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.