The Dyslexic Spider

Imagine if each person on the globe’s intention was a singular, silken strand of spider web. Everything a person did, you, for example, was recorded somehow with a shiny, glimmering strand trailing behind you from the day you’d exited your mother’s womb. Some of us would have strong and sturdy, yet simplistic patterns, signifying we’re home all day with an occasional trip to the store or the kids’ school. When our husband arrives, we twist about in our tiny area making sure all the towels are folded correctly and the dinner is pleasantly warm for his arrival. A tight-knit web with little flexibility–a cocoon of sorts, wouldn’t you say? A cocoon that may never open?

On the other hand, there are those more extravagant webs that stretch thin near and far, traveling to Paris, Cancun, Australia, and back to New York. These webs shine with a glossy finish, high above the others, for all the world to admire. Perhaps more like a dragonfly than an arachnid — but no, they’re still spiders, although they vaguely remember their starting point and seldom double back, making complicated patterns.cobweb-depth-of-field-spider-s-web-149224

Me? I’m what one would refer to as a dyslexic spider; my focus is a bit out of whack. Although I work hard and toward specific goals, sometimes they’re unrealistic and other times I don’t remember what I even started working towards or why. Take this blog for example; great intentions of sharing my life, but I’ve left out a huge and important portion because I allowed Life to get away from me. I need to hold on tight and keep focus. But the question is, why? What is my goal? (Leaning in while I whisper.) **I’m 52, have a degree, and work an entry-level position.** Sick, right? (Not sic) I’m disgusted with failing and the bad example I’m showing my kids. How can I expect them to earn a college degree if they feel as if their end may be the same as my own? I’ll reveal it.

The apartment we’re in is “very lived in”. If you’ve seen the other places we’ve lived, you’ll understand how clean we normally are and what the mindset is for our home now. We hate it here and it shows. The only choice we have is to move. The only way to do that is by making more money. The only way to make more money, as a “well-weathered” person, is by excelling in a craft where appearance isn’t comparable to skills — unless you’re Christie Brinkley who appears as a 21-year-old senior citizen. You may be asking yourself how I arrived at this earth-shattering conclusion, and I’ll explain.

After our multiple moves through Family Promise, we settled into a basement of a home in a questionable part of town where I didn’t feel as if we fit. I’d also noticed more and more families are sharing a single dwelling. They’re pulling up their pant legs and renting their basements either full-time or as an Airbnb for extra cash. As you may remember, I don’t socialize with my family and am not very quick to trust people, placing us at a huge disadvantage.Messy Bedroom

Now we’re in another place that will have to do, at least until the lease is up. It certainly isn’t as pretty as what we’d grown accustomed to living in and so we’ve let it go to hell before we even completed unpacking. Then again, I’ve certainly had it worse.

I grew up with a family of seven and one bathroom. And we weren’t “spoiled” with boxes of tissue planted skillfully around the house. We all used toilet paper for our noses, but my father was the only one who wore twisted strands up each nostril resembling a big woolly mammoth. And when he blew his nose, he sounded like one too. There were days where I would emerge from the restroom to a line of people with runny noses. That was about the time my father taught us kids to use our sleeves or bottom of our shirts for tissues. Yeah, quite gross, and completely unsanitary. It’s amazing how little things from our childhood impact us. I don’t think there’s a room in our place that doesn’t have a box of tissue in it. art-blur-close-up-1826029

Now you may be asking what kicked this writer in the ass to get in gear with writing again? My one-year anniversary is nearly up at the office, meaning I can apply to move elsewhere within the company and “sow my wild oats” with my degree — finally. But this dyslexic spider has determined that with this weathered countenance, I can’t wait for someone to notice me anymore. It’s time I set out on my own and sink my fangs into real sustenance. The desperation of the winter months are quickly approaching for this black widow, and it’s time to either roll over and die or make it happen. I’m not ready to die.

 

 

Can’t Complain about “Boring”

The last I recorded, I needed to attend court for our eviction. Not to say that the experience was wonderful – it wasn’t, but it turned out as well as could be expected. We got three days to vacate. I wasn’t sure how I could afford to move out. I mean, between the storage unit ($110 for a 10 x 10), the U-Haul (.79 mi + $39), time off work, and the movers ($300 + tip), not to mention where we would stay until I could find another place to live ($59 a night for 12 nights) with about $800. Not an easy task by any stretch. The total is over $1,300. Not to mention food, gasoline, and all the other necessities. I sure am glad we don’t need to purchase oxygen for breathing.

