Pain

I was so naive the first time I held my sweet baby boy in my arms.  I really believed I could protect him from the pain of this world.  I thought for sure I could shield him from vicious people and awful events…I didn’t even think to look at the people around us.  Family.  “Friends.”

But none of us can truly escape pain in life, can we?  No matter how much I wanted my son’s childhood to be nothing but “snips and snails and puppy dog tails,” I have learned that so many things are out of my control.  I cannot control the family member who spreads vicious lies about me to lawmen, greatly hurting my son in the process.  I cannot control the father who hurt him physically, mentally, and emotionally in so many more ways than I care to list here.  I cannot control the bullies at school and in the neighborhood, who call my son names and force him into violent altercations.  I cannot control the teachers who do not understand him.  I cannot control the way he feels when he realizes that he has forgotten to do something important because of his ADHD, or how frustrated he must feel when I tell him we cannot do an activity because it costs too much money.

As the Man in Black said in The Princess Bride, “Life is pain, Highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

I don’t mean to be all doom and gloom here.  I still believe it is possible to rise above the pain that life serves us and become a happy, successful person.  I just wish there was a little less pain dealt to my sweet boy.  I fear that he will become jaded and numb…and if that happens, how will he enjoy that beauty that life has to offer? Image

The Tug of War Tango

Disclaimer: This post is a discussion on a difficult issue that is near and dear to my heart. It is personal and serious. If you feel the need to comment, please keep negative thoughts to yourself. 

I have something rather painful to admit and discuss with you today.  Though I feel that I have done my best to raise Zachary in a manner that is loving and supportive, I have been through three custody battles and been investigated by government authorities to determine my fitness as a parent twice.  I know a couple of friends have gone through similar ordeals.  It is…heart wrenching to be accused of various forms of neglect and abuse by people who are supposed to know you well enough to know that you would never, ever hurt your child.

I can only speculate on why two such individuals have accused me on numerous occasions of being a bad parent.  Truth be told, the two are not the only ones who have ever questioned my parenting skills.  Who among us goes without being told they are a bad mother or father a few times?  Normally it’s the type of thing we vent to our friends about and then brush off because the accusers are just “crazy” or “mean” or something along those lines.  But there are some accusations too hurtful to brush off, too traumatic to attribute to just mean-spiritedness.

Most recently, I had a government official visit my home on Valentine’s Day.  I spent the day that is supposed to be all about love and stuffed animals and chocolates as a big ball of nerves.  I could not believe this was happening.  Again.  I was angry, hurt, shocked, and somewhat jaded by the accusations made by a family member.  The government official sat with me and we discussed the accusations made against me.  Then she looked around my house, saw that my son’s needs were being met and the house was clean and sanitary enough for a child to live in, and determined – once again – that I am a fit parent.  

At this point in the game, after nine years of being a parent and actually retaining custody of Zachary, I really don’t understand the motivation behind making wild accusations that I am hurting or not properly caring for him.  I don’t claim to be a perfect parent.  I have moved around too much, couch surfed more often than I would have liked, and definitely had a bit of an unstable job history.  

But I have always tried to be my son’s best advocate.  Friends told me for years before Zachary started school that he was probably ADHD because he was so hyperactive, but I argued with them all.  My son was perfect, I told them all…until he reached kindergarten and had trouble sitting still in class.  Here was a child who was getting straight A’s, was very affectionate and creative, and who was so much wiser than most six year olds in my opinion.  Yet his teacher kept sending home notes and pulling me aside saying that he was very wiggly, overly talkative, and sometimes even treated the furniture in her classroom as climbing structures in a playground.  So I took him to a psychologist and a psychiatrist in order for him to be evaluated for ADHD.  

I did what I believed was best for my child when he needed it the most.  Once diagnosed, he was put on a low dose of Concerta, a commonly prescribed ADHD medication.  For the rest of kindergarten, he was the perfect student.  He still got straight A’s and his behavior improved dramatically.  Sure, it was an adjustment knowing that my child had a disorder that is actually listed on the Americans with Disabilities Act.  But the diagnosis helped him get through the school day, and he learned to love school.  It motivated me to research the best possible methods for parenting my child and meeting him at his need.  I feel like allowing him to be labeled, something I had fought for fear that people would judge him or me, made us a stronger little family.

Again, I’m not at all saying I am a perfect parent.  I am just trying to illustrate how I have tried my best to always do what is best for my sweet, beautiful boy.  I have sought out the best possible job to support him and raise him well, quit jobs when I was faced with having inadequate childcare or he was going through something that required my time and attention, sought the financial backing of family members whom I thought I could trust, and moved when I believed it would be the best thing for him.  Yes, I made mistakes.  More than I would have liked, of course.  But all I have ever wanted is to raise my son in peace, and to teach him how to be a good man in the process.  

