Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Lessons learned in 2013

It may be cliched, but looking back on a year when it comes to an end to see what we’ve accomplished and what we’ve learned is actually a pretty good thing to do. Every time a year comes to an end, I have to ask myself, what did I manage to do this year? How have I made life better? What do I still need to do? How can I grow in the new year? What kind of things did I fail to do this year that I could try to do again in the next?

One question I usually did not ask myself, though, was this: What kind of lessons have I learned this year?

This, above all else, is an important question to ask. And I’ve certainly learned a few lessons this year. They are lessons that are definitely going to have an impact on certain decisions I’ll be making in the new year.

I have learned: It’s important to take care of myself. This year, I certainly DID NOT take care of myself. I have been sad and depressed for quite some time, and I know this sadness comes from certain choices that I regret. But I let that sadness, regret, anger at myself and the depression get to be too bad and I just didn’t take care of myself that well this year. I hated myself and it got to where I wished I was dead. That is how bad it was. So it is a good thing that I had this cancer scare. It made me wake up and realize that I was on a path of self-destruction. I had to be kinder to myself and stop beating myself up over the past. I have to learn to forgive myself and be my own best friend. So I need to take care of myself emotionally, spiritually, physically and psychologically. I need to get rid of bad habits and welcome things that will make me a better person. (So far, I have managed to get rid of one bad habit and I feel pretty good about that!)

I have learned: Sometimes we have to be a little bit selfish to get what we want in life. I know I have allowed other people to influence my choices and have too much control over decisions I have made. It’s time to put a stop to that! I can’t let others decide what I should do with my body and my life. Because they are MY body and MY life! I’m the one who has to live it! So I really think it’s time to step back and just be a little bit selfish about certain choices in my life. I need to do that in a really big way. There are some things I KNOW I want in my life, and some people, too. Why keep putting things off? Why keep tolerating being without certain people we WANT in our lives? And those we don’t want? It just doesn’t make any sense to me anymore. And here again we have that cancer scare playing a role. I just realized, you know, why keep putting these things off? Why keep WAITING? Why keep HOPING? Just do it now. All we have is right now, and if it takes being selfish to go after something, then we gotta be selfish. I know certain people may not agree with what I want to do next year and a lot of people won’t like it. But I really think it’s time for me to get back on course for Dawn’s Life, and not other people’s life. People are gonna say what people are gonna say. What’s important is that I keep doing what I WANT to be doing with my life.

I have learned: Change is good. I saw a change in how I was handling my being an author. I also became a publisher. I was scared to death to get into publishing, but I did it and, thanks to the help of my friends along the way, it was a success. And I couldn’t be happier that I got past that fear and got to where I am now. I definitely feel more confident when it comes to publishing books, and that’s going to help a lot given what I plan to do next year. I was scared at first, but I got over that fear and made it. I also saw change in how I managed things with books being self-pubbed this year. I like that change, too.

I have learned: We need to hold onto the people who matter. Hold onto the people who actually care. I have been paying close attention to the people in my life who have been there and who have not. The people who wouldn’t give me the time of day and those who would drop everything to help. I have to be very careful and very selective of who I allow to be in my circle. Who I allow to be my friend. I have been hurt too many times by people I thought I could trust, or was supposed to be able to trust. I have had too many so-called “friends” treat me like crap and only remember me when they needed something. Or people who are judgmental, dishonest and not trustworthy. No more of that! I can’t keep tolerating the fake friends, the people who have thrown potshots my way and the people who constantly have me on “Ignore.” Same goes for people who take my presence for granted. Because, you know what? You’re either for real, or you’re not. And I have noticed the people in my life who are For Real. The ones who are there, who actually talk to me, the ones who call me their friend and act like it. I am not going to waste my time on fake friends or fake people anymore. Life is too short and we need to keep the people who matter within arm’s reach while we live it.

I have learned: We can’t live life indoors. There is too much of the whole wide world out there just waiting for us to explore it! Part of the reason why I stayed home whenever possible was because I was too comfortable being at home. And I’m not comfortable anymore. Yes, I know I have a senior dog with failing health who does not have much time left, but I also know I just gotta get Out There some more. I need to go ride a bike, go hiking, go fishing, take long walks and just Get. Outside. We are not meant to live our lives holed up in our homes and constantly glued to our computers or TVs. We are meant to get out there into the world and live life! Otherwise, how will we meet people? How will we see this beautiful world God created? How will we find out where that path goes? We won’t unless we actually get outside and take that path or travel that road. I know I have a lot going on that requires time at the computer, but I am working something out where I won’t be at the computer 8-10 hours every day 365 days a year. No more of that! It’s time to get out of the house more often and see all the stuff that’s out there. This is one valuable lesson I have learned this year and this lesson, like the others, will definitely have an impact on changes I’ll be making in the new year.

Here’s to a better, happier and wiser 2014!

Monday, December 30, 2013

I accomplished my 2013 reading challenge!

“Reading challenge.” Until the beginning of this year, I had not heard of such a thing. Apparently, some people give themselves a reading challenge – a challenge that involves reading in some way. One woman challenged herself to read at least one book from every country in one year. Another wrote about how she challenged herself to read 100 books in one year. I thought that was an interesting challenge so I decided that would be my reading challenge for this year. (I am not entirely sure if a reading challenge should last for the duration of one year, but those are the ones that I learned about.)

So, yes, my reading challenge for 2013 was to read 100 books in 1 year. I figured that, in order to do this, I had to set up a few guidelines:

1. I had to read at least 10 books a month – and I know that’s 120 books, but if I raised the bar high from the beginning and had that expectation for myself, I knew I’d get a good number of books in at the beginning.

2. I also decided that I’d read any kind of book: A print book or an ebook, as long as it was an actual “book” that was published. A book is a book, whether it’s print or electronic and regardless of length.

3. The books for this challenge had to be books I was reading for the first time. I often read to my son, and of course he has favorites he wants me to read to him time and again. The books I had not read yet, however, that I did read to my son would be included.

With these guidelines in place, I got started. I guess it helped that I resigned from my job early this year; that certainly gave me more time to read. (I recently got a part-time gig and, next year, I’ll be working a full-time job.) So time to read was not an issue. I often read at least two different books every day – usually nonfiction and fiction – so that helped me get through more books, too.

But, eventually, this challenge got to be frustrating. Of course, I was happy I was reading so much. I even glorified in it. But I eventually grew restless and started disliking this challenge, because the reading took me away from so many other things I could’ve been doing. Of course I believe it’s important to read every day, at least for 30 minutes, and that’s a habit I try to instill in my children. But sometimes I was reading for HOURS just so I could meet my “two books a week” quota.

I kept at it, though, and by the summer, I realized I had read quite a lot of books. At that point, I realized it was okay to slow down on the reading, and I didn’t try to finish two books every week after that. I was doing pretty good in the numbers so I allowed myself to relax. Heck, sometimes I even read one book in a single day! So I was looking good so far. Even so, I kept my eye on those numbers as the months passed.

If I did not finish reading a book, I did not include it. If it was a book I just skimmed through, I did not include it. But I did include everything else, even books I read for research.

I also noticed that I didn’t read ebooks as fast as I would have liked to. I used to speed through ebooks but, nowadays, not so much. I just don't like staring at the screen for too long. I was just fine reading pages in a book for hours, but not words on the screen for hours. It just got to be a real slowdown for me. But I hope to come up with some kind of system to fix that, because I do review ebooks from time to time. (I don’t have an e-reader, so I read all ebooks on the one PC we have.)

So here we are at the end of the year and I’m happy to report that I did manage to read 100 books in 1 year. In fact, I read 104. I met my reading challenge for 2013! Hooray!

My reading challenge for 2014 is to read a new book every month. Just one. I have a lot going on next year and will not be able to spend as much time reading as I did this year, but I will still read for one hour every day (30 minutes in the morning and 30 minutes at night) and just make sure I grab a 2014 title to read every month. One, though. Just one. That particular reading challenge is one I’m looking forward to accomplishing next.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

A double take

I have been reading I’ll Scream Later by Marlee Matlin (amazing book, by the way!). I chose this book because, myself being deaf, Marlee has always been someone I have looked up to and admired. So I thought it was time to learn a little more about her life! There is a lot of stuff in this book I could relate to, like criticism she has received from the deaf community over certain choices she has made. I, too, have received criticism from deaf readers because of certain things I have written – but that’s for a whole ‘nother blog post! (Side note: Hold on to the good things people say. That’s what I do!)

Anyway. There is a story in this book about how, once on the set of a TV show, Marlee was chatting with a police officer who was guarding the set. She thought this man was another officer she had befriended, and later she finds out that this particular officer was NOT her friend, but a friend of his who looked like him! And the whole time, she had been referring to him by the other guy’s name. Oh, wow. Talk about embarrassing! LOL (it’s interesting those two were friends. She included a picture of them in the book, and I couldn’t get over how much those guys looked alike!)

