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Every Parent’s Nightmare

It happened Wednesday. I was in a meeting with 25 clients and colleagues. I never pick up when I’m giving a presentation, but this time I did. It was my daughter. She never calls, she usually texts. I went with my gut, excused myself from the meeting and answered the call.

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Hardship

He wanted to meet up this weekend. It sounded like a good idea over the phone. The problem is it was a meet up. The problem is he lives 150 miles away. The problem is, while the designated meet up point was lovely, it required 40 minutes of drive time and gas expense for me. With three and a half weeks left in this month and, now, $200 left to feed my family of four, I just can’t spend money on that kind of thing.

And how does one explain this without coming off as some sort of destitute woman looking to find someone to financially bail her out, or worse some sort of trailer trash? No offense intended to those who are destitute and live in trailers. I’ve been there. I really have. What I’m talking about is an attitude that oozes “needy” or “rescue me” or “life’s unfair” or even worse, “why bother?”

So, I zipped an email to him stating a partial truth. Due to my daughter’s stage production in a nearby town, she would be needing the car. I would not be able to make it. I said all the right things about how I still wanted to meet up, and I left everything in his court.

Silence.

Not like this is any big surprise. People go silent all the time. After all, he doesn’t know me. I’m merely a few profile pictures, some well-chosen words and a voice over the phone to him. That’s easily forgettable.

Not like I care. I really don’t.

I’m far more worried about how I’m going to feed my kids this month. There isn’t a food kitchen in town that will accept me due to my income, which is pretty decent for the area I live in…if I weren’t dealing with the financial fallout from a horrible marriage and the resulting bankruptcy and car repairs.

I have friends, though, and these friends know how to cook on a pittance. They are helping me with recipes that cost virtually nothing, but which will sustain us. I can hardly wait until this month is over and I can celebrate the fact that we survived. I’m looking forward to being able to post about how we made it through what seemed like impossible odds without over drawing the bank accounts.

You watch. You wait. I’ll win.

After all, everyone experiences hardship, right? So, the real issue is how we deal with it. Do we cave under pressure or do we conquer?

I fully intend to conquer. Caving, while tempting, is just no fun. Kicking a challenge? That pretty much rocks. Living to tell about it? Even better.

Stay tuned.

Surviving Difficulty in 20 Not-So-Easy Steps

Yes, I’ve bemoaned my pitiful luck this month here on several occasions.

No, this is not going to be another down-in-the-mouth, woe-is-me bitch session.

I’m actually going to be positive for a change and since I have only small change, I guess that’s a good thing.

I’ve bemoaned my financial fate of late and poured out my misery as to how deplorable and desperate I really am…economically…right now.

I’d like to make the following observations of the data of my financial life this month:

1. I began the month by ending last month in the negative numbers…oh…about $300. (This is NOT normal for me…at least not since those first few months after leaving The Evil Ex.)

2.  At the end of last month, in addition to the negative bank balance, I had to post-date two checks to my mechanic one for last month and one for May for the water pump that broke.

3. I am still trying to pay off utility bills for the rental unit (aka, my old house that I am walking away from).

4. I started my month with about $200 to pay over a thousand dollars worth of bills.  (That was after I paid some of the other bills first.  I don’t just have a $1,000 overhead.)

5. I was looking forward to a $3300 tax return, the first in 5 years, which would have been a nice windfall, allowing me to get caught up and all and I was required to turn this over to the bankruptcy court trustee.  Thanks to Ms. Trustee, I was allowed to keep the money I received from my partial rent payment I recieved.

6. I put everything possible up for sale on Craigslist.

7. I did have to write one post-dated check to The Good Ex for a hundred bucks to get through this week after the cat started oozing mysterious pus last Friday night. (Please, do not tell me I should have let the poor cat die.)

8. I sold nearly everything I put up on sale, except the stupid juicer, and paid all but two bills, small ones, which I will double pay tomorrow because it is payday in exactly 10 minutes.  At midnight that paycheck will dump in and I can start over for another month. The bills were the water and garbage and I’m writing the checks now for double the amounts.

9. I just checked my bank balances.  I have exactly $7.49. 83 cents of that is my savings.

10.  I have no credit cards.

11.  I have 83 cents in savings.

12. I am NOT overdrawn, in spite of this nightmare of a month.

13. Someone just called about a coffee table I had advertised on Craigslist.  20 minutes after answering that call, I now have $27.49 to my name.

