Monday, December 31, 2012

Goodbye to all that!

I know that at the end of the year, we are all supposed to reflect on everything that happened during these 12 months. But for me, I’d rather not do it. Don’t wanna do it because 2012 was just a crummy year for me.

The worst part of 2012 is that my mother passed away. Yes, I KNOW we are all supposed to find peace and comfort when a loved one dies, especially if that loved one was in a lot of pain. But I just wish my mother had been able to stick around just a little longer.

All the same, I accept that God called her home. My only comfort is that she is free now. No one can ever take advantage of her again. No one will ever hurt her or use her again. She has her voice back now. She has her legs back now. She can run again, sing, dance and fly free. Without pain. That is the best part.

Two of my uncles also died this year. One of them is an uncle I don’t even know if I ever met. I really SHOULD try to connect with family more often and reach out to relatives. That is one of my resolutions for 2013.

A cousin died this year, and we also lost a dear family friend this year: Mackie. I was shocked when I learned that he had died, especially at such a young age. It was a very sad time and I still mourn this loss. He was always cool to hang out with and I have fond memories of him. He was one of the kindest people I have ever known.

The kind people really stand out.

Aside from deaths, another thing did not go so well this year. The job search sucked. I tried to get a job both from home and outside of the house but no luck there. I REALLY need to get a part-time job, so that is also something I will focus on next year.

We were hit with a REALLY bad medical bill to pay this year, which required several months to completely pay off, and that also hurt us financially. As it is, my son needs eye surgery (again!) and I really want to get THAT taken care of more than anything. I don’t know how we’ll get him the surgery he needs, but it must be done as soon as possible considering what it is for. I wanted that to happen this year but it did not.

Those are the big things that made 2012 suck. I hope 2013 is better. 

P.S. And, yes, I DID reflect on some good things that happened this year. That's on my writing blog, if anyone is interested.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

A small but happy Christmas

I know they say that Christmas is not about the gifts but I was hoping that we could at least get the kids what they REALLY wanted for Christmas this year. That happened thanks to hubby saving and some help from a “secret Santa.” December has been a pretty tight month this year financially, so I was worried that we would have some trouble getting Christmas presents. But, thankfully, we were able to pull off another nice Christmas this year. I was able to send a few Christmas gifts to siblings thanks to credit, and the best part is, we all got everything we wanted. I actually got a surprise gift, too!

Christmas morning started out really peaceful, as it should. I woke up early and the kids slept in, so I was able to add extra stocking stuffers to everyone’s stockings. (Up until Christmas Day, everybody kept peeking in their stockings! For this reason, I waited until Christmas Day to add my own gifts – movies and gift cards – to the stockings.) I also spent this “alone time” relaxing with a first cup of coffee and just basking in the beauty of the Christmas morn. (And feeling a little excited about the pending holiday cheer. I kept imagining the smiles on my little ones’ faces when they opened their gifts!)

Finally, the children woke up and, of course, they immediately proceeded to wake up their dad so we could all get started with the presents. After hubby got coffee and settled down, we decided Jennifer would play Santa this year so she started handing out gifts.

And, like I said, we all got what we wanted. Jennifer got the scooter she’s been asking for for years – and Jesse got a scooter, too! I got the book and candle I had asked for – of course, I had “books” on my Christmas list and I’ll be able to get more than one as a gift because I also got a gift card to the bookstore! Yay! Hubby got books, too (the kids each got him one and he also got a bookstore gift card) and Jesse got the Lightning McQueen car he had his heart set on. I also got a very cute essay that Jennifer wrote about family and Christmas (her dad and I both read it and it just made my heart melt) and Jennifer also got the book she wanted to buy earlier this year but didn’t have enough money for: Dork Diaries #4. She was THRILLED to get that book! (She also has #5; her dad got her that one earlier this year.)

And Jesse got a book, too: His very own copy of my new children’s book, A Million Doughnuts, which I had dedicated to him. Once Jennifer saw it, she started showing Jesse her illustrations in it. It was so cute!

And I think he liked the pictures of the doughnuts best. Ha!

Chewie got a new dog bed, as well as two dog toys. He didn’t like his new bed at first but I think that is starting to change. In fact, he now prefers the new dog bed over the one I keep for him in my bedroom!

Oh, yes. I did get a surprise gift. It was a surprise because I had secretly wanted one for so long but kept telling hubby, “Oh, no. I don’t need that.” But he got it, anyway: AN ANDROID!! Woo-hoo! I can’t believe it! I have a smartphone! Yay!!

The phone I have now is on its way to the great big cell phone heaven in the sky so he knew I needed a new phone. I didn’t say anything because I know they cost a bit. I am glad he got me one. I didn’t expect a smartphone, just a regular phone like I have now. So that was a very big surprise. Now I just need to figure out how to use it.

And Jennifer has taken over what is now my “old phone” until it conks out. I hope this will show her what it’s like to have her own phone and I hope she will learn how to be responsible with it. (She has had her own house key before, but she lost both keys we gave to her!) We DO want her to be responsible and we DO want her to be able to reach us in emergencies, but it’s a work-in-progress.

Here are a bunch of pictures I took from Christmas. The dog’s name is Chewbacca (we call him Chewie). There’s also a pic of the gingerbread men the kids and me baked.

Happy holidays!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

With Christmas cards, it's "do or die!"

For the record, I don’t procrastinate. I don’t put things off until the last minute or start singing Annie’s “Tomorrow” song when faced with a HUGE thing to do. I USED to procrastinate, yes. Especially when I was in college and had two days to read 150 pages for English Lit. (AAH!) But nowadays, if something needs to get done, then I make it a point to “get ‘er done.” When it comes to life being so crazy-busy, however, or the holidays have me spinning in circles, things don’t get done right away. Or sometimes, I figure out the best way to do something.

