My divorce was finalized yesterday.
Please update your links... I'll be shutting this one down eventually (this one costs me money and I can't blog from my phone easily.)
My divorce was finalized yesterday.
Please update your links... I'll be shutting this one down eventually (this one costs me money and I can't blog from my phone easily.)
For those who remember my stress-filled e-mail a few weeks ago, teary, at the end of my rope, trying to figure out whether I could continue homeschooling and still... ya know... survive?...
The biggest issues was, I needed regular breaks. Being Mommy, Teacher, Therapist, and Warden 24/5 with no support was pushing me over the edge. Sometimes, no matter how much you love them, you just need a break. Babysitters these days are cost-prohibitive, I wasn't willing to put them in school, and faking my death and running away (while tempting), didn't seem the best solution, long-term.
So for now... I'm following in the footsteps of a friend of mine. She doesn't homeschool, but has some very difficult children with similar issues to mine. She's found relief (and fun for the kids) by enrolling them at the local boys and girls club. They do a myriad of activities there - sports, art, table games, board games, computers, reading, homework help. For a VERY small yearly fee, the kids can go every afternoon for a few hours, have a great time with friends (Hallie ran into several people she knew from her brief stint in public school), and I get to go shopping, alone... take a bath, alone... clean the house, alone... read, alone. Meet a friend for a hike or movie or coffee... without the kids sabotaging or interrupting. It's been exactly what we needed, for right now. (Bonus, the club serves both a snack and a hot meal each day - saving me on that effort and expense, too!)
It's been a huge help for my outlook.
In other news, the kids did round one of their required standardized testing for homeschooling today. It was actually pretty painless! 2 more subjects to go!
Last Saturday night, a friend asked me what I was up to, and I told him "nothing"... but that was only half true. A few minutes later I decided to be a little more transparent, and shared with him my struggle.
What I was doing, was having my usual Saturday night battle in my head. About church. I'm a Christian, and I do enjoy attending church. Not only that, I see the value in fellowship, and believe in the mandate to corporate worship with other believers. This wasn't a problem a few years ago. Before the divorce.
I was attending a church at the time, that we really liked. We felt comfortable there, liked the people, the music, the preaching... and had even been a part of the church plant, when it was started from our previous church. We'd been in that church through the coming and going and coming again of several children (foster and adoptive placements), and felt supported there through all those trials with the kids.
Then when my ex moved out, he began taking the kids most weekends. We've been blessed to have no battles over custody or visitation or anything like that, and it worked well that he would take the kids on his weekends (giving me a break from the stress of being a single mom for a few days a week), and I would have them during the week. What that meant ultimately, though... was most Sundays I didn't have kids with me. I didn't realize that was going to be such a big deal, but it has been.
For the first several months I continued to go to the same church... but people started to get distant. I wasn't sure if it was the stigma of divorce that was the issue (though I wasn't sure precisely how they would have known, since I hadn't told many people there), or something else. It started becoming apparent that people that I didn't have established friendships with outside of the church weren't talking to me at all... and they used to, when I had my kids around. The realization of the problem came down after I invited a buddy to go Christmas Caroling with a group from the church that December. We had a great time, spread some cheer around the neighborhood, and came back to the church for hot drinks and cookies afterward. And that's when it happened... someone in church leadership (an associate pastor - it was a small church, and as I'd said, I had been a part of it from the early planning stages) came up to meet my friend, compliment his singing voice and try to recruit him for the worship team or choir. I introduced him, and they talked for a bit. Then that same pastor turned to me and asked "what's your name?" And it hit me. Hard. Why I was feeling distant. Why people weren't talking to me. Why I felt so lonely in church every week. Without my husband and children there, making up the "family unit" they were used to... I had no identity. Nobody had any clue who I was. I had been the mom of my kids, the wife of my husband... and nothing else. No one else. Without my family, I was invisible.
