Friday, February 13, 2009

Our Attempt at Florida Living

Okay it is a long story but I think it is an interesting read none the less. So go on, read me!

I mentioned before that I have lived in Florida, sure only for 3 months, but I was officially living there. It had been something my parents had been thinking about for years, and they finally decided, let's really pray about it and see what answers we get. My mom felt not let a definite yes, but didn't feel a no either. According to my, he didn't have any positive feelings, but I don't remember him having negative ones and it was him that was so "let's move to Florida" for as long as I can remember. I remember thinking it could potentially be exciting, it kind of helped that I had just finished my first year in community college, so most of my friends were gone. Grandpa had died during that first year, and he was the last of my grandparents, so that excuse for not moving was gone.

I mean I wasn't thrilled at the thought of leaving my Aunt and Uncle behind. Of leaving my ward behind, I had grown up in THAT ward, all 20 years of my life had been in THAT building with the same beloved people, with my Nursery kids. The family we were best friends with, the people that were like family. So that part was not something to look forward to. For my sisters, it was a bigger change. Katie would have to spend her junior or senior year as the new kid. Sam would start high school with no friends. And the two of them had a really close-nit group of friends they loved. But Dad had to see if a job transfer was even possible, Mom had to find a nursing job if Dad got the okay. We'd have to find someplace to live. But before a new place to live, uhmmm we had to sell our house. And then Dad's transfer was okayed. So the house went up for sale. It was for sale for awhile. Life continued. Kat was a junior, and accepted the calling to be Youth Camp Director at Girl's Camp. Sam was in her last year at junior high. And then the house was sold. The girls got to finish up the current school year, by THIS much. Mom found a job in Orlando. We found an apartment complex. There was nothing left but goodbyes. Which were way harder than I knew they could be.

And on July 10th, 1998, we got in our 3 cars and made the drive to Orlando, Florida. We knew Orlando, so it made sense to start there. We had to live in a hotel for two weeks, our apartment wasn't ready yet. My Dad was there for those two weeks and to help us move into the apartment but then he had to leave. His transfer wasn't until the end of September so it was just going to be us women, for a few months. Before he left my Dad showed us how to get to the ward that was is our area. And then we were on our own. My Dad drove a car back and went to live with Auntie while he stayed up in CT.

This is outside our apartment complex. We were on the bottom floor around the back. It had three bedrooms, 2 were tiny, so the girls and I had to minimalize everything. So most of our stuff and furniture from our entire house was in a storage unit. I had my own room ( I am the oldest) and the girls shared this room that had doors on 2 walls so they could barely squeeze 2 beds in there. The master was a nice size at least and we squeezed 3 of our couches into the TV room/living room. I took the love seat and put it in my room. My bed, the love seat and a dresser, that was my furniture. And my window was the big window right next to the front door, so whenever the blinds were open...hello world, that was a bit scary. Oh look I found a floorplan and added the way it was for us:The sidewalk went right up to the front door and BAM, there was my window which took up half that wall, so everyone could see everything in my room. LOL. Akward, LOL. So us women folk settled into, and at first it was fun. It was like when we were there on vacation, except we were discovering new haunts. We discovered and fell in love with Einstein Bagels, we were always there. We found a Jamba Juice, a Burrito Stand, new things to try. The Library ended up being a minute from us, but man was it small and had no selection. We found a Blockbuster in the square down the street, plus a grocery store we used even if a bit pricey, Albertson's. (Publix's are so much better) And we found the girl's school, Dr. Philips' High School, which was whoa. So ginormous. It was 5 times bigger than the community college I went to in CT. It had acres and acres AND acres of land. And different buildings! Open cafeteria's...I was happy I wasn't going there. And the one cool thing, it was directly across the street from Universal Studios! You coud see the roller coaster tracks and everything! You drop off your kid and he doesn't "attend" classes, guess where he is! Duh! This is real: Where do I go to check my child out of school early?

North Campus Building 19 room 902
South Campus Administration Building room 116....Building 19 people!!

We experienced our first scary storm, trees down and hale that was BIG. And of course we were OUT so we had to try and get home in it. I did a lot of the driving, a lot of it was familiar though because we went back to Kissimmeea lot. It has familiar places to go. Old Town, etc.

Church was the first thing that scared me. We went and I felt...lost. I had never been that uncomfortable at one of our churches before. The Bishop never even said hello to me. I know I was in an even more awkward place than my Mom or sisters. The girls had YW and mutual to make friends. My Mom did the Releif Society thing, I did not. I didn't feel comfortable with the women, because I was so young. My Mom stayed with me for some other class in the chapel (she and the girls had been to church the week before, when I was sick) and it was just so...not okay. And I didn't go back. My Dad would call and try to reassure that once we lived in a REAL town. not Orlando where people are using it to transition into regular cities and towns, he was sure the church would feel normal again. I was less certain. I mean we were eventually assigned some home teachers, who checked on us a few times and ILIKED them. They seemed so normal and down-to-earth, and not all holier than thou rich. Most of the ward was very wealthy. Of course I found out why they seemes so normal to me....they were both originally from the East Coast. They understood that the ward didn't feel the same as back home. The girls made a few friends but it was weird for them too. Everyone WAS wealthy so when we dropped them off at a mutual at the YW president's house, our jaws dropped and the girls looked kind of lost. So it ended up, while there was these 2 girls my sisters liked, they didn't like church here either. Or my mom. I was worried that this was going to make me a non-member, that is how scary it was for me.

