My Turn

In 2014, I decided to go back to school. I really didn’t have a clear path of what I wanted to go to school for but I had always told myself “when the kids get older, it’s my turn.” My turn for what exactly, I wasn’t sure, but I knew someday I would have more time to chase the dreams I had to sacrifice because I was too busy raising two kids on my own. 2014 was my time to start. My first few quarters had me questioning if I had made the right decision. I hadn’t been to school in 15 years and had no idea what the ending result would be. To be honest, I didn’t even think about the ending result, I just literally took one step at a time, one day at a time. It wasn’t until this year, that I realized what my passion was. I was meant to help others. I want to help others that have been down on their luck as I have in the past. I want to be the person that empowers, encourages and elicits change in others. In deciding to move forward, I applied to WWU to continue my education beyond my Associates degree, which I will be receiving in June.

For the last two months, I literally run (walk fast) to the mailbox after I see the mailman leave. I quickly shuffle through each piece of mail, in hopes that today would be that day. Day after day, nothing but junk mail and bills. Day after day, disappointment and doubt. Maybe what I did wasn’t enough. I had a few rough quarters but nothing (in my opinion) that was too heinous. I mean, my math courses really gave me a run for my money. Sleepless nights, thoughts of throwing my book and laptop out the window, maybe even slightly hoping that the Instructor would… well, I won’t divulge that thought completely, but you get it. So, many times I thought “Am I too old?” “Does my brain even work the same as these younger folks that potentially are close to the age of my own children?” Maybe I set my sights a little too high. It sure wouldn’t be the first time. The hope was dissipating along with dreams. Who says you can’t have dreams when you are approaching 40. When technically 36 but it’s all downhill from here, so they say. Well, today I did my usual jog( fast walk) down the driveway, and quickly shuffled through my mail. An electricity bill, Coupons for horse training ( Last I checked, I didn’t have one) and my IPSY bag. Thoughts of how I needed to hide my monthly bag of make-up samples from Kharizma ran through my mind briefly. Then there it was. A letter mailed from Western Washington University. Should I open it now? Maybe I should prepare myself for the worst. You know that old saying “ Expect the worst, hope for the best”, well I was expecting the absolute, undeniable worst. In fact, I was sure of what was in that letter. Rejection. Slowly, I walked back up to the house. I sat down at the computer and here I am writing about what the letter revealed.

Dear Christin Crider,

We would like to offer you acceptance to the Human Service Bachelors Program for Fall 2017…

 

“It’s never too late to be what you might have been”

-BJ Gallagher

 

Christin.

18009388_1421157131281538_228316698_n

My Saturday.

Joe and I are both “off” on Saturday. He does not have to go to work, and I do not have to take the kids to school, or deal with any other appointments that usually arise during the week. It is my one and only day where I can sleep in, lay in bed while reading, and just relax.

Joe is a morning person and always has been. Even though he does not “have” to be up early on Saturday, he always is. Sometimes I want to kill him.

Today, he took the girls to the grocery store. He truly enjoys it. This is not something he feels he “has” to do, he offers, I happily agree, because I am not a stupid person.

Joe and I have two totally different experiences when we take the girls to the grocery store.

The Girls With Joe ~ They listen. Perfectly well-behaved little princess’.

The Girls With Jen ~ “Mom, I want this.” Can I ride in the cart? (No, you are 10) “Gracie, lets see who can run to the ice cream first.” “Sofia, watch, I can do a cart-wheel.”

While laying on the sofa, book ready to go, The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills playing on the t.v, I write him a list. They leave and I am in heaven. Down time is important, downtime for me is a necessity.

Two hours later they return from the store.

Two and a half hours later I am now throwing my clothes on. Off to the store I go to pick up everything that they forgot.

Fred Meyer was a freaking mad house. It seems that most people forgot that tomorrow is Easter Sunday, and the whole city of Federal Way met up at Fred Meyer to pick up last-minute essentionals……kinda like I was doing.

……

I am now home from the store. At this point all I want to do is take a nice long hot bubble bath. Kids are occupied, Joe is occupied, surely I can do this without being missed.  I only have one bathroom I have to make the rounds, asking if anyone needs in there before I lock myself in the comfort and quite of my sanctuary for the next hour….and then….the phone rings.

