Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

Every once in a while, something crazy happens that reaffirms my belief in humanity, or at the very least, reminds me of why I love my family. I recently learned that my son reads my blog…the only family member to do so. Considering that the majority of time, I write about my family, this is both a good and a bad thing. Since he’s 24, he can finally start to see things from my perspective. At the same time, my perspective isn’t always the most positive, or even the most realistic. It’s just mine.

When I wrote the post Another Year Over, I mentioned that he is always disappointed at Christmas, and is never happy with his presents, even when he gets the things he asks for. It seems like he always *really* wanted the *other* thing on his list, not the ones that he received.

In response to that tiny paragraph in that terribly long post, I received the following email; if it doesn’t make you cry just a little, then you’re a heartless bastard.

Dear Santa,
We may have not always agreed on what I have gotten for Christmas in the past. From the entire clothing themed Christmas when I was 4 to the forgotten Apollo 13 movie that I so badly wanted when I was 7. There
has always been something missing from my list that I desperately wanted and always been something under the tree that I couldn’t see my self using in a million years. As a kid there were times when I was a total brat, throwing fits, and crying because I didn’t get what I wanted. As a child I never stopped to think about how fortunate I was to receive a gift/gifts, let alone how lucky I was to have a warm home and an amazing loving family to spend the holidays with.
Now that I am older and more mature, and have experienced the holidays away from my family, I have come to realize how spending time with my family really is the best gift. While the majority of the time is spent talking trash, shooting dirty looks, arguing back and forth, I couldn’t imagine not having the family that I have. Santa, I know how hard it is finding the perfect gifts for everyone, especially under the sufficating hands of a chronic illness, tight budget and of course the fact that you are aging (gracefully I might add). So I have figured out years ago that when it comes to me, it really is more about what I need and not necessarily what I want. Yes I wanted a new audio interface, mics, and other super expensive things and though I didn’t get them, I am truly happy for what I did get.Starting off with school, If I had been told that I wouldn’t be getting anything because that money had gone to school I wouldn’t think twice. I am so happy to be finally learning the things that I want to learn and to be getting closer to graduating. It is one thing that I will not take for granted. As for my new guitar it sounds amazing and I already feel like we have been together for years. My slippers,soap and other small gadgets were all cool and will come in handy at some point in my life even if it might not be now. I am not openly emotional, I don’t jump up and down when I am excited, or smile big or go crazy, but if I was I would have been all over the place this Christmas. I just wanted to tell you so you knew that you were doing a good job and didn’t think that I was disappointed, because I was far from it.

Till next year,
Matthew Wright

P.s I love you mom, you are always there for me when I need to talk, and always know what to say even if it isn’t what I want to hear. While living with dad was the kick in the butt I needed to grow up and become a man, you were the one who created and provided the mold for me to jump into. Christmas aside, that is the best gift a mother could give. Thank you for taking me to buy clothes as an early present and for the guitar and everything else. I know I probably don’t say thank you enough, or say it with conviction when I do, but I want you to know that I really do mean it. Ron too. I know he came into my life when I was older and not really looking for a father figure or a friend, but he did the best he could and dealt with all the bull shit I threw at you guys better than any other man I have met. He has taken care of me like I was his own, as well as done an amazing job taking care of you and Aubrey. Growing up and dealing with everything I have dealt with, I couldn’t have asked for a better step-dad. You two are the best!

Love You,
Your Son.

I’m sure my son didn’t expect to be an unwitting guest blogger, but his note was too precious not to share. I offer it up to you, dear readers, as a symbol of hope that yes, your teenager that you would willingly leave by the side of the road on a family trip may someday grow up to be an amazing human being that you wouldn’t trade for the world.
My family are the loves of my life, but I try to balance my urge to constantly brag about them with the purpose of sharing real life stories. Real life isn’t always the fun stuff; it’s also the heartbreak and tears and ridiculous arguments. However, sometimes, occasionally, every once in a while, when I least expect it, real life goes above and beyond what any mother could ever wish for.
So here is my Mastercard commercial for the gifts that I received this year:
Dinner at Texas de Brazil: $100
Starbucks coffee: $10
Starbucks card: $25
Chocolate: $5
Shopping spree: $182
Knowing how my son really feels: PRICELESS
My favorite Christmas photo from 2005

My favorite Christmas photo from 2005

“Yes, Virginia, there’s a Santa Claus. He’s as real as hope and love.
Look around and you’ll find Santa Claus in the boundless world you’re dreaming of.
Even though you may not see him on his sleigh this Christmas Eve,
Yes, Virginia, there’s a Santa Claus. It’s true if you believe”
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Another Year Over

If you’re reading this, I’m assuming that you also managed to pull off your to-do list and survived the holiday without strangling any irritating relatives. Just kidding! I’m sure everyone was the picture of restraint and all of your children were perfectly behaved, polite, grateful little angels, right?

