Tuesday, January 21, 2014

My Last Year in a Nutshell (otherwise known as "A Very Overdue New Years Post"... with explanations.)

Life has been a rollercoaster ride for me this last year.  So many things have happened… and really, there are not many of them that I would call “good”.  At the beginning of the year my mom dropped a bombshell on the family and announced that, after 25 years of marriage, she was divorcing my dad.  He hadn’t realized things were that bad – none of us did – but when the police came to kick him out of the house, things just went from bad to worse.  With the family in shambles and my mom and dad at odds, I could no longer concentrate on anything.  Some of you may remember I had plans in motion for Magpie Eclectic Press’ first list to be released in November… and I was a full time student taking a crazy amount of classes at the local college.  My grades started to decline, and even trying to focus through reading a single article of research for Magpie – or even trying to read through a short story submission – became an arduous task.  I simply couldn’t make my brain stay on target anymore; my thoughts kept bouncing back and forth in my head, always off the topic I needed them to be on, and the stress levels ratcheted up until I felt like a walking time-bomb just waiting for something to make me explode. 

Still, I tried to keep things moving forward; kept attending classes, still tried to put in time each day for Magpie… But things continued to get worse until I was suspended at work (long, difficult story to explain, mostly having to do with my boss GREATLY misunderstanding something I did… we later talked about the issue, and he admitted that what I did was in the right and he had simply not understood the issue at hand… but for me, the damage was already done) and then one day my computer (with all of the information I had organized for Magpie Eclectic Press, including authors and contracts and as of yet unread submissions) died, and my old faithful van decided to finally give up the ghost.   At that point in time, I had to ask my mom for a ride to school and work (which were both close to an hour away from me) and though, of course, I still loved my mom (then, as I do now, and as I always will), each day it became more and more difficult to get in that van with her.  We simply couldn’t see eye to eye on the whole situation at hand, and then one fateful morning after yet another argument on the way to my classes, we both had enough and my mom kicked me out of the house. 

Not sure what to do anymore, I dropped all of my classes but one (which resulted in me owing the school close to $2,000), moved in with my grandparents until I could find an apartment I could afford, started looking for a full-time job to replace the part-time one I had, and started looking for another vehicle.  Magpie officially went on the back burner, because other things became more important for the immediate time being.  It was a decision I hated to make, but I had no choice… It was either put a hold on Magpie, or go half crazy trying to cope with everything and then end up only doing a half-decent job on projects that should have my full attention.  I couldn’t do that to my authors, my company, or my dream.  It would have to wait.  I figured I would wait until the start of 2014, then start in on it all again.  Surely by the beginning of the next year, I would be ready to take up that heavy mantel again and plow forward.

To make matters even worse, I was no longer going to church.  I honestly couldn’t even make myself go.  Earlier in the year I’d been burned pretty badly by the church I had been attending.  And to pour lemon juice on that wound, it wasn’t even just the church that had burned me, but the pastor and his family who had been friends to my family for years and years and years, far back into my childhood and long before they had ever been pastors.  After I was burned, going back to that church was so painful I could barely look people in the eyes.  And going back to the Mother-Church – that is, the church which had started the church that had burned me – didn’t help matters.  For one thing, too many people knew why I had left the new church, and for another thing it all felt like going through motions that no longer meant anything. 

So I stopped going altogether.  It was perhaps a bad decision, but I had visited other churches in the area, and they all felt “dry”… as if the motions were the only things the Christians of the area knew anymore, and they just didn’t care.   And I couldn’t make myself care either… not when I felt there was no point in it anymore.

 I finally did find a place to stay… a friend of the family offered me the economy apartment in the upstairs of her house for a price I could actually afford.  The only problem was, I still had no car.  I found one that I thought I could pay for (with a little help) and my grandpa helped me buy it on a payment plan.  For a happy month I was on my way, moving things back and forth to the new apartment, driving myself to work and to the one class I still had on my schedule, and pretty much ignoring the fact that my family was falling apart around my ears… I was starting a new life on my own.  Things were looking up… and then the car died.  Unfortunately for me, I had purchased a lemon. 

Not to be discouraged, my grandpa came up with a solution.  He would fix up the old blue Oldsmobile parked in the barn and that could be my car.  He was very persistent, and it took him a good month of working on it every day (I helped him as much as I could, but I know so little about cars that all that my help amounted to was handing him the tools he needed as he asked for them) but he finally got it moving.  It was a wonderful car too.  It practically purred when you turned it on, and honestly, I loved everything about it!  I was so happy, and couldn’t believe that my grandpa would do that for me!

Fast forward two weeks, and I did something really stupid; I decided after 48 hours of no sleep and with about 3 cans of redbull in me, that I could manage the 10 mile drive to pick up a friend of mine and go to the local ren-fair.  I fell asleep behind the wheel, ran a stop sign at a T-road, and flew into the deep country ditch on the other side… hitting the T-sign on the way, of course.  My car was totaled, and I was in pretty bad shape myself.  Thankfully for me, the car had a hard metal frame and body instead of one of those half-plastic and aluminum frames most of the new cars have.  If it weren’t for that fact, I don’t think I would be alive today.  I vowed then that I would never be so stupid again; driving tired was no longer an option… if I was not fully awake when I got behind the wheel, I would not drive, end of story.  But in being so stupid in the first place, I had just given up my key to freedom.  I was once more out of a car, and hardly any closer to getting into my apartment than I had been before.

