Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Just random thoughts

I've only made it 26 days into the new year without letting much get me down. But, I only made it this far because I haven't posted the stuff that's been going on that's less than positive. Ron continues to have issues; I've decided that just probably isn't going to change any time soon.

He fell three weeks ago (which wasn't the only fall he's had) and landed very hard with his fist between his chest and the floor. He doesn't know why he falls, he just does. He's refused to let me get a monitoring system and says that he'll just be more careful. So now, he sits in his chair all day and only gets up if he really, really has to (i.e., bathroom trip). He can't stand well enough to fix himself anything to eat so unless he grabs a piece of fruit or a carton of yogurt, he's not been eating much. He grabs some snacks but for the most part, my evening conversation usually goes something like this:

Me: What did you eat today?
Ron: Eat? Was I supposed to eat? (he's kidding; he knows I'm going to ask)
Me: Yes, I told you to eat {whatever I've mentioned that morning}
Ron: Oh, well - I guess I didn't.
Me: Why didn't you eat?
Ron: Too much trouble (or) I didn't feel like it

He's been shaking a lot more, too. Last night he wanted a drink and because I was doing homework, he thought he'd get himself a drink. He was standing there, with his cane, and shaking so badly he could hardly stand up. He said he'd been shaking quite a bit during the day. I got his water and got him back to his chair. In bed, he started shaking again. He was shaking so much the whole bed was moving. I wondered how long it would last, should I say something, should I ignore it and try to sleep, or just wait and see what happened. After about three minutes, it subsided and he was able to get to sleep.

One night last week, I thought he was having seizures. He was sleeping, I could see his chest moving up and down (I was lying on my left ear, which is the only one I hear out of so I could only "watch" and not "hear" him breathe). Every few seconds, his whole body would jerk. This went on for several minutes. I was getting quite concerned but it stopped almost as suddenly as it started.

He got a new brace last Monday. I was so thrilled. It really helped him stand up better. We were able to put it down into a pair of his shoes he got after he had his left foot amputation. Because of the way the brace was made, we put it down in the shoe and then he slid his foot in it. This was great because he could pretty much do this on his own, and the shoe fastens with Velcro. Woo-hoo! Thought we were on to something. He wore that shoe on Tuesday to the cardiologist's office (had to have his pacemaker checked out after the fall because of the amount of pain he was in), walked in from the car and back out again. When I took off his shoes and the brace, I checked his foot and did not see any evidence of "wear" on his foot. That was a good sign...

Wednesday, I put the brace in the shoe and showed him how to put his foot in, fasten the brace, and then fasten the shoe. Told him to take the whole thing off if he felt like he was having a problem. I got home Wednesday evening and he said he thought the shoe felt too tight and could I take a look. I took the shoe off and immediately knew we had a problem. His big toe was bleeding. {sigh} That is never a good sign. He said, "It's only a blister, right?" I told him that nothing is ever "only" anything where his feet were concerned. It looked like someone had literally taken a cheese grater and grated off the end of his big toe. I cleaned it, added antibiotic cream, and bandaged it along with the other hole.

Today, it does look better but he can't put the brace and shoe back on until it's healed. He sees Dr. Heady again on Thursday so I'm sure he'll take a look at it. The other hole is just not healing. I can tell the hole is bigger underneath the layer of skin than it appears. When I push down around the opening, I can tell it's squishy underneath. I think Doc will probably cut the outside off to let the inside heal. We've been months on this hole.

In fact, next month makes four years that we have been trying to keep Ron's feet attached to his body. April 1, 2006 he had his first amputation (1/2 of his left foot - a transmetatarsal amputation) and he spent the rest of the year healing from that. 2007 we spent treating a recurring blister on his right heel. 2008 we spent having surgery after surgery on the right heel. Finally got the wound VAC off and the healing was looking good, and we then spent all of 2009 on the heel and a "new" blister caused by his first brace. Once that heeled (it's not quite heeled), the next "new" one popped up caused by pressure on the end of the next brace. Each time we get something healed, a new issues crops up.

About the fall... We believe that he cracked a rib or two when he fell, or bruised his chest cavity. He's been barely able to get himself in or out of the bed because of pain. Finally, this week it is starting to get better. I ask him every day if he wants to go get X-rays and he says "if I'm not any better tomorrow" and he's been a bit better each day.

As I was contemplating this post today, I was in tears. I couldn't decide if I felt sorrier for him or for me. Sure, he doesn't like the position he's in any more than I do - but are my feelings of sympathy really sympathy and compassion - or are they self-pity? Some days - I truly don't know. Other days - I'm ashamed of the answer. When I see his struggles, my heart just breaks for him. I'm torn between jumping up and doing what needs to be done and sitting back to see if he can make it. But, he's in so much pain that I have a hard time just waiting to see if he can do it because I figure I'm making him suffer needlessly. Then, I think that if he did more things for himself he might feel better. Then, I see his hands shaking and trembling and him struggling to do even the simplest of tasks and know that he is in tremendous pain, and the cycle starts all over again.

