Hey there, friends. It has been a minute since I have posted on Between the Lens, but I think it is time for a refresh. So many things have happened in the last few weeks, so let me catch you all up.
Last week, I finished up classes for GOOD and walked across the stage to celebrate graduating COLLEGE! For those of you that have been following my page for a few years now, you know how long and hard I have worked on my Bachelor’s degree. I did it completely online, as a mother, working full-time, and also serving in the military. I hope to some day encourage other Moms that they can do it, too!!
Aside from school, I am also about a month into my new job. I am still learning and meeting new people, so I am not totally sure what to think. I will just keep trying to do my best and see where life takes me. Currently, I am working as a Caseworker in Career & Employment, working with underemployed or disadvantaged adults and assisting them with career and schooling opportunities. It can be rewarding, yet frustrating work.
Outside of work, my husband and I have began the 2023 garden! You can find more of that content at Ruble Gardens – so go give that page a follow if you haven’t yet! You can also follow us on YouTube or Facebook at @RubleGardens!
It’s also Mental Health Awareness Month, so I’m spirit I’m happy to announce that I found a therapist and had my first session earlier this week! It seems like a really good fit and I’ve never had the opportunity to internalize my past and how it’s affecting my present in a professional setting. I went one time in 2019 and couldn’t fit the bill, so I never returned. I did some research online about teletherapy that was affordable and invoiced by the session. So many sites offered a relatively affordable monthly rate, however I didn’t feel like therapy was something that I could necessarily commit more than one day a week to. Luckily, I found OpenPath Collective and was able to find therapists in my state and filter it to my specific issues and needs. The entire process was so easy and I’m paying a very affordable rate that doesn’t feel like the price tag would burden our family finances. I highly encourage that site!!!
My first session was already so eye opening. I guess I never realized that I have complex post traumatic stress disorder and never labeled my experience as real “trauma.” Now I’ve identified that, and it’s saddened me but rooted me into something that I already knew but hadn’t yet worked through its impact on my behavior, personality, and mental and physical health. I am really diving inward and will most likely use this as my outlet as I take notes towards my future book. Now that I am done with schooling and able to focus more on what I want to do, I think it’s time to finally invest time into something that’s been on my bucket list for quite some time – to publish a book.
So it’s an exciting time for me right now, despite the ongoing stress from raising two kids and working full time ! Hah, but I’m enjoying the ride and hopeful for the future. So here’s to really tuning into my own interests and see where those paths lead me!
I have had an exciting and stressful last few weeks. I had mentioned that I had been applying for positions, and turns out last week I had two second round in-person interviews at two potential employers. I received an offer on Thursday of last week from one and am still waiting to hear back from the other. This is a very exciting and BIG girl step for me in my career! It finally feels like all of the hard work I’ve put in is finally coming full circle. I will be sad to leave my current company and great teammates I’ve made bonded with over the years. I’ve spent nearly the last five years working hard to build a credible, likable, reliable, and hardworking reputation there, so it’s hard to let go of that progress and move on. I so desperately wanted to make it work, but in the end your work has to bring you value and your bosses should make proper attempts to recognize and utilize the talents and assets you bring to the company. I am a woman that strives to be better, learn more, and lead more effectively. I know my worth and I am done settling for less than what I deserve.
In other news, we brought home a new minivan this weekend. I guess I never imagined myself as a “minivan mom,” but here we are. In all honesty, I LOVE it. We ended up getting a 2018 Dodge Grand Caravan and with black leather interior and black carpets. And of course, bucket seats!!
We are super duper excited to take the new girl camping and the size and accessibility is gonna be convenient as the kids grow and get more active. Not to mention, grocery shopping and school drop-offs are so much easier with automatic sliding doors.
Last week I had awful tooth pain come on suddenly in the very back of my upper left jaw. I made an appointment to the dentist and found out that I have a wisdom tooth trying to come down and it’s pressing on the root of my very back molar, causing me extreme pain and infection. The dentist gave me some penicillin and referred me to the oral surgeon to have the back tooth simply removed in hopes that the wisdom tooth could just come down and replace its place. Over the next few days, my mouth swelled up and I could barely open my jaw. The pain was awful, but it turns out I can’t get into the oral surgeon until May 16!! Absolutely crazy to me!! Anyway, after several days of the antibiotic and rotating Tylenol and ibuprofen, my face has finally returned to normal and my mouth has regained nearly all of its range of motion. Thank goodness for that because I was miserable for the better part of a week. Frozen peas were a valued asset to say the least!