Once again I was blown away by my grandparents’ kindness towards me and my situation.  Not only were they still letting me stay at their house through all of this, but my grandpa decided he would give the whole car issue one more shot.  He still had one old car sitting out by the barn.  It hadn’t been driven in ages – much longer than the other car, in fact – and it hadn’t been in wonderful shape when it was parked years before (the only real issue with the other car had been the break system… this one had had transmission issues as well as break problems when he had stopped driving it) but my brave grandpa decided to give it a go.  It took him a long time, at least double the time it took him to fix up the other car, and of course I was still not much help.  Other than aiding him in changing a tire here and there, I didn’t know anything about the car or what was under that hood.  But he still managed to get it running again, and after warning me that this was my absolute last chance – he didn’t have another car if things went bad with this one (and I wouldn’t have wanted him to try yet again… I felt bad enough about the first car turning out to be a lemon, and then totaling the second car…) – he handed me the keys.

Things started moving forward again.  With the help of my grandpa and my brothers, I managed to get all of my things moved out to the new apartment, and my first official day at the new place was September 1rst.  However, I still needed a full time job.  I could barely afford to live on what I was making from the other job, and I still felt slightly at odds with my boss because of what had happened when I was suspended.  On top of that, things were starting to escalate between my parents and their attorneys, and my mom had decided to put my two youngest sisters in public school.  She and I could still barely hold a conversation together that didn’t end in an argument and at least one of us bursting into tears, and my relationship with my dad was not much better off. 

Then, at the end of October, my brother called me one day with information about a job at a nursing home over in Metamora Illinois.  This nursing home was looking for CNA’s, and as I am a CNA, he thought it would be a good opportunity for me.  I called them right away and had an interview before the phone-call was even finished.  The interview went well, and I started working there October 29th of last year.  This month on the 29th, I will have been there 3 months working a full-time night shift.

Thanksgiving and Christmas were both difficult this last year.  Everything was very different from the 26 years’ worth of holidays that I knew from memory, but with the first of January, I felt like new life came back to me.  This is a new year, with new opportunities and new possibilities.  This is the year that I will pull myself back together and, with God’s help, continue forward.  I started attending church with my brother again, a completely new church with new people whom I had never met.  The first day I walked in there, I felt God move as I haven’t felt in church since I was 15.  I knew then that this was a church I wanted to visit again.  That was almost a month ago, and I keep going back.  Never mind that it’s an hour drive to Bloomington from my new home in Peoria Illinois, the drive is worth it.  And it’s not like I wasn’t used to the drive before, living out so far in the country for most of my life and going to church in Peoria… it’s just a different direction for me.  And I love it.

All this to say, thank you everyone for being so patient with me.  This last year has been one set of hard knocks after another, and I was struggling to cope.  If I acted childish and immature at times, it was because I couldn’t stand trying to be an adult anymore… I needed to unwind.  If I suddenly turned a conversation around to unload my thoughts on you, it was because I couldn’t think straight anymore and felt like I was going crazy.  To my authors – those chosen to be in the anthology, those still waiting for an answer from Magpie as to the status of their submissions, and to Gillian Adams who has waited very patiently for word of the status of her Novella – I apologize for my radio-silence on all things and anything having to do with Magpie Eclectic Press.  I simply couldn’t think about it then, but that has changed now.  With this New Year comes new hope, for me and for Magpie.  With God’s help and your help this will still become a reality.

To my close friends who stuck by me no matter what, seeing me through melt-downs that made me look like an insane person, talking me through situations I just couldn’t handle by myself – and to one friend in particular who went the extra mile and helped me take my mind off things by letting me come over to her house to hang out, and who also helped me financially in a way I never expected far above and beyond anything I could imagine or would have ever asked for (you know who you are, and you are amazing!!!)  Thank you.  Thank you so much.  You can’t know how much it meant to me.  Even my family didn’t realize and couldn’t fathom all that I was going through mentally and by extension physically, and it was you guys who helped keep me sane.

To my grandparents and my extended family, thank you.  Some of you don’t really know what’s been going on or how things have all played out, but your prayers have meant a lot.  And again, to my grandparents who went far above and beyond for me in order to see me on my feet again, Thank you.  I can’t begin to thank you enough for all of your help and support.

This is a New Year, folks.  A new dawn.  I feel like I’ve been through the Valley, dragged through the mud.  Perhaps my situation hasn’t been as bad as it has been for others, but it has been extremely difficult nonetheless.  Now, though, all that happened last year is behind me; all the crazy, and all the cruel.  I feel like I can breathe again, if only for a moment.  And that feeling has emboldened me.  It’s time to move forward again.

            Happy New Year, everyone. :D