First, you figure the numbers and see if you can make it work—bet you can’t.

Here’s how we did it. We got the storage unit free for the first month because we used the U-Haul for transport to the U-Haul storage site. The movers from Wasatch Moving Company never showed up, called, or anything else. After waiting for two hours, we gave up. Cameron and I began doing it on our own. (I’ve never been happier to no longer have an injured back!) But because I neglected to print their information, I couldn’t even remember who they were and wound up paying Cameron’s 16-year-old friend, with an injury, to help us move from the third floor for $120. (I found out the name of the company when I received an email yesterday asking me how Wasatch Moving Company performed.)

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Nothing’s gonna stop them now!

Where to stay at under $59/night? That’s a tough one! One of my friends suggested I contact Airbnb, which I did. Some of the rates raised my eyebrows, but I managed to locate one in the shadier side of Salt Lake for under $400 for the whole time. Granted it’s no Hilton, but it is dry and cool. The rhino-sized spiders think so too and visit on occasion!

Nikki tries to remain on the bed and only climbs off to use the facilities. Didn’t work so well the night she was throwing up though. She fell asleep on the cold bathroom tiles to awaken screaming and motionless because a spider had her cornered. I killed it and guided her back to safety.

Nikki and I share a bed and Cameron sleeps on an air mattress next to us. We share a bathroom and a tiny fridge. No microwave, and a shower that leaves us so dry, we could be corn flakes, although that sounds pretty good about now.

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Our room is small and cozy at the Airbnb we chose

We brought 2 loaves of bread, peanut butter, a gallon of milk, assorted fruit packages, Gummy Bears, two large bags of raisins, a large package of cheese slices, Naked fruit drinks, and lots of water with Gatorade and Crystal Light. We also have about 20 cans of chicken and a jar of mayo. I usually take one can a day for lunch and drink a powder Muscle Milk for breakfast. It’s tight, to say the least. It reminds me of that game where you ask if you could take three things on a desert island, what would they be. Yep, that’s pretty much it, although we have no flint or inflatables.

Then, of course, there’s gasoline. Filled the tank once after donating plasma and experienced a leaky gusher after getting into my car. It ruined one of the four pairs of pants I brought, but they were worn. It also ruined an expensive T-shirt and took an upholstery scrub with paper towels. We purchased two Big Daddy’s $3.50 pizzas for a hot meal. It was heaven. We put the rest into the gas tank.

Also, remember the kids were to attend the military school in Ogden? That didn’t work. But thank goodness they have another that’s a bit closer they can attend instead. We still need to finish purchasing boots, pants, etc. though. School starts next week.

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Suited to defend and learn

Meanwhile, I’d been conversing with a friend from 30 years ago, unsure if I wanted to dig up the past, especially now. I’ve received conflicting information about my past behavior from siblings, parents, and my ex’s sister. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear it. But then, I decided she’d been a friend, so the news couldn’t be all bad.

After overcoming my wishy-washy insecurities, I met with Belinda. Cameron was with his dad, and Nikki was with me. So well-behaved and proper, Nikki remained chatting with the ladies, except when Belinda let her three dogs out to run around. Nikki loved it! When Belinda brought out a photo from way back when Nikki’s eyes lit up. “That’s you?” she caught her breath. I couldn’t remember the photo, but it certainly was me. I thought I would share it. Nikki could barely be pulled away from the cat, Trixy when it was time to go six hours later.

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The “Good ol’ Days of the 1980’s”

My next entry will be what happened in the course of our stay at the bed and breakfast and what we did when it was time to move. With a $650 paycheck and a $500 child support (including some back child support), where will we move and how will we eat? Your guess is as good as mine! Imagine what you could do in this predicament.

 

Sometimes Just Breathing is the Answer

Being thankful for what we have shouldn’t be reserved for one holiday per year, the gratitude should run through our bodies every second of every day – yes, even for the experiences we coin as ‘negative.’ Believe me, when it comes to curve balls bombarding you on the pitcher’s mound, no one appears more like Charlie Brown than I do – guaranteed. Today, I’m sharing my latest experience of how nothing seemed to line up appropriately and how we’re coping with it if you want to even consider it “coping.”

