My People

My People
My People - Cosette, Austin, Oliver, Cody, me & Ryan. Just think, had I not lived, these people wouldn't be on the planet. They are my whole heart!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Hide and Seek

Lots of little nothings to share today.

One big something is that my Cousin Tammy's daughter Jennifer had a baby girl early this morning which makes Aubrey Marie my first cousin twice removed. And since she was born on my Cody's birthday, we'll always remember her birthday! I don't know what that crazy T hat is all about but at least they're raising her in the SEC. She's awful cute.

So proud of my Austin and his sidekick Logan... they have been hugely cooperative in the projects around the house that Pop had for them. They require a lot of supervision or they tend to cut corners or lose interest but they have been willing to do whatever was asked of them, no matter how hot or dirty the job is.

I'm happy to report that after one full week of the de-humidifier running in the basement we have no additional mold growth. There is still a little water leaking in but we hope that the projects that Austin and Logan have done will eliminate any additional leakage.

I've held off on getting rid of the furniture and... it's looking much better. The mold that I cleaned off of things the other morning hasn't grown back and I think that's a good sign. Plus we removed all the paper and fabric that we could... and of course, all the damp carpet... and I think that's helped.

The carpet in Austin's room still has to be pulled out and once we've successfully eliminated the leaks we'll be putting down new floor covering in the main room and in Austin's room. Lord, we'd appreciate a few dry months if you don't mind.

I'm still tucked away on the top floor and not minding it toooooo much. The sound carries oddly in this house and although the boys have been in the bedroom right across the hall from me I haven't heard a peep out of them but I can hear the downstairs tv like it's right in the room with me. I'm a little bit homesick for my Whine Cellar but all things considered, I'm fine.

The boys are staying down in the basement tonight. We're going to let them be the guinea pigs. I won't try to move back down until we're pretty sure about the water. Dampness is bad for my lungs and it's bad for my spine and all that ails me. They're young and can handle it plus they like having their own space.

I had a crazy bout of pain last night that had me wide awake and praying for mercy. It eased up after some of the hardcore pain meds and a little extra sleep but ... I hope that's not what the future holds. Just when I think I've gotten used to the way things are, the pain amps up a bit like that.

WARNING: cat pictures ahead. My Little Trouble Kitty is such a little stealth, sneaky cat. His favorite victim is Eddie (I think because Eddie will actually run from him). Stubby the 3 Legged Wonder Cat has finally after all these months figured out how to go up and down the stairs to the top level. He shocked me yesterday by showing up in my bedroom. For the most part, though, Stubby is just a furry piece of furniture.

The first set of pictures are Eddie drinking out of the bathtub and Trouble hiding between the shower curtains to surprise him.







 The next pictures are Trouble hiding between my quilt and sheets to sneak out and surprise Eddie.




 And the last pictures are Trouble sleeping in the linen closet. He's not really planning an attack here but he IS sleeping in Eddie's favorite sleeping spot. Try to focus on the cute kitty and not the messy closet.



Have a safe and happy holiday weekend!



Thursday, August 29, 2013

Cody Memories...

He was due on September 11th but started coming on Memorial Day. By the time he was born on August 30th, I had spent a long, long Summer on bed rest trying to make sure he was healthy and strong. That afternoon, around 3pm, I got up from the bed and my water broke and I knew there was no going back. He was born shortly before midnight... not long after the doctor had told us to send our friends home since there was no chance he would be born before the next day. He's always had his own way of doing things.

We named our little 6 pound, 13 ounce baby boy Justin Cody. We were going to name him Scott Nathaniel and call him Nathan but it just never seemed to fit. We loved the name Cody but our friends, Mary and Doug, liked the name Cody for a boy and we didn't want to take it from them. The movie Parenthood with Steve Martin was out (probably on cable) and there was a son named Justin in it. I like the name Justin and we thought... we'll just throw Cody in as a middle name.

When "Justin" was about three years old he announced he wanted to be called Cody. And so he was. Incidentally... Mary and Doug eventually had a little boy of their own and named him Nathan. Life just works out that way.

I always say that Austin is my youngest but Cody is my baby. He has just always been the most sensitive and loving of my boys, a protector. At my grandmother's funeral when Cody was 7, they had it set up where grandma's children were on the first row and the grandchildren and great-grandchildren on the next rows. Cody pulled away from me as we walked in and said, "I have to sit with Mawmaw... Mawmaw needs me". And she did.

Cody was my athlete. My dancer. My superstar. He was always determined and gave a hundred percent to everything he did and when he was done... he was spent. I can remember him playing on a competitive baseball team when he was six (yes, just six) and we would play these weekend tournaments where they would play 5 or 6 games in a weekend. He would hang tough all the way through and then want me to carry him to the car after the last game. And I did.

He was the kid who was always happy. Always wanted his meal "super-sized". Once ordered prime rib thinking he was ordering ribs. Had a pacifier - three pacifiers, one in his mouth and one in each hand - until he was 3.  Was so tiny we had to have his first football helmet specially made. Was such a stud that at 14 he had an 18 year old girlfriend (who asked me first if I was ok with her dating him. I was. It didn't last long.). He took dance starting when he was 7 because his uncle did and he thought it would be cool. It was. He loves Florida State and even went so far as to steal one of my Florida tshirts and burn it. He is a huge Braves fan... J-Hey is his favorite. His big brother was always his best friend. He loved La Parilla so much that he had them cater his wedding reception. When he was about 12 Purple Michael and I were having cocktails and Cody asked for a sip. We gave him water instead... but he, not knowing, played off like he was tipsy. I've never laughed so hard in all my life!

He married an only child and her family has treated him better than I could ever have dreamed for him. They have brought this gringo boy into their fold like he was born to them and spoiled him and fed him - he's put on a few pounds since this picture was taken at his twentieth birthday! I never worry about him because I know that he is loved so well by his wife and his in-laws. That's the thing about Cody, though... everyone always loved him.

When his work situation wasn't working for him earlier this year, he found another job and gave his two week notice. His employer didn't want to lose him so they matched (and beat) what the new employer was going to do for him. He works hard. He keeps his yard up. He is a good dad to my granddoggie, Sammy and he is a very good husband. I have no doubt that he will one day be a great father.

Cody's life makes me feel content. I don't worry about him. I know that he has all that he needs to be successful in life. He is just a good egg. All my boys are...  but I wouldn't be the person I am if I had not been Cody's mommy. I'm going to stop there before I get all misty. My kids' birthdays mean more to me than my own birthday and tomorrow... I'm going to be the proud mother of a 23 year old. I won't get to see him but it will be a special day, no matter what. Happy Birthday Codes!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

8.27.13

The Swamp formerly known as The Whine Cellar
 "It's easier to do pageants if you're not paying rent."  Toddlers & Tiaras mother who lives with her baby's grandparents.

Yes. That's why I live with my parents... so that I can enter the highly competitive world of Plus Size Pageantry. Can you imagine how many sequins I would need on my beauty dress? (I'm not really THAT big. Plus size for sure but not buying clothes from Omar the Tentmaker).

Wanna know how you can guess that I've run out of blog content? I start my entry for the night with a Toddlers & Tiaras quote.

