Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Sending you Somewhere Else-But Stop Here First

I just started a new 30 Day Guided Journal thing, but I won't subject you all to it; instead, you can find it HERE should you be so inclined.

That said, there is always something to write about; my newest thing is this, and it isn't a new thing by any means. Call it another episode on "Kori's Soapbox of Single Parenthood," call it me just being a bitch AGAIN, call it whatever the hell comes to mind, but I am feeling just the slightest bit pissy today. And actually, I didn't earlier, because I hadn't really thought about anything one way or another. But now this whole dating thing comes to mind again, and I am just-well. I'll just start right here where my thought processes are, and see where it leads.

Why in the hell is it that I should have to question whether or not I choose to date anyone? Let's pretend that this man who asked me out is perfect in every way. Let's pretend that he isn't on the way to being a convicted felon or that he just has a few months sober. For the sake of argument, let's pretend he is Mr. Right all the way around. You know what the bitch of it is? I would still have to say no, or if I DID say yes, I would have to second guess my every decision and would still probably end up saying no. All of this fucking bullshit about how "we" are supposed to put our kids first and be very careful about who we date or about jumping into a relationship with someone....and yeah, sure, that all applies, but tell me this: why the fuck doesn't it apply to the men? Tell me this: in what instance in the last five (and oh shit, a half!) years, when have I NOT put the needs of my kids first? When have I not taken into account how every decision I made would affect them?

This is what I get so fucking sick of. In the media, we single moms are single-handedly ruining the economy by living off of welfare and working shit two-bit minimum wages jobs; we have also created a downward spiral of morals (anyone remember Dan Quayle/Murphy Brown besides me?) in America, which in turn causes more and more children to be born without any kind of a conscience. When you get a Michael Phelps, it is in spite of his mom's status as a single parent, when you have a kid from a single-parent home who gets in trouble. that is the reason. Wow-who knew how very powerful we really are? Those of you with testicles (and you, too, Sarah Palin) had just better watch the fuck out. I will note here that I DO receive help with my childcare and with medical-which is a national problem and not one that only effects single parents. However, I neither receive food stamps or cash benefits or reduced income housing or WIC-so is that welfare? I don't know, you decide. Oh, yeah-did you know that I ALSO do not receive child support? Yeah. All powerful.

So we have all of this power, yet we aren't supposed to date. We aren't supposed to "expose" our kids to "that" part of our lives, which means we either have to date secretly and lie to our kids about where we are going/who we are seeing, or we are supposed to simply not date. We have to come face to face with the statistics on a daily basis about how boys with single moms are 60% more likely to end up in prison, yet also with the fact that the majority of sexual abuse under the age of 16 is perpetrated by a step-father or boyfriend. So if we have girls, we are not supposed to date at all for fear he might hurt our daughters, and if we have sons we had just better hope they don't become a statistic. We also have to face up to the realization that men who do want to date us really don't want to date us-because at some point they might have to face the reality of helping raise someone else's kids. And God knows men don't want to do THAT; hell, most of them don't even want to help raise their own!
The thing that really pisses me off-like, so much so that I am shaking-is that these same things do not apply to men. And yes, yes, yes, I know there are good dads out there; if this makes you uncomfortable, then I am probably talking about you. I have made the choices I have made, and have owned up to them tenfold (and for the record, I am going to stop feeling guilty. TODAY.). However, I am not the one who emotionally and physically abandoned my kids. The older two? Their dad went through a long string of women, including one who would call weekly to tell me that he beat the shit out of her AGAIN. This relationship ended up with the two of them leaving town in the middle of the night without saying anything to the kids. And yeah-THAT is so much better for them, right? Or with this same one, he was supposed to pick up the kids after yet another court date and instead she said, "I don't want those fucking kids in my house," and he drove off without them, leaving Hannah at five on the sidewalk, wondering what SHE had done. Who is holding him accountable for that? Who, pray tell, will stop and think that maybe, just maybe, it isn't always our "fault" that we are single? At what point is the world at large going to stop and say hey, wait a minute; something isn't right about this?

So the world tells us that we should take care of ourselves and learn how to get along without a man, because if we date we are causing harm to our kids. The world tells us that WE are the only problem-because all of us got here by ourselves. We get told that it is okay for our exes to date and fuck whomever they want, because it doesn't have any effect on the kids; after all, we mothers play the most pivotal role in their lives, don't we? We are the nurturers and the caregivers, and now that we are single we are also the breadwinners and the medical providers and the financial directors of our children's lives.

Yeah-if we have such a huge role, then why is it that daughters have relationship issues with men their whole lives because they are looking for a father figure, and why are our sons lost without a father to guide and love them? Has any one man with the authority to change things stopped to think, for one minute, that maybe the reason we are such a fucked up nation is because men got the idea in their head that they get to have/be/do whatever they want, with no repercussions? When did we stop holding men accountable as well for the problems that beset our youth today?

Bah. I digressed; I am still holding firm to the whole I am not dating The Boy decision, because it isn't good for me, which in turn isn't good for my kids. But you know, it will be like this for the next 16-yes, guys, 16-years, because that is how long I am also supposed to put my life on hold because I fucked and got caught holding the bag. And do you know what is going to happen in the next 16 years? The same thing that has happened in the last 15. My two ex-husbands have moved on with their carefree, no responsibility lives, and Steve is well on his way to doing the same thing. I have had to watch two of the three try different women on for size, discarding them right and left with no regard for how that might affect their children. I have had to sit back and watch them get remarried, and will have to do the same with Steve at some point, but if I go out on a date with someone, the whole world will be watching me, just waiting for me to screw up.

*****I haven't felt the need for a disclaimer for awhile when posting, but this time, maybe I should include one: this is not intended to be directed at any of those whom commented on my last post. My use of "you" and "your" and "we" are all used collectively, NOT to accuse or pinpoint any one person or persons. And no, this isn't about me being some martyr about making the ultimate sacrifice for my kids, nor am I trying to hold myself up as some paragon of virtue. I am, quite simply, ranting and raving about the inequality and unjustice involved in being a single mom.*****

Monday, September 29, 2008

Weekend Recap of My Own

Talk about an eventful weekend! I got asked out on a date on Friday, we trimmed the huge tree in the backyard and made bread and cookies on Saturday, we played baseball on Sunday....and I also got the chance to spend time alone with each one of the four children over the weekend. I call that a success.

Starting with the date, there is a guy I met at AA, and he "likes" me (he really doesn't LIKE me, he wants to nail me, which are two entirely different things), and I am SO crushing on him. He is really, really cute. And funny. And did I mention that he likes me? Yeah. Very, very tempting. Last week, J and I sat with him, though, and I was kind of flirting with him, and-well. I did not do anything at all inappropriate, but there were vibes, and he asked me to go to dinner with him, and I had to say no....

I know I said before that even though I am in love with Steve, I would go out with someone if I were asked, simply because I am not going to put the rest of my life on hold because of Steve's issues. However, I have discovered that it isn't as easy as all that. For one thing, this J. is the first person who has asked me out. And yes, he is cute, and like I said, funny, but he is also not quite 6 months sober, which immediately rules him out. Also, he is going in for sentencing on a felony DUI in a few weeks-two really great reasons why I need to stay away from him. Not because I think any less of him (hello, I hang out with a bunch of recovering drunks-believe me, a felony DUI is pretty common in my group!), but because after going through some of this stuff with Steve, it isn't something I am willing to even think about until/unless he can get it all taken care of. And by time he DOES, I might be 40 years old. I did tell him, "Tell you what; you ask me again after you have a year sober and get through the worst of the legal crap, and then I'll give it some thought. Until then, no." It is both powerful and a little sad to be in a position to tell someone "no." I mean, like I have said, it isn't as if men are knocking down the door asking me out, so it is kind of sad to have to tell someone no-God knows when someone else might ask! At the same time, this is one of the hugest benefits about being sober and having gone through this kind of stuff before-no matter how cute, no matter how appealing, I have at least learned that I am not willing to take on another set of problems; I have enough of my own stuff to take care of, thank you. I also know enough to be able to think clearly-is the temporary fun and distraction (because there is no doubt in my mind that this would only be just that) worth it? Not today it isn't, not for me. So yeah-I feel a little wistful, yet at the same time very powerful-I made a decision that was best for me at that moment-that is huge.