Or sometimes, I get busy!

In this case, I just got busy.

I DID NOT want to be late with Christmas cards this year. I wanted to get ALL the cards out on time. That’s all well and good, but I realized something this year: If I want to get all the Christmas cards out on time, I need to plan ahead. Didn’t this year, which is why I kept running out of cards, why I kept running out of stamps and why I was so late getting everybody’s addresses who I didn’t have addresses for.

That is what happened. I just kept running out of cards, running out of stamps and being so late getting addresses. (As it is, we got one card returned from someone who moved since last time we sent her a card. I guess she forgot to give us her new address.)

Today, I got the last 5 out of 50-something cards I have to send out this year. The rest will either be e-cards or unsent. I decided to send e-cards after I couldn’t remember how much I need for postage to send one to Canada. (Last year, I tried to mail something to one of my Canadian friends, and the mailman left it in my mailbox with a note saying “(this much) needed to send mail to Canada.”) And, yes, of course I KNOW I can spend a delightful few hours standing in line at the post office to get enough postage on cards going out to Canada (and England and Hungary and Czechoslovakia and... ) but after spending a long time in line at the post office already to mail stuff (and get more stamps!), I decided that one visit was enough.

But, yes, I mailed the last of the actual cards today. Woo-hoo!

And, I know, it’s soo close to Christmas. Those cards might not even arrive until AFTER Christmas. But I got ‘er done. Mission accomplished! 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Oh, no. Snow!

Last night, I was checking email before going to bed. Jennifer came out of her room to where I was near the back door and said, “It’s snowing!”

Indeed, it was snowing. And Jennifer was hoping she’d get a snow day from school today.

When I looked out the window early this morning, I started to hope so, too. But that didn’t happen. Both kids had school today.


I was NOT happy. One thing I don’t like about living in the northwest is dealing with the winter weather. Specifically, driving in the winter weather. I DO NOT like driving when there is snow, ice and sleet on the streets.

This morning, it was just snow, along with some flurries here and there.

All the same, I didn’t want to drive on a street like that! I DID NOT feel safe driving on a street like that.

I tried to talk myself into it. This was, after all, the last week of school before Winter Break. And the children did have to give their teachers their Christmas presents today. I even watched as one van drove along on the street. It went at a normal speed and seemed to be going okay.

That should’ve convinced me I could drive okay too, right? WRONG!

Instead, I waited until after sunrise to drive the kids to school. Jennifer was NOT happy to be late for school today but I told her that when she is in MY shoes, THEN she can complain! I just won’t drive unless I feel comfortable enough to drive in bad weather. If I’m too nervous to drive, I won’t do it. Plain and simple. I have to think about safety first.

Of course, I could’ve asked my husband to drive the kids to school, but he doesn’t get into bed until 4 in the morning and I didn’t think he’d be aware enough to drive in bad weather.

I did get the kids to school okay. And their teachers got their Christmas presents. No problems picking them up, either.

We’re supposed to have more snow tonight. And more snow tomorrow, too. We’ll see how much of it will be on the streets in the morning.

My nervousness about winter driving may be because I’m not used to it yet. I know, after 7 years of living in Oregon, you’d think I’d be used to it by now. But no, I am not.

When we first moved here, I was fascinated with the snow. Of course, I have lived where it snows before. But after spending over a decade living in a desert, snow was “new” to me again. It was cool, neat and fun. But now the novelty is fading – especially since now I’m driving around in it.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Another type of "wrapping up"

December is the month of wrapping – gift wrapping, that is. We have been doing a bit of gift-wrapping around the house, and working on getting all of the gifts delivered, too, as well as all of our Christmas cards mailed. However, it seems like there’s another kind of “wrapping” going on for us this month. That of wrapping up unfinished business!

I am trying and trying to finish up some long-term projects I have had going on. These are mainly book manuscripts but I am also trying to finish reading and reviewing books for Night Owl Reviews. (I have 2 left!) I am working on finishing revisions of the second book in The GHOST Group series (almost done!) and today I finished revising my poetry collection Wandering Soul, which I am planning to submit on Friday. I am very excited about it; it contains over 100 poems! This will probably be the only poetry collection I ever do that is so large.

Jennifer has also been busy wrapping something up, too: An art project she has been working on for several days. And she finished it today! Unfortunately, she is not happy with how her picture turned out. I am no artist myself but I am a creative, too, so I told her to hold on to her picture. Keep the work she doesn't like because she might get ideas on how to fix it later. Or she can use it as a guide to figure out where she went wrong. In any event, I REALLY like her picture and encouraged her to send me a copy. (That's it at the top of this post.)

She has also been working on her next book, but because it is a novel, it is taking her some time to write. She’s been working on it whenever possible. I think it would be cool if she finishes the first draft before the new year!

I am planning on taking some downtime soon to spend the holidays with the kids and do holiday-related stuff (like our cookie baking day and crafts!), but I’ll try to get things done before the new year comes around. It’ll be 2013! A brand new year to start brand new things! But I’ll be around here and there to get things done. Or should I say, “wrap things up.” It’s good to finish things and this being the last month of the year, now is as good a time as any to finish them.

Friday, December 07, 2012

The First Aid decision

One goal I had for this year was to take a course. But, unfortunately, that did not work out. The course I wanted to take was in First Aid, a one-day course at the local college, but I was not able to arrange for it to happen in time. I recently learned the course is going to be offered again in February. However, there is another course I wanted to take that is also in February: Web design. I want to learn how to create web sites so I felt this would help me to learn that.

But, still. I could only take – afford – one course. Which one would it be?

Something that happened today helped me to decide.

While I was eating lunch with Jesse, we started to play around. It was at the end of our lunch – we were almost finished eating – and we just started being silly. I thought he was done chewing his food and that he had swallowed it so I continued to tickle him.

