And then there was the evening when I finished off the last of the whiskey, drained the vodka, emptied the tonic and ran out of ice. The gin had been ingested and digested a week ago. I was determined to stop with the evening cocktail or glass of wine and get up the next morning and complete a full workout. I was going to do it. I wasn’t in the mode of telling myself “I should do this for me.” I was in the frame of mind (which is difficult to muster artificially) that “I was going to do this thing.” That “I could do this thing and I could start whatever I needed to start, change whatever I needed to change and I would not quit until I had achieved it.” So, after finishing off a very small whiskey on the rocks, I went to bed determined to get up and get started on my new life.
This, after completely gorging on dinner that evening.
This, after saying a thousand times I was going to start only to start and fall off the wagon or skip the exercise or eat the pasta again and again and again.
But this time it was different. There was no mental waffling or fear of failure. It was a solid way of thinking. It was going to happen, and I was going to do it. Read the rest of this entry
Transitions have always been difficult and often turbulent for me. In my last position, in the last two years before I ended up on what amounts to an extended (maybe permanent?) vacation, I remember it taking me a good month before I felt like I had control of my schedule so that I knew when and where I needed to be at what times and could make arrangements for the kids. Since the children were older, these arrangements largely meant making sure I had food in the refrigerator for them and that they knew what time to expect me home and where to reach me in an emergency. It just always seems to take so long for me to feel like the transition is finally our life. But we made it through that transition and before I knew it I was busier and more stressed than I ever imagined possible. There’s a point to where trying to achieve too much is just…too much. Read the rest of this entry
I must confess. I have not been up late at night…much…lately. I’ve been sleeping very well and feeling good when I wake up the next day. Never mind that I was sick for two weeks with food poisoning. My bills are paid. There is food in my cupboards. And there’s a wee little bit to offset the unexpected thing that might come up. It is amazing how having a little extra cash in the bank and a car that is reliable changes one’s outlook on life. It’s also pretty incredible how that makes it easier to sleep. It’s been a good month. Or rather, a good couple of weeks. I can’t complain. And I won’t start now, even though, life has turned on the proverbial dime for me, once again. Read the rest of this entry
There are rare occasions when I find myself wide awake in the wee hours of the night, but the reason does not originate from the stress in my life. I’m not awake because I can’t sleep. I’m awake, instead, because I have slept and quite soundly. Such was the case this morning.
I’ve already been up and made coffee, silenced my alarm before it could sound, wandered around the house checking in on each of my four sleeping children. The cats, nocturnal, vaporous beings that they are, slink past me, around me, as I move through the house, like water around boulders in some ethereal stream.
This morning I’m waxing reflective about the journey my little family has been on for the last 12 years. I ponder the heartbreaks, the tragedies, the disappointments, the obstacles, the defeats. Read the rest of this entry
Parenting is tough enough when there are two parents in the home. It is even more challenging when a parent has to parent solo. There is no longer another person to help out with getting kids to various activities and events. There isn’t another person to help with the cooking, grocery shopping and household chores. By the time the afternoon taxi runs are done, dinner is finished and cleaned up, a single parent is often ready to collapse, but then, there is homework to supervise, or television to monitor, or any number of things that require tending to. The life of a single parent is often one of sheer fatigue and exhaustion. And that’s if the parent is in good health. Should a single parent come down with the flu, life then becomes impossible.
I used to think, when I was married, that moms were never able to get sick. My husbands, when they got sick, collapsed and could have cared less about what went on around them. And I, being the dutiful wife, made sure they were unable to sleep undisturbed until whatever it was passed. Sadly, I have never had these kindnesses reciprocated. During the few times I did get sick, I was not allowed to sleep, I was constantly interrupted by children’s demands. I was still expected to cook and clean as if nothing was the matter. In my second marriage, I contracted walking pneumonia and had just been told by the doctor that I was ill enough to be admitted to the hospital. She left the choice up to me and I went home. My sensitive husband, having just heard the doctor’s diagnosis, decided to have all of his relatives (some 23 or more) over at our house for an afternoon. Imagine it. 23 people, most of them loud, obnoxious children, in our 1400 square foot home. I should have taken up the offer for hospitalization. This is just one of many reasons why he is now known to me as “The Evil Ex”.
