You Don’t Realize How Much You Do, Until You Can’t Do It

I had a COVID scare this past week. I started having tightness in my chest that remained constant for 48-76 hours. I was going to try to just sneak to get a COVID test, so that everyone would not be upset with anxiety, and I wouldn’t have to be out of work for a week if it was negative. Well, the odds were not in my favor to follow my plan.

I called my doctor and left a message to consult before I took time to get a test. No response…..so I drove to our county health department….they had changed their hours and days, and did not update the website. So…..I started calling pharmacies….no luck. There goes my plan to do it all “under the radar”. I had to take the next day off work to go get it done. While I was in line at the health department, trying to figure out the “do it yourself” test kit, my doctor called. They urged me to come in (in my car, in the back parking lot) and let my doctor check me out. So, I ended up with a flu test, two covid tests, an inhaler, and some medication.

Next was the wait….

I did not expect to get any results for 3-5 days. In the meantime, my family went into shock mode. My teenager had conversations with me from across the hall. We reviewed my symptoms over and over again. We discussed my contacts…over and over again. We discussed other things it could be….over and over again.

The grandparents tried their best to stay on their side of the house. Their biggest worry…who was going to cook for them. I had checked with my doctor about this, and was assured that with precautions, I could still cook. The grandparents were use to me serving as well, which I couldn’t do. I would just cook, and tell them it was ready.

Living in a multigenerational home has been full of blessings, and also a learning curve. Over the last year, my parents have become very dependent on me. It can feel overwhelming at times, as I still have to work full time as well. They stopped going places when the pandemic started, except for very close places like drive thrus and sometimes a doctor’s office. My mom can no longer navigate a big store, as her knee gives out, and she can’t find things. She can’t remember how to operate the oven, or deal with dishes that are either too high or too low. We have learned to be very intentional about making sure that she can get to things she wants.

We had weekly help with the housework before the pandemic, but that has now become my job. I don’t get to everything as quickly…but it gets done. The AoA kids have learned to adapt as well. They are a great help when I am at work. By great help, I am referring to watching out for the grandparents, and helping them navigate technology. The kids are pretty typical in that cleaning isn’t their life priority- just a need to do.

I will be working from home this week, even though I received a NEGATIVE COVID result! My job is actually very enjoyable. If our county would just make the students mask up, it would be pretty safe, and definitely not as anxiety producing. I don’t think that is a lot to ask for the health and safety of our teachers and their families. I have had several teacher friends lose loved ones to covid this year. This didn’t have to happen. With the knowledge we now have, it should not be happening as frequently, but in fact, it is happening more.

We are tired….

~AoA

Adoption Application

Guess who is ready to adopt a rescue Basset Hound? After years of being pet free, we are ready to welcome a four legged, floppy eared, furry friend into our family! Our state Basset rescue does not have any Bassets right now, but I went ahead and submitted our application and did the “virtual home visit” so that we will be ready when the right dog becomes available. Just for fun, I have started looking at Basset Hound pictures and memes….enjoy!

I am just as excited as Little AoA! When I think back, I realize that the AoA kids have never had the experience of having a pet who reciprocates affection. The dad pretty much hated animals, yet we lived on a farm. He didn’t want any animals in the house (when my animal history was to have pets who lived with the family). The kids witnessed animal abuse in their very early lives, probably contributing to their anxiety. Both the kids have finally had time to heal. I wondered if this time would come.

I would love to hear about your pets!

~AoA

Is January the Preview?

Although I entered 2021 very carefully, and continue to tiptoe around, the unbelievable just keeps coming. Perhaps most unbelievable in my world, is that the dad has just submitted his intent to represent himself in a court case that he initiated against me in 2018. He has been through nearly 10 different attorneys since our divorce 8 years ago. I have become numb to the threats now, and just get sad that the hate toward me has continued to be stronger than love for the kids. There is nothing that I can do, as the dad is the one who needs to initiate visits at the visit center. Rather than do that, he has just refused to visit…..and then complains that he doesn’t see the kids. The holidays just came and went- no card, no gift, heck- he skipped the small amount of child support for December too! I have for the most part, had to let go of the emotions that at one time occupied my spirit.

