Elf on the Shelf: My Love Letter to My Son

I updated this piece three years later as I enter into the first season without our Elf and without Santa.  It is the night of Thanksgiving.  On this very night, at this very time for as long as I can remember, I have unearthed our Elf and scoured Pinterest and recently dressed and dug out the Elf Brigade that has assisted in all the hijinks and tomfoolery over the years.  But tonight . . . tonight, I do nothing.  And I feel the nothing.  I truly thought this nothing would feel so much better, or different.  But it just feels a little empty.  I mean, what is Christmas without the magic?  So, parents of littles.  I leave you this post from the late years of my Elf days when I knew they were drawing to an end, and I beseech you to hold them tight, for when they end, you will feel that emptiness.

. . .

I know, I know.  I have seen all the anti-Elf posts and some of them are hilarious.  There are times that I curse out our elf and loathe coming up with new and crazy ideas for him to participate in.  Waking up in the middle of the night, going to bed late, or getting up early to be sure he has moved and has written my son a letter can be exhausting.  But when it comes down to it, my relationship with our Elf is a month-long love letter to my son and his childhood.

Frozen Ben

Ben the Elf frozen in ice (2017)

I do not ever really remember believing in Santa.  I had two older siblings and, as it often goes, once they figured it all out, they were eager to spread their knowledge to their siblings.  So that bit of magic was lost for me.  I never really regretted it, and I do not feel like I am damaged because of it; it is just how it was and another reason that I am determined to have my son believe for as long as possible.

TP Tree Ben

Ben the Elf zip lining down the toilet paper after he TP’ed the tree (2014)

The other night, my son had the stomach flu.  He does not get sick often, so it hits him kind of hard when he does.  Our Elf (and his cronies, as he has collected friends to help him with his shenanigans- Grinch, Santa, Lizzie the Lizard, Fred a touchable elf, and Wolfie the Wolf) made him a care package of hot cocoa, Alka Seltzer, acetaminophen, and tissues.  Like I mentioned earlier, he also wrote him a letter asking him to get better soon.  My son was so moved by the kind gesture that it literally brought him to tears.  Right then, I said to myself, “THIS.  This is why I do this.”

Sick Elf Brigade_2016

The Elf Brigade came to nurse a sick Ben back to health.  They brought some acetaminophen, a thermometer, hot cocoa, alka seltzer, and some tissue (2016)

Listening to my son talk to his elf and tell the elf about his Christmas wishes and desires and laughing at the antics of the elf fill the holiday season with such joy.  My son pops out of bed each morning to see his elf.  The other day, my son realized that his time with his elf was drawing to a close and, again, it made him cry.  He thinks of his elf as a friend and confidant.  My son is eight.  This may be his last year that he so wholly and completely believes in this magic of the season.  This time thinking of silly and fun ways to make my son giggle and believe is time well-spent, in my opinion.

Caution Ben

Ben the Elf “locked” Ben the Human in his room when he saw how messy it was and declared it a disaster zone (2017)

So this year, and hopefully next, I will move our elf and hang him from ceiling fans, and create wanted posters, and allow him to poop peppermints and fish in our turtle tank if it means that I can bring a smile to my son’s face and allow him to keep this magical memory one day, one month, one year longer.

Elf Brigade Surrounded 2013

The army has them surrounded!  How will the Elf Brigade ever escape? (2013)

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To All the Single Parents on the Holidays

Being a single mom is lonely.  I can imagine that being a single dad is just as lonely, if not moreso, but I am not one, so my point of view will be of that from a single mom.  Even with friends and family surrounding you, it is lonely.  The holidays bring a special kind of loneliness and sometimes, terror and anxiety

On a day-to-day basis, I am all there is.  When I am sick, like I have been for the past few days with a killer stomach virus, I feel particularly helpless.  I have no one to call for help.  There is no one in the next room who can step in and take over.  There is no one else to make the lunches and dinners and get my son to practice.  No one else to wake him up.  No one else to tuck him in.  This is normally something that I am not only fine with, but enjoy.  On days when I am not fully functioning, it is overwhelming.  Yes, I have friends who will help me get him to practice and school, but tuck him in? Wake him up? There is no one.    I do not have family within even a surrounding state and his father is not in the state and has chosen not to see him in the past year.  So it is him and me.

