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Wednesday, January 14, 2015

It's a January thing...

Here we are, almost officially halfway through the month of January already.

How did that happen?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that time doesn't pass us by at the same rate all of the time. OK, maybe officially it does. But it certainly doesn't always seem that way.

Over the past few years, January has become a very ..... memorable month for me.

January 12, 1998 - The day that I set up residency in Kansas after a 5 day cross-country trek from Long Island with all of my belongings in the back of a Ryder truck, my car on a dolly behind it, and my cat on the front seat beside me. (Someday, I'll spill all of the details as to why that move happened, but for now - that's something that I keep to myself and very few people know the full story.)

January 7, 2005 - My divorce from Ex1 was final.

January 17, 2006 - Jared was admitted to the hospital with a very severe bug. He was so very sick, and it was so scary, so I planned to stay with him that night and one of my best friends came to stay with us. I was still 3 weeks away from my due date with Alex, but I went into labor that night...

January 19, 2006 - Alex arrived - big, strong, and healthy despite being early.

About 2 weeks after that, Jeff proposed to me - and I said yes. I honestly don't remember the exact date on that one.

January 7, 2011 - The date that my divorce from Jeff could have been final (see the coincidence there?)

January 13, 2011 - My 40th birthday, and the day that my divorce from Jeff was actually final.

January 21, 2012 - The Dude and I made our first road trip together, and he got to meet some of my friends. We decided on that trip that if we could survive the weekend without killing each other, then we could probably get along for a while (I guess we were right).

January 27, 2014 - I bought a house. I bought a freaking house. (Sorry, that one's still a little surreal.)

So yeah, January has historically been a month of ups and downs for me. I'm not generally one to live in the past or to remember a ton of dates - I actually had to look at a calendar to remember some of the dates that I listed. And even though I might remember them, I don't usually make a big deal about them. I used to semi-celebrate January 7 as the date that the first divorce was final, but this year? I didn't even remember it. At the time, I was thrilled when the second divorce was final on my 40th birthday and I planned to celebrate it yearly - but that was short-lived when he passed away less than 3 weeks later.

Over the past few days, I've caught myself dwelling on some of these dates more than I usually do. I don't know why it happened, but maybe because I was sick for the past day or so and didn't really have anything to do other than sleep and think.

More often than not, I've thought of January as a month of losses, mainly because both of my marriages were officially over during this month. For the longest time, I thought of those as failures - and to a point, I still do. But at the same time, admitting that I failed both times has set me up for some new beginnings. Some turned out to be not so good (hence Divorce #2) but some have turned out to be pretty awesome (hello, having a baby and buying a house?) and I wouldn't trade them for the world. And seriously, my birthday - the one day of the year when it is honestly and truly all about me. (Except for yesterday. Yesterday was all about the plague for both me and The Dude. So I'm calling a do-over for my birthday yesterday.)

I know that everyone's situations are different, but I see so many people who seem to be content living in the past. They focus so much on the bad stuff that has happened, and while they're looking behind them they're tripping over what's in front of them - or worse yet, they're pushing it out of their way so that they can continue to look back.

Looking forward doesn't mean that the past didn't happen.  It doesn't mean that the past isn't important.  It doesn't mean that you should never look back - we can only see how far we've come by seeing where we were - but in order to get anywhere without tripping and falling flat on your face, you've got to look ahead.

Sometimes, I need to remind myself of that too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

My office

Like most people, I'm in a few groups on facebook. There's one group in particular where it seems like we end up inadvertently having a "theme" day every now and then. Someone will post a ridiculous selfie, and then we all do it. Or video updates. Pictures of our kids. Whatever.

Today, I was too busy running around to really pay attention to how it started, but pictures of everyone's offices were being posted. When I saw it, I was actually on my way out the door to the grocery store, and so I posted a picture of my cart as my "office for the day".

When I got done at the store, I had to rush straight to the schools to get the kids, and then home to unload the groceries and start supper. At the same time, I was helping with homework and signing agendas and starting a new grocery list for everything that I forgot to get today.

I was making a mental meal plan for the rest of the week and occasionally pulling out my phone to look at my calendar to try to remember everything else that had to be done. Then I got the kids who were home started on supper while I ran out to pick Emily up from basketball practice, and then started cleaning the kitchen and baking some snacks for lunches and after school.

As it turned out, the kitchen was actually my main office for the day. Or at least for the afternoon and evening.

For whatever reason, I managed to actually be more organized than usual tonight. I got all of the dishes done (putting them in the dishwasher counts as "done" in my book) and made the pancake batter for morning. I put the griddle out so I literally just have to plug it in and start pouring batter for pancakes instead of fumbling around to mix it like I usually do. I packed the majority of the kids' lunches so that all I have to do is make their sandwiches and toss their string cheese into their respective bags and then chase them out into the van.