On a better note, we finally had some beautiful snow here in Tennessee! Here are some snow views from my yard!

On yet another positive note, my teenager has started emerging into the world! AoA teen rediscovered the camera, and started carrying it everywhere, and capturing some beautiful images! I knew this was a gift, but my teen doesn’t really embrace it or think it is special.

Little AoA has been spending time playing with stop motion, using her dolls. It is such a delight to have both kids enjoying learning new things! This was a big hope for homeschooling. It took about a year before the kids felt the freedom they had in learning. As a public school teacher, it has long been obvious to me that kids aren’t really taught to love learning, or given choices about what they learn. This became very real when I watched my own kids completely lost and unable to drive their own learning in areas of interest.

~AoA

Not My Cats

This is my front porch. These are not my cats. They look pretty comfortable. These two were born under my back porch, right before I moved into my house several years ago. The next door neighbor wanted to keep them as outdoor cats to keep the mice and moles at bay. Well, a few months ago, the neighbor got two dogs….barking dogs. Now the cats spend more time at my house. I hope they get more mice at my house! I am pretty sure that our yard mole has now moved to the neighbor’s yard!

We had our first snow of January this week! School was cancelled for Friday, which is always a perfect day for snow! Families enjoyed some much needed down time. It has been a really challenging time for our school families. The kids are in school for a little while, then home for a while. There are work packets for some, online classes for some, and independent online work for some. Kids are stressed without the stability they need. Some families have managed to navigate all this, but many have not.

As a pre-covid homeschooler and public educator, I feel much empathy for our families. It takes a good year to really settle into a homeschooling lifestyle. Even then, homeschooling in non-pandemic times, includes a lot of field trips, lessons, and groups. Parents can always find support. In covid schooling, the support is hard to find. The days can run together, and parents can be overwhelmed trying to fill multiple roles.

In our county, students have not been back to school in person since getting out for holiday break. The students are doing remote learning. The covid numbers have not decreased from the level of high community spread. People here, for the most part, did not heed the warnings for the holidays.

The covid vaccine distribution is not going well here. This was the line on the first day it was offered to people ages 75 and up, and people who worked in the medical field. They ran out of vaccine in two hours. The elderly people who were standing in line, in the cold, were turned away. I heard one of the facilitators tell some of the elderly that it was like a birthday party….you had to get there early if you wanted to be sure they didn’t run out of ice cream. I was so upset at this, but went on about my business. My mom was with me. I had brought her to the line for the second time that day, to see if the line had gone down. Our health department should not have invited everyone to the party if they didn’t have enough “ice cream”! It is now hit and miss guessing if a call will even go through to schedule an appointment, or if there will even be vaccine available! Teachers have now been moved down the line for vaccine. I will be surprised if it is available for teachers anytime before summer.

We just keep hanging in there….doing our best to stay safe!

~AoA

A Christmas Explosion

Christmas morning started out fairly peacefully. Little AoA got up early, and was ready to check out the morning magic! It wasn’t long until all of our phones started alerting us with Nashville news. It started as what is not unusual…shots fired. As the day progressed, it became, a bomb in an RV in downtown Nashville. As the day went on, more alerts came in- the emergency lines were down in about a 50 mile radius from Nashville, which includes my home. As we started to try to call family to wish a Merry Christmas, it became clear that cell service was down. Luckily, we were able to navigate ways to connect using apps and the internet (which wasn’t effected).

There have, so far, been only three known injuries, and the possibility that the perpetrator died in the explosion. Apparently, the RV housing the explosives, had a warning recording coming from it, stating that it would explode.

We will be watching for this story to unfold. It is a time for vigilance.

I very much plan on staying in our little family bubble for the remainder of 2020.

Despite the devastation near us, we had a very peaceful and happy holiday. We stayed in our family bubble, and did video calling with family. I got to watch the new Disney release, Soul.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this movie, but it did not disappoint. Much in the spirit of the movie, Inside Out, it was full of meaning and emotions.