Friends get sick of me cancelling on them because I do not have a baby-sitter and do not want to spend my money on them or call in yet another favor to go out when oftentimes, I would rather be home hanging out with my sidekick. So they stop inviting me.  Some have become openly hostile and do not understand why I will not just leave my son with any 12-year-old and just go out.  Why sometimes after being everything to that one little man, I am just exhausted and do not have a desire to do anything but relax or clean (which I really should be doing now instead of writing this as my house is a complete shit hole).  So the loneliness intensifies.

People say, “take care of yourself first.” That is a nice sentiment, but it is not realistic.  I cannot tag someone is so that I can drop my son off at practice and someone can pick him up so I can run to the store or go work out.  “Take care of myself” means that at the end of the day, after he is safely in bed, I can rest easy that I have done everything to make his world safe and full of love and life so that he does not come to think that he was raised by a “single mom,” but that he was raised by his mom and his mom was enough.  My hobby is him.  My past-times are his practices and helping him memorize the regions in the state and conjuring up Elf on the Shelf schemes. So the loneliness intensifies.

Friends who are single parents, but who have family or whose ex plays an active role in their child’s life do not even understand the depths of the loneliness.  They can make plans at least once a month and not have to worry about baby-sitters.  While I feel incredibly lucky for the time that I have with my son and that I do not have to split it and deal with what many of my friends have to deal with (kids coming home and comparing what they can do at mom’s or dad’s house but cannot do at their home; wanting to go to a party, but not being able to because it is their weekend with the other parent; etc), sometimes I just want and need some help.  Help that will never come. So the loneliness intensifies.

The loneliness reaches its climax at the holidays.  Every Christmas since I have been separated, i have allowed my ex to have my son and then I take the second half of break.  I sacrifice this precious holiday and all its many traditions because it is the best thing for my son.  But it is intensely lonely.  It is a lonely that no one and nothing can fill.  The feeling of waking up on Christmas Day to nothing when you have a young child out there is a void that cannot be filled.  It is even worse when your ex does not have your child call to say, “Merry Christmas.”  That lonely is one that so many parents are feeling throughout the holiday season – not just this, but all holidays and much of the summer as well.

The loneliness of single parenting is a deep chasm.  It is lonely when you are up at night looking over a sick child.  It is lonely when you are unable to give your best.  It is lonely when you cannot provide financially, emotionally, physically, or psychologically.  It is lonely when you are in a room of a thousand people or with your five closest friends.  So, single parents, i want you to know that while you are lonely, you are not alone.  While you feel like you are adrift in a world where no one understands or sees your struggle; we are there alongside you.  We see you and we understand and if any of us had the time or the ability, we would form a club, but no one would show up because we are too busy parenting :).

The Camel’s Back

I saw a side of Ben last night that I never wanted to see.  It was so sad and so heart-wrenching.  He has been struggling with trying to make a person in his life see his worth.  He has been let down and criticized and held back and had other kids who he is, at the very least, an equal to be raised above him and praised.  Last night he had enough.  He had been told that this was happening because this person thought he was motivating him to be better.  This person just lost my son.  For most who know Ben, this would be a loss.  Ben is so loyal and devoted and will do anything to please those in his life.  He will work harder and more to push himself when someone sees worth in him.

By making him feel like no amount of work would ever be enough, this experience has been ruined for him.  It kills me. It is a life lesson that no matter how hard you work or how good you are, some people will favor others over you.  But it is not a lesson that I want my eight-year-old to learn.  Kids at this age are unwaveringly fair-minded.  He came hime last night and for the first time he said with no sorrow, “I am quitting.”

He is quitting on a thing that he loved more than anything yesterday morning.  He is quitting because this adult quit on him.  Ben believes that there is no point.  There is nothing he can do to make this person see his worth.  I cannot argue with him.  Ben has busted his behind for this person, more than I have ever seen him work for anything and there have been only criticisms.  I have secretly been hoping he would quit for awhile now.  It has become increasingly obvious that there are two standards and it is something that many others have seen and commented on.  I have said that I feel like I am paying to give my son a bully and that the atmosphere is more like that of an abusive relationship – knock you down over and over till you are at your lowest and then give you a tidbit of hope.  I have been a part of those relationships and it killed me to see my son in it.  I have secretly been scoping for other resources, sadly, there are few.