In one month’s time, I discovered I was not getting the promotion I was counting on at work as well as my ex deciding he wasn’t going to pay child support. And yes, he did decide it as a “giggling in the back of the classroom little boy.” But these points are not my focus. My focus is on breathing. That’s right, breathing.

You see, sometimes that’s the only option you may feel you have to fall back on. While some people opt to cease breathing and give up altogether, I thank God I’m not to that point. Do I have a game plan? No. Do I have a religion? Not really. I believe in living the Golden Rule. Then, you may ask yourself, what makes me so sure everything will work out? That’s a great question because I am not. But I’m also not ready to quit.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a couple of friends step up to the plate and do what they can to help. See, when the child support ceased to come in, my promotion was the backup plan that would have me prepared. I even had inside coaching on the skills and education it would take to get that promotion from within the company. However, at the last minute, the rules changed and I was denied. Unfortunately, due to my age, my options for gaining employment are limited. Have you seen the way offices are set up now? People have their dogs running around while they all sit around a community table brainstorming. Not that I wouldn’t like that, because I would, but they want someone working with them that has the same commonalities. They’re thinking about flying to the Alps for an expedition next week, while I’m wondering if my kids will want to watch a replay of Moana or if I’m bold enough to put a new spin on my bean casserole.

A month behind on my rent, I continued to make car payments so I would have a way to work, but the late fees began piling up. As it was initially, we were barely scraping by. In fact, I was using the knowledge that I had to be careful financially to spur me forward in my career. But with the late fees, there was no way to regain my financial footing. Even with the donations my friends managed to gather, it wasn’t one-fourth of what was necessary to climb out. Still, if it hadn’t been for their efforts and what was garnered, we wouldn’t have made it at all. It makes me truly grateful for them sticking their necks out to assist me. You know they say that when hard times come into play is when you discover who your real friends are and realize you didn’t have as many as you thought — but again, you may be surprised at the ones who surface.

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Packing with Nowhere to go

So, what’s the real story, MJ? Where are you today? On August 2nd, I have taken the day from work to represent myself in court to combat an eviction. I know, I know, there are state-appointed attorneys provided for those who cannot afford their own. But think about it, if they were any good, wouldn’t they be working for paying clients? Many of them are so overworked they don’t know or care about the slightest facts of the case – only that it’s another notch in their belt of “accomplishments.” Besides, their entire lives aren’t riding on the judge’s decision. If they lose, they can shrug and move onto the next one after lunch. I’m already having my mail forwarded to a P.O. Box.

So, with my flying high college degree in hand (and yes, they also want their money) and my tail between my legs, I will force my head upward and search for the answers. Until then, my daughter’s 12th birthday is today. On that note, I will leave you to your own devices and begin our family celebration which I have worked extraordinarily hard to make a special day despite our living room being jam-packed with filled cardboard boxes. Having Nikki realize she is extraordinary today is my number one goal.

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Nikki’s favorite breakfast – Texas donut and Nesquik

 

Until you check in again, I will continue breathing deeply and saying to myself, “Breathe in your future and blow out your past.” For there’s nothing being gained by holding onto the past or not contemplating the future. And doing this in four deep breaths always makes me gain my mental faculties a little better. Being a single parent means you’ve accepted the responsibility that no matter what, you will not quit.

Please read next week to see if any solutions mysteriously appear.

 

 

 

Gotta Let the Animal Growl

At the circus, I’m always torn. I mean, I love to see how intelligent the animals are and I’m in awe at every feat they manage. But on the other hand, I’m saddened by the fact they’re supposed to be wild. Emotionally torn, like last night. A responsible person always has demons at war between pleasure and sensibility. For me, last night, I walked the line like a tightrope walker.

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The Greatest Showman (2017)

Being a single parent who works and has no life can be a daunting experience, especially when two opportunities to go out on the same night exist. One gathering was for an open house for a friend’s new business, directly following work. In fact, I left a bit early to attend. I had a beer and rubbed shoulders a bit, making a few connections and walking away with a spectacular work of art from a raffle. I have no idea what the original picture is I’ve won, but I know it’s going to be spectacular. The place I visited is one that anyone with an interest in creating films in Salt Lake should justly visit, and it’s called Creative Guild Studio. I’d go into details, but I’m trying to keep this short and sweet. It was awesome, and you would do better in checking it out for yourself.

