Category Archives: Family

Journey

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This is what I am moving toward: my family, grandchildren especially.

I looked at my list of posts over the past year and was tickled to see a post about Monarch butterflies followed by my getting-ready-to-move post. Disconnected? I think not.

Both posts are about migration and survival.

My last post I was packing in preparation for my move from Connecticut to Texas. That certainly qualifies as a migration, and not in preparation for winter, metaphorical or seasonal.

This post is about the move itself.

Day 1

I picked up the 16-foot Budget moving truck at 11 a.m. on Friday, July 14th. My plan was to load up the truck and leave the following morning.

Oh, the plans of mice and men–of mice and men.

I arrived home to find no one working, no one packing, no one accomplishing anything necessary to achieving my goal of leaving the next morning.

I took a few deep breaths and began to engage each son, explaining what I would like to see done and why. I always include the why when engaging my children, grown or not.

I realize now that I handled the move entirely wrong. Hindsight and all that.

Needless to say, we (yes, they finally kicked into gear) continued packing while my moving truck sat empty at the top of the driveway. It remained there overnight. I tried not to cry.

Day 2

Saturday morning dawned, filled with bird songs and cries, sunshine and fluffy clouds. It was a perfect day to begin our journey.

And then I looked around and realized there were only a handful of boxes completely packed, sealed and labeled. The kitchen was not packed.

I had tried to sell as much stuff as I could at a 3-day tag sale. Very little interest and less than $100 made, I now had all that stuff there that needed to be dealt with (dump and Goodwill).

I don’t remember what time the boys finally woke up and began to pack. It wasn’t early.

It was on this day that I got an answer to the question: “Are you going with us to Texas?”

I had been asking my 21-year-old son this for weeks with no answer. I mean not even his typical grunt was forthcoming. He didn’t know.

Suddenly, he was coming with us. He had not assisted us in any significant way prior to this point. I was nearly pulling my hair out.

Now I had one more person’s belongings to accommodate on the truck and my storage unit (which I already rented – my daughter picked up the keys for me that week).

If nothing else, I am a mom. I would never leave one of my children if I could help them be where they wanted to be. And I certainly knew that Texas, specifically Austin, was where this computer programmer, game developing musician needed to be. Of course, he could come with us.

And suddenly things were happening. It was like the trip itself had been holding its breath, waiting for my 21-year-old to commit to the move.

The floodgates opened and stuff flew into boxes, got loaded onto the truck, and progress was being made.

However, not enough got done to leave on Saturday. I announced that I had canceled our hotel reservations for the next two days and replanned our trip for a Sunday departure.

Everyone stopped working and called it a day; not what I wanted.

I was exhausted; I was beyond exhausted. I took two naproxen for pain and called it a night.

Day 3

I had been waking up around 4:30 a.m. the last three days, and this day was no exception. I can get a lot done in the early morning hours. So I did.

Packed boxes were everywhere. Many household items had made it out to the truck in the evening prior, much that had to be unloaded before we could begin seriously loading the truck properly. Yes, there is a right way to load a moving truck, and I had to supervise closely while still trying to pack and supervise the boys packing. I was exhausted by 10 a.m.

Around this time my 27-year-old son arrived to pick up the house and pickup truck keys and discuss caring for the house until his father decided to engage (my estranged husband was giving everyone the silent treatment, refusing to answer the phone or discuss me and our sons leaving for Texas). I had asked one of my son’s friends to help care for the house, to house sit even which he agreed to do.

The second set of floodgates opened and the move was happening.

I knew that the house would be cared for, cleaning would get done, and projects dealt with. I offered money and money talks (even though I don’t have money for such things – you do what you have to do).

Approaching noon, the truck was finally loaded. The cars were loaded with computers and other items that were deemed too delicate to go on the truck. When I drove the truck up the driveway to get it out of the way so the pickup could get back to work hauling stuff off (driven by friend), I realized that the tag sale stuff was still there. Sigh.

I told the boys that we weren’t leaving until everything we weren’t taking was either hauled to the dump or stowed in the workshop and/or garage. We were not leaving a mess (of course not).

An hour later, we were ready. Actually ready!!!

I nearly cried when we pulled out, our caravan of moving truck and two cars.

