing the same speech about the moments after you file for a restraining order or are awarded custody of your children or are allowed to leave your family house are the moments when physical violence can be most expected. Women die in these ordinary moments.
I didn't want to die. I was fighting to live.
When we walked into the house, my ex was shirtless and had his 9 millimeter gun in the waistband of his shorts. This was the first time for me to see the large scary tattoo of a screaming in pain man on his back. I remember starting to shake. I remember feeling vomit and fear hit the back of my throat. I grabbed what I could, as did Theresa while he followed us room by room.
The house had never been so quiet. I could hear every tear that rolled down my cheek and every hushed exhaleas I tried to remember to breath. I knew I would never be in my home again. I knew what ever I didn't take I would never see again. It is an awful feeling to say goodbye to the stuff that fills your home because you chose it, picked it. We focused on clothes and some toys for the kids. He wouldn't let me near the basement where the baby books I made were or the photo albums or the small shoe size box of video tapes.
I would give anything to go back in time and grab that box. 10 years of every burp, giggle, step and performance are save in that little box. The court ordered him to make me copies or give them to me to make copies. No one seems to care. I would watch each and every moment over and over again at Christmas break when they weren't with me. Because they are important to me, he will keep them from me.
My 3 year divorce was the drama, thriller and tragedy part of my movie.
The comedy bits would be my dating life since divorce. Since 2010 when I separated, I have gone out on 8 dates. I could do a 2 hour stand up routine (and have at every Passover Dinner at the Stewart-Spiegel household). Really only 2 of the dates were funny, but they were so over the top insane. One of which was with a real live version of Gaston from Beauty & The Beast, if instead of a European countryside it was set in downtown Philly, circa 1985. Picture big gold chains, diamond stud earrings the size of a skittle, and a whole lotta super tanned rapper white boy.
I expect, overall, I would need a box of tissue to watch my movie. I have lived so much drama, comedy, and tragedy. I know I would totally fall in love with "me" and be screaming for her to stand the hell up for herself and get the fuck out of the house in the scary times and so proud of her for living through and rebuilding. I know that all of the "mama" parts would make me all teary and make me want to hug my kids.
All of this and I am only 43.
I am having the best time in this time with my kids, my friends and my lover! I would say that not a day goes by where my head is not thrown back belly laughing, loudly at something and the sweet quiet moments of love and acceptance.
Would I watch my movie, oh hell yes! I would drag all of my friends, kicking and screaming to watch it too!
I needed distraction & escape tonight.
My mind is still processing the past week. I miss my dad. I am glad he is finally at peace. I keep picturing his home and the chaos and madness it represents in my life. On top of that, while at home I also met up with some of my friends from my youth and we discussed the abuse that happened under our parents and our church's watchful eye.
I am facing so many demons right now, back to back to back.
Picking up my kids yesterday and spending the afternoon of a snow day with them was a perfect welcome home. We unpacked my suitcase and sorted through all of the treasures I brought home from my dad's house. But each treasure is a memory.
I didn't sleep well last night. I spent too much time replaying the past week. I enjoyed so many great moments connecting with my family, but there really wasn't much time to mentally process the twist and turns.
4:50 am came way too early today. I had prayed for at least a two hour delay due to the snow, but our school status showed "normal". I made it through my day as normal as I could, but I don't feel normal right now. I feel prickly, tender and agitated.
When I picked up the kids from school today, I did the normal "tell me about your day and what homework do you have" routine. My son announced that the only homework he had was to read his book. I asked him what book they were reading. He told me it was a book about a boy during the Holocaust. I didn't recognize the name so I just continued driving.
I went in to Liam's room to see how his reading was coming and he said he was done. He showed me the book again and where he had read to. As I opened the cover to read about the book, I noticed it was about a boy on Schindler's List.
How funny I told him. Schindler's List was the movie I first saw Liam Neeson in and was when he became my favorite actor. Rob Roy is my other favorite Liam Neeson movie.
Both are about the difference one person can make in the world.
I first learned about the Holocaust in third or fourth grade by reading The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank. I have never been able to pin down why I connected so deeply with this book and the struggle of the Jews during WW2, but I did.
My family is not Jewish or gypsy or Polish.
