Last week, with a blue turn-off notice from the electric company in hand, I had to drive down and pay the bill with my kids’ Christmas money. I steeled myself as I opened the door and walked to the desk, apologetic and embarrassed and prepared for the look from the woman at the desk. She was kind and didn’t make me feel worse, and I’m still grateful. It’s been a point of pride to me that I haven’t had to ask my ward for help in the last year, but this was a breaking point.

My home teacher came by to fix the fence that a good samaritan took out when he plowed my driveway earlier this winter. It was an unseasonably warm day, and we stood out in the weak but warm winter sunshine talking over my newly mended fence. He is a kind man, and a former bishop, and his compassion and generosity are legion. It wasn’t long into our conversation before tears were sliding under my sunglasses, down my cheeks and splashing onto my shirt. I told him what I had had to do, and just let my desperation spill and overflow.

He told me a story about his own family, stories most of us have in our histories, about times of need and how help was granted and given with love– only I’m living it right now, and its not padded by the patina of years. Each month I’m supposed to get child support, and frankly, that would make all the difference. But it’s not happening. And each month I’ve been robbing Peter to pay Paul, and it’s caught up with me. He told me my pride was hurting me and not allowing others to bless me- and that I needed to talk to the Bishop on Sunday and let him know. The tears continued to splash on my shirt as I nodded like a child.

Sunday when I visited the bishop, he told me my HT had called him and given the heads-up that I should be stopping by, but to be aware of me if my pride kept me from walking through is door. Safety net in place: check. My bishop took the burden from my shoulders, and I went home and cried. Then I spoke to my X and tried to explain to him that I really needed him to take some responsibility, in whatever way he could, for helping me and the kids. For all my bravado and awareness that I can do hard things, balancing three kids full-time alone and full-time school is wearing me down, and I need some help.

The boys have been acting out terribly, and Abby is being as sweet as she can be, sneaking in to kiss me and tell me she loves me at all hours. I’m not sure which concerns me more… I want my children to be okay. I want my children to be safe and happy and most of the time I think I’m doing a good job. Then something will happen that makes me feel like I just got off a carousel and am dizzy with confusion and can’t find the way up.

Tonight, after a huge melt-down at the Y because he couldn’t make a basket, Bean sat in the back of the car weeping. Jeffrey sat up front next to me with his hood pulled over his face and arm crossed, furious at me for not letting him get Abby from the child-care center, and Abby was kicking my seat because my water bottle was empty. I burst into tears. Dammit, I am trying so hard… and what I can give is just simply not enough for them.

Bean began to wail plaintively, and then we were all crying. One big happy family rolling down the icy roads towards home, which is not really home at all, but a borrowed Little House. As we were pulling into the driveway, Bean says “I don’t like this life mama, I want a different one! I don’t want to live in this stupid house and have you in school and I don’t wanna be sad anymore!” Me too, Bean- this is not what was supposed be, and it just doesn’t matter. Oh the tears… I sat in the driveway, clutching the steering wheel, as they ran in rivers down my face, my shoulders shaking under the weight I must bear.

There were lots of hugs and kisses and sincere prayers in Little House tonight. I gathered my children in my arms, and reassured them this was not going to be forever, and that the whole purpose of this was for me to to be able to take better care of them.

And I don’t have a clue what to do except keep putting one foot in front of the other.

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