Country Roads and Finding Home
We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. TS Eliot
Just one year ago, I wrote a post called Road Trip , where I talked about taking a car trip from South Carolina to a very small community called Flat Top, West Va. It gets it name from level highlands upon which it is situated—the “flat top,” which follows the crest of “Great Flat Top Mountain”. At the summit, it is 4001 feet above sea level. All I can really remember is that there was a small country store/ gas station with “pop” as they call it there, and snacks, etc. close to my grandparents farm. There was a small school house across the street, a few more farm homes, and another small country store that served as the post office. I also remember cows and chickens, although I am sure there was more to it.
In my previous post, I explained that the trip each summer was to visit my brother who had been adopted by my paternal grandparents. I was four when we were separated following my parents divorce. I would travel with my grandmother every summer until I was sixteen to visit for a couple of weeks. The first time I went to visit there was when I was eight years old. The local paper came out to take a picture and report on the strange visitors from down South. Here is that article:
I remember pulling up to the house and feeling excited and scared all at the same time. I was told that I had been there to visit when my parents were married, but I was too young to remember that. Yet, I felt a strange sense of familiarity with the house and my brother. There was a connection there, which is hard to explain.
In my post last year, I ended with suggesting that my brother Mike and I make a road trip and visit Flat Top together in the coming year. He jumped on board quickly, and we decided to make it happen. Early this year, we talked with my brother Billy (my father’s son) and his wife Susan about the trip. After bouncing a few dates back and forth, we chose the last week in July for our adventure.
Let me digress for just a moment. My father remarried shortly after his divorce. He married a young woman who lived just down the road from his parent’s farm. He and his wife had five children together. I didn’t get to spend much time with them growing up, but my brother Billy and I have always had a strong connection. In fact, he is the only one of the kids to whom I am close. Just a couple of years ago, after his mother died, he and Susan bought the farm and live there full time. We will all be spending the week together. I am working many extra hours the next two weeks to be sure I can afford the gas to get there!
I am excited to visit my brothers and sister-in-laws, and I am excited to see the place I spent so many summers. I am also a bit anxious; memories might be stirred or maybe there will be triggers during this trip. We hope to find some other relatives or family friends who may help shed some light on some family questions. I want to enjoy the peace and beauty of the mountains, as well. Some new information I recently discovered is making me even more excited about seeing Flat Top. I have been searching for information about my father (he was adopted), grandparents, and other family. While helping my friend Jan with some research on her family, I discovered some great resources. One was a great website with old newspaper clippings. I found some newspapers from West Virginia that gave me some exciting information. Before my mother passed away, she explained that my name was Carolyn or Carol Lynn when I was born , and that I was called Lynn until my grandmother adopted me and changed my name. I wrote about it in a post called “Will the Real Cathy Please Stand Up“. I was also told that I was born in the Philadelphia Naval Hospital and then moved back home to Charleston, SC shortly after.
There were some newspaper stories about the Flat Top Farm Women’s club in some of the old newspapers. Several of these included the names of the women attending the meeting. I was shocked to see my mother’s name listed with “her daughter Lynn.” By putting the dates and names together, I discovered that after I was born, my mother went to live with my grandparents in Flap Top while my father was out to sea. We lived there until after my brother was born, moving to Charleston when I about two.
I believe this trip will be a journey home for me. In the quote at the beginning of the post, TS Eliot says that we “will arrive where we started and know the place for the first time”. I don’t really know what I hope to find or gain from this journey to my first home, yet I believe it will hold more significance and meaning than I imagined when we planned this reunion. Maybe I will meet my little girl Lynn while I am there. I will surely give her a hug and tell her how very happy I am to know her.
It Seems Like Such a Simple Word- Mom
For years, I stood in the card aisle of stores searching for a Mother’s Day card. Mother’s Day cards were always hard to buy. Pictures of children with a beautiful mother or one of those moms who did everything and wore the Super Mom Cape filled the aisles. Written in verse on the inside were phrases like “You’ve always been there for me,” or “You taught me so much,” and “I love you.” On the front, were big, bold letters that declared “For My Mom” or “Mother.” I would finally settle on a rather generic card for my mother with a picture of puppies or flowers that read “Happy Mother’s Day-Hope you have a wonderful day.”
