Mom&kid: car for work&school
Intro: My child and I, as all of us, are many things. . . We are domestic violence survivors, I am a single mom, I am a teacher at our local community college (although I cannot teach this semester due to our circumstances), and teach at the place where I started my own college career so many years ago, at a place that played a big role in changing my (and my son's) life. I am passionate about helping others overcome their circumstances and am grateful to do the kind of work that can make that happen. My son recently graduated highschool and plans to attend college next year--he is, in fact, working hard to make this happen and do it the right way. He saw me put myself through undergraduate school despite the worst of odds and wants to, needs to, follow suit. The streak of bad luck that has befallen us puts all of this in jeopardy, not to mention that I'm worried we could wind up without even a roof over our heads or food to eat. The situation is serious. I've reached out to everyone I could and am pursuing the little bit of help from the few charities in our area. This fundraiser is my last resort.
What we need to turn this around is pretty straight forward; as stated in the smooshed-together title, I need a car to get my son and I to work and school, plain and simple; but what got us to the point of me needing to start this campaign is not so plain and simple. . .
Short Version: We expected a large sum of money (enough to catch up rent and live off of) this summer which we did not get (we also hoped fo r some of the child support owed to us, but did not count on it). What can be summed up as a clerical error amounted to us not getting the money, as we had in the past and had every reason to believe we would in the present. I was caught completely off guard. We had to move far from town--far from both of my son's jobs and a little further from mine. Then my car broke down--it is beyond repair. If we cannot work, we cannot pay rent and will have nowhere to go. Under such circumstances, I will be unable to complete the current degree I'm working toward (and have been working very hard toward for a very long time, at that--as explained below, only a master's degree will afford me the opportunity to teach full time at the junior college level, among other possibilities, and make decent money to live off of), and my son will not be able to start college next year as he has planned. In fact, I simply do not know what will become of us if we do not find a solution. We have some help from a loved one with a vehicle--who is driving across the county and back nearly every day--and also helping with money to what extent he can, but the situation is not tenable for the long run. Where we live, and things such as they are, we must have a car.
Long Version: To put it all out there, as mentioned, my child and I are survivors of domestic violence. It's been over a decade since we escaped our abuser, needing to rely on the help of strangers (then too) merely to survive--for shelter, food, legal counsel, and comfort, among much much more; as an important aside, the organization that did all this for us is "Safe Homes, Rape Crisis" (if you don't give here today, give to them on our behalf and the behalves of the thousands of women and children they save each day). This was a long time ago, but it comes readily to mind as I sit here in the kitchen looking at the delicate, beautiful pane of stained glass given to me after I spoke at a benefit gala for this organization roughly six months ago; I was there to thank the donors, to encourage them to keep giving, to show that I had built a life for my child and myself which made and makes their efforts worthwhile. I spoke at that benefit as though it were all past tense (and almost believed that). However, the truth is, overcoming odds stacked so high against us, personally rising above a lifetime marked by poverty and various forms of abuse, takes more than a day, week, month, or even years--as I see so much more clearly than I'd like right now, changing the course of one's life (and especially a child's as well) takes nearly the course of that life to do. I've needed to stay vigilant, to summon all my emotions, from love to anger, and crystalize these into an ongoing sense of purpose and tenacity. I was then, as I still am now, determined that we not only survive for the sake of surviving, but thrive--creating lives of gratitude, love, and joy, lives worth living.
I bring this all up now because I now see that with my son having graduated high school and prepping for college as I am finishing my last degree and preparing for the rest of my life as he goes on to live his, it is now that we are in the last leg of this particular journey, at last. During the past ten+ years, I have, indeed, managed to raise a loving, giving, smart *and* wise, child (for which I do not claim credit--this was pure luck, or something more--I couldn't have done this if my child were not so strong, himself.). But I have kept us safe, housed, and fed; I not only went back to college during this, but made the tough decision to follow my dreams and pursue a degree in English instead of going for something more profitable and easier to obtain. Again, this was not an easy decision by any means, as it meant I--and my child--would have to sacrifice even more than life already called for; however, my ultimate decision hinged on this thought: that our lives could be slightly easier then, at that time, at least financially, but still tough, and my child would learn that we were survivors (but not necessarily happy or fulfilled ones), or that we would struggle a little more (which turned out to be a lot more at times), but that me struggling and achieving what really made me happy would show him that he could do the same, and in the long run, we'd both be better off. It was the riskier choice, but since we'd survived such a harrowing nightmare, I wanted the rest of our lives to be something exceptional, to do the most with this "second chance" as possible. And I made it; we made it. Eventually, sometimes working two jobs (during my last undergraduate year, working none and living solely off of student loans and the *small bit* of assistance we could acquire), I graduated cum laude from a liberal arts college, the same week my little one graduated fifth grade.