Easier said than done, considering I am a single mother whose longest relationship lasted all of six months and I was raised without a father myself.  But I am trying my little heart out. I try to teach my son to be compassionate, confident, and strong.  I have hopes and dreams for him that include college, the “right” career for him, hobbies, marriage to the “right” person for him, faith, and friends.  I think Zachary is a downright awesome kid, and believe he deserves the best that life has to offer him.  

As for being accused on multiple occasions of being an unfit parent, I just want – as I said – to raise my child in place.  I have some very strong opinions about the way things are done in this country regarding custody.  I think there needs to be a better system in place for investigating potential harmful situations to children.  I also feel that there should be a stronger screening system for accusations made against parents.  Previous accusations and investigations should be taken into account, in my opinion.  

Yet, this Valentine’s Day when I asked the government official if she could look into the last time a particular individual accused me of hurting and neglecting Zachary, I was told that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get a copy of the previous investigation from a different state.  That makes no sense to me.  I gave the lady concrete proof showing who had made the accusations against me.  It was the same person who made completely different accusations against me in 2004 and 2009.  Apparently this person cannot be stopped from making accusations against me in the future.  I was advised to keep communication with this person cut off so that I would not have to go through this again.  I wish I could explain to that particular government official that does not matter if I never speak to my accuser again.  I fully believe I will go through this again more than once before Zachary is 18.  All I can do is continue to raise him to the best of my ability, with love and conviction.  I just hate that my sweet son has been hurt by someone who was supposed to be a loving, trusted adult.

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As I said before, feel free to comment on this post.  Just keep negative thoughts and opinions to yourself.  As a matter of fact, if your comment is too nasty, I will delete it.  So don’t bother. 😉 

10 Years Ago, 5 Years Ago, 1 Year Ago

So of all the weird things to remember, I just realized that sometime within the next couple of weeks (can’t remember an exact date, but I know it was the middle to end of January) is the 10 year anniversary of the date I conceived Zachary.  For all I know, the anniversary could have been today…but that doesn’t matter.  The point is, for all the heartache and drama that followed with his father in the months and years that followed my beautiful boy’s birth, I would do it all over again if given the choice.  If anyone has any doubts at all that I love my son, feel free to schedule a meeting with me and we can discuss the matter at great length.  (But you might want to cancel your plans for the next few days if you ever need to have that discussion with me.)

It’s so strange to think of Zack’s conception, really.  I was so very young, and I always say that I wasn’t really ready to become a mother at the time.  I thought I wanted to go to college and get a degree so that I could easily take care of my child(ren) if something happened to my (ex)husband.  But the moment I held Zachary, I knew I was ready to face whatever we had coming to us.  Of course, by that time I knew it really was going to be just me and the boy.  And that was just fine by me.  The only time I ever questioned it was when my three year old little boy asked me why he didn’t have a daddy.  (After getting to know his real father when he was 6-7, however, Zack no longer asks that question.)

Skip ahead five years from my conception date…I had a sweet, sweet four year old boy who was, admittedly, a bit more hyper than most other little boys we had play-dates with.  I was exhausted and frustrated a lot, but also very proud of my smart, sensitive Zack.  By that point, I had already been through two custody battles (sure wish that number never went up…), and was finally starting to be confident in my parenting abilities.  Zack was starting to read and so good at math; I had a decent job making about $300 per week (boy do I miss those days!); and I had a semi-active social life with church friends.

Part of me wishes it was still five years ago…but I don’t really wish to go back in time through Zack’s younger years.  Sure, I’d love to have him as a baby or a toddler or a preschooler again, but he’s just such a cool kid now.  I have loved every minute of every day of every month of every year being his mother.  It’s just that five years ago, I wasn’t struggling as much financially. I wasn’t quite so lonely because I went to church, and even had a social life outside of my church friends.  Five years ago was probably pretty close to the highlight of my life as a mother so far…though that’s not to say that there have not been amazing moments since then.

