Thursday, June 30, 2011

Book Submissions - Acceptable Illnesses

In case you don't see the comment attached to the last post, I wanted to make sure that everyone is aware that I will accept entries about mental illness.  Mental illness may not involve physical pain, but it does involve tremendous emotional pain for all the reasons I have listed in my response to Bec's question below.

Also, I will accept multiple submissions for the same illness and I intend to have more than one chapter on each illness in the book.  I may divide it into sections for types of illness, like "mental illness," "autoimmune disorders," "chemical allergies and sensitivities," "CFS/ME," etc.  I will have to see what I receive in the way of submissions before deciding how to categorize and break it down.

Also, regardless of whether you allow me to publish your story in my book, you will be free to publish your story in any other publication you wish.  Even though I will be asking for a release for royalties, I will not be asking you to never tell your story again.  The point of the book is for people with invisible illnesses to be heard and if I were to say that what you have told me can never be told to anyone else, it defeats my own purpose.  If I have to do extensive editing of what you have written, I might ask that you don't send the exact same chapter from my book, as some of my own writing will be in it, so as you are writing, try to make it a story that doesn't need too much work on my part.

Anything that I write will, of course, be copyrighted, but your story remains your story to share with whomever you wish.

That's all I can think of right now and I have to get ready to go visit James Madison University with my oldest son today, so unfortunately I will not be able to catch anything that comes in today until much later.  Please email me at or post up a comment here or on Facebook and I will get to it later when I get back.

And hey, have fun writing your story.  This might be something you've never actually thought through in a coherent form and a "from then to now fashion."   This should be a therapeutic and cathartic exercise and if it's not, I'm not sure you've done it right!  (Just kidding - I'm in no way a therapist!)

Love and thanks to all who are considering submission or who have already submitted.  Please go back and check my other two entries and follow my guidelines to insure you have answered all of the questions I have asked in some way or other.



Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Book Submissions - Author Suggestions

I got this today in my email and thought it sounded like a very good idea:

- I was wondering if you might want to offer "author guidelines", like what you want people to focus on (e.g. part 1- story, part 2- where you are now, part 3- how you cope, what you have learned-- I'm just making this up). Otherwise you may get stories all over the place (but again, maybe you want that, I don't know).

She also asked what kind of tone I want to set with the book.  In thinking about this, I really want to be able to put out a positive book that will allow people to tell your stories, voice your frustration, anger, fear, depression, etc..  But I would life to also talk about how you have learned to live with your illness, what you do to overcome your limitations, what are some positive things about your illness (this is hard, but I really believe there are positives to every situation).  I don't want to wallow in the fact that we have chronic illnesses or dwell in the negative, because we are so much more than our illnesses.  We want people to read our stories and empathize and understand; not get disgusted and put the book down because it's so depressing, right?

I am working really hard at putting Toni Bernhard's lessons from How to be Sick into play in my own life.  I am pacing myself, trying to live in the present moment, accepting that other people may have things going on in their own lives and it's not always about me, me, me...

That last one's a tough one, I know.  Because don't we really always think it's about me, me, me?  I know I do.  And I've been very quick to rush to judgment when people don't act the way I expect them to or keep in touch the way I think they should.  I'm learning to change the way I handle that situation and try to understand that other people have lives where things go wrong or that they might be just busy.

So, I think it would be a good idea to follow some kind of order in the way you are writing your stories and I think the suggestions in the first part of the email above are good.  Tell me what happened (and you can include all the bad, negative things that you want here), tell me where you are now, and then tell me what you have learned from having a chronic, invisible illness and how you cope every day.  It's okay that you have good days and bad and maybe some of you only have bad days.  That's okay.  This book is your voice and I want to hear it all.

Lastly, I know not everyone is a writer and I know that not all people have not gotten higher degrees or have focused on how they write.  There will be a variety of people contributing to the book and I want people from all walks of life.  I will be editing what you write, so if it's not perfect, that's okay.  But please try to spell check and do the best you can with grammar.  Please try to make your story cohesive and understandable.  And please do your best with punctuation.  It's much easier to edit something that is written carefully and thoughtfully and that has been proofread a couple of times by the author.

I appreciate every one of you who is willing to contribute to this project.  I think it's high time that people with invisible illnesses tell their stories to anyone who will listen.  Just because you can't see an illness does not mean it isn't real.

Thank you.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Submissions for Chronic Illness Book - Information

Um, hi.  It's me, Chelle.  (Pronounced "Shelly" for those of you who are new.)

Last night, late, I came up with an idea.  Or rather, I revisited an old idea that didn't take off when I first had it.  Let me explain.

Three years ago, I was really wallowing in self-pity over this whole crappy fibromyalgia diagnosis thing.  I somehow got onto a chronic pain message board on Yahoo and started sharing about how awful I was feeling with multitudes of other people.  There was no shortage of chronic pain and illness back then, just as there are no shortages now.

While I was there, I came up with an idea.  What if all of these people who are suffering from chronic, invisible illnesses and pain were to tell their stories in their own words in a book?  I put the idea out there and got exactly one story from a woman I had gotten to know a little bit through email.  Nothing ever happened and eventually I realized that all that board was doing was making me feel worse and I needed to "unjoin" the group.  So I did and kind of forgot about the book idea.  Until last night.

Okay, here's the funny thing.  I actually brought this up with Toni Bernhard (author of How to Be Sick) on her Facebook page late last night and she generously shared my request for stories with her 5,000+ fans and agreed to write the prologue for me.  Then I took my Ambien and went to bed.  Woke up nine hours later and, when I resurfaced, there were all these people who were emailing me, wanting to be a part of my book.  My little idea now, three years later, has suddenly come back into my life in a huge way.  I don't know if it's God, or Karma, or what, but I think somehow I wasn't meant to do that book three years ago.  I was meant to do it now.  Okay, I'm cool with that.

So, I need to tell you exactly what I'm looking for.  And I also need to let you know that I have set up a separate email address for your correspondence and submissions, to make sure I don't miss anyone who wants to be part of this project. 

The address to submit to is:

I have not yet had time to really figure out exactly how I am going to do this or how I will decide things like whether I will take more than one story for the same illness, what the deadline is for submission, or how many people I will include.  I think that probably a huge factor will be whether I feel your story is something that people who have that particular illness can relate to and that will also appeal to a more general audience with other chronic illnesses and chronic pain.

My goal is to tell my story and yours.  No doctors, no medical advice.  This is a book about you and what you have gone through and continue to live with.  So, with that in mind, here is what I am currently seeking for my book.  I may come out with other requests as stories come in, so this is not fixed in stone.