Then I realized he had NOT been done with his food. He had still been chewing it and now, after laughing from my tickling, the food had gone into his throat!

He jumped out of the chair and grasped his throat, his eyes wide. I realized with horror that my son was choking!

I jumped up and started pounding on his back but that didn’t work. That! Did! Not! Work!

I started to panic. I don’t know the Heimlich maneuver! And how do you use it on a preschooler?

I was freaking out and screaming for Jesse to breathe or swallow or SOMETHING!

Finally, I remembered something that my husband told me to do when someone was choking. Don’t bang on their back; bang on their chest instead.

So I turned Jesse around and gently thumped his chest. It was hard to keep myself from crying because he was clutching his neck and turning blue! But finally he got the food loose and it went down. Thank God!

I was so scared after that. That was the first time my kids had nearly choked as bad as that and the first time Jesse has almost choked on food. (Once, as a toddler, Jennifer nearly choked on a Lifesaver but fortunately I was able to help her.) I know that time is of the essence in a situation like that and I just can’t get over how I had not been able to help my son when his life was in danger. I was scared to death but also mad at myself. Why couldn’t I have helped him sooner?

So, after this incident, I have decided what course I will be taking next year. First Aid. Definitely First Aid. Definitely.

I think that is a course every parent should take.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

To comment or not to comment?

For the most part, I normally don’t comment on news articles that I read online. Sure, I do read other peoples’ comments, but mostly, I don’t have much of anything constructive to add to a discussion. Why waste time commenting with something like “That’s interesting” or “Who gives a flying flip?” It’s just a waste of time and really doesn’t add anything to a discussion.

Today, however, I read an article that I did not agree with. I have been following the story of the New York photographer who took the picture of a man pushed onto the subway tracks seconds before the man was crushed to death. This particular photo was on a recent cover of the New York Post. I have read several articles about this and have also spoken out about it on Twitter. (Nobody really responded to those tweets, so couldn’t get much feedback there.) I read one particular article today that stated the photographer was only acting naturally and that we cannot expect EVERYONE to be a Good Samaritan. And so, pretty much they were saying, “Stop throwing darts at him.”

Now, I am not one to judge people when I don’t know the WHOLE story, but I just didn’t like this deal at all. I disagreed with the article’s message and pretty much pointed out why I was not prepared to “give (the photographer) a break.” On the other hand, I’m not going to judge him or demonize him, either. I just didn’t like the whole thing.

But that’s just me. Just my opinion. And it IS an opinion! Just a comment I was sharing on an article that WELCOMES comments from readers.

Later, I went back to that article to see if other people were saying anything about this topic. There WAS another comment, and something about it just didn’t seem right. This particular person was saying, “Many people who are sitting in the safety and comfort of there [sic] homes are quick to judge unless you are there taking ..or not taking action to save a stranger at great risk to yourself keep your opinions to yourself .”

Wow. Keep my opinions to myself? Really?

First of all, I AM NOT judging the guy. I just said it’s hard to make him out to be a saint given what happened AFTER he took the picture.

Second, I won’t “keep my opinion to myself” when it comes to a web site that ALLOWS people to share their opinions! It’s a free country, you know! It’s called freedom of speech! If I have an opinion, then if I think it would contribute to a discussion, I will SHARE that opinion.

And I encourage everyone ELSE who wants to share their opinions to do so! If you have something to say about a topic, something helpful that adds to the discussion, then by all means, go for it! Share your thoughts. That’s how we create a discussion or debate on things. We share our thoughts and opinions. And I think that people SHOULD be able to share their thoughts and opinions, even if other readers do not agree with it.

I know that posting a comment on the Internet means that people will make snarky comments in return or judge me in some way or another. But I think it’s laughable that someone would advise another person NOT to share their opinions when it comes to a site that WELCOMES opinions!

Or it could be just me. Me and my silly opinions.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Welcoming December

“In cold December fragrant chaplets blow, And heavy harvests nod beneath the snow.”--Alexander Pope


“It’s plonking December already.”

Such was the tweet I read on Twitter when I logged in today. I could only chuckle and nod in agreement. Seriously, where has the year gone? Today is the first day of December. The first day of the last month of 2012.


The time has just flown by.

So today, I did the usual things I do when it’s the first of the month. Set aside the rent money in my bank account, turn the page of the calendar to the next month, and put out all the magazines we have for that particular month. (I am subscribed to quite a few magazines, so I usually have a good stack of the new month’s editions on hand when the first of the month arrives.) I also make mental notes of doctor appointments scheduled for this month as well as what birthdays there are this month. (My mother was the only one who had a November birthday, so it was a little hard last month when her birthday arrived and she was not there to celebrate it. We still did a little something in honor of her birthday.) I have a niece and a nephew with birthdays this month. The one with my nephew left me feeling sad because I haven’t talked with him for years. (We sort of lost touch.) So I started to think about trying to find out if anyone in the family has heard from him.

December means getting out the Christmas decorations, as well as all the Christmas-themed movies. Last year, we watched a Christmas movie for every day of December up until Christmas, and we are repeating that tradition this year, too. We have been watching The Munsters TV show on DVD, so we are excited that there is a Munsters Christmas movie out this year. There is also A Christmas Story 2! Wow! I hadn’t been aware of such a film. We’ll definitely have to check that out. We usually watch A Christmas Story on Christmas Day. Also last year, we watched all of the different versions of A Christmas Carol. I don’t think we’ll do a repeat this year. I’ll tear my hair out if I have to watch all those different Tiny Tims saying “And God bless us, everyone” all over again. AAH!!

