On a good day, parenting will test the integrity of your character. On a bad day, parenting will test your will to live. Parenting children with trauma histories will cause you to test the integrity of everything and everyone you thought you knew, for the rest of your life.
~J. Skrobisz

Sunday, April 16, 2017

WILL

How are things with Sissy?

We have good days and bad days.  If she had her druthers, they would all be bad days.  She tries hard to make it so!  Seems she has become hard wired to only know how to be challenging, stick provoking, and refusing to follow any direction.  It's going to be a hard adult life for her which is disappointing because I have tried to give her the tools she needs to be as successful as she is capable of being.

The timer is counting down to 18 when things begin to shift.  She's had an updated psychological evaluation by social security which has determined her eligible for disability.  (That is always nerve wracking for me because I know she's disabled but will the federal government agree based on their paid cronies that analyze the results of their prescribed reviews?)  That evaluation gets sent to a host of entities in our community that are purported to offer assistance programs like vocational rehabilitation and the department of mental health and developmental delay.  The plan is to find an assisted living type facility.  The ideal was to have things move before 18 but the cogs of the wheels turn slowly so it may be another year yet.  *deep cleansing breath*

She is working with another community service specialist that is teaching her life skills.  Sissy still refuses hygiene of any kind and would rather pretend that she is five and live her life at that speed indeterminably.  Of course, her therapist and I have reassured her 1,000x a session that she WILL be 18, she WILL be an adult, she WILL need to be responsible to some degree.

Her education is a bone of contention.  I see no value in her continuing until she achieves a diploma and at the rate she is going, that won't be until 20 or 21.  She won't be a wage earning tax payer beyond some cursory vocation that earns her a marginal wage that doesn't interfere with her social security income.  And to that end, even though she has the ability to do a task that requires some intellectual prowess, she won't.  The thought has come up to just let it go, let her move on to a facility without ever finishing her education but some of these facilities insist on a completion of education in some fashion.  The other thought is that Sissy may have the ability to finish her education with a GED instead.  It's not a mystery, she is smart enough to do that!  But WILL she?  

The core issue to all of these things as Sissy approaches this huge milestone is her WILL.  She is hell bent to make sure that her WILL won't match her ability.  There has been many moments when her therapist has had to step back and breathe because she has wanted to walk away in sheer exasperation with Sissy.  After all of these years, we have finally gotten ourselves a therapist that is able and willing to go the distance with us, two years and counting, Ms L has become family.  

The more "beautiful" moments with Sissy in therapy include her squeezing her eyes tightly to force tears, covering her ears and screaming, "leave me alone!" Ms L and I try not to get angry and irritated at Sissy's flat refusal to participate but many times Aspie Boy chimes in and tells her to stop and just do her therapy like she's supposed to.  Of course, that often incites further riot followed by "Shut Up Aspie Boy! This is MY therapy session! Butt out! It's none of your business!!!"  Followed by Ms L and I replying almost in unison, "Oh, but Sissy you make it EVERYONE's business when you scream and shout and refuse to be different, actively continuing to bring harm to your family."  And Sissy says with venom in a calm, controlled tone, "So you're saying I'm TRYING to hurt my family?!?!" Then Ms L or I will say to one another, "look at that, all the tears are done..."  It's funny when you're not in the moment but it's not funny when you're seated at the table with her, repeating this exact scenario every Monday evening for two straight years.  

But who's counting?


Sunday, April 9, 2017

Inside the mind of PTSD

Are we all souls at a state of unrest? We hear talk of the dead coming back to haunt because they have unfinished business.  When people die we wish that they rest in peace because maybe some don't. We seldom mention the living being at the same state of mind largely because we still have time to settle ourselves.  And if we can't?

I know, I'm a rhetorical pundit, but that's only because these thoughts rumble through my head like a battered dump truck that has hauled one too many loads of rocks and rubble from a dig site to an undisclosed offload site.  In my mind, the offload site doesn't exist so the rocks and rubble of my thoughts pile up in various places of my frontal lobe only to be removed and hauled to another part of the same cerebrum region; an infinitesimal loop of  digging, hauling, and dumping the discord of my mind.