The only people different than me that I had ever met in my small town life were vegetarians. I was in fourth grade and they ate very weird food for southerner's. I didn't even know anyone Jewish until I met my Dad's girlfriend and her daughter on my first trip to Europe at age 20 to see my dad. I was so glad she didn't think it odd that we spent vacation time traveling to WW2 sites.
I would love to fancy that in a former life I was a Jew in Europe or maybe someone who helped the Jews around me. All I know for sure was that a spark was ignited in me and I have soaked in everything that I could about the people who helped, the people who killed and the people who survived.
The more I read, the more my heart broke for these families, these people.
Late this afternoon my son handed me his book. I finished it shortly after dinner. I devoured it and enjoyed every moment of escape it brought me. I like to read the books my children do, but there isn't always time. Honestly, I don't always have any interest in their "required reading material." Tonight I had plenty of interest and had only hoped to catch up with his bookmark. Instead I finished it shortly after dinner. I devoured it and enjoyed every moment of escape it brought me.
The author does a great job at describing the horribly ugly part of what life in the ghetto was like while still writing from the youthful prospective of a boy. The hunger and the lack of food is what I hope makes this boy's story come to life for my always starving, never full string bean. I hope this book shapes my son's life like Anne Frank forged mine.
Other than bringing my children into this world, some of the other really powerful moments of my life was getting to go to Amsterdam and visit the office that Anne and her family hid in.
The office hiding the staircase to the attic is very small and each sound echos. Each step up the narrow too short stairs into the attic brought the book alive. I stood on my tippy toes to look at the only window Anne had into the world. I measured off with footsteps how very small the space she and her family occupied with the other families in hiding with them. Now as a mom to a daughter who whistles all day long and a son who is becoming a grown up and children who walk like herds of elephants, I look back at my moments in that attic and cry for the daily, hourly stress families in hiding faced.
We still have so very far to come as a people to protect, to feed and safely shelter the weakest among us. There are still so many places in this world where parents fear for their children and their safety every single day.
My son is just beginning to expand his knowledge to the realities of the world and I expect there to be a day when he asks me how we continue to let hate and fear dominate so much of the world. For today, he believes that this was the only holocaust that has happened. I believe him to be a man of great heart and empathy.
I hope he will always believe in the difference one man can make in this world.
The Boy on the Wooden Box, a Memoir Leon Leyson
I am thinking that the next trip back east to see my sister will include a trip with my kids so that they can experience The Holocaust Museum in D.C. The exhibits don't require a great deal of in-depth reading to understand the enormous scope and loss that happened in such a short time, while so many chose to not get involved.
Happy Rump Day!
I have driven up the mountain, dropped off my kids at school, driven down the mountain, dropped off my car at my girlfriends, been picked up, dropped an office key off so our maintenance manager can get into the office and am now on my way to Denver to catch a plane to Atlanta so I can attend my Dad's funeral service tomorrow morning.
My stomach is kinda in knots. So excited and nervous and just ready to be safely settled at my Mamaw's house.
Still not certain how you prepare to say goodbye to a parent. My big ideas were waterproof mascara and sun glasses. I bought both yesterday. My other big idea was ninja pants with a nice comfy waistband so my nervous knotted stomach isn't squished into jeans.
I don't think I really plan to say goodbye to my dad.
For two months I have enjoyed thinking of him as an Angel, one of my Angels now.
My sister & her family are driving in and through a snow storm on the east coast to get there tonight. My thoughts and prayers are with them stuck in a vehicle with 2 very small children and bad weather.
I hope everyone has a very happy Rump Day!
Sunday's are a day where there is time to journal, blog, read and relax.
Today I was reading a blog I enjoy by Lisbeth Darsh where she asks if "Do we experience anymore or merely document?"
My answer is that I both experience and document.
I know I am not alone. If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter, you already know I love selfies, but more than that I love capturing moments in my life. From the mundane sitting in the car waiting for my kids to get out of school, important milestones & moments and the snap shots of what my daily life looks like.
I wonder if people who take selfies were in years and decades past really just sentimental people like me. I document my life, as my tribes storyteller as has been done for centuries. There will be a record of my time on this earth. Today's selfies will be just another way for people in future days to look back and see how we lived and loved. Selfies of where I am and what I am doing are a photo time capsule for future generations.
