For those who’ve never lost your mind, you don’t know what you’re not missing. And yes, I can tell you from firsthand experience. The hardest part about losing your mind is never knowing when you can expect it back again and if it will ever be the same. So far, it’s taken about 30 years and I’m still not who I used to be, but I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. I certainly don’t appear the same—oh boy, I wish I did. I never knew how attractive I was at the time, or I’m sure I would have grown up much differently. But things are what they are – and here I am; a mom with two kids and a cat – all of which are toilet trained. That’s right, there’s not a lot of normal about our home.
This past week was pretty eventful. From all of us being deathly ill and using up part of my vacation at the beginning of the year recuperating, to finding out one of the days I missed may end up costing me my job. But that’s another story. What I will tell you is that we finally took Lucius to the vet to ensure everything was true about him when we got him. We bought him at the pet shop and got a card with a whole bunch of information about him and even told he had been fixed. That was a relief.
But Dr. Holly seemed not to agree. We gave him all of his shots, got a thorough exam, and were just about to tell Dr. Holly that we didn’t want to fish his stool sample out of the toilet because he was toilet trained when she broke some news of her own. Lucius wasn’t a male. He was a female. Or I guess I should say, she is a female. And obviously, none of her goodies have been removed. But, at least she’s toilet trained. We went through all the hair-pulling ideas of translating “Lucius” to Lucy or Luscious, but in the end, it’s the name she’s used to. I suppose if a guy can be called “Sue,” a female can be named Lucius. We don’t care, as long as the seat is down when she leaves the bathroom. (And don’t worry, she uses her own seat.) But now the quota is back to one solitary male again.
The best news ever reveals the biggest reason to why you haven’t received a post in the weekly manner of which you’ve grown accustomed. We’ve stayed in various churches of a three month course, weathering week-long mournings, three-day weddings, bathrooms shared with as many as twenty people (and one shower), and meals created for us every night. Sometimes the food had to be experimental leftover creations, but the gamble was well worth the golden nugget of a meal that never failed to surprise us. Even still, we didn’t fit in; we used napkins, said “please and thank you,” and cleaned up after ourselves. Unfortunately, when one family grows accustomed to this behavior it makes blending with other homeless families crushing. I’m certain they felt the same way about us. Parents who call their kids names and casually smack them in the head proves incredibly testing to witness without saying anything.
But, minding your own business in such situations is a survival tactic. Our family kept to ourselves except during dinner where everyone convened in one dining area. The hosts and food donating individuals were a godsend with patience and kindness beyond belief. Two designated hosts would remain through the night, leaving when time to leave at 7:00 a.m. Another couple arrived at 5:00 p.m., when the families returned, the meal was brought by yet another group at 6:30 p.m., and following cleanup the night team arrived. On a weekend, staff remained in shifts; some would keep to themselves, while others crawled on the floor with children or played board games with families. But each church had its own personality. Nevertheless, all of them had dedication too awesome to imagine.
Some of the other families came from places where defecating in the waste basket and urinating in the toy box are acceptable practices—only worth mentioning if caught in the act. Not somewhere you’d choose to live if given a viable option. And still, the keepers of the church maintained the premises.
But without options, we were fortunate to have food and a private sleeping area.
Some provided multiple gender-specific showers, where others required the perfect-timing of one shared amongst the group during a few short hours. These were the times having a vehicle that drove to Flying J was appreciated. Some families had no vehicle and waited for the company van to pick them up and drop them off with each transition. They’d spend the day in a mutual room watching television, showering, or doing laundry at the facility. The ones who worked, maneuvered their two hours per night with caution. Lights out and doors locked at 9:00 p.m.
All the families had to get along when a crying infant or ill child was present, we all suffered and dealt with it. In one instance, 3/4 of the “community” awakened to new haircuts following a lice infestation. Because of our unsociable habits, we were spared, but don’t think we weren’t paranoid. For about three days, there were periods I swear I felt something climbing through my hair. I’d inspect, have someone else investigate, and shower. It was horrible! It could only have been worse to actually find them.
A month later, we’ve managed moving into a home converted into a duplex. The commute to school and work begins at 7:00 a.m. and ends about 9:00 a.m. at the office, unless I get there earlier for some much needed overtime.
