Wednesday, November 20, 2019

The One In Which I'm a 2-Year-Old

“Hey kids! I’m home! How was escuela?”

“It was escuela-y. The maintenance guy fixed the hole in the wall.”

“Really? Cool! I didn’t even put in a work order for that.”

I walked over to the wall where the hole had been & reached up, touching the patch. The patch that was still wet. It left a big fingerprint in it.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was still wet?!”

“How would we know that you would touch it?” my kids inquired, dumbfounded.

I tried to smooth out the fingerprint and managed to make it worse.

“Oh my gosh! I’m just making more of a mess! This is awful!" I continued to run my finger across the surface, trying to smooth it. "Oh no! I just need something to smooth it out! Grab me a knife! No, a spatula!”

“Mom, leave it alone!” my kids implored.

“I can’t now. I have to fix it! Grab me a spatula!” I called over my shoulder. When they made no move to help me out and instead just stared at me, shaking their heads, I made my way to the kitchen & grabbed a plastic spatula.

Back at the wall, I carefully moved the spatula along the surface trying to smooth out the plaster.

“Aaaarghhh! It’s not working!” I freaked out.

“Just stop, Mom!”

“No, no, no, I’ve got it. I've got it. I can do it!” I insisted. I ran the spatula along very lightly and although there was a sizeable lumpy area, I made it a little bit better. “Oh my gosh, I’m a two year old!” I came to the realization, laughing.

“The maintenance guy is going to be mad at you when he comes back to paint it tomorrow.”

“I’ll just tell him you guys did it,” I teased.

A few minutes later, we left to get Clay’s hair cut. As we drove along, I had a sudden thought!

“Clay, call Lexi and tell her not to touch the wall when she gets home from work.”

He dials her number.

“Hey Lex. Don’t touch the wall where it’s all wet and patched."
"The guys fixed the hole that was in the wall by the entrance to my room."
"I don’t know. Ask Mom," Clay said, looking at me pointedly.

He hung up and I asked, "What did she say?"

"She said, 'Why would I even think to touch the wall?'"

"Ha ha," I said dryly.

The kids laughed. "Seriously, Mom, you were like a moth to a flame." Clay demonstrated me reaching out E.T.-style toward the wall.

"Laugh it up, kids. Laugh it up."

Friday, November 8, 2019

5 Financial Tips For Single Parents

"Losing Hand" by Damian Gadal 
When I divorced nearly 10 years ago, the first thing I freaked out about was money. I had been a stay-at-home mom to our 6 kids for 16 years. I had no job, no degree, and no skills (unless you count diapering a squirming baby with one hand, making a nutritious lunch for the toddler to throw on the floor, and explaining to the preteen that they will not, in fact, die if I don’t buy them $100 sneakers. I mean, those skills are pretty impressive, but I didn’t think they’d help land me a job.)

I read all sorts of advice for single parents, but I found most of it geared toward parents in a slightly different situation. Things like – make sure you have adequate life insurance, make sure you have savings to cover at least 3 months of expenses, and create an estate plan to protect your children. Although it was all good advice, it completely went over my head because how do you establish a savings account with 0 income? So here are a few tips for those single moms who are drowning, or maybe just barely staying afloat.

This is a lesson I still haven’t fully mastered. I think a lot of us feel that asking for help is a sign of weakness. If we were better parents, we wouldn’t need help, right? But when you’re trying to figure out how to pay for child care so you can work at a minimum wage job, ask. For. Help. Establish and enlist help from your support system. Maybe your friend can watch your little ones during the day while you watch hers in the evening so you can both work without having to sign over 70% of your paycheck to daycare.

Help includes searching out government-subsidized apartments, food stamps, and other programs designed to help people in your very situation while you strive toward finding a good job. It’s hard to ask for help, you say? I understand. It is hard. But a friend once told me, “You know how you feel when you help someone? It feels great, doesn’t it? By not letting me help you, you’re robbing me of that. You’re stealing my chance to be a blessing to you, and to feel good about helping someone in need.” Think about that the next time you’re hesitant to ask for/accept help.

I said above that one of my skills was explaining to the preteen that they will not, in fact, die if I don’t buy them $100 sneakers. That’s actually sound advice. Set a firm budget and stick to it. Shop at resale stores and garage sales. I joke that if I ever become a millionaire, I’ll still shop at Goodwill because I love finding new-with-tags, name brand clothes for a couple dollars. Score! When you sincerely ask yourself before spending money whether you truly need an item, or merely want it, you’ll find that you probably do a lot of unnecessary spending.

And teach these skills to your kids. My youngest son understands that we do not have money to spare on luxury items and he’s aware that even though most of his friends wouldn’t consider a trip to McDonald’s a luxury, we do. And not only is he aware of how much things cost, and the difference between wants and needs, but it serves as motivation for him to do well in school, earn scholarships, attend college, and get a well-paying job.

I think one of the most damaging things a single mom can do is compare herself to others. Money is tight, but you’ve established a budget and you stick to it, always asking yourself – do I truly need this or do I just want it. You celebrate the little things and get excited when you score a brand-new shirt with tags at Goodwill for $1.29! You have fun Friday night playing board games with your kids and taking a trip to McDonalds to splurge on ice cream cones. And then you scroll through Facebook. You see pictures of friends on vacations, out to dinner, buying new furniture, new cars, new houses. Suddenly those ice cream cones you treated your kids to become less special in comparison to the lobster dinner your friend is having in Barbados at this very minute. Comparison breeds discontent and can easily sabotage that long-standing budget as you try to squelch the feeling of inferiority by attempting to keep up with the Joneses.