However, despite the seemingly wise advice (which I still appreciate) of my advisor to "minor in education so you can teach high school," I realised while student-teaching (to complete my degree), during my last semester, that I could not teach high school--I loved my students, I loved teaching, but in our current educational system, teachers have to run to use the bathroom between classes, have zero prep time between classes--at home, between lesson planning and constant grading (imagine looking down the barrel of 40 essays to grade in a couple days during your few hours at home, between parenting and grading tests and making tests, so on and forth); God bless all high school teachers, especially those who teach English! I wanted not only to work and teach, but to spend time with my child, and to write (which is what made studying English my dream in the first place). This student-teaching semester was the one time when my kid had to stay at my moms for most of the semester, more often than staying at home with me; I broke down in tears often; some days I did not have time to shower. The point of pursuing my dream of studying English was, again, both to have a profitable career I cared about and to write (not that I ever imagined creative writing would be my sole career). I realised during this time that no creative writing would occur if I devoted my life to this calling (as teaching high school English is a lifelong devotion in and of itself). However, I knew there would still be opportunities for me as a college graduate (and as difficult as it was, getting that degree, the experience itself, was so transformative that, even if I had a do over, even if things were to fall apart at this late stage, I would never take that decision back. . .). So I decided to either teach at the junior (or community) college level or perhaps copywrite or edit for a living, but the former would require a master's degree to make a career of, and the latter would require at least us moving to a bigger city, if not also a master's degree. So I applied to graduate schools, and we moved to city for me to pursue it.
It's been a number of years since then. Along the way, as noted, I was accepted into one of the coveted spots in my academic field at a nice school, moved to a new city to pursue it with my child and mother, but had to stop short due to financial difficulties and health issues within my family. In short, I then tried another path for a couple years, only to find myself and my child back "home," where we'd started. On the upside, I landed an adjunct position teaching community college--at the very one where I'd begun when my child was still a toddler, and I had yet to escape my abusive husband. I found that I, indeed, loved teaching there--not only the teaching (especially as, with only a BA, I've been limited to teaching "transitional courses"--basically, grammar and "high-school level" English classes focused on these mechanics), but also, and maybe in particular, because I am able to help students who, themselves, are striving to push back against the odds, many being "first generation" college students, like myself, determined to not let their unique and often numerous obstacles hold them back. I've absolutely fallen in love with teaching at this level. The workload is tremendous, but not insurmountable as I, personally, found teaching high school English to be. However, as mentioned, with only a BA, I could never get hired full-time, let alone get tenure, and my pay, surprisingly, still lands me right below the poverty line.
So, although from the time I had been unable to complete the first master's program, I had put my aspirations to get a master's degree behind me, and despite the time that had elapsed since, I realised I needed to give it another go, if only to be able to continue teaching at this level (and make of it a career). I applied to my alma mater, got in, and then soon decided to switch to the same kind of program there as I'd pursued at the other graduate school--an MFA, allowing me to possibly teach at a university upon completion or to teach full-time at a junior college, while focusing, again, on my own writing. I've only been going for a semester and a half, but I've learned so much and have felt so hopeful and enlivened by this program, that I know it's the right decision. Although I thought I'd put the grad school aspirations behind me, since coming home, becoming a college-level teacher, and now learning and writing again, I now see this as the natural progression, the right way the complete and fulfill, the dream I'd decided to pursue against the odds all those years ago--as I had vowed to do for myself, for my child, and for all of those who helped us survive and overcome all those years ago and since. The idea of stopping short now, especially as I've already been successful in this program (more so than I'd ever felt in the other) feels, indeed, like stopping short. It reminds me of my first time in "track" when I was young, in third grade; I was miles ahead of everyone else, and thought I had crossed the finish line, as there was a white line in the gravel below my feet--but it turned out that this line was not my line--I had stopped short, the string and correct finish line was still ahead. The crowd all shouted at me: "GO!" It was embarrassing, but I followed their command and cheers and still won the race. I hope I'll be able to say the same about this journey when all is said and done.