To be included, you must:
  • Have a chronic physical or mental illness (I think to make your illness chronic, you must have been experiencing symptoms for at least three years.  I will consider less if your story is compelling)
  • Be able to tell it within 10-20 double spaced pages in a readable way in a Word document (copies of your story from your blogs are acceptable if you want to cut and paste, but please include anything else you want people to know or that I am asking for here)
  • Be willing to sign a legal release that will allow me to use your story.  I will be self-publishing this book out of my own pocket, so I think it's only fair that if any future revenue is generated, I will be paid back.  You will not receive royalties, but you will be getting your story heard.
Here is what you will need to think about when you write:

  • Please spell check your work.  Ditto punctuation and grammar.  I will, of course, be editing all stories that are included and I will also be asking someone I trust to read for errors before it goes into the book.  But it will be easier on me if you are being careful and re-reading what you have written before you send it to me.
  • Do not include any information you do not want made public.  If you do not want me to use your real name, please let me know what name you would like me to use.  I also think it would be best if we don't use real doctors' names, so please just put in "Dr. M." or "the hospital."  I don't want any lawsuits from angry medical professionals.
  • Please do include your whole story from the time you began experiencing symptoms up through the present.  Tell me about your journey through chronic illness.  Did you get good medical or psychiatric help?  If so, why do you think it was good?  If not, why not?
  • How long did it take for you to get a diagnosis?  Or, if you haven't been given an official diagnosis, what do you think is causing your illness?
  • How has your illness affected your day to day life?  Did you have to retire or go on disability from your job?  How much or how little are you actually able to do in a day and do you have "good" days and "bad" days?  Are you home-bound or bed-bound by your illness?  What restrictions do you have because of your illness?
  • How has your illness affected your life with your family and friends?  Have you lost a spouse or significant other because they couldn't handle your illness?  Are you no longer able to socialize?
  • If you suffer from chronic pain (and I would prefer stories that have this component. because it's the information I am trying to get out there), tell me about how much pain you have.  Is it constant?  What does it feel like?  How well are you able to cope with it on a day to day basis?  What helps the pain?  What makes it worse?
Okay, I'm running out of ideas, but I am sure that as your stories are submitted, I will have further requests.  The first question I will be asking you is whether you will sign a release form to allow me to use your story and saying that you will not be receiving royalties from this book. 

This is a huge project for me to take on, with all that I have going on in my life and with my own fibromyalgia, so I will need to take frequent breaks.  If you don't hear back from me right away, don't worry.  I promise to consider every submission.  If you have further questions, please feel free to email me. 

Again, that's

Right now, there is no submission deadline.  That will obviously change in the future, as things begin to come together, I see how many stories I get, I decide which stories I am going to use, and a potential publishing date becomes clear.

Thanks for taking this on!  I think the world needs to know about invisible and chronic illness.  With your help, maybe we can get our stories out there and heard.  And a huge thank you to Toni Bernhard.  Toni, without your book, this would not be possible.  You are an amazing inspiration.  You can find Toni on her website at How to Be Sick or on Facebook at her fan page How to Be Sick.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Decluttering, Metal Chickens, and (a few) Tears

"It is such a secret place, the land of tears."

The Little Prince
Antoine de Saint-Exupery

I really had an awesome weekend.  On Friday, I drove the younger boys out to my parents' house for a much needed rest. 

It had been an absolutely grueling week after Justin's father had his heart attack and quadruple bypass surgery.  I've never seen my husband so completely exhausted and overwhelmed before, even when his dad lost a kidney to cancer six years ago.  When my FIL arrived at the emergency room on Sunday night last week, the doctors gave him a 20% chance of survival.  His lungs were filled with fluid, his one remaining kidney was not working, and he had had a massive heart attack.  They did catheterization and discovered four entirely blocked arteries.  He needed a quadruple bypass surgery and if he didn't get it, he was going to die.  But first, his body would have to tolerate almost 24 hours of dialysis, which might kill him.

We are incredibly grateful that he pulled through the surgery and his first words upon waking up were, "Get me out of here."  He was pissed off.  Good.  Pissed off people fight harder.

All of these horrible things that have happened in the last few months really make you slow down and appreciate what's important.  Like metal chickens.

On Friday, upon arriving at my parents' house, I saw this:

Oh my God.  My mother had metal chickens.  If you haven't read my post about the 5' metal chicken over at Jenny Lawson's Website, please go look for the one that's entitled something to the effect of why you should pick your battles.  Apparently it went viral and shut down her server.  Now, I am all about metal chickens.  And my mom had two.  I wasn't leaving without them.

I spent a good bit of time in one of the spare rooms, going through old portraits, removing them from frames and putting the old frames in boxes to take to Goodwill.  We ended up with several piles and the boys walked things to the separate donation areas that had been set up in the dining room.  This was my favorite:

As you can see, the label reads, "Ask Papa."  This was my dad's pile of stuff that Mom needed a "yes" or a "no" to keeping and it kept growing larger and larger as the weekend went on.  My dad has a lot of work to do before their move in August.

I had told Jamie on the way out that since his primary reason for living this summer seems to be to argue with me, he needed to argue about absolutely everything I wanted to bring home except for black picture frames, in conjunction with my desire to decrapify my house.  If I couldn't justify it, it wasn't coming home.  But metal chickens were an exception - they were coming home no matter what he said and no matter how much he argued that the metal chicken blog wasn't funny.  I know a few thousand people who thought it was.

My pile ended up looking like this:

Sorry it's blurry.  Camera phone.  But essentially, it was a box of picture frames, along with a few treasured photographs I wanted.  I whittled it down further before loading it into my car.  That large collage in the back didn't make the cut.
I also found my younger brother's freshman yearbook and, after everyone else went to bed and Jamie was streaming episodes of South Park on his laptop so as not to wake my parents up, I spent some time just looking through it.  He was a freshman two years after I graduated, but not much had changed in the two years between my being a senior and his being a freshman.  There were still no computers, smart phones, iPads, internet, video games, or anything else that kids think they can't live without.  I even saw a picture of someone talking on a pay phone.  
God, how old am I?
The weekend was entirely peaceful and I got to spend some quality time with both of my parents, my mother in particular.  I have come to terms (mostly) with their moving 600 miles away, but it still hit me pretty hard on Saturday after a fairly grueling trip into a town that was filled to the brim with weekend tourists, my mother slamming on a fake brake in my passenger seat as she yelled at me to watch out for the idiots and feared for her life, and a 30 minute wait in a huge crowd at the tiny McDonald's to get our lunch.  Fibro roared back with a vengeance and I caved into my own secret land of tears when I lay down to take a brief nap.  I sobbed pretty good for about 20 minutes as everything that has happened this year hit me at once and the fact that soon my parents will be multiple states away became crystal clear in the empty spots on the walls where pictures had hung.
There must be something to the sentiment that as long as you are alive, you never really get over needing your parents.  I will be 47 next month and I still find myself thinking that I need them.  Here.  Physically.  I need to get over that.  I am an adult, but every time I hear Taylor Swift's song Wish I Never Grew Up, it puts me back into the secret land of tears, wistful for the days when life was simple, I wasn't responsible for other little lives (rather than someone tucking me into bed at night), and there was always a room that belonged to me.  Maybe women are more susceptible to this feeling than men, but I still need my parents with a vengeance and I really, truly realized this weekend that they are moving.  I guess there's a lot to be said for denial as a defense mechanism.

My dad spent a good bit of Saturday and Sunday with my boys, taking them to the lake to swim and taking them to the shooting range and out to lunch on Sunday.  Joey and I spent quite a bit of time in the hot tub, just watching the deer wandering at the bottom of the long hill that is my parents' back yard and I truly relaxed for the first time in months.  I realize that life could be worse in so many ways.  My mother got cancer, but she didn't die and they don't think the cancer will be what kills her.  I still have both of my parents and so does Justin.  We are so grateful that they were able to save my mom and that his dad survived both dialysis and the surgery.

And really, with the internet, Mom keeps saying we can talk every day.  But you know what?  We don't actually talk every day now and sometimes weeks go by when I don't see my parents.  The 600 miles is indeed a great distance and I will be very sorry and probably very tearful on moving day, but I realize that this is not the end of the world that I thought it was a year ago.  They are going somewhere they love and that will make them happy and isn't that what life is all about?

You should do what makes you happy and live where you are happy.  Life really boils down to those two simple rules, doesn't it? 

And the metal chickens are a bonus.  Not only do I get to move them around and pose them obscenely, as suggested by my mother, I got to scare the dog:

How often can you say your metal chickens made your dog nervous?




Sorry to have been MIA for the last three days.  It involved a lovely trip to West Virginia, decluttering, lots of hot tubbing, and metal chickens.  Oh, and the cute little feathered number you see in the picture.  I promise a blog post in the next 12 hours.