Today I made an impulsive decision. This was very unlike me. Last week I took myself out to lunch by myself for the first time ever and it was surprisingly really relaxing and something I will be down to try again in the future. I don’t know what’s gotten in to me lately, but I have really just been making decisions without second guessing myself and it’s really bringing me a new sense of confidence! Today I was walking out of Walmart, got to the car, and decided that Mom was gonna get her hair cut. I pulled right next door to the salon and got right into the chair. The hairdresser cut maybe a bit more than I’d liked, but I was going for a style that was much different than anything I’ve had in a very long time. I took the length down quite a bit, added some layers and curtain bangs, and lightened it up a little. It was a good, quick treat to myself since I finally got out of the house alone.
Hope you all are doing well. I’ll keep you all updated in the coming days on where I end up career-wise!!
A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting at my desk in a whirlwind of emotion and in need of letting some things go. I have been physically and emotionally drained for months now. I am partially convinced that this is a normal annual occurrence that normally takes its toll on my body the most intensely around this same time of year every year. By February and March I am usually a bit more irritable, bored out of my mind, and ready for the sun to come and refresh all of the life that just laid dormant for the winter.
Have you ever been sitting in a completely quiet and empty room and found yourself lost in wonder and contemplation? I mean, lost so deep that it feels like life is so raw and intense and full of ways to break your spirit? I probably sat there for a long while just letting my mind wander before I snapped back to reality. I was looking out the window – perhaps I was wallowing, or perhaps I was just relishing in sane human emotion after heartbreak – but I kept feeling this deep pit in my stomach telling me to just let it all out. I sit at my desk all day on the computer, so instead I pulled out a piece of paper and a pen, and I started writing to my mom in prison. The letter sat on my desk under a pile of other papers for a couple weeks before I finally decided to toss it in the trash.
When I write these letters, I never really feel like I am writing to my Mom. Our relationship is so estranged that the word ‘Mom’ feels like it has a different meaning. Like, I understand what the word means to other people, and I know that I am an absolutely wonderful mother to my own children, but as it relates to the woman that birthed me, I identify with it differently. Mom feels like a label. Like it’s her name.
What else am I supposed to call her?
But it doesn’t feel like a term of endearment, nor do I see her as the same kind of person as several of the amazing Moms that I have had the pleasure of looking up to throughout my short time on this planet. When I write these letters, it feels like I am writing a letter to the person that caused me pain and changed my life indefinitely, but not to a person that I know. I am going to be 27 years old this October. I was taken from my mother at the age of 7. Let’s put that into perspective. At this point in my life, nearly 75% of my life has been spent without my mother. When I say without, I mean no calls, no texts, no visits, nothing. Poof. Like she didn’t even exist, yet I knew of her absence and the pain it carried. And the one quarter of my life that I did spend with her, I was from the ages of 0-7… so you tell me, how much of that time frame in your life do you remember? Because I remember some good times, and some bad times… but mostly I remember the LACK of times we shared together. I remember all of the times she wasn’t there. My childhood is tainted by flashbacks of being so sick from missing her on holidays that I’d have to lay in bed most of the day. I remember scanning bleachers of basketball games looking for a face that never came. No documentation ever came forward with her making any effort to get me back or to even set up visitations.
Growing up, I felt like I was the only kid experiencing what it was like to have their mother in prison. And in my case – my mother was a single parent, so I had to be placed in a completely different home altogether. I didn’t know anybody like me. My best friend all throughout Junior High had happily married parents that went on ornate family vacations every summer, and my other girlfriend lived on a farm with happily married parents who owned horses and a brick fire oven on their back patio. They could offer their deepest regards to my pain and emotions as we matured, but ultimately, no one I knew had a home life that seemed anything other than perfect in my eyes. And no one was ever really able to offer me the deep understanding and empathy that I felt like I needed as a young girl making her way through life. Not that that burden was ever to be beared by my friends, but it just led me down a path of extreme loneliness and separation from my peers that I still struggle with today. I had to grow up a lot faster than anyone around me and I had to pave my own path to success and family that is often much more easily reached by someone with a supportive and loving home life. My aunt and uncle did what they could at the time to give us everything we needed, but there is never a replacement for a mother. It is just different when you have got that bird in your ear reminding you that you have been neglected and rejected by the one woman you want the most. Sometimes the pain is too much to bear, but I suppose it’s never really too much – because here I stand. Fighting my way to every inch I have ever gained.
