Parenting Posts

The DEVIL travels in a polka dotted suitcase

There has been one child I haven’t written about as of yet because I really didn’t know what to say or even how to get my feelings out to the blog page. I have not yet written about my beautiful stepdaughter, Bailey. Even now as I sit at my writing table inside the camper while Liam sleeps on the camper sofa, I see Bailey running and playing in the yard. She looks lovely with beautiful tanned skin and sun-kissed blonde hair. She appears so carefree and innocent from a distance.

Every few minutes she stops playing and pokes her head in the camper: “You still writing a story. What is happening in it?” I must say that she is the most inquisitive child. For every action, there is a set of questions in Bailey’s mind. 🙂 I remember the first day I laid eyes on her: she was the sweetest, cutest little Bailey I ever did see. Chris had, unbeknownst to him, named her after my grandfather: Bailey Carroll Greene. My stepdaughter’s full name is Bailey Caroline. I knew from the first moment we met that I was destined to love her.

The journey of love has been ragged, jagged, and tiring, yet it has been one of compassion and understanding nevertheless. She has serious learning disabilities, and I found myself in denial for many months. The teacher in me believed that I could tutor the disability right out of her. I just knew that the more we worked that the more she would learn, but I soon understood that the more we worked the less fun she had. The more tired she became. I cried so hard that day that we left her IEP meeting, and I had her IQ written in the report in my hands.

Denial broke housekeeping that day. A new stepmother grew out of denial’s leaving. We still played and worked, yet we focused on other concepts. The concepts would be to help increase her adaptive life skills so that she would be better prepared for the working world. Twelve year olds probably do not think about jobs and careers very often, yet Bailey does. Her dream is to become a cashier at Walmart, and I plan to ensure she achieves that dream. Unfortunately, I cannot say how much time I will have to work with her because my time with her may soon be limited.

Her mother and mother’s father decided in December 2016 to begin working on a custody suit that they filed in December 2017. We have spent most of 2018 dealing with lawyers, worrying about court dates, and trying to raise a young woman who cannot fathom the severity of this situation. Some days like today, I steal away from the others and cry. I ask myself questions like: what will become of our family? how will she make out away from Liam and the girls if custody changes? what will I do with myself? how will Chris handle things?

I search for someone to blame. Someone to hate. However, blame and hate are not welcome in my heart or my house. Bailey is still the same loving, caring beautiful young woman she has always been. She deserves all the love and support I have to give her regardless of these sad circumstances. Thus, I will blame it all on the pink polka dotted suitcase in the back of our Ford

Focus. 

pink polka dotted suitcase

The polka dotted suitcase arrived at our house at 2 pm today, and at 2:02 pm I escorted it outside and banned it to the back of the Focus. Bailey asked a million questions: why can’t I have it? can I just get my things out of it? where’s it going now? Ultimately, the bag has done nothing to Chris nor myself. Have mercy–it is simply a bag.

On the other hand, the bag represents all the hurt, abuse, and miscommunication that we have had to endure for the last seven months. Her mother packed a bag for her to take with her on our vacation next week despite of the green polka dotted bag that sits on Bailey’s bed right now filled with clothes from her drawers or toiletries from our house.

The “Indian Giver” sent a bag that must be returned, which insinuates that we cannot provide clothes and toiletries for Bailey ourselves. A text preceded the bag which stated: make sure that I get the bag and all the stuff in it back after vacation. The Indian Giver also insinuated that we do not provide clothes for Bailey in a previous argument with my husband. Chris takes such pride in his ability to provide for his family; in fact, he doesn’t even complain much when I ask for money to make a clothes or shoes run to Target. Believe me these children can outgrow clothes and shoes like the wind. A man, a father, or a husband deserves to be treated with respect, and it is a basic principle of why a man works to support his family. When someone belittles a man who works hard and supports his children well, it is disrespectful, hurtful, and never forgotten.

With all this background information in mind, I must leave my feelings in the trunk with that damned bag. I am the angel of the home; (eighteenth century women would scoff at that remark) I am the voice of reason; I am the MOTHER. Motherhood already demands that I remove my own feelings at the front door along with any bad habits, mood swings, or personal desires. I may not always succeed at motherhood, but I attempt to get it right weekly, daily, and hourly.