I hate that Ben had to be driven to this.  I hate that what he once loved and what could have been a wonderful experience now has a dark tint and I hope that I can save that for him, but right now he is very bitter.  Sweet, kind, considerate eight-year-olds should not be taught to be bitter and cynical and it kills me that he had to learn that so young.  I will pick him up and brush him off, and build him up, and place others in his life that will hopefully start to repair this feeling that he has right now.

To My Dear Friend on the Day that You Leave Us.

“She called herself an angel, and wandered the world from girlhood till death. She lived every kind of life and dreamt every kind of dream. She was wild in her wandering, a drop of free water. She believed only in her life and in her dreams. She called herself an angel, and her god was Beauty.”
― Roman Payne

May 26, 1995

May 27, 1995

LV2 May 1995

Dear Laura,

I just saw the Facebook post.  I am walking in out of rooms with no idea or understanding why. This strikes me as poetically ironic as this is how i was when I found you last.  I have no idea how we ran into each other or how we began talking.  None.  I was in a transitional phase in my life.  My memories of school and the people there have always been filled with animosity and disdain.  They were not good years for me, at least not with the people FROM my school, so I have no idea how or why we began hanging out.  All I know is, those were some of the best years of my life.

You were so full of life and spirit.  You had no expectations of me or our friendship.  You took me as I was and helped me to become who I always wanted to be.  You breathed life into me and now I feel that surge oozing out of every pore that I own.

My God, the times we had! We were insane! We had so much fun! We walked right up to death’s door and knocked and put a bag of shit on his doorstep, lit it on fire, and laughed at him as he came out and stomped around in it.  We had NO fear.  Not of ourselves, not of each other, not of anything. We were smart enough not to document most of our forays on camera and thank all the stars and gods that there was no Facebook or Instagram at this time.

I have never had a friend like you.  Not before and not since.  You just loved me as I was and as I wasn’t. We never reminisced about high school, why would we?  We did not have the same experiences.  We just took life as it was and went with it.  You never asked me about my family.  You never wanted me to be someone I wasn’t. You never expected anything from me.  You were everything I needed.  You walked into my life and you filled it up.  For two years we were inseparable. For two years, we sucked the marrow out of life and never looked back.

You have always been just so alive that I cannot imagine that you have gone.  How can this world conceive of moving forward without your energy? How dare it try?

I sat on the computer this morning (while I was “working”) and contemplated buying something trivial from Groupon while your family had to consider this.  I think of when you found out that you were pregnant with Devon. This did not stop us or slow us down, but you were always conscious of his life in you. You were always thinking about him.  It never crossed your mind to drink or smoke after you found out that this little nugget was entering your life.  I remember when you came home from the doctor and told me about how he already had fingers and toes and how your eyes lit up.  I knew then that our lives were moving in different directions and it broke my heart, but I was so happy for you. I went on to college and you went on to mommy-hood.

We spoke a few times on the phone, but I am not well-versed in the language of friendship, so had no idea how to maintain this relationship. Thankfully, though the power of FB, we found each other again.

You had it all!  An amazing husband, whom you were very obviously head-over-heels in love with; 4 gorgeous children who are involved and smart and have so much of you.  Your sister and mom, whom you were always close to, in a way that made me intensely jealous.

You are one of my regrets.  I walked away from an amazing friendship.  I walked away when you probably needed me the most, yet you held no animosity.  That is not in you.  You have always mesmerized me and you always will.

I weep for your kids.  I weep for you husband.  I weep for your mom and sister and family.  I weep for the friends who were smarter than I am who kept you near and dear to their hearts. I weep for me.  I do not weep for you.  You lived this life.  You are a badass.

Mother’s Day

My mom has been on my mind a lot lately.  There are lots of reasons for this.  With Mother’s Day being this weekend, it brings me back to all the countless hours standing in front of the card display trying to find a card that basically said, “Thank you for loving me the best that you could even though it was not enough.”

Mother’s Day is bittersweet for some of us.

It is heart wrenching when your parent is just not able to parent, for whatever reason. For everyone, I am sure.

All I ever wanted was for her to love me. All the time.

When I was my son’s age, my mom got “sick.” There isn’t anyone who can really explain her illness.  When I was six or seven, my mom and dad started getting into horrible – fights all the time. My mom would make me sleep in her bed and when my parents fought, she made me run and get her checkbook and sit on it.