The peace was in my home…the gift of peace…..and love.

I hope that wherever you were today, and in whatever you did, you felt peace….

~AoA

A Different Christmas Eve

While the holidays bring images of happy homes and loving families, please remember that the pictures don’t tell the whole story. Be gentle and merciful toward others.

Time has been a great healer of the AoA past. Eight years ago, Christmas Eve, the dad walked out of our house after pacing the floor, saying the walls were closing in on him, and carrying a loaded gun. I was three days out of back surgery, with two precious AoA kids, ages 6 and 4. The dad didn’t come home….didn’t call….didn’t respond to my calls…..I thought he was going to kill himself. This was the last straw for me. I couldn’t live like this, walking on eggshells….always feeling the anger directed toward me. Love couldn’t fix this. On Christmas Day, the kids and I left and never looked back. We left all of our things at the house, never to see them again. I spent many nights afterward, dealing with PTSD…..unable to sleep or concentrate……shaking uncontrollably in a ball on the floor. I found the help of an Army of Angels at that time. Our local domestic violence center offered support and encouragement as I healed and rebuilt my life.

Our Christmas now, involves peace….mixed in with vigilance. We were scheduled to go to court right after Christmas, but it was canceled. The dad still has his guns….and is getting to the point where there is nothing to lose. He has not scheduled any supervised visits with either child since the beginning of 2020. Everyday I wonder if this is the day I die by his hand. He has killed before and gotten away with it, claiming “self defense” (though I can’t imagine how shooting someone in the back is self defense).

I have learned to compartmentalize events and emotions, and move forward. I remember how it feels to be in that place. It is a part of what made me into the person I have become.

Over the past year, I have journeyed into new pastures. My teen was diagnosed with Autism. I may share that journey in time. The most important thing I can share about this, is that everyone deserves love, and to be accepted for who they are, and where they are. And…..neurodiversity is beautiful and challenging.

There will be rejoicing again! Please reach out to someone if you are feeling weary and alone. Your feelings are valid, and there is an Army of Angels out there, ready to stand with you!

Sending love and light this Christmas Eve…..

~AoA

Almost There

December 22nd…..almost Christmas! We have had a lot of fun this season, even amidst a pandemic. Little AoA sent out about a dozen gift packs to her pen-pals. In the weeks that followed, packages started coming regularly for her. She has had so much fun with her pen-pals! Little AoA never really had friends in public school. It is beautiful and amazing to see her shine and become more self confident.

I have been flooded with creative ideas lately. It is a bit overwhelming, because I want to do all the things! I think that having the burden of a court date lifted, freed my soul. Perhaps it is my mind filling up the spaces that have typically been occupied with social activities. No concerts this year, no musicals or plays….performing arts was one of the things I really enjoyed with the kids in pre-pandemic times. I want to share one of my new goals….

These Autism awareness dolls will be available at WalMart, in January. Little AoA and I are pretty big collectors of 18 inch dolls, mainly the American Girl Dolls. I wanted to do some DIY accessories for Autism Awareness. This doll comes with headphones, a hat, a cell phone, a fidget spinner, a bracelet, and an awareness t-shirt. Little AoA and one of her pen-pals want to have a business making things for dolls….this could be just the thing!

In response to seeing the doll, Little AoA made the connection to her teen sibling who has Autism. She decided to put together a kit with the things that the doll has. It was so sweet to see her put this together. Teen AoA was recently diagnosed “officially” with Autism. We have known for a long time, and have adapted to the neurodiversity. I have long believed that we must accept our kids just as they are. I have believed that there is a reason and purpose for all types of diversity, and we may not know yet, what that is.

I hope you are all having a peaceful holiday season, finding joy in new places!

~AoA

It Has Hit My Family Now

It hasn’t hit my immediate household yet, but my nurse daughter tested positive for covid. She is just feeling like she has a head cold with pleurisy right now. She knows how to fight this battle! My heart just sinks when I think about her being sick.

