Chapter 2: Starting Over

The end of 1989 was extremely difficult and those few months seemed like years to me.
Depression wasn’t as understood back then; so I thought I was just physically sick and went to the doctor. I was so blessed to have a physician’s assistant that spotted my problem right away. Even though he didn’t know the “why,” he did explain to me depression and how situations can bring it on and make you feel the way I was feeling. He prescribed an anti-depressant for me to try. He let me know I wouldn’t have to always be on the medication, but just until things were better. It took several weeks to kick in fully. I was still very sad and depressed, but now I could at least function. I still cried a lot but instead of crying for days I would have shorter times of intense sorrow and grieving; then I could dry my tears and do whatever I needed to do. With the medical help I was better able to care for my sons and do more than just exist.
One of the heart wrenching memories I have is of my boys seeing me cry so much and so often. One day little 2 year old Caleb said,”Mommy, please don’t cry anymore, ok?”
They needed their mom to be whole and healthy and that didn’t happen overnight.
Somehow I made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas. I felt like I never got warm that winter…..I felt hollow, unwanted, and just plain sad, cold through and through.
About a month or so after the divorce was filed, the reality began to sink in that I had to get a job and get a car (I didn’t have my own). I began to open up my heart to a few people and was met always with open arms and compassion. Depression loves the isolation. The more you reach out, the less power it has over your life.
As I told the story in my earlier post “A January from the Past,” the thought of finding a job was overwhelming, not just because of my depression but also the fact I had no college education or career. I knew I would have to leave my boys with others while I worked and that was hard as well. I pulled up to the Sonic Drive In in Mena, Arkansas that cold January day; and somehow I knew after many stops at other places with no success, I would be offered a job there. That’s exactly what happened.
I was barely 26, but I felt like I was 126…..no confidence, no self worth, empty and sad .
When I left there I cried in my car because it was not the job I wanted, to be honest. Back then only 16 year olds car hopped and I felt silly as a woman with 2 children to be a carhop….but I had to work, I had no other options; so I did what I knew was necessary.
My Sonic job holds many sweet memories as well. I would have never imagined I would ever look back on that time as anything but humiliating; however, I always smile when I pass a Sonic 🙂
I didn’t know at the time that people tipped at Sonic. I was so surprised when I started getting tips. I was not only the oldest car hop in history (in my mind, ha) but I also became the highest tipped one. I made more in tips and salary than I could have ever made at -say, the bank or a more glamorous place. I also was able to pick my hours every week, which helped with scheduling around times my boys were taken care of. Added bonuses were I was forced to be outside walking (a lot), fresh air and human connections, all of which are so good in fighting depression. At first I wanted to hide when I would see someone pull up that I knew. I hated feeling the stares, knowing what the talk inside the car was; but I had to face them, no room for pride. I slowly realized that I needed to do my job and not worry about people and gossip. Before you know it, I was in full swing as a car hop. Not long after I got the job, I found a car for sale. With the help of one of my aunts and uncles who were willing to co- sign for me, I was able to buy it. It was nothing fancy, a little maroon and silver/white Chevy Spectrum 😁
Another reality during this same time frame was that I could no longer live in the house where we had lived as a family; I simply could not afford it, not even slightly.
A wonderful energetic minister’s wife that I had known for years and still adore, took me under her wing and said, ” I’m coming with you and we are going to find you a place to live.” A couple of days later she and I were pulled up in front of the Polk County Housing Authority (government subsidized housing), and again I felt that same feeling as I had when offered the job at Sonic.
I filled out the paperwork with her encouraging me all the while, reminding me this wouldn’t be forever; but it was the next step. I was almost relieved when they said there was a waiting list and it would take possibly a couple of months or so. The thought of leaving my home with all the memories, the boys’ tire swing in the big tree, sand box, my flower beds I had worked so hard in; everywhere there was a connection. Less than a week later I received a call from the office and was told that, amazingly, a little duplex had just opened up and would be ready to be moved into in a matter of days. I remember a hint of excitement rose up in me, because I knew this could only have been possible through God when it was supposed to take months. The excitement was short lived as the reality sunk in that I was moving, not to a cute little house or adorable apartment, but to a government housing duplex. Not where I wanted to be; but just like Sonic, it was exactly where I needed to be.
About a week later, truck after truck of loving friends from the little church I was attending pulled up to my house and loaded all that I owned (which wasn’t much) and moved Charley, Caleb , and me to our new little duplex. It smelled a little funny but it was now home. Everyone helped me unload everything and got things set up for me …..the quietness of the evening settled in; and as I lay there in my bed, I felt one of the first real feelings of peace in a very long time. The beautiful country moon that had shown over my home in the country was replaced by a street light. The solitude I knew there was now the fact that I lived in a duplex with total strangers who were just a wall away, but still there was undeniably a trace of peace. It was just right for us, really; and the boys and I could live here for 32.00 a month, rent was based on salary. Soon with the help of the scented candles and other touches I brought to this new home, the funny smell was gone, a few pictures began to be hung, and the beautiful trees that budded and surrounded us later that spring gave us a new beauty, a new hope, a new beginning. This was our little house, and even though it had a few bugs that came out at night at times, it was ours! Little did I know I would find a greater peace than I thought possible while living there.
As spring began and I was able to plant a few flowers in front; the beauty of the wooded area on one side of the complex was very inviting…..color, warmth, freshness that only spring brings. Looking back I see how in my life the same process was starting. It was slow in my eyes; but just as spring had brought things to life, my life and that of my little boys was ever so slightly beginning to bloom again. I just could not see it at the time. In my dark, dark tunnel of depression…..around this time , if I looked very close every now and then, I would catch a glimpse of a flicker of light, just a hint of hope; and every now and then, I would smile.
Though sadness still ruled my life for the most part, it would not always….I was starting to heal. A few of those shattered pieces of my heart were lovingly being worked on and cared for awaiting the day that each piece would be restored without a hint of a fracture….it was beginning to happen, I just didn’t know.

Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd;
I have everything I need.
He lets me rest in fields of green grass
and leads me to quiet pools of fresh water.
He gives me new strength.
He guides me in the right paths,
as he has promised.
Even if I go through the deepest darkness,
I will not be afraid, Lord,
for you are with me.
Your shepherd’s rod and staff protect me.
You prepare a banquet for me,
where all my enemies can see me;
you welcome me as an honored guest
and fill my cup to the brim.
I know that your goodness and love will be with me all my life;
and your house will be my home as long as I live.

20140123-211735.jpg

20140123-211804.jpg

Chapter 4: Singing a new Song

20140123-212416.jpgIt was a very hot summer in that brick duplex. It faced the west, no trees in the front yard to block the fierce sun. Seriously there were days we needed to go outside to cool off 🙂
We had a couple of small oscillating fans loaned by a couple of sweet friends,; but unless you stood by them with your hair wet, you only felt a warm breeze. Of course this was probably a blessing, making working out in the heat everyday easier to handle.
My heart was mending and by summer had, surprisingly, only the scars left to show where it had been shattered. One of the scars was my fear of trusting and loving again, traces of insecurities that come with divorce; but on the other hand, I had never been more secure in myself and what I was capable of with God’s help. I felt pretty tough.
I began to love my life again and accept it for what it was, but I never wanted to be comfortable staying there. I wanted a better life for my sons and I, so I began to take steps to bring it about.
I worked a lot of hours (mostly all weekends and sometimes double shifts) at Sonic that summer, rolling in the tips and walking with a spring in my step. During this time it was amazing how many people decided I needed to date again; and they just happened to have an uncle, cousin, brother, neighbor…..you name it. They would send them up to Sonic so I could meet them. Wow, I remember thinking more than once, “Do they really think I’m desperate?” (Haha). Let’s just say they were less than attractive to me. They came in all ages and sizes and brought to Sonic with them many awkward moments. We did have some good laughs over it at Sonic, for sure.
Every-time I thought I might consider dating, I had a reality check that there was no one around I was interested in; and I was not going to bring guys around my boys and mess with their little heads. I couldn’t see myself with anyone; but I knew if I ever could be, it would be different than before. Consequently, my weekends were spent working hard in the hot summer and letting my young 16 year old fellow car hop friends do the dating 🙂 I have such warm memories of that summer. That’s truly when my life began to change quickly, with every day better than the day before.
I signed up for nursing school (and was accepted) which was a huge confidence boost. I had been depression free for a few months at this point and had learned to be ok with being alone. I missed being loved; gosh, that felt like forever since I had.
One miracle after another happened in my life, such as a gift of money that was given to me, interest free and not to be repaid until after my graduation from nursing school. That loan completely paid off my car, bought me a washing machine, and the boys school clothes for the fall. This gift was given me so that I could quit my job at Sonic and go to nursing school full time. What a blessing! I still tear up when I think of the fact that God loved me enough to have someone help me like that.
