They finally removed my registration hold this evening. I've already registered for Topics in Literature: Lyrics of Bob Dylan (English Literature credit), as well as Free Expression in a Democratic Society (Peace and Justice Studies credit) for Spring semester. I'm starting to get excited. Of course I have piles of red tape to untangle so they won't drop my classes, but I'm working feverishly to prevent that.
I realized my blog posts have been insufferably long, so I'll keep this one short.
I was on my way to playlist.com to see how I could add a playlist of my favorite Christmas songs to my blogspot when my browser somehow became corrupted and I found myself without access to the Internet for a few days. Mike had his weeknight with the kids tonight and helped me troubleshoot the problem while he gave Nate a trombone lesson. It's great to be back!
Last year I received a couple of $500 scholarships based on my brilliant essays, academic merit, and of course need. I chose to have one sent to the UVU bookstore and spent it down over the course of Fall and Spring semester for books and supplies. Several weeks ago I found out they misdirected that one to my student account and it was released to me as part of a tuition disbursment which I spent on repairs when my car didn't pass inspection last spring. While I was grateful to remain mobile, it means I now owe the bookstore $500 and merit a registration hold. After much negotiation (begging, groveling, outright weeping) they've allowed me to make my first monthly $10 payment (first they wanted $75 per month, then $20) and removed the registration hold. Now I'll be working with a finaid counselor to obtain funding to wipe the rest of it out so I won't have to endure the additional burden on my meagre budget.
So I met with my new Voc Rehab counselor yesterday, as well as the district manager who was training her (it was her first day on the job) in the absence of her direct supervisor. It looks like things will fall into place (okay, more like be replaced with superhuman effort on my part and a little help from the powers that be) for my return to school in January. I was doubtful it were possible, but now I have hope that I'll manage to untangle miles of red tape in time to register for whatever classes are left that might be applied to my major or minor. Of course said red tape includes completing this academic year's FAFSA, which I abandoned when I decided I was taking Fall semester off this year to take care of personal business because it was so confusing in my state of marital/income tax limbo. In any case, I'm gonna be one busy little girl for the next few weeks as I iron out all these wrinkles! Ultimately an optimist, I think it looks like I'm going back to school. Yay!
I actually have mixed emotions about returning to school next month. I've missed my studies, meaningful work, stimulting campus life, classmates, professors, colleagues, etc. But I have so treasured the unhurried time I've had to spend with my kids. If there is any consolation, however, it's that I'm unlikely to be awarded work study (as desperately as I need the exempt income) this late in the year, so I'll at least only have to divide my attention between the kids and my homework for a while.
I got a call today from our Sub-for-Santa sponsor, the Catholic church. They apparently serve a lot of families, so we've been given the opportunity to come pick up their gifts on the 17th. I'm so grateful for their generosity. This has been a particularly difficult month, the first since our separation nearly 15 months ago that I haven't been able to pay all of my bills in full. I haven't figured that out yet, nor how I'll celebrate Cass and Gabe's birthdays the week before Christmas, but between the Catholic church (for the boys) and Mike (for Cass), we've got Christmas covered! That's a huge relief.
We finally made our gingerbread men and decorated our tree. There's just something magical about those little white lights, real candy canes, and homemade gingerbread men that have come to be part of our tradition. Each of the ornaments have their own significance as well, and each of us have certain ornaments which nobody else would take the liberty of hanging because of what they signify to that particular family member. Mike was here this year to hang our Mike & Cammie ornament and give me a big hug. I love to sit in the dark living room at night, after the kids are asleep, and stare at the tree while the christmas tunes drift softly from the boom box in the kitchen. So many memories come back to me like Christmas gifts from years past during this quiet time, and I find myself becoming teary eyed.
One of our most significant Christmas traditions surrounds The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans and The Angel Monument at the center of the story. It has become our tradition to honor Alissabeth Anne by reading the book, just six short chapters, during the first week of December and attending the candle light vigil at The Angel Monument on December 6th at 7:00 p.m. each year. Nate and his twin sister were born January 30th of 1997. Alissa lived only two bittersweet hours. I was very pregnant when we attended our first vigil at the Angel Monument aproximately ten months later. Less than two weeks after that our youngest, Gabe, was born. The following year we attended the vigil with the boys--nate several weeks short of two years old and Gabe a week short of one year--in umberella strollers. The vigil is matter of fact to the boys; they had never known a December without an angel of hope, white flowers, and glowing candles until last year. But I think of our children, the vigil is most poignant for Cass, who remembers holding her only sister in her arms and kissing her sweetly on the cheek while she still lived.