And we went and registered the girls for school. Sam was no problem, but Katie the senior was. Katie took advanced classes in CT, but they decided that some of her CT classes probably would not count here...even though CT school standards are some of the highest in the country and Florida is wayyyyy down on the list. Then they informed us that she might have to do her senior year TWICE. Yeah this was far from okay with any of us. But until they decided, there was nothing we could do. And Katie was oh so graciously allowed to drive them, but since she was not there last year she would not get a special space with her name painted on it (yes I am serious, this was also a rich high school.). The girls left for CT to attend YW Camp. My Mom and I cried when they left, it was just the two of us, and we were a bit jealous they got to go HOME and see friends and people we loved. I think it made it harder on them. It was really hard on Katie, she was a trouper though, she even stopped an adult sister from quitting. This sister has been grateful since, because she said if Katie had not said what she did, she would never have returned, and this woman (some CT bloggers know Kim for real) has since been Camp Director numerous times and rocked at it! They got to see Dad too which was good and bad. Hard to say goodbye again.

So real life started. My Mom went with me to the community college in our area and dang. It was even bigger than the high school, and had multiple campuses. Classes started in like a week so the classes I wanted, that were AT this main campus that I knew HOW to get to? All taken. I ended up with classes that were at these non-school buildings a half hour away, and I had to use the Florida Turnpike, with all it's tolls and no exits for miles and miles. And I sat there and I am shy so first days of classes? Never easy. When I started Tunxis? Scared. But I had never felt like I did on this day. So lost in every way imaginable. In my head, where I was, how I would do this. Where would I GET art supplies? The teachers didn't know anyone's names and didn't really offer anything of themselves. But I went to all the classes I had that day. But when I got home I told Mom my fears.

Meanwhile, the girls had started school. When they got home things did not look good. Sam was done. She refused to go back. She said "homeschool me, anything, but I am not going back", and she is the laid back one. Katie hated it too, but said she would go and try again. Apparently no matter how fast they both ran to FIND where their classes or even the buildings were, they didn't have time always to get there. They luckily shared a lunch period and sat together, alone, until they were forced apart by the next period. Kat, brave as she was, you could see how unhappy she was. Katie went back for a second day.

Meanwhile (yeah I kow), my Mom started work. She made it through, said it was fine. But Sunday morning I awoke to hear crying. Crying that made you want to cry upon hearing it. I made my way across the apartment and found the girls inside my Mom's room, in bed with her, as my Mom cried. She hated the job, she felt lost there, they expected her to know things she had told them before we moved she did not know. My Mom is not a computer person, she has made this clear, and apparently everything was computerized in this facility. She said everyone was just very unwelcoming. She hated it and didn't want to go back. She felt out of control and hated it here. And this kind of opened up the floodgates. We all hated it. We didn't like what it felt like here, how church felt, how the people acted...everything. My Mom has depression too and she said she was back down in the pit of despair. In more her kind of terms. So what could we do? We called Dad. He was not happy to hear these things, he had less than a month before his transfer, he thought it would all be better once he got there. But my Mom was on the phone and he said he was flying down to see us. We went to the airport and the reunion between all of us was just...indescribable. He stayed the weekend. And we first had a family talk and then he wanted to talk with Mom on their own, and then each of us with them on our own. I know I expressed that I was scared I would not be part of the church anymore. I know I said I did not think I could do this school, at least that semester, one campus is where your classes should be, not 7 all over Florida. I told him I was not happy or uncomfortable and I wanted to go home. But apparently what made Dad really think that we were not meant to be here, was Katie. My Dad said when Katie went in there the words that poured out of her mouth were like that of a mini-prophet. And when he followed her out and asked her if she could repeat the words she had spoken to them, she couldn't. I know, freaky right?
And the parents talked alone again, and Dad came out with Mom and they said we were moving back to CT. The weights felt like they were falling off my shoulders and we cried and we hugged and just were there for eachother. Dad started making arrangements immediately. High School was starting in less than 2 weeks up in CT and Dad did not want them missing ANY school, so since he was staying with Auntie, but school was in our hometown, our BFF family from church agreed to let them live with them until we settled somewhere. We decided Mom and I would stay in Florida, pack everything back up, get the movers, etc. Dad and Mom went to the apartment complex and they were actually pretty nice about it, and they did not have to be. Dad told Mom to quit her job and for me to get back as much tuition as I could (all of it since only 1 day of college had happened). And Dad took the girls with him when he flew back to CT. Hoping his job would be understanding. And when they took off, oh man did Mom and I cry. Our family had just left to go back HOME and we were still here.