I remember my dad spending nights in motels. Banging on doors and screaming and having no clue what was going on.  I remember him combing through real estate books not understanding why, but was pretty excited as I was alienated at my school. My mom had gotten into arguments with the principal, teachers, and other mothers to the point where I was not allowed in certain groups, like the Girl Scouts.  I know what she told me was the reason, but I do not know if it inaccurate.  My mom had her own version of reality.

When I was seven, she was suddenly, and without warning unable to walk.  Looking back, I believe it was psycho-somatic. At the time, it was terrifying. My dad worked multiple jobs. My mom was in the hospital – I do not recollect how long, but it felt like eternity.  I cannot even remember what season it was.  But my whole life changed with her illness.  This is the split.  The before and the after. But I was too young to remember the before. I wish I did.  My little sister and I tell my two older siblings that they had different parents than we did and what we should say is, they had physical parents.  My dad was rarely home.  My mom was sick. My little sister and I would walk to the grocery store for food and whatever else was needed because my mom could not/would not move. We made dinner, or we did not eat.  We cleaned the house, or it went dirty.  My sister and brother were old enough to be gone with their friends, but my little sister and me were unable to escape that.

The inability to move was not the part that made it difficult, the need to win her approval in order to be loved, or the favorite was.  We knew that if we disappointed her or she did not like what we said or did, that favor would be shifted.  This created some neuroses in us and it pitted us against each other.  So, we didn’t even have each other to depend on and turn to because we had to compete with each other for her attention and love. We were isolated from family – this is when we stopped going to see my dad’s family. She did not know or like any neighbors though they had lived on the street (where there were block parties) for many years.

I do not think she chose this nor did it out of ill will.  This is what she knew.  What she learned. What she understood to be true. regardless of why she did it, it has deeply affected me (I will not speak for the others).

I watch my friends and envy how they can turn to their parents for assistance or advice.  I was a new mom with no one to help me with basic questions.  I could not ask my mom because I was terrified of repeating the pattern. I had no aunts that I was close to – my mom had one sister who passed away long before I had Ben – and we had successfully alienated my dad’s entire family and as far as I knew, they hated us (as adults and with the help of Facebook, I have found my way back to them). My mother-in-law did not like me.  My husband was vacant. I was alone and trying my damnedest to not screw up my child too much. I still am. . .

I see my son in his 8th year and I see so much of me in him and I hope that who he grows into is who I may have had a chance to be under better circumstances.My mom did the best she could, but it was not good enough. I am doing the best I can do and I hope and pray that he will not feel this way when he looks back on his life and how I raised him.

I hope that he never has to stand in front of the cards for moms and think, “I really with they made more generic cards without all the emotional stuff – something between funny and sentimental; where are the cards for the dysfunctional families?” It is a relief that I no longer have to fight this and it saddens me that I do not have a chance to mend that relationship.

Happy Mother’s Day to the dysfunctional ones with no cards to match their relationships.

Gratitude

So many times in my life I could have given over to the “woe is me” attitude. I see a lot of it all around me.  Recently, I joined a Facebook group for people who are divorced because there are things that I need some advice or to rant about that only other people going through this will know or understand.  I also do not want to burden my friends and family with my rants.

My divorce was one of the smartest decisions I have ever made.  The day that my ex left, a huge weight was lifted off of me.  He did not cheat, that I know of – nor would I really care. He was never abusive, physically.  I guess you could say emotionally, but then so was I.  We were both flat.  There was nothing there.  He drained me financially though and lied about it for years. It took deception on my part to get out from under that and I have no shame about that.

There were two things that happened that made me KNOW that I would never stay with this man.  (1) My mom died and he could not find it in himself to hug me or console me.  He jus stood in the door way looking pathetic. (2) When I sold my son’s clothes or toys or he got money as a gift for a birthday, I would put the cash in his baby book.  I caught him stealing that money.  Those two things shut me down and there was NO going back.

I am not even mad about those and was not at the time.  It was almost gracious for them.  Those actions confirmed my feelings.