It wasn't long after that, that I started to find excuses for not going (sitting there feeling invisible hurt too much.) Then I found another church... the services were in the evening, which was great for those hard-to-get-moving days. I started going with my good friend (the same one that had gone to the Caroling party with me), and I enjoyed it there! Sometimes my kids came along, but usually they were with their dad. People were friendly, they valued authenticity and community, the sermons were great, as was the music... I felt like I might have found a church home. Then my friend got cold feet... he evidently wanted to be able to meet the single ladies in the church, and he was afraid that sitting next to me was impeding that, because people would think we were a couple. The first week he refused to sit with me, the rejection stung... and it was made even worse by the sermon being on marriage and what it's supposed to be... which just highlighted all the things my sham of a marriage was NOT. And I sat in the back of the church alone and cried through the service, and snuck out the back at the end. That day triggered my fear of going to church alone, off feeling like a lonely loser, and of being there by myself making me MORE depressed. Whereas before I would feel filled-up and joyful at church, now I felt empty and sad. It hurt more to go than to stay home. When I could talk my friend into occasionally sitting with me, I was fine. When I was dating someone and brought them along, I was just dandy. When I had my kids and brought them... all good. But when I had no one... when I had to go by myself... it hurt. In a deep, aching, gnawing way.
I eventually had to leave that church because the service times weren't working - the transition of the kids between their dad and myself left them emotionally dysregulated and the late service (they shared a building with another church) wasn't doable. It's a real bummer, too... since the people in that church were more welcoming than any I've found anywhere else.
I've tried a few other churches since then, when I've been able to drag myself there, to face that empty, lonely feeling... only to find there was no relief. Churches generally have a meet-and-greet time partway through the worship time, during which the people are instructed to "go say hi and introduce yourself to someone you don't know!" This is where my introversion becomes an issue, because small talk isn't my forte, and I'm not super outgoing... but despite looking around and trying to make myself appear friendly and available, I'd be lucky each week if ONE person said hello to me or asked my name.
And that's where I pulled the title of this blog.
People, I'm a Christian. I WANT to be in church. But if I'm not feeling welcome in your midst... if I feel excluded and invisible and inconsequential... how are you coming across to someone who wandered in looking for Christ? Seeking? Looking for a place to belong. Are they going to find acceptance there? Are they going to feel a part of things? Will they ever come back?
Admittedly, I'm picky about churches... I prefer a family-integrated model, and I'm decidedly against topical preaching, preferring expository - going verse by verse through a passage. So mega-churches, who are known for their welcoming committees and "entertainment value", aren't going to fit the bill for me. And I know part of this issue is mine to claim, since I don't make a point of introducing myself to everyone, and I tend to sneak out without staying for the social hour after, because I can't stand being the lonely loser standing by the wall, sipping coffee alone, too inimportant for anyone to talk to. And I know no church is perfect, but being ignored, feeling unwelcome and invisible... that defeats the point of fellowship.
So... back to that Saturday night conundrum. It's a battle of wills with myself about whether I'm strong enough to face that empty feeling the next morning... or whether to wuss out and watch a sermon online. It's a struggle of decision - do I go back to one of the churches I've tried and hope this time will be different, or do I try somewhere new? It's a war inside my mind that I don't see ending anytime soon. So every Saturday night... that's largely what I'm doing. (And if I happen to have a date on a Saturday night, it's what I do after the date!)
Just needed to process that...
Found this exceptionally profound this week... A dialogue from the TV show Scandal. They were talking of government and conspiracy and cover-up and rescue... but oh, how this resonated in the way the last few weeks have been with my kids. Some of you will get this. Some will be shocked and appalled that I would relate it in this way. But since this blog is partially for my own memories... I'm putting it here anyway.
“If there are no white hats, if everyone is evil, if the deck is always stacked, if everyone I love is a monster, if no one is worth saving, what is the point?”
... “There is, incidentally, a point. If there are no more white hats, if the deck is always stacked and if everyone you love is a monster, there is in fact someone worth saving.”
