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Saturday, March 12, 2011

A history of how I got to where I am (and why a new beginning is so important)

So now that you know my goal for the near future, let me tell you a bit about who I am and how I got to where I am today--ready to share with a whole world of strangers the next phase of my journey in life.

I grew up in the Adirondacks, then went to college in the greater Boston area at a small Christian College. It took me 8 years to do my 4-year degree in biology. Why so long? Well, as the second of five children in a family who never made more than the poverty line cut off, I paid my own way through college, so I would go for a while, then stop and work for a while, then go for a couple semester, then stop and work for a year or two, etc... Over those eight years I was a nanny, worked in day care, became a preschool teacher, slung coffee at a couple of coffee shops, worked in a convenience store, worked in the cafeteria, did general housekeeping at hotels, and was a janitor, in addition to working while at school as a teaching assistant and departmental assistant (laboratory cleaning and upkeep, and making sure all the TA's had what they needed for labs and such). Once I finished my BS in Biology I went into the workforce and had a great life. I was a biological research assistant at Cornell University, ordained elder in the Presbyterian church, and had numerous friends and colleagues. In 2003 I volunteered for 7 months at ECHO (Educational Concerns for Hunger Org) and then returned to my work at Cornell.

In 2004 I met my significant other, and we lived together (had a ceremony but not an actual marriage--one of my sisters did the same though now she is actually going to marry him this year, but for the past 5 years they have been married by ceremony but not by law--odd I know...anyway...). Prior to meeting I had begun inquiring about adoption, which we put on hold for a year so that we could establish our own relationship. Then in January 2006 we adopted our first son from foster care. G was just turning 3 at the time and had bounced through 5 different foster homes. He was and is a challenging kid to parent, but he is also an amazing kid to parent. He changed our lives (I know all parents say that about their first child, AND ITS ALL TRUE, which is why all parents say it), and we adjusted to a new normal, without having to actually change our jobs, as we were able to adjust to a new normal that included all of the aspects of parenting our new son with special needs.

We decided that we should start looking for our second child at the end of summer 2006, as it often takes 9-18 months to find a match and get chosen by the committees, and to jump through all of the bureaucratic hoops. So we figured there would be at least 12-24 months between adoptions. However, 2 months after we redid our home study we were directed to an agency that has an infant with special needs about to be released from the hospital who needed a family right now, and when they reviewed our information, we were chosen quickly. We first heard our son existed on a Tuesday in late October, and were on our way to Philadelphia that same Friday to meet him, learn about his issues from the doctors, and on Monday had him released into our care. It was a whirl wind, and he was a 2 1/2 month old baby out of the hospital for the first time with multiple medical issues. Needless to say, J changed our lives even further than we ever imagine. I often say he was a bomb that exploded our lives in so many way, and shook my beliefs in myself, in God, in humanity, in medical science (definitely showed me that doctors do not know as much as we think they do) and in everything else you can hold on to. But he is also the balm that continues to heal all. So my J is a bomb and a balm.

Life for G stayed quite steady for the beginning, even with J in and out of the hospital, going through heart surgery then brain surgery, we managed to keep G's schedule steady, with him going to preschool then day care, and being picked up by one of us, going home and having his normal home routine, while the other one of us stayed at the hospital with J, and we switched each day. After my parental leave was over, I returned to my job at Cornell, and my other half changed jobs to a night shift position so that one of us was always home for J. In April 2007 we decided that with his many, many doctor appointments and specialist followups, and the fact that my other half was not able to handle taking him, so I had to take days off from work to take him, that my other half should find a higher paying day job, and give up the overnight. We hired a babysitter, and the era of the car sales money began. After one month, and two babysitters, and a lot of issues (G has never been the same since as one sitter was particularly harsh and lacked understanding of his background and issues, and treated him very badly), we realized that with J and G's special needs, they really needed to have me home all the time, especially since I was entering the summer where I had to work 9-5 (where before I could work a varied schedule and get my hours in even if I had to take J to the doctor). In the Summer (June-Aug) I oversaw a team of undergraduate students doing research, so i needed to be there regular hours, which would not have worked with J's needs. So I gave a month's notice and helped find and train my replacement.