Wet carpet removed... 
I started my day wearing the protective mask and trying to de-mold my furniture in the basement. It didn't take me long to realize that on upholstery I can't tell where there is mold and where there isn't which took me back to the conversation with the water removal specialist guy on Friday who said they never recommend keeping furniture once it's had mold on it because you can never be sure that you've completely removed it all.

I really had a come to Jesus about it this morning... you know, one of those epiphanies that seem to be other-worldly because the voice in your head is so clear. No, I don't hear voices. I do, however, have thoughts that are completely out of line with my thought pattern and the one I had this morning brought that guy's warning to mind and also the caution from my pulmonologist three (four?) years ago when we first discovered the scar tissue in my lungs... that I would always be more susceptible to having colds turn into pneumonia. I love my furniture but am I willing to risk respiratory stuff? I'm really not. Do I believe we have the tools necessary to clean it? I really don't. As I prayed about it this morning I had a real sense of peace about letting go. And as well all know... it's not like I'm unaccustomed to letting go.

Little Kitty sleeping in the corner of the bedroom
So that was how the day started. There were a few other completely unnecessary aggravations that I won't go into here yet but trust me when I say that narcissists are my mortal enemies and if I had any super power it would be the ability to wipe out narcissism. That will make a lot more sense in a few more weeks when I can explain it better but for now, please just join me in my campaign against narcissism. And pray that God will keep His arm around my shoulders and His hand firmly over my mouth.

Since taking a sabbatical from all my online gaming I've gotten a lot further in my genealogy research. I spent today combining names in my database that are the same person but entered differently in different parts of the tree. (As my Uncle Bill says... once you get back to a certain point in time there aren't that many people on the planet.) There are a lot of common ancestors in my tree. It's ridiculous how some people might enter King Edward III and others may enter Edward III Plantagent and others may enter "Edward the really cool dude who was king". And you may have some photos and records and documentation under one version but not the others so you really want to use the same version of the name for the same people. It's a slow process because you have to verify birthday and date of death and parents and other things that confirm it's the same person and those don't always jive. I mean. It's not brain surgery but it does take concentration and when I consolidate a couple of dozen people I feel like I've accomplished something. So that was good and took my mind off the evil tyranny of narcissism.
Little Kitty being all bitter and jealous because I'm holding Oscar


Austin got a book today on Kindle that he had pre-ordered six months ago - it's from the I Am Four series which I know absolutely nothing about because even though Austin loves the series, he doesn't explain things in a very empathetic way (thank you, autism) and I get lost in his narratives sometimes. To be honest, I get lost in a lot of people's narratives if it's something that doesn't particularly interest me. Anyways... the point is that he got this new book today and he's already on chapter 27. He can really absorb information if it's something that holds his interest which tells me that he would do GREAT in college if he could determine a field of study that he's passionate about. The problem is that he would have to do a lot of stuff that he's not passionate about to be able to get to the study of things that he IS passionate about and if it's not something he wants to do he just won't do it. Exhibit A: twelve years of schooling. But I still get really excited for him when he is excited about things and he is very excited about this book.

Oscar being all territorial on my lap
Personally... I'm reading some novel that I downloaded for free on my Nook from bookbub.com and because I read it as I'm going to sleep at night I couldn't tell you what it's about but every night when I start reading it makes sense.

On top of reading 27 chapters of his book, Austin made a gajillion trips up and down two flights of stairs to rescue my little library that was on a bookshelf that was growing mold in the basement. It doesn't appear that any of the books have mold on them... I tried to check that out this morning... but until I know it's a water-tight, low humidity environment, I'd like to keep my literary treasures high and dry on the top floor. Right now they're in piles all over the floor which drives me bonkers. We need to get my super talented brothers (oldest and youngest) to put in a built in bookshelf on the low wall under the eaves in the top floor bedroom. Not that this will always and forever be my room (I much prefer the Whine Cellar when it's dry) but my parents also have a huge library of their own and it would be nice to have a place for the books to go.

Little Kitty guarding my books
Austin also worked on cutting the grass and a couple of other tasks that his Mawmaw had asked of him. It's been a rough week for Austin since he has been booted out of his normal space and hasn't had any of his buddies hanging out and eating all of my groceries. Logan's been sick and Pat's been busy working. Austin's handled it well and only had a few moments where I had to talk him back down to a zen place. He can go so far over the edge at times and things feel so out of control but he is so smart and ... autism or not... empathetic at times. He's talking to a girl that he met online who is supposedly bi-sexual. Austin asked if it was ethical for her - as a bi-sexual person - to have a girlfriend AND be talking to a guy. I said... I tend to feel like bi-sexual is more a description of your lack of preference for one sex over another but that in my opinion you should pick one person and stay with that person. Monogamy is the key. And then I had to explain monogamy. These sort of things... clarification of social norms... he still needs. And I'm glad that he's open enough to ask questions. I'm glad to still be raising him even though at times it is very frustrating. I catch a lot of slack for how he is and who he is and his characteristics and quirks. I guess, ultimately, I'll take that blame, even though we know it's more about how he's wired than anything I did wrong or right in raising him. I did the best I could with what I had and what I knew and I'm just glad to still have the opportunity to have an influence on his life. We're both still figuring life out.

So that was my Tuesday. Hope yours was lovely. Love and hugs!
And P.S. to Jess - you are welcome here any time! You just bring your fit and lovely self on down! Liz too!

Monday, August 26, 2013

8.26.13

Some days it gets "blog time" and I think... "eh... I don't have anything new to say"... but I come and sit down and start thinking over the time since my last blog entry and come to find out that... I really didn't have anything new to say. I'm going to dig deep but you have been warned. Nothing new under the sun.

I did accomplish two unpleasant tasks today: filling out the paperwork to get money from my 401k and my conference call with the disability lawyer to file my appeal. Both required more mental energy than I have used in some time but I trudged on through. Mondays are supposed to be rough, right? That's how I came upon the whole "Reasons to Love Monday" theme that got me through a lot of really icky Mondays.

The disability call took nearly an hour which surprised me. They get down to the nitty gritty of everything you can and can't do... such as when I put on shoes and socks do I bend down to my foot or bring my foot up to me? I had to pretend to put on a sock to answer that question. Do I stay in the shower as long as I used to? The answer is yes... because my hair is longer and it takes longer to rinse but no... because I don't shave my legs unless I'm coming in contact with humans other than Austin and his friends. That's exactly how I answered. Do I cook differently? Well. Yes because it is hard to stand for a long time so I am more likely to cook in the crockpot or cook something that will have leftovers or cook things that are easier to prepare. One day last week I had ice cream for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Am I able to drive as long or as often as I used to? No. Why not? Because I get muscle spasms in my butt from the piriformis syndrome and over compensate by sitting weird which makes other parts of me hurt and because I get dizzy spells. We reviewed every medication I'm on and the side effects. This is because part of my case involves proving that I either don't take pain medication and am in so much pain while working that I'm "distracted" (a phenomenon I referred to as "pain brain" and got a chuckle out of my very serious attorney) or I take pain medication and it limits my ability to think clearly. Basically... we have to prove that I'm a big goof ball one way or another. .. which is why I wait to type my blogs every night until the ambien and the flexeril and my other chill-pills kick in. We can rename this blog: Heather Unplugged.

