My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Moving Day (Again)

I just realized that today is the last day of November. I have to say, I'm glad to see this month go and HAPPY HAPPY HAPPY to see December arrive!

Today was part 2,174 of the big move to Cedar Hollow. Up to this point we've moved in the stuff from my storage place (last August) moved in stuff from Grandma's house (in two parts) and slowly, over the course of the past fifteen months, brought carload after carload up here. Yesterday Pop got a UHaul. My boys and my brother and my mom and dad and I don't know who all else got it loaded and my brother drove it up here yesterday afternoon. This morning our "unloading crew" came and got everything off the truck and into the house.

Since I stopped working at the beginning of May, I've been here at the mountain house almost constantly... but my TV and my favorite chair... have not been. I have this big old tv that I "inherited" in my last divorce that is too big to fit in any of the cars we have. It's out of date, it's bulky and heavy and it's not HD but it's mine and it works fine. Up until last Christmas we didn't have tv here at all and then my parents got a nice one as a Christmas gift. Last April we added satellite so we could use the tv for more than watching dvds. But ALLLLLL this time I've been without a tv in the Whine Cellar and tomorrow that comes to an end. The tv was Uhauled up last night and unloaded this morning and tomorrow (yes, on a Sunday) the DISH guy will be here to hook it up! I will have broadcast tv in my Whine Cellar! And as my dad says, they'll never see me again. Now I don't have to drag my laptop and my sippy cup and my chapstick and camera and whatever else I'm going to need during the day upstairs to set up camp in the living room. Now I can just use MY living room and hang out in my own little nest!

Moving the recliner and the tv/tv stand into my living room makes it feel so much more like my home. They also moved up my dressing table that I've had since I was 7 so my bedroom feels more like my own bedroom.

(animal beds all over the place because I kept the zoo down here in the basement so that they wouldn't get underfoot or escape through an open door).

There's a lot to be done around here. I keep telling my mom that she's got the rest of her life to unpack but it will be nice to get things tidied up so we can decorate for Christmas. I've got a stack of gifts that need to be wrapped (can't find the wrapping paper that I KNOW we have leftover from last year and I refuse to buy more when I know it's here somewhere!) and no, I haven't addressed the first card yet... even when you don't have to do anything, there's always so much to do!

We also now have two more bedrooms furnished so we have actual beds for people to sleep on instead of air mattresses! One of the top floor bedrooms is set up as a library and the other is set up as a guest room but both have beds. And now that I have my dressing table here I can move all my glam stuff from the upstairs bathroom to my bedroom. And if I could get my hands on a couple dozen coat hangars I could move my clothes back down here too...

We were able to feed the moving crew with Thanksgiving leftovers and my leftover potato soup from last week. And my yummy poundcake. It was chilly but otherwise a good time of year to move, I think. Not that I actually moved anything, but in theory. I tried to take a few pictures of the moving crew but it seems that I mostly got pictures of people standing around.

Austin with his new Scooby Doo hat, my nephews Cory and Matthew.

My mom, Fat Pat, Matthew and Cory

Pat, my mom, my brother Michael, Pop, my brother Jim

Stuff in driveway

 Parking in the "north 40" since the driveway was full of stuff 
Other view of my living room. We desperately need to hang pictures on the walls. 

Mom and Pop's room full of stuff. 

To show how cold it has been... I snagged these pictures off my friend Angie's facebook. This is Richard Russell Parkway - just a little bit North of us.

So that was my Saturday! I didn't watch any football today. I'm so unhappy with the way the Gators have played this season... I just couldn't watch... they ended up not getting beaten as  badly as I expected so that was good. I've had more of that evil gut pain. I'm ready for that to be resolved. One day I'm going to get fed up with it and just throw myself on the mercy of the closest ER but I keep thinking of trying to pay off that bill with no income and it makes my head hurt worse than my gut. Things have a way of working themselves out. I moved back to Riverdale a year and a half ago, heartbroken to leave this area, heartbroken to leave my kid behind. Here we are... just a short while later... and I'm back here with my kid in a place that was better than anything I ever imagined and we've made it through seven months of me not working, even with paying all of my own medical bills out of pocket. Now I get all that plus satellite TV! 

Happy December, y'all! Things are going to get better for all of us this month, I'm sure of it! Love and hugs!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

All My Mayflower Ancestors

As always, I preface this entry by saying that I am sort of a genealogical novice. Most of my research is via and although there are always sources referenced, I am not individually confirming these sources. At best, I have a rich ancestry consisting of many Mayflower ancestors. At worst, these are great anecdotes of early Americans. Either way, the stories are worth telling.

I've been working on my family tree since May 2012. I currently have over 11,000 people listed in my tree. I am periodically combing through the branches looking for duplicates - and there are many - William may be listed as Guillame in some places and that sort of thing. I've also tried to expand past direct ancestors and descendants in cases where it may help me discover ancestors more easily. I love reading about the lives of my 12x great-grandparents but I am as easily entertained by stories about a 12 great-aunt or cousin 12 times removed. We're all kin.

Studying genealogy has given me a strong sense of my heritage but it has also made me realize that we are all related in one sense or another. I have a couple dozen first and second cousins that the wonderful world wide web has given me the ability to know - whereas I might otherwise have only seen them at funerals and reunions. I consider it a huge blessing to make these connections. The more I know about my ancestors, the more I understand myself. The more I know about my living relatives, the more colorful life becomes.

These are the Mayflower passengers that I have been able to determine as possible ancestors.

John Alden - Priscilla Mullins are my 12x Great-Grandparents
Their daughter was Ruth Mullins.
Her daughter was Hannah Bass.
Her son was Joseph Adams (this is where a kinship with President John Adams and John Quincy Adams comes in to play)
His son was Benjamin Adams.
His daughter was Mary Adams.
Her daughter was Abigail Susannah Caudill.
Her son was Wells Pennington.
His daughter was Tabitha Pennington.
Her son was Samuel Pennington.
His son was John Pennington
His son was William Judson Pennington.
His son was Clarence B. Pennington.
And his daughter was my Mama.

Priscilla's parents were William Mullins - Alice Mullins, my 13x Great-Grandparents. A shoemaker by trade, it is believed that William had some trouble in England which made him willing to take the journey to the New World. All of the family, except Priscilla died in during the first Winter in Plymouth, including her brother Joseph Mullins. He would have been my 13x Great Uncle, I think? Priscilla was left an orphan in a New World at 18 years old. It's no surprise that she soon married John Alden, the Mayflower's cooper who decided to remain in Plymouth rather than return with the ship. (A cooper is responsible for the barrels and casks on a ship. I had to look it up.)

The romance of Priscilla and John Alden is memorialized in the poem, "The Courtship of Miles Standish" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. She was called "the loveliest maiden of Plymouth". They went on to have 11 children and help found the town of Duxbury.

Orson Wells, Marilyn Monroe, President John Adams, President John Quincy Adams, Dick Van Dyke, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow all also descend from the this couple. Of all of the Mayflower ancestry, this is the one I'm least sure of.

Stephen Hopkins - Constance Hopkins - Giles Hopkins - Damaris Hopkins - Oceanus Hopkins

Stephen Hopkins is my 10x Great-Grandfather.
His daughter Constance is my 9x Great-Grandmother.
Her daughter was Mary Snow
Her son was Elisha Paine
His daughter was Abigail Paine
Her son was Aaron Cleveland
His son was John Cleveland
His daughter was Caroline Amelia Cleveland
Her son was William Cleveland Ward
His son was Charles Pelham Ward
His daughter was Leta May Ward Gant Harris
Her son was my Pop.

Giles, Damaris and Oceanus Hopkins would be 10x Great/Grand Uncles and Aunt. Oceanus was the baby born during the journey. Damaris and Oceanus died not long after their arrival in Plymouth. Constance's mother had died in England many years before the Mayflower voyage. By the time they left England Stephen had remarried and Oceanus and Damaris descend from the second wife who is not my ancestor.