On Saturday, my friend Chuck came over and we mostly finished trimming the tree in the backyard. My landlady has been telling me for three years that she would get someone over to get it done, but finally we just took matters into our own hands and did it ourselves. It is getting closer to winter here, and we get these really high winds, and the branches have been brushing on the power lines for at least three years. This year, they have grown enough in that they were actually weighing down the lines, so it HAD to be done. Plus there was a HUGE branch that hung over the clotheslines, and even though I know it is there, I see it and tell myself to duck, I have hit my head on it more than once. Anyway, it was a lot of work, but well worth it-the tree looks SO great, and the boys now have a huge tree-branch fort (which is actually quite cool, they have it set up like a tepee, kind of , where they crawl through this hole and there is a big bare circle inside), which will stay up until they dry out enough to be easier to cut. Chuck is much more patient than I am; he was letting both Hannah and Eli do the cutting, guiding them gently in how to do it, and I was really grateful. He says we are his second chance at having a child and grandchildren-due to his drinking history (he has 12 years), he is estranged from his family, and has kind of taken us under his wing. The whole family got involved. The big kids and Chuck cut down the branches, and Owen and Sam and I (and the dogs, of course!) were in charge of dragging them away, and it was just really, really neat. Afterward, Chuck wanted to take the older kids out to lunch, and he also apparently wanted to spoil them a little-all three came home with something. Sam now his his first and very own Scooter, Eli got the new book in the Eragon Series, plus some new school supplies, and Hannah got new undies and bras (yes, it is a big thing for she and I both, ha ha) and school supplies as well. Chuck says they need spoiled sometimes, and that it is his "right" as their adopted Grandpa. How do you argue with that, really?

Yesterday we did some of the household chores, and then headed out to Freddy's again with the dogs; we had Steve's again this time (I laughingly say that I have partial custody; I get to have her about every other Sunday), so the three of them were in hog heaven. We cooked hot dogs (and I had the foresight to take the chicken I wanted to use for the pasta for dinner and grilled it as well-wonderful!) and ate chips and played a few innings of baseball;. It was hilarious-since we play with everyone, we just use tennis balls so Sam and Owen don't have to worry about getting hit, but Eli's dog loves them. We had to take three balls because every time one of us would make a hit, the dog would chase after it. It was so much fun; I am sore today, though, from swinging the bat so much, and even from throwing the ball. Those are muscles I haven't used for a long time.

When Steve got back from his class, I made him take Owen for a drive while Hannah and I got dinner ready. O. has been driving me insane lately because he wants to "go bye bye daddy car!" And it just doesn't occur to Steve to ask if it is okay to take him for a ride or something like that. We had already talked about him coming over for dinner, so I just asked him if he could take O for a ride before dinner. And he was all like, "Oh, yeah, that's a great idea!" Duh. What is it that makes men so clueless sometimes? Why should I have to prompt him to do those kinds of things? He wants to complain sometimes because he doesn't get to see/spend time with Owen, and it's a little frustrating because a lot of the time he just doesn't see the opportunities.

Anyway, all in all it was a good weekend, and I am back at work feeling rested and in a good place emotionally. Again, not that things have changed so much, but just because I am in a place of acceptance and humility. It will be a good day, I am sure of it.

Friday, September 26, 2008

So I Pissed You Off.....

It is apparent that I am not going to making any friends in my class. I started off the evening last night with a bang, and it just progressed. The Mom about whom I wrote earlier in the week had the balls to come up to me before class started and say, "We waited for you to come pick us up. You are lucky we decided to just go on ahead and leave, or it would have been your fault if we had missed the class. And what is the deal with telling your daughter she can't talk to my son? " As she was talking, she wouldn't look at me, and spit was flying out of her mouth-I guess she was pretty mad? One of the things we talked about last week was all about making eye contact, so I waited until she WOULD look at me and said, "It is not my job to make sure you get to class. If you can afford to kill time by driving around, you can afford to get to class. And I do not owe you an explanation as to why I do not want your son to call my daughter and vice versa." Then I went to one of the instructors of the teens and asked her to please make sure that the two of them (H. and K.) did not huddle up together. She was all, "oh hell no, this is NOT a dating service!" Which made me laugh, and also rest easier. Mom? Well, she very pointedly looked at me and chose a table as far away from me as possible, as if I really.fucking.cared. Meh.

We ate, which was good-tacos, with this killer homemade salsa that I could gladly have slurped down out of a cup. Lots of cilantro, just the right amount of jalapenos-perfection. It was actually really nice to sit down with just Hannah and Eli and talk. We did not talk about anything spectacular, just chatting, but it was really nice. I don't now how THEY felt about it, but I really enjoyed the half hour with just the three of us; even in the midst of this hustling and bustling room, we were still alone as a little family unit, and I can see that becoming one of my favorite moments of the week.

We then went into our separate rooms, and I tell you, wow. The dynamics of the class are already changing, and it is really interesting to see and be part of. We are all a little less nervous, the facades slowly peeling away to reveal our true nature, and I am loving that. I am pleasantly surprised to say that one couple in particular has totally changed in my mind; some of the things that they went through this week with their child, in addition to some of the consequences they set down, floored me-and last week, I thought they were very cavalier and like, "oh, whatever, let's just get through this class." Teach ME to make judgements, I tell you. Some of the others, though, well, let's just say I wasn't wrong. One of the couples were all up in arms because their 14 year old daughter skipped school and came home with hickeys all over her neck-and yet were adamant that she isn't going to get pregnant because she isn't having sex. Well, she might not be yet, but she WILL be. A select group of us parents (and one of the instructors) were all "Is she taking any kind of birth control? Know how to use condoms?" and he said, "No, but she doesn't NEED to know how to use them, that is the boys' responsibility, and if we go put her on birth control, she is going to think we are telling her that it is okay!" THIS made me want to scream. I kept my hands clenched together until they were white, my teeth clamped so that I wouldn't lose it, but alas, I couldn't keep it up. Finally I said, "Um, why is it solely the boys' responsibility? So when she comes home knocked up you can blame it on him? And by knowing she is already engaging in risky sexual behaviors, by choosing to not provide her with birth control and STD education, you are telling her not only that you don't care about what she does, but also that you don't give a shit what happens to her!" My way of thinking is that we do our children a grave disservice by not addressing things like condoms and birth control and risky behaviors-while I am not looking forward to teaching Hannah and Eli how to put on a condom and taking them both to the clinic to show them where the free condoms are, I am also not willing to send them out in the world to take chances. I can't be there with them (thank you Jesus, I don't WANT to be!) to make sure they use them, but I can certainly make sure they know what the consequences are; and in this day and age, pregnancy is not EVEN the worst think that can happen. I finally just shut up and shook my head, because he and his wife don't want to hear it, they just don't.

I have a really, really bad tendency to want to force my own views and opinions on people, or try to "make" other people see things from a different perspective. Because I am right. Isn't it proof enough of my rightness that neither of my teens have ever skipped school gotten jailed, gotten drunk or high, and are still virgins? Yeah-and you and I know that it is dumb luck more than anything else. Anyway, when I realized what I was trying to do, I just had to stop myself. I can rant and rave here, and to my IRL friends, but I have two choices in the class: I can give my input and let it go and instead concentrate on those things I might be able to use, or I can bash my head against the wall and try to make these people somehow suddenly change their entire belief system and forget that I am there for my kids, and for myself. So I am really going to work on learning what I can from them-all of them, the what to do and what NOT to do, and let them do what they will.