Crap. It was for Joe. I throw him the phone. He is talking to his family member while I am gathering my essentials. Headphones, book, freshly laundered robe, my fancy bubble bath….”Jen, they are on their way, will be here in 10.”

I have a few options here. I can pretend I did not hear him and head to the bath. Or, I could do the “right” thing (although for the record everyone has their own definition of what the “right” thing is) and throw on a pot of coffee and put some snacks out. I decided to play it safe “Oh…..does this mean you want me to wait on my bath?”

I did a quick run through of my living room. Since we are in the process of moving, I have boxes everywhere. Now that we are having visitors I had to manuever the boxes so there would be room. I mean standing room only but at least there would be room.

Imagine my surprise when the visitors brought us  three new boxes……filled to the brim with odds and ends to take to our new place that we do not even have yet. I just love surprises like that. Between you and me, if I am able to pull this move off without having a nervous breakdown, it will be a freaking miracle.

……

It is now 9:40 pm. Guess who is in the bath! I will give you a hint, it is not me. I am not sure how the rest of this night will progress. I still have to help the Easter Bunny out with Easter baskets, do meal prep for tomorrow, take a blasted bath, and find a way to lose 10 pounds by Monday.

Do not even ask.

jenandsofia

It’s not easy being me…

I was volunteering at the school today. We are about nine weeks out until summer break. There’s a lot of PTA paperwork that goes on behind the scenes. Fundraisers, membership,  how to increase our membership for next year, board elections, and now my latest struggle, cookies and popcorn. Trust when I say that deserves its own blog post.

I am working hard, “getting it done!” You know the drill. I have my spreadsheets, I have my trusty notebook and pen in hand at all times, I am totally working this PTA President thing (despite what a select few may believe.) Next thing I know a phone call comes in. “Jen, go to the office, Joe is here.”

I freak out, just like I always do. Why is he here? OMG did something happen? Gracie…..I had my phone on me all day, did she have a seizure? Why is he here, why didn’t he call me? Oh yeah, he refuses to have a cell.

Frantically, I make my way down to the office. Trying to figure out what on earth could have happened. This is unusual behavior, I just know something is wrong. I pass a teacher in the hallway. “Hey, do you know you have visitors in the office?” I am almost running, “Yes, I know on my way, is something wrong?” I am gone before she could even reply.

As I turn the corner, I see both Joe and Gracie sitting in the office. Naturally, I am thinking the worst. Omg, what is happening?!?! I burst through the door, out of breath, look at Joe, look at Gracie “Whats wrong?!?!?!?!?!”

“Everything is okay…….I just could not remember if I had to pick the girls up early today?”

“Are you kidding me right now?”

Gracie is laughing, Joe looks confused, I am drenched in sweat.

“Well I saw a note you left me and I did not know if….”

“THAT WAS FROM LAST WEEK WHEN YOU PICKED THEM UP!”

Gracie is now rolling her eyes at both of her parents.

“Oh, so I did not need to pick them up?”

“So everything is okay? No seizure, everything is okay?”

“Well……yeah……so you do not want me to get Sofia?”

I am slowly starting to calm down.

“No. I did not even need you to pick Gracie up.”

Gracie is now in full-blown laughter.

“You guys are weird.”

Joe, Gracie and I say our goodbyes. I make sure he understands that I will bring Sofia home, once school is over with.

Fast forward two hours.

School is now over with. I meet up with Sofia. Sofia has this odd “look” on her face. I know something is up.

“Mom, was AJ at my school today?”

I have no idea where she is going with this.

“No, AJ is at work, why?”

“Some of my teachers told me my brother was at the school.”

“Oh…………that’s weird………..no……..AJ is at work, I mean Dad and Gra…………wait a minute…………OMG………….Dad was here………….OMG, they thought Dad was your brother?!?!?!?!?!”

“I do not know Mom, I was told my brother was here.”

Kill me now.

Seriously.

Basically, “some teachers” saw Joe with Gracie. Because “some teachers” know Gracie but not Joe,  then assumed that Joe was Sofia’s brother, which would make him my son?!?!?!

Are you kidding me?

So…..what we have now learned from this little blink of my day, what is our “take away”

  1. Joe is no longer allowed at the school.
  2. I will be making an appointment for some (apparently) much-needed Botox.

whiskey

 

Do the thing you think you cannot do.

