Clandestine Life under the Silent Snow

fallen snow
A delicate blanket of freshly fallen snow

When the seasons change, we often find ourselves changing right along with them, and we can either fight against the adversity or utilize the revision.

Our family, like most, go through these modifications on a fairly regular basis. Read the breakdown, and then stop and think about your own family. Will you fight, or will experience mold your loved ones?

My daughter Nikki continues with a mind set on the military ranks, and attends Utah Military Academy, (UMA), but refuses to fall in line. The uniform is donned each day, but her individuality sometimes gets in the way. I’m not sure if it’s because I give in too much or if it’s because I’m never here. Either way, she argues. Thirteen going on thirty–in her dreams. However, Nikki comes to me when she needs money or “special instructions” on growing up, which is a good thing. If anyone’s opinion is used in urging her through life, I’m glad it’s mine. And for her future? Nikki loves animals and is extremely curious about many things.

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A “Whisperer” of sorts, Nikki communicates with animals

Nikki’s an information forager like her mom. Highly gifted, extremely intelligent, and a bit too giving, I hope she realizes these things herself.

My near adult son Cameron, a senior in high school, seems to feel he has a fairly good grasp on life. It’s more than I can say for myself. I’m still scratching my head because his father makes twice the money as me as a construction worker when I have a degree and $100k of debt.

I imagined responsibility and trust when I purchased a box of “protection” for him, but then I refuse giving him a place to “roost.” I am having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that he’s going to be an adult within two months. I’ve tried explaining some of the Rules of Adulthood my parents never took the time to teach me, such as finances, but he probably doesn’t want to take my word for it. I’m not exactly eating at La Caille on a nightly basis. For example, since he’s helping with the rent each pay period, I determined it best to set up Bill Pay with legitimate receipts of his payments. Seeing finances at work before being out on your own seems like a no-brainer if given the opportunity. I’m not sure how much his father teaches him, but he’s a genius with finances. And it’s true I butt in. I’m concerned. I’ve read that the medulla oblongata isn’t fully developed yet. I used to think that’s what determines the choices we make, but that is the lateral habenula.

It actually regulates the respiration and circulatory systems. Not a big surprise that kids who smoke young have a higher chance of disease, including stroke and heart attacks. Although I am not a smoker, I hope Cameron has stopped rolling the dice.

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A harder worker won’t be found than Cameron

We’ve had discussions about the damage smoking can cause, but he doesn’t appear to hear me. And I fail to dismiss him when he attempts educating me of smoking benefits. But there are a truckload of wonderful things I can say about Cameron. He thinks for himself, and even though the end results don’t particularly jive with my opinion, he researches to discover answers for himself without taking the word of someone else–most times. He loves to make people laugh, which is highly effective in communicating. There have to be times when he wants to scream, duck under his bed and never come out. I appreciate the support he gives by being a role model–which clearly isn’t something he signed up to be. Cameron’s working so hard on being responsible under so much stress, even working at Market Street Broiler. I honestly wish it didn’t have to be this way and he could just be a kid.

As for myself, in my early 20’s, a doctor prescribed a drug to me when I was there for a routine physical for work. I was always raised to trust doctors, so I did, regardless of never having met this particular doctor previously. Mistake. Retrograde and anterograde amnesia took over, separating me from my employ and negating my attendance in school for a degree in law.

A few years later, I dated a handsome hairdresser named Eric. Because the amnesia interfered with both my job and attending school, I became an exotic dancer to support myself. I didn’t have to be extremely brilliant for that career. I attempted school several more times but couldn’t retain the information enough to remain enrolled. Immediately following a session of lovemaking, it happened again. I remember staring up at the ceiling with my boyfriend Eric leaning over me and panicking. His roommate, Thomas, blasted into the room saying some sort of prayer while rubbing my face with his hands. I was revived and seemed fine afterwards, never putting the two incidents together.

About a decade ago, I worked at the state prison, and with the pressures of single parenting two tiny kids, while trying to please a supervisor who never did like me, I cracked and had another episode. Unable to recall who had my kids, I was fortunate enough to have a co-worker, Renata, scroll through my phone, reciting the names until I remembered the daycare. Renata called my brother to get the kids and hustled me off to the hospital. I was told it was a TIA (transient ischemic attack) or a mini-stroke. The chances of someone experiencing this has a one in three chance of experiencing a stroke. Thank goodness ways exist in helping prevent a stroke for those who have heard “warning shots.” 

Since, I’ve had spells of breathing incidents, which I thought were asthma, until last week on November 19th, when it happened again. This neurological episode was a bit worse. I was awake but unresponsive after crashing to the floor next to my desk. It took a while before I could respond, although I could hear and see everything that crossed in front of my staring eyes. Later, the doctor explained I’d had yet another TIA. Each time, the effects are different but the outcome is the same. I cannot communicate, but I can see and hear. There is no feeling beneath my skin, when I get injections, etc, but I can feel fingers gripping my arms. It’s very much like being in a dead body with my eyes open.