There was a lot of really good stuff last night about rewards and praise, about choosing your battles and listening actively, and I can see already how I have failed in some ways-but one of the things both instructors harp on is that guilt is useless, and it is not too late. Not too late for ANY of these kids (though I do have my doubts, but not because of the kids!), and not too late for us as parents. They both said last night that if we take this class yet refuse to get anything out of it, then we are equally responsible for our kids making the choices they make. And you know, I agree.

So. Lots of stuff to process over the next week, and I am SO glad to have been able to go ahead and take the class. I think that anything I can do or am willing to try can only help, and I am grateful over and over again to be able to be teachable!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Untitled-With an Unrelated Update

Angie died just over three years ago, on a hot summer day in June. Strange, she is as present to me right now in this moment as she ever has been, as if she is sitting just over me at the desk, her fingers guiding mine over the keyboard. I have missed her daily, have often-even three years later!-thought, "oh, I can't wait to tell Angie!" or have purchased an especially lovely purple-flowered paper with the intent of writing to her on it. In all this time, though, three years which seem both like a lifetime and a heartbeat, I have never felt this kind of manifestation; I am not sure whether to weep with sorrow or to laugh with carefree joy. She is here, I want to yell, and in the same breathe scream that she is gone.

There was a song on my playlist a little while ago that reminded me of her~I am sure she never listened to Tom Petty prior to befriending me, yet I hear "Learning to Fly" and it is gift she gave to me. In the top drawer of my desk, looking for something entirely different, I found a piece of that paper, the purple irises catching my eye and my heart. All of these small things, the details of my life that are not just mine, but hers by default. Even now, I can't think of the two of us as separate; her breath is mine, and mine hers, only one of us has stopped. Sometimes I think it might have been me.

And when asked, I will tell you that from her I learned that there are no guarantees; that you have to either live or just exist, but either way, life is going to go on, with or without you. That even in the midst of pain and uncertainty and fear, life is good. Every breath we take, every action for good, every small green leaf in the wind or the way a lover's hand looks on your thigh, every moment is something to be relished. I don't know right this second if I can make it through another day, yet in the same breath I can tell you I am equally sure that I don't want to miss what might be coming. For good or ill, I am in this thing called life, and I don't want to just exist; I want to live, to love, to find a way to live in the moment and not lose another little part of myself in sadness and fear and uncertainty. I want to walk outside in the clear, windy light of Autumn, to go home to the people that I love and know that what I have, in all of it's manifestations, is really, really quite beautiful. I want to touch Steve's face with my hands and tell him that I love him, to watch my daughter's sleeping face transform itself into sweet babyhood one more time, to remember the day when Eli first told me he loved me. I want to watch Sam when he thinks no one can see, marveling in the fluid grace of his hands, and mash my lips up against Owen's sweet fat cheeks in an effort to become part of him one more time. Oh, this life; so beautiful and sacred that sometimes I just can't bear it.

***The unrelated update is that my first ex-husband just called me a little while ago to let me know that his dad has had a stroke and is failing quickly. He (R.) has had just a ton of health problems over the last year, including heart/lung issues and cancer. K. (the ex) was in tears, just sobbing uncontrollably, and this is one more blessing in my life: that our relationship over the past 15 years has evolved to the point where he can call me and cry and I can cry with him. There is no love lost between my ex-MIL and myself, but my heart just breaks for the whole family, and I am so grateful that I can be in a place to be helpful and calm and reassure him that I will help him in any way I can. If you guys have a minute, send up a good thought or 6. For a peaceful passing for R., for his wife to have the strength to let him go, for clarity and love for all of them.***

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Do I Have To Love Her Close Up?

Another quiet night at our house last night. Sam was supposed to have a Pack Meeting for Scouts, but at 6:55 still had been unable to locate his shirt, kerchief, belt...despite my reminder after school to get them gathered up. I told him that we would just have to go to the next Pack Meeting instead, at which point he had a major meltdown and got sent to his room. He fell asleep by 7:15, poor kid, and did not even stir until 6:30 this morning. Apparently he needed to sleep a lot more than he needed to be at a scout function. I like Scouts and it has been good for him in many ways, but I don't understand a few things. Like why they hold their pack meetings at 7:00 on a school night; are my kids the only kids who go to bed at a normal time? If it starts at 7:00, it really doesn't "start" until at least 7:15, and we are usually finished by 8:30-not late by any means, but usually O. is in bed by 8:00 and Sam by 8:30. I don't ever really say anything, though, because I don't want them to volunteer me to run them-no thanks. Scouts is already a lot of work and I don't want to create more!

One thing I am noticing about our house is that already the kids are starting to take me a little bit more seriously these days. Don't get me wrong; there are obviously still issues and problems that need resolved and a lot of new things to learn and implement. Hannah and Eli both are actually challenging me a little bit more, which is probably to be expected. I think it might have to do with seeing just how serious I am about making changes, seeing just how far I am willing to bend. The answer is, not at all.

Sitting in that class last week, and gearing up to go again tomorrow, I see very clearly what I do NOT want for my kids, or for myself. I think I wrote about my struggles with feeling superior to these other parents, and trying to keep an open mind and not judge them. However, on Monday, the mom of the kid Hannah is not supposed to call or text (did I tell you I had to take her phone away?) stopped by the house with this boy, and it was all, "I hate that fucking school, I hate that Principal, he has does nothing but try to get my son in trouble..." I thought, hmm. With an attitude like that, it is no wonder to me that her child is in trouble; he has clearly learned early on that everyone else is responsible for his poor choices, and he is of course blameless. They live in one of those rent-by-the-week hotels, she does not work, and I don't know or want to know much else about her. She said to me,"We are just out driving around killing time," and in the same breath asked if I would give them rides to "that fucking class." Because she was having a hard time affording the gas. God knows I understand that; I really and truly do. However, she chooses to not work, she has a terrible attitude and is simply showing up at the class in order to prevent her son from going to jail; she has no intention of taking seriously anything talked about. I told her no; I also made a point of telling her about how good our experience at the school has been, and how much I like Mr. A. (I may have exaggerated how "great" it has been, but I really do like Mr. A), and how I did not feel comfortable with her son coming over to or calling or texting my daughter. It appears that I am not going to win any friends here; she kind of sniffed as if to say,"Fuck you," and drove off throwing gravel. Whatever.

However, it is hard for me to look at my own situation and not feel some empathy for her. I would be willing to say there are probably a LOT of similarities between she and I. She is "with" someone, as there was a man at the class with her last week, but she still seems like a single parent, and it seems pretty obvious to me that where she is, is the result of some poor choices she has made. What I don't understand or have empathy for is the attitude she carries around with her, that the whole world owes her something and she just wants to sit back and wait or it to happen.

Here is something I have been thinking about a lot in the past few years, but even more so at this moment. On the outside, maybe, I could be this woman. I mean, I might not live in a motel, but I do live in a pretty junky little house (but we ARE on the "right" side of the tracks, if just barely). I am poor, have no education, made really crappy choices in men more than once, which is in part why I am where I am. However, I look at her and think, "White trash," whereas while I might JOKE about being white trash, I know we are not. What makes we two women in such similar circumstances so different? What made it so that I was able to get this job (sell myself) with little or no skills, start out as a receptionist, and then work my way toward my agent's license? What is stopping HER from doing the same thing? Or the fact that I can manage to scrape together the $5.00 a month to rent Sam's violin from the school so he can be in orchestra and she can't get together $1.00 to buy a bar of soap, yet was smoking and drinking soda? Not that I think she should have to go without those things; that isn't the point I am getting at. I guess I am just curious as to what makes some of us have different and better priorities than others. It can't just be circumstance; like I said, ours are, I am fairly sure, very similar, yet the two of us are night and day in how we approach things; what is it that makes us so different?

