Saturday, September 12, 2015

Back To School

I think this has been the smoothest transition to a school year we've ever had! It helps that summer camp is such an exhausting madhouse, of course. School feels like a vacation for the kids after that. We did get to spend one day at the beach with their cousins, and even Whiz Kid enjoyed the waves this time. He and Little Bear earned their green bands in swimming at the YMCA during summer camp, so he's much more comfortable in the water than he used to be. The Princess still prefers the sand, but she dips her toes in the waves periodically.

Little Bear's first homework assignment was a "Hero Board." He was supposed to put at least 3 pictures on it of people/characters that are heroes to him. The combination he selected was quite interesting. He chose Pichu, the Pokemon baby version of Pikachu, because he says his stuffed Pichu helps him sleep at night and keeps nightmares away. He also picked his patron saint the Martyr Victor, and George Washington. The most interesting thing to me was that I did not mention George Washington to him at all. Maybe my mom's love of history is silently rubbing off on him in spite of Whiz Kid's vocal contempt.

We've nearly completed a children's book series with our evening Kindle reading. It's the "Origami Yoda" series by Tom Angleberger. It's really cool! I like it as much as I liked the "Diary Of A Wimpy Kid" series. Whiz Kid was introduced to it at camp by a friend who brought the books along. I highly recommend it for anyone who enjoys real life comedy and common sense at a middle school level.

Last week our new priest and his family arrived. I was very nervous about the change, since I don't like meeting strangers and we were very comfortable with our previous priest. They seem like wonderful people, however. His son is about Little Bear's age and already knows the boys' close friends at church through the summer camp they (the other boys) attended. He and his wife seem to be around my age in general, and their daughter is 12. I think all of my worrying was for nothing. He was willing to let the boys serve at Vespers even though that meant 4 kids and only 2 adults in the altar, which I know can be very difficult to manage. One of the ushers went up and assisted with supervision. From what I've seen so far, he appears to be a very patient and conscientious person, and I think we've been blessed. We still miss Fr. James and his family, and I hope the best for them in their new pastorate.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

When Irish Eyes Are Smiling...

Recently I heard that song for the first time on Amazon Prime, not long after my boss brought a new dog to work. He's a lot of fun, the world's friendliest pit bull, and loves his owner to death. I think of that song when I see them playing together, because my boss definitely has those laughing Irish eyes, and they light up when he's playing with his dog.

Little Bear turned 9 this week. They share a birthday. I really shouldn't call him Little Bear any more, since he's far from little. He's one of the biggest kids in his grade, as well as one of the oldest (perhaps THE oldest) since he meets the cutoff date for the next grade. Fortunately, he's caring and tender-hearted, so he'll never be one of the bullies. He can be fairly rough with his affection though. I've been trying to make him understand that he can't run and tag the girls so hard any more, since he nearly knocks them over at times. He needs to ease up on the sudden bear hugs too, and stop pounding on people to get their attention. It's a bit frustrating at times. He's such a tactile person, and doesn't understand that some people are bothered by lots of touching. He also doesn't know his own strength, and at the rate he's growing that will be an issue sooner rather than later.

Whiz Kid is definitely a pre-teen now, despite being only 10. At camp he connects more with the 12-14 age group than with his own, and to a large extent he's always been that way. He's developing tastes in music that are upsettingly close to what his father listened to. I've decided to approve some of it. Fear Factory is a "no way," and thankfully he hasn't asked about Alice In Chains yet. He likes Eminem (ugh) because all the older kids are listening to it at camp. I feel like smacking the counselors, but so many of them are still kids themselves. *sigh* I'm letting him listen to the censored Rage Against the Machine and System of a Down; I've told him the music has to be about something besides hatred and murder and suicide if he wants me to even consider it. There's no way he's ever going to like my music, though. It doesn't connect to him at all. Little Bear likes it, but Whiz Kid has a very different personality and has had very different life experiences. He does like some of the modern country singers, which isn't so bad. One of his closest friends at school is really into that so they listen to it together.

I'm so thankful the summer is ending early this year. Summer is like the flu to me. At least in winter, I may be too cold and sluggish to clean the house but I feel cuddly and love to curl up with the kids and read books. In the summer heat, I don't want to be near anyone, do anything, or hear anything. The tiny apartment makes me claustrophobic, but the heat outdoors is even worse. The noise of the air conditioner leaves my head ringing all day long and makes hearing difficult, and I feel like I need a shower twice a day but the shower only leaves me more miserable from the humidity. I don't just hate summer. I dread it, loathe it. And I hope the seasonal door doesn't hit it on the way out.