I asked if there was anything to be read into the fact that they haven't asked me to have a medical exam. She said it either meant that my medical records adequately document my disability OR they didn't want to be bothered with it at this stage. Lots of people are denied on their initial application. I thought this next round was the Winner, Winner, Chicken Dinner round and she said that actually... this round provides the lowest percentage of acceptance - 13% of all the people who are approved for disability are approved in this initial appeal. My lawyer's average is better - 21% of their victories come in this round but it's still the fewest so she was warming me up for round three, if that becomes necessary. We're getting a statement from my pain doctor advising there is no job function that I would reliably perform consistently without pain. They also want me to make sure my doctor has included in his records that I have issues with anxiety and rarely leave the house. This is true. Sad but true.

Anyways... my attorney's name is weird... I won't say her name but it would like having a name from the sixties as a first name and a breed of horse as a last name like... Marsha Pinto... and it always makes me think of her as a cowgirl. See... if social security knew how things work in my brain, I'd have been cleared right away.

But... from a financial standpoint... freeing up money from the 401k gives me roughly 9 months of paying for car insurance, life insurance, my doctor visits, meds and basic things for daily life. Austin's shoes have all been sacrificed to the mold gods... every stinking pair... so my kid is now barefoot. The hard part... his little autistic size 13 Fred Flindstone feet are so sensitive and delicate that there is only this one certain type of flip flop he will wear so as soon as I found out he was Shoeless Joe Yardwork... I jumped online and ordered a new pair for him. $31 down the drain. It's financially painful but less painful that driving into Gainesville to find a shoe store that sells this very specific ONLY SHOE HE WILL WEAR. Honestly, online is easier and it saves me the gas.

Speaking of the mold... we are making progress... the dehumidifier is doing it's thing. I think I've bounced back enough from the abuse my body took last week to try tackling it again. We're going to be trying to salvage fabrics with an acidic spray - lemon juice or vinegar - and then the hard surfaces will be getting this water sealant paint. And then we'll put either tiles or carpet tiles - something that would be easy to dissemble and clean if we have more water come through. There is some plan afoot that will route the water away from our house that will hopefully solve the flooding problem. So. I have one little form to finish up tomorrow with a phone call from the mutual funds people and after that I'm going to be cleaning mold until my lungs or my back gives out... whichever comes first. I am grateful to have a cozy attic nest but I miss my little Whine Cellar. It was quieter. More comfy. It was mine. I'm glad to not be homeless and I'm glad to not be in mold but I want to get back "home" as soon as possible.

We're having company this weekend... a co-worker of my dad's (and a former co-worker of mine back in the day)  and then the family that lives across the street from my parents other house is coming on Monday to hang out and check out the new space and bbq with us. We're looking forward to the visitors but not looking forward to the work it takes to prepare for them. I'm pushing myself tomorrow... then will rest on Wednesday. Will push myself Thursday... rest on Friday... maybe just make sure Mawmaw and Pop and Auggie who are doing the bulk of the *hard work* stay fed and hydrated.

The kitties think it's time for bed and I'm of half a mind to agree with them. I was up until 2am this morning so I need to get a good night in tonight.

Hope you had a wonderful Monday! Love and hugs!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

8.24.13

 Well we're movin' on uuuu-up!

Pop got the last de-humidifier in all of Habersham and White counties and the basement has gone from 90% humidity to 59% at last glance. The wet carpet is out and after a little help from the HVAC guy to get the a/c working on the upper level, Austin and I are set up in temporary quarters on the top floor of the house.

Apparently there are many people with more humidity than they want since Pop got the last de-humidifier in Lowe's with people calling in to look for one. They are sold out. It's a handy little machine and I'm encouraged by how quickly it's working.

overlook the Christmas decorations in the window...
So I washed all my bedding, dragged my jumbo bag of kitkats, my jumbo bag of skittles and the kitties treats  along with all the pillows and cushions it takes to build a proper nest up to my executive suite. I had a little help but still made about a dozen trips up the two flights of stairs and I'm aching as a result. I was semi-tucked in for the night at 5pm. Seriously, stairs are not my friend.

I had made a big trip to Walmart this morning to get groceries for the next few days + fishing worms for my mom and little doggie food for Oscar. If that ain't love, I don't know what is. This girl had never been in the sporting goods section at Walmart until I went with mom to get worms one day. Now I know exactly where to find them - file that in the "things I never imagined doing" section. I also made a couple dozen trips up and down the dog food aisle looking for something that compares to Oscar's special Eukaneuba for dachshunds. We had to settle for something for small breeds but not dachshund specific. Again... minus the bait and the puppy food I could have made a sufficient grocery run in a smaller store... but I did need printer paper. More on that in a minute.

I went ahead and bought a bunch of ground beef and browned it all and put it in the freezer for meals in the coming week. That way... dinner requires less standing time... although it made for a little extra standing time today right after the long Walmart tour... I'm glad to have one chore out of the way. We'll still have our standard frozen pizza at least once this week but we can also have hamburger helper and sloppy joes and such without too much fuss. I try to make at least one decent meal a day when my mom is here because she's little and can't live off the fat of the land like I can. Dinner tonight, however, is animal crackers and orange juice because that's all my tired body could think to eat.

I've ranged from completely unconcerned to full on panic attack over financing my waiting period until my disability is approved. And it will be approved, I'm certain of it. It's just a matter of time. I knew I had a little bit of 401K money that I could use in a pinch but I knew there were some seriously penalties for accessing those funds. After a wonderful chat with a State Farm Mutual Funds representative (shameless plug for my former employer) I discovered that having filed for disability allows me to waive the penalty for early withdrawal. The other big hurdle is paying taxes on the funds and... trust me, I won't make enough money this year to owe any taxes so I have that little bit of money available to me. There are a gazillion forms to complete and the process is a little clunky but at least I don't have to worry about skipping doctor visits and cutting pills in half to make it through. This is a huge weight off of my shoulders.

Speaking of weight... my diet is atrocious lately but the quantity of food that I eat is rather limited because pain takes away hunger for me. We discontinued one medication that was a real amp to the old appetite and today, I was able to see a difference in my shape. This requires a TMI disclaimer but I'm gonna say it anyways... I bought new drawers today because the last time I had bought new underwear was two years ago when we had the fire and ... it was time to get new. They didn't have the size I bought last time in the kind I wanted so I went down a size and... they fit! They fit nice, as in, with still room to spare! I haven't stepped on the scale in the past few weeks but I knew I was down just a little bit. Maybe if I can kick the sugar habit I can really get closer to a healthy weight.

I had a long chat with an old friend today. You know... the kind of friend who, no matter how long it's been since you last interacted, you pick up right back where you left off. The reason for that is unconditional love. It's because you always come back to that person with the understanding that no matter what crazy thing they have going on in their life, you're always going to believe that they are capable to handle it. You believe that their heart is pure, at least toward you, and you can have a conversation that doesn't require any subtext or disclaimers or fear of how we will be perceived of  "gosh, I hope this doesn't make me sound mean" or "I hope he doesn't think I'm a bum" because I know. He knows who I am. And He knows that I know who he is. I'm talking, from the core, from the deepest heart of him and no matter whatever circumstances present to us, I know who he is at the core of his being. I trust his heart and he trusts mine. It you have that as your foundation of any relationship you will always that person as your anchor in any storm.