One year ago…now that feels like it was ten years ago, really.  A year ago I was living in northern California, of all places.  I didn’t really feel like I ever fit in there as most of my friends were a great deal more financially stable than I have ever been, but it was certainly a fun place to live.  Very different from the South, and overall just too different for me to reconcile with, but I enjoyed being there.  However, I was living under my mother’s roof with no income other than occasional child support, and if you know me at all then you know how miserable I was in that situation.  I had no say in things like how much I could go out because I couldn’t afford the gas to even drive Zack the two blocks to school on many occasions.  I was way too dependent on my mother, and that always has a tendency to spark very loud arguments between us, putting Zack in the middle (whether we wanted to or not).  I was so depressed, but I had moved there after a very bloody custody battle, so I felt like California was a good option for us at the time.  It got Zack away from an abusive father, and that is worth whatever I had to go through at the time.  

So now here I am, back in the South, almost two years out of my third custody battle in Zack’s nine short years of life.  Yes, it’s been five years since I’ve had a “good” job, but just a year ago I had no job at all.  At least now I can get in my car and drive wherever I need to go in town without fear that I will run out of gas.  Sure, I worry about whether or not I’ll be able to pay the rent each month, but the fact that I am able to provide a roof over our heads that is in MY name is astounding.  I mean really really astounding.  There are maybe a handful of people who really know everything I have been through in the past ten years, and I’m sure they would all say it’s pretty great that I have my own place again.  Zack and I have spent too many years “couch surfing” (well, not literally, but it’s the best description of how we’ve been living I can think of), and relying on my mother’s income.  So the fact that I am “scraping by”, not really being able to afford anything over rent and utilities at the moment, is something that I choose to be proud of.  I buy a LOT of household items from Dollar General, and we are given a lot, but things are starting to stabilize for us.  Maybe one day bills won’t be such a struggle, but if that takes a while, that’s OK.  Because Zack and I have both had such a roller coaster ride over the last ten years…and we’ve come through the ups and the downs, and will continue to do so.  I’m not rich, but that was never something I aimed for in life – even as a child.  I can only think of two things I ever really wanted in life, and being a mother is one of them.  I’m so glad that I was with Zack’s father ten years ago.  Wow, what an amazing journey it’s been since then! 

Tata 2012! Heylo 2013!

Zack & I ringing in the New Year, 1/1/12, Sacramento, CA

My presents to my little man on Valentine’s Day 2012, 2/14/12, Sacramento, CA

Me & Zack in Old Sacramento on St. Patrick’s Day 2012, 3/17/12, Sacramento, CA

One of my favorite pictures EVER! Zack & I on Easter Sunday 2012, 4/8/12, Sacramento, CA

My sweet boy walking on a redwood log in Muir Woods on Mother’s Day 2012, 5/13/12, Mill Valley, CA

My dad & Zack right before we left his house, June 2012, Mesquite, TX

Zack with an unlit sparkler on the 4th of July 2012, 7/4/12, Carriere, MS

My crazy puppy snuggling with her stuffed animals, August 2012, Carriere, MS

My sweet fur babies sleeping peacefully when there was still only two of them, September 2012, Gulfport, MS

Zack in his 2012 Halloween costume. 10/31/12, Lucedale, MS

Cracker Barrel for Thanksgiving 2012, 11/22/12, Gulfport, MS

The little kitten I got for Zack for Christmas 2012, December 2012, Gulfport, MS

Spiraling – Again

I just have to say one thing.  I am so very tired of having crises of identity at least once or twice a year.  I find a job I like, move to a new place, get a new haircut, get a new pet, or do something else that seems – to me – new and different.  

Yet in reality I am repeating the same cycle over and over again.  Maybe all of those friends that walked away from me, often claiming that I am overly dramatic or mentally ill, are on to something.  There has to be some underlying reason for why I seem to have an inability to be successful in our current American culture.  

Some kind friends have told me that at least I am successful at parenting, but I can find a number of individuals who would disagree with that as well.  I recently told Zack that everything I do is for him, which is true.  I have given up dating, in part, because I thought it would make me a better mother.  Every job I have gotten and every move we have made were chosen because I thought they would be in the best interest of Zack.  I fought three brutal custody battles without giving up because I believed in my heart that I should be raising Zack…that God knew what He was doing when he chose me to be my boy’s mother. 

Was I wrong?  If I’m being completely honest with myself, and with everyone else, I’m certainly not financially stable in any sense of the phrase.  It has been years since I have been able to maintain an apartment, utilities, cell phone, and car note (yes, at one time I actually paid my own car note, though it is a very little known fact) without help from my mother.  Sure, I still want to believe that I’m the best person to raise Zack, but how can I rightfully make that claim when, at 31 years of age, I still don’t know what want to do “when I grow up?”  

Link

Famous Failures…Or Something I’m Good At.

Famous Failures…Or Something I’m Good At.

