Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Futon and $85

It's been over a month since I last wrote, which is unacceptable. Life has been busy ,though.

I started school (again) in December of last year, and I've been diligently staying ahead on my school work. I am glad to say that I am finding school remarkably easy at this point, though I am sure it will become more difficult as time progresses. This term, which is nearly over, has been a nice way to ease into life as a college student again. This is my first "tour of duty" since becoming a mother, and I appreciate the time to make the transition. I am sure that next term will be more challenging, and I feel prepared for it now.

Shortly after the new year, Jaden decided he didn't want to share a room with me anymore. It all came about quite by accident. Over New Year's weekend, I fell asleep on the couch while watching a marathon of "The Twilight Zone". I was so comfortable, I decided to sleep there all night. It turned out that Jaden and I each slept through just about the whole night, with Jaden getting up only one time. One time, as opposed to his usual three or four. The following night, I slept on the couch again, wanting another full night of sleep. The night after that, I thought I'd give sleeping in my bed a try, and I wasn't in the bedroom for five minutes before Jaden was up and crying.

Thus began my nightly routine of sleeping on the couch, allowing Jaden to sleep peacefully in the bedroom by himself. Initially, sleeping on the couch wasn't so bad. However, before too long, my body let me know in a multitude of ways that sleeping on the couch was not a long-term option. I began searching for affordable options, finally finding a solution about a month later. Last night, my dad and I went to pick up a futon I found on craigslist. I slept on it for the first time last night, and while I definitely need to buy a thicker mattress (which I will do tomorrow), it felt remarkably better than sleeping on the couch. AND, I had room to move around. It was wonderful!

I filed my taxes last week through H&R Block, and I anticipate getting my refund soon. I get paid tomorrow, which is going to help me buy the new futon mattress and a few other things. However, in the meantime, Jaden and I have been going without a few things, because it seems there was more month than money this time. We don't regularly get child support, having had no payments since we received $43 last October. That makes things difficult from time to time. We were running low on some essentials, though, so I started digging through my wallet to see what I could find.

I decided to check my balance on my prepaid Discover card, thinking I might have at least a few dollars there that we could use to buy a few things. Imagine my surprise when I found I had $85 available! As it turned out, I had put money on the card last month, and forgot about it. I am sure I put it on the card with the anticipation of using it to pay for something specific, but had a change of plans. However, with my mind bouncing between school, motherhood, and so on, I forgot that I didn't use the Discover card as intended, and the money was just sitting there. It was a very happy discovery, and Jaden and I quickly went out to Dollar General to buy the things we've needed. Our kitchen cupboards are now full, I was able to buy a few personal things, and the wait for payday tomorrow suddenly became much easier.

All of these things remind me once again that God always provides for us, whether or not we get child support, whether or not the economy sucks, whether or not we are living on an extraordinarily limited budget. Jaden and I live on an income that is about six thousand dollars a year BELOW the federal poverty level, yet, we lack for nothing. Sure, we don't have a fancy car to drive, but our 1995 Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera gets us where we need to go without any problems. We don't live in a posh house, but our apartment is cozy and our landlord has become our friend. We have our family close by, allowing Jaden to know his grandparents and his aunt and his cousin, which is something I wasn't able to do growing up because we lived so far away from everyone. We live in a great community, and we are loved. In my book, Jaden and I are very wealthy.

We are living an amazingly blessed existence.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

A perfectly imperfect Christmas, and a first year gone by

When I imagined Jaden's first Christmas, I entertained images of my sweet-natured, giggly, happy little boy basking in the warm glow of Christmas, drinking in the love of his family as we all "oooo" and "ahhhhh" over gifts, reminisce about Christmases past, and feel all warm and safe and happy.

Christmas Eve should have told me that my plans were not to come to fruition. We spent the night at Tamara and Heidi's house, and I had hopes of watching some Christmas movies, cuddling with my baby, and sleeping snugly as we all anticipated Christmas morning. However, before we even got to Tamara and Heidi's house, Jaden's Fussy Pants were on and I knew my plans were quickly unravelling.

Jaden had not napped all day, and was very cranky. When we got to my sister's house, I gave him a bottle of milk and put him in the crib for a nap. He proceeded to throw a screaming fit, which he would repeat later when it was time for bed. As the evening wore on into the night, it was becoming evident that my Christmas dreams were about to be undone.