And for us, for both of us, there are storms raging all around us. We're not going to pack a picnic basket and ride off into the wild blue yonder without owning our own circumstances... and without doing everything in our power to help each of us own each other's circumstances. My friend exchanged rings with me and my kids years ago ... the first initial of each of our first names ... not a wedding but a bond... a promise to be there for each other in whatever way possible for as long allows us to share this planet. I hope some of that made sense. At any rate... he'll be here this fall for several months, tending to two people in his life who he dearly loves who are suffering on a whole new level of crisis than I am. We're planning to get together so I can be with him while he does what he needs to do and so he can get a better idea of what my life is like now. But even if none of those plans to be in the same zip code for a time don't work out... today was a touchstone for us, going back to the foundation our friendship is built on and reminding ourselves that it's still there and it still works. I am honored to be his friend. Today was one of the best days I've had in a long time.

If you would, those of you who pray, if you could lift up Ken and Barbara over these next few months. God knows the needs and I just want their names to on the lips of saints far and wide.

So that was my happy Saturday. I'm up high and dry. Sleeping in a new room feels like a vacation. I worried my dad to death over this water in the basement thing (he's glad, once again, that he only has ONE daughter! and I'm determined to be all the daughter he could ever need!) but I'm comfortable with the plan in place to get rid of the moisture and eliminate any mold. We got this.

And with that... time for me to curl up and read a book... get an early bedtime... just enjoy a few hours with nothing hanging high up on my worry chart. Hope you're having a great weekend! Love and hugs!

8.24.13

When you're gainfully employed, no matter how well things are going, at the end of some period of time you're going to get a paycheck. Unless, of course, you're paid on commission but that's a whole different story. But for the most part, there's a reward for what you do. You're also going to have little non-paycheck victories like gaining a new client or receiving the gratitude of a client or a good review or completing a task.

That was the hardest part of being a Stay At Home Mom back in the day... there was never that validation or reward. No matter how hard you cleaned, there was something more to be done. Feed the baby, change the baby, put the baby to sleep, feed the baby, change the baby, put the baby to sleep... a continuing circle of life that was without monetary reward, without much validation and with no clear completion date in sight. (Although they do eventually grow and get out of the house, for the most part.)

Being disabled - or rather being in the process of being declared disabled - combines the lack of monetary reward and subtracts the sense of participation in the life of another human being. There are no sweet baby cuddles... no loving husband returning home at the end of the day... no new milestones to look forward to.

Being disabled is a survival game.  It's waking up every day and having to selfishly assess your abilities before even thinking about breakfast. It's a life lived based around disease or disability. You are held captive by your body and no matter what intentions you may have, you are always going to be limited by your diagnosis. You have to be your ambassador to the world, explain your limitations (which ends up sounding like whining or complaining) you have to advocate for yourself at every turn and your entire life becomes about surviving life.

A good day for me is a day where I am able to be able to shower, dress and eat breakfast before 11am. It's a day when I have the strength and motivation to run any errands that I need to run. A good day is a day that I'm patient with the process without feeling anxiety or discouragement at what I can't do. Good days are the ones where I prepare a meal, eat a meal and clean up from the meal all within the same hour. On good days the litter box is scooped, the floor is swept, the dishwasher is emptied/loaded and my world is kept clean to the standards of those in my orbit, who share my space.

I'm pretty proud of the way I keep my bedroom clean... I make the bed as soon as I get out of it on almost every day. I'm proud of the fact that I keep the kitchen clean. I'm proud that I remove any unauthorized cat dumping as soon as I see it... often when it's still grossly warm. A lot of the things I do to keep the house at status quo are painful. A lot of times these things are done with a grimace or with double vision from dizziness. A lot of times that work is done and never seen by any other human eyes - it would be apparent if it wasn't done over the course of time but the fact that it's done, every day, no matter what, that's just for my own satisfaction.You might say that the satisfaction of seeing a clean living space is my paycheck.

For 19 years I've struggled with raising a child who is different. He didn't behave like other kids. He was always dirtier. He bit. He ran away from me. He created messes. He started fires. He snuck out the living room window. If I left him alone for long enough even a few minutes, I knew that something was going to be destroyed - a bottle of ketchup poured out, feces spread on the furniture - always something. He has learned some better behavior skills over the years but he still has a tendency to leave a mess in his wake.

For 19 years I've fought against his hoarding. I've had to sneak into his room to carry out trash bags full of rotting food. I've had to go dig through his pile of junk to find his dirty clothing to be washed or dirty dishes when we ran out of forks. I've had to deal with his Oppositional Defiant Disorder which... basically just means that everything you ask him to do is going to require a battle. There are times (when he wants something) that he is cooperative. He is externally motivated but rarely internally motivated. There are certain things that he has accepted that he has to do and will do them sometimes with only three or four reminders. If he has his mind set on one thing, it's very difficult to convince him to change from his agenda to yours. There are other things that... honestly... I don't have the strength to go to battle over. He doesn't feel shame over not doing what he should - he feels anger that he's expected to do those things even when logic and common decency mean that these chores should be his. I don't have the resources to constantly dangle the carrot of exterior motivation for him. And I don't have the emotional strength to do battle with him every single day. I just don't.

My life, at this moment in time is the serenity prayer from AA: God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. I can't do everything that needs to be done in running a big house and a big yard. I don't have the money to pay people to do the things I can't do. I can't motivate my kid to do the things I can't. My anxiety level is too high to face battles every day with the only human in my life. That kid - he's a pain in the ass - but he's all I've got. And I'm all he's got. I can't be in constant conflict with him because it alienates us both from the one person who is always there for each of us - each other.

People say that many people miss opportunity because it comes dressed in overalls and looks like work. My personal version of that is many people don't recognize success because it wears different costumes for different people. My version of success isn't measured in the amount of money in my bank account. It's not measured in validation for the things I'm able to do. My success looks different from yours. In my life, success means going one more day without giving up. It means facing challenges that other people are able to do without much effort. It means loving a child who is lacking motivation and empathy and having the vision to see his heart through the squiggly smell lines and the dirty feet and frequent melt downs.

My foundation is shaky and I'm feeling sort of alone in this process. It will pass. I'll find stable ground again. For now, though, it's exhausting and discouraging to be me and to not be able to be who I want and need to be. I don't want to wish time away because I know at some point I'll wish I was back at this time of life when I could still do the things I can still do... and when my kid was nearby. I miss his brothers so much.

That's all.


Thursday, August 22, 2013

8.22.13

Today was unofficial Head In The Sand Day for me. I just needed a day to not worry about water/mold/money/disability/my child lacking motivation and anything else that has been keeping the manufacturer of my blood pressure meds in business.

