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Saturday, November 8, 2014

Making Amends

I got a phone call yesterday. Actually, I got a voicemail because as soon as I saw the area code of the caller, I got chills and couldn't move to answer it even if I wanted to.

I waited for the voicemail notification, staring at the phone the entire time. I was sitting downstairs in the Mom Cave at the sewing machine, and the phone was sitting beside the machine as I worked. When the notification chimed, I picked up the phone, called the voicemail, and somehow entered my code with my hands shaking.

"Good morning, Amy! This is S, Jeff's father. I'm calling because I need to talk with you. I know it's been a long time and there's been some issues and so forth but anyway, I'm trying to reach out. I need to make some amends and I'd really like to hear from you. I'd appreciate it very much. I've been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and enough is enough. We need to make some peace here so anyway I hope things are well. My wife keeps track of you on the internet and she just says that you're just such a lovely mother and I believe that. Anyway when it's convenient, and if you don't, I understand too. I just would like to talk with you. Anyway, I hope it warms up there in Kansas. Give me a call. Please. Bye."

My first reaction was extreme anger. Then sadness. Pain. Anger. Devastation. Confusion. Intense sadness. Disbelief. Anger.

I screamed and yelled and cried and stomped around the house and sobbed and collapsed in the middle of the living room floor.

How dare he do this? Why now? What gives this man the right to call me and "make amends"???

I called The Dude and told him what happened. I forwarded the voicemail to him so that he could hear it. He asked me the Million Dollar Question: What are you going to do?

I've gone round and round and round in my head about it. I've listened to the message dozens of times. And here is my response:

Dear S:

First of all, I'm sorry to hear about your diagnosis. Cancer is a truly horrible disease, and I don't wish it on anyone.

I have not stopped thinking about how to handle this since the second that I saw your number come up on my phone. I thought about ignoring it and just not responding, but realistically - that gives you closure. You get to say "well, I tried" and pat yourself on the back. I thought about calling you back and telling you exactly how I feel, but I know that wouldn't end well. You would try to manipulate me and tell me again how everything was all my fault like you've done in the past, and I wouldn't be able to say what I wanted to say. Maybe a public blog post isn't the best way to handle it, but I don't have your address so I can't send you a letter - and this way it's "out there" so that everyone can see exactly what I said.... because I have nothing to hide.

Just to refresh your memory, it's been more than 5 1/2 years since you've bothered to contact me. To be precise, I told Jeff to leave for the final time 5 years, 6 months, and 2 days ago - and you never bothered to contact me since before then. You never called to make sure that Daniel was ok or to see if he needed anything. You wrote him off, just like the rest of your family did.

Even after I made it clear that you could have a relationship with Daniel, you chose not to. You continued to ignore him. Worse, you and/or your family made it your mission to make our lives more difficult. The decisions made by you and your family destroyed everything that I had and everything that I was for a while.

But now..... after all of this time..... you want to make amends.

Why? Because you're dying.

Think about that. You're not doing it because it's the right thing to do or because you miss your grandson, but because you're dying. You didn't even mention him in your voicemail - it was all about you and your need to make amends. It's not about anyone else but you. You think that if you do this now, you'll get your Get Into Heaven Free card.

You could have done this any time in the last 5 1/2 years, but no. You chose to wait until the last minute, giving me a guilt-laden ultimatum to make you feel better about yourself.

I have news for you.

No.

You lost your chance.

I have done nothing in the last 5 1/2 years but put my kids first. I have fought tooth and nail to give them the life that they deserve. We have struggled to rebuild what we lost after we lost Jeff, and we did it without your help. We have moved on, we have grown up, and we have learned what is truly important in life. I am not the same person that I was back then. I don't allow myself to be trampled anymore. I don't hide my feelings, and I'm not afraid to tell you exactly what I think of you.

You have done nothing for Daniel. Nothing. You have not been there for him. You have not shown him love or respect or anything but indifference. You have only shown him that he is not worth anything to you or anyone else in your family.