My primary cheerleader now, my crowd of one now screaming "GO!" is my own child--he is, always has been, my greatest ally, the one who believes in me more than I ever could myself. Just having finished highschool, and now working two jobs--his decision--taking a "gap year" before he begins college, where he plans to study either psychology or business (with a specialization in the "non-profit", aka charity, sector). To say I'm proud is an understatement. I haven't been able to give him much, but he believes in us both--that we can change our fates, and even the world, in our own small but meaningful ways. At the least, this idea has taken hold in him as I'd hoped, and it has bloomed more splendidly than I ever hoped for. He decided to take this year off before starting college for several reasons: to save for college--he'll need aid, as I did, unfortunately--but he wants some money in the bank to fall back on, living on his own for the first time, with which I agree. He also wants and needs to save for a new laptop (is without one atm), possibly a car of his own, supplies, moving expenses so he can get to the school that accepts him, etc. Moreover, he has some medical expenses which are very important (but not life-threatening)--for the sake of his privacy, I won't get into them here. Finally, even before this financial and transportation disaster struck, he was already wise, giving, responsible, and smart enough to see that here at home, a little help with the bills could go a long way. I didn't like this idea at first, but as a family we discussed it and came to the conclusion that my success means better prospects (much better, one way or another) for me in the future, which in turn means that down the road, when he needs help--when he needs a home to come back to for a while, a parent to call on when his car breaks down or some other inevitable need comes up, I'll be able to actually help him. For all intents and purposes, we're the only family one another has (my own mother, who would love to help and has in many ways, but is simply unable to beyond a small point, having been injured on her job when I was a child and on disability ever since. Moreover, the bulk of her family doesn't know us well or see us as family, and my own father is both sick and has recently rejected us, in effect, in lieu for his wife and grown son--a choice which didn't need to be made, as we had considered them all family and thought we were close, but that's a story for another day). All this said, I want my child to have the kind of safety net that I didn't have--which was another huge reason I chose the longer, harder route way back when I chose to pursue a bachelor's instead of a trade degree or going straight into unskilled labor--again, I knew it would be largely at the expense of him having a great childhood, but figured his adulthood would be a lot longer, and having a parent who was well-off during that time rather than living hand-to-mouth, would make the sacrifice worth it. He gets this way of thinking and concurs, so we agreed that him helping some so I could finish my degree would pay off for us both when he went off to get his.
However, now with the car broken down so I cannot teach this semester (it's just not possible) or find a part time job, myself, to supplement our income, and not having gotten the money I expected over the summer, this helping out "a little" has turned into, for the moment, him, my child, actually paying the bulk of the bills. This isn't right; he's handled it with grace and, again, has displayed an attitude of giving and sacrifice that few teenagers would have within them. He's working, again, two jobs and this month has not been able to keep a penny for himself. This has to change, but even getting him to work (which is now keeping us tentatively off the streets) is a challenge every day, let alone me finding a way to a job which I don't even have yet (it's too late to teach this semester and no more student loans will come in until January). Just more salt in the wound: as alluded to, his father, our abuser, owes $15,000+ in child support--we're supposed to get his taxes, at the least (which could have saved us), but he clearly found a way to file (or not file) as to not have to pay (I actually spoke to him once earlier in the year, a rare and always unpleasant experience, and he promised to start paying again and commented we would get his taxes--that he would not pull anything to keep this from happening--unsurprisingly, these were complete lies. Side note: it has been made a federal crime to live in another state to escape child support orders and willfully not pay, a felony if the amount exceeds $10,000, and although he's gotten away with it for years, and I've overlooked it, no more--I'm working on pressing charges via this new law. It would take the actual FBI getting involved, as well as related state agencies, so I'm not holding my breathe, but I am trying.).
