Checking out

Last night my dear hubby and I went to the store to get some prescriptions.  On the way out of the store I went into one of my seizures.  I just check out.  I kept walking with him I guess, but no one was home.  He said that I was kind of wobbly walking with him.  He asked me a question and I didn’t answer.  He realized that I was having a seizure.  He thought I was going to fall at one point so he stopped and just held on to me.

Now when I started to come around I remember seeing people walking towards me.  Apparently we were standing right in the middle of the aisle.  It looked to me like the people were coming towards me in some distorted way.  It was like something from a movie, or a nightmare.

Then I got hit with the headache!  Oh how I hate that headache!  It makes one eye droop.  It is very strange!

Nate said that a little girl was watching me and asking her mommy what was wrong with me.  I feel bad.  I don’t want to scare people!  Obviously there is nothing I can do about it, but still.

On the way home Nate said that he was glad that I wasn’t on the bus or something.  He was afraid that someone would steal my purse.  I was thinking that I would miss my stop and wind up who knows where.

There have been a lot of things in my life that I have had no control over.  Decisions that other people make comes to mind.  The weather is another.  Aging is one that nobody can get away from.  Sure they can do things to avoid the appearance of aging and to be strong and healthy, but they still age. Now I have no control over seizures.

It seems to me that God is reminding me that He is in charge.  He has the ultimate say over what happens.

We like to do all sorts of things to feel secure.  We save for our retirements, then the market crashes and all of our hard earned money disappears.  We buy a nice home and take good care of it, but a fire or flood can take it away in a heartbeat.

What I am reminded of is that we have to have faith.  Some may mock me for a belief in God and say that it is my way of feeling secure.  However, I know with all of my heart, that come what may, He is there.

The first Article of Faith in my religion says, “We believe in God the Eternal Father and in his son, Jesus Christ, and in the Holy Ghost.”

This is what I believe deep in my core.  We may look at life and see nothing but a mess, but God sees the whole picture.  He sees much more than we do.  I believe that there is something much larger at work than we can see.  Believing such, I think that it is our faith that will keep us going when everything else seems to be falling apart.

Sending my prayers and thoughts to all who are losing homes to fires and floods right now.

Turtle vs Snail

I wrote earlier about our little Box Turtle and how obsessed the dog is with her (which hasn’t changed).  Today I wanted to write about the turtle.  Did you know that turtles are omnivores?  Which basically means they will eat anything!  They are kind of like the goats of the reptile world.

Snails beefing up on oatmeal

Last week my dear hubby brought home some snails that he picked up around the shop where he works, after a good rain.  We wondered how the turtle would handle the snails.  Well she popped up her head and watched them move around her domicile for about a minute.  Then it was like a gory scene from a horror movie!  She turned into mini Tyrannosaurus Rex.  She zoomed (in turtle form) across the terrarium to the first snail and… wait for it… CRUNCH!  She bit into the snail shell and all!  CRUNCH, CRUNCH, CRUNCH!

By then the other snails had seen the fate that awaited them and were doing all they could to hide.

Turtles are actually a lot faster than you might imagine, especially when they have dinner on their minds.  So the turtle had no problem catching and devouring the other snails in minutes flat.

Of course my husband and I weren’t the only ones who were interested in what was going on.  Athena aka obsessed dog, was doing her best to get a view of the carnage.  She was climbing around and trying to get the best spot she could without getting yelled at.

I was going to change the turtle’s water but decided that with the gleam in her eye, that said she wanted more blood, I’d best wait to put my fingers in there.  (Not really, she hasn’t bitten anyone, but it sounds good doesn’t it?)

So today we have a new batch of snails waiting to be sacrificed to the turtle.  I’m going to let my hubby put them in there.  It really kind of fascinates him.  Okay, I find it kind of amazing too.  Still… I’m not touching them!  Ew!  At least they aren’t slugs!  I really couldn’t touch those!

Parental Ping Pong

One of the things blended families get to deal with is the inevitable time when the children bounce from one parent to another.  My niece and nephews just went back to my brother in Wisconsin, leaving their mom in Idaho.  They do this yearly.

