Sunday, December 21, 2014

Made it through the first semester.

Technically, trimester but since the program I have changed to does not do trimesters, I'm back to just having semesters. However, I'll be in school three years instead of two. Ah well. I will have an Associate's degree though as well as a technical diploma and hopefully, a better chance to find a decent job.

In the meantime, I'm on a three week winter break which has been a little rough so far. Twelve hours after I emailed my final paper, the oven element went out (in a bright flash of light too which was kind of interesting) leaving me unable to bake for several days. And baking was something I was looking forward to really focusing on too. To add to that, John's been rather grumpy about me doing any celebrating of the holiday (as he tends to be every single freaking year since he went back to church in 2004).

I celebrate the holiday. I have since childhood well before I even understood the reason why people celebrate. I have Christmas memory upon Christmas memory, good ones and bad ones. It was a tradition faithfully kept year after year even if it was next to financially impossible, even if the time around it was utterly craptastic (or even the whole year was--1988 being a really good example). It was the one constant in an otherwise, rather chaotic and dysfunctional life, a bright spot to look forward to (even if that wasn't really the case). During the years I was a practicing Catholic, there was even more meaning to it which added its own bit of magic.

Since meeting John in 1999, Christmas has become sort of a dance in figuring out how to celebrate it in a way that still give it meaning to me but also didn't offend him. Some years that was easier than others. Since 2003, it became even more difficult because the very glue that held my family together, my mother, was no longer with us due to being incarcerated for her part in my brother in law's murder. That year, I had planned for a wedding to take place on the 27th of December, a wedding date I had to change just to get my husband to be home (I bumped the date to my birthday, 11 weeks earlier).

With my older daughter's birthday just two days after Christmas in 2005, I really had to become more aware of what parts of the holiday were more important to me and what parts I could do without. There was even some years I tried to give up the holiday altogether but that became way too depressing for me. In the end, I more or less have an idea as to the traditions I want to uphold and hang onto but even that at times can be too much for a person whose religious beliefs sees Christmas as a reason to be thrown into the Lake of Fire.

Still, as part of my mental health treatment, I have worked to become more aware of my beliefs and my values and to go along with them even when it doesn't exactly please others. Yes, he has a right to his beliefs and his feelings on the holiday but that doesn't mean I'm to give up the things that are important to me. Trying to get him to understand that isn't easy though. So, this time of year gets a little rough. Wish it wasn't that way, makes it hard to want to stay in a marriage when I have to fight just to celebrate the holidays that are important to me while I'm pretty tolerant towards his holy days. Time will tell I guess where this all will lead. All I can do for now is focus on what I need to do and do it.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Growing pains...

At least, they certainly feel that way. It's been a bit of a rough adjustment with me going back to school and I wish I could say that John has been supportive but he hasn't really. He won't admit it but I think he feels threatened. I'm not at home to do as much as I used to. I'm either in school or working on homework. There's a lot of homework which is to be expected for college classes. These are not easy classes either. Well, my writing and math class so far have been pretty easy but my networking class, not so much. There's a ton of information to read and remember and the reading is all done online. Since the internet bill wasn't paid before John and the girls left for the Feast, I was without internet at home the entire time he was gone. That, along with the fact that he went to begin with, taking his entire last paycheck and failing to pay any bills at all; missing my birthday and wedding anniversary during that week and not even really calling me because he forgot the charger, left me feeling just a smidge resentful along with hurt, angry, and even a little depressed.

Fortunately, my 34th birthday wasn't a total washout. My sister and I saw my mom the day before and then took a trip down to Chicago to visit family we hadn't seen in over 20 years. That was nice. We did some shopping, went out to eat, had yummy desserts, looked at old pictures from years ago. It was a good time.

But right now, I wonder what the future holds for my marriage. I wonder if we're going to make it through this transition. I'm working on a degree in a field that has a lot of potential for me after nine years of not really do much at all other than being home with the kids. While I don't regret having that time with my girls, it's a big change for me and for all of us. The dynamics are slowly changing. The way things have been isn't working. It never really did but it took me a long time to challenge that. I felt that being home was necessary, that being home no matter the cost was the most important thing. But really, the costs are getting to be too high. There's simply not enough income coming in and I didn't see that changing anytime soon. If anything, it had gotten worse. All I was seeing was a never ending repeat of the same problems over and over again and enough was enough.