Cultivate an attitude of thankfulness for the blessings you have. Step back from social media if you find it difficult to be happy for your friends without envy creeping in. Remember, as a single mom you may be on a tighter budget than your friends, but that doesn’t diminish your worth in any way.

Of course, emergencies come up and you may need to use a credit card for car repairs, or bills if you miss work due to illness, for example. I recently got a credit card to pay for a root canal I couldn’t afford. The card I got, which is designed for medical emergencies, let me save my tooth, thus saving me from an extraction and costly implant later, and it lets me repay the loan amount without interest. But don’t use credit cards to buy things you don’t really need and cannot afford to pay off at the end of the month.

Too late, you say? If you already have outstanding credit card debt, look into consolidating and paying down your debt by getting a low interest personal loan through a credit union, or if that’s not an option, using a reputable non-profit debt consolidation service. If you go that route, do your research, check the company’s rating with the Better Business Bureau and make sure you understand what services they’ll provide and the total fees involved for those services.

When I first got divorced, I had been out of the work force for 16 years. I never went to college so I had few options available to me. I was quickly offered a job with a steady paycheck and medical insurance, which was important to me since my ex wasn’t working or providing support or insurance at that time, so I jumped on it. In retrospect, I wish I had kept freelancing back then instead of abandoning my love of writing in favor of a steady paycheck, but the fear of not being able to support my children overwhelmed me.

My advice now is to take a minute and meet with a career counselor, get on LinkedIn, go to job fairs, research possible jobs and determine if you’ll make enough to support your family. If not, look into going to school. As a single mom, you’ll likely be eligible for programs that will let you get a degree or certification for little money. Yeah, it’ll be tough taking care of your kids, working, and taking classes at the same time. It will be. But the payoff in the end will be worth the struggle up front. And hey, we single moms are superheroes! If anyone can juggle all that, it's us!

For more expert advice from single parents, check out this round-up HERE!

Friday, October 11, 2019

The One in Which I'm Tired to the Max

Cartoon Black Woman Sleeping At WorkI'm not so great at going to the doctor. Although I'm better at making doctor appointments than I am at dentist appointments. Then again, that's not really saying much.


I had been feeling really ridiculously fatigued for some time when I finally broke down and made an appointment.

"What are you seeing the doctor for?"

"Um, I want to see the doctor because I'm tired. I mean, like really tired. I'm afraid I'm going to fall asleep at school and the kids will videotape me and put it on Youtube, and I'll become a meme known the world over. Then it'll be, 'You know that sleeping teacher meme? Yeah, that's me.'"

"So you want to see the doctor because you're (pause) tired?"

"Not just tired. Tired to the max."

Yes, I felt like an idiot making an appointment because I was tired. I mean, hello? I'm a single mom; of course I'm tired. And this was back in May so all the students in the land were officially done with school despite the fact there were 3 more weeks left. This means they were acting like this:


I mean, the good ones were acting like that. The others were acting like this:


So it was perfectly normal that I was tired. I mean, I'd worry more about any teacher who wasn't burned out and tired in May. Because clearly, any teacher who isn't exhausted in May has access to the good drugs.

So I went to the doctor with my perfectly inane legitimate complaint of I'm tired. The doctor was too busy to see a patient who was "tired" so I saw the PA. I have issues with anemia so I asked her to please do some bloodwork to see if that was the cause of my fatigue. She did that as well as some tests to check my thyroid 

When my results came back, she told me that I was a little vitamin B12 deficient.

"But I already take B12 and iron because of the aforementioned anemia."

I swear I saw the PA throw up her hands and shrug her shoulders through the phone. "Well, you also tested positive for some thyroid antibodies."

"Okay? What does that mean?"

"I'm not sure. I'm referring you to an endocrinologist."

It took a couple months to get in to the endocrinologist. I paid my $45 and met with another PA.

"Your primary care doctor referred you to us?"



"Um, I guess I have some thyroid antibodies."

"Yes, but your thyroid function is normal," she stated, puzzled.

I shrugged because, well, I'm not the one with the MD. "I just don't want to be so tired anymore."

"Well, the antibodies are indicative of an autoimmune disorder called Hashimoto's Thyroiditis. It can cause thyroid problems. Your thyroid is fine right now though. You definitely need to have it rechecked every year because it could develop in the future especially with your family history of thyroid disease and autoimmune diseases. But it isn't the cause of your fatigue now."

"Okay. Well, just so I don't feel like that $45 was a waste, could you maybe hook up an IV with a caffeine drip for me so I can stay awake all day?"

Apparently not.

In August, I went back to my regular doctor, or well the PA that is, for my annual physical. 

"I'm still excessively tired, and now everything hurts too. My ankles, my knees, my hips, my hands, my left elbow, these fingers . . ."

The PA ordered some autoimmune tests. I tested positive (which sounds like a good thing, but isn't) for many of the antibodies, prompting the PA to refer me to a rheumatologist.

It took a couple more months to get in with the rheumatologist during which time, my hips have become so painful, I can hardly walk some days. I can't handle walking up stairs. I haven't had an uninterrupted night's sleep in 2 months and not just because my neighbors like to let their dogs bark all night, but because the pain awakens me every time I turn over. So I paid my $45 and saw yet another PA.

The nurse tells me to strip down to my undergarments, put on a "gown" (which, let's face it, is basically like when you were a kid and you cut a slit down the middle of a brown paper grocery bag to make a "vest" so you could be an "Indian" when you had your little classroom Thanksgiving celebration where you invited the classroom next door who dressed like Pilgrims.) So I stripped, donned my paper vest, and hopped up on the table. I'm using the word "hopped" here, but honestly, I grunted as I tried to maneuver onto the table because MY HIPS HURT SO MUCH.