However, I've learned a few tricks about managing the heat. For one thing, instead of trying to do the grocery shopping on Saturday afternoon in the blistering sun and coming home with a splitting headache and in a homicidal mental state, we do it on Saturday or Sunday evening after the sun gets low. If I have other errands to run, I do them early in the day, before I worry about laundry or dishes or cleaning. I'm amazed at the difference that makes in my ability to remember everything I need, and not lose it at the kids while shopping. It's worth giving up dinnertime once a week. I've also learned that wearing a hat makes a big difference in how hot my head gets in the sun. Baseball caps are my new best friend. I didn't realize hair could be such a greenhouse. And I've finally started wearing flip-flops. I always hated them, but hey, a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to stay sane!

I've also been discovering music that doesn't irritate my tinnitus. A while back I started looking for a rendition of Carly Simon singing "With A Few Good Friends" from Winnie the Pooh. Never found it, but I did find her voice soothing and her music calming. I've also bought a few Fever Ray songs after watching the first two seasons of "Vikings." I'm not a big fan of the show itself, but I love the music. The deep resonance in it has a very calming effect on my nerves, although the lyrics don't tend to reflect my personal experience. It's the first music I've ever been able to listen to as background noise. And one of my brothers introduced me to Stan Rogers music, which I've begun to really enjoy. Now that I have a chance to find out what I like, I'm learning new standards by which to choose things. It's good. I now pick my songs by pitch and tone rather than genre, and pick my clothing by what looks good on me instead of what colors I like best, or what brand.

Wearing uniform shirts at work is something I'm glad for. It makes getting dressed in the morning so much easier, and allows me to get by with a much slimmer wardrobe than I otherwise could. Very important in a small living space.

Cub Scouts is back soon. I'm excited for that to begin. My parents also decided not to move, for several reasons, and that means we can stay in the district another year. That's an enormous relief. Every year I say this one will be a good year, and this year that prediction has actually come true. I think this coming school year will be the best one yet as well. We have a community now.

Last week I had an epiphany about why I enjoy working with my boss so much. He's the first person I've ever met who's as crazy as my family in the fun ways, and being around him makes me feel like less of an outcast. I think part of it is the age difference, since I skipped a whole generation of childhood and young adulthood, and just don't really have any connection to other people my own age. But there's more to it. I've been watching the Princess with her best friend at school, and I've noticed that together they seem to share a collective perspective on life that differs from their individual one. Maybe that's what makes them best friends. When the other boy isn't around, the Princess is more sensitive, more belligerent, more prone to tantrums and stubbornness. When she's not around, he's more quiet and withdrawn. Together, they chatter nonstop and get excited almost simultaneously about the same things. It's pretty cool. I feel like that's the way I am with my boss. Of course, I don't know what he's like when I'm not around, but my coworkers seem to think he's different in a good way. For my part, he brings out a side of me that I never knew was there, a mischievous and fun-loving side that makes me believe it's possible to be happy for actual days instead of just moments now and them. When I imagine spending time with him, I don't think about going out to dinner or anything like I always imagined people do on dates. I think about hanging out in the living room playing board games and watching funny movies and wrestling with the dog and eating takeout or burgers from the grill. I just imagine being with him, feeling like I belong, feeling happy to be alive. Like I'd expect to feel with a best friend. The way I felt with my friend Kimberly Brown when I was eight years old, before she moved to Florida and we lost touch. That's the only other person I ever felt the kind of connection with that doesn't require effort, or involve walking on eggshells. It's the best feeling in the world.

It scares me, because I'm not sure I can handle losing it.

Monday, July 6, 2015

So, That Happened

I quit my job. And then I went back. I'm not sure if that was the right decision, but so far it appears to be.

When I mentioned the day care I reported, I didn't mention that they were a customer of ours. They were, and had been for a long time. It was a difficult week at work anyway since several things were going wrong, and I know my boss was feeling overwhelmed, and he's notorious for his temper. So it didn't help matters when the director called and asked for her account balances, and stated she wouldn't be doing business with us any more. When I asked her why, she said it was personal. I guess it wasn't too hard for her to figure out that the person who pulled her daughter out after only a month, and paid tuition for two weeks while the child stayed with Grandma, was probably the one who got them investigated.