The good news is that he has a huge family who does love him. He has a dad now - one who he has chosen and one who loves him as a dad should. He has siblings and grandparents and cousins and crazy aunts and uncles who love him as he deserves to be loved - and they won't turn their backs on him.

You chose not to have that. You chose to wait until the last minute, hoping that I would feel bad enough for you to give into you and give you what you expect - but it's not going to happen. Maybe I'll regret this decision some time in the future - but then I'll remind myself that it wasn't me who turned my back 5 1/2 years ago.

It wasn't Daniel's fault. It wasn't my fault.

It was you. It was your family. It was your choices.

So there you go. You reached out. You tried. Good for you.

And I told you what I think. Good for me.

I guess we both got something out of this.

Peace,
Amy

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Blanket Update

So a couple of weeks ago, I posted the deal about creating Mom Cave Designs, and I figured that it was time to give a semi-official update on what's been going on with that.

It's been interesting, to say the least. People have shown a tremendous amount of interest, and I can see that there is definitely a market out there for weighted blankets (among other things). I honestly  had no idea how fast something like this could grow. Since I got started, I think I've completed 3 blankets to order, I have one blanket that is being made, and I have orders for 5 more (that's off the top of my head, but the numbers are pretty close). It might not seem like a ton, but it's been keeping me busy. I got a little bit of a break last week while I waited for supplies to arrive after I ordered them, but that gave me a chance to get some stuff done around the house.

The most surprising thing that has happened though.....I have had several people contact me to basically say "your prices are too low" or "you aren't charging enough for your work" or "you're never going to make any money like this". You get the idea.

It dawned on me that a lot of people who are following me on the Mom Cave Designs page don't necessarily know me as Non-Stop Mom. They don't all know who I am or any of my story, and that helps to explain the low pricing.

I'm NOT in this to get rich. I'm just not. I don't need the money. When my second ex-husband unexpectedly passed away, Daniel and I started receiving Social Security benefits. Those benefits caused a lot of drama for a while because of the people who felt that I didn't deserve them, but that's another story altogether. The reality of the situation is that we receive enough money on a monthly basis to pay all of our bills and have a little bit left over. We are not rich. We don't have much in savings (that happens when you buy an older house) but we survive and we manage to do a little extra here and there. So "getting rich" off of these blankets is not really a priority. Will a little bit of extra money here and there help us? Of course it will. Is it the driving force behind doing this? Not even close.

What we want to do is make them affordable. The blankets do absolutely no good to anyone if they are so outrageously priced that people can't afford to buy them. We want to help people get the blankets that they need without having to sacrifice something else that is equally as important to be able to afford them.

I don't see it as doing anything amazing or spectacular and I certainly don't expect any kind of recognition for it. I just want to be able to sew and create things and help people, and if I make a little bit of extra money, great. It'll be even better when we get to the point that we can start making blankets to donate to those who need them, but that will take a little bit of time yet.

At the same time though, I am a mother first. I have 5 extremely active and involved kids. They are in sports and extracurricular activities and Scouts and church and everything else under the sun. I'm a single mom, and even though The Dude helps me out when he can, he's not here all of the time and so the housework and the grocery shopping and the yardwork and the kid chauffeuring and everything else falls back on me 99% of the time. The Mom Stuff has to take priority, especially when the kids are at home - so when they're here I run around and do what needs to be done around the house, but as soon as they're in bed or at school I head down to the Mom Cave and get busy. Right now I have a fairly quick turnaround on the blankets but as time goes on and I get busier with that, it will probably slow down a bit - but I don't plan to raise my prices any time soon.

Alrighty then....
I'm also looking into the things that I need to do to actually eventually turn this into a legitimate business if it looks like that would be a good thing to do. Right now, it's still in the little more than a hobby but not quite a business stage. I don't want to jump the gun and do all sorts of crazy official stuff until I know exactly which direction we're going and where we might land with all of this stuff.

