Making it Work: When it Doesn’t Work Out

Yesterday was the pre-trial hearing and the judge has said he won’t be ruling in favor of my petition to relocate.

To write that this is devastating is an understatement.  I’m still processing my grief.  I couldn’t even offer my daughter comfort as I had to turn her over to my ex a couple of hours after I heard the news.  She’s crushed, too.

So this is where I am: broke, homeless, separated by 1,000 miles from my husband and seven-year-old son, and trapped in Illinois for another four years.

I’m going to withdraw my petition to relocate.  There’s no reason to go through the expense of a trial now.  Next I face my ex’s petition for more parenting time, as well as his petition to throw me in jail for losing the house.  The absolute worse outcome sees me in jail and having lost my daughter in a year’s time.  So, you know, good times.

While I await for those load of bricks to fall I have to find housing for me and my daughter.  Since the judge could limit me to staying within twenty-five miles of my ex, I am really limited in where we can settle.  I’ve already started the process of signing up for food stamps.  I looked into Section 8 Housing and found that the wait list to get on the wait list has closed.

I also have to finish up pictures for the book.  I’m halfway through and should be finishing them up in a week or so.  Getting those turned in will trigger the release of the rest of my advance which will be used immediately for my legal fees.

I have also started the process of reporting my ex for his predation of an underaged girl.  It might have happened eighteen years ago and isn’t an issue as per my ex’s lawyer, but that is the sort of thing that doesn’t happen just once.  There has got to be someone out there who will take it seriously and look to see if he has harmed any other girls in the intervening years.

I am not okay.  I am upset and gutted by all of this.  My anxiety has been high and I’ve had to dole out my medication in dribs and drabs because when it runs out I’m done.  My depression has raised its oozing arms to drag me back into a world of remonstrances and accusations of worthlessness.  None of this is fair.  None of this easy.  None of this is going to be okay for a very long time.

Costuming my Kids

Despite having access to an experienced in house seamstress (me), my children have rarely asked me to make them costumes.  For three years straight, when she was five to seven years old, my daughter Charlotte was a cat for Halloween.  It was a costume that required only a black leotard, cat ears headband and some face paint.  Up until last year, my son Ben wanted to be various Star Wars characters, using store bought costumes.

Still, I have made some costume pieces for my children.  For my daughter it was a dress to wear to the Bristol Renaissance Faire.  We don’t go to the Faire often, averaging about every other year, so we like to make the most of it.  When Charlotte was eleven she decided she wanted to dress up for our visit.

Charlotte and Her Bow and Costuming
This girl loves her bow something fierce.

I showed Charlotte a dress idea I had pinned on Pinterest.  It’s a reconstruction of the dress worn by Kiera Knightly in the movie King Arthur.  She approved the design and we headed out to the fabric store.  I guided her to the kinds of fabric that would work and she picked out the color.  We chose an olive green cotton drill. It was heavier than what was used in the pattern and movie costume, but I wanted something solid and a bit more hard-wearing.

The making of the dress was ridiculously easy.  While drapey tunics use a lot of fabric, I love them for the ease of construction and customization.  The belt was made from ribbon I had on hand, with a snap fastener as a closure.  That day at the faire she had a great time swanning around, shooting arrows and eating turkey legs.  She’s outgrown the dress now and I have it packed up.  Perhaps one day there will be another child eager to use it for dress up.

The Family at the Faire
See what I mean about loving bows? Stephan decided to dress up as well.

Ben’s costume story is more recent.  Last year he decided a week before Halloween that he wanted to be Purple Link.  On such a short deadline I ended up buying parts of the costume and sewing the rest.

The leggings and shirt came from the girl’s section at Target.  I used a Simplicity “Indian” costume pattern that I had inherited for the tunic.  Both tunic and hat were made from purple broadcloth I bought.  The belt was made of brown cotton drill from my stash as well as yellow and brown felt I had on hand.  I used hot glue to tack the Velcro fastener for a closure.  The hat was made from a self-drafted pattern.  The whole costume took a couple of days.