Stephen Hopkins had made the journey to the New World at least once before the Mayflower crossing. He was shipwrecked on Bermuda and led a mutiny that almost cost him his life. He escaped only to end up in Jamestown at a time when all the inhabitants were starving. He returned to England. It is widely believed that Stephen was the basis for Shakespeare's character Stephano in the The Tempest.

Constance married Nicholas Snow who came to Plymouth aboard the ship, The Anne, in 1623. They had a large family and there are many, many descendants of this line.

Other ancestors of the Hopkins family are Sarah Palin, Ashley Judd, Norman Rockwell.

John Howland - Elizabeth Tilley are my 10x Great-Grandparents.
Their daughter is Desire Howland.
Her daughter was Desire Gorham.
Her son was Samuel Hawes.
His son was Isaac Hawes.
His son was ALSO Isaac Hawes.
His son was Peyton Hawes.
His son was Moseley Peyton Hawes.
His daughter was Rosa Bertha Hawes.
Her son was Charles Pelham Ward.
His daughter was Leta May Ward Gant Harris.
Her son was my Pop.

John Howland has the distinction of being the Pilgrim that fell overboard. He was rescued and went on to be one of the signers of the Mayflower Compact despite making the journey as an indentured servant. He was indentured to John Carver who died over the first Winter, securing Howland's freedom.

Elizabeth's parents were also on the Mayflower. John and Joan Tilley, my 11x Great-Grandparents, perished during the first Winter.

John Tilley's brother, Ed Tilley and his wife Agnes Cooper Tilley also died that first Winter, leaving behind their adopted relative, Humility Cooper, who, I believe would not have been blood kin to me.

Alec Baldwin, Humphrey Bogart, President George H. W. Bush, President George W. Bush, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Sarah Palin and Ralph Waldo Emerson are among the people who descended from John and Elizabeth Howland.

Out of all my presumed Mayflower ancestors, only the Tilley family was part of the original congregation from Leiden, Holland. John Howland was a servant of the John Carver family, who were in the congregation.  It is possible that Howland subscribed to the same religious beliefs as the Carvers. Stephen Hopkins was recruited by the London Merchant Adventurers as was William Mullins. John Alden was the ship's cooper. Therefore I can say that I descend from Mayflower passengers but I can't really say that I descend from the "Pilgrims" other than the Tilley line.

I made a huge Thanksgiving meal for myself and Austin. He's gone to his girlfriend's house - even wore khakis and requested that they be ironed! I'm enjoying a full belly and an empty house. Hope your holiday is filled with lots of food and family! Love and hugs, y'all!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What A Wednesday!

Maybe I'm overselling it but WHAT a Wednesday! seemed like an enthusiastic title.

My fabulous online gift purchase from yesterday was delivered this afternoon. Seriously! I got free shipping and it was delivered the next day! Talk about holiday cheer! As a bonus, something I wanted to go with this gift but didn't think I could afford is available at Ikea for an amount I CAN afford. The closest Ikea is in Atlanta and nowayinhell would I go there between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Never. I've been there twice before - the first time was the day after Christmas with my buddy Joey and the traffic was insane. The second time was with the second husband and it was a nightmare for so. many. reasons. which I have blocked out to protect my sanity. As a matter of fact, I went with the second husband at least twice so I really have blocked things out. Anyways. I thought there *might* be a chance that Cody would be working near there as his job takes him all over the state and it turns out that he IS working near there soon so my fabulous online gift purchase may be even more fabulous. I'm excited about all the gifts I've bought for this Christmas. Having lots of available time to browse all year long really lends itself to better gifting - even on a tight budget!

 So that was happy. I woke up with the demon abdominal pain again but it eased up without drugs and that was also happy. I got semi-motivated this afternoon and decided to make another pound cake, my second attempt. I couldn't relocate the recipe I used last time so I just made it from memory and held my breath and it turned out even better than last time. Makes me feel like a real Southern Belle. Southern women are supposed to be able to bake from scratch and grow things in the dirt. I'm one for two. I was going to make a lemon poppyseed pound cake because Austin loved the lemon poppyseed cookies they used to sell at the bakery in Cleveland. Then he told me he probably wouldn't want it even if it was lemon poppyseed because he isn't in the mood for cake so I used the same flavors that I did last time - eggnog, nutmeg and rum flavoring. There's a slice sitting on the nightstand beside me (for my sweet craving later) and it's making the whole room smell good.

Despite my wish for a pre-Thanksgiving Winter wonderland, it never snowed here yesterday or today. There was some alleged flurry activity last night but it was too dark to really distinguish if they were in fact, snowflakes. It is unseasonably cold. 28 degrees at the moment according to our little handy dandy thermometer. It's cooler in the basement than the main floor which is usually alright by me but tonight it's cooler than my comfort level. Austin is using a space heater in his room because he usually only wears boxers and no shirt. Actually, the space heater was because the baby was in there the other day and he decided he liked it toasty warm which meant that his "risk management obsessed" mother had to do a complete inspection to make sure there was nothing flammable near the heater. My room, on the other hand, has windows that aren't insulated well and stays fairly cool. I have an electric blanket AND an electric throw so when it's cold like this I become the filling of an electric sandwich and I wake up sweating. I hate to breathe warm air so it's really better for me this way. I could always turn up the heat but... it hardly seems worth it.

In this picture Little Kitty is demonstrating his method of sleeping on top of the electric throw which is on top of me and under the afghan that mom made which is on top of the electric throw. I did not cover him up - he slithered down between the blankets and used his super dexterous front paws to adjust it. Since I sleep on a big feather cushion, the foot end rises slightly, almost like a little pillow for him. I always wake up with at least one kitty at the foot of the bed.  One of the three cats (I'm pretty sure it was Stubby) threw up right in the middle of my coziest blanket which is usually between the electric throw and the afghan so we were one blanket short last night. I did laundry today so there's now that extra level of warmth and it smells SO fresh and clean!

Much like my multi-layered bed, my outfit for today is a bit of a multi-layered look. I randomly kept adding and subtracting layers as the day went on. I started with leggings, a long turtleneck and a button up shirt then added fuzzy green socks that didn't match because my feet were cold and these were the only fuzzy socks that weren't in the wash. Then I decided that the leggings were too snug to not have something that extended further down (not that anyone notices or cares - at this point it was just me, the cats and the kid in boxers but you never know - a neighbor came by one day last week and the UPS man came today - visitors are unlikely but possible) but I was also a little chilly so I put on a long skirt over the leggings. Then, before I came downstairs for the night I took off the turtleneck (because who can sleep in a turtleneck?) and button up shirt, put on a long sleeve tshirt, took off the long skirt and covered it all with a sundress that is tshirt material - very soft. Still with the leggings and green socks. Just picture a toddler dressing themselves for the first time.

Tomorrow the fam is going down to my cousin Christie's house in Turin, Georgia (right near the fictional town of Woodbury). It's too much of a drive for me to do in one day and I can't leave all three cats overnight because Eddie eats all the food and the other two cats would starve. Also, it's just too much driving with the added excitement of the evil gut pain in addition to something fun that's happening with my right knee. I'm going to fix a turkey breast and stuffing... sweet potatoes and maybe some corn for myself. I forgot to buy cranberry sauce so I may run out in the morning and get some if our local grocery store is open. Austin is going to the girlfriend's house so it will be quiet here. In other words, just like any random Thursday but with the added bonus of the Macy's Parade on tv! I hope that wherever you are, whatever you're doing, that it's a blessed "random Thursday" for you as well.

Love and hugs, y'all!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Tuesday By The Fire

As I suspected... our "possible wintry mix" was just a lot of really cold rain. It's ok. We've still got December, January and February to turn my world into a snow globe. I took advantage of the dreary weather and made potato soup. Austin made a fire in the fireplace. You would think the "in the fireplace" would be understood but this is Austin... the kid who burned a dozen holes in the carpet. Have I told you that story?

