Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Savannah, Here We Are!

St. John the Baptist Cathedral, Savannah, Georgia

Just stopping by very quickly to show you a couple of gorgeous pictures I took today in historic Savannah, Georgia. Oh, I am so in love with this city! And, of course, the 65 degrees and sunny didn't hurt!

Here was my favorite house, down in the old historic district:

I would love to buy a house this color. Those are seriously cool colors! This one wasn't for sale, but quite a few of them were and wouldn't it be awesome to own a house that was here back before the civil war?

We ate lunch down by the Savannah River and I wanted to go to the psychic next door to the restaurant afterwards, but she was closed. That's such a shame, because having a psychic reading is definitely on my bucket list.

The best picture though is the one of me and my mom that my dad took:

So glad that I didn't have to wait a whole six months to come see my parents. And I know they'll be up in the spring.

Of course, now the problem is that I realized how beautiful it is in the south during January and don't want to go back to Virginia, where there is really winter. I told Justin today that he needs to start looking for a house in Savannah. I don't think he was amused. Oh well. Damned real estate market.

Tomorrow, I'm taking pictures of the house so that Mom's friends will stop asking for them. And then Thursday, I will do my plane thing in reverse. I'm a pro now!

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Did You Know You Can Return a Kindle Book?

Hey folks,

Just checking in after a very busy morning of helping my mom set up her sewing room (and when I say sewing room, I mean her quilting business sewing room. It may take me another two days to recover from helping her after spending all day yesterday traveling. I see a nap in the very near future.

I set myself a budget for kindle downloads for this trip, because I knew I would probably need to download a book or two. This morning, I downloaded a book for $5.99 on how not to spend money. Of course, in retrospect, that seems amazingly silly and exactly like something I would do. About three pages into the book, I realized I already knew everything the woman was writing, it was badly written, and I didn't want to read the rest of it. I thought my $5.99 was horribly, wrongfully spent.

But then, I went to Amazon and found out that if you contact them within seven days of your kindle download, you can return it and they will credit your account. Oh joy!!!!!

I immediately clicked on the refund button and that book will be disappearing off of my kindle. I am so sticking with this no spending thing, because Justin has promised me that if we pay off our credit cards, I can have an iPhone.

I'm not really sure why I want an iPhone so much, but there it is. And there is my incentive.

So, I thought I would check in and tell you that I did not spend $5.99 today on a book on how not to spend money. Because even though I spent it, I immediately returned it. This is not as good as not spending it in the first place, but it's an improvement over download it and forget it's there and then remember when the credit card bill comes that I went download crazy and have 25 purchases that I don't remember making.

I think I'm making a priority shift here. Finally, at age 47. Wow, it's taken me a long time to grow up. I've now flown on my own (woo hoo!) and I am shifting how I view money. Really shifting it this time.

Because I want that iPhone.

And maybe, once all of that debt is gone, I won't really even want the iPhone anymore. But it's a damned good incentive. I will weigh all future purchases against whether or not it's worth waiting longer for my iPhone. This is a good thing.

Justin's a smart man.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

I Made It To the South of South Carolina!

A short update: I traveled for the first time today by plane. Two planes, actually.

As most of you know, I was pretty freaked out by the idea of flying. Not only had I not flown since before 9/11, I had never flown alone.

Guess what? I did it!!!! GO ME!!!!

I was terribly shaky and nervous until after the first plane took off and then I started thinking about how it's kind of cool that I'm taking a trip by plane on my own. I felt like a real live grown up (and won't Justin be glad to hear that?) and very independent. I now know how to get through TSA security without beeping or losing my sewing scissors and have the color of my luggage admired (purple, by the way). I learned how important it is to put the laptop in between the clothes, since they're going to insist that you not put your "carry-on" bag in the actual cabin with you, even though you bought it particularly because it was touted as a bag you can, you know, carry on the plane. When I saw the handler toss it onto the cart with the laptop pocket landing on the bottom, I believe a squeaking noise came out of me and as soon as I had that bag back in my hands, the brand new computer in its rubberized, TSA approved laptop case, was packed in the middle of my clothing instead of in the front pocket provided for just that purpose.

But it was still better than checked baggage, because I didn't have to go to baggage claim to pick it up. I just stood outside in the warm southern sunshine and waited a minute or two for the bag to come down to me. (Person to person bag delivery - they missed something they could charge for. Shhh...don't tell 'em!)

My first plane ride was a little cramped. It was a small plane and oversold. Luckly, my seat mate was tiny and slept for the whole ride and the flight attendant was very nice about my not knowing that just because the "occupied" light was on for the bathroom in the front of the plane did not mean the bathroom itself was in the front of the plane. I kept looking around for the people with chickens on their laps. It was really that small.