Ben as Purple Link
My little agent of chaos sure does know how to rock some leggings. <3

He was pleased with his costume, even if his classmates didn’t know who he was supposed to be.  And Ben has kept the shirt in his regular clothes rotation, always a plus.  The various costume pieces have been worn since during play and pretend time.

I am certain these won’t be the last costumes I sew for my kids.  We have plans to join a boffer LARP that runs in Colorado once the move is finalized.  That will require costuming for them.  And there are still plenty of Halloweens to be had.  I do hope I’ll have a bit more time for sewing the next time, though.

My Power and Glory

“It took many years on a forever-steep learning curve to figure out how to be me apologetically and to accept every bizarre part of my past.  When I stopped worrying about having friends, or being fat, or following a predictable path, or trying to be a commercially sellable artist, I began to come into my own.  By standing strong in my uniqueness and walking with faith in a universal, positive energy and in myself, I found my power and glory.” — A Unicorn in a World of Donkeys, Mia Michaels, p. 5-6

Ramblin’ roach

I’ve been back in Illinois a few days now. It’s hard being separated from my husband and son. I even miss the cats. It’s hard not having a place to call my own. It’s hard not knowing what the future holds.

But it isn’t as hard as I thought it would be. Charlotte and I are staying with friends who are doing their all to make us welcome. I have people who love us sending messages of support hourly via social media, email and text. People are helping me research. People are lifting me up. And I have resources. The library is going to be my home base the next few weeks. It gives me access to the internet for communication, air conditioning and even a place to take step-by-step pictures.

Charlotte is being upbeat about all this. As long as she has access to the internet and time to draw she’s happy. She might not deal well with change same as me, but things are familiar enough to help her cope. It helps that season five of Voltron hit and so she has a whole world of Tumblr fandom to keep her busy.

I am focusing on pictures for the book. The house I’m staying in is lovely and quirky and perfect for indoor shots. For the outdoor ones there are plenty of parks around. People have given me lots of advice on taking the pictures. Their help is starting to show as the last batch I sent my editor got a big thumbs up.

As difficult as the next few weeks will be, I know that I will survive them thanks to the incredible support structure I have around me.

A Witch on Stolen Land

Driving through Wyoming last week drove home how much I had missed the land I grew up in.  At a rest stop I collected sprigs of sagebrush.  The familiar scent of Russian olive trees hung heavy in the air.  The wind sung to me through the aspens.  I left Wyoming twenty-two years ago and it was calling me home.

My longing is tempered by years of learning about social justice topics; especially colonialism and this country’s horrifying treatment of indigenous people.  The knowledge that I live on stolen land colors my dreams of the future.

As we drove, Charlotte pointed out places to build a castle.  “That’s part of the Wind River Reservation,” I told her.  “I don’t think the Shoshone or Arapaho would appreciate us building there.”  The entire trip back I was aware of all the reservations we drove through, all the casinos we passed, all the roads and creeks and passes we crossed that had “Indian” in their names.  I come from a place that has herded various tribes onto parcels of land and monetized their very identities.

If I am allowed to move back to Wyoming, how do I, as a witch, practice without adding to the harm already done.  The question is especially tricky as I have no cultural heritage of my own to fall back on.  My sister did the Ancestry.com test a year ago.  Genetically, we’re a mix of Irish, Western European and British.  That knowledge doesn’t give me any real answers, though. In the same way that I don’t feel part of football culture just because I am American, I don’t feel any more connected to those cultures just because of my DNA.

So where does that leave me?  I can make sure that I don’t appropriate any Native American spiritual practices, something I strive to do anyway.  But I don’t know if that is enough.  Do no harm doesn’t delineate levels of injury.  I feel a responsibility to go beyond, to do more than just the bare minimum.

I’m not quite sure what that will involve, or how it will look.  As I figure it out, I’ll write about it here.

