Odd Year Road Trip

Every odd year since divorcing in 2013, the AoA kids and I travel from Tennessee, to Disney World in Florida. It is the longest road trip we have taken, and we cover the 12 hour drive in two days (I’m not as energetic a driver as I use to be). It amazes me to see all of the work being done to our interstate highways, and it seems like the traffic delays get longer and longer!

This is known as “Spaghetti Junction” in Atlanta. Driving it and trying to stay on the right road while everyone is driving closely together is like a nightmare. Today, to add to it, one of the kids needed a bathroom as soon as we started through the maze! I hated to make her wait, but there was no way it was going to happen! Luckily, we hit clear roads very soon after navigating Atlanta, and everyone was relieved.

After 7 hours in the car, we stopped for the night at a comfortable hotel.

Everyone was glad to get some space and nice beds. Tomorrow, we get up and go again.

~AoA

It’s That Time Again!

Guess where the AoA family is going this week…..

When I divorced back in 2013, one of the first things I did was to take the kids to Disney World. While married, I was forbidden to take the kids on vacations. One time, I had bought new clothes, packed and everything, when the dad threw a fit and forbid it.

I lived in Florida for a significant number of years. My first job was at Epcot Center at the age of 16. When my first two kids were young, we would get annual passes, and spent a lot of time at Disney World. I wanted the next two kids to experience it as well.

I set a goal to visit Disney World during the fall of odd numbered years. We haven’t missed a visit yet! Since we don’t live in Florida, we have to get a hotel room. I had never stayed at a Disney resort hotel until my first trip with the little AoA kids in 2013. Now I wouldn’t do it any other way! It is so convenient and low stress to just book everything through a travel agent who specializes in Disney vacations.

This visit is extra special. I am taking my 13 year old granddaughter this time, and it will be her first visit! I had always heard that her other grandparents wanted to be the first to take her, so I just waited. Well, it hasn’t happened yet, so I went ahead and stepped in. She is so excited, and I may be more excited than she is!

There can’t be a trip without drama from the dad. I sent him a text, letting him know that the kids will be on an out of state vacation for a week. I haven’t gotten any response from the dad in well over six months now, and this time was no different. I covered my bases, and sent a screen shot of the text to my attorney. There is never any telling what drama the dad will try to stir up while the kids and I are enjoying vacation. When we were married, I really wanted us to vacation together with the kids. He would never have it. The only time I saw him take a trip, was to drive his parents to an out of state reunion, leaving me and the kids at home. Thank goodness that is behind me!

I can’t wait to write of our adventures!

~AoA

Stalking Changes Things

If you have ever had the experience of being stalked, you may have developed a “new normal” in which to live. The stalker may be an ex-spouse or friend. In my case, my ex-spouse started stalking behaviors shortly after we separated at the end of 2012, and continued on through the years. When it first started, I would notify the police, who wouldn’t do anything but tell me to deal with it in court, and help me safety plan. It didn’t help that he had a history of gun violence and had made threats on my life.

The stalking started with unwanted texts and phone calls. When I initiated “low contact” to its fullest, he started reaching out to our child through text. Our child was not really into texting or answering his phone if he was busy or didn’t want to talk, it didn’t matter who it was. When our child didn’t respond immediately, he would text repeatedly, like 20 times in a row. He even sent police to our home over it!

When texting stopped being effective for him, he moved to showing up at places where he knew we would be, or thought we might be. It started with stores, and my granddaughter’s ball games (he wasn’t there with anyone or to watch anyone). Once we obtained a restraining order, he would violate that by showing up at the kids schools. He once traveled three hours to show up in violation of the order!

There was a time when a bedroom window of the room I had occupied at my parents home was broken during the night with a stick. Weird things would be sent with the kids, and hateful notes making demands of me.

More recently, my phone number has been given out with his name, so that I get unwanted texts from others with his name on them. Even stranger, Little AoA’s number has been given to medical providers of his mother, so Little AoA gets unwanted doctor appointment reminders from others, even after I called the doctor and told them it was a child’s phone.

I thought I was going crazy, or being over-sensitive to the behaviors. I remembered when we were married, he use to “warn me” that he had spies all over town, and he would know what I was doing and who I was with, ALL THE TIME! I believed him, as he had lived in our small town his entire life.