Everyone was exhausted after we stayed up until 1am playing Risk on Christmas Eve. We laughed our asses off at Aubrey’s lack of a strategy (which in the end turned out in her favor), and eventually we called it a draw so we could go to bed. As tired as we were, Ron woke up at 7am, just because that’s when his internal clock goes off. Both kids were in a sleep coma, so we were able to put all the presents under, in, and around the tree, as well as in their stockings, without waking them.

The highlight of the morning was when we presented Amy and Pinky with their new squishies. Pinky is a squishy addict. She also has problems sharing. All squishies belong to her; Amy is occasionally allowed to play with one, but only if Pinky is in the mood to play with her. So this morning, she was VERY excited to get her squishy, since she’s been smelling the vinyl particles in the air for three days now (she cried at my office door for two days). However, her excitement was dimmed by the realization that Amy also had a squishy. What did she do?

She dropped the squishy she had in her mouth, and ran under the table to where Amy was lurking (hoping to have just a few squeaks before Pinky discovered her, I’m sure). Then she grabbed the squishy from Amy’s mouth, ran in Aubrey’s room and laid it on the dog bed. She ran back in the living room to get the first squishy, and ran back to Aub’s room where she proceeded to play with one squishy while she held the other one down with her paw.

For the rest of the afternoon, she carefully carried the squishies as though they were a litter of puppies; taking one, putting it down, then going back for the second one. She ventured out for a few minutes at a time, only to return to the dog bed in Aubrey’s room, where she eventually began to lay across both squishies. It seems like she may be trying to hatch them or something. Amy has long since given up any attempt to rescue hers.

Besides dogs and squishies, the morning was filled with AMAZING gluten free cinnamon streusel coffee cake, Starbuck’s Christmas Blend coffee, Owen’s Country Sausage, and mimosas (champagne and orange juice). The mimosas were cut a little short as the bottle exploded when Ron tried to open it; champagne spouted like Mount Vesuvius. Matt asked why I was laughing and I said Ron was trying to launch a ship.

In spite of getting several things that were on his Christmas list, Matt was typically disappointed. I think the last time he was excited at Christmas was the year he got a black pleather jacket with red flames; that was 8th grade. Today he got a new guitar and all the accessories to go with it, plus chocolate and a few other things.

Aubrey, on the other hand, was beyond thrilled with her haul. She got a Bamboo Pen and Touch, and Sketchbook Pro 6 to go with it. Aub refused to give me a Christmas list, saying she was easy to shop for. She is. Most of her gifts were fashion related; sewing lessons, a sewing machine carrier with wheels, a professional fashion sketchbook, and other random stuff…earrings, pajamas, chocolate, puzzle books, etc…

For us, Matt gave both Ron and I more Christmas Blend (it’s our favorite coffee, so we go through it relatively quickly). Both kids teamed up to give us dinner for two to the restaurant where Aubrey works, and a Sweet Treats card to go with it. The Sweet Treats is good for 12 desserts at Texas de Brazil; it’s not out yet, but Aub gave us a “gift certificate” for it when it starts. I also got a Starbucks card, which is always a favorite.

Ron gave me two Nordstrom gift cards that he was given when he worked at his old company (for winning two customer service awards). For years, we thought they were only worth $50 each, but it turns out they’re actually $100 cards!  Ron has never used them, and figured that with my mad shopping skills, I could swing finding something.

I checked out the Nordstrom web site, including the Rack, but even their sale prices are outrageous. Out of curiosity, I looked at several of the gift card exchange sites. Cardpool (as well as two other sites that I saw) gives 92% of the card’s value if you are willing to mail it in in exchange for an Amazon gift card. I have one hell of an Amazon wish list, so I am totally willing to make that trade. I was motivated enough that I sent the cards out in today’s mail. Ron was impressed and said he knew I’d know some way to get the most from those previously useless cards. It’s nice to be appreciated 😉

Ron’s mom sent the kids HD video cameras. Aub was excited about getting some higher quality videos of her flying. Matt was actually happy about his because he’s going to need one for this semester’s video editing class. At least he liked one present!