Here's a few of the things I did (or did not) today:

  • I went to the store and bought my favorite kind of ice cream and decided I would eat as much as I wanted today. I've had two bowls and I will probably have a third before bed. My current favorite is strawberry cheesecake from Mayfield. Most of the Summer has been butter pecan so this is new.
  • I also bought orange sherbet because one day last week I wanted some. I don't today but when I do, it might still be there.
  • Continuing my "food is happiness" theme, I made corned beef hash for dinner. It's one of Austin's favorite meals and I know... I know that canned corned beef hash grosses a lot of people out but really, I add a chopped onion and green bell pepper to it and cook it to a crisp and it's better than the best filet mignon to us. The house smells but it's ok. My hands also smell like onion and I'm ok with that too.
  • I bought treats for the cats. When I go downstairs at night the cats wait for me to open my night stand drawer and pull out their treats. It's our routine. Or... it was until two weeks ago when we ran out of treats. Tonight, they're going to be treated again because in my world, food is happiness and my kitties need to be happy too. 
  • I did NOT try to remove water or mold from anything. Just for today I'm not fighting that battle. What is ruined is ruined and beyond my power to repair. I'm saving all exercises in futility for tomorrow. 
  • I'm not shedding any tears today. I've cried enough this week for a month. 
  • I bought new cat litter but did not scoop the litter box. Austin has promised to do it for me and if he doesn't, I'll do it tomorrow. I've scooped poop every day for the past three weeks and it hurts to bend that way, it hurts to carry the bag of poop away, it makes it hard for me to breathe and I needed a break. (I did, however, move another unauthorized dump because I wouldn't just leave that sitting around.)
  • I enjoyed the early morning mountain air with the windows of the car down on my drive into town... I don't know if it got hot or humid later, I didn't bother to check. I enjoyed what I had of the outdoors while I was out there and it was so perfect that I didn't let anything distort that precious memory.
  • I didn't wake Austin up. I didn't ask him to do anything. I waited until he said, "Is there anything you need me to do?" and when he said, "does that have to be done right now?" I said, "no". And I didn't worry about if he really would do it. It will get done or it won't and if it doesn't then I'll worry about that tomorrow.
  • I didn't sweep or mop the floors. The house is in desperate need of some sweeping and mopping but my hip pain is wicked today and I decided that I was not going to cause pain to myself just to have a clean floor. Maybe tomorrow. 
  • I worked on my genealogy stuff today but I didn't work as hard as I've been working. I took a lot of side trips to research different people and places without feeling the pressure of needing to winnow down the number of hints left unresearched. (which, I think, is not a word, but that's ok).
  • I worked a dutch braid into a side fish braid and I thought myself quite clever for doing so. 
  • I discussed the fun and folly of playing the lottery with a bag boy who walked me to the car at the grocery store today. He had quite a bad speech impediment so for the first part of the conversation I thought we were talking about whether or not we liked lawyers... and I'm relatively fond of them (hehe... get the pun? my brother's an attorney so I'm RELATIVELY fond... get it?) so I was "pro" lawyers all the way up until I realized that I was agreeing to liking playing the lottery, not liking lawyers. Then I dug up an anecdote about how we played at my last job and that got us to the car and my three little bags plus cat litter loaded so it was all good. 


Today has been a good day. I know that we can't always stick our heads in the sand but I think that for me, it was imperative to have a day of not being upset and stressed about things I can't fix. Between the disability denial, the moodiness and unpredictability of the kid, the water... ugh... all these things... I have felt so overwhelmed and today, well, I just don't. I feel much peace. I hope you had a good day... or at least a Head In The Sand day yourselves. Love and hugs, y'all!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

8.21.13

saturated carpet... every time I start to get it dry, it rains 
I'm so discouraged with the water/mold situation in the basement. I spent Monday trying to absorb water with towels. I spent yesterday trying to suck water up with the wet vac. I've spent today discovering more and more things that are growing mold. All of my furniture, books, stuffed animals... just about anything in the living room area that is paper or fabric, all of it has mold growing.

After losing so many things moving in with Darby...then losing lots of stuff when I left him in a hurry...then losing more things due to the fire two years ago... it feels like whatever was left is getting ruined now with  mold.

And today it rained for hours creating ponds all over the front yard, soaking through into the basement and saturating the carpet I spent the past two days trying to dry. Austin and I moved some things away from the wettest parts of the basement but we don't have the ability to move everything and honestly, I don't want to move anything with any sign of mold growth to the other parts of the house because we don't want to start mold growing anywhere else.

We took up rugs... moved that beautiful screen from my grandma's house because the legs on it are rusting... it's a losing battle. Austin doesn't have the tools he needs to pull the wet carpet up (and I'm not really sure I trust him to do it, not that big of a space). Anywhere there is the weight of furniture, the water comes up from the pad of the carpet so it's almost as if the entire room would have to be pulled up. For once he doesn't have anybody over at the house who can help tote things. It's just too big of a job for me and the kid.

This is where the water is seeping into my living room
Every time I'm in the wet part of the  basement for more than a few minutes I get dizzy and my throat hurts and it just overwhelms me to see that space that I loved so much, my cozy little refuge, be such a mess. And of course all the extra trips up and down stairs, the strain of carrying wet towels, bending over using the wet vac, helping Austin move furniture - my back is in a whole new world of hurt.

And the cat threw up today and created a big mess that I had to clean up while gagging. And of course, Austin doesn't seem to understand that bringing the dishes to the kitchen isn't enough... they can be put in the dishwasher instead of stuck on the counter or in the sink. And I need to make a run into town but don't have the energy or initiative to do it. Tomorrow. I'll go tomorrow.  We're out of ice cream so I need to go.

Ok. Enough of the moping over the Whine Cellar / Indoor Swimming Pool. Here are a few good things from today:

1. I've started watching Duck Dynasty. I love those people! What a sweet family!

2. I made a good dinner tonight - "golf chicken", yellow rice and broccoli. It was yummy and didn't take much effort. "Golf chicken" is this brand of stuffed frozen chicken breasts that I used to cook on the days my dad was playing golf and it was my turn to cook. They're a family favorite.

3. I *think* I've stopped Stubby from "dumping" in unauthorized locations. No matter how clean the litter box has been lately, he has been pooping on the floor in my mom's bedroom. I really think he was just being rebellious because he was mad that my mom left him - you know how animals do that sort of thing. I had deterred him somewhat by cleaning the carpet with vinegar but as soon as the vinegar smell dissipated, he was back to his nasty habit. Yesterday I bought some heavy duty febreeze and sprayed the carpet with that and since then we haven't had any poop to clean up. Maybe it's a lasting deterrent.

4. Austin has been sort of cooperative today and hasn't had any outbursts. For awhile there he was having at least one meltdown a day. It is no fun dealing with a grown person having tantrums. I've asked a lot out of him today and he hasn't complained. I couldn't have done it without him. He still hasn't cut the grass (too wet) or fixed the boat (too wet) or done some other things he was supposed to do but honestly, for every aggravation he's caused over the past month, he made up for it by taking care of things today.

5. I haven't had any extra mouths to feed over the past 24 hours. I'm glad we're the "kool-aid" house but it's nice to have the house to ourselves occasionally.

6. I slept great last night. I felt really rotten when I woke up but at least I slept well.

I know that all these floods and pestilence and stress of trying to keep my finger in the dam will pass. I know that it will get fixed, that it will work out. I know that anything lost is just stuff. Eventually my disability claim will be approved and the bank account will be healthier and I will be able to replace "the stuff". I'm grateful for a roof over our heads, even if the floor under our feet is a bit damp at the moment. I've faced much worse with much less and survived. Life goes on.

Hope your day was happy and dry! Love and hugs!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

8.20.13

Little Kitty lounging on the porch
Guaranteed to always make me cry? Reunions. I'm a hot mess in airports, believe me.

