Saturday, September 18, 2010

My trip to Vegas

Wow! What a trip this has been!! Paul and I first found out about the possibility of this trip around the beginning of the year. It was originally supposed to be in Nashville at the Grand Old Opry Hotel in May. But the week before the convention, Nashville had major flooding issues, and the resort was under 18 feet of water!!! I was really bummed out that the convention was cancelled. I had lined up to visit with a number of friends and family in the area, and was really looking forward to seeing them. When we found out the trip had been rescheduled for Las Vegas, we were less than thrilled. This city is not exactly the place a conservative Christian really enjoys. Paul had to go as he was one of the speakers, but I was really on the fence about going. However, with all the stress of the last few months and the move just a couple of weeks away, I decided a good break would do my soul some good.

For the fact that Paul was in seminars several hours each day and most of the day Wed., I think we crammed in just about ever tourist hot spot that there on the Vegas Strip. We walked and walked and walked some more, and then we took the bus!!! We saw from the Vegas welcome sign all the way to Freemont St. I really did not enjoy Freemont St. Way too loud, drunks were everywhere, and it was dirty. The big screen canopy was cool and I got pictures of the famous cowboy and girl. We did find a really cool gift shop of Indian things (Kristen will love us for that!)

We rode the Eiffel tower ride and saw the city from WAY up high! Ya know, I have been at the Sears tower in Chicago many times, but this elevator was glass and it seems nothing was around you-- I was so totally backing up as far as I could!!! Our big splurge was a the MGM Grand hotel where we did the CSI Experience. It was really cool. It had real stuff from the show, and you got to do an interactive crime solving case with Grissom as our supervisor. All the cast was there (on video, of course-- that would have too cool if they were really there) to help us along with the different tasks. We had to examine fingerprint and blood evidence, and to watch the autopsy. Pretty cool stuff.

We also saw the Luxor, walked into the extravagant Trump Towers, saw the statue of Liberty made out of jelly beans, and the Vegas sign made out of M&Ms, went to Caesar’s palace, and so many other things. My husband humored me by allowing us to have our picture taken in front of the famous Little White Chapel, but no, Elvis wasn’t there!

My absolute favorite thing about Vegas was the Bellagio. Made famous in the Oceans 11 movie, it is well known for its grandeur. The fountain at night is spectacular. It goes off every 15 minutes, and I could sit and watch it all night. I think in total we saw it five times. The Bellagio is also equally as beautiful inside. The conservatory was breath taking, and the candy shop with its giant chocolate wedding dress, and 27 foot tall chocolate fountain was just plain a dream for this chocolate-loving girl.

I will certainly not miss some things in Vegas, and I learned NEVER take pamphlets being handed out on the street!!!!

A heart like Tyler

My children are all equally special to me. Kristen is my first-born and only girl. Bryce is my clingy and needing-much-love- child. Judson is my baby who carried me through such a dark time. But then there is Tyler. I used to worry that he would have the “middle child lost in the shuffle” syndrome. He is such an easy going kid--has been since he was born. He rarely makes trouble for anyone, and can sometimes be quite a wall flower. But as Tyler grows, I am seeing more and more what an incredible kid he really is. A couple of years ago, it was the joke amongst moms at my church that they wanted to clone Tyler. This was the beginning of me being able to see just what a kind of kid he really is.

I can remember one time during the first winter that I was a single mom. A man in the church had just taken care of plowing our snow, and Tyler came into the kitchen and handed him a few pennies and said thank you for taking care of us. I about burst into tears right there!!! The man took them, then later snuck them back to me. Tyler has said since kindergarten that he wants to be a preacher when he grows up. He is now in third grade and that has not changed. You can not know Tyler for very long without seeing his incredibly caring heart. He will do anything for you. He will do anything you ask of him, and he will do it with a happy heart. Ty has never been one for much physical showing of affection. Hugs and kisses came far and few between when he was young. But do not be deceived: there is a fierce loyalty within him that can not be shaken. He is unshakably tight with Kristen, and looks out for his brothers as well. Oh, don’t get me wrong, he is not perfect. Yes, he fights with his brothers; but at the end of the day, he would give anything for them.