It took almost 20 minutes before the PA came in. I nodded off twice. The second time my head bobbed, I looked down and saw a dryer sheet stuck to my underwear, which is always classy. Worried that the PA would finally walk in right as I was peeling the April fresh scented sheet off my unmentionables, I quickly grabbed it and looked around for a garbage can. No garbage can. What kind of doctor's office doesn't have a garbage can? I surmised it was probably in a cabinet, but I wasn't getting down to find out because A. MY HIPS HURT and B. It would be thoroughly awkward to be tip-toeing around the office, dryer sheet in hand, while opening cabinets in search of a trash can when she walked in. So I stuffed it in my purse.

The PA came in and asked me 101 questions. How long have your joints hurt? Are they swollen? Do you get any rashes? Do you have ulcers in your mouth? Are your eyes dry? Do your fingers turn white in the cold? What was the name of your first pet? What is the name of the street where you grew up? Coke or Pepsi?

In the end, they're treating me as if I have lupus even though she was hesitant to actually diagnose me with lupus at this point. They're running more tests. I'm starting some medications that will hopefully decrease my pain and fatigue. Oh and I have some pretty bad bursitis in both hips. Since I can't take anti-inflammatory medication because I'm on blood thinners for my antiphospholipid syndrome, I'll be getting shots in my hips next week. Although I don't relish getting a needle that's roughly the size of a flag pole stuck in my hip joints, I'm in so much pain that I say bring it on! Plus, it won't be nearly as bad as someone giving me a shot IN MY MOUTH! So there's that.

You would think I'd be upset that I may have another incurable autoimmune disease, but honestly, I had convinced myself that my diagnosis was going to be - You're crazy; it's all in your head. Oh, and you're old and fat. So knowing that something real is going on and there's medication to help combat it is actually a relief.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Meet my Neighbors

My kids and I have been living in this little apartment for the past couple years. I don't really know any of my neighbors, but I've picked up a few nuggets about them nonetheless. For example, I know the people who live next to us like to sing songs. In Spanish. Very poorly. Really loudly (seriously, I was able to use Shazam through the walls to learn the name of the song. It was Calma. Catchy tune.) 

I know that the people who live above us are from Jamaica and when they have their door propped open, yummy cooking smells waft down to us. My kids and I have also surmised what their favorite pastimes are. In fact, we've compiled a list of the top ten favorite activities of our upstairs neighbors.

10. Bowling


9. Jumping rope


8.  Irish clog dancing with a few of their closest friends


7.  Leap frog


6. Sack races


5. Auditioning for Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk.


4. Shot put


3. A little home maintenance

2. Parkour


1. Reenacting Miley Cyrus's Wrecking Ball on Hippity Hops.

And meanwhile, I want so badly to do this:


But my broom broke and the handle is only about 2 feet long now. And I'm afraid if I complain, they'll add loud music to their repertoire so I'll stick to complaining about the herd of water buffalo that live above me on my blog instead.

Friday, August 9, 2019

Meow! The Real Way To Play Cat's Cradle

Many years ago I wrote about how boys and girls play differently. Go ahead and read these links. They're pretty short and they're funny! I'll wait. 

Why You Should Never Play Dolls With Your Brother. 

Boys And Girls Are Almost Exactly The Same.

Well, some things never change. Brooklyn and Lexi had been playing Cat's Cradle when their brothers took over with their own, um, special version of the game. Who knew you had to "meow" when playing Cat's Cradle?

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Austin is SO My Son!

Austin texted our family group chat a couple days ago and told us about his day. As I read the account of his morning, I kept thinking - this sounds so familiar. Why does this sound familiar? Oh yeah! Because it sounds exactly like something that would've happened to me, and it sounds just like I would have described it. He is SO my son. I asked him if I could share it here. 

Austin works in the bakery at Publix. He starts work before the sun is up. I would never be able to function on his schedule at all. I'd have stuff like this happen to me daily if I was required to start work at 4:00am!

So to start my day I went over to the deli department to turn on the fryers so I could use them later. Strangely, they were all unplugged. As I’m squatting down and trying to maneuver around, my pants get a huge rip in the back of my inner thigh. I thought maybe I could use duct tape to fix it. We don’t carry any duct tape. So I grab some heavy duty packing tape. I head to the restroom to try to fix my pants. I set my pants on the counter portion of the sink in the handicap stall. It triggers the sensor and water pours on the crotch area of my pants. Then I find out that the tape doesn’t actually stick to fabric. I then had to just wrap it around in a sweaty tape mess.

What do you think? He could totally ghost write for me, right?

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Trying To Be Everywhere At Once And Not Hit Too Many People With My Butt

single mom's brain on any given day
Here's a little math word problem for you. Part A:  If you are at work a half an hour away and Lexi has to be to work at 3:00, Brooklyn has a doctor's appointment at 3:15, and Clay needs to be picked up from his friend's house by 3:00 and then dropped off at the school, you need to pick up a prescription, and you need to mail a book ordered on your Etsy site before the post office closes, how long will it take you to have a nervous breakdown? Part B:  How many glasses of wine will it take to de-stress at the end of the evening?

Here's another one. If Lexi has to be to work at 6:00 and Brooklyn has to be to cheer at 6:00 and Clay has to be to marching band at 6:00, how long will it be until you invent a cloning machine or teleportation device?

With the school year starting next week, the fun of juggling my kids' activities has commenced. Because I'm a single mom, it can be daunting. But because I'm a single mom, I got this! Because that's what single parents do. We're nothing if not master jugglers.

