Terrible Twos Times Ten

It’s been two months exactly since we brought Miss Ellie home from the hospital. In that time, I’ve seen Bea go from a bright-eyed, clever, independent little four year old to a rabid, hysterical, tantrum-throwing preschooler.

I know her life has been turned upside down; new city and state, new house, new baby and now a new preschool. It took us two months after moving to get her in to a place we could afford, but all we can afford is 2.5 hours a day/4 days a week. It’s not enough. I take her at 1pm (when she would normally be napping), and pick her up at 3:30. By the time she gets home, she’s exhausted and cranky. And by the time we go to put her to bed, she has lost all self control.

I’ve never seen anything like it. When people talked about the “terrible twos,” I had no idea what they were talking about. At two, she was so sweet and cute. At three, she was inquisitive and clever. At four . . . I’ve heard stories of tantrums, but this . . . this is something else. Foot stomping, screaming, wailing, crying, jumping up and down, throwing herself on the floor, “no no no!” and whatnot. I was sort of, kind of prepared of her to resent the baby. Instead, she loves Ellie and hates us.

It seems as though, every night, once Bea is finally passed out, Charlie and I are having a conversation where we devise a new plan of attack. But since I’m the one home with both kids all day during the week, I’m the one who has to implement it all.

We’ve tried talking to her about it, reasoning with her, sticker charts, time outs, threats, taking away TV or toys or games, and we’ve both resorted to shouting at her to just stop screaming (super helpful and effective, as I’m sure you can imagine). It’s getting to the point where I can’t even deal with her anymore. I get so angry that I just have to remove myself from the situation and I don’t feel like going back to give her a hug and kiss. It doesn’t help that I feel “touched out” from holding and carrying the baby, feeding and nursing her. By the end of the day, I just want to pass out and not move for like 12 hours.

The baby’s great, though. I thought Bea was an easy baby, but this one has been a breeze so far. Good sleeper, good eater, healthy (a slight cold Bea brought home when she started preschool), happy. The birth was pretty traumatic and a story for another day, but I worried throughout the pregnancy and right up until the moment she arrived that something would go wrong.

Charlie is still working full time, but is close enough that he can ride his bike. We have the car most days, but no money to do much of anything exciting. Trips are limited to grocery stores and walks around the neighborhood. We were hanging out at the coffee shop some mornings for a bagel and coffee, but then I started working there again. Just weekends when Charlie is home, but enough that I don’t want to hang during the week.

To top it off, I found out after my second week back that they’ve been paying me like a new employee, not like someone who spent almost six years there. When the manager told me what I’d be getting paid, I just started laughing. “Oh, were you making more than that before?”
“Are you kidding?” I asked. “Do you know how long I was here?” Granted, it took many months of badgering to get the raises I received, but it was still $2.50 more per hour than they apparently think I’m worth. So now I have to badger and argue to get more.

The manager at a nearby restaurant offered me a weekend gig waiting tables there. The tips sound fantastic. But the pay is really the only positive of working there. The employees are catty. The cooks are perverts. The owner is a bitch. The customers are wealthy, entitled assholes. I’d have to be on my feet ten hours a day just to make enough money to send Bea to preschool full time with nothing left over. People are like, “You should take that job. If Bea was at school during the week, you’d have more time to yourself.”

Except there’s now a newborn in the house. Despite being a great baby, she doesn’t really give me a lot of time to myself. So selfish.

So while I check job web sites in the hopes of finding something that pays more than Charlie’s working so that he can stay home, he’s studying for a personal training certificate. If he passes, he could go to work for his old employer and work 20 hours a week to make the same he’s bringing home now. If he doesn’t pass it, I have no idea what we’re going to do. There really aren’t any opportunities for advancement where he is now, and the pay just isn’t enough to change things at home.

And while I’d found positions at local universities that I wanted and for which I felt qualified, I was turned down twice in a row. Once was on my birthday. Ouch. But I know these are the kinds of jobs I want. And if I’m not qualified, how can I be? I started looking at other graduate programs and settled on one that I think I’m actually going to apply for, for next fall. If accepted, they require graduate assistantships, which means a guaranteed job related to what I’d be studying, a paycheck, tuition remission, and a practicum later on. Right now I just need to get the letters of rec and write the damn personal statement (300 words! Ugh). It at least gives me something to work toward.

If I could, I think I would just stay in college forever. If I can’t, I at least want to work for one. Not as an adjunct, though. I’m making more working 15 hours a week at the coffee shop, which is terribly sad and ridiculous. And if the grad program or university-job-finding doesn’t pan out, I have no fucking clue what’s next.

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Chronological Concerns

A major part of the reason I’m allowing the landlord to give out my phone number to no less than four different apartment-hunting services (not including the guy we used to find this place and who we put in touch with our landlord weeks ago) is to show a good faith effort in renting this place, which we hope will guarantee most of our security deposit be returned.