I was doing some research on this to gain some background on how common it is for a child to have an incarcerated parent and just how it affects the child of the offender. I think one of the most surprising facts about this is that it’s reeeally not that uncommon at all.
It is estimated that 5 million U.S. children have experienced the incarceration of a parent – with the average age of 8 years old. Children of incarcerated parents are more likely to experience poor health and unmet health care needs, greater exposure to mental health symptomatology such as anxiety, PTSD, and depression. They are more susceptible to lower educational attainment, higher rates of aggression, substance abuse, justice system involvement, and more likely to disenfranchise from civic and political participation (Task Force on Children of Incarcerated Parents: Final Report and Recommendations).
The affects that the incarceration of a parent can have on a child is insurmountable. I have experienced hurdles in all of the aforementioned categories and was never offered mental or emotional rehabilitation or counseling to help me cope. If we want to change the direction of society and fill it with children that grow up to be dependable, happy, healthy, and innocuous adults, we must do something about the care that we offer to the families affected by the judicial system. There is responsibility to be placed on offenders, but we cannot forget about the people that their decisions directly impact. I was a child, lost and lonely. I overcame the statistics that are made out of people from families like mine.
I guess my main point is this: If you are struggling with an addiction or a decision that keeps you from offering the love to the children you created, just stop. There is no excuse you could offer that will console or mend whatever destruction your situation is causing. I still feel an immense sense of disassociation with reality and division between myself and those that have never felt rejection, abandonment, and loneliness to this level. I aim for a world where no child ever has to wonder if their mother cares about them, for it is a lonely and desolate journey forward.
A few weeks ago I was really struggling with a heavy chest and not being able to catch a full breath of air. I could not get a yawn to catch, and just felt like an elephant was sitting right atop my breasts. This pursued for several days, leaving me exasperated and irritated. One night I sat on the edge of the bed while my heart nearly beat out of my chest. I was up and down out of bed for several hours and even worried if I should call the hubby home from work. I was petrified that I was having a real health concern, so I decided to get into my PCP – just hoping that it was due to anxiety.
Luckily, my PCP was very friendly, listened intently, and even ran tests on my heart and blood to confirm that the heavy chest wasn’t due to my heart or lungs. Labs came back good, so that was a relief. She put me on anxiety meds, gave me an inhaler because of my history of asthma, and sent me on my way. A few days passed and much to my relief, my heavy chest went away.
Now, this was probably going on three weeks ago. So I have been taking this anxiety medication for a few weeks now, and this is a journey that I new to. I am not ashamed to be on this medication, but I have never really been on any medications before, so it is something that I am going to continue to monitor and talk with my healthcare professionals about. I have had a lot of emotional strain and work stress lately, along with raising two kiddos, running a home, and finishing my final semester of my degree. I am excited to say, though, that the medication is seemingly making me less irritable with the kids and also allows me to fall asleep rather quickly – as opposed to lying in bed for hours worrying before finally falling asleep. The doc said it could be 4-6 weeks before I really notice the medication doing much, but I think the heavy chest and panic attack relief was enough for me to buy-in to the process and keep my mental health on the foreground. I think that this was a real wake-up call for me, because I had never had anxiety present itself in my body in such a drastic way to where it paralyzed me, made it hard to breathe, and increased my heart rate. I was miserable for several days while my attack pursued, so I can truly relate to anyone that battles anxiety or depression that leaves them physically altered and distressed. I considered going to the Emergency Room a few times simply because my heart was racing, I couldn’t catch a breath, and nothing I did seemed to help. The stress of not being able to breathe only exacerbated my fear and stress, so it was an endless cycle until I got the medication which allowed me to relax, gain my breath, and fulfill the long-awaited yawns that I had been chasing for several days.