I have been letting my guard down lately with people and expressing my thoughts and my fears. I realized (today) that it is making me more vulnerable to feelings that I cannot afford to have. So, I am shutting back down and putting the survival walls back up. I cannot allow myself to feel, because feelings mean failure and failure is not an option. I have to just remain numb to all that is going on around me and put one foot in front of the other - day in and day out. That is the only way to survive. Running away is not an alternative action. LOL - I'd be on the phone every day asking if he was OK and if he had eaten.

I was talking at work today with one of my co-workers. I was doing fine until I started talking about concerns and the wondering if I could do anything differently than what I'm doing. I often feel like I'm not doing enough, and then there are times that I feel like I'm doing so much that I can't do another thing. I waver between resentment for some of the things that I have to do and compassion when I have to do those same things. I say over and over again that I wouldn't want to be in his shoes and that I do these things because I love him and because I'm glad to do them.

After I decided that my own feelings were causing my feelings of weakness and distress, I was able to get a grip on myself and get on with the items at hand. I wondered about the years my mom took care of my dad without ever complaining. My mom is my hero. I want to ask her if she ever got tired of her responsibilities and if she ever felt guilty for doing so. After all, at the time she was in better shape than my dad was. She never let on that she might have more on her plate than she could handle. She was retired, so that helped - but because she was retired, she was also older. Her trials with my dad's health started when she was 55; he died in Sept 2005. She was 75 and he was 74.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

To catch a con man

I'm watching MSNBC tonight and Chris Hansen is profiling email scam artists. One of the American victims was a city treasurer who got taken for over $18,000. The next one was a county treasurer who not only "invested" his own money (to the tune of $80,000) but then embezzled hundreds of thousands of money from the county. Amazing... The first (a woman) said she thought she was trying to help someone out by helping them get their money back. Of course, the promise of $2,000,000 as a reward didn't even come into play. Puh-leeze... The only person she was convincing that she was trying to help someone out was herself. While I do feel sorry (to a certain extent) for the people for the loss of their money, I can't help but think "how stupid are you or how greedy are you" because they actually believe they're going to get something (millions) for virtually nothing (a "small" investment). Although some of them could be falling for something because they're desperate (after all, today's economy has created a lot of desperate people), maybe some of them are actually ignorant of the rampant email scams and "think" they're really helping some poor widow, who is dying from cancer, with twenty-four kids who live in poverty because their father absconded with their money, and the father died before she could have him apprehended and her money returned to her, and her kids will be forever grateful that some kind American has helped restore what is rightfully theirs - AND - because of their selfless generosity in helping out, the "rescuer" will receive a paltry percentage of the bulk of the money, but since the paltry sum is in the millions, the generous soul can't wait to help out. Right...

The county treasurer received seven years in prison for his "selfless" act of generosity in helping others, who just happened to be in Nigeria.

Chris Hansen has set himself up as a rich businessman and is calling himself Jim E. Dimoni (Gimme the money). Kind of catchy, don't you think? I loved it.

I continue to be amazed at how people fall for these, and why they think "this one" is honest when there have been so many exposed for the frauds they are. I continually get emails letting me know that I've won millions in a foreign lottery and I just need to collect - or that my wealthy long-lost relative has died and I'm the only remaining relative and I need to send my information in to collect my millions. It doesn't matter that I've never entered (and never will enter) a foreign lottery and I don't have any long-lost wealthy relatives (and I wouldn't be the only one because I have a BIG family). I especially love the ones that begin "Dearest" and implore on my sensibilities to help someone out.

My newest thing is scammers hitting my Avon website. They send a contact me request in, which I dutifully answer - knowing they don't want anything except to attempt to scam me. Of course, they want to place an order but because they are temporarily out of the country, they need for me to place the order - pay for it, and then ship it to them. They'll, of course, handsomely reward me for taking care of it but since they have they're own shipping company, they'll have that company pick the items up and ship them. They usually want to order anywhere from 30-60 of each item. I guess they think I have a lot of money (LOL, that's laughable) and I have the resources to order hundreds of expensive items (oh yeah, the items they want aren't the $2.00 things - they're the $30+ bottles of perfume).

Most of them I just ignore or say I don't ship - PERIOD. If they want something, order it from the website, have it shipped directly to them, and pay with real money - which is something they're not planning on paying me with. I've called one individual on his game and critiqued his email to me, correcting his punctuation, his spelling, and his grammar. He was not impressed and said that someday I would be "had."

Well, in order to be had, you have to respond and give your financial information, actually give them some money, and expect something in return. I don't buy anything from anyone who contacts me via email. Especially if I don't know the person. If I do get pleas from people I know, I respond back to them in a manner that is different from how I was contacted. If you're truly my friend and in need, I know how to contact you outside of email. Plus, if you're truly my friend you probably know I probably only have a couple bucks in my wallet at any given time and no resources to wire money or withdraw money.

I really believe greed plays the biggest roles in people being scammed. How many times have we been told that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. How many times have we been told that easy money isn't really that easy - except for the scam artists?