Where am I? I'm in an eddy of life, one of those swirl pools in a bubbling creek where water effortlessly glides over smoothed granite stones while leaves and pollen get caught up and slowly spin in a rock outcropping from the force of the current that flows past it.  It's not a terrible place to be but the water can stagnate.  I've often wondered if after the years of so much trauma and stress I have become accustomed to that pace and subconsciously crave it, like longing to be in the fast paced current of the creek, perpetually bubbling over the granite stones, racing onward to nowhere in particular but moving nonetheless.  I've read a few cursory studies that have demonstrated that brain chemistry is altered for PTSD sufferers and therapists agree that the best way to come out of the adrenaline high from the racing stress-induced pace of life as a result of trauma, is to force oneself to be quiet and rest.  Easier said than done. 

Sunday mornings are the hardest. I hate the solitude of it, waking alone, sipping coffee alone, ruminating about the things that need to be done before a new work week starts, accidentally making myself anxious, wondering if I will be alone for the rest of my life, scrolling through endless facebook posts, deleting email, trying to brighten my mood with good music, opting to sit on the deck and listen to nature's music, petting the dog's head, thinking about the to-do list and being frustrated that it is always just me to get those items checked off, longing for companionship, texting people just to feel connected to other souls, dreading when Sissy wakes up because I can't tolerate her drama any more, feeling frustrated that I can't just enjoy what I currently have because life is actually really good right now, realizing that I'm stuck in that loop in my brain again, wishing beyond hope that I could be a soul at rest finally.  

I chastise myself for not enjoying what I currently have, for being incapable of just being.  I remind myself that I have overcome enormous obstacles and that I'm OK.  I stop and breathe and let my temporal lobe absorb the sensory stimulation instead of stagnating in the cognitive frontal lobe.  I allow a slow smile to creep across my face.  A friend replies with a text message and I feel connected again.  Wonder girl giggles in her room at a video she is watching.  The dog harrumphs at me for not continuing to pet her head.  I feel my blood pressure drop and the anxiety fade.  I put on Reiki soothing music or I do a meditation.  I tell myself positive affirmations.  I recount the amazing things I have done in my life time and remind myself that I have overcome impossible obstacles.  I hear the wind chime and watch squirrels chase each other from a branch on one tree to a branch on another tree, forty feet in the air.  I hear the rumble of a motorcycle and think, "good for them, it's a beautiful day for a ride," then I plan to take a drive in the mustang with the top down.  I hear someone's yard blower and say, "add that to the to-do list but don't panic about it, you LIKE yard work, it's soothing and gives you a sense of accomplishment."  Another text comes in and it's a second friend wishing me a good morning.  I feel loved because I have so many amazing friends

I don't want to be alone forever.  My little soul can't handle it.  I wasn't created to be just one, I have always been a lover, a romantic, the marrying kind.  I want to give to someone and find comfort in a warm embrace of unconditional love.  I want to have a Sunday morning on my back deck with coffee for two. Two people to accomplish the to-do list, another soul to breathe the air with me and giggle about the nutty squirrels.  Another person to have great ideas about how to spend a day or what flowers to plant in the front or to grumble about cutting the red tips.  Someone else to say, "hey, we should walk the canal today," or "let's be slugs and stay in bed all day, Monday is almost here."  I will myself to be at peace even though it's only me, every day, all day, knowing that I can't make love come and that happiness can only come from within, not from another person.

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This is what it is to be in the mind of someone that is recovering from PTSD.  I have endured some incredible trauma that should have rendered me helpless but I chose to overcome and be the best me I can be, every second of every day.  The mother of one of my students is currently doing research on mice with PTSD.  The preliminary findings are that the hippocampus region of the brain is smaller and has fewer neurotransmitters and those neurotransmitters that exist don't fire signals correctly. When I heard the results of her research I cried because of the validation.  I kept saying that my brain doesn't work right, that I have to work around the erroneous messages in my brain and it's true.  I do.

PTSD  manifests differently for sufferers.  Clearly our soldiers that have been in combat have a distinctly different form of PTSD than people that have endured other traumas.  Treatment is unique to the individual and should not be taken lightly.   For me, through therapy, I have managed to eliminate every trigger except one, being called by my full name "Jennifer".  If I can't overcome that trigger, then I will likely legally change my name but that is a huge decision and not one that I take lightly.   One of the biggest challenges I still face is the anger of having a traumatized brain, the frustration of fighting with my thoughts and the difficulty it creates in finding a place of rest and solace regardless of my circumstances.  