After our lovely quiet morning, Matt had to go to work, but Aub, Ron and I all vegged and argued over who should go shower first. When Matt was done for the day, Aub picked him up while Ron and I finished wrapped the last two things for my mom and stepdad. After Matt showered, we headed to my mom’s for dinner. She lives about an hour away, so it was a late dinner. All four of us were completely wiped out, and I realized we just plain cannot do any visiting on Christmas day. From now on, I’m going to assume that we will all be too tired, and make plans for getting together either before or after.

My mom made an awesome dinner of ham, various veggies, and several pies. We let Aubrey have O’Mara’s and cream (it’s the same thing as Bailey’s), and I broke down and had wine from a box (it was all my mom had). It was surprisingly good for being a box wine. There was a little tension as my mom worried about stains on the tablecloth and the safety of her new china. I’ve never understood why people purposely stress themselves out by using something that they’re afraid will be ruined. Personally, we use paper plates for holidays; I don’t have to worry about things being broken, and it makes cleanup WAAAAAY faster. I do have to say though, my mom’s table was absolutely beautiful, and looked like something from Southern Living.

After dinner, we exchanged gifts; I was in sensory overload as four of the five kids were screaming and running around. They finally calmed down when Aub told them that no one was getting anything until it was quiet. My nephew was the only one who still ran around, but he’s the youngest, it was super late, and he was sugared out. The fact that he wasn’t climbing the walls was pretty miraculous.

Aub got a gift card to Jo-Ann Fabrics, I got one to Lowes (which I’d asked for), and Matt got new sheets and chocolate. Ron gets the same gift every year (because he LOVES it) of a gift basket of Sam Adams, corn nuts, cinnamon gum, and candy. I had been stressing about what to get my mom, but I’d found a beautiful gray sweater dress on Black Friday. It fit her perfectly, and she loved it. I also got her a necklace and earrings to go with it, and the kids gave her a Starbucks card (she lives at her local Starbucks). I’d also worried about whether my oldest niece would like her present. I made her a necklace with ribbons and a large pendant/charm that looks like a scroll and says, “Once upon a time.” To go with it, I got her a purple moleskin journal with her initial on the front. It was a complete hit, although I’d made the ribbons a bit too long. Fortunately, I made them long enough that she was able to wrap them twice and turned the pendant into a choker.

The little ones all loved their presents, as did my stepdad. I found a guy who made wind spinners from reclaimed fencing, and I knew my stepdad would appreciate the woodwork and design. We gave my youngest niece a doodle set (stamps, markers, and a guided doodle book), and once I showed her how to color the stamps with the marker and then make the stamps work with the “magic” breath (breathing on them reactivates the ink that dries out while you’re coloring), she was the most quiet we’ve ever seen her.

By the time we got home, all four of us were ready to drop. Poor Ron had to work on Wednesday, so he didn’t get much rest. On the other hand, Aubrey and I have both done little else. She worked on Wednesday and works today, but then she has Friday, Saturday, and Sunday off. She is seriously looking forward to three days of staying in her dinosaur pajamas and playing with her Bamboo tablet. Today is my second day of not moving from my bed except to pee, but tomorrow I will start to clear the holiday disaster and work on organizing my office. I’ve decided there will be no new projects until there isn’t a single “box o’ junk” lying around. A large task, but a lot of motivation.

Aubrey's first Bamboo/Sketchbook Pro creation after two hours of just playing around with it.

Aubrey’s first Bamboo/Sketchbook Pro creation after two hours of just playing around with it.

All in all, Christmas was pretty fantastic. There’s no telling where we’ll all be this time next year…Aub will be back at school, Matt may be in Seattle, and Ron and I might be finally looking at houses in the Northeast. Really, I’m just trying to enjoy being in the moment and hanging out with my family.

In case I don’t get another post written before next week, Happy New Year to everyone. I hope you have a joyous and prosperous 2013!

“and a new one just begun”

It’s The End Of The World As We Know It

I apologize for the incredibly overused REM reference, but c’mon, what better lyrics are there for a post-apocalyptic post?