It’s beginning to get really annoying, though. I get calls all day long from a variety of different people who are rarely here at the time they claim they want to see the place. We’ve shown it as early as 9am on a Sunday and as late as 8pm on a Wednesday. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal if we didn’t have a three (almost four) year old who’s tired and ready for bath or bed, or if I didn’t have to leave for work by eight in the morning. Last night we had to rush Bea home from dinner within fifteen minutes to show the place, but it took the people almost an hour to show up.

It also doesn’t help that the apartment has ancient carpeting, is being listed as a three bedroom, and he’s asking $300 more per month than we’ve been renting it. The garage space is also jacked up–$100 per month when we’ve been paying $25.

None of that is really any of my business. I just hope that someone fills out an application soon so that I can stop having to either drag Bea into the backyard in order to stay out of everyone’s way, or sit politely on the couch while people stomp through the apartment.

We did sign the lease on the new place yesterday, as well as mailing in first month’s rent and security deposit. As far as that house is concerned, I’m really happy with it except for two reasons: 1. It is listed as a 1.5 bath. The full bath is on the second floor and the half bath is in the basement. This isn’t a deal breaker,  but I do remember post-birth with Bea how difficult it was for me to get up and down the stairs for a while. 2. It is directly next door to the woman whose high-strung rescue dogs howled nonstop at our windows in the last place we lived. (It also has no garage or fenced-in yard, but whatever.)

Because, you know, our last place is directly behind the new one.

One of my concerns has become (prioritized in terms of chronology) how early I can get out of work. Though we need the paychecks to cover Bea’s preschool (and I have zero options in Indy for her at the moment), we are moving before the last week of classes, which is also my last week at work. I’m pretty sure that my situation is unprecedented at work–not many pregnant writing tutors in their halls. I don’t think they know what to do with me.

My next worry is finishing all the assignments for my last class. It’s a pretty heavy workload. Then I’m worried about what’s going on with Charlie’s job. He’s supposed to be transferred but his phone interview didn’t go well (according to him). So now there’s a concern that he might get stuck in a branch that’s really far from our place and we’re only going to have one car for a while. The interview was for a branch that’s 1.5 miles from our new place, which means being able to walk, bike, or take the bus (if that’s even an option in Indy). If that falls through, I’ll be stuck at home a lot.

Apparently, the district manager rather casually mentioned that Charlie could “just take an unpaid leave of absence” until a position opened up where he’d like to be. How exactly that DM thinks we would cover our bills, I’m not sure. So now Charlie’s a little paranoid and has begun looking into other options, which would leave us without health insurance just a few weeks before my due date.

Add to all of that the fact that my student loans are going to be due soon and I’m surprised I haven’t just collapsed in a ball on the floor. I think I’m juggling everything surprisingly well. I’m managing the gestational diabetes, eating well, getting lots of walking in every day (I kind of have to), and drinking as much water as I can without exploding. No kidney stones thus far [crossing fingers].

I will be quite relieved when this is all over and we can re-situate ourselves. Then I’ll just have to become accustomed to having two kids and even less money. And I sincerely hope that all of our cheerleaders back in Indy are willing to step in and help us out when we do arrived. Everyone has said how thrilled they are that we’re returning, but will they bring over a casserole when I return from the hospital?

Singularly Happy

About a year ago, I was invited to what I call a “secret lady group” on Facebook, prior to which I did not know these things existed. It has proven to be cathartic for me, though. Many of the women involved were members of the Unitarian church I attended in Indianapolis years ago. There are probably only half a dozen who post questions/comments/concerns with any regularity, and about twice that who comment frequently. They all tend to have pretty excellent advice, are really supportive and positive, and share a common bond — besides being women, we all seem to come from rather dysfunctional families.

I’m beginning to get the impression that “functional families” are much fewer and farther between than I may have otherwise thought.

Last week, I posted some concerns I have about pressure to expand our family. I’m quite satisfied with the way things are: me, Charlie, and Bea. In fact, if we had no other children, even adopting, I would be fine with that. I feel like the only person who is fine with a family of three.

At Christmas, I was asked multiple times if we were planning to have another child. On the way to Indy for our last two trips, Charlie mentioned how much larger a vehicle we would need “if we had another one.” He then began daydreaming about his ideal family-of-four car. He’s mentioned to me that Bea would be a good big sister, and that she would be helpful. When I balked at this talk, he mentioned his employer’s outstanding adoption benefits.

I feel guilty complaining about my pregnancy. Compared to other friends’ and women I know, mine was actually quite easy. Yet I was miserable. I was huge, bloated, sweaty, uncomfortable. I had sciatica, kidney stones, and my back hurt from Day One. I was and, even after going through it, still am scared of labor, delivery, hurting a fetus, or having a child with health problems. I’m terrified of the idea of a difficult birth, a stillbirth, a miscarriage. I’m worried that we can’t take care of the child we have, let alone a second one.