It's honestly amazing to me how much goes on online when you shut the computer down for a bit.  Even though I checked in regularly on Facebook (since of course I had my laptop with me!), there are so many blogs that have updated and things that have been published just since Friday that I feel kind of anxious and out of control of it.  It's like something got away from me somehow.

Do you ever wonder if all of this online publishing will mean that there will be so many more writers but a much smaller pie of people to read what they wrote?  I think being able to publish on the internet and not have to go through a "real" publisher to get your feelings heard is amazing and I suspect that the stuffy "real" publishers are going to have to completely revamp their method of doing business or go out of business.

But, I digress.  I must shower before lunch (because otherwise, that's just wrong).  I have already transplanted two strawberry plants and unlocked Joey's accidentally locked touch pad on his laptop.  I feel as if I've accomplished a lot already today and I haven't even gotten "dressed" yet!



Friday, June 24, 2011

Another Late Night

I thought I was done blogging yesterday for the weekend but, alas, insomnia hit me again.  So, I got up last night and wrote another ode to insomnia.  It has been proofread for content, since I wrote it long after taking sleep medication that should have knocked me out.  I was awake by 9:15 this morning, but I'm not in a rested stated, for sure!

It’s 1:05 a.m. and once again I am awake.  I feel like a total failure at sleep.  Why can’t I sleep?

I laid down at 11:00 with Justin and he went right to sleep.  I read from my Kindle for a half hour, feeling sleepy and hopeful.  I’m reading “The Hours” by Michael Cunningham.  It’s a Pulitzer Prize winning novel about Virginia Woolf’s book, “Mrs. Dalloway.”  It’s a good book – a very good book – but it’s not exciting and so I thought I would find myself able to go easily to sleep if I laid down.  I felt tired.

At 11:30, I was promisingly sleepy and I swallowed my double dose of ambien and turned out my light.  An hour later, at 12:30, I got up to go to the bathroom and tried turning over.  I can go an entire hour awake without moving once and be surprised when I look at the clock to see that an hour has passed.  Am I asleep without realizing it?

I turned onto my other side when I got back into bed after my bathroom run and thought the new position would help.  After all, I still felt sleepy.  I am tired with every fiber of my being.  There is nothing in particular going through my usually racing mind tonight and I felt sleepy.

The other side was a failure, as it has been since my first pregnancy.  Lying on my left side simply puts too much pressure on my stomach and causes reflux.  It’s apparent that I am an almost 47 year old woman in the little things like the heartburn that comes simply from lying on my left side.  It’s more comfortable physically, fibromyalgia-wise, but I am soon feeling the pressure of my stomach pushing up my esophagus.  Why do they always make pregnant women in labor lie on their left side?  I could never do it because I thought my stomach was going to make an entrance through my mouth instead of a baby through…well, you know.

I felt like I needed to go to the bathroom again.  (47 year old bladder with issues.)  I looked at the clock and it was 1:00 a.m.  I finally sighed and got up, grabbed my glasses and my Kindle and came back downstairs.  Everyone else is asleep.  Justin was out the minute he hit the bed, the stress of the week and the emotional roller coaster forcing him into much needed rest.  The soothing hum of the fan we began running at night years ago to cover up outside noise should be making me sleepy.  I am sleepy.  And yet, I’m awake.

Even the dog is unconscious, lying on the floor by the wall.  He never moved when I came downstairs and turned on the computer and the familiar chimes of the computer booting up came on.  (Why does it do that?  I hit “mute.”)  I can hear him sigh every once in awhile.  Why can the dog sleep, but I can’t?  His body clock is fixed to be asleep by 9:00 or 10:00 at the latest and to be up whenever Justin gets up.  How do dogs do that?

Tomorrow, I will leave for two nights at my parents’ home with the younger children.  Is the coming trip causing anxiety?  I am anxious to see my parents after this week trapped in my house, taking care of the dog and the younger children, but I don’t feel upset about it.  It has been too much summer this week and, although I love the kids with all my heart, I miss them being in school.  I think they must believe I am lonely.  Or maybe they are lonely and bored.  Or maybe they are worried about Justin and their Granddaddy.  They come downstairs much more often when Justin doesn’t have to have quiet and isn’t working in the office and they spend time with me.  I’m used to spending my days in my bedroom office, trying to write something that someone might want to read – my blog, maybe the book I have outlined, maybe another children’s book.  This week, I have been downstairs with the computer to keep track of whether the dog needs to be walked or is lonely and the kids think they are being nice to me by sitting with me in the family room.  I have gotten nothing done, writing wise.

Traveling always makes me anxious, even to a familiar place that isn’t far away.  But this trip is not making me anxious that I can tell.  Maybe I can’t go to sleep because I just want tomorrow to get here so I can go out and see my parents.  I won’t get too many chances to visit with them before they move several states away in August.  I am not processing that bit of information yet, but I know that I need to enjoy the time I can spend with them while I still have it.  The house they own now is a beautiful, large, comfortable home on quite a bit of land in the mountains.  The deer come through the back yard at dusk – mamas and babies and large bucks with antlers – to feed on the vegetation.  Sitting in the hot tub on the deck after dark, you can see countless stars, even more so than in the valley where we live.  It’s even darker there because there is even less population to drown out the starlight at night.

Whatever the reason, I cannot “Go the FUCK to SLEEP!” as I keep hearing over and over in my head in Samuel L. Jackson’s voice.  It’s not annoying me that I hear these words – it’s almost becoming a mantra to try to help myself along.  It’s actually said in an almost loving way, a tender way, go the fuck to sleep, Chelle, so that you can get up and go help your mother clean out her closets and get the beautiful Ansel Adams prints she doesn’t want for Justin’s office and help her get all the other things out of her house in preparation for the move.  And don’t bring home a lot of stuff to replace the stuff you’ve gotten rid of.

She didn’t ask me exactly what time we would be there tomorrow and I told her in my last email that all depends on how well I am doing in the morning.  A big part of that wellness plan is whether I have logged eight or nine hours of sleep before trying the trip.  A cranky, sleep deprived, bipolar woman with fibromyalgia is no fun for anyone and so I would not try to rush my departure.  But I know that Joey, with his nagging, will have me so annoyed by lunchtime that I will be throwing items into bags and yelling, “Fine!  Get your butt in the car and don’t blame me if you’ve forgotten something when we get there!”  And then I’ll apologize and ask him if he’s got everything before I back out of the driveway.  It’s no good trying to drive while aggravated.  In fact, that’s probably worse than driving while talking on my cell phone.

But for now, I sit here at 1:24 in the morning, the only light coming from my computer screen, wondering how long it will take before the ambien finally kicks in and allows my mind to shut down.  It’s supposed to work within ten minutes and I try not to take it until I can feel my body and mind winding down for the night.  That’s usually around 12:00.  I probably took it too soon  And so now, it is 1:32 in the morning and I will turn on the television and pray for the sandman to put in an appearance soon.  Please.  I need my rest.



Thursday, June 23, 2011

And the Decluttering Continues

I've mentioned before that my parents are getting ready to move to a warmer climate in August.  What I may not have mentioned is that they will have to downsize their possessions by about 2/3 because the house they are having built is much smaller than the one they live in now.

This weekend, I am taking the younger two boys out to help my mother clear out "stuff."  We'll be donating things here and there and cleaning out closets.  I've already been told that eventually the task of going through all of our childhood pictures will fall to me and wow, I already have boxes of my own photos I can't get through!  I'd better get moving on my own photo organization, because when my childhood pictures come my way, it's going to be a photograph avalanche.