When we were living in the trailer aka as "the Cardboard Castle" one day after school when his older brothers were *cough*notreally*cough* watching him, he figured out that if you wadded up a piece of notebook paper and lit it on fire, it would rise a little bit, like a hot air balloon. And then it would fall to the carpet and catch the cheap trailer carpet on fire. WHICH he smothered with a pot so the fire burned a pot sized spot on the carpet. Most kids would do this once, freak out and stop. Austin burned a dozen places on the carpet before either his brothers stopped him or I got home from work. I forget which came first. I had a dozen black polka dots on my green carpet. It was lovely. And unfortunately not the only Austin the Arsonist story.

This is why, when he called to tell me our house got struck by lightning, when he said, "our house is on fire" I said, "what did you DO?". You can't blame me.

Anyways... I had a brainstorm this morning about the remaining Christmas gifts left to buy and I was able to finish my shopping from my cozy spot by the fire. I got something really fun and unique that cost a fraction of what it looks like it cost. Yay me! I'm not cheap, I'm poor. There's nobody in my life who doesn't have everything they need or want, with the exception of Austin who only asked for one thing (a hookah because OF COURSE I want to help Austin play with fire). In my mind gifts come in one of two categories - either you make someone's wish come true  - like a Lexus with a bow on it - or you give them something meaningful and creative. I'm in no position to be granting wishes so meaningful and creative it is!

I hate to tease a great, affordable gift idea and not share it with you but 99.9% of the people who are getting this particular gift read my blog at least occasionally and I don't want to spoil it for them. So if you're looking for a gift idea and need to know now, instead of after Christmas when I will be able to tell you... then email me and I'll share. I only mention it because it took up a big chunk of my day and I have never been finished with my Christmas shopping before Thanksgiving! It makes me feel like December is a great big month of possibility instead of facing it with a "how will I ever manage?" panic that is my usual holiday state of mind.

That means I might actually do something the with Christmas cards that have been sitting on my kitchen counter for three weeks. On top of those cards is a little note with my friend Whitney's address... the address I jotted down in February when I was ready to mail her baby (who was then in utero) a baby gift. Baby girl is nine months old, almost, and I am a big ole procrastinator. So you see, finishing Christmas shopping early is a big, hairy deal for me!

The potato soup I made this morning was super easy and so good. I read on another blog :waves to Sonya: about her making potato soup and I thought, "I can do that!" and so I did. I just chopped an onion and two celery stalks... sauteed them in a stick of butter... once they were translucent I added carrots and potatoes and a box of chicken broth. I added about two cups of water to make sure that was all covered up and just let it boil away until the potatoes were tender. Then (this is the only tricky part) I took out a ladle full of broth and mixed in some flour... returned that sludge to the pot so that the broth would thicken... added some half and half and let it all warm up and... all done! I seasoned with a little garlic powder and rosemary and Austin said he would have liked to have Parmesan cheese with it but I thought it was perfect. I had bought a baguette of french bread yesterday and it was nice and crunchy/chewy today, perfect for dipping up broth. I had soup for lunch and dinner and there's still a lot of it leftover.

There's also meatloaf and mashed potatoes leftover from last night and sloppy joes leftover from last Thursday. And a turkey breast waiting to be cooked. We're not going hungry by any means. And... this sounds like a really bad "fat girl" habit but I have a box of Little Debbie's in my nightstand. The thing is... I get a sweet craving every night about an hour after I take my meds and I don't want to have to climb the stairs to get a snack. Also. This way I can sorta keep Austin out of them. Although lately his addiction is clementines. We keep a box in the future kitchen area of my Whine Cellar and he can snack on them whenever. Austin's munchies have always been whatever is easiest to grab so if I put out something nutritious, that's what he eats. It's not that easy for me. If I want something sweet I will eat my way through everything in the house until I satisfy that sweet tooth. I LIKE hummus and carrots, I LOVE pomegranates and I try to keep both on hand for me to snack on but at night... Debbie's my home-girl.

Anyhoo... so that was Tuesday. Hope your week is going well. If you're traveling, be safe. I'm happy to be staying put by the fire with my kitties! Love and hugs y'all!

Monday, November 25, 2013

My Weekend Alone

Little Kitty and Eddie check out the Christmas cactus
This weekend was super quiet with my mom and the doggies still on the Southside of town and Austin spending the weekend with Fat Pat and his baby mama. I struggled with miserable headaches that I was calling migraines but truly, were probably just sinus headaches because now I'm snotty and my ears hurt. On Sunday I was in the kitchen forcing myself to choke down some soup (because I realized that eating two Little Debbie cakes was not making for a nutritious diet for me today) and I realized that it may be a long time before I'm THIS alone again.

Next weekend my parents are moving out of the house they've lived in for 37 years and will be full time residents of White County. This house is big - three times the size of the house they're moving from - but for me, after spending so much of the past few years with just myself and Austin, it's an adjustment to live with other people. But it's not a good thing to be alone.

This weekend has reminded me how hard it is to feel really bad and not have anyone around to help. My head hurt so bad on Saturday that I couldn't think straight, even after throwing everything in the medicine chest at it. The only thing that helps me when I have bad headaches is ibuprofen liquigels. I don't know why. I've been on the most expensive headache meds known to man and they don't do the trick like a good advil will. But I was out of advil. And I was alone. I had to just suffer through it. I even carried the phone down to the Whine Cellar with me because I was afraid I was going to need to dial 9-1-1 with some kind of stroke or something. It hurt that bad. Fortunately quiet house also equals great sleep and I fell asleep much earlier than usual and slept much more deeply than usual and woke up still feeling icky but the headache was gone.

Rather than allow myself time to talk myself out of it... I got a shower, did the most basic glam routine and ran to the store to buy advil. Not going to get caught again with a nasty headache and no way to treat it! I'm relieved that those days of suffering alone are over, at least for the near future. I am a fiercely independent person and I can promise you that my dream home was never "my parents' basement" but life is what it is. If I'm going to be single, mostly empty nested and live with pain, I'm glad to not have to face more nights like Saturday. It is more than just an inconvenience to be alone and need something that you can't do for yourself.

As I said, I've self diagnosed my headaches from last week as sinus related because around the same time that the headache went away, the snot started. And the drip down my throat which makes me feel like I'm choking when I lay down. I slept for three hours yesterday afternoon and I never nap during the day. I slept long enough that the kitties were doing a welfare check, trying to pry my eyes open. I went to bed early last night and although I didn't sleep as well as Saturday night, I woke up feeling better than I have in days.

They're predicting wet and icy weather for us over the next two days and since I avoid crowds at all costs, I figured I should make a big grocery run before the bread and milk crowd/holiday cooking crowd hit the store. I have been so sketched out about budgeting and slightly uncomfortable that Austin gave away some of our food money last weekend... but then I realized I still had half of my food stamps from last month. I guess I just didn't shop as much as I thought I had. It all works out. I don't know why it still surprises me when it does. So our pantry is packed and we should survive what I believe will just be a cold rain for the next two days.

Austin's girlfriend Charity and her baby girl Mya came over this morning. Mya is three months old. She was born right before Austin and Charity started dating. There's a sad story about her father but it's not my story to tell so I won't. Charity's a good mom and Austin is doing a good job of being supportive of her. Her mother invited Austin over for Thanksgiving which is a sort of big deal - her parents weren't thrilled with her dating anyone while Mya is so young, afraid that it would be a distraction for her. I think the fact that Austin isn't terribly clingy has helped. He's not really demanding of her time because he's perfectly content to do his own thing a lot of the time. He and I are similar in that respect. Charity has a strong personality and is highly motivated. I think she's good for Austin... even if Mya can't quite figure out who he is.
Love this picture of her watching him on his phone. She always gives him this curious look. She looks so tiny there on the couch, doesn't she? I don't know how long these crazy kids will stay together. Like I said, they dated before and it didn't work out. My boys make great boyfriends because they were raised by a girl who surrounded herself with lots of colorful characters. My kids were getting mani-pedis before they could drive. They went shopping with me for the theatre. They tagged along to everything I did... and vice versa. I always raised my boys to be good caretakers of their little cousins. To this day Sarabeth and Jamie adore spending time with Austin. He's good with little kids because he's really just a big kid. 