One more thing, and if it sounds a simple plea for pity, it is. All this "began" in a sense (insofar as these painful events happened directly prior to the rug being pulled out from under us financially, and all which that led to) with us losing our beloved cat, Mahsy, who'd been with us for years, through everything (he, and another cat, Melo, whom we'd lost a couple years prior, that is). Mahsy succumbed at last to a degenerative spine disease, which, looking back, makes sense--he had never been diagnosed with this, but we knew for a long time he was in pain some days. Having found the description of the terminal disease online once his behavior changed and he lost the use of his back legs, it all made sense. We'd had him since Dustin was little, so heartbreaking is short of the right descriptor. However, he died next to me in his sleep (we didn't have to make the painful choice of putting him down or not or watching him suffer for more than a few weeks, thankfully). A few weeks later, we decided to go ahead and take in another black kitty, found stranded at a gas station near where Mahsy had been found. We named him Inkling. After just a few weeks of having him, despite feeding him over and again (like Mahsy, he'd been weaned too early and was always hungry), he snuck under the sink and stuck his head in the jar we'd placed in the kitten food bag and suffocated. We found him this way--I won't go into the gruesome details, but we tried to save him, in denial he was already gone; it was a terrible scene. Once we broke the jar off his head, Dustin even gave him mouth-to-mouth. Dust took it all with his staple stoicism that day, but that night, could not get the image out of his mind, and slept in my room for the first time in years. As if this wasn't enough, that very day, a friend who knew were thinking of raising two kittens together, brought *another* black kitty to the house who had been found deserted. It was unreal. We kept him, named him Anonymous--this name turned out to be appropriate--we bonded with him thoroughly, and had him for a few weeks before he slipped out of a loose screen, never to be seen (by us) again. Needless to say, we won't be having pets for a while--part of me wants to, but they don't accept them here anyway; it's almost like little Anon knew what was coming and didn't want to put us in the position of having to give him up in order to move. I believe he's with another loving family now, as he was a very social little creature. . .
But back to the brass tacks of the matter, if I cannot find a way to get a car to transport my child and myself to work, there is a very real possibility we could wind up with nowhere to go, on the streets, and that's not an exaggeration--there are surely friends who would take us in for a time (a couple have offered couches and floors and so on), but no one could really accomodate us, especially for any length of time, especially if we didn't have a car or jobs, which is exactly what the problem would be. As briefly mentioned, the family situation is not great, and even the couple members who may want to help are literally unable--couldn't even put us up with a roof over our heads. Other than the awesome ones mentioned, the friend situation is a similar story, a couple (for instance, there are a couple once-close friends, whom we have helped to the best of our ability at times, who have written us off, much as the family I mentioned who, shockingly, did the same--all of which sounds like a slanted telling, so I haven't gone into those details, but we do feel forsaken by the few whom we've loved and been there for, and I'll leave it at that.) Once more, many friends and acquaintances would help, and have in the small ways they could, but simply cannot assist more due to their own troubles--hard times all around--but we're eternally grateful for this and will not forget who these true friends are.
I've set this ambitious goal, the amount we're hoping for, because we want to make sure and buy a used car that will be reliable. We cannot afford to finance, and I have found that doing so is almost always a rip off; moreover, getting on our feet will take some time after this; I don't want to risk car payments we can't afford. Luckily, I have a very good mechanic as a friend who will find us the best deal possible and be there for us to do any work necessary on a used car. I point this out because even if (I'll be irrationally positive and say "when") we meet the goal through your help, we will search for the best deal possible, hopefully one that is less than the amount we're looking to raise here. If this happens, with the excess, we will first use it to get the car on the road (taxes, insurance, so on), then on a month of bills to be securely on our feet, then (if there is any left, which is possible if a good deal is found, as our bills are not much--although right now, they seem insurmountable--but if we are that fortunate, we will then use any excess to either help out a friend or two whom we know are also struggling and/or donate to Safe Homes, Rape Crisis; either way, we will "pay it forward," without a doubt.)