My life has adapted to being stalked. I travel for work now, so I can’t easily be found at work. I am required to let him know of child doctor appointments, so I wait until the next day to text him and send receipts (not that it matters, because he doesn’t respond and doesn’t pay his portion). If we take a vacation, I wait until being very close to crossing a state line to let him know. I don’t post my whereabouts on social media if I am somewhere he could get to easily. At stores, I scan parking lots for his vehicle. This was started by Little AoA, when she started getting really nervous after he “showed up” at places without notice.

People who work with the kids have been made to feel uncomfortable by him “showing up” as well. One person was very close to getting a restraining order for her safety and peace of mind. Another person has seen him driving around her house. This has lead me to be very protective of people who help the kids. Unless it is a doctor, to which the dad has rights to know about, it stays private. Our friends are precious, and deserve peace.

These are just some of the ways that stalking can alter a life. If you are being stalked, of know someone who is being stalked; know that you are not alone. You are not going crazy. If it is your friend, you may think he or she is being rude or difficult, when actually their focus may be on safety.

~AoA

I Really Don’t Like “Poking the Bear”

I could certainly live without poking bears. I am pretty easygoing, flexible, and adaptive to whatever comes my way. I also take my responsibilities to heart, and believe in trying my best to reach goals. The last year, I have gently prodded the bear that is the ex-husband/father of my youngest two children. I became solely responsible for our kids, after a long hearing which revealed the true effects of his actions on the mental health of our kids. His part was to help with medical costs- 24% to be exact. Prior to this, I was advised not to bother with trying to get his portion of medical responsibility, as it was at 18% back then. With sole responsibility, came medical bills. I have paid them all, with the help of my parents. I have dutifully sent the receipts to the dad, and provided account information so he could just deposit his portion and not have to see or speak to me. Nothing…..

I now sit in the waiting room of a children’s hospital, waiting for Little AoA to have dental work done under general anesthesia. When I was given the bill, I could not believe it- $23,000 to use the hospital for a one hour procedure! That did not include the actual dentist- that was separate. No one could tell me what this covered- except that general anesthesia is around $2000. The final answer I got was to “wait until insurance sorts it out”.

The bear will be poked. He may never support our kids financially or medically, but he will know it is being done. That is his right as the legal father.

This wouldn’t bother me so much if he didn’t go out of his way to cost me even more money by filing frivolous complaints through an attorney.

The abuse continues….it is now involving the withholding of agreed upon support for the kids, and legal motions.

I wish it would end….

~AoA

Down the Drain

My 11 year old daughter, “Little AoA”, discovered Mr. Rogers Neighborhood this year. She has been binge watching old episodes ever since she learned about him. She proudly wears Mr. Rogers t-shirts, and would love to wear a zip up sweater if we could ever find one!

We have watched the Mr. Rogers documentary at least twice, and we are both crying by the end, every time. We are looking forward to the new movie staring Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers, coming out this fall!

Little AoA loves books, and has already collected several Fred Rogers collections. She is also trying to learn to play some of his songs on the piano, and just loves to sing them.

I remember just loving Fred Rogers when I was little. What a wonderful ministry he started! I see the messages he planted in our young minds, being passed on to the next generation, and it is beautiful.

When I first came across the picture of Mr. Rogers and Daniel Tiger and the drain statement, it reminded me of a song I use to sing to my kids, my older kids(30 something’s) when they were little. Unfortunately, the song I sang made going down the drain seem possible!

Do you remember a show or famous person who influenced your childhood?

~AoA

Worry and the Rocking Chair

I don’t worry near as much as I use to about the antics of the ex, “the dad”. There are times, though, when I play out the history, wonder “why?”, and contemplate the “what if’s?”.

Currently, there is a “proposed parenting plan” drawn up by the dad and his attorney, hanging in the atmosphere. I am told not to put to much into it, because it is a “legally inappropriate” plan…that is, it was written without thought, research, or consulting with any therapists or other parties.

My worry is not so much on the thoughtlessly written plan, but on what it reveals about the dad and the possibility of ever having healthy relationships with the kids. Part of his task was to truly take the needs of the kids into account. The plan he helped create does the opposite. It puts the kids right back into the very situations that sent them into downward spirals.