This weekend, I was sick. Not just runny nose, coughing kind of sick. I was flat-on-my-back-couldn’t-move sick. It started out as a sore throat, and the next day every muscle in my body hurt so badly I was nearly paralyzed with pain. I was a little congested, but not much, and no cough. No nausea, except for a few hours one evening. I just could not move, and I had the worst headache ever…for three days. I haven’t been that sick in a very long time.
Needless to say, everything in my world stopped.
No laundry was done. No groceries shopped for. No housecleaning happened. Nothing.
In my world, if these things don’t get done during the weekend, they don’t get done until the next weekend, and that creates problems for us in getting through the week. Since my dryer is still not working, I had to wait until I had enough energy and strength to haul the wet laundry down the stairs and into the car to go to the laundromat and dry them. Then, of course, there’s the return trip where I haul the dry laundry up the stairs and put it away. Fixing meals? Thank goodness I had some of those quick microwave burritos on hand or my kids would have starved. That combined with the fact that it was a weekend where my kids were all at their other homes made it possible for me to get some rest and sleep it off. I’m feeling better now. Still weak. Dizzy. But I can move. I have some energy to do small tasks, if I rest in between.
At times like these, I truly wonder how we single parents make it through. I am grateful my kids are older and can do most things for themselves. They understand that I’m not up to par and they pretty much leave me alone. My heart goes out to those single parents dealing with younger children, and fewer resources or support systems than I have. I wonder how they make it through.
Eleven more days until payday and miraculously I have more money in the bank than I had at this time last week. It isn’t much more, I got a rebate check in the mail, which helped. Twelve days. Most of the month is behind me. This has been tough, but not nearly as tough as it would have been had I not had the money in the bank when those big bills hit. While, I hated, and will hate, for quite some time the fact that my work money from this summer evaporated in ways that were not of my choosing, I am glad I bit the bullet and paid them in full rather than opting to pay them over a few months. The payment plan deal would certainly have made my financial life easier this month, but would have made it more difficult down the road and for longer. At least, after these next twelve days, I can move on and don’t have extra bills to pay. This is certainly a good thing.
I’ve started another countdown this week. 135 days till I achieve my weight loss goal. I have started this countdown a million times over the last five years, but somehow, I never quite had the determination to carry it through. I’m not sure I have the determination even now.
Here’s what I do know. The Monday after the Full Pitcher Of Beer Day, I reluctantly stepped on the scale, fully expecting it to register an all-time non-pregnancy high. I was stunned to discover that since the Gone Boyfriend left, with no effort and plenty of drinking, I was actually down five pounds. Weird.
After finishing off the last ounce of gin in a very weak cocktail Monday evening, I have had nothing alcoholic to drink since. I started walking the track during my daughter’s volleyball practices, and while I haven’t significantly changed what I eat, I have changed how much of it I eat. I’ve recorded a loss every day. I’ve now lost a total of eleven pounds since mid-August. This put my total weight loss yet to achieve at under 40 pounds, which is psychologically motivating and completely doable.
In the past,I have tried to motivate myself by thinking I’d love to be wearing smaller sizes and wouldn’t it be great to look and feel sexy back in skinny jeans again? Somehow this motivation wasn’t strong enough to keep me at it. This might be because, even at 50 pounds overweight, I still get looks from the opposite sex. I still have people hitting on me in the grocery store and on the bus (leper colonies, but still), and, honestly, I was having too much fun hanging out sipping the calories, enjoying the atmosphere and copping a beer buzz on the sunny Saturday afternoons…and every other afternoon besides. This changes last Monday. For some reason, after that afternoon with the mammoth beer pitcher, something changed.