Now one may think traveling from one end of Salt Lake Valley to Lehi and back a total waste. Honestly, I did too. Between fuel and time spent traveling, I could drop the kids at the train station and gain five hours a week in overtime without stepping foot inside on the weekend. Of course, the ride back to my employment from the school takes the kids a couple of hours each night. But they’re troopers.
At first, I felt all the traveling as an unnecessary waste of time and fuel. But then I realized something vitally important; with the kids trapped in the car with me for an extra ten hours per week going from and to home, they had to communicate or at least hear a fraction of what I spewed. I chose the quality time in cussing at other drivers—in unison—a rare family activity solidifying our bond.
We got a pet. Sure, a dog would have been grand, but we wouldn’t have the time to train him during the school year. Instead we got a cat. His name was Moon when we got him, but “Lucius” got a unanimous vote—even by the feline. This paragraph brings us to “the bad.”
Understanding I had a bit of a physical reaction to cats, I was careful about how much I held Lucius or allowed him to snuggle me. It wasn’t until Nikki helped me prepare for work one day by saying, “I brought you a different coat to wear today. Lucius was using it for a bed but he can do without for a day. I know how much you like this jacket.”
Merrily, I put it on and padded off to work. But that isn’t all—oh no, that isn’t all! I draped the jacket around the back of my chair like some fool tempting Fate. Halfway through a phone call, I got a scratch in my throat and attempted to clear it. It didn’t work. In fact, my voice was nowhere to be found. Some people would have liked me that way. Although I usually had a bottle of water on my desk, there was none now. I could barely breathe, much less carry a conversation.
I politely asked my customer, through a hoarse whisper, if I could call her back in a moment. I quickly maneuvered to the water fountain and got a drink. “Are you okay?” a passing supervisor inquired.
”Well, that was weird…” I managed before gasping like a astronaut without a helmet. “My windpipe feels as wide as a stirring straw.” The supervisor turned back, grabbed me, and guided me to a chair before calling an ambulance.
Even though a stretcher, a crew of paramedics, and the supervisors gathering around were necessary, I wish they weren’t. We were in a semi-secluded area, but passerby paused on occasion to take a bit of commotion with them.
Several times the paramedics asked if I wanted a ride to the hospital for additional treatment after the instant nebulizer. The only thought absorbing into my mind was the cost. An ambulance would probably cost another thousand or so—plus the humiliation of being wheeled away. Turns out the reason they kept asking me to ride to the hospital comes down to the time being about eleven a.m. and the treatment lasting about four hours, a doctor explained later. She followed up with information leading to another attack if not treated properly. I drove to the hospital knowing I’d be working late to make up my time.
The following three hours were spent being examined before enduring the doctor’s voice of reason explaining how ridiculous it is putting an animal ahead of my own health. “Would your kids rather have a mother or a pet?” she asked me. My prescriptions are for an Albuterol inhaler, a plastic device that lessens the shakiness it causes, and Singulair. The plan is that I will acclimate. Sounds crazy—but it’s the one commonality we have as a family we can all talk and laugh about.
My last bit of news comes after a phone call I received at work today. It was the military school—you know, the one Cameron’s anticipating his pilot’s license from? He was caught sluffing yesterday. They suspected more because of the kids he was associated with in the car. So he’s suspended for tomorrow. Needless to say, the television remotes and his phone have been confiscated and his visit to his father’s denied. All that aside, he’s mostly upset that he’ll miss a kid’s birthday party Sunday—his one chance to truly make friends at his new school. His father’s even more upset. Not with Cameron but with me for not allowing the visit. He feels I’m “taking my frustrations out on” him. I explained my decision wasn’t “about him” at all but directed toward my son. Dave didn’t get it—surprise. I’m unreasonable.
Here’s how I see it: I’ve only got one shot at getting this motherhood thing right—sort of like skydiving; no way to fix a major error after jumping.
What would YOU do? We’ll check back later for the end results.
You know when you watch a movie and the main character does something totally unthinkable leaving you scratching your head in confusion?
After having no manageable sleep for four nights, working full time, having curfew restraints, and being unable to shower for nearly a week—while working overtime on the weekends, you’d think I would be thrilled to move to another shelter. Not when it’s in Bountiful and the kids attend school in Lehi.
We’ve located four units to move into over the past month, searching only during my free time on the weekends. Each time it’s lost because the shelter isn’t open during the weekend when all of the listings are posted. By the time the shelter calls Monday afternoon to check on the vacancy, the new resident has signed, sealed, and delivered their agreement with the securing payment. And I just can’t pretend anymore.