So I'm at a parent meeting for marching band and I'm looking at my watch. I don't actually wear a watch. I have a watch. I have a couple watches. I'm not sure when I stopped wearing them though. I probably stopped wearing a watch when I first got a smart phone. Truly, without my phone, I'd never have a clue what time it is. I also wouldn't ever be able to call anyone. I remember my phone number from when I was a kid. I remember my  high school best friend's parent's phone number. I have no idea what my kids' or parents' phone numbers are now. None. 

I actually looked at my phone to see the time. I don't know why I didn't just write that in the first place. Or use the handy backspace button to change it. Especially when all of this has absolutely nothing to do with my story. I'm beginning to understand why mom used to tell me I had "diarrhea of the mouth" when I was younger.

Anyhoo. So I looked at my phone and realized this was running longer than I'd expected. Both Brooklyn and Lexi would need to be picked up soon. Lexi could hang out at work until I could get there. But Brooklyn's coaches couldn't leave the football field until I'd gotten her and I didn't want to be "that mom." You know, the one who thinks having their kid in a sport equals free babysitting. 

The parent meeting ended and the band assembled in the gym because it was raining. Because it's Florida. And it rains every. single. day. As the front ensemble played what they'd learned in band camp, I frantically texted other parents on Brooklyn's team. Until I realized she didn't have her key and no one was home so even if someone could drop her off, she'd be standing out in the rain until I got home.

The front ensemble concluded their performance and the color guard started. I watched the girls twirl their flags while surreptitiously glancing at the time ticking away on my phone. A running dialogue marched through my brain. Twirl faster. I might be able to make it in time. I'm not going to make it in time. Twirl faster. 

The girls finally finished and the teacher introduced the battery who began to perform. As the drums pounded out a rhythm, I looked at my phone again. Maybe if they're really fast, I can still make it. As long as no one has to wait too long for me to get there . . . Maybe . . . Play faster!

They wrapped up and the winds began to play. I considered finding a metronome app and playing it as loudly as I could at a faster time to speed things along, but A: they were already playing at 160 beats a minute and I didn't want anyone to pass out from playing any faster. And B: no one would've even heard my metronome app over the one the band teacher was playing. And C: that's crazy-person behavior and I really try to downplay the crazy when in public.

I texted Austin and begged him to get the girls so I didn't have to try to maneuver my way out of the packed bleachers in the middle of their performance because crab-walking along the bleachers while smacking people in the face with my big butt didn't sound like fun. And driving in the rain to pick up the girls only to have to turn right around and get Clay and drive back again also didn't sound like fun, partly because I need a new exhaust and you can hear my van from approximately 6 1/2 miles away. I mean, it's super-classy and not at all embarrassing, but still. Then I texted the girls to inform them that I was stuck at the school and Austin was going to pick them up.

When the event ended and Clay and I got into the car, he asked me if I'd recorded it. 

"I'm sorry, Clay. I didn't. I was busy looking for a metronome app."


"I said - I was busy texting people, trying to find someone to pick up the girls since this band thing ran longer than I thought it would. I was listening and you guys sounded really awesome! I can't wait to see the whole show put together out on the field where you can march too! But yeah, I was doing some rapid-fire texting, trying to coordinate rides for everyone. Sorry. I did get this mediocre picture of you and your girlfriend though."

Thus is the single mom's life. Running from place to place, trying not to hit people with her butt, and saying, "Sorry" because no matter how hard she tries, she never quite hits the mark. But she tries, and I say that's what counts.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

You Is Kind, You Is Smart, You Is Important

I recently applied for a position in a different school. It's not that I don't like my current job because I do like it. I love my school and my coworkers. I enjoy being there. But this other school is much, much, MUCH closer to my home, it has better hours, and it's a year-round position so I wouldn't have to scramble to make ends meet in the summer, doing odd jobs, waiting tables, driving for Uber . . . Anyway, I mentioned my application to a couple coworkers and one immediately said, "I know the principal there. He's amazing! I'll write you a recommendation letter!" Right away, she emailed him a letter of recommendation that was overflowing with praise. She forwarded the letter to me so I could read it and let me tell ya, I teared up at her kind words. And although I was extremely flattered by her accolades, I was totally humbled.

As I read her words, I asked myself - is this really how she sees me? Because I don't think I deserve her commendation, but I want to. I want to live up to her opinion of me.

And that got me thinking. This letter filled with complimentary sentences about my character and accomplishments at work made me want to do better, be better, live up to her generous words. What a simple, but super-effective idea! Our words are powerful tools, and a sincere compliment can elicit a positive change. 


When you take the time to notice and lift up another person, it not only makes that person feel good for the moment, but it makes them want to live up to that compliment as well. Think about the last time someone said something nice to you? How did it make you feel? Of course it works conversely as well. When you say things like, "You're stupid. What did you do? What were you thinking? That was dumb," the recipient of such phrases will begin to believe those negative words and will start to act like - Why bother trying? I'm stupid. 

After all -
Your thoughts become your words.
Your words become your actions.
Your actions become your habits.
Your habits become your character.
Your character becomes your destiny.

And not only do you need to watch your words to others, but you have to watch what you tell yourself. This is forever a work-in-progress for me.