Finding one for my Grandmother was even more difficult. I don’t remember much about my mother before she left my brother and me. When I was only four, she left me with her mother, and my brother was sent to live with my father’s parents. My mother came back to visit a few times, but by the time I was six, she had moved across the county. I didn’t see her again until I was sixteen. Letters and phone calls were all that kept us connected, but my grandmother only allowed one short call a week. I think she would have been happier if my mother had just disappeared altogether.
When I was young, my Grandmother would look at me and say, “I love you” in a way that let me know she was waiting for the proper response. I wouldn’t look at her, but I would hesitantly respond with, “I love you- But I love my other Momma, too.” Grandmother told me I didn’t have to call her Momma, but I knew better. So, I did my best not to call her anything. I would walk across an entire room to get her attention and ask a question, so I didn’t have to say “Momma.” I didn’t understand what had happened or why my mother left until I was grown. In an old trunk of Grandmother’s, I found the note my mother wrote the day she left. Scrawled on small, yellowed, unlined paper, you could feel the pain and panic of her words: “Please take care of the kids. I love them more than anything in the world, but they are better off with you. I guess you think I am awful for leaving the kids like this. Me and Joe just can’t get along. I tried to talk to him, but it’s no good. It’s just not good for the kids with me and Joe fighting all the time and him drinking. Please don’t turn them against them. I don’t know if I’ll see them again, but tell them I loved them an awful lot.” My mother was not only leaving an abusive, alcoholic husband but was leaving behind her young two children; She had just turned 20 years old.
What I soon learned was that he was not only abusive to her, but to me as well. She was afraid my brother and I would be hurt if she stayed. Sadly, we didn’t fare much better in our new homes. As an adult, I tried to have a relationship with my mother, but it was hard. She walked away from me so many times; usually for a man. When my first son was born, she was supposed to come to my house to stay for a few days to help. Instead, she left home and never showed up at my house. Her husband kept calling me looking for her. I didn’t hear from her for three days. She used my son’s birth as a way to have time to leave her husband for her new boyfriend. You get the idea? She was used to shutting people out. She had been hurt by so many for so long. She once told me that she had spent most of her life running away from anything she thought might hurt her. Many people considered her to be a “hard” woman. She didn’t take anything from anyone. However, if you got to know her, you would find that she would go out of her way to help a friend, yet keep her distance emotionally.
I could never bring myself to call her Mom or Mother, but I didn’t want to hurt her feeling by calling her by her given name, so just as I had when I was a child with Grandmother, I tried not to call her anything. Not long before she passed away, I took a trip with her to the place she grew up. She told me stories of her life that helped me understand the pain that made her the woman she was. When we returned from the trip, we sat down to talk before I left for home. As I was getting ready to leave for the only time I can ever remember, she told me that she had always loved me. She paused and said, “You know that, don’t you?” I smiled, took a deep breath, and said, “Yeah, I know that.” I gave her a hug and walked to my car. I took a few steps, stopped and turned back to her. I said the words that have always come so hard for me. “I love you. ( I paused) Mom.”
It was the last time I would ever see her. She passed away four months later. After she passed away, her husband wrote and said, “You were her daughter, and she was so proud of you. You meant more to her than you will ever know. She wasn’t good at telling people she loved them, but you were the heart of her joy before I met her and still so to the end. Her greatest joy was being your Mom.” For many years, I rarely used the word love except with my children. I lavished it on them. Honestly, it was a word that scared me. After getting clean and sober and being in therapy, I was able to use the word more honestly. My kids and grandkids hear it all the time. I don’t use the word lightly or freely. If I tell my friends and family, “I love you,” I really do. .I didn’t tell my mother I loved her very often. I wish I had told her more.