Since then, I have pulled myself out of that.  i have bought my own home (or at least am renting from myself now).  I have a new job that allows me to be a better mom. I am a better person and am happier for it.  There are still challenges. Most of them are financial.  I do not make a lot, and <surprise, surprise> my ex has yet to pay child support, so all of my son’s many activities and needs are met without any assistance (from his dad, or the government). But I have taken control of my finances in a way that I did not know I could.  I am grateful for the patience and assistance from a sister who knows more about this stuff than I ever care to know.  While she does not agree with every choice I make, she does not come from the same place as I do.  She voices her opinion and I voice mine and we agree to disagree.  We are able to do this on MANY topics.

This is odd to me.  In my family, disagreeing means that you are “out.” It has been an issue that I have had to work to overcome my entire life.  I fear confrontation with people I care about as it was the easiest way to get shunned in my family, so you learned not to voice your opinion to the people you love the most, which is odd.  Those are exactly the people you should be able to voice your opinion to.  SO I am grateful for this time in my life that has shown me who I can disagree with that will still love me and stand by me. I have also been able to see who this is not true with and I am grateful for that.

Going back to the Facebook page, I am so grateful for my ability to bounce back and not wallow.  I see so many people – men and women, but mostly women – who are just paralyzed by people who treat them like shit.  Some are abused physically.  Almost all are cheated on multiple times.  Many are held in hostage financially because they gave up their careers or never had one, so now are held at the whims of his/her spouse.  These are things I never dealt with.  I did not go through any depression after the separation and divorce.  I did not melt.  I had my own career, so I had protection.  I did not have to rely on him to pay for anything or take care of my son.  I did not need to deal with homelessness, as many of these people have.  I did not have to stay married to someone because I could not afford the exorbitant lawyer and court fees that keep many people trapped in toxic relationships.

I know some people look at me and pity me.  I do not.  I am a proud single mom.  I am handling my shit all alone.  I am learning new skills every day to do better.  I am making smarter choices than I ever have.  I am grateful for all my adversities because it has allowed me to see what I am made of.  And I am made of titanium.  You cannot break me. Fuck you, world.  Here I am.  You have taken a lot of shots at me and none have shaken me.  Now back the fuck off.

Purge

I need to purge today.  Ben left for his dad’s on Sunday and is supposed to be back tomorrow. I have been deeply involved in a DIY project.  I decided to do something about my kitchen and on a VERY small budget of $200, I feel happy with my new look.  I redid the counters (Rust-oleum Countertop Paint), painted the walls (Dalen’s Ducklings), and the cabinets (Ultra White), plus aded a gorgeous backsplash, which was the inspiration for the countertop color. I ran into some hiccups – the previous owners had painted over wallpaper, so that had to be removed and then some wall damage repair.  I am still finishing touch-ups and the cabinet doors, but I learned A LOT!! I learned that I like to cut in and am pretty good at it so long as the edge is over head and on my left, so I can use my right better :). I learned that I enjoyed the meditative quality of it.  I found myself often in silence. No music, no TV, just silence and I liked it.  This is odd for me as I tend to lead a pretty fast-paced, “noisy” life. I learned that I am capable of so much more than I thought I was and I generally enjoyed myself.

So, I call Ben a little while ago to see how his Christmas was and, of course, find out that despite creating wishlist that you can check off once things are purchased, his dad has bought him things that I bought him (from Santa and since he knows EVERYTHING, how do you explain that??). This is the third Christmas that I have been without Ben and it is so hard.  It is hard whenever, but Christmas is more difficult for so many reasons. It is the right thing to do as it allows Ben time to spend with his family that he would not be able to see if it were not a holiday, but it is hard.  This is the third Christmas that has ended in a fight with his dad.

Ben is supposed to be back in South Carolina tomorrow at 3:30, the same time as pick up.  Side note: His dad was able to get him any time in the morning and asked for a morning pick up.  The night before pick up, changed it to noon.  At 11:30am, the day of pick-up, I text him to be certain and he changed it to 3:30.  This happens EVERY TIME.  It is infuriating.  Then he asks for “Leeway;” he ALWAYS wants leeway for something.  I did not answer that email in writing and am so glad that I did not.  So, I call Ben and ask him about his gifts.  He is so excited and is excited to come home and see me.  I already had the call earlier this week of Ben melted down and wanting to come home.  I talked him down, much to his dad’s chagrin and got him back to good. He is ready to be home.  He found out his dad is having a baby with the girlfriend and I can tell he is trying to find his way around it by some of the things he says.