I haven’t sorted all of it out quite yet. A big part of it, to be sure, is that I have come to dislike myself once I’ve had too much to drink. I also, don’t like how uncomfortable I feel most of the time. Lately, though, I’ve been dealing with the eventual and current reality of aging. When I was in my twenties, the second half of my life seemed so far away. As I moved through my thirties and early forties, it was easy to ignore the fact that I was getting older. I didn’t look older, and other than a few aches and pains I didn’t feel older. Lately, the fact that, I hope to live until well into my 90’s has “weighed heavily” (ha.ha.) on me. Thinking about life then, forces me to consider what I want my life to be like next year, in five years in ten years, etc. watching aging people struggle to get on the bus, or battle with weight to the point that they are relegated to a wheelchair or scooter, is not a lifestyle that seems easy nor enjoyable.
Of course, we can never tell the future, but we can certainly do our best to put the odds in our favor. My body might develop another more serious case of cancer, I could have a stroke, I might have a heart attack, I could die in an automobile accident, my lung could collapse. (This last actually did happen recently to a friend of mine who is nearly a decade younger than I.) on the other hand, my medical history is good. I have been active and involved in some sport most of my life. My body tends to withstand illness and heal quickly. If I get myself back in the best physical condition I can be in for my age, eat right, get plenty of rest (the last one is going to be tough), there is no reason to believe that the last half of my life can’t be better than the first half. Packing the extra weight around, certainly lessens my odds of aging well. In addition, it’s bad enough that my extra weight slows me down when I’m out cycling. It will really be bad when my aging, weakened body has to struggle to cope with the extra weight. This is not the future I want for myself.
Weight loss for women becomes now difficult as we age, so the time is definitely now if I’m going to lose this weight I gained when I got pregnant with my youngest child. That child is now 11. My life is now stable. There’s not the chaos of an abusive, dysfunctional marriage or relationship. There’s financial challenge, and while worrisome and annoying at points, things are not declining and will improve. My kids are older and don’t need me to manage them every minute. Now is the time to focus on me. After all, old age is not for weaklings. I fully hope to make the second half of my life a marathon rather than a sprint to the finish. In order to do that I need to drop the weight and get in shape.
50 more years of quality, healthy, strong living…I hope.
I wonder, is it my payment for doing a good deed or is it just that somewhere along the line, maybe when I was a kid, (I was a really bratty kid and lied a lot to my parents) I earned up some really bad karma. Or maybe, it is that bad things, sometimes really bad things, happen to good people. I don’t know. My right wing fundamentalist evangelical Christian friends might say it is because I’m being punished by God for not attending church every week, tithing, and being a faithful servant. Well, as for not attending church, tithing and being faithful they’d be completely accurate. I’m just not sure that’s how God rolls though. I mean, think about it, when Jesus walked the earth he hung with some of the lowest of the low according to society and the religious elite of the day. Rahab, a harlot, was used to save some godly peeps and, well, I kinda think God tends to look past the mess in our lives right into our very inner being and that is where he deals with us on an individual basis. I think the outer stuff, the yuck that I am dealing with now, is just life. It is also the result of me being a naive person, when I should not have been. It is also the result of me simply making some very foolish choices. Hindsight is always 20/20.
But about the next bad thing that has happened in my life. The thing that makes me wonder what kind of evil karma I built up throughout my life only to have it be dumped out on me this year has to do with the rental. I’ve only alluded to it. Here’s most of the story.
Last year, I made the decision to go through bankruptcy (actually a smart decision given all the details which I will not disclose here). In the process, I decided to surrender my home. This was also a smart financial decision when you run the numbers, again, something I won’t bore you with here. This was not a case of me being angry at the bank for whatever reason. I just wanted to make a fresh start financially and the home was more financial and physical burden than I was going to be able to deal with. However, the entire process has ended up taking far longer than expected (over a year and counting). I knew it would take some time and I was not able to stay in the house and risk a move during the middle of the school year. I have three school age kids and my own career would not have been able to accommodate such a transition at such a time. I was getting legal heat from the Evil Ex and needed to make sure my daughter was enrolled in a good school and that she was doing well and liked it. I decided to move to a nearby town and in September we found a place to rent and settled it. And that, was going to be that…or so I thought.