I will not be searching for anything more than a temporary shelter providing us more than safekeeping. Still, the late night customs of religions one week and an incessantly crying newborn baby the next is enough to drive my sanity over the brink. I can only imagine how my kids are surviving. Think calm thoughts—think calm thoughts. Be grateful for food and warmth. But sleep is paramount to survival; look it up.
Every night, as we go to bed, an endless stream of our own muffled laughter ends our day in good spirits, with hopes that tomorrow offers a promise for the future.
Unsure of whether it’s considered “unhealthy” or “mentally strong” when someone mentions dying and I realize it’s part of the natural process. Everyone dies, it’s only a matter of when and what has been accomplished in the lifetime–people aren’t typically aware of the “finish line.” But every day poses new challenges and another opportunity to learn something spectacular. Here’s your chance!
Family Promise is an incredible opportunity for people to reach out and help others without making a huge commitment of time or money. Although I’m not religious, I still believe in the Golden Rule and Karma–or anything else you want to call it. Perhaps it’s best considered Yin and Yang where it all evens out, but the good begets good and vice versa, coming back around in the end. And my personal philosophy is that everything that can create a learning experience is in a sense “good.” It’s the “bad” we repeat.
For those who aren’t familiar with helping others through resources like Family Promise, I urge you to educate yourself and have your church leaders welcome them. This is an opportunity to prove what your God has been instructing all the while. Watch and see.
If everyone’s days are numbered, as are the days of the families in this program, as well as the hours people have in dedicating themselves to others, is there a better time to start than now? How would your God answer this question? Everyone’s days are numbered, and we’re hoping our number comes up soon.
Probably the most testing part of living in a shelter is as much as I like observing people, I don’t particularly care for interacting with them. They say writers are introverts, but I’m not shy–and when I do speak, I’m a no-holds-barred person. I believe the issue boils down to an acute hearing condition referred to as hyperacusis, which isn’t nearly as wonderful as it sounds. While it’s true I can hear a bee’s fart clear across the park there are certainly some serious drawbacks. My sounds all blend together at the same decibel level. For example, if I were to eat at a fast food restaurant with kids running around giggling and families jabbering, I wouldn’t be able to distinguish their chatter from that of someone seated next to me speaking. It’s one massive cloud of cacophony that sucks. On the other hand, if my surroundings consist of virtual silence in a library and someone across the room whispers to the librarian I can hear what book or information the reader seeks. In an area with twenty people, separated at night by curtains dividing the rooms, my anxiety requires additional attention. I get little to no sleep due to the constant whining and bickering, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
Thank goodness for the sparse groups of individuals and churches who do more than just preach about all the good they’ve done to earn their ways into heaven. There are some who truly believe in assisting others. Now whether they do it to feel good about their deeds or as some sort of pass to enter The Pearly Gates, I don’t know. And frankly, not being a follower of God myself, I still believe in The Golden Rule. If people simply abide by doing unto others as they’d have done unto them, wouldn’t that be a ticket to Heaven for those who truly believe? I don’t do it for rewards–I do it because it’s right.
Today I’m mentioning one such group the program called Family Promise relies on located at Wasatch Presbyterian Church. That’s where we met our two newest families and had entire families to help us through our week. We had three attorneys waiting on us. (If you want to see a real miracle… attorneys helping homeless for no pay?) Unbelievable, but actually helped restore my faith in the legal system or at least a few choice individuals. Not all lawyers are assholes. One played the guitar and offered company while we ate the delicious, star-rated meal another attorney prepared including a blueberry and cherry oatmeal and a delicious quiche with bacon and sausage. Not a typical meal at all, but memorable for sure. And the last was our hostess. Nikki enjoyed the inflatable air mattresses that invited us to take a nap straight away.
Music with our meal
A meal a chef would love
Nikki relaxes on air mattress
Sunday, the 16th, Shawn and his teen daughter left, due to what he called bedbugs (which were baby cockroaches), and Eric and Justin’s crew found their new living quarters with their kids. Everything was calm for one night with my family of three and the Hispanic family of four. Last Saturday, the dynamic changed considerably with an addition of two families consisting of thirteen people – hair pulled up or shaved off. They’d arrived from the same place—The Road Home. The Road Home is a shelter that’s overpopulated, understaffed, and an absolute last resort. We went there once because we were told if authorities caught us sleeping in the car they would take my children, but we just couldn’t stay. After going there, we decided to take our chances. With the bug infestation and dysfunctionality of it, we spent three nights crammed like three triplets crammed into the uterus of my car, surrounded by our possessions. The two additional families are Road Home graduates with shaved heads — need I say more?