Another thing about December is CHRISTMAS CARDS! Usually, people fill out Christmas cards on the day after Thanksgiving. Alas, I missed out on that AGAIN this year. Ugh! So I’m making it a point to get it done this weekend. Last year, I was sooo late with Christmas cards! I didn’t get them all out in time. One person even got her card the day AFTER Christmas! Gah! So I really gotta make it a point to work on getting them out as early as possible. Unfortunately, I don’t have all of the addresses for everybody, so tomorrow I am contacting people for addresses – well, those I need them from. I have contacted some already but they have not gotten back to me yet. If I don’t have their address, then I can’t send them a card. That’s just the way it’ll be.

As to Christmas presents, I have been working on that, too. I have some gifts planned for certain family members and I got Hubby and the kids a stocking stuffer so far. We’ve all made our lists so we have ideas on what to get everyone. And I know what I’m getting the dog!

Unfortunately, money IS tight this year, so I can’t get EVERYBODY in my family a gift. And some of them are couple gifts. I have yet to get a new job or a gig, so that compromises just how much I can give to family and friends. I am definitely looking for any good deals, in that regard!

It will be hard to celebrate Christmas on our own without being with our relatives and family members. It will also be hard getting through Christmas without that phone call to my mom. But  we will keep everyone in our thoughts. It sure would be nice if family could come and visit us for Christmas instead of us going to them but we understand that's not possible. (My youngest sister came out for one Thanksgiving and I will always be grateful to her for that. We had such a great visit and good times! That created some pictures we cherish and memories we like to share.)

Christmas aside, I am dreading something that we might get this month: Snow! We usually don’t get snow until after the new year, but whenever it may come, I am not looking forward to it. Of course, the kids get excited about snow, but as I have told them many times: “When you’re a kid, snow is fun. When you’re an adult, snow is work!” Thank goodness we have a garage to keep the cars in, but I don’t like driving on snowy streets. I still shudder when I remember the time my car slid on the ice and I almost crashed into a bus! Just don’t like driving in snowy weather. Which is why I try to avoid it when possible. Or ask Hubby to drive the kids to school!

This being the last month of the year, I am trying to get things done and wrap up loose ends. I like starting a new year fresh and ready to take on new things, so I am preparing for when that day comes. A new year will mean new opportunities and new life changes and while I’m nervous about this last month of the year and trying to finish up as much as I can, I am hopeful about 2013 and what new things the new year may bring.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Thanks, Mom"

Today started out pretty rough. I woke up feeling very sad, mainly because I am still trying to cope with the loss of my mother this year. It was hard to see her birthday come and go when she wasn’t here to celebrate it anymore. It was hard to go through Thanksgiving without that phone call to my mom. And now Christmas is coming. I am trying VERY hard to stay chipper even though I am deeply saddened that I can’t call Mom on Christmas like I did last year. I can’t call her ever again! And it’s hard. She’s gone during Christmas, too.

So, yes, I woke up feeling pretty sad. I’ve been sad a lot lately. I have been told that there will be good days and there will be bad days. And after I broke down in tears in the bathroom, behind the locked door because I didn’t want Jesse to see me cry, I started to ask myself, is this going to be one of those bad days?

But it couldn’t be one of those bad days! Not today! I had WORK to do! I have book promotion stuff to do for certain authors! I had a cover reveal for a new book to announce! I had some reading to get done for a book I’m going to write up a blurb for! And I had some writing to do!

This could not be one of those bad days.

So I tried to just continue with what I had to do. Even as I got Jesse up for school and get him his breakfast, get him ready for school, I barely had the energy, the drive, to do anything. I just wanted to climb back into bed and be sad all day.

But I couldn’t do that.

Later, after I got Jesse to preschool, I got on the computer and did as much as I could get done. I read an email from a friend of mine. This friend knows about my loss and she has been an awesome amount of support and understanding. She has lost her mother, too, in the past, so she knows that pain. And in this email, she offered some very comforting words. Something along the lines of “it will get better” and “You start to remember and think about the good times and the pain only comes once in awhile.  I think it is God's way of helping us bear it.” And the fact that she was keeping me in her prayers helped A LOT, too.

But, still. I was sad. I just couldn’t function like always. I went to lie down on the couch, covered my head up and fell asleep. And when I was sleeping, I felt something on my back. It was like a light touch on the center of my back. And when I felt that, I was just really filled with so much love and comfort. When I woke up, I wasn’t sad anymore. I actually felt a lot better. I even smiled. I was HAPPY.

When I got back to work on the computer, I thought of my friend’s email. She was talking about how she’d helped her daughter with something, something that cost a bit of money, and she said her daughter did not say “thank you” when all was said and done. I could only shake my head and mutter, “Ah, parenthood. The most thankless job in the world.” I could relate. Many times I have helped my kids with something or another and didn’t get a “thank you” in return. (The same goes with dads.) Of course, I DO try to teach my children manners. To say “please,” “excuse me” and “thank you.” But sometimes they forget. And we moms, we can only mutter to ourselves “yeah, you’re welcome” because we do the things we do for our kids because we LOVE them. We’d do ANYTHING for them. Even if we don’t get a “thank you’ in return. And we’d do it again!

But I thought some more on that. I HAVE said “thank you” many times to my mom, for some thing or another. But then I realized, you know, there are some things that I HAVE NOT thanked my mother for.

And maybe I should thank her for them right now. Why not? I AM grateful to her for these things! And I know she’s not here to hear them or to read this, but I felt it was important to say.

Thank you, Mom, for being in this world and becoming the wonderful you that you were.

Thank you, Mom, for having me and being my mother. I could have had any other mother in the whole world, but God picked YOU to be my mother.

Thank you, Mom, for caring so much about me to teach me things. To teach me right from wrong, how to be smart, how to be strong.

Thank you, Mom, for always being there to talk to. For always being that shoulder to cry on and that ear to listen. And thank you for talking about things when I needed you to talk to about things.

Thank you, Mom, for always being someone I could talk to.