Yesterday, I figured I better finish up my last bit of Christmas shopping, just in case the world didn’t end. I really don’t want to be standing in checkout lines later on today, although I have a shit ton of stuff that needs to be returned. I’ve learned that it is much better to return things before Christmas than after, when everyone is trying to do it.

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I fully expected that I would find nothing but tired, snippy sales clerks and cashiers, rude customers, obnoxious drivers…I could not have been more wrong. For being the Friday before Christmas, everyone was surprisingly cheerful and helpful. Drivers let me into lanes, sales people were amazingly helpful, and I got to have an unexpected lunch with my son, so it was a bright spot in an exhausting day.

For my crazy shopping spree, I started out at Bed Bath and Beyond. I managed to get a spot right by the building, and I almost immediately found what I was looking for. I had a $5 off $15 coupon, so I purchased $16 worth of stuff for $11 (including tax). The cashier was super cheery, smiled at everyone, said Merry Christmas, and made the wait in line more bearable.

From there, I headed to Old Navy. I have to say, Old Navy has THE BEST customer service. I had one sales clerk ask if I needed help, and she was able to head me in the right direction. Then when I got to the checkout line, in spite of the 40 or so people waiting, the line moved efficiently because there were seven registers open and those cashiers are fast. When my cashier commented on an item, I said yes, I wasn’t expecting to find it, because it was an item bought online that someone returned to the store. I lamented that I was looking for a similar item that I was sure was also an online return, but the only one I found wasn’t in the right size. She informed me that this particular item was actually sold in the stores, and offered to call other stores to see if they had the size I needed. She not only called the store to verify that the online inventory was correct, she also had them hold it for me! All of this was done with a smile and seasonally appropriate chit chat. Even better, I had a coupon for $15 off $50, taking my purchase amount down to $37, and I had $25 in reward bucks, so I paid a total of  $14 with tax…for SEVEN items!

I then went next door to Michaels and found a few things that I wanted for me, so I texted Aubrey pictures to make her shopping easier. I found the things I needed, and with a %50 off one regular priced item, combined with a $5 loyalty reward, I paid $10 for five items. I was up to $35 for the day. Next was a trip to Half-Price books as a favor to Aubrey to see if they had a copy of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Learning French (which they didn’t). I managed to knock out two presents, one for my youngest niece and one for my nephew, plus picked up something I had seen while out shopping with Aub on Thursday. There, my total was $35, as I didn’t have any coupons, but for four items, I couldn’t complain. Total: $70

When I was at Michaels, I realized I had ordered some items from Guitar Center and had them shipped to the store, but hadn’t picked them up yet. I called them to make sure they had it at the front, and the guy on the phone was extremely helpful when they couldn’t find it in the warehouse. He took my number, and by the time I was done at Half-Price, he called to say they located my box and it would be waiting. While the traffic to get there was horrible (it took me 15 minutes to drive three blocks), and the parking lot was a nightmare, I pulled around an armored car to find a parking spot right in front of the door. Just as I walked up to the desk, I saw someone waving at me from the corner of my eye. My son was there. Crap! I told him to go away, and after the sales girl gave me my box, I ran outside to put it in the trunk, then went back in to find Matt.

I offered to buy him lunch if he’d play something for me on one of the pianos. Okay, I admit that I love for him to show off when we’re in music stores. There were two guys plinking out “Heart and Soul” on a keyboard across the little room. I turned the volume up as loud as it would go on the keyboard that Matt chose, then enjoyed the jaw dropping “WOW!”s from the other customers as he ran through Adele’s “Someone Like You” and then another song that he’s been composing. My day was made.

In the parking lot of Guitar Center is an El Pollo Loco, a fast food chicken place. It’s supposedly really healthy because they have sides like steamed veggies, corn on the cob, salad, green beans…and you can choose to have your chicken with or without skin. I had never eaten there, but Matt had tried it last week and said it was surprisingly good. It was AWESOME for fast food! They brag that their guacamole is freshly made every day, and it was better than I expected. The steamed veggies were crisp, not mushy, as was the corn. If you’ve got one where you live, check it out!