On Christmas Eve, after sleeping in the crib for a couple of hours, Jaden woke up screaming. I gave him a bottle, and as we headed back to the bedroom, I concluded that putting him back into the crib was not worth the fight. He slept with me in the bed for the rest of the night, either with his head on my chest, or laying next to me cheek to cheek. If I altered the positons, he would wake up and cry. It was a long night.

Morning finally came, and the Christmas happenings temporarily distracted him from his woes. During some snuggle time, I saw the source of those woes: Two teeth popping through his tender little gums. Jaden's mood did not improve, and we left shortly after eating a quick breakfast with the family...during which, Jaden tore some of Tamara's weather-seal plastic off the window. When we got home, his crabbiness continued into the night. Christmas Day turned out to be a long, crabby day, and by the end of the day I was practically dancing for joy when Jaden's bedtime came.

After Jaden went to bed and I had time to think about the day and put my thoughts down on paper, I realized what a great day it really was. We are very blessed, and while the day was far from picture perfect, it was not entirely without its charm. Jaden enjoyed his new toys. He especially enjoyed the Walk 'n' Ride I got for him, which allowed him to walk around without needing my assistance. In between meltdowns, Jaden was sweet as could be. All things considered, our Christmas was memorable for its perfect imperfection.

Today, Jaden gave me a gift that more than made up for yesterday. My sweet little boy took three steps, all by himself, toward me. He did not hold on to the furniture. He did not hold on to his Walk 'n' Ride. He simply walked forward, to me. It was amazing. It absolutely made my day.

Today...well, in five hours and 22 minutes, actually...he will be one year old. It has been an incredible year, and motherhood has been the single most exhilerating experience of my life. He is a joy. A delight. A source of endless wonder for me. I would not trade it for anything, teething fussiness and all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Sunday, we celebrated my sweet little boy's first year in this world. He won't actually be a year old until December 27, but I didn't want his first birthday to get jumbled in with Christmas. He has plenty of years ahead of him to get cheated out of a birthday party.

Our first year together has been an amazing journey. As difficult as single motherhood is, I have no regrets about the choices I made to bring my son safely into this world, and ensure that our life would be one of peace and joy.

I have learned a lot from my son. He has taught me not to underestimate anything based on its initial appearance. He constantly amazes me as he blows my assumptions about his childlike mind out of the water. He has taught me that each moment is precious and meant to be savored, as they pass quickly and we can never have them back.

When he was two months old, he became very sick and had to be hospitalized for four days. In that time, he taught me that, while he has been entrusted to my care, he doesn't belong to me. It is my job...my privilege...to love him, nurture him, raise him to be the best person he can possibly be. When all is said and done, though, he belongs to God. I am simply honored to be his mother.

In this year, I have witnessed my sweet, helpless, needy little baby grow to become more independent, more sure of himself and his own abilities. He still needs me, and will for a long time, but not nearly in the same way that he did in those first days.

Oh, those first days...As much as I miss my tiny little baby, I wouldn't roll the clock back for anything. Those first days are utterly exhausting, and are at once the happiest and saddest days I've ever lived. I remember being bone tired, and listening to Jaden wind up for another cry to let me know he needed to breastfeed, or needed a diaper change, or just wanted to be held. In the span of 24 hours, my life had gone from one of simplicity, able to do as I please, when I please, to one of being at the beck and call of a precious little stranger. I wouldn't trade those days for anything, but I don't want to relive them. I am glad to have my little man becoming more independent every day.

More than anything, this year has taught me about God's grace. Jaden and I have been protected from so much, and we have been provided for extravagantly. That lesson has been among the greatest gifts Jaden has brought into my life.

I am blessed to be Jaden's mother. It's the best job I've ever had, and it seemed as though I was hardly living before he came into my life.

Enjoy this video montage of my son's first year. Here's to many more to come!

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Thoughts on Thinking

The question posed here bothers me on multiple levels, but the most bothersome part is that the person asking the question is representative of so many within the Christian community who seem incapable of making an independent decision. For whatever reason, it is common, even encouraged, within Christian circles to delay making any decisions without first confirming through various sources that what you want to do is what God wants you to do.

"Confirmation" is a buzz word in the Christian circles I was a part of. Having "confirmation" on a decision meands that God has apparently given the green light to go forward as planned. In fact, going forward with a big decision without having said confirmation is essentially inviting trouble into one's life. If the thing you have chosen to do is done without that confirmation, and it blows up in your face, it is believed that you should not have attempted it in the first place, and the blowing up part is God's way of punishing you for going forward without His "thumbs up".