It took me years to get this move started. I had asked my estranged husband to help me move, to help me sell our house, to help me be near my elderly, very sick mother and he refused. Keeping me in Connecticut was his last bit of control over me. Cutting me off from our finances hadn’t brought me back to him. Forcing me to live in poverty hadn’t brought me back to him. Ignoring me hadn’t brought me back to him. Tough love just didn’t work, because I was not a drug-addicted, rebellious child. I was his equal partner in a marriage that had started out with great potential. Control and abuse destroyed it.

But this day, Sunday, July 15, 2017, I drove away from my prison, declaring that I was free.

We drove across Connecticut to New York and I celebrated.

We drove through Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee that first day. We drove for 8 long hours, arriving at our first destination after 10 p.m.

We all crashed, exhausted, but not before a celebratory drink or two. We were far, far away from Connecticut and closer to our destination.

Days 4, 5 and 6

The following days we drove as long as I could handle driving. When I arrived at a hotel where I thought I had a reservation, the lovely clerk made sure we had a room. I found everyone I met along the way was helpful and kind.

Each day we would arrive at our hotel, my legs would be so swollen I could barely walk. I would spend the next few hours drinking Mullein leaf tea with my legs elevated so that my legs would not sustain permanent damage. This trip was not easy for me physically. But it was not going to kill me, so we drove and drove.

I drove the moving truck every single mile. My sons were reluctant to drive it, so I did. I actually enjoyed that truck a bit, being up high, being treated kindly by truckers hauling all the stuff that Americans need to live and enjoy life. The roads were crowded, but most drivers were courteous.

Day 7

Thursday, July 20, 2017, we lazily awakened in our Holiday Inn located in Livingston, Louisiana (very nice place). We were less than 5 hours from our final destination.

I had been trying to figure out how to time unloading the truck into the storage unit and where to park the moving truck overnight. My storage unit manager said I could not leave it there. I couldn’t reach the drop-off facility manager. It was stressful. My contract stated that I could not drop off the truck after hours (which turned out to be untrue).

I had this whole dilemma at the back of my mind as we drove the last miles to Houston. When we crossed over into Texas, I texted my daughter.

“Welcome home!” she texted back. I cried tears of joy.

And just typing those words makes me cry with joy, with relief.

We had picked up four two-way radios in northern Alabama (I think that’s where it was). So we chattered back and forth between cars. When we stopped for gas about an hour away, I told them that the sky looks different in Texas. They didn’t believe me, but I stand by that.

Politics aside (please ignore Texas politics—pols here have all gone insane), Texas is a beautiful, crazy, fun, full-of-life place to live. It is never boring. Never.

That big sky. Oh, that big sky.

We arrived in Houston and drove for about 30 minutes to my storage unit where my daughter and granddaughter were waiting for us. Lots of hugs. So many hugs. I exclaimed over and over how happy I was to finally be in Houston. My granddaughter was happy as always. She is always happy.

I admit the unloading was tortuous. I didn’t do much because I couldn’t. It was crazy hot and humid. My sons were melting. But they did it.

And then I got a brilliant idea. I would just park the moving truck in front of the drop-off location and leave a note that I would be there first thing in the morning to check it in. I left my lock on the back and took the keys with me. Haha! A whole ‘nother story, but it worked out fine. The grizzled, old facility manager and I bonded the next morning after he told me he thought I was just some stupid Yankee for leaving the truck without dropping the keys in the drop box (yeah, I could have dropped it off after hours). So funny!

I called my mom and let her know that we had arrived and that I planned to drive to Austin Saturday to spend the weekend with her and my stepdad.

I emailed a couple of people that we reached our destination safely. I breathed a huge sigh of relief and fell asleep soundly on my inflatable mattress in my granddaughter’s room (she loves that I sleep in her room).

This part of my journey is over. I am without a place of my own right now, but I am welcome in my daughter’s home and my mom’s home. They love me and embrace me. That is what I have yearned for all those years I was being held prisoner in Connecticut (I held myself prisoner as well by trying to do what was right by the house, the property, be responsible and I did have a teenager in high school there).

Update: July 25, 2017

My mom found out yesterday afternoon that she has late-stage cancer. I am devastated. I will be here for her, though. We will walk this path together. And this is why I felt an urgency to get to Texas.

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Special thanks

I want to thank my friend, Charlotte Gelston. She has been my greatest inspiration and the one who told me to just pack up and go. Stop worrying about the house. Just go. So I did.

Charlotte is a woman of God who knows how to show the love of God. It isn’t religion to her; she believes her very life is meant to express God’s love toward others. And it does. I have never met someone who is a more genuine Christian.