When I left this event, I rallied with my new friends from work at an apartment where they partook of “God’s Sweet Rolling Hills.” I’m happy to say I was cautious enough not to

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Remember this scene from film classic Cheech and Chong’s Up in Smoke? (1978)

include myself in this activity. (That’s all I’d need for “you know who” to cause friction for me and my children.) However, I drank several shots of Fire Ball, the best cinnamon whiskey I’ve ever sampled. Needless to say, I’m happy I didn’t get pulled over after resting up, my clothes no longer smelled like Gain clothing detergent. And through the cautions of said friends, I managed being detoured from my nemesis, tequila.

So, after “climbing the ladder and strutting heel to toe across the wire,” I arrived with a few new memories to last me a while longer. I tasted freedom and independence for a moment, and it was good to let my wild animal growl a little.

 

Reaping the Benefits of Military School

Who’s there to drop a load of the kid’s friends to the movies, wait in long lines at the doctor’s office after taking the day from work, fix dinner in work clothes after arriving home from screaming clients all day, or fight for child support because one idiot refuses to pay? The sheriff — um, no, I meant to say, “the parent.” Or in my case, the mom.

As a mother of a teenager, I can say to all other single parents of teens, “Bless you,” especially if they turn out alright in the end. Although my son displays brilliance at the drop of a hat, his social skills are on the precipice of mild insanity, as if he’s afraid he won’t fit in with the guys. The truth is, he’s far better than holding himself back to fit in for two more years. Cameron has a blinding bright future ahead of him.

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 9.01.55 AMWhile being homeschooled, his grades shined like the sun in the heavens — until I began working and expected him to proceed on his own. Meanwhile, his father insisted he’s “normal” and should attend public school. I tried to set clear expectations but caved after being pestered by him and our son. Instead of going to a school focusing on kids with special qualities, I registered him in public school three years ago. Cameron’s grades took a major dip. “He’s new to the system and needs to adjust,” I was told. I backed off and waited — for three years. Each and every year his scores dip lower and lower. His final term last year was below a 2.0.

“That’s it! At the rate you’re going, there will be nothing left to salvage after high school. Universities won’t accept you, much less fight for you, and the military will take you on as one of the lost kids who doesn’t know where else to go after their parents kick them out — as a last resort. This is not a plan! Instead, you’ll attend the Utah Military Academy (UMA) this year.”

Screen Shot 2018-06-04 at 9.27.36 AM.pngNikki, his kid sister, jumps up and down with glee. Her intent is to become a dog-handler for the military or even continue on as a military vet. Whichever she decides, it’s quite a phenomenal feat that makes her mother’s heart swell with pride.

Cameron isn’t so perky about the whole idea. He doesn’t want to abandon his friends and girlfriend this year, especially after we had the big “Condom Talk.” I explained that if he gives it a couple of months, he’ll find he fits right in and probably love it. Meanwhile, he’s determined to get his driver’s license all of a sudden. Hmm, I smell freedom in the wake. With all of this going on, I’ve given him a “bad guy” ultimatum.

If he decides not to attend military school, he’s going to his father’s house because he’s given up. I won’t quit on him even if it means I have to stop being “the good guy.” Now I wonder, am I making the right choice?

 

 

Teen Hormones on a 3-foot Leash

So much has happened, but I’ll fill you in on the most pressing item of parenthood — lack of control with the necessity to work. If you remember, I’m on a 90-day probation period for my new employer, which puts me in an uncomfortable position when things go awry, because I cannot have any time away from work for the first three months without suffering a write-up. I already have one, due to an accident that lengthened my arrival from one hour to an hour and 12 minutes, despite speeding at 90 mph. After two, the write-up goes in front of the council and they determine whether or not you’ll remain.

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Low wages, high stress, no control

Last Friday was the final day of school and an early release. With Cameron dismissed an hour before Nikki, I asked him to pick her up. She usually rides her bike. But I took them out for breakfast. When we were finished, there was no time to go by the house to get Nikki’s things. Besides, she wouldn’t need anything on the last day, right? Wrong.

I dropped Cameron off with $20 so he and Nikki could celebrate getting out early and purchased a yearbook for him to have signed. Off I drove, wondering how the summer will go. Cameron wants to work a summer job. Nikki wanting to swim. (This is a big deal considering a non-English speaking woman nearly drown her in a tub when she was four. Ever since, it’s been a trial even giving her a bath.) Cameron can’t be working while Nikki swims, so it was quite the conundrum. But, I had an hour’s drive with time to consider the options.