The thing that makes Tyler so incredible, though, is his love for God. His prayers each night are so special. He prays for others and he prays for himself. I love that he prays each night for him “to always follow You, Lord.” He recently has begun to really read the Bible for himself. He asked me one night how many gems (that is our reward system) he would get for reading an entire book of the Bible. I dismissed him with a wave and said we would talk about that when it happened. The next morning he came down with bleary eyes, snuggled up with me, and said, “Mom, I read I,II, and III John, but I fell asleep in Jude. Can I have a big gem for that?” To say the least, I was shocked that an eight year old could read so much in one night. As the weeks have gone on, we have had many talks about what a certain passage means. This is how I know he is really reading it! I had to direct him out of Revelation, as that was scaring him and very difficult for me to explain. Really, Revelation is hard for adults to understand let alone a child!!!!

Tyler also has an incredible laugh. His kindergarten teacher gave him as a graduation present a stuffed turtle that laughs. He still has it, and I recently put it away so we can keep it nice. She said the turtle laughs just like he does. She is so right! I heard that laugh so clearly two nights ago as I was talking to him on the phone. Kristen did something that made him laugh, and this incredible giggle just broke out. It is the kind of laugh that no matter what mood you are in, you can not help but laugh with him.

Tyler was a joy as a baby, but as he grows, he is even more of a blessing. I really can’t wait to see what kind of a man he will grow into, and if he continues on this path, he will make some girl out there one great husband!

The bridge

This is the post that has been rolling in my head the most and what prompted me to return to blogging. Losing my house has been a most trying experience for me. When I was thick in the throws of the decision process, I asked my pastor why, when I have come through some pretty dark times, why was this one so hard for me. He simply said, “because you are a woman, and women are nesters at heart. This is messing with your nest.” He was dead spot on. Through this process I have realized that I am a pretty strong person of roots. I had made my house a home--my home, and I have no desire to move it around. I had carefully repainted and decorated every inch of it. My kids have called it home for six years, and with the exception of Kristen, do not remember living anywhere else. When the divorce happened, it was so important to me to keep as much of their life as normal as possible. I did not want them to lose their father and their home at the same time. And it worked….for a time.

There was also this over-whelming sense of failure. I had fought so hard to keep the kids in their home, and now it wasn’t working. I was not being able to provide for my kids. But again, I had to be reminded by those close to me, that I was forced into this position. It wasn’t supposed to be that I was caring for these children alone or that Paul was to fix all the errors of the past. Some things just can’t be fixed. It wasn’t my burden of failure to bear. It took me a long while to fully understand that. And, amazingly enough, when I finally surrendered and told the kids we would be moving, they took it pretty well!!! I was amazed at how they do not really need the house to be “home.” They taught me how much home is were your loved ones are. It doesn’t matter what walls we live in, just that we are together. I know I will need to be reminded of this again when in a few weeks I see my empty house.

Another aspect of this loss is the memories that it drudged up. When it became appearant that he was really not coming back, I packed up many things and just put the boxes up in the attic. These boxes have not been touched since until earlier this summer when I began packing and cleaning. I had to go through these things and get rid of a lot. It reopened the whole thing for me. I relived the abandonment all over again. I happened to pick up a People magazine recently while waiting in the dr.’s office. I am sure most of you have heard some of the Elizabeth Edwards story. I have seen several interviews with her, and relate so much with her story. The magazine article had an excerpt from her book and it jumped out at me. I in no way say I agree with her politically, but I think the quote sums up exactly why losing my house has been especially hard on me. “When I see John, I don’t just see the today that others’ see. I see all the memories….We have raised four children and buried one. So when I close the door on the John of today, I also had to say good-bye to that sweet man whom I had loved for so long. It was not as easy as it might have seemed to anyone looking in from the outside, who knew only the John of today. And I have to wonder if he is sad, too, when he thinks of that young man.” Rodney and I had twelve years together, most of which were not that bad. I was forced to make a new life for myself, and while I love this new life, and I really do believe it is better than the life I had before, it is still a loss that must be grieved. I was in such a state of survival for so long, I do not know how much I fully allowed myself to grieve . Loosing this house has forced me to do this. Paul has been so loving and patient. I am sure it has not been easy for him. But he has held me and let my cry and cry.