I have seen this video before, and liked it, but today I needed it’s message.  Anyone who knows me well probably knows how much I have struggled to find stable employment since the Fall of 2009.  I went from a good job (not a great job, and not my dream job, but I was getting by) working full time hours to having no job in one day, and my search for a job started – and stopped – more times than I can count from that point.  I have had a temp position, a couple of waitressing positions, a call center position, a substitute position in a school cafeteria, various babysitting jobs, tried my hand at selling items online (with little success – certainly not enough to live off of), a pizza delivery position, and finally, a position with the United States Post Office.  

The post office position was a job that I was placing all of my hopes for a more secure financial future on…I had so many friends who had witnessed my struggle over the past few years wish me congratulations, and, as one friend told me yesterday, some of them seemed to start believing there might be hope for me yet.  Of course, it doesn’t come as a surprise to me that several friends have given up on me.  I have had friends choose to walk out the door of my life in recent years, often without any real explanation other than that I had “too much drama” in my life.  I wasn’t sure what I could really do about much of my “drama,” as most of it revolved around my struggle to keep custody of my son…a fight that I would gladly give up all of my earthly friends to win, if I had to…

Anyhow, most of that conversation can be saved for another post.  Right now my concern is the fact that I have lost out on an opportunity that I felt would change my life.  It has been decided that the post office is not the right fit for me.  So I find myself in a very familiar position, at a loss as to what to do with my life.  I still have the job as a pizza delivery driver, and I have some financial help for the next couple of months, so I don’t have an immediate fear of eviction from my brand new place.  However, I know how quickly two or three months can go by, so it would be a lie to say that I’m not filled with anxiety right now.  

This video is just a reminder that at 31, I still have time to make something of my life.  I can still make a difference in the world, or find financial security, or maybe even add to my family at some point.  My life isn’t over just because one job, no matter how great I thought it was, is not right for me.

The Single Life

I have been single on purpose for such a long time that I barely recognize being in a relationship as a viable option for myself anymore.  This is not the attitude I thought I would have at the beginning of my thirties, of course, nor was it my original plan for my life.  Honestly, I’m not truly sure if being alone is even God’s plan for my life.  I don’t presume to understand His plan for my life, my family members’ lives, my friends’ lives, or the world…but sometimes I wonder if He intended for me to be perpetually single.  Was I designed to play the part of loving wife and mother to two or three kids, or am I really meant to raise Zachary as an only child alone? 

Understand, of course, that I do not blame God for my single status.  I dated a sweet, gentle guy when I was 18, but I ended it when I realized that he cared much more for me than I cared for him.  I didn’t want to lead him on, even if it meant ending it would hurt him deeply.  Then, for a period of about two years, I did the “online dating” thing.  By online dating, I do not mean I went on a site such as Match.com to meet men who I could date in person (although I did do that later in my twenties).  No, I actually “dated” men online, never meeting them in person.  Most of these men were very far away, and thus really unavailable to me.  

Then I met my future ex-husband at age twenty.  We dated briefly, then were married by the time we had known each other only four months.  I think what we had could accurately be described as a “whirlwind romance,” but the passion faded quicker than I would have imagined possible.  After our marriage ended, leaving me with a beautiful baby boy I was not remotely prepared to raise on my own, I stayed away from dating for just over a year.  Then, at age twenty-two, I met the last boyfriend I have had in seven and a half years.  He was very sweet and we had amazing chemistry, but he made one mistake – albeit a pretty big one in my eyes – and I ended it after only four months.  I was so sure I was saving myself from years of heartache at the time.  It was after that relationship that I dated several men that I met online, but very few of them were seen for more than one date.  

It has been quite a few years now since I gave a man a fighting chance at being a real part of my life.  I have become obsessed with making it on my own.  When I imagine myself “making it,” I see Zack and I, along with our pets, of course, in a house of our own.  I see myself with a stable full time job, able to afford a lifestyle I can enjoy – not wealthy with all of the pleasures and entertainments this world has to offer, but content with what I have because it is what I have earned and deserve.  I try to imagine a third person living in that house with me and Zack, but I just can’t see him there.  

So I find myself wondering, after being single for most of my twenties (certainly an unusual feat among my friends), what would happen if I opened my mind, my heart, and my life up to the company of a man.  Would I feel more whole – you know, if I am meant for someone in particular?  Would it just complicate my life right now, when I am struggling so hard to achieve financial stability?  I really wonder what would happen.   