I will lock all my aggression, sadness, confusion, and emotional responses inside that bag before Chris drives it back to its owner. Bailey deserves an impartial stepmother who focuses on her best interests, not my own.  Even my thoughts as Chris’ wife must take a backseat to Bailey’s best interests. So, I will stand in the driveway and wave farewell to the pink, polka dotted suitcase. I will send my feelings, thoughts, and prayers with it when it goes. The devil may be inside that suitcase, but I refuse to let him out. My Bailey is more important than symbols real or imagined. My Bailey is more important than the chaos that surrounds us. She is my child, real or step. The love we share overcomes a multitude of sins so my grandma would say. Pray for us. If you can’t do that, then think positively because the devil went for a ride in the back of a candy blue Ford Focus while zipped inside a pink, polka dotted suitcase. That is where he will remain.

The End.

**Indian Giver is used as a pseudonym to protect the innocent :-).

 

Stuck in a Hostile Hostage Situation

cartoon

July 16, 2019, Chris and I begrudgingly attended Bailey’s custody hearing at our local courthouse. I must admit that I have never been more nervous and scared in my entire life. Whatever the outcome of the situation (that Bailey’s mother and grandfather had created) was to be, it was obvious that our family and Bailey’s life could change forever. For months, the ex and her father had emotionally manipulated Bailey to believe and to say that she wasn’t happy at home with us. There aim was to have SOLE custody, yet Bailey had not lived outside of her home or away from her father at all in her young twelve years.

We arrived that morning, wearing matching outfits. I don’t know why I felt that we had to match. Chris’ polo shirt matched the hint of turquoise in my dress. I longed to CONTROL something albeit just our attire. We were the only hearing scheduled that day, so when I walked in, the left side of the room was filled with the ex’s extended family members. I hurried to the left side, drawing an invisible line in the sand that remains to this day. On our right side of the room, there simply sat: our family friend, my mama, my grandmother, our aunt, and two witness. However, on her side, sat Chris’ grandmother and grandfather. I cannot fathom how it felt to have the woman who raised you decide to have herself subpoenaed in order to testify against you.

This woman who I had respected and known my entire life sat on the wrong side, and she, to this day, does not support our family or Chris’ custody of his daughter. As soon as we entered the room, the NASTY chatter from the opposite side began. I hear the word WITCH and LOWLIFE. I see these people, who I have never even met much less have talked with before, mouth obscenities and spit HATEFUL words at us. Had this coparenting situation really come to this? OH YES, IT HAD.

Chris and I reached the lawyer’s study and meet with our lawyer who informs us that the ex’s lawyer subpoenaed Bailey at 8 pm the previous evening. I hopped up to get her from my aunt who volunteered to keep Bailey and Liam, our eighteen month old son, for the day. I brought Bailey a dress and shoes to change into. She looked frightened and shaky. We sang songs and drove to court without much to say. Ever since we were served with the custody papers, we made a point to not discuss the situation in front of the children. I took that same approach with our ride to Cochran that morning, and she stared ahead with a blank stare on her face.

Bailey and I finally reached the steps of the building and climbed the stairs to the courtroom law library. I hugged her and asked if she needed anything, and I walked away from the little girl who has become the love of my life. What would happen to her? What would happen to us? I returned to the lawyer’s study, and I noticed tears swelling in my husband’s eyes. We would know what she said to the judge soon because he was speaking to her privately. I waited for news while shaking my foot and gnawing the side of my hot, parched lips.

Both lawyers went into the judge’s chambers to hear what Bailey had to say as well as be informed of his decision. Our valiant lawyer returned and said, “Jennifer, she said exactly what you said she would! She said she loves all of her family which includes her brother, sisters, and stepmother. The judge has dismissed the case and awarded Chris child support.”

Soon the realization and the relief flooded my mind. I turned and said to Chris: “it’s over.”  Yet, I was wrong. The ex renegotiated and gave up two of her weekends to Chris in order to keep from paying child support. We convened inside the courtroom where Chris and she were sworn under oath, they agreed to the terms, and the hearing ended. Unfortunately, the turmoil and manipulations from the ex wife and her father will never end.