I do believe in the power of prayer, and I know that she and the other member of our small knitting group, Ginny, prayed for me every minute and every mile of the move.

Thank you.

That Texas sky

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I flew to the Austin area last week to be with my critically-ill mother and family. It was a heart-wrenching, emotional trip. Although I had my camera, I took few pictures. I didn’t have the energy, to be honest.

Here is what I did capture:

Texas 620 traveling from Round Rock to Cedar Park, Texas after sunset.

RM 620 traveling from Round Rock to Cedar Park, Texas. Chasing the sun.

Traveling west on 620 from Round Rock to Cedar Park, Texas.

Traveling west on RM 620 from Round Rock to Cedar Park, Texas.

My youngest granddaughter. There were four generations in my mom's ICU room.

My youngest granddaughter. There were four generations in my mom’s ICU room.

I had to leave my sick mom, my daughter, granddaughter, stepdad, oldest son, daughter-in-law, and their two little ones (my oldest granddaughter and grandson) in Texas when I flew home. I miss all of them so much.

That saying, “I left my heart in Texas” rings partially true for me. I left half of my heart in Texas when I flew back to Connecticut where my other sons are living (three with me).

There is beauty and sadness in my life right now.

I am moving forward while leaving little parts of myself in places of the past.

Sometimes it is very hard to be a woman: sister, daughter, wife, mother, friend. It is a hard time.

Some days I just am.

That Texas sky is always there. It reminds me that the world is so much bigger than what I face. And it is beautiful.

There IS a light at the end of the tunnel

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For the first time in years, I see the light at the end of the tunnel.

So many times I thought there was no light. I always acted as though there was a light, but I wasn’t convinced.

And this is how I have lived for the past decade. I have worked, fought, pushed, and struggled toward an end that in my heart I suspected I could never really reach.

It didn’t matter. I was going to work toward it anyway. And I have.

I fought back from horrible sickness to the hope of a better life (though in many ways I am a mere shadow of my former self).

I struggled to get my brain to work again after being nearly destroyed by neurological Lyme disease.

I fought for independence, equality and personhood by getting out of a horrible, toxic marriage.

I learned to establish boundaries and call people on their bullshit. Oh, this is a big one.

And yet, no matter how awful things got, I had this driving instinct to survive.

Guess where I learned this behavior? From my mom.

She sacrificed everything to provide for my siblings and myself after my father left us. She re-entered the workforce, supported us, and put aside her own life (including love) so that she could provide us with a stable home.

I love her for this. And yet I feel guilty. Where in all of that was she caring for herself, pursuing her dreams, and finding someone who would value and love her the way she deserved?

She didn’t.

Then I became a parent (at a young age). My marriage didn’t last, and I found myself a single parent. My mom was there for me. She continued to model sacrificial motherhood. I worked, I cared for my son, and I did little else. My mom worked, cared for our home, her adult children and helped with her grandson.

At one point, when my son was 5 years old, I started taking one class at a time at Austin Community College.

I worked all day, came home, made dinner, stressed over whether the babysitter would show up, and headed to class two nights a week.

I felt torn and guilty.

And now for one of the two biggest regrets of my life: I felt so guilty being away from my son in the evenings after being gone all day long that I quit school. I decided that my son deserved my time and attention those two nights a week. I thought my presence was more important than a life higher education could provide. I was wrong.

I spent the next two decades engaged in self-learning activities. I remarried and educated my son and the children that came along at home.

I poured myself into my children. I nurtured, educated, and exposed them to the wonders of the world. I almost completely neglected myself. I pushed myself beyond what should be expected of any mother. I rarely got a break (this was due in part to my abusive marriage).

The only thing I did for me was continue to engage with technology through web and graphic design, learning software applications and simple business experiments.

I built on what I learned working (when I was a single mom) for lawyers, consultants and real estate developers.

Fast forward to 2006, when I became very sick with Lyme disease and didn’t recover with traditional treatment, I thought my life was over.

Then my marriage fell apart. Hmm, strangely enough, as traumatic as this was, it empowered me.

I cannot express how important it is to get out of toxic relationships, especially abusive ones. I had made a decision and the bottom line was that I was not going to continue in my marriage as it was. If dramatic change did not take place, the marriage was over.

Nothing has changed, so it is over. While that made me cry a few years ago, it brings me a sense of pride now. I made that decision because it was good for ME.

It was good for everyone else, too, though they didn’t know it.