In anticipation of my trip tomorrow, I have been kind of looking around.  With the situation with my father-in-law this week, my decluttering came to a screeching halt on Father's Day.  But knowing that I will be running errands to donate things, I thought it would be a good idea to see if there is anything I can bear to part with to continue with my decluttering efforts.  Here's what I came up with:

I went through a unicorn phase way back at the beginning of my marriage and I believe Justin ordered this for me as a Christmas gift one year out of those newspaper inserts that have advertisements for things you can give as gifts that have no purpose.  He's been sitting in my dining room china cabinet and I realized tonight that I don't particularly like unicorns anymore and, in particular, I don't really like this unicorn.  So, he's going to the thrift store.

I found this carousel horse in a flea market with Ben many years ago.  It is wobbly on its base and kind of old.  I thought it was really cool when I bought it for a couple of bucks.  It (as with everything I am picturing tonight) was also in my china cabinet taking up space.  I'm not sentimentally attached to it, so out it goes.

Like the unicorns, I also went through my dolphin phase.  In fact, Justin and I got kind of on a roll with dolphins, even going so far as to get matching dolphin tattoos on our right shoulders.  Something about dolphins mating for life.  The tattoos will remain (obviously), but this little resin pair of dolphins was picked up for a couple of bucks at a Virginia Beach souvenir shop and holds no particular value.  Off to the thrift store with it.

 This one came from a table top full of little knick knacks my mom brought back after her mother died.  I never saw it in her little assisted living apartment and really didn't know it existed.  I thought it was kind of pretty, but there is no memory of this item belonging to my grandmother.  My mom also brought back a pretty cross stitch picture I had made for my grandmother and a very pretty little glass pitcher that I had bought her as a Christmas gift one year.  Those are much more suitable to my home than this item and, since it really does remind me of those little old ladies' homes that are filled to the rafters with things that no one could possibly want, or a very old parlor or something, if Mom doesn't want it, it goes to the thrift shop.

I recently was asked by my mother-in-law whether there was anything I wanted from Justin’s great-uncle’s house after he died.  I couldn’t really think of anything, but suddenly it occurred to me that I (sort of) collect teacups.  So, I said I’ll take any teacups if he has them.  What I got was a huge bag full of teacups.  This is just a portion of what he gave me.  I have others in the china closet that I have collected over the years and a couple in the family room.  (We also have a genuine Russian fur hat, but that is Justin's to decide on whether to keep it or do something else with it.)
Teacups and saucers are items that you really don’t need to have and you might argue that they are simply taking up a lot of space and collecting dust.  I am wishy washy on whether or not I want to keep all of these teacups, but for right now, I have displayed them while I try to decide if this is something I want to move when we finally sell our house or foist on my children if and when something happens to me.  Having all boys, I doubt seriously they are going to want a teacup collection, but I always hold out the hope of a granddaughter sometime in my future.  Who may or may not want a collection of a bunch of old teacups that do nothing but sit there taking up space and collecting dust.

Since I spent the whole week not decluttering, I thought it would be appropriate to pick more than one item to take out of the house this weekend.  And Ben was nice enough to drop off another several bags of books at the library for me this afternoon.  I still have shelves full of books, but I have seriously moved some literature out of the house over the last few weeks.

I anticipate a weekend of hard work followed by several days of recovery next week.  Don’t fret if you are not getting two blog posts a day for the next three days.  I am merely off on a decluttering mission for someone else.  Maybe it will motivate me to even further heights of getting the crap out of my house.



It's All in your Perspective

Yesterday, a friend shared this link on her Facebook page:

Please go read it, if you haven't already.  This is the funniest thing I have read in a very long time and I am still laughing 24 hours later at the mental image from the second picture in Jenny Lawson's blog post.  I can only aspire to write so well that someone is still aughing at something I wrote the next day.

It was so funny that I felt compelled to share it with Justin and with Jamie.  Justin got a small kick out of it, which was the intention.  I really wanted something that would make him smile for just a minute.  Everyone I've shared this with on Facebook has thought it was hysterically funny.  Except for Jamie.  

When Jamie didn't laugh at a 5 foot metal chicken standing at the closed front door of her house, I thought he simply didn't get it.  But then we started arguing about why we actually need a metal chicken, especially one that is five feet tall.  Someone (it might have been the author herself) said it would be a really cool thing to lug around to friends who are feeling down, so that they could get at least one laugh on a day that might not be going well.

The conversation with Jamie went something like this:

Jamie:  I get it Mom, but it's not funny.

Me:  Jamie, it's very funny.  We need a five foot metal chicken.

Jamie:  Mom, you can't spend money on a five foot metal chicken.  We don't need a five foot metal chicken.

Me:  Oh yes we do.  You have no idea how much we need a five foot metal chicken.

Jamie:  So, you would actually put a metal chicken on your credit card if you didn't have the money to pay for it?

That's a valid question, really, since I've been trying so freaking hard to pay off our debts and not use the credit cards.  But for a five foot metal chicken, I would pull out my credit card.  I would simply have to have this item.  I am pretty sure I need this chicken as much as I need an iPad.  And that's a lot.

Jamie said that she should have just bought the towels.  I disagree.  This was creative arguing at its absolute best.  That was honestly the most creative solution to a marital spat that I have ever seen and it was also the funniest thing I have seen in a long time.  In fact, I don't think I've laughed that hard since I saw Jeff Dunham on Comedy Central doing Achmed, the Dead Terrorist.

Everyone needs a five foot metal chicken in their lives.  Except 14 year old boys, apparently.  High school kids.  What is wrong with them?  How can he not see how badly we need a five foot metal chicken?

That chicken represents so many things, aside from the creative solution to an argument with her husband.  It represents having a fantastic sense of humor about marriage, which is essential.  It represents the fact that a spouse should not ever say "you cannot have that," because that is almost a guarantee that whatever that is, you're probably going to end up with it just because you said not to buy it.  And it represents the thought that if someone is down, there is always a metal chicken to lift your spirits.

Yesterday was a metal chicken day.  A five foot metal chicken day.  And I am so grateful to Jenny Lawson for writing that blog entry and making my day.  I will forever carry that image of the metal chicken standing outside of the closed door, waiting for her husband to answer.  I'm sure that once the angry from the argument wore off, he must have come around and seen the humor in it because after all, she didn't bring home the towels.  That was the best spending for something you don't need that I have ever seen.  

After all, you're always going to have car repairs, college tuition bills, trips to the eye doctor...etc., etc.  If you find a five foot metal chicken, that is worth every penny.  Because it's not all those things you don't want to spend money on, but have to anyways.  From my perspective of 23 years of marriage, I would buy the chicken.  Maybe someday Jamie will understand why a metal chicken would be a good thing to have.  It's all in your perspective.



Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Dragons, Oh My!

I've written quite frequently lately about my efforts at decluttering my house, in connection with Colleen's blog, 365 Less Things.  One of the things I thought might be worth getting out of my basement is the four large plastic containers of legos that are left over from the days when Jamie loved to build things.  I can remember him making a lego drinking glass container to keep the cats from knocking his water over and another little box that locked somehow.  The kid was just so amazingly creative with those legos!

But now, Jamie is going into high school and the legos were sadly relegated to the basement a couple of years ago.  They laid there, forgotten, until this past Tuesday when I was changing the cat litter.  I like to glance around down there on the rare days I actually go down there (because frankly, our basement is a dark, kinda scary place) and see if there is anything I can put into the "declutter" pile.

After Tuesday's glance, I came up with a bookcase, a small desk, a boom box (do people even still use those?), an area rug that no longer matches our family room and which probably wouldn't survive the dog, and the four containers of legos.  The boxes were covered in dust and spider webs, making it clear how long they had been sitting there and how little they have been loved in the last 3-4 years.  So, I figured this would be a good time to get rid of them.