I've got a couple of genealogy posts that I'm working on... and I'll be sure to post lots of pictures of wintry weather, should we get any. Happy Thanksgiving week, y'all! Love and hugs!

Friday, November 22, 2013

JFK, My Kid and My Kitty

Mom's Thanksgivukkah Cactus
Let me start by saying that I have this pair of fleece lined leggings. They are right up there with "sliced bread" in the best thing ever category. I got them from I would love to have a pair in every color but budget being what it is, I'm going to just reuse the heck out of this one pair all winter. Paired with a dress that hits right above the knees and a cardigan, I'm toasty and don't look like Britney before the conservator ship. As much.

It's dreary and cool here. I'm still riding the heating pad (but being very careful not to burn myself this time). I've been battling a migraine since Wednesday and it's making me even less sociable than usual (which is why there was no blog entry yesterday.)

Yesterday the kiddo and I went to Walmart to buy food for him. Most of my grocery trips are for stuff that I like or that I know my mom will eat and I don't worry so much about Austin because honestly, the kid could live on ramen noodles and scrambled eggs. So once a month we go buy a few cases of ramen noodles.

He also, lately, is really big on drinking water. My kids have always been such coke-aholics that I probably spent a full college tuition on cokes while they were living with me. For Austin, lately, it's been water. I repeat that because it's shocking. The only downfall about him and water is that if he drinks bottled water he accumulates a landfill size load of empties. If he drinks tap water, every glass in the house disappears. For the most part, over the past year, we've been keeping him stocked with styrofoam cups to preserve our glasses. The problem with styrofoam is that he eats it. I'm not kidding. It's like a nervous habit. He chews the sides of his cups. Which means he goes through cups faster than I can buy them and they're cheap at Dollar General but it still adds up. SOOOO... yesterday he asked for a big travel mug for water and I did backflips in the Walmart aisle trying to find one that he really, really loved. I did - for $2.57 - so I bought one for myself as well. Since the only source of water downstairs is the bathroom, I make several trips up and down the stairs for refreshments. A big ole jug eliminates a lot of painful stair climbing. It's amazing how something so cheap can change your life! We filled our cups up and headed downstairs and he said, "we should have gotten one for Mawmaw!". Awwww.

Sometimes Austin's compassion amazes me. He doesn't always have appropriate responses for emotional situations so when he does, it is especially heart warming. When I told him that Tommy the Cat had died his first response was, "How is Cody?"  It was a Helen Keller "water" moment. To recognize that his brother would be hurt because of the loss of an animal... very sweet. He has also talked about making a marker for Lily the dog for when she inevitably passes. He has always had a real love for animals, even though he sometimes plays a little too rough for my taste. Little Kitty is fascinated with him. Kitty will sometimes run away from Austin and other times he will circle around him waiting for him to acknowledge Kitty. If Austin ignores him, Little Kitty will meow. This is a cat who is mostly always silent and the rare times that he meows, it's a soft, gentle, barely audible sound. He CAN meow loudly, I've heard him a few times. He just doesn't. He's far too dignified for screeching like a yard cat.

Yesterday, just out of the blue, Austin came upstairs, loaded the dishwasher, wiped down the counters and mopped the kitchen. I cast a wary eye as did Little Kitty... Have I mentioned the Little Kitty is terribly OCD? Any time something is out of place or something unusual happens he gets this look on his face. It's like he's saying, "Ssssssomething unusssssssual is happppppening here.... " Whether it's me not coming downstairs once it gets dark... or me not getting out of bed once the sun comes up... around here the "C" in OCD stands for cat.

Austin asked if he could use some of his food stamp money to buy food for a friend and his pregnant girlfriend. They've moved into their own place and his car broke down and he couldn't get to work so he got fired. He's working again but still in the hole. It's hard... because I don't want to be selfish and oh-my-goodness how touched am I that he is compassionate toward others? Of course, OUR only income right now is our food stamps and they really don't provide all we need. I told him it was ok for him to use some, just not all of his money. There's a lot more to the story... this girl gets food stamps under her mom and mom isn't giving the money or food to the daughter but for some reason the girl can't report her. It's more drama than I wanted to think about. I've always believed that giving is as much a gift and a blessing for the giver as the receiver and I want his heart to stay tender toward others. It's like the Christmas that Logan got one big thing early, before Christmas and wasn't going to have anything to open on Christmas morning so Austin asked if I would use some of the money for his Christmas to buy some things for Logan. Never mind that what I was able to spend on Austin was very, very, not much. So that's what we did. I'd love for Austin to be in school or on a career path and he makes a lot of choices that I disagree with but his heart is pure gold. Gold, I'm tellin' ya.

I like to believe that his kindness was learned by my example but I think it's just as likely that it's by the example of the people who have shown us so much kindness during Austin's lifetime. He has no memories of being in a two parent, two earner home. He has no memories of being in any financially stable situation. Even when we lived in Florida, our lives were anything but stable. Everything BUT stable. And then I moved here and struggled so much to stay afloat and we missed out on child support so often. That kid knows what it's like to try to eat for a week on $20. We've done it. And he also knows - because I always tell him - all the times that people have been generous and thoughtful toward us. It has definitely shaped his character.

I've been watching a lot of documentaries about the Kennedys this week. Due to the 50th anniversary of the assassination there is a ton of stuff out there. Oddly, yesterday I was watching a Frontline piece on Lee Harvey Oswald. Austin was upstairs making ramen noodles and he listened in for a few minutes. He said, "who was this guy?" He had no idea. I was born five years after the Kennedy assassination but it feels like I've always known the story. We had a series of books, "Meet the President" and I probably read that at 6 or 7. My love of history started early as did my love of reading.

I've been reading a blog about King Edward II this week. He is my 21st Great-Grandfather through the Gant line. I think I remember that we're also related through someone in my mom's line. I've been working for hours today trying to get those branches straight. It is believed that Edward was bisexual and had very involved relationships with two men. (Maybe those branches aren't so straight AFTER ALL...) Things like this make history more interesting to me. It makes my ancestors more than just names on a page.

Anyways... that's life for today. Sloppy joes for lunch. A clean kitchen. A good documentary or two on tv. Life goes on. Hope you guys have a happy weekend! Love and hugs!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Some Things About Today

I hear Chris Brown got kicked out of Anger Management Rehab for throwing a rock through his mom's car window. There's a punchline there but it's so obvious that I don't want to insult your intelligence.

Kendall Jenner just turned 18 this month and is already posting inappropriate photos of herself. Her dad, Olympic Athlete Bruce Jenner, thinks it's fine. He's proud of her. The downfall of our society, y'all. Lindsay Lohan. Britney Spears. Amanda Bynes. Miley Virus Cyrus. Take a beautiful, talented young woman and make her think her value is in her sex appeal and not in her acting ability or singing voice. She will spend the rest of her life trying to hold on to her youth and never discover her true value.

Kate Middleton's dress blew up today. The difference between her and our lovely American starlets is that she was wearing undergarments.

Have I become one of those bitter old people who doesn't have anything positive to say and has to have a negative comment about everything? No. I promise. I'll admit that becoming a curmudgeon is a tempting proposition but I'm not there yet. I just can't help but observe.

"It's Mother's Day, not Martyr's Day." - Modern Family
Every day is Martyr's Day. - Heather

Speaking of Martyr's Day - my kid is having a lazy spell this week which has been poorly timed as I am still recovering from the needless hell I put my body through on Monday. He fixed macaroni and cheese last night so the left side of the sink is stopped up with abandoned noodles. I left it for him because he will be 20 in March. Seriously. (ETA - he got mad at me for getting mad about it because he was GOING to wash the dishes later. I'm like "dude... the sink is unusable because it's clogged up on both sides!" Not that I was going to cook. I had cereal for dinner. Anyways. What was I saying about Martyr's Day?)