While we were eating lunch, Aubrey called to say she was off and ready to be picked up, but her manager had asked her if she could work a double and be back at 5:30. It was already 3:00, so Matt and I went to pick her up, then I took Matt home. Aubrey was starving and since it was Sonic happy hour (half-price slushies!), she asked me to make a pit stop. The cashier brought out her food and was really sweet, so we tipped her a dollar. Yes, you are supposed to tip at Sonic!

I had more errands to run, and I was afraid that Aubrey would be late to work if she went with me, so I took her by Ron’s office to pick up her car; he had taken hers because the trunk lock is broken, and I needed a trunk that would actually close. She headed home to rest for a bit, and I headed out to Walgreens.

Out of all the stores I went to yesterday, Walgreens had the WORST customer service. Their staff was rude and lackluster, and acted like I was interrupting them when I asked for help. I had been told that my prescription was at that particular Walgreens, only to get there and find out that no, it’s at the one I regularly go to. Then I had to get on the phone and the tech at the other pharmacy was incredibly rude and tried to tell me that they had no record of my prescription. I had to go through the whole story of the partial refill, the fact that they were giving me the wrong sized capsules, and that I had an email that said it was ready. She put me on hold for TEN minutes, then came back to say they found it and I was right. There was no apology for the attitude, just, “Yes, we have it, but we won’t be able to fill it after this because the manufacturer isn’t making it.”

The prescription is for hydroxyzine pamoate, a type of anti-histamine. It is the standard drug of choice for treating interstitial cystitis. With over a million customers, I doubt seriously that the manufacturer would just stop making it. The pharmacist said they could switch me to hydroxyzine hydrochloride, but that formulation isn’t effective for IC. I do have to say that the pharmacist was more helpful and polite than the cashiers and the pharmacy tech. He suggested I contact a compounding pharmacy, or an online pharmacy that has more access to certain meds.

While wasting my time at the first Walgreens, I did find a couple of things that I needed for the tree, and a present for Matt from Aubrey. She had found something that was a tiny set for $5 when we were out shopping on Thursday. I found the same thing in a set that was five times bigger for just $10, so she asked me to grab it for her. Total for me? $25, bringing the day to $95 (not counting lunch… and the stuff at Guitar Center was paid for online, so I didn’t count that either).

Next I went to the Old Navy that was holding the item I needed. Again, their customer service was AWESOME!!!! I have always been an avid Old Navy fan, but now, I am forever a loyal customer. The cashier had my item ready, chatted while she rang it up, and was sweet as a cupcake. I was out of there in five minutes.

My last stop of the day was my regular Walgreens to pick up my meds. I found a few other items that I needed; the total there (not including meds) was $10 and some change. My total for the entire day? $105 and a bit…and I had a TRUNKFUL of stuff. After stopping at nine different places in 7.5 hours, I had so many happy, helpful people that in spite of being exhausted, I was in a wonderful mood, and even sang Christmas carols in the car as I drove to pick up Ron from work.

As we drove home, I told him that I am holding off a fibro flare by pure force of will, and I am going to drop on the evening of the 25th. We’ll be at my mom’s, and alcohol will be involved. I am doing NOTHING until January 2nd! He said I’m already in a flare, but I said that it was just hovering, waiting for me to let my guard down. I may be using my “last effort” meds to keep it at bay, but they are working. Extra Nuvigil, tramadol, and pennsaid, as well as my TENS unit are my current bff (plural). Oh, and a shocking amount of caffeine and sugar ;-P

Now that it is 10am, I have to get ready to head to my real BFF’s house to help out his dad, and then I’m taking my friend’s headshot for a volunteer position that he’s applying for. I get to try out his dad’s brand new digital Nikon (oooooooohhhh!); I love Nikon, but can’t afford it, so this will be so much fun!

Although all my shopping is completed, I still have the festival of returns to do, and then the wrapping begins. Tonight, I will clear off my coffee table, put a fire in the fireplace, and wrap until my back is screaming for mercy (that may only be one gift). Fortunately, I have a ton of gift bags and tissue paper, and I plan to use them!

Yes, my day was as long as this post, and today doesn’t look any less busy. Hug your children, drink some hot chocolate, and don’t stress out. Make a list and knock it out.  I hope that all of my dear readers have a Happy Holiday Season, no matter what faith you are (or aren’t), nor what celebrations you choose to honor. I love you all!