During my days of volunteering at the school, I come in contact with many parents. It may be a simple “Hello” followed by a smile from the Spanish-speaking Moms, or it may be hearing the life story of Billy’s mom during the morning announcements. I like to think I am one of those people who is pretty easy to talk to. However, as it has been pointed out to me in the past, the reality is I am just one of those people who attract the more “colorful” people of the world.

Tommy’s mom is a new mom who I am slowly getting to know. My first encounter with her was at a parent facilitator class I was running. Tommy’s mom had a list of everything she was not happy with, everything she wanted to change, and she wants it changed NOW. During the class, other parents along with myself, had the pleasure of hearing about how her children were out of her custody for a short period of time. Each one of us listened closely as she was talking about a domestic violence situation going on, which led to her childrenbeing taken away.

During my “Parent Facilitator” training sessions, we were not trained on how to deal with this type of parent. How do you calm someone down when she is standing up in the middle of the room yelling F bombs after F bombs? You can’t. Not at least without intervention of a higher up. My partner and I had no one. So we gave her the floor….or she took it.

As the weeks went on, I would try to avoid Tommy’s mom whenever I would see her in the lunchroom or hallways. I could not give her the answers she needed. I was out of my element, I was not trained for this. On occasion, she would find me, and give me a brief 30 minute rundown of what was happening in her life. The only advice I felt I could offer her was “Just concentrate on getting your background check complete for the school. Once you have clearance, we can certainly use you in the PTA.”

I always felt I needed to be very careful with her. I am a volunteer PTA Board member. The only training I  had was an all day class titled PTA and the Law.  For my parent facilitator position, I get paid a very small stipend. It was important to me to make sure I did not cross any lines with her, the school, or my parent facilitator position. I do not officially have a “boss” that can come back me up when things get out of hand. I am treading on thin ice.

Monday morning. During chaos that surrounds the morning routine at the school, Tommy’s mom literally bumps into me. There would be no avoiding her today.

“Oh hey, I am sorry I did not see you there….Guess what?”

Yep. No avoiding her today.

“Hi, how are you?”

And then it happened.

“I am doing great, guess what you are not going to believe this, him and I are back together. We are back together and I know it will work this time. I did not call him for five whole days and he missed me, so then we talked and he promised he would do better and not hit me anymore and he will be out here next week sometime and I am just so happy!”

And that is when I knew. This was my one moment. I had to put aside my fear of not having the “proper training” I knew I had to try to talk to Tommy’s mom, one on one, woman to woman.

“What do you mean you are back with him? The same person who beat you up?”

“Yes, but he has changed. I can hear it in his voice, he has really changed. My boys will be so happy.”

“Where did you get that scratch that’s on your face?”

“That’s just from my cat.”

“It’s interesting how a cat can make such a nice clean scratch that goes from your forehead to your mouth.”

“I just feel so much better about things now, I can’t wait for him to come out here, you should meet him. He feels bad for hitting me before.”

“Listen, if I may speak freely, I am speaking to you as a person, not as a PTA member, not as a parent facilitator.  I need you to know something. Right now things just feel better because this guy has broken you down and rebuilt you the way he wants you to be. This is his way of implementing control over you, I promise you this, if you allow this person back in your life, back into your sons’ life, things will not get better they will get worse. And if he hasn’t already, he will eventually go after your sons, it will start off as emotional abuse and escalate to physical. You and your kids deserve better than that. This is what needs to happen, you need to work on you….again, we can use all the help we can in the PTA. Once your background check clears, come to the school, I will work with you, I will show you how you can take your brokeness and change it into something positive, you will see firsthand how volunteering your time in the school is one of the best gifts you can give to yourself, you may not believe that right now, but I believe the next chapter of your life deserves more than getting the shit beat out of you on a daily basis, and one day you will believe that too.”

I have no idea if my words got through to her or not. We were cut off, morning announcements were starting.

The reality is, I did have training. It may not have been official training, but training for this moment, I had.

I had my experience with domestic violence. I have had experience with the police being called, “rape kits” in the emergency room. I have had the experience of being called a whore, of being told I will never be good enough,  and that right there in this moment that was all the training I needed.

