Cowboy Up

This hashtag is going around my town this month, as we “light up the darkness”, and bring more awareness to suicide prevention. We start in the public schools- the founder of “Cowboy Up” is a public school teacher, whose brother committed suicide. This teacher just happened to work in the same school as me, and was the second grade teacher to my second child (he is now 30!). She shares her story with local groups and churches, and definitely “lights up the darkness”.

The name “Cowboy Up” is in memory of her brother, who used the phrase frequently.

Personally, I have known the darkness of wanting life to end. When I finally passed through those dark times, I decided to do my best to reach out and help others who came into my life during their times of darkness. It has been 37 years now….I still remember the feeling of complete despair and hopelessness. I remember my step father telling me he would “help me do it right next time”.

If you are in a dark place, reach out to someone….

#thersalot2live4

~AoA

“Unparenting”

There has to be a word to describe a parent who neglects responsibility for the children in every way, over several years; yet still demands and threatens if things aren’t to their liking.

I am so tired of the dark cloud of continuous litigation hanging over my head. The most recent demands come from the dad’s…well….maybe 10th attorney. How does he have money to do all this, yet can’t help with medical costs or pay a minimal amount of support for the kids that he wanted so much? And wait….did I just count 10 new cows grazing in his field?!

Everything was going smoothly. The kids were making real progress toward resuming supervised visits. I was very hopeful that the dad had made progress as well….I was wrong. Instead of moving toward a supportive coparenting relationship….I was ghosted. I still send notice when the kids see doctors, and education related information. There is no response. The current litigation that was started, was something that could have been communicated through a text, if it wasn’t for the need for power and control. I have learned (mostly) to let go of what I can’t control. It’s not always easy, but it saves my sanity.

There was never any “co-parenting”….for a while there was “counter-parenting”….even “parallel parenting”…. and now we have “unparenting”. In one swoop, all of the progress is halted and reversed. Instead of building relationships and mending bridges, he continues to set it all ablaze in a metaphorical fire.

~AoA

Self Directed Learning

I have had a great thirst for knowledge as long as I can remember. I am thrilled to be able to have answers at my fingertips, with the internet.

I am really interested in progressive theories in education and child development. I remember feeling like all eyes were rolling when I suggested that the increasing prevalence of ADHD and ASD may actually be signs of human evolution- adapting to the environment. I believe there is a place for everyone who wants to participate in making our world better.

I love learning about technology that enhances and encourages learning. It has a place in educational evolution. I also promote the idea of self directed learning in areas of interest. I remember my days in middle school and high school. I wish that someone had taken an interest in what I wanted to learn. I spent a lot of time in the library, reading everything I could about human development. No one cared. What a joy it would have been to have a conversation about my interests! Well, that is what I try to do every day now. I make it a point to invest in my students in public school, and my own kids at home.

Today, I crossed paths with an angry parent. She was not happy with the public schools in our area. I shared with her that the main reason I went into public education, was to make a difference. I saw, as a student, that it was troubled. I realized that the biggest way I could make a difference, was to be inside. If I wanted to see a change, I had to be part of the change.

I have seen so many changes in my 18 plus years in education. I have my opinions based on experience. I will continue to promote self directed learning, and encourage kids to follow their passions!

~AoA

All The Projects!

Through all of the drama and trauma of the dark court cloud that hangs over my head, I have gotten quite good at distracting myself from the stress. I create positive stress!

At work, I have completely over planned a year’s worth of lessons and activities. I am teaching my students how to follow interests to direct independent learning. I get as much from it as the kids do! I have been teaching them to use a kid friendly blogging platform to document their learning, and it has worked very well.

Some of the projects that are in process are:

* A History of Cats

* Making and comparing 10 slime recipes

*The history of slime

* Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Pit and the Pendulum”

*Buzzy Kids Craft Booth (a kid run booth at a local craft fair)

*Make an iMovie about cats in space

*Stop motion animation movies

*Black Holes (research and learn to draw)

At home, Little AoA keeps me on my toes with her projects! She has been working on a service project to earn her Bronze Award in Girl Scouts. On top of that, she has been becoming very independent in the kitchen. She also has a great interest in all things Mr. Rogers Neighborhood and Dolly Parton.

(Working on a service project)

I think that helping others keeps me moving forward. It is important to take some time for self-care in the midst of service work and outside stressors! Recently, this has come in the form of having a meal by myself twice a month- while Brother is at supervised visits. My go to….

It is almost time to start the cool weather crochet projects…only it isn’t cool yet! We are still burning up in 100 degree heat!

What are your go to projects?

~AoA

Empath Problems

I have known that my 13 year old son (Brother) was an empath of sorts, for a long time. He does live with mental illness, along the spectrum of schizophrenia with an abnormally high IQ. He just engaged me in a conversation of circular reasoning- it was not fun. He accused me of “lying” because I say things are ok sometimes, when my body language and nonverbal communication says otherwise. We went around about how adults sometimes try to protect their kids from adult feelings of hurt, and that it is not really an outright lie to not discuss our feelings and private thoughts.

A bit later, I let him know that I was human. I have fear and past trauma that creeps into my mind. I fight it off. I get up and go to work, even on days when I just want to cover my head and escape the world. He knows of much of the trauma, because he experienced it too. He knows his dad has threatened to kill me and my parents. The 13 year old reasoning is that the threat is no longer valid if the location changes.

If Brother wanted to spend more time with his dad, or communicate more with him, I would not stand in the way.

I wish the dad understood and accepted this. Unfortunately, I am the target of the dad’s hatred, and it is stronger than his love for the kids. I remember having feelings in the past….wishing he would just attack me and get it over with.