The second plane was much bigger, only half sold, and had much comfier seats. I had no one in front of me or beside me. I got an awesome view of Savannah as we flew in (Did you know it's near the water? Why do people keep laughing at me when I ask that question?) and promptly decided our next major decision ought to be a move south. Which I am sure will get laughed at just as promptly when I get home.

I spent most of the day taking care of only myself, being dependent only upon myself, dealing with my fears by asking people for help (and people here in the south are so nice, bless their hearts!), and I made it to my destination feeling like I might actually have it in me to actually be an autonomous, independent person. Maybe, someday...

What a fantastic, awesome feeling. It took me 47 and a half years to learn to be a grown up, but I think I'm finally getting there. And that is just excellent. It's okay that it took me so long to get to the point where I could do this because I've been working so hard for so long to get me to this place. It's awesome to see that work finally paying off.

Friday, January 27, 2012

My First Flight After 9/11 (Gulp!)

Right after 9/11, my oldest son turned 10 years old. My parents had promised each of my boys trips to Disneyland (that's the one in Florida, right?) when they turned 10 to be taken with "Papa." Ben turned ten in November of that year and his trip was up.

I was terrified. With what had happened just two months previously, I in no way wanted any of my children on any airplane. But I sucked it up and let him go, because who am I to deny my child the funnest four days of his childhood just because of a few horribly misguided terrorists? I hyperventilated while the flight was in the air and I hyperventilated until I got the call saying they had landed safely. And then I hyperventilated the entire time they were on the plane coming back.

Since then, the other two boys have gotten their Disney trips as well and all remember them very fondly. Justin has traveled by plane to various places on business. My parents have flown all over the place. My best friend has flown from Hawaii to Seattle to Dulles and back to Seattle and then to California (I'm probably getting the order mixed up, but she's had a lot of flying time. My mother and my aunt flew to Alaska to take a cruise.

It would appear that I am the only one with "airplane phobia." Well, I would say it's really more of a "crashing" phobia. Apparently, I started to worry it immediately after making my plane reservations last month for my trip to South Carolina tomorrow, because earlier this week, my therapist said, "You know, you've brought up your anxiety about the airplane every week for the last several weeks." She knows me well.

I don't feel like I'm that anxious about it. But the truth is that I have not been on a plane since Justin and I went to Cancun when Ben was three, so, like, 17 years ago. And that flight hit major turbulence on the way home and the plane dropped a thousand or two feet in an instant and I spent the majority of the flight back putting fingernail marks into Justin's arm and crying. And I swore that if when we landed on the ground safely, I would never, ever go anywhere again that required air travel.

And then the world blew up when four planes were deliberately crashed on 9/11 and that just reinforced the fact in my mind that you really should not fly anywhere if you can avoid it.


My parents decided that where they really wanted to live was somewhere there wasn't winter. They don't like the cold, they hate the snow, and my dad wanted to live somewhere that there are a lot of golf courses so his business might actually take off. Seeing as how he makes golf clubs, the Myrtle Beach/Hilton Head area seemed like a logical place for them to go. It's warm, it's close to the ocean if the grandkids visit, and there are nine golf courses and no club makers in the immediate vicinity of their new house. Where I will be traveling, by plane, tomorrow, because there is no way my achy body can handle a ten hour car ride. Actually, I will be taking two planes, because I have to change flights in Charlotte. Apparently, I thought taking off and landing once on the way down and once on the way back wasn't worth an extra $50. I'm rethinking that for next time.

When I told Justin how anxious I am just about switching planes, he asked me why I didn't just go online and upgrade it to a direct flight. Great idea! Except that would have cost us another $150-$250 and there is no way I am going to pay as much as the original cost of the tickets to upgrade to a direct flight so now I am stuck with a plane change in Charlotte, both going down and coming back.

So, I've told Justin where my life insurance policies are kept and that I haven't paid the mortgage yet, so if my plane crashes, he will need to make sure that gets done. (See, I'm on top of things here.)

And, of course, I wonder if they will miss me. I am doing everyone's laundry today, but I will be gone for six days and there is no way they can make it that long without someone figuring out the washing machine. Justin knows how, but he's kind of busy with the whole work thing, so maybe one of the kids could throw some clothes and some soap in and actually turn the machine on (unlike the time I told Ben to put the wet towels into the dryer and he did exactly that and I came home to a dryer full of wet towels).

Justin tells me there will be a lot of pizza and hamburgers next week, which I find kind of funny because I am just now starting to take over some of the cooking chores and he was usually the one to prepare our meals.

I suspect I won't be missed terribly. The boys do their own thing and Justin is swamped at work. But I do suspect they will miss all of the little things I do that they don't notice, like taking their dirty dishes down to the kitchen and making sure they have clean clothes for school and taking them to Game Stop. And Justin is sure to notice that I am not continuously talking to him all day while he is trying to work.

You know, this might be a big chance that I am taking by leaving for six days. If they like it, do you think they'll change the locks and "forget" to pick me up at the airport?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Life Without Credit Cards???? EEEEK!