My head hurts so bad today. Stress or weather or sinuses, who can say? I just know it hurts. The gut pain is back today too, with a vengeance. Yeah. I'm capable of a 40 hour work week. Whatevs.

A neighbor stopped by today to ask if we had seen his boat. It was a little john boat like my mom's that was tied up to his dock. He is one of the "weekenders" who just come up here occasionally. He said he had been gone for a few months so he didn't know when it would have been taken. The county sheriff is his next door neighbor so instead of filing a police report, he just stopped by to see him. I haven't noticed anybody driving out of the neighborhood with a boat but I would imagine if it was stolen it would have been done at night. I guess. I don't know. Who steals a boat?

I've had a couple of people give me names for attorneys to use for my disability case. I just couldn't start making those calls today. This process has been so exhausting. I have spent so many hours filling out forms, having conference calls with the old attorney and so forth. I almost wonder if it's better for me to wait until after I talk to my doctor so I know exactly how he interprets the evaluation from Monday. Thank you all for your encouragement. It means a lot.

And this morning I got the news that my Cody lost his sweet kitty, Tommy, that he's had for about 12 years. The Boy and The Cat have been through so much together. Cody rescued him when he was a kitten. He nursed him back to health after he had an accident (we think he was either hit by a car or attacked by an animal). Poor Tommy was in such bad shape that the vet had a picture of him up on his bulletin board showing how miraculous his healing was. When I moved in with he who won't be named, he refused to let Tommy come. *sidenote, girls, if your man won't accept your cat or your kid's cat, he's not the man for you.*  When Cody would go and visit Tommy at my parents' house, Tommy would lay across Cody's bag so that Cody couldn't pack to go home. Purple Michael used to call him, "Puss Puss" back years ago and even the last time I saw him (a few months ago) when I called him that, Puss Puss perked right up. My boys all loved that cat - more than any pet they've had. My daughter-in-law is allergic to cats but she suffered through it so Cody wouldn't have to be separated from Tommy again. Tommy had been in declining health and they knew it wouldn't be long but it's still sad. I put together some pictures of him in a Facebook album. Here are a few of my favorites:

He will be missed. 

RIP Thomas "Tommy" Sauls

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

The Results Are In...

Well. The results of the functional capacity evaluation are in and they are not going to strengthen my case or help me to find a new lawyer. The summary on the first page says, "Based on this evaluation, the client is capable of sustaining the Light level of work for an 8 hour day/40 hour week."

Since I left from the test yesterday I haven't been able to so much as blink without pain.
When I stopped working in May I wasn't able to even work two hours without significant pain - to the extent that it affected my concentration.
In the past year you could count on one hand the number of times I've been able to go out to eat because sitting causes so much pain.

But hey... good news... I got an A for effort. It says, "Client participated fully in all tasks. No self-limiting behavior noted." It also says, "there is weak evidence of low effort and inconsistent behavior." In other words, I wasn't faking it. And it says, "pain statements were consistent with observed movement patterns."

Here's where it doesn't make sense for me. It indicates that my work should be limited as following:
sitting - occasionally
standing - occasionally
kneeling - never
walking - occasionally
climbing stairs - never
Ok, if I'm not sitting, standing, walking or kneeling, what exactly am I supposed to do?

My major areas of dysfunction are dynamic strength and position tolerance. Again... in an 8 hour day how do you avoid staying in the same position? And how do you have light duty without sitting except for occasionally?

"Patient gave good effort throughout the test. Validity of effort was good with decreased strength, position tolerance and endurance all effected."

but it also says, "No major changes in ROM*/strength testing from pre to post test." Those conflicting statements are in the same section.
It also says I was limping when I left the test. After two hours. But I would be capable of an 8 hour work day.

So... obviously, this makes it even less likely for my case to be successful. I am going to begin the process of searching for a new attorney because I can't see how this would encourage my previous attorney to assume my case again. Since Social Security didn't request this exam, this doesn't HAVE to be submitted in my case but can you imagine how sick I am about the cost of this evaluation knowing that it hurts, instead of helping my case? Seriously. Makes me want to throw up.

I see my pain doctor again in December. Knowing that it will be several months at least before my case goes before a judge gives me time to discuss this with both my general practitioner and the pain doctor to see what they recommend.

I deleted my "woe is me, I'm so broke" post from yesterday because I couldn't stand re-reading that pity party. This is all super discouraging and frustrating - living with so much pain on a daily basis and having virtually no written medical validation just really sucks. I get lots of prescriptions for pain-killers and they happily take my money every month... I'm disabled enough to need Princess Parking and my doctor is super sympathetic while I'm there in the office... but my medical records are doing nothing to back me up on this.

It's a hard row to hoe but this ain't my first garden. I've done far more with far less and lived to tell about it. I'm a smart girl and I'll figure this out. I'm going to do the things I can do - try to find a new attorney, talk to the doctors, and just keep waking up every morning. In the words of the fabulous Shelby Eatenton Latcherie from Steel Magnolias, "there are still good times to be had".

I'm going to concentrate on being able to be with the fam over Thanksgiving...
look forward to Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and all the fun Broadway shows on in the parade (and now I can use DVR so I don't have to worry about missing it!)...
we're going to get mama and daddy moved up here to the mountain house and settled in...
we'll be decorating for Christmas soon. Heck, I may go ahead and decorate the Whine Cellar this week. It will be a great distraction.
I'm leveling up like a mad-woman on Farmville2.
I've added another couple hundred ancestors this week on my family tree.
I just got my cousin's wedding invitation in the mail today... we're going to the chapel, y'all!
My kid is finally going to get to see the mountain house when he and the lovely Sara come down for Christmas.
My tv will be here soon and we'll have tv in the Whine Cellar (and maybe even satellite tv? Please Pop?)
I've got this fabulous new budget busting laptop.
Austin's got a date tonight with the lovely Miss Charity.
I've got three sweet kitty cats who depend on me.
We're going to have snow this Winter, I just know it!
I'm making a lemon poppy seed pound cake this week.
My daughter-in-law is graduating from college next month.

And... I'm sure if I tried really hard I could think of another hundred "good times to be had" ahead. I'm major bummed but I'll be ok. I'm broke but I'm not broken. I'm weary but there is still breath in my body. I'm confident that by the time I meet His Honor, Mr. Disability Judge, I'll be able to convince him that I'm deserving of disability pay. And in the meantime, I'm just going to do everything I can to love life.

Love and hugs, y'all.

Monday, November 18, 2013

What You Should Know About A Functional Capacity Evaluation

Yesterday I googled, "functional capacity evaluation" and entertained myself with a couple dozen horror stories about this process and the suffering it caused. There needs to be a term for the harm we cause ourselves by opening that Pandora's Box that Google has become. Sometimes it's better not to know. Because for me... it made for a lot of anxiety that I didn't need.

So. I'm going to share my experience for those who love me and want to know how it went... and for those who found me by Google and want to know what they can expect.

I had read that they start evaluating you from the moment you get out of your car. In this moment, that seems utterly ridiculous because how would they know that the chubby girl struggling to drag herself out of that random non-color Nissan is the girl that is here for the FCE? Of course they wouldn't know. And of course, I didn't think about that this morning. I acted like Alec Baldwin facing the paparazzi - defensive and avoiding eye contact with anyone and everyone who might be the FCE Spy - and promptly went in the wrong door and had to walk around the building. Stellar.

Once I found the right entrance and the front desk, the ladies who were working seemed completely discombobulated and it took for-blooming-ever for them to find the right paperwork and find the therapist who was to perform the exam. Because I had read that they evaluate your response while signing in and filling out paperwork, I was careful to mind my P's and Q's, including refusing to sign a paper acknowledging that I had been given a list of preparations for the exam because I hadn't. In fact, if I had not spent time on Google yesterday, I wouldn't have even thought to wear comfortable clothes and tennis shoes. They assured me I'd get complete instructions and so I signed. Ultimately, I didn't get anything but the guy who did the test was so very thorough about what we would do and how he would evaluate me that I feel like I was better informed than I would have been by reading. So there's that.