For my readers that caught up with this blog in the beginning, when things were so hard with Sissy, the answer to your unspoken question is, "Yes, raising a damaged child with so many mental health issues and the resultant behaviors from those issues caused long term exposure to stress and trauma that exacerbated my PTSD." Although Sissy has control over how she responds and she openly chooses to respond poorly, actively defying her therapy goals, it no longer causes me further anger, I just shake my head in exasperation and walk away, removing the impetus for her defiance.  But raising a disabled daughter is not my only trauma.  I had a traumatic abusive childhood followed by a traumatic abusive marriage.  By all accounts, I shouldn't be as functional as I am and to that end, I give myself measures of grace and mercy.

If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD, I hope this post helps you understand what it is like inside the mind, the daily battle that occurs there, the struggle to keep balance mentally and emotionally, even with tools like pharmaceuticals and therapy.  I have gotten to a good, safe place in my journey and for the first time in my life feel like I am the one in control of my destiny.  It has taken me years, hard work, persistence, and the internal motivation to be better.  I can't undo the trauma to my brain, but I now know how to function well despite it.  Please give someone with PTSD a hug today and tell them they are doing a great job.  Like me, they may feel like their soul will always be in a state of unrest, regardless of the beauty, life, and love that surrounds them.



Monday, March 13, 2017

Resisting

That which we resist, persists. ~Carl Jung

I heard this quote in a podcast Saturday and it has stuck with me.  What am I resisting?  What things am I still hoping for in life that have come to fruition because of my reticence?  What am I allowing to persist in my life as a result?

Although the situation of my life has radically changed because I have driven the wild horses pulling the chariot of my life like a slave woman escaping her tormentor, racing to freedom because her life depends upon it, I haven't achieved the happiness in my soul that I desire.  The ease of life and laughter evade me.  The desire for connected, meaningful companionship persists.  Jung would say it is because I resist both just as I claim to long for them.

How then, does this resisting manifest?  I'm speaking to myself in an effort to make sense of the mind through yet one more pathway in life that I have yet to see come to fruition, the writing of a book so many have suggested that I compile finally.  If I write as I think, perhaps I will find the answer, like pulling a thread and unraveling a cloth, the answer is in me, it always has been and I will find it as I write or ponder and hopefully not unravel completely.

As I drove to work this morning, I asked myself these questions, already buoyed by the comments on my revival post to the blog, the things I once desired began to flood my heart and the fog in my head started to lift.  I wanted to write a book once upon a time.  I wanted to get my doctorate.  I wanted to have a happy home and marriage, a companionship with a partner that rivaled the best of friendships and children that were accomplishing their goals as they marched toward adulthood.  I wanted to get out of our city and see places, meet people, see the world.  What stopped me?

Grad school. Ya'll, it kicked my butt!  I still feel like I'm recovering three months later.

Parenting Sissy.  Most days with her are better but then there are these bits of time, sometimes days on end, when she is still hard as Hades and I cry my way to work.

Work.  Being a single parent and working full time is HARD.

Dating.  It has stolen my faith and trust that there are decent humans out there seeking the same end goal as I am.

I drove, I thought, I asked myself what I am resisting and the answer seems to be that I am resisting success.  Yet by all accounts, I am successful already.  I have accomplished some impossible feats in the last three years, dragging my family kicking and screaming to a higher station in life.  I say I resist success because in my mind, I don't see myself that way.  I see myself as still struggling because that's how I feel on a daily basis, like I'm still in the fight for my life, for survival, for peace, for hope.  It's a lie of course, but old habits die hard and as my physician said it, when we are in stressful situations for extended periods of time (in my case, for years,) the body adapts and accepts that as the new norm for functioning.  It takes time to retrain the body and mind to function at the new baseline of normal which is to live successfully in a stress-free environment.

So I resist stress-less life too.  Thus the mental stress persists.

As I drove, (it's 25 minutes to work every day and 40 minutes home with evening traffic), I let my mind imagine what it would feel like to achieve the other successes I once longed for.  Who would I be? What persona would I have?  What kind of mate would be a good match for that woman?  Where is the love in my soul? Can I still bond with others?  What else do I resist?

I resist love.  Thus lovelessness persists.