For now, I'm learning as I go. I know that I can make the blankets and I'm enjoying doing it. I welcome any input or suggestions or critiques that anyone wants to give. I've had people ask if it's ok to share the page or share the blog - please do, because otherwise we won't be able to do this. (For the record, I've thought about starting a secondary blog just for the business stuff, but honestly..... it's so intertwined with me and who I am that it would be hard to separate it...... so it'll all just be contained right here in this nifty little package.)

There are other things rattling around in my skull but for now I just wanted to explain the lower prices a little more in detail for those who don't know the whole story. And just in case you haven't been around here for a while - if you have any questions, just ask me. Seriously.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Start of Something ...... Small to Medium (for now)

So.....

If you've been hanging around here for very long, you know that I sew. Kind of a lot. Or at least, I try to when I'm not running around like the proverbial headless chicken all hopped up on caffeine. I've always wanted to get a business going around it, but so far that hasn't really happened yet. A craft show here and there, or a special order once in a while, and that's been about it.

Then, a series of things happened.

Actually, it started a couple of years ago when a dear friend of mine took in 3 little boys who were in need of a new home. Keep that in the back of your mind for right now, ok?

I bought this house. And it has this incredible basement that I can almost totally devote to my crafty stuff. Getting it cleaned up and usable has been more than a little bit of a chore, but it's so close to being perfect that I can spend time down there actually sewing instead of hyperventilating over the mess.

Then my friend got another child, the little sister of the boys she already had in her home. One of the boys started showing some signs of autism and other sensory issues, and she has been doing everything in her power and within the foster care system to meet his needs. She called me one day and asked me "hey, what do you know about weighted blankets?"

Huh. I've never been asked that before. So I started researching. I was astonished at the prices and knew that I could make them for less money than what some of these companies were asking. I started crunching numbers and doing thousands of searches online for supplies and ideas and prices and ideas.

The Dude and I talked about it. We talked to friends who have experience with these things. We brainstormed. We drew pictures and talked and discussed and made phone calls and did more research and discussed and bickered (but just a little).

And then we went to Oklahoma to see my friend and these precious children, and to help them move into a new home. The Dude, my friend and I all sat down and talked and crunched numbers and brainstormed some more.

On the way back to Kansas, he and I talked about it some more. We both decided that this is something that is worth pursuing, even if it's just a short-term project. I ordered the pellets needed to weight a blanket, and dug through my fabric stash to see what I could make for her little boy as a prototype.

It took me more than a few weeks to make that first one, as life was too crazy for a while. But then I got it done and had it ready to ship to her. I had done everything except for take pictures of it, and she called me and asked me to come back down to help her - she had just moved again (long story on that one) and was diagnosed with diabetes, and she was struggling. I packed the boys into the Traverse, pulled out of the driveway, went to the gas station, went back to the house to get the blanket, and hit the road.

Once we got there, we basically forgot about the blanket other than pulling it out of the bag to show it to her, and then it got put aside. I don't remember exactly what happened at one point, but her little boy started to have a meltdown. He was extremely upset and was kicking and screaming and crying and flailing all over the place. She got him in her arms and sat down on the couch and motioned for me to hand her the blanket. I tossed it to her and she draped it across him, and as the weight settled on him, he immediately became quiet and relaxed.

She and I looked at each other in shock. We had never witnessed what one of these blankets could do.

I knew right then and there that this was something that I need to do.

I've referred to the basement in this house as the "Mom Cave" ever since we moved in, and as ideas for this have been rolling around, so has a name for our venture. "Mom Cave Designs" was born. I snagged a facebook page for it, but didn't post anything until tonight as I kept working on ideas.



Our (and when I say "our" I mean me and The Dude because he's in on this too) general idea for the blankets is this - while we will have some standard blankets on hand (after we get them made), we will make them to order, because we know that kids (and adults) who need them sometimes have very particular requests/needs. We plan to sell them at very reasonable prices, because we're not out to get rich off of these. We actually want to turn some of the profit around to make more blankets that can be donated - either to kids in the foster care or mental health system, or to families who can't afford to buy them.