She was so worried about missing these last few days of her nursing classes. Well, now her whole class will be in quarantine. It is a really bad time to have to quarantine. The frustrating thing is, everyone knows there is a pandemic. Our state of Tennessee, is now one of the worst states to be in.

Our public schools have been prepared to pivot to remote learning with just over twelve hours notice. We are, in fact, going to be remote tomorrow, for the half day of school before winter break. This is a day that would have been spent having parties and sharing some fun times. I just can’t see the kids logging onto virtual class tomorrow. I don’t know that any logic is going into much of the planning for the “what if’s”. I know they often seem like a waste of time, but they help in the long run. They help us prepare for the worst, and establish a logical pattern of thinking to draw on in a moment of crisis.

I will be moving through the next week, hoping that my daughter beats Covid-19 with only mild symptoms.

~AoA

Relief for the Holidays

Today, a huge holiday weight was lifted from my shoulders. We had court scheduled for December 30th. The dad filed a motion against me back in 2018, because the kids were not both ready for visits. Within a few months of his filing, both kids started visits. Then, two months later….BAM! Covid hit! The visit center closed, so it was time to use the back up center from our agreement. The dad never initiated visits from that point on.

Today, court was canceled (for now)! The dad did not pay his attorney the retainer fee for a trial. The attorney is planning on filing to relieve himself from the case. There was not enough proof for them to go forward, and the dad had not exercised visits for six months! The dad is now claiming that he has anxiety which prevents him from being able to drive to the visit center! You know what gave me anxiety? Driving down a two lane country road in complete darkness for an hour to get the kids to visits at the last center!

The case may still go to court, but not anytime soon. We are in a holding pattern. The kids and I will keep doing what we are doing, and moving forward. I do have a sadness that the kids have had to live in fear for so long, being the subject of frivolous litigation for years. Once again, the dad’s efforts to hurt me has backfired on him.

In the world of public schools, we all thought that we would go to remote school tomorrow, as the covid cases were just 13 under the threshold. Well, the cases went up by well over a hundred today, but more cases came off the count. We did not have to go remote! A lot of teachers were wallowing in negativity, as they had to spend time and energy preparing for remote learning. I was ready, but I am glad the schools didn’t go remote. I plan to sit on the floor and play games with my students tomorrow. I can’t complain about that part of my job, because it doesn’t feel like work. I struggle more sitting in front of the computer all day than working with the kids.

Stay safe!

~AoA

Making Friends

Child development took a detour! Our children are doing the best they can. They should not have to worry about spreading an illness….period.

I am getting on my soap box for a minute. What our kids need now is not more testing! Teach them…..teach them….love them…..play games with them…..challenge them…….they are surviving a pandemic! Family and friends are dying at a rate that is incomprehensible! It is not happening in a place far away, to people we don’t know. Our kids are directly related to the victims of Covid-19.

As we ended our school day today, our county cases were at 952. Once the active cases get to 965, all schools will pivot to remote. We are all to spend tomorrow getting students prepared to do remote work for the next day and a half. Talking to coworkers today, we agree that much of the anxiety comes from the unknown. When the cases rise like this, we don’t know from day to day, if this will be the last. We have all been keeping the pace like this since school started! Staying in “fight, flight, or freeze” is emotionally draining. Most every teacher I know is in a constant state of panic and anxiety these days. There is no doubt that kids need to be in school, but our teachers need to be able to teach without added stress of testing or risking their health or the health of their families. A single cloth mask, packs of alcohol wipes, and gloves just aren’t enough when the students aren’t asked to mask or stay home when having symptoms! I have asked for n-95 masks for teachers. We have been told that we will get them, but no one has seen one yet.

Three teachers have now died from covid-19 in one of our neighboring counties.

My nurse daughter is now experiencing covid symptoms, after being exposed three days ago. She is currently in the middle of final exams in college, and is worried that she won’t pass her classes if she misses. How much longer do we all hang on? As the vaccine rolls out, our nursing home residents and healthcare workers are first in line.

I hope you are all staying as safe as you can! I am really over this….fatigued.

~AoA