So, I'm growing and changing and developing my own goals which means I'm no longer just going along with what John wants. At least, that's not the only option out there. And I don't know if our goals line up anymore (or really if they ever did in the first place). There are times they definitely don't seem to, especially in as far as our religious beliefs and in our priorities for ourselves and our family. I struggle with communicating with him. Nothing seems to come out right and I end up yelling just to get him to listen (he doesn't really but I'm so frustrated by then, I don't really care). There's never any time for us to just talk and more and more it just seems like we're living separate lives.

We're married and we're living together but there really isn't all that much closeness. While he doesn't see anything wrong with this (so long as he's able to do what he wants to do ultimately), I'm not happy with where our relationship is at. And while I've been working on myself and on being happy and content without relying on him to make me happy, I can't help but see more and more of a deficit to our relationship. He feels more like a third child than a husband and yet he more or less makes all of the decisions without even talking to me. It just doesn't feel like much of a marriage.

But I'm keeping on and working on what I need to work on because what else can I do? It all takes time and it takes me being able to be independent. In a sense, it's almost like going through the teen and young adult years again only instead of leaving my parents to live on my own, I may end up leaving my husband.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

About halfway through my first trimester... SCHOOL I mean! Definitely not having another baby! The program I'm in follows the trimester schedule and week 7 starts tomorrow. It's been challenging in some ways and not so much in others which, for a first trimester, is probably a good thing. I have two classes that are specifically geared toward my program and two classes that are for general education requirements. Those two are most definitely my easy classes even though one is math which surprises me as math isn't always my strong subject. Then I have a computer class that goes heavily into the inner workings of a computer. That's been going pretty well too. The challenging class is the one that's VERY specific for my degree. It's my networking class. I'm doing decently in it, probably around a B but there's a lot of information to remember and it's been going fast which doesn't give me a lot of time to really hammer the information in my head. I'm hoping that as times goes on, it will stick more. Either that or I may have to make a change in majors...

Balancing everything has been quite the challenge too. John is still working overnights but I have two days where I have classes at 8am. One of them follows his overnight shift. He's done at seven and class is at 8. This hasn't always worked so I've hired my brother's fiancee to watch the girls in the morning so that I don't have to worry about whether or not I'm going to get to class on time. This became necessary after John forgot I had class one morning. At least, that's what he said. Hard to know sometimes if it was really that (though he is rather absentminded) or if it's more his way of trying to gain control of the situation. Hard to say. He can't complain too much right now. It's my financial aid that helped us get rent caught up so he could attend the feast that's a requirement for his religion that starts this week. He had set aside money for it but then spent it and has taken his most recent check to use for the trip. That wouldn't have been possible if I hadn't been able to pay the rent. Or, he would have gone anyway and then we would have run the risk of being evicted but hey, at least his god would be satisfied by the great sacrifice he made.

I might be a tad bitter about this feast thing. Doesn't help that he'll be gone on what will be not only my birthday but also our 11 year wedding anniversary. But it's not the first time his holy days has taken precedence over our relationship even though we wouldn't have even been married if he hadn't forgone his religious beliefs for some time in the first place. Fortunately, my younger sister has come to the rescue and we have a number of plans for next weekend. Which is good because otherwise, my 34th birthday would have been kind of sucky.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

It's been a year of changes, with more on the way!

Since August of last year:

We got a new car and had it for six months. In February, we got into a car accident that totaled the car but fortunately, there were no severe injuries other than my suffering a cracked rib. It took a couple of months but we were able to get another car, this time a van. The girls still miss the car though.

In October, we took a trip up to Fond du Lac, WI to see my mom. It was the first time I had seen her in 9 years and Natalie got to meet her for the first time as well. I didn't take Isabelle since I wasn't sure how she would react to the surroundings. It wasn't too bad but it was kind of hard to see how different my mom was in some ways. Yet, she didn't really look that different at all.

Also in October, we were finally able to leave our roach infested apartment and move to a very nice neighborhood into a duplex. While we lost a bedroom (went from 3 to 2), we gained a laundry room and I feel the trade was a sufficient one as I no longer have to wash clothes once or twice a month. We did have to leave a number of things behind in order to avoid bringing any bugs with us but we've been able to replace most of it since then.

John quit his job at the local call center just a week before our car accident. He had finally heard back from a job he had been waiting a number of months for and decided just work at that one job instead of working at both of them. It never did come through as he planned, only giving him 35 hours a week when he was working 40 hours plus overtime at his other job. He lost that job (as a debt collector) in June and was unemployed for a month. Now he's working a night audit job at a local hotel (one of the best hotels in town where he actually has to dress up in a suit).

I've now completed a full year and a half of dialectical behavior therapy and I'm looking at graduating to stage 2. This program has been extremely helpful for me in terms of giving me the skills I need to keep my emotions regulated.