It’s Just Like Riding A Bike
I don’t remember learning to ride a bike, but I do know how to ride one. I remember spending a lot of time circling our neighborhood with my friend as a kid. It was a special kind of feeling so be so free flying around on two wheels. I remember the joy in helping my children and grandchildren learn to ride. I watched them experience that first sense of freedom. Throughout my life I have owned bikes from time to time. It is true, you know-you never forgot how to ride a bike. In fact, there is a well-known cliché that says, “It’s just like riding a bike.”
This morning I walked into the office building where I worked until last September. It had been a huge part of my life for a very long time. I am going to be working there again part time. I saw a few old faces as I entered the building. One of the women and I joked about the elevator that seems to have a mind of its own. I made my way to my office area and walked in to a truly familiar setting. Honestly, I have been a little nervous about coming back. I wondered if I would remember everything. I made my way to the desk and logged into the appropriate software for the different systems. I sat back and was ready to go. The Executive Director walked by and said, “It’s so good to see you here again. Sorry I have to run but I have a meeting. Love you.” I laughed as I replied, “Nice to see nothing has changed.” Another coworker arrived and we began chatting about some clients and ways of dealing with them. We talked about old times and caught up for a bit. There were only a couple of technical things I needed help remembering. It felt good to be back. It’s just like riding a bike.
In January, I became a freshman at the College of Charleston. I am a bit older than most of the students; actually I am bit older than many of the professors. I haven’t been in a college classroom in over forty years. I took some classes at a technical school years ago, but that was nothing like this. I have had to remember how to read schedules, find classrooms, take notes, study, do homework, write papers, and more. I wondered if I would remember everything. So far I am doing pretty well. I am making much better grades than I did in high school. It’s just like riding a bike.
In September last year, I became single again. I have had to learn to live single. I am very fortunate to be able to live with my daughter, son-in-law, and grandson so I am not truly alone. There is an old country song, “Sleeping Single in a Double Bed,” and that is a change. I have to think about things like work, car repairs, paying bills, taxes, retirement, and health insurance by myself. I buy groceries for one and I cook for one, that is if I ever cook. I spend a lot of time with friends and we eat together often. I wondered if I would remember everything I needed to live single. I am adjusting and finding my way. It’s just like riding a bike.
March is the month of two significant losses in my life. Today is the anniversary of my “other” mother, Mamma Pearl’s death and earlier this month was the anniversary of the death of my best friend. As I look at my life changes I know more will come. I know that close friends and family might move away and some may die. I know there will financial challenges, physical problems, issues with aging, and life challenges. I have faced them all before. I have had some huge obstacles to overcome, but I did. I have a God, friends, and family who never give up on me. I wonder if I can remember everything that has helped me get here when those times come. I think I will. After all, it’s just like riding a bike.
Time to Take a Stand
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women’s Act. (VAWA) You can find information about the VAWA online if you want to know more about it. Here is one such document. Basically the act provided $1.6 billion to offer community based responses, investigation and prosecution of violent crimes against women, allowed civil suits if prosecutors failed to prosecute a case,and established the Office of Violence Against Women.
It was reauthorized in 2000 and in 2005 with some expansion each time. Statistics show that there has been a marked decrease in the rate of intimate partner violence and deaths. More cases are being reported and more victims are being supported in recovery. All states now have laws in place to provide for warrantless arrests, “rape shield laws”, laws concerning date rape, and stalking. This act has had a major impact on changing the way violence against women is viewed and handled. In 2011, Congress failed to reauthorize the act.
Here are the reasons the House Republicans oppose the re-authorization of the act.
- The act gives limited powers to tribal authorities to prosecute non-Indians accused of assaulting their Indian partners on tribal lands. Currently, non-Indians who batter their spouses often go unpunished because federal authorities don’t have the resources to pursue misdemeanors committed on reservations. **39% of Native American and Native Alaskan women will be abused physically or sexually in their lifetime. Most abusers go prosecuted.
- The act would extend the definition of violence against women to include stalking. **Many states have established laws for stalking, but this would now be included in the VAWA definition . Republicans say this “dilutes” the definition. Really?
- It would also allow some battered illegal immigrants to claim temporary visas. **It seems this provision is being dropped by Democrats in an attempt to appease the Republicans so this act can pass.