“Everyone! Everyone is worth saving. Even the monsters, even the demons. Everyone is worth saving. In the face of darkness, you drag everyone into the light. That is the point. At least I’d like to think that is the point. Of you.”
I was able to spend Friday with friends in Seattle. Sarah and I drove down together and met up with Kelly, who was visiting from Spokane. We three spent the day at IKEA shopping and chatting and having a grand time. Afterwards we went back to Kelly's hotel to hang out until my man friend could pick me up for the play. I have a great photo of us three girls, but Sarah has threatened my life if I post it. Boohoo!
My guy (friend) lives in the San Juan Islands, so he had to catch a ferry after he was done working for the day, then drive down to pick me up before we headed into downtown Seattle for to see the Lion King. Unfortunately, his ferry was running behind, which put him behind, which made him late to pick me up, and made us a few minutes late for the show. Story-wise we didn't miss much, pretty much just the opening number, which I'm sure was fabulous, but the rest of the show made up for missing it.
When I got in his truck there was a distinct and nasty smell. (He's a clean kinda guy, so that was really unusual.) It seems that over the past week or so since he'd driven that vehicle, some critter wanted out of the cold... and moved into his truck! He spent the ferry ride cleaning and spraying and searching to try to eliminate the problem, but with no luck. It ate all the food he had in the vehicle, it bit holes in the clothes he had in there, it chewed through wires... and the truck was starting to behave in odd ways, driving rough, electrical issues... like the rodent mischief had gone way too far.
After the show, we went to Ruth's Chris steakhouse for happy hour. My guy (friend) ordered one of everything on the food menu. We had spicy seared tuna, bbq shrimp, prime rib sliders, margarita flatbread pizza, and caesar salad. It was all delicious. I love trying new things, and he has a tendecy to do that... order a little of everything so we can both enjoy it all! It's so much fun. I've come to really like happy hour for that reason. The drive back North is when the mechanical issues started on the truck. That rat must have been nibbling wires while we were nibbling appetizers.
When I got back to my house, I gave him 5 rodent killer blocks to put in his truck. I got updates over the weekend... it ate most of them... and lived on. Now we knew we were dealing with a immortal mutant rat!!
We spent Saturday running errands and just hanging out, then that evening he introduced me to his sister and brother-in-law. We had a great time over sushi and then went to happy hour at the Bellwether Hotel. Piano music, drinks and appetizers. His sister had homeschooled her kids when they were younger, and had some with various issues that presented not unlike my own, so we had plenty to talk about.
The next day I made him breakfast at my house, then we went to my church. Afterwards... more errands for the truck, and picking up supplies for his work that couldn't be purchased on the island. While not the most exciting "date" it was fun to just hang out while he was in the area. The last stop before he headed back to his little island was Lowe's home improvement.... for a rat trap. Unfortunately he missed the ferry by a very narrow margin and had to stay another night, in a hotel (crummy way to end a nice weekend), but he did email me this pic that I got this morning...
I'm really looking forward to this weekend! The week has been better than the last all the way around, and anticipating plans with great friends helps boost the mood, too.
One of my friends from my "Trauma Moms" group (that went to Orlando every year, though our "house" has branched off on it's own this year) is going to be in Seattle with her family this weekend, and another friend and I are going down to spend a day with her. We'll have girl talk, wander through IKEA, have a nice dinner... What a great way to shake off daily life and just have FUN!
Add to that a Broadway show... I've mentioned my one "splurge" each year, that I buy with my tax return is season tickets to 2 theatres in Seattle. I've seen the most amazing shows!!! Even when I'm totally broke... I've always got my theatre tickets, and they bring me joy.
This weekend, it's The Lion King! I've heard such great things about the show, and I'm looking forward to seeing it. It doesn't hurt that I'll have a handsome man friend on my arm! haha. I have several great friends that enjoy the theatre ALMOST as much as I do, and though it's always hard to decide who to take to each one, (especially when my kids are begging to go, too, and I only have one extra ticket) Then trying to match up schedules can be a pain, too... but sharing it with a friend that I enjoy spending time with makes a show twice as good. (One friend in particular LAUGHS LOUD, and I can't tell you how much that adds to the fun!)