In 2007, I started the college process again, but had a bad relapse and had to put it off. Over five years later, after long-term antibiotics, physical therapy, and lots of work to recover my ability to read and write, I finally started classes in January 2013. I took three at a time, knowing my limitations. And the first year was really exhausting for me (single motherhood, health issues, and classes).

I lived in constant fear that I would not be able to remember what I was learning. That part WAS hard. The hours I had to put in to do well were many. My professors expressed concern that I was working TOO hard. I feared failure because it would signal to me that I had no future at all. Failure would mean that my life really WAS over, that I would have to live on disability for the rest of my life.

(I don’t want go on disability. I want to earn my way.)

I don’t think anyone understood what drove me, and continues to drive me. If I can’t do this (finish college), then I have no future.

On Monday after class I went to Student Services and made an appointment to see my advisor prior to registering for fall classes. I knew I was getting close to earning a degree, but wasn’t sure exactly where I stood.

When I arrived for my appointment yesterday, my advisor had my graduation worksheet completed for a “General Studies” degree which has been my declared major since my second semester.

But last semester I decided I didn’t like the sound of that degree. It didn’t reflect my scholastic focus at all. I met with a professor who walked me through the different kinds of associates degrees offered and what would be required to earn them. I considered Communications, General Studies (which I was right on track for), and the Liberal Arts & Sciences – Humanities track.

When I transfer to a 4-year university, I am thinking about majoring in English (and possibly pre-law). I needed to have a transcript that was appealing to good schools, so my course choices the past year have reflected this.

I also wanted a degree that would help me with employment, should I find an opportunity along the way. I have taken communication and business software courses as electives (as well as required computer and public speaking courses) to increase my marketable skills.

So yesterday after I was told that I needed four electives to earn my General Studies degree I asked my advisor to work up the graduation checklist for the Liberal Arts & Sciences – Humanities track degree. I watched her fill it in, I asked her to double check that certain courses fulfilled the requirements (she was not sure), and then I saw it:

I need two required courses and two electives, and I will have fulfilled the requirements for an associate’s degree in Liberal Arts & Sciences – Humanities track.

I couldn’t believe it. One more semester. Four classes. I am almost there.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

For the first time in my life, I will have quantifiable proof of my abilities and be ready to transfer as a junior to a 4-year college or university.

I had put aside pursuing a college education because I thought it meant I was a better mom. I realize now that had I gotten that college degree back in the 80s, I might have been financially independent, and been able to give my son and myself a much better life.

Money is not the root of all evil. Money empowers women. Money provides choices, freedom and contributes to self-determination. I have lived the extreme poverty but not doing anything to get out of it (by getting an education) scenario and it is not good, and now nearly three years into college (for a 2-year degree) I am still in poverty. At least with getting an education I feel as though I am doing something to improve my situation (and so far no student loans).

A couple of days ago I tweeted about an article in Forbes by Emma Johnson entitled, “Study Proves Moms Spend Too Much Time with Their Kids, Liberates Working Moms Everywhere.” While the headline is a bit overreaching (science, especially social science, doesn’t prove anything; it merely presents the most widely-accepted scientific knowledge and conclusions at any given time), the general premise of the article is very important for moms everywhere.

Mothers do not need to sacrifice their very beings for their children. It is okay to work, and – prepare yourselves – it is okay to enjoy it. It is okay to be away from your children as long as their needs are met and they know you are there for them overall.

I love (and sometimes dread) my coursework. It can be extremely demanding and exhausting especially when I am dealing with the stresses of trying to live in a cold climate, feed, care for, and provide a home for my minor and adult children.

But I am not torn anymore. Not at all.

When I started classes I told my children that my coursework comes first (youngest was a teen at the time). Yep, I said that. I don’t feel guilty. I don’t feel like a bad mom. Why? Because I did it the other way: I put my kids first in every way and I ended up an unemployed, sick, single woman who had given her best years to people who moved away (or will someday) and have their own lives. Where, when and how did I nurture myself, my own interests and dreams?

Mothers are people first, and then they are parents. Or they should be. Mothers are women who are human beings with hopes, dreams, desires, passions, wishes and goals. They should feel free (and be free) to pursue those dreams.

There IS a light, and I can see it. I am walking toward that light with a smile on my face.

Holiday Whimsy: Thanksgiving Adventures

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The holiday season began last month with my declaration: “I’m not cooking this year. If you guys want Thanksgiving dinner, you need to cook!”