Last night my stepdaughter announced that she is going to live with her mom.  So we begin the volleys of kids coming and going.

My husband gets very hurt by all of this.  He says that he just doesn’t understand why they don’t want to live with him.  He gave them everything their little hearts could desire.  The truth is we all need both of our parents.  Not that all parents live up to that title, but we need their influence.

I’m going to go out on a limb here.  I’ve been a single mom.  I know what it is like trying to be all things to all people.  It is exhausting!  I’ve also been a juvenile probation officer for nearly 15 years.  I’ve seen things and come to some conclusions.  Now here is my disclaimer: what I am about to say is my opinion.  It is not proven by scientific theory after testing on test groups and control groups.  However, I do feel like I know a little about what I am going to say.

Kids crave boundaries.   They need to learn to work for that which they receive.  If we give in to their every whim, we are handicapping our children.  Plain and simple.

I grew up in an era that taught us to work.  I had a job from the age 14 on (with some breaks here and there).  I helped take care of 5 younger brother and sisters (only one brother).  I could mow a lawn, shovel a walk, do the dishes, sweep the floor and vacuum the carpet.  I folded laundry which included cloth diapers when I was growing up.

My children had a chore chart on the fridge.  They knew (in detail) what was required of them.  It was consistent and they could depend on it.  If they called me at work and asked if they could go do something they got two standard questions.  #1-  Is your Homework done?  #2- Are your chores done?  If the answer to either of these was “no” the answer was, “Then why are you calling me?”

We value that which we work for far over that which is just handed to us.

I see a growing trend amongst kids to get what they want by going to the parent who will give it to them.  Not that they have to work for it.  We are raising a generation of youth (Not all of our children ok?  So don’t lynch me.) that are entitled.  They honestly believe that just because their bright and shiny face got out of bed at noon, after playing video games all night, that they DESERVE whatever they want.

Okay, I know teenagers have been teenagers for thousands of years.  I just think that when we look at the problems like gang activity, disrespect to elders (did you see the video of the kids taunting the 68 year-old bus monitor?) teen pregnancy, and substance abuse, it is different.  Our youth are being taught to be liars, thieves, self-indulgent, drug-users, and hateful to their own parents.

Who is to blame you ask.  Well, to quote one of my former co-workers (a juvenile probation officer) who was speaking to a distraught father, “How long did it take to you teach him to be like that?”  Yes!  We are to blame.  The buck stops here folks!

If our children know that they can play one parent against another (triangulation) to get what they want… they will do it!

Here is what I mean.  Say you go to Las Vegas, you put some money in the slot machine and pull the handle, you lose.  You put some money in, you lose.  You do this several times and then, you win!  Not much, but you did win something.  So you again put some money in the machine only to repeat the process.  Why?  Well because you know that if you do it enough times, you win.

Our children are just the same way.  If they throw a tantrum to get their way and it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, then finally the parent gives in and VOILA!  They win!  Do you think they are going to try it again?  Of course they are!  They have just been taught something very powerful!

Divorced parents are so much more susceptible  to this problem.  Remember I said that children crave boundaries?  Well how are they going to get boundaries if they can run to one parent and bad-mouth the other parent to get what they want?  There are no boundaries.  Children start to see the world as if they are in charge.

So how can we stop this?  I submit that we do not allow our children to bad mouth their other parent.  That we ourselves don’t bad mouth the other parent.  That we provide a unified front.  This all goes for married as well as divorced parents.  My parents were married when I was growing up, and they talked horribly about each other behind their backs.  This is simply not what a child needs.

We have to be actively involved in our children’s lives.  We have to have the backbone to stand up to them and be the parent.  Stop worrying that they won’t like us.  How many of us liked our parents when they were teaching us things we now value?

We cannot afford to raise a generation of entitled young people.  How can they go out into the real world and succeed if they think all they have to do is throw a tantrum?

So that is my two cents.  How do you deal with this?


The roles we play

A few days ago we went to set up a new checking account for me.  (I was still using my account from my former state.)  The lady behind the desk was dressed professionally, she asked me, “Are you employed?”  I said that I wasn’t.  She wrote down “Homemaker”.  As we went on with the process I was fixated on the word “Homemaker” written on the page.