Theoretically speaking, as long as everyone gets up on time, the morning *should* be fairly easy....although I'm sure that it will fall apart somewhere.

Of course, in the middle of all of this, it was pointed out to me that the bathroom faucet was messed up again. I just replaced the stems in it a few weeks ago and was super proud that it wasn't dripping constantly anymore, and now it's jacked up again. I hope that it's just something that needs to be tightened, but I won't know that until I can shut the water off to the house (because no shut off under the sink) and pull it apart again, so depending on how that goes, my "office" tomorrow will definitely include the bathroom and possibly one or more hardware stores.

Until then......yes, there are bricks putting enough pressure on the handle to keep the water from running all night long.

Don't judge. It's working for now.

And yes, I know, the sink is filthy. Again, don't judge. I'll deal with that later.

I used to have an actual office job. I had to get up early and get dressed every day (luckily girl clothes weren't required, but I still had to look human) and drive 30 miles each way to sit in a cube and push papers and run around the state visiting people to make sure that they were getting the care that they needed. I got paid a decent amount of money and enjoyed what I did for the most part.

Sometimes, I miss that life. I miss getting out and seeing people (even if I didn't like ALL of the people I had to deal with on a regular basis) and having a regular routine.

But then again, I wouldn't trade my "offices" now for any of that. I love that I can be home with my kids at a moment's notice when they need me and that I can go to school functions during the day without having to rearrange an entire work day and get permission from the boss. I can do laundry and grocery shop and fix busted sinks while they're in school, and spend the evenings with them (even if I'm in the kitchen for most of the evening).

The money's not as good, but the value is incredible.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

What a year...

I've been thinking for the last few days (scary, I know).

I knew I wanted to write something about New Years. But did I want to do resolutions? Goals? The year in review? A post blasting the cliches of resolutions?

Honestly, this year has been a total whirlwind for me.

Seriously? I bought a freakin' house. A HOUSE. How did that happen? Days away from homelessness a few short years ago, and now a homeowner? For real?

Just a few weeks short of a year later, it's still surreal. From tearing out old flooring, putting in new flooring, dealing with a flood, a worn-out water heater, more yardwork and cleanup and tree trimming and digging and planting than I care to think of, so much cleaning and unpacking and organizing (still)..... I still catch myself running my hands down the walls and thinking to myself "holy crap, this is MINE" at least once a day.

The list of projects, both inside and out, continues to grow, but it's a manageable list. We have things to work towards to make the house perfect, and I know that we'll get to them sooner or later, but it's mine. My house.

It's insane.

The boys have adjusted well to their new school. They've become involved in sports and have made tons of friends and love to be outside terrorizing the neighborhood with the other kids. The older kids enjoy not having to bounce back and forth between two towns to spend time with each parent, and the stress level has decreased greatly.

Life is good.

Do I have 'resolutions' for next year? Not really. Goals? Yes. But I hesitate to call them resolutions, only because I know the failure rate of my so-called resolutions.

Am I going to list them out for the world to see? Nope. Not this time. Sometimes, I do better when I don't have an audience. Sometimes, it's better to do things just for myself, and then it's more fun if someone else happens to notice.

I will say that I'm officially signed up for two half-marathons already, but that shouldn't come as a surprise for anyone who has been around for a while. I have some other health-related goals, and some financial ones, and some personal ones. I do hope to write more, and take more pictures, and sew more.

Regardless, I'm ready to see what 2015 has in store for me.

Bring it on.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Just something to think about...

My heart is hurting tonight.

Today, the son of one of my oldest friends was sentenced for a crime that he committed.

The sentence, while harsh, is fair. He screwed up. He screwed up in a really big, really bad way. There's no getting around that. He admitted it. He has apologized and is remorseful, but that doesn't change anything.

I met this young man several years ago. I was impressed with his attitude, his demeanor, his respect that he showed to those around him.

But sometime after that, he made mistakes. There is no excuse for what he did.

I have watched the reports about him in the media. Most of them have been neutral. Fact-based. Emotionless. This happened, and then this happened, and he did this, and then this.

But that's where the neutrality ended. Hiding behind their monitors, the keyboard warriors struck out at this young man and his family. His family, who had nothing to do with the crimes committed, was attacked.

His mother - my friend - was called every name in the book. She was blamed for his wrongdoings, as though she was the one egging him on to commit the crimes. The comments left by anonymous people turned my stomach. People suggested that his parents were to blame, or that they somehow encouraged this kind of behavior from him, or worse yet - that they should be punished for what he did.

Honestly, in the past, I never really thought about the families of criminals. They were generally nameless beings, someone who floated around in the background at the trials or tried desperately to hide from the barrage of video cameras.