I put a note up on Facebook that anyone local who wanted any of these things was welcome to them.  I didn't get any responses and kind of forgot about it for now, since there are so many turbulent things happening in my life at the moment.  And the other thing I kinda forgot was that Jamie has a younger brother.

Joey never was much into legos or knex or any of those neat building sets that I used to help Jamie put together.  He's always been either a video game or movie man.  Of course, things change when you least expect it.

Because Justin wasn't home today, I told Joey that he could invite the little neighbor boys from across the street inside to play in the air conditioning (who knew June was actually hell on earth - I could have fried an egg on our sidewalk today).  The boys are 5 and 7 years old.  The 7 year old is very patient with Joey about his always wanting to be in charge of the video games.  I think he's just thrilled that Joey has unlimited access to Mario Brothers.  The younger boy has a little bit shorter attention span and not a lot of interest in video games, which are really the only form of entertainment in Joey's room besides his copious collection of books.  I could see Joey being a minimalist someday, but a bibliophile minimalist.

I assured the visiting little boys that the dog was not going to eat them because he was in his crate.  "See, I promise he can't get out."  Jack stared at me mournfully, wondering why he couldn't greet this little visitors.  But they have a healthy respect for large dogs and I didn't want to traumatize them, so I coaxed them inside with the promise that I would not let the dog lick them to death.  Once they had gone upstairs, I realized fairly quickly that I was going to need something to entertain the younger one and remembered the legos in the basement.

The little one wanted to go downstairs with me, overcoming his dog fear long enough to sneak down the basement steps with me and discover these treasure boxes full to the brim of old legos and all their accoutrements.  I told him to pick out two containers and we would take them upstairs.  He very seriously told me that I needed to clean them off first (because dirt and spider webs are so not what boys are about) and then ecstatically proceeded to dump the contents onto the floor of Joey's room.  Which led to the discovery of...

...the DRAGON.  Holy crap, sometimes you just forget what you have.  And it never occurred to me that Joey would have any interest in dragons, because he'd never expressed any interest in dragons.  In fact, Jamie was cleaning out his closet when I started this decluttering adventure and he decided to get rid of all of the dragon statues that I had given him when he was collecting them.  I didn't think anything of it and they were in the bags I dropped off at Goodwill yesterday.  I felt fantastic making that first of many drop offs yet to come.   I had no idea that today, Joey would decide that his newest interest, his favorite thing in the whole world, is a plastic dragon toy that he found in one of the lego boxes.  Well, really, he found it on the floor, because the little ones across the street tend to love messing Joey's room up and leaving him with the mess.  I put up with it because I'm so thrilled that my autistic son has friends even if they aren't near to his chronological age.

After I was making up his bed and he had finished putting away the legos into the containers, he asked me if he could keep "this."  "This" was a good sized plastic dragon that Jamie had inadvertently stored with the legos and long ago forgotten about.  Wow, it's really true.  One man's trash actually is another man's treasure.  We decided that Joey would keep both of the boxes I had brought up in his closet for future visits from the tornado twins across the street and that of course he could definitely keep anything in the box that he wanted for himself.

I now feel a little regretful that I just took the dragons to Goodwill without asking Joey if he was interested.  It just never occurred to me and I am trying to clean out all the "stuff" from my house.  I don't need toys running downhill, much the way shit does, and ending up with the same mess in another room.

But, it has now been declared by Joey that his favorite thing is dragons.  I guess we'll be plumbing the depths of the other two containers tomorrow to see what other treasures might be hiding and I will withdraw my offer of the legos giveaway for the moment to see what develops.  When I last went up to Joey's room, he had quite an impressive start on some kind of lego building, with people and everything.  We apparently really did get every single kit they made when Jamie was interested.  There are kits in there for things you can't begin to imagine, as can't I, since we've long since lost the instruction booklets.

So, I guess the moral of this story is that you not only have to ask the owner of items that you want to declutter if it's okay to send them on their way, but also anyone else in the family who might have an interest in the items.  At least when the older brother is cleaning out his things.

I have another load of stuff in the back of my truck to go to Goodwill tomorrow.  But those are all my things.  Really.



When the Going Gets Too Tough

Today, I feel heavy, as if I am swimming through a vast sea of mud.  It took me hours to be able to get out of bed and downstairs to the couch this morning, after a horrible night of interrupted sleep that began late.  I suspect Justin hardly slept at all.

I am holding down the fort at home, while Justin is with his family, seeing his father through major heart surgery.  I just got the news that his dad made it through the surgery and is back in the ICU.  I feel like I should feel lighter now, but I don't.  I'm exhausted, tired, and scared.  It's scary to face the fact that our parents are getting older.  It's scary that we have been through one health crisis after another in the last year or more, starting with my surgery in April of last year.  Justin has worn the suit he bought last summer to four funerals in less than a year.  That's just way too many times.

Although I am not superstitious, I took that suit to the cleaners yesterday.  Somehow I thought that by taking it to the cleaners and having it "ready," Justin won't have to use it this time.  There must be something to that superstition, as things are looking cautiously better.

I just spent five minutes rubbing the dog's ears.  Jackson is bewildered that his constant companion is not here.  I know how he feels.  Life just doesn't seem right with Justin gone and his father lying in a hospital bed.  Now I know how Justin must have felt when I was gone in February to be with my own mother while she went through her surgery.

I find myself overwhelmed by the little things right now.  My Facebook feed seems to be working strangely and selectively and I can't figure out where all the status updates are.  It feels out of control, kind of like our lives right now.  Deciding on what to have for dinner is agonizing.  The kids look to me when Justin is not here for our food choices and I don't know what to tell them.  Yesterday, I went to the store and got one of those chickens you can roast in the bag in the oven.  I somehow managed to put a pretty good dinner on the table last night.  Tonight, I have no idea and it's already 2:30.

Ben's car was supposed to be ready yesterday and I still haven't heard anything.  Nor have I called the dealership to find out.  Jamie missed cadets on Tuesday.  I simply forgot about it because Justin always takes him.

My stomach is in knots and every word comes with great difficulty.  I think we are reaching our limit on tragedy.  There has to be a point where you say to God, "I'm sorry, but I just can't handle anymore.  Please don't send me anything else to handle for awhile."

So, God, please don't send us any more tragedy this year.  We are running out of strength to withstand the constant barrage of bad news.  In return, I will try to get on with things and be of some use to my husband and children.  I know you don't do bargaining, but I would appreciate just a little break.  Not for me, but for Justin.



Sleep Must Be for People Without Fibromyalgia

It's amazing how much insomnia is messing with my mind these days.  Every night, I seem to be pushing the time I go to bed back further and further.  Maybe eventually, I will just be going to bed at the right time the next night?

Of course, it's always harder to sleep when I'm worried, but I was ready to give it a shot tonight.  Except the minute I turned my light out, I heard what I thought was thunder.  Jack, being the neurotic puppy he still is, doesn't really like thunder and I did not want him to wake Justin up.  Justin really needs sleep right now with what he is going to be dealing with over the next few days with his dad.

So I immediately came back downstairs.  The dog was completely sacked out by the wall where we'd left him and where he prefers to sleep (you'd think he'd like the soft bed in his crate better, but for some reason, the hardwood floor is where dreamland is at) and remains that way even now, after the storm has passed.  I, of course, am wide awake and wondering how late it will have to get before I can actually lie down and go to f&@*^g sleep already.