Difference Isn’t A Problem, It’s An Asset

“I used to think money had to come in a certain ‘valid’ way: for example, make money each day, save up, have a budget, etc. But I discovered that there is another way that is just as valid, and maybe even more accurate which I think of as lush, feminine wealth.  My income comes in chunks—I lived the freelance lifestyle, and there’s nothing steady about it.  A chunk here or a chunk there.  I also receive abundance in a lot of different ways—places to stay, artistic patronage, etc. It looks different from the ‘traditional’ way of earning money, I know, but this difference isn’t a problem, it’s an asset.  When I started embracing the different kinds of wealth that come to me—some that comes in W9s and money, some that comes in other forms like inspiration, kind words, support—I feel, and I am, rich.” — DIY Rules for a WTF World, Krista Suh, p. 160

No Easy Beauty

Charlotte and I pulled into Bolingbrook just before midnight last night. It was the end of a 2,400 mile journey that took us to Wyoming and back again. With the exception of the 2 1/2 hours we sat in traffic due to construction and accidents it was a good trip.  We drove out to Laramie to drop off my husband, son and the cats.

My husband, Stephan, has a new job in Laramie and we’ve signed a lease on a house.  After a day of getting them settled, Charlotte and I loaded back into the Jeep and headed out on the road again.  We swung up through Worland to visit my grandmother.  That added half a day to our trip, but I hadn’t seen Grandma since 2008 and I wasn’t about to skip a chance to see her.

Charlotte and roach in Wyoming
Charlotte and I take a selfie in the Big Horn Basin.

Driving through Wyoming I got to show my daughter all the things I loved about my home state.  I wasn’t trying to convince her to want to move there, I just wanted to give her an insight into where her mother came from.  Charlotte kept pointing out places where we could set the castle I plan to build one day.

The drive also gave me a lot of time to process what’s been going on.  Where I grew up is not an easy place to love.  You have to look for its beauty and if you can’t find it, the land doesn’t care.  I watched the landscape roll past us, desolate but dotted with life determined to thrive.  I thought about how I had been raised to know that life isn’t easy and won’t hand anything to you.  With that in mind, I was taught, I was supposed to be grateful for anything life gave me and not complain.  Never ask for anything more, was the prevailing wisdom.  It took thirty plus years for me to unlearn that second lesson.  Life might not be easy, but that doesn’t mean I can’t fight for what I want.

Grandma, Grandaughter & Great Grandaughter
Grandma, Grandaughter & Great Grandaughter

I’ve got two more weeks before I get an idea of whether or not my relocation petition will be granted.  I’ve spent almost six thousand dollars on this fight, and I will spend thousands more to finish it.  I am not trying to take Charlotte from her dad, I’ve been adamant from the beginning of this legal battle.  I’ve stated that I would work with him to make sure they have time together.  But I can’t let him have full custody of her.

My ex-husband is a homophobe who has not supported our daughter since she came out as a lesbian last year.  He hasn’t taken her mental health issues seriously, ignoring and denying her repeated requests for help for months until I intervened and got her into therapy and on medication.  In the past he preyed on an underage girl, chatting with her about masturbation and being “friends with benefits”.  The list of reasons why he can’t have her full time goes on and on and on.  Charlotte needs to have a relationship with her father.  She also needs to be protected from him.

Life isn’t easy.  Neither are the decisions I have to make.  If the relocation isn’t approved I will remain in Illinois.  I’ll get a studio apartment for me and Charlotte.  My husband will remain in Laramie.  His new job pays more than his previous one.  There are opportunities for advancement there and he will be enrolling in the Masters program for Health and Kinesiology at the University of Wyoming.  My friends and family in Laramie have already set to making my guys feel welcome and loved.

Charlotte and Ben scrambling over rocks. My kids are part goat, apparently.
Charlotte and Ben scrambling over rocks. My kids are part goat, apparently.

This will be an extreme hardship on all of us.  I’m going to suffer financially.  Charlotte will still have to deal with a move as we won’t be able to stay in the surrounding area.  My son will not have his mother.  My husband will have to be a single father.  My daughter is worth fighting for, though.  She is worth suffering for.  I’ll be beside her, looking for the beauty in the bleak scenery for as long as she needs me.