14. I still have a $200 post-dated check that my mechanic will cash on the first and a $100 check that The Good Ex will cash tomorrow coming out of tomorrow’s paycheck, but…

15. I’m not overdrawn!!!!!!!!

This, in and of itself, is a huge step forward for me financially. It is small, but very definite, progress.

16.  I have not had an unexpected car repair this month…and I won’t because the car is parked and I’m not going anywhere tonight.  If it breaks down tomorrow that will come out of next month’s pay.  Let’s hope it does not break down.

17.  I had to pay $150 to an attorney last week on top of having to pay bills, put gas in two large gas-sucking vehicles, and feed a family of five, two of whom are teenagers.

18.  I got all my paper work in to the District Attorney’s office in response to The Evil Ex’s request to review the child support order. I feel better now.

19. I made a decision about what to do about the tenants in my house. I’m terminating the agreement, because I can.  The money and the stress are not worth it.  I feel even better now.

20.  I paid my bills, didn’t go into the red again, and I survived this month.

April 2012 was, by far, the most financially stressful month I’ve had in four years and I made it.

I can, for the first time all month, breathe deep, relax…and feel very, very good about being very, very strong.  Lesser people would’ve slit their wrists or swung from rafters if they faced my difficulties. (They do this because they have life insurance.  I do not have life insurance because I cannot afford it…yet.)

My Life on The Titanic

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.

Sibling Squabbles

One of the most difficult aspects of parenting is when siblings squabble. You know how it starts: Sibling A says a comment to Mom about some random non-threatening topic. Sibling B has some problem with Sibling A for whatever reason and makes some snide insulting remark in response to A’s comment to Mom. A takes offense, as expected, and before you know it there is a full scale war going on.

I hate this.

This is how my afternoon with my teenagers went. My A child has trouble with her B, Brother. She picks on him, mercilessly. She started in when I picked them up after school and by the time we got home, they were about ready to come to blows about who knew more about politics and current events. I’m certain neither of them know anything about politics, but we’ll just let that small minor detail go.

I’d say this happens often, but that would be an understatement. Child A created an art form of mocking and torturing her brother.

No matter what tips, techniques, systems or strategies I use to intervene, it is useless. She continues.

Does anyone have any ideas about how to deal with the child who continually badgers a sibling? I’m at my rope’s end. I don’t exactly want to tie a knot. I’m frustrated, and might just on accident create a noose.

Sickness

The stress and lack of sleep and lack of exercise, but mostly the lack of sleep lately and the stress, weakened my germ fighting abilities.  Early last week, I got sick.  I lost my voice.  Continued to work, which is tough to do in my job, but there were Important and Stressful Events going on so I pushed through it.  This last weekend was my first complete weekend home and all the kids were gone to their respective other homes.  My body must have sensed this, somehow, because I ended up in bed with a pretty severe head cold…which I think…turned into the flu.

This has not been fun.

Of course, now, when I most need rest, I cannot get it.  Even with decongestants and cold medicine my head is so stuffed up I can’t breath and my body hurts so badly I cannot get comfortable enough.  I merely pretend to sleep. Then I get frustrated and come down here and write.  If I don’t write, I’m tossing and turning all night long trying to find that elusive comfortable position in which I can both breath and not have my body screaming at me.  There are many things that keep me up at night; add sickness to the list.

In reality, it is the other things that keep me up at night that contributed to weakening my immunity.  Things like money, relationships, the kids, the ex’s, worries about the future.  The same old stuff.  These concerns haunt me, stalk me, never leave me.  I’ve just made a monumental move at a time of year that is probably the most stressful for me.  The only other time I could think of that would be worse, is Christmas, which is exactly why I chose to move now.  Christmas was the next option.  I knew it would be a push.  I figured it would be worth it.  I pushed.  I pushed hard.  I collapsed.

Now…too congested and in pain to sleep…I think and worry.

I worry about the upcoming pay cuts which will come through on my check this next paycheck.

I worry about the gas I’m now spending with the increase in transporting children around.  Maybe I can offset this by walking or riding my bike to work?

I worry (wonder?) about the relationship I’m currently in.  This could be topic for a whole host of future posts.

I worry about my kids.  I worry about financing Christmas.  I worry about my job.  I worry about how long my car will hold up.  I worry about the fact that I still have money left on my flexible spending account and, yet, nothing I can deduct or get reimbursed.  I worry about aging…and death.

I try not to.  I do.  But in the back of my mind all the “what if’s” lurk and stalk and wait to pounce until nights like tonight when I’m wide awake once again.

 

 

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