I have been a working woman and single mom for so long that I forgot what it feels like to be labeled as a homemaker.  It is not a bad feeling to me.  It is one that I find to be very satisfying.

When my children were young I was a stay-at-home mom.  I loved making bread, baking cookies, all of the things that I was able to do.  One day my sister came by with one of her friends, an older lady who had never been married and had a wonderful career.  I was baking rolls.  She said, “Well aren’t you being domestic?”  she paused then added, “Oh, that’s right, that’s what you do.”  She was being very condescending in her attitude.  It hurt me for a while.  It was like she was saying that what I was doing had no worth.

Hugging one of my grandsons

Sometimes I think that we lose sight of the things that are valuable in our lives, our families, our homes, and especially our spouses.

I am not going to try to tell you that I am a perfect housekeeper.  In fact I could use a good housekeeper.  Ha!  No, I’m just an average person in that area.  In my dream world I would have a house with a living room that the front door opens up to.  It would be perfectly kept at all times.  If anyone made it past the living room it would be people who know and love me and wouldn’t judge the mess.  I once saw a sign that said, “If you have come to visit us then you are welcome at any time.  If you have come to inspect the house, please make an appointment.”  I like that one!

When my kids were young I was involved in doing craft fairs.  I had craft projects that I did in bulk.  I had booths in two of the best craft fairs in town.  I had so much fun doing that!  My kids liked seeing me sitting at the table painting some new project.  It always meant mom was in a good mood.

In the online dictionary the term homemaker links to housewife:

“Housewife  is offensive to some, perhaps because of an implied contrast with career woman  ( just a housewife ) and perhaps because it defines an occupation in terms of a woman’s relation to a man. Homemaker  is a common substitute.”

Many times I felt the critical term of “just a housewife” when I was raising young children.  I hated the term because I wasn’t married to a house, I was married to a man.  In this day and age it is almost seen as a privilege if a woman is allowed the ability to stay at home with her children.  Families have difficulty getting by on one income.

Now I have worn the labels of sister, daughter, student, teacher, mother, wife, friend, housewife, homemaker, divorced woman, probation officer, writer, stay-at-home mom, working mom, single mom, Grandma Annie and Grammy (depending on which set of grandchildren it is).  I’m sure there are others.  The ones that really matter are the ones that connect us to those we love.  Careers come and go.  Money comes and goes.  What really counts is the love we share with our families.


Fifty shades of WHAT?!

I have a kindle and I have to admit that I love it!  I never thought I would because I am such a book lover.  I love the feel of a book, the smell of a book, even the weight of a book.  Books take us to new wonderlands and open our minds to the thoughts of others.  I own a ton of books!  I love to re-read certain books.  I love to highlight the pages.  However, the kindle has proven to be very convenient and saved our house from collapsing under the weight of my books.  (I just hate to get rid of them!  I want a library room filled with books.)  I have found that I can have thousands of books in one convenient  little platform.

So one of my favorite things to do since I got my kindle is to go online and see what free books I can find for my kindle.  I am amazed at the offerings!  So yesterday as I was going down the list of the top 100 free books I glanced over at the list of the top 100 selling books.  My eyes landed on Fifty Shades of Grey. I had heard mention of this book in passing but never took note as to what it actually is.  This book , in fact all three in the series, are out selling Hunger Games.  So I clicked on the description.  I noticed that it states “This book is intended for mature audiences.”  It also says, “Erotic, amusing and deeply moving.”

Okay I may be a reading prude, but I steer away from anything that says “erotic”.  I just feel that I have so many better things to be filling my mind with than that.  There are so many good, uplifting, and positive things to read out there.

So I thought about this a bit more.  What does, “This book is intended for mature audiences.” really mean?  Only people over 55 can read it?  I don’t think so.  I think it is a disclaimer so that when someone, who is innocent or naive, picks this book up and is shocked by the content, the publisher can say, “We warned you”.

Maybe it is there as an enticement to our children, our youth.  There is something about telling someone, especially a young person, that they can’t have something that drives them to want it.

The description white washes the topic.  The main character in the book actually signs a contract to allow a man to do anything to her that he wants.  This includes bondage and sado-masochistic type of acts.  It is written to make these acts sound appealing and desirable instead of degrading.  This alarms me!