We want to make a difference.

Of course, it's going to take a while to get this going full-speed. There are some things that we need to do first to make it easier - small things like getting a piece of wood cut to make a tabletop for the pool table to give us a big work area, buying a bigger ironing board to make working with larger pieces of fabric easier, buying the pellets in bulk to get the biggest cost savings, buying some bulk fabric and thread, etc.... and other things like looking into what needs to be done to turn this into a legitimate business should it grow and succeed as we hope it does. For now, we're going to take it all one step at a time, but I already threatened him that if this takes off, he's going to be learning how to use a sewing machine pretty darned quick!

Mom Cave Designs will be more than just the blankets though. It will be everything that I make, but with a focus on the blankets. As of right now, I have pictures posted of two smaller lap blankets that I made as samples, and also some Trick or Treat bags that I made that I have for sale. I plan to post more items over the next few days, as I go through my inventory and see what I have. Anything that is sold in the near future will help to fund the initial startup costs to get some more blankets made.

As this progresses, I'll be posting updates on the Mom Cave Designs facebook page, so if you'd like to keep up on the day to day progress you can follow me there - but of course I'll always be on my regular Non-Stop Mom page too.

So.....it'll either be really cool, or it'll be a train wreck. Only time will tell. :)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mayberry

I swear.... we moved to Mayberry.

And I mean that in the best possible way.

The boys have gotten into a routine after school. The girls are always at volleyball practice for the first few after-school hours, so the boys come home, grab a snack, do homework and whatever else I need them to do, and then they're gone.

They are back outside as fast as they can possibly be. They grab their bikes and that's it. I don't see them again until I hunt them down after I pick the girls up from practice. They ride up and down the street, or to the park that's a few blocks away, or to any number of friends' houses. If I don't spot them right away, I usually spot their bikes parked in front of someone's house - and it's never just one or two bikes. There's usually a whole pile of bikes and scooters with random footballs and hoodies nearby.

Today, a bunch of their friends showed up here, and then they all took off and disappeared. I heard them say something about going to the park. A little while later, there was a knock at my door. There was a man who looked vaguely familiar standing there, and he asked if his daughter was still here playing with Alex. I said no, that they had all taken off toward the park a little bit ago. He laughed, we introduced ourselves to each other, and then he said he was going to go to the park to get her for supper - so I asked him to send my boys back when he saw them. He smiled and waved as he got in his car and drove down the street. Sure enough they boys came zooming back a few minutes later. "Mom, did you need us?" I told them I just wanted them to check in with me and sent them back on their way again.

A little later, I looked out the kitchen window and saw them climbing the cottonwood tree and playing in the dirt.



All 3 of them were covered in filth from head to toe. I made them come inside one by one and actually gave them baths instead of letting them do it on their own - because I knew that there was no way that they were going to get the dirt out of their hair by themselves.


And then I scrubbed every inch of the bathroom, from top to bottom.

This is it. This is why we moved. This is the way that life is supposed to be - knowing that I can send my kids outside and not worry about them and they can play with their friends and have fun and get dirty and not be sitting inside with their noses stuck in a video game.

Sure, they get into arguments with each other while they're out running around. But you know what? They resolve it on their own. They know that if they have to come running to me to tattle or settle a fight, I'm going to make them come inside. They know that if anyone strange happens to approach them, they are to stick together and either come get me or get to a friend's house, whichever is closer. Same thing if someone gets hurt. They are learning to cooperate with each other and to look out for each other and to amuse themselves. They problem solve and brainstorm and meet new friends and play new versions of old games.

And they get to be kids. If that means that I have to scrub the bathroom every single day, I'm ok with it.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why I Stayed

After I got the boys off to school this morning, I came back home and sat down in front of the laptop as I often do, trying to finish waking up. I scrolled through my facebook newsfeed and I saw a link that several people had posted, and it caught my attention.


If you haven't read that article yet, do it. Do it now.

Read the tweets. All of them. 

Read the last paragraph.

Now think about what you just read. I mean, really think about it.