In June 2007 I became a stay at home mom, and my other half was well on the way to a successful career in car sales (was second in sales by the 2nd month on the job--a truly good match). For the next year plus, I was a stay at home mom, medical and appointment manager for my sons, advocate, liaison, and therapy assistant to his therapists who came to the house a few days each week. It was actually as much if not more work than my job at Cornell had been. Even though A ( my significant other--I'm just getting tired of writing it out) was doing well in car sales, there was this idea that since A was earning the money that A should be able to spend it however A wanted. So while A's pay did support the household, I picked up a babysitting job on the side to bring in a little extra money so we could try to make ends meet as J's medical bills took a toll on our finances. We did finally get medicaid to supplement our insurance, but the early medical bills are still on my credit report. I spent time with the financial advisor at the bank, as well as a couple of independent debt counselors, all of whom after hours of crunching numbers and looking at possibilities, declared that my only choice really was to declare bankruptcy, as between medical bills and credit cards that got run up with the numerous hospital stays (gas to and from the hospital (over an hour away), meals at the hospital, basic needs, etc...), that our current income and future income projection just could not handle the past bills and the current expenses. However it costs a good chunk of money to pay for a bankruptcy, and I have yet to have enough spare money to cover the cost of the lawyer. So, I am 4 years buried in old debts, but that is a whole other project.

By August of 2008, it became clear to me that A was not able to be reasonable with money, spending as A saw fit rather than living by the budget we made in order to meet the household needs first and my babysitting on the side was not enough to cover our household needs. So as J was older and G was going into Kindergarten, I started looking at a way to go back to work. It took a lot to find a babysitter, but in the end I did go back to work full time in September 2008 at Cornell, but a different department and different kind of lab work. Soon after i returned to work, A (who was an alcoholic in recovery) relapsed, though tried hard to hide it. My boss was a very difficult person to work for and had VERY high turnover in her lab group. I was very used to demanding bosses who expected an extremely high quality and quantity of work. I had worked for 2 of the biggest biological labs at Cornell prior to having kids, and they do not abide slackers. But this woman I was working for was very difficult, tried to control everyone through put downs and underhanded and condescending remarks. How she ever got tenure at Cornell is beyond me, as even though she was a brilliant scientist, and fairly high up in her specific field, she was not the kind of person that most professors at an Ivy league university usually are (open-minded, driven, wanting to encourage the growth of their lab members, self confident, encouraging open exchange of ideas and theories, etc...). So while I liked the work, the work environment was very stressful and degrading. At the same time Josiah, being still only 2 and with medical issues in addition to his physical issues, was often sick, so unable to go to the day care provider (whom was paid by the week regardless of how often he was there), so we had our backup sitter being called often (at $12 an hour). Those things coupled with A's drinking and lying (which got worse and worse as the car industry tanked, and car sales (being commission based) really dried up--meaning A was working long hours for no or very low pay each week), things were really becoming too much for me to handle.

By January 2009, I had confronted A about the alcohol, and A agreed to go back to counseling, re-enter recovery, and go to AA. As we were paying on average $1200 a MONTH on childcare (due to Josiah's frequent illnesses, and the need to pay the at home sitter on a very regular basis while still being contracted for the weekly fee at the day care center and G's before and after school care), it was getting ridiculous. So we decided that A would stay home (as car sales were dwindling) and that would give more time to focus on recovery, as well as take out the cost of day care. A was supposed to takeover doctor appointments and therapy stuff as well so that I could be free to focus on work. I wish I could say this is what happened.

