Friday, April 11, 2014

Things always happen for a reason.







Life is just a bunch of choices and their results.

Some people think those choices happen randomly in some willy-nilly hap-hazardly kind of way.

I think those choices are the ones we’re supposed to make, and everything happens for a reason.

I don’t believe there is some alternate universe where our other selves are living with the other choices we could’ve made like some janky version of the Butterfly Effect.

I don’t believe in thinking about the choices I should’ve or could’ve made because the choices I made were the ones I was supposed to make.

Obviously it’s not always clear why the choices were meant to be until time works everything out for the better.

And even things we have no control over happen just the way they should, although it’s often hard to deal with the agony of waiting for the lesson to become clear.

Five years ago we were living in a severely declining neighborhood. We felt trapped and feared for our safety and for our children’s future. We desperately wanted to move back to our small town and decided it was now or never. As the housing market plummeted, we realized two things: We needed to take advantage of the low price of a new house for our family, and we needed to be willing to give up everything to make it happen.

With an outstanding credit score and our entire life savings in hand, we bought a house in the small town we grew up loving. Out past the corn fields where the woods got heavy…

It was agonizing, and terrifying….but we escaped.

Paying two mortgages was a daunting outlook, especially as we watched the value of our first house continue to decline. We realized we would never sell the house anywhere near the price we needed just to break even and it was heartbreaking. As we started making minor repairs and discussed becoming landlords my husband got laid off.

So there we were. Standing in the house of our dreams, still paying for the house we emotionally lost and knowing we were most likely going to financially lose one of them.

The silver lining, if it can at all be viewed as one, is that the bank recognized my husband’s work status as a hardship and agreed to sell the old house for less than what we owed in what’s called a short sale. Basically the bank appraises the house, determines what it’s worth and agrees to accept that amount for the house. We had five months to sell the house for half of what we owed. A date was set for foreclosure, notarized court documents were sent and all that was left to do was wait. And hope.

We got an offer, the bank accepted, financial drama and bullshit ensued but in the end we found ourselves at the closing table. In exchange for our fantastic credit, a signature here and there and a small bit of our dignity we sold the house.

We were lucky, and the things that happened throughout the ordeal were not exactly typical but for those of you questioning how we got through something like that unscathed, please know that we did not. Without spilling too many details, I can tell you we are still financially affected by the decisions we made. I can tell you we were willing to do much worse than we had to. And I can also tell you I am grateful every day that we're raising our kids where we are and not where we were.

Many times I suppressed my feelings of joy for buying our new house with the feelings of regret and shame for the way we had to sell our old one. I remember feeling like I didn’t deserve to feel happiness, and instead chose to feel only gratitude instead.

Many times I thought quietly to myself that my husband’s lay off was meant to be, because clearly we needed him to travel that path in order to sell the old house and move on.

So I chose to be grateful for his lay off, and grateful to suffer the burden of financial hardship because it was worth it to live here, and the reasons for his lay off seemed so perfectly clear.

Then we got word that my 52 year old brother-in-law, my husband’s only brother, had stage 4 esophageal cancer. He’d never been married, and had no children. My husband was his only family close enough to care for him. Fortunately he was laid off and was able to care for him. For what seemed to be the longest and shortest month and a half we’d ever lived, my husband was his chauffeur, his prescription filler, his grocery getter, his sandwich maker, his shoulder, his brother to lean on both figuratively and physically through his last days.

I stood there in disbelief looking at his feet. His bare feet were sticking out of the end of the hospital bed sheet that was haphazardly thrown over his body, tubes coming out of his mouth, wires and IVs connected to his lifeless body-all left over from failed attempts to revive him.

He’d called the ambulance himself. He couldn’t breathe. By the time they reached him he was unresponsive and wasn’t breathing on his own.

Heart attacks are common with chemo. It thickens the blood.

When the nurses and doctors met us in the hallway and took us into a small room with a vase full of fake flowers and asked us to sit down, and started talking to us in an apologetic tone, I felt like telling them to shut up. I felt like telling them to spare the drama and the desensitized version of sympathy and just let us in to see him. But I didn’t. And if you’re ever faced with the question, “Would you like us to take all the tubes and IVs out, sort of prepare him for you to see him?” say yes. Because we said no.

So I stared at his feet and tried to wipe the image of his mouth full of tubes from my mind, but I still can’t. I stared at his feet and tried to think of happy things like how we used to make fun of his finger-toes. And how, during that one trip to Wisconsin, he ran around the lobby of the hotel while we were checking in and almost shit his pants trying to find the restroom.