I also worry that, if we “try,” I won’t be able to get pregnant. I know I wouldn’t be the oldest woman in the world to have a baby, but I would be at least 37 years old, and after the age of 35, they start all these additional tests and freaking out. And, to be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to do it all over again.

As my friend Annette put it, “What’s wrong with the one you have?” I love Bea. Of course.  She’s amazing and funny and smart and outgoing. It’s not so much that I don’t know if I’d have “enough love” to give a second child, so much as I’m not sure I could handle school, work, toddler, and no sleep for weeks on end. Charlie would have paternity leave, unpaid, but, let’s assume I got pregnant tomorrow. The baby would be born, assuming everything was normal, right in the middle of the first quarter of my second year in grad school. If I could somehow plan it right, then I’d have it right after the quarter was finished, in late November. But babies don’t always work that way. And, after your first pregnancy, they have a tendency to come out sooner.

So I’d posted all these concerns and fears and worries on FB. The women in the secret lady group were predictably supportive. One sent me a link to information on books that promote single-child families. Another suggested surrogacy, a third said adoption might be easier. They all said that if I wasn’t ready, I should be honest with Charlie.  So I was. But now I’m not so sure. After thinking things over for a couple of weeks, I know how much he wants another baby. I’m not worried he’ll leave me for someone younger, to have another kid.  He told me last that week that, on a scale of 1-10, he rates wanting a second child as a 7.5. I said I was about a 2. I guess I might be more like a 4 now?

I just don’t know what the immediate future holds for me. I’ve got a year and a half left of graduate school, an internship at the end of which may lead to a full-time, high-paying job. I don’t want to go into a new position pregnant or just getting pregnant, or even with a newborn. We can’t afford daycare, so what would we do with the baby while we were working? Besides which, Bea wouldn’t even be ready for kindergarten.

So I guess what I’m feeling is that it’s one of those now-or-never situations. I don’t particularly like that feeling.

 

I’m Not Going to Apologize

I’m too lazy to search for it, but someone posted a link a while ago on people apologizing for not writing in their blogs more often. Like, tons and tons of people saying, “Sorry I haven’t posted in a while.”

I’m not going to apologize. I’ve been writing more for school in the past 8 weeks than I think I did in the last year of my undergrad. We’re now into week 9, and there are only ten in the entire quarter. Then we have this ridiculously long break and it’s back again January 3rd.

I managed to get registered for winter quarter the minute my appointment opened. Most colleges seem to have people scheduled based on their seniority. As a first-term graduate student, I wasn’t allowed to register until four days after the other students. Maybe I’ll get a little more time for the spring quarter.

I missed out on the class I really wanted: travel writing. Well, to be honest, I didn’t want to take a travel writing course, but the new head of the department is the instructor. She made it clear during our orientation that she won’t approve things like theses, internships, or teaching if she hasn’t had you in class at least twice. Since this is only a two-year program (if you go full time), and since it’s a small program with a lot of nerds, and since there aren’t a wide variety of courses offered each term, you have a limited amount of time to get to know the department head. She only teaches one class per quarter.

This is why I’m in my current journalism class – the former head of the department is the instructor. I didn’t find out until a few days before classes started that he had stepped down. I do enjoy the class and, so far, I have excellent grades on all my assignments. But he’s kind of an odd guy and it’s difficult to have a discussion. He’s constantly interrupting people. He asked me to prepare a ten-minute oral presentation on a chapter of Ted Conover’s Coyotes for last night. But he went on for so long in the class that I ended having to run through it in about 2 minutes.

So school is going well. The class I really like, magazine writing, I’m not doing so hot in right now. I’m averaging a B+. I realize that makes me sound like kind of an asshole, but you pretty much have to make straight As to get anything. There’s a lot of competition in my program and there are very few opportunities for assistantships, financial aid other than loans, that sort of thing.

But I will say that being in a classroom with adults who actually want to be there is a pleasant change from my undergrad. Occasionally, I’ve noticed a person here or there who hasn’t shown up for a class, but it’s rare. Compare that to the semesters at IUPUI where, after weeks 3 and 4, people would start dropping like flies. Or, when it came time for “peer review” and other students would stare blankly ahead. Only when asked for a comment would they offer, “It’s good. Yeah.” “Oh, I liked it.”

I have kind of, sort of, made a couple of little friends at school. I don’t think it will go much of anywhere, though. They’re so young . . . single, no kids, going out to get drinks and food all the time. It just isn’t a lifestyle that meshes with mine very well.

We went back to Indy last weekend. It was bittersweet. I cried when we left Chris and Vicki’s, and again when we were at Sarah’s to get the kids together. Sarah and Maureen – former co-workers from the coffeeshop – were discussing Halloween and when they were going to take their kids trick or treating. It made me sad to think Bea was going to miss out on that.