I was particularly grateful to return to the Angel Monument this year as a whole family, after missing the vigil for the first time after our separation last year. I'm grateful that Michael and I are not only getting along, but rediscovering our friendship and learning to coparent in new ways this year. Our divorce is almost final and we have no intentions of calling it off, but we can still be a family in significant ways. I reject the implication that our family is broken just because we don't all live together in one house anymore. In fact, I assert that our family is mending because of our new arrangements. We've come a long way in the last year and we've healed many painful parts of our past together by daring to reinvent our family in new and healthy ways. I think Alissabeth would understand better than anybody, and support us in our efforts to give our children parents who are kind to each other and endeavor to lead a whole family even though they can't be part of a whole marriage. Anyway, this reunion made being together for Alissabeth's vigil extra meaningful this year.
How can I sleep when I'm still trembling and my heart is still racing? Perhaps the sound of my keyboard responding to my fingers click click clicking on the keys will drown out the sounds of this old house settling and the furnace creaking and popping and my confused thoughts.
I'm reminded of something that happened about twenty years ago. Michael and I had been married less than two years at the time. His parents moved to Canada and left us to rent their five bedroom home in Payson so we could show it to potential buyers. Once we were alone in the home, we moved into the master bedroom and made ourselves comfortable. Jerry had a substantial collection of guns which he kept in the master bedroom closet. Some of them were antiques from the civil war and others were small, contemporary handguns or rifles. Due to Canadian law, he was forced to leave them behind. I was not comfortable with them in the house because I didn't grow up with guns and had what I considered a healthy fear of them. I insisted emphatically that Michael move them to one of the closets in a downstairs bedroom, out of sight and mind. He thought I was being silly, but he honored my wishes. He did, however, leave one very small handgun and a box of bullets on the shelf in the closet. He wanted me to have it for safety measures, and showed me how to hold it, point, and shoot. I was home alone most nights while he worked the graveshift.
We'd been living in the home for several months when this incident occured on a hot, humid summer night. Michael was at work and I was in bed reading. I always had trouble sleeping when he was gone at night, and this night was no exception. It must have been 1:00, 2:00, maybe even 3:00 a.m. when I heard a "clunk-clunk...clunk" just outside of the bedroom door. It's funny how the harder you try to listen, the harder your heart pounds in your ears making it nearly impossible to hear anything else. I sat upright in bed, frozen and straining to hear what lurked outside my locked door. I tried not to breathe, because breathing also obscured my hearing. A minute passed, or perhaps it was two; still it seemed like ten or fifteen minutes passed. Then it happened again, "clunk-clunk." There was no mistaking, whatever or whomever was in my house was right outside my bedroom door, just a few yards from where I sat paralized with fear in my bed. And another "clunk-clunk-clunk" followed directly afterward. I picked up the bedside phone and I called and woke my mom in Highland. Whisperng into the reciever I told her what was going on. She had my then step father use their second line, dedicated to the computer, to call 911. The dispatcher told us that I would have to hang up on my mom, my lifeline, to make the call to 911 myself. Mom made me promise I would call her as soon as possible to let her know I was okay.
I couldn't dial 911 fast enough after I hung up on Mom. The woman's voice was smooth and calm but commanding. As she asked me to describe the situation, the clunking in the hallway continued intermittently. I was sure someone was out there. I told her that there was a stockpile of collector guns and ammo in the basement and speculate that it was quite possible the intruder could have armed himself. She asked if there were any weapons in my room, and I told her about the small handgun and bullets on the shelf. She told me that it was absolutely imperative that I leave them where they are. While I waited for the officers to arrive, she asked me several times if they were still on the shelf and reminded me not to touch them. Finally, she said that the officers had arrived and that it was necessary for me to open the front door for them. I explained to her that the intruder was just outside my bedroom door, trapping me where I was. I couldn't possibly unlock my bedroom door and pass through the house where he lurked between me and my rescuers. She told me that was the only way they could help me, and she was extremely firm on that point. This was the era of corded phones, and I was forced to leave the reciever laying on the bed while I walked right into danger.