As I was cleaning out the attic, I came upon things that used to be Rodney’s. While it was so tempting to just throw it all away, I knew the right thing to do was to offer it to him. That Saturday afternoon was one of the best days of healing for me ever. Things with him have been pretty civil for a bit now, but the conversation that came forth that day, put so much to rest. I will keep the details of that conversation between him and I, but this process has reminded me yet again that we must go through the fire to be purified and come out as gold.

I entitled this post “the bridge” for a specific reason. As Paul and I were in the thick of trying to find a house big enough to accommodate our large family, Dad and Mom LaFlamme told us they wanted to talk to us. I never saw what was coming!!! Dad presented to us the option of them buying a new house and us renting their current house. Now, keep in mind this is the house that they have owned for 30 years, and everyone grew up in. My first thought was that it would never work. It would be too awkward. But as prospect after prospect fell through, and money was as tight as it could get, both Paul and I began to see it as a viable option. In another conversation I had with mom, I was relating to her the feelings of failure and that we are taking a step backward by needing to rent a house for a while instead of buying. She told me to look at this time not as a step back but as a bridge. WOW!!! That hit me hard, and the more I thought on it, the more I knew she was right. Even though Paul and I have been married nearly two years, living in the same house as Rodney and I did was in some ways still hanging on to the past. Living in Mom and Dad’s house is the transition time we need to get into our place.

I do so strongly dislike waiting!!!! We plan to be at Mom and Dad’s not more than two or three years at the latest. But, we all know what the economy is like, and it pretty difficult to get a loan these days. Right now, it is hard for me to see that I could ever consider this house “mine.” I see us as borrowing it to help us get through. I will forever be indebted to these two wonderful people who have adopted me as their own, and so lovingly cared for their grandchildren. I can not say enough about them. They have helped me in far more ways than I could ever put into words. They are giving me practically a blank check when it comes to decorating the house. I can repaint anything I want, and they are even letting us install my dishwasher in the kitchen!!! (Mom, I don’t know how you lived without one for 30 years!!) They are offering us a safe place that is big enough for our family of seven to spread out in!!! The kids are excited to be moving to somewhere so familiar. They know the neighborhood very well, and some very good friends of ours live just three houses down!!!!

I have been reminded many times through these last few months of my favorite verse in Scripture: I Cor. 10 :13. “There hath no temptation (trial) taken you but such as is common to man. But God is faithful, and he will not tempt you beyond that which you are able. But will with the temptation also make a way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What brought me to bankruptcy

This is the story of my journey to bankruptcy. I have had this one rolling in my head for months now, and just have not been able to get it written down. To tell this story, I must back up a bit. I am trying to be very delicate when I say this, as to not slander my ex-husband, but a few months prior to his leaving, he took out a second mortgage on our house. It was typical then, and so many people were doing it. It put the house upside down in equity, but it was so easy to get the loan, and the housing market was booming, and I think we foolishly thought it would continue that way. I blindly signed off on it, never thinking in just a few short months, I would be handling such debt on my own. When the divorce took place, he agreed to pay a little more than what the state required of him for child support in order to cover the two mortgages. That, combined with me working full time, was enough for me and the kids to live frugally, but comfortably. A little over a year after the divorce, he got fired from his good paying business job, and thus all but completely stopped paying child support. That moment is the beginning of my journey to bankruptcy.

Because of the house being upside down in equity, I was never able to refinance it to put it in my name only. All this time, I have been still tied to him through the house. I think we both have equally hated that fact, but it’s something neither of us can do anything about. By the time Paul and I got married, I was already falling behind on the mortgages. I was paying some, but not keeping up. I ended up taking my ex to court to get child support started again, but because he so dramatically changed his job situation, my child support dropped by $1,100 per month. The addition of Paul’s income helped, but when you factor in the expenses that he brought as well, it did not completely make up that difference. Paul and I have tried many things over the last year and a half to save our house. The loan modification process is a nightmare!!!!! They need every detail of your life written down, and then they ask for it again! You are a total peon that means nothing to the mortgage company. They hound you and hound you and then “lose” what you send them! We got far enough into things that we even paid for three months on a modification, only to find out paperwork had been misfiled, nullifying the whole thing. We set up a modification program with the second company based on the mod. with the first. That one was current up until the day I filed for bankruptcy! But at this same time, my ex filed bankruptcy, thus complicating my modification process. Everything was put on hold for many months until his stuff was settled. Almost as soon as it was, I started getting foreclosure notices. I attempted again to start the modification process, but it soon became apparent that things were not working out. I began to really consider bankruptcy as my last option. I began to surrender to the thought that we were going to have to move. Yes, in a bankruptcy you can restructure things to keep your house and car. But coupled with the housing market crash, I now owe $60,000 more than what the house is worth. Add to that the fact that we, as a growing family of 7, will very soon out grow the house, and Paul and I both know the best thing for us is to surrender the house. I will write more about that choice in my next post.