So I said to Ben, “are you all getting ready to head back down here to come home?” and he said, no.  This instantly makes my mommy hairs rise.  It is always a concern that my ex, because he hates me so much and truly feels like I ruined his life, will not return Ben just to spite me.  Scares me to no end. The entire time he is gone, I am on pins and needles. So I finish up our conversation and ask to speak with his dad. . .

I ask, when are you leaving? and he tells me not until tonight.  I said, how are you going to return him to me by 3:30 if you do not leave until tonight? and he says, and I quote, “I will get him there when we get there.” What?!?!? No, sir. That is not at all acceptable and the reason that I want Ben to fly back and forth because it is always something. I was enraged and said, I am positive, things I should not.  He said, I only got him for 5 days and I am supposed to have him for seven.  I said, “You are also supposed to pay child support, but you only want to go by the divorce decree when it suits you.” I told him that it is by my mercy that he is not in jail for back child support and if he wasn’t happy, to please call the court and pay the court fines and take me to court about it and explain tot he judge why he thinks it is okay to fight me over this when he is not supporting his child. Then he told me if he did that, “we will sue for full custody.” I laughed.  It was rude. It was not mature, but really?!?! You have not paid child support in three years – THREE YEARS – and you think a judge is going to give you full support??? What world are you living in?? Not to mention the myriad of other issues that have come up in three short years. So, he calls me a “fucking idiot!” and I hear Ben in the background saying, “Don’t yell at my Mommy!” I told him to put my child back on the phone.

I get that a child should see both his parents, which is why despite the fact that my ex refuses to support his child, I do not fight visitation much.  Ben loves his dad and I encourage him to do so.  I have him call his dad after big events and email his dad videos and pictures all the time to keep him in the loop.  I have Ben call his family on important days – birthdays, holidays, just because. I have never received a picture of Ben on Christmas morning.  He has never called my family on Christmas when he is up there with his dad.  Ben comes home and asks, “why does daddy not like you?” He asks, “Why does daddy ask me all these questions?” Apparently my ex asks Ben questions about  my and my life and who is around.  But this is evil.  At what point is it not okay to abandon your child and not support him, but still make so many demands?? The man is 40 years old with a Master’s degree and “no job.”

I have purged.  Back to work.  I may have to drive up to Michigan today, so I need to get on top of this. Before and after pix are below:

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Gratitude

There are no words for me to describe how grateful I am for where I am right now in my life.  Do I struggles? Absolutely.  Do i worry? Almost incessantly. But in the end, I am so amazingly blessed.

This past week, I went to the ER in incredible pain and very scared.  I was having chest pain and was dizzy.  I was so scared.  Both my parents had issues with heart disease and both lost their fight to it.  I, in no way, follow a diet or exercise plan that is sending me on a different path, so I was so scared. Scared about what would happen to Ben. In the end, it was gall stones and I needed to have emergency surgery.  It was not my heart. . . this time. it will be if I do not alter my mindset and behavior and I will be right back to where I was in my head this past week. This was my wake up call.  It does not mean that I am cutting out everything that has any amount of flavor, but I am going to be more aware and since I have the time and ability now, why wouldn’t I be?

This mini crisis made me come to terms with what an amazing life I lead. When I was scared, I hit my friend list and my nurse friends gave me more advice and information than I ever got from any doctor. When I asked for help with getting me to and from surgery – BOOM! I had multiple volunteers.  Another friend set up a meal train to be sure that Ben was fed while I was out of commission.  This was amazing.  Ben even told me that having my gall bladder out was a good thing because he got so much great food! LOL!

I have the fantastic career that I am in love with.  I identify with being a teacher.  It is a part of my core being. In the past few years, especially since the divorce, I have had to really come to terms with who I wanted to be – a mom or a teacher.  It is nearly impossible to be both at the same time with no help.  Then, magically, this opportunity falls into my lap.  An old co-worker and friend tells me that there is an opening in the Virtual Schools for a summer adjunct position, which then fell into an opening in the social studies department. Somehow, after many crazy happenings, I was offered this position to work from home in the career that I absolutely am in love with. For the first time, I get to be the mom I always wanted to be and the teacher that I wanted to be. There is nothing I do not love about this.  I have to learn to tweak a few things in my schedule and such, but OMG, I get to take Ben to school and pick him up.  I get to volunteer in his class.  I choose my hours.  I am so much more productive.  I do not have to fight traffic.  I do not have to spend excessive amounts on gas, clothes, lunch, day care.  This is my dream world.