I tiptoed to the door, placed one hand on the knob, and held my breath. Could I really do it? I had no choice! I looked back at the phone lying on the bed where the dispatcher waited for me and I said a prayer for my safety. I unlocked the bedroom door, swung it open, and raced through the hallway and down the stairs to the split level entry in what seemed a single, swift motion. I fumbled with the locks and swung the front door open to reveal several officers. They rushed in with their handguns pointed upward, ready to aim should they meet with the intruder. It was like watching cops in a TV series or movie, keeping their backs to the wall and their guns pointed at the sky, moving stealthily in short, swift bursts, aiming their guns at potential boogeymen before returning to their original poses. I was frozen in place until the search was over. It was then that Chief Box asked me to show him where I was and where I heard the noise. As I led him upstairs and through the hallway toward the master bedroom, I discovered the culprit, and my embarrassment couldn't have been more complete.
Mike's parents had left many of their posessions behind, not just the guns. On the wall in the hallway Jerry left hanging a set of several plaks. Each one was stained a deep walnut with a glossy finish and had a plexiglass frame affixed with a color photograph. There was one for each of his drum majors during his career with Payson High School Marching Band. Apparently the adhesive on the plexiglass frames had succumbed to the humidity, and each in brief succession let go of the glossy finish and fell to the ground, bouncing against the wall once or twice on it's way to the floor. The hallway was littered with these plexiglass frames and the faces of distinguished drum majors. I stopped and turned to face Chief Box and told him I knew what had caused the noises. I picked up one of the frames and showed him, then dropped it again. His face never changed and he never laughed. But he did tell me I'd be safer with the guns in my bedroom closet, rather than in a separate room. The officers left and I locked the door behind them. I locked myself back in my bedroom, leaving the drum majors scattered on the hallway floor where they fell, then called my mom. You can bet I took Chief Box's advise and had Michael move the guns back to my bedroom the very next night.
Back to the present, the kids would usually be home asleep in their beds at this ungodly hour on a Monday morning. But this weekend they stayed in Sandy one extra night because tomorrow they'll miss school to attend Uncle Junior's funeral in Santaquin with their daddy. I was enjoying a sound sleep when I awoke with a start and sat bolt upright to the sound of a double bang. It didn't sound exactly like a gun, but perhaps more like the sound of either the front or back door being kicked in. I held my breath and strained to hear over the sound of my breathlessness and my heart pounding in my ears. It seemed as if a great deal of time passed, as I sat frozen in bed looking through the open bedroom door toward the dimly lit hallway. I reached for my cel phone which was plugged into the charger and laying on my bed next to me. I flipped it open and dialed 911, then held my finger over the green button, ready to place the call if necessary.
My mind raced and I asked myself if this were only a dream. But it wasn't. The bang was so loud it woke me in time to hear the second bang quite clearly. I heard the squeak of the wooden floor somewhere upstairs and decided not to wait until the intruder descended upon me to place the call. The dispatcher answered by asking me the location of my call and the number I was calling from. Then she asked me to describe the problem. I told her that it sounded as if someone may have busted either the front or back door open, or perhaps the furnace downstairs may have exploded. She told me the officers were on their way and would begin by checking the perimeter of the house. She also wanted to know if there were any obstacles in the yard they should be careful for. I described the three foot drop with a stone wall in the back yard just a couple yards beyond the back wall of the house. She then told me I would need to answer the back door. I tip toed to the bedroom door, looked down the hallway toward the darkened living room and the glow in the kitchen coming from the light over the stove. I then raced through the hallway and kitchen to the back door, fumbled with the lock and swung the door open quickly.