She did go last night. I missed out on it since I had class, but I got her dressed and we went outside to hand out candy to some of the other kids. Then Charlie and I traded off and he took her door-to-door. It’s kind of disgusting how much candy she got.

Art on the Walls

We’re officially relocated. Pictures are being hung up, rooms are coming together. It feels a lot more like “home” than the basement dump we were in when we moved here.

Of course, I’m less incensed about that situation now that we’re in place and feeling more comfortable. I still get angry if I mull over the situation with Anne because, no matter which way I look at it, she was wrong. I asked for help and she told us to leave. That’s what it all boils down to and no amount of me putting myself in her shoes will change that.

We haven’t spoken to a lawyer — all of my law school friends continue to reiterate that we don’t need to. But I’d at least like to get things in order and have some professional advice before I file any sort of paperwork. For example, when she returned only 40% of our security deposit, she wrote on the check that it was the full deposit being returned. Rather than argue with her about that, we deposited it. We already owed too much money to too many people, and she knew that.

But before we go shelling out money we don’t have to speak with an attorney, we have to pay back those friends who were so generous as to help us with our move. It sucks being back in the situation where we can’t check out a cool restaurant or do some fun shopping for the new place, but I would much rather be broke here than rolling in money in Anne’s basement.

Did I mention I haven’t seen one single bug since moving in? Or a rat? Or mold growing on the walls? It’s weird being on the second floor, and the guys downstairs seem to smoke a lot of pot, but whatever.

Most all of the money we’re able to pay back is coming from my financial aid this quarter. Which is weird. Quarters? It’s going to be difficult getting used to those terms rather than semesters. I’ve got two courses which each meet once per week for 3 hours and 15 minutes, for ten total weeks. Then we have a ridiculous amount of time off for the holidays (which Charlie won’t get to enjoy because he can’t take off too much time around Thanksgiving or Christmas), and the following quarter will start sometime in early January.

If I do well enough, I can apply for a partial tuition remission scholarship. I don’t know exactly how much you can get back, but you have to keep a 3.7 or higher GPA. I’m not sure what the likelihood is of that.

I already have homework in both my courses, and one of them doesn’t meet until Monday. I have 6 books to read for one class (plus the supplemental materials he wants us to read before Monday), an assignment due by Monday at midnight for the other class — an assignment I can’t figure out how to submit because the dropbox for the class does not appear to exist.

As is the case at the start of any new semester, quarter, term, whatever, things seem overwhelming and difficult and challenging. But, before you know it, you’re halfway through and in the swing of things. I’d like to get to that point if only to avoid feeling like I’m in over my head. That would be a nice change.

Suburboring

Some time ago, I read two similar books. One was Happier by Tal Ben-Shahar, and the other, Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert. Both were guests on either The Daily Show or the Colbert Report (I couldn’t remember which until I searched through my blog and found this post from 2007 about the exact same subject), and both intrigued me. Each book had a point that stood out to me: the importance of goals for human beings, and how the process we go through to reach them is much more important than the actual achievement.

Some old friends and former classmates have occasionally asked me why I don’t want to move back to the suburb of Indianapolis where I went to high school, especially now that I have a child. They have “four-star schools” (whatever the hell that means – I don’t feel like I received an excellent education there), and I could have free babysitting.

It didn’t fully dawn on me until this afternoon, for whatever reason, why I didn’t like the idea. Off the top of my head, I know living in that particular area doesn’t appeal to me because it’s essentially chain restaurants and box stores. Here and there, you might run across an independent restaurant but, not only is that rare, they usually suck. Bad food, poor management, high prices, limited hours.

But this afternoon, as I was taking a walk while Charlie was home from work for lunch, I realized it has more to do with my personal goals and the idea that I would feel stifled living there.

For the past few years, I’ve been working on my undergraduate degree, and, at the same time, deciding to, applying for, and being accepted to grad school. The schools to which I applied were only in two cities, and I knew I wanted to end up in Chicago. Thankfully, Charlie did too, so that wasn’t an issue for us.

Once I was accepted, the next item on the list was getting here. And, even though we now have that checked off the list, there are still a great number of other things, big and small, that I am working toward: getting my free DePaul t-shirt (it’s not really free – but they make a big deal out of how you get a shirt because of the student athletic fee everyone has to pay), getting my driver’s license and student ID, taking Bea to a museum, navigating the transfers on the El with a two-year-old without losing her (this has not happened – it’s just one of my fears); getting an advisor at school who can let me know what my chances are of securing an internship that’s going to guarantee me an awesome job in Chicago, or, if all else fails, even considering my Ph.D.

And once those things happen (or don’t), I have other ideas up my sleeve. Moving to a different city, moving back to Indy so Bea can be closer to her family, going to school somewhere else for another graduate degree, traveling.