Wednesday, May 29, 2019

Lock Down Your Charger With Charger Cuff

Recently, I was given the opportunity to check out the new Charger Cuff. Inventor, Terry created the Charger Cuff after he and his wife experienced the frustration of having their chargers walk away (presumably in the hands of a technology-obsessed teen.) This handy little invention is a pretty cool gadget. Several times a week I have to get up and walk allll the way to my bedroom in order to get my phone charger. Of course I never remember to take it back to my room when I go to bed and once in bed, let's face it, I'm much too lazy to get up and retrieve it so I just hope I have enough charge left for my phone's alarm to go off come morning. It's a whole Russian roulette of "Will Dawn Wake Up In Time For Work?"

What makes this charger stand apart from others is its ability to be locked down. For those of you with kids who like to walk off with your charger, this is for you!


A special tool is included with this charger so you can install it (in any standard outlet) and your kids won't be able to remove it, unless they find the special tool, of course. (I recommend hiding it with important items like your passports, last will and testament, family jewels, and your secret stash of chocolate.) Another cool feature is that each unit includes a 1 amp charging block and a multi-cable with 3 different charging cords (type-C, micro USB, and 8 pin x 2) to fit most any phone. So when an android-using friend is over and asks you, "Do you have a charger I could borrow?" Your i-Phone using self can say, "Why yes, yes, I do!"

I'm giving away 2 Charger Cuffs here. You can enter by leaving a comment, liking Charger Cuff on Facebook, and by tweeting. This contest is open to U.S. residents.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, May 20, 2019

Searching For Yellow Cars

image: CC low probability by banalities
I have a 30 mile commute round-trip to work every day. I hate every minute of it. I get in my car and my stomach tightens, dreading the next 30-45 minutes, knowing I'll encounter every jerk on the planet (or at least in central Florida) on my way to and from work. Before I even leave my apartment complex, I'll be confronted with a person blowing off a stop sign, and with someone tearing around the corner into the wrong lane, causing me to swerve dangerously close to the parked cars in order to avoid being hit head-on. As I wait for a break in traffic so I can pull out onto the street, I'll meet the people who, despite the fact they're stopped at a red light and have literally no place they can go, will not let me out. I'll also meet the person behind me who gets impatient waiting, pulls around me, and darts out into traffic the second the light changes causing several people to slam on their brakes.

I'll meet the people who drive 20 miles under the speed limit for no particular reason, I'll meet the ones who play pole position, weaving in and out of traffic attempting to get just one car ahead, and I'll meet the people who fly through red lights. I'll experience the ones who drive just barely the speed limit in the passing lane, oblivious to the fact there's a string of cars tailgating him in an attempt to encourage him to move over.

My exit is always backed up at least a mile and this is where I encounter the worst of the worst - those people who are so privileged (in their minds anyway), they don't need to wait in line like the rest of us filthy peasants. No, they can just speed along to the very front, bypassing the 10+ minute wait, and cut in front of everyone else patiently (or not so patiently) awaiting their turns.

My drive home includes half a dozen jaywalkers who are seemingly trying to get themselves run over, construction traffic, and a toll that narrows from 5 lanes to 1.

By the time I arrive at my destination, I'm so stressed out I vow to become a hermit and never leave my home again. Seriously, when I grow up, I'm going to be a hermit. I can combine that dream with my Cat Plan! It's brilliant! I'll move to a cabin in the middle of Montana, adopt 27 cats, and spend my days in my bathrobe eating Ben & Jerry's from the carton and washing it down with sangria. I'll be livin' the dream! But until that glorious day, I decided I needed to make a change (besides looking for a closer job!)

I recently heard something about looking for yellow cars. There aren't a whole lot of yellow cars on the road, right? You see them infrequently. Until you start looking for them. Then suddenly, they're everywhere! It's called the Yellow Car Phenomenon. Now of course there aren't more yellow cars on the road when you're searching for them. They've been there all along. When you shift your paradigm, however, you notice them. And that's the thing - you'll find what you're looking for. So you have to ask yourself - what am I looking for?

When I leave for work expecting to encounter entitled, self-absorbed, inconsiderate jerks, I find them. When you enter your meeting expecting a terrible outcome, you'll find it. When you think your boss, coworkers, or family will let you down, they will. Every time.

But when you change your way of thinking, amazing things can happen. 

I was visiting a friend who works part-time in a gift shop situated in an independent living/assisted living home for seniors. A resident was perusing the shop and struck up a conversation with us. She went on to complain about the marinade that was on the chicken at lunch, the food in general, and the chef himself. She lamented the lack of activities, the fact there aren't enough people who like to play cards, and how she can't even go shopping because it's like she's a prisoner there. Now this home is a pretty luxurious place with many amenities, activities galore, and a bus that takes them to local shopping and restaurants every day. But this woman was ultra-focused on everything negative. And she seemed pretty unhappy.

Then there's my Aunt Vasiliki. She's had many health issues over the years. She's a breast cancer survivor. She was divorced at a pretty young age and never remarried. She lost her parents while they were still young and recently lost her sister. She probably has cause to be bitter. But I have never seen her without a smile and a laugh. She also lives in an independent/assisted living home, and let me tell ya, she's never in her apartment! Because she's busy playing cards, doing puzzles, driving someone to a doctor's appointment, reshelving books in their little library, eating with friends, making jewelry, and anything else that looks like fun. Everyone knows my aunt and enjoys her contagiously effervescent company.