Love has been unsafe for me in every way.  From a parent, to a spouse, to raising my challenged kids, to dating life.  Love has proven to be a red herring yet I long for it.  I see it in others' lives and I want it, desperately.  What is it like to be loved unconditionally?  I have no idea.  I can say that I try to love unconditionally but do I really?  It starts with self-love and am I loving myself unconditionally, with abandon and forgiveness, grace and mercy, patience and kindness?  No.  I'm so hard on myself.  Just read these words I'm writing! It smacks of self-loathing even though I am trying to find the answers to why I can't achieve love and why happiness seems so distant.

I resist happiness.  Thus sorrow persists.

Happiness is scary because in my story, it disappears eventually.  Oh, it likes to show up from time to time but it doesn't stick around.  Sissy hates happiness.  We can be enjoying a great time as a family but Sissy will nip that shit in the butt as quickly as it starts.  Happiness for me, is always chased with a swift kick in the ass, a reminder that happiness is not allowed.  That's dark and perhaps melodramatic.  It's not intended to be, remember, I'm writing this post as a stream of consciousness and I am literally letting my unconscious dig through the mind to uncover the truths I'm avoiding.  So yes, happiness in my life has not been allowed though I long for it.  I try to create it.  It doesn't stay, it is a facade.  No, that's not quite right. It is transparent - present and not present at the same time.

I resist truth.  Thus falsehoods persist.

The truth is, I'm an incredible woman but it is next to impossible for me to wear that truth, own it, digest it, be it.  So the lies creep in.  A few weeks ago I did an experiment.  I went about my day reminding myself that I am a confident, capable woman that is lovable, desirable, and beautiful.  It was amazing! I felt like I could do anything and people were drawn to me like moths to a flame.  It was a paradigm shift that lasted four days then slowly, slowly, the lies crept back in and I believed I wasn't worth anything again.  Dang it those old haunts in my head!

I resist new paradigms.  Thus old pathways persist.

This one I can do something about.  I can keep doing those daily affirmations.  It wasn't hard and it worked.  *a smile just slowly crept across my face as I stopped and repeated those words in my head* I can keep doing those daily affirmations and you know what will happen?  I'll tell you exactly what will happen, I just saw into the looking glass because I unraveled every last bit...

When I accept the new paradigm, I will be able to accept truth.  When I accept the truth about who I am, I will accept the happiness of that truth.  When I accept the happiness, I will be able to accept love.  When I accept love then the stress will fade into nothing.

It starts right now.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

I'm Still Here!

It took me half a day to figure out how to log back in. *rolling eyes at self*

Updates:

House sold in October 2014
Sissy went to PRTF in October 2014
Moved in November 2014
Sissy discharged from her last hospitalization in April 2015
I'm working full time teaching high school biology at a local school since July 2015
Grad school finished in December 2016 with a 3.83 GPA
Still single
Sissy is 17
AB is 16
WG is 12

Let's see if I still have anyone out there hoping I might post again one day...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

My essay for Grad School



 My application to grad school to get my state certification was denied because my gpa was 1/100 of a point too low.  In order to submit my application for review to the exceptions committee, I had to write an essay and have others write letters of recommendation for me.  (many thank yous to everyone's amazing letters!!!!)  The following is my essay. 

When I adopted my first child, who is now fourteen, I had to make the difficult decision to take a break from education because she suffers from severe mental illness and developmental delay.  At that time, the founder and director of the school I had been teaching at for many years said to me, “You’ll be back.  Once a teacher, always a teacher.”  I smiled sweetly thinking I probably would not return and walked out of the building with a box of the few personal items I had in my classroom.  I remember thinking to myself, am I a teacher? 

Everyone has an educator or two from their time as a student that stands out.  For me, those educators had an indelible impact on my life because they did more than teach a subject, they taught me as a person.  Mrs. Watkins, my AP English teacher, taught me I was a strong writer with excellent thoughts to share.  Mr. Badorf, my Algebra I and II teacher taught me to never surrender to the will of numbers.  Mr. Pillion, my Calculus teacher, taught me that education is fun and exciting and even more so when the educator has fun too.  Mr. Rissinger, my Geometry teacher, taught me I was an astute educator when he let me hold tutoring sessions in the back of the classroom for the students that struggled in his class.  Mrs. Richardson, my second grade teacher, taught me that loving a student is the most profound thing an educator can do.  Mrs. Johansen, my third grade teacher, showed me how to laugh through the trials.  Mrs. Gainer, Physics and AP Physics, taught me that women in science are desirable, strong and vivacious.  As I think upon it now, it is clear that I was learning what it meant to be an educator and that such a career would also be my calling.