During John's month of unemployment, I looked into returning to the workforce. However, I quickly realized that being out of the workforce for nine years really put me at a disadvantage and decided instead to return to school. I start Monday as a student seeking an Associate's Degree in IT (Information Technology): Network Systems Administration at the local technical college. I'm very excited to be going back to school and while it's going to be a challenge, I really think it's going to help me a lot in terms of self-esteem and self-reliance.

John also returned to school. Back in April he started working on his Master's in Education degree. He is going through an online university so it's been a very interesting challenge for him as he learns the ins and outs of technology he had had no experience with the last time he attended college.

Both girls are doing well. Isabelle just turned four last month and is a bundle of energy. She has also inherited her father's build which makes finding clothes for her rather interesting. She can still wear 18 month shorts. Pants that size would be a little short on her but regular 3T pants tend to fall off her bottom. Natalie seems to have the opposite problem. She needs a larger size (especially in jeans) due to her waist but can't quite pull it off because of her height. She's not short but it just doesn't quite add up. Knit pants tend to fit her better (now I think I know why my mom rarely bothered buying me jeans when I was her age).

We joined the YMCA earlier this year and the girls have both had a chance to take some lessons. Natalie and Isabelle both took swim lessons and Isabelle also took some gymnastics lessons while she was waiting to get back into swimming. Both of them had a lot of fun and did very well. We're taking a small break right now until I can get our schedules all figured out but I hope to get them back into lessons before too long.

Natalie attended summer Bible camp for the third year in a row through her local church. As always, she had a blast and can't wait to go next year. It was a little bit of a challenge since it was during the month John was out of work but we were able to get a scholarship for the camp and made do with the things we already had.

I'm sure there's more I'm forgetting to mention, but those were the big things in the last year as far as I recall. This next year will be quite interesting as I work my way through college and juggle family and all the other things that are bound to come up. I look forward to the challenges though as I know that they will make things easier for all of us down the line. At the very least, we won't have to keep relying on just one family member for employment.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Looks like I will be returning to school this fall.

At least, this is my plan. I'm still waiting for my high school transcripts to get over to the college and to hear the final word on whether I've been accepted into the program I've applied to. Once I hear back from that, financial aid should all fall into place as well. I have applied for the IT: Network Systems Administration program at the local technical college. It's a two year degree but after that, I should be able to find a job that will pay at least a decent wage (close to living wage if not above living wage at any rate). Looking for work wasn't really going anywhere and I suspect that 9 years out of the workforce with no recent job training is a good part of the reason for that. Rather than seeking out a full-time job at just slightly over minimum wage, I figured it would be better to take the time now to go back to school and get that degree. I can still look for part time work to contribute to our income but ultimately, going back to school is going to be the best bet at this time.

I've done my research. I was originally looking into the Administrative Professional program but after some consideration and research, decided that Information Technology was a better plan. The potential job growth is higher, the wage is higher, and I will be learning skills that can be used in a variety of places (even self-employment if I'm so inclined). I feel good about the decision I've made and I'm looking forward to the classes I plan to take. It will be a mentally challenging field for me to go into but not so challenging that I will feel overwhelmed and want to give up.

It will mean some changes. John has found a job working at a hotel overnights. He, obviously, will be home more with the girls during the day while I'm in classes (though most of them will be in the later afternoons and evenings). This may mean changes with homeschooling among other responsibilities but I think these will be changes for the good. I spent 9 years putting my full focus on our family and while that will be changing a little, I really do feel that it will help with my self-esteem and ultimately, improve our family situation.

I have struggled with the idea of going back to school for a long time. I was about the same age as my oldest (actually a year younger) when my mom decided to go back to school. It was hard for me because she ended up having to commute 50 miles and therefore wasn't there when I came home from school. Even after we moved, she still wasn't around as much and wasn't at many of the school events I had. She took longer to finish her degree though and was still in college when I started in 1999. I'm planning to get my associate's degree and go directly into the workforce. I have come to realize too that my situation now is much different that the situation I grew up in. It's not the same at all and both girls have had a lot of time with us and will continue to get time with us, it just won't be all the time.

It will be a challenge but I'm looking forward to it, looking forward to the needed changes and to feeling like I'm accomplishing something in my life.

Friday, July 11, 2014

So far 2014 has been uh, interesting, and not always in a good way.