The first thing he did was have me put on a heart monitor. It was the exercise kind (I think - it definitely wasn't the traditional medical outfit) and I warned him that I have tachycardia and that my heart rate will be higher than average. I demonstrated this by having a flying 126 beats per minute reading while sitting calmly in a chair. Then he took my blood pressure which was borderline high but not really high for me. They are not supposed to start the test unless you have a heart rate of below 100 so we waited until I got a little more zen before we started.

The next step was having me sit in a chair, lift one leg and push against his hand. I could do it with the left leg but couldn't lift the right leg at all. I have more weakness in the left leg normally but it really seemed like I couldn't stabilize myself with my left leg and that was why I couldn't lift the right. I don't know.

Oh, I didn't mention... before we started, he encouraged me to attempt everything. He told me that he would stop me if my heart rate got too high or if he felt like my pain level was too high. He told me that we would evaluate my pain level and "perceived exertion" along with my heart rate during every task. But he also told me that if I got to a point that I was uncomfortable, we could stop.

Next he had me stand facing a bookshelf. I was to squat down, pick up a crate and put it on the shelf. After I did this he checked my heart rate, pain level and perceived exertion. Then he added some weight to the crate and had me do it again. It was a struggle. Then he added a little more weight and had me do it one last time. I had a really hard time lifting the crate - to the extent that my muscles were shaking - so he had me stop at that weight.

After that I had to do 25 squats. I've got pretty muscular legs and I was able to do this about 20 times before it became uncomfortable. He told me to stop. This really helped boost my confidence that he was not going to push me too far.

Then we went to the stairway at the end of the building. The task was for me to go up and then down a flight of stairs eight times. During this he was asking me questions that were conversational - "do you have any kids?" that kind of thing. I suspect this was so that he could determine if I was able to talk while I was doing the stairs. I made it six times before my heart rate was too high and he made me stop.

Typically this test will include things like crawling and going up and down a ladder. He said he could tell that I wouldn't be able to crawl without injuring myself and that I had no business on a ladder. That made me feel like he was gaining perspective about my restrictions.

Next I had to carry a crate with increasing weight for about 25 feet. Again he checked the stats.

Then he had me walk 500 feet and describe my pain at certain intervals. Initially I had trouble with my left leg, this is common but after awhile I had much worse pain in my right hip. I've never had that before. I think what has happened is that I favor the left leg so much that eventually it begins to hurt the right side. Since I normally stop (if possible) when the left leg starts giving me trouble, I've never gotten to the point where the right side hurts that bad.

After each station he would offer me water and even refilled my cup several times. There was pleasant conversation about random things like tipping - why do we tip waitresses at sit down restaurants but not at fast food restaurants - football, things like that.

Next he had me stand for five minutes while working with these pegs. The idea behind the pegs is that with your mind and hands occupied, you are less aware of any discomfort than you would be if you were just standing. I got creative and made a rainbow out of the pegs in the first five minutes and then made a football game complete with cheerleaders, refs and spectators in the second five minutes. Then I had to kneel for a certain amount of time while playing with the pegs - this was much more difficult. And finally, he had me sit and lean forward to work with the pegs.

Then he gave me a basketball and I had to turn my torso to the left and then the right holding the basketball 25 times. By this point I was having pretty bad muscle spasms in my back and told him quite candidly that this activity was much more painful than it would normally be because of all the things I had already done. He said that was the point, they want to evaluate the cumulative effect of the activities.

Then he had me hold this instrument in my hands and try to squeeze it. After each squeeze he would adjust it
to make it harder or further apart. Then I had to squeeze it repetitively and transfer it back and forth between hands.

Then... back to the crate and the squats and the stairs to compare my ability at the end of the evaluation. While I was on the stairs he asked where I lived in Cleveland and I responded with, "have you ever heard of the nudist resort in Cleveland." Yes. He had actually gone out there before as a Home Health provider. He said, "you know... they aren't really the kind of people you'd want to see naked." True story. And although I was out of breath, I had a good laugh over it. With all three of the tasks at the end he stopped me before completing all the reps.

It was tiring, painful and at times difficult BUT it was nowhere near the torture chamber that I had prepared myself to expect. I had a hard time walking to the car afterwards and the drive home was uncomfortable but I've driven in worse conditions. I came home and immediately doped up and it feels like I was hit by a truck but it's not as bad as I expected. (what did I expect? To feel like I was hit by a tank, maybe?)

I sometimes (yesterday) get this attitude about being the last kid picked for kickball. I was convinced that it didn't matter if I went for this test because nothing ever goes my way and there was no way that anyone was going to understand or agree with me about what a struggle life has become. I had prepared myself to get blown out of the water and to come away from this process with even less hope of having my case approved. I can't say for certain until I have the report in my hands but honestly, I felt like he "got it". I truly felt like he got it more than anyone has "gotten it" so far in the past three years. And what's more important, after our conversation during and after the test, I feel like he understands better than anyone (except maybe my lawyer) how important it is to document and substantiate my restrictions. I'm supposed to have the results within 48 hours. I'll let you guys know when I know.

And then I have to decide if I want to go back to the attorney that dropped me or if I want to find a new one. On one hand I'm sorta pissed that they dropped me BUT, as I said before, I'd much rather have an honest review that lets me know where my case is weak now, rather than find out after I go before a judge and end up on the losing end because I wasn't prepared. So I'm prayerfully considering if I want this lawyer back if they want ME back.

So that's about it. I survived. Happy Monday.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


It has been a cool and gloomy day and my sinuses are driving me nuts. I woke up sorta early - around 7am - and decided I wanted to recreate my old "early morning grocery shopping" routine. I felt icky. I didn't want to go but we've really been stretching the pantry this week and it was time to pick up a few things. And then of course, I spent too much and am just so stressed out by the draining of the bank account that I didn't even get my post-shopping mood boost. Yay. We have food.

I unpacked the groceries, had a bite to eat and then went back to sleep. A nice nap on the couch didn't cure all that ailed me but I felt less droopy and out of it when I woke up.

I also had a bit of a EUREKA moment today. The new computer I bought to replace the one with the broken power port is the exact same computer. What if... I charged the battery on the new computer and then switched that battery out with the old computer? I would then have... two functioning laptops! I only regret that I didn't have this flash of brilliance before I bought the new computer because my mom has the same computer as well. She has a virus on hers but I think charging the battery would have been ok. At any rate... Austin's girlfriend has a friend who does beta testing on video games and they're working at getting Austin employed in such a fashion. Honestly, I just want him to be motivated toward some line of work. His girl is a great source of inspiration and she's pushing him toward schooling and employment so it will be a good thing to have an extra laptop available to him should it be necessary for these pursuits.

Other than my brief shopping trip, all I've done today is watch football and work on my family tree. I'm leaning toward an early bedtime tonight even though Florida plays at 7pm. Florida has been SO bad this year that I can hardly stand to watch. I even had a fleeting thought of "thank God Tim isn't here to see this" (Tim is my former brother-in-law who passed away a little while back) because he was such a huge Florida fan. In a way, I'm happy for my kids who are huge Florida State fans because they are having the kind of season that fans live for - and I know this because my boys have suffered through some really rotten seasons. Football is a bit of a guilty pleasure for me now, though, because so many players have begun having problems later in life. It's a much more dangerous sport than I had realized. My kids all quit playing by the time they were in middle school and honestly, Cody had way worse injuries in baseball than he did football., Yet, on the collegiate and pro levels there are so many people whose lives are permanently impacted from the violence of the sport and it makes me feel a little bit guilty to watch it. That... and I hate to lose.

In other news... my mom's Christmas cactus is an over-achiever... blooming already.

We had a delivery of wood the other day so our happy little hearth is ready for a fire. I'm enjoying the pound cake I made yesterday and already planning my next (lemon poppyseed). Little Kitty has been glued to me all day. He didn't like the fact that I left this morning.

And that's about it. Hope your weekend is going well. Love and hugs, y'all.