The doctor suggested I get the flu shot, even though I’m opposed to having the government inject their newly fashioned liquids into my body, because she said a tango with the flu right now could kill me. I’m borderline stroke/heart attack, pre-diabetic, and have extremely high cholesterol.

Pine needles
Enjoy the temporary softness before the needles protrude again

I’m 53 now. Better make the final years count by having deliberate life changes and appreciating time with my kids. After all, life sings daily about love, acceptance, learning, and togetherness.

So, in lieu of the holiday season, I give you a delightful scene from our balcony. Beautiful, white, gently fallen snow. You may look with wonder–but do not touch. You see, if you peer closely, you’ll see that beneath the eye-catching crystallized white are small, green, frozen needles that can stab into your fingers. The needles are permanent and the snow creates a temporary softening. You can take advantage of the temporary beauty or eagerly await the arrival of the pine needles. It’s all in how you envision your life.

Take a Walk on the Wild Side

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.)

 

Teaching my Children what I Never Learned from my Parents

Growing up, do you remember saying to yourself, “I’ll never do this to my kids!” And then, after you’ve grown, you find yourself saying the exact phrases verbatim that your parents used on you? I have, and I have to admit it’s daunting. But what about the things you learned NOT to do because of the examples you’ve been shown? That’s what I want to talk about — the examples you learn NOT to follow.

We’re homeless. Typically, that’s a sad situation that no one wants to find themselves in. My situation resembles that of a movie — it’s obvious what’s going on, but nothing anyone can do will ever stop it. Stiff upper lip and figure it out for yourself.

I grew up with an example of women bowing to men, waiting on them when they arrived home from work, slippers in hand, with their dinner on the table. Sort of like that Eddie Murphy movie, Coming to America. I’m certain few people watch the comedy to be reminded of their mothers. The image of the beautiful princess hopping on one foot and barking like a dog never ceases to amaze me. It does, however, remind me of my mother. And worse, how she taught me to behave. This, of course, led to the search for abusive relationships–which I found quite easily. All I had to do was be enticing.

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In Coming to America, the princess reveals her favorites are the same as the prince; whatever he likes she likes.

My confidence is shattered to the point I can’t even trust myself to consider having a meaningful relationship–I don’t know how. Besides, it isn’t worth the risk of putting my children in harm’s way to take the gamble. Instead, I flounder in an underpaid position, determined to prove my worth to advance in the company with my acquired knowledge. Without inspiring examples, I’m still struggling to learn the correct way to teach my children to grow differently than what I was taught. I want them to be strong! However, teaching what you don’t know is a trying test to be sure.

In my attempt to strengthen them, they’re currently enrolled at Utah Military Academy where they will learn self-reliance and fortitude — things I’m still learning myself. I know, it isn’t fair to anticipate schools acting as parents. But, when the skills are those I have limited knowledge of, aware my children require the guidance, I have little choice. With that in mind, my pride wells with Cpt. Elliott and Maj. Workman of UMA, for stepping in as role models for my kids’ future.

Kids with Cpt Elliott and Maj Workman

Upon the realization we were to be rendered homeless, I sought out the least expensive Air BNB I could find. (For those who aren’t aware, this is when residents lease a portion of their home out to travelers.) For two weeks, I landed a location for just under $400. A steal! Granted, it wasn’t much to brag about, and the other life forms had us sign a treaty before we settled in. The people were from Venezuela, spoke little English, but were genuinely courteous and did what they could to make us comfortable. Worth the money!

Screen Shot 2018-08-15 at 7.59.41 AMWhen our time expired, we sought out a homeless shelter. The scum on the walls practically sang and danced. My kids were so uncomfortable, I determined I needed to use my 2-week paycheck for my phone bill and a hotel for a couple of nights–$650 only goes so far. We continued awaiting our turn at a particular shelter geared toward families for nearly two months. It’s called Family Promise. But when the opportunity still did not present itself, we returned to the homeless shelter. They’d lost our records. While they searched for the following twenty-five minutes, I watched the other families enter and exit. My daughter tapped my arm. “I’d rather sleep in the car,” she said. My son agreed. I explained there wasn’t enough room in the car because the trunk was full and 3/4 of the rear seat had the remainder of what wasn’t in the storage unit. They insisted. My mother’s instincts verified they were correct. We left with the representative pounding on the glass window and calling to us to come back. The huge raindrops plummeting down on us felt great.

The next three days were torture. I slept crammed behind the steering wheel with little room to adjust the seat, but the other two weren’t any better off. Cameron’s long legs were crammed under his chin in the front seat, and Nikki was wrapped in a fetal position in the back. We slept in a variety of spots if you can call it sleep, waking up feeling like a gum wad peeled from beneath a diner’s table.

The first night, in a Fed Ex parking lot, I was awakened by what I considered a drug deal going down. I figured if they didn’t see the car in the shadows, we were okay. When they left, I went back to sleep. Two hours later, I awakened to another pair of headlights arriving a couple few yards away at an old camper. A young girl with her arms full of clothing on hangers was followed by an older guy handling a flashlight. That was my cue to leave.