I am glad I took the leap. It is going to hopefully help my behavior as a mother and wife be more patient and less irritable, and allow me to lead a more regular life without always stressing and worrying about what is next. These two small pills have provided me relief and hope for a brighter future. I probably should have been medicated long ago, but for now I will venture into this new part of my life and shift more focus on maintaining and healthy mental status for myself and my family.
I find it crazy that we are already a week away from February. I think life goes by faster the older I get. That concept frightens me sometimes.
I don’t have a lot to say tonight. It’s not even 9 o’clock yet and I’m in bed. I’ve noticed that my productivity levels are up and down here lately. Some nights I find myself cleaning the entire house after I put the kids to bed, and others I am in bed before my daughter (we give her free reign to put herself to sleep as long as she is quiet in her room, this works remarkably well for our family).
The kids are seemingly better better this week. The coughs are slowly waning. I’m exhausted and in need of adult conversation that occurs outside of work. Is it embarrassing that I don’t remember the last conversation I had outside of work, or that wasn’t in passing with the cashier at the gas station?
I wonder if I will ever feel like more than a working mom. Wake up to screaming kid, get both kids up and ready, drop off kids, go to work, pick up kids, go home, cook and feed kids, bathe kids, put kids to bed. Repeat.
An endless cycle of monotony with no exciting plans for the future. Maybe someday I’ll have more to write about other than my sadness and exhaustion.
We ran out of milk this morning so I made a solo trip to the nearest Dollar General for some more early this morning. Just my luck, the store didn’t open til 8 and I got there at 7:40. That seemed like too long of time to sit and wait in the parking lot, so I headed down to the river to pass some time and look at the water. I have always found such serenity and peace by the River.
I wasn’t there for any more than ten minutes, but after more than a week locked in with sick kids, I needed this mini-trip to town to clear my head. I guess it was a win that I showed up to the store before they opened because otherwise I would have missed out on this beautiful scene that I was able to witness this morning as the early day glow was rising on the bridge. Surprisingly, I was the only one down there so I got to soak it in all by myself, almost as if the sunlight was put there to comfort a Mom lost in motherhood much like myself.
I just wrapped up my last assignment for my final fall semester of college. I am now one semester away from having my degree – a feat that no one in my family has accomplished. But that’s not why it’s important to me.
I have fought for every inch I’ve gained in this life. I want something, I go get it.
I have worked through my school work all while actively serving my country (also a first in my family), working full-time, bearing and raising two children, and managing to stay (half) sane. Next spring I will have my Bachelors in Public Administration with a Minor in English to accentuate my honorable Military discharge and Associates of Arts degree.
None of this has been easy. I have progressed and succeeded without the help from any parents, but instead leaning on my husband and into the love of my children. I do it all for them. I yearn for the day where my family can see in the impact I have on our world, using the knowledge, skills, and experiences learned from my education and service to others. I want to be the good in the world that they never give up on.
Life is a challenging and messy road. Right now, so many aspects of our world feel hopeless, lost, and unnerving. I hope my family always finds stability, passion, and a strong foundation in the woman I am; for I am constantly in a state of construction, looking for ways to repair, build, and amend the pieces of me that are broken.
I hope they grow to notice and appreciate the values I try to live my life by. I hope they subliminally and intentionally adapt these values on their own, as being an honest and hardworking and appreciative person goes a long way in this world. I hope they never give up on their dreams, even if they feel unobtainable or of great lengths to reach. I started this journey in 2015 and will finally reach my goal in 2023. Many times it felt like I was on the wrong path or in the wrong place, but it has always played out in a manner that was better than I expected or anticipated. Life can feel so gloomy, but it can also bring the uplifting wonder of glorious surprise. I hope they never lose their sense of hope, for I too have been guilty of falling into the treacherous depths of depression and lack of understanding. I hope they choose not to lean against the feeling secured deep in their guts; the feeling of intuition and trust that is nearly always accurate in guiding us to the right path. Trust it. Lean into it. Let it guide you to the life you deserve.
Perhaps, I suggest to myself, it’s just how I stroke my broken ego after a long day of chasing children around the house.
Who knew a three year old could push my buttons so quickly? No one warned me of this!
Or, maybe they did. I just didn’t listen.