My friends are the best ever.  I have no family in the area. None.  Not even close.  If there was an emergency, it would be one of my friends who steps in to help.  I do not doubt that I will be fine.  They have never failed me. They have never let me down. I am so incredibly lucky to have them in my life and I am not sure what I have done to deserve them, but I will extend everything I can to be there for them. When one does not have family nearby, friends become all the more important.

I am so grateful for the relationship that I have with my older sister. Our lives have taken many different turns and on paper, she and i are about as polar opposite as any two people can be, but that does not matter. There was never a guarantee that we would be close or have any kind of a relationship whatsoever.  We have one because we have fought for one.  Because being sisters matters more to us than any other thing that could get in our way – history, blood, politics, religion – none of it will change the fact that I will always be here for her and she for me.  I know this more today than I have EVER known anything.

I have a home.  I still cannot believe that I can call myself a homeowner after everything that I have been put through financially by my family and my ex-husband.  It’s not always easy, but I love that I can provide this stability for Ben. While he is in Michigan and I am wallowing and trying not to fall into depression, i will start some aesthetic remodeling.  I am pretty excited, actually.  I cannot do anything major, but that’s fine. I will someday.  Right now, everything works, so I am not messing with it 🙂

Of course, there is Ben.  I had to have done something right in one of my past lives to have been chosen to be his mom.  He is amazing. In the ER, he held my hand and cuddled up with me.  He has taken care of me and stepped up around the house to help in ways that grown adults will not help. He is healthy. He is kind.  He has such a giving heart.  There is nothing more that I can ask for him.  He is surrounded by amazing role models, from his coaches, to his nanny, to his baby-sitters, to his teachers. I am in love with being his mom and just hope that this does not end!

I always hold all this stuff up and then these are super long.  I am going to try to write less more often.  I will try.

MS:)

Fall

When I was younger, my little sister always said that autumn was sad because everything died.  I LOVE autumn.  The cooler temperatures;  The amazing colors;  The chance at hibernation (I do love my sleep); The pumpkins; the holidays – all of it. I love how life is cradling into a steady rhythm.  Every year brings new surprises and new schedules and by the end of October, you are settling into this new schedule and life is getting a bit easier.  At least it is for me. Especially this year.

This has been the most stress-free year of my life since I had Ben. I am officially working from home as a virtual schools teacher and I have to say that I love it. There are things I miss about the classroom, but there is more that I have missed about not being here for Ben and when my days are over, the one that I will regret is not being here for Ben.

Tomorrow would have been my 12th anniversary.  The longer I am away from that, the more clearly I see my errors and my blindspots.  I have a strong gut.  I always have. And I have learned to trust it more and more.  Unfortunately, I did not trust it with him in that relationship and there are a million reasons why. Tomorrow I celebrate the relationship that gave me my son.  When all is said and done, I would do it all over again if the end result was Ben.

I also celebrate my being a single mom.  I actually love it.  There are times when it is a struggle.  It is a struggle a lot, but it’s also liberating. I am empowered by my independence.  Now, do not get me wrong, I do not do this alone.  If it were not for my village – my friends, my family – I have no idea where I would be today, but it certainly would not be a mortgage-owner (as I do not own my home, but my mortgage 🙂 who’s able to put her child in two sports with zero assistance.

Now back to my schedule.  It is not perfect.  I miss my exercise routines and have to figure this out. I miss  my Zumba a lot.  It is addictive, but more than that, I miss the people.  I simply cannot do it at night during the week with Ben’s sports. I have been trying Tuesday mornings, but have meetings two Tuesdays a month, so that sucks.  I need to find an alternative and squeeze in Zumba whenever I can.  This is what I have decided.  Now I need the motivation. . . UGH! I like how I feel and act better when I exercise regularly and this is what I must use to motivate me.  If I can get this last element into place, I will feel so accomplished.  Ben and I have eaten at home more this school year than we have all last school year, I may not be exaggerating.

Fall is a time to see the beauty in loss and plan for the renewal.  My loss next year will be in baggage – physical and emotional.

(Re)Connection

Today I reconnected with an old high school friend.  I found out her little boy was sick and she shared with me her blogs and her poetry, which is amazing. It reminded me that I made a promise to myself to write more.  I also have been wanting to write about how things are falling into place.