- It would include same-sex couples in programs for domestic violence. **Again Republicans say this will “dilute” the focus on domestic violence. I think not passing this act dilutes our ability to protect all victims of domestic violence, but that is just my humble opinion.
Some have gone so far as to imply that the money used for rape crisis centers and domestic abuse hotlines, etc. is really going to support feminist programs. They say this act increases divorce, causes marriages to break up and is set up to cause the hatred of men. If a woman is in a violent marriage then the marriage should break up and divorce is a viable solution. I don’t hate all men. I dont’ hate men at all, although I will admit I don’t always understand them. I just hate the violence inflicted on women by men.
And, before you go postal and scream that women can perpetrate violence against men, I will concede that you are correct. Men typically have access to more resources to leave and the ability to protect themselves. I dont’ want that debate to get in the way of why we don’t have a VAWA in place after documented evidence that the act saves lives. Also, part of the reason the Republicans are opposing the act is the language inferring that men could be recipients of help from this act. Oh my, that would be just dreadful.
This is my view and my opinion. All I am asking is that you look at the facts. Do some research. Get involved. If you find that the VAWA is valid, and saves lives, and helps your community, your city, your state, and your country, then PLEASE do something about it. Write your congressman/congresswoman. Call them, email them. Do something. Don’t just sit back and say, “All this violence a bad thing.”
We often stand in horror and disgust as we hear stories from other countries of women being mutilated, tortured, and baby girls being killed because baby boys are the only ones of value. Slavery was abolished in our country a long time ago, yet girls are sold into slavery around the world every day. We ask how these other countries can allow such atrocities to occur. Yet, we stand by while our politicians squabble over language in an act that prevents death and violence in our own country.
I am a Christian. Yes, a church attending, praying, Bible reading Christian. I stop just short of wearing the WWJD bracelet. Jesus showed us the way to treat other human beings and that included the women in his life. I dare you to read Luke and not come away seeing Jesus treat women with respect, caring, and love. WWJD-What Would Jesus Do? I will let you answer that question for yourself. For those of other faiths reading this blog, I challenge you to look into your own beliefs and find answers about these issues.
I don’t believe we can be rid of all violence in our world. I am not a Pollyanna. I do believe we can effect change. We see evidence of that all around us. I don’t believe the VAWA is going to rid our society of domestic abuse, violence, or rape. I do believe this act can make a difference. Yes, I was once a women who lived with abuse. I lived with child abuse in many forms as a child and as a woman I lived with abuse in my marriage. I found help and a way to live my life free of violence. I hope this act will be reauthorized and other women find help as well.
“Great opportunities to help others seldom come, but small ones surround us every day.” Sally Koch
The voice on the other end of the phone told me something was wrong. It wasn’t the words but the sound of desperation. It took only moments before the tears came. “I feel like such a failure,” she said. I recently heard those same words from someone else. They were spoken with the same sadness and fear I heard in her that day.
I empathized with both of them. I have said those words myself and felt the pain surrounding them. Failure-it is such a daunting word. The term “FAIL” or “EPIC FAIL” has become very popular. It is usually not spoken, but yelled when someone does something questionable. We rarely associate failure with simply making a mistake or not succeeding at a task. It seems much bigger.
Early in the fall of this year, I was beginning to have those old demons emerge. I was beginning to feel like a failure. I was out of work, getting divorced for the third time, and looking at the few material possessions I owned. At 61, I should certainly be sitting on my front porch watching the sunset with my husband of 40 years, planning an exciting travel filled retirement, and having an investment portfolio to sustain my lifestyle for the next 30 or so years.
The truth is that I have failed at many things in life. What I have come to understand is that while missing my goal or making a mistake may mean I failed, it does not make me a failure. Someone very wise told me the only thing that would make me a failure was if I gave up without trying.
I would never consider Oprah a failure, yet she was fired from her first job and told she would never make it in TV. Walt Disney was told his mouse idea was a failure. I would dare say that today we would yell, “EPIC FAIL” to the person who said that. J.K. Rowlings was certainly considered a failure as a divorced, single mother, want to be writer on welfare. Yet, she continued to write. Steven King’s manuscript for “Carrie” was rejected 30 times before it became a success. There are many examples of people who failed at something and we would never dream of labeling them failures.
