Monday, August 27, 2012

Maybe there really is a light at the end of the tunnel...

For the past couple weeks, I've been fielding phone calls and emails concerning admission to candidacy deadlines, graduation requirements, job placement possibilities, and all the other things that come with completion of law school. It's almost starting to feel like it's really going to happen.

Don't get me wrong, it still seems surreal & distorted in a very Salvador Dali sort of way; but it is starting to come into focus. I've given up a lot for this, and so have those that support me. A friend keeps telling me, "it will all come back to you in a good way..." I sincerely hope that is the case.

I know deep down that all this hard work will be worth it in the end. Not only in the standard of living for my family, but also in the example that it sets for my children. I pray they follow it and chase their dreams.

Maybe there really is a light as the end of this tunnel. Before now, it seemed all I could see was a lot of darkness...but it's starting to feel like I'm really getting somewhere. I actually complete my law degree in December, but I won't be graduating until May. This is because I am working on a dual degree; the J.D. and a Master's in Native American Studies. I was an NAS major the first time I went to college, but had to leave it behind when I dropped out to have my first son. So, in one way, the dual degree is sort of completing what I didn't finish before. Also, at some point in my career, I would like to practice tribal law. So, I have completed the requirements for a Certificate in Native American Law and am pursuing the MA NAS in hopes that in makes me more marketable for tribes that are looking to hire attorneys. Even if it doesn't give me any edge of the JD, the experiences that I've gained and the amazing people that I've met along the way make it worth it.

I feel like I'm almost to the summit & it will be downhill once I reach the peak...

Friday, August 24, 2012

Going to the dogs...

In today's chapter of "WTH was I thinking?!?"...

A friend gave us a dog. More accurately, they gave us a beagle puppy. Now, I love dogs...and baby beagles are just so adorable...how could I say no? Wth was I thinking?

I love Charlie. Really, I do. BUT, I must have forgotten that taking care of and training a puppy is like having another kid. They need a LOT of time and attention...and I'm. Tired.

There's a reason I said I don't need any more kids. Four is enough for one person to take care of. Yet, in the name of making my children happy, I brought home their new little friend.

Initially, he lived with friends and family members because our apartment was too small for a dog, and we had no yard. So, we were more like his non-custodial family, with rights of visitation. The recent move to a real house has allowed us to bring him home to stay. Let's just say...it's been interesting...

It's been an adventure to keep him from destroying the house and getting him used to our routine. I'm sure PETA would call me an unfit dog parent. Charlie does not have the run of the house. Instead, he lives in the kitchen and dining area...where there is no carpet. He has a big backyard to play in with (thanks to the generosity of a friend) a doghouse that is nicer than my last apartment. However, when he's out in the yard with no supervision, he is on a cable.

Now, don't attack me with the whole "no chain" argument. His cable is long enough that he can reach the entire backyard, but not long enough to allow him to dig under the fence and run into the busy street. So, I'll reconsider the idea that his cable equates to cruelty as soon as I see the authorities forcing parents to take their children off those ridiculous looking leashes that seem to be getting more popular.

Having Charlie join our household has been frustrating at times...and wonderful. The kids are so happy to have him to play with and take care of him. That's right, I said they are HAPPY to TAKE CARE OF him. They are seeing to it that he's fed, watered, played with, etc. They clean up after him without being told. While they don't always know what needs to be done, they seem to be making a point of asking me to teach them, rather than just letting me do everything. This makes me so thankful because it definitely takes away some of my stress. Most of all, it makes me proud as a parent that my children have internalized the compassion, initiative, and responsibility that I have always tried to instill in them. As I watch that little puppy grow, I've also been watching my kids growing into responsible individuals.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Prays Well With Others

Today I wanted to share my friend Marsha's blog. Marsha's Religious Reflection will follow her as she journey's to understand various religions. She plans to not only read the revered texts used by groups, but also to attend and experience worship or ceremonies.

Check it out and follow her!

Monday, August 20, 2012

My LAST First Day of School

I hadn't even really thought about it this way, until I saw the title in my FaceBook newsfeed, posted by about a dozen of my classmates. Yes, it is my LAST first day of school; hopefully forever. Even though, as another classmate was taking great joy in pointing out, there will be continuing education hours required every year, the end is in sight. We are almost at the jumping off place, where our educational pursuits gives way to beginning our careers.

It's exciting; and terrifying. It's daunting; and promising.

I just keep telling myself that, if I can hang on for these few more months, things will get better.

