Saturday, April 23, 2016

A New Home

A new home

Home sweet home.  A phrase I've heard numerous times but never really thought about...until I no longer had a home.  What does that phrase mean to you?

To read the first part of this story, click here.

On the morning of Wednesday, April 22nd, 2015, I stood in the Great Room on a hill in Louisa, Kentucky in a beautiful home known as Karen's Place.  I was in the middle of a circle surrounded by my sisters in recovery, my counselors, and my mentors.  They prayed for me as I embarked on a very new I headed to my new definition of a home.  I walked out of the door and loaded my stuff into the little red car Chad had driven to pick me up.  I didn't cry as much while leaving the facility this time around, because I knew that I would be back to start the Graduate Assistant (GA) Program in just five days.

Chad let me stop at Wal-Mart to pick up a few things that I needed, and we grabbed a quick lunch and headed to my new apartment.  There was no welcome wagon this time one waiting to greet me. There were, however, signs that the kids had drawn and left for me. One sign that I particularly remember {and still have it put up somewhere in my garage....and if you have seen my garage, you are now laughing hysterically} was made by Addy.  She had painted an anchor and written the words, You are the anchor to my soul.  That made me smile because I was fairly certain I had wrecked her ship, and I rather expected it to say, Mom, you are drowning us...let go. I walked into my apartment and looked around.  I felt a sense of peace and comfort come over me, and I started getting myself settled in. I only had a couple of hours to get things ready before the kids got home from school.  Chad was allowing them to stay with me for my first two nights at home.  I put the bedding on my bed, put up a few little decorations, and put my clothing away.  My room was the smaller of the two bedrooms, but it was a decent size.  I went to the kids room and made sure everything was ready for them. They would all be sharing a single bedroom when they were with me. My then eighteen-year old daughter and nine-year old daughter would share a bunk bed on one side of the room, and my then ten-year old son would sleep in the twin bed on the other side.  They had a dresser, but it was empty.  My apartment was full of furniture that had come from flea markets or Big Lots. Nonetheless, I was extremely grateful for it all, and I think I did a pretty good job with what I had!

The first morning in our apartment

My little bedroom

The Living Room
(that small chalkboard sign hanging on the wall in the middle actually says HomeSweetHome)

My license had been revoked due to an accident I had been in before I went into treatment (another story for another day), so I was stuck in my apartment with no way to leave.  I called Chad and asked him if I could go with him to pick the kids up from school or off of the bus.  I had only seen them two times in the past one-hundred days, and I couldn't wait to get my arms around them.  He told me that he would drop them off to me after they got out of school, but that I was not allowed to go with him to pick them up.  I think he wanted to make sure that I knew my coming home this time was not being celebrated.  I had screwed up....majorly.

I asked Chad if he would take me to the grocery when he brought the kids to me so that I could get some things to make for dinner and to pack lunches the following day.  These were things that felt overwhelming to me.  He agreed, and we went to Kroger where I used a Kroger card to partially stock my fridge and cabinets.  The kids and I went back to my apartment, had dinner, and I got them bathed and ready for bed.  My nine-year old, Addy, loves to tumble, and she was doing cartwheels through my small living room when her arm gave out from under her and she fell to the floor, screaming and crying.  I tried to console her, but she wanted her Daddy, which made me feel both guilty and a little hurt.  I let her call him, and he was at the apartment within five minutes.  We decided that she probably needed to go to Urgent Care to get it checked out, just to be safe.  Since I couldn't drive, this left Chad the privilege of taking her.  Within an hour, she walked back into my front door with her arm in a sling.  She had sprained her shoulder.  Great.  She had been in my care for all of two hours and had gotten injured.  I'm sure that would look good on my case should he decide to divorce me and take custody of the kids.

I put the kids to bed, locked up, and went to my room to read a book.  Since I was a little girl, I had been scared to death of the nighttime.  I was convinced that someone was going to break into my house and kill me.  My sister will probably disown me after I tell this story, but when we were little, we shared bunk beds.  She slept on top and I slept on bottom.  At night, I would lie awake with my eyes closed, holding my breath, with baby dolls and stuffed animals surrounding me.  I had formulated this ridiculous theory that if I was lying completely still and not breathing, when a robber came into our bedroom, he would think I was a baby doll and would take my older sister instead.  What a precious child I was.  And I think I kept this ridiculous endeavor up until I was like eight years old. I don't think life sized Barbies are even remotely close to the size of an eight-year old girl with feathered bangs.  Embarrassingly enough, that only got worse as I got older.  In fact, when Chad and I were first married, I would take a butcher knife with me when I went to take a the middle of the day.  I think I drove him crazy in the night when I repeatedly woke him up asking, "Did you hear that?  I think someone is trying to get in our house!"  And don't even get me started on mice.  We actually stayed in a hotel once shortly after we were married because of a mouse.  My fears were irrational and extreme.