Those few who are reading this know how chaotic my life has been for the past decade. In four years I lost my mother, my father, both  my grandmothers, and a dear uncle.  I moved on from a school that I dearly loved and invested in for a decade because of an administrator who had it out for me. I also lost my marriage and the life that I had envisioned for myself, even though that was my choice, it was no less painful.

Through that all, I knew that if I kept working and doing the best I could, everything would work out.  In my head, it had to because that’s only fair. I am not religious. I could say that I am spiritual and I guess that I am, but really, it is not something that I have the luxury of falling back on and am sometimes jealous of those who can believe in something larger.  I cannot.  It doesn’t ring true for me.  But what does is that good things happen to good people. Even people who are abhorred by the fact that I am not religious would find a hard time thinking that I am a terrible, awful person, well, I think :s. LOL!

At any rate, things are falling in place.  I was able to purchase my first home.  My parents lost their home and it was one that brought very mixed emotions, but it was someplace that I could point to as a starting point.  Looking back, all the evidence was there that this would happen, but having never been spoken to about finances of any kind – ever – it was all hindsight. It has been important for me to supply some foundation for my son especially given my background with my parents and then my ex-husband doing almost the same exact thing to me.  I chose ignorance in finances as an adult because it all scared me after what my parents went through. When I found out piecemeal what my then-husband had been doing, I was pissed and scared and lost.  With the help of some family, I made a plan – an exit strategy, really – and got out and have spent every day since then building myself back up, financially and emotionally. Because I tie a lot of trust and emotion in with money after everything that has happened. So Ben has a home.  It is small.  It is imperfect.  It needs some work.  It is just right for us.  I love it.  I love paying my mortgage.  I will love it even more when I can refinance and pay less in three years :). I love that Ben is in the neighborhood that I wanted that has really good schools.  I love that he has a lot of kids to run around with. I love that it is safe and everyone I met has had a similar outlook on raising kids.

As I said earlier, 2 and half years ago I left a school that I poured everything into.  I loved going to work every single day.  I loved and love my kids that I had the honor of teaching there.  I still keep up with hundreds of them.  I loved and love many of the people that I worked with there. I had the respect of the kids and the community, until. . . in comes new admin who are new and insecure and want to wipe out anyone that they fear is a threat, so I along with a number of really amazing educators are targeted and pushed out. That was horrible.  I went on to a new school in a new position and it never quite felt right.  It is hard being a single mom with the expectation of time that comes with education.  It is hard being a parent with a spouse, but harder, I believe when you have to call in every favor in the book nearly every week from people who are not your family! This past summer, I contacted one of my co-workers from the aforementioned school and asked about a summer gig teaching virtual schools.  There was an opening for an adjunct and I took it because if paid great and I was able to stay home and spend time with Ben. I had intended to go back to the classroom, it is my passion and I miss it when a full-time position opened up. I jumped all over that! I ran into a snag and, for once, did not chalk it up to, “I guess it wasn’t meant to be!” I fought for it and I fought hard.  It took time, but I was asked to interview and was offered and accepted the position.  So now, I get to work from home.  I get to spend time with B.  He is still greedy for more, but he gets more now than he ever has in his entire life and I love every second of it.

This is that magic time with B.  He has some independence and I do not have to map out every second of his day as he has his own idea about how he wants to spend his down time (mostly exploring ditches and finding wildlife that he “saved”), but he still loves to cuddle and desperately wants my love and attention. This is that golden time. He wakes up every day with, “I love you, mama” and goes to sleep every night telling me how lucky he is to have me. Now, do not get me wrong, we have our fights.  We had a big one last night, but those are rare and always end in love and snuggles.  I cherish those.  I know that they will not last forever.  I know that before long, his hidden tantrums will become all too loud and in my face.  I know the doors will slam and my heart will break. But now, right now, he is so sweet and so kind and I am so proud of him.  He is the reason I get up every, single day.  He is the reason that I am working to be better.

Thank you, old (new) friend for reminding me of this.  I will carry you and your precious son in my thoughts and heart while he is fighting this and you are, too. Thank you for helping me re-connect to this cathartic process that I need so much as my insurance sucks and I cannot afford therapy :). There is my catch up and I pledge to make this happen more regularly.