This reminded me of how this has happened in my life, too. I once had a friend who had a friend that looked EXACTLY like him. They even sometimes wore the same glasses! Once, I even got them mixed up. I was trying to say hi to my friend one day and this dude was not responding. I was standing there thinking, ‘Grr! Why is he IGNORING me??’ Then I found out from my actual friend that that had not been him, but his friend! LOL

Recently, I saw a woman who I thought was a friend. She was even in the same van! I found out it was not her later on when I texted my friend about it and learned she had NOT been at that place at that time. How weird! They looked exactly alike and even drove the same van!

It’s strange how this happens. Usually, if there is a double, then it’s assumed the other person is an “evil twin” or a doppelganger. (If you want to read more about doppelgangers, check this out.)

This also reminds me of the novel I wrote, which is the one I will be fixing up next year to send out. In this story, my character looks exactly like someone murdered by a deranged husband, and after their paths cross, he thinks she is her and that he didn’t exactly leave her for dead as he thought he did.

This is such a strange and interesting thing that happens. It is kind of funny, too. This kind of thing has not actually happened with me, but I do have a story of someone who had my name. One day I got a call on my TTY from this lady who swore she knew me. She gave my full name and my phone number – the same she’d been given at a grocery store when she had “met” me. I knew I didn’t know her, but I still agreed to meet with her because I was curious about this person who claimed to be me. My sister went with me when we met her, and she took one look at me and said, “You’re not the Dawn I met.” Well, we had a nice dinner and talked about the “fake me” she had met. I had not been at that store at that time and I told her for certain that had not been me. The mystery of someone using my name and giving out my phone number had never been solved (hm, maybe THAT will be a story idea someday!) but thankfully it did not happen again. I never saw that woman again after that night, unfortunately – I think she was too weirded out by what happened – but it was a pleasant meeting and I’m glad nothing bad happened.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

A very blessed Christmas

I was dreading the approach of Christmas, let alone Christmas Eve. Sure, we were all excited about Christmas coming up, but it’s so hard to get through the holidays with my mom being gone. I keep telling myself that I can STILL “talk” to my mom on Christmas; it’ll just have to be with my heart. But that doesn’t make it any easier. And the fact that I had an emotional breakdown over the weekend and just cried my heart out because I miss my mom so much did not help, either.

But here we are, at Christmas. And I’ve managed okay so far. It has definitely been a big help to have some wonderful friends around who have offered comfort and support. I’m so glad we got to see them in the days leading up to Christmas. Seeing these dear friends again just warmed my heart and it was good to have a shoulder to lean on, too. They are awesome friends and I am so grateful they are in our lives!

I ended up waking up at 4 a.m. today. I ALWAYS wake up first on Christmas, which is a good thing because I usually have extra little gifties to slip into stockings. But the reason why I woke up so early was because I was really thirsty. I got up to get a glass of water, let the dog out and to put the stocking stuffers into their designated stockings. After all that, I went back to bed, hoping to get some more sleep. But a sadness came over my heart as I lied in my darkened bedroom. I whispered to the darkness, “Merry Christmas, Mom.” I stayed still just for a bit, thinking of how much I wished I could hug her, then just as I looked down, I was surprised to see the back of someone walking past my open door! At first, I thought it was Jennifer, because this was a female with short brown hair, but the thing of it was ... this “person” was all white and transparent! A lit-up kind of person! Like an angel.

No way, I thought. It’s Jennifer. Jennifer is awake. That’s it.

I climbed out of bed and walked out of my room. I hurriedly went through the hall and saw no one in the family or living room. I went through the kitchen, the entry way and the other rooms. No one was there.

I went back to bed, thinking this over. Had I really just seen what I thought I’d seen? And had it been who I thought it was?

Well, I liked to think so. That was a nice thought.

Eventually, I did go back to sleep. I had a very disturbing dream, though. I dreamed I walked out to the Christmas tree and saw a woman’s face in one of the ornaments. Her face was very transparent, almost like a ghost. She had short light-colored hair. The image faded then I was back in my room. I was in bed trying to sleep but a strange sensation came over me that kept shaking me. Like something was possessing me. When I awoke from that dream, I saw a red bar on my wall.

Now, I must confess, I have been nervous about the Christmas tree suddenly catching on fire the whole time it’s been there. So I was alarmed when I saw that red light on my wall, thinking that was a reflection from a fire down the hallway! I raced out of my room to look around the house but, thankfully, there was no fire. Phew! Then I thought maybe there was a fire at my neighbor’s house. I opened the blinds to look out the window, but no, no fire! I was relieved but really puzzled. I went back to bed, back to sleep.

When I awoke again, I decided I’d gotten enough sleep so I got out of bed for good. And, wouldn’t you know, that was the same time Jesse woke up! We wished each other a Merry Christmas then woke Jennifer up. Then we woke their father up. We all trudged out to the living room (well, Jesse RAN out to the living room!), sat down and decided who would play Santa this year. That decision made, we all proceeded to open our gifts.

If I had any ounce of sadness left, it disappeared as I watched my children open their gifts. There was just so much joy and happiness among us all during that time. We were all excited and happy with our gifts. Jesse got a new bike and Jennifer got a bunch of Doctor Who stuff. I got an espresso machine, JCPenney gift card, chocolates, a wolf picture, new purse and the movie Argo. I was bummed that I didn't get any books or a gift card for books, but later I got free ebooks via Smashwords and that made me happy. Thank you, Smashwords!

After the gift thing and thanking people for our gifts, I made breakfast of bacon and cinnamon rolls. Then I took Jesse next door to give his friend a Christmas gift as well as a tin of cookies to our friends. After that, Jennifer left with her dad to hand out cookies she baked for the homeless.

Last night, Jen and her dad baked a cake for our Christmas dessert, and it’s back to the kitchen for me to make our Christmas dinner of ham, potatoes, corn and dinner rolls. We can’t wait to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special tonight, and I’ll be drinking a delicious espresso while I watch it.

Today turned out to be a good one, filled with family, friends and a little bit of Christmas magic. I am also glad my 20-year-old Chihuahua was able to spend just one more Christmas with us.

Merry Christmas! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

A scary visit to Home Depot

For the past couple of weeks, we have been working on getting all the presents for everybody on our lists as well as all the cards sent out. (I’m terrible at getting Christmas cards out early!) For some time, Jennifer could not decide on what to get her dad for Christmas. Finally, last night, she figured out what she wanted to get him, and this particular thing is at Home Depot. So I told her I would take her to get it the next day.

We did not get out to Home Depot until after I was done babysitting today. We had some other things to do before I had to pick Jesse up from the preschool he was visiting today, so it was just as well.

When we got to Home Depot, both Jennifer and I noticed a swarm of seagulls flying overhead – right where we were in the parking lot!! It was really strange and kinda scary. When I parked the car, we sat there watching them fly in circles over us.

“What the heck?” I observed. I tried NOT to remember that Hitchcock movie, The Birds.

“They’re watching us!” Jennifer said with alarm. I didn’t entirely believe her but it was weird how they just stayed right above us. I started to wish there was some way for me to tell those birds, “WE DON’T HAVE FOOD!”

Eventually, I was about to shrug it off, joking that I hope they didn't poop on us after we got out of the car (wow, flashbacks to when I went to a high school in Northern California) and was about to get out of the car.

Jennifer, however, would NOT get out!

She encouraged me to park closer to the store so we could have a short run to get inside.

I parked in a closer spot and she said, “Closer! Closer!”

I moved closer still.

“Closer! Closer!”

I felt ridiculous pulling in and out of parking spots but, thankfully, the third one was enough to satisfy Jennifer.

We jumped out of the car and hurried inside Home Depot. After we got what she wanted to buy her dad, she said she wanted to get him a stocking stuffer, too. So we walked around some more looking for something but she couldn’t find the Right Gift. Finally, she looked at me and, still holding the item she intended to gift, said, “Let’s go.”

She was about to turn to leave when I said, “We kinda need to pay for that.”

She noticed the item in her lands, laughed over her goof then walked with me to get in line. After we paid for our purchases, we started walking out of the store alongside a man pushing a cart. When we got to the security gate, Jennifer suddenly reacted with alarm and looked around. I took this to mean that maybe the alarm had gone off.

We realized the man next to us had set off the alarm. Then I turned and realized that a store employee had grabbed a ginormous stick and was coming towards us! I took one look at that stick and freaked out. It scared me! I wanted to grab Jennifer and run. But instead, since WE were not the ones to set off the alarm, I hurried her out of the stare while employees swarmed the man with the cart.