So, when I laid down in bed that first night on April 22nd, 2015, in an apartment that I had never stayed in before, with no one to protect me, I was completely shocked when I realized that all of the fear was gone.  I sat and waited for it, dreading that panicked feeling that was sure to come....but it never did.  I simply fell asleep peacefully, and I woke up the next morning with two warm little bodies in my bed (and no, they weren't mice!).  I woke the kids up, got them ready for school, fed them breakfast, packed their lunches, put their backpacks on their backs, kissed their foreheads, then sent them out to their regular bus which, conveniently, stopped right at my apartment door.  I brewed a pot of coffee, went around the apartment making beds and cleaning up, and sat down to try to figure out my license situation.  The only place that could reinstate my license was forty minutes away, and when I called, they plainly stated that if I were caught driving myself to the reinstatement office, I would not get my license back.  I called Chad and asked him if he would drive me to get it taken care of.  My memory is a little foggy regarding this phone call, but I'm pretty sure that he laughed and told me to "figure it out".  I called a couple of other people, and no one was available to take me.  I proceeded to call every person I could get on the phone in the state of Ohio BMV, and finally got someone who was willing to help me get it taken care of over the phone.  My license would not be valid for another twenty-four to forty-eight hours, but at least it was taken care of, and I had done it on my own.  

The kids came home, and we gathered around a tiny old TV that night (I think it was the first flat screen ever manufactured) with a busted speaker and nearly non-existent sound and watched a DVD.  I was completely embarrassed about my ghetto set-up, and I was pretty sure I was scarring them for life. Turns out, we made some pretty good little memories in that apartment, and for almost six months, we made it feel like home.  We had hand me down furniture, no washer and dryer for the first few months that we lived there, and the place was so small we were always all up in each other's business. But, we made memories.  The kids played in the backyard and drew on the concrete with sidewalk chalk.  I cleaned that little place relentlessly and always made sure that it felt like a welcoming place for the kids to come on the weekends.  We spent hours at the bar in the kitchen working on an art sculpture and painting.  When ants invaded my kitchen, I googled how to get rid of them, drove to the hardware store to get ant baits, set them myself, and conquered an army of stubborn little ants. And, as time went on and Chad and I continued to work on our marriage, it was not uncommon to see roses sitting on the kitchen counter.  Honestly, I grew to love that little place.  Because, it was mine.  My first place on my own.  At thirty-four years old.

The apartment sits on a road that I drive down nearly every single day.  I always look at it when I drive by, and I am never filled with any type of negative feelings or resentment.  Rather, I feel grateful, thinking back on a time when I needed to be on my own to survive.  When I needed to learn what it felt like to not have anyone to rely on. When I realized, with my brain and my heart, that I was not willing to allow my family to be permanently separated.  I moved back home many months later, and that apartment was quickly rented to someone else.  When we drove by the apartment just a couple of weeks ago, I noticed the kids looking at it.  I asked if they ever missed that little place, and they all answered yes. Ethan then said, "You know what my favorite memory is from our apartment? That night when we all had to crowd around that little TV, practically sitting right on top of it to hear it, and we watched that movie by reading the people's lips."  I cried when I heard those words.  Because it didn't matter that I didn't have it all together, that we didn't have nearly the amount of amenities that they had at home.  What mattered was that we were together, and that I was actually there, focused on them, and taking care of their needs.  I was their mother, they were my children, and we were under the same roof, albeit a small one.  Those memories are something that can never be taken from us.  And what I thought, at the time, would scar them for life, are actually experiences that make them smile when we reflect on them.  Good memories.  Home Sweet Home memories.

So, what does the phrase Home Sweet Home mean to me?  It means exactly what it sounds like.  Home is a place where sweet and lasting memories are made; where the people who live there are free to grow and learn; a place that is full of peace, regardless of the way it looks; a place where forgiveness is visible; where love and faith and trust are restored.  For me, I quickly learned that home was anywhere we were.  It was anywhere that I could be with the little people that I love so dearly.  And, even though I didn't live there at the time, I still considered our family home my home as well.  It felt awkward when I went there, but it was still home. But, my little apartment was home as well.  

How can someone call two places Home Sweet Home?  Well, when your heart lives in two different places, you don't have much of a choice.

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