For the last eleven days, I have been pledging every morning when I get up not to increase the consumer debt on our credit cards. You see, when Christmas came, I thought I had enough money saved to cover it. But then I kind of went crazy because we had paid off all the cards and then after Christmas, I just kept on spending and all of a sudden we owe all the credit card companies again.

I wasn't the only one using the credit cards, but I definitely did my share of running them up again. And then Ben's tuition was due and he needed books. And you can see how it kind of went downhill from there.

You have to draw a line in the sand somewhere. At what point (before you max them out) do you say okay, enough with the spending? And how often do you have to do this before you stop trying to max them out? I do not know the answers to those questions. I obviously have a problem with spending.

But it's not spending cash that I have a problem with. If it comes to parting with my cash, I will really think it through. There's something about pulling out that credit card that doesn't tell me that I am spending real money. Until the bill comes at the end of the month and I see all of the charges from Amazon and 123 Stitch and think what the hell did I read? And how many cross stitch kits did I actually buy last month?

Last year, I made a commitment to declutter my house and I did pretty well. Our basement could be quickly emptied if we were moving. I still have a pile of stuff down there to go to Goodwill, but I am making runs over there more often. And I finally got Ben to get all of the trash to the dump, something he had been promising me he would do since the beginning of last summer. I continue to look for things I don't use or don't need and find a good way to move them out of the house. If they are worth something, I list them on Craigslist. If they aren't, off to the thrift store they go.

The problem is that I seem to keep wanting to replace the old stuff with new stuff, which is where my credit cards come in. What's one more payment? If I can get it for 18 months at no interest, it's really not spending any money, right? I've already run up the balance; what's one more charge?

These are the questions that get me into trouble constantly. I've always had way too much access to credit and I've always been way too willing to use it. When I realized that even after Christmas, the packages were still arriving and they were things that I had ordered, I knew it was time to yet again call a halt to the spending. But I can't make a huge promise that I won't use my credit cards ever again. I know I won't keep that promise and here's the reason.

Last year, Congress passed some rules and regulations affecting the banks which were supposed to punish them for hurting us little people from the middle class. Instead, the banks passed those penalties on to us consumers by way of fees for checking accounts that had formerly been free and charges if you use your debit card. Our bank informed us that they would begin charging us $5 each month if we dared to swipe our debit card. That was not a fee I was willing to pay. (I don't know why the government thought the banks would just eat that money, but that's a whole other issue.) That was not a fee that Justin was willing to pay.

Because we are lucky enough to have credit, we decided that we would put all of our necessary monthly expenses onto a credit card and pay them off. That would also simplify balancing the checking account each month by having one bill as opposed to a hundred little debits. Except what I've found is true of myself is that if I am using a credit card, I am much less likely to watch what I am spending or to buy more than I normally would at, say, the grocery store. If the kids need something, I am more likely to add jeans to the cart when I buy them shoes because it is going onto the credit card. And with Amazon and 123 Stitch being my absolute favorite websites with absolutely endless opportunities to buy things to read and to stitch, I am much more likely to buy more since it is only going on a credit card.

Which brings me to eleven days ago. I got a package in the mail. I don't even remember what it was and it's possible it wasn't even something I had bought for myself. (In fact, I'm pretty sure it's an item for the fundraising I am doing.) But because I realized that I was still charging more than a month after Christmas and I was charging excessively, I knew it had to stop. But I also know myself well enough to know that I am not going to be able to go on a complete and total spending fast.

So, I decided that every morning when I get up, I will make a pledge to not add to our debt that day. And if there is something I know I will want to purchase, I will figure out how to get the cash from our checking account to the credit card before I buy it. In other words, I will make a payment to the credit card immediately after purchase and I think I will even add a little to it to try to pay down the balances. For eleven days, I have not shopped at Amazon, 123 Stitch, or anywhere else aside from the grocery store and gas station. I even have a return to make for a credit, which is awesome.

I am about to be tested in my resolve by a trip to South Carolina to visit my parents. I decided today that it is unrealistic to think that I won't spend any money while I am there. So, I am going to take a specified amount of cash with me and then I am going to try not to spend it. But if I feel that I want to spend it, I will have it and be allowed to spend it without guilt.

Once I get the charging "habit" under control, I am going to give myself a monthly budget for both my reading and my stitching. But I will shop the Amazon sales and download as many kindle books for free as I possibly can.

In fact, I downloaded a book last night for free. It's called Getting Rid of It; Eliminate the Clutter in Your Life by Betsy and Warren Talbot. It satisfied my urge to download something, it didn't cost me a cent, and it was completely in line with the other goal I have set for myself: less consumerism and less clutter in my life.

Maybe if I can stop bringing so much stuff into my life, I will also be able to eliminate some of the clutter in my mind. And I will certainly be able to accomplish paying off some of this debt. Because really, that is my ultimate goal. A simpler life that doesn't require so much money to maintain.