Once outside, Jennifer shook her head, smiling and said/signed, “Dude was trying to steal something.”

“Did you SEE that stick?” I cried. “I took one look at that thing, thought ‘geez!’ and wanted to run!”

Jennifer laughed then, after some thought, she said/signed, “If you did that, they might’ve thought it was you.”

We both laughed over THAT idea. Then I joked, “Well, I DO have roomy pockets.”

Well, we had a good laugh over it, but part of me was still a bit shakened over the whole thing.

Monday, December 16, 2013

It's time to focus on Christmas again

Sometimes in life, we go about our day like all is right with the world. We never expect for life to throw a curve ball or for something to come around and knock us off our feet. That’s pretty much what happened with me recently. For the past several weeks, I have been asking myself one question: Do I have cancer?

It started out with an annual exam gone wrong. It got worse when I had to go through a procedure and my doctor was saying she didn’t like what she saw. Unfortunately, my doctor did not explain much else. She did answer some questions, but she didn’t tell me exactly what was wrong. And I kind of needed to know exactly what was wrong. Thing of it is, there is a “cancer cloud” hanging over my family. My mom had cancer twice – though it was not cancer that took her life in the end. So we in the family are aware that cancer might strike one of us again. It did actually strike one of my sisters. Some of my cousins and aunts have had or are currently fighting some kind of cancer right now. So we know it is THERE.

And that’s why I was freaking out, stressing out and literally panicking over the possibility that I might have cancer.

What made the situation worse was that my doctor was NOT telling me anything. She was not communicating with me at all. She just said “you need to get this done” and that was it. I had to find out on my own what exactly it is I am dealing with, and the heck of it is that it took me a long time to figure it out. I didn’t know what to even look for!

And that was pretty stressful, right there. Every day I woke up I wondered, Am I going to get sick today? I started asking that question an awful lot when I finally learned what it is that I have and that it CAN lead to cancer. But apparently not anytime soon since my doctor thinks it's okay to have this procedure next month instead of next week. But I still wondered and it was a scary thought to carry around.

Thankfully, I have some wonderfully supportive and amazing friends and family who have been there for me during this whole mess. They are awesome! Everyone has been sharing their experiences, offering advice, being a shoulder to lean on and just being there to talk to about all this. I am so grateful to them all.

But still, I’ve been upset I wasn’t getting answers. I got a second opinion, as many suggested, and was told the same thing. I have considered getting another doctor because this lack of communication is not altogether something I am okay with. But, finally, in the end, I decided to make ONE last attempt to try to get through to my doctor and make my concerns known. I told them straight out today that I am not going to just blindly go through something just because the doctor says I should. I said I would NOT talk to a nurse – I’ve already talked to THREE nurses and they were NO HELP – and I was frustrated because everybody was just brushing off my concerns. But finally, they said, okay, you can come in and have a sit-down with the doctor. And I made sure this appointment was scheduled before the procedure my doctor wants me to go through.

It’s not that I don’t trust my doctor, I just want to know what’s going on. I also want to know why she isn’t telling me what’s going on. And since I had complications after the last medical procedure, I needed to make this VERY CLEAR to her that I don’t think I am healing properly and I am concerned that I’ll drop dead, or something.

So I feel that I really need to do this. I am glad I will be able to do this, but it won’t happen until after New Year’s.

That’s okay. I’m fine with that. I am so done with all of this stress, this worry and confusion. I don’t want that anymore. It’s Christmas, for God’s sakes! A time to be happy and not so stressed out.

So since I won’t see the doc until AFTER Christmas, I have decided I’ll just put this situation away for a little while. No more stress, no more worry. I’m going to just enjoy Christmas and have fun baking with my children, opening presents with my children and ringing in the new year with my children. I will just push all that business away for a while and start focusing on Christmas again.

It only comes once a year, you know.

This thing I am going through, this medical situation, it won’t really have anything happen until after Christmas. So I think I’m going to just get on with my life and live like there is absolutely nothing wrong with me, and enjoy these wintry holidays.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Three Snow Days in a row

Last week, on Thursday, the weatherman on the local news was asking, “Will we get snow tomorrow?” And, boy, did we ever! The kids already had no school on Friday, but it ended up being a “snow day” for them. We sure got an awful lot of snow! I was not happy about all the snow, even though the kids went crazy over it. I was pretty much bummed because all that snow meant no driving for me! I cannot drive on snowy or icy streets very well, even if there are chains on the tires. It’s just not something I would be willing to do again. (I DID survive driving on the snow before, but I really just don’t want to do it.) So I have been stuck at home ever since Friday. GAH!!

But so have the kids. Monday was declared a Snow Day by the Eugene School District. So were Tuesday and today! THREE Snow Days in a row! Holy cow!

They did have good reason for it, though. While the snow finally stopped coming down, we have had some frigid temperatures. It has been VERY cold! The other day, for one hour, it was –7!! It’s been icy and very chilly outside. There have been people riding their snow vehicles and even their skis on the street! And, of course, kids being pulled on sleds and toboggans.

So, yes, we are trying to just focus on the happy side of this wintry weather. Jesse LOVES playing in the snow; Jennifer is more interested in just trekking around through it in the backyard. We have been enjoying the Snow Days by watching Christmas movies, playing games and having some family time. Jennifer has even started writing another book! Miraculously, I have also still managed to find time to write. I am working on two books and I’m almost finished with both of them. Yay!

Still, the kids miss school. They are NOT happy they can’t be at school. They LIKE school! And if it was possible for me to drive them, they’d be at my friend’s preschool or even “snow day activities” planned in the city.

And while I have taken advantage of Snow Days by watching movies late at night, sleeping in until 8 and staying in my jammies until 11, I also miss the structure of a schedule on school days. And I miss getting out of the house. I DO go outside some of the time but hurry back in when the cold gets to be too much.

Up until now, we have been informed if the next day will be a Snow Day, but we won’t find out if we’re in for a 4th Snow Day until tomorrow morning. Next week is the last week of school the kids have until Winter Break and I’m just wondering if there will be any other days of this week they’ll be in school, too. If the snow is still here by tomorrow morning, I probably won’t drive them to the school or bus stop but will still make arrangements to send them off if tomorrow is indeed a day for the kids to be back in school.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Thankful List

Happy Thanksgiving! Today was a sad and happy day for me. Sad because it was another Thanksgiving come and gone where I didn’t get to call my mom (though I talked to her on occasion as though she was with us and spent some time thinking about her as I stared at her picture), and happy because it was a good day with my children.

For the first time ever, Jesse watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV, and he got soooo excited over all the balloons and floats. He even danced around when people sang. Jen thought the parade was pretty cool, too.

For every Thanksgiving, I make two pumpkin pies. The kids got REALLY excited when they learned I was making pumpkin pie. There was a lot of ‘are the pies ready yet?” and "can we eat the pie now?" practically ALL day until it was time to eat! Drove me crazy but I had to chuckle over the whole thing.

We had a magnificent Thanksgiving Day feast. There was so much food! Not too long ago, I joked to Jennifer that the last three months of the year are “food months” because of Halloween candy in October, Thanksgiving turkey in November and Christmas cookies, ham dinner and cake in December! But, really, I know why we eat such a large meal on Thanksgiving. It was just like the Pilgrims celebrating a bountiful harvest and sharing some of their food with their native American friends who taught them how to grow the food in the first place! It is a time of celebrating bounty and a big feast represents this!

Earlier this year, Jennifer and I were saddened to learn of the passing of popular children’s author, Barbara Park. When Jen was little, she was such a HUGE fan of the Junie B. Jones books. According to her, Junie B. Jones was a Very Real little girl! She pestered me to buy all the Junie B. Jones books and even Junie B. Jones accessories. So of course we were sad to learn that the creator of Junie B. Jones died earlier this year. In her honor, we read the very last Junie B. Jones book: Junie B., First Grader, Turkeys We Have Loved and Eaten (and other Thankful Stuff). I have never read this book but I read it today. Oh, wow, I just laughed so much and adored this book! Junie B. Jones is awesome! And she will forever live in our hearts. I am so glad I read this book. It’s funny and sweet at the same time. (And as a parent, I could relate to these kids’ outtakes because my own kids talk like that and do those things!)

I’ve been going over what I’m thankful for today in my head and of course we all shared what we’re thankful for. The Junie B. Jones book inspired me to create my own Thankful List, just like the kids in the book did. So here are the things I am thankful for.