I can't pinpoint any one thing, but I think that attitude has a lot to do with it. I have my moments-days and weeks sometimes-where I feel overwhelmed and hopeless; they don't last, though, and somehow I get up and keep going in the meantime. Is THAT what the difference is? I don't know, I really don't. I just know that I don't want to help her-which makes me feel selfish and hateful as well as ungrateful; after all, I have gotten a lot of help in the last few months. I have gotten cards and treats from friends, I have gotten some money and a gift card, I have gotten clothes for Owen. Isn't it terrible that I don't want to do anything for this woman? But then I stop and think about it and realize that it isn't that I don't want to help; I have at different times bought groceries for a friend, given money anonymously to one of my customers, sent cards to cheer up a friend, sent flowers to a women having a hard time. It is that I don't want to help HER. and I really think that is more about her than me.

This is what I think: that we all need help at one time or another, be it financial or emotional or just a sweet, thoughtful card in the mail unexpectedly. However, if people give and give and give and the recipient continually refuses to do the work it takes to get things back on track, they kind of get tired of it. They get tired of the "poor me, my life is terrible and it is ALL someone else's fault" attitude. This must be what God feels like sometimes, looking down at us. He gives us all this...stuff. Friends and (sometimes) family, myriad opportunities (like totally opening up the door for me to take this class with the kids), a thousand and one different opportunities to make positive changes in our lives, one tiny little step at a time. Yet we sit back and wait for something more, wait to wake up one day and have everything perfect. Though I am not comparing myself to God in ANY way, I imagine he must shake his head and say, "For shiz, people, get off your ass and DO something!" Like I am doing with this woman. People would help her if she wanted to help herself, you know?

I want, every day, to be worthy of everything that has been given to and provided for me. And for my kids. I want people who have helped me and continue to do so to look at me, my family, and think it was time, money, a card, a stamp, a hug, whatever that was well-spent. I look at my life post-divorce and can clearly see how it has gotten better. Slowly but surely, there has been forward movement; I want at some point to be able to sit in front of the Big Guy and have Him say, "I gave you all of these opportunities and you took every one of them. Even if I had to humble you more than once, you accepted the help of my people, you worked hard, and well done."

Aarargh. The part of this that I hate is that I should probably be more open hearted and generous with this woman, too. Because He has also told me I have to love everyone. I hope that he doesn't mean I have to give her a ride, too; I hope it means I can just love her from afar.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Rolling Along....

Most of the day, my little "Create Post" window has been lurking around my PC screen. I have started to write something, then stopped and deleted, started all over again, and then just left it alone. This is what I have so far, after 7 hours. Impressive, isn't it?

So. I am sitting at my desk eating Dove chocolates, feeling a variety of different things, but none of them are forming into any kind of cohesive thought. There are a few good things that have happened, which somewhat balance out the less positive things that are going on, and somehow I am managing to simply get up in the morning, put one foot in front of me, and get through the day. It isn't a depression I am feeling, it is simply a matter of taking care of those things which need to be taken care of, and trying hard to simply let the rest go.

I think there are times when things just simply become too much to cope with, and therefore there comes a period of internal quiet; I don't know how to describe it other than that. It isn't depression, it isn't craziness, it is simply that there are things being worked out, both internally and externally, and I have really done all I can do right this moment. I do not believe in the old credo "There is ALWAYS more you can do," because when I fall prey to that attitude, I either run in circles or end up banging my head against a wall because I have tried to force an issue that simply won't be forced.

I have made a great effort in the last few days to be more aware of the good, too, and the beauty. On Saturday, the three older kids went to the City of Rocks with my friend Janet, and I was able to spend the better part of the day with Owen; that rarely happens. It was marred by a fight of sorts with Steve, but I was able to successfully deflect his issues back on to him and not take them onto myself; that is a sign that even though I have been feeling nutso, I have not forgotten everything I know, and is in fact something to celebrate. I actually got an apology from him as well, which is something close to miraculous. Later, I made soup and homemade noodles, and there is something very therapeutic about kneading, rolling, and cutting dough. The kids came home tired and damp and chilled, and we were able to have a basically good evening at home together.

On Sunday afternoon, we went back to Freddy's Pond to let the dogs run again; the light was beautiful so I got an opportunity to take some photos of the kids in a tree I really love, so that was fun, too. I like being there; I like that there is all of this room to run, there are frogs for the boys to try to catch and geese for the dogs to chase. Eli had a kite he was attempting to do tricks with like in The Kite Runner, and Owen spent a lot of time pulling the reeds along the water apart to hear that "pop" sound. I said "For Shiz" at some point, and Hannah about fell over laughing; apparently I am too old and not cool enough to say that phrase.

So these are the things that keep me going. Like I said, I am not depressed, I am not feeling crazy, I am just here, sitting quietly and waiting for all of the balls that have started rolling to carry us-me-forward. Thanks to all of you for rolling right along with me.

Friday, September 19, 2008

In Which I Say Thank You

After dinner on Wednesday night, I washed walls. I usually do it a couple of times a year, anyway, but haven't done it since I was pregnant with Owen over two years ago. Can you say eeeeew? But you all know where I was, emotionally and mentally, on Wednesday and Thursday, and you know, I just didn't want to yell at my kids. I was also feeling restless, irritable and discontent, and well as being Hungry, Angry, Lonely, and Tired. Those are for me, even after some years sober, MAJOR triggers; I am still SO vulnerable to alcohol, to the sweet, numbing effects of drinking large quantities-so when I get to the point where I was on Wednesday/Thursday, I really just need to stop and reevaluate. I am not AT ALL going to say that I am not worried about money or my kids or that they don't cause me stress, but at that moment, the most important thing for me to do was not drink. It is so scary sometimes to realize how easy it would be, how all it might take is a bad day; and yet, I have been given all of these tools in AA that when I use them, I don't drink.

So I took care of the most basic needs: I ate dinner, I called a friend from the program, I made sure to take some extra time with each of the kids, I called another friend from the program, and then I washed walls. It seems so silly, but it works for me. I cried while washing, but it felt cleansing (no pun intended). Steve came over to give Owen his bath and read to him, and I took the time to go outside and sit on the porch for 15 minutes before having to go back in and engage. And I made a conscious decision to stop fighting. Not meaning giving up, not at all, but accepting that this is life at this moment, and just because it sucks right now doesn't mean it is going to suck forever. And that I need to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and doing what I can do on a daily basis and things will fall into place. Or not. But the key for me is to focus on the things which are right in front of me, and trust that if I keep doing that, it is going to be okay-whatever "okay" ultimately looks like.

Through some creative financing (and thanks again to my friend Chuck, who certainly doesn't read my blog because he doesn't trust computers and I wouldn't want him to ANYWAY because he still thinks I am sweet and kind), between the $$ that he stuffed in my pocket last week, the returning of the bras, and Eli's mowing money (no, I did NOT borrow money from my kid; I TOOK it from him. He owes me the mowing money and any other $$ he earns for the foreseeable future), I was able to pay for the first half of the class last night and put gas in the car in order to make it to and from the class. I am grateful; above all else, this is what seemed the most important to me at this moment. I also spent a good part of the day yesterday (I posted in the early am, or rather scheduled the post I wrote on Wednesday evening to post early) making phone calls and trying to get things taken care of as best as I could. It is just a matter of getting through this next little while, and with the help of some people who would rather remain anonymous but know who they are, I will get through this next six weeks until everything gets back on track. Thankfully, I have not had to contact my mom, and with luck and careful management, I won't have to.

I want to rant and rave again about how crazy it is to still-at 36 years old!-be in a place where ONE major deviation from the budget is a tragedy, but I don't have the energy today. Instead, I am feeling tired and weepy but quiet inside. I don't have any answers; I know that I made certain choices a really long time ago that led me to this place, but the time for blame is long past. I also know that thing have been progressively getting better (I used to live on the edge like this ALL.THE.TIME. Literally). What can I be doing differently? I don't know. I can't pare the budget any closer; therefore, I think I just need to keep doing what I am doing. That pretty well sums it all up for me; this is where things are, and as long as I don't GIVE UP, they will get better.

