Only the Lawyers “Win”

Most of the time, we get to choose whether we engage in a battle or argument. We get to analyze it, and decide whether it is worth our time and energy. When a vindictive ex spouse dedicates his or her time and money to taking you to court, there isn’t really a choice. You hire an attorney, pay a hefty retainer, and hope it lasts until the litigation comes to a conclusion.

I am in such a situation. During the last eight years since divorce, I don’t think there have been 12 consecutive months without some kind of litigation. The most recent litigation goes to court at the end of December. The dad is complaining to the court because our 14 year old refused to attend visits, after recalling a memory of abuse, and going through a DCS investigation.

The dad could have continued visits with Little AoA, but refused to see one child without the other one. The kids have not seen or heard from him for the last nine months.

Somehow, his attorney will try to spin this to be my fault somehow. I have run out of things to offer. The ball is not in my court for setting up visits.

Thinking about how much money has been spent going in and out of litigation is a bit sickening. The dad is on about his tenth attorney now. He claims to be too poor to help with the financial support of the kids, yet has money to do this. I, on the other hand, try to do everything through email, which seems to be the best way to stretch out the retainer fee.

Here is one of my favorite quotes….I want a way to apply it to litigation….

I feel like I am being held responsible for the relationship the dad has with the kids. The dad has completely ghosted me over the last four years. I must say, there is no co-parenting when there is no communication. Each parent is responsible for their own relationship with their kids.

I want to walk away…..How do I walk away from a court battle? Is it even possible?

~AoA

Sitter for Next Time!

I took a two day respite trip with Little AoA! What could go wrong? We needed a short respite time. Everyone we left at home had what they would need for several days; food, clean house, paper products, and so on. My adult kids were aware that the grandparents would be there, and may need something. My teenager was home, keeping watch.

As soon as we walked in the door, grandma shared that she had fallen while we were gone! She had decided that she no longer wanted the big area rug in her room, and tried to navigate it through the house. Thankfully, she fell near a good piece of furniture, and with support, was able to get up. My dad was upset! My mom tends to fall everytime she tries to do this type of thing. She hates to ask for help, and waits until nobody is watching, to do these things! My dad and I are both aware that my mom is a broken hip away from needing to spend significant time in a nursing home for rehabilitation. We don’t want that!

There has been nothing that anyone can say or do, to keep my mom from trying to do things independently, that are too much for her. Usually, Little AoA keeps a close eye on her, and tells her not to do things that could hurt her. Grandma has always been a worker, and independent. She does not do well asking for help, or waiting for help.

If I had not been on our little trip, I would have been at work. I don’t know that she wouldn’t have fallen anyway. Nevertheless, it always makes me think twice about leaving the house for any length of time.

Have you ever cared for a fragile family member? Did you take any time for respite? How did it go?

~AoA

Much Needed Respite

It was time for some much needed respite! I wish we could take a break from the pandemic, which is what we really need! Until then, we have discovered that the beautiful Smoky Mountains are an easy four hour drive from our home. On this stay, we decided to try Dream More Hotel, which is a Dollywood resort hotel. It is so beautiful! Little AoA didn’t want to leave!

Our trip felt very safe for a pandemic. The hotel had a lot of safety measures in place, plus, it wasn’t crowded at all. On day two, we drove through Gatlinburg, and just took in the sites. We went into two stores that were not in the crowded area of Gatlinburg. Our meals were all either drive thru or curbside to go. I can barely remember eating out in a restaurant, but it was something we tried to do about once a month.

The best part of our trip was today, when it started to snow! It was so beautiful to see the first snowfall of the season while in the mountains!

Here are some pictures from our little trip!

I felt a little guilty taking two nights away from home, but as I think about how the last year has been, I can see that it is needed. As most people, we have been staying within our “pandemic pod” of people who live in our home since the first of March. My parents live with us, and being very high risk, have depended solely on me to do anything outside the home, like shopping and running errands. My teenager, who is normally a ball of anxiety anyway, has been even more anxious. My teen was also just diagnosed with autism, which wasn’t a surprise; and has helped me accept that the neurodiversity was not in anyone’s imagination. It takes some energy to support beloved family members who live in a world of anxiety, during a pandemic!