Thank you, Mom, for supporting me no matter what choices I made in life. It helped knowing that you were still on my side no matter what, and that you still loved me no matter what.

Thank you, Mom, for keeping all of us safe. For making sure we had a home, a bed, clothes to wear and that we got an education. Even when you were firm with us about going to school and eating our food, we knew you did this because you loved us.

Thank you, Mom, for making sure we had good times, fun times, more than the bad times.

Thank you, Mom, for always having good advice and telling me how to find my way whenever I became lost or afraid. Even across the miles, you were there for me when there was nobody else, and nobody else on my side.

Thank you, Mom, for your love, your attention, your guidance and wisdom and strength. You inspired me in more ways than you will ever know.

Thank you, Mom, for being in my memories. You may be physically gone from this world, but you are still in my heart, in my mind, in my dreams and in my thoughts for always.

I love you, Mom.

Friday, November 23, 2012

I am thankful

Yesterday was Thanksgiving, and no matter what people are going to say about how the first Thanksgiving got its start or what exactly was eaten on that first day, one truth remains: It is a day we should all set aside some time to give thanks. I have noticed a lot of people on Facebook and Twitter sharing what they are thankful for for each day of this month, but if anyone is going to give thanks on any particular day in November, it is Thanksgiving Day.

So yesterday, as we sat down to our feast of a turkey and all the fixings, we shared what we are thankful for. We each shared one thing, but all day long I was counting my blessings.

I am thankful to be alive, especially after that car accident I was in, that time my heart stopped while in surgery and after surviving a bout with spinal meningitis that left me deaf.

I am thankful for my family, even the ones who have not been so pleasant or kind. Even the ones who have abused or wronged me in the past. I am thankful, because all of those experiences made me a stronger, smarter and better person. (In other words, not like them!)

I am thankful for my husband and for taking second chances. We may drive each other crazy and fight, but I know he is the right man for me and he is good to us, too. He is the yang to my yin, and I love him.

I am thankful for my children, the greatest blessing I have ever received.

I am thankful for my gift to write.

I am thankful that my son can read and write some words.

I am thankful my daughter can create such beautiful art and write exciting stories.

I am thankful for my friends, the REAL friends who have stuck by me no matter what and all through these years. And I’m especially thankful for being able to recognize who my real friends are.

I am thankful for my relatives, even those who I have not seen for years and don’t even talk to because we don’t know each other or can’t connect in some way.

I am thankful for the experiences I’ve had in life, especially the bad experiences, because the bad experiences have made me appreciate the good experiences all the more. Both good and bad experiences have made me who I am today.

I am thankful for this beautiful home we have.

I am thankful my dog is still with us, after 18 years!

I am thankful for technology to help me communicate with others more easily and stay in touch with long-distance friends and family. And for the technology that allows me, a deaf person, to watch movies with subtitles and closed captioning.

I am thankful I can still talk, that I have a voice to speak with.

I am thankful I can still see, although not as good as before.

I am thankful I can still remember music and some of my favorite songs. I may not hear them ever again but I do hear them in my head.

I am thankful to be a Real Published Author and to have written many books (with many more on the way!).

I am thankful to all of the teachers I have had who helped me to learn to read, write, do math and understand the world we live in.

I am thankful for books.

I am thankful for coffee.

I am thankful for modern medicine and to the doctors, nurses, dentists, pharmacists and specialists out there who have helped us.

I am thankful for living in a free country and to those who fought and lost their lives to make this a free country.

I am thankful that there are kind, honest and generous people in this world.

I am thankful there are people promoting peace, especially during a time when there is so much violence and bloodshed in this world. 
I am thankful that there are groups out there helping people in need -- the soup kitchens, food banks, disaster relief groups, warming centers, shelters and other groups helping animals and people.

I am thankful that we live in a country that respects all religions.

I am thankful to God for answering the prayers He has answered and helping me to understand why some prayers were not answered.

I am thankful for the people who I have crossed paths with, especially those who are no longer in my life.   

I am thankful for having so much while others out there have so little…

And that last one is one I keep thinking about. Especially after reading in the paper about people who survived Hurricane Sandy but have nothing left. Nothing but the clothes on their backs. I was especially moved by the story of one woman who lost her home and everything in it, but was so thankful this Thanksgiving that her two sons also survived the storm.

Reading that one story alone made everything else I thought about pale in comparison. It made me close my eyes and say a little prayer for all the victims of Hurricane Sandy, that they would have new homes, food to eat and each other to hold on to. Especially each other. I prayed all the families were together and safe again.

This Thanksgiving, those people REALLY had something to be thankful for. They didn’t have a table to eat their meal at or a kitchen to cook their food in or even their own beds to sleep in anymore, but they had each other. I am thankful for that, too.

Monday, November 19, 2012

No more Twinkies? Say it ain't so!

As busy as things can get, I try to stay updated on the news. I’ll watch news on TV as well as read news stories online. I’m subscribed to a few newsfeeds (among them, CNN), so I read these to find out what’s going on with the world.

That is, when I have TIME.

Recently, I have definitely made time to stay updated on news stories, because one Very Big news story has sent shockwaves across the country: Hostess, the maker of fine treats such as Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho Hos, is filing for bankruptcy and will stop making the same delicious delicacies generations of children and adults alike have enjoyed. That’s right: They are liquidating their assets as I type this. Shutting down. And will stop making their sweet treats.

The news left me in shock. No more Twinkies? NOOOO!!!!! Quick, somebody start a “Bring Twinkies Back” campaign!

I don’t think I can live in a world without Twinkies.

Oh, I have such fond memories of chomping down on those delicious, sugary and cream-filled yellow cakes. Yes, I know they’re loaded with sugar and fattening, but when you’re a kid, YOU DON’T CARE! The only thing you do care about is that it’s a Twinkie, that it’s delicious, and that it is YOURS.