Today a man with a gun walked into an elementary school in the Atlanta area and not one single person was injured. It was a big drama with the local news channel dedicated to the situation all afternoon. I left to go pick up my nieces from school and by the time I got home they had gotten the kids away from the school and to a nearby parking lot to be reunited with their parents.

Cue the waterworks. I mean, seriously... bawling my eyes out.

I don't know what it is. I don't have any separation anxiety. I'm whatever the opposite of helicopter mom is... I've always allowed my kids guilt-free independence. I'm not clingy. I've lost a lot in my life - a lot of stuff - but I haven't lost a lot of people so I don't really have that unresolved issue of loss but ... man... kids and parents reunited after what could have been a very tragic situation... it tears me up.

I'll never forget on 9/11, working near the Atlanta airport ... we were all gathered around a little tv in the office and and the second plane hit. My boss turned around to me and said, "go get your babies". There was something that day about being reunited with my kids that allowed me to feel that life would go on. If they were safe, I could deal with anything else.
This child has legs for days. She's ten. 
I love being in the car with my nieces and hearing their perspective on things. They have been raised in a Godly household - in a very secure family with parents who love each other and who love them. They haven't been exposed to a lot of inappropriate things - violent things. I mentioned to them on the way home that there was a school in Atlanta where a person came in with a gun. I quickly assured them that nobody was hurt but that the children had to be moved away from their classrooms. I asked them if their school had told them what to do in that situation. To my surprise, thankfully, they have, just four days into the school year, already been told what to do in that very situation. They are very clear on what would happen down to what corner of the classroom to go to. They even knew exactly where they would be taken if they had to be taken away from the school property - a nearby church.

I have to say that I also very much love that when I pull the car up in the carpool lane to tell the teacher with the walkie talkie who I'm there to pick up, I don't have to say their last name. I love that they live in a community where they are known. I just said, "Sarabeth and Jamie... " and before I got the last name out she was on the horn asking for the Gant girls. It's a good thing.

It's not that bad things don't happen here. There is crime here. Less crime than in a big city but it does happen. People know people here and so it's harder, I think, to do bad things to people you know.

Watching them after school is really easy. They make their own snacks and watch Word Girl on PBS while I play sudoku on my nook. They do their homework in the car on the way home - or at least start it. And it's good for me to get out of the house.

By the way... their snacks today? SB had black beans that she heated up for herself on the stove. J had poptarts. There's no doubt they're my girls.

I have a bit of a headache today. It's more than a little bit. I have a horrible headache. It didn't really start until I was on the way home from my niece-sitting duty so the timing was good. I spent a lot of time today trying to get water out of the basement and I think the mold is getting to me a bit. Either that or it's just one of those random headaches. Happens all the time.

Maybe this will be an early bed time. I didn't sleep great last night - was awake for about two hours in the middle of the night and hit the ground running this morning to go get the wet vac so we could try to salvage the carpet. I'd show some pictures but I don't feel like walking downstairs and back up to do it. I haven't seen Austin since I got back home. I don't know if he's here sleeping - he stayed up all night - or if he went off with his buddy again. Either way... the fish I was planning on cooking for dinner isn't getting cooked if it's up to me to do it.

That's all I've got today. Hug your kids.

Monday, August 19, 2013

8.19.13

Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink.

That's our mantra here at La Casa Esta En La Piscina (The House is in the pool.)

We have more water leaking into the basement and this time it has damaged one entire wall in my cozy living room/dining room. The water has seeped in and the carpet is so wet that with every step it splashes up. My loveseat has mold growing on it.

I have been running back and forth up and down stairs swapping out dry towels for wet towels, wet towels for dry towels, over and over and we're still a splash zone. Tomorrow I'm purchasing a wet vac. It must be done. And ultimately, I don't believe we'll be able to save the carpet.

Dang monsoon Summer.
                                                                                         And I've been trying to convince Austin to stay out of his  room but the downside of that is that you really don't want Austin claiming space anywhere else due to his hoarding disorder. He will make a mess out of a room in two hours flat.

He was a real pain in my tukas yesterday. He wants money all the time. I haven't had an income since May and I'm trying to spread what I have out so that it covers my frivolous little trinkets like... you know, pharmaceuticals and doctor bills and gas and groceries. Yesterday I told him no... the money train had left the station. He threw such a fit that I was two millimeters from calling 9-1-1 out of fear for my well-being. However... I have this real problem with anyone dealing with Austin when he's out of control. I don't want him messing his life up even worse by getting charged with domestic violence or some kind of anger management situation. I'm the one who knows how to deal and I'm the one who knows when to put him on ignore. Yesterday he went on ignore and I bawled my eyes out for about three hours. When stuff is going wrong and there's only one person around to share it with and that person is in the middle of a full on tantrum... it's just a lonely place to be.

Today, with the newly discovered basement pond, I needed his help but I was too stubborn to want to deal with him. He, fortunately, forgets these outbursts as if they never happened (and I truly believes that he doesn't even realize how off the chain he is at times) and he woke up this morning ready to be my happy helper.

And then he went and blew all his food stamp money on cokes and snacks. I think he bought a 12 pack of ramen and he bought bbq for dinner but for the most part, it was teen food. I did get a "party size" sack of KitKats. So he at least has SOME recall of his less than congenial behavior. I would rather he buy a nice pack of chicken than a party pack of Kit Kats but... it is what it is.

My company never showed up or called. That's two weekends in a row that he went sketchy on me and that reaffirms my "my life is too hard already without interjecting a potential suitor" philosophy. His loss. I'm over it. I was doing JUST FINE by myself the last thing I want to start doing is watching a clock and wondering if he's going to call or stop by. I don't like people that much.

I am second from the right... standing and kind of leaning... 
Anyways... so today I picked my nieces up from school and stayed at their house with them until their dad got home. Tomorrow I'm picking them up and depending on what time Bubba finishes up (yes, I call my brother "Bubba" and my kids call him "Uncle Bubba") I may be taking little Miss Jamie to cheerleading practice.

They stopped by this evening after cheerleading so Bubba could check out the indoor pool. I have a tendency to exaggerate... he wanted to see for himself how bad the water is in the basement... and... my dramatic description was, at least in this case, accurate.

When we first got the house it was such a joy to give people the tour... and now... I give them a tour of the water features.. and not just the lake.

This whole deal has me exhausted and frustrating.

Oh... but the whole point of saying that Bubba stopped by was that I wanted to mentioned that Jamie was able to show me on her iPod mini the routine they worked on tonight. My girl is GOOD! Her team is the Habersham Raiders -which is also the high school team. Up here in these counties where there is only one high school per county they tend to use rec league to feed into the middle school and high school sports programs and it's nice to see. My girl is a decent cheerleader and soooo durn cute!

I told Jamie I still have my cheerleading uniforms and she could try them on sometime... and she laughed. She's only known me as chubby Aunt Heather... she don't know they had to send back my outfits three times because they couldn't get the waist small enough for me. I'm sure she's picturing something made by Omar the Tent maker. Not so, I tell ya! That's the reason for all these random photos... to show that I was once average size. Thirty years ago.