How many times have you heard about a domestic violence situation, and questioned why the victim didn't just leave? How many times have you said something along the lines of "If that was me, I'd kick him in the junk and walk out the door"? 

Do you know how many times I said that before?

Trust me when I say that it's not that easy. It's hard. Staying in a bad situation is hard, but leaving is even harder.

A bike ride with this kind of scenery -
perfect therapy.
I went for a bike ride after I read that article. I needed to get out of the house and away from the computer and get some fresh air and quit crying. I ended up going about 6 miles, which is about 5 miles longer than any ride I've done recently, and even with a minor spill along the way, it did me good to work through my thoughts.

It has been 5 years, 4 months, and 3 days since I left my second marriage. And reading tweets like that can still bring me to tears, remembering exactly how it felt. I could feel the pain in those tweets. I can still feel the pain of what I went through - both physically and mentally.

Why did I stay for so long?

We He made the decision that I should quit my job and stay home with the kids. I had no job, no income, no way to support myself and my kids if I left. So I stayed.

I knew that I could file for child support and apply for assistance and things like that, but knowing the bureaucracy and red tape of the system, I wouldn't get it immediately - and landlords don't accept "I'll pay you in a couple of months" before they offer you a lease on your own place away from the abuse. So I stayed.

When we bought the van, he put it in his name because it was "easier" - leaving me with no transportation if I walked out. So I stayed.

Sure, he was mean when he drank. But he was nice to us when he was sober. So I stayed.

He worked hard at his job all day, so when he came home and the house wasn't clean enough, it was definitely my fault because I didn't work hard enough to clean it. But I knew that I could do better to make him happy. So I stayed.

I just needed to be a better wife and mother, and he'd stop drinking and treat me better. I could fix everything that was wrong. So I stayed.

When he dozed off on the couch and I finally figured out that he was hiding flasks of booze in his boots, he responded by kicking me as hard as he could. But really, I had just startled him and it was a reflex, and he didn't really mean to do it. So I stayed.

He choked me in a drunken rage when I was 6 months pregnant with our son. But I had made him angry when I grabbed his shirt to make him look me in the eyes and be honest with me. After I bailed him out of jail that night, he swore that it would never happen again. So I stayed.

He really didn't mean to knock me down and fling my glasses across the floor when he hit me upside the head. I was already crouching down so I was off-balance when he hit me - otherwise it wouldn't have happened. And he really didn't mean to hit me - it was accidental. Honest. So I stayed.

He was with his first wife for close to 20 years. Obviously, if she stayed with him for that long, things must have been fine and this behavior must have started when he married me. I must have somehow broken him - so I had to fix him. So I stayed.

If I left, who would take care of him? I loved him, and I didn't want to hurt him. So I stayed.

I loved him. So I stayed.

It finally took him pulling a knife to get me to realize that I didn't deserve this anymore. My kids didn't deserve it either. No one deserves it - men, women, children, young, old, black, white - it doesn't matter.

If you know of someone who is being abused - the last thing that he/she needs is your judgment. That person needs your support and your love more than anything. It's so hard to get out of those situations - contrary to popular belief, resources are not always readily available. It is not something that most victims are willing to discuss with just anyone, and so often the allegations of abuse come as a surprise to those around them - and they're not always believed, making it harder to get the support that is needed to get out of the situation.

Stop judging the victims. Support them. Love them. Be there for them. 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Why do I push?

I spent pretty much the entire day outside cutting firewood and cleaning up the corner of the yard and the firepit area. The general firewood area has needed to be cleaned up for a while, but the firepit area really needed it after I tore down the fence the other day - since I just chucked all of the old fence over the remaining fence into that area rather than dragging it all the way around and into the gate.



I got to work early this morning and started knocking stuff out fairly quickly. But as time went on, I started to get tired. After tearing part of the fence down two days ago, and tearing the old gate down yesterday, my body was just tired.