Thankful List

1. My children
2. My family
3. My friends
4. My neighbors
5. My dog
6. Having a home to live in
7. Having warm clothes to wear
8. A garage to park my car in so I don’t have to scrape ice off the windshields on winter mornings anymore!
9. My gift of writing
10. Publishers I have worked with who are still around and keep me around, too.
11. Having a doctor who knows my family history and makes me take a hundred tests or always looks out for the SMALLEST THING even though it drives me crazy but I appreciate her for it
12. The Internet – and for the peeps on the Internet I have the privilege of knowing and networking with!
13. Freedom in our country – well, for the most part.
14. BOOKS!
15. Being able to read, let alone see.
16. The kindness of strangers, as well as kindness from anyone, really.
17. Being married to someone who has made me not regret taking a second chance and who does not oppress me, boss me around, criticize me, abuse me in any way, does not get drunk and hits the kids, does not do drugs, works hard to support the family and basically puts up with me even though I can be a real bitch sometimes. (I am not an easy person to live with.)
18. All of our vets and the soldiers still at war and in the military fighting for our country.
19. Teachers, doctors, nurses and counselors who really make an effort to help others and make a difference.
20. Living in a country where it is more acceptable to have a different religion and lifestyles or even no religion and no lifestyles than the way it used to be a long time ago.

I know that’s only 20 things, but there were 20 things on the list in the book and so I decided to stop there. But there is so much more I am thankful for. So, so much more. And despite bad things in life, I still make it a point to count my blessings and be happy with the GOOD things. The good things are the things worth paying attention to. The good things are what make me smile and think, hey, you know what? Life ain’t that bad.

A lot of people spend the month of November saying what they are thankful for. I think we should make this a habit all year round.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Lunchtime, and the picky eater

It seems like it’s one of the great laws of the universe: Every child is a picky eater. Both of my kids have been in a position to receive the World’s Pickiest Eater Award, if there was one to receive! Jennifer outgrew being a picky eater. I try to make the foods she likes, but she has grudgingly eaten even some of the foods she doesn’t like. With Jesse, on the other hand, it’s like I’m going through the Food Wars all over again – and this time, it’s interfering with his ability to eat lunch at school.

Recently, I asked Jesse what he ate for lunch at school. He told me he didn’t eat anything. I asked him why and he said he didn’t know. Then I asked him some other questions in order to understand what happened, such as if he was offered any food or if he wasn’t hungry, etc. He pretty much said he didn’t get to eat while everybody else did. And he told me he wasn’t offered anything to eat! I was upset about this, of course, as was my husband when I told him. Jesse normally takes a lunch to school, but today he was not able to. So I brought up this issue to find out what was going on.

I got a response this evening – a little too late for him to get a sack lunch from the cafeteria today. But when I read the teacher’s reply, it was definitely NOT the way Jesse had told it.

According to his teacher, Jesse IS being offered food at lunchtime, but the problem is, he’s not eating it. This was why I decided to send him a lunch from home in the first place; they gave him sack lunches and he never ate any of it! The food usually went to waste, and I hate wasting food. So I started to pack him a lunch, but when I couldn’t today, I just hoped he wouldn’t go hungry today.

Well, he did, but it wasn’t the school’s fault. According to the teacher’s email, there was a tray of sandwiches, fruits and veggies available for kids who didn’t have a lunch, but Jesse only picked an apple that he did not eat.

So, the bottom line is, he IS getting food at school, but he’s just not eating it. Ugh! No wonder he always comes home from school so hungry. (I usually fix him something to eat when he gets home from school. I know what kinds of things he likes -- hot dogs, cheese quesadillas, corn dogs, chicken nuggets and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches -- all things he can't get at school. Especially the peanut butter since a child in his class has a severe peanut allergy and his classroom is a "peanut-free zone.")

The reason why I could not send a lunch with Jesse today is because we were out of juice boxes. I did not have a cold drink to stick into his lunch. But I just remembered we have bottled water in storage for emergencies, so maybe the next time this happens, I’ll just give him bottled water to take along with his food. It seems like he’s just not going to eat school lunches at this time. Maybe later, he will eat the school lunches, but it’s just not going to happen now.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

She read my mind

Yesterday, as I was reviewing the kind of books I'll be publishing next year for my publishing company, I really wished I had a novel release from my daughter, Jennifer, in that line-up. She has attempted to write novels before, but never finished one.

Yesterday, she finished one. And I am so proud of her!

I am blogging about this today because, on one hand, by the time I was able to blog about it last night, I was too exhausted to do so. I just went to bed and fell right to sleep! On the other hand, there is a follow-up to this story.

But first, let's backtrack a bit here.


I know it's National Novel Writing Month (something I've actually been struggling with, unfortunately), and people participating in NaNo take a whole month to write their novel. Jennifer wrote hers in one day! Granted, it's not 50,000 words, but it's done. It's written. She wrote it in one day! Woot!

And there's something more here that was even more awesome.

It's actually surprising to me that Jennifer actually wrote something, albeit a novel, on a day she had an eye injury. Unfortunately, she got hurt at school yesterday and her right eye got a paper cut. Ouch! But would you believe that this wonder kid still sat down at the computer and wrote a book, all while she was in pain and typing with only one eye opened?? (I eventually got her to take some Tylenol and it helped her with the pain.) She actually WROTE SOMETHING with only one eye opened! That is pretty awesome. It kinda reminds me of the time I wrote some poems even when I had to wear an eye patch for a week after I had my own eye injury (a palm frond scratched my eyeball. You can bet I didn't run too closely past a low palm tree again after that!) Or when I was in the hospital and could not write with my hands and so I recited a poem to a nurse, who wrote it down for me.

Well, fortunately, Jennifer's eye got better. She is doing much better today and won't need an eye patch, thankfully.

I am still blown away by her ability to write a book despite all that, though. She must've been VERY inspired!! She's definitely got that "creative madness" we writers are known for.

And guess what? The book she wrote is the first book in a fantasy series. She started writing the second book today. Go, Jen!!

Saturday, November 02, 2013

I have not lost my way

One thing that I like to do when I’m logged in at Facebook is to share funny, cute and inspiring photos. The photos I choose to share either reflect my sense of humor or my philosophies. Or I share stuff just to have a good laugh with others. But sometimes, I’ll see something that I’d like to share, but the one thing that stops me is, believe it or not, a typo. I mean, seriously! If a word isn’t spelled correctly, then that really bugs me! Sometimes, though, I understand typos are intentional, like for funny animal pictures, and I’m cool with that. Still, a typo will give me pause. What WILL NOT give me pause is the site the picture came from or what sort of item is being “advertised” somewhere in a picture.

I don’t post a picture just to endorse a website or a certain drink. And it really bothers me when people take issue with that. You know? It’s really dumb. And I have to say right here and now that I DID NOT post a recent photo in an attempt to say “Yay Wiccans!” I posted it for the MESSAGE that was in that photo.

Now this sort of post bothered a certain cousin of mine, who is a Christian minister. He took issue with the photo coming from a Wiccan site. (Disclaimer: I’m a Christian, NOT a Wiccan. I HAVE tried the Wiccan path before but it was not for me.) His first post on this photo bothered me, but before I responded, I asked him what exactly was the problem. You know? I just wanted to see what it was he took issue with, over something that was, I might add, on MY Facebook page and not his. So when he spelled it out, it was THEN that I responded.

My cousin’s response was, I felt, judgmental and negative of Wiccans. While I’m not going to take any sides or anything when it comes to religion, I WILL speak out against intolerance and negativity towards others. I cannot stand discrimination, intolerance, racism or judgments against others, and I will fight anyone who thinks they can get away with being negative towards me, or other people. Especially if they think they can do that on MY Facebook page.

People, that’s not what I am about. I love and respect ALL people, no matter what their religion is or their beliefs or their lifestyles. I accept people the way they are, and I will not judge them. I have friends who are Wiccans, Pagans, atheists, Christians, Catholics, Jews, agnostics and all the rest. I have friends and family who are gay, and some who are straight. And I love them all. I will not judge or be negative towards any one of them. This is their choice and I totally respect that. And you know what? They respect MY beliefs, too. That is all that I ask of them. I respect their beliefs and they respect mine.

I am not a judgmental person. I would rather show kindness, friendship, compassion and love towards someone of a different religion, rather than judgment. It is not for me to judge someone because of their faith. Only God has the right to judge.

Now, that said, yes, I AM a Christian. And you know what? I still call myself a christian even though I accept others despite religious differences – and my cousin thinks that is BAD.

I would have let this whole thing go if it had not been for what happened this morning. The whole furor over that photo took place yesterday, and I would have let it go. A new day is a new start, right? Let bygones be bygones. But, against my better judgment, I decided to have a look at my cousin’s Facebook page this morning. And I was outraged at what I saw. His most recent post was about how he thinks it’s so very, very tragic that “confessing believers” ignore the Will of God. Not only this, but he says this certain “believer” (me) has decided to “pick and choose” what we want to do in God’s name.