The end of 2013 really seemed to be a turning point for all of us. We were able to get financing for a car that we all really liked and one that would be dependable for us. We were able to find a new place in a MUCH nicer neighborhood and moved there without bringing too many bugs with us (SO nice to have an apartment that wasn't crawling with roaches!). John had a dependable job with hours that gave us the money we needed and we were able to get a few things with the tax return.

Then we get to February. A job John had been waiting to hear from for some time finally became available. The original plan was to add this to the job he was already working in order to bring in more money to cover some of the extra expenses that came up from moving and owning a car. Somehow though, he had forgotten this and instead, quit the full-time job he had, just one week before starting the new job. The day before he's to start the new job, we're heading home from a friend's and get into a car accident. Our car is totaled. Insurance covered it but it takes a couple of months before we get a new car and that's a price increase. The new job, while paying more per hour, offered fewer hours. He got, at the most, 35 hours a week. We get the rental renewal notice for our place (original lease was for 8 months) and that went up $20/month to cover the water bill. Just over two weeks ago, John lost his job. They gave him the option of quitting instead of being fired and he took that, not thinking that at least if he was fired, he could have applied for unemployment.

It's been a rough couple of weeks and I'm pushing myself to get out there and do what I need to do to get back into the workforce instead of waiting for John to get another job. He doesn't seem to be all that motivated to do so this time around because in April, he started classes for his Master's degree online. His assignments seem to take up all his time now, even without having a job with it. I won't lie; I'm kind of disappointed in him but this is nothing new, unfortunately. What's different this time is is that I don't have a newborn or even a toddler dependent on me. My youngest will be 4 and has been weaned for awhile now. I'm trying to take this as a sign that it's time for ME to step up and do what needs to be done for the family.

It's not going to be easy though and I'm looking into all my options as far as assistance with job searching and what not. I've been working on getting my driver's license and I may look into going back to school as well. At 33 years old, I'm finally really working on my independence. I wish I could rely on my husband. His religious beliefs do seem to stem from an idea that the male is to be the provider for the family. But lately, I've been seeing that restlessness in him, that restlessness that brings us trouble. There's only so many times I can go through this before I have to decide that enough is enough, that the way things are being done currently just is not working.

So, I'm working on it, I'm trying to figure out what I want to do with my life and figure out how to make my OWN life a life worth living because really, I can't just keep following him around and watching him live his life the way he wants. I need to figure out what I want out of my own life and then do what it takes to get that life. It's a scary thing. It's all too easy to just sit there and watch life go by but I'm not happy with how this year is going and I can't keep waiting for it all to get better without doing anything to make it better. I have to push on and do what needs to be done.

I don't know what that is going to do to our relationship. I've been so dependent on him for so long that I think changing things around the other way will be a challenge. We'll see, I guess.

Monday, June 09, 2014

So here I am, almost a year later.

Where did the time go? It's June again and rather than wait until the week of the anniversary to deal with it, I'm trying to prepare and deal with it now. Not sure what that is all going to entail but distracting myself and trying to forget about it certainly didn't help. It happened and while the anniversary is nowhere near as bad as the event was itself, there are still a lot of emotions bottled up inside, emotions that are very much like a sealed and shaken bottle of soda, just waiting for the moment someone unsuspecting opens the cap.

There's still a lot I have not dealt with. Other than a few cards, I have not spoken with my dad since the impact statement I made in November of 2004. I talk to my mom fairly regularly as she calls me (collect but at least it's not too expensive). Part of the reason for this stems from our very rocky relationship when I was growing up. He was never an easy person to talk to, he was often volatile, and you just never knew what would set him off so it was just easier to avoid him which really was a shame because we're very much alike in our interests. When he did take the time to actually talk (as opposed to venting about my mom or older sister), he had a lot of knowledge and is a very intelligent person but very very often unapproachable. His constant anger and dislike of people and the world eventually drove us all away and so, in the years since the murder (which, as far as that goes, wasn't all that surprising a thing to have happened considering how volatile he was), I never really talked to him. A big part of that has been that fear of rejection as he had rejected me so many times while I was growing up. It had always been easier to control the relationship I have with my mom (especially now) but I never felt that way about my dad.

There are a lot of difficult and conflicting emotions to wade through and for the most part, I'm alone in that journey. For many, it's easier to just move on and forget about it but really, it's not that easy or that simple. It may have been almost 11 years but the impact of that day is still there. The loss of parental units (even if that loss is incarceration and not death) is still a loss and it was at such a time in my life where that loss was very acutely felt. I was 22 years old and still in need of some parental guidance. Since that time, I have been more or less swimming the waters of adulthood alone with no one to really get any advice from. Eleven years later and I'm still having trouble accepting that I'm pretty much on my own.