To make a long story short (well, a long story shorter than if I told EVERYTHING, short stories are not my forte), while certain things in our relationship improved, the stress in my life continued to rise, to the point that I had to make a choice between meeting the day to day needs of my family or meeting the demands of my belligerent boss. I looked around for other opportunities and applied for a few. One was verbally offered, complete with planning out a schedule, so I quit my job at Cornell in mid-April 2009. A week after that, the new job pulled out its offer, as it had been verbal and not on paper, they were able to do that without providing a reason. So we were both without active employment. It was not as bad as it sounds as over the spring we had joined a company doing network marketing, and while slow it get started we were beginning to pick up in customers as well as people who were contemplating joining our team. However on May 5th a very close friend of A's was killed in a car accident, and A relapsed into drinking again, but briefly. By late May A was beginning to get excited about our business and to focus on that again. Then on Memorial Day, A's mother died while we were visiting my sister. A always had trouble dealing with loss, and dealing with one of the most major losses a person can experience, A fell apart. Unable to get out of bed except to go the the store to buy alcohol (as I refused to by it), unable to take care of the kids, unable to function due to the debilitating grief, it became clear to me that we needed to make some big changes quickly. I needed more support to be able to handle the kids needs as well as A's needs. We were quickly getting behind on all of our bills, and given that I had a lot of old debt due to medical related bills for J, we had no credit with which to borrow. Utilities were beginning to be shut off, we got behind in the mortgage, and something had to be done right away, as my babysitting (which I had taken back up in May) was not enough even with SSI for the boys to cover the bills. And I was unable to return to a regular job because I still needed the flexibility to meet all the kids medical and therapy appointments, and A was unable to function even to watch the kids at home.

So in August 2009, we moved back to the Adirondacks so that I could have the help of my family around. We found people to rent our house. We spent the first few weeks at my mother's house while A tried to go back to work selling cars (which lasted about a week--too much pressure while still under so much grief), and while we fixed up a trailer that my mother owned that had not been lived in for about 6 months due to the need for a lot of repairs. We got it livable, and moved in there in September, with the agreement to continue to work on the place in exchange for rent. I took on a babysitting job, and a couple of weeks later A took a job at a local convience store. A's grief was still very raw, as was to be expected so soon after such a loss, and A's drinking was constant, but A was able to function more than before. J was in a special needs preschool program and G was in first grade. While there were mounting trust issues between A and I, particularly due to active alcoholism, which is NOT how I wanted my children to be raised, things did seem to be starting to improve.

Then in October A's niece passed away. And the cycle of grief, heavy drinking and lack of functionality began again. A quit the store job, and took a job as a substitute bus aid. However, when called, A would either not answer the phone or would make up some reason that it was not doable. Finally in mid-December I confronted A about the drinking and the lies, and what it was doing to ALL of us. A went into a detox program, promising to quit drinking. It was a rough Christmas that year as A was newly sober and the first Christmas without Mom. I was still over stressed and emotionally raw from the long stress of the last year and a half, and it was just overall a bad holiday time, though we tried to make it good for the kids. I ended up throwing A out for a week, as it was just too much. We talked about it, and decided on going to counseling both individually and as a couple (which I had been asking for for over a year). We went to one couples counseling session, A stayed with individual counseling for about 6 weeks, and I stayed with it for another 5 months.

A wanted to start fresh, to make a new life for our family. There was an opportunity for me out in Rhode Island, and we worked hard to make arrangements to move out there and make a fresh start. The clincher was that A would have to move before us to get started with a job so we would have the money to really make a new start. So after a few trips out and back, we chose a house to rent, used what we had saved up to pay our first and security and in the last week of April 2010, we moved A out to RI to the new house. A's job began that week, and we had decided to go out every weekend to see A and to let the kids get used tot he new house, and that the kids and I would move after the school year ended since we were so close to the end of the year anyway. When it was Mother's Day weekend 2010, A called and said they had scheduled a double at work on Saturday, in addition to the normal Friday overnight and Sunday overnight hours, and so to not come out that weekend as it was going to be back to back work. I got this call Friday while the kids were at school and had been planning on going when they got home. So I agreed not to come, but when the kids did get home they were very disappointed, as was A because it was a holiday weekend. So we decided to surprise A and went out anyway, arriving an hour before A was needing to leave for the overnight shift.