I look around and see so many things going on and know that while money is and has been my biggest personal issue, we all have something. I was at that class last night (about which I will blog another day) and we are the only family who doesn't HAVE to be there; Eli might be in a terrible place right now, and I have no doubt that we are ALL going to learn from what this class has to offer, but neither his nor Hannah's behavior can be compared to that of the other kids. There was a group of kids who had absolutely NO respect for anyone in that room, including themselves. I was in a classroom later with the other parents, realizing that I was the ONLY single parent there and thinking that maybe I am not doing such a terrible job after all. I know and read blogs of other people who are struggling with family issues or health issues-terrible ones-and while it doesn't negate my own experience, neither does it mean I get to corner the market on pain and suffering.

I had a whole eloquent paragraph I wanted to write just then, but really, I just don't have it in me today. Just know that what you guys say-not just the blog folk who really ARE friends (and wow, how strange is that, really?) but my in-real-life friends-it does matter. It makes a difference. It makes me feel not so alone, not quite so crazy. And whether it is a financial way or otherwise, I simply cannot repay back those who have given me just what I need at the time when I need it. I hope to, at some point; to be a good friend, and a good support, and just be able to help.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A To Do List

These are the things on my To-Do list for the day:

1. Go to the power company and see if I can cajole them into letting me not pay my bill until I get paid on the first. I have done this one other time in the past and they wouldn't let me, as it has to be paid before the next billing goes out, but I have to go try. Otherwise we are not going to have any power. Might not be a big deal, but if the kids go to school and tell people we don't have power, it is automatic grounds for CPS to get involved. And we all know that they wouldn't understand.

2. Ditto about the phone company; I think this one will be okay, I am current on my bill and I know they are pretty lenient about things. One time I simply forgot to pay for two months (it is a small bill, and therefore not one that is always on the forefront of my mind) and they finally just sent me a disconnect notice-and then when I went in to the office to make the payment, they laughed at me kindly and it was no big deal. Not that having the phone is actually going to do any good, you understand-I have a cordless which doesn't work with no electricity. Still, they need to know I won't be able to pay this until next month.

3. Call and cancel our spot in the class. When I called and found out more about it, the total cost ended up being $60 instead of $45. That, in addition to the added 25 miles of driving a week, is not going to fly. I am not going to say any more about that, because I will start crying.

4. Call my mom and ask her for a loan. This is the hardest thing, more than anyone can imagine. I have over the years of sobriety learned how to forgive and love my mom, and accept her the way she is. That said, we don't have what any "normal" person would call a good relationship. Calling my mom and asking her for money is right up there with willingly hoisting myself up to the gallows and tightening the noose around my own neck. she will loan me the money; in fact, she very well may just say, "I will give you the money as a gift," but she will make me pay. She is like one of those little yapping dogs who maybe don't come right out and bite a chunk out of your ass, but instead slowly nip and tear until the ankles are bloody and infected. This is a last resort for me, but one I don't really see any way around. In addition to the regular bills, there are groceries, diapers, Owen had GOT to have some new clothes. HAS to. He has two pairs of pants (that look like Capris, I might add), two wonderful little one-piece outfits that a friend sent me, and the rest is all summer stuff. I had planned on going shopping for him this weekend, but-well.

I know this is only a temporary thing; I know that the dumb ICCP stuff will be straightened out by next month. However, I also know that by having to make double payments next month is going to put me in another bad spot then month, another month of not quite knowing how I am going to make it. So I think I can reasonably expect to worry and feel like shit for the next two months, and then with hope it will go back to the way it was earlier. There are still things to be grateful for; I mean, if my friend in Seattle wasn't helping us through the wage garnishment, I would have hit this spot 6 months ago. At least I had a bit of a reprieve for awhile, right? There will be a reprieve again, I know, and the trick is holding on until then.

The thing that is the most wearisome about all of this is just when things start to be okay on the money horizon, something like this happens, and I am immediately thrust right back into the pit. That is how on edge we are all of the time. I might have a little bit of extra money on occasion to take the kids to McDonald's or buy some bras and underwear (thankfully I didn't take the tags off the bras yet; they are going back to Penney's), but even that has to be done with careful budgeting. Still, it was okay, and we managed.

I think that I might not be blogging for a little while. I hate the way I feel, and I hate myself for making this all some poor-Kori-has-such-a-shitty life thing. That isn't the case, and if you know me, you know that to be true, but it is where I am at right now. I can't find the good stuff to blog about, and I am tired of blogging about the bad, and really, I am just tired. So I will be around, and hell, I might change my mind and decide to blog 27 times a day, I don't know. I just know it doesn't change anything, and no, it really doesn't make me feel better. What would make me feel better is a gallon of whiskey and some Valium, which means I need a meeting. Badly. Winning the lottery would also make me feel better, but you know, can't waste the $$ on tickets.

Fuck. I sure hope Steve enjoys his new house. Not that any of this is his fault, but still.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

On The Edge-AGAIN

This is what happens when I am off the anti-depressants; I just feel crazy, I have a hair-trigger temper, and my emotions are all over the board. I was doing pretty good there, had them in my system and was feeling pretty much on an even keel. Now I have gone through the withdrawals and am right back to square one. I don't know-it somehow seems worse than it was before, because I am more aware of how I am feeling as opposed to just thinking it is all hormonal. I just can't seem to cope with the things going on, can't take things in stride, and I hate that.

This is my pattern, as any reader must know by now; I do okay for awhile, but then I come crashing down into that abyss. That is a pretty typical pattern for anyone, I think, but for me, every time I come crashing back down, I feel just a little closer to the edge.

I want to go back home and go to bed, or just sit here and cry. For some reason the stupid people at the Idaho Child Care Program are really screwing up these last couple of months, and for whatever reason, they aren't going to pay my childcare this month. I have been in the ICCP program for six years and have never once had a problem with the re-certifying; it is just a matter of faxing in pay stubs and giving basic information. So I did that in July, heard nothing, assumed that it went through-just like it has for the past six years. Just found out last week that they hadn't made a payment, so J. called to find out what was going on and they said they never received my stuff. Fine; I sent in everything again last week, in addition to emailing them about it, and they still haven't paid. So today I have to take the majority of my check over to J. because she can't carry me until they decide they are going to get their shit together-which leaves me with about $40 and I won't be able to pay my power, phone bill, or any of those other silly things like groceries. Basically, I am fucked. And don't know what I am going to do about it. With any kind of luck, they will get their crap together and send in a payment, but it isn't going to help me with this money-she legally cannot give me back my money, but instead can just give me a credit-which, of course, I won't NEED once they straighten it all out. I understand that sometimes things happen, but when said "things" don't get resolved in a timely manner, those "things" directly affect my ability to take care of my kids.

I am also struggling with something so petty, so ridiculous, that I am almost embarrassed to admit it. But in talking to Steve last night, he was telling me about this really great two bedroom house he found to rent, it has new carpets and cupboards and new appliances and it is on a dead end street...on and on and on, and I wish I could say that I don't begrudge him a better home, I DO. I was thinking about looking, as I do every year at about this time, for a bigger house, and I can't find one I can afford. Not even CLOSE. So I look at him living this carefree life with no real responsibilities, and he gets all the good stuff. In the meantime, I live in this little tiny two bedroom piece of shit house, where you have to be careful about which sockets you plug things into and there is mold growing in both bedrooms and it is like the Joad's, I swear to god. And for the foreseeable future, I am stuck here. Totally and completely stuck. So yeah, I know this is MY issue, I know that I am being unreasonable and I also know that envy is a terrible, terrible thing, but it doesn't change the way I feel. It is just so hard sometimes-a lot of the time- to be punished for being the responsible adult. And that is exactly how it feels.

I hate that just when I think things are maybe going to be better, slowly but surely, something happens that reminds me that it really isn't. And yeah, yeah, I know, I know, live in the moment and be glad you have the kids and you really have a good life-I don't need the lectures, I know very well that I have a lot of really great things going on. However, it seems like I just can't keep my head even above water, and slowly and surely, more bad things happen than good, and it is harder and harder to keep that positive outlook, harder and harder to pull myself out of the pit. And yes, this too shall pass in time; what worries me is that my ability to continue to cope and be strong and, yes, happy is getting harder and harder to find every time this kind of stuff happens.

