Monday, December 10, 2012

Struggles & joys of being a single parent

Welcome back!  It's been awhile since my first post, but with good reason...  The SingleAgDaddy isn't going to be so single anymore:)  More on that later.

Now that you know my story, it's time to talk about some of the struggles and joys of being a single parent, let alone a single parent in agriculture.  Believe me, the ups and downs faced with children that have both parents seem to be amplified when only one parent is present.  You do everything on you own.  From making breakfast in the morning to tucking her in at night, it was just me.  As I mentioned in my first post, I am incredibly blessed to have had, and still have, such a wonderful support system.  These people have made an unmeasurable impact on Ellie that will last the rest of her life.

From the time that Ellie started living with me full-time up until just before my first post, I was employed by the local John Deere dealer as an AMS specialist/consultant.  So not only did I have farming to do with my dad year round with row crops and cattle after normal hours at work; I also had to work extra hours in the spring and fall to assist growers with their GPS needs.  There were a couple other guys and I that covered probably a 7 or 8 county area.  The bragging rights were who had the most phone calls on the first day of planting, and we quickly found out that the iPhones had a capacity of 100 calls in the recent calls list.  This mark was easily surpassed by 10 or 11am.  As you can imagine, most nights during planting and harvest I would either pick up Ellie from daycare (She had an AWESOME daycare lady!  Thank you sooooo much Miss Colleen!) and drop her off with my mom, or my mom would have to pick her up because I would be in somebody's tractor or combine an hour away.  There were also plenty of nights that Ellie went to bed without me getting to tuck her in, and lots of mornings that I would already be gone before she got up.

Things changed somewhat for the better when she started kindergarten, because this meant I had to wait for the bus to pick her up in the mornings before I could start my day away from home.  There were a few days that I would drop her off at mom and dad's for the bus to pick her up there, but not as much as before.  Also, John Deere would hold dealer training sessions across the country, so it wasn't out of the ordinary to hop on a plane and be gone for a few days at a time.  It was enough that I sure got tired of traveling pretty quick! 

Other than too many work hours and some traveling, there were some emotionally hard times as well.  I always struggled with the thoughts of "Am I a good dad?," "Am I teaching her the right the things in the right way?," "How do I do this?,"  "How do I do that?"  I can remember all of this building up and coming to a head one Sunday morning before church.  I don't think either of us slept well the night before, and we were running late (a usual occurrence for us at that time).  She wasn't complying with any of my requests and just really dragging things out and being a little drama queen.  This was so unlike her!  I just couldn't take it anymore and I had a major moment of weakness.  I completely broke down, smacked the wall in frustration, and just sank onto the floor in tears.  I felt helpless.  I felt overwhelmed.  I didn't think I could do it anymore.  Of course Ellie saw me and she started crying, so we cried together.  What a pitiful sight!  A 6'4" man sitting on the floor crying with a 4 year old little girl wrapped up in an elephant towel.  Maybe she had enough as well?  Maybe she didn't think she could live without her mother?  I have no idea what does on in a young child's mind, but I can promise you they are more aware than we might think.  Anyway, on to the good stuff!

One good thing about me being gone or working insane hours is that it truly made me appreciate what I had at home.  I made sure to never miss a call when I was out of town, and sometimes mom would bring Ellie (and much appreciated dinner) to the field.  On the weekends when I could be home for fieldwork during the day, I sometimes found myself with a pretty darn cute little rider for a couple of hours!  The only difficult part was not having autosteer in the combine.  You try cutting beans with with one hand while the other keeps your daughter's head from bobbing around because she fell asleep!

Another good thing about being a single parent is you get to set your own rules and morals, which was a blessing in my case.  At Ellie's mom's house, I am sure there are rules, but I don't know if the down-home morals are taught there.  Her mother has definitely permanently broken bonds with members of her immediate family.  The reasons range from not paying on borrowed money, not paying on co-signed items such as a house and vehicle, and probably just being an all-around not good person.  This amazes me because there was never any drug or alcohol abuse.  At my house, Ellie is taught to respect adults, obey rules, etc.  I thought I was doing a good job of this, but my eyes were opened by another's perspective recently.  Turns out I don't know everything and my way just mayyyy not always be the best way.  Who would've thought!

I know those were only a couple of examples for the joys of being a single parent, but believe me, we don't have enough time or space to list all of the joys that come along with this wonderful privilege of being a parent.  I fear that her little girl moments are almost over.  She will be 8 in May, and this will probably be her last Christmas of fully believing in Santa and some of the Christmas magic.  I don't know how much longer she is going to play with Barbies, talk to her stuffed animals, and have that sweet innocence to her.  Although I know one chapter is coming to a close for us (This is so difficult to type and you can't imagine the huge lump in my throat right now!), I know another one is going to be starting soon.  I am so grateful that God has allowed me to be a part of her life!