Money can solve a lot of problems, but in these cases it also causes a lot of problems.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The meeting, the date, the wedding

Wednesday arrived and I was a nervous wreck. The person babysitting the kids said she'd be to my house by 6:30 PM. I would leave work at 4:30, pick up the kids (5:00), get home and get them dinner (5:45 at the earliest) and then get myself ready. Ron was supposed to get there at 6:45. He beat the babysitter.

I heard the knocker on the door, so I rushed to open it expecting to see Kathy (my friend/sitter). Instead, I see an overweight, short man with too short, too curly hair wearing a suit outside my door. He said his first impression of me was that I had a dirty face (I had a sun spot just above my lip that has mysteriously gone away in the past 25 years). About the time we were stammering through our introductions, Kathy arrived. I directed her to where the kids were, talked about what they could do for entertainment that evening, and we headed out.

We ate at a restaurant that is no longer in business here, but the food was excellent. We had a nice conversation about what he did for a living, what his hobbies were, where he went to church, etc. (after all, he'd already heard my life story). And, then - he took off his glasses. I saw the bluest eyes I had ever seen and the description that "you could drown in them" certainly fit. Every other impression I'd had of him just flew out the window at that point.

Before he took me home, we went to his house (he was in the process of a major renovation as he'd bought a condemned house and was restoring it) because I'd told him I liked piano music. He sat down at his piano and played music for about 30 minutes. He said he played by ear and couldn't read music but he just played stuff that he heard or stuff that "came" to him. In my eyes, he was awesome.

After we left there, he took me home and didn't even kiss me goodnight. What a gentleman. I had a softball game the next night, so I asked him if he'd like to come watch us play. After he left, I called my brother and told him he HAD to come watch my game the next night because Ron said he'd come. So, he promised he'd be there.

Ron arrived just a little late for the beginning of the game, but he was present to witness my one and only 3-run home run. I was so excited. I don't remember if that was the game deciding hit, but it was the deciding "hit" in his eyes. He told me later that he thought I had the best looking set of long legs running around the bases that he'd ever seen.

After the game, we all went to have ice cream and Ron got grilled by my brother. LOL - that was probably amusing to him. He was 36 and Jerry was 24. Ron had plans for Friday night but invited the kids and I to his house for Saturday to grill and watch movies on his big screen. That was exciting as I'd never seen a big screen TV before (I was so sheltered - hahahaha!).

Ron picked Shaun up about noon on Saturday and said they'd go to the movie rental and to the store, and I could come over after Amy woke up from her nap. That seemed like a great plan. Later in the day, the doorbell rang and since Ron was at the grill, I answered. There stood a lady with an overnight bag in her hands. She seemed genuinely surprised to see another woman in Ron's house and after asking me a few questions, I said I'd get Ron for her. I had no idea who she was, but evidently she was who he was busy with on Friday night. He had dated her for several months and had even asked her to marry him. She declined because she said he was too short and too fat but she'd be glad to "date" him until she found Mr. Right. She was astounded that he was getting himself involved with a divorced woman with two small children.

Joanne had some skills as an interior designer so she had decided that she'd come to Ron's house for the weekend and help him pick out some wallpaper and get it hung. Unfortunately, she neglected to discuss those plans with him so our presence certainly took the wind out of her sails. She left very quickly after Ron went to the door.

We had a great dinner, watched a lot of movies (kid-themed), had snacks, the kids slept and then we watched some more TV. I'm not sure what time I left, but it was very late/very early (depending on how you look at it). When my phone rang at 11:00 am on Sunday, I was not interested in answering it. But, since the kids were being quiet I decided I better take care of the blaring noise or they'd wake up. It was Ron.

He said he'd had a wonderful time with me the past week and he'd decided that he no longer needed any of the names in his little black book. I had no idea what he was talking about. What was a little black book???? He laughed and said that although I started out as a charity call, and he was not going to get involved with me, he was hooked and hoped that I would consider dating him exclusively. Well, I wasn't dating anyone so he had no competition. I told him that I was not in the market for sex or marriage but would welcome companionship and friendship. He agreed.

It wasn't very far into the month when he proposed. I had a very clear thought that THIS was what God had brought me to Wichita for - to meet my soul mate and the man of my dreams. So, I accepted and we made plans for a Christmas wedding. He was still working on his house and we knew it wouldn't be big enough for us to move in. He had people willing to rent it after it was complete and the thought was that December would work.

Then, things got a bit confused for his renters and they needed to move into the house in November. Then, it was October and he wanted to move the wedding up. I said (and I quote), "If you want to marry me so damn bad, you can just do it this weekend." He said OK, but there was a three day waiting period in Kansas so we'd have to do it Monday. Was that soon enough? If so, I needed to go to the court house that day and purchase the wedding license.

I didn't even know this man's date of birth or where he was born - or his mother's maiden name. I had to write all of that down on a slip of paper before I went to the courthouse. I just knew that I was doing what God told me to do. We spent the weekend in a whirlwind of activity. Once people found out that we were going to get married (and had planned on going to the courthouse on Monday), they started changing plans for us. Debbie #2 insisted that we have the wedding at her house. Debbie #1 and #2's husband (who was the person who actually got us together) were to be our witnesses and Ron had a friend who would perform the ceremony. My brother and his wife were invited and my friend Kathy would bring the cake.