“and I feel fine…”

She’s Having My Baby

I hate to admit that I get most of my world news from facebook, but in all honesty, unless it shows up on my newsfeed, I’m usually too tired or too busy to keep track of what’s going on. In my defense, I get CNN and NPR in my newsfeed. I do try to keep up with the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, but that often doesn’t happen until Friday. So imagine my surprise when I saw a clip from the Colbert Report talking about the new law in Arizona declaring that life begins two weeks before conception. I thought it was a joke, because nothing could really be that ridiculous, so I googled it. Sure enough, it’s real.

Yes, you read that right. TWO WEEKS BEFORE CONCEPTION! The brain trust that is the Arizona state legislature has thrown science out the window in order to shave two weeks off a woman’s ability to choose an abortion, no matter WHY she may be making that decision. There is no exception for fetal viability, and while there is an exception in cases of the mother’s health, it does not define “health”. Here’s even crazier bullshit: they are calling this law the “Women’s Health and Safety Act.” Let’s cut the crap while it’s still stinking. This law has NOTHING to do with women’s health OR safety.

I highly suspect this is going to be the first domino that continues with the fall of access to contraception the final target. First they start with saying life begins two weeks before conception. This paves the way to blocking Plan B, which they’ve already begun by tightening up the laws regarding who can provide abortifacients, and the maximum distance (30 miles) that a provider can live from where the chemical procedures are performed, whether that is a clinic, hospital, or a woman’s home. I lived in Arizona for a while, and I was 45 minutes from a town, let alone a hospital, clinic, or a doctor. These restrictions are absolutely ridiculous, and are strictly meant to limit a woman’s access to care.

Because a woman can use regular birth control pills to effect the same result as Plan B (ONLY as emergency contraception, not to terminate an existing pregnancy…but we’re not talking about existing pregnancies), and because (as much as the far right would love to be in every woman’s bed-womb) the legislature currently has no control over how many birth control pills a woman ingests at one time, the next logical step is to ban certain oral contraceptives from the market.

There is already a pharmacists’ lobby to deny women any type of emergency contraception, based on the arguable belief that life begins at conception, NOT at implantation, which is the longstanding definition of when pregnancy begins. The reason that pregnancy is defined as beginning from implantation is that approximately 80% of fertilized ova fail to implant, and are instead shed during the menstrual cycle. Are we to believe that 80% of menstrual cycles of sexually active women are actually miscarriages?

What’s even more disgusting about this entire farce is that it was perpetrated by WOMEN! Sponsored by Kimberly Lee and signed into law by Governor Jan Brewer, these traitors to their gender have the audacity to state that they “acted with their constituents in mind.” I can almost believe that if they are only considering the large Mormon population of Arizona as their constituency. In reality, this is another battle won for the right in the war on women.

Here is what you can do if you live in a state that limits your access to care:

1) Call your representatives and let them know that they do NOT represent women’s best interests by passing such legislation.

2) Write letters, send emails, and sign petitions to support the repeal of this mythic-based law.

3) Support NARAL (the National Abortion Rights Action League). Contrary to popular belief, they do not lobby strictly for access to abortion. They lobby for women’s access to appropriate medical care, women’s health and safety (unlike the fore-mentioned law), and the ideal that a woman’s reproductive decisions should be made by her and her doctor.

4) Support Planned Parenthood. They not only provide affordable care on a sliding scale, they also lobby for the continuation of a woman’s access to appropriate medical care.

5) In the extreme, start an herb garden. Until they start to limit our access to internet sites with information regarding using herbs as abortifacients, you can still research what herbs have been used successfully for centuries, and grow them yourself.

6) If at all possible, move to a state other than the Deep South, Arizona, Michigan, and the Midwest. Until the current batch of insane reps are lost through attrition, these states are no longer safe for women to live in.

 

The Weather Outside Is Frightful

Although it is rare, we do occasionally have snow in South Texas, but more often, we have ice storms to rival Hoth. Of course, when I say more often, that means I can remember about 15 ice storms, and three snow…well, let’s just say snow, because snow storm isn’t even remotely what we get down here.

However, that all generally occurs in February or March. The winds in March will blow your skin right off. I can’t remember the last time we had a really cold December day. I’ve worn shorts on Christmas day more often than winter clothes. So the wind blowing hard enough to rock my walls and whine down my chimney is freakin’ me out just a bit.