Selfies and the internet just allow us to show our crazy publicly.
I collect memories for myself, my family and all that I love.
I have always known how quickly time is passing. It must be knowledge from former lives because for as long as I can remember, I know time is ticking by.
I have some sort of internal clock that I can hear when ever I allow myself to be quiet. So, I don't do quiet often. I am still actively working on mediation as a way to silence the ticking I hear incessantly to not stop, not sit, not waste a moment.
I am going to share a secret with you, I not only collect photos, I collect momentos.
I collect ticket stubs, napkins, menus, love notes, drawings, sayings, brochures and my kids school work.
When my kids were younger I tried to scrapbook, but it was just too formal a process for me. I had friends who cranked out pages and pages everyday with a tried and true formula.
I am more of a "in the moment kinda documentor" who glues memories into my leather bound journal and writes around them. I love the idea of borders and stamps and stickers but it just doesn't get done if I have to think it all through and plan and purchase things in advance.
I save 10 to 12 image quotes from various social media outlets and then sit down every couple of weeks and download them off my phone and print them. I love gluing these into my journal. Sometimes they spark a whole day's train of thought.
While I still occasionally catch myself mentally day dreaming about scrapbooking my momentos and photos, I know I will most likely not ever get around to it especially since I can blog and journal and Facebook!
I hope museums don't ban selfies.
While I agree with Lisbeth that the moments should be enough, that we need to put our phones in our "pockets and stand in front of an incredible piece of art and just be. Breathe and feel what the art brings forth in you. All of the emotions are not comfortable, but they’re important to feel." I am glad I have photos of every museum in all the states and countries we have visited. I love when my kids and I are looking through my photo albums and they remember the wolves or the Pompeii Exhibit at Denver Nature & Science or the pulley system at the Clay Museum of West Virginia, or the Dinosaurs in Albuquerque, the Wizard of Oz in Kansas, getting to see Lucy the Australopithecus afarensis in Frankfurt, the animated dinosaurs at the Sternberg Museum in Kansas, the huge totum poles at the Denver Art Museum, the planes and tanks at The Nation Museum of Marine Corps...
I am so glad I snap the group selfies because it captures a moment of pure happiness for me.
I only have my kids 50 percent of each month. I treasure the photos I have of them and love going through them often. I love my photo albums and on the holidays I don't have them I spend time looking at photos of them and remembering the holidays we have spent together. I love showing the kids photos of people the only remember via photos from long lost trips of yesteryear.
Even with all of the wonderful things I fill my non-kid nights with, I find myself strolling down memory lane some nights when my soul is empty. I love that I can see my photos instantly online and relive my sweet moments.
I have a permanent story for my children and loved ones to see. Like the prehistoric hand prints in the caves of France, my selfies prove I existed.
I have traveled and eaten and lived and loved and it is all captured in my goofy selfies!
Happy Valentine's Day!
We had a fabulous, but busy day.
My daughter and I sold Girl Scout Cookies this morning. We set everything up for our cookie booth & then realized we forgot her vest. Luckily a phone call later & Jason dropped it off. The bigger blessing was that while he was there, I ran into the grocery store & bought sun screen. It was 70 degrees & we were in direct sunshine for 4 hours! I can't really complain because most years we are freezing and I am buying hand warmers.
After our booth sale we went on a 2.86 mile hike at Red Rocks. It was just too nice to stay inside. Especially knowing we have snow and cold weather coming Sunday afternoon.
For dinner my sweet daughter decided to play waitress for our family dinner.
She made decorations for the table, made all of us cards and then served dinner as our waitress. She made little paper box trays to put chocolates in and little slips of paper for us to write song suggestions on while we dined. She puts so much effort into every holiday to make them extra special and beautifully personal.
I chose "Ring of Fire" by Johnny Cash and Jason chose "Gold Digger". We danced our way through our fabulous hamburger dinner. Then I had Lana chose a slow song so Jason & I could dance.
I love that 4 years after my divorce, the kids don't find it odd to see me slow dancing in the dining room. I am glad affection is a normal part of them seeing grown ups.