I am convinced that as long I am alive on this earth, I will continue to fail. I will also succeed in countless endeavors. Neither success nor failure should define me. They are not who I am. I am many things but I am not now nor will I ever be a failure. I only hope my friends come to believe that as well.
The Year The World Came To An End
There was no zombie apocalypse, and I didn’t see one rouge asteroid penetrate earth’s atmosphere. December 21 passed and the world as we know it survived intact. Last December, I remember hearing the legend of the Mayan prediction of the end. I jokingly said that if indeed the world would end in a year, I needed to make some serious changes in my life. Little did I know I was making a prediction that would come true.
The first change I made after the New Year was to go back to church-again. I stopped going for several months and missed what I had found there. Encouragement from the pastor and the warm welcome back by members made it easy to return. After all, when confronted with an end of the world scenario, prayer and faith seem the logical solution.
A lunch meeting with Jan early in the year brought an unexpected new friendship. Our schedules made finding a date a challenge. We met along with her daughter Anna and laughed our way through most of lunch. We became fast friends. A love of writing was one of the many things we found in common. Jan and her family are now a second family for me and a gift from 2012 for which I am truly grateful.
My diet and exercise programs needed a serious boost. I walked past a karate studio near my office many times and decided to finally check it out. In February, I started training, and I am now a blue belt. I finally hit my goal of losing 100 pounds as the year went on. If the world was going to end, I wanted to be healthy and strong enough to fight and make a run for it if possible. After all, every end of the world movie has people survive who can run, jump, fight, and look amazing doing it.
I love to write and wanted to find ways to improve. I decided to make a move from Blogger to WordPress for my blog and made it public. During the year and my blog followers and views increased dramatically. Connections with many new writers during the year were an added benefit. I attended a Writer’s workshop at Montreat in the spring and renewed my commitment to writing on a regular basis. This fall I went to Atlanta to see my favorite author Anne Lamott. She offers great advice and encouragement for writers.
Things at home (my marriage) had been difficult for some time, but I made the decision to stay and do what I could. My job was stressful but I loved my work. Friends, family, and writing kept me going. However, things changed quickly in the summer. The job I loved fell apart and I made one of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in a very long time. After much prayer, talking with my therapist and consulting close friends, I choose to leave my job without another job in site. I know in my heart it was the right decision. Within weeks of leaving my job, I made another difficult choice. I left my marriage of five years.
While the world didn’t end in December, the world as I knew it ended in 2012. 2013 is a mystery. I registered for college and will sign up for my classes on Jan. 10th. I have no idea how that is going to work. I am 61 and haven’t been in school for over 40 years. I need to find a way to support myself and get health insurance without working full time and going to school. I work only 17 hours a week and pay almost my entire income to cover COBRA for health insurance. I fight the demons of feeling alone at times and feeling like a failure at others. I know there are people in my world who think I have taken a walk into insanity. There are moments when I feel very lost and unsure of what is happening. Some days I wake up, get out of bed, put one foot in front of the other, and see where life leads me.
Yet, for the most part, I feel happy. I have a sense that I am exactly where I am supposed to be. I have two amazing grown children who encourage me and support me. Jan and Anna make me laugh, let me cry, push me, and just let me be me. I have other friends who believe in me as well. And, in the middle of all of this, I pray and I trust God.
A blog challenge for 2013 is to find one word to focus on through the coming year and incorporate that into your writing. I have several words that seem appropriate but the one word that keeps coming through is trust. It isn’t something that comes naturally for me. I learned a tremendous amount about trust in 2012; some of it bad and much of it good. I am going to embrace the challenge and put trust in my daily life- trust in God, my friends, my family and in myself. I survived the end of the world in 2012 so welcome 2013. Let’s see what you have in store!
Happy New Year!!