However, when we got there it was obvious that A was drinking again (booze bottles all over the house) and A started lyng saying that the neighbors had thrown a welcome party and that A did not drink. I pretended to believe the story and for the sake of not trhowing away everything, decided to wait and ask the neighbors in question in the morning while A was at work. needless to say, the neighbors did not know what A was talking about. So after a weekend of arguing and lies, A having spent all of the funds we had reserved for the next few weeks, and a realization that nothing was going to change any time soon, the kids and I headed back home. On the way home, I had a lot of time to think and pray about things. I really realized that there was no way to make a new start in a new place when we brought all of the old stuff with us. With A drinking again, knowing that I had said i can not raise the kids with an active alcoholic, and the blatant lies, and same old manipulative crap that goes along with being an active alcoholic, I was done. I was not living a life of chaos and hell, and I was not having my children endure that type of hell. They needed stability and security even more than I did.

Leaving A was a hard decision, and one that took me a long time to make. Leaving A only a year after A's mother's death was very difficult for me, as I know it takes many years to process through the grief of such a profound loss and really find your new normal, a life without your mother in it. But I could not live with the problems that were so obviously not going away, and could not raise my children that way anymore. Deciding to become a single mom with two children with special needs was very scary to me. As A had really not been able to be there for the kids in a parental way (A was there and loved the kids but was not really preforming a caregiver role) since the drinking had resurfaced in 2008, I held out no hope that A would be a help after I left. We did do custody through the courts, and we luckily worked out things on our own, so court was really just a formality, not a fight. I have primary physical custody of the kids, A has visitation.

We have been slowly building a friendship and working relationship which will benefit the kids. We had talked around the holidays of reconciling as A had seemed to have stopped drinking, had been self supporting for over 5 months, and held down a job and place to live. Due to layoffs, A was looking for a new job, and decided to move closer to the kids (as 4 hours is a LONG way to be from your kids). A moved back here to be closer to the kids and is currently renting a room at my father's house (weird I know), and has been working a job at a local convenience store (not the same one as before) since early January. Within a couple of weeks of trying to consider reconciling, we had so many arguments and fights, that it became obvious to me that there is too much hurt, resentment, anger, and other issues for us to reconcile to a healthy relationship. I really loved being single, but had thought that for the kids it would be good to have both parents together. Alas I have learned that we are all healthier and happier living apart. It is more secure and stable for the kids for us not to be fighting and tense all the time. So A is looking for a better job and an apartment, and I am enjoying staying single. And the kids are enjoying having A living close enough for them to see almost every day, even if for just an hour at a time.

So that is where I am now. Working from home doing child transport by contract and freelance writing on the side. Trying to deal with the old house that we had been renting out as the renters decided to stop paying rent (and with my current financial situation I couldn't pay the mortgage AND our current living expenses) and it took 6 months to evict them (as I could not afford to hire a lawyer) and during that time they completely trashed the house, which was then unrentable and could not sell for what was owed on it due to the damage--so while it is on the market as is, it is also in foreclosure proceedings and will probably go to the bank, as it is unlikely that I will find a buyer in time who can pay what the bank requires. I can't move back into it because my primary income (with the right flexibility that allows me to properly meet my kids' needs) is here (4 hours away). So here I am, evaluating what my next steps are in life. Looking at the solutions to the issues that I have created for myself over the extreme stress of the past few years--excessive weight, high blood sugar, out of shape body, debt out the wahzoo, a foreclosure looming, a loss of connection with friends, a disconnect with my Spirutal life and God, and just overall loss of who I am.

So today is a new day. And I start this blog to help me maintain focus on my goals, including losing 80 pounds in the next 80 days in a healthy way. Along the way I plan to regain or build new much of what I have lost, particularly connections with God, other people, and myself. And to rebuild my finacial security so that the future is less unsure. May the Law of Attraction begin working for me instead of against me as I start to change my attitude and wake up from the nightmare that I have lived and helped to create over these past few years. I hope you will join me on this journey...Welcome To My World!

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