Anyways... what else can I tell you about today? Not much. I'm tired. I let the boys take over the Living Room so they didn't stay in Austin's swamp. Kitty is ready for bed and I'm hopefully not far behind. I did some damage carrying the wet towels and I know it's going to be a rough day tomorrow and tomorrow is not going to be a hide in the house and pretend there's not a world out there day. But I'll get through it.

How was your Monday????

Saturday, August 17, 2013

8.17.13

Do you realize that we're approaching the five year anniversary of my journey from hell to Helen? Five years to embrace all that I might have lost. When I moved here my nieces were 5 and 3. They're now 10 and 8. This is a picture of them on their first day of 5th and 3rd grade last week. Yes. Sarabeth took her basketball to school. Recess, you know. They were and continue to be two of my biggest reasons for living and due to my back and Jamie's allergies I just haven't seen enough of them lately. SO OF COURSE when my sister-in-law asked if I could help with some after school pickups this school year I jumped at the chance. Heaven knows I need a reason to get out of the house every now and then! So you can look forward to pictures of something other than cats and the lake. I know you're as thrilled as I am.

I'm watching Mamma Mia which is always a trip down memory lane as Darby and I saw the show in Las Vegas on our wedding day... and then for our first (and only) anniversary we saw the movie in the theatre in Jacksonville. Wicked and Mamma Mia were the soundtrack of our relationship. Sweeney Todd also came out during that time period and it was a favorite of Austin's but that was always in our non-Michael time that we would listen to it. Sweeney Todd was much more appropriate for that dark time.

Austin just woke up from a five hour nap and complained that all the lights were out downstairs. I usually pack up my laptop, chapstick and my styrofoam cup and head to the Whine Cellar between 6 and... 8-ish every evening. I have my little routine. Upstairs to take my night time meds and change into bed clothes... downstairs to enjoy the Whine Cellar and blog and read blogs and watch youtube videos and such. Today has been cool and overcast and time just kept passing without me really moving. I napped for a bit myself this afternoon and woke up to the awesome smell of the stuffed peppers I had going in the crockpot. It's so cool that I had to dig out a pair of fuzzy socks and a sweatshirt which I just put on with my skirt and top. I dress like a homeless person sometimes. And of course, as per usual, it's raining.

I did leave the house for a bit today to pick up another prescription and buy more food. I figured I better get some substantial food in the house before Austin blew his money on cokes and potato chips. It's odd. I alternate between being so glad to have someone here to help me with the things I can't do... and wishing I didn't have to deal with someone so volatile. I can't get through a day without him getting mad about something. Just now it was a very innocent, "do you have any glasses downstairs?" and I got this crazy, over the top outburst about how I blame him for everything. Whatever. Go away. At least his buddies went home for now. Hopefully we'll have a peaceful Sunday.

Possibly I'll have a visit from an old friend tomorrow. It's on the agenda... so we'll see. It will at least give me motivation to shave my legs and put on makeup. My mom decided to stay down on the southside for another week so it's me, the cats and the kids drifting in and out. I could use some company. I am so starved for adult interaction that I kept the poor bag girl out by my car for way longer than it took her to put the groceries in the car. At least it wasn't hot outside.

Anyways... so that's all I've got for today. Hope you're have a great weekend! Love and hugs!

Friday, August 16, 2013

8.16.13

There is only one toll collection spot on metro Atlanta highways and they will quit assessing the toll in November. There's a news story on right now about how there has been a problem with people "paying it forward" by paying the toll for the person behind them. It happens enough that it's a problem, apparently. It restores my faith in humanity. People, by and large, WANT to be nice. That's what I believe.

Today was my every other monthly visit with the pain doctor. I hate going for a lot of reasons - the cost, the drive, feeling like an addict, having to pee in a cup to prove I'm not using recreational drugs - but I love going to see the Physicians Assistant, "Dr. Matt". Dr. Matt is easy on the eyes... but that's not why I like seeing him. Ok. Not the only reason. He is really just a funny guy and we always have a good giggle.

So when I gave him the update on my disability claim... and told him that they determined that I am unable to do the kind of work I'm trained to do but couldn't determine whether or not there is some other work I could be trained to do. I asked him... for his professional opinion... on what other line of work I could try... and he said, "well... it would have to be something you could do while reclining" and he leaned back in his chair and picked his legs up... so I said, "and... um... what exactly could I do that would allow to recline that is legal and moral?" and he cracked up and I cracked up and... yes. It's official. My doctor thinks the oldest profession in the world is the only one that my condition would permit me to do. And even that... I couldn't do the walking part of street walking.

He said that response makes him think we won't have any problems getting an approval on appeal and he was shocked by how quickly the initial response came. So those are good things. The bad things are that he wants me to go on some kind of anxiety medication to help me let go of some of the fear I have in going anywhere and doing anything that causes pain. I asked him to let me do some research first. He agrees with me that xanax is an evil, evil drug but he does want to start working on finding something that will help me have a better quality of life. The problem is that if they change your meds you have to come every month instead of every other month which I can't really afford to do.

As far as the recent hip pain (which has been particularly nasty today) he thinks we're either dealing with osteoarthritis (which is at the root of my spine pain) or bursitis. He offered a cortisone injection but I reminded him that I'm "self-pay" right now so we couldn't do anything beyond the absolutely necessary for now. He said if I changed my mind to just give them a call. He suggested a few over the counter remedies and ice, not heat, to treat the inflammation.

All in all... not a bad visit but all I can think about is money draining out of my bank account... $140 at the doctor, $75 worth of meds (and I still have two more to fill this month)... it makes me sick to my stomach. I came home and crashed... went to sleep for an hour and a half in that deep, deep sleep that feels like you've been under anesthesia... or like you're Rip Van Winkle... I woke up and looked at the clock absolutely shocked that the time had slipped by so easily.

I didn't blog yesterday because I got into a great rhythm on my genealogy research and just knocked out a lot of those little leaves on ancestry.com. I also started compiling a list of castles in my family. Ultimately I'd love to put together a book about our family that includes fun stuff like that... not just the begats.  I've detoxed from all the online games I was playing. Castleville never would load right. I maxed out at the highest level on Bubble Safari and I got bored with the other Bubble game. I loved playing those games in the beginning but it got frustrating and started feeling more like an obligation than something to do for fun. I'm sure I'll take up another game at some point but for now it feels good to make progress on the old family tree.

I also didn't blog because I have an owie on my left pointer finger. I was petting Little Kitty and something startled him right at the time I reached out for him and he got his claw stuck in the pad of my finger. I screamed which scared him and it took a few seconds for me to get that claw out. It felt like it went all the way to the bone. I (of course) scrubbed it, put about half a tube of neosporin on it and put a bandaid on. All night Kitty just kept coming back and sniffing my finger. He knew he hurt me. He generally behaves as if he has no conscience but you could tell he felt guilty.

Speaking of my sweet kitties... I just cleaned out the litter box and picked up the one random pile that didn't make it to the box. Inevitably there's always at least one rebel pile. What I can't figure out is how one cup of food per kitty translates into about ten pounds of waste per day. I know some of it is the clumping litter but... their ability to multiply intake to an unbelievable amount of output is on par with a loaves and fishes miracle!