It’s not so much sugar addiction or a desire to pack on the pounds that makes me sad over the disappearance of Twinkies ( as well as the Ding Dongs and cupcakes). I am an adult, in my late 30s, and I can tell you I have definitely had my fill of Twinkies in this lifetime. I can live without eating another Twinkie! But it’s just the very DISAPPEARANCE of Twinkies I am sad about. I want Twinkies to stick around! Thinking about them and looking at them bring back such happy childhood memories.

But there’s another reason I don’t want Twinkies to go away: My children. My kids LOVE Twinkies. They have enjoyed them as an occasional treat, and it makes me sad that they will never be able to enjoy them ever again. My daughter, age 11, became very sad when I told her they’re not going to make Twinkies anymore. It’s not like we were shoving them down the kids’ throats; like I said, Twinkies were an occasional treat. But now that they are GONE, as in NO LONGER EXISTING, it’s sad because now she’ll never get to have another Twinkie again. Ever! (Unless I happen to buy a box of Twinkies selling on eBay going for the price of $15 million.) And it’s sad for her because she DID enjoy having them every once in a while.

My youngest, age 5, has had Twinkies, too. Now I’m starting to wonder if, with Twinkies gone, he’ll even remember them at all.

I am sad about the Hostess treats going away, but I’m angry about it, too. The world just really sucks right now. Everybody is losing jobs and nobody can even GET a job. The cost of gas is outrageous. The cost of food is outrageous. People are losing their homes and people are really struggling with health issues because they can’t afford to go to a doctor. And now there won’t be anymore Twinkies! We are losing a lot of things and seeing a lot of businesses we all knew and loved in our childhood fade away into obscurity.

I have to wonder what other cherished foods or beverages are going to go away, too. Is Coca Cola next? Well, if Twinkies can be taken away, Coca Cola will probably be taken away, too.

The Mayans were right, folks. This IS the end of the world!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

Leave it to Jen to accessorize. Once she saw this mask at a local store, she KNEW this was going to be her Halloween mask! The rest she threw together to create this creature. We're calling it "Pumpkinhead" even though this one does not look like the Pumpkinhead in the horror flick.

Jesse was Spider-man a year ago and decided he wanted to be his favorite superhero again this year. That almost didn't happen because he lost the mask -- and we have TWO Spider-man masks! Fortunately, for his birthday, he got a new Spider-man mask. What wonderful timing! (Thanks, Misty.)

Happy Halloween from our family to yours!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Jesse turns 5!

Ever since the first of October, one thought has been a constant in my mind: I can’t believe my son, Jesse, is turning 5 years old this month. Wow! How the time flies! I often see people who knew me when I was pregnant with him and often they will comment on how he has grown so fast. I can still remember holding this tiny bundle in my arms 5 years ago:

For his 5th birthday, I wanted to make this day special for my special boy. So this morning, I made Jesse a special birthday breakfast, per his request: Pancakes (not the frozen kind) and bacon. We had a “surprise party” waiting for him when he got home from preschool today. I baked him a chocolate cake just for the occasion and he had a favorite ice cream to go with it: Peppermint. (His dad also really liked the peppermint ice cream, too. It’s a big hit!)

The hat he is wearing is courtesy of his preschool. (Thanks, Kim!)

After cake and ice cream, Jesse opened his presents. He got a pirate scabbard and shield from Jennifer, as well as a SpongeBob and toy car.

For months, he’d been asking for a DreamLites. We were not able to get him one but we got him something similar: A “Twilight Turtle” that does the same thing as a DreamLites.

After he opened his presents, he and Jennifer played for a while then they watched cartoons.

In honor of Jesse’s birthday, here are five of his favorite things:

  1. Spider-man
  2. Cars
  3. Motorcycles
  4. Tools (he has a lot of play tools)
  5. The Cars movie

And here are five fun facts about Jesse:

  1. At the age of two, Jesse often clomped around the house in his daddy’s shoes.
  2. Jesse’s favorite breakfast is French toast sticks.
  3. Jesse LOVES to play Bingo! Of course, I always try to let him win.
  4. One of Jesse’s favorite TV shows is Special Agent Oso. (I’m a HUGE fan of James Bond and I think this Bond knockoff for kids is cute.)
  5. Jesse’s other favorite movies are Pinocchio, Nanny McPhee, Curious George, Stuart Little and Scooby Doo.

Happy 5th birthday, Jesse! We love you very much and hope you enjoyed your special day.

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Jen's Eleventh B-day!

Jennifer turned 11 years old this month. Yay! And because her birthday fell on a school day, we did the same thing this year that happened last year: Gave her two parties! On Wednesday, her official birthday, she had a family-only birthday party. It was a cupcake party. I arranged 11 cupcakes on a tray in the shape of a “J.” She thought that was cool. She also got her family presents. She’d wanted a Monster High School doll for MONTHS and I was able to get her two. She was VERY happy about that! She also got a copy of a Burly & Grum book from our friend in England, author Kate Tenbeth, and from Jesse she got a Furreal Friends pet bunny. It’s so cute! She also got a DVD movie, The Woman in Black. We both saw that movie and it’s VERY scary! From her aunt Millie, she got a Doctor Who Eleventh Doctor Sonic Screwdriver. She was SO excited to get that! 

Thanks, Kate!

For the birthday party with her friends, which was today, she had a Doctor Who party. (She’s a BIG Doctor Who fan!) I printed out a few pics from the 7th season shows and hung them on the wall. I also made fish fingers and custard (which was actually surprisingly good!).