There's a new audio book out that is a parody of a children's bedtime story.  I don't have my kindle down here, but I think the title is Go The F*#k to Sleep! and it's read by Samuel L. Jackson of Pulp Fiction fame.  We've all been there as parents, just living for our children's bedtimes and then they simply will not cooperate.  I need a drink of water, I need to go to the bathroom, I need another blanket....anything and everything they can think of to keep you in their room for just a little while longer.  God forbid they've lost the toy they sleep with because nobody gets any sleep until you've ripped the house apart and even run back over to the friend's house where you might have left it in the desperate attempt to get your little cherub into dreamland.

I laughed and snickered and snorted the entire time I listened to the book, while Justin observed the crazy woman with earphones laughing to herself and wondered if another trip to the psych ward might be in order.  This little parody would have been great for me back when the kids were little and simply would not give me a moment's peace.  I was always an early to bedtime mama.  Those kids had better have their asses in their beds, teeth brushed, pajamas on, baths done, stuffed animal in hand at 7:30 pm sharp, because after that, unless there was blood, urine, or puke somewhere there wasn't supposed to be, I did not want to know about it.  And it better be damned quiet up there!!!!

Tonight, when I went into Joey's room after 11:00 to kiss him goodnight on my way to bed, he looked up at me seriously from the book he was reading by the closet light and said, "I thought you were in bed by now."  Um...isn't that supposed to go the other way around?  When I came downstairs to check out the thunder/dog situation, I ran into Ben getting himself a midnight snack on the way back up to whatever it is he does in our "bonus" room up there - I'm sure it has something to do with the two games he brought back from Gamestop last weekend.

It's hard to be in control of bedtimes when the kids go to sleep after you do.  This is one area my insomnia comes in handy, since I have a pretty good idea of who goes to bed and when.  I can hear when it starts to get quiet, so I know when the younger two at least have given it up for the night.  Ben's quiet enough that I don't particularly care when he goes to sleep, as long as he is up for whatever he needs to do the next day.

At any rate, two of the three kids are now asleep, Justin is asleep, the dog is asleep, and the cats actually came down looking for me.  They won't be happy until I am in bed and sleeping.  My being up messes with their circadian rhythms or something.  So I will finish this post and go see if the sleep meds kicked in yet.  I really don't want to be a stay up all night, sleep all day kind of person because that just feels wrong to me.


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Heading Toward Financial Freedom - Spending Diet Update

News on the Spending Diet - June 2011

I've discovered in the last week just how much freedom it gives you when you pay off your credit card debt.  As I posted earlier, I was finally able to pay off our largest credit card, freeing us from the nightmare of over $200 a month in interest.  Since savings doesn't pay anything these days, we decided our money would be better spent getting rid of that constant, nagging, huge credit card bill.  Now we are broke, but we are free.  Well almost.  There's still one small bill for furniture I bought before I lost my job, but that's interest free, so we decided not to pay that one off early.  We're using their money for 24 months for free.  The furniture may not last as long as the bill (I hope it does), but there's no sense in getting rid of the bill right now.  Aside from fewer bills and more money that can go into savings.

Paying off the big credit card and our two individual cards frees up money to go to savings.  Well, in theory.  Never a month goes by that we don't get hit by something that wasn't in the budget.  Some of these things are things I should be planning for, because they are yearly expenses.  Others come up and should be coming out of that emergency fund you are supposed to build.

One of these annual expenses is the trip to the eye doctor.  All of us need to go, but Ben is insisting his eyes are fine and he can wait.  Likewise, I am waiting for a few months to try to get other things paid for or some money in the bank.  If I start getting headaches from vision changes though, it will have to be done.  And mine are never cheap because I wear progressive lenses. 

All five of us have vision that requires correcting, unfortunately.  And it's not covered by our health insurance plan, for which we pay handsomely before Justin gets his take home pay twice a month.  I caved to Jamie's request for contact lenses this year after he worked his grades up to the acceptable level and took both him and Joey for their annual eye exams.  Long story short - Joey doesn't need new glasses.  Jamie needed new lenses for his glasses and we were getting the contacts.  I ended up spending $300 at the eye doctor that was not in this month's budget because I forgot to budget for it.  But here's the really cool thing.  Because I don't have to pay that massive credit card bill, I was able to pay cash for that visit.

Then, Ben called from work and said the passenger side window on his car would not go up.  Justin went over and swapped cars and brought it home to look at it.  Nope, it had to go to the dealership to get the passenger side door replaced.  I don't know what that will cost yet.  The woman told Justin $500 yesterday, but it turns out that she had ordered the wrong year part and said that because this is an older vehicle, it will be "considerably less" than originally quoted.  I don't know what "considerably less" means.  Again, because we don't have these massive credit card bills, I will be able to pay cash for this expense too.

My only problem, money-wise this month now, is that I was planning on socking a whole bunch of money back into savings.  Now, I have to pay for these things that came up.  But really.  Isn't it great not to have to charge an emergency?  What a fantastic feeling.

Of course, there are now huge, gaping, tempting, expansive credit lines open.  In the past, this would have been an insistent invitation for me to spend money.  Now, I can see the luxury in not using the credit cards just because I can.  I call that progress.  I'm wondering how long I can make my $20 Reebok tennis shoes last before I have to replace them instead of looking for those really cool new walking shoes that cost a fortune.  Who am I???



A Father's Day Nightmare

It's kind of hard to write today - I'm so, so sad about Justin's dad having a heart attack on Father's Day.  They are trying to stabilize him enough to do triple bypass surgery, but there has been a lot of damage to his heart.  And it's such a big heart, I can't imagine why this could happen.

I am dealing with the grief of this from two hours away, while Justin is at the hospital.  We are holding hands and giving hugs virtually by texting and phone.

It is when these things happen (and so many horrible things have happened in our family in the last year) that you truly realize what is important.  I can write about my struggles with my fibromyalgia and bipolar disorder.  I can write about decreasing our consumer debt and decluttering my house and my life.  I can post about my garden and the things my goofy dog has destroyed.  But, when it comes right down to it, what is really important?  It is family and friends and the love and support you get from them when something like this happens.  It is spending time with your spouse, your parents, your children.  It is stopping whatever you are doing if your child wants to talk.  Because you never know when your life might change in an instant.

I feel extremely grateful to have such a wonderful, loving, supportive family.  I feel blessed to have a relationship with my brother again after so many years of being so far apart mentally and emotionally.  I feel thankful that my three children are healthy and happy and growing up with each other.  Having siblings is so important, whether they know it now or not.  They are bonded for the rest of their lives by having me and Justin as their parents.

I know that I will go on to write about all of the things that consume me on a daily basis.  I will update my spending diet, post pictures of the clutter leaving the house, and whine about my physical and emotional pain, because life goes on.  Somehow, the world keeps turning, even though something so monumentally huge that you can't begin to grasp it has happened.  Today, it feels like the earth is standing still and I find myself surprised that time continues to pass and everything hasn't come to a grinding halt.

Twice now, this year, Justin and I have had to face the prospect of losing one of our parents.  I was incredibly fortunate that my mom survived her cancer.  I can only hope and pray that Justin's father will pull through this and hope that a little angel is up there whispering in God's ear for us.



Monday, June 20, 2011

ASPCA - Commercial Alert! Commercial Alert!

Yesterday, Joey and I were sitting across the family room from each other - him in Justin's recliner and me, as usual, on the couch.  I think he was waiting for Justin to make him some microwave popcorn and was sitting and watching TV with me while he waited.

As we watched, an ASPCA commercial came up and, as usual, I was holding back tears by the time it came to an end.  Those things are geared towards yanking your heart out through your chest to get you to donate your money and, being an animal lover, it's horrible to see those poor little scared puppies and kitties.  I can't stand the thought of an animal being in pain.