I fight to stay out of that place. I continue in my vigilance…

~AoA

So Hot!

No need to cut the grass….it is all burned up! For the past week, every day has meant temperatures at, near, or just above 100 (F)! Walking outside, the heat is oppressive. Kids can’t go out and play, and the elderly can’t even step outside without being affected. The outdoor community pools have all closed for the season…

I am finding success in getting laundry done…because I don’t want to leave the house.

Pulling weeds…cleaning out the garage….washing the cars….going for a walk. How I daydream of cool, fall days.

Autumn has always been my favorite season. I missed it for the 15 years I lived in Florida- rainy season and hurricane season.

What is your favorite season?

~AoA

The Only People Benefitting Are The Attorneys

One year after agreeing on a change in our parenting plan, the ex has hired yet another attorney. This makes about his tenth one. The court filings have begun…initial complaint, response to complaint, counter-complaint, motion to dismiss, new proposed parenting plan, motion to withdraw motions…..wow! In between all of this, there are subpoenas, phone calls, emails, and lots of fact checking.

What the ex is trying to do, is set up an exact repeat of what we went through in court back in 2017. It was a full day hearing, in which his attorneys tried to tear apart the kids’ therapists and me. The truth prevailed. This was followed by a full parenting evaluation on both me and the ex. Next came more motions as supervised visits were not being secure enough to prevent secret messages from being sent. Finally, an agreement was reached, mainly putting the future progression of visits under the advisement of therapists. The kids therapists were to have updates from the ex’s therapist, and ongoing input as to his progress- that never happened. The ex was to demonstrate financial responsibility for helping to meet the needs of the kids- that didn’t happen. The bottom line is, a parenting plan can not be changed through the court unless there is a significant change of circumstance. Getting a “re-do” is legally inappropriate.

This dark cloud of litigation appeared over my head on August 1st….our first day of the new school year. It occupies part of my mind with anxious thoughts, which I fight off everyday.

How do I keep myself from being sucked up into the dark cloud? It is not easy. I practice being in the moment…making very short goals. Sometimes, my goal is to get through the next hour or even minute. I get up everyday and go to work, even when my first thought in the morning might be to go back to sleep! I find little moments of joy in my work, and the routine helps me focus on the moment.

I am saddened that the ex has chosen this path to communicate. I had glimpses of hope in the last year…these new actions have crushed that hope. The only people benefitting from the actions of the ex are the attorneys…

~AoA

It’s Good That I Don’t Understand

Why would someone spend thousands of dollars to try to hurt another in court, when he, himself is in contempt? I do not understand….

I don’t understand how a parent can feel good about him/herself when they are knowingly and willfully not supporting their children financially….

I don’t understand how a parent can think the way to build a healthy relationship with his/her child is to destroy the other parent….

I suppose it is a good thing that I don’t understand these things.

I have always tried to understand the points of view of others….

But I don’t understand this…

Like the top image, I have at times, tried so hard to keep doing the right thing with parenting plans and following court orders and agreements. I send informational texts about the kids, only to be ghosted for the last 9 months, while an attack against me was being prepared.

I am tired…..

~AoA

Here We Go Again

It was my first day back to work after a nice summer break. I enjoyed a long day full of positive emotions that filled the school as kids breathed life into the building. At the end of the day, I received an email. The dad (ex-husband since 2013), had retained an attorney (I think his 10th one since we initially separated), and filed a summons to make changes to our parenting plan (one that we just finalized a year ago).

The summons was telling me to go against recommendations of Little AoA’s therapist, and in fact, to change her therapist. Little AoA has been seeing the same person regularly for the last six years! The sad thing is, everything he hired an attorney to put into a summons, the dad could have texted. I guess he thinks the attorney has a more intimidating effect.

Not to worry….the dad has been in civil contempt of our agreement for the entire year. If it ends up in court, he will most likely get a visit to the local jail. That is not my wish, but I have learned through all of this experience, that I can’t make the dad support his kids. That is solely his responsibility. I am sad that he doesn’t support our kids even a little bit, yet demands control…

I hope to have more positive things to write about someday. When I started this blog in 2013, I NEVER thought I would still be dealing with the dad’s anger and bullying, six years later! It is the dark cloud that follows me….

~AoA

Let Us Not Forget The Silent

It is the time of year where we start to think about kids returning to school after summer break. In our community, the churches have really stepped up to see that every child has the school supplies needed. There is a school supply drive during the summer, called ” Stuff the Bus”. The supplies collected are divided among schools. Some churches hold “Back to School Bashes”, and hand out school supplies to anyone who needs them.

This year, our church purchased several boxes of backpacks. People took backpacks, and returned them the next week, packed with supplies.

While I absolutely love this project, I know there is a silent population that may not get what they need. The families who are experiencing domestic violence are on my heart. These will not be the families to step out and participate in a community event. They are in survival mode. Victims with children may have had all of their money taken by the abuser, in an effort to control. They may be dealing with trauma symptoms, and barely hanging on to what strength is needed to take care of children.

I have been in that place. I was blessed to have my parents there to offer support as I recovered and rebuilt from scratch. I also had the support of our local domestic violence center. There were days when I ended up at the center, scared for my life and the safety of my kids. School supplies were not on my mind…survival was key. Thankfully, my kids were provided with supplies at those times, by the Domestic violence center. Everyone in my life did not know what we were going through. Even though we talk about standing up and speaking up, it is not that easy. Victims are mentally beaten down so far that talking about it may be farther down the road.

Little AoA was reminded of our experience with the domestic violence center, and thought it would be nice to make up some backpacks just for them. We did just that! She was really excited to take them to the center. I am happy to be able to pay forward, the support we received!

~AoA