So easy to say "It's only money," and equally easy to say that "Money doesn't buy happiness." The only people I know who believe that are people who don't have to worry about it on a daily basis, people who can weather these kinds of financial setbacks with relative ease. I am not one of them. I am now wishing I hadn't spend money on two new bras and underwear on Monday, because now that money could sure be used to buy milk and bread for the next two weeks. I knew when I bought them that I shouldn't, but I justified it by telling myself that I haven't bought new underwear since before I had Owen, and the only decent bra that I have was given to me by someone else-and that is true, but there wasn't any reason I had to have them right then. I just had a little bit extra, and thought it would be nice to have something new. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

Ah. Another day. I hope that blogging about it helps; it is only Wednesday, and I have a very full three days of work left, as well as a bunch of different stuff going on at home. It isn't an option for this to be the one thing that pushes me over the edge again; I just don't know how to keep it from happening. Maybe Patrick has some ideas; I might go on over to his blog and ask.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Lull

Tuesday morning here. I am more than a little annoyed at the whole surgery thing with my dad yesterday; we got there and they did all the pre-op stuff and blah fuckety blah and then, just as the doc was getting ready to do the actual surgery, he decided he should maybe read my dad's chart and CANCELED the surgery; dad is on Plavix, which is a blood thinner, so he has to be off of it for a couple of weeks before they will do the surgery. God, it was such a pisser. I felt so terrible for my dad; he was obviously upset, and had no problem with ranting about it once we got into the hallway, but he didn't say anything to the nurses OR the doctor. I was all like,"Dad, I know that it doesn't change anything but shouldn't he be made aware of just how big a deal this is? I took the day off of work and we both drove all the way over here from our various towns and now we have to do it AGAIN?" but he has become so timid, and it made me a little sad to see him shuffling out of the office like, well, like an old man. Then he wanted to go eat at Perkins. PERKINS! God, talk about an old person's paradise! Just as I had mentioned before, he knew there was something he liked there but didn't know what it was, and of course my sister told me every restaurant in the area EXCEPT Perkins (she later said that it is because she won't let him eat there if she is with him!). So I asked him what was in this thing he liked, and he knew, so it was just a matter of finding it on the menu. Surprisingly, we had plenty to talk about. For one thing, he has a Jaguar; it is gorgeous, a black convertible with all the bells and whistles (and he got it on EBay, which I for some reason find hilarious), and I have lusted after a Jag since I was a little girl so there you go, common ground. I told him people would look at us in this hot car and think he was my sugar daddy, which made him blush and smile. We also got to argue politics, which is always fun. All in all, I feel very, very glad to have been able to go spend the better part of the day with him; I did have an open heart, and was able to look at him with compassion and love rather than annoyance and resentment-what a blessing.

Let's see, I got home from there and called the Juvenile Probation Office about the class; we got in, and will start this Thursday. I talked to D. and told her who I was, and that I had taken er parenting class a few years ago and she totally remembered me; I don't know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. I also think my friend P. might have mentioned I would be calling, because she was already typing in the information on her PC before I even fully finished telling her I wanted to take the class. So, on Thursdays, Sam will walk over to Jacquie's after school and she will just keep him and Owen there; the class starts at 6:00, so we have to pretty much leave as soon as I get off work (Hannah and Eli will also be going). She is also going to take them to my house at bedtime and put them in bed and stay there until I get home; talk about going above and beyond! I think there will be nights where Steve can do that part, but I am not going to count on him-I know he means well, and I will ask him, but at the same time, I am still keeping the backup plan.

What else? On Sunday afternoon, the kids and I took the dogs over to this place called Freddy's Pond; lots and lots of room to run for ALL of them, and of course water. We had Steve's dog, too, so the back of the Blazer was full of these big dogs; Hallie is a Weimereiner, my Harley is a very large Lab, and Eli's pup is God knows what but she is, I think, also going to be big. It was so much fun; I know we have the yard and all, and the dogs are perfectly content to run and play there, but there is something so much more fun about a huge open grassy field. Eli's dog is a pip, I tell you; she loves the water, we discovered, and it was hilarious to watch her dive into it after the ball. She would either run and do a belly flop, or very quietly sidle in and stalk the ball. The only bad part about it all was going home and holding them all three down to put the astringent in their ears to dry the water out; all three of them have those long floppy ears, and I know our other dog used to have a terrible time with swimmers ear. All in all, it was just a really great time. A bit of peace and fun in order to restore and refresh us all for the coming week.

Eli is really complaining about the whole bed-in-the-kitchen thing; all weekend he was like, "Man, this sucks. I can't even go into my room and READ!" He did try telling Owen and Sam to get out and leave him alone, and I put a stop to that; "um, the kitchen belongs to all of us, and I am sorry that they are annoying you but I am not going to tell them to stay away from you." He also has had a problem with me picking out his clothes; apparently I am just not hip to which shirt goes with which pair of jeans-who knew. I also made him fold up a pair of jeans he wore yesterday and put it back in his basket to wear another day this week; they were not visibly dirty, and until and unless he is going to start doing his own laundry, I am not going to wash a pair of jeans that has only been worn once. Especially since he usually comes home and changes his clothes before he does his chores. Anyway, he has been a little bit grouchy about some things, but less so about others-I think it is all a process.

So. That's where things are today. It is another good day, though, if only because I am in a holding pattern for the moment, but not a BAD one; it's just a lull before the new journey begins, and I think I am just going to enjoy the lull while it lasts and try to use it to gain strength for the path ahead.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Better Days are Coming

I don't believe in coincidences; while I do believe in random events, illnesses, tragedies, I also believe that every good thing that happens in what "normal" people call a coincidence is really God, working things out behind the scenes and giving us an opportunity. We have the choice, free will and all of that, to either keep our mind open to the opportunities or not, but I do believe with my whole heart that every good thing that happens in my life is a direct result of God. Bad things happen, stressful events occur, and those thing don't come from God. Instead, they happen, and He gives us what we need to get through.

Several of those odd things have happened in the course of the week, and I am here at my desk on a Saturday morning feeling peace and serenity and, yes, joy. The first hurdle was getting over the initial confrontation with Eli, and I was given the balls to get through that in as dignified and loving a manner as I could have asked for-that itself is no small thing. But after I got finished with what I fondly call our "coming to Jesus meeting," I called Steve to let him know what had happened, and what I got was this: an offer to get hold of G., his stepdad (and the kids call him grandpa even though technically he is really only Owen's grandpa) if I would call Rob and the three of them could get together with Eli and basically both back up my decisions and to let Eli know that he has these three great people who care about him and want to help. It is not going to be a lecture, but instead a reminder to E. that he has a wealth of love and support behind him. You all get to hear my bitching about Steve a lot, but there are also very many really great things about Steve, and even despite my anger and hurt, I know that he is a basically kind and good person-and the same goes for G. and my friend Rob. During the course of the conversation, Steve also surprised me with the comment that he has never really gone out of his way to "bond" with Eli because he has been to busy being a selfish drunk. It isn't a surprise in the sense that I did not, in fact, KNOW this about him, but because this is the first time I have ever heard Steve really say anything along those lines; he has been in and out (mostly out) of AA for gosh, ten years at least, and in the last three has spent more time relapsed than in recovery; the fact that he had that moment of clarity AND that he could share it with me is a good step forward for him-what he chooses to do with it now is up to him, but it really is a true moment of accountability and humility for Steve. So I was given two huge blessings in one feel swoop-the offer of backup, and a small glimmer of hope that maybe Steve will eventually "get it."