In all this time (19 whole days) I hadn't told my parents much about Ron at all. Finally, Sunday night arrived and I decided that I better make the telephone call. I got my mom on the phone and asked her what she was doing the next night. She said, watching {whatever the show was} and wanted to know why. I said, "Ron and I are getting married tomorrow night and wanted to know if you and Dad wanted to come." She said, "Oh my God. I won't tell your father." She thought I was jumping off the deep end - why would I want to marry a divorced man who had three kids. I said why would he want to marry someone with two kids and who didn't get child support. She thought that was a very good point. Ron talked to her for about an hour and when he was finished, she said for some reason she felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.

We only had the one date before we got married. We spent the rest of the month together, with children in tow, and functioned as a family unit. All of Ron's friends were against him getting married. All of those friends are now divorced and we're the only ones still married. It has taken work and determination, but anything worth having is worth fighting for. We both came into this marriage knowing it was for the long-haul and we both had instances where we could have thrown in the towel and walked away. That would have been the easier thing to do.

So - the plan God had for me worked according to His wishes, starting with the phone call to my union steward so many months earlier. Every anniversary of our wedding I am once again thankful for the way in which He brought everything together. I HAD to move into those apartments in order to meet Debbie. Debbie HAD to tell the other Debbie what I'd said, and she HAD to tell her husband. Everyone had to be obedient to God's urging to bring the two of us together.

My children are very grateful and are honored to be called Ron's children. I am honored to be his wife and to be able to do the things for him that I do. Life is definitely not easy right not and will probably never be again. I pray that God grants us favor in our finances and in our health.

We didn't have a honeymoon (not with two small children at home) and have never really had a vacation. Our trip in February is up in the air, partly because of finances and partly because of Ron's health. It is supposed to be the celebration of our 25+ years together and my prayer is that God provides a way for it to happen. That is a bit selfish on my part because I feel like I need a break just as much as he needs one. We need a break together and an opportunity to have fun together would be great medicine for him.

How I met my sweetie - Part III

Moving day arrived. I had an address for my new apartment, but had not actually seen it. Since I was driving down from Kansas City (and cell phones were not an option yet), I had made arrangements for my brother (Jerry) and sister-in-law (Kim) to meet us at the apartment complex at a certain time of the day. I had sold my washer and dryer (to the people who bought my townhouse equity) and my youngest sister had been packing my things the week before my move. She had been staying at the townhouse with my children so it was nice that she had been able to do that for me. When I got back into town Friday night, I just finished up the final details.

I had plenty of help to load up the moving van that Saturday morning, so we actually hit the road at a reasonable time of day. My dad and my oldest brother (Rick) were manning the moving van, while my mother rode with me and the kids in my VW. I don’t remember exactly how long it took us to get to Wichita from KC, but the speed limit on the moving van was probably about 50 mph. It was a long day. Once we arrived at the apartment complex, my brothers, sister-in-law, father, and I unloaded the moving van. My mom supervised the kids and kept them out of harm’s way. The only things that we managed to get set up that evening were the beds, but that was OK. We had a place to lay our heads that night. My parents and brother stayed at Jerry’s house Saturday night and then the kids and I went over the next morning for breakfast and to say good-bye. I didn’t know how many weeks it would be before we saw each other again.

The apartment was a very good size and the master bedroom was huge by apartment standards. I put a double bed, a twin bed, two dressers, two toy boxes, and a kid-sized table and chairs in that room and they still had room to play on the floor. One of the dressers and toy boxes did go into the walk-in closet, but still – the room was huge. They had a door to the bathroom from their room, so that was nice. The second bedroom was big enough for my queen-sized water bed, my dresser, and end table. I had plenty of room to walk around the bed and the closet was plenty big enough for my clothes. The kitchen was tiny, but that was OK. I had enough room to cook for the three of us and we had a dishwasher – something I hadn’t really had before. It was very nice. The dining room was big enough for my table and chairs, and it even had a pantry. Sweet…

One of the things I noticed when we were moving in was that I was less than ½ mile from a Southern Baptist church, which is the denomination I had attended all of my life. That was great as it meant that I could get involved in church and my children would continue to be exposed to Christianity. Unfortunately, in 1984, there were very few resources for divorced women with children. I was too young for the “adults” (those individuals who had already raised their families) and I was really not a good fit for the “young adults” (the singles group, who had no responsibilities other than themselves). The other option was the “married” group, and I obviously didn’t fit there either. The married group did things that involved both spouses and/or their children. I was never included in this group. The young adults’ class did things that only included themselves. Children were not included or allowed, so I also wasn’t included in their functions.

I did manage to make friends with someone who was married, but she also had two children about the same age as my children – and her husband did not participate in church activities. So, we sort of hung out together. Plus, she encouraged me to join the church’s softball team that summer and said the kids would just all play together and everyone kept an eye out for the whole group. That was a great idea and lots of fun.