Over the years, I have seen people reach far in order to grasp the coveted confirmation. I have done it myself, many times, before reaching the realization that I could find confirmation anywhere if I wanted something badly enough. Anyway, over the years I have seen people find confirmation in something as innocuous as the position of a leaf on the ground, or something more substantial, such as an alleged vision.

The problem with this kind of thinking is that it renders us useless in terms of making decisions on our own. In certain circles, such as those I grew up with, it is collectively believed that any decision we might make on our own is going to end disasterously, because our hearts and minds are naturally inclined toward evil. We utterly disregard the idea of being made in the image of God. We are made in His image, therefore having the capability of making good choices for ourselves, without the multitude of confirmations we believe we need.

I believe we have been gifted with the ability to make sound judgments based on the evidence we have before us that speaks directly to the decision we are making. Certainly, it is prudent to seek counsel from trusted friends and leaders, but ultimately we have to be able to trust ourselves to make good choices in the situations we face. To believe we are incapable of doing that only leads to a place of constant self-doubt, leaving us vulnerable to people and circumstances that may demand a quick decision.

In my own life, I grew up with tremendous self-doubt. Due in part to the impressions made upon me in church, I believed there was nothing good in me and I could not possibly make good choices in my life without having a long list of "confirmations" to support whatever choice I am inclined to make. Such thinking has lead me down many harmful roads.

Most recently, this agonizing self-doubt lead me into a very dangerous relationship with a man, and I ultimately married him. Everything in me was telling me to get away from him, yet the timing of our relationship made it appear as though this man was a gift from heaven, an answer to prayer. Further "confirmations" of this lead me to believe that my instincts were wrong, and I needed to graciously embrace what God had given me. I turned a blind eye to the red flags, hushed the words of caution that kept playing in my mind, and considered that our relationship had plenty of evidence of being from God. We both had all the confirmations we needed in order to justify our relationship as a God ordained blessing.

We got married, and I realized I had married a monster. I realized that the inclinations I had to run away from him were God-given instincts, and I should have trusted them. Shortly after getting married, I got pregnant. Upon learning of my pregnancy, and enduring one final and very frightening display of my husband's wrath, I left my marriage and began preparations for single motherhood.

I am quite sure that this was not in God's perfect plan for me, despite any confirmations I thought I had. By the grace of God, and my new found ability to trust the instincts He has given me, my son and I have a very happy life. Everything about how our life came to be this way is utterly contrary to the beliefs I grew up with. I had no "confirmations" that leaving my husbnad and filing for divorce was the right thing to do. I had no confirmations that putting measures in place to protect my son from his father was the right thing to do. I had no miraculous shows of foliage on the ground to tell me that planning a life for my son, sans father, was the best thing for us.

Yet, I trusted my gut instincts and went forward with my plans, and everything has turned out wonderfully. Furthermore, I also discovered that my husband had been seeking relationships with other women before I even filed for divorce, despite his claims of remorse about our situation. Upon discovering this, I knew in that moment that every decision I made was right, however contrary it may have been to standard operating procedure.

With regard to the question in the video, it disturbs that the man would believe that his skills are something he may have to put on the back burner because they may not be honoring to the Lord. I believe that there are times when all the confirmation you need to tell you that something is from God, is that the thing is right in front of your face. I honestly believe that God gave us intuition for a reason, and there is something offensive about the belief that there is something intrinsically evil about trusting our God-given awareness.

As long as we're not inhaling demons, I think we'll be alright in trusting ourselves a bit more.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Jaden has needed a toy box for awhile, but they are expensive. So, the next best thing is to use what I already have and make do with it. Along those lines, I went to my sister's house today and retrieved a plastic tote I had left there, which happened to be full of my old journals. After Jaden went to bed, I got to work emptying the box for Jaden to use.

As I emptied the box,I read bits of my old journals. The earliest journal I have dates back to 1997. The most recent in that particular box was from early 2008. Of course, I did not have the time or the desire to read every page of every journal, but what I did read was very telling.

Much of the content of my journals has to do with love. Dreaming of it, falling into it, embracing it, losing it, regretting it. Pages upon pages of the stuff. As I read these pages, remembering vividly the exhileration and the heartache I experienced in each snippet I read, I realized something: I have been dating the same man for over a decade.