When I arrived at work, I submitted a text to Cameron which read, “Hey. respond when you get this… Nikki is out @ 1:15 p.m. Please be there BEFORE that time.” He texted back, “Ok I will.”

Neck-deep in a meeting, taking notes concerning a new system, I ignored my phone until it insisted I answer. I slipped into the hall to answer a call at 1:30 from Nikki, calling from the school’s office, saying he hadn’t come yet. I called six times, and he didn’t answer. As I was leaving a message, he picked up. “Oh,” he said, “I forgot. I’ll go right now.”

 

Cameron's message
Screenshot of my phone

My phone rang and rang within the next couple of hours from a Blocked Caller. Considering them sales calls, I ignored them, I slipped out periodically calling my son to no avail. Worried, I relayed my situation to my instructor, who reminded me that if I leave, I may lose my job. This means I’d also lose my apartment and ability to provide food, etc. for my children.

My mind raced around all the possibilities that may have occurred, preventing both kids from answering their phones. Was my daughter alive?

I hurried into the break room and listened to my messages. There was a call from a police officer, left at 3:55, stating he’s bringing Nikki home from school. She’d waited three hours and her brother never arrived. Because we failed to go home before school, she’d left her phone in her room and couldn’t call Cameron or me herself because the faculty had gone home.

Turns out, he was making out with a girl at the park after going to lunch with the $20. He’d saved enough to purchase frozen burritos for Nikki’s dinner.

The short answer to my solution? I’ve confiscated his phone and texted

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The game’s been set. Will he make a winning choice?

his girlfriend he cannot see her until permission is given. Snapchat and Instagram have been deleted. (And he’s freaking out because he can’t continue his “streaks” on Snapchat, as if it’s the end of the world.)

After three days, Cameron begged me to call his dad who thinks Cameron getting a job is a great idea. I explained that unless Cameron could handle the regular responsibilities, he would not get the privilege of payment.

 

I am signing both kids up at a military academy. Drastic, I get that. But I can’t afford to lose my low-paying position. What else can a mother do with a teen’s raging hormones but pull the leash in?

 

It’s Okay to be a Mother Fluffer

Growing up, my mother wasn’t as strong as she should have been, even though she loved her kids. When it came right down to it, she had taken on having five kids starting at age 17 to a man who already had two. Too much too soon will cost you!

I, on the other hand, had my children much later in life; my first at 36 and my second at 40. One might think that with my seniority, my children would fare better at survival. They’d be wrong. Although I’m more mature than a teenager, my predicament is ending up with men who felt they were young enough to go at it but too old to take responsibility for it. That’s right – single mother both times.

A typical person may believe there’s something wrong with a woman to be jilted twice in a row. Others may think there’s something wrong with the mother’s choices in partners. And, hey, I never claimed to be the most grounded person. The first time was a fortunate fluke at 36 when I didn’t think I could become pregnant. But the second time, we had discussed getting married and having a family, as well as the fact my chances were slimming in time. His words were, “If it’s God’s will, it will happen.” Apparently, it was God’s will for him to leave us high and dry because that’s what happened when the baby was not a hockey player. She’s an intelligent girl. And I’m relieved I never married him.

Screen Shot 2018-05-13 at 11.50.58 PMOn the same note, I still ended up with the most wonderful kids any parent could ever hope to raise.

Today, we all worked together and created a wind chime with tiny cork bottles; each held a teeny note created by each of us, surrounding a larger bottle to chime on.

My son made a wonderful pork chop dinner with pasta and then went outside and cleaned the interior of my car. My daughter purchased a 5-pack of Reeses Peanut Butter Cups. I gave her three. She made out the most incredible card, and this is how it read:

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So I suppose out of all my bad choices, at least two of them were right! The one aspect far different from my own parents I participate in is communicating. I speak to my children about anything and everything, although I use appropriate language. If they’re old enough to ask, they’re curious enough to get the answers from somewhere. If it isn’t me, they’ll find them somewhere else. I’d rather do it, no matter how humiliating it is. Some consider me a Mother Fluffer. That’s okay.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the single parents doing it alone. You should know by now that you’re an incredible Mother Fluffer! What do you do to earn your title?