The following is a link of some of Jason & I showing the kids our moves before we realized we were being taped. https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=767760249959286 Not for the faint of heart!
Once we realized we were being filmed, we stopped. Jason said he was happy that he hadn't gone full sprinkler, but I had to ask him why not? Wasn't that the whole point of the movie Hitch (which is one of his favorite all time movies?)
I went & danced with Lana in her room to Uptown Funk! Ok, so maybe I don't want my dance moves video taped, but I do want my kids to have goofy memories of me dancing. I clearly remember my dad's moves~aka the Bill Cosby!
The only thing missing was my son. He is up in the mountains skiing with his Boy Scout Troop and his dad. He said he went tubing and got the snot beat out of him flying all around. I am grateful I got to wish him a Happy Valentines, but I miss the hug I would get if he had been here.
The we ended the evening with the movie Blended with Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler. So funny and so sweet and a perfect way to end a day of blended family fun!
It was a very wonderful loverly day! I hope yours was too!
"Right where you are is where you need to be. Don't fight it! Don't run away from it! Stand firm! Take a deep breath. And another. And another. Now, ask yourself: Why is this in my world? What do I need to see?" ~Iyanla Vanzant
Each week I "share" a ton of stuff on Facebook. If you aren't with me there, please come join me at www.facebook.com/strongstartingnow
I posted this quote earlier this week and it has stuck with me each day.
The reality of my dad's passing is hitting me hard. All of the bits and pieces connected to someone's passing, the bills, the service, the tombstone, the wills...
The reality of going home to share this experience with people that I don't really know is making me nervous. It is like every going home to a small town movie portrays.
It has not been easy for me to get to know and accept myself. It has been a hell of a journey to peel back the years of layers and fear to stand as me. It has been very interesting to feel the love and support from friends for shining some light on some nasty little corners of my soul. It has been a huge blessing to connect with people who share similar histories.
But just as I just start feeling okay with who I am as a person, a mom, being twice divorced, how and what is important to me as I vote, speaking my truth as a feminist, and then sharing the part of me that is a big emotional woman, I feel myself bump up against that edge.
The edge is sharp and solid but I can slide my toes beyond it just a tiny bit and bend them under the edge firmly. I have to admit, I like the feeling of standing there, the anticipation, wondering what is she going to do this time?
I have stood there paralyzed with fear. I have stood at this edge many times in the past and chosen to back away, slowly with my head down, unable to breathe and wait for another day.
I have also stood at the edge on other days and held my breath while I stepped forward. Some times I have enjoyed the sweet relief of finding solid ground under my feet and other times I have fallen flat on my face.
I am bumping into my edge over and over again. I stand in the attic of my life and I see the boxes. I am slowly opening each one up and peeking inside. If what I find doesn't freak me out to bad, I sit down and open up the box and pull things out and see what happens. I feel like I have opened most of the boxes and rode the fear and sadness and anger and then walked them downstairs to the driveway for Salvation Army to pick up. Felt and done, right?
Edged my way out a little farther into freedom. Totally psyched for any steps past the edge.
But then I go back up in the damn attic a few years later and see a box that I know good and well I unpacked and donated.
God is very funny about delivering my shit back to me, repeatedly, letting me know that I am not really quite done with this specific box yet. That is what is happening right now. I thought I had dealt with my dad's death years ago when he first started getting sick. I said what I needed to get off my chest and told him I loved him. It didn't come as a surprise when he died this past December, but when I opened my front door, God had sent me some packages that I needed to sign for.
I want my life to be linear and deal with it and done, but I am having to accept that there is not a destination or end to this race other than death and I am in no hurry to get to the end.
"Life is a whole journey of meeting your edge, again and again."~Pema Chodron
I can't get out of my head this week. Going home is in a box for me. Bad things happened back home. Feelings were hurt, things were ignored, children were neglected. Everything is all stirred up for me right now.
I wish I could say that I have forgiven the past and am ready to move on, but just as I think I have moved past that edge, then I find another edge, and another. This forgiveness thing is way hard to do. I guess I am still at the feeling stage and haven't yet felt the depth of what is there.
My Mom sent me a sweet text after reading something I had posted this past week and she said "you have and have always had the strength you need when you need it" and that I am too hard on myself.