The only thing that has kept me sane this summer as we’ve struggled to get back on our feet is knowing that, soon enough, we’ll have too much to do. Charlie and I joked this evening that, once we’ve got the cash to really experience Chicago, I’m going to be like, “I’ve got a million papers to write! I don’t have time for that!” But, of course, I’ll make the time.

But knowing that I have things to work toward, however small or large, is what keeps me going. And there’s something about that small town where I went to high school that makes me feel . . . limited.

When I see folks from high school post photos on Facebook, I see the walls of their manufactured homes – two-stories, no yard, no trees, built over a garage. The interior is always painted taupe or forest green with the same white or wood trim. Their sofas and chairs, all taupe and tan and brown and purchased on credit from the same furniture store. Their “art” (if they have any — completely bare walls are pretty common), prints purchased at Target or Wal-Mart in frames. Their husbands, clad in basketball shorts and Colts jerseys, snoring in a taupe recliner with a can of Coors Light still gripped in one fist.

It makes me sad. Their personal goals: making sure the dry-erase board in the kitchen/family room/dining area (because it’s always one room) has all the kids’ soccer and softball and football schedules; getting enough people to come to the “candle party” they’re hosting to make some money to save for the next summer’s trip to Florida.

That’s it.

Maybe that makes me sound like a gigantic, stuck-up asshole. In fact, I’m positive it does. But it’s not that I’m judging those women’s lifestyles and choices. It’s that, imagining myself in that scenario makes me feel depressed. If I’m going to move somewhere that’s a cultural void, I’d rather be on a farm, growing my own food, making my own clothes, homeschooling my kids. I mean, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it all the way. The town where I went to high school has a mall now. People who live there plan their weekends around shopping at this mall. They have date nights at Applebee’s® and take pictures of their Weight Watchers® approved Chipotle Lime Chicken and Mucho Margarita®. It’s just not for me.

Not to mention the fact that, if Bea went to the same school I did, and if she expressed any interest in sports, her coaches would be the same assholes who tortured me in high school. The soccer coach is the guy who tripped me in the hallways, knocked my books out of my hands, called me names, and generally terrorized me. I really don’t want to have to associate with him on a regular basis again.

Things Are Happening . . .

May 13th would mark the one year anniversary of when my dad came to live with us. Fortunately, it does not appear as though we’re actually going to have to celebrate that date. He found a place a couple of weeks ago south of Indianapolis that caters to people in bad spots; evictions, terrible credit, bankruptcies, foreclosures. They approved my dad’s application and he is apparently ready to move in this Sunday, March 27th. He couldn’t even be bothered to rent a truck. He’s just relying in his brother and Charlie to borrow vehicles for other people.

That is, to say, a bunch of other people are going to have to help him move. He is clinging to whatever amount of money he’s hoarding in his bank account, and repeating over and over again that there’s no way he can help us move.

Two weeks ago yesterday I got The News. I was accepted to DePaul University’s Writing and Publishing MA program. While I’m thrilled that they found my work acceptable for their program, I am disappointed that I was not accepted as a graduate assistant and will not receive a tuition waiver or living stipend for only working 20 hours a week on campus.

There are other options. I interviewed at Peet’s Coffee & Tea for a management position . . . except that was well over two weeks ago and I was supposed to hear a “definite yes or no” just five days after the interview. I haven’t heard anything. I have re-applied to AmeriCorps, but have not had any bites on the couple of positions for which I’ve applied so far. There are some work/study campus jobs, but they either don’t begin until classes start, or they need to be filled immediately. We’re sort of at a stand-still right now. We pay rent twice more before we’re free to leave, but we haven’t yet informed the landlord that my dad isn’t going to rent here. As soon as we do, I’m assuming he is going to want to list and begin showing the place. Since they don’t know about my dad and is four — err, three (one passed away Sunday night) — cats, we can’t put in that call just yet.

We also can’t quite look for an apartment since, if one is available that far in advance, we would need to put down a deposit to secure it. We’re doing everything we can to put aside money for Chicago, but it’s been tough. With my dad thinking he’s free and clear of any financial obligations, Charlie has begun doing side jobs for friends, helping someone finish a basement and whatnot, and I am trying to get in as many hours at the coffeeshop as possible. Prices went up a couple of weeks ago, and tips have been pathetic since then. I entered our Spring drink competition, which gets you a hundred bucks, but my drink didn’t win.

Now we’re going to start putting things up on CraigsList and Facebook to sell, and just put our heads together and down in an attempt to figure out how we can get rid of at least one car — short of literally handing over the keys to the dealership in a voluntary repo. Yipes. I don’t want to do that. Our credit is shot enough as it is . . . .

