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Posts Tagged ‘single moms’

[This first appeared on this blog on November 7, 2007]

It started as one of those absolutely marvelous days, only to turn quite bad!

After a delicious morning of incredibly well-behaved and productive students, at lunch time the Principal complimented me on the day’s writing lesson which she and the Superintendent had observed. Everyone in the faculty room heard her compliments and they gave me a thumbs up! I was feeling very successful, even blissful. After lunch my students brought me sweet notes and pictures they had made for me, along with the healthy parts of their lunches they hadn’t eaten. At dismissal, I let them all go and had a short parent conference then packed my bag with the papers I would have to correct that night. Watching the clock, I headed for my car.

As I drove toward two different schools to collect my daughters, I carried the dreamy feeling with me, not allowing it to escape, even when faced by “after school traffic.” Knowing that Tina and Susie would be left alone while I ventured to my night job, I drove through Taco Bell, my girls’ favorite fast food place. While Taco Bell is not on my list of cordon bleu restaurants, I did get a chicken burrito so that I would not leave the house without eating, as my blood sugar was low and I knew that I had to have some protein if I was to make it through the evening job. Since being diagnosed with diabetes, I had begun to take better care of myself better.

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Three Strike Christmas

For some reason my ex-husband always chose wither the start of the school year when I had school clothes to buy for three kids or Christmas when I had gifts to get for the kids, to file for a Modification of Support.  When he filed such an order, he did not have to pay me any support until the hearing which was usually 4 to 6 weeks after filing for the modification.  He did this Christmas of 1993 and his petition failed.  He did it again Christmas of 1994 and although that petition also failed, it left the kids and I in a bad financial situation.

Christmas of 1994 the kids went to their dad’s house on Christmas Eve and he was to return them by 10 AM.  Because of the lack of money, I didn’t have many presents for the kids.  They all wanted a computer and I found a man that would build one for me and not charge an arm and a leg and he would build it to the specifications needed by/for the kids.  He took a payment to get the parts and then the rest when he delivered it on Christmas Eve.  I had checked with him and everything was on schedule.  I was glad because although this was a gift for all three of them, it was really primarily for Tony, the oldest who needed it for school.  I had managed to get a couple of computer games at discount that I would give him for Christmas.

Tina wanted a bird.  I had found her a bird cage at a yard sale about a month before Christmas and I had it stashed in the garage.  I just had to get the bird.  I planned on getting it at the local swap meet on Christmas Eve while the kids were at their dad’s.

Everything was on target that Christmas Eve.  I got up early and was at the swap meet when they opened at 7 in the morning. I knew exactly where the pet stand was and I got there in time to get the most beautiful lavender colored parakeet!  It was the most beautiful bird I had seen.  I was so happy to have gotten it and it was only $4!  On my way out to the car I stopped and picked up a couple of small things the kids could use and got them at bargain prices as the vendors wanted to unload them quickly.  I made my way home and set up the cage and put the parakeet into it.

Just as I finished with the birdie, the phone rang.  It was bad news.  The man that was building the computer for me was calling to say that the fan he had ordered for the computer did not work and he’d have to wait til the 26th to get another.  The kids would not have their computer on Christmas.  I was bummed but I figured I would make the best of it and was glad Ihad managed to get a deal on the bird and the things I picked up at the swap meet.

I went to the grocery store to get what I needed for Christmas dinner and to see if I could pick up some stocking stuffers for the kids.  I was in the store for a long time and when I came out, it was raining.  I got the groceries near the car and then I slipped and fall.  I fall flat on my back in the middle of the parking lot, in the rain.  I couldn’t get up and cars went around me.  It took about seven or eight cars going around me before  a man came and helped me get up and got me to the car. Then he picked up my groceries and got them in my car.  He actually offered to drive me home but I thanked him and said I could make it home.  I had a previous back and knee injury so this was not good.  It took about a half hour of sitting in the car crying before I felt I could drive home.

Once home I put the perishable away and took a pain pill and went to bed.  I slept for a very short time and wakened when I heard a loud crash!  I ran to see what it was and got to the living room in time to see  my daughter’s cat running past me with the bird in his mouth!  He had somehow gotten out of the bedroom where he had been stashed til he could be introduced to the bird.  The loud crash was the cat, Noisemaker, knocking down the cage.  I chased the cat all over the house until he let go of the cat whose neck had been broken.  I threw a shoe at the cat and sat and cried again, holding the dead bird in my hands.

