Food stamps, Oprah and the 2014 Listen To Your Mother Chicago Show

Food stamps, Oprah and the 2014 Listen To Your Mother Chicago Show
While I wore this to motivate me while training for my first marathon, the message applies to my life more than ever now.

Last Friday on Valentine’s Day, I thought life couldn’t get any better. I had a weekend audition for the 2014 Listen to Your Mother Show Chicago and a Monday interview for my daughter and I at Harpo Studios for an upcoming Oprah’s Life Class. I had Valentine’s Day plans with a sweet, funny, adorable man. For the first time since my divorce, all seemed to be falling into place.

I was happy and content – until noon.

It’s amazing how quickly life can change. With one phone call, my bubble burst and life kicked me in the girl balls. It was a swift kick I hadn’t anticipated, hadn’t prepared for. Beginning in March, the only sorta-kinda reliable income I’ll have is approximately $300. A month. I will have $300 a month to feed, shelter, clothe my children and pay for medical expenses.

My file folder of expensive legal papers describing a very different financial reality will not mean a damn thing.

I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for 17 years. I’ve dedicated my life, my everything to the most important people in my world, my kids. Still smiling after my half-marathon!

It was a family decision for me to stay home with them. I don’t regret that choice. It’s been a gift to see them grow, to volunteer at their schools, to know their friends, to build a relationship in which I’m more connected with them than I have ever been with anyone else. I made that decision to put my schooling and career plans on hold and focus on them.

I made that decision never imagining I would be a single mom with no degree to launch a new career, no traditional career training nor experience. Yet, I trusted the kids and I would be taken care of, that my sacrifices for my children would be valued. According to my detailed, fancy legal papers, the kids and I should be provided for while I complete my degree and start my career outside of my home – as long as shit doesn’t happen.

On Friday, shit happened when that phone rang.

I collapsed. I literally collapsed from the weight of the vague news. I was dizzy and terrified.  I struggled to process the caller’s words, spoken in precise English. I’ve heard the expression lost for words many times; however, until that moment, I never understood it. I had no real words, only an invading sensation of suffocation.

Devastation delivered. The phone call ended. I couldn’t get up from my couch. Breathing was difficult. It was a physical struggle to breathe. I cried. I sobbed.

Hours later, I pulled myself together (kinda), wiped my face, applied ice to my eyelids and smeared on lip gloss in time for school dismissal. After the kids left for the weekend, I indulged in a 24 hour personal pity party. I cried. I raged. I panicked.

I considered skipping my Sunday audition for the Listen to Your Mother Chicago Show. I was exhausted, physically and emotionally exhausted, and the idea of taking a shower, putting on a smile, makeup, Spanx and a dress seemed unfathomable. With the support and help of friends, I decided to push through and audition.

The kids came home on Sunday night, and I started the best fucking performance of my entire life: the everything-is-fine and nothing-has-changed performance. I shoved my fear and anger so far inside of me that I’m pretty sure I’ll shit a diamond sometime soon. I owe it to them to pretend and maintain the facade a little while longer, at least until I have some kind of a plan.

I focused on Monday’s taping at Harpo Studios. The kids and I had been so excited about the opportunity. I drew momentum from it.

We had a wonderful time! Every single person we met was kind, courteous and respectful. We even got a tour after my daughter and I were interviewed.

The show taping is next Monday, and we won’t know if any of our interviews will air or not until later.

Even if they aren’t used, the experience was worth it, and I really appreciate the opportunity to participate. It was such a welcome, sweet distraction. For those hours, I got to pretend we were going to be okay, that the prospect of not being able to provide for my children wasn’t real.

Tuesday morning, I was greeted with the incredible news that I am a part of the 2014 Listen To Your Mother Chicago Show! The official cast announcement was yesterday, and I could take a momentary break from my fear to bask in the light.

Today, I apply for state aid, government aid, food stamps. I really don’t know what I’m applying for, nor what I’ll qualify for.

All I do know is that my family needs help, a lot more help than I ever imagined needing. While I’m embarrassed and hesitant, it’s not about me anymore. I don’t have the luxury to ignore my situation. I can’t sit back and wait for some magical resolution to our situation. I can’t lie to myself nor play games. My kids deserve better than a mother too worried about other’s perceptions to ask for help.

I was told not to talk about this, not to write about this. I was instructed to keep it buried and hidden. But I’m tired of pretending, which is sometimes just another word for lying. I’m tired of lying. I won’t do it anymore. I won’t lie to others, for others and certainly not to myself.

It’s been a strange and surreal 6 days. Nothing’s been resolved nor fixed. However, I’m open to new opportunities, to change, to a world wherein I am finally in the driver’s seat and filled with more awesome cliches.

One of my favorite post-divorce songs is “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. Since walking from the courthouse on July 24, 2013, it’s become my theme song:

The kids and I, along with our menagerie of pets, are together. No matter what happens, we will always be together. No, things are not okay. I may not have any answers right now nor know what the future will hold for my family, but I do know that there’s always light.

For those willing to search for it, to work, to dig and claw their way towards it. There is always light.

I appreciate the love and support from my friends. Prayers, positive thoughts and energy and advice are always welcome and appreciated.

For those curious about what prompted a Harpo producer to contact me, it’s because he found and enjoyed this blog I wrote: 5 Reasons This Single Mom Won’t Be Going On I hope you enjoy it as much as he did!

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