I was very angry about this. And I’m sorry, I love my cousin, but I had to unfriend him. I just don’t want people judging me like that.

Some people think that they know me, but they DO NOT know me. I am not the “devoted good little Christian” they tried to fashion me into. I am a more modern Christian, a "Different Kind of Christian,” who loves and accepts all. I believe this is how God would want us to represent Him to others. Show love, kindness and acceptance. Not hatred, judgments or scorn. You know, what ever happened to “love the sinner but hate the sin”? Or how about “judge not, lest ye shall be judged”?

And if I am going to be judged for being the way I am, then I don’t want those kinds of people around me. Obviously, they don’t understand me. They don’t get that I will not judge others. I have my own beliefs, and other people have theirs.

And instead of preaching to others YOUR religion or shoving YOUR religion down another person’s throat, why not try a different approach instead and show them the Word of God through actions instead of words? Actions DO speak louder than words! Let your ACTIONS be for the glory of God and in Jesus’ name, and maybe that will inspire a nonbeliever. You know? It’s just a thought.

Judging others is a turnoff. A nonbeliever would not feel so welcome to listen to what a Christian has to say if all a Christian says is ‘You’ll burn in Hell for denying God.” That just doesn’t work.

But anyway, I choose not to judge others. That sort of thing is negative and it causes drama. The LAST thing I want to do is spread hate and negativity to others! And I have a “no drama” policy on MY Facebook page. So, ya know what? That sort of thing is not welcome on my page.

I love my cousin and I’m willing to forgive, but you know, if he does that sorta thing, then I’d rather not put myself into that position anymore.

I will not pass on sharing stuff on Facebook just because of what site it comes from or what drink it advertises. And I will not adopt a self-righteous attitude when it comes to others who have a different religion. I know I’m not perfect. I know I’m a sinner. I’m not a saint. But I’m not someone who "picks and chooses’ what part of God’s Word to obey. I do not “focus only on this world.” If I was a missionary, then MAYBE I’d make it my mission to convert everybody else to Christianity. But I’m not a missionary. I am just an ordinary Christian who loves and accepts all. Let’s try and show a little love and kindness towards each other. This world is hard enough to survive. The last thing we need to do is make it harder for us all to get along. Spread love, not hate. Peace!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Pick-up confusion

When I posted about a “bus confusion” problem I was having in picking up Jesse at his bus stop and the little girl I’m babysitting, a friend of mine offered to help out by picking up the little girl and bringing her to the bus stop since her kids get out of that school at the same time. That has been working out pretty well. It has definitely meant less stress and anxiety in trying to be in two places at the same time. My friend is definitely awesome for offering to help out.

And while it has caused less stress, it seemed to have caused a bit of confusion.

My friend doesn’t have a cell phone for me to text her at, so we’ve been using Facebook to get in touch with each other. (And, yes, we both have email, but for some reason, we use Facebook instead of email!) We normally keep tabs on who needs to be where before all the kids are out of school. And, also, I explained to her what days are not a problem for me to pick them both up, since the times they get out on those days are different. But as it is with every busy mom, messages tend to get lost in the clouds somewhere.

That’s what happened today. Today, Wednesday, is one day I am able to pick the little girl up, because Jesse gets out of school before she does. So Wednesdays are no problem.

And so there I was at the school parking lot, once again stuck amid ALL of those cars, people and buses, WAITING for a chance to get closer so the little girl could see me. now, sometimes she’ll walk along the line of cars (rolls eyes) to find me, but she didn’t so that today, and I was curious about that.

Then I realized, uh-oh! What if my friend picked her up and they were ... gone? At the bus stop, wondering where I was??

But I had to move up closer to find out for sure. Sometimes my friend is busy talking with teachers or people and she doesn’t leave right away. So MAYBE there was a chance she was still here – along with the little girl.

Well, I FINALLY made it up closer to the front of the school (20 minutes after release! GAH!!) and there she was. Phew! What a relief! But I saw my friend’s daughters, too ... and not my friend. I wondered what was keeping her, but didn't dwell on it too much. So the little girl climbed into my car and we all waved/said goodbye as I drove off.

Then when we got to my house and Jesse and the little girl were settled in, I walked into the kitchen to make myself some lunch. While the food was in the microwave, a thought struck me: What if my friend HAD been at the school, and I just hadn’t seen her? Hm, that was something I had to take care of. So I walked back to the little girl and asked her about it. She nodded and said that, yes, my friend had been there and was busy talking with a teacher.

And I was like “oh” then walked back into the kitchen, took my lunch out of the microwave and calmly started to eat it – when a thought struck me and I almost choked on that first bite! Did I SERIOUSLY just drive off with a child my friend was PLANNING on driving to the bus stop WITHOUT letting her know I’d been there?? GAH!!

I ran back to the little girl and asked her if my friend KNEW she was leaving with me. She said she wasn’t sure but also said that I might show up to pick her up.

Well, yeah, I DID. But my friend didn’t know that! Oh my God! Did I just leave my friend in a state of panic, turning around and wondering why a child was missing??? Oh my God!

I grabbed my phone and pushed the button for Facebook to load. While I was waiting, I wanted to bang my hand against my head and yell at myself, “Idiot! Idiot! Idiot!”

Believe me, when you’re a parent, then even when you have a child who is not yours in your care, those parenting instincts take over! You watch that child like a hawk, just like you’d watch your own. You’d protect that child, make sure that child is safe and that everything is fine. And I’d just driven right off with ONE child under someone else’s supervision without so much as a fare thee well! Ugh! Epic fail!

Well, I got on Facebook, then messaged my friend an apology, explaining what had happened and how I hadn’t thought about finding her and letting her know the little girl was with me now. “I am soooo sorry,” I typed. “Please don’t hate me.”

Message sent, I tried to calm myself down, but it wasn’t easy. I finished my lunch, though I couldn’t enjoy it as much, then paced around the house while I waited to hear back from her.

And, finally, I did. My friend said everything was okay and that her daughters had told her I picked the little girl up. And she wasn’t mad.

Oh, phew! I was soooo relieved. But next time, I need to be a little more careful about that. I am glad my friend recognized I’d just committed a little faux pas and was so understanding and forgiving about it. The important thing is, no harm was done and all children were safe.  

Friday, October 25, 2013

Happy 6th Birthday to Jesse!

Today my son, Jesse, turned 6 years old. Happy Birthday, Jesse! According to my daughter, Jesse is now officially a "little kid."

We will be celebrating a big birthday bash with friends tomorrow for Jesse's B-day, but for today, we had a little celebration. What's interesting is that, for Jen's birthday, she first had a little cake on her special day (which was on a school day), then 12 cupcakes for her 12th birthday party with friends. For Jesse, we switched things around. Today, he had 6 cupcakes with his family and, tomorrow, he'll have a cake! (I think it's funny that one child is 6 and the other is 12. Kinda like the year they were 10-4 and I often joked they were "10-4, good buddy" when asked about their ages. LOL! This year, I have a half dozen and a full dozen!)

Jesse also got presents. Yay! Here are pictures from his special day, as well ones of him with his presents.

The very first present he opened!

Jesse signing that he is 6.

Jesse climbing a tree while waiting for the school bus.
Blowing out his birthday candles.
Jesse has been asking to be signed up for soccer for months. The boy loves soccer! He was excited to get his very first and his very own soccer ball today.
An Angry Birds hat from Mom and Dad. Perfect for the coming winter cold!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Bus confusion

“What is it with me and buses?”  I grumbled to myself today. I don’t know WHY but something keeps going on when it involves a bus – whether it’s a city bus or a school bus. (I’ve ridden the Greyhound bus but don’t recall anything bad happening then. But still!) Maybe this being the first day means I need to work things out, but who knows.

Well, today, Jesse started riding the bus to and from school. Before today, I asked the secretary arranging bus transport about the bus stops and locations, since Jesse has PM kindergarten so it might be different. I was told the bus stop was the same one Jennifer went to when she was riding the bus to that school – but this time the secretary pointed out that pick-up was on the WEST side of the street, not the east side. But I didn’t so much pay attention to that. I was more concerned about Jesse’s ride BACK.

And I guess I had good reason to be!

This morning, as we patiently waited on the corner for his bus, it happened that we were on the wrong side of the street! (East side.) But the bus driver seemed to know Jesse was her ride so she waited as we crossed the street then came up to the bus. Before Jesse got on the school bus, I confirmed this was indeed going to his school and she pointed Jesse out by name. She talked to Jesse a few minutes then explained to me that she always picked up for his school on this side of the street. I thanked her for the information, told Jesse goodbye again, then stepped back as the doors closed and the bus drove off.

I figured that was that. No more bus problems for today. Wow, if only!