I expected my boss and his sister to be upset, but I also expected they would get over it since I really couldn't do other than I did. Apparently I was wrong. The sister commented several times that I should have given them a heads up, since this was one of their oldest customers, and they deserved a chance to make sure they were on good terms if things were going to get difficult. Obviously I disagreed. I explained to her, in detail and at length, why I did not choose to tell her or anyone else of my decision, since the investigation had to be a surprise to be effective. She chose to ignore everything I said and persisted in saying that I simply didn't think about how this would affect them. Whatever.

A couple of days went by, and my boss overheard me on the phone at lunch asking my CCIS caseworker about the paperwork for the boys' summer camp. The camp provider happens to be a customer of theirs as well. A short while later I received an email from his sister stating that "going forward, [boss} would like you to keep him informed of where your children will be enrolled for day care, summer camps, etc."

Normally I keep my temper in check by refusing to respond right away, and perhaps I should have done that in this situation. But I didn't. It came across like the sort of thing that expected an immediate response, and I gave one. Starting with the fact that it wasn't legal for them to ask me that. I was much too furious to think things through fully at that point, and I didn't like my boss's initial reaction (as soon as he realized I was angry he tried to send me home for the rest of the day), so after giving the two of them a piece of my mind I cleaned out my desk. I had expected them to back down from such an outrageous request, but they didn't, and I left in a fury. I had to pull over twice on the way home to breathe, because I was shaking so bad I could hardly drive.

I spent the rest of the afternoon crying and pacing and trying to slow my heart rate down, and texting my coworker who had been on lunch when all this went down. She asked if I would come back if she and the others could convince them to ask me, and I said sure, if they dropped their demand, but that would never happen. The next morning I decided maybe that wasn't a good idea since it was probably bad for everyone to be in love with my boss anyway, so I texted her again and said I would only come back to train someone new.

I went back to the job search program. The sister called late in the morning and asked if I would come in and talk. So I went home and talked to my mom and sister, and my kids' godmother, and they all said I should go back if I could. Even though some of them knew my reasons for not wanting to. At the meeting they pretty much did everything they could to apologize without admitting they were wrong; my boss's sister could give Mitt Romney a run for his money when it comes to thoroughly, in depth, and at great length saying absolutely nothing at all. Still, I really didn't want to be job searching again, or get back on TANF, or stop paying rent after just starting. So I decided to go along with calling it a miscommunication. They said we would just move on, and I guess they meant it because it hasn't been brought up again.

Even though I'm glad to still be working, I have my doubts about this. And worst of all, I know that I hurt my boss's ego, and he's not the sort of person you want to do that to if you want him to like you. Not that I had much of a choice. Time will tell if things can go back to being fun there again.

Especially since his dog died suddenly a few days later. That I really feel bad about. We all miss her. It seems that Murphy's Law was in full effect there last month. Hopefully this month will be better.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Things I'm Grateful For Today

#1 - My mother. Years ago when I first began blogging, I don't think I ever believed I'd say those words. But recently it has hit me just how much she has been there for me - and even more importantly, for my children - over the past couple of years and more. The descriptions I heard of the Duggar parents' interview via Facebook drove home just how valuable it is to have parents who are willing to change, to learn from their mistakes and to say "We're sorry." By the way, my dad certainly deserves his share of this gratitude as well, since he provides the support that my mother needs in order to be there for us, and the housing, and the trash removal, and the lawn care, and all the other little things that you don't really think of until you have to take care of them yourself. Not to mention all the furniture he and my mother have moved for us. But what really drove it home was when I switched the Princess to another day care recently, so she could be closer to my work, and it ended in disaster. In spite of how busy she is these days, my mother offered to keep her for the two weeks it would take my child care subsidy to transfer back to the previous (much better) day care, and I'm so grateful that she did. The look in my daughter's eyes the last day I dropped her off was like a trapped animal, desperate and terrified. It killed me. I went back on my lunch break and picked her up, and my mother came and got her from my work place, and she never went back. I don't know what I would have done without my mom. I couldn't leave her there one more hour, let alone two more weeks. The day care story is too long for here, but at the insistence of Little Bear's counselor I did notify the child abuse hotline of my concerns. I don't know what was going on other than neglect, but there's no excuse for her feeling as unsafe as she did, or for some of the behavior I witnessed briefly in the few days following her removal. That day, I felt as if my mom made up for everything I ever held against her by helping me take my daughter away from there without losing my job. I can't imagine what I would have done without her.