The really sad thing is how little responsibility my dad seems to feel toward us for helping him out the past (almost) year. It really makes me sad when he begins to rant about how little he has and how he is just “not in a position” to help us. Especially when you consider the fact that, two months ago, he was sitting on about ten grand. He told me this. Combining the “job” he had for three weeks and the prorated disability check, he had quite a prolific account balance. Never mind that he blew around two grand on stuff ordered from Amazon, alone. But now he needs “every penny.” I’ve tried to explain to him that our bills are twice what his are, but we are bringing in the same amount of money per month. Seriously. It’s sad.

I remember the sensation I had when I gave birth to Bea. Despite having an epidural (that was wearing off, mind you), I still had this tremendous feeling of relief wash over me when she popped out (sorry, gross, I know). When my dad gets the last of his things and hands me his key to the house, I imagine it will feel similar.

**WOOSH**

And if he doesn’t give us another dime, at least I’ll be done with the whole mess.

I hope.

Moving On

Convinced that I will never be capable of reconciling with my mother, and discovering that my father is far more gone, mentally and emotionally, than I ever was aware, the Next Big Step seems to be Chicago. Charlie and I have been discussing it off and on for at least two years, so it’s not a huge new thing. It just seems more real now than it did before.

I have a cousin who lives there with his wife (and another who might also go), Bea’s godfathers are also planning a move, and I would hope friends would be willing to visit. After all, it’s only a three-hour drive, not a three-hour plane ride.

I finally graduated with my BA, finished my minor in psychology, and even managed to pull up my GPA one more tenth of a point to a 3.6. I got a 640 on the verbal section of the GRE, and some good letters of recommendation from professors. I have applied to two schools thus far: DePaul University and Columbia College. The last ditch effort will be the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. A program that, while I could never afford it, would hopefully guarantee me a job after finishing the degree. I actually need to finish that within the next week.

Each program is slightly longer than the other. Medill is one year, four quarters, and costs about $48,000. I would finish with a Master of Science in Journalism. DePaul is two years, three quarters in each, and is the most affordable. That’s an MA in Writing and Publishing, with an internship that might get me a job right after graduating. They also offer an assistantship that covers all tuition, plus a living stipend. Columbia College would be an MFA in Creative Writing (non-fiction), so it’s at least three years and is more expensive than DePaul.

I have also applied for several jobs. Two at Groupon.com, one of those for which I’ve already been rejected. I think I flunked their copy editing test, though I pored over their style sheet and cannot figure out what I did wrong. The other is “Quality Assurance” and pays a pittance. I also applied for a proofreading position with a company I’ve never heard of, and a management job at a large chain (not Starbucks).

I’m, of course, having second thoughts occasionally. What if it’s too hard? What if I don’t get in anywhere? What if we can’t afford it? Where will Bea go to school? Moving after almost five years in the same place? How will we ever manage that? Where will the money come from?

Then I tell myself I — and most human beings — are incredibly adaptable. We will figure it out. Yeah, I don’t like the idea of leaving all of my friends, and especially my aunt who is Bea’s godmother, but her son lives in Chicago, and my other cousin (who just started working with me at the coffeeshop) would also eventually like to end up there. In fact, we joked at Thanksgiving that he should move with us and be our live-in manny.

I haven’t been writing or socializing much in the past year or two. A large part of it is the baby (who is now 18 months, so not much of a “baby” anymore), who demands an incredible amount of my attention. She is lovely and funny and entertaining and fascinating, but she is also very high-energy and difficult to manage. She’s stubborn and pig-headed, which is not a huge surprise.

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My mother has decided that Bea is The Only Joy in her life. She has said this to me on more than one occasion. She’s posted it on Facebook, on other people’s photos of Bea, and written it to me in emails and letters. I eventually blocked her from seeing anything on my wall or photos I’ve posted. The mess that happened last May has just gotten more and more complicated. She left my dad, emptied their house, and basically did nothing while he withered away in a psych ward besides haranguing me for access to — what turned out to be — their joint bank account. She couldn’t figure out how to log in, so she decided he was hiding things from her. She accused him of creating alternate identities, of hiding money and financial information.

After living with my father for the past (almost) eight months, the only thing I can figure she was talking about was the business name he had created for consulting work. Yes, he took from her parents, and from his last employer, and he was punished with a felony for the latter (though nothing yet has come of the family stuff, which worries me, insofar as what he could charged with, or the fact that he wasn’t the only one sticking his hand in the cookie jar) but if he’d had any money stashed away, I imagine he would have used some of it to at least buy food rather than eating ours. And watching us sell all our most valuable possessions to buy him medicine, put gas in his car, and pay his bills.

It’s been a long eight months. One day he’s up, the next he’s down. When he has money (or positive things going on), he’s high as a kite. When he has nothing (money or otherwise), he’s in his room for days – if not weeks – at a time. We want to take advantage of the fact that he’s now working full time, has a steady, great income, as well as being approved for disability, and let him take over the lease.