So, I am going to cut myself some much needed slack and sit with this grief for my dad's passing and grief for the bits of my childhood that still hurt my heart for a bit longer and see what they need to teach me.
This is going to be a rant, so if you don't want to read me be angry and mean, then please look over at the Archives on the right and select something from October or November.
My ex-husband stopped paying me the court ordered alimony back in August of 2013. My ex had to quit his job in one of his "I have to make a moral stand" or "I can't work like this" rants. I didn't make a fuss or take legal action because I assumed that once he had a job again he would resume paying me and that we would work out a payment plan so that he could catch up in arrears. Ok, so really I had hoped he would just start paying me again and I knew I would never see a dime of the back owed.
Back when I was pregnant with our daughter 12 years ago, I learned he owed his last ex-wife for around 4 years worth of back child support. He had decided to just stop paying her and he didn't tell me. I found out when his son came to live with us and my ex filled out the paper work to have his ex start paying us child support. She was very kind and had never filed legal paperwork on him. So instead of her having to pay us child support, she allowed him to pay off his debt in lieu of her paying us. Which was fabulous as he didn't have to go to jail and we didn't have to come up with the money.
Fast forward December 2013 when my ex-husband did get a new job, he presented me with a check for half of one month's alimony. He explained that he hadn't calculated his vacation days correctly so he had used too many days on his Vacation with the kids so he didn't get paid enough to cover his bills.
I was so grateful for that check that I snatched it up and cashed it immediately. I thought, ok, we are back on track now.
Turns out we aren't. A whole year has passed by since I received that half month's alimony.
I see him every Monday at Boy Scouts and am as polite as anyone. When our BSA accountant tells me we owe $80 from last year and will owe $80 for 2015, I ask about payments options.
I see him at every school event and there is never a mention of what is owed.
He sends our son to my house knowing he needs shoes, size 14 to be exact, and I find the $65 to buy him shoes. I pay for hair cuts and clothes. Every month brings a new financial challenge.
Meanwhile I hear about all of the dinners out and crab legs and sushi and I let it roll. It made me happy that if I wasn't getting the $2k a month, that at least my kids were getting to eat like kings.
At my house I get the eye roll and shoulder drop that we are again having chicken or spaghetti. Now don't get me wrong, they eat it and eat a ton of it, but yes my grocery list is quite boring. I am putting more effort into variety. Honestly, I was getting pretty bored with it too.
My kids have had fabulous vacations and seen tons of movies, with their dad. I take a deep breath and release the anger each phone call and am happy they are getting to do things.
This year my son came home and told me that his dad and his grandma had given him a paleontology dig camp for his birthday. Well really his birthday and Christmas. I was immediately sad that I couldn't give him something as cool as that, but shook it off and realized that my son so deserved this unbelievably cool gift. I also told myself that one day he might realize that we (him, his sister and I) contributed to his being able to go via not getting the money we were supposed to receive.
I made peace with that. He told me he was sad that he wasn't going to get anything at his dads. I assured him he would. I also assured him that I had already bought him tons of great gifts and that Christmas would be fantastic as normal.
We did have a really great Christmas.
Rewind back to June of 2014. I notice that almost a year's worth of my child support checks to him have not been cashed by him while finally sitting down to reconcile my bank account. I email him to see why? He tells me he never received them. I verify that he still receives mail at the house he was supposed to sale, aka our former home. Yes, he still receives mail there. Odd that none of my checks have made it up there. I ask him to not cash them if they do or if he finds them laying around and agree to give him two cashiers checks and hand deliver them to him.
Later while talking to a girlfriend, she mentions that I should pay my money to the state and have the state pay him, that way this never happens again. To do this you have to fill out paperwork. I wait at the human services office and fill out the paperwork. I mention that he hasn't paid me and they tell me I can ask for a review of our wages and child support assignment. I pay a very small amount as pure mean, small town punishment $25.59 each month because I ran out of money at year two of our divorce for a lawyer and had to represent myself. However, I would love to stop having to pay him and would love to have him owe me the child support each month.
I didn't sign the paper immediately. You see I know that someone will pay for my action. In my life, there is always payment.