When I applied to college, my intentions were to get a degree in pre-medicine and go on to medical school. I had set my sights on being a family practitioner.  It was no small feat for me to be accepted into the program as a seventeen year old freshman at the main campus of Pennsylvania State University.  In 1992, only the top performing students were accepted; the caliber of education provided by the College of Science was equal to the Ivy League schools of the time.  Though I was a chronological year younger than my academic peers because I was accelerated a grade, I was confident I could master the coursework.  What I hadn’t anticipated was the struggles I would have in learning in lecture halls of 800 students from professors that were more interested in their current scientific research than in educating.  Consequently, my core science grades faltered, though I took no personal offense.  An average grade at an Ivy League caliber program was still an amazing achievement!

Late in my college career, I attended a medical ethics course.  The physician that taught the course was very clear in his intent of informing his potential professional colleagues that the future of medicine would change drastically as major insurance companies and politics would eventually control the way medicine would be practiced.  That same semester, I took a Health Education course which plied me with the harsh realities of the then up-and-coming HMO programs.  Coupled with my average grade point average, it became clear that continuing my pursuit of medicine as a career was not in my best interest. 

In my junior year, I began my minor in Community Health Education.  At the same time, I was carrying a course load of 400 level Biology classes.  In a whirlwind of no less than 15 credits a semester, I managed to graduate on schedule with both a major in Biology and a minor in Community Health Education and an internship at University Hospital in Augusta, Georgia.  I intended to pursue a career in health care management as an educator of preventative medicine for the patients and communities at large.  I was excited and anticipated a bright future for myself.  With my minor, my grade point average had risen significantly and I felt prepared for the work force.

As I wrapped up my senior year, anxiously anticipating my graduation, I helped host a final exam block party for my dormitory, my last hurrah as a Resident Assistant.  There I taught the study-weary students how to make tie-dye t-shirts.  One of the other RAs remarked, “Wow.  You are a really good teacher.  I think you missed your calling!”  I remember how her thoughts stopped me dead in my tracks as though it was yesterday.  I stood there, speechless and dumbfounded.  I was about to be awarded my long coveted Bachelor’s of Science and in one lackadaisical comment, she had shifted my entire paradigm. 

I tried hard to land a job in Community Health Education anyway; having moved to the Augusta, Georgia area shortly after my degree was conferred.  I was greeted with only closed doors and no opportunity.  Eight months post graduation, dejected and unemployed, my student loan repayment plan beginning; I had a conversation with the woman that became my long time employer and friend.  She was starting a new private school and needed a science teacher.  I smiled.  Thus began my seventeen years of middle and secondary science and mathematics education.

In the private sector, a certificate is not required provided the instructor has a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree in the field in which she is teaching.  Though I took time off as I became a mother and raised my small children and then when my daughter’s care required that I take an emergency family medical leave, I have taught with glee, pride and excitement.  I am a teacher, I was born to teach, it is my calling, it is my passion and it never feels like work.  I get giddy talking about my time in the classroom with my students.  My students will attest, I might get a little bit crazy when I get really involved demonstrating a science experiment or dissecting with students that have never seen the internal structure of an organism before.  The best Christmas presents you can gift this science teacher are supplies to restock my chemistry cabinet! 

In my career, I have worked with many challenged students.  I have taught students on probation, students that were remanded to alternative school, students recovering from drug and alcohol abuse.  Pregnant students, physically handicapped students, students with learning disabilities, developmental delay and mental health challenges have all sat in my room.  I have taught them all in the same manner that I teach an able-bodied, intellectually capable student.  It makes no difference to me.  I differentiate instruction according to each student’s needs even if that means she needs to sit on the floor at the white board with a clip board in her lap instead of at the desk.  I modify tests for dyslexic students that need colored paper and I orally read tests to students that have reading challenges but know the science content.  I go out of my way to make sure that every student in my classroom has the same opportunity to absorb the material I am presenting.  I consider it a personal challenge to be certain that every student passes on his own merit.
There are no losers in my classroom.  There are no negative statements.  If a student is down in the mouth about his performance, I tell him a minimum of six positive things about him.  If a student tells me she hates science, I reply, “you haven’t had my class yet!”  If a parent tells me his child has always struggled, I ask “what is her education history?  When did you first notice her grades faltering?”  If a student is disruptive and needs discipline, I talk to him privately and we set up a plan between the two of us.  If my colleagues can’t handle a student, they know to send her to my classroom with her work and I will be sure it is completed.  My students have always remarked that the favorite part of being in my room is the light bulb.  When a student says something that is particularly astute, clever, asks a good question or solves a difficult problem, they get the light bulb.  Then, I make sure that by the end of a school year, every one of my students has gotten the light bulb at least once. We have fun, we laugh, we tell jokes, we become family all while learning.  It makes for a dynamic classroom that students love to return to, even if they are not fond of the subject matter.