Friday, November 15, 2013


Wednesday night I started having this really bad muscle pain in my right shoulder and chest. It's definitely muscular so I didn't worry about it being anything dire. Just pain.

Yesterday morning I tried to get out of bed to satisfy a demanding kitty cat who thinks I'm supposed to be out of bed when the sun is up and in bed the minute it gets dark. For whatever reason, my body was out of the bed before my feet were solidly under me and I hit the ground hard. Gravity is not my friend.

As a result I've been curled up with the demon heating pad since yesterday morning and every time I've tried to stand up, it's been with a lot of groaning and moaning and let me just tell you... the cats do NOT care. They just look at me and roll their eyes. I can't really use my core muscles to sit up because it hurts my back and aggravates the hernia (or whatever that gut pain is) so I rely largely on my right hand to push up into a standing position and it is no bueno. Makes me not want to move.

Austin has had several friends over this week. I got tired of that Basement Clown Posse during the Summer but honestly, it's healthy for him to have friends and want to hang out with friends and I like that his friends like to be here. Most of his buddies have been sort of sidetracked by work and girlfriends and the kind of things that slowly evolve to be our priorities as we grow older and he's missed his guys. So it's been good having them here. Austin's been good about taking care of his chores even when he has company so I have no complaints...

Other than the new pain that came from hitting the ground hard yesterday morning.

I swear, it feels like the same pain I've had in my lower back now has an additional location in my upper back. I suppose it is possible for the same kind of things that impact the lower part could impact the upper part. The worst part is that I know that the real discomfort comes a day or two past impact.

Without sounding crazy (although let's be honest, that ship sailed within my first year of blogging) I can see why God would allow me to not be at my best for next week's evaluation and I'm glad. I don't want to suffer but I also don't want to go in on the best day I've had in months and give a false impression of my abilities.
That's my rationalization anyways... but the bottom line is that I'm so aggravated with my clumsy self.

Despite all of that... this morning I finally made my first pound cake. I had achieved maximum pain relief and wanted something sweet to eat. We're out of sweets and I won't drive while impaired so I thought... "pound cake sounds good". I used a pretty basic recipe and swapped out milk for eggnog, added freshly grated nutmeg and some rum flavoring and although it's a tad bit underdone in one spot, it is the BEST cake I've ever had. Turns out I CAN bake, after all!

I finished watching all the episodes of Mad Men that are on Netflix. I tried to get my hands on Season Six but I can't without paying for it so that will have to wait. It will be on Netflix next April.

To satisfy my need for episodic tv, I started watching Parenthood. I had watched it when it first came on but it was on too late and is one of those shows that gets you too wound up to sleep so I quit watching it. There are three of four seasons available now so that should keep me busy for awhile.

I've also been working on my family tree again. I renew my subscription twice a year and each time, it makes me want to get my money's worth. I also started researching my Mayflower Ancestors (there are fifteen!) to do a special Thanksgiving blog entry and/or have a record of it somewhere.

It's been cool and damp today and it's almost dark outside, even though it's not yet 4 o'clock. I am really off schedule this week. I took a shower at 5pm the other day when I usually do that at 10am. I've been making bigger meals for lunch and smaller meals for dinner. Austin has been waking up before noon - which is odd - and going to sleep before me. We truly have no concept of time here other than the tv schedule and the cats' demands.

So that's what's going on here. Hope you guys have a good weekend! Love and hugs!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Boo Is 27!

me and Ryan beside the Nantahala River, 1988
Every year on my son Ryan's birthday I have to do "year math" to make sure I'm right about his age. So... 2013-1986= 27, right? Then I guess this year he will be 27. Unbelievable.

I used to have a goal of my kids getting out of their teens without being parents and without being arrested. It looks like we've made it. Austin will be 20 in March. He's come close to being arrested but I don't think there are any unknown grandchildren out there.

As most of you know, Ryan lives in Pennsylvania and works for a company that installs and repairs organs. Musical organs. You always have to make that distinction. He got into that line of work courtesy of our friend, Charlie, who used to be roommates with Josh and Ethan who were two of my fabulous gay friends.

Josh and Ethan were great with Austin - Josh even kept him on a school holiday once and Austin still talks about it. By the way, in my "there are no degrees of separation" world, Josh's mother cuts my mom's hair. But anyways... I digress.

Ryan and Cody
Charlie needed someone to help him move organs (again, still musical) and Ryan was sixteen and homeschooling/unschooling (and eventually got his GED) so Ryan started going on trips with Charlie. Ryan learned to drive in Dallas during rush hour driving a truck pulling a trailer. I never worried about his driving. I figure he got all the kinks worked out with Charlie. He was in New Orleans with Charlie, delivering an organ or picking up an organ or something, two days before Katrina hit. And eventually, when Charlie went out of business, he took a job in PA doing the same thing and took Ryan with him and Ryan's been there ever since. Ryan and Charlie are roommates- have been the entire time he's lived in PA. Charlie is about my age and honestly, I feel like he's been more of a co-parent with my kids than their biological parent.

Having been a parent at a very young age, God was good enough to give us a child who was an old soul and needed less parenting than say, Austin, who still to this day needs supervision. Ryan was the child who never got into things he wasn't supposed to. We never had to put locks on cabinets to keep him out of poisons - he just didn't mess with things.

Being young, we listened to popular music with Ryan. I once called into the radio station and asked them to play the song, "Patience" because Ryan thought they were saying, "everybody needs a little spaceship" and it was so durn cute that we wanted to hear him say it again. He also once asked, after hearing the song, "Don't You Want Me Baby?" why don't they want their baby?

He was (and is) SO smart. When he was just 2 I taught him "what the angels said to the shepherds" - you know, the passage about "Fear not for behold I bring you good tidings of great joy..." He could do the whole passage. At two.

Cody and Ryan - 2004
When he was almost six and in kindergarten, President George Bush (the elder) came and spoke in our subdivision during his failed re-election bid. There was a part of the subdivision that was under construction and he gave some speech about housing starts or ... who knows, I don't remember. Local political reporter Bill Nigut wanted to do a "cute kid" angle to their coverage and asked if they could interview Ryan. I shrugged... "sure... go ahead." Bill asks, "if you were old enough to vote in this election, who would you vote for?" and Ryan answered, "President Bush because Bill Clinton thinks it's ok to kill unborn babies.". Stop tape. "We can't use THAT!" Bill says. Oh, well. We let our kid listen to the radio in the car with us. Even Rush Limbaugh.

When Ryan was little he had a rat tail. I lost track of him one night at Stone Mountain before the Laser Show and found him sitting in the lap of a Hooter's girl who was braiding his long rat tail. His proud father was hovering nearby, of course.

He was, for the most part, a good-natured kid but I do remember one time when he was toddler that he was throwing a tantrum. I was washing dishes and he was standing behind me whining and carrying on so I very calmly filled a glass with lukewarm water and dumped it on his head. He survived.

Another time we were at the riverfront in Savannah and he started throwing a tantrum and refused to move so we walked away and left him. We didn't go far but just barely out of his sight and he straightened up right away. Like I said, God gave us a good one to practice on.

Ryan was a sickly baby and toddler. He got sick at six weeks old and it seemed like he stayed sick for most of his childhood with allergies and asthma. His immune system was shot and after a few rounds of pneumonia they suggested that he get IV gammaglobulin treatments. This meant going in once a month and sitting for three hours in a little room while he was hooked up to an IV. He was such a pro at it that he would point out the vein they needed to use. He would say, "this is a good one - that vein looks good but it has a valve in it so it doesn't work." He was three.

Ryan, Austin, me, Cody - Austin's graduation 2012
He had several surgeries. His first was tubes in his ears when he was 7 months old. Since he was just a baby they allowed us to walk him from pre-op to just outside the operating room. I handed him to the nurse and he said, "bye-bye mama". Still makes me tear up thinking about it. He had tubes a couple of times. He also had sinus surgery more than once. He ended up having a hole in his eardrum that had to be patched when he was in middle school. I can't tell you how many nights I sat up with him, just making sure he was breathing. And now he smokes. So much for protecting those lungs.