I received confirmation of my next internship, to begin spring semester. It is an unpaid position, of course, but promises a lot of learning opportunities and, possibly, the change to become a jr. attorney with the firm after Bar passage.

This all came as quite a surprise, actually. The attorney is on the board of the place that I interned with over the summer. Apparently the attorneys there gave me rave reviews. When he asked me to come down and see his office, I thought I was going for a networking-type visit. However, it quickly morphed into an interview. Before I knew it, I had gotten this offer.

It's sorta a light at the end of the tunnel. I had been worried that I would be one of those people that graduate law school with no job offers or prospects, thus prolonging my struggle to get my family stabilized. I am so grateful because this is more than just a great opportunity...it's a restoration of HOPE.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Growth & Change

Back to school is upon us.

Tomorrow is my first day of class for me. The Big's schools begin on Wednesday. Time marches on & it moves way too fast.

There are moments when that make me pause for a moment & just realize how quickly my children are growing up.

Tonight, I heard probably the most adorable excuse from a child trying to delay bedtime. "Momma!" (In the most urgent voice that a 6 year old can feign) "The light on the fish bowl isn't changing colors anymore!"

Of course, this just meant that the setting had been changed so that it stayed one color, instead of scrolling through the color settings. A simple fix, but it made me remember the first time she came running in my room, calling me "Momma". It doesn't seem like that long ago, but it has been a few year...and few years that passed all too quickly.

It's all so bittersweet. I love watching my children grow and learn. Seeing them grow into the amazing individuals that they are becoming is incredible. However, I look at how much my life (our lives) has changed in the last few years. Adoption. Divorce. Losing old friends, gaining new. Death. Birth. So much change in such a short time. It all reminds me how precious and fleeting life is; and how important it is to relish every moment. On the other hand, it makes me sad that the Big's father is choosing to miss so much of it. No matter what, though, I am here for them. I love them unconditionally. I will always be here for them in whatever way possible. I am their mother.

"All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another." ~Anatole France 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Maybe we shouldn't be so quick to judge...

I try not to be overly sensitive about things, but there's something that is really gets to me the more I think about it.

"I wish I could afford an iPhone, like the lady in front of me paying for her groceries with food stamps." "If you can afford X, you don't need food stamps." I see & hear these things on a daily basis and, when I point out how broadly judgemental it is, I generally hear things like "oh, I didn't mean you..." or "you're the exception, but MOST people getting government help..."

The truth is, I have been that person in the line with an iPhone, paying with food stamps. However, it's not because I spend all my money on frivolous things while "people who actually work for a living" pay to feed me and my children. In reality, I'm required by a court order to keep a phone active so that my older three children ("The Bigs) can talk to their father. At the time I got the iPhone, the company was having an amazing offer that made the phone cost almost nothing, with a contract. So, I got the contract and my boyfriend (the father of my youngest, "J") paid for the phone.

When some people see my family, I realize that they start doing what I call "the baby-daddy count". I know this because some of them actually ask. Truth is, there are three biological fathers involved in creating my four children...and two biological mothers. You see, The Bigs are from my first marriage. My daughter was adopted and it is obvious from looking at her that she is a different race from myself and my other children.

We haven't always been on food stamps. When I was married, we were middle-class. I did my best to manage the money as wisely as possible so that I could stay at home with the kids. When we divorced, my ex-husband agreed to pay child support  and, because it set at an amount lower than what he would be required to pay if figured from his income, also agreed to pay alimony until I pass the Bar Exam. This plan went along pretty well, until he stopped paying. I did my best to juggle and to find a job. The reality is, though, that I can't pay bills from no income and I have been unable to find a job that can/will work around law school AND very little work history (because I was a SAHM). So, I filed for food stamps. When I did, Child Support Enforcement took over the support issue and managed to collect a few partial payments, but not much to amount to anything. J's father works hard to support us all but, so far, it's been a struggle. Hopefully that will change soon.

So, you see, that girl that you are judging because she is on food stamps, has a manicure (my friend used to do mine for free to practice, as she was going through school), has kids that appears to be from different fathers, nice clothes (I have tons of nice clothes that I bought when I could still afford it & I take care of them), etc. might just be me. I'm NOT the exception. Yes, I know there are some people that are content to just get by on government assistance. However, the vast majority that I know are struggling to navigate the hurdles that it takes to get to the point where we don't need assistance anymore. Not everyone is as fortunate as I have been. I have someone that is willing to stay away from home and work very hard so that I can get through school. Without that, I would have to quit school and take a low paying job to attempt to support my children. However, the only thing that would do is ensure that we'd never be able to get out of the poverty/assistance circle.