My hope,  one day, years from now, Tommy’s Mom is in a better place, and she will be able to offer the same advice to another woman who feels this is all she deserves.

you-gain-strength-courage-and-confidence-by-every-experience-in-which-you-really-stop-to-look-fear-in-the-face

The Soundtrack to my Life. (Thanks Dad!)

Today we made some good progress with packing. When I saw “we” I kinda mean Joe. Between you and I, I have no idea how I will get this all done. But…we cannot tell Joe this. He thinks I totally have this.

See, the problem is, I have soooooooo much stuff. I am not one of those people who can just throw a picture, that is hanging in the living room, into a card board box. Nope. I am always taken back to a time when I first bought said picture. Then, somehow the picture (or shirt, candle, piece of paper, whatever it may be) brings up all these happy emotions in me that I can somehow equate with a song. Before you know it I have gotten nowhere on the packing, but I have a pretty bad ass play list ready to go.

A few years back my Dad sent me all of his New York Giants memorabilia that he needed to find a good home for. Naturally, mine was the perfect place. I remember when the pictures came in the mail (already framed mind you) I felt like a child on Christmas morning. It was the best day ever and I took so much joy in displaying my New York Giants memoribilla on the wall. It was a pretty serious ritual with me. My children were occupied, I made myself a drink, threw my headphones on, and while listening to Jethro Tull’s Bungle in the Jungle, I set out to find the absolute perfect place for my New York Giant pictures to be displayed.

I do not remember how old I was when Dad first introduced me to “Bungle in the Jungle.” I lie about my age so much, I do not remember my real age, but I was young. Pre-teen – teenager. Immediately I fell in love with it. It was the opening, you hear a lion (or maybe a tiger) roar, and because I have always loved the wildcats, this was now my new favorite song.

Let’s bungle in the jungle — well, that’s all right by me.
I’m a tiger when I want love,
but I’m a snake if we disagree.

No idea what the actual song is about, but there is a tiger in it, and tigers make me happy, just like the New York Giants memorabilia did many years ago. So…..long story even longer, “Bungle in the Jungle” I equate with being happy. However I was not feeling so happy today when it came time for me to take the memoribillia off the wall. Nope! What I felt like doing was curling up on the sofa and reminiscing.

However because Joe is such a drill sergeant that did not happen.

Now I needed a song to “pump me up!’

Scorpions always do it for me. Usually my go-to would be “Rock You Like a Hurricane”, yet today, going through the emotions of packing up an apartment that I have 12 years history in, I felt like listening to “Rhythm of Love.” The song came out in 1988, most likely around the same time dad introduced me to it.

We were driving. I cannot even remember where we driving to, and he just purchased their new cassette tape. Yes, I said cassette tape and if you have no idea what that is then you are too young to be reading this blog. Dad thre the tape in, told me to listen to their new song, and I was transfixed.

“The rhythm of love
Keeps me dancing on the road
The rhythm of love
Got the groove that hits the bone
The rhythm of love
Is the game I’m looking for
The rhythm of love
Is the heartbeat of my soul”

As the years went on, whenever I needed a good “pump me up” song, “Rhythm of Love” would be one of many. I mean seriously, how good are the Scorpions?!?!?!

I was doing pretty well with the packing until I came across a letter that I had hanging on my wall. This was a letter that my family wrote in 2014. The goal being we would open it up in October 2015. The contents were, each one of us listed our goals and dreams for the next year. This was right before my brother’s first deployment. It was important to me…..because if you have not figured it by now I am quite a sad sap!

Well, through life’s circumstances, we were not able to open it all together in 2015. Not all of us were there, and that was the one rule. We all had to be present to open the letter. Enter October of 2016, here in my apartment, we were all together. On our last night, drinks in hand, emotions filled with the sadness of having to say good-bye in just a few short hours, while being thankful that we had this visit, we all opened the letter. Each one of us read our own entries and Holy Hell I was a complete mess. I will cherish these letters forever. Right before we said our teary good-byes, I hung the letter on my wall. As a reminder, of life, family, and The Bond.

Today, here I was face to face, with this letter. I am not ready, I cannot take it down of my wore torn dining room walls without knowing where I will put it next. Again, my music took me back to a time. Blue Oyster Cult “I’m Burnin’ for You.” I was also introduced by my dad, in a two bedroom (or was it three?) apartment that had the prettiest bay window you had ever seen. We were on the second floor. 1981, and dare I say it may have even been a record. No….in fact I am sure it was a record. Dad brought it out, and my sister and I started singing along.