It is more important than ever, to seek joy in the little things. Tune in to your senses, and experience the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of the season. Even if only for a short time….respite❤️

~AoA

Holiday Season: 2020

The holiday season has officially started, and it is a welcome distraction from the pandemic world. We ate our traditional turkey dinner on Wednesday….because we could. No company…no extended family…just our “pandemic pod”. My adult son took a to-go plate, as he is fairly certain that he has been exposed to covid at his new job. He is self-quarantining.

Today we enjoyed the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Honestly, it was a little sad seeing everyone in their masks, and no crowd. I am glad that they tried to be safe….

Little AoA and I followed up by making some holiday treats. We made chocolate chip cookies, sugar cookies, and Buckeyes. We have a goal to get a couple of packages sent to family by the first of December.

I finally took the time to watch The Christmas Chronicles, as I crocheted a long scarf for one of Little AoA’s pen-pals. There is a Part 2 for this movie, which I am sure I’ll be watching soon!

Before I even emerged from bed this morning, I had Snoopy and The Peanuts gang on my mind. I pulled up a fun site, and created myself a Peanuts character. Why? I tend to be easily amused!

Honestly, the pandemic is taking its toll on me. People I know are getting sick…regularly. Everyday we see our local hospital at capacity…people dying….nurses burning out….teachers burning out. We have one mayor reporting the numbers and safety reminders, while another one reminds us of our right to wear a mask or not, and how 99% of people survive covid. I miss my family….my granddaughter has been safely staying with her other grandparents since March! I have only seen my adult daughter to drop treats off for her at the nursing home where she works.

In an effort to stay busy, I made a couple of baby doll dresses for some of my baby second cousins. They are really into “Frozen”, at such sweet ages. Maybe I will be able to travel and visit one day!

I miss being able to go out and be among people who aren’t in my pandemic pod. Don’t get me wrong, my pandemic family has my heart! I have been reaching out a little, trying to make some new friends….on zoom. When the pandemic first started, I remember thinking that it would be under control within a few months. Now we wait and watch as our neighbors get sick and die, or get sick and recover….and wonder if our home is next.

I hope you all are enjoying the holiday season kickoff! How is the pandemic affecting your activities?

~AoA

They Sent Us Remote

It finally happened….our whole school system moved to remote learning. The covid numbers in our county have reached the level of “high spread”. Many teachers are out with either positive covid cases or symptoms. There aren’t enough substitute teachers to keep up with the need. Parents want their kids in school, but I guess not enough to support having the students wear masks. This is the natural consequence of this decision. The spread goes up, and schools cannot operate safely.

In my building, we just had two adults needing surgery, and testing covid positive in pre-op. Surgeries are delayed, due to this virus.

In a local nursing home, a strange thing is happening with covid. Patients are recovering from covid and having at least two negative tests. About three to five days later, they are having sudden onset of covid, and dying! This has been totally unexpected and shocking. My heart just sinks in sadness at the lives this pandemic is taking. Our hospital is full, and nurses are fatigued.

Our county mayor will not put a mask mandate in place. That would work, if people would demonstrate personal responsibility. Instead, they plan superspreader events, typically using our beautiful town square as the setting. People come from other counties to participate, because….no mask!

This cutout just made my day, standing in the teacher mail room one day. I passed it, then went to do some work. When I returned to the mail room, it was gone! Where did it go? To my surprise, it greeted me in the restroom! Someone was moving it around! In the quiet of a school building with no children, this little bit of fun made it a little brighter.

We are all tired of wearing masks and distancing. We are tired of always fearing bring a deadly virus to our older relatives. We are tired of wondering if the person across the table has been exposed. We are tired of the anxiety.

Stay safe!

~AoA

Confirmation

Today my 14 year old received confirmation that has been a long time coming….an autism diagnosis. I have suspected this for a very, very long time. We have had testing after testing, only to be told that the dad’s treatment most likely was behind the very odd behaviors. Well, it has now been a few years since the kids have had to deal with regular visits. Time has begun to heal some of the trauma, and what was underneath, was a beautiful, intelligent, loving, autistic teenager!

My teenager has been going through the stage of self-awareness; and had asked to have this testing. It helped make sense of life so far. It explained why some things had been so difficult along the way. Neurodiversity is not completely accepted in our schools yet. Students are forced into a box more often than not. It is only the rare teacher who embraces neurodiversity, and supports growth of the child before them, rather than the child they think should be there.