Over on the chair were his things. His jacket, carefully folded and hung over the back of the chair. His clothes in an orderly pile, topped with his wallet and keys. His shoes tucked neatly under the chair.

I kept waiting for the sheet to rise as he took a breath, but my heart knew he was gone.

In that moment my heart also knew why husband got laid off, and it had nothing to do with selling a house.

I have no classy way to transition you into the rest of this post other than just telling you to blow your nose and throw away your tissue…I won’t make you cry any more today, unless you’re like me and like to re-read well-written posts.

I went back to college because I wanted a career to help our family in a more significant financial way, but I knew it would have to be something meaningful and significant or I would be unwilling to commit myself to it. Teaching was the only logical choice for me, and so I began a journey.

And when I wrote an essay in Western Philosophy that received high accolades from a professor with rough edges and a tough hand for high marks it lit a flame inside of me. It was the same flame that was first lit so long ago when a woman named Alice Dickerson read the childhood poetry I wrote, looked me dead in the eyes and made me promise to never stop writing.

I broke that promise for many years. Many years while I was busy doing better things, or too sad and alone to have an ounce of inspiration within me, but I never forgot her words.

So when the letter arrived inviting me to join the writing fellowship at my college, I kindly declined with gratitude for being considered.

Why?
Let me tell you.

I didn’t want to go to school on student loans, and with our financial situation in a state of constant movement I realized I was not going to be able to go to school the way I wanted by paying as I went.

After watching several schools in my area close and consolidate students and teachers, after calculating the amount of debt I would have to acquire in exchange for a degree that I may or may not be able to get a job with in a school or area I wanted to work in, I reluctantly faced reality.

Even though I only went back to school for a short time, it gave me the drive and confidence to know I can write.

So naturally, I began blogging.

Blogging gives me the validation I need to keep writing because people enjoy reading what I write. Blogging makes me feel like Alice Dickerson made the ten-year-old-Adrienne (because I was, afterall, born with an E) feel about writing. Blogging makes me feel like I felt when I sat quietly in a classroom full of great writers angrily and frustratedly talking to each other loudly about the Bs and Cs they received on their essays and spoke not a word about the A+ that was clenched in my hand.

I began blogging because someday I would need a reference for my ability to write.

Then I had an interview for the secretary position at the small town school I went to and my husband went to and my kids go to. Although I knew it was foolish for me to get my hopes up too high for the position-the job that I was absolutely sure was perfect for me in every way-I was way up there in the clouds. So it hurt pretty badly when I came crashing down, and I had to swallow the lump in my throat. The lump of rejection.

But I believe every single thing happens for a reason.

Afterall, that is the reason for this post that seems to have no end…but fear not-it does, and thank you for still hanging in there.

Because if I would’ve gotten that job that I thought at the time was the perfect job for me I wouldn’t have gotten the job I have. The one that is perfect for me that I didn’t even know I was qualified to have. I was. I am.  And I am in love with my job.

I teach kids how to love reading.

Well, that’s not actually my technical job title, but that’s what I’m doing.

So when I see the sparkle in a child’s eye, a sparkle that was put there by a book or story and when I witness a child connect with a story and look forward to reading and WANT to read, and everytime a child stops by my door, peeks in and says, “Can we read today?” my heart knows this is where I belong.

Because everything happens for a reason.

And I know there is more for me than just blogging. I feel it. I have more to write than what will ever be contained between the pages of interwebs.

Last night I was walking through the fair, and someone crouched in the corner of a game booth was drawing a sketch on a white pad of paper. Without looking up he said to me, “You need to be writing.” It was not the only dream I had this week with the same orders.

I’m listening.

I won’t stop writing here. I will stop by from time to time in a random, non-scheduled way with nonsense to share because I love nonsense.

And I promise to waste time on social media, so go follow me on facebook.

But there is more for me to do.

If you’re afraid you might miss my sporadic posts, I’ll be the first to tell you you’re not crazy. It’s a genuine fear, since Facebook doesn’t always tell you what I’m doing and although I’m trying really hard at Twitter and G+ I currently suck at them. The only way to truly be sure you will always see what I write is to subscribe by email by entering your email address here. I promise I will not spam you.

Friday, March 28, 2014

How a slob prepares to host Bunco in 3 short weeks.

I may not be the best housekeeper, but I am a great host.

If I know you’re coming I’ll swish some bowl cleaner around the toilet and exchange the toothpaste encrusted hand towel with a fluffy clean one.

I’ll throw away the moldy food in the fridge and make room for your beer.