When I drive to school this week, I'm going to look for yellow cars - those people who let others in. Those who patiently wait their turn. Those who aren't consumed with road rage, and those who do stop at red lights, let pedestrians cross, and use their turn signals. I'll remember that there are good people in the world. Will the entitled, self-absorbed, inconsiderate buttheads still be there? Of course they will. They always will. But time is too short, and life is too precious to concern myself with them. I will choose to focus on the positive and will continue to strive to be the kind of person that makes other people feel good; not the kind that makes other people want to throat-punch me.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
Philippians 4:8 New International Version (NIV)

Monday, May 13, 2019

Shopping With My Kids No Longer Makes Me Want To Gouge My Eyes Out With A Pencil

Creative Commons
Once upon a time I wrote a story about grocery shopping with my 6 young children. At the time, I was convinced that shopping with kids was the worst torture on the planet. Worse than having your ankles broken by a sledgehammer à la Kathy Bates in Misery. Worse than sitting in front of a white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and being on a diet. Worse than even going to the dentist. Just worse. Than anything at all. 

I remember back when Brooklyn would throw a fit and cry her way through the entire store. I remember how Clay would maneuver his way out of the seatbelt and try to get brain damage by flipping himself out of the cart. I remember how Lexi would insist on dressing in a princess costume, and she'd pirouette down the aisles. Jackson would alternately tease someone and beg me for candy. Savannah would ram the cart into my ankles, Austin would walk around, bored and fed up with his siblings. Then my kids grew up. And now they're (wait for it . . .) helpful!

This weekend, I uncharacteristically walked around Walmart without a list; just a vague idea of what I needed to get. My kids said stuff like, "Hey Mom, we're out of bread." I hadn't realized we were out of it. They said, "Can I get a frozen pizza to eat for when you and Clay are at his band banquet?" Oh crap, that's right! I'd forgotten about the banquet. Instead of trying to sneak random junk food into the cart, the reminded me to get celery and beans and almond milk.

I don't always even notice all the help they give me, but I'm reminded of it on those rare occasions when I run to the store by myself. The cashier will give me a raised eyebrow look and wonder if I'm completely stupid as I stand there waiting to pay while the little carousel of packed bags fills up. "Um, can you put those bags in your cart ma'am?" Oh right! I belatedly realize my kids aren't here to do that for me. I'm so used to them transferring the filled bags to my cart. They are totally helpful these days!

As I wheel the cart outside, I head down an aisle to my car. Only my car isn't there. So I scan the parking lot, searching for my van. I make my way up and down two more aisles. Where on earth did I park?! The little "beep beep" thing on my key fob ceased working years ago so I continue to march up and down the aisles, searching for my vehicle. At some point, usually when I'm about to call the police to file a stolen vehicle report, I'll remember that I didn't even park at that door and I'll head across the parking lot to the opposite side. This never happens when my kids are with me. When I head out the door with the cart, they immediately turn me around. "You parked over there, Mom. How do you not remember? It was like 20 minutes ago!"

And these days, I no longer get embarrassed. I was shopping with Clay and Brooklyn this weekend and as we headed toward the refrigerated section, a song came over the speaker system, so naturally I started singing along.

I'm not a present for your friends to open
This boy's too young to be singing, the blue-ooo-oooos, 

"Hey Mom?"

"What, Brooklyn?"

"Who sings this song?"

I mentally pat myself on the back for instilling a love of music in my kids' hearts. They have eclectic tastes and will sing along to an enormous variety of tunes, many of which are from when I was a kid and even before. I answer her, "Elton John."

She looks at me, deadpan and says, "Let's keep it that way."

Oh no she didn't! She wasn't interested in knowing who the artist was! She just set me up for a burn! Clearly, I had only one option.

So I sang louder.

Oh I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick ro-oa-oad, 

See kids? I'm impervious to embarrassment. All of those years of shopping with you guys and wishing a hole would open up and swallow me as we shopped have rendered me numb. Those times when I'd be embarrassed because you were wearing a Cinderella dress, cowboy boots, a flannel shirt, and a Cubs hat? Gone. The times I'd be embarrassed because you would just. not. stop. crying? Gone. The times I'd be embarrassed when you'd point to an overweight woman and loudly ask, "Does she have a baby in her tummy?" Gone.

So you moms of little ones who would rather (to steal a phrase from that old post) be a contestant on Fear Factor when they're having pig brains for lunch than to go shopping with your little ones, take heart. It gets better. So. much. better. I promise!

Monday, April 15, 2019

Survival Mode

A friend recently asked me, “Why did you stop writing?”

Well, that’s a good question. I thought about it and came up with this answer: Because I’ve been playing in Survival Mode for 10 years.

My younger kids play Minecraft now and then. If you’re unfamiliar, in the most basic terms, it’s a video game wherein you can build things. Minecraft can be played in different modes. In Creative Mode, for example, you have unlimited resources. You can build anything you want from the bottomless stash of supplies. In Creative Mode, you don’t have to worry about eating, sleeping, or keeping up your health because you cannot die. In Creative Mode you can fly. You can literally fly.

Then there’s Survival Mode. In Survival Mode, you have to work for all your supplies. You have to mine minerals with a pickaxe. You have to plant vegetables and raise animals for food in order to stay alive. Creatures like Creepers and Zombies, Spiders, Endermen, Witches, and Withers will kill you. You cannot fly. Your mission is to stay alive which can be challenging. For example, you’re trying to plant corn like a good little farmer so you’ll have food for the winter when BLAM! A Skeleton attacks you! Or maybe you’re in a cave chipping away at rocks to find diamonds and BOO! A Ghast attacks you! This is Survival Mode.

To illustrate this point, I asked my kids to teach me how to play Minecraft. That conversation went like this:

MOM:  Will you teach me how to play Minecraft? It's for a blog post.

CLAY:  suurrrre it is
CLAY:  i know you just want to play
CLAY: it's okay your secret is safe with me

So I played for 45 minutes in Creative Mode. This is what I accomplished. I built a little house. My kids think it's lame, but let's remember that I had no idea what I was doing so it took me a ridiculously long time to figure out how to even do basic things like walk.