In the meantime, I joined Parents without Partners and tried to do a few of the group activities. One weekend, we went camping and fishing at a local lake. My kids had a great time but I spent the “night” trying to convince the divorced man who had invited me that I was not out for a sexual relationship. I wasn’t sexually active before my first marriage and I wasn’t going to be afterwards, either. I eventually quit attending meetings and functions because it seemed to be more of who-could-hook-up-with-who rather than something that could involve adults and their children in activities.

My brother and SIL were not interested in ever doing any babysitting for me so I never got out of the apartment without my children. We also had very little money so entertainment consisted of once-monthly trips to McDonalds so they could play on the equipment and have a Happy Meal. I had a diet drink or nothing, depending on the finances that week. It got to the point where I was really angry at life – not depressed, but just angry. I was angry at the single men who thought I’d be an easy mark (after all, I must be interested in “it” since I’d had “it” before and surely I missed “it”). I was angry at the church for not even trying to figure out what could be done for single/divorced mothers. I was angry at my ex for not paying child support. I was just plain angry.

In the meantime, I was pretty close with my friend (Debbie). She had another friend, also named Debbie, and I had met her a few times. Her children were also about the same ages as ours so we hung out as much as our schedules would allow. Both of their husbands worked together. One day, in frustration I made a comment to Debbie (my friend) that she repeated to the other Debbie, who told her husband. He went to work and told Ron that he had another “kook” for him to call and talk out of suicide.

The comment was in reference to the movie “They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?” and was in no way representative of what I would do or how I felt. I don’t remember my exact words but in retrospect, it could have been taken the way it was. Ron was divorced and had been in a position after his divorce where someone wanted him to talk to their friend (female) because she was lonely, had no friends in the area, and had a pretty heavy burden. Before he could actually engage her in conversation or dinner out, she did kill herself. He was devastated because he thought that if he had been able to talk to her and tell her that there were people out there who would be glad to be her friend.

Naturally, when Debbie’s husband told him about me, he asked for my telephone number. That was a Sunday (July 29, 1984) and we talked on the telephone for about two hours. He was very easy to talk to and really listened to everything. I felt myself opening up to him in a way I’d never opened up to anyone. I didn’t gloss over the details or tell them in such a way that it sounded like I was having a pity party. This was life – this was my life – and since he asked, I told.
He called me the next day at work and asked if I would be interested in dinner that Wednesday (August 1). I said yes, but I’d have to figure out who would be able to watch my kids. Of course, my brother was not available. One of my co-workers happened to hear part of my conversation (we were the only female workers in the whole office – which was really small) and she jumped up and down with excitement, saying she’d come to my house and keep the kids.

So, I looked his number up in the phone book and called him back. I got an answering machine with the voice of Donald Duck telling me to leave a message. Hmmm…. I was a bit unsure of that, so I basically said, “If this is the Ron Williams who asked me out for Wednesday – the answer is yes but I’m not leaving my number. If this is you, you have my number; if it’s not you don’t need my number.” And I hung up. And, waited. And, waited some more.

I didn’t have to wait too long because he called me that afternoon, and laughed at my response to his answering machine message. He had many voices he could leave messages in but Donald was his newest.

(The meeting – the date – the wedding, to follow.)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Unburdening, letting go, and moving on

I had a really long talk with God yesterday morning about letting some of my walls and defenses down. I am thin-skinned – I admit it and I’ve struggled my whole life with it. I prefer to think of it as wearing my heart on my sleeve, but a true translation is probably that I get my feelings hurt easily. {sigh} I don’t know why that is the case, but it’s there.

I have many “hurts” that satan continues to throw up into my face, even when I think (and believe) that I have forgiven and moved on. Understandably, you can’t forget that an action took place, as there’s no way to undo something that has happened. But, we should be able to forget the pain that the action caused and therein lays my problem. Even perceived pain should be cast aside if we’ve forgiven the action. I can be enjoying something totally that has no bearing on the past and, suddenly, out of the clear I get this remembrance of an insult, a slight, or an actual event that “hurt.” It is time to let go and unburden myself of these things.

In that respect, I’ve taken some steps to clear the air with a few people. Part of the cloudy air between us is my fault, part their fault, part perceived fault, and partly the fault of others we were in contact with. I’ve extended the olive branch and asked forgiveness where I have either said something or did something that offended them and accepted my part in our troubled relationship. I can only wait to see if they accept and acknowledge how each side could have made tenuous relationships better.

Just to show you how the devil can use little things to plant seeds of doubt and mistrust in your mind…. In one instance, I paid for someone to attend a conference and did so anonymously. Later, when I asked around, including this person, about sharing a room (4 ladies to a room or you could pay to have one by yourself), they all said they had someone to share with. A couple of people only had one other person in their room so there was room for me, but the offer was not extended. I could not afford to pay for this person’s ticket – and to pay for myself to reserve my own room – so I did not get to go. None of the people I approached about sharing a room thought to ask me if “I” had someone to share with and/or if it meant the difference between me attending or not. In addition, none of them asked after the fact why I hadn’t been there or indicated that my presence was missed. The devil has used this against me for years to keep me from allowing myself to get close to people or allowing them to get close to me. I MUST keep the walls in place for self-preservation.