If I was offered a job tomorrow, it would definitely be a tremendous effort to get things squared away. So, every day, I try to do a little bit to get things ready. Start a pile of things to donate, put something up for sale on CraigsList. I want to get my dad to start putting the utilities in his name, and fix the damn window on the Matrix so we can trade it in.

This is beginning to be a bit of a ramble. And will probably get worse. Some day, when I have the time, I would like to sit down and write out everything that has happened in the past year. 2010 was, by far, the shittiest I have ever had. It sucks that Bea’s life has been complicated by all of the things that have taken place. I wish I could have relaxed and enjoyed her. I tried, but sometimes, having your dad come downstairs and start shouting things at the TV makes it difficult to relax. It’s like living with Kate, only worse. Always on eggshells, never sure what he’s going to do.

I don’t know how he will be living on his own, but I think placing him in his own apartment would be a bad idea. I think it would be too depressing for him. At least he has the comfort of this house and, what we don’t want or cannot take with us, we can leave for him and get later or just let him keep. The landlord, I’m sure, will have no problem letting him take over the lease. After all, we’ve been here over 4 1/2 years and have never paid the rent late.

All that being said, there is a part of me that wishes we could stay, that I’d be offered a great job here or a great MA program. But nothing has come up or through. Whenever someone says, “Oh, I don’t want you guys to go,” I just have to say, “Thank you.” Because I want to say, “Can you fix all of this? Can you make my dad sane again? Can you get my mother to relax and stop clawing at me to get to the baby?”

If my mother were able, I think she would kill me in my sleep and take Bea. I’m so angry and frustrated with her. The guilt trips, the crying, the whining. The complete lack of responsibility or accountability for anything that’s happened. She feels as if it’s ALL my dad’s fault and he left her with no choice. She refuses to think she made any choices that negatively affected any one else, least of all my relationship with her. All she wants is THAT BABY. And it makes me physically ill. To see her coo and cuddle and chase after Bea when I can’t remember the last time she ever touched me.

The first time my mom ever said she loved me was the night I had Bea. After racing to the hospital (an hour and a half drive that I think she made in 45 minutes), then bursting in to the delivery room in the midst of me pushing, we couldn’t get her to leave until almost 9 at night. Charlie has to escort her to the parking garage. I didn’t even want her there, and had told her as much in the past. I didn’t want ANYONE in the delivery room – even Charlie, if he decided he didn’t want to be there. So as she’s driving home, I guess she called my phone and left this long, weepy voicemail, at the end of which she says, “Love you guys.” Not “I love you,” but “love you guys.” I was 33 years old and it was the first time I ever heard my mother say anything like that.

She never said she was proud of me until my dad pointed it out a few months ago. It’s like a party you can’t make it to. Sure, you have to work, but it would be nice to at least be invited. Instead of ever taking the initiative to say anything positive to me, my mom has to be told by myself and other people the issues we/I have with her, then, all of the sudden, she starts saying this shit.

It’s too little, too late, for me. As terrible as this sounds, I’m not interested in forging a relationship with her. I think she’s emotionally unstable and her obsession with Bea is bordering on frightening. She needs to be happy with herself and her choices before she expects a child to create happiness for her. I know a lot of friends who have had children recently and are having difficulty dealing with their parents. I know I’m not alone, but I have never, ever been close to my mother, and have never forgiven her for the things she did to me when I was younger. As I’ve gotten older, she has continued to prove that she isn’t just an unhappy person, she’s miserable and lonely.

A part of me does feel sorry for her, which is why I asked Charlie if he would be willing to let her come over while I was at work. She has, MANY TIMES. In fact, when I sent an email saying she should contact Charlie to set up time to see Bea, I don’t think she even logged out of her Yahoo account before snatching up the phone to call him. And she’s done it, over and over again. And every time she has come out, she’s cried. Every. Single. Time. Weeping, sobbing, crying, whining, moaning. As Bea gets older and more aware of what’s going on around her, she gets upset when my mom cries.

I wonder, if she could just keep her shit together, would I have less of a problem with her coming out? Probably not. Her behavior merely fuels my frustration.

Maybe my dad drove her crazy after 38 years of his antics, but SHE chose HIM, I didn’t pick either of them. But I got stuck with him when she left and he tried to kill himself. She has barely spoken to him all year, and immediately applied for a divorce. She won’t talk to me about him at all any more, which makes me even angrier because the first couple of months, she would write me these NOVELS every day about how he ruined her life and her world came crashing down around her, blah, blah, blah. I tried to actually communicate with her, but she just stopped addressing anything about my dad at all.

Now she’s convinced that he is filling my head with lies about her. She thinks he’s the reason I am upset with her and don’t want to hang out and watch her fondle my daughter. It has nothing to do, I guess, with the fact that she told me on more than one occasion she should have aborted me, never wanted kids, and hated having children.