I’ll bake cookies and light candles so my house smells better than dog farts and stinky feet, which is what it usually smells like.

I’ll wash off the cereal milk that seeped through the placemat and glued it to the table.

If it’s cold, I’ll be sure there’s a fire in the fireplace and I’ll certainly have snacks to share.

Music will be playing and a cozy ambiance will surround you.

Sometimes this backfires and puts my guests right to sleep. And there’s usually something totally disgusting I fail to notice until you’re sitting on my couch…like a dried up hairball stuck to the carpet or a big wad of dust and lint will come billowing out from under the TV chest.

But, hey. I tried. And if you know me well enough to be invited into my house you already know I suck at housekeeping.

Tonight is my annual turn at hosting Bunco. I love hosting Bunco for two reasons.

1.     I love getting together with my bitches. If you don’t have a group of bitches, I suggest you get one asap.

2.     It gives me a reason to clean my house once a year.

Now, since I’m a total slob and I work and have kids and write a blog I have to get really organized with a cleaning schedule well in advance of Bunco night.

At the beginning of March I started a list of things I wanted to do before Bunco…lists of this nature usually start out very ambitious. As the event draws nearer, tasks get demoted from being absolutely necessary to absolutely not gonna happen.

Absolutely necessary things included:

1.     Christmas tree take down. Check.
2.     Replace several burned out lightbulbs. Check.
3.     Clean out fridge. Check.
4.     Dust. Check.
5.     General tidying up. Check.

Absolutely necessary things that were demoted to absolutely not gonna happen included:

1.     Wiping all the kitchen blinds. They’re white. And pretty disgusting right now but they’re also a huge pain in the ass to clean, so fuck it and oh well.
2.     Remember this drawer? Yea, I’m still ignoring it:

messy toothpaste drawer























3.     Cleaning all the light fixtures. Also a pain in the ass. Also disgusting. Also, fuck that because whatever.

closet organizing

5.     Since I’m down to one working toilet I’ve decided not to bother cleaning my room, because why bother? Nobody needs to go in there now…I’ll just close the door. This works out well for me since my dog has eaten most of the carpet in there anyway and also ripped a huge hole in my comforter and I have a mountain of clothes I’d rather not deal with that’s smothering the top my dresser. I did, however, scrub my shower because initially I thought the bathroom would be in working order by now. It sucks I did all that scrubbing for nothing, but it is nice to take a shower in a clean shower. It’s so bright and shiny in there. I almost took a before and after picture for you but I was actually embarrassed for how disgusting it was…and considering all the things I do share with you, you should know it must have been really bad for me not to show you. My kids freaked out when they realized the shower walls were actually white and not, in fact, a pale and dismal shade of burnt sienna.

6.     And this never made the list because I just noticed it. Oh well. (Yes...those are Dora bath toys in there. Yes, I realize my kids haven't played with this shit in like 4 years. And maybe you're wrong...maybe someone who rarely ever cleans the bathroom DOES need 3 bottles of soft scrub.)

under the bathroom sink
























And I was thinking about washing off the front porch in hopes of diluting the offensive cat piss odor. But, here’s the thing…if I wash the porch my damn cat will just pee on everything again, maybe even more stuff, because cats are assholes. And they like to pee on their stuff or stuff they think is theirs. And my smoker friends might be so offended by the odor they won’t want to smoke so many cigarettes tonight so I’m actually doing them a favor by NOT washing off the cat piss, you know, because I’m keeping their health in mind. Because I’m just a good friend like that.

And I know my bitches won’t care about any of this because
A.) I’m awesome, duh.
B.) I made bacon.
C.) There will also be chocolate.


So, let the shenanigans begin!

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Wednesday, March 19, 2014

My life as a mom.

what it's like to be a mom


You’ve had to choose between taking a nap and taking a shower.

You’ve thought about putting vodka in your coffee.

You never pee or poop uninterrupted.

Instead of looking in your dresser drawers you dig through laundry baskets for clean clothes.

You can clean up puke without gagging.

You have crayons in your purse.

You’ve cleaned another human being’s face off with your own spit.

You’ve washed boogers off the wall.

You have grocery store stickers on your car windows.

You could survive for a week on the scraps of food you’ve got under your car seats.

A thousand pictures were taken on your family vacation and you’re in two of them.


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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Life Lessons in Kid Sports

kid sports


























We’re in the midst of raising a generation full of kids who feel they’re entitled to have things without earning them. We are developing a society lacking in perseverance and responsibility. Now, don’t get me wrong…hard work and accountability are still out there, just not as affluent as they once were.

