Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Morning Glory

So what's your story? I've been asked this by many. Why not write it down. How did someone like me go from being a high school drop out, career waitress with alcoholic tendencies, single mom without a driver's license become a college graduate with a license to professionally teach what I love, home owner and soon to be business owner. When someone asks what happened that made me change my life, I tell them exactly what it was. My children. The minute I decided to be a mom was when I made a commitment to provide them as stable of a life as I could. I could not have done this without people like my mom and sisters, especially when my boys were younger. They helped nurture my babies when I was at work or there were times when I lived with them or them with me. When my boys started school so did I. I always told myself I would graduate college before they graduated 8th grade. It took a bit longer but I made it before they graduated high school. When my eldest son Estevan started K-4 I went from being a single mom to moving in with the kids dad to see if we could make it work. I began studying for my HSED and driver's license. I was 28 at the time. The next year when Darren started school I applied to one of the top colleges in the state, Alverno college and was accepted. I began my studies in Psychology. At that time the kid's dad was a heavy drinker, he tended bar before  eventually losing his job and began drinking more heavily. I too began drinking more often. We were both stressed. Some nights he wouldn't come home and the nights he would he would want to fight and became abusive. There were a few nights I didn't come home after work or slept in the van or downstairs where my mother was renting. My niece would babysit while I was working evenings or stayed late drinking. When he was sober he was either sleeping or in a bad mood. The kids were old enough to notice his temper and our arguments. I didn't want the kids growing up in a home with constant strife so I began planning to move out. I had a part-time job and at the end of my shifts their dad would collect my money to pay the bills and rent. He made side money gambling and tending bar under the table. I tried leaving once to live with my sister but she had no room, I had no car so he picked us up. I waited till tax time and had my accountant transfer the funds into a new account. I made an arrangement with my aunt and uncle to move into their upper 1 bedroom rental. I had to leave Alverno due to not having any mode of transportation. I stopped the excessive drinking and decided to go back to school after taking a semester or two off. I had been in the application process for the Milwaukee police dept so I decided to study Criminal Justice at Milwaukee Area Technical College. After passing some of the tests, I couldn't get over the 6 foot wall so that disqualified me. I switched my focus to Human Resources but wasn't really feeling that. I was 33 then and that is when my hubby came back into my life after having been absent since I was 21. We quickly fell in love and were married. I took another break from school while we settled in to our new life. During this time I had to get a restraining order on my X. There was still quite a bit of animosity between us and he made sure felt it. We went to court for 50/50 placement. I had been a waitress since I was seventeen. I enjoyed the hospitality industry and you could always find me in a kitchen baking or cooking. I always wanted to enroll in the culinary program at MATC but every time I mentioned it, someone said there was a wait list so I never did. But this time I called to see for myself. The program had low enrollment and there definitely wasn't a wait. I often thought of owning my own restaurant and prior to this it seemed out of reach. In Milwaukee, the food truck industry was up and coming. This was a little more within my reach. So I set out to take on this dream of becoming my own boss. 2014, I went to school Monday thru Thursdays and waited tables Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was able to be home during the evenings to spend time with the family. Finally in December of 2017, I graduated with a degree in Culinary Management. I began working on food trucks and in restaurant kitchens in 2016 and accumulated several hours of experience. In the spring of 2018, I received a forwarded email from one of my culinary instructors. The email was from the West Allis School District. They were looking for recent graduates with work experience to be hired in their Career and Technical Education Department as a Family and Consumer Science Instructor. An individual such as myself would be able to attain an experienced based teaching license by the Department of Public Instruction in the state of Wisconsin. Being a teacher always crossed my mind but never seemed within reach. But I figured since I received this email there must be a chance. For a split second, I contemplated ignoring it, I thought to myself that I'd never get picked. My plan was to secure a job as a chef or sous chef for a few years while paying off debt and saving up for a food truck. For some reason I started the application process. It took a few months and during that time I was really hoping that this to good to be true job would turn out to be true. By August, right before the start of the school year I received a confirmation letter. I got the job. My first semester was intense! I had a few breakdowns. My husband was in danger of losing his source of income. He is a mechanic and has his own LLC. The residential garage he was working out of was about to be up for sale. Thankfully for us, the owner is a friend of the family. We struggled to secure a loan but managed to and by October 31st, 2018 we closed on the house. The house needed to be renovated but we didn't have time to do that so we moved in January 1st. Today is December 18th, 2019 and so far the hubby has made many updates to the home including a gorgeous new kitchen, roof and upper bathroom addition although the bathroom has yet to be completed.  Each month was a struggle financially. Our goal is to refinance early 2020, pay off debt, purchase a food truck and be up and operating by the summer.  I share this story with my students. I actually begin with my childhood and what led up to me having dropped out of high school. Since I didn't take the traditional route teachers take to teach, the students find my story intriguing. As a teen, I lacked guidance at the most crucial stages. I was at a high school where I was just a number. So today, I stress to students how fortunate they are to be at a high school where they have so much guidance and support from staff and administration and encourage them to take advantage of it. They are my biggest cheerleaders right now. They are always asking when and where I will open the food truck. We will see. Until then, I will continue growing professionally, paying off debt and saving up. I do plan to teach for a few more years while selling food during breaks. God willing. I am 42 now and anticipate a bright future, hopefully at least one or both sons working by my side in a very successful business or if they head off to college or a trade school that would be just as awesome. What's your story? 

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