The fact that these three books are on the top three selling spots alarms me even more.  I predict that just like the “Twilight” series brought on an onslaught of vampire and were-wolf books to the scene, these books will bring a flood of books with the same depravity dressed up as “romance”.

What we read does matter!  What we fill our minds with is what we think about.  Our thoughts control our words and our actions.

I used to mainly read non-fiction books.  I love to learn so much that I had gotten away from the fun of reading fiction.  Fiction takes us to a place made up by the mind of someone else.  If they do a good job of it, the reader is enveloped in that world and their own imagination takes over.  I think that is another reason to be especially careful of the fiction that we read.

I cannot imagine my sweet Grandma reading a book like this.  I would hope my daughter would never read a book like this.  So why would I want to?

Color me fifty shades of red… not grey.  Right is right even if no one is doing it.  Wrong is wrong if even if everyone is doing it.

Two homes in one

If you have ever been remarried, or know anyone who has, you know the problem with trying to put two households into one.  I left behind a HUGE amount of my stuff when I moved here.  Still we have boxes that I haven’t unpacked because of lack of space.

I have plans for where I want everything to go.  It is just the process of getting everything put there, that is dragging on.  I am working on painting one bedroom so that I can turn it into my office/craft room/ art studio.   The room was trashed by its previous occupants aka my stepsons.  I would post the ‘before’ pictures but the things written on the walls are too offensive.   I will post the ‘after’ results when I get to that point.

I have a new-found hero.  It is Windex multi surface cleaner.  Oh my goodness!  This stuff really works wonders!  There is a bunch of stuff written on the walls in red marker.  I spray it with Windex and it immediately makes the color start bleeding out.  I have gone over it probably 6 or 7 times on one wall and I can barely see the graffiti!  So if you are ever looking for a really good cleaner I recommend that one.  (It’s really good on oven grease too!)

Anyhow, it is really difficult to determine where everything goes, whose paintings get to be on the walls etc.

We have doubles of movies, three TVs now, three DVD players, four couches, two sets of washer and dryers, multiple sets of dishes, two dogs and a turtle and I am feeling very claustrophobic!

Weeding all of this stuff out is not that easy.  Sometimes I think we are going to have to play “rock/paper/scissors” to decide whose stuff get the prime places.

Relationships in a new blended family take a while to find their place as well.  We are finally starting to feel like a family.

Step-parenting is not the same as parenting either.  There is this invisible line that you can’t cross and I’m not always sure where it is until I cross it.  Then I see the defensiveness in my sweetheart’s face and I know to back off.   We have different parenting styles, so that has to be negotiated too.

I have court training as a negotiator.  I was trained to do child custody negotiation.  I never thought I would get to use those skills quite this way.  They do come in very handy at times though!

How have you navigated the rocky waters of blending two families?

Father’s Day

Father’s Day is a day that used to make my heart ache.  My children grew up most of their lives without their Dad in the home.  I had a Dad who was pretty abusive when I was growing up.  I’ve tried very hard to find peace about all of these things over the years.

Today I heard someone say that when he was 14 his Dad was a complete idiot!  By the time he was 21 he was amazed at how much his father had learned!  I’m a fair bit older than 21 and I keep seeing my parents with new eyes as I age.

I have a pretty good relationship with my dad at this point in life.  He has softened somewhat in his old age, as we all tend to do.  I can have conversations with him and enjoy them.

My stepdad, who we call Pops, has taught me about love!  He is such a good man!  When I called him to tell him happy Father’s Day today, he called me ‘sweetheart’.  Oh, how that touches my heart!  I remember at my youngest son’s wedding I looked over at my ex-husband.  Pops put his arm around me and said, “He doesn’t know what he’s missing.”  Pops is not a man of many words, but he always says the right ones!  I always know that he loves me!

Fathers are so important in our lives.  When the father enters the room a child feels protected.

My dad taught me some core beliefs that I hold to still today.

He taught me some things I swore I would never do to my children.  Which in a way is also effective.