The friend joining me for Lion King accompanied me to Monty Python's Spamalot last month, too... though he's the sleepy type (as I can be that late at night, and after the long drive down), so I'll be making sure we both have plenty of caffiene to keep us awake! I HATE dozing off during a show that I am really enjoying!!!
Hope you all have a great weekend, too!
A friend just texted to see if we might be able to go on a hike this afternoon. The sun is shining and although I have ZERO energy, she assures me that will change with some movement and time in the sun. She's probably right. It's those first few steps that are always the hardest when you feel drained...
A couple of us made it a point this winter to get out and hike with our (many) children, despite the cold, and although that first half mile was SOOO cold... it felt good everytime we went. So I really have no good excuse now that the temps are consistently above freezing. I mean, I could come up with an excuse... there's always much to be done around here, the kids are still behind on their schoolwork, and because of drastically low iron levels, I'm always freezing cold (literally, I'm shivering right now... It's 47 degrees out and my heater is set over 70, and I'm shivering.) But, I can't remember ever NOT being glad we went. And if we can shoo the kids a few steps ahead of us, it might actually mean a few stolen moments of girl time, which is always a healing balm.
Here's a few pics of our winter hikes...
You've seen Alice in Wonderland, haven't you? Or read it? Remember that scene (chapter) where she was crying so much the room filled up with her tears and flooded? Yeah, that's about how I felt this weekend.
(photo credit: disney.wikia.com)
It wasn't that anything HAPPENED, per se... it was what I'd held in all week. It was a hellish week with my kids. I alluded to that in earlier posts this week, and on facebook I said:
"This week was hard. Crazy hard. The kind where you don't want to go to sleep at night because that just means the next day will come sooner and facing it seems nearly impossible..."
So right about the time their dad picked them up on Saturday morning, the floodgates let loose. And lasted intermittently throughout the weekend. My poor friends had to handle me via text (I tend to isolate when I'm at my lowest)... most were awesome and encouraging, and tried to come up with solutions (I'm still pondering some of them). One friend had to handle me bowing out of a movie date because every suggestion he made of movies he wanted to see made me start crying again (usually I'm the more agreeable of the two of us regarding movies and I'll go with whatever he chooses, but I was too overwhelmed this week to consider sitting through "Machete Kills" or "Gangster"... something or other. So I asked if we could just do it another time. I don't think he was very happy with me.
The week was so bad, I actually started to consider the recommendations of a few friends to put my kids back in school. Not because they learn there (they don't), but because... well... they aren't cooperating with schoolwork here, either. So they aren't learning much anywhere right now. And they are getting in trouble here, too - being seriously unkind to each other, refusing to do chores. I feel like I have an all-out coup on my hands! By putting the kids back in school, I'd be choosing to remove myself from one battle - the schoolwork. And it just might save any relationship we have (their attachment disorder makes any relationship with them negligible... but being mom AND teacher makes it worse, rather than better like I'd always hoped.)
Then I mentioned to someone else who happened to call me and ask how things were going that I was starting to entertain the idea of putting them in school. And got slapped in the face with "You just got through saying school wasn't good for your kids, and now you're just going to THROW THEM AWAY, just because things got hard?" Um yeah... not really ashamed to say I hung up the phone immediately without even replying to that attack. And cried more. And wouldn't answer when she kept trying to call back. That kind of "support" was the last thing I needed this week.
I spent a lot of the day yesterday researching possible careers. Looking at online colleges to complete my degree. Even applying to one. And then... I closed those computer windows and decided to try yet another technique with the kids.
Because I'm not ready to give up this fight just yet. I'm not saying I won't. I very well might! Just... not today. I re-worked our daily schedule. I changed the way they handle their daily assignments (they are WAY behind to complete the school year on time. Not because they have too much expected, but only because they've been defiant and lazy. But I broke it up into smaller, more manageable chunks at least. They won't have less to do... just less to focus on at one sitting.) This morning, the anger walks have been abundant. I told them I don't care if they just go to the end of the block and back, or if they are gone for an hour... as long as they don't come back until they are ready to cooperate. So far today, they've chosen the short ones, but it's helping some already, knowing that giving me attitude is going to result in my pointing at the door.