Please know that If you choose to donate anything to our cause, you are not only helping to provide a child and mother with transportation--by doing so, you're also enabling us to survive (quite literally, to make the money to keep a roof over our heads, get food in the house, so on and forth), for me to finally complete a dream I've been working towards for over a decade, for my son to be able to use the fruits of his labor towards getting himself off to college and to get medicine he needs (PS I need some medicines too which I'm currently without)--in short, you'll be giving us the tools we need to finally overcome the many obstacles that have been set in our way. It's too tragic, really, to imagine that we've come this far, survived so much, just to fail at this point due to the smallest of errors and just some bad luck at the wrong time. You may not know us, but you can also know that we will "pay it forward," that we do and have anytime we've been able. I'm by no means bragging here--this humbling experience has reminded me that, indeed, the struggle is not over. I hadn't been flagrantly irresponsible with money (and couldn't have saved us from the blow of not getting the money we expected even if I had been more responsible--or the car from breaking down), BUT if I had been more careful, the blow might not have been as crippling; perhaps getting the car looked at sooner could have saved it. . . the point is, once we have recovered, my attentiveness to all these matters will strengthen; I could have done better; I had relaxed a little too much. This was a huge wake-up call. Moreover, another wake-up call has been in seeing who our true friends are (in addition to who they aren't). Even getting our stuff moved was accomplished with the help of an acquaintance and a stranger. A theme throughout my life has been, so often, that complete strangers have often shown us the greatest kindness. Sometimes people question me about giving to "bums" and the like; I've always replied that none of us are as far from being in that exact position than we like to imagine, and so I feel it's my duty to give--sure enough, here we are now, close to that same edge. The kindness of strangers, be it those at Safe Homes who quite literally saved our lives all those years ago, or the random person at the Starbucks line (I miss Starbucks, lol) who, I've found when I've pulled up to pay, has bought my drink for me, is the fuel that keeps my heart soft and full of love for humanity, despite the darkness I've seen. I believe we can make it so long as we know that we're in this thing together and never forget that <3
If you cannot give, remember that sharing this post/link anywhere you can think of is a huge contribution within itself, and one for which we will be grateful. Please share.
I should also add that if you live in upstate SC or southwest NC, and you, indeed, have a car that is in disuse, that is what we need! Even if it needs mechanical care, I (again) am close to a talented mechanic who may be able to fix it up. Please let me know. When we are back on our feet and doing well, you will not be forgotten; as soon as we could, we'd come back and pay even.
Finally, for anyone who gives a hundred or more, I am at your disposal for copyediting resumes, cover letters, helping with school work if you are also a college student of any age; if you're a stranger, let me know if you could use such a service (anything involving writing or editing) in your comment when you donate, and I will contact you. Also, I used to have an online business in which I made (very effective) skin (especially for acne, but also general care) and hair products; if you give fifty or more, I will see what I have left over or can whip up and send it your way--same thing, let me know if you're interested in the comments. If you give any amount at all and are interested in the things I've mentioned, once this semester is up, I will do the same for you, gladly :)
If--that is, when--this fundraiser works out, I will post exactly what we were able to attain with your donations, including pictures, and where any excess that may exist goes.
A change to the campaign. Most donations have been from strangers, and one special donation was from a dear Facebook friend of many years (proving that long-distance friendships mean just as much as “in-person” ones); this latter donation was from Jonathan Berman; he decided to honor his mother by raising money via proceeds through his store all throughout the weekend leading up to her birthday (and then chipping in himself). SO I have decided that, come what may, part of what we raise will be donated to the battered women’s shelter, “Safe Homes, Rape Crisis,” who helped us all those years ago and/or to the only local therapy practice devoted to assisting the transgendered people in our community, “Trinity.” I’ll either split the proceeds or choose one or the other, but it will work like this: 2% of gross donations no matter what, 5% if we reach half our goal, and 10% if we reach our full goal (which will be $500!). When we do this, we’ll post a picture (with permission, naturally) of the giving and links to the places. I feel good about this. Not to be cliche, but It’s all about “paying it forward,” which you all have inspired us to do!