There were two officers with flashlights on the porch. I told them to come in. They asked me to describe the situation, then asked where I was when I heard the sound. I pointed in the general direction of my bedroom and told them I had been in bed. They asked me to return to my room, escorted me there, then ordered me to stay while they searched the house. After they closed my bedroom door, I could hear them moving through the house as their boots clunked against the wood and the floors creaked. I could hear their voices, but I couldn't make out what they were saying. Finally they returned to my room and told me they found nothing. They asked me again to explain what happened, and as I was explaining, one of the officers walked out of the room again. When he returned, he said that there was a bottle of Ax body wash lying in the tub, beginning to leak. He suggested it may have fallen off the window sill where the bottles of shampoo and face cleanser and shaving cream were lined up. I could have died of relief and embarrassment all at once. I explained to him that it has been fixed to the wall with a suction cup accessory that came free with the purchase of the product. It had been attached to the shower wall all weekend while the kids were gone, so I was certain he was correct and that was the source of my mysterious bump in the night. I appologized profusely, but they assured me that my peace of mind was important and that I shouldn't hesitate to call again If I ever felt afraid.
I feel better having got that off my chest. My heart has slowed down to a fairly normal pace, and my breathing has evened out again. My adrenalyn rush has finally left me weak and exhuasted, and I think I can sleep now. Looks like I can get three and a half hours more sleep before I have to wake and get ready for the funeral. It's gonna be a long day.
Dione gave me a personal blogging tutorial, but my memoy sucks and I haven't figured out the finer nuances of managing my blog yet. Of course, this is only my second entry, so I hold out hope that I'll improve with experience.
It's been a busy week. I haven't felt like getting up and getting going, but I've done it anyway. My sockets haven't healed yet and my lymph nodes are still backed up. This causes me constant discomfort and occasional pain, dizziness, nausea, and fatigue. I was supposed to see my surgeon about it last Friday so he could decide if he wanted to "clean them out." That didn't exactly sound pleasant. Well, I had been driving around for four days with my empty light on, and I ran out of fumes halfway down my own street on the way to that appointment. I got help pushing the car home from some rowdy looking but very nice boys, then called to cancel my apointment. Dr. Park asked me to call him early the following week, but somehow time flew! I left him a voice mail on Thursday, but didn't hear from him Friday, so I'll try again Monday. I guess I have to resolve this sooner or later. Funny how it feels like I have a marshamellow stuffed in each of my cheeks.
I had two highlights this week.
When Cliss discovered I was an English Lit major, she asked me for book recommendations. I told her about a current favorite, Life of Pi by Yan Martel, which I'd read in a lit theory class about three years ago. Life of Pi is about a young, indigenous boy whose family owns a Zoo in India. When he and his family accompany some of their animals on an exchange with another zoo, their cargo ship sinks, leaving Pi the only human survivor. He becomes stranded on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, and a bengal tiger. I won't spoil the story, but suffice it to say that only one of the three animals survive! One of the book's major themes surrounds the nature of faith and whether or not faith has limits. Cliss enjoyed the book enough that she chose it as her annual selection for a neighborhood book club, which she's been a member of for the better part of the last decade. She invited me to join her last week when it was her turn to hostess the meeting in her home, and because they would be discussing Life of Pi. A few members volunteered to bring Indian dishes to sample for the refreshments, so I volunteered to bring the appetiser: some vegetable samosas with spicy ginger-mango and mint chutneys. I wish I hadn't taken my dear, long-time, Indian friend Jairaj's advice to cheat and use puff pastry from the freezer section. I've enjoyed samosas on several past occasions and I know the pastry texture turned out all wrong. Still, I think the chutneys were yummy and the samosa fillng tasted pretty authentic. One woman carried on that the food was too spicy, but I used a fraction of the spices each recipe called for becuase that was just the sort of problem I was trying to avoid. I wouldn't say the chutneys were mild, but if they'd been Mexican salsas they might have been labeled medium. They certainly left a warm glow in my mouth, though it was not sharp or unpleasant as far as I was concerned, and I have had less tolerance for spicy food in recent years. My only other regrets were that I hadn't read the book again so I'd forgotten much of it and much of our classroom discussion, I'd lent my copy out and couldn't retrieve it in time to re-read it, I couldn't afford to purchase a new copy, and I couldn't find my notebook containing my class notes. Still, I was thrilled to be invited and it was a really enjoyable evening with my sister.