Speaking of chapters in our lives, Ellie and I are getting ready to start another one.  You know, the one I briefly mentioned at the beginning of this post!  We have been so very fortunate for a special woman to come into our lives:)  More on that in the next post!

Thank you for reading!!!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

How I came to have custody...

Everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY, always asks how in the world I got custody of my daughter when they find out that it's just her and I.  Usually, I give them the short version because I have repeated the story countless times.  Be forewarned:  I'm about to give you the long version!

I got divorced from Ellie's mother in May of 2007.  And just so you know, if you ever want to get divorced in a hurry, do it in Illinois.  No waiting period!  I had no idea how emotionally devastating divorce would be.  I experienced so many emotional swings.  Up and down, up and down.  I tried to save the marriage as long as I could because I couldn't imagine Ellie not being in my daily life.  I always saw other divorced dads just getting their kids every Wednesday and every other weekend.  Some even less than that. Finally, I made the decision to file for divorce because I wanted Ellie to grow up in a happier environment.  I made sure I always saw her as much as possible and soaked up every minute of our time together.  In the beginning, I lived about an hour from her, and then her mom moved to the same town.  I had now had even more time with Ellie.

After about a year of living in Evansville, IN, I had all that I could stand of city life.  I had two classes to finish my degree at Purdue University, the economy had tanked, and nobody it seemed could find a good paying job.  I decided that it was time to come back home and finish my degree.  So in March of 2008, I headed back north to Montgomery County.  I worked at a local co-op and on our family's farm until the fall semester. Things were busy with 18 hours of class, harvest, and plowdown fertilizer and lime in full swing.  Even through all of that, I never skipped any of my time with Ellie.  I had to do all of the driving, so I would spend 7-8 hours driving to get her and back on a Friday night and then again to take her home on a Sunday afternoon.  Thank you to my mom who made the drive a couple of times when things were really busy! 

There was one weekend that I didn't get Ellie, and it was in one of those busy crunch times of farming.  Mom went after Ellie for me, but when she arrived at Ellie's mother's home, nobody would answer the door.  Ellie's mom had texted me earlier that she wouldn't hand over our daughter to anybody but me.  If any of you know my mother, then you know how ridiculous it was of her to make that statement.  So mom went to the Sheriff's Dept, got a deputy, and tried again.  We knew they were home because mom saw Ellie's older half-sister look out the window, and I could tell from texts that they were indeed home.  After mom tried to get Ellie a second time with the deputy watching, it was enough for a report to be filed if needed.  Mom had to come home empty handed.  Right after she started the drive back north, I received a text from Ellie's mom saying "hahahahahaha!!!!"  What a bitch!

In December of 2008, I started seeing Ellie more than my scheduled time.  She would stay with me for an extra day, then two, then three, then a week at a time.  Finally I filed for custody.  It wasn't your typical surprise filing.  I had planted thoughts of Ellie living up her in her mother's mind for a few months, and it was beginning to pay off.  They weren't for my own selfish reasons, but for Ellie.  She did so well up here, and you could just see her thriving every time she came up.  I knew what kind of a person her mother was (still is), and I didn't want my child growing up learning to be like her mother.  Her mother, just so you know, is a narcissist.  She doesn't love anything as much as she loves herself.  She cares about tanning, working out, getting her hair done, and having shiny things.  Normally it's ok to do those things and have those things, because most people work for them.  If that's how they choose to spend their money, fine.  But she doesn't work for it.  She takes advantage of other people to get what she wants.  She emptied out her first husband, then did the same to me.  After we were divorced, she took her own grandma for probably around $40,000, and she also stole her mom's credit cards.  She has several people suing her for unpaid rent, judgements, foreclosure, and is even being sued over a dog that she didn't completely pay for.  She has also driven a vehicle for that last few years that her grandma cosigned for, but has never made the first payment on it.  Poor grandma has made every payment:(

Now do you see why I didn't want Ellie to learn to be like her mother?  I hope this doesn't come off as some kind of juvenile trash-talking like you see on facebook.  I meant for that to be descriptive so you realize where I am coming from. I sincerely hope none of you have anybody in your life like this.  The sad thing is that she can can be a good mom.  She always had her kids well dressed, clean, and made sure they ate healthy.  I've even seen moments of niceness in her.  I don't understand where all of the negatives come from, but they are there.  Even though I do not love her, and would never want her to be a part of my life again, I truly hope she can find some sort of help for the sake of her children.

Stay with me folks!  We're almost there!