Sometimes I wonder how I’m supposed to be the adult and parent two children. I mean, I don’t even want to call to schedule my own appointments, let alone be responsible for a tiny person?!
Seems bizarre, but I seem to be doing okay at it.
When I was pregnant the first time, I remember several women telling me, ‘It’s instinct. You’ll know exactly what to do.’
Oh? That’s your idea of good advice? I have no idea what I am getting myself into and I’m supposed to just trust that I will instinctively know???
But I think I am beginning to understand that they just might have been right all along.
It is easy to love wholeheartedly and be tender loving. It’s easy to want to be everything for your child. We worry because we care so immensely that we just beat the hell out of ourselves when we forget, or worry too much, or be too bold, etc etc. The list of things we beat ourselves up over really could go on and on and on. It’s so easy to be the person your children need. You may not be perfect, but I believe the love and care comes instinctively.
But, I digress.
We were made to do this. Motherhood often feels lonely and the unknown journey can be paralyzing, but we really are just all flying by the seats of our pants. No one reaaaally knows what’s going on, and if they claim to, run… Because those are the people that are waaaayyy too comfortable relying on the comfort of a world we longer live in.
The times are changing, but you are a good Mom. You possess the tools you need to make it through anything. Mothers of the world, we got this.
There are days when performing the most basic tasks of motherhood is all the strength that I can muster up. Sometimes I take the “easy way out” even though I know I shouldn’t; like giving my daughter chocolate milk for bed, or letting her watch a little bit too much tv…
At the age of 7, my sister and I were removed from our home with our mother because she had substance abuse issues and an addiction to methamphetamine. I remember the mother before DCFS came in and changed what I thought I knew forever. I remember soft cuddles on the couch. And every week we would get out our TV dinner trays and sit on the floor to watch the newest episode of Fear Factor. I remember a blissful and loving childhood when I reminisce on the years I remember with my mother. I don’t remember a ton, maybe more than most (perhaps it’s made-up in my head), but I do remember that she was always there. The memories of that period of my life that I cherish the most are the ones I remember being curled up with her, tickle fights, doing crafts, spending time in the kitchen.
It was 2003. I didn’t know it then, but the day I left our home with DCFS was the closest I would ever be to my mother again.
All throughout adolescence, I had my bouts of extreme anger, pure hopelessness, and resentment towards my mom; and this was all well-masked by my focus on being a hardworking multi-sport athlete, straight-A student, and an active role model in the community. I felt put-together and distracted from the “loss” of my mother by becoming someone with the morals, work ethic, and dedication of the strong leaders, teachers, coaches, and friends that I was surrounded by. I feel very blessed for their contributions to who I am, but I would be lying if I said there could ever be anyone to replace my Mom.
As the years went by and I grew into a young adult, my mother was in and out of prison several times. We had very little communication all throughout my middle school years, until I was in high school and able to make an effort on my own accord. I scanned the stands of every game I ever played in, hoping to see her there. She never was. I wrote letters to her in prison using a friend’s home address instead of mine. I was brokenhearted and didn’t know the right ways to cope. I begged and pleaded to God, asking him what I did to make her not want me. Our relationship could never be completely restored, even if I wanted it to be. The pain of not having a mother still fills me with astounding anguish at times; it’s usually short-lived, but every day I wish I could call my mom for advice. I had my children without my mother. This fall, I will get married and she will not be there. This is a pain that I feel constantly.
I promise you, your presence in your child’s life is enough. Even if you don’t have a clean house today. Even if you let them skip brushing their teeth for one night. Even if you don’t love all of the parts of motherhood. Even if you question if you are truly a “good mom.” Stressing over these minute instances just proves that you are the best mother for your child.
I am speaking from the perspective of someone who both treasures the memories I have with a loving and kind mother, and also as someone who daily mourns a lost relationship with their mother: You, most definitely, are enough. Even if you feel like you could have been better. Even if you made a mistake and it’s eating at you. Even if you feel like the biggest failure on your bad days.
You’re human, you’re trying; but most importantly, you are present.
Every day, you wake up and commit your life to your child. Being there matters. Children may not remember everything you do together, but even when you are being hard on yourself, I hope you take comfort in the thought that they will always know that their mama was there.
Because there is one helluva hole left behind when they aren’t.