33 Things I have learned since becoming a divorcee

I have modified this general blog (___ number of things I have learned about life) to be very specific to me. Since I am 33 this year, I will write about 33 things! I have a number of things rolling in my head, and I am interested to see what will unfold as I type. I imagine that most will be serious in nature, but do not be surprised if something totally funny and out of the blue comes falling out!

1. Life does not turn out the way you thought it would.
2. Sometimes that new life can be better than the life you dreamed of.
3. Conservative Christians generally have their head in the sand when it comes to divorce.
4. Divorce within the church is far more common than people like to admit.
5. Though one can have a house full of children, one can still feel very alone.
6. Being a single mom brought incredible challenges, but also equally satisfying conquests.
7. Sleep is very vital to a body’s existence.
8. A single mom is far more capable than many give them credit for.
9. Sometimes a single mom just needs a listening ear and a hug.
10. Children of divorce form an incredible, inseparable bond.
11. Starbucks makes the best Fraps.
12. A ten minute hydro massage goes far to energize a body.
13. Serving jar baby food to your baby instead of making it all from scratch does not qualify you as worst mom of the year.
14. In the eyes of a child, no one, and I mean no one, can ever take the place of a dedicated mom.
15. The term “mom” really is just a title. It is the emotions and feelings behind who you are calling that title to that is important.
16. Netflix is a sanity keeper sent from heaven itself.
17. Add any form of chocolate to that list as well!!!
18. Although sleep is vital, a single mom is able to go days before she realizes she is really tired-- and then she goes for hours more to make sure the kids are all tucked in before she crashes!
19. A single mom can sleep at any time, anywhere, and still know the exact movements of her children!
20. While a single mom can prove that she can do it all, she really may not want to, and longs to just turn it all over to a capable man.
21. There really IS a man out there who would take on four small children that are not his own, but love them like they are.
22. How did I get so lucky as to find him?
23. Marriage is truly wonderful when your husband puts your needs above his own.
24. Serving frozen meal in a bag suppers save your sanity when you hate to cook and are exhausted as well.
25. McD’s once a week with a friend while the kids play in the play land is so refreshing.
26. Someone finds me breath-takingly beautiful, despite what I think of myself.
27. The bedroom is a sacred and beautiful place when both spouses treat it as such.
28. “Stolen moments” are the best ones!
29. A husband that can cook a fabulous breakfast and Italian suppers is a true keeper.
30. Jet Fuel is a type of coffee.
31. Italian sweet crème makes any hot drink better--except lemon zinger tea-- it curdles like cottage cheese!
32. If you thought dating as a teenager is hard, try being an adult under the watchful eye of your pastor.
…And last but not least…
33. If Paul ever dares to hurt me, there is a line a mile long waiting to go after him (and many have told him so)!!!

Re-entering Blogland

It has been many months since I have blogged. I have missed it on some levels, but on others, my past writings fulfilled a need that has now gone away. It does often occur to me though, that I would love to blog on a certain event of my life. I enjoy writing, though I have very little creativity, so my writing are really limited to my personal experience! I find myself this week in the unusual circumstance of having much free time. I am currently on a business trip with my husband in Las Vegas. While he is in seminars, I have no commitments! As I am not a person to venture into unknown places alone, I fully intend to sit by the pool and get some color in this very white skin! I have come armed with a few good books and my laptop. So sit back and enjoy catching up in the mind of this formerly single mom.