So after I filed for custody, Ellie's mom put up a little bit of a battle, but we never had to go in front of a judge for a hearing.  She and I basically worked it out through our attorneys.  I would ask her what she wanted, then have my attorney put in into an agreed order to enter into the court.  This had to be redone several times before her mom would sign off, but we got it done.  I think the biggest thing in the agreement was for her not to pay me any child support.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank my attorney who worked on this case.  If you are reading this, thanks again. You kept me calm and made me realize a few things during that process.  I am forever grateful for your work and I'm very proud to call you a friend even though I never see you or your family.  But great Christmas card!!!:)  If you ever need a good attorney in the Evansville area, follow the link to this firm: Ziemer, Stayman, Weitzel, & Shoulders, LLP

So. In February of 2009, I officially was awarded custody.  Ever since then, her mom has slowly been backing out of Ellie's life.  She has seen her about half of her scheduled time.  Even a phone call to her daughter is rare.  We even only live an hour apart again, but the effort to see Ellie is just not there.  In August of 2011, she signed over custody of her oldest daughter to her father as well.

I can't tell you how much Ellie has enriched my life.  She is on my mind when I make the smallest of decisions.  Should I go out of town for the weekend?  Should I even have a night to myself?  I'm still learning to balance personal time with Ellie time, but I really feel like I have gotten pretty well at it!  It's a learning process, and I'm afraid to say that I will probably never have being a father mastered.  I do know that I will always give Ellie my best though, and that is what matters.

I'm so lucky to have such a sweet girl!  She hasn't given me one major problem, but the teenage years will be here before I know it!  Let's just hope the sweetness, kindness, sharing, being empathetic, and her all around little happiness continues for a long, long time.

Thank you for reading, and I apologize for the choppiness of this post.  It's late, but I wanted to get this done so we can move onto some good stuff!!!


After thought... A friend reminded me of the song "Highway 20 Ride" by the Zac Brown Band.  She was absolutely right.  That song brings back so many vivid memories from those drives!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The beginning...

Hello everybody!  Actually, nobody as of right now, but hopefully that will soon change.

This is my very first attempt at a blog entry.  I might be behind the times, but better late than never. 

I suppose the appropriate subject to start with would be to tell you a little about me, so here goes!

I was born in Lafayette, IN and raised around Crawfordsville, IN.  I've lived in Montgomery County for most of my life with the exception of a few years in southern Illinois and Indiana around the Evansville area.
Growing up on a farm, my love for agriculture has not stopped growing from day one.  I can remember dad putting hog feed in  my little pail with a clown face on it so I could "help."  I probably thought I was a big man back then!  We raised hogs from farrow to finish and also raised Holstein cattle.  We ddn't milk them, and I'm not quite sure why they were Holstein.  Nonetheless, I was too young to care about what they were.  I just remember how neat it was to watch the silage come out of the silo and those huge steers coming up to eat!  I don't think the hogs fascinated me as much, but I did have my go-to pig Wally.  Not that he was special, but I think he had markings that made him easy to identify.

We lived on that farm until I was in the third grade, and man how my brother and I would roam with just us two or a couple of our friends.  Days were endless there.  We would crawl all over the farm machinery in the barn, make forts, and make tunnels and little hideouts in the hay barn. We even took old barn siding from a barn that blew down and made a tree house by ourselves!  That thing was sturdy because we put a couple layers of those boards down and secured them with about all of the nails we could find!  Of course is was right above our sandbox.  That's where a lot of work got done... Lots of farming and construction work with the Tonka toys.  There are many, many more memories from that Whitefeather Farm, and they will always be special to me.

During second grade, my mom got rushed to the hospital.  I can still remember the ambulance coming to pick her up.  Turns out she was diagnosed with Lupus.  This meant dad needed to get an off-farm job for the health insurance benefits.  He got a job with UPS and during the middle of my third grade year, we moved to another farm that we already owned so dad could scale down his farming duties.  He retired from UPS 25 years later!  I can't thank him enough for the sacrifices that he made for our family.  I have been very blessed to have the parents, brother, and daughter that I do and I can't imagine life without them!

I lived at that location until I went to the University of Southern Indiana and later on Purdue University from where I graduated with an Associate's in Agronomy.  I had quite the time during my college years as I'm sure many of you did as well!  I think I learned more from life during those years than I did from my classes.  I won't ever forget some of those professors and what they did for me whether they realized it or not.  Thank you to all of you educators out there!

I'm sure you are wondering why I am a single dad, and yes... I have custody of my daughter.  That will be another blog in itself!  Not really ag-related, but an interesting story nonetheless!

Once I get past the get-to-know-me blogs on here, I sure hope it leads to interesting and productive posts that we can all benefit from.  Maybe even just for a laugh:)

Thank you for reading,