And Justin would really like to retire someday. I think it would be nice if he was able to.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Is the Internet Evil and Sucking Us Into a Vortex?

Our internet went down on Friday night. At first, the television started flickering in and out (it is bound up in a triple play with our phone and internet) and then the internet went down entirely. Anyone who knows me knows that this will completely freak me out. But the thing was, all of a sudden, I could focus on other things! It was like a bad case of ADD that was just gone.

Justin relies on our internet connection to do his job from home and we knew that if our connection didn't come back pretty quick, he was going to have to find a way to get into the office despite the freezing rain and frozen roads. If he can't work, we can't eat, so that's pretty simple. But I think he decided that it was time for a short break and he pretty much took it easy for the last two days.

I, of course, was having a seizure because I couldn't update my status on Facebook, make plays on Words with Friends, and, oh, work on Malea's fundraising. I had just opened my Cafe Press shop (which you are welcome to visit and order from - just click on the link on the right side) and I am also working on other ideas that need internet access. So, it was becoming a matter of desperation by Saturday afternoon.

Justin admitted on Sunday that he was as close to exasperated with me as he has ever been because I got it into my head that I absolutely must have a new phone with a data plan since our connection was down until the Infinity guy could get out here this morning and get us reconnected. I fixated on this to the point of obsession and was certain that the world would end if I didn't go to Best Buy and get myself a new phone. But cooler heads and more rational thought actually prevailed (in other words, I didn't want to drive in the icy weather). I made it through Saturday somehow and by yesterday, I was feeling actually quite relieved to be disconnected. I spent the day sewing on one of my raffle contribution projects and watched some trashy cable (thank God the cable television didn't go out or I would have had to take my computer over to the nearest Wi Fi hot spot).

I felt less stress. I felt less annoyed. And I felt like I was going in many fewer directions than when my computer is turned on. When I have computer access, I spend money without even thinking about it - one click has made it so easy. But, I have made a pledge that every day I am going to get up and commit to not adding to our consumer debt that day. Today was day 9 of the pledge and I am really thrilled to say that I have not used our credit cards for anything frivolous in that entire amount of time. For a complete and total impulse buyer, this is no small accomplishment. Especially when the internet goes down and my only connection to the outside world is through my lousy little texting phone. Yesterday was as close as I have gotten in the last nine days to breaking my pledge. But I decided that if I did buy a new phone, I would pay cash and I found that I didn't really want to part with my cash as much as I wanted an android phone.

Today, the Infinity guy showed up right on time (despite the fact that Comcast kept calling a phone number that was not working to confirm our appointment and getting our voice mail) and replaced the cable modem. Boom! We have internet again. And the stress came roaring back. I didn't know what to focus on first. How much did I miss while I was offline????

Probably not that much.

It is nice to have our access back, but it was really nice to just take a deep breath and not be completely and totally available for 48 hours. Isn't it amazing how dependent we have become on our internet access? Texting has replaced phone calls and status updates are replacing texting.

It worries me that things have changed so radically in so few years. And it worries me that I get anxious when I am not connected. But I am glad to know that I can be disconnected and the world will not end. In fact, it won't even really miss me that much.

I will be somewhat disconnected again next week, as I will be traveling down to South Carolina for six days to see my parents' new home and help my mom with some unpacking and shopping. I plan to enjoy both the minor break from the computer (although I am taking it with me) and the time with my parents, since I probably won't see them again until June.

In the meantime, I am going back and forth between tabs again, trying to figure out which blog to read, trying to catch up on Facebook, and trying to get myself oriented to Malea's new website. I think I was really enjoying myself more when I couldn't get to the internet, but I am relieved that we are reconnected. Which brings me to my question: What would we do without the internet if it went away? Are we being sucked into an online world that no longer encourages any face to face interaction?

Just wondering.

Shall We Kick Cancer's Ass?

August 2006
She is a 37 year old married mother of four. She loves her family, her friends, her dogs. She loves to scrapbook and cross stitch. She could have been an interior designer, with her eye for what looks good, coupled with her ability to decorate on a budget. She has a beautiful heart, a generous spirit, a forgiving nature.  She is my best friend. She has stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

In April of 2009, the best friend I have ever had discovered a lump in her left breast. I tried to reassure her that it had to be nothing. In January, she was fine. She’d had a physical and the doctor said everything was okay. Four months later, she found the lump in her left breast by accident. She was 35 years old.

What followed was three years of the worst torture you can imagine. An immediate double mastectomy was followed by five months of powerful, intense chemotherapy. She went into remission and began to go about the business of reconstructive surgery and getting on with her life.

Except there were constant problems. She was in so much pain after the first reconstruction surgery that she took the suggestion of her asshole friend (me) and got a heating pad. I thought she was going to use it on her back. Instead, the area around her surgical site was so excruciatingly painful that she used it on her incision (where she no longer had any feeling) and burned herself so badly that she eventually lost the left reconstruction entirely. This was a devastating setback, but it got worse.