I am not sure that I would have done anything differently had I known earlier. I do think it may have helped me explain my child to others in a way that they could understand better.

To think that we have been navigating autism alongside the litigation hell and emotional trauma brought to us by the dad, is surreal. We got through it all so far. It hasn’t been easy, and I am tired. We still have a December 30th court date in front of us. I have lost count of how many times we have gone back and forth with litigation over the past eight years. I think the dad is on his 10th attorney, or more. Thankfully, we have an extremely thorough and detailed order in place, and left as few loopholes as we could think of.

Stay safe!

~AoA

Grounded

Behold, the health department drive through line for Covid-19 testing. I ended up there a week ago. I woke up with a sore throat and terrible headache. Normally, I would have written it off as my body’s response to the drastic weather changes. But no, not in a pandemic! I had learned just a day earlier, that one of my students had come to school while both parents were home with positive Covid-19 tests! I had been with him just the day before he was sent home. His parents had told him not to tell anyone! Fortunately, my Covid-19 test was negative. Because of our school protocol, I had to stay out of school buildings for 10 calendar days. I have done some remote classes from home, and taken some of the Covid-19 leave that we are able to get.

It has been really interesting doing remote teaching this week. I had one student get inside his dog’s cage to do remote class. I had another student connect to class from her dad’s 18 wheeler, on her way to Texas! Some of my students are at school, and go to the hallway, band room, or common area to meet. I am really proud of them for being able to adapt!

The pandemic has gotten really bad here. We are about 150 active cases away from having to pivot all of the schools to remote learning. Our daily case numbers have gone from about 30 a day, to more like 100 a day. My county is one of a few counties in our state, where the county mayor will not mandate masks. Our hospital is holding twice the number of Covid-19 patients than it was prepared for. Many are on ventilators. The nursing home where my daughter works, has 10 covid positive patients. They didn’t contract covid there, but rather, were sent there from the overcrowded hospital.

Once I return to the school buildings, I will work one week, then have Thanksgiving week off. Three weeks after that, and then it is Christmas holiday time! While I don’t want to see people get sick, I really wish our school board would go ahead and pivot all schools to remote through the end of the year at least! We are not winning!

~AoA

What About This Neverending Election?!

Tuesday night was a tense night, as people everywhere waited to see how the presidential election results would unfold. Some states, like mine, are ALWAYS the same. It turns into a red state.every.time.fast. Nothing new to see here. Then came the other states….red-blue-red-blue…….on and on through the night. Next, the stall out! Some states had voting protocol that was different than the majority of the country. They could not touch the mail in ballots until after the live polls closed. What’s this? We are in the midst of an uncontrolled pandemic? More people used mail in ballots than ever before?

This was expected by many, and unexpected by equally as many. What followed was again, expected by many. Our sitting president, #45, had been saying for months that mail in ballots would be fraudulent. The United States Postal Service was crippled by actions that were seemingly coming from the top officials. The crippling actions of the post office were reversed ahead of the election, when it was called out for the poor timing. #45 encouraged his supporters to vote in person. After all, the pandemic was overblown. Only the scared people would be sending in votes by mail, and they would be fraudulent!

As the results unfolded, red was strong…really strong. The people who understood that mail in ballots in some states would take longer to process, just held firm to the mantra,”Count Every Vote”. Voting is every American’s right to participate in the democratic process. It is the only voice that many people get.

When reality started setting in, those who were apparently in the lead for in person voting, started calling to “stop counting the mail in ballots”!

We are sitting here now, three days later, with six states whose ballots have not been completely counted yet. The outcome of the election hinges on the winners in these states. Watching the election news, we watch as pockets of mail in ballot counts are reported. Red…blue….red….blue…it seems to go back and forth. Some news groups have called the winners of states before all the ballots have been counted. This confused me for a while, as the election news I have been watching, has been explaining every.little.detail for the states that are still counting. It seems that the news group that is prematurely calling winners, is usually in great support of #45. The winner this news group is calling, is NOT #45!

In our last presidential election, it looked like it was going to end one way, and then turned at the last minute. From where I sat, it looked like our president was “appointed” rather than “elected”. Anyway, it was accepted. We moved forward into the four year term, hoping for the best. This election, on the heels of civil unrest, and a pandemic; those who were in disbelief at the last election, were on their toes! Issues such as voter suppression and systemic racism have been on the forefront of the minds of many. Every voice matters…..