We moved to an out of the way place up on the bench, overlooking the valley. We’d sneak into a grocery store early in the morning with toothbrushes and combs before changing our clothes, one at a time, in the car, behind a church. The kids stayed at Cameron’s dad’s house while he worked during the day, and I went to work, pretending everything was normal–keeping my distance from those who might detect my secret if I got within a close proximity, and I spoke a lot less those days.

The woman running the program in Ogden was beyond strange and particularly demeaning in an ignorant sort of way. But the extremely friendly and helpful one, Alyssa in Salt Lake, was an absolute breath of fresh air. I could tell she wasn’t marking checks next to a list as she spoke but treated me as if I was a friend who hadn’t seen me for a while. I really needed that, especially after our second night in the car when she had us sign the entry papers. Only one more night in our cramped quarters. But the following night, it happened for us; a warm, clean place to sleep — without eight-legged visitors. Still, we’d need to adjust.

Out of gasoline, I awakened at 7:00 a.m. Saturday to check the bank for Dan’s child support payment. We haven’t received one since the 10th of August and he’s still behind from the last time. It wasn’t there. What was there was a debit for my school loan that was set up for deferment. It set me back $84. When I called the collection agency, she told me she couldn’t refund the money, but she could reject future collections until they switched companies again. I definitely needed money–just to get to work for the next week. But by the time I got paid, I’d be over $125 behind.

Because the process of re-enrolling for plasma donating is extenuating and long, I determined to continue in Ogden rather than spending 5 hours signing up at a new location for one or two times. Nikki and I climbed into the car with the knowledge arriving with the fuel remaining was a gamble. I dropped her at the library and drove to the donation center with a furiously blinking light. I just prayed they wouldn’t mess me up and send me away without payment. It’d happened before, but if it happened today, we’d be stranded over 50 miles from where we sleep.

Traffic was built up due to an accident. If we made it, I was sure to miss my appointment. I pulled off the freeway into a parking lot and popped the trunk. Getting my computer out, I quickly changed my appointment, setting it out an hour and crossed my fingers we’d still have enough fuel to make the journey. I exhaled loudly as I safely arrived.

Unfortunately, the first arm got messed up when donating plasma. It was the first time I worked as hard as I did not to scream. Instead, my back arched and my eyes welled with tears, but the machine stopped pumping. That arm was done. They wrapped red gauze around my elbow and asked if they could use my right arm. I agreed, but my arm didn’t. With both elbows tightly wrapped in bright red gauze, they sat me down on a chair and handed me a Gatorade, instructing me to drink it before leaving.

Have you ever tried drinking from a container with mummified elbows? As if that wasn’t enough, when that was over, I had to use the restroom. Pulling my pants up was the least of my problems in there. Driving wasn’t fun either. But, I had enough fuel to make it to the service station. Someone raced me for the last pump, however, I managed to beat the old woman who gave me a crusty expression and waited in line somewhere else. My fuel light was blinking desperately, and I wasn’t about to run out of gas in line. After all, I had $45 now.

I ran the cash card through the pump and the read-out told me to speak with the cashier. When I did, she said, “That’s because you can only run the card through once before you use it, not a bunch of times.” The cashier eyed my suspiciously wrapped elbows in target-red gauze before straightening up as if talking to a child. I explained I only ran it once, but she repeated herself. “Listen,” I said, “Would you run it through in there for me?” When she did, she inspected my wrappings again before gaining contact with my face. “How much?”

“Thirty, please.”

It worked! I still had fifteen dollars left. I knew Nikki would be hungry. I was certainly hungry after our close call and having to eagerly stuff our faces before leaving earlier. But this money had to last at least a week. Without the child support of Dan K Anderson, the next few months were going to be slim. My total income from my entry-level position and child support from Cameron’s dad would be $1,815 per month. Hardly enough to support three people. But that’s what he’s counting on. I have another plan.

I picked Nikki up from the library, we stopped at Maverick, and I sent her to get one Redbox movie, a drink for me, and a treat for her. She’s awesome! I didn’t want to get out of the car, due to my bright red elbows, which had to remain wrapped and constricting for at least two hours. But that was dashed when she was unable to retrieve the movie. She did go in and return with Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups to share and a large Dr. Pepper which I shared with her.

The following day was Sunday, the day we were to pack up and change locations. We were moving to a church this time. The three of us would share a room prepared with three air mattresses and clean linens, along with fresh towels. We’ll continue doing this until we are capable of providing for ourselves. For us, this is either six months when I get a raise, or when they relocate us to a place called LifeStart Village. Although the second choice is sort of like a low-security prison, it’s better than my car and even better than wondering if Dan will get his way and win the battle. My objective — to land on my feet. Sure, I won’t have forgotten Dan. But for now, my focus is on ensuring my kids grow strong and resilient, understanding that ultimately they have control of their lives.

Kids in UMA Jeep

The one lesson my parents never did educate me about — being self-sufficient and independent. One needs to do this before getting married. Otherwise, prone to an abusive relationship. Difficult changes must happen one patient step at a time. I’m crossing my fingers I can create change in my children’s lives quickly enough.

Brand New Nikki with Big Brother Cameron