It would have to happen today. Aubrey managed to give away one of her shifts, so we’re going to lunch and then to do a bit of stocking stuffer shopping. Down here, all but two of our malls are open air. The one that we’re going to is more like seven shopping centers in one giant area. That means I am whipping out my thickest winter sweater, ear covers of some kind, gloves, and my Clarks boots. My ears are super sensitive to cold, so it doesn’t take a lot of wind to give me an earache.

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This morning, Amy was sitting on the floor by the daybed, whining because she was cold. Since my sheets need washing anyway, I allowed her up, as long as she stayed on the other side of Aubrey. Amy likes to stretch out her legs and her claws are sharp as a honey badger. Having them dig into my leg is not fun.

Amy was incredibly grateful, and she curled into a tiny ball in Aubrey’s lap…a 55 lb tiny ball…until she warmed up enough to warrant stretching out. She’s so funny because she starts out in a ball, then stretches out while lying on her stomach, and eventually she rolls over with her head hanging upside down off Aubrey’s lap and her legs in the air like a dead bug. The craziest thing is that she does a doggy version of purring. It’s a whistle-y whine that stays in rhythm with her breathing.

Sadly for Amy, Aubrey had to leave for a doctor’s appointment. Aub’s picking me up when she’s finished, and we’ll brave the winds for the sake of chocolate oranges, books, and a few things I need to make a couple pieces of jewelry. When we get back, we’ll be baking up cookies for Ron’s and Aubrey’s co-workers, making stew for dinner, and clearing the living room of the unnecessary Christmas storage bins. In other words, we’re getting into that Christmas swing!

It’s a special treat to get this day with her, as it was unexpected. I’m not used to her having a job, and I’ve always sort of taken our last minute Christmas shopping trips for granted. There are lots of oohs and aahs and scoping out things to go back for on the 26th. I thought I would have to do it alone, which I wasn’t looking forward to…it’s not as fun.

This year, I know I’m incredibly blessed to have her with me, in all meanings of the phrase. I’m one of those lucky moms that not only love my children, I actually like them. They are both amazing people. I would like them even if I weren’t their mom, which isn’t necessarily true for all parents. Both of them are wickedly funny and bitingly sarcastic. I have no idea where the sarcasm comes from.

Remember to appreciate your loved ones a little extra this year. Does it really matter if your mom drives you crazy and your dad hates your boyfriend? Put it aside for a few days. You can pick it up again after the holidays if you feel you must. For just a few days, think of how you’ll likely miss your mom telling you all the things you do wrong when she is gone. Focus on the ONE THING that makes each loved one special. Everyone has at least one thing. If they don’t, then make the effort to find it. It might be a surprising gift that you give yourself.

“It doesn’t show signs of stopping…”

The Only One Who’s Laughing Is The Advertising Man

Generally, I use this blog to tell stories about our crazy household. I do occasionally venture into more serious territory, and that’s where we’re going today…down the road to where Adult ADD and hoarding meet.

I’ve known for quite a while that I suffer from Adult ADD. I am finally to the point where I am admitting that I have a major problem, and it is time to do something about it. I can’t focus on any task for more than a few minutes at a time, and my brain is constantly racing. Yesterday, I talked to my therapist and told her that starting with our next appointment (which is in January), I’d like to focus on solutions for my ADD.

I’m not surprised with my diagnosis. They have identified the gene marker that indicates if a child will be prone to autism. If the child gets it from both parents, they are more likely to be somewhere on the autism spectrum. But if a child gets one gene, they are more likely to suffer from ADD. That same gene marker is also linked to certain auto-immune disorders, like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease, ulcerative colitis, and of course, fibromyalgia.

I often say that fibromyalgia doesn’t like to play alone, so it brings all of its friends along with it…sleep disorders, ADD, digestive disorders, interstitial cystitis, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome…the list goes on. Not everyone with fibro will have all of these other disorders, but they are at higher risk. I’ve always been able to just deal with it. I’m sure it was mild when I was a child, although I was prone to clutter from an early age. I think it’s worsened as I’ve gotten older, and now it’s become paralyzing.

I have a difficult time finishing tasks, which is why there are a countless number of WIPs (Works in Progress) all over my office. I’m well on my way to starring in an episode of Hoarders. It’s affecting every part of my life; I forget appointments, wander around the grocery store because I can’t think of what I’m supposed to pick up, and of course, my house is a mess, which stresses out my family. Even worse, I see the same problems growing in Aubrey. Luckily for Matt, he is a minimalist so no clutter problems there.