There are always strings attached to every decision I am faced with. I stepped back and weighed my options. This is money I was granted to get back on my feet after taking a decade off work to raise and home school my kids while my ex climbed the corporate ladder and provided a great living for our family.
I have listened to my son spew his dad's hate at me that I wasn't using the money correctly in that I wasn't going to school to make myself better. I have done the best I can to explain the reality to my children that I do want to go to school to earn a degree that will open up more options for me to take care of myself in the future, but that it will have to wait a bit longer until I am making ends meet and don't have my hands tied by their school schedule. It has been hard enough for me to find a job that will work with our "Parenting Plan" let alone trying to pick school classes that allow me to spend time with my kids when it is my night.
I have listened to my children tell me that I am wrong, that we don't qualify for reduced or free lunch after I told them I received the paperwork stating we did qualify. I have tried to help them understand that while we are not on the streets, we are the working poor. We don't make it from pay check to pay check. They assume because they see me bust my ass every day, all day that we are financially ok. We are not. We do without a lot, but it mostly goes unnoticed. We are far better off than most of the people who stand in front of my desk daily. Most of my tenants would not believe that I make about what they do.
My kids would never believe this because I figure it out. Each month, I figure it out. I take the assistance I can get and our bills are as minimal as I can make them.
I have allowed my ex-husband to not pay me for 19 months. Not once in that 19 months did he go to the courts to ask for the alimony to be stopped due to hardship or his inability to pay. He just decided that he wasn't going to pay and didn't need to get the courts approval. I have watched the ex's of friends waltz into court and tell their unemployment story and have the alimony court order be stopped and modified immediately. That is all he had to do and he chose not to.
I want to be clear, my ex does not owe me a single dollar for child support. I receive no child support. The judge awarded me 4 years alimony, zero child support. I am not sure I will ever see a dime of what he owes me, but I am tired of having to write that check each month.
Fast forward to last week. I finally dropped off the paperwork. I stewed long enough. I realized that there is not magical government agency that is going to notice this huge oversight and rectify it for me. No one is going to do this so I don't have to be the bad guy.
I have been waiting to see when he would be notified. We had Scouts on Monday and he didn't say anything. We had to meet Tues. to register our son for High School and he didn't' say anything.
I sent a follow up email to him this morning asking if he had the dates he mentioned back in November when he told me he was sending our son to this great camp. He keeps forgetting to send me the dates.
I received a very quick reply today,
"I am going to have to wait and see if I can afford it since you want to change the child support. It seems highly unlikely it will happen, now." Paul
Sucks. I now know what the payment for me asking the courts to review our current finances will be. He promised our son a fabulous trip for his birthday back in November, but hasn't paid for the trip.
My son will not understand that he dad chose not to pay me and didn't cover his butt legally by asking for a change/modification due to his hardship. He will not understand that any consequences given by the courts will be in direct respect to his dad's actions. He will not understand anything except that his dad is going to punish him by taking away his birthday/Christmas present. And it will all be my fault.
I knew this was possible, but hoped that out of the $8000 he should have paid me since our son's birthday, when he was told he would get to go to this camp that surely some portion of the money would have been put down as a deposit or set aside in a special account.
I want to email back to my ex and tell him that it will probably be another month or two before the courts can get us in front of them, so that should give him time to pay off the trip so they can still go. I want to be mean and ask him surely he has set some of the $38,000 aside in an interest bearing account? Maybe he can take a second mortgage out on the house? Maybe he can borrow more money from his parents?
I yelled at Jason because he advised me not to send a nasty reply. I hate being told to be a grown up. Why do I have to be a freakin grown up and he doesn't? I will tell Jason "I am sorry" later.
I am just twitchin' to send a reply. I will probably stew the rest of the night creating several really mean replies. I am hoping that I will remain calm enough to not send them.
I promise I will update you if I do hit send.
If you have a great zinger of a reply for me to use, please head on over to my Facebook page and post them in the comments of this post. www.facebook.com/strongstartingnow
Dear Extended Family,
Here is what you didn't know, the reason I don't make it home very often is because the angry kid in me still carries a great deal of resentment that no body noticed that my home life was really bad.
My parents were alcoholics.