Until recently, it was never a concern that I was not certified and teaching part time at a small private school.  However, life changes and I have now found myself in the difficult situation of single parenting three children, two of which suffer from severe developmental delay and mental health issues.  At this time, it has become necessary that I become certified so I can continue my career in the public schools, increase my income, receive benefits and hopefully advance my career to teaching future educators at the university level.  There are many programs available to educators in situations like mine.  I have chosen GRU for the MAT program because of the flexibility and location.

As you read through my recommendation letters from my colleagues, my former students and parents of my students, you will learn as I have, that some teachers are born to teach.  You will discover that a certificate is just a piece to the puzzle for me.  I am passionate about my content area but compassionate about all of my students.  I am that rare educator that lives and breathes the essence of learning every day, in every way.  At the beginning and end of every school year I affirm to my students that the day I die is the day I will stop learning.  I tell them it is my hope, if I teach them nothing else that they learn to ask why because that is the true key to learning.  I encourage them to be curious and skeptical, to think outside the box, to research and explore, to never stop learning.  Then I let them teach me in return.  I am Ms. J. S. I am 40 years old and have seventeen years of education experience.  I am an educator with or without a certificate from the state of Georgia and the MAT program offered at this university. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Believe

Clearly the start to the new school year has kept me busy.  It's been over a month since my last post.

WG broke her arm when she fell off a horse at riding.  We already had to stop cross country because although it was intramural, it wasn't for general students.  The team was for homeschool only.  In addition, managing AB and Sissy during practices was overwhelming me.

I've kept running though.  I put in 15 miles this week.  My goal is 20.  I finally broke the 60 pound plateau and am cruising toward continued weight loss.  Fat?  No more.  Today I stand strong and confident.  I am one amazing woman.

Sissy is escalating quickly, par for the course for a new school year.  I am actively pursuing getting her a placement at this point.  She is extremely difficult to manage at home and at school.  She won't toilet appropriately so she is wetting herself and therefore required to wear pull ups.  Her tantrums are louder, longer and more frequent.  She is stealing, manipulating and lying more frequently.  Hygiene sends her for a tail spin.  It's time.  No more.  Today I stand strong and confident that she will get her mental health needs met, even in this broken state.  I am one amazing woman.

AB has had some med adjustments as a preemptive move to keep him from evaluation.  He has had significant difficulty staying present and in reality.  I am trying very hard to do the same.  There is a very real possibility that schizophrenia will be an eventual diagnosis for him.  I used to be so anxious and worried about these things.  No more.  Today I stand strong and confident.  I am one amazing woman.

I have had many job interviews, I have another one tomorrow, in fact, but no job offers.  I am still tutoring and even picked up a new student.  Of course, I still provide respite for special needs adults.  However, those opportunities provide the petty cash for the unexpected and aren't beneficial in paying down debts or big bills.  Still, I am grateful for those financial opportunities.  Always grateful.  I may not have a job but I am strong and confident. I am one amazing woman.

I expect to get a letter from the local university with my acceptance to grad school for spring 2015.  I spoke with them early last week and was assured letters would be mailed out by the end of the week.  I had to chase the staff at the university. Two hours, four buildings and ten people later, someone finally found my application, a month after I mailed it.  Three weeks after that, I still haven't gotten my final acceptance letter.  I am weary of chasing tails.  If people could just do their jobs...  No more.  Today I get what I want because I am strong and confident.  I am one amazing woman.

I passed my content exam with flying colors - professional standard level to be exact.  I was really nervous about it, doubting my ability. No more.  Today I stand strong and confident.  I am one amazing woman.

The house hasn't sold.  I lowered the price significantly to offset the cost of repairs required to maintain the exterior of the home.  It generated more interest, we even had two interested buyers return for second showings but no offers.