My Mom felt..not good. And together, we went and started the process of her getting better. A place where she could be put back on meds, etc. And we did it together. Experiencing it for myself is one thing. Seeing it happen to my Mom? Very different and I feel so fiercely protective, that it helped me to help her. And we started the tedious process of re-packing everything. But things started to feel brighter. We started to laugh as we packed and watched Jaws marathons. Went to Epcot, watched movies at the AMC 24. We started to look forward to going home. The girls were doing good, Dad drove and saw them a few times a week. Auntie offered use of 2 of her rooms for us when we got back to CT. And then September 15th arrived and we directed the movers as they took our apt. boxes and followed us to the storage place and got the majority of our worldy possessions. We stayed the night in a hotel and began the very LONG drive home. We took two days to do it, thank goodness. Because afte Day One we learned something very important. See, I began falling asleep as I drove, bad since I was in one car and Mom in the other. This had never happened before, I can no longer drive long distances. So first we got me a BIG pepsi...yeah wasn't really working. So Mom thought maybe I should try No-Doz, so we stopped and I took some. And it woke me up, it sure did....only I was jittering about like a motor. And it didn't stop even hours later when we got to the hotel. It was scaring the crap out of me, it just got worse and worse, and I couldn't even eat I felt nauseous from the physical jumping of my whole body. Yeah, there is now a family rule...Wendy is not allowed to have No-Doz. And I didn't even make the rule, my Mom won't allow it.

Dad met us in New Jersey so we could follow him home. It was so good to see family. We got to our hometown around 7 at night to pick up the girls. It was such a reunion, so much hugging. Between our family, with Brother and Sister H. And Weezie and the rest. Everything was familiar but it felt odd too. We made the 45 minute drive to Auntie's and the reunion with her and Uncle John was so good. Alex and Liz were asleep by this time. Auntie put Mom and Dad in Liz's room (Liz was 7 and they put her on a cot in their room) and the three of us girls in the spare room. Auntie had set up camping sleep pads, etc for all of us to sleep on for a few nights until our moving truck dropped off our stuff at a storage unit. Dad then brought over our beds. And we lived there for 3 months. The girls had to get up really early to get to their high school, so we put up sheets across the room, so I could read or watch tv with a headphone and they could still sleep. It was fun to share a room with both my sisters. Well, mostly. And we picked a house that was half built, so as soon as they finished and we picked out some final details our house would be ready.

And church felt really weird at first. Like we belonged but didn't belong. Awkward at first, like a dream, or a different reality. That went away after a few weeks, and man you don't appreciate what you have until it is gone. These people are what members feel like. This is a ward where the Bishop who had held me when I was in diapers, but every Sunday he still said hello and shook my hand. This is a ward where after sacrament service is over the laughter of children fills the halls as they run to their classrooms. And before they head off to R.S., the women talk in the foyer and catch up. We were home.

Since this all happened, my parents, especially my father, decided this was supposed to have happened to us. (He still insists he said we shouldn't move...yeah*rolls eyes*) That this was a test. We were supposed to experience the things we did, and we did experience a lot of new things. And we realized what we had, what we had taken for granted. We got a chance to become closer to family. This was all supposed to happen exactly as it did. My Dad got a new job, great timing was on our side. My Mom got her old job back when she was ready and they were so happy to have her back. It was a really long drive for her for awhile too! I went to our hometown as much as possible even if just to rent videos, it felt good to be back. And I was able to help with homework of the little cousins, etc. So things were meant to happen like they did. They were very hard and we experienced pain, and being so scared and alone, etc. But it was a test we were supposed to have. And it made us a stronger family.

8 meaningful meanderings:

Anonymous said...

I cannot imagine moving. I've fortunately never moved around, like some kids who are moved from place to place. I just can't picture having to 'start over' and make all new friends. It's not for me. Sure, I'd love to move to warmer weather, but I know I'm not strong enough to leave everything behind.

Anonymous said...

What was the most overwhelming emotion during all of this?

Wendyburd1 said...

Besides the depression we all felt and were in?

The most overwhelming emotion was failure, that we failed SO bad at something we wanted (most wanted), and how people would look at us as failures. Dad still to this day talks about moving back but "to a better, normal city/town with a normal church/ward", but he didn't live down there, we weren't okay.

Zak and Weezie said...

It was a dark 3 months here in CT without you guys too...

Natalie said...

What a story! My husband's family moved around A LOT when he was growing up (he went to FOUR different schools in 8th grade alone) and it majorly effected all of them emotionally. He tells these sad, sad stories similiar to yours about too rich classmates & snobby wards and feeling lost. It makes me terrified to ever move my kids.

Kristina P. said...

We moved around a lot too. It was esepcially hard for my younger siblings when my parents divorced. Moving sucks!

Amander said...

Those crazy adventures can put life into perspective.

Lee said...

I couldn't imagine doing something like that.
I like being settled right here.

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