Rambling Post To Get Unstuck
I am stuck! I mentioned that in a recent facebook status update. I mentioned that I was not posting to the blog that day because I was stuck. A friend suggested I write about being stuck and my plan to get unstuck. Great idea except I don’t know what it will take to get unstuck. Writing professionals and teachers tell you to just keep writing and eventually you will find you way back. So, I am going to give it a shot.
I seem to be stuck in my life as well. I have made huge changes over the past couple of months. A divorce and leaving the place I had worked for many years has offered new experiences and new opportunities. I get excited and then confused about all the choices. When I don’t know what to do, I often do nothing.
In recovery we talk about doing the next right thing and doing the foot work and see where God leads. There are also a lot of slogans we throw at these problems. “Let Go and Let God”, “Willingness is the Key”, “More will be Revealed.” I learned that each slogan offers a solution. They take on different meanings at different times. I am not sure what they mean in my life today.
I am happy and excited about my life. I am looking forward to Christmas more this year than I have for the past few years. I am also feeling lost. I have incredible support with family and friends, but I feel very alone. That is the part I am not talking about. So I am sharing it with you today. Please don’t tell anyone else.
I can see I have confused you. “How can you have wonderful family and friends and great support, yet say you feel alone?” you ask. You see, I thought at 60 something years old I would be settled down. I thought I would have my own home and a husband I loved and cherished to share my life. I thought I would be financially secure and able to enjoy retirement. I thought I might be a published author. I imagined Thanksgivings and Christmas in my home with all the kids and grands. I guess I bought the whole fairy tale ending thing.
Instead I have a bedroom in my daughter’s home. I am what is considered a “single.” My kids are grown with their own core family. I have only one friend who is also a “single.” She became a widow a couple of years ago. We talk about being the proverbial “third wheel.” I am not published because I haven’t finished writing even one book. I am far from being financially secure. My fairy tale ending is “stayed tuned for the next adventure.”
Our family don’t do the traditional Thanksgiving. Everyone does their own thing that day for a variety of reasons. Like many families, the holidays are spent dividing time with different families and kids going between their divorced parents. Christmas gets a bit confusing. My grandson is with his father on Christmas eve. My daughter’s home is host to her father’s side of the family on Christmas eve. Since I live with her this year, I will be finding other activities for the day. Christmas morning I share with my daughter’s family and Christmas afternoon my son’s family comes to join us.
Let me clarify that I love my kids, grandkids, and friends. None of them have ever made me feel unwelcome or like an outsider. They open their hearts and homes to me. Yet, I still feel that small twinge of loneliness at times. The holidays seem to put a magnifying glass on that twinge. And that twinge seems to scream and tell me I am less than, I am not worthy, I am a failure.
This is not the blog post I wanted to write. I don’t want to admit any of this to you. But it is what is in my heart and head. It is what is keeping me stuck. I am following my friend’s suggestion and writing about my stuckness. (Yes, I realize that is not an actual word.) It isn’t a great plan to get unstuck, but it is all I have for right now.
Have you been stuck in life or your writing? What have you done to get past it?
My Baby is Turning 40
How is that possible you ask? I know-I don’t look a day over 40 myself. I certainly don’t feel old enough to have a son turning 40 tomorrow. It was devastating when I turned 40, but this seems even bigger. His birthday gives me reason to stop and reflect.
I remember finding out I was pregnant. I was 20 years old and had been married for 2 years. My husband was very excited about having a new tax deduction. I was excited and TERRIFIED! I had no idea how to be a good mother. I certainly had fine examples of what not to do.
I had a list of things I would never do. I was not going to be like the people who raised me. I hesitated to call any of them parents. I lived through abuse of every kind as a child, two sets of alcoholic parents, abandonment, fear, and almost always felt alone in the world. I wanted to provide my children with love, encourage them to be individuals, support their hopes and dreams, and give them a safe and loving home.
I went to the library and read every book I could find on parenting. I read about everything from breast-feeding to disciple. I read about physical care and emotional well-being. I even had to read about the birthing process. The only thing I really knew was how to get pregnant.