So, next time you want to make a judgement or a condecending remark, think twice. Most likely, you don't know the whole story. When you DO know a particular person that is taking advantage...all that means is THAT person is doing that, not that it can be generalized to others.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Who says you can't go home?

It's almost time for back to school. Since I took classes and interned this summer, my break didn't start until last Friday afternoon. So, I took a four day vacation in Chahta (Choctaw) Country (Oklahoma), where I grew up. My kids had spent the last few weeks of their break with my parents, so I thought I'd spend a few days back home before I had to get back to reality and prepare for back to school.

It was nice to see family and spend some time with the kids--no schedule, just fun. We went to Beaver's Bend State Park and spent some time playing in the water of Broken Bow Lake. It made me miss home, so I started looking at some photos that I took a couple years ago, on the property where I grew up. So, I thought I'd share a few with you all...





Friday, August 10, 2012

With friends like these...

When we divorced, my ex-husband got to keep the house, along with all debt and equity attached to it. Unfortunately, neither of us had attorneys, so we did not know to write a very clear clause in the decree stating that he must refinance the property within a specified period of time, so that my name (and credit) was no longer attached to it. The judge was kind enough to mention this at the hearing and offer to give me time to contact him to see if he would consent to amending the petition. Wanting the legal formalities behind me and, quite honestly, trusting that he would follow through with our agreement (that he remove my name from the loan), I consented to her finalizing the divorce without making the change. Oh, how foolish I was...

Not long thereafter, he stopped making the approximately $350/mo payments. Of course, I had no way to know this, at the time. In fact, I didn't find out that he had completely stopped making the  payments until I heard rumors of the foreclosure. When I checked the court records, I was shocked to find that, not only was I listed as a co-defendant in the case, but it had been in court for several months and he had NEVER said a word to me about it. I had explained to him the legal problems that it could cause me if he didn't take care of this responsibility. Perhaps that was a mistake...

Am I saying he's doing this to hurt me? No. I don't want to think he's capable of that. My friends disagree. After all, it's difficult to formulate some other explanation for him not paying what amounts to less than he makes in ONE day at work. Honestly, combined with the pattern that has emerged with support payments (the times he "can't afford it" always coincides with him finding out that I'm in a relationship), and I see their point. Still, I hate to think that someone I spent so many good years with could do that. So, I don't let myself go there...

In any event, since I found out about the foreclosure and the fact that the house is for sale, I have been trying to spread the word in hopes of finding a buyer. Granted, I won't get any of the purchase money. However, because he didn't take my name off the mortgage, now that he is facing possible foreclosure, his legal problem has suddenly also become my legal problem. So, a couple of days ago, I found out the price on the property had been reduced, so I posted the listing on my FaceBook. A friend asked why I was selling, so I explained that it was the house that I bought with my ex, followed by that sentence that is italicized above. Apparently this makes me evil...

The next morning I got a call from my ex-husband about how I shouldn't be "posting all over FaceBook" about how he's in foreclosure, etc. First of all, my profile is private, so only my "friends" can see it. So, apparently one of them likes to cause drama. Secondly, I sincerely do not believe that I did anything wrong. Most of my friends already knew about the foreclosure. That's how I found out. Besides, it's a matter of public record. I understand that it might be a sensitive issue. I certainly don't like having a foreclosure on my credit, either. Unfortunately, it's a reality. So, I'm doing the only thing in my power to remedy the situation. Selling the house is the best solution all the way around. I didn't realize that stating, without judgement, facts that are a matter of public record was grounds to have me drawn & quartered. Clearly I was mistaken...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

I'm baaaack!

It's been far, far too long since I posted regularly. I had to take a break to deal with personal issues.

I am now in my 3L year of law school. Since starting back to school I have had some pretty significant changes in my personal life: we finalized my daughter's adoption, got divorced, my children moved to live with me full time, and I had another baby.

Academically, speaking, I have made it through two full years of the law program and an amazing summer internship. I have successfully completed all the requirements for a Certificate in Native American Law and am working on, not just the J.D., but also a Master's in Native American Studies.

So, as you can tell, I had to pour a lot of physical energy into caring for the baby and an unimaginable amount of emotional energy into helping my older children with all the changes, the most difficult being the fact that their father has chosen to have very little involvement in their lives.

There is so much more to say, but I think I'll just leave it at that for the moment...