Overnights, disruption of every weekend, refusals for treatments and needed support, undermining relationships that have built over years, confusion, opportunities to carry out previous threats of harm…are just some of the elements of the plan being proposed. Of course, they are worded nicely, as if this was a first parenting plan of a newly divorcing couple with children.

The difference is, we have had this plan. We gave this plan a shot for three years, and watched the kids spiral downward as the psychological, physical, sexual, and emotional abuse continued. We have already been to court to get a new plan based on the needs of the kids. A new plan was given by a judge. We jumped through hoops to meet the orders of the judge (at least me and the kids did). We all came up with an agreement on a parenting plan, just over a year ago. The kids and I have been following the plan. The dad has not. Now the dad wants to change it to suit his desires.

When we first divorced in 2013, everything was split 60/40. That wasn’t enough for the dad. He wanted the kids 100% of the time, and wanted me to financially support him and the kids. He made it known…he stated that he would kill if he had to. He said this to our son, and showed him the gun he would use to kill me. Co-parenting was not working, and my continued efforts to “be a team” were met with more psychological and emotional abuse. If he couldn’t have the kids all the time, he was determined to make our lives as difficult as possible.

I had hoped….really hoped… that we were finally making progress toward healthy relationships between the dad and the kids. His recent actions speak loudly….he hasn’t changed. He is not interested in the needs of our kids.

Though I try not to worry, I do find myself in my rocking chair, stewing over the events, and feeling the disappointment….saddened at the prospect of the kids entering back into abusive relationships. I continue to pray that an Army of Angels strengthen our defenses against that which seeks to destroy!

~AoA

While He Still Knows

I heard a beautiful song today about nurturing an aging father as he faces the progression of Alzheimer’s. While my own dad has not been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he does have advanced heart disease and kidney failure.

When I went through the divorce from hell back in 2013, and faced the single parent life during my middle aged years, we decided to build a multi-generational home. I bought a house that I could afford on my teacher’s salary (so not a huge or fancy house). We are a little cramped, but everyone has a space of their own.

Since we started this adventure, I have loved every minute. My parents and I have truly gotten to know each other as whole people, not just as our family roles. I have learned more than I ever imagined. With my dad’s failing health, there is an ever present need to pass on the knowledge of how to fix things, should they break. I have become the chosen one for this imparting of knowledge.

I am thankful for every day that I get to spend with my parents!

~AoA

Weeknight Concert

This week, my 13 year old son and I attended a concert in Nashville. The artist was NF. I was just introduced to his music about four months ago by my son. I didn’t think much about specifics when I purchased the tickets a few months ago. The day of the concert, I thought it might be a good idea to look up some details, like where our seats were, and where to park. I found the website and proceeded to scroll through it. The concert was for standing only!

There was a side note about having seats for the disabled, and a few barstools in the back of the concert space. I questioned whether I would be considered disabled because I wouldn’t be able to stand for three hours. I rehearsed speeches in my mind. I planned to get there early and grab a barstool!

As we drove to Nashville, my son laughed periodically as he thought about me standing at a concert. My plan would have to work. I am working with one fake knee, one knee crying to be replaced, and severe back pain that likes to pop up from time to time.

The venue was an old manufacturing plant that had been remodeled and repurposed into an event venue in what appeared to be an arts district . There was a graveled parking lot across the street, and it was free (this was not typical for other events I have been to in Nashville). Again, my son laughed at my expectations versus reality.

There was a line that spanned the length of the building. It was moving at a steady pace. To get in we had to be scanned with a metal detector, identification checked, bags searched, and hands stamped.

As soon as we got inside, I noticed the barstools. There weren’t very many, and people were already using most of them. We made our way to the merchandise, and bought a shirt and hat. Then we headed back to the barstools. I was determined! I was able to sit in the back, with a clear view! My son braved the standing crowd, and got close to the stage. He and I exchanged texts while we waited for the concert to begin. Throughout the night, other “older” people joined me at the barstools. I offered to take pictures for people, and talked about concert experiences with strangers.

Here is one of the most popular songs by this artist.

I did realize that I was one of the older people there. When did this happen?

~AoA

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