In another instance, I approached a lady who is near to my own age and indicated that I was very shy and didn’t have many friends in the area. I acknowledged that I’d really like to have some “girl” friends but none of my family or friends lived in this state. I outright asked her if she would help me to develop friendships, including one with her. Nothing ever came of it. I never asked again. I decided that I must not be friend material to her and her friends.

In another instance, I was encouraged to invest time into someone and share what was on my mind. I really hesitated on whether or not I was willing to do this. I don’t open up very easily to anyone. I think that is something that my dad taught me – keep it to yourself because no one really wants to hear it. I loved my dad but he really did plant a lot of the low self-esteem issues in my psyche. He didn’t mean to – I just think it was because of my own molecular makeup that his comments and actions affected me the way in which they did. Anyway, once I opened up – I got nothing in return. I tossed that around a bit and tried to decide – should I have not opened up, should I, or what. I decided (after much deliberation) that I think I shocked this individual with what I had to say and that this person didn’t quite know how to take me. LOL – take me with a grain of salt! Most of what I have to say I try to say very matter-of-factly and not with malice or discontent. I mostly succeed in not having a pity-party. Sometimes I fail. I might have failed that time in making my voice sound matter-of-fact. I don’t know. I let it bother me for a while but this was one instance in which the devil failed in his attempt to say, “See… so-and-so doesn’t like you either.” Maybe it’s true – and maybe it’s not. I don’t know for sure and I probably never will.

So, God is working on me to help me let go of the past. I know that I cannot go forward and expect God’s blessings if I don’t forgive, forget, and bless others. I’ll still make mistakes. I’ll still fall short. I’ll still make some people mad. All I can say is – please forgive me in advance for my stupidity. May God bless you and as He blesses you, He will also bless me.

How I met my sweetie - Part II

I have been a Christian most of my life – although I sometimes practiced my faith better than other times, but always with the knowledge that Christ died for my sins, that He is the only son of God, and no matter what kind of curves life throws at you, God is always there to lean on. In the winter of 1983, I was leaning on him very heavily. With the financial struggle, the relationship I knew was going nowhere, and the job situation I was in, I was beat down pretty heavily. I remember one night in particular near Christmas of heavy prayer, crying out to God that something – anything – needed to happen and that I needed a break, and asking in earnest what I should do. “Bid on the job in Wichita,” came the response. Clear as a bell, just like He was standing in the room right next to me. I had heard of people saying that God spoke to them, but I’d never experienced it before. I couldn’t deny the voice, as I heard it again very clearly and emphatically when I said, “I can’t bid on the job in Wichita; I have no money to move on.” He said, “Bid on the job in Wichita! It will be alright.”

So, I dried my tears and picked up the phone to call Paul Watson, our union representative. I did the verbal part of the paperwork and he sent me the part I needed to sign by overnight mail. One thing about Kansas City and Wichita… Even though we had the same general manager and reported to the same hierarchy, I didn’t really have bidding rights to jobs in Wichita. I did not know this and Paul did not know this. God knew it – but He provided a way for me to bypass that.

Somehow during my employment with WU in Kansas City, I became friends with a woman named Marie (although I can picture in my mind what she looked like, I cannot remember her last name). Her brother, Warren Young, was the general manager over Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri. That was a very important friendship, but I had no idea how important until January of 1984. Warren Young called my home. He was going to be in the area the next weekend visiting his sister, who remembered me, and wanted to know if he could come to MY HOUSE and interview me for the position in Wichita. I was stunned. General Managers just didn’t go to peoples’ homes for interviews. But – if this was truly a “God thing” then him coming to my house was in God’s plan.

In the meantime, I got a telephone call from the sales manager in Wichita who wanted to set up an interview time with me and wanted me to drive to Wichita for this. I explained to her that I had an unreliable car (an old VW bug), two small children, and no one to keep them for me while I went out of town. Plus, I said that Warren had already called and set up an interview time for the coming Sunday. She was a bit flustered, said she’d get back to me, and hung up. That Saturday, my phone rang again and this time it was Tim Phares, the manager for the Wichita office. He reiterated that I needed to come to Wichita for an interview, but when I again said that Warren would be at my house the next day for an interview he decided that we’d do an informal interview right then, over the phone. My guess at the time was that he didn’t want to be “one upped” by the General Manager. Either way, it worked out well for me as Tim said he thought we’d “do” working together.

Sunday arrived; I sent my kids down the street to the sitter’s house and I patiently (anxiously) waited for Warren to arrive. Once he did, we chatted for about 30 minutes about various things – none of which had to do with my qualifications or skills. Finally, he stood up to leave and said, “So, do you think you can be there in two weeks?” I quickly said I could, in the back my mind thinking “how am I going to arrange that?” But, I did not want to pass up this opportunity to provide for my children. He said, “Fine, we’ll see you two weeks from tomorrow then,” and walked out.