I wasn't supposed to let anyone know. Something bad might happen if people knew. My Dad could lose his job if they knew. I couldn't be the reason that his whole career could end.
I remember my Dad telling me that when he went to visit my Mom in rehab the first time she went, that she "got him locked up too." The grown up part of me knows that is not how it happens, but as a kid hearing that I worried that they would lock me up too. You see, by that time (I was twelve) I was drinking and my parents knew. I didn't want to get locked up too.
I couldn't ask for help. I couldn't be the reason my parents would get in trouble. I worried that if other people got involved we might be taken from our parents and that seemed way scarier than just keeping my mouth shut.
And yet in every way my young unconscious could, it screamed for your help. I am not certain I could have gotten in any more trouble than I did and it all just went unnoticed.
You would think that after growing up and starting my own life I would not feel compelled to keep family secrets, but the difficult thing about growing up in a world with secrets is you grow up not knowing who to trust.
It's not even so much who you trust, but you learn to not look outside for help. You grow tired of waiting to be saved.
Then by the time that you've grown up, there doesn't seem much sense in showing the ugly side to those who chose not to see it. You figure if they cared, they would have cared back then.
Growing up with secrets keeps you alone and separate. That was never what I wanted. I wanted to be a part of the huge family that took up several pews at our church. I wanted to be seen and loved.
I am doing my best to forgive all of you for not seeing me. I am doing my best to forgive you for not knowing what you could have done to fix any of it. I am doing my best to forgive myself for choosing to carry this anger for as long as I have.
Heading home next week is bringing so much stuff to the surface. I am ready to let go of my hurt.
I am ready to move back into the flow of my life where I don't have to re-feel all of these wounds. I am ready to get my dad buried and stop reliving so many sad yesterdays.
Happy Rump Day My Pretties!
I started my morning with a nice 3 mile walk on the treadmill because my kids got a 2 hour Snow Delay at their school!!! I walked and listened to music today instead of the usual podcast to allow my mind to just float and drift. I love walking meditation. I also enjoy when I can get my workout done and out of the way before the realities and worries of the day weigh upon me.
I am doing a 5 Day Writing Challenge with Lisbeth Darsh who I started following on Facebook a year or two ago because she was writing about the Cross Fit Games. I enjoy her writing and sense of humor. She is a single mom who seems to have a sweet and awesome relationship with her kids. She is a big mother nerd who is raising some great boy nerds which are greatly needed in our world.
Anyway, she posted in her Facebook feed to ask if anyone would like to participate in a 5 day writing challenge. All of us needy new writers jumped and said hell yes!
It is really cool to be introduced to so many good writers and very kind people. I love seeing so many different writing styles and diverse content. It is also so wonderfully human to see people, like me, stressing the damn deadline of having to put something forth for everyone to read for 5 days in a row.
Having been in this huge emotional schlump the past few weeks I was hoping this would get me writing again. It sure has. My mind is buzzing. Now if I can just get something to linger long enough to get it on paper.
It is day 3 and I will write away throughout the day and hope to have something to post before midnight.
To learn more about Lisbeth Darsh follow the links below:
Lisbeth has published a new book Live Like That containing 50 essays to get you "living your best life".
Words With Lisbeth http://wordswithlisbeth.com/
Lisbeth Darsh on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/WordsWithLisbeth/133485136702233
I want to design a logo that looks like my tea stain and has the words in gold. Very girlie.
I have been really drawn to watercolors recently.
Just sitting here thinking about it and day dreaming!
This weekend I watched the movie The Judge with Robert Downy Jr. I had no idea that this movie would tug on my heart the way it did.
Watching this movie made me think of my dad. The movie even ends with Willie Nelson singing. One of my fondest memories of time with my dad was singing Willie Nelson songs while we followed the Rhine River through some of the most picturesque little towns in Germany. It was one of the only tapes he had in the car, so we listened and sang Willie for many, many hours up the Rhine and then back down the Rhine.
Listening to my dad sing was then, and will always be a great comfort. He was not the best singer, but you could hear his heart in every note. It was like eating meatloaf and mashed potatoes, just pure comfort.
My dad died the week before Christmas this year. He had been sick for several years with no signs of doing the things he needed to do to get better.