As... I just paused in my writing to do yet again with my younger son. Sigh...
According to Molly's most recent letter, she's been in some trouble too. Is it some cosmic force? A full moon? Some odd alignment of planets or tides or some air pressure system that stretches from here to Mississippi? (A few other friends mentioned having similar weeks, too.) She said she was assigned 300 sentences for bad behavior "but I finished them!" I can't wait to ask her what the sentence was and why... as bad as it sounds, I have a feeling it will make me giggle a bit. I still do when I think of the sentence she mentioned getting before she came home the last time. "Screaming and throwing notebooks is never acceptable." We all (Molly included) got a good laugh over the image of that one, particularly when I acted it out, and she said I was pretty much spot on. Yeah... I know my girl. I tell my kids often "I know you better than you know yourself." Haha.
I realize I'm all over the place here. I realize my thoughts are jumbled and inconsistent, and my opinions may not line up from one day to the next. Just ride the wave, ok? I'm not trying to be difficult. I'm not trying to be crazy. But raising kids from hard places, from trauma, from abuse and neglect... it's MESSY! And it makes your brain pretty darn messy, too. I'm doing the best I can, with what I have, in the time I'm afforded, with the circumstances I've been given. And that may not be good enough for some. I may not make the decisions you would make. But I'm trying to do what's best for all five of us. Today and for the long term. (And there is no long term if we don't figure out how to survive today!) This is the family God gave me... for whatever reason. And I'm doing my best to juggle all that entails.
To end with a favorite Alice Quote:
My kids, in addition to their RAD, Early Trauma, Prenatal Drug Effects, and slew of other Diagnoses (Asperger's, ADHD, Anxiety, Mood Disorder, possible BiPolar)... have a lot of trouble regulating their emotions at times. (The preteen hormones certainly don't help!) When they all get going, (despite years and years of working on calming, on kindness, on "no touching!"), this house becomes a battle ground. I have kids screaming, slamming doors, attacking each other, throwing things (and when dear, sweet Molly was here, kicking holes in walls, etc, too.) Even if only one of the kids is at that point, it makes it impossible for the others to focus on their schoolwork. So this week I'm trying the old trick of getting anger out and regulating emotion with exercise. We've tried the trampoline, spinning, etc for sensory issues in the past to help them regulate, but they are resistant to any of that, since they know full well the goal is to calm them and that's the last thing they actually want... their anger, being out of control... feels like control in their minds. (Figure that one out! There's no logic when it comes to RAD.)
So... my new trick is sending them out on walks. Whichever kid is disregulated (or all of them) have to get their shoes and coat on and get out the door. They have to follow road rules, cross at crosswalks, and stay off of people's property (and not mess with anything), but beyond that, they can walk wherever their feet take them, as long as they are home in an hour. There's a park about a half mile from here, there are several "little free libraries" in easy walking distance (I remind them to take a book to give away if that's their destination), there are lots of neighborhood streets to wander down, lightning rods to count (it's a Sam thing), dogs to observe... Friday morning, when I sent them ALL out, Gideon perched himself in a tree near the elementary school for a while and overheard an announcement over their loudspeaker system that the school was in lockdown... again. That of course, concerned me, but he was pretty excited about the news.
It seems to work. I get a short break from their psychosis (yes, I realize I'm being a little free with that word), they get the separation from irritating each other, and they come back calmer and ready to work... and ready to talk to each other like FRIENDS, to tell each other what they saw and did on their walks. I'm trying not to get too hopeful about this new solution. Nothing seems to work for long. And the first day it's pouring down rain when I send them out, we're going to experience some meltdowns, for sure. But for now, it's working. And I'm thankful for that.