The first family is a father, Troy, whose wife left him and their five kids, and one grandchild, for meth. He doesn’t work but is upset that the program requires him to find employment. The young teen mother has a raging attitude, a deplorable vocabulary, and no sense of regard for anyone else. Yeah, I guess a typical distressed teen but the stress has amplified it about thirty times. He has a young teen daughter (I thought was a male for two days until I realized she has hair); a son about my daughter’s age who’s intelligent but desperate for attention; and a set of twins who are about four. Like the Hispanic family, they do not have transportation and rely on the van to pick them up every morning at 7:00 a.m. and drop them off at 5:00 p.m. each day except for the weekends. Sunday is generally when we change church locations at 2:00 p.m.
The second family proves that if there is a God, He certainly works in mysterious ways. The father’s story was he was hit on his motorcycle with his bride-to-be on the back. When she died instantly, he inherited a metal plate in his head, brain damage, a messed up spine and pins to hold his legs on. The accident brought his professional life as a chef to a screeching halt. He married another woman who, according to her, was hit in the head by an anvil at the young age of three. Neither of them works and their four children, under the age of thirteen, prove the mother was sincere when she announced they would have as many children as possible. Put them in the room with any television set on and they stare like cats watching fish swim in a bowl.
When we met them, we were at a church with the most amazing hosts. We’ve already met several incredible people through our journey over the past month, as is visible in earlier posts. But this church supplied entertainment for breakfast—and extremely caring people and an incredible supplier of organization orchestrating numerous families who pull together for a week to serve others who have had a rough time.
Let’s face it, kids the answer to the aforementioned riddle is Wasatch Presbyterian and Family Promise helping families – organizing this jumble of people is a feat in itself much less creating joy in the process. But somehow, Allison, Alyssa, and Brickel manage. Our stay was wonderful! After the last church, I never wanted to leave the shelter of this God’s house and the incredible families inside, but all good things must come to an end. We moved again, and this time it was to a little church in West Jordan for real adventure!
Good news and bad news, but that’s life, right? We’ve got to take the good with the bad, take away the accomplishments and pay the price for our flaws. In a world where you make larger mistakes, guaranteed the price will be paid a very long time. If you’re damned lucky, you’ll pay it off in time to reap some sort of reward.
Trusting in the law and that child support will be paid—I’m not the only one stupid enough to think that could happen. And then ending up in a world of crap… But let’s forget about that for a while. Maybe it’s better to forget about it for good. If we do, we’re more likely to repeat the events that got us here in the first place, though.
For you, my readers, I’ll simply post the photos and let you fill in the blanks to the events. In fact, let’s just do this week’s entry specifically in photos. It was supposed to be posted on Sunday and I’m wiped out. So, here are the photos I’ve taken this past week. If you have any guesses, post them. I’ll make sure and tell you how close you are to the correct answer—it’ll be fun! (And all in a week’s work.)
After I dropped off the kids to school in Lehi, I followed this beast to work. Without a plate and tinted windows, you’ll never guess who’s inside.
We’re on our third week of living in the shelter called Family Promise. Cameron spends this weekend with his dad, snoozing in his own bed, watching cable networks on television, and he’ll golf. He enjoys that short commercial break of “living the dream” once in a while. But Cameron almost didn’t get to this time.
The family I mentioned last time, Shawn and Kiwi, came a week ago last Thursday. Although she was separated from the rest of us, the accordion curtain that separated our families wasn’t enough to keep her untreated illness from spreading. After a long three-day weekend, I woke up on my birthday with a headache, sore throat, and body aches. But I couldn’t let the dreaded Norovirus stop me for several reasons.
Can’t separate from the phone…
… couldn’t care less.
First, if you miss a day of work after a holiday, as with most companies, your holiday pay isn’t available. Second, I had already paid for my birthday celebration with my kids. And third, well, I didn’t feel like sitting this one out. It’s been forever since I’ve celebrated my birthday, so everyone else can suck it and let me have a good time being sick!
Who could discover the nuance of the still night?