The other highlight of my week was the ACLU membership meeting. I have been a member since the Utah chapter's legal representative, Marina, spoke at one our Martin Luther King, Jr./Civil Rights Week events last spring. But this was the first ACLU meeting/event I've been able to attend. It started with a one hour update to the members, including an overview of legislative issues we're currently working on. Many of them are perennial issues like immigration and LGBT issues. But one of the ones which I found somewhat amusing was a bill containing a steep "dancing tax" which our conservative Utah legislators are currently pushing. It all sounds so Footloose-esque! I realized if they actually passed this bill, it will no doubt be enforced in a completely arbitrary manner. I cannot imagine they'll tax members of the Utah Ballet company, members of the Ririe-Woodbury modern dance company, dance majors at Utah colleges and universities, high school cheerleaders and dance teams, step dancers and cloggers in summer parades, and 3-year-olds taking their first ballet and tap classes. They'll single out young people 21-26 years old who frequent dance clubs. While some peolple consider dance clubs undesirable in their state (they're generally zoned away from residential neighborhoods already), this approach is unconstitutional and yet another example of how so many people believe that the idealogical end justifies violating the civil liberties of Othered Americans. I also thought about the Eagle Club in south Salt Lake where so many middle age and senior couples go for ballroom dancing on the weekend. There is really no way to enforce this law justly. In spite of some discouraging information, I found much of the report encouraging and moving. The meeting was held at the Salt Lake Art Center one door north of the Energy Solutions Arena, and was followed by a reception and art exhibit, "Liberties Under Fire," celebrating the ACLU's 50th year in Utah. An artist from Georgia by the name of John Traubaugh was featured and we had a delightful "conversation" session with him.
Tomorrow I have to wake early to attend a Sub-for-Santa workshop. When I was assistant to UVSC's Faculty Coordinator of Academic Service-Learning two years ago, I had the privelege of being solely responsible for the giving tree project on campus, and was heavily involved with the Sub-for-Santa program as well as the Winter Warmth and Canned Food drives. It was a rewarding experience to be on the helping end of things. But I'm afraid this year the kids and I are on the other side of the situation, and I feel quite wistful about the reversal. Still, I'm grateful for the opportunity. We missed the UVU deadline, but the Utah County program is still open to applicants, so that's what the workshop is about tomorrow. UVU's program suggests $50 of expenditure per child and the application asks each child's shoe and clothing sizes as well as their gift wishes. Sponsors may go beyond the recommendations to spend more per child and even provide gifts for parents and older siblings at their discression. I understand the Utah County program is a lot more restrictive. Children ages 15 and 16 will be considered only if they have younger siblings in the home, but there is no garantee they'll be included. Parents are certainly not included, which is understandable. The Ut Co application requires a great deal of documenation. I shouldn't complain, but I confess it has been a real challenge to pull everything together in time for tomorrow's workshop. I couldn't find the kids birth certificate and/or social security cards, so I hope their medicaid "card" (the monthly printout of current benefits) and/or their library cards will do. I had to obtain CAP2 (whatever that means) and financial printouts from Department of Workforce Services, so I have to wonder why it's necessary to also provide proof of income and children's IDs. UVU goes on an "on your honor" basis. Certainly we saw abuses of the system, but we all (faculty administrators and student volunteers) felt they were small matters, easily remedied with sensitivity, in the face of all the families we were able to help. Cass will turn 17 the week before Christmas, so I guess I'll find out tomorrow if she qualifies based on the application date, or will be declined based on the date of December 25. That is, of course, providing we're accepted to their program at all. I think it's getting late to apply and sponsors may be scarce by now. Funny how two years ago when I worked with UVU's program, we had more sponsors than we had applicants, and referred our surplus to the Utah County program. Anyway, if it doesn't work out for us, it doesn't work out. One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories was that year we really had to make do for Christmas. Perhaps it's good for us to have one of those experiences in our childhood to learn from and look back on with fondness.
I'm a single mom with three beautiful children: Cass 17, Nate 12, Gabe 11. I'm a student at UVU, an English major with an emphasis in Literature, a Peace and Justice Studies minor, a Service-Learning Scholar; an AmeriCorps volunteer, and I have a paid internship associated with my minor.