I filed a contempt of court order against my ex.  He was served yesterday. I'm done with his shenanigans.  He has been out of this house since January 2012, the divorce finalized Mar 2013, it's time he is done and out of my hair and complying.  I can't take it any more.  I've been more than patient.  No more.  Today I stand strong and confident.  I am one amazing woman.

The last nine and a half months have been the hardest of my life.  I have not enjoyed it but it has made me strong and confident.  It has helped me see what an amazing woman I am.  It has given me the power to believe in the impossible.  To dare to dream.  To hope.  To see what is true and real about myself and others.  There is still SO MUCH that is not done, accomplished, finished.  There is SO MUCH I want and need from this life that hasn't happened and shows no signs of happening anytime soon.  There is SO MUCH.

I choose to believe.  I am strong.  I am confident.  I am one amazing woman.

Monday, August 4, 2014

A Sky Full of Stars

Well, the summer is over.  The kids go back to school on Wednesday.  Sissy was awake before 6 a.m.  Getting ready to get back into the school routine?  Um...no.  More like getting ready to drive us all insane with her jacked up back-to-school jitters.  Wow.  Does this game of hers ever end?  She will disobey EVERY instruction.  Steal, sneak, lie, it never ends.  Every day is a new day, right?  Yep.  New opportunities to test the limits at every turn.  EVERY TURN.  Every day if I'm not on my A-game with her she gains the upper hand and usually that means I'm flying into a Rajani Patel induced stream of expletives.  [1]

Am I glad they are headed back to school?  Yes.  No.  It's been an interesting summer.  It has been one of the hardest, transformational summers of my life, second only to the final summer my father was alive; watching his body slowly deteriorate from the leukemia until he was gone on the first day of fall.  Yes. THAT kind of summer.  Only what is slowly deteriorating is the dross and lingering vestiges of a lifetime of abuse and heartache.  I have watched the pain and despair slowly float away like the ashes from a bonfire - float, floating, gently disappearing into the cool night sky, one ashy flake at a time until they are all snuffed out and carried away on the wind.

It has hurt.  It has been amazing.  I even dare say, the BEST damn summer of my life, though I have gone no where, no vacation save but a wonderful, blissful four days spent on the lake with family and friends - laughing, crying, hugging, longing, learning, teaching, being.  Like the Grinch, I think my heart grew four sizes in those four days.

I have actually worked all summer, tutoring three young men all with a difficult life story leading them to a place of wanting to just be done with education and ready to move on to adulthood.  It is the greatest privilege to be an educator, to have the opportunity to influence young lives and to learn from them in like kind.  Oh, I have learned!  One student, in particular, has absolutely captured my heart.  What a smart young man!  Possibly one of the fastest learners I've ever had.  He can snatch up a math concept in a heart beat all while he sings "math, math, I hate math"  Love him.  SO much.  Maybe too much because I find myself wanting to rescue him from the minor blunders and pitfalls young men find themselves in as they learn how to become adults, stretch their wings and fly.  This one can go places, achieve amazing heights, but he lacks the confidence in himself.  I hope I have begun to teach him that as well - that he CAN.  Oh my, can he!!!

See?  My heart stolen dead away by students, once again.  When they become more than students to me, it is a magical dynamic.  This is why I know I'm an educator, why I can't give it up.  This is why the summer has been so hard in equal measure for how beautiful it has been.  I wanted to teach, I wanted to be away from this present reality, I wanted more for Sissy and AB than what appears to be available for them here both in their present need and in their future need as adults themselves.  I wanted friends and family and hope.  I wanted to start over, clean slate, new house, new life, freedom.  At the beginning of the summer I was convinced I had to move on to find what I needed.  Now I'm not so sure.

On the 15th I take the content exam.  I know I will pass.  With a passing score, I can apply to openings for Biology teacher positions and a school can request a provisional certificate while I work on my Master's in Education.  Yes, I will go the distance and get my Doctorate too.  My application is at the local university, I wait only for them to send my acceptance. I know I will get into the program.  I have sent more than 22 applications for employment and I wait for a job, preferably as a paraprofessional while I work on my degree so I don't have to juggle both the tasks of lesson plans and prep while I study.  I wait but it is just a matter of time and door knocking before I find a job.  I hope it is soon though, money is running out.