My son was the most amazing baby. He slept through the night at 6 weeks. He wasn’t fussy or colicky. He was usually happy. He said his first words at 6 months and could sing all of “Take Me Home Country Roads” at 18 months. He would sneak away from me at the store and head to front desk area. He would tell the clerk that his parents were missing and ask for candy while he waited for them to find us. He was outgoing and everyone loved him.
When he was 4 years old, his little sister joined the family. He has always loved his little sister. He nick named her “Coochie.” I have no idea how he decided on that name. He loved to carry her around and dote on her.
Life didn’t turn out the way I planned. The effects of my childhood, undiagnosed PTSD, anxiety disorders, and clinical depression took a toll. My marriage was not a good one and that added to the problems. I started drinking as a way of escape and trying to find a sense of normalcy.
My children never saw me drink nor saw me drunk. I hid it well. I started to make poor choices for my life. At the end of my marriage I was sleeping on the couch. My kids came to me and said that my daughter was moving into the room with my son (and his bunk beds) so I could have her room and sleep on a bed. It broke my heart. I knew I had to make changes. However, I made the wrong changes. I moved out of the house and tried to be a good mother living apart from them.
I don’t need to share all the details of that time, but my husband filed for divorce and asked for physical custody of the kids. I was allowed to have them every other weekend and one night a week. The pain was too much to bear and I used drinking more as a way to escape. I made another bad choice to move to another state and try to start my life again. You can run away but you always take yourself and your problems with you. Eventually I found my way into therapy and recovery.
The next years would be very difficult. Living so far away from my children made healing the relationship a daily struggle. My daughter did return to live with me but my son did not. He was in high school and stayed to finish. We would have highs and lows in our relationship over the next few years. I know he felt abandoned just as I had so many years before.
In 12 step programs of recovery, we are taught not to regret the past nor shut the door on it. We are taught that our past made us who we are today. My past created a path for my way to a relationship with God that I never had before. I understand those things in my head; My heart is another story. Tears still come from time to time when I remember the days of missing my children. I still carry shame and hurt from that time.
My son turns 40 tomorrow and I couldn’t ask for a better relationship with him. He is an amazing husband and father. He has a strong faith and we share our thoughts and ideas about that. We are able to talk about the past with understanding. He has an amazing wife and is father two of my grandchildren. They are both a joy in my life.
A few years ago, he gave me the best birthday present I could ever imagined. He bought tickets for us to go to Charlotte, NC and see the Panthers and Redskins football game. Of course, he was wearing his Panther’s blue shirt and I was wearing my Redskins’ burgundy and gold shirt. We stayed overnight and enjoyed the time talking, laughing, and enjoying each other.
This summer we took a day trip to Charlotte to see the movie premier of “Blue Like Jazz.” The movie is based on a book by Donald Miller. We both love the author and book. These rare moments give us time to talk and continue to grow our relationship.
My son turns 40 tomorrow. I still call him Teddy. His big boy friends call him Ted. I am his Mom and I am allowed to call him anything I want. He is still that precious baby boy, inquisitive toddler, and bright/gifted little boy to me. He always will be.
Happy Birthday, Teddy! I love you with all my heart.
One Step Back
One week ago I moved and left my marriage. Things have gone rather smoothly compared to my previous experience and that of friends. Final bills have been paid and separated, furniture and personal belongings were divided without issue, and we change the car titles on Monday.
I felt I making solid progress in getting my life back until I entered the “black hole of red tape and confusion” of the Verizon wireless store. That definition came from my friends Jan and Anna. They recently went through weeks of dealing with just that at the hands of some rather prickly Verizon customer service reps.
It seems I can’t take my phone number from the account my husband and I shared. His name was primary on the account and even though I was an account manager, I have no voice. Now my husband has never called Verizon, paid a bill, set up billing ID’s, etc but he is in charge. He has to call and allow me to take my phone number and create my own account. Mind you I had this number before my marriage with Verizon on my own account.