Inside my house there is a floor, some lights, windows, a bed, and a couch and table.

It has a bed right next to the front door because I'm an expert at designing houses.

It has a miniature floating chair because I have no idea what I'm doing. I cannot, for the life of me, even tell you how on earth I managed to create a tiny floating chair.

And then I played for 45 minutes in Survival Mode. This is what happened.

I died. Apparently you can't swim in lava.

And then I died again. Because apparently you can't swim underwater indefinitely without coming up for air.

I'm not sure what I did to make a chicken fall in love with me. I thought I was kicking it away, but apparently I threw some grass seed at it or something. This game is weird.

Here's a tree. You have to chop them down in order to get wood so you can build a house.

 At the end of 45 minutes of play, here's what I accomplished in Survival Mode. This is my house:

Here's another angle of my house. Some people (my kids) claim this is not actually a house, but just a wall. I say - whatever.

As you can see, it's a little hard to accomplish what you'd like when you're just trying to survive every day. I’ve been operating in Survival Mode for the past 10 years. Blinders on, focused on the moment, playing triage every day. Clay gets over the flu, but Lexi gets sick. I get my income tax refund, but my car breaks down. I make it to Clay’s lacrosse game, but miss Lexi’s water polo game. I get caught up on laundry, but realize there are dishes in the sink piled to the ceiling. I actually make it to work on time, but have to turn around and head home to pick up a sick kid who’s puking at school. I come up with the money to pay Brooklyn’s cheer competition fees, but get hit with NJHS fees. I worry about the kids, the kid who struggled with drugs, the kid who has struggled with depression, the kid who suffers with anxiety. I push down the guilt when I can't make it to a band concert. I shove away the guilt when I miss work. I deal and try to be there for everyone. I try to take care of everyone. I attempt to be mom and dad, breadwinner and homemaker, cheerleader, nurse, and teacher. I get sick and keep going because there’s no one to bring me orange juice or pick kids up for me or make dinner. I talk to myself because there’s no one else to run things by, no one  to commiserate with, no one to simply talk to. Survival Mode.

And it's hard being creative when you’re stuck in Survival Mode. It’s hard finding the funny twist on the mundane when you’re consumed with just surviving. There are many days when I’d like to tell a funny story, but I’m too busy fighting off Endermen and chopping down trees and throwing seeds at chickens to type it out. 

Monday, April 1, 2019

But God Told Me To

While writing my last post about my shoe malfunction, I searched my blog for old pictures of past shoe mishaps to include in the post. Searching the term "shoe", netted me the following little gem. I, being well on my way to dementia, didn't remember this story, but I laughed out loud reading it. And then I shared it with Clay's girlfriend because really, she should know what she's getting into with him, don't you think?

Here, for your reading pleasure is an oldie that's still good for a laugh!

God Told Me To (July 31, 2009)

Clay has a shoe problem - in that he can never find them. I'm sure it has nothing to do with the fact that
A. He never puts them away where they belong, and
B. He's a boy and therefore cannot find anything unless it jumps out and bites him on the butt.

Yesterday was no exception. As I was scrambling to get everyone ready and in the car for vacation bible school, Clay was looking for his shoes. And by "looking for his shoes", I mean wandering around aimlessly, saying, I can't find my shoes. Do I have to wear shoes?"

He managed to find one shoe in the closet where it belongs. Jackson found the other one, after searching high and low for a good 10 minutes, in the garage. (I have no idea.)

Then this morning, I handed Clay a pair of socks as I was folding laundry and told him, "Get your socks and shoes on." (I used to say "get your shoes and socks on", but I have too many smart-aleck kids who would put their shoes on first and then try to pull their socks on over their shoes. "Well you said to put my shoes and socks on," they'd smirk.)

Anyway, Clay marched off with his socks, seemingly to put them on and find his shoes. About 10 minutes later, I saw him, still barefoot, watching TV. I gently reminded him, "TURN OFF THE TV AND PUT YOUR STINKIN' SHOES AND SOCKS ON!" He looked at me and said, "I don't have any socks."

"Yes you do! I just gave you a pair," I responded, frustrated.

"They're wet," he said simply.

"Why are they wet?" I demanded.

"Because I was trying to run on water."

Well duh. Makes perfect sense to me.

"What do you mean - you were trying to run on water? What water? Where?"

"In the sink."

"You were trying to run in the bathroom sink? For real?" I asked, incredulous. Not much Clay does surprises me anymore, but trying to run in the bathroom sink filled with water sounded pretty strange even for Clay.

"Yeah," he admitted.

"Why, why, WHY???"

He thought for a moment and said, "God told me to."

Oh yeah, this is what has come out of vacation bible school. I can just see it now. That's going to be his excuse for everything for the next month.

Why aren't you eating your vegetables?
God told me not to.

Why did you hit your sister?
God told me to.

Why are you driving me to drink?
God told me to.

Fun times ahead.

Thursday, March 28, 2019

If the Shoe Fits (Take it Off Before it Breaks!)

Upon the forcing urging of my boss, I applied to take part in this ELA (Emerging Leaders Program) with my school district. Several people from the pool of applicants who currently hold classified positions within the district were accepted into the program, and I was one of them. The program consists of monthly training from live seminars as well as webinars. On Tuesday, I attended the second seminar, this one on Dealing with Difficult People. It was actually useful training that I believe I can apply to my work life, home life, and in dealing with the entitled jerks who drive up and cut in front of those of us who have been waiting in line to exit for 2 miles. Every. Stinkin'. Morning. I truly do not understand why these individuals think they're so much better than everyone else that they don't have to wait in the same line as all the other commuters. If anyone can explain this to me, I'd love to hear it. And in related news, if anyone has a missile launcher that could be fitted onto a minivan, I'd love get the details on that also.