I ended up going to bed and crying myself to sleep after taking care of the bird mess in the living room.  I didn’t even eat lunch or dinner.  I just slept.

When the kids got to the house the next morning, I answered the door with tears in my eyes and the only thing I could say to Tina was “Your stupid animal killed your Christmas present!”

The kids kind of rolled with the punches that day and enjoyed themselves and the gifts they had.  They day was fine and on the 26th, their computer was delivered and we went back to the swap meet and had my daughter pick out another bird.  They also had some Christmas money sent by relatives so they enjoyed the after Christmas bargains at the swap meet.

I guess no matter what happens and no matter how many strikes against us, if we’re together, it’s  a Christmas hit!  It matters not what material things they have or I can give.  We have each other and we are willingly and eagerly together.  That’s what counts.

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Christmas, 1993

Note: This is a particularly difficult Christmas story to tell.   I wrote it some years ago but I have only shared it with a very few people.  It was written as an assignment for a writing workshop.  I haven’t looked at it in a while, in fact I thought I had lost this file until just a few minutes ago.  I hope you enjoy it.

The kids chattered excitedly as we made the hour drive to Disneyland.  As I drove, I thought about our last trip there, the previous year.  It had been a week after their father had packed his bags and moved out, with no warning or explanation.  I had taken the kids to the Magic Kingdom and we had stayed in the Grand Hotel for Thanksgiving weekend.  That had been a miserable trip for me.  This time it would be different.  We were broke because their father was fighting me on how much support he would pay.  Till we went to court, he didn’t have to pay me.  The month had been pretty rough.  It was Christmas.  I had bought a few small things for the girls over the previous months, but I didn’t have a single thing for Tony.  I would not have any money for gifts.  My kids were used to having extravagant Christmases with the presents several feet deep around the tree.  This year there was next to nothing.  I felt so inadequate. I couldn’t face my kids.  I had failed in my marriage and failed to keep their father at home.  When their father walked out on us, I had promised to keep things normal for them – and I wasn’t. I couldn’t give them everything they needed and wanted.

The week before Christmas I looked through all my hiding places as I often hid money or travelers checks.  I searched hoping to come across a long lost bounty.  Instead, I found two unused children’s tickets for Disneyland.  We had gotten them when we had stayed at the Grand Hotel that somber Thanksgiving weekend.  The coupons were valid until December 22nd.  The kids and I decided that we would make this our special Christmas gift for all of us.  We had enough money to buy my ticket to the park and Susie was still free.  Tony and Tina would use the free tickets to get in.  Perfect.  We had waited till the last day the tickets were valid, so it would be as close to Christmas as possible.   I felt like I was the best mom in the world to be taking my children on this magical trip as their gift.  They had told their friends that they were going to go to Disneyland for the holiday.  They had bragged and their friends had said how lucky they were to have a mom that would take them there for this special gift.  I was so proud.  I beamed.

We got to the parking lot and their excitement bubbled over.  They talked animatedly about which ride they were going to go on first and who would ride with Susie when she wanted to go on the baby rides.  We got the stroller out and all of our stuff and headed for the ticket booth.  We had to go there and exchange the free admission coupons for the real tickets and buy my ticket.  As we waited in line, I got the money ready.  I had gone to the bank and gotten out the last $100 we had, leaving just a few dollars so the account would stay open.  I had paid for the parking and now I would pay the $49.00 for my ticket, leaving just enough for a meal inside the park for all of us.

When I got to the ticket window, I told the woman that I needed to exchange the two coupons and buy one for me.  She asked if there was another adult.  I said no.  Just me and the kids, and I explained that Susie was three so she didn’t need to pay.  She looked at me and said I couldn’t use the two free tickets.  I could only use one.  She turned the tickets over to the back and pointed, saying that they were for one free child with a paying adult.  So I would have to buy my ticket and another one for one of the kids.  It would cost me $90 for the two tickets.  I had already spent six dollars for parking.  If I paid the $90, I would have less than five dollars left.  That wasn’t enough for the kids to eat or even buy a soda in the park.  I had no money in the checking account.  Their father had closed my credit card accounts when he left so I had none.  I couldn’t do it.

There was no way I could pay for the two tickets.  I stood there, looking at the woman and I asked her again why I couldn’t use both tickets.  My mind had gone blank.  Somehow I was not understanding how it was not possible to take my children in to the “happiest place on Earth.”   I was trembling. I could not speak. My ears were ringing.   I felt like such a fool.  I told the woman I could not pay the money.  I wouldn’t be buying any tickets at all.  She handed me back the coupons and I just walked away saying I couldn’t use them.  I told the kids we weren’t going in.  We were going home.  “Why?” they asked.  I quietly said that the tickets weren’t good and I didn’t have enough money for us to get in.