When it was time for Jesse to return on his bus, I first had to pick up a child I was babysitting today, because she gets out of school before Jesse’s bus arrives. Now, the problem is that, whenever I pick her up from school, it takes FOREVER to finally get to her at her school pick-up area because of all the cars, people and school buses. I mean, it gets crowded, and it usually takes me 10-15 minutes to FINALLY reach her! So I decided on a plan: I would get there right when school let out, park the car and get out to go find her. Thankfully, I did find her in good time, though we stopped to chat briefly with a friend. By the time I got to my car, I checked the time: I had 2 minutes to get to Jesse’s bus stop for his drop-off!

I got there in three. And right when I pulled up, I noticed a school bus driving away down the road. I panicked! I thought, Oh my God! Did I miss him??  I couldn’t see Jesse ANYWHERE. Would he wait for me or start walking home? And how far would he get in one minute if he DID walk?

I took off in the car, driving all around the neighborhood, slowly scanning the park as we drove past it (the park is down the street from the bus stop as well as down the street from my house). I didn’t see him! I started to panic. I circled the bus stop again. No Jesse. On my drive back, I rolled down windows and the little girl and I started calling for him as I drove. We didn’t see him anywhere!

At one point, I pulled over, got my phone out of my purse and contacted the secretary. We both thought maybe Jesse forgot to get on the bus or maybe he missed it or … something! I let her know I could not find him at the bus stop.

Then I started driving again. My heart was pounding in my chest. I was so scared my little boy was kidnapped or something! (We don’t exactly live in Mayberry!) I was scared to death and I knew I would never forgive myself if anything happened to him. I could not imagine a future without my little boy. And it was not safe for him to walk home alone; he’s only 5! I was driving and praying. Please, God, help me find my son. I was just so wracked with worry.

The little girl suggested I check the house again but then I had a feeling to check the bus stop one more time. So I drove back over there and, thank God, THERE was Jesse’s bus pulling up at the corner!! I had not missed his bus! That other bus was not his; THIS bus was his! Oh, thank God. We were SO relieved. I was a bit irked his bus was late (by 10 minutes! They seemed to tick away so slowly as I was frantically searching for him!) but there it was at last. I was so thrilled at the sight of my sweet boy stepping off the school bus. I was smiling and waving at him as he walked over to the car and both I and the little girl sent up prayers of thanks. And when my son got to my door, I just hugged him and kissed him so much. I was SO glad to see him! Of course, he was confused by my actions but he just smiled and hugged me back, too.

That incident really scared me. It’s always scary when you don’t know where your child is. I am just so relieved he was okay and that nothing happened.

Well, later on, I talked with my husband about it. He was bothered that I was a minute late to the bus stop but then he said, “You can’t do everything.” I know I can’t. I know I have to figure something out. I won't compromise the safety of my children – or the children in my care. I need to figure something out for both of them.

I also talked to the little girl’s mom. She agreed it was a scary experience. I asked her about an idea on a certain “pick-up schedule” for both kids but she hasn’t gotten back to me on that yet. But I know we need to get our heads together and figure something out.

I am only glad that today had a happy ending.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Some people are just annoying

Today something happened that made me feel REALLY annoyed. I have been debating whether or not to blog about this, but since this blog is about stuff that happens in my life today, here goes.

First off, a question: WHY do some people think they should walk up to a complete stranger and suggest they DO something – which, I might add, is something so freaking OBVIOUS to do that it’s not really all that important to even suggest it in the first place?? Or was this lady just trying to tell me what to do? NOBODY tells me what to do! I tell myself what to do! And that’s part of the reason why I was VERY annoyed.

Now, some explanation:

I was running late picking my son up from school today. The reason why is because I had to run to the bathroom first (ugh! Why do I always have to use the bathroom at the WORST possible time??) and, second, I had to spend a few minutes prying my phone out of my preteen daughter’s clutches. (I don’t feel comfortable leaving the house without my pone. I have a knack for being the “damsel in distress” and so prefer having my phone with me in case of emergency.) Well, I finally got to the school to pick Jesse up, but I was 15 minutes late. If I am 10 minutes late, his teacher takes him to the office where he has to wait for me there. Now the office has this GINORMOUS glass wall/doors in front and you can easily see cars parked out front. So what I usually do if I can’t get out of the car to get Jesse is I park in front of the building, honk my horn and he’ll come running out a few minutes later. That’s what I did today. But before Jesse came out of the building, this lady who I DO NOT KNOW came up to my window with her three sons in tow and asked me if I was waiting for someone. I told her “my son” and she said, “Why don’t you go into the office to get him yourself?”

And right about then is where I got angry. I’m talking Incredible Hulk angry! I wanted to scream at her, “I KNOW I CAN GO INTO THE OFFICE TO GET HIM MYSELF, LADY!! I’LL DO THAT ON MY OWN TIME! PISS OFF!!” I mean, really, I was ready to bite her head off.

I DID NOT want to get into details about how I have a bad foot and I try to avoid walking/running on it unless I absolutely have to. (Still need to see a podiatrist! Ack!) And I really didn’t feel I had to share with this woman that I usually wait so many minutes before parking the car and going into the office to get my son. I did not know this woman and I did not owe her a single explanation for anything at all. And I was pretty mad that she felt she had a right to get all in my business and tell me what to do.

Instead, I smiled sweetly, lowered my tone of voice and suggested SHE go into the office herself. She gave me a dirty look and walked off with her boys with this whole “what a lazy mom” kind of attitude.

It took every ounce of resistance not to give her the finger as she walked off.

Well, anyway, I did wait a few more minutes, then decided it was time to go in and see what was holding Jesse up. That was then my son appeared out the door. When he got to the car, I asked him what had taken so long and he explained he forgot to zip up his lunch box and so, when he picked it up, everything had fallen out. (That’s right, folks: He skipped the sandwich his mother had lovingly made for him for lunch, passed on the crackers and apple and, instead, ate the cookie and drank his juice!)

I was really mad at that woman for what she did but eventually got over it. I just really wish SOME people would mind their own business. I do things the way I do them for a reason and, like I said, I don’t owe complete strangers an explanation for anything.

And, anyway, I don’t think I’ll have to deal with people like her again anymore when I pick my son up from school. Jesse starts riding the school bus tomorrow. I just need to make sure I’m not late getting there!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My new book and another trip to a pumpkin patch!

Last week was not an easy week for me. It was filled with appointments and meetings. I started to feel like I was constantly jumping in and out of the car! There was that plus work on the books plus working the new job. So it was a little crazy-busy. But the good news is, I FINALLY finished working on a book I’ve been working on for 3 years! It’s finally done! YAY!

But, still, I wanted this weekend to be “fun.” Last week was just so hectic and I wanted the weekend to mean less craziness and more good times.

And you know what? It’s definitely been a weekend of good times. Even though I was bummed a party that was planned for the weekend got postponed. The weekend turned out to be pretty awesome after all.

On Saturday, my novel, Shadow of Samhain, was published. YAY!! I was so very excited this book is out now. I spent the day updating my web site and doing a bit of promo work. It’s funny, but I did web site updates that morning, then I got the email that my novel was now live, so I did web site updates again! (This time, to move the novel from the “Coming soon" page to the page where all my books are.) So that was pretty cool.

Then I got a text from my friend, Kim, inviting me and the kids to go with her and her daughter to the pumpkin patch – and it was “her treat” for us. Oh, wow! I told her yes! Of course! We’d love to go! So we went today.

At the pumpkin patch, which is actually the other one out by where Jesse went last week, we got to see the animals (goats, chickens and horses) and the kids pet and fed the goats. We LOVED the goats! They were so cool! (Of course, I love horses, too, so I was glad to see them.)  We also got ice cream and then the kids got to pan for “treasure” in the mining area. I took pictures of them posing at the “old timey” buildings. We had a blast with that!

While waiting in line to ride the tractor out to the pumpkin patch, the kids wanted to play in the playground. First I chatted with my friend in line while we watched the kids play then, as the line started to move away from them, I decided to go over and keep a closer eye on the kids. Of course, the carousel was the popular thing to play on. There were so many kids on that thing! The problem was, Jesse kept climbing on and off of it. At one point, he fell off. I told him to move because he was next to the carousel but he did not move fast enough. First he was dragged away by one kid’s feet sticking out from the spinning carousel then, to my horror, kids ran right over him! “Stop! Stop!” I cried. The carousel stopped and the kids jumped off. Jennifer and I ran through them to get to where Jesse was on the ground, crying. We both checked him over to see if he was okay and I was thinking My God, what if he is seriously hurt? After he stopped crying and gathered himself together, he jumped back onto the carousel to play again. Jennifer and I exchanged knowing looks, the same looks we have after the MANY times Jesse fell, slipped, ran into something, crashed, etc., and sprang right back to life again and we both said, “He’s fine.” But, still, I made a mental note to keep an eye on him. He might have bruising or pain later on. And I guess I looked pretty freaked out because one of the dads came over to me to calm me down and assure me Jesse was fine. I nodded my thanks to him but in my mind, I still saw my 5-year-old son being trampled. Jennifer was mad at the kids for running over her little brother. After Jesse fell off the carousel again, he would not move upon my instruction so I pulled him away and decided it was time to join my friend waiting in line for the tractor ride.