Then last night was my AA meeting, and I SO did not want to go; we had the usual after-work rush to get dinner ready, chasing the neighbor kids off to their own homes so we could have dinner in peace, dealing with a very cranky Owen (just like an adult, by Friday, he has had a long week and he is basically just tired and done. Fridays are never great in that respect!), and I was tired. Kept looking for excuses and reasons to not go, but then Jacquie called and had a really rough evening and said, "I wasn't going to go to the meeting but now I am, can I come pick you up?" Well shit, there you go-not only did I KNOW I needed to be there (if I find myself finding reasons to skip, it means I really better get my ass in gear and just GO), but she obviously needed one as well and effectively swept away all of my bullshit excuses. So we went, and as is so often the case, I heard exactly what I needed to hear.

See, on Monday I have to meet my dad in Idaho Falls to be with him while he has a cancerous growth taken off of his nose. It is outpatient surgery but he will be put under, and he also has to stay there overnight-not at the hospital, obviously, but in town-as where he lives is too far away of something happens after the surgery. So blah blah, I am going to meet him there and then we will go have lunch and such, and I will check him into the hotel, etc... My sister called yesterday when I was home for lunch and was giving me a list of the restaurants dad likes to go to, and what he eats at each one-because my dad is 75 years old and does not like change. He also gets overwhelmed when being confronted with choices (hm, sounds familiar!), so at whichever restaurant he chooses, there is one particular thing that he always eats there, only he usually won't remember it from one trip to the next and has to ask K. "Now what is it that I eat here?" Anyway, she was telling me all of this and I was hit with the reality that my dad is elderly, and getting frail, and I am being placed in a position to parent him-which I should feel honored to do, but instead that selfish, petty little girls who is still angry with her dad has been saying, "You don't owe him a fucking thing. Why should you be taking care of him in ways he never could take care of you!" The little voice was really fucking with me, and then in the middle of the meeting one of my very dear friends began talking about her last two years with her mom (who just passed three weeks ago), and how she had a fragmented relationship with her at best, and how it was so, so hard for her to give her mom the things she had not been given...yeah. Talk about God just dropping in at the meeting, plopping down at the table and hiking his robes up so he could cross his legs, chin in hand thoughtfully. I just started crying and could not stop, and funny, Jacquie was sitting next to me sobbing, because she is at the point in her recovery where all of the family issues are starting to crop up and-well. Suffice it to say that I will be going to meet my dad on Monday with a whole new outlook, and I am going to be humbled and open to what God is trying to work out between us. If nothing else-NOTHING-my dad deserves my attention and caring simply because he helped give me life. Regardless of how shitty or absent a father he was or continues to be, he needs to be honored and respected simply because I am here, I am alive and well and happy.

Last, but certainly not least, we were outside smoking and drying our tears and I was able to talk to Rob (who loves Eli and the rest of our family so much that he said, "As soon as you need me, call and I will be there."), and my friend P. was there as well; she hasn't been at a meeting for awhile, as in I haven't seen her for a couple of months (she has 20 some years sober and goes to meeting everywhere). She was listening to Rob and I talk, and I mentioned that class, and she was like, "Oh, they don't offer that anymore; there is now an even better one called "Strengthening Families" that takes the best parts of The Parent Project and the best parts of this other program and there has been even more success." Yeah-she is a probation officer who just finished a 3 year stint at the men's prison in Boise and has now transferred down here to the Juvenile Probation Office. She also is proctoring this class that is now offered because she is going to be teaching it next spring. The class started last week and they still have openings; she gave me the numbers to call. The woman teaching the class now? A woman who taught a parenting class I had to take in order for the divorce to be final-a class I was pissed about having to take because I was not the one who fucked up, a class in which I learned SO much. If that stuff wasn't enough to shake me to my core, my friend Chuck had come up earlier and stuffed some money into my pocket (he knows our situation and will often just stop by randomly and have coffee and bring presents, or stuff the kids need for school or bring us sandwiches from Subway, or give me money), and when I got home I remembered it and you know what? After buying (thank you Jesus and YES that is a true prayer of gratitude) smokes for the weekend and two pots worth of coffee, I had $46.00 left. The workbook for the class? $45.

So yeah, I am feeling so great today. I am aware that the process is just really beginning, and it is going to be hard work; if we are able to get into the class, we are looking at in intensive, 14 week class that meets once a week for three hours. Hannah and Eli will have their own class while I am having mine, and at the end we all have a class together. There is homework. It requires a huge investment of time and energy; I know what. But it is crystal clear to me today that if I let Him, God is going to be there every step of the way-providing the people and money and the time and the persistence. I am so blessed; for being in a place lately where I was both humble and teachable, for having been sober some years so that I could be aware of how He was /is working things out, for so many things. What a beautiful day!

Friday, September 12, 2008

And So Are the Days of Our Lives....

Talk about death warmed over; due to the confrontation with Eli last night and the fact that Hannah coughed all.night.long, I did not get a whole lot of sleep last night. I was also out of coffee and cigs (and no money), so it was not the smoothest morning. I looked in the mirror and was like, oh, shit, so I thought I would perhaps try to cover up the marks of a restless night by slapping on some makeup. However, I did not realize that I have only "summer foundation" and that it would be way too dark to wear now that I no longer even have the vestiges of a tan, so when all was said and done, I looked like 40 miles of bad road. I don't wear makeup much anyway, so perhaps that also contributed to the slightly clownish look, I don't know. Whatever it is, I
am not looking so great today. Meh-whatever. I highly doubt the President is going to be stopping by, and even if he did I really would not give a rip what he thinks about how I look, especially since I am one of those dreaded single mothers who is single-handely ruining our nation. I SHOULD look like a slob, Georgie. Oh. I digress. I have GOT to stay away from politics, I really do.

Moving on, the confrontation with Eli-at least the initial one-is over with, and to say it did not go well is a gross understatement. However, since I wasn't expecting it to go well, I wasn't surprised. I think I only raised my voice once, which was really hard to do since I was also angry-but I know that when people yell, I don't really hear what they are trying to say because I react and get angry myself. Defensive. He yelled at me-which I allowed. I tried to foster a conversation as opposed to a lecture, so I was prepared for a little bit of yelling, but mostly he did okay, too. But you guys were all right, it is definitely going to get worse before it gets better. Definitely.

I don't have it in me to go into all the details, because my heart is really quite broken this morning, and there is still much to process. We did go over the changes that were going to be taking place over the weekend, and he is predictably angry about it not just because it is happening but because he has to help. So much anger, but I think he is also a little scared. When I peeked in on him later, he had his dog curled up in the crook of his arm (and he seemed very relieved when I told him I had made the decision to let him keep her; I did some positive reinforcement, too, by telling him that other than not following through on the financial aspect of the bargain, he has done a very good job of taking care of her, and he really has. Any problems that have arisen are simple puppy-problems) and his eyes were red and swollen from crying himself to sleep, and it both broke my heart and pleased me. Broke my heart because he is obviously hurting-anger, fear, sadness, whatever-and really doesn't seem to understand why anything has to change, and gratified because if he was crying, it means I got through to him on some level. This morning he was not talking to me; we went through the whole morning routine (aargh, did I mention with no coffee? no cigs? No Lexapro?) without him saying a word to me. But I gave him his one additional chore for the day, and before I left I said. "I love you, Eli," and I heard him mumble "I love you too" under his breath. It's a start.

And so begins a new chapter of our lives. Somewhere, surely there is an award for "Meanest Mom in The World;" I hope the prize is a good one. In the meantime, I have entered a contest for Best Vacation Post over at Travel With Ronda, and the prize SHE is offering really IS a good one. Go on over and vote; and since the one with the most votes is NOT me, and is a really, really hilarious post, I won't be mad at you (much) if you read hers and vote for it instead. Because of course I voted for myself yesterday, but I did have to sneak over there and vote for her. It is Candid Carrie's, and all I can say to that is DAMN.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

I Have Decided....