That same evening that we took Bailey home to continue with the new agreement, and she text me wanting to speak to Bailey. She texted three more times; I ignored them. The next day her father texted my husband and threatened him.

Herb
The Ex’s Father’s Text on 7/17/18

The order read that our weekend started immediately, and our lawyer assured us that we were correct to keep Bailey. Her father texted seven more times that evening. The harassment will not seem to stop. On Tuesday of this week, the court reporter who transcribed the hearing found Bailey’s grandfather plundering through her mail at her home. He stated he would not leave until he had the transcript. He had to be escorted from her property. That next morning he called her stating he had to have the transcript this week because “Chris is holding Bailey hostage.”

Bailey was sick Monday, and her mother wanted us to take her to Chris’ grandmother’s house for the night and next day although we have custody of Bailey. Chris said “No,” and surprisingly her father was found trespassing and rifling through a mailbox that very next day. Will this ever end? Will I ever have a good night sleep again? Will I ever forget the horrible words his ex wife’s family members said to Chris and I on their way out of courtroom? They alleged we had stolen Bailey from her mother. One of her aunts informed Chris he could never again patron her business. The hatred was palpable. The harrassment endless. Chris says to not be afraid of him because that’s what he wants, but when you are the mother of four children, how are you to be carefree?

Finding a nugget of truth

When I am taking time out to write for the day, I search for options and thoughts. Sometimes I have to go back to the “notes” in my phone to get a scrap or idea that I may have left for myself over the last five years. I used to stop and scribble writing ideas on scraps of paper or checkbooks in my car after pulling over to make notes. Often times, I kept a notepad on my drive home to stop and get the ideas out before I returned home from work. Driving home seems to be the best time to get my ideas out because my children sleep to and from WCHS. For example, I wrote on February 1, 2015 at 3:47 pm inside the notes app on my phone:

The Aging English Major

Topics: education, politics, parenting, writing, teaching of writing, struggling readers, literature reviews, and teaching literature to young adults, genealogy, parenting pets

That idea did not come to fruition until May of 2018 when I obviously narrowed my focus to  a blog about parenting, writing, and writing about parenting. I just went back to that note today; I used my recollection of this note to create my second blog one afternoon. Yesterday, I recalled  a few opening sentences of a novel idea that came to my head while driving home from Hahira after visiting my college best friend. On July 5, 2014 at 1:24 pm, I pulled over and typed into my notes:

New money moves into an old neighborhood.
He looks around after cutting the grass, pulls his blue collar tight,
and thanks his lucky stars for his white collar life
and his white collar wife.

I am not sure where I was going with that opener, but I dreamed about that book last night. I am pretty sure this guy is having an affair that would devastate his high maintenance wife. I am not sure where the inspiration or the thoughts arise, but who can put a cap or an explanation on creativity? I also found a story idea from 2014 about a journalist from Nantucket; however, when I read it I realize that it is the brainstorming for a romance novel!! What the hay was I thinking? ROMANCE…eww….What am I to become: Nicholas Sparks? 

I opened my notes this afternoon looking for a narrative poem somewhere in there, but I am not the narrative poem type. However, my notes were marked to an interesting little poem that I don’t remember writing. It was typed October 15, 2017 at 12:52 am.

You are wisps of memory now
They come
They go
They fade fast
Like a puff of smoke
You are my past
The good, the trauma 
All that is left
An occasional playing sound
saunters in and out of 
The Stream of Consciousness 
Simply a wisp  a thought  a sound
Nothing else exists 

"Morpheme" by Jennifer Greene Sullivan 

 

A Downpour: a short, short story

Today, I was alerted to an online publication that is looking for rather short, short stories. The publication Duolingo prefers a 150-250 word count with family friendly content. Heck, I was all over that since I was really unsure what I would be focusing on during my writing time today. So, I worked on a story with 250 words. It’s called: a downpour.  I got to use my Google Form skills because that’s how I submitted it. I thought I would share it with my readers here. I hope you enjoy it.  Remember, it is a work of fiction.