Ryan has been dating Sara for several years. She's adorable - looks just like Hayden Panittierre. She's come to love sausage balls - our family favorite Christmas food - which tells me that she's a keeper. It's hard to imagine one day having grandchildren that far away but I'd rather him have a good job and a good life far away than be nearby and miserable. It will all work out.

Anyways... I promised some stories of my life as a young mother and those are just a few of my favorite Ryan stories. By the way... when we brought him home from the hospital, I couldn't get used to calling him by his name. I called him "the baby" or "the booger baby" which got amended to "boo boo". Someone teased me saying that they knew an old man who was called BooBoo and if we weren't careful, that would happen to him. Well, it has. I still call him "Boo" and a lot of family members do too.

Ryan and Sara (in a facebook photo I snagged) 
So, Happy Birthday, Boo! I wish I could be there to bake you a cake and take you out to dinner and all that happy stuff but this year you'll have to settle for a blog tribute instead. If I had written the script of your life myself, I couldn't have done it better. I love you, Boo!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Everybody is doing these "thankful" facebook status updates and I love 'em, I promise I do. It just feels like it's not enough to be thankful for a few weeks out of the year. Not judging - most of them that I'm reading are from people who I KNOW are living lives full of gratitude. But for ME, to whom much has been given, a few facebook updates would not even come close to honoring the blessings in my life. Yes, my life. You know, the life where I live with pain every day and am running out of the last of my life's savings and where so very much is uncertain... that life is so blessed.

My dearest Purple Michael lost his mother today. How can I not be grateful for the woman who puts up with me and is always interested in what is happening in my life? How can I tell you how much of a safety net she has always been for me? Who else in the world loves my kids as much as I do (and sometimes more)? Who else would wear herself out making sure that every living creature in the house is comfortable, right down to the fish in the little tank? I don't even have the words to comfort him because I can't imagine life without my mother.

How can I adequately express gratitude for a father who never quits, is always willing to go above and beyond, who cares so very much that everyone know and understand the love of God? How can I explain what it's like to be a 45 year old unemployed woman without a husband and yet never worry about what will become of me?  How can I explain how well I understand the concept of a Heavenly Father because I have had an Earthly father who would do anything for his kids and grandkids? I know about grace because he taught me.

How can I, in a few words on facebook, adequately explain the immeasurable pride I have in my kids? Two are such hard workers, respected in their jobs, reliable, responsible... and the other one will be one day, too. It's in his blood. All three are people who take care of the people in their lives. They are good husbands and boyfriends. They are considerate. They are always willing to do whatever their grandparents need them to do. How can I explain how precious it is that my roommate almost every day comes to me and says, "is there anything you need me to do?" and it's only occasionally because he wants something in return. How can I explain the joy that comes from watching them and their friends grow up into good people? To know that I had something to do with who they are... it's a far greater reward than you ever expect out of parenting.

How can I help you understand what it means to live here, in this house, on this lake, in this town? Can you imagine going to the pharmacy to pick up six medications and finding that the cashier is willing to check all six medications against all three discount programs you belong to so that you get the absolute best price you can possibly get? Can you imagine the feeling of community that includes conversation between two different check out lanes at the grocery store, that end in laughter, turning a somewhat dull chore into a real pleasure? I know that it's not like that everywhere. I don't know what I did to deserve this town but I don't take it for granted. You can always tell if someone is a tourist because they don't smile at you when you walk past them in a store. Home folks always smile at each other because you know that if you don't know them you most certainly know somebody they know. There is never more than a degree and a half of separation here and it makes me feel so safe.

And the things that might not matter so much to you that mean the world to me... being able to have the luxury of and being able to find out so much about the people who came before me. To know both by records and by family oral history that I come from such a great legacy, not always financially. The strength that comes from knowing that my ancestors were people who followed their convictions, people who loved their neighbor, people of faith and strong character... those strong roots make me feel stronger than I would otherwise be.

I'm so thankful for three little kitty cats at the end of my bed. There are plenty of comfy places all over this house for them to nest but they want to be here with me. I'm thankful that I make them feel safe and loved.

I'm thankful for Mondays with my nieces, that I get to hear their stories and help with their homework and watch their tv shows. I'm thankful that I'm not a stranger to them and that they still enjoy spending time with me. I'm thankful that I had good aunts and uncles who were present in my life and showed me how to be a good family member. I'm thankful for my dozens of cousins, the people who share my DNA or at least share an ancestor or two. I feel like I'll never really be alone on this earth as long as I have my cousins. I'm thankful that I can always pick right back up where we left off. I'm thankful that there are no obligations but lots of invitations.

I'm thankful for the life of my grandmother and her sister, my Steel Magnolias. At Grandma's birthday party, her sister, Aunt Bette, asked me how I was and looked me in the eye and said, "I worry so much about you" and it made me feel so loved! Nobody speaks more genuinely than she does. She has this huge family, six kids, I don't know how many grandkids and a great-grandkid born every couple of months but she has time to reach across to extended family and truly care what's happening. Maybe other families are like that but it feels so unique and unheard of today. And I know, that here again, this is the legacy of love that was passed down from her mother and although Grandma Ward has been gone for 38 years, I know that the love I feel from my Steel Magnolias is what they felt from their mother. I just pray that I will be a good steward of that legacy and that I have the conviction to pass along that sort of unconditional love.

I have an expensive test that I'm taking next week and I am blessed that someone was able to take care of that expense for me. I am blessed that I'm able to have a computer and the opportunity to connect with the world in a way that I might not otherwise. I'm so thankful for the upcoming holidays. I don't know yet if I'm going to be up to traveling to the big Thanksgiving Day meal at my Cousin Christie's. If I had to have gone today, I couldn't have done it. But there are sometimes good days and you never know. Yet I also know that my family loves and accepts me for who I am, wherever I am and that keeps me from going into the depths of depression. I know that I'm not "out of sight, out of mind". I know they all care.

I'm so grateful that I can look back over my life and see a tangle of weeds, a long bumpy road, a lot of pit stops and breakdowns along my journey. The living has not been easy but the challenges have made me strong. It turns out that I'm an expert explorer because I've never gotten so far off track that God couldn't set me back on the right path. I don't fear what lies ahead because nothing has stopped me yet. I've had adjust my attitude and expectations along the way but I always made it to the destination. I always seem to be right where God wanted me to be, right at the prescribed hour. I live my life by Divine Appointment and I intend to continue to let him have control of the calendar.

My love for the people in my life, my appreciation for the blessings that God has given me courtesy of so many wonderful, generous people in my life. I don't know how my budget works between now and the next time some funds are added to my account but I know it will. I have complete peace that there is a plan in action and when God is ready, He'll bring me into the loop. And until then, I'll just know that it's going to be ok. The muscle spasms tonight, they're going to be ok. The sinus headache and earache that have bugged me over the last 24 hours, they're going to be ok. Wherever I go and whatever I do, I trust that God will guide me there and if necessary, we'll let Jesus take the wheel.

It's November 12th. Not even halfway through the month and the blessings are overflowing to the point that I could write a long post like this every day and just barely scratch the surface. And I thank God that He puts me in a valley long enough that I can see what the mountaintop looks like. It's not all sunshine and rainbows so I get to appreciate those occasional storms with the knowledge that God is just making me stronger so that I'm ready for the next bump in the road.

So many of you have become a daily or weekly part of my life. I consider you my sisters/brothers/cousins/nieces/mothers - whichever role you think fits, feel free to assume it. I just know that in every time I've cried - or cried out - somebody has heard me every single time and every time I'm feeling low, somebody stands in the gap for me and picks me up and helps me dust back off. You do that for me. You make me feel like my life matters. I'm so thankful to have a life with purpose. Thank you for giving me purpose.

And my prayer is that as we go through this season that you are acutely aware and passionately appreciative of the unique ways that you have been blessed. I would love for you to share them with me, if you would.

Love and hugs, y'all.