A cancerous cyst on her right ovary was found and surgically removed.  Then there were still more emergency room visits, hospital stays, blood work, CT scans, and biopsies. The breast cancer came back in her lymph nodes in February of 2011. They did radiation, because it was too soon for her to have more chemotherapy. The doctor was cautiously optimistic. We all hoped and prayed. The first scan after the radiation was fine. The second one was not. And now there are twelve lesions in her lungs and they are growing fast; several have tripled in size in the past three months.her doctors say there is nothing more they can do except to try to contain the size of the tumors to extend her life. She says bullshit, I’m not ready to die and there has to be more you can do.

Her doctor says there is nothing more they can do and they and the insurance company have decided to call it quits. But she hasn’t. She found a doctor who is willing to treat her. The problem is, as with everything, he comes at a cost. And even though her other doctor told her to “feel free to find another provider,” you can bet that her insurance company is going to fight every payment every step of the way.

Her name is Malea and she is my best friend. I am not ready to lose her either.

Please help by going to Save Malea and clicking on the donate button. You can donate any amount you can spare. All proceeds from this fund will be applied toward paying for Malea’s medical care by Dr. Joseph Shaw Jones in Fairfax, Virginia.

Cancer is the enemy. Can you help me rally the troops that will allow the doctor to find the cure she deserves? Her youngest child is 12. Please go to her website, read her story, and click on the donate button so that Breauna, Dallas, Justyn, and Marc don't lose their mother. And so that she can meet her first grandchild in July.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Oh My God: THE SPOONS!!!!

Here's the thing I maybe hate the most about this fibromyalgia/chronic fatigue syndrome whatever it is crap that I am afflicted with: something called "post-exertional malaise." What this means is that if you have these diseases and you do anything more than sit and breathe, you get so tired that you can't even sit and breathe. Literally. Can't. Move.

This morning, I was running around trying to straighten the house for the woman who cleans for me. This, in and of itself, shouldn't be hard. After all, I spent a chunk of time yesterday straightening up the main level of the house and told the kids their rooms needed to be cleaned. I told the kids their rooms needed to be cleaned.

Oh, did I mention that spoons have been disappearing out of the kitchen? It finally got so bad, Justin went out and bought a bunch of new spoons. We were baffled. None of the kids knew where the spoons were - or so they said. Do you see where I'm going with this?

This morning, after I managed to drag my exhausted butt out of bed (after about 10 hours of sleep, by the way), I did a sweep of Joey's room, which came up clean, as usual. Then I fearfully put a toe into Jamie's room. On the surface, it looked pretty good (mostly because he's awesome at throwing things into the closet), but there were a ton of clean clothes still on the top of his dresser. So I opened the closet door to hang up his pants and happened to glance down at the floor.

Oh. My. Freaking. God. The mess! That should be THE MESS. I am aware of the fact that Jamie's closet is kind of a holding pen for everything that doesn't have a "home." I am also aware that Jamie has slight hoarding tendencies. So periodically, I will go into his closet, throw everything out behind me, throw away the trash, and try to put everything back so that he can find things. It had been awhile.

Believe me, the exhaustion is going to meet the spoons here really fast.

The trash had been dumped on Tuesday. It is now Thursday morning, so theoretically, there should not have been much trash in his room, right? The trash can was full (and smelly). The closet was full (and smelly).

I started pulling items out of the closet and rearranging. There was a crumpled bag of chips from the pantry (so that's where all the food goes!), a lot of school stuff that he's ignoring, a school library book that was probably due two months ago, a couple of pillows...and that was on the top. As I unearthed layer after layer and got to the bottom of the pile, I discovered an orange duffle bag that he uses when he goes out to my parents' house to stay for a couple of days. I pulled out the duffle bag to bring it back down to the basement and this is what I found inside of it:

These were SUPPOSED to be in the KITCHEN!
Oh yeah. That's six spoons and five glasses that were missing from my kitchen. With the remains of chocolate milk. So that's what that smell was!

Oh, here's the other thing. I've been noticing a couple of hundred extra dollars in our checking account the last two months and figured it was my horrible math skills. On the floor of Jamie's closet, I found a $90 check to the band boosters for his share of the band fees. I wonder where the other check is that would account for the remaining extra money in the checking account, because I only found the one check, folded up and hidden at the bottom of the pile.

I grabbed a trash bag, dumped his trash can (filling the bag from both the closet and the can), brought all of the dinnerware down to the kitchen (along with the trash can) and showed Justin the check. He just sighed and shook his head. This is not a new battle.

By this time, I needed a shower, so I sprayed the filthy trash can with something that would remove paint and went back upstairs. Got a shower, straightened up our room and bathroom, and came back downstairs to try to remove the grime from the trash can.