A Downpour

by Jennifer Lee Greene Sullivan 

     The tropical storm rattles windows of the Alabama town. Trees bend and sway as rain batters the hotel’s walls. This weekend was a damp one for our family reunion. My husband, our four children, and I will not be able to drive out of the storm for a few more hours. I drink my coffee and dread packing the van during torrential downpours. I find my mood as dark as the swirling clouds in the Alabama sky. The oldest girls finish dressing, packing, and playing with the baby while Dwayne (my husband) Betsy (our eleven year old), and I say goodbye to Dwayne’s grandparents.

     I find everyone eating bagels in the breakfast area. Betsy immediately runs over to Dwayne’s grandparents and demands to help them pack. Dwayne sends her off with the understanding that she will return as soon as their Explorer is loaded. An hour passes, Dwayne and the older girls have packed the car, yet Betsy has not returned. I walk downstairs to find an empty room with no Explorer in the lot. Terror shoots through my heart: our child is missing.

     My terrified family searches the entire building. Dwayne goes to the front desk. I call his grandparents. They have her. “She belongs to us,” I hear his grandmother say. Her dementia is much worse than we realized. It takes five hours to return to Georgia, and we arrive home to find everyone happy and physically well. Nothing prepares a family for the dangers of dementia. Nothing.

 

 

A College Tour

As I write this post, my eighteen month old is searching for “stuff” to get into as he repeats the words, “Mama, Mama, Mama.” Somewhere on the campus of Valdosta State University, my oldest, Anya, and her dad are taking a tour of my alma mater. I opted out this time as not to detract from Anya’s day. It still seems like yesterday that she was eighteen months old herself, and my mama and daddy were keeping her entertained around the track of VSU’s gym while I graduated on the court. That was 2002, and for me, it seems like yesterday that I finished my undergraduate degree and began my master’s. In reality, flashforward to 2018, and I have been an educated adult for more than sixteen years.

vsu-fountain-e1528139484163.png
Valdosta State University Fountain

Just as Anya rides a bus around campus, looking at the front of West Hall where I spent so many days and nights as a young woman, I am putting Liam down for his afternoon nap inside our camper that poses as a mother-in-law suite, daycare, and writing nook. Bailey and Sophia swim with Aunt DeeAnn and cousin Grady, and I reminiscence about my past. I remember how hard life was during my college years; obstacles and conflicts were so much more difficult than my course load, even when I was a double major (both English and Biology). My own twenty something mind seemed determined to ruin my success.

I learned to compromise, to leave, or to persevere during those years. I wish I could protect Anya from the hardships of young adulthood even as I look forward to her pursuing her undergraduate degree. Why does life have to be so hard, yet so rewarding at the same time? Once I was twenty-one and pregnant, sitting in French history class trying not to regurgitate my breakfast. Now, I am forty and writing a blog entry five minutes after Liam regurgitates his lunch on my new dress. Certainly, I am not middle aged.

ASIDE: Definitely and defiantly, the other Generation Xers and myself will defy aging. Hell, the annals of history can redefine middle age just for us!! Do it now before the Millenials turn forty.

It was just this morning that powder, lipstick, and a little mascara was enough to refresh my look. As long as my grey hair is colored, Sophia swears I can pass for my late thirties. HA…little does she know that I am timeless inside and out. “BLESS it, honey.” I hear my internal critic say to my real self. Denial is not my friend, but neither is time. My motherhood journey will still be going strong as I experience the empty nest syndrome. One section of the nest will be empty while the other three quarters will be full of teenagers and a crying baby. The compromise of motherhood continues just as much as the free radicals attack my cell nuclei. God bless the mothers of this world. God bless us all. Good luck to every high school senior–you’re going to need it.

 

The First Sketch of Esmeralda

Esmeralda's first sketch
This is Clare’s first sketch of Esmeralda. My illustrator has made me a happy writer today!! 

When Anya was a baby, I worked on several children’s books to read to her during our year long “term” as mother and child. The year I stayed home with Anya brought many ups and downs for both of us, yet I am so happy that seventeen years after I first imagined this character I see her in reality.  Esmeralda has had so much to do during her imagined childhood that she should be ancient by now. As her first book is illustrated, I feel that I am few steps closer to seeing her in bookstores for many other children to enjoy. Poor Anya has been my guinea pig for more than just my writing. She had to live through my learning to be her mother.