I know that before one can solve a problem, one must admit that one HAS a problem to begin with. I fully admit that I have a problem and my life has become unmanageable. Now it’s time to turn it over to a Higher Power. In this case, that means I need to find someone who specializes in working with people with ADD. Fortunately, NAPO (the National Association of Professional Organizers) has a directory of organizers that specialize in ADD and clutter.

Ron read an article a few days ago about hoarding being an official diagnosis in the new DSM-V. This is an amazing thing for people with this problem, as it means that insurance will cover someone who actually comes to one’s home to help them work on the clutter directly, instead of just talking about it in an office. At the moment, however, insurance covers very little when it comes to Adult ADD and hoarding.

I promise that this will not become a blog about hoarding! But with all the recent talk about access to mental health care, I thought it was time to admit that even in the most normal of households (we’re as normal as the next houseful of crazy people!), mental health can rear its ugly head in many different ways.

If you need help with decluttering or organizing, you can find a professional organizer near you with the NAPO directory.

 

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To Glorify What’s Stronger Than Hate

Yesterday was a day of heartbreak,  not just for all of the families who lost loved ones, but for those of us who grieved with them. However, instead of these losses bringing people together, we find ourselves leveraged apart by those who are for or against gun control, and the extreme religious right, who warn that God is punishing us. Personally, I don’t believe in a God who would maim and kill innocent children because of the recent uptick in states that allow same sex marriage, but that’s just me.

Whenever anything so atrocious happens within a culture, people are wired to seek meaning in the act. Always, there is the question of how can God let bad things happen to good people? My belief is that God doesn’t let bad things happen; people do bad things to other people. It’s called free will.

The minister at a church I attended with my ex-husband explained it best, right after 9/11 happened. He said that God is not there to eliminate the darkness, but to illuminate it. God isn’t there to give us some kind of cosmic spanking when we do something wrong, but exists to help us through the aftermath.

It’s times like these that I reach once again for my David Wilcox playlist, particularly a song called, “Show The Way.”

You say you see no hope, you say you see no reason we should dream
that the world would ever change. You’re saying love is foolish to believe
’cause there’ll always be some crazy with an army or a knife
to wake you from your day dream, put the fear back in your life…

Look, if someone wrote a play just to glorify what’s stronger than hate,
would they not arrange the stage to look as if the hero came too late?
He’s almost in defeat, it’s looking like the evil side will win,
so on the edge of every seat, from the moment that the whole thing begins…

It is love who makes the mortar, and it’s love who stacked these stones,
And it’s love who made the stage here although it looks like we’re alone
In this scene set in shadows, like the night is here to stay
There is evil cast around us, but it’s love that wrote the play…
For in this darkness love can show the way.

Even for the more secular among us, it helps to remember that without the dark, there can be no light, no pleasure without pain, no love without hate. As one of my fb friends posted yesterday, for whatever odd reason when she dropped her daughter off at school that morning, she held her back in the car a few extra seconds just to tell her how much she loved her and how proud she was of her. By the end of the day, even though she was thousands of miles from Connecticut, she felt that if anything had happened to her or her daughter, she was so glad that her daughter would at least know that she was loved. I know there were many mornings I’d take my kids to school, irritated at the what to wear hassle, or that someone forgot their homework, or the other one forgot their lunch. I think we can all agree that we would never want the last words our children hear from our mouths be, “Get out of the damned car,” and yet that is exactly how much I took their safety for granted.

Although we cannot control the actions of others, we can control our own actions. We can’t keep our children tucked away in safe little boxes their entire lives, but we can let them know that we love them and are proud of them. In our family, for as long as we’ve had cell phones, we’ve had a phone ritual of ending each call with, “I love you, bye.” It’s said all together in a rush, like one word, almost as an afterthought, as if it is meaningless, but it is not. It is our tiny way of making sure that the last words the other person hears from us is, “I love you.”

As our country and individual families grieve and heal, at the very least, take away the lesson that life can be incredibly short, and you may not get another chance to hug, kiss, cuddle, read another bedtime story, or say I love you. Let this not be a lesson of God’s punishment, but one of God’s love, a reminder to not take life for granted.