I was approached by a friend….(you can see this coming, can’t you?)…who mentioned that her son and two friends were looking for a place to rent temporarily and would I be interested. Well, no, not really. I mean, I really had no desire to be a landlord or make the place a rental; I just wanted out. But this was a friend I have known and worked with for 14 years. Her kids and my kids grew up together, went to school together and our kids are now graduating together. This woman has impeccable character and is a top notch quality person. Her son is also. The friends came highly recommended. So, I did a bit of research, wrote up a rental agreement, we all signed it, they paid their move in money and I moved out. I left the place in pretty decent shape. It wasn’t perfect. I had some stuff in the garage still to move out, but the place was, for all intents and purposes, a clean and homey dwelling. The friends of the friend’s son turned out to be disastrous.
Things started being a problem almost right away. I’d drive by the place and see that it wasn’t being maintained, then the rent began to come in partial payments. Two months in and I was working on evicting them. Fortunately, they ended up getting out within the 30 days after being served the rental termination notice. Then I got another renter in, who was actually, at first, responsible and timely in her payments. She got some roommates to help share the rent and utility expenses and all was golden. That lasted about two months and things began falling apart. There were violations of the rental agreement, which I followed up and she attempted (though not satisfactorily) to remedy and I gave her a 30-day notice of termination of the rental agreement (we have a month-to-month). Rent was not paid completely last month and rent didn’t appear at all on the first. I went by to collect on the first, no response. I went by the next day. The house looks deserted, but the door is wide open. No answer when I ring the bell. I try contacting my tenant with no response. I drive by the house the next day, the door is closed, otherwise there is still no sign of life. The dog does not bark when I go to the door. This goes on for a week and I’m beginning to think they’ve abandoned the house. Finally, I get in touch with the tenant, over a week after the missed payment and the termination notice. She confirms that she received the notice. She also confirms that they have indeed abandoned the place, with the intent to come back for her stuff by the end of the month; the others have already gotten all their things out. In a phone conversation, I express my concern about the security of the home if no one is living there. She agrees that she will get her stuff moved out within the week and move the rest of her stuff to the garage. I gave her till the end of the month to get her stuff out of the garage. In exchange I get the possession of my home and I won’t go after her for the late rent. Her week to move her stuff ended yesterday. Today, after my radiation treatment, I went over to the house to check things out.
This is the scene that greeted me when I drove up to the home:
I just had a really bad feeling about this. I immediately texted my tenant asking about all the stuff and she actually texted back saying she’d had a garage sale and this was the leftovers. On the mattress, there is a sign that reads, “Free. Please take.”
This is what the living room looked like when I entered:
Those are the window blinds that were in great condition when I moved out…now all broken and scattered on the floor. The big black stain in the middle of the carpet was not there when I moved out. You can’t see it well from here, but there is also smoke damage on the fireplace brick. Nice. Here’s the other side of the living room:
It gets better, before we head back to the bedrooms, let’s check out the kitchen.
The back slider was left open. Check out the grass in the back yard. We left them a lawn mower. It sure looks like they made good use of it. Here are views of each side of the kitchen:
And some food for any guests that might stop by:
I just can’t fathom how people can operate like this. They were in violation of their rental agreement for trash being left around. I gave her the appropriate amount of time according to state law to correct the problem. An attempt was made, but it was nowhere near satisfactory. Look what they left behind in terms of trash:
The thing that really irks me about this is that for the entire time I was renting this house to both sets of tenants, I paid for the garbage service which included a recycling bin and a yard debris container. What kind of mentality is it that thinks that it is okay to live in squalor like this let alone leave it for someone else to pick up? But let’s just do a quick tour of the rest of the home. My skin is beginning to crawl and I’m glancing around for the rubber gloves and sanitizer.