Even with fibromyalgia, you forget that your body has limitations. When I get annoyed with a mess in my house, I get on a roll and won't stop until it's cleaned up. And then I am furious with whoever is the cause of the mess (Jamie or Ben) because all of a sudden, I feel like shit. And can't move.

So that's where I am right now. Sitting in the recliner, feeling as if I can't move. I almost feel as if I can't breathe. Every breath is an effort. "Post exertional malaise." I can't imagine what I would do if the angel who cleans our house didn't come every two weeks. I guess my house would be filthy.

I have been on a sustained mission to declutter our home for over a year now. Where I'm running into resistance is from the other members of my family. No one else seems to think that their clutter is in any way a problem. In Justin's case, he simply doesn't have time to go through his stuff to let me know what I can get rid of. He gets a pass. The kids have no excuse.

Jamie's closet? One of the worst offenses and he does not get a pass.

And then I opened up my email and got his grade report. That boy is in a world of trouble when he gets home. Not only did he break the no chocolate milk in your room rule and the don't take my stuff and not return it rule, his grades are sliding again.

Now, if I can just find the energy to deal with this. Because I can barely breathe from cleaning up his mess.

Did I mention that I haven't been able to make sure that Ben's room is straightened up because he's still in it? Hopefully, she'll be able to clean around his mess, since he is my other big hoarder.

Sometimes I wonder what my house would look like if I didn't live in it. I suspect it would rapidly trend towards a college frat house in the places Justin doesn't live. And I will get a good idea of how bad it could get when I go to South Carolina for six days later this month.

They'd better feed my cats. Because if I come home to a cat that died from starvation or thirst, I'm going to be not only exhausted, but pretty pissed off too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Next Time I Should Do My Homework

Yes, That's Really His Signature!
I used to be so good at research. But then I became a mom and lost my mind. Literally. I forgot that you have to make sure everything you do is legal if you want to be a law abiding citizen. Bummer.

So, I had this great idea. I would hold this raffle, use the paypal button, tell my friend's story, and the money to pay for her treatment would come pouring in.

Well, not so much. Here's the problem:

There is [sic] a variety of laws and opinions regarding internet raffles. Most of the information leads to the conclusion that it is unlawful to hold a raffle on the internet. Investigation has shown that:
1. Each state has its own Raffle laws. States where raffles are legal have their own separate rules and regulations for holding raffles. In states where raffles are legal some type of raffle license must be obtained from the pertinent state office.
2. Raffles are considered a form of gambling. Gambling is carefully monitored by state and federal regulations. The three basic criteria that satisfy the definition of gambling are: (1) a prize is awarded; (2) the winner of the prize is determined purely by chance; and (3) some consideration or payment is required to participate.
3. Although each state has its own raffle rules, if the BMDCA were to hold an internet raffle we would be crossing interstate lines. For instance, in the state of Oklahoma, raffles are illegal. We cannot research and obtain a raffle license in each state. It would be impractical and non-cost effective.
We have contacted state raffle offices, the US Justice Department and researched the Internet. Although we have not found a written law saying specifically "no internet raffles," we have got enough information to conclude that it is illegal.

(Courtesy http://forums.appleinsider.com/archive/index.php/t-18135.html)

Apparently, every single state has different laws regarding holding raffles. In Oklahoma it is actually a felony. It's illegal in many states and in most states where it is legal, you need a permit.

For the purposes of my own raffle right now, Virginia has a pretty cool view of raffles. As long as you don't make more than $40,000, they are fine with you holding one. So, I am down, but not completely out.

While I know a lot, if not most of my readers are out of the state of Virginia, some of you are not. And some of you are originally from Virginia and still have family here.

So, you can still help. If you would like to contribute to paying Malea's costs and you either live in Virginia or have relatives who live in Virginia, please contact me at CNewton724 at gmail dot com and let me know. I will still be raffling off Stephen King's 11/23/63, which I received in the mail yesterday. And yes, I actually have a book that he held in his own two hands and signed. It was almost a religious experience to see his name in blue ink on the page. Stephen King would definitely one of my choices of people for my most interesting dinner party (which probably wouldn't include myself, since I'm kind of boring).

Here's what we're going to do. I talked to Malea last night and she told me that her husband, Jason (who has a band), is organizing a large fundraiser and the band will play. She wants to have lots of items at the door to raffle off. That is when we will choose a winner for the book. But you can buy a ticket beforehand if you live in the state of Virginia or have relatives here that you can ask to send me money. We don't have the date yet for the drawing, but I will pass that along as soon as I do.

I really hate begging for money, but "Malea's Cause" is now changing to "Save Malea." She's in the battle of her life for her life and she needs your help. I know that this will significantly limit the amount of fundraising I can do for this one particular raffle item, but I know a lot of my friends are still here in the good old Commonwealth, so if you would like to buy a raffle ticket, please contact me at the email listed above and I will tell you where to send money.