Anyway, I digress. So, this training was useful, the speaker was knowledgeable, effective, and had a sense of humor, the training was dynamic with hands-on components, and the hotel in which it was held, served coffee. All good.


When I attend these trainings, I like to dress professionally. You know, as a departure from the way I dress for work every other day. I think my usual style can be described as trendy classy sophisticated playful 'It's nearly April and Dawn has clearly given up.'

To that end, I tried on a few things, and by “a few things”, of course I mean, I tried on every piece of fabric in my closet. Twice. I decided on a filmy skirt paired with a shirt and denim jacket (because the AC was on full-blast at the last seminar and it was freezing!) I accessorized with a gold scarf and gold sandals. Reading this, it occurs to me that perhaps I should have someone else pick out my clothes. I’m thinking a trained monkey might do a better job. An untrained, sight-impaired monkey probably would too. Basically any monkey could do a better job dressing me than I do. But remember that I was wearing gold sandals. And a denim jacket.

During our first break, I jumped out of my seat because despite the ample padding on my derriere, I was sore from just sitting there for so long. They really ought to equip these training sessions with La-Z-Boys. I think I’m onto something here. So I jumped up and quickly headed toward the coffee shop so I could get to the front of the line in order to get some coffee and make it back to my seat before the break was over. As I walked, I felt something kind of flapping around my foot. Looking down, I noticed that the braiding on my sandal had come loose and was sticking out a couple inches, flapping around with every step I took. Well, there’s nothing I can do about it now considering I don’t have a hot glue gun with me. I contemplated running out to my car to grab the duct tape I keep in my glove compartment for shoe-related and other sundry emergencies, but opted to walk slowly back to my seat, hoping that if I didn’t jar it too much, my shoe wouldn’t unravel any further.

Apparently the exercise of walking a few yards in combination with the coffee brought on a hot flash. I grabbed my workbook and furiously fanned myself. I started to take off my jacket which was fusing to my arms with sweat, but remembered I was wearing a shirt with a big keyhole cut-out in back. I was sitting in the front of the room. That meant if I took off my jacket, rows upon rows of people would be subject to a clear view of my back fat. I kept the jacket on. Sweat dripped down my face. I hoped for a freak earthquake to swallow me.

When we broke for lunch, again I jumped up and headed toward the little snack shop in the lobby of the hotel. About halfway there, I felt something dangling around my foot. I looked down and saw that my shoe had unraveled so much that it was trailing a good 2 feet behind me. This was an example of karma, my friend because I had been inwardly grumbling at the people walking slowly in front of me. And you know that old saying – when you complain about slow walkers, your shoe unravels. Anyway, I had to stop and figure out some way to fix my shoe or I surely would’ve tripped. Not to mention that fact that I looked like an utter idiot. So I took the braid and wound it around my foot a couple times, tucking the end under the buckle. Voila! Fixed. Sort of. Although I was regretting my shoe choice, I was very happy that my skirt was long enough to mostly cover my stupid shoe. 

As I straightened up, I saw this cute guy walk by. I tried to act all nonchalant like I’d simply been bending over to pick up something I’d dropped. No big deal. I wasn’t just wrapping a couple feet of cord around my ankle, no siree. He smiled a little. I’m not sure if it was just a friendly smile, or an “I feel sorry for the uh, special girl playing with her shoe in the middle of the hotel lobby’ kind of smile.

exhibit A

exhibit B
How can one person have so many shoe problems? How is it possible??? Remember my shoe that broke at school 5 years ago?

exhibit C

I tried to fix it with staples. Surprisingly enough, it didn't work.

exhibit D

And then there was the shoe that broke at my friend's wedding. 
exhibit E

I walked barefoot into a Dollar General to buy a roll of duct tape to fix it on the way to the reception. (Thus the duct tape in my car for shoe emergencies.)

exhibit F

It didn't work either. 

exhibit G

So I gave up, took my shoes off, and danced barefoot all night.

Oh and let's not forget about the unfortunate shoe incident from my last date a couple years ago - Why I Can't Date

Anyway . . .

I grabbed lunch, invited myself to join a couple people at their table because apparently that’s the kind of person I am - one who encroaches on others because why wouldn't they simply delight in my company. I refrained from jumping in the hotel pool or joining the tourists drinking piña coladas at the bar (and let me tell ya, that took quite a feat of willpower,) and went back to the seminar. 

We broke into small groups based on the results of our DISC personality assessments. I scoped out the room, searching for the cute guy from earlier and lo and behold, he was sitting with the "I"s. I'm an "I"! Obviously it's kismet. 

I walked toward the back of the room where the other "I"s were gathering. Wait, let me rephrase that. I started walking toward the back of the room. After a couple steps however, my ambulation turned to aviation as I tripped over my shoe's tail and took flight. Let's just say, I got the cute guy to notice me.

Oh but it gets better.

After the training (you know, the training to help us better deal with different types of people), we were shuffling like cattle toward the exit of the conference room. People were filing out a single door for some reason when there were two doors there. I, apparently having learned nothing from the day's seminar, let loose a snarky comment, "There are two doors there. We could actually use both of them." I picked up my certificate and once again saw everyone exiting via a single door to the parking lot. I gave an exasperated sigh because clearly "these people" will never learn to use both doors. I then walked right into the window. Yes, the window that was not actually a door. Karma wins again.

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