There’s not one big reason why this is happening. There are many little reasons.

It’s like a jigsaw puzzle. Each piece by itself seems unimportant but if you align all the little pieces together you’re going to create a big picture. Each piece by itself seems insignificant but is so important in the end.
I believe a piece of this sense-of-entitlement puzzle may be how we’re introducing sports and competition to our kids.

Our current efforts to protect our children’s feelings during sports are actually doing them more harm than good. Sports are supposed to be competitive yet when kids are young we don’t keep score because we don’t want the kids on the losing team to be unhappy. Kids are smarter than we’re giving them credit for. They know the intended outcome of any game is to have a winner and a loser. It’s a game and if you’re not keeping score then it’s no longer a game, it’s just practice. Funny thing is, even though the coaches, parents and officials aren’t keeping score, the kids usually are anyway.

So what’s wrong with not keeping score?

It’s teaching our kids to believe winning is just as good as not winning. In life some people win. Not everybody wins, and it’s ok not to win all the time. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. We’re missing out on an opportunity to teach our kids not to be sore losers, but rather how to be good sports. Why does society think we’re doing our kids a favor by waxing over this life lesson? Our job as parents is to prepare our children to be positive, responsible and hard working adults. When they’re adults they need to be able to handle losing. They need to be able to get up, brush themselves off and know that losing is ok and sometimes it’s necessary to learn from mistakes and try harder to achieve their goals.

Everybody makes the team.

I understand and agree with young children being given the opportunity to sign up and play a sport regardless of thier abilities because it's the only way for them to learn about the sport and know whether or not they will enjoy playing it. The problem is we’ve abolished tryouts and “making cuts” for the older kids too-sometimes even into middle school-because kids are upset and feel rejected when they don’t make the team. This used to be an opportunity to teach our children how to persevere and deal with disappointment constructively.  The lesson we’re giving them now is that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to play even if they aren’t very good. This is not reality. Why should a kid practice their skills and focus any extra time and effort into making themselves a stronger athlete if they’re going to make the team anyway, regardless of how they prepare themselves for the season? Real life doesn’t mirror this image. You do not grow up to be an adult and get a job or keep a job just because you want to be part of a company. You have to work hard, strive for excellence and be the best you can be. You have to interview and impress, and if you’re rejected you have to be able to dust yourself off and try again somewhere else. Disappointments are a part of life. You cannot avoid them, you have to learn how to deal with them.

Everybody gets a medal.

Earning a medal used to be a big deal. Maybe you did something that deserved recognition. Maybe you scored the winning point. Maybe you were a very valuable player and deserved an extra pat on the back. Obviously kids who didn’t get a medal wished they had one. I’m sure there were many times when, on the way home from the sports banquet, there were a few kids who were upset about not getting a medal and felt really sad or mad about it and their parents taught them it’s okay to be sad but more importantly it’s okay to be happy for someone else’s accomplishments. It’s okay to praise another human being, let them have the spotlight. A good human quality to possess is the ability to be truly and genuinely be happy for someone else.
When everybody gets a medal everybody is happy for themselves. Not everybody earned a medal, but everybody expects to be given one because that’s the fair thing to do. We’re teaching our kids to feel entitled to things they didn’t earn. We’re so worried about our kids being sad we’d rather just give them something to shut them up rather than teach them how to sort out and deal with their feelings. Teach them how to persevere. Teach them that life isn’t fair and if you want a medal then you have to work really hard, and if you do your very best and you still don’t get a medal, it’s ok. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. Maybe your strength is elsewhere.

Giving everyone a medal is celebrating mediocrity.

This nation was built on the drive to be better than the others. It was built by people who persevered. They set goals and attained them. Why would somebody work so hard to earn a medal if they knew they were just going to get one anyway, no matter how much or how little they worked? The kid sitting on the bench all season doesn’t have to practice harder or set goals to better himself if in the end he’ll shine in the glory of a spotlight just the same as the star player.

We are just here to have fun.

Well, duh. But not really because remember-it’s a game and in the end there has to be a winner and a loser. It’s fun, but it’s competitive fun. It’s adrenaline-pumping-heart-racing fun. It’s suspenseful and strategic and has a purpose and a goal-to win! Kids play on the playground just for fun. Kids climb trees and ride bikes just for fun. When kids play tag or hide-n-go-seek it’s for fun AND they want to win. Because they are games, and games have winners and losers.

Sports should teach kids to persevere.