Austin has company spending the night tonight... Logan, as usual, plus a boy they haven't seen since graduation. My only reluctance was that they always want to sleep in and we don't know if the grandparents are coming up tomorrow and if so, what time they'll be here. I don't want them coming home to a living room full of sleeping boys. Also, tomorrow is the day that Austin's food stamps are on his card and we need to have a major grocery run. Austin said they could go grocery shopping for me tomorrow and I said something along the lines of not just no but... really, really not. Bad idea. We've got to stretch the grocery money and Austin is generous to a fault. He also doesn't know how to shop for bargains and/or buy things besides chips and coke. I told him they could come but they need to eat first and bring snacks. Which, honestly, Logan is pretty good about doing but the grocery run I made earlier in the week didn't go as far as I hoped due to all the "growing boys" I am feeding. I don't want to be selfish and I love how good Austin is at hosting. I love that he has friends who want to spend time here. I love that I don't have to worry about them bothering the neighbors (because the neighbors are so far away). I love that I don't have to worry about them being on the roads late at night. There are many good things about the tribe that comes here. Many. They just need to STOP EATING!

So, to sum up, the cats need to quit pooping and the boys need to quit eating.

Me, I just need to stop whining and fix something to eat before anyone comes that I would have to share with. Tonight's menu is rice, lentils and kale. Mmmm!

Happy Friday, y'all!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

8.14.13

I'm not a great cook. I'm an ok cook if I'm in the mood. I like to cook "clean" using whole foods - you know, things that you can pronounce and would be recognized as food by your great-grandparents. I did have that episode where the worm crawled out of the cucumber and waved at me the other day... but despite my threats I wasn't able to give up eating fresh food. Lately, with it being hot and muggy, I could live on juice. Every now and then, though, I fix a real meal.

Today I thought it might be fun if I shared a recipe with you. I've made this (and probably shared it) before. It's one of my favorite go-to meals. I made this recipe up but it was probably inspired by something I read somewhere. I generally will get an idea in my head of what kind of food I want to eat and if I don't already know how to cook it, I will read a couple of recipes until I have the process in my mind and then I adapt it to my tastes, resources and skills. This is why I'm not good at baking - you have to actually measure stuff. It's also why I'm not a good carpenter but that's not the point.

Here's what we had tonight for Supper:

It's orzo with chicken sausage, kale and peppers. It's probably my favorite meal to eat and in the top ten of things to cook. I tried to pay attention to what I spent to make it and I've got to admit, it isn't what I would consider a "budget" meal - I spent about $22 for the ingredients. A budget meal to me is $5 or less which is why we eat so much frozen pizza. This, however, was filling and relatively healthy and soooo good!



First off... set a pot of water to boil for your orzo. Orzo is a rice shaped pasta. I buy orzo from the bulk bins at Ingles but you can also find it in the pasta aisle. Tonight I had about 3/4 a pound of orzo.   You could use more. Austin thought my kale to orzo ratio was off (because he likes the orzo more than the kale, of course) but I thought it was fine. I imagine you could use any kind of pasta but I like orzo for this because it's so small that it really absorbs the flavor of the sausage and peppers and it cooks fast. You can cook the orzo in a rice cooker but it tends to stick really bad.

Ok... now that the water's heating up. Here are my ingredients:
1 12 oz package of sweet apple flavored chicken sausage
1 package of precut/washed kale
2 bell peppers (I like the colored ones even though they cost more but the green ones are fine)
about 1/2 of an onion
3/4 pound orzo
olive oil
garlic (or garlic powder)
parmesan shreds



Cut the sausage into chunks, coins, circles... whatever you want to call them... I love the sweet apple sausage because it balances out the strong taste of kale really well. The brand I use is Al Fresco All Natural. Publix doesn't carry this particular brand but you can go to the website to find it in a store near you.  I paid $4.98 for a 12 ounce package which is ... I guess... a decent price for a protein source.





Dice, chop, chunk... whatever... the peppers and onion. I'm left-handed and not incredibly precise on my chopping skills but you get the idea. Again... I spent more on the peppers than I had to - they were $2.50 each which is stupidly high. I also like to do this with a mixture of sweet/spicy peppers. Whatever suits your taste. I think the colored peppers give a little bit sweeter taste than the green, though, and again, it's a great balance for the kale. You could use more peppers if you wanted but I think this gives a good balance.


When the water boils for the orzo... toss it in with a little olive oil. Those little bitty pieces really stick together. I cook my orzo for 9 minutes. Some places say less time... some say more... 9 works for me. You're going to put it in the pan for an extra ten minutes or so after it's finished boiling so al dente or a little less than al dente is what you're going for.






Heat olive oil in the biggest frying pan you have. Pop bought this awesome pan and it's my favorite cooking tool (after the microwave). It's great for stir-frys and this is, to some degree, like a stir fry. I have no idea how much oil that is... as Rachael Ray says, one turn around the pan is about all it needs. This pan is really, REALLY non-stick so I could get by with just a Pam spray but I do like the extra level of flavor the olive oil gives.




Saute your sausage, peppers and onions over medium high heat until the onions are translucent.

I accidentally misspelled that as "Sautee" because that's a town up here. I only caught it on my last edit. I do edit these blog entries before I post them although sometimes I read back through them and think that I must have had a stroke while I was writing.




Once your onions are translucent, add your kale to the pan. If you use a lot of kale (I used about 3/4 of that big bag you saw) you may have to add it in two or three stages. I put the lid on the pan for a few minutes to steam the kale down in order to add more.








Here's my cooking tip about garlic: don't add it until you add the greens. Garlic tends to get bitter the longer it cooks. You don't want it to cook as long as you cook the peppers and onions. Typically I like to use minced garlic but for some reason I couldn't find the garlic bulb I bought at the store yesterday. Garlic powder worked fine it's just not my preference.






I always have a problem keeping my kale in the pan.











Drain your orzo and add it into the pan with the rest of the stuff. A nice spray of Pam into your strainer will help the orzo slide out.









I like to let it all cook together for ten minutes or so, stirring occasionally. I'm a big fan of a bit of caramelization but one person's caramelization is another person's burned dinner so... whatever level of doneness suits you. By the time you add in the orzo your sausage is done well enough so... you know, just whatever because I'm not Martha Stewart or anything.





Add a little shaved parmesan - not the cheap stuff that comes in the little green can, real shaved parmesan. The extra is soooo worth it! If you can't afford real parmesan then skip it.

And that's it. Chopping, boiling, stir-frying, cleaning up... all of it takes about 30 to 45 minutes. This meal would probably serve 8 people well. Instead... it fed me and Austin with two generous servings each and it's enough for another meal for us. Good stuff.


I wrote a long post about cooking because honestly, that's about all I've done today. I couldn't sleep last night (again, the whole ambien situation) and was up until 3am so I slept until 9:30 this morning. Little Kitty was exhausted from staying up with me and he protested when I started making the bed. We've been moving slow ever since. I didn't even get up and greet the exterminator today. He knows where stuff is. I told him to do his thing and holler if he had a problem. The fact that I was greeted this evening with a spider the size of a quarter tells me whatever he did... just made the critters angry instead of killing 'em.

Dumb and Dumber are setting up for another Xbox marathon so I'm down in the Whine/Water Cellar catching up on videos and blogs on my laptop and will hopefully go to sleep earlier tonight. Hope you had a great Wednesday. Love and hugs.