We walked across the parking lot. Everyone was getting there. We were the only ones leaving.  As we crossed the endless parking lot, I could not look at my kids.  Silently, I cried.  I was afraid to look at them.  I couldn’t face their tears.  I knew I would see my shame in their eyes.  I was afraid they would see the rage I felt toward their father.  I had failed again.  No one said a word on the way to the car.  I could hear sniffling.  When we got to the car, Susie asked why we weren’t going to go inside Disneyland.  I couldn’t answer her.  I couldn’t explain it to her.  Tony whispered to her that mommy didn’t have enough money.  I wanted to die when I heard him whisper to her, “Shh.  Susie, don’t cry.  It’s okay.  I’ll play with you when we get home.” My ten year old was being a better father to his sister than I was being a mother.  I felt the shame even more.

We drove home in silence.  No one said a word, except Susie who kept asking when we would go to Disneyland.  Would we come back tomorrow when mommy felt better?  I wiped the tears from my eyes but before long I couldn’t drive any more.  As much as I tried, I wasn’t able to hold back my tears and the road blurred.  We stopped at the Citadel Outlets so I could calm down.  The kids were hungry.  They said they weren’t, but I could hear their stomachs growling.  I saw the look in their eyes. They wanted to spare me having to spend any money.  Then I remembered that they had been wanting to eat at Johnny Rocket’s so we walked to the food court and went in to the burger place.  It was lunch time and there were no booths, so we sat at the counter and I ordered hamburgers, fries, and shakes for each of the kids.  I couldn’t even think of eating.  I gave them nickels for the jukebox.  I tried to take joy in their enjoyment of the food and upbeat atmosphere.  I tried to smile.  I tried to laugh at their silliness.  I tried to be me.  Then, right in the middle of it all, Tony looked at me with a big smile on his face and tears in his eyes and said, “Mommy, this is better than Disneyland!”  He hugged me as I cried again.  Not because of my failure and inadequacies as a parent, but I cried because I had three wonderful children and although I was a failure in my eyes, I began to see that I might not be one in theirs.

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Thanksgiving in 1992 was a turning point for my family.

On the fifteenth, just eleven days before Thanksgiving, my husband of many years walked out the door saying he needed time and space to himself so he could figure out if he still wanted to be married to me. For Thanksgiving, we still weren’t sure what was going on, or at least the three kids and I weren’t sure. I had not told my family that he had left. I learned before I even married that I should keep any problems with my husband from my family or they would be very harsh on him. So I didn’t tell them. His family didn’t know either. I felt it was his place to tell them and he didn’t want to tell them. That left the kids and I with nothing to do for Thanksgiving. I wanted it to be a special day for the kids and I was still very much numb. So I did the only thing I could think of. I took the kids to Disneyland.

I reserved the Disneyland Hotel for Thanksgiving night and the kids and I drove to Anaheim late Thanksgiving morning. We checked into the hotel then went to the theme park. We had not gotten to make our reservations for Thanksgiving dinner in one of the restaurants and they were full so we decided on a Thanksgiving buffet with the Disney characters visiting the tables. No reservation required for that but because we were hotel guests, we got to cut ahead of the line when we got there. So we stayed in the theme park for a while and when it was time for dinner, we headed for the buffet outside the park, next to the hotel.

The kids loved it. They got to pick what they wanted from the buffet and leave the rest behind. The wait staff was incredibly friendly. We were alone but we weren’t. There were lots of people around and everyone one was in a great mood. Strangers helped me get the kids’ plates filled and carried back to our table. Then during dinner the characters came around to the tables. My eight year old was crazy about Tigger and was delighted when he came to our table and my two year old was all over Minnie Mouse! My son was eleven then and he was the best helper I could ever wish for. He helped with his sisters and he helped get me through the day. He could intuit Mom’s sadness as well as my need to make things as special for them as possible.

After dinner it was a walk around the grounds and then back to the rides in the theme park. We watched the last parade of the evening then headed for the hotel. The kids watched Disney movies for free on the hotel TV and later on we ordered a late night room service snack. The kids thought it was very special to order hot chocolate and cookies from room service.

The three kids had a blast and I got the satisfaction of knowing that at least on that day, my kids were happy. That year, the first one the three kids and I spent alone together, I was most thankful for being able to keep my kids from the harsh realities that were about to hit our family.

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