I was flabbergasted and knew I had a lot of stuff to do. First off – call the housing office on Monday morning and put my townhouse on the market to be sold. This housing unit was a series of townhouses, 2, 3, or 4 bedroom units – all with fenced back yards and parking out front. None of it was covered parking. To live there, you had to pass a credit check, make a minimum amount of money, but below the maximum amount for your household size. You had to buy the equity from the person whose townhouse you were purchasing, and you built up a small amount of equity each month. Any improvements you made to the unit, such as carpet, paint, updated fixtures, etc. came out of your own pocket and not reimbursed by the management. But, you could pass these improvement costs down to the next person (within reason, of course). I had only lived there about six months but I had painted, put down carpet – that I got for free, no pad and not permanently installed. It was just “down” on the hardwood floors. I added the “cost” of these items to what I had paid six months earlier and presented my asking price to the management.

My parents thought I was nuts. I said if this was really what God was telling me to do, then it would happen in His time. The first person who looked at my townhouse bought my equity – and gave me $100 cash as down payment. This down payment came two days before I needed to put $100 down to reserve a moving truck for the weekend that I was moving. That was confirmation number one.

Confirmation number two was a bit slower, but it did come. My younger brother and his (first) wife lived in Wichita at the time. He worked at Boeing and she worked at a nursing home on the west side of town. They lived off Oliver, a bit south of Harry so she had a bit of traveling to do. I left my kids in Kansas City with other relatives and I headed to Wichita the Sunday before I was to report for work. Every night during that first week, my brother and I tried to find a place for us to live. If it was something that I could afford (my maximum was $325 per month), it was not in an area that he wanted me to live. If it was in a better area, either the price was too high or we wouldn’t fit. The second week, we did more of the same.

Finally, Wednesday morning came and I was scheduled to move in three days. I was reading the newspaper and came across an advertisement for an apartment complex at Tyler and Maple. $50 deposit – move-in special; large 2 bedroom on the ground floor - $305 per month. It had all of my pre-requisites. I called my sister-in-law and asked her if she knew where they were. She did, so she said she’d go check them out on her lunch. I told her that if she thought we’d fit (the kids had to share a room so it needed to be a good size) and if they still had ground floor, tell them I’d take it. She said, “Don’t you want to see it first?” I said no, since I was picking up the moving truck in three days – I’d take it sight unseen.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

New Year's visitors

My totally awesome grandkids came from WA to visit. Of course, they brought their parents along for the ride because "someone" had to drive...

Aren't they just the cutest?

Kaitlyn is a very easy-going baby and when she warms up to you, she's all smiles. She got to go see her GiGi (my mom - great-grandma) on Sunday. GiGi was just totally impressed with how beautiful she is. Actually, my mom thinks both kids are just beautiful with gorgeous complexion and beautiful eyes. I totally agree.

The haircut... Jenny was in the hospital the week of Christmas and her parents were here visiting from Taiwan. While she was watching the kids, grandma Tina decided that Kaitlyn's hair was in her eyes, so she cut it. I was so surprised to see that her hair was missing. I guess grandma didn't realize she could put the hair up in a bow or clip. Oh well... the nice thing about hair is that it does grow back (usually). Here she is with bangs (not a good picture because it was with my web cam).

They will head back home on Sunday, the 10th. It is nice visiting and I love having them around, but we are old farts and don't like the clutter. I can get used to it to have my family around but I do enjoy having things in their place and not worry about small hands moving things they shouldn't have. Yesterday, Alexander knocked Ron's closet door off the track. I'm not sure it can be fixed. LOL - my son just about can't afford his visit here. So far, he's broken the shower door and will have to pay to have it fixed (about $100) and now his son has pulled the closet door off. In Alexander's defense, it was loose and Ron had damaged it one time by hitting it when he fell. The door saved Ron from hitting the floor hard, but it did sustain some damage to the track. Alexander just finished the job. If we can't fix it again, we'll have to get a new door and a new track. Oh well... The price of love.

You can't put a price on it, right?

How I met my sweetie - part I

This is such a long story that I need to break it up into manageable pieces. This is part one...

Soon after my divorce was final in January 1983, I was laid off from my job at Western Union. I was devastated and barely able to support my children. I received no child support from my ex-husband (he wouldn’t keep a job) and was trying to live on the “barely more than” minimum wage job I found – which was better than the $103 weekly I had been receiving on unemployment. I don’t remember the exact details, but I think I cleared around $700 per month. Rent took $190, child care took $180, I had attorney fees ($50), gas and parking (maybe $50-$60 per month), utilities, life insurance, car insurance, and incidentals took more than the rest. In fact, once I paid the required expenses – no frills, no extras – I had $25-$30 per MONTH to spend on groceries for three people. Granted, two of them were small children but I challenge anyone to feed three people on $25 per month, and eat more than eggs or soup, which is what we mostly ate. My parents fixed my car three times in one month because I just didn’t have the money to do so. I had no car payment and there was no way that I could have traded for a better car. It was make do with what I had (a lot of people don’t understand that concept these days; they think “making do” does not include giving up cigarettes, cell phones, Internet, lattes, eating out, or any other habit they may have) and say a lot of prayers.