I glanced over and Joey was trying very hard not to cry.  It's funny with Joey and emotions.  I used to think that because of the autism, emotion was something he wouldn't understand.  All of a sudden, he is discovering emotions (in a good way) and has become very empathetic.  He's such a sweet little guy.  I told him it was okay, that it was just a commercial, and that all of those animals were being taken care of now.  And that we were doing our part by having our three animals, all of which were adopted, the cats through rescue agencies and the dog from someone who just didn't want him.  I told him to go hug the dog, which he did, and then went to eat his popcorn.  I didn't think much more about it.

Until about 11:00 last night when I went upstairs to get ready for bed.  Joey turns his light out at 10:30, although he usually stays up reading by the closet light for awhile because he, like me, has trouble going to sleep.  Last night, when I glanced in his doorway to see if he was still awake, he was lying there crying.  I asked him what was wrong and he said something to the effect of the ASPCA commercial was "making me sad."

I hugged him and told him that when he gets a little older, if he really wants to help animals, he can start by volunteering at an animal shelter.  And if he really likes animals, he could even become a veterinarian.  And I told him that we will always have animals in our house.  I can't imagine living in a house without animals - mine are almost as much my children as my children are.  They get the expensive food and I will put their needs ahead of mine.

Autism and emotions.  It's such an amazing amount of progress on Joey's part and it's kind of coming on the heels of a year full of amazing achievements on his part.  I had been afraid for his whole elementary school career that he would be tormented in middle school and instead, he absolutely thrived.  In fact, he thrived so much that he got two perfect scores out of three on the standardized tests this year and will be in the pre-algebra class next year, seventh grade.

Joey constantly amazes me.  I am so glad God chose me to be his mother.


The Path Less Traveled...Still Hurts

I didn't post much this weekend, which is not my normal style.  Simply put, it hurt too much.

Fibromyalgia pain struck with a vengeance on Friday afternoon and by Saturday morning, I was limping through the house muttering various obscenities every time my left foot hit the floor.  It literally felt as if the bones in my left leg were trying to exit through my heel.  I know that's not really possible, but that's what it felt like.

The sewing I've been trying to do to make ribbons and butterflies for fundraising caught up to me as my left hand cramped viciously and, the more I rubbed it to try to ease the cramp, the louder it yelled, "What the hell did you think was going to happen if you insisted on trying to hold that canvas and yank the yarn through???  You stupid woman!"

By Saturday night, I was ready to cry.  Justin and I have been searching in vain for something decent to watch on television and, since we have a "free" year of Starz to go with our increased cable bill, we thought we'd check out the series "Camelot."  Turns out to be a pretty good series, but really adults only.  Heed that warning.  We had to hit the off button when Joey came down for a snack.  Then Jamie and Ben decided to actually sit in the family room with us (trust me when I say this never happens) and we ended up back on Lord of the Rings.  They finally wandered off to their rooms and we finished watching the second episode.  By that time it was midnight and I thought I was ready for bed.  Until I laid down and realized my mattress had turned into a pile of rocks.

I launched myself back out of bed and came back downstairs, near tears from the pain and the fact that I had more than maxed out on my pain meds that day..  Here is an excerpt from my handwritten journal from that night:

F*!K! F&#K! F**K! So much PAIN!

Things that don't normally hurt are throbbing and I am MISERABLE.  Can't get online for support because of maxing out our internet usage with the kids' online game streaming.

The couch is more comfortable then the bed but not conducive to sleeping.  Was sleepy after the movie but the pain broke through immediately when I got into bed and I had to get back up.  Will pay tomorrow for the extra pain medication but just couldn't stand it anymore.

I'm flaring from anxiety, I'm sure.

Just a few tidbits - the whole rant was written by the flickering light of the television in the almost completely darkened family room as I desperately tried to get myself into a better place physically so I could just go to sleep and get a few hours divorced from the pain.

I think it's safe to say that events in my life are distressing me and the whole kids home for the whole summer thing, while great for not forcing me awake for a half hour at 6:30 every morning, has started to grate on my nerves.  We are a house full of five people.  All. The. Time.  Until the middle of August.  Wasn't there a whole movement for year round school somewhere?

I managed to drag myself out to lunch with Ben yesterday, since he had asked me and offered to pay for it.  Two things you never pass up from a 19 year old.  Having three teenagers can be like living with the cavemen, they grunt a lot and eat everything in the cave, making your grocery bill look like the national debt.

Luckily, the rain came through and the worst of the pain is receding a bit, although my left hand is still very upset with me.  I am sad to say that the canvas magnets are probably not going to happen.  Along with a lot of other things I know that people wish I could do.  It makes me sad when I have to say no and I feel guilty a lot.  I wish people could actually see the pain so they would understand that I'm not kidding when I say I just physically can't do something.

I went to hand Justin half a watermelon from the refrigerator last night and couldn't even stand the weight of that in my hands.  I don't know how much half a watermelon weighs, but that's pretty pathetic.

Sometimes it's hard to stay positive (you might be asking when was I ever positive in any way?), but I am trying.  I am trying to accept the things I can't change that upset me, because being upset just makes the pain worse.

Fibromyalgia, I hate you...your stupid name, the pain that comes with you, and the fact that no one can see you.  I hate invisible illnesses.  You make me mean and cranky, tearful and sad, but mostly you make me so angry.  I want my life back, but unless they come up with some magic cure, there is no end in sight to this life of mine just the way it is. suck.


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Happy Father's Day

A Father's Day Letter

To my dad:  You have made me a better person, taught me how to be honest, ethical, and moral (not an easy task), and been my hero all my life.  If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be here.  You are a wonderful father, grandfather, and role model.  I can't tell you enough how glad I am that you're my dad.

To my husband:  Justin, you are the glue that holds us together.  You may not always know it, but your children are in awe of you.  You are the best father in the world and I know that I made the right choice in picking you to be the father of my children.  You are loved, respected, and cherished.

To my father-in-law:  Thank you for being there for us for all these years.  You have been a wonderful father to your own children and have made me feel like your daughter.  You are appreciated and loved, even if I don't get to see you very often.

Happy Father's Day to all you fathers out there.  Please take the day to do something you enjoy and know that your job is extra important!  Having a dad you love, enjoy, respect, admire, and love is something that you can't buy, rent, or steal.  I have been lucky to have a great dad, a great father for my children, and a bonus dad through my wonderful husband.  You are all awesome!



Friday, June 17, 2011

Craigs List Nightmare

As most of  you are well aware, I have been in a decluttering frenzy.  I have been donating and chucking stuff like mad and the kids are lucky they weigh so much more now than when they were little, because I might have accidentally dropped one of them off at Goodwill with all the other stuff.

I recently wrote about the old computers that we had replaced with newer, sleeker laptops for the boys.  Wednesday night, I went onto Craigs List and posted them up for sale.  We had three towers, two monitors, two mice (mouses?), two keyboards, two sets of speakers, and a router and two adaptors.

I made the mistake of asking Ben what he thought I could get for all of these old items and, being the gamer that he is, he told me I might have to pay to have them hauled away, since there were no video cards in any of the computers.  As usual, I should have checked with Justin first!

I went ahead and placed the ad, not really knowing what to ask for all of this hardware.  I eventually settled on $60 to take the whole batch and when Justin found out, he was horrified.  I was already getting texts from one guy who wanted me to break up a set by selling him the one stand alone CPU unit with all of the "stuff" that you would need to use it from another full set, wanted server tag numbers, wanted to talk me down on the price...I was wasting lots and lots of time on this guy who was clearly looking for something for nothing.  I mean, they still ran and would be great for someone who only wanted to surf the internet or check their email.  Surely there were people who would appreciate that fact.