The cake was the big thing. Earlier this week, when we decided it was going to be a Doctor Who party, I got online to research everything that had to do with Doctor Who parties. The fish fingers and custard were a MUST so that’s why I made those. There were several cakes: the TARDIS, Daleks and Silence. They were all very cool but Jennifer fell in love with the TARDIS cake. I kept wondering how the heck I’d get her a TARDIS cake! All the TARDIS cakes on sale were in ENGLAND! There were some people who made them at home and even though they included directions and pictures, my mind went blank over the whole thing. (I don’t MAKE cakes, I BUY cakes!) So, all week, I was trying to figure out how to get Jennifer a TARDIS cake for her party. One bakery we usually get cakes at said they couldn’t do it, but, finally, I found one who could: The baker at Albertsons. She said it was definitely doable. HOORAY! I printed out several pictures of the TARDIS and showed them to her. We went over them and the specifics of the cake. The best part was that she could have it done in 24 hours, which was a good thing since this was yesterday!

So we got a TARDIS cake for the party. WOO-HOO!!! Thank you, Albertsons. And it’s a nice cake, don’t you think?

And, of course, after eating the cake, we all had blue teeth and tongues! It was funny. 

After the food and cake, Jennifer opened the presents from her friends. She was very happy with everything. 

Then they moved on to watching movie, doing karaoke and playing games. They are all having a great time. 

It’s not so great for Jesse, though. He’s pretty much feeling left out because it’s a girls-only thing. But hubby and I are taking turns spending time with him. 

Happy Birthday, Jennifer!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The glasses situation

Recently, part of Jennifer’s glasses broke. It was the temple part – though a lot of people call it the “arm.” Anyway, they broke while I was carrying them to her classroom at her school and I’d stopped to talk to a secretary. Jennifer had forgotten her glasses that morning. On the way to the bus stop, I told her I would bring them at lunchtime. But that plan was a bust when they broke in transit and I asked the secretary to notify Jen’s teacher that her glasses broke and she won’t be able to wear them after all that day. (She had gotten into trouble one day when she had forgotten her glasses, so you can probably understand my tension over the situation. I didn’t want her to get into trouble again for something that was out of her control!)

So she’d gone that day without wearing her glasses. The next day, she was asking if I would be able to fix them and bring them to her school, but I let them know to tell her I was unable to fix them. So that’s two days without her wearing her glasses!

It seemed to be two days too many, though, because last night, she started to panic. She came up to me looking worried and saying she will go blind if she doesn’t wear her glasses.

This made me pause. Why on earth did she think she was going to go blind if she didn’t wear her glasses? The only reason why she was even supposed to wear her glasses in the first place is because she was born with a lazy eye. At that time, we were unable to get the corrective surgery she needed for her eye, so we went through the whole “eye patches and glasses” episode. Her vision has been closely monitored since then. We were told that wearing glasses did improve her eye, but that she would, unfortunately, have to continue to wear glasses.

There has been the occasional day or two in which she did not wear her glasses, though. And sometimes she didn’t wear her glasses when she was supposed to, and when told to put them on, she would whine about how much she hates wearing glasses. (I hate wearing them, too, but I prefer glasses over contacts, so here we are.) We have explained to her the same thing her eye doctor told us: She has to wear her glasses every day or else her vision will go bad again. Contrary to popular belief, not wearing glasses does not strengthen our eyes. Actually, I’m quite convinced that eye exercises strengthen our eyes. (Well, that, and carrots!) Granted, this could mean we’ll all forever be dependent on wearing glasses to keep our eyes strong, but given that the choice is to either have poor vision or good vision, I would opt for good vision! So, yes, she has to keep wearing her glasses.

I started to wonder if these past lectures are what influenced her sudden panic that she’ll go blind if she doesn’t wear her glasses every day. I explained to her that not wearing her glasses would not hurt her eyes that fast. It had only been two days and I reassured her she would be getting new glasses on Monday after her dentist appointment. (That’s the plan, anyway.)

This, however, did not make her feel any better. She REALLY wanted to wear her glasses again!

So she asked me to give her the broken glasses and let HER try to fix them. After I did that, she grabbed some tape and got busy.

And she was able to fix them! Wow. Good for you, Jennifer!

So she was happily wearing her glasses again last night. And she is wearing them right now as I type this.  She is calm and confident again, and that’s a good thing. If it takes a pair of semi-perfect glasses to make my kid happy again, I’m all for it. Calm has been restored and she is doing something good for her vision again.

I guess it’s like the dieter who goes off the diet for a couple of days. The dieter realizes “Hey, I can’t keep eating all this junk food! I gotta get back on track with eating right again!" (Of course, exercising, too, but as with vision, that is just one variable to keep a person healthy.)

We are still getting her new glasses on Monday, though. Maybe they can fix these “old ones” while we are there. And the “old glasses” can now be her spare pair of glasses, something we could not afford when we got her glasses many years ago. And having a spare pair of glasses is a good thing. It’s just something that will keep her calm in the event something happens to the new glasses, because then she won’t have to do without.

Friday, September 21, 2012

This week was NOT a good week to get the kids to school on time

Getting the kids to school on time. It’s a challenge a lot of parents face. It was a struggle getting Jennifer to school on time for a while when she first started kindergarten; we had to go through several different systems until we settled on one that worked. With Jesse, it’s the same challenges in the mornings: Trying to keep him focused on getting ready to go to school, not taking an hour or so to eat his breakfast and actually getting dressed instead of sitting on the bed, in his birthday suit, looking at a book.

We’re working on it, and I DO make it an effort to get them there on time (or, in Jesse’s case, at a REASONABLE time where he is not too early or too late). But sometimes, there are factors out of my control preventing that from happening.

One of those factors was my alarm clock.

Because hubby and I are both deaf, we have one of those special alarm clocks for the deaf and hard-of-hearing that vibrate the mattress when the alarm goes off. It also flashes the lamp on and off but we have it set to just vibrate.

But it seems like it’s time to replace this same alarm clock that hubby has had for years, because we’ve had problems with it. It wouldn’t work!