Through the generosity of others, my children did have Christmas that year but it was truly by the grace of God that they did. I had put a few things in layaway for them but had come to the realization that I was going to have to cancel it and they would pretty much have nothing. I only owed $25 on the layaway, but I didn’t have that and it was due out. The day I was going to get my refund, I got a check in the mail from my third cousin (my grandmother’s first cousin but we called her “aunt”) and the amount was $25. Only God knew how much money I needed because I hadn’t said anything to Aunt Helen. In addition, my mom’s co-workers always adopted a family for the holidays and they approached her and asked if she would be offended if they chose my little family. Mom was relieved and said that it would be a blessing for us all – for them to have some relief and for me to have a stocked pantry. Because it was us – someone tangible they could put faces to – we probably received more items than they usually gave. Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus delivered the goodies to our door and my children were enthralled. Shaun was five and Amy was two; their faces just lit up with amazement. They got toys, badly needed clothes, and we got FOOD! Lots of food. My mom had suggested they buy non-perishable stuff for us so it would last longer and actually gave them a list of things the kids didn’t like, so we didn’t get 15 cans of lima beans or 10 cans of stewed tomatoes – things little kids normally don’t eat. We got a large ham that I was able to cut into several good sized chunks and a couple of chickens that I was also able to cut up into manageable serving sizes. I was blessed. To top it off, I even got a gift certificate for myself to buy a badly needed pair of slacks for work. And, panty hose! I hadn’t been able to afford hose for months. And coffee! I’d had to give up my coffee months earlier and only had it when someone blessed me with it.

During the course of year, I dated a man who I knew did not want to marry me and who really only wanted one of my children – Amy. Shaun had issues, but who wouldn’t with the way he had been treated by not only his own father, but also by his father’s parents? They were a difficult bunch to deal with and it was harder and harder for me to send my children for visitation, knowing that my ex wouldn’t work or pay support, and anything provided to me by his parents had to be counted as child support (they took me grocery shopping one time – spent $50 and deducted it from my child support). They housed him, paid for the gasoline in his car, paid his car insurance, and fed him. He had to do nothing except pick up the kids every other weekend. My ex-MIL’s comment to me one time that “we take care of our own” really solidified that they did not accept their ONLY grandchildren, who just happened to be MY children, as part of “their” family. It was truly heartbreaking. Shaun was stood in the corner so long at their house one time that he picked the sheet rock off the wall, down to the stud, with his fingernail. Instead of realizing they’d left a then-four year old boy in the corner too long, they were angry that he’d defaced their wall.

Also during this time, I found out about a Western Union job that was up for bid in Wichita, KS (we were union workers). My former union representative had encouraged me to bid on the job, but I had just moved into low income housing (I had been on the waiting list for months and had to “buy” into the place, much like purchasing a brick-and-mortar piece of real estate), my car was unreliable, and I didn’t feel like I could really afford to pay for the move (since it was an out-of-district move, the company would not pay for it).

To be continued...

Monday, January 4, 2010

It’s a new year…

My New Year’s resolution is to not let the little things in life get me down. That seems like a really mundane resolution, but in the grand scheme of things it’s really not. It’s very easy to get so caught up in the “blips” on the radar screen that we overlook the big things. The little things do sometimes build up and become bigger issues, but we don’t have to let them.

I tell my kids and my sister to not sweat the small stuff and to more or less pick their battles. That’s advice that I really try to follow myself and sometimes I am more successful than others. My biggest issues are Ron’s health and my acceptance of my responsibilities to make his life more enjoyable. I’m very lucky to have someone in my life who loves me unconditionally and that I can turn to with any issue and he’ll really listen to what I have to say. So what if I have to do some unpleasant cleaning more often than I’d like to? So what if I have extra laundry because – well, just because? Thank God that I have the opportunity to have to do these chores. That means that I’m capable of doing them and I need to be more grateful that I can.

Ron is falling more and the tremors are sometimes very bad. There are times when they’re hardly noticeable, but other times he shakes pretty violently. He is down quite a bit and said Saturday night that he needed to be in a care home to relieve my burdens. I had just done some pretty heavy duty cleaning, but that doesn’t happen that often so I told him that he just needed to can that crap. I do wonder where this year will take us, though. I’m an eternal optimist and I believe that we will persevere and get through any challenges that come our way.

We do have a new challenge to start the year with. The callous that had been just slightly irritated is now a full-fledged hole. I’ve called Dr. Heady and I’m trying to move his appointment from next week to today. So far, they haven’t called back and he’s only in the office during the morning hours on Monday. I’m afraid that waiting until the 11th will give this thing more time to get worse and we’ll be looking at a multi-month battle, just like the past two holes.

Charge! Forward the artillery! Bring out the heavy guns!

OK - so maybe that line doesn't make sense here but it was all I could think of. Got to end the post on a light note because I said last year that I'd work hard on not posting things that were depressing. {smack} Just reminded myself with a smack of the hands. Off to work...