A Long Time Coming

“I had to clear up my messy life. By letting go of the debris and filth, I have come to a deeper, more soulful beauty and clarity like an oasis in the desert. From that place of clarity, a vision of what I could have, what I could do, who I could be has emerged if I allow my heart to become a place of compassion, acceptance and forgiveness.” 
― Sharon E. RaineyMaking a Pearl from the Grit of Life

Wow. I really just could not have said it better myself.  I have been going through this dark time for so very long.  I started my twenties with a marriage, baby, and divorce.  I have been through three terrifying, heart breaking custody battles over one amazing child – and thankfully triumphed through each one.  (Nothing and no one could ever convince me not to fight for my son.  Ever.)  I have been betrayed by family, hurt by friends, embarrassed by lovers, and decimated by my many failed attempts at college.  I spent my twenties broke, directionless, and lonely.  

Before I turned thirty last year, I swore things were going to change.  There I was, living with my mother again and feeling like nothing was ever going to change.  Granted, it was a new state with new people and a completely different culture, but I was in the same old rut.  I wish I could put a finger on what changed between last year and now…I just can’t seem to explain to myself, much less to whomever may actually read this blog.  I went through some of the same cycles that I experienced from age twenty to age twenty-nine: moved in with my mom after a messy court battle with my ex; struggled to find a job, scraping by on government assistance and whatever my mother gave me; moved back out of my mom’s place and in with friends; then moved again…

And here I am tonight, finally on the verge of something…stable.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not there yet.  I have a bit of struggling yet to come, I think, but I am definitely coming to an end of my struggles – at least in financial terms. I just recently took a test to be a mail carrier for the United States Post Office, made it through the interview process, and am waiting for the background paperwork to clear so that I can start my driver’s training.  I also got a part time job as a Pizza Hut delivery driver, since the post office job will only be part time.  I know having two jobs might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, and might not qualify as worthy of this much feeling…but I am just so immensely, overwhelmingly relieved.

I am relieved that maybe over the next nine years of Zachary’s childhood, I might not have to pray that other people give him enough birthday and Christmas presents so that he doesn’t notice how broke Mommy is all the time.  I am relieved that I might actually be able to keep a roof over our heads for more than a year or so.  I am relieved that I no longer have to fear finding a home for our cat or dog because I can’t afford to feed them or pay the pet deposit.  I am relieved that I won’t have to rely on people who will help me and then resent me for it later.  

Maybe we won’t be rich, but if I can maintain all of the above for a few years, that will be enough for me.  I wouldn’t exactly say I’m “done baking” (for all you other Buffy fans out there)…I’m pretty sure parts of me are definitely still doughy inside.  I don’t have my life all figured out.  I just feel like maybe all of the struggling and searching and reaching might actually have taught me a few valuable lessons.  Maybe I am finally a grown up…or something. 😉 

Jeremiah 29:11…just words on a page?

Jeremiah 29:11-14: 

11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back from captivity.[b] I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,” declares the Lord, “and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.”

So I know this passage was not written for me, or anyone else who would like to adopt it as their own personal motto.  It was written for some Israelites that had been banished from their hometown, or at least that’s my understanding of it.  I am far from a theologian on such matters.  I just thought I would read the entire chapter tonight because whenever something is wrong, people always like to quote Jeremiah 29:11 like it was written just for them.  

The thing is…well, I guess we all wish it was written just for us, don’t we?  There are so many people out there like me – jobless, practically penniless, living with friends and family.  We’d like to have some promise, some hope, to cling to, and Jeremiah 29:11 is just so poetic.  It’s a pretty thought when all you have to compare it to is the multitude of ugliness in this world.  

I’m not trying to say I don’t believe God can bring us back from the brink of despair anymore.  I truly believe He can.  He has brought me “out of captivity” (often of my own making) time and again.  I just think it’s a bit arrogant to pick and choose verses & passages out of the Bible to call our own without at least looking into the history around them.  This passage in Jeremiah, for example, is actually rather brutal.  It really goes into how God will get the Israelites back to their home, but also how He will punish the people who banished them.  

In my own search for stability, I’m not looking for anyone to get punished in order for me to establish a home for my son and me.  I feel like what I want in life right now is simple.  I just want to find a job – any job – and a cheap apartment (to be furnished with thrift store furniture) to call our own.  I have applied at casinos, fast food restaurants, retail stores, offices, government jobs, and more.  I have gone out to do what people call “leg work.”  I go out with a smile on my face, dressed nice, clean, and I am friendly.  I just don’t understand why it’s so difficult to find a job these days.  

But…if God has a plan for me, I really would like to see something happen sometime soon.  I’m not asking what the plan is, or why it’s His plan for me.  I really don’t need to know.  But, as they say, something’s got to give.