Interestingly enough, my sons’ eyes lit up and they jumped at the chance to learn the magic of cooking a Thanksgiving dinner. It is magic, you know: taking a fridge and pantry full of strange ingredients and making the house smell so good with a final meal being a symphony of sights, smells and flavors.

And they did it:

I provided homemade pie crusts (thanks to my lovely and talented baker/knitter/horse whisperer friend, Charlotte) and my sons made two pumpkin pies from scratch from fresh roasted pumpkin that they roasted in the toaster oven one half at a time while the turkey was in the oven.

Last year's pies made from home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies

Last year’s pies made from home grown organic pumpkin made into pumpkin pies. The photographer took the day off, so no photos of this year’s dinner exist.


The turkey was carefully attended by my 21-year-old son who loves to cook. He also made the stuffing with just a little bit of assistance from me.

I took the time to teach them how to simmer the giblets while the turkey was roasting and how to use the liquid in the stuffing and gravy, then how to make delicious gravy just like my Gram Wood taught me the one Thanksgiving I spent with my grandparents as a young adult.

My 18-year-old made the most amazing mashed potatoes (they rival his sister’s scratch mashed potatoes — sorry Katie).

And dinner was served, monochrome except for those pies. It might have been all white and beige, but it didn’t taste white and beige. It was delicious. Being teenage and young adult males, they did not take the time for green foods. No one really complained. We all stuffed ourselves until we were sated. That was a most delicious meal.

The next day we all craved green vegetables and by Saturday we just wanted to eat green beans and broccoli and salad (I made a marinated salad).

That was our whimsical and interesting Thanksgiving. Whimsical because the boys, my sons, woke up whenever they liked, started cooking whenever, and produced a meal of their favorite parts of the Thanksgiving dinner. They did whatever they wanted, and enjoyed it immensely.

Thanksgiving dinner, even though cooked by novices, was a huge success.

[I must confess that I was nearly hyperventilating by 1 p.m. because the pies hadn’t even been started yet, and it looked like dinner would be ready around 9 p.m. I am a planner, coordinator, and, though I like no schedule for myself, I seem to need to know when and where when dealing with others. I had to emotionally disconnect for the rest of the day until gravy time arrived. By that time I had relaxed enough to enjoy the final moments of meal preparation along with the meal itself. Yep, I discovered something about myself. I sure did. It is really difficult for me to take the day off. It is very difficult for this single mother, even one of older sons, to relax during the holidays.]

Trauma and the need for care

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I fell and injured my elbow on Labor Day. Bone chip and laceration. No big deal, right?

Not so. I was in the student services offices yesterday on campus making an appointment with the disabilities counselor. I have lost the full use of my dominant arm. It is a big deal. It is affecting every area of my life. It is affecting my brain.
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I mentioned that I was struggling even more than normal with memory, and the woman who schedules appointments for the counselors mentioned that it makes sense: losing the use of an arm is going to confuse the brain. Right? I hadn’t thought about that.

Every time I go to reach for a piece of mail or my coffee mug, I have to stop and switch to my left hand (or forget and experience pain). Every time I brush my teeth or wash my hair, I have to allow my left hand to dominate the process. I have numbness in my left arm from chronic Lyme disease, so this is not an easy task.

I am a single mom. I have one minor and two adult children living with me. I have the only car. I attend class twice a week and have other online classes. I am the responsible one around here.

I have endured a trauma (another trauma — the long list over the past few years means this is just one more in a long line of traumas). I need care. I need someone to help me.

I can ask my sons to do this or do that, bring me this or bring me that. But that is not care. That is following orders.

What happens when the primary caregiver in a family needs care? Real care?

Since the time I was first infected with Lyme disease, I have not received real care. I’m not feeling sorry for myself here. I am realizing something important, a failure in my parenting.

I am going to sit my sons down and explain what is going on with me and what I need from them. Their dad never taught them to care for a woman because he never cared for me (I mean meeting physical and emotional needs, not the emotion). He would push me into our bedroom, close the door and mostly ignore me, but never truly cared for me when I was sick. My sons need to learn differently.
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This is very important. As a parent, we need to teach our children to care for others. I mean the action word: care. Not the emotion.

My house is a huge mess, and I can’t do anything about it. I do my school work and then collapse in exhaustion. I am taking public transportation because it is not easy for me to drive and my son’s work schedule has been conflicting with my class schedule. Being gone for 8 hours is exhausting. My sons need to learn to care for someone who is sick or injured. And it is my job to teach them.

It is my job to teach my children to care for others.