But I know this mother. I've known her for close to 30 years. I remember the letters that she wrote to me when she was in the service, the ones telling me that she was pregnant, and the ones including baby pictures of her boys. We lost touch for a while, but through the miracle of social media we reconnected and I loved seeing the pictures that she posted of her sons. The love she has for them is incredible.

And then the unthinkable happened. And I watched the articles that were posted online. And I read every single comment that was posted. I cried for her, for the wrong assumptions that people made about her parenting, and for the threats that were made against her because of her son's mistakes. I wanted to scream at these people, "but you don't even know her!" but I couldn't. I couldn't say anything, because there is no reasoning with people who are looking to vilify someone.

Somehow, she has managed to hold her head up high through all of this. She has shown such an amazing amount of strength and courage despite what people have said. I don't know how she manages to do it.

I do know that she doesn't deserve the nasty names.
She doesn't deserve the hatred.
No one has the right to threaten her or her family.
She shouldn't be judged based on his actions.
She didn't commit the crimes.

She is already being punished. She has had to watch her child make mistakes and suffer the severe consequences for his actions. She questions herself as to what she could have done differently or how she could have prevented this, knowing full well that despite what anyone else thinks, she did her best.

It is not her fault. She is not to blame.

The victims of the crimes are not always the only victims.

Monday, December 1, 2014

A push

I got pushed today. Not really pushed, but more like shoved. And smacked around a bit.

It actually started about a week ago. I'm in a whole bunch of groups on facebook, but one of them is a small group of local ladies who all run. I met several of them when I did the half-marathon in October, and they are awesome. But since that race, I haven't done anything to get in shape, or to even maintain the bleh shape that I was in when I did that race. Nothing. I haven't even gone for a walk.

So....like I said, a week-ish ago, this post caught my eye.....

Two miles a day for 2 weeks, I thought. I might be able to do that. So I agreed.

Of course, when I agreed, the weather was decent. Today, on the first day of the challenge? Yeah. Not so much.

I thought about waiting until later in the day (notice the time on that shot is 7:35am), but I had so much going on that I knew that if I didn't do it as soon as I dropped the kids off at school, I wasn't going to do it. And if I missed the first day, then I wouldn't do the challenge at all - because that's the way that my mind works. And I also knew that I had an appointment at 9am so if I was going to do it, I had to do it right then and there. I threw on an extra layer of clothes, cursed the girls in that group as I felt them virtually shove me out the door, and took off.

It. was. cold.

OMG it was cold. There was just enough wind that it was absolutely miserable as I started walking into it, and I came *thisclose* to turning around and going straight back to the house. But, it was a challenge. And I knew that if I got going, once I got to a certain point on my predetermined route, I could turn and have the wind at my back.

And then my mind started to wander in typical brain dump fashion. I'm not going to bore you with the total stream of consciousness train of thought that went in a bajillion different directions at a speed that blew my mind, but it was intense.

Ultimately, I thought about how parents tend to always put their kids first. I mean, really, who wouldn't? We have these little humans that depend on us for everything (more or less) and so we have to make sure that they're taken care of because that's our job, right? And we run ourselves ragged taking care of them and doing the things that parents do because it's what we're supposed to do and it's what we're expected to do - and we put ourselves last, sometimes to our own detriment.

I am so guilty of this, as most people know. I don't do squat for myself except maybe sit on my butt on the couch with a glass of wine once in a while (speaking of which...... I'm thirsty). And while taking care of the kids is all well and good (and ultimately, necessary) I realized....

I have to start taking better care of myself.

It seriously hit me like a smack upside the head. It's something that I've always known in the back of my mind, but I've ignored it because it seems like anytime parents (and yes, especially a mom) put themselves first, they are ripped to shreds by society. They are called selfish, self-centered, irresponsible, or bad parents.

I have been called all sorts of horrible names in the past because I am grateful when the kids go back to school after a long weekend or summer break. It's not that I want to get rid of my kids, but it's because I know that I can use that time away from them to work on things that *I* need to do to make me a better parent. Sometimes, it's mundane tasks like folding laundry and scrubbing toilets because I know that if I get those done while the kids are gone, I can spend more quality time with them when they return. And sometimes it's things like going for a run or taking a nap, because I need some time to do something that is completely and totally for me and for me only.

But even those things that I do for me and for me only end up benefiting the kids because guess what? When I get to do them, I'm in a better mood.

Better mood = better mom.

And seriously, who can argue with that train of thought when a view like this is staring you in the face while it's happening?

I came back from that run this morning feeling like it was ok to want to get back into running again. Like it's ok to finally commit to doing something for myself. Like maybe, just maybe, I can actually succeed at this 2-week challenge, and then continue on from there.

It's amazing how much my perspective can change in one 33 minute chunk of time.

And maybe, just maybe, in 2 weeks I can shave more than a few minutes off of that pathetic time. Assuming that I don't freeze a few limbs off in the process.

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.


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.


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.