Part of the rental agreement stipulated no smoking in the house or garage. Apparently, the rules don’t apply to these folks.
Those aren’t just carpet stains you see in that picture with the pillow in the corner. That is dog poop on the carpet.
Of course, no rental trashing by tenants is complete without some damage to the walls. This hole is about a foot long from top to bottom.
That wasn’t the only hole either, but it was definitely the largest one. In all there were three holes in walls, and a wall had been repainted a hideous purple-blue color. The wall was previously white. Other damage to the home included damage to lighting fixtures:
Broken glass on the floor:
Last night I felt it start. That sore, scratchy feeling that you hope is merely seasonal allergies. It turns out it might be something worse; upper respiratory something or other.
I’m exhausted from battling the sneezing and running eyes and nose. Now I have a cough.
The downside to being a parent is that you sometimes get what they got. Sadly, parents, especially single parents, don’t get the luxury of being able to be sick.
I am also out of NyQuil.
Today I had my 5th of what is scheduled to be 33 treatments of Radiation Therapy. I call it my Rad Therapy. One of my friends, who has a much more serious cancer situation than I, told me that I’d meet people scheduled at the same time and get to know them. Well, it didn’t take long. On my second day, I started to get to know this other woman pretty well. At least, we talked easily and seemed to have much in common. She had the same treatment I was having; radiation, no chemo required. I was looking forward to not spending time alone and silent in a waiting room.
Today, she celebrated her last day of Rad Treatments. She was so excited. When she came out, she had extra stuff: a certificate and something else they gave her, which I’m forgetting. I didn’t notice because I was dealing with an unexpected rush of emotion. What was that? Where did that come from?
As she hugged her sister happily and collected her things to go, we said the customary, “Best of everything to you,” statements and then, just like that she was gone, and I was being called back for my treatment.
I will probably never see her again.
I am sad about that.
I didn’t even remember her name.
We didn’t exchange numbers. I would like to know how she is doing in the future.
I think life is a funny thing. No one wants to be diagnosed with cancer, and I certainly have it far less than some I know. But the most bizarre and surreal thing about this entire journey is that of all the things I am dealing with in my life right now, this one is the least stressful and easiest for me to cope with. There have also been great moments of joy tinged with sadness, like the one this afternoon as I watched my friend revel in completing this leg of her journey. I was very happy for her and a little sad that I won’t be seeing her every day after work anymore.
I feel a little lonely again. Sometimes when you’re heading down a new and unfamiliar road to an unknown destination, it helps to have a walking buddy. Kind of like the toys in “Toy Story” when they all had to find a moving buddy. Somehow Life is moving me. In January, it picked me right up and put me on this road marked by frequent stops for medical services. Like always, I’m an inquisitive traveler, so I’m learning a lot. I’m not afraid. I am very happy about how things are going in this part of my life.
But I’m going to need a new moving buddy.
This time, I’m going to make sure I get her name.
Someone once stated, “All we have to fear is fear itself.” For the most part, I’d agree. I have my own statement about fear, “Fear never made a good decision.” Today, as I faced my first of 33 sessions of radiation, I wonder if facing the unknown isn’t also a valid enough cause for fear. By unknown, I don’t mean the unknown where the possible risks or consequences are relatively minor. I’m talking about the high stakes unknown where the risks are great and the consequences unknown or potentially damaging, lasting, or life threatening.
My life is a convergence of unknowns right now. This creates a great deal of stress for me. Stress is not good for our health and even more so with those dealing with cancer or pre-cancer. I liken my life to a vessel like the Titanic, which is large and carries the responsibility for the lives and futures of many. I’m not a control freak, but I do like to have my cake and eat it too, whenever possible. I like everyone to be able to do their life and attend all their events. With five or six schedules to deal with, this can be a challenge. I find that if I know in advance, I can usually plan things or get the needed help or money in order to make it all happen. As long as I know far enough in advance, I can maneuver around the icebergs in life and make sure it is smooth sailing for everyone.