I stopped occasionally to catch my breath and move into the shade, and I'd occasionally check the notifications on my phone. There were a couple of notifications on the pictures that I had posted of the work that I've done, and there were some comments that were complimenting me on what I've accomplished.

In typical brain dump fashion, my thoughts started to go in a few different directions. I started thinking about different reactions that I've gotten to various accomplishments that I've posted about in the past. Everything from variations of "good job" to "you've inspired me because...." Those thoughts made me start thinking about why I post these kind of things.

It's not for attention. It's not for the virtual pats on the back. It's not to brag or to show off or to gloat or anything like that. Honestly, it's not for me at all.

Every now and then, I get a message from someone who says "I've felt so hopeless because of my situation, but then I see what you can accomplish and I know that you've been in my shoes and so if you can do it, so can I".

That is why I do it. That is why I post the things that I do.

For the person who has hit rock bottom and doesn't know it it's possible to get back up again.

For the person who is so broke that pennies found on the ground are hoarded like gold coins.

For the person who has gotten smacked around by an alcoholic partner one too many times.

For the person who battles depression and struggles to get out of bed and function.

For the person whose kids have said "I don't like you right now, so I'm moving out for a while."

For the person who is struggling in any way.





If by some chance, someone is inspired by the things that I do and post, then that is all that I need. That makes all of this work - and blogging about it - worth it. And it gives me a reason to get the work done - the inspiration that people get from looking at my work inspires me to do even more.

Pay it forward, one positive thought at a time.

If I can do it, anyone can.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Got a few things done today...

I started out putting the finishing touches on the dining room curtains, which included washing the drapes. They came with the house, so there's no telling how old they actually are - but they're old. I was feeling brave so I tossed them into the washer on the 'handwash' cycle and hung them out on the line to dry. They survived, although the linings needed to be repaired because the fabric shredded in places.

But, they are hanging back up, complete with the new sheers that I made. I got regular sheers at the Dollar Store and shortened them and added the pleats, and got the full set for about $10.

Someday I might actually hang the birdhouses outside.

Then I went outside. The Dude and I planted some raspberry and blueberry bushes before we went on vacation, and then we just kind of tossed the bricks over there so that we had an idea of how many we needed to do the edging, but that was as far as we got. I finished that project up rather quickly, before the sun hit that part of the yard.

Before...

After...
Then - for some bizarre reason - I decided to tackle the fence around the shed. I've been working on getting this corner of the yard cleaned up because with it being outside of the fence, it looks awful as people are driving past. The fence right there was useless - most of it was just leaning against the shed, and what was still attached to anything was rotten.

Side. Isn't that a lovely fence?

Back - this section of fence was actually in the best condition.
Go figure.
It really didn't take much effort to pull the fencing down. I eventually got a hammer to break apart a few pieces, but most of it was so rotten that I could just pull it down. The posts had rotted off at the bases and I was able to just knock them down too - although they did take a little more effort. I took all of the wood and just tossed it over the fence into the firepit area - we'll pull the nails and burn it all eventually.

What was left of the window had a couple of pieces of screen just nailed over it, so I pulled those off and found out that the entire window was coming out of the wall, so I beat that back in with the hammer and then pulled out the broken glass so that I could put plexiglass in instead.

Obviously, we need to paint it. And plant stuff.

So much better.

Pulling out the glass to put in plexiglass.

We have a little bit of firewood to cut and stack.

Once I got all of that done, it was shower time and then time to pick up all 3 boys from school. We came home and did homework and then ran back into town to get the Traverse from the shop and then grabbed pizzas and then picked Sarah up from volleyball practice.....

Starting tomorrow, life gets more interesting. The girls are already into the swing of volleyball, and with one in high school and one in middle school they no longer play at the same time and the same place - instead it's twice as much running to get to as many of their games as possible. Alex and Daniel start soccer practice tomorrow night, and of course - they're on different teams. The Dude and I are now sharing a calendar so that we can keep track of what we're both doing and can tag team to get everyone where they need to be.

It's a good thing that I "binge slept" last week - because there won't be any more of that happening for a long time.