At the end of the month, my sister will be here.  We are joining forces.  No more will the loneliness overtake me, there will be another adult body in my life, helping when and how she can and if nothing more, just being present.  The loneliness of single parenting is stifling.  AB and Sissy aren't typical teenagers that talk and share their ideas, create their own social lives with friends coming and going, giggling and video game playing.  I don't dwell on the reality that my teenagers are atypical teens but it is hard to ignore the obvious disparity when I have teen students in my home being typical and my children suddenly appear very...different.  When everyone goes home at the end of a day, I find myself sitting in my Adirondak chairs breathing and pushing away the sorrow that AB and Sissy will always be different and that their differences can be isolating for ALL of us. 

I've discovered that there are indeed, some very wonderful, blessed friends that have willingly jumped into this life with me.  Breath of fresh air to the point of tears.  So thankful.  My heart is bursting.  Sure, every morning and every night I am alone with the kids but during the daytime, I have friends that go the distance with me, if even through text and FB, knowing that those lifelines carry me through.  It is an old habit carried over from the residue of abuse, for me to assume that my neediness is annoying. These friends know I'm not needy, I just carry an enormous burden that overwhelms me and instead of berating me, they encourage me.  You can't possibly know how amazing that truth is unless you have walked the miles I have walked.  Now, I look up and see a sky full of stars smiling at me instead of miles of darkness weighing down on my heart and soul.  For these friends, my children are joys, even in the difficult moments.  And that brings me tears of happiness too, that despite the struggle, a handful people of can see the prevailing goodness in Sissy and AB that I see.

The house isn't sold.  I don't think it will sell until I can do some significant repairs to the exterior.  I can't do significant repairs until I have more solvency so that is the current goal, make money, fix the house, try again.  I want to be out of here for the simple fact that it currently financially connects me to my ex.  I need this divorce to be done, it has been two and a half years of misery AFTER the fact!  With strong encouragement, I finally got the strength to dismiss my ex from my house with the exception of the overnight weekends the divorce decree orders him in my home every other month.  That is another goal, to save money for a lawyer so I can go back to court and change that as well.  If in two and a half years,  a grown man can't get on his feet and establish himself in such a way that his children can come visit him in HIS home or to pay his child support in a timely fashion, then he isn't going to.  He never will.  I'm done.  Running away to a state 750 miles from here isn't going to change him and it isn't going to give me the strength to grow some cahones and deal with his shit head on.  So I stand firm.  I take back my power.  Just as I want my student to see that he can, I am learning that I can.  I CAN!  I am.

All that remains then, is what becomes of Sissy and AB as they rapidly approach that golden number, 18.  Once they are 18, the game changes for disabled persons and no matter how I shuffle the cards, all of the other factors, needs and wants seem to be met in my current place EXCEPT what becomes of those two as they transition to adulthood.  I love them, I do, but I can't parent them for the rest of my life.  I want them to have autonomy in whatever degree is possible for them and frankly, I want freedom from this burden.  No mother is meant to parent functional 5 and 8 year old children endlessly.  That isn't my calling.  So, with 3.5 and 4.5 years respectively for these two, I have a little time to sort it out.  Thus, I breathe.

The pivotal moment for me this summer was two days after our lake weekend when my student sat at my table, having heard that we had to conclude tutoring a little early because a realtor was showing the house directly afterward and we all had to clear out.  Still on the heart warming wave of joy from the time away, he asked me who would help him if my house sold and I moved away.  That's when I realized he stole my heart, ran off with it like a wild banshee shouting ollie-ollie-oxen-free! and that I couldn't possibly leave now.  I'm all in.  Reduced me to tears, that one did.  Or maybe I'm just a weepy, blubbering mess?  Longest I've made it since last November without tears is seven days.

Nah.  I'm all in.  Damnit.

WG has started cross country so I signed up to be a volunteer parent. Tonight is timed trials and her first meet is on the 23rd.  So, I am running now too which makes me laugh.  Guess what?  I LIKE it.  *shaking head at self*  Between swimming and running, in one week I logged 11 miles.  And I'm now at 57 pounds lost and counting.  New me?  Oh yeah.  What a life.

Time to write that book some of you have been begging me to write.

There is one more "want" on my list.  I wait patiently for that one too.  The winds of change are blowing gently, bringing warmth, life and hope.  Soon.  It will come.


[1] rajani patel is an alter ego I created several years ago so I don't go batshit crazy when I'm mad.  Rajani comes out and I keep my cool...mostly. :D