Then we rode the tractor out to the pumpkin patch. (Jesse LOVED the tractor! He kept running back to the one on display and climbing on!) On the ride, Jesse started talking with a little boy wearing hearing aids. I told the mother that I am deaf and that Jesse knows sign but she shook her head and said that her son doesn't use sign language. I was curious how she was communicating with her little boy and she confirmed that he reads lips. I was concerned about this, because lipreading is not an easy skill to master and it can take years of practice to be good at lipreading (as a teen, I lipread AND signed, as I do today), so I didn't think this was a good idea for a child. As it was, I noticed how he had trouble understanding Jesse and how the mom took over the conversation. (ARGH!!!!!) I was curious why they didn't use sign language, but decided that was none of my business so I didn't say anything more about the subject. During the tractor ride, we each got pumpkins (earlier, our friend bought the kids smaller pumpkins). On the way back, the tractor came to a stop. We were all trying to figure out what was going on. After a few minutes, Jennifer signed that the tractor broke down. I panicked, thinking we were ALL going to have to walk ALL the way back with our pumpkins! Some of us were carrying HUGE pumpkins! Gah! But then Jen laughed and said/signed, "He's faking." Sure enough, the tractor started up again. Whew! I was relieved but had to chuckle over the joke. After we got back, we paid for our pumpkins. Then it was time to go.

Jesse was not exactly on his best behavior while we were at the pumpkin patch, but despite this, and despite my son getting trampled, we had a great time. It was our first time at that farm! We really enjoyed visiting there and I’m so grateful to my friend for inviting us. We have even more pumpkins in our house now (with hopefully another one coming tomorrow) and I joke we’re being invaded by pumpkins! But, hey, it’s October, and I’m glad we were able to get pumpkins from a local farm.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Why we need social media

For the longest time, I have had a love/hate relationship with social media. I don’t use ALL of the social media sites and rarely will I ever participate at Google+. But I love the social media sites I DO use – Twitter and Facebook – because they’ve been great to stay connected with people. I HAVE been tempted to leave them either because I have had problems with people who were being jerks or my friends’ complaints about “evil social media” starting to frighten me. But then I figured, heck, I’ve been on this long, why stop now?

And I have seen how social media has been helpful to people. It’s helped to bust criminals, put together clues on things that have happened to people, as well as get messages across that the public at large could not be prone to. (Journalists DO use tweets and Facebook pics/posts in their stories.) Today, I saw how using social media can be VERY helpful.

I am reviewing this nonfiction book for Night Owl Reviews that is a woman’s true story of different things that have happened in her life that drew her closer to God. (Good book, by the way!) In one chapter that I read today, she recounted a terrifying experience she and her friends went through that they were lucky to survive. On a holiday in an Australian rainforest, the driver lost control of their car and it flew into a deep part of the forest, front-first, and nearly sank into the mud. They survived that crash and pushed their car out of the mud, but the car was out of gas so they couldn’t use it to get out of there. So they started walking – and ended up getting lost. In a rainforest. None of them had a cell phone, as well as no food, radio or water. For hours, they trekked through the woods, and then they got lost. They were freezing, scared, starving, bruised from the crash, dehydrated and had no way to call for any help. The author of this story said that no one knew where they were so they would not come looking for them, and no one would know for several more hours that they were lost.

By that time, they might be dead.

As I read this, I thought, Well, what if one of them had been posting about their adventures on Twitter? And a friend realized that the posts stopped, or there was no blog posts or pics on Instagram, and realize something was wrong?

But then I remembered that this person’s story took place several years ago – before Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and blogs. (Well, the blogs we know today.) No one would have updated or posted about ANYTHING on social media, because there WAS no social media at that time!

This gave me pause. It also made me grateful that we DO have social media. Thank God for people who post about their vacations and their adventures! That’s how other people – their friends, family and colleagues – can keep tabs on them. So often I have checked out the Twitter or Facebook page of someone I’ve lost touch with, or even their blogs, to see if they’re still alive. You know? I mean, social media is a great way for us to keep tabs on each other and be more aware of if something is wrong.

So, yes, I AM glad we have social media today. Maybe those college kids would have had a better chance of some friend thinking something was wrong because there weren’t any tweets or Facebook posts. (Smartphones make it possible for us to do that no matter where we are – another thing to be thankful for!)

In the end, one of the group who was still strong went on ahead and got help. They were rescued. But I think if they’d been using social media to post about their adventures and stuff, maybe it would be less worry for people who get lost because there is a chance someone following their posts would see no recent updates or tweets or anything, and realize they might be in danger and need some help.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Volunteering for a field trip

Today, my son went on his very first kindergarten field trip. We were both excited about it, but I was also nervous. He was going to ride on that big bus and go to a big farm where he’d be walking through a big pumpkin patch! Eek! My baby! So of course, I volunteered to go along on the field trip. When Jennifer was Jesse’s age, she was a tough little kiddo, so I didn’t worry about her at all. (She’s STILL tough, too! She once punched a boy who was fighting with one of her friends. Yep, my daughter has fists, and she knows how to use them!) But with Jesse, I did worry. I just HAD to be with him.

Even though I’ve been struggling with a bad cough for over a week. I STILL had to be with him for this field trip! So I volunteered. It was the first time I ever volunteered to go on a field trip, so I was a little excited, too. (Later, I realized this would be a good experience, because in one of the stories I just wrote, my characters go on a field trip and there are a couple of parents who volunteered to go on the trip, too, so I got a better idea of just what that kinda thing is like.) I was very close to canceling, though, because of my cough, but then I learned that I just wasn’t gonna be tagging along here. Oh, no! I was gonna have a job! I had to help out!

I was assigned four children to be responsible for, and Jesse was among them. I couldn’t back out, now! Good thing I’d brought extra cough drops along with me. (The cough syrup I started taking today and the cough drops are not a huge help, but they do help a little bit. And, thankfully, my cough was not as bad while I was on the trip.)

When we got on the bus, I let Jesse pick where we would sit. And he just HAD to pick a seat that was at one of the emergency exits! I saw that and thought, ‘Oh, no.’ I remembered an essay in a book written by my friend, Tara Chevrestt, about how she was forced to change seats on a flight because she is deaf and was sitting next to an emergency exit, and the airline staff wouldn’t allow her to sit next to an emergency exit because she is deaf. Even though Tara KNEW how to easily open an emergency exit on a plane, they still made her move, because she’s deaf! I hoped that nobody would make me move from my seat just because I was a deaf person sitting next to the emergency exit. I mean, I understand why they do it, but it’s just really annoying. I’d probably get a little mad about it.

But, thankfully, nobody pointed any fingers saying, “Hey! That deaf woman is sitting next to the emergency exit! We’re all doomed!” Nobody asked me to move. And I was grateful for that!

On the way to the farm we went out to, I saw another farm I’ve been trying to figure out how to get to, because they have a harvest celebration going on later this month and I want to take the kids this year for sure. I saw it and was like, ‘Oh, there it is.’

When we got to the farm, I was taken aback at just how HUGE it is! There’s a store selling things grown on the farm, and the animals of course, but A LOT of acres and so many things planted. There was the cornfield, assorted flowers, assorted trees and vegetables, and a ginormous pumpkin patch! It was just so big. Looking around, I started to wonder if people who worked there needed to carry a map so they didn’t get lost!

We got on a hay truck, sitting on bales of hay, and rode out to the pumpkin patch. I made sure I had all four of my young charges with me the whole time, as well as when we went through the pumpkin patch looking for pumpkins. It was wet and muddy! (The teacher was smart to wear mud boots.) I helped all four of the kids with cleaning off their chosen pumpkins and placing their pumpkins into their bags. Jesse and one other boy in the group selected big pumpkins, which I ended up carrying for them later on when it was time to leave. (I was not allowed to, because the kids have to be able to carry their own pumpkins, but I felt bad for them, especially the little boy who had to keep sitting his big pumpkin down.)

We adults also worked together to keep track of all the kids and help them out. It was just such a positive and welcoming environment. One other mom had volunteered as well as the teacher aide and it was just a great feeling of acceptance and teamwork among us all. I was grateful to them for their kindness and smiles.