I might be a single mother facing these difficult issues with kids alone, but I am not really alone. Since yesterday, through listening to you people and emailing my friend C. and April, talking to two different women (teachers) who have taken this class called The Parent Project ( I have been trying to manage both the time and money to take this class for two years, but now that I have two teens and an almost 10 year old, it is a top priority and we will be enrolling in the next class available in our area. I think it is offered again in the springtime), I realize that there is a wealth of information and support and help out there. Part of it is being in a place where I can see past the feelings of fear (oh my god, my kids is going to end up in prison if I don't stop this now!) and failure (this is my fault that my kid is acting this way) and actually see and use what help is offered. I have to humble myself and remember that while yes, they are my kids, I am also certainly not an expert of any kind, and if I open myself up to it, people can offer me insight and solutions.

I did not talk to Eli last night, for several reasons. One was that Steve was going to come over and give Owen a bath and put him to bed, and I did not feel like he should be privy to our conversation or have the opportunity to provide input. That was a dual-purpose decision in itself: for Eli's sake, I did not want him to feel ganged up on, especially when one of the people there really doesn't have a right to BE there. For MY sake, I did not want to put myself in a position of assuming that since he was there offering input then I was actually going to have back up. Also, there were so many different things going through my head, and I was still so angry, that I thought it would be best to give this one just one more 24 hour period. I went to bed early, I will eat healthy and well today, and I will talk to people (one of the AA things, too, is to not let yourself get too Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired, which works in all kinds of situations), and already I feel so much more calm and centered.

I have also come to what feels like a better solution, even though it is still harsh by some standards. And since I like lists, I am going to put it in list format, both to make it easier for my readers but also to help me to continue to process it.

1. Starting Saturday morning, Eli will move his mattress into the corner of the kitchen, he will no longer have access to his possessions at will, and he will have to approach me daily in order to procure a clean set of clothing. This is one of the tools The Parent Project recommends: removing all vestiges of privacy. Since he does, in fact, share a room with two other little boys, removing his door and taking out all of his possessions is not feasible, so we are improvising on this one. The theory-and this is one I really believe in, as some of you may know-is that part of the problem with teens is that they feel a sense of entitlement that does not, in fact, exist (I could expound for hours about this sense of entitlement that is pervasive in our nation, but I won't, not today!). As a human being, he has the right to be cared for and loved, to be able to have a voice and make choices. As a child, he does NOT have the right to disrespect rules and authority; there is a place to question this, as I have written about before, but when he begins to infringe upon the rights of the other family members, the time for questioning is over. Also as a child, he has the right for clothing, food, shelter, and safety, as well as love and affection and stability. It is my responsibility as a parent to provide those things for him. The fact that I scrimped on lots of other things in order to provide NAME BRAND clothing that he wanted as opposed to just going to Target, that is a privilege to him. The fact that he is able to participate in sports or other activities is not a right. The fact that he has the freedom to stay with friends and go places with them are privileges, not rights. So this part of the process is re-establishing what he is, in fact, entitled to and what is just a bonus. One of the women who took the class and used it said that she totally cleared out her daughter's room save a mattress on the floor, and re-evaluated her weekly. As behavior and respect for her improved, she got a few things back, and within 6 months she was back in her room with a door and everything. And they have not had any major problems since.

2. I have re-thought my decision about Eli keeping his puppy. I will buy, over the weekend, her collar and chain, and I will help Eli choose a spot to stake her at where she can't climb over the fence (um, yeah. America's Funniest Home Videos? Watch out, because not only does she CLIMB THE FENCE, she also perches on top of it and peers around the neighboring yards. The problem is that she then jumps into their yard, cuts around the side and rounds the corner to eventually end up back on our front porch. The key word being eventually). He will, however, pay me back by working at a fair minimum wage. See, part of the deal when I agreed to let him have a dog (clear back before the other one was taken) was that it would be his. That meant not just taking care of it but also using his own money from mowing lawns and such to pay for what she needed, including a portion of the money we spend on dog food as well as her shots, etc...well, he hasn't followed through on his end of the bargain, choosing instead to spend his money on other things. Now that summer is over, he no longer has a mowing job, so will need to come up with other ways to earn money. I don't believe in an allowance, so he will not be getting "paid" to do his regular chores. Instead, there are a ton of things that need (and have needed for quite some time) done around the house and yard, things I haven't had time to really get into, and those will be his "jobs."

3. I am also re-thinking my threat to send him packing to his dad's. Although he does not particularly like his dad or get along with him, his dad is actively campaigning like he did with Hannah to have Eli move there. The bribes, the promises, etc.. In Eli's current state of mind, he may very well decide that he can escape the consequences by moving-and I am not willing to let that happen. In addition, I have realized that the message he would be hearing is, "You are too much trouble and I am no longer willing to invest any more time and effort on you." Which is the furthest thing from the truth. Along with this comes Jennifer's suggestion of more one-on-one time; while this may not be as easy for me to do as I would like (remember, 4 kids, full-time job, only a limited number of hours in the day), I am also going to avail myself of the many, many adults in Eli's life who love him. My friend's Rob and Janet, one man from the church who really thinks highly of Eli, Steve and Jim...each one of these people and more would be willing to take a few hours here and there to do something with Eli. Something that makes him feel important and loved and cherished. And I can commit to an afternoon a month of just us. I know it isn't enough-I KNOW that. But it is what I can do.

4. I am also going to accept responsibility for my part in this. I will not go so far as to say that it is my fault, but I DO play a part. I have spent a lot of years trying to make up for the fact that sue to some of my choices, the kids have gotten the raw end of the deal. I have spent too many years trying to make up for the absence of one parent (their dad is around in a sense, as he sees them and has contact with them, but he does live 700 miles away and had therefore been unable to really take an active role in their lives. Which I see as being a plus, which is a topic for yet another post, but which has still hurt the kids), and have been willing to let more things go than I should. I have also been guilty of assuming that since Eli (and all the kids) is basically a good kid, I wouldn't have to worry about anything like this. I talk about holding kids accountable and teaching them personal responsibility, but how much do I really do that? Is that something that I really believe but have a hard time following through with? Yes-guilty as charged. That stops today. Not only am I going to hold ALL the kids more accountable, but myself as well.

5. I am going to work harder on letting him-and by proxy all of the kids-that it isn't, in fact, all about him. There is a whole world out there, with all sorts of different people and situations and circumstances, and I am going to work really hard at helping him to get out of "self" for awhile. I know that for me, one of the best things I can do when the shit hits the fan and I don't know what to do is to get out of self and do something for someone else. I know it sounds like a crock of shit, but it really does work. I want my kids to learn to be socially responsible, good neighbors, kind friends-and yet this is another one of the things that I talk about and try to do for myself but haven't really demonstrated to the kids. An opportunity arrived this morning in the form of one of my insureds; she is not elderly but a little batty, and for one reason and another has no coverage on her home. In looking at her house, I found out that there is quite a bit of work to be done before we can actually write her with someone, so I called her daughter and we are all going to head out on Saturday and do some work. And this isn't a punishment for Eli, but an opportunity for our whole family. S. (her daughter) has boys the same age as both Eli and Sam, so between the 4 of us (Owen will be exempt) and the three of them, we will be able to get done in a day what needs done. There will be food, and I really like S (though I don't know her well, I would LIKE to), and we will also be able to chalk off one of Sam's Scout requirements at the same time. It ISN'T about us; not as individuals, and certainly not as a family. If I am going to piss and moan about how we are a nation that isn't kind to our children, had I not work a little harder at raising children who are kind to the world?

So this is where I am today. I don't hope for or expect change overnight; I don't expect anything less than fury from Eli, but also hope that in time he will learn. I do not expect things to miraculously change with one afternoon helping someone else, not do I expect any of this to come easy for ANY of us. The bottom line is that while I cannot and will not accept the blame for Eli's issues, while I WILL NOT simply say "Boys will be boys" and let it go, I can make positive changes now. And it isn't too late; I really believe that it is never too late to change-thought processes, habits, beliefs, it is never too late. Wish us luck.

*****Shameless plug for votes here: Head on over to Travel With Ronda and vote for my vacation post; I did it for a Flashback Friday one time, and she has the link if you need to go read it again, and though the others are good, surely mine is the best? I really just want the prize.*****