After going around and around with this guy yesterday morning by text, I went back into the Craigs Listing and edited it to a more serious $110 takes all and rewrote the ad with all of the accompanying information, grouping sets together and adding details, breaking it down by price.  I texted Bargaining Guy to let him know that he needed to check the updated listing before we talked any further and that I had mistakenly posted the wrong price without checking with my husband first.  He came back with, "No thanks, you just doubled the price."  Well, that's fine.  I appreciate the fact that it might have looked a little fishy, like a bait and switch, but I swear my intentions were completely innocent.  I only wanted to get all of this crap off my dining room table.  If it had been just me, I probably would have been willing to simply give the stuff away, but Justin insisted that the monitors alone were worth at least $25 each on their own.

After posting the new, edited listing, I immediately got a text from a woman in Northern Virginia who home schools several children and thought $110 was a great deal for all of this equipment.  They are apparently very into computers and the more the better.  She offered to come get them within an hour and sure enough, she showed up with her son to help her move them and gave me cash.  Not a bad deal and now my dining room table is clear again.  Temporarily, because I am still going through the massive amounts of stuff that we have managed to accumulate over the last six years.  The dining room has become a way station for crap on its way to a new life.

After I got done with that deal, I went and checked my email to let other people who had inquired know that the computers were no longer available.  I also went into Craigs List and took down the listing.  In the meantime, however, this had arrived in my email inbox:

Its old junk, your an idiot, lower the price or get off Craigslist !!!

Now I can kind of see why people are so leery of Craigs List!  I mean, I have NEVER gotten this type of response to anything I have listed because I usually set the price so low that it really isn't expending any amount of money on the buyer's part to get me to part with my valuable stuff.  I just want it out of the house and will take whatever I can get to move it.

I was not expecting that email.  Here was my response:

It may have been old junk, but someone who home schools found it to be a bargain.

You don't know me and shouldn't be calling anyone an idiot.  Be careful, because you could get reported for harassment.

I had forwarded the email to Justin, who immediately came upstairs and said he was going to email the guy about the difference between "your" and "you're," a particularly bad pet peeve of both of us.  "You're" is the contraction of "you are."  "Your" means your, as in your childishness, your ignorance, your stupidity, and your downright rudeness in sending me that email.  Oh, and "it's" is the contractual form of "it is."  "Its" is possessive.  Learn your English.

We decided that unless this guy emails me again, we will not respond further to the nastiness, but I wonder if his momma knows what he's doing on the computer while she's at work.  I picture a 35 or 40 year old man-child, sitting his parents' basement, working part-time at Gamestop, and leeching off of his parents' unwillingness to force him into the real world.  Or he might just be an idiot with a self-supporting job that doesn't require a proper knowledge of English to earn him a paycheck.

If YOU ARE going to call someone names, make sure you get the contraction right.  Seriously, if you're going to insult someone, at least get the grammar right!

So far, no answer from "Ralph," the grammatically incorrect idiot who thinks I do not belong on Craigs List because I am pricing my "junk" way too high.  Too high is in the mind of the beholder and I'm always willing to negotiate.  I was just shocked that anyone would actually say something like that to me in an email!

No doubt about it.  We live in an age where people will say anything online.  Anything.  Things they would never dream of saying to your face.  People hide behind anonymity while they insult others.  What a rude world it has become in some ways.  Are we raising a generation of children with no manners or was this just some guy who has a personality disorder and nothing better to do than troll the Craigs List postings and email insults to people who don't meet his standards?

And, for the record, I have no intention of getting off of Craigs List or lowering what I feel to be reasonable prices.  I had a long talk yesterday with Justin these computers and he knew what they were worth.  In fact, we probably still didn't ask enough, but I got all of it out of my dining room, so I am very happy.

Long story short - take care with the words you are using before you hit that send button.  There are real people on the other end of the email or facebook comment that can be easily hurt by what you type and put out there, just as the playground bullying used to hurt as we were growing up.  And no, I won't correct your grammar if you use the wrong form of contraction or possessive when you write or text me.  But it's really a good thing to know and makes you look much more intelligent and educated if you use the proper word.

I learned a valuable lesson yesterday.  To laugh at people who call me an idiot using "your" as opposed to "you're" and that not every Craigs List experience is going to be all happy.  The first guy I was negotiating with was extremely unhappy with me when I changed the price and I'm afraid he might have believed I was trying to pull a fast one on him.  Not so!  I had merely listened to my gaming son as opposed to my more knowledgeable techie husband and I should have had my information complete, with prices for the individual units as sets when I placed the listing.  Next time, I will run my listing past him before I post it up.  I think that will save me a lot of heartache and confusion and just general stress in the long run.

Ahhh....Craigs List.  You have been so good to me.  I wonder why this particular posting generated an insult on the fly..


Thursday, June 16, 2011

Just What Kind of Blogger Am I?

(This was written last night as I used all my usual tricks to get sleepy enough to actually go to bed.  Anything that makes no sense, I blame on the medication.)

It's midnight and, as usual, Justin is long ago asleep while I wait for the sandman to make his elusive appearance.  Hopefully, he will obey the Ambien soon and sprinkle some magic dust over my brain.  Stranger things have happened.

Why on earth am I impossibly sleepy at 7:30 every night and wide awake at 12:00 a.m.?  This is THE question that keeps me up at night.  Well, that and why my metabolism has suddenly stopped working ever since they removed my uterus and ovaries.  Apparently, hormone replacement therapy is not a good combination with carbs and sugar.

As I was sitting here watching mindless sitcoms, I started to ponder exactly what I am doing with this blog.  As you can see on the right, there is a long list of blogs about specific topics that I read on a regular basis.  What most of them have in common is that they all have an underlying theme - one particular thing that they talk about.

As this blog has developed and evolved, I have realized the great range of topics that I am covering here.  I have a variety of interests, as represented by the list on the right.  Autism, cancer research, mental health, bipolar disorder, fibromyalgia and chronic pain, saving money and reducing debt, and, most recently, decluttering my home and hopefully, at the same time, my mind.

As a person who rapid cycles through mood swings as often as a normal person returns to the coffee pot during the work day, I find myself getting extremely fascinated by one topic and then, when my mood shifts, refocusing my attention on something else entirely.

Most recently, I have focused a great deal on my spending diet and my decluttering issues, since those things have been stuck on a somewhat manic reel in my brain for awhile.  (Hey, there are much worse things to fixate on.)  It's kind of eerie to watch how my mind works by looking back over past entries.  It's an online mood chart.

Which is okay.  There are lots of blogs that are focused on specific topics and you can find several really good ones in my blog roll.  If there is something specific you are into, there's a really good chance you can find a blog about it on the internet.

I kind of see my blog as a daily flex of my writing muscle; a kind of warm up for what will hopefully morph into the more involved writing of an actual book.  And hopefully, along the way, the readers who stop by will be able to either find posts that resonate or are entertaining.  I do try to balance the very serious with the more light-hearted.  I feel like if I write from the negative point of view constantly, people won't want to stick around or recommend me to their friends.  Mental illness and chronic pain can become old to live with.  Who wants to read about them every day?

So, I guess the point is that this blog will continue, as it says above, to basically be my life.  And that's the kind of the cool thing about life.  It has ups and downs, hills and valleys, good and bad times.  So, in a way, I'm just your average realist with a sense of humor.

Who is now, finally feeling sleepy.  It's a nightly battle, but it's kind of cool to get a couple of quiet hours at the end of the night.  I'm sure Justin feels the same way as I snooze away in the quiet early morning hours while he's trying to get some work done.