#2 - My job. It's not what I pictured myself doing, but I'm so happy there. Mostly because I'm seriously in love with my boss. Yeah, yeah, I know. I tried to talk myself out of it for a while, but finally I just had to accept it. We make each other laugh, and even if we never have any relationship beyond the office, the laughter is good for me. I told a friend the other day that I've laughed more in the last three months than I did during my entire marriage, and it's true. Honestly, if another six months go by like this I'll probably have laughed more than in my whole teen/adult life previously. The crazy thing is, I always thought that eventually I'd meet somebody like him and she would become my best friend. It never once occurred to me that this person I was looking for might be a man.

#3 - Target's cheap build-your-own shelving. It's helping me finally get my living space under control, slowly but surely. Every time I get a bit of extra money together, I buy a couple more, and the apartment is at long last beginning to feel comfortable.

These are just the things I'm grateful for that are new in my life. I'm still thankful for all the usual things as well, like my family and Scouting and my church family, and the opportunity to attend college, etc. I've just recently become aware of how much better my life is now than it was two years ago.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

About That Bag...

There's a grouchy old man at our church whom we often end up sitting in front of. He seems to particularly dislike children, and spends most of the service grumbling to his wife about everything he can see them doing that he disapproves of. He wears a permanent scowl and is a generally unpleasant human being. Until today, I have tuned him out. His opinion matters about as much to me as that of a neighborhood cat. I suspect, because our church is highly ethnic, that in the past most of the families sat on the left side of the church as is traditional in Russian culture, and he did not have to be bothered with their fidgeting and complaining. Now our church is becoming crowded and the children have spilled over into the right side as well. Too bad for him. He should be happy that the congregation is growing.

This morning he was griping and complaining as usual, especially after another family arrived with their toddlers to sit near us. I ignored him until I heard him say rather loudly, directed at the Princess: "And this one, here, someone should tie her up and put her in a bag."

I managed to refrain from breaking his nose on the spot. I've learned that simmering rage gets the job done better than boiling fury, so I try not to react quickly when I get truly angry. But he has not heard the last of this. I will be handing him a note next week. I suspect he will take it up with our priest, and he's welcome to do so. I'm quite sure he won't win that argument. And as further evidence of my self control, I will not include with the note a gift-boxed body bag with his name on it. But I would really, really like to.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Learning Curve

So yesterday we went to visit the ex-dad again. He's been sounding wasted on the phone lately, and telling stories (lies), and not wanting to talk to the kids as much but wanting to tell me all kinds of stuff I don't care about. I was increasingly depressed last week as the time came closer to visit. Telling myself I'm doing this for the kids just doesn't cut it any more. It's expensive to visit, it's hard on me to spend that much time in the car with the kids alone (particularly with the Princess' recent penchant for loud, incessant whining - ugh!), and I really don't want to see him. I just don't.

But the kids do, of course. So we went anyway. I planned to spend the night with a friend on the way and break up the trip, but I took the wrong extension of the turnpike and wound up having to just head on over from where I ended up. Depression always interferes with my cognitive abilities. So we paid for a motel room and headed over to the prison early. Turns out I forgot the kids' IDs as well. I nearly had a panic attack, but they made a one-time exception for us with the understanding that they will never do it again.

He looks awful. He also told me right away that he's getting Vicodin from another inmate; why he told me, I have no idea. I didn't ask. I can't tell if he's just trying to rub my face in it, bragging that prison can't keep him clean, or if he thinks in some irrational way that I'm going to approve of it. Or maybe he just wanted to tell somebody and didn't have anyone else to tell. But something snapped inside me, silently. I went from wishing he could be a better person to just wishing he would die already. I hate him. I'm sick of seeing him, sick of hearing his voice, sick of the way his very existence sucks the life out of me.

He had a photo voucher and wanted a family portrait taken. He never wanted one before, but he does now. He wanted me in it. I wish I'd said no, but I didn't want to make a scene in front of the kids. That was the wrong decision. I want to spit on that picture, shred it, burn it, stomp the ashes into the dirt. We are not a family. We never were. I don't even recognize him any more, visually or psychologically. He neither looks nor acts like the same person. Who is this creepy junkie, and why am I visiting him?  

The kids didn't know any of this, but after talking to one of my co-workers today who had some good advice, I decided I should tell the boys that he isn't staying clean. They have so much hope riding on his getting well in prison, and it isn't going to happen. So I did. I feel a bit better now, and they took it much better than I expected, but I'm not sure what goes on in their minds that they don't say. Still, it's better for them to know now than to have their hopes build up and then collapse when he gets out.