” Burn out the day
Burn out the night
I can’t see no reason to put up a fight
I’m living for giving the devil his due

And I’m burning, I’m burning, I’m burning for you
I’m burning, I’m burning, I’m burning for you”

Naturally my sister and I messed up the lyrics, but today, thirty plus years later, while I am staring at the letter that is hanging on my wall, I know those lyrics by heart.

Clearly I was not getting anything accomplished. I mean I packed a picture and Joe packed a room. I cannot have him showing me up, so I decided to work on the kitchen. I mean what on earth can I have in there that would bring up memories?

My playlist was now on The Rolling Stones. Much to my dad’s dismay, I only became a fan of theirs a few years back. I grew up listening to him sing all their songs. He went to the concerts, and he tried, he really did try to get my sister and I into them. It just did not work.

Again, fast forward quite a few years, here I am standing in my kitchen, not knowing quite where to begin and The Rolling Stones’ “Play With Fire” comes on.

“But don’t play with me, ’cause you’re playing with fire”

Damn, why did I not give them a chance back in the day. Honestly, I have no idea if my dad even likes “Play With Fire.” Originally a B side song, it was later included on their album “Out of Our Heads” in 1965. So I am going to say Dad at least knows the song.

Now it is time to take my pictures down that occupy my front door. These are not your usual pictures, these are my children’s art work. These pictures have had a safe place on my door for 12 years. I have never moved them.

It was Halloween of 2010. The kids and I set out to make some Halloween crafts. Although I still have the paint stain on my carpet to prove that this indeed happen, the finish product was absolutely imperfectly perfect.

“September When it Comes” is now playing.  The haunting duet between Johnny Cash and his daughter, Roseanne. A song that my dad and I have sung together, yet never do it justice. A song that leaves both of us teary eyed at the end.

“I plan to crawl outside these walls
Close my eyes and see
And fall into the heart and arms
Of those who wait for me
I cannot move a mountain now
I can no longer run
I cannot be who I was then
In a way I never was”

And now, I am pretty much finished. There is no way I can get anymore packing done, at least not tonight.

I will continue to pack up my 12 years of memories that I have in this place, while looking forward to creating more memories in our new place, and in it all, I will cherish my memories of the soundtrack of my life.

4e5dbcf00b8767c180cd5758e8d566b0

Teenagers??

 

I was running around doing some errands today. Joe was home with the girls. It was just me, my music, and my to-do list of about 150 things. I am at a stop light, needing to turn left. I had the yellow arrow, which clearly means if there are no on coming cars, then I can turn. I was good. No cars.

However, what was stopping me from turning were two guys, taking their sweet time trying to cross. In the pouring rain. So…. because I have the patience of a shoe, I slowly started creeping my car up to the cross walk, waiting patiently for these guys to cross, praying that no other cars come in my path.

Finally, the idiots pass. Sagging jeans and all. They were safely on their side of the street which meant I was able to make my turn. As soon as I make the turn, the guys start to wave at me.

First I get a little ego boost. “Oh yeah, I still got it.”

Then I figured they were just being a smart ass, knowing damn well they were holding me up from making my turn.

Then I realized, “What the hell, Vinnie?!?!?!”

Yes ladies and gentlemen, it was Vinnie and his friend that decided to take their sweet time crossing the street. Vinnie, my head-strong yet stubborn 16-year-old son.

About three hours later, I returned home. I walk in the door and who else standing there, Vinnie!

Me~ Oh, hi Vinnie!

Vinnie~ Thanks for pulling over mom.

Me~ What do you mean?

Vinnie~ Did you not see us waving to you?

Me~ Did you not see me waving back?

Vinnie~ We were waving you down, not waving to say “what’s up.”

Me~ Well, you should have texted me!

Vinnie~ Yeah, I should have…too bad I can’t.

Ugh. So he has me on that one.

About two weeks ago Vinnie and I had an argument. An argument that resulted in him walking out of the house at 10:30 at night, even though I told him no. I cannot tell you how mad I was. Livid! I called Christin, and then I called my sister, I was heated.

So of course I did what any rational parent would do. I got online, and reported his phone as stolen. He immediately lost service.

I was pretty proud of my accomplishment.