Another thing that happened that summer was a lot of swinging done by Caleb and Charley on the (less than safe looking ) neighborhood swing sets. They were a ways down from the house through the back yard, and oh how they loved to meet their little friends down there and swing and play. I remember they had to come back every ten to fifteen minutes to let me know they were ok :). Some of the little kids were less than cared for and a bit more street smart than my boys, but they managed to hold their own. Caleb had just turned three and what an adorable three year old he was. Dark brown eyes and white blond hair, with a summer tan. He’s always been the singer of my kids (still is). It was only after my parents came for a visit one afternoon and my dad walked down with the boys to swing that I realized just how much singing Caleb did while swinging. Dad told me later how Caleb would swing and sing a special song over and over with only a few simple words….”I want my daddy to come home.”
My dad was so touched by this, as was I when I heard it. How my heart ached for this little guy. My dad decided at the time he would talk with Caleb about his song (which by the way I feel was a prayer). He asked Caleb about it, and Caleb explained that was what he wanted. My dad asked him if he had ever heard about step daddys? Caleb said, “Noooooo,” but his interest was peaked!! “What’s that?” he asked. So my dad explained and Caleb’s little face lit up with excitement. From that day on he never sang that song because he had a new song that he sang loudly in his famous little southern accent, “My mommas gonna’ buy me a ‘tep-daddy. ” I guess he figured that’s why we didn’t have one yet; maybe I didn’t have enough money saved. hahahaha I know God heard his prayer and he had someone in mind that would suit Caleb just fine as well as Charley. Charley was my little man, always looking after me and checking on me. My little elderly neighbor lady told me once that Charley had come over not long after we had first moved in and knocked on her door. There stood my handsome little Charley and he said “Miss Hazel, please start praying, my moms in the bathroom crying again.”
Every time I think of that my heart just breaks. I wish they hadn’t had to go through all they did, but I’m thankful God filled in the gaps that I sometimes left when I was so heartbroken.
Not all was sad; we ended up having a great summer, laughing, playing, working and healing…. preparing for our future. The boys started school the same time I started nursing school, kindergarten for Charley and head start for Caleb. Caleb would cry every morning and say,”Momie, I don’t wanta’go to ‘kool”. But he soon adjusted and Charley thrived.
Life had changed so much; our little house felt like home, because to us it was. It felt like I was seeing in color again after black and white. I would sometimes let myself think about the fact that maybe there was someone out there who was going to love me, and my boys…..I began to dream and hope and even pray that it would be possible. I wasn’t sure I could trust again, love without walls of protection, but maybe I thought, just maybe. One night in the late quietness, alone with my thoughts, I suddenly realized I couldn’t remember the last time I had cried. I was happy again, fully content, just loving the peace in my heart and mind. I too was singing a new song!
Ecclesiastes 3:11
He has set the right time for everything. He has given us a desire to know the future, but never gives us the satisfaction of fully understanding what he does.

20140130-114645.jpg

Chapter 5: The Cinderella Setup

Weeks and months had gone by since the darkest days. Funny how you feel they will last forever, and then one day you wake up and realize they’re history.
I was busy with nursing school and loving every minute, still dropping by Sonic but only for a cherry coke, or hot fudge shake. I missed carhopp-ing in a strange way (not enough to go back ha).

I can honestly say my heart was healed. It was supernatural and much faster than I would have thought possible……now this doesn’t mean I didn’t have issues or insecurities; oh I did, and it was a work I would continue for sometime. Heart break is a deep wound, that heals in layers. It’s important to heal each one or you will experience a rupture down the line. In order to become whole you have to deal with every tiny detail; don’t skip any.