His name changes from time to time. Sometimes he is Kevin. Rich. Harold. Nate. Brian. Sometimes he has a better job, nicer clothes, and a more attractive haircut than he's had at other times. He can be very sweet, or very mean. He is often funny, though his humor has been understated from time to time. He is generally very intelligent. Without fail, he is always kind to me, with the equally predictable bitter aftertaste. He is often needy. He is rarely pleased with me by the time things are over, though he was very pleased with me in the beginning. Inevitably, without exception, he despises me just as much as he once liked me.

Perhaps the most graphic example of that happened with my ex-husband, who went from adoring me to telling me, in no uncertain terms, about the many, many things about me that he hated. "There are a lot of things about you that piss me off, and I want to change them."

Of course, that is not the first time something of that sort has happened. A guy I dated in 2007 claimed to love me enough that he wanted to marry me. Bought me a ring and everything. I was thrilled! Until I found out that his coworkers had a favorite pastime, which was to tell him all the things they perceived as being wrong with me (though they had never met me), all the reasons he should run away from me, and all the times he should have defended me...but didn't. The clincher came when he told me that he liked many things about me, but had a big problem with the fact that I struggled financially. He told me that he was attracted to women who were financially stable and able to meet all their financial obligations. The real kick in the teeth came when he told me that if things didn't work out between us, his world wouldn't fall apart.

I didn't want his world to fall apart. I just wanted him to care a little bit, considering the ring and all.

Then came the guy I was with when I was diagnosed with cancer. As I contemplated what was happening to my life, watching it fall apart piece by piece, his only concern was what would happen with "us", as I seemed preoccupied.

I could go on and on, but I haven't the energy. Looking through the journals was emotionally exhausting. Writing about it in yet another journal afterward was further draining. Now, I am at a point where the only thing I am certain of is that I am certain I have nothing left to give to another relationship. Not now, maybe not ever. I am by no means willing to take another chance like that.

I don't think everyone is meant to know that abiding, lifelong love that we all dream of finding someday. I think I am one of those people who has always longed for that kind of love, thought I'd found it, and been burned by disappointment far too many times. I can't do it again.

For Jaden's sake, I wish this were not so. I wish my heart could be open to at least the possibility of meeting someone and, perhaps, finally finding that love I've longed for all these years. I wish I could be open to that, as it would be lovely if he could have someone in his life to be his dad. I can't do it, though. Not for the foreseeable future. I think I've endured enough pain to last a couple of lifetimes, and I won't be anyone's fool again.

When I was in my early twenties, after enduring those very difficult teen years, I wore a hard shell around my heart. Very few people were allowed in, and I had no interest whatsoever in dating. At this point in my life, I believe that is a good option for me. Perhaps not the most healthy, but it seems the safest.

I don't want to fill anymore journals with tales of heartache.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Thanksgiving 2009

I have so much to be thankful for this year, I am not sure I can really put it into words. I have been blessed beyond measure, in ways I never could have foreseen a year or two ago. My life took a completely different direction than I anticipated, and while it may have seemed devastating at first, it has become a life that I would not trade for any of the dreams I used to have for myself.

At the risk of stating the obvious, I am most thankful for the gift of my son, Jaden. Before Jaden was born, I thought I knew what love was. I had loved before, and I thought I had loved deeply. When I had Jaden, though, I realized that I had never really known love until he came into my life. From the moment I saw him on the ultrasound, I was captivated. Then, when I gave birth and our eyes finally met for the first time, I loved him completely. I love him so much, I feel like my heart could burst. If it's possible, I love him a little more every day.

I am thankful that Jaden feels safe and secure in his home, and that his sense of security shows in the way he gets a little more independent with each passing day. He is nearly a year old, and while I find myself wishing he could stay a baby just a little bit longer, I realize that his increasing independence means that I am doing things right and my son is becoming a confident little boy.

I am thankful that we are safe. A year ago at this time, I was terrified of what may come. I was very pregnant, anticipating giving birth in exactly one month from today. I had no idea what may come after that, given the situation with my son's father. I was so afraid of what my sweet baby may be subjected to, and I prayed, meditated, planned, and prepared to do whatever I needed to do to keep my baby safe.

A year later, I still see the fruit of those spiritual, legal, and physical investments. We are safe. My son is enjoying a peaceful and happy life, surrounded by people who love him. He is a gift, and everyone in his life sees him as that. My prayer is that he will always know this kind of love, and that those who may harm him would be kept at a distance.