Two hours after I reported his phone as stolen, guess who decides to come back home.

The following morning, I catch Joe up on the happenings of last night. I am still so mad. How could he just disregard what I say and leave? I know Joe has this, because if you have not figured it out yet, Joe is the more rational one.

Joe and Vinnie ended up having a good heart to heart talk that took about three hours. Seriously, the entire time they were talking I was on the phone with Christin for about 45 minutes, another 30 minutes with my sister. I left the apartment, checked the mail, responded to my messages, bought some Starbucks, came home,  and they were still talking.

I figured that was punishment enough.

Joe took me aside, one on one and told me how Vinnie feels stressed. He needed a minute to get away and clear his head, and although it was handled badly, Joe felt it was important to Vinnie to have his time.

Vinnie worries for Gracie, he worries about her seizures and he does not know how to process it all. Okay fine…..pull at my heart-strings why don’t you. I get it. We are all in the same boat. When you see your sister, your daughter, your student, your niece, your granddaughter, collapsed on the floor, shaking uncontrollably,  unresponsive, and not knowing what to do….well….it will keep you up at night.

More importantly, do you know what happens when you report a cell phone stolen? I will tell you what happens. You end up talking to someone in India who is reading from a script. You pretty much have to offer your kidney to get the blasted service turned on again.

We are going on about two weeks of me arguing with my new enemy in India, and I still have no service for him. He blames me, I blame him.

Vinnie and I are actually two peas in a pod. We are so much alike (sagging jeans excluded) that we tend to butt heads.

I will say, he is a good kid. So business savvy. Set in his ways, and will argue with you until the end. Such a good heart. If it was not for him, I would not have all the cats I do. He will see a stray cat, and bring him to our place, feed him/her, give them water, then odds are, we now have a new cat. I love this kid. As much as he aggravates me, he has so much good in his heart.

He is also the one who got Gracie’s birthday tattooed on his arm.

I know I will get flack for that……but just wait………Sofia’s tatoo is coming next.

That’s my boy!

vinnie4

 

 

One Day

I may be hitting my burn out.

Between Gracie and her seizures, trying to find a way to keep the seizures at bay…… having to move yet not really knowing  where it is we will be moving to…….then apparently Sofia is going through a very difficult time. Her hair is not curly, and in the life of a 10-year-old, I guess this is some pretty serious stuff.

Vinnie believes he was put on this earth to drive me to an early grave, AJ lost three dollars in his hourly pay, Joe spends his days working, and coming home to “unwind.” His definition of “unwinding” is watching videos of President Trump. Clearly, I am living in the Twilight Zone.

I had to run some errands today. Joe was home, and needed to jump in the shower. I asked him “Do you want me to leave now, or wait until you finish your shower.”

“Jen, wait until I get out, what if Gracie has a seizure?”

This is my life now. Everything is based around “What if Gracie has a seizure?”

We have to make sure someone is with her at all times. We have to make sure that someone knows how to give her the recovery meds if she has a seizure. Damn it is hard.

I am still hurt by some family members. I do not want to rehash it all, but when everyone else is invited to a birthday party for my sibling, and no one saw fit to tell me, to invite me, well that kinda hurts….and yet I am in the wrong, I am the one who needs to “Let it go.” I get it though…..in a sense, I have always been the black sheep. Sometimes I have felt family only interact with me because they feel they “have” to……but as soon as I say something they do not approve of, it is so easy to write me off. And I am okay with that…….this is not a “Poor Jen” post, I am fine, I will be fine. It’s just sometimes I need to let it all out, and well, that is what this blog is for.

I just need a day. One day. One day where I can regroup for me. One day to myself. One day where I know the kids are taken care of. One day where I can just drive around blaring my music, looking at the water front. Not having a destination in mind. One day to clear my mind and come up with a game plan on how we are going to make this happen. One day to hit up Starbucks and not be on a time limit. One day to visit friends and catch up on myself. Just one day.

We had visitors today.

“Jen, this is how you pack. You get the boxes, get them from the school. Do not go drive back and forth, have them all here. Then you open the box and tape it up…….you put a box in every room and you start putting everything you want to save in a box. Then you close it up and you put it off to the side. This is how you pack.”

Well that is genius. Why did I never think of that?!?!

One Day……Just One Day.

break