Once done I can create my own account with a rather hefty deposit because “the history is in his name and I have no track record.” I could change to one of the prepaid accounts but because I would be breaking the contract on my phone number I would have to pay to break the contract. Remember, I don’t have a voice because my phone number belongs to his account, but my phone number has a separate contract. What? Huh? Now according to the rather robotic service person at the store, I could move my contract to another relative or friend’s account without breaking my contract. So why can’t I move it to a prepaid account without breaking my contact? “I am sorry Ma’am” was his reply. I wasn’t feeling the love.
So I left the store feeling defeated. It took me back to another time in my life that I felt trapped by ridiculous policies that treat the spouse (usually the woman) as an unimportant entity. These same policies often happen with other utility companies. This leaves many women helpless when trying to leave a marriage. The bills are often in the man’s name even though the woman often paid the bills or partnered in the effort. Allowing these accounts to be held in both names in a marriage would be a huge step in helping spouses restart their lives.
I felt I had indeed taken a step backwards today. I felt angry, frustrated, and something of a second class person. I decided to leave the store without expressing my anger since it would have been an emotional reaction that would not serve me in the long run. So I write tonight, because that is I process and try to make sense of something senseless.
I am sitting on the couch with my friend and watching Clemson play football. She even encouraged me to get a brownie this afternoon. Chocolate does heal all wounds. I have a plan in place to deal with the phone situation thanks to my daughter and her husband. I look at my life and remember that two steps forward and one step back is still progress. Continue reading →
Move Number 56
No, not 56 moves in my life, just since I was 18 years old. The moves include 7 states and 25 different cities. I don’t know how many there were before 18, but I did live in the same house from the time I was 7 until I was 18. And before you ask, no, we were not military.
My first husband changed jobs or went to school just about every year. After my divorce and time being a practicing alcoholic/addict, I moved several times. Recovery brought new challenges included major moves. Divorce added to the numbers. Some moves were temporary while looking for a place to live. Looking at the number of moves, you might say all were temporary. Moving from a temporary situation to a longer term place was exciting. The dream was always the same; I wanted to live in a place long enough to have the Christmas tree up a second year. It didn’t happen very often.
Moving to a new city was the most frustrating. Finding the grocery store, new doctors, registering kids in school, feeling isolated were all part of the move. Up until the past few years, calling family and friends long distance was expensive so calls were on Sunday afternoon and kept to ten minutes. Letters were the best way of keeping in touch before email. I made the decision to make acquaintances and not friends. It was too difficult to keep starting over.
There were some moves that were devastating. I moved from South Carolina to Baltimore, Md. after a divorce where my husband had physical custody of my children. I was heading towards my bottom with my alcoholism and addiction. I left to escape the pain of living and with the smallest glimmer of hope that I could change things. It would be four months before I found my way to recovery.
Leaving Baltimore after three years in recovery was overwhelming. I was leaving the people who had become more than friends. They had helped me get and stay sober. They had cried with me, laughed with me, watch me grow, and supported me in so many ways. I remember standing at the doorway as I left my therapist office for the last time. The tears were burning my face as I struggled to catch my breath. We hugged one last time and I walked away. My daughter had come back to live with me and I was moving to provide a better life for her.
This move was different. I was ready to leave a difficult marriage. I moved into a home with my daughter and son-in-law. We have lived together before and are comfortable together leading our own lives in the same space. I don’t have a three bedroom house with all my stuff. I have given up and let go of a lot. This is home now and I am at peace and comfortable. I haven’t been able to say that for a while.
I have lived in many houses and apartments over the years. Some of them were home while others where just places to eat and sleep. I grew up in a house with my grandparents. It was never home. I spend a great deal of time at my friend Carol’s house. That was home and that was family.
I spend a good deal of time with my friend and her family. Her home is a place I call home as well. Her family is my other family. When I leave her house at night or she is driving home from another destination, we have always text each other. A couple of weeks ago I texted her and said, “I am home…no I am at my house. I just left home.” Perhaps a cliche but we both agreed that “home is where the heart is.”
I feel blessed and grateful to have a place to live that I can call home. I have adult children and grandchildren that I call family. I also have my second home and family. I have a circle of other friends and a church family who make up a larger community in my life. I hope I don’t have to move too many more times in my lifetime, however I am sure I will move again. I just hope it isn’t too soon.