And on the mornings it didn’t work – that it didn’t go off – those were times I woke up later than usual and had to RUSH to get Jen to the bus or school. And sometimes, she was late for both.

Also this week, Jesse has been having what I strongly suspect are night terrors. He wakes up in the middle of the night crying, screaming and acting like he’s trying to run away or escape from some monster. He is just terrified. Last night, it was REALLY bad; he was running around the house crying and screaming, and when Jennifer or I tried to talk to him or calm him down, it was like he didn’t recognize us or hear our voices. It was like he was in a waking dream, moreso when he kept trying to climb the walls and scratch at the door. (Jennifer often woke up from this since Jesse was also screaming and sometimes my husband would be home when it happened). It has been horrible and last night it was scary. Sometimes he’d wake up more than once. Which meant we hardly got any sleep! (One thing that put a stop to them on certain evenings is if I let him sleep in my bed with me and I had to leave the light on.) So that, too, has been a problem. We’d all be zombies the next morning because we hardly got enough sleep!

And that slowed down the whole process of getting ready for school and out the door.

But I’m hoping things will start to look up. Got my alarm clock to work this morning(yay!) and I hope it will continue to work. As to Jesse, we are going to work on the nighttime thing. Jennifer had night terrors, too, when she was a toddler but it was never that bad and it went away after a while. This has been going on for some time with Jesse, but more often this week than normal. So we’re going to try to work on resolving this. I definitely need to make his bedroom safer so he doesn’t get hurt the next time it happens.

I hope next week will be better.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Walking a fragile line

Yesterday, I made a list of book projects I need to complete before the year is out. There are a total of seven books that need to be typed, written and revised. But that's nothing compared to today. Today, I worked on one of my books. After seven days of not working on any of them.

These are big steps I have taken since writing a short story inspired by my mother's death last week. It was a story I was inspired to write because it helped me to cope with the loss of my mother. (Though I know we have not REALLY lost her. Death is not the end.) But just because I am back to work on writing, revising and editing books, it doesn’t mean I am completely “over” or healed about my mother’s death. The truth is, I’m not. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing her or ever “get over” her passing.

But that doesn’t mean I can’t go on living life like I used to. Because I know we all have things we have to do. Responsibilities. Deadlines. In the beginning, I did things I had to do out of necessity and I was on autopilot. Now it's with a sense of purpose, because I KNOW my mother would want us to continue with life. And I know she would want me to continue writing. So we do the things we gotta do, even if we do these things with a sad look on our faces and with a downcast look every now and then. Or the occasional tear trickling down our cheek.

I have had a lot of help to get through the first week. Lots of tears were shed and lots of prayers were whispered. There were times I just sat down and sadly stared at the sky, wondering if I’d see Mom’s angel, and times I held my kids extra close just one more time. Times I wanted to cry and scream, and times I just kept asking God why. I also turned to a personal journal that I keep. I usually don’t write in it very often, but lately, I have written in it. A lot. I just had a total outpouring of my thoughts, feelings, memories, emotions and struggles. I dealt with the anger instead of lashing out at people with it. Struggled with guilt. Groveled in my sorrow. Kept asking things like was I a good daughter? Did I do enough? Did she know how much I loved her? I just let it all out on the pages. That helped me so much.

It also helped that people took the time to reach out. All the comments and messages on Facebook from relatives expressing their condolences and words of support really meant the world to us. The emails from other people also meant a lot, too. It really means so much that these people took the time to share their condolences and thoughts. It also helped when people shared their own experiences of losing their mothers. One person said you can’t really relate to it or understand it unless you have gone through it, too. I so know what she means. And I also know that sharing this experience helps. I have known others who have lost a mother or father in the past and while I expressed my own condolences to them, I was not able to REALLY relate to what they were going through. Now I do. Now I have been there. And now I can help someone else who goes through such a loss, because now I know what it is like.

It is a little strange losing your parent. I mean, this is a person who played a role in creating us. This is who we came from. And that's a very strong connection. Losing that person is like losing a part of oneself.

The cards we received in the mail were a surprise. We did not expect them. Well, I hadn’t. But they were a very pleasant surprise. I was very grateful for the cards and we will cherish them. We also received a lovely plant. I don’t see it as a reminder that my mom has died; I see it as a sign of just how strong a bond is between people who care about others going through a difficult time. And that says a lot.

And I have also really noticed who exactly have reached out. And who has not. Makes you wonder about who is paying attention. And maybe even who really cares.

One big thing that has changed me since my mother’s death is that I definitely won’t be wasting my time anymore. Time is all we have, really. Time for ourselves, yes, but most importantly, time with the people who matter. For months I hated the habit I had of spending hours on the Internet reading everything. No more of that. If I don’t HAVE to be on the Internet, then I won't be on the Internet. There is a life out there in the world to be lived. I am going to live it. We are not meant to box ourselves away from each other or spend our lives PLANTED in front of some form of technology or another. We are meant to enjoy this world that we live in – the world that is outside our door – and spend time with people. As much time as we can.

So I have made changes to where that is possible. I still work on books, yes, but they’re not going to take up hours of my life every day any more. No more of that!

I have also gotten to where I ask, when I am unsure of something, What would Mom do? What would Mom say? Of course I don’t have an EXACT answer. But I can guess. And that’s the next best thing.

I may be tough on the outside, but I’m still fragile on the inside. I may act and look like I am over my mother’s death, but I’m not REALLY over my mother’s death. I don’t think I ever will be. Life goes on, I know, but it's really hard to pick myself up and keep going without having my mother in this world, too. But at least I am slowly finding my way along this path I must travel, even though my mother is no longer there for me to call on the phone or send a card to. No, but at least she’s still with me in spirit. And that helps, too. That means that she is not really gone. Not really.