I was 26 years old, Charley had just turned 6 and Caleb 3. I had grown in so many ways throughout the previous months, I hardly recognized myself. I had my insecurities that were left over, but I had some self confidence. I never felt humiliation anymore, or shame. I was pretty impressed that I had made it out on the other side and not only was intact, I was better. I held no hard feelings, no “what ifs”, no “maybe so’s” …..I had definitely closed that chapter and stood ready to walk through the open door to my future.

My sister and I talked often by phone, back when you paid for long distance…..she was always more than happy to foot the bill so we could talk.
We laughed a lot and I started going to see her and her husband and sons on weekends occasionally when the boys had their visitation. She lived in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, which was only about a 2 1/2 hour drive. Just about perfect and a good little break for me.
She had been saying for some time (since before I was ready) that I should start dating. The thought scared me, it felt foreign, almost silly to me; yet I was lonely and longed for some companionship. I wasn’t thinking someone to love, just to enjoy, have fun. It had been over 7 years since I had dated, and the thought of starting that awkward process did not sound appealing.

Pam (my sis) would just gently encourage me here and there.
Then there was a phone call with her once where she brought up a possible option 🙂
She knew I didn’t want to date anyone from the Mena area, (I had a whole list in my mind of definite “no can do’s”); so she explained she had someone she thought I should meet. She further explained that he was her neighbor (a few houses down) and that since he lived in Oklahoma (a whole state away) that would be a safe scenario for me to start off with…..just interacting with someone, possibly.
We didn’t talk about it again for a week or two and then it came back up. Apparently he fit a lot of my criteria: he was 26 (I wanted someone my age), he had never been married, (something else on my list), and he was tall (a definite must be).
She explained further that she didn’t know him, but that his sister n law (who also lived in the neighborhood ) was one of her good friends and walking buddies .
During one of their walks as they talked about this and that, Pam mentioned,”I need to find my sister a husband “, sort of jokingly but also meaning it. Her friend (Gail) said, “Well I need to find my brother n law a wife”…..and they laughed and thought it was funny. The longer they talked the more they began to think that maybe introducing us wouldn’t be such a bad idea. So they came up with a plan of sending each of us pictures of the other one, along with an address (way before email folks:) and then we could either write each other or not. I agreed to this as it seemed extremely safe from an emotional view as well as not awkward in that he didn’t know my past or think of me as the ex-preacher’s wife.

A few days later a picture of him arrived in my mail; I still remember looking at it over and over. I was very impressed. He looked fit, handsome and tall:) I thought he was super cute in fact and I had that feeling of excitement tickle my stomach, such a foreign feeling; but I liked it! I only hoped my sis would give a decent picture of me to him and that he would be interested enough to write me; that’s all I really hoped for, nothing more.
A week or more passed and then there it was, a letter from the mystery man! My fingers fumbled with the envelope , my heart skipped a few beats and I was surprised at myself how excited I was over a letter-ha.

I still have that letter, and when I look at it I remember that feeling all over again so vividly.
I felt young again, excited, intrigued. I felt like I had a secret that everyone wished they knew. I put his picture where I could see it and shared it with a handful of close friends who I could trust to be discreet.

I answered his letter and anxiously waited to hear back……but no letter came. Even better he called me!
Not only were my tears a memory, all I could do now is smile, almost uncontrollably. I don’t think I could have cried if I tried. Hadn’t met this guy, had only spoken once briefly on the phone, one letter…….but the excitement /nervousness/ giddiness was much bigger. It was different ….. I had no idea!!!

Psalm 116
I love the Lord, because he hears me;
he listens to my prayers.
2 He listens to me
every time I call to him.
3 The danger of death was all around me;
the horrors of the grave closed in on me;
I was filled with fear and anxiety.
4 Then I called to the Lord,
“I beg you, Lord, save me!”
5 The Lord is merciful and good;
our God is compassionate.
6 The Lord protects the helpless;
when I was in danger, he saved me.
7 Be confident, my heart,
because the Lord has been good to me.
8 The Lord saved me from death;
he stopped my tears
and kept me from defeat.
9 And so I walk in the presence of the Lord
in the world of the living.
10 I kept on believing, even when I said,
“I am completely crushed,”
11 even when I was afraid and said,
“No one can be trusted.”