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

Holiday Time in My Corner

The holiday season may be a little tangled this year, but there is still JOY! I just worked a full week in person, for the first time in over a month! Unfortunately, that may have been the last full week for a while. It looks like our whole county will be remote schooling by the middle of this week. Our covid transmission rate is 26%. The recommended level for schools to safely be open, is 5%. A teacher in a neighboring county, just died from Covid-19. I had a lot of hope for the vaccine, until the warnings came out for people who have had anaphylactic reactions….that would be me. I would feel safer, even if my parents could get the vaccine. At least then, if I do contract it, I wouldn’t have to worry as much about giving it to my parents.

Little AoA wanted to learn about Hanukkah this year. One of her pen-pals celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah. She had learned about holidays around the world, but actually knowing someone who celebrates one of them makes it personal. American Girl dolls has Rebekah, who is Jewish. Little AoA has been enjoying setting her doll up for the special celebration.

Shopping for the holidays can be a bit stressful….and then I run into these great Barbies! I laughed so hard! I grew up with Barbie, making whole towns with them. These new Barbies are definitely “EXTRA”! I’m really glad that Little AoA is into the larger, 18 inch dolls, as they are a lot easier to dress and sew for.

This is our tree for this year. It is pretty minimal, but just enough. I love the Dr. Fauci ornament! I also made some garland out of leftover mask material. I really love the holiday season, especially the lights!

It takes much more effort than it should to feel the joy of the season this year. So many people are dying….so many lives cut short. Here we are, less than two weeks from Christmas, and my nurse daughter was just exposed for a very long period of time, to a positive covid case. Her daughter (my granddaughter) has been staying with her other grandparents while her mom works. Now, they won’t be able to be together for Christmas…..All of the people who help care for my granddaughter, have older, health compromised relatives living with them.

What brings you joy during this season?

~AoA

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