Thank you for your support and if you would like to read more about Malea's horrific fight to save her life since her diagnosis on April 15, 2009, please click on the tab at the top of the page. I think you'll see why this is a desperate situation.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

They've Made a Raffle Impossible

So I had a great idea. I would raffle off an autographed copy of a Stephen King book to help raise money for my best friend's cancer treatment.

Except that when I went to put the information out there to other websites, the girl running the book club site told me about Paypal shutting down people's accounts when they had used them for this type of thing. Apparently, Paypal doesn't want you to collect donations unless you are a registered nonprofit entity and, of course, I'm not. So no donations through Paypal.

So then I checked into getting a post office box to give out for people to mail checks to. But that won't work because of the pesky problem of raffles being "gambling" and the gambling laws are different in each state. Because this is the interweb, I would hopefully be getting checks from all over the place...including states that maybe don't allow this kind of thing. My state is cool with raffles, as long as you don't make more than $40,000, but other states aren't as easy going. So the post office box is out.

Then Justin had a great idea. We would sell "special limited edition" wristbands and if people bought a wristband, they would be entered to win a chance at the book. This would work with a paypal purchase button. Except I went to the wristband site and they wanted $73 for 200 wristbands. Why are these wristbands so expensive???? Aren't these people supposed to be helping us fundraise? I have already purchased the book and I am out of cash. Unless some nice person was willing to donate the wristbands for me to sell, my raffle is finished.

As Carrie suggested in her comment on my previous blog post, I checked out Google Checkout. No deal there either. They only allow you to use their service to purchase a product. Again, I have one product and I want to sell chances to win it. So unless I sell a book to each person, no Google Checkout.

I'm completely stumped. I have no money to pay a lawyer to figure out how to get around these rules and laws follow these rules and laws, and still make money for my friend's medical expenses. In the meantime, she is spending vast amounts of money she doesn't have for treatment which could not wait.

If anyone has any other ideas on how I could do this raffle or if some kind soul has an extra $73 in their wallet and wants to provide the wristbands so I have a product to sell along with the chance to win the book, please contact me. Otherwise, I am out of ideas. And I have failed to help my friend. Again.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Possible Paypal Problem

If you have come over to donate money, please don't click on the paypal button just yet. It may be a violation of their acceptable use policy to do this raffle through their site. (WTF?)

I have sent them an email asking if I can use the button for the raffle, but if they say no, I will post an address to send checks. And if you have already made a donation, I will be refunding your money if it is against their policy.

Why do these people have to make everything so difficult????

Because Cancer Shouldn't Win; Stephen King can help!

(Image from dealrocker.com)

I have been writing a lot about my best friend's diagnosis of metastatic stage 4 breast cancer and her quest for new treatments and medical options to find a cure. Or the hope of a cure.

If you click on the tab above marked "Malea's Story," you can read the timeline of the events that have been the continual torture she has gone through over the last almost three years trying to beat this horrific disease. As I worked on this story with her yesterday, I became angrier and angrier at what she has had to go through to fight for her life. And I am grieving that someone so young and with such an incredibly gentle spirit would ever have to endure what she has endured. As she was going through it, it seemed to me as if she was just going through what she needed to go through. When I saw the entire list of surgeries, emergency room visits, tests, and always pain, I became so sad and angry that cancer has once again threatened the life of someone I love.

Malea is only 37 years old. She has four children and a grandchild on the way. Her youngest child, her only daughter, is 12. No one should have to lose their mother at the age of 12.

Please read Malea's story and then click on the donate button at the left side of this page to enter to win the raffle for the autographed copy of Stephen King's latest book. Because her insurance company refuses to allow any treatment outside of their network, all costs for treatment by her new doctor will be out of pocket and, as you can imagine, this will not be inexpensive. You can help her by entering the raffle and also get a chance to win a book that will become very valuable within a few years.

Malea's doctor has told her there is nothing further she can do and that she is "welcome to find another provider." Her doctor has given up. We have not. Please help. Can you spare $20 to give a wife, mother, and friend some hope?

Thank you.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Raffle Tickets Now Available!!!!

Please Help Malea's Cause With a Raffle Ticket Purchase!

On the left side of this page, you will see a brand new donate button. I am so excited about this! We will be holding a raffle on February 14, 2012 for an autographed, first print run edition of Stephen King's 11/22/63 to help my best friend, Malea, with her costs for treatment for her stage 4 metastatic breast cancer.

Tickets are $20 each, or 6 for $100. Please email me at CNewton724 at gmail dot com when you have paid for your raffle ticket and I will email you a ticket with a number. The raffle will be held on February 14, 2012.