While I had written and spoken to him at length over the years, the minute he was gone hundreds of things popped into my head that I wish I had talked with him about. I had been mad at him for choosing to kill himself a little bit more each day. I had been mad at him and tried to distance myself for what was coming.
I know he loved me. I know he was proud of me. But no matter how much you prepare, there is always so much more you wish they had said. I wish I had video taped him telling me he loved me. I wish I had video taped him telling me that he was proud of the woman I had become.
I know he would have written or video taped it if he had known for a second that there was ever any doubt in my head. I didn't ask because that would have forced us to deal with the fact that he was dying. That being said, I am sad I won't ever get to hear him rattle on with those long speeches about what he thought I should do or those tender moments right before we hung up when he would say "I love you Mel." Then he would blow kisses into the phone which was so unbelievably corny, until you realize you won't hear them again.
Losing a parent hurts, like deep in ways you cant begin to fathom. There will be so many moments when I will wish he was strong and healthy and by my side. But he wasn't strong and healthy. Losing a parent before they get sober is heart breaking. He was small and weak and unable to take care of himself. I didn't like seeing him dying. There is a smell to those who are slowly dying. I didn't want to smell that. It was easier to be thousands of miles away.
Losing a parent before you get your shit together as like a real grown up sucks too.
There will be a day when I am being interviewed about the work I am doing and the books I have written and he would have video taped it and mailed me a copy because he was so proud. There will be moments when I will holding my grand babies for the first time and he won't be there to tease me in all of my glowing happiness.
Next week I fly home to see my sister & my Mamaw and to lay my dad's cremains to rest. Full military honors, surrounded by tons of family in my very small home town. I can't believe he won't be there to pick me up. Just surreal to think through why I am going home.
The Judge was a really great movie. Anger, cussing, sibling bullshit, messiness and love, just like real family life.
I miss you very much. It has been seven years since you went to heaven.
The Golden Retriever rescue had promised me a 3 to 5 year old female golden 30 to 50 pounds and instead handed me a 10 year old 90 pound male golden. I fell in love with the beautiful white whiskers on your sweet orange face. I was terribly nervous to take you home as I had no experience with a dog your size.
I think you fell in love with me too, as you rarely left my side. I loved that you kept my feet warm no matter where I sat. I loved sitting with you next to me on my outside sofa swing while we watched the kids run & play.
I thought we would be together for several years to come, but I was only gifted with 2 short years.
I thank you for dying quickly as I have no idea how I would have made it through weeks or months of you being sick, but it was so quick that I didn't really get to mentally prepare for your large presence being gone from life.
The house finally sold, even with your vomit stains on the living room carpet, down the hallway, and in Liam's room. We moved and then 2 years later I had to leave my marriage & my home.
I ended up with your portable ramp you used to get in & out of my van. It lived with me at my girlfriends home when she let the kids and I crash in her basement for 15 months after the divorce and then it moved to the west side with us into our own first home. It has been in the basement where I walk by it when ever I do laundry for 28 months.
I have taken boxes & bags of stuff we no longer need to Goodwill for the past two years & have not ever thought "I sure don't need that ramp any more" until yesterday.
I am so sad that you lost your ability to walk after making it down the deck stairs to the back yard which was basement level. I am sorry if we bumped you around trying to haul you in through the basement doors to get you into the house for the night. I am sorry you spent your last night on this earth all by yourself. I know you liked to bed hop between the kids room, all night long.
I am so glad that you gained the strength to climb the steps up from the basement to the ground level of the house the next morning. I had no idea how I was going to get you up those stairs to get you in my van to take you to the doctor. You were the sweetest angel!
I am going to give your ramp to a friend who goes to other states to rescue puppy mill dogs and helps them find forever homes.
I miss you very much gentle Lucas!
Happy Rump Day!!
Today my Angel card was Listen.
You have received this card because the Angels wish to get their message through to you.
They ask that you talk less and listen more.
Retreat to a quiet place with the intention of listening.
Give your worries to the Angels and trust they've heard your prayer.
My daughter has been sick again, with sore throat & queasy stomach. I am tired today. Being quiet is totally on my agenda. Sleep tonight will be the highlight of my day!
I hope you have a great Rump Day!