From now on, I refuse to stress about writing to him, getting photos to him, talking to him. He can talk to the kids. I don't want to talk to him. I'm not spending money and time that I can't afford on photo books. I'm not worrying about keeping him updated on every little thing in their lives; they can do that. It's ridiculous that I should let visiting him ruin an entire week or so of my life, especially now that I have a life. And most of all? No more hugs when we say goodbye. I'm done with that.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

"She's MY Cousin!!"

So, my sister from OK came out to visit with her kids the same time I started work. She's been staying with us at my parent's house for a month, and this morning they left for home. The Princess is not pleased. In spite of the trouble she has putting up with her same-age cousin, and the typical toddler sharing issues, she was furious when she learned their dad was coming to take them home. She refused to say goodbye this morning, no doubt feeling that to do so would imply consent to their leaving.

It hasn't been the easiest month for any of us, but family is worth more than sleep - sometimes, and in brief doses. Lol. I think we adults are all feeling bittersweet about the parting, and some of the kids as well. For Little Bear and the Princess, it's mostly just bitter. They are going to miss their same-age cousins terribly. For the kids going home, I expect they are mostly excited to be headed back to their familiar beds and toys and house and yard. At least they did get to experience one really good snow while they were here. I'm told that Oklahoma runs more to ice. Blech.

But soon spring will be along to invigorate us all and hopefully drive away the blues for a little while. And I finally set up Skype on the Kindle so we can chat. I've been needing to do that for a while. It's amazing how much more relaxed I feel at work than I did in school. We will be moving into the upstairs apartment next week, in anticipation of my parents moving, and I am very much looking forward to having my own cooking and bedtime schedule. I know things will be much easier for us all. The only source of anxiety right now is my upcoming car inspection and my concerns about the repair costs.

We had 3 scout meetings in a row canceled due to weather, plus last month's committee meeting, but that should be over for a while as well. I'm looking forward to spring. This year is going to bring good things.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Too Much Winter

So, last week I started my new job. It's working for a family business, not in the social work field, but I couldn't wait as long as it takes to get work in that field. I hope I made the right decision. My sister came out to visit for a while, and it's been a lot of fun having them around. We really need to be on our own, though. Our schedule does not seem to be compatible with anyone else's, and there's nothing I can do to change it, obviously. I just have to make it to the end of the school year.... That has never seemed so far away before....

Anyway, I hope that as time goes by and the Princess gets older, I'll be able to think about going back to school part time. I need some stability for a while. It's been good to come home at night and not have to worry about assignments due. Work is so much less stressful than school. I'm going to apply for low-income housing at some of the complexes in the area and see what happens. Hopefully I will get something for summer. I'm so happy to be working again.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The End!!! And a new beginning!

Today is officially my LAST day of college! For now, that is. My projects are all completed and I'm confident of my grade, and I received the email from the college telling me I can pick up my degree at the end of the month. :D :D Needless to say, I'm psyched.

I haven't found work yet, which I'm really bummed about. Hopefully it won't take much longer. I interviewed for an administrative job that I'd really like to get, but I forgot a few important things I should have said. I still have a lot of anxiety about meeting new people, and I spend so much cognitive energy trying to appear calm that I can't remember much during the meetings. Oh well. It's through a staffing agency, and they told me they are still waiting for my background clearances to come back. I hope that doesn't prevent me from starting work in time for the job.

I had to start the mandatory job searches to maintain public assistance last week, which is incredibly annoying. Some of the intake discussions have been helpful, though. Our instructor gave me some excellent pointers on how to let employers know that I have valuable life experience and was far from idle during my marriage, without just saying "I was married to a heroin addict." Nobody wants to hear that. I feel like Lisa in The Simpson's Movie, when Marge enters the hotel room and asks where Homer is, and Lisa exclaims, "He's gone! Let's quickly rebuild our lives while he's away!"

I sent my information to CYS, and was told that they hire for Social Worker Aide level 3. I only took the exams for 1 and 2. I'll have to take it again. I didn't realize I qualified for level 3 with an A.A., but it seems different agencies have different qualifications. Unfortunately, they also pay less than $12/hr to start. Benefits won't do me any good if I can't pay rent. I'm trying not to panic. My parents expect to move around the beginning of March, and I really need to have some money set aside and have my bills and budget sorted out when that happens. The job searching program drives me insane, because the people who hire through them are the people looking for cheap labor, which is why they team up with the welfare office in the first place. Any job I get through them is likely to be a failure as far as getting us off of public assistance in the future. On the other hand, it appears any job I get with my degree won't be much better, except when it comes to benefits. I'm not sure what to do. Hopefully it will just sort itself out in time as long as I keep lots of options open.