There is no better way to teach a lesson, especially to children, than a real life something-that-is-happening-to-you lesson. If our kids do not understand it’s okay to lose then they will have trouble handling losing. It’s our job as parents to teach them there is nothing wrong with losing sometimes. Life isn’t about fair. It never has been and never will be.


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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Home Sweet Home: A look through the windows of our first house.

The final walk through reflected the owner did not do all the repairs necessary for closing.
Owner didn’t show at closing.
Owner came later that day and signed the paperwork.
Legally he had to provide us with a working dryer.
He left one on the front porch. It was used and rusty and screeched with every turn of the drum, but it worked.
He was still living there at possession.
Had to kick him out.
We had a baby.















Friends and family helped repair and fix up house for two weeks before we moved in.
Moved in.
Bought a dryer.
Baby cried for three months.
Baby stopped crying.
I unpacked.
Made breakfasts.
Cooked dinners.
Bought a Jeep Cherokee.
Took 6347 pictures of the baby.
















Bought our first computer.
Ripped out bushes.
Planted flowers.
Bought a lawnmower.
Went for walks.
Walked to the park.
Walked to the library.
Walked to McDonalds for pancakes.
Walked down the same sidewalks I ruled as a kid.
Walked by the house I grew up in.
Tried not to get choked up the first few times I walked through my childhood neighborhood.
Cat went crazy and we put him down.
Got a puppy.
Dennis’ mom passed away.
Baby’s first birthday.
Baby learned to crawl and walk.
Dennis got laid off.
Found out baby number two was on her way.
Depression.
Bedtime stories.
Heavy financial struggle.
Locked myself out of the house…two year old to the rescue.
Potty training.
Weekend waitressing to help make ends meet.
Baby number two arrived.












Baby was jaundice.
Trips to the doctor 4 consecutive days for observation.
Trips to the zoo.
Playing in the yard.
Took 4 pictures of baby number two.
Coffee on the porch.
Painted living room.
Bathtime playtimes.




















Baby learned to crawl and walk.
Puppy number two.
Puppy got sick with Parvo.
Puppy pulled through.
Got another cat.
















Hand me down sofa.
Painted the kid’s rooms.























Fixed a broken water pipe in the front yard.
















Nine Family Christmases.


































Bought a truck.
Painted bathroom.
Second long-term lay off.
Nine Years of Birthdays.





















Playdates and sleep overs.
Kids running through the sprinkler.
Got a swing set.




















Sand and water table in the back yard.
Fourth of July sparklers.
















Walks to the corner market.
Friendly neighbors.
Trick or Treatings.
















Handing out candy.
Cribs to beds.
Updated the bathroom and kitchen.
Dog tried to chew through the front door to kill the mailman everyday.
















School uniforms.
First day of kindergarten. Twice.
Field trips and field days.
Walks to school, walks home from school.




















New friends.
Locked myself out of the house. Again. Neighbor helped me hoist extension ladder and broke in through second story bedroom window.
Cold winters in a drafty house.
Childhood home went up for sale and I walked through it, just to see it again.
Hot city summers.















Hopscotch and blowing bubbles.
First teeth were lost.
















Wagon rides down the block.
Learning to ride without training wheels.
Riding bikes with friends.
Victims of predatory lending in re-fi to pay off enormous credit card debt.
Sunday dinners with family and friends.
Sitting on the porch in the evenings.
People watching from the porch on Saturday afternoons.
Put house up for sale.
Housing market turned upside-down.
Neighbors lost their homes.
Families moved away.
Homes stood vacant for months.
Pipes froze.
Homes were vandalized.
Rats moved into my garage.
Homes were bought by investors and turned into rental properties.
Government bought others.
Home two doors down sold for $9,000.
Then another one sold for $12,000.
Our home was worth a shadow of it’s worth merely six months prior.
There were break ins.
Homeowners beat up and robbed.
Someone was stabbed a few blocks over. He laid there on the sidewalk corner and bled to death. It was 9 o’clock on a sunny Saturday morning.
No more sunny afternoons poured in through my opened front door.
My kids were afraid of the voices they could hear outside at night.
Over one hundred showings and our house didn’t sell.
Gang fights in the street.
No more walks to the park, or walks to school.
Homeowners dogs were shot by intruders.
We watched TV at night with a loaded shotgun at arm’s reach-after the kids were safely tucked into bed.
They were sheltered from our fears.
And sheltered from what was happening out there.
I grieved the loss of the spirit of our neighborhood and our home.
I cried for what should’ve been.
Bank appraised home for less than half of what was owed.
Short sale was approved.
We escaped.
And moved back to our beloved home town.