The Friday before, I’d been talking to my manager at work and discussed my plans for having a fun birthday and she suggested a place called, “Painting with a Twist.” It was fun, allowing Cameron and Nikki to freely express themselves on canvas. For my birthday, we all copied from the same painting, you can see the variation in each of our psyches and how it reflects on our outlook. Can you tell who painted each? (See bottom for answers)
We returned late and went straight to bed. I felt pretty bad. The night refused to hold any promises of sleep. Between the city nightlife of passersby yelling at each other and cursing with the competition of a runny nose, sore throat, throbbing head, and having to empty my intestines, I didn’t sleep very well.
The following morning was surprisingly worse. I went to work and was so worn I could hardly hold a thought, much less work. The day would have dragged if I could remember it, but it was a murky mess of mistakes and apologies.
When I arrived at the church, I discovered Cameron was also ill. We decided to take Wednesday off for the doctor. The illness was so nasty we were treated with medication that was a liquid-based prescription level ibuprofen that could only have tasted worse if scraped from the bottom of a farmer’s boot. We were each given a bottle of water before the nursing assistant cautiously left the room. I swallowed hard, twisted the cap off my water, and then downed the medicine in one fatal drink before chasing it with the entire bottle of water before coming up for air.
Cameron didn’t swallow his water with the same vigor as me. He sipped his, and then took a swallow of water—several times between intermittent mini-convulsions. Afterward, we were given Z-packs containing Azithromycin. Fun? But the paintings will last forever AND Cameron’s stealthy play won him a painting created by the instructor. The scowl I received with the suggestion he might consider it a gift to his girlfriend, Trinity, was at least notable. He smiled warmly and declined.
At the shelter, “residents” must be absent between seven a.m. and five p.m. for typical services and upkeep of the churches. So Cameron and I went to a library—a public library where we could cough and “share the glory” with others. Although, we did manage to stay in our own little corner and keep our breathing to a minimum. We always cover our mouths and wash our hands in an attempt to stave off infections. Doing what we could in distancing ourselves and keeping calm so we could heal quietly without infecting others, but gain intelligence at the same time.
Friday, I had a weekly review at work. I wish I could say that despite the havoc in the rest of my life that my job is going smoothly, but I can’t. Tuesday’s pathetic average worked itself in to bring my score even lower than it was, which was a very “unbirthday” surprise. My average of files per hour still sits at about eight. I have two weeks to bring it to a ten or I’ll be in danger of losing my job. All I can say to that is that it would really suck—but with two more weeks, I can only hope that positive occurrences happen.
After I picked Nikki up and left Cameron at his dad’s, we entered our room to discover things had been moved. Nothing major has been noted missing, but I have a real issue, especially when chaos is breaking out around me, to have everything organized and placed evenly. Although my suitcase was still positioned in front of the closet door, the door wasn’t latched and my suitcase was half unzipped. Now we lock our door when we leave and have the host open it each night when we get back.
The family of Erica and Justin with the kids—a five-bedroom home has been found for them if you can believe that. It’s a lower portion of a home, which must be gigantic to have five bedrooms in half of it! I’m happy for them, but a little sad because that’s the only family we’ve been conversing with regularly. Awaiting the next family is like playing the shell game. I figure we’re here for another four months or so. I still have a lot to learn about finances before we can move.
When I went into the playroom to notify Erica of the Norovirus, because I heard the Hispanic grandma hacking up a lung in the room half an hour earlier, the host entered just after I finished relaying the warning signs of the virus. It’s both viral and bacterial, meaning the room most likely churns with contamination. But as I was leaving, Erica informed the host that the Hispanic boy urinated in a bin and carefully placed the lid on top just as her son entered. Norovirus doesn’t seem so dangerous all of a sudden, OR perhaps this is exactly where it was born.
Shawn came running out of his room next to ours yesterday screaming about having bedbugs and demanding he saw a really big one. I’m thinking, if it was that big, it probably wasn’t a bedbug. They’re relatively small.
Both kids plan on joining the CERT training at the end of the month through their school, Utah Military Academy. This provides the certification necessary for rescuing people from flood, fire, or other catastrophic events. Empowering–we need this.
Today is Sunday. It probably sounds petty to say we’re not eating breakfast because it’s the day the church doors are open to feeding the homeless. While there are courteous transients, addicts, pedophiles, etc. in the mix, I’m guarded. When it comes to my kids, I’d rather avoid than take the time to sort— it’s quicker and safer.