Hanging on by a Thread

I have been having a tough semester, to say the least. A tough year. I thought 2009 was bad. Some friends were laid off, one died of an overdose, another killed himself, my dad lost his job, my grandmother got really sick. Then this year, my grandmother passed away, my mom left my dad, one of my friends had a nervous breakdown (I didn’t know people still had those), and after my dad attempted suicide and finally got out of the psych ward, he came to live with us.

He’s been here since May and it’s been a real struggle to get things done. I have a rather high-maintenance 15-month-old (that means a year plus three months), two cats, two dogs, a weird work schedule and a partner with an even weirder work schedule. My dad has four cats living up in his room, and my mother won’t speak to him. At their preliminary divorce hearing, she asked if she could request custody of my daughter because, she said, she has to “practically beg to see her.”

Monday I have to get a babysitter and skip my evening class to go with my dad to court. He’s being sentenced for a Class C felony he committed last November (which is why he lost his job. Except he didn’t really “lose” it. He knows where it is, he just isn’t allowed to go to it anymore). This is also one of the reasons my mom left him. He did the same thing (forgery) with my grandparents. After he found out my grandmother had passed away (the day before Bea’s first birthday), and knowing my grandfather is essentially senile, he said, “I told your mother not to worry.” Like, I guess no one would miss the money because my grandma croaked just a few months after he took it.

I can’t believe I haven’t broken down and started sobbing in the middle of the grocery store, or stabbed a customer at the coffee shop for looking at me cross-eyed.

I have to keep a blog online for one of my classes, and all of this started coming out, so I decided it was better to keep it here than for my class to read. They can if they want to, but I just figured I should stick to the subject matter. Literacy and Technology. I honestly do not know how I am going to survive the rest of 2010.

Here I Am.

Last night I made cheese ravioli, steamed asparagus with butter and lemon juice, and a nice, fresh salad. As we took turns picking up Beatrice’s toys off the floor as she tossed them from her high chair, I had a strange feeling come over me. When we rented this house three and a half years ago, we were living with a twenty-something college student, and our dogs were our kids. We went out whenever we felt like it, ate out all the time, had no trouble paying our bills, and went to the movies or hung out with friends. Now, Cavan has moved out and we eat dinner at home, at the table with a 6-month-old in between us, banging toys on her food tray, cooing and babbling. We haven’t gone out alone together, let alone had a “date,” since she was born. Our hospital bills are ready to go into collections, and we’re trying to figure out if we can go down to one car.

I don’t think I ever imagined myself in this situation. Unlike many women, being in a long-term, committed relationship and being a mom just weren’t on my top list of things to do. I love Bea to death, and can’t imagine not having her, so it’s not like I would take that back. It’s just a weird, surreal feeling to know I now have to be responsible for her, before I consider myself and what I want. My life wasn’t exactly a thrill a minute before she came along, which may be part of the reason we chose to go ahead and try getting pregnant. I’m willing to sacrifice a certain amount of myself to make sure she’s well taken care of.

That being said, there are things I can do for myself that give me a little alone time. I take a lot of hot baths in this cold winter weather when Charlie is home. I’m reading a book on getting in to grad school. I’m sitting down by myself to try and get homework done.

My top school choices aren’t so much about the schools’ prestige as they are the programs those schools have to offer. Portland State University and DePaul in Chicago both have programs in writing and publishing that interest me. Part of me loves the idea of taking off for at least two years to live in Oregon, physically detached from the people who are making this thing called motherhood much more difficult for me (let’s not even go into that right now). Part of me likes the idea of renting a tiny apartment in Chicago, walking to campus, and taking regular trips to IKEA for all of the things we won’t want to take with us. I don’t want to leave my friends completely, or the family that I care about, but I really want to give something new a try. I don’t want to have a kid who’s afraid to try new things, who grows up in suburb of Indianapolis, and whose idea of “fun” is going to the mall with her friends. If that’s how she ends up, I want to know that I at least gave her a fighting chance to be somewhat “cultured.”

Charlie is considering pursuing a degree in nursing, in an effort to both change fields/have a new career, and to ensure a job anywhere we end up. I want to take comedy writing classes at Second City. We talk a lot about money, school, how we ended up in this financial situation, and how to get out of it.

The other day I had to turn in a bunch of paperwork at the Family and Social Services Administration to see if we were eligible for assistance with Bea’s healthcare. Walking in, I found the entire place so depressing, flickering fluorescent lights, people taking up seats who looked as though they might not have a place to call home . . . It made me that much more determined the get out of the situation that we’re in, whether it’s just by finishing this goddamn Bachelor’s degree that’s taken me so long, or continuing through to get my Master’s and teaching, or getting a shitty writing gig for a sitcom.

I guess, as usual, only time will tell, but I am convinced that, as usual, Charlie and I will come out ahead of all of this.