I am thankful for the things I have learned about God's grace and provision, which I have experienced through the grace and provision of other people in my life. While Jaden and I live a very simple life, we lack for nothing. Jaden has been given things and opportunities that I could never afford to give him on my own, yet the generosity of others allows for it. I don't know what we would do if it weren't for the love and support of our friends and spiritual family.

I am thankful for the opportunities we have to help others out. We happily do what we are able to do, and I am thankful that Jaden will grow up with a sense of empathy for others. I am thankful that he will have the understanding that we are all connected, we are all in this together, and when one of us hurts, all of us hurt in some way. I am thankful that he will understand that one of the greatest things we can do is be of service to others in whatever capacity we are able.

I am thankful for the life that I have. It is not the life I dreamed of or hoped for, but it infinitely better than any of those things. I am so very grateful for the things that have happened in my life in the last few years that have derailed everything that I thought I knew, challenging me to rethink and rebuild my life from the very foundation. My days are filled with the laughter of a beautiful baby, the joy of motherhood, the challenge of making a better life for us through educating myself with an eye toward the future, and the grace to embrace it all and whisper the simple prayer, "Thank You."

I have much to be thankful for. Perhaps the greatest things I have to be thankful for are the dreams that didn't come true, the relationships that didn't work out, the paths I had to abandon as life flooded in.

I never imagined myself in this place. I had never dared to dream so big.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The First Year

As I write this, it is hard for me to wrap my mind around the idea that my baby boy is going to be a year old next month. It seems like I gave birth him to just yesterday! I can still very easily recall the discomforts of pregnancy, the eagerness and anxiety as his due date approached, the exhileration of realizing that I was in labor and I would meet my son very soon, and the pure joy of holding him or the first time. I can easily conjure the feeling of walking around on feet that were severely swollen, post-partum, and the feeling of coming home with my sweet babe and literally asking the air, "What do I do with him now?"

I still remember the hours of prayer and meditation that went into preparing myself for motherhood. There were so many uncertainties during my pregnancy, regarding what would happen with my ex once my son was born. Would he try to take him from me? Would my son be subjected to the same abuse his half-siblings were? Though my ex and I had not seen each other in several months, would he suddenly resurface once I gave birth to the miracle I had safely carried in my womb?

There were so many questions, so many fears for the safety of my son, the only things I could do were read God's word, meditate on its truth, and pray--with firm belief in the affirmative answer--that God would continue to keep my son and me safe after my son was born.

We have been kept very safe and well taken care of, and it has been a pure delight to watch my son grow from a tiny, helpless babe, into a strong, healthy, inquisitive child who wants to taste, touch, feel, and explore everything around him. He has a sweet disposition that is easily recognized by friends and strangers alike, and there is hardly a day that goes by when someone we don't even know comments to me about how cute he is, and how sweet he is. Needless to say, I am proud.

We've come a long way from those fear-laden first days, and we now understand each other pretty well. While he cannot communicate to me with words yet, I read his cues and usually know exactly what he needs or wants. We are working on sign language so we will be able to communicate even better,until he is able to speak words.

This brilliant child makes me laugh with his developing sense of humor, and I am already astounded by his comedic timing. He knows when I am playing around with him just by the way I am looking at him, and he knows how to play little jokes on me, too. I'll never forget his first "joke". It was during dinner, and as I fed him he made himself sit up very tall in his high chair, legs straightened and his bottom off of the seat, and then took a bite of food. After his bite, he sat back down and giggled. So clever!

I watch videos I took of him laying in his crib, watching his mobile, captivated by its motion. He was beginning to discover the world around him, but still confined by a body that was not yet strong enough to move its weight around. Now, he crawls like a champ, he is working on freestanding, he is able to manipulate his environment so his things are where he wants them, and he is capable of exploring his world. When I think of all that has transpired in just the last 10 1/2 months, it is astounding.

He has given me the greatest joy I have ever known. As a single mother, things are difficult at times. Financially, things are very tight, though we get by. There are times when I wish I had someone here to give me a break once in awhile, especially if I'm not feeling particularly well. There are times when I just need a little quiet, and there is no one to play with Jaden so I can go into my bedroom and have that quiet.

Still, there is no way I would trade it for anything. I love my sunny, funny, sweet little man, and it's both astounding and heartbreaking that our first year together is quickly drawing to a close. It's gone by so fast!

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