Regardless of who comes on top in this election, the oppressed and invisible will still be fighting to be heard. People with disabilities, different races, and the LGBTQ community do not live with the same privilege as many do. My life has involved supporting and advocating for people with disabilities. My granddaughter is biracial, and another of my kids is in the LGBTQ community. They all deserve to be seen for who they are; beautiful, caring, kind souls with much to offer this world!

From where I stand, our country looks completely divided. The division has grown in the last four years, creating a country with a tension greater than ever. In my own home, my 77 year old dad asked me to remove a sign from my front yard that said “you matter”( it was from a suicide awareness campaign). My dad is afraid that someone will shoot at it or start a fire! Yes, people have been setting fires to campaign signs….my teenager is terrified to go some places for fear of being attacked. Some of us live in closets for our safety. I hope and pray that one day, people will be seen for the content of their character…period.

We have made great progress, but there is a long way to go. Voting day is over. What will be, will be…..I will continue to wait patiently for every vote to be counted, hope for the best for whichever candidate comes out on top in the end, and keep advocating for those who are oppressed.

This is just the view from my corner of the world. I am not a government scholar or a legal analyst….just a teacher/mom/caregiver getting through one day at a time. I would love to hear the view from your corner of the world!

~AoA

Whole Schools Close

This week, our school system closed three schools due to widespread Covid-19. One of them was the school where I have my office/classroom. I know of three teachers who have covid. I only know because they posted about it on social media. There is no transparency about it. Our school systems are just not equipped to manage medical things like pandemics. Still, the powers that be in our county, preach that it is a hoax meant to scare the weak into submission. Our county is now one of very few, where the mayor refuses to put a mask mandate into place.

https://www.wsmv.com/news/as-covid-19-cases-rise-in-middle-tennessee-rural-hospitals-are-being-pushed-to-their/article_469875b8-19a1-11eb-9c9e-63c6cdb7dcf1.html?fbclid=IwAR2syhf1iq0IwuifEjvMgCxsYjKo9uzWIgHdPhOF27px-UxRTphOtoW_Uvc

We have already lost one school employee to covid. Our hospital is full. We are a fairly small county with a population around 100,000. Our town hospital serves as a regional hospital for surrounding rural counties.

I took today off; to gather myself, get flu shots, and donate blood. The last time I donated blood, there was a crisis in Chattanooga, Tennessee. This time, there is another crisis, as a school bus full of children was in an accident there this week. An adult and seven year old child were killed, and many were hospitalized.

~AoA

Scary Stuff

It is that time of year…time for some creepy decorating! For some reason, the skeletons make me laugh! I think it is because we are so lonely here, that we just want company!

The covid numbers are far too high here. Our little state just moved up to 8th in the country, with cases of covid. Our local nursing home, which just started allowing visitors last week, has had to lock down again because of the very high positivity rate. Luckily, my mom got in one visit with her sister (who lives at the nursing home). They hadn’t seen each other in person since March!

This van was in a school parking lot today, right next to me! My heart just sinks at messages like this. We, teachers are essential workers now. We risk our health, and our families, to go into the schools and provide (childcare) education. Contact tracing is about the only safety precaution that is being taken. There is no mask mandate. Classes are not at lower capacity or socially distanced. Our community wanted “normal”, and they got it. The price is that people get sick.

Today, I learned that one of my students was sent home yesterday to quarantine. All we learn when sent home, is that a student was exposed to a positive covid case. I was able to connect with my student today, and learned that the exposure was last Thursday.

Here is the thing that makes no sense…we had a teacher test positive, and about three assistants were exposed. All of her students were sent home to quarantine, but the exposed assistants were used as substitute teachers in other classrooms all over the school! This is because they are essential!

Schools are not the same as hospitals or grocery stores. We do not have even as many precautions in place as the cashiers at the grocery store!

Enough of my venting…I am fatigued from holding my breath, hoping that no one in my schools gets sick or dies; or becomes disconnected and depressed. Our school system has seen three deaths now, since August. One from covid, one student from suicide, and as of today we have lost a public high school student in a car accident.

We can do better.

We MUST do better.

~AoA