Whatever you experienced with your father as you grew up, I hope that today you have a strong male example in your lives to look up to and love.  If you are a father I hope you are striving to set an example you hope your children will remember with love.

“Social” creeps

A couple of days ago my 13 year-old stepdaughter came to me all excited and wanted me to come see something, right now!  I followed her to the computer where she had a message asking if the asker could be her boyfriend.  My initial reaction was “You’re too young!”  She said, “What do I say?”  I looked closer at the screen and could see the broken english that was being used.  I asked her if she knew this person.  She said that she didn’t.

Okay, so pause here a second.  In this day and age of so much computer technology I would have thought that she would understand not to “friend” someone she doesn’t know.  She is only 13, so I have to understand that she is still young.  However, I was a juvenile probation officer for almost 15 years.  I have been to training after training on internet crimes.  So my adrenaline went into overload!

Back to the story.  I said, “This guy’s profile says he has been to college, and he lives in Pakistan!  You tell him no.  Not only no, but HELL NO!”

She dutifully wrote what I told her… and added “I’m sorry” to every line.  *sigh!  He wrote back that he was crying.  (insert roll of my eyes here)  I told her to unfriend him.  She hesitated.  I said, “NOW!”  So she wrote to said creep, “My stepmom says I can’t be friends with you anymore.  I’m sorry.”  Then she unfriended him.

My mom was on the phone at the time so she was on the other end of the phone hearing all of this.  She said, “You tell Eliza that if she ever does something like this again, Grandma is going to come kick her butt.”  Eliza’s reaction was she can’t even kick high enough to kick my butt.  I said, “But I can!”

So we went through some teenage, hormone anger for a few minutes.

The thing is, she is probably the perfect kind of person these creeps are looking for.  Someone with some self-esteem issues, and flattered that someone, anyone was offering that kind of attention.

My heart is racing just writing this and thinking about it again!

My youngest child is 26 years old.  Now I get to have more children and Eliza is one.  She is half of my daughter’s age.  I thought with the job I’ve had, and raising four kids that I was up on this stuff.  It is just so amazing to me how quickly and how easily these slimeballs have access to our children.  We have to be on our toes to protect our children!

The next day, lo and behold, he requested to be her friend again!

I know that he took her “I’m sorry” as a possible door to get back in.  By the time she told me that he had requested to be her friend again, she had already declined the invite.  I told her to report him!  I tried to look him up but he has a very common name amongst Pakistani men, so I’m lost.

I am SO GLAD I was here when he first hit on her!  I can’t even think about what could have happened if I wasn’t here.  It is just frightening to think of how vulnerable our children are.  Even with filters and software things can get through.

Please, please, watch your children.  Make sure you have access to their accounts.  Make sure you know who their “friends” are.  Make sure you know what kind of pictures your children are receiving on their cell phones.  Now we have a world where “sexting” is out there.  I know I don’t want her getting anything obscene on her cell phone.

We can’t protect our children from everything, but there are some things we really need to.

The In-Between Stage

You know how in your life you go through lots of in-between stages.  When you are a kid and you aren’t the baby anymore but you really aren’t a big kid.  Then you are a big kid but not big enough to get to sit at the adult table at family get-togethers.  You sit at the table with the little kids who still think threatening to put boogers on each other is funny, and so they squeal with delight, while you just feel nauseous.  Pretty soon their exuberance results in spilled punch and the adults yell… at you.

I find myself in one of those in-between places.  I’ve been a career woman for 18 years.  A single mom for a good portion of that time.  I had a clear picture of what I had to do, even when I had no energy to get it all done.  I’d wake up in the morning and tell myself, “The buck stops here, Annie.  There is no one else to do it, so get up!”  Over and over I used the “buck stops here” speech to motivate myself.

I’ve had some health issues over the years that have set me back, but epilepsy is the one that took me off the track completely.  I have temporal lobe epilepsy.  So I don’t have the type of seizures that you might normally think of.  I don’t fall to the ground and thrash around.  I just check out.  The real kicker is… I don’t know when I have done it.

My sister, Sue, was the first to tell me about the seizures.  She would be talking to me on the phone and I would just stop talking.  I told her that I was just watching TV.  She told me that she thought I might be having partial complex seizures.  (She nailed it by the way!)  I really didn’t give it much thought.