After the kids got pumpkins, we all took pictures as they checked out the scarecrow, fed the goats, visited the rabbits, saw the chickens and played in a little play area. We all had a great time.

Then it was time to go back to the school. Boo-hoo! We didn’t want to leave. While I did pick up on a sad feeling while I was in the pumpkin patch, I really enjoyed visiting that farm and found it so hard to leave. It was like I couldn’t pull myself away from there! I wanted to run through the mud! Go out into the fields! Be among all those growing plants and all those roaming animals! It’s so fun to visit a farm and I could just stay there all day.

But we did have to leave. I am grateful for this experience. It was awesome! Jesse and I have pictures and a video I made to remember his field trip with, and a nice pumpkin he’ll get to carve for Halloween.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Halloween decorating

Yesterday, we decorated the house for a party Jennifer was having with her friends. This morning, those decorations came down. Later in the day, different decorations went up: Halloween decorations. Yay! I LOVE Halloween and I love Halloween decorations even more! Some of them can be neat, spooky and just celebrate the time of the year.

I think we overdid it with the pumpkins, though. But the pumpkins are a good Fall decoration, too.

One of Jen’s friends spent the night so she helped create and put up the decorations. It took me a while to find them all; I had them in two different boxes in two different areas of the garage. Once we had them all, they were all set out. Unfortunately, the witch decoration I had last year broke, so I’m hoping to get another one soon. You can’t have Halloween decorations without a witch! Or even a black cat. And maybe a monster.

But with what we have now, I was pretty satisfied with it. Jennifer likes it, too, but agreed we could use a bit more.

This year, I decided not to do spider webs, even though Jesse has a giant toy spider we could use for that. That might change later, though.

The kids made the ghosts out of paper. I know they could have made them with crepe paper, white bags or even coffee filters, but they really wanted to make them with paper so I told them to go ahead. Jesse also drew ghosts, as well as a pumpkin and a bat. He made a bat wearing a hat!

Just a note: Later, I moved the ghost to the front, under the hanging pumpkin, and in its place I put a pumpkin that Jesse had decorated when he was in preschool.

 Here's a close-up of the mantle.

After the decorations were done, I put on the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas and made hot dogs for lunch. While the food was cooking, I noticed Jennifer walking zombie-like. I asked her if she was practicing her zombie walk. She laughed and said “yes.” To which I replied, “That’s not how you do it. This is how you do it.” Then I started doing the Thriller dance. She and her friend laughed and did the Thriller dance, too.

When it was time to eat, I noticed that one end on one of the hot dog buns looked like it was chopped off. I held it up to the kids, made a scary face and said, “This one got decapitated. Eek!”

Later on, I was looking at pics I took from the party. In the group pic, the face of Jennifer’s friend was blurred. I asked her to look at it. I told her it was creepy and I freaked out because all of a sudden I was thinking of that movie, The Ring. But, of course, there was a logical explanation: Her friend had moved her head when I took the pic.

Jen’s friend left before the movie was over. After that movie, I put on Corpse Bride. One of my favorite scenes in that movie is when the Bonejangles sing the story of the Corpse Bride. Later, I was thinking about the doomed bride's plight, trying to imagine how I would feel if such a thing happened to me. I would probably have a broken heart, too, but then I’d realize something much more worse than being dead: Having to spend the afterlife wearing a dress! NOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

An unanswered question

Before I get into this blog post’s subject, let me first say that I truly feel it is important to live in the moment. Focus on right now, this very day. And not the past. I wish I could say I am completely that person, but there are times I revisit things from my past and grumble over WHY certain things happened or wishing I could change things. Especially with people who aren’t alive anymore. But I always have to STOP myself and just change my focus. Get back into the present. And this is what I TRY to do, every day. Focus on the present.

But it seems that sometimes, things from my past tend to creep up on me, even things that I have not thought about for a long time. Even little things.

And that’s the case with something that came up recently, and that brings me to the subject of this blog post.

Last week, I noticed certain elements popping up that reminded me of something from December 2006. At that time, I was divorced and did not have transportation, so I was going through bus training to learn how to ride the city bus. (Up until then, I’d NEVER used public transportation to get around, and while I DID walk sometimes to get where I needed to go, weather here in Oregon, where it gets icy and sometimes snows in the winter, made getting into a vehicle for transportation a necessity.) So, yeah, I was going through bus training. It was not going very well, and on one particular evening, I climbed aboard the wrong bus. When the bus got to the bus station, I noticed there was just one other passenger sitting in the front. He was talking with the bus driver. At one point, he looked at me, then looked back at the bus driver to resume conversation. I realized the bus was back at the station for good. And that I’d gotten on the wrong bus.

So I walked up to the front and asked the bus driver if he was taking the bus out again and he said he was going home. I chuckled over my mistake then asked him about what bus would get me to West 11th, which was where I lived at that time. He gave me a number as he pointed in the direction of the RIGHT bus and I flew off that bus, the wrong bus, into the direction of the right one. All that time I was running, I was FOCUSED on getting to the bus. I was thinking, Must get on bus! Must get on bus!

Now there are two things in this story that I must point out. One is that the guy at the front of the bus LOOKED like someone – a certain singer. A singer by the name of Jordan Knight. And, as I ran to the other bus, I later, MUCH later, realized a guy I saw sitting on a bench on my path to the right bus ... kinda looked like his brother, Jonathan.

But I did not know that for sure. Not at that time. I didn’t recognize them. I am terrible at recognizing people, especially people I don’t know well. I mean, it COULD have been them, but if it was, why were they there? And don’t they have their own transportation?

Of course, I could think maybe they were there for a reason, and that reason could have something to do with a certain incident further back in time. (And as for that incident, I’m not even sure anymore if it was what I thought it was, despite what I found out. But that’s for a whole ‘nother blog post.)

Now the only thing that started bugging me again was that MAYBE that was them! And I did not recognize them. So why not find out if they had been there at that time? The reason why I was bugged about this again was because of certain poems in my new poetry book reminding me of that other incident and the novel coming out soon (the name of a character) AND certain tweets I was seeing on Twitter by certain people who know them. I mean, these three things came clashing together and was like a huge fireball knocking me off my feet! I spent a long time pacing back and forth in the kitchen arguing with myself about this. WHY even bring that up? WHY even make this an issue? Why now? What is the point of even trying to find out if that was them or not?

So I ran right past two celebrities. Big deal! I’ve done that before! I’d run right past people or SEE people then later, I’d be like, Hey, wasn’t that so-and-so? I used to live in L.A. and the L.A. area, so I’ve seen celebrities before. Sometimes without even recognizing them. And I saw them in the California desert, too. (You can’t live near Palm Springs and NOT see a celebrity or two.) The same goes with people I DO know. It's, like, later on, I'll be like, "Hey, wasn't that....?"

So I asked myself, why is this important? And, anyway, the New Kids on the Block have crossed my path before. Their tour bus went by the family car YEARS ago when we were in the process of making our one of many moves from one place to another, and I'm pretty darn sure I saw one of them (and Biscuit!) in Connecticut many years ago.

It would not be the first time we’ve gone right past each other without any recognition going on. (For the record, I am not one of those people who spend hours staring at their pictures, and I don’t go all crazy when I see celebrities. To me, they are just another guy or just another girl – though someone with exceptional talent so you don’t exactly fuck around with them!)

So why did THIS particular incident matter now?

I didn’t want to bring this up now. I have a lot going on right now. I have a lot more coming up real soon and even MORE stuff going on next year. Plus, I have issues going on with my son. So it’s not like I have the time to waste on trivial things.

And, anyway, that was from 2006! Almost 6 years ago! They probably don’t even remember it!

Which is why I decided to end my quest to find out. Yes, I DID decide to follow through on finding out, because in the end, I decided it was time to get an answer once and for all. This has been hanging over me for years and it’s time to just drop all that. I really do have stuff coming up in my life where I can’t be dwelling on these little puzzles from my past. I’ll need to be 100% focused and 100% in the moment. I consider 2013 my year to get ready for 2014, and part of getting ready is finding closure with unfinished business and resolving old issues and stuff. So I decided to try and find out.

Then, as I asked around, I started feeling silly. I was like, 2006? SERIOUSLY????

Now, chances are pretty good that WAS them. So, I am going to just tell myself, you know what? Yes, that WAS Jordan and Jonathan Knight! Dang! I missed them again!

And in the off, off, off, OFF chance that they read this post: Guys, I am sorry I didn’t recognize you. I think you guys rock! And hopefully one day, when our paths cross yet again, I WILL recognize you guys and maybe get to say hello.

There. My conscience is clean. Case closed! Now I will move on from THAT thing in my past and focus on other stuff.

I have a feeling that they have, too.