When navigating icy seas at night, charting a course that is mostly unknown is, to me, terrifying in many ways. Of course, not many are gifted in seeing the future. This unknown is always with us, and for the most part, I don’t worry a bit about it. But today, lying in that treatment room, both arms frozen over my head, alone, with only the buzzing, clicking and spinning of a very large, intimidating, flat-faced one-eyed machine to keep me company, I felt my first really strong emotions since this whole breast cancer journey started. it wasn’t panic, but it was something close. It wasn’t fear, but it was something close to fear. There was great sadness there, too, along with wonder and a substantial dose of gratitude, which is always part of my emotional palette. Maybe it was just the fact that I was tied down in a room with a very large and intimidating machine that seemed to move of its own volition that spooked me.
The radiation treatment took barely 25 minutes from the time I walked in the building to the time I walked out. I feel nothing…yet. More blue ink drawn on me to ruin my clothing and, with no great fanfare, I’m off to a day of making life smooth for everyone; dodging icebergs along the way and retorting as needed.
But I’m scared.
What if I have made and am making devastating choices with irreversible consequences?
What if the results of these decisions, intended to make the sailing through life smoother for us all, actually make things worse?
And…the question that plagues me and can really make me crazy if I let it…what if…instead of getting better, things don’t ever get better…or they get worse?
Then of course, there are other unknowns, more practical ones.
What is my schedule for radiation treatment going to be? Will I need to take more time off? How will my body respond? Will I be able to continue work without having to take any time off? My last treatment is scheduled to be June 5. That is three days before the last day of school. How will this impact the rest of the school year? How long will the effects of radiation last and how will that impact my summer?
Then, there are issues about the school district discovering my recent move and insisting I complete an inter-district transfer, since my new address is out of the district where my two older children attend school. This gets tricky because it means both districts must approve the request. If they do not, then I have a daughter, who within seven weeks of graduation will have to face finishing her senior year at another high school. Now, I can’t imagine any school district official being so evil as to insist that this happen, but budgets being what they are, school districts are less likely to grant transfers than they have in the past. I will also have a son, who at the end of his sophomore year, will have to attend high school where they have none of the activities that he is currently involved in.
On a side note, you might wonder why I moved if the high school in the district I was moving to was inadequate. The move was a good one, for my youngest. The entire family, even the high-schoolers were, and still are, in favor of moving to where we moved. I just didn’t imagine the transfer issue would be a big deal. I’m now hearing that it could be. I don’t yet know. I filled out the paperwork and we will just have to wait and see. It’s an iceberg I can’t exactly dodge or move right now. I’m kind of hope it’s a mirage and it will evaporate as I approach.
Then there is the added stress of the Evil Ex seeking a modification of the child support. The unknowns here were more frightening until I met with my attorney this afternoon. I had to part with $150 hard earned dollars, but it was money well spent and good information I received. She was able to paint a picture of the worst likely scenario (bad, but not intolerable). She was also able to paint a realistic picture of what was likely to happen. This helps me chart the course through the iceberg strewn sea of Post-Divorce Dealings With The Evil Ex.
In other posts, I’ve mentioned the financial iceberg that creates stress as it slides along the ship that is our family. I worry that any day now an edge will puncture us and we will sink. For now, we remain afloat.
The icebergs continue to converge with no relief. One after another appears out of the fog of unknown possibilities and they are all frightening in their own way. I can’t do anything about them right now…I can’t even see them clearly enough to know which direction to turn the ship. All I can do is survive today. And after today, tomorrow. And after tomorrow, the next day. I hope that, by so doing, I will eventually find that I have successfully maneuvered my way through the icy currents I’m experiencing to warmer, more pleasant waters.