My kids were the ones that got my attention.  Two of my children who live in different states got together and discussed it.  My son asked my daughter, “What’s up with mom?”  It seems they were having the same problem in talking to me.  I would just stop talking and they’d say, “Mom?  Mom?  Are you there?”  and eventually I’d be like, “Yeah, I’m here.  Can’t you hear me?”  One day my son said, “I have been saying, “Mom are you there, for two minutes!”  So anyhow, between the two of them they came to the conclusion that I was having mini strokes or something.  My daughter talked to me about it and I went back to my friendly local neurologist.  (I go there so often his nurse and I are on a first name basis)

So the conclusion was temporal lobe epilepsy.  The sad thing is I was already on a couple of anti-seizure drugs for other issues.  That was a year and a half ago.  I haven’t driven since.

I’ve been through four different medications now, trying to get it right.  I still have seizures.  They hit the speech center of my brain.  So I will start slurring my words like a drunk and I don’t even know I’m doing it until someone tells me.  I get these horrendous headaches after a seizure and I’m exhausted for one or two days after a seizure as well.

So the career ended. I’m now waiting on disability determination.  That feels like a cop out to me, but I really don’t know how I can work when I can’t predict when these seizures will hit.  Before I quit my last job (I was there for almost 15 years) I found that I would have a seizure while I was typing and I’d just keep on typing.  Later I’d go back over something I wrote and it was jibberish!  So frustrating!

I am recently remarried to the most amazing guy!  He puts up with this pretty well.  Still there are days that I ask myself when he will say he’s had enough.  He tells me, “For better or for worse, in sickness and in health.”

I live in a new place, new state, and I don’t work, I don’t drive, and I’m getting to know a few neighbors and people from church.  Still, I feel like the teenager at the little kid table.

I have considered the positive side of epilepsy.  If I do something stupid I can always say I was having a seizure.

Dog vs Turtle

So a couple of weeks ago a neighbor gave a turtle to my stepdaughter, Eliza.  The neighbor had found it in her yard.  Her dog was barking like crazy and trying desperately to get the turtle.

So we took in the lost turtle.  I have to say it is quite the COOL creature!

Neither of us had ever had a turtle before and had no idea where to start.  Nate and I are both big researchers so we read everything we could get our hands on about turtles.  We identified our turtle as a Desert Box Turtle.  We live in the Pacific Northwest so we know it isn’t from around here.  Which is good because Oregon has some native turtles that it is illegal to possess.

Mazie the turtle

So we bought all of the necessary turtle paraphernalia.  Who knew a turtle needed so much?  Eliza wanted to name the turtle after her latest boy crush but thankfully the turtle appears to be female (the eyes and nose tell… not what you might have been thinking) so she is named Mazie.

I have really enjoyed watching this little creature!  She likes fruits and vegetables.  It is kinda cool to watch her bite into a carrot or an apple.  We bought a big terrarium to house her indoors although we plan on building an outdoor enclosure too.  We had to put cardboard around the outside of the terrarium or the poor turtle thinks it can get out and goes crazy.

So Athena, the aforementioned dog, (check the previous post) took about a week to notice the turtle.  Since she has though, she is OBSESSED!  She has tried everything she can think of to get to the turtle.  She has crawled over the couch, onto a chair and on top of boxes to get a better look at the turtle.  When scolded and told to get down she whines and looks in the direction of the turtle.  It’s like she is saying, “There is something over there!  I must see what it is!  Don’t you understand?”  On the occasions that the turtle has gotten on top of it’s log or raised its head high enough for Athena to see her she go berzerk!  She starts whining a whine I have never heard before and crawling over anything and anyone in her way to get to that silly turtle.  Which is not that funny if you happen to be in her way at the time!

You never really know how intelligent or how persistent (read sneaky) a dog is until a situation like this.  I have walked into the room without knowing where Athena was only to have her BOLT back over the couch and put herself in her kennel.  No words necessary from me, she knows she is in trouble and she just got caught.

I decided that she won’t actually hurt the turtle, she is just very, very curious about her!  Great entertainment at our house though!