Help us raise as much money as we can! And please spread the word to anyone you know who is a Stephen King fan and might like to win this book. Older autographed Stephen King books are going for thousands of dollars and this is a first print run edition, opened only by the author to sign it and the seller to take a picture of it. It is sure to be very valuable in a few years time and you will be getting a chance to win it for only $20! I will share pictures of the book and his signature as soon as it arrives, which should be today since I got expedited shipping.

I will be posting up Malea's story in the days to come, after I have a chance to sit down with her and talk about when she was diagnosed, how many surgeries she has had, the awful setbacks over the last two years, how hard she has fought, and what her life has been like since she discovered she had this horrific disease. But trust me when I say that Malea is one of the strongest women I have ever met and I have never had a better or more precious friend. 

I appreciate each and every one of you who is willing to help my friend in her fight. (Not to mention you get the chance to win something very amazing!) She has a tough road ahead of her, but we believe she has finally found a very good doctor who will find the best chemotherapy for the type of cancer she has and give her the chance of a longer and more quality life. The more money we can raise for her treatment, the more we will help her.

Also coming soon will be a website dedicated to Malea's progress and offering fundraising items. I will link you all up to it as soon as we get it set up.

Thanks and hugs,

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sewing is My Crack

What can I say? At least my addiction is legal and non-harmful, except when I'm separating beads for the current project and trying to finish it and my husband is doing all of the stuff that is really my job after working a full day. One day, I know his head is going to explode because he's so tired and frustrated.

By the time I realized he was rushing to get dinner on the table so that Jamie could get to cadets last night, it was really too late to help him. I was so engrossed in trying to figure out the placement of the wording on my angel for the dedication that all I could think about was the fact that I needed smaller graph paper because I couldn't get it all to fit on an 8 1/2 X 11 piece of paper. And I'm math stupid anyway. If it doesn't have a calculator involved, I can guarantee I've done it wrong. Even if there is a calculator involved, I still can't balance the checkbook. At least for the last two months, it appears that the bank has wanted to give us $100 a month just for banking with them and paying our bills on time. I'm pretending that money isn't there for when I screw up the balance in the other direction.

But back to sewing...

I am hours away from being finished with the embellishment on the Angel. I plan to complete her this afternoon and I promise to post pictures when I get her done and ironed. No peeking until then. I wasn't even going to share when I finished the pattern as instructed, but it was so pretty, I couldn't resist a little preview of one of my favorite pieces to date (and that's in about 30 years of cross stitching!).

So, while I go finish her up, I suggest you check out the Country Cottage Needleworks Blog to see my latest obsession. Just like scrapbooking changed, needlework trends change. I am seeing a lot of these little houses and cottages and a lot of old fashioned looking samplers. I had thought I might go with some Nora Corbett fairies after finishing the Celtic princesses someday, but now I'm obsessed with these pieces that look like they might have been made back before the invention of the sewing machine and the internet.

I have the February cottage pattern coming, with thread and fabric, and a cute little butterfly on back order. I have decided to commit to the entire year of cottages so that I can have a frame with the current month's cottage in it somewhere in my family room and just change them out. As soon as 123 Stitch gets their shipment in, I will be ordering the January pattern and the March one that just came out.

I've discovered two things about my crack obsession hobby - (1) If I don't like what I'm working on, I will put it in the sewing box and move on, all the while having that unfinished project nagging at me and (2) It's really best to order projects that I like so that whole unfinished project thing doesn't happen.

I have this fear that Justin believes I am super lazy when I do nothing but sew all day. I'm probably projecting. But it's such a fantastic way to create something that's going to be around after I'm gone. Who knows? One of these boys of mine might eventually get married and give me a granddaughter and she might think all of these things I've made are cool family heirlooms.

So yeah. He makes the money and pays the mortgage. But I'm making it a home, right? Right?

(And the fact that I'm looking into ways to finance my masters degree so I can contribute more monetarily has nothing to do with my feelings of inferiority over the whole money issue. Anyone know of any grants for disabled 47 year old mothers who want to go back to school so they can legally dispense advice to women with depression and anxiety? I see a home office and no overhead in this venture, but I've got to find a way around those pesky student loans.)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

I've Deserted You for an Angel

Here's why I'm not writing much on this wonderful new computer my husband gave me. I'm in love with an angel.

This little angel was inspired by our dear friends when they lost their beautiful little girl to leukemia last year. I saw this kit and knew I had to do it.

I'm happy with her just the way she is, but to make myself happier, I am adding bead embellishments and a tribute to Juliana at the bottom before I (attempt to) frame her myself.

I'm really thrilled that I'm almost done with this beautiful little girl. The beads were out and went flying twice last night and they're really tiny, so I spent a lot of time with my butt in the air, trying to locate teeny, tiny little circles on my dirty hardwood floor. More time than actually attaching them to the fabric, which is where I want them to go.

I'll be back with a picture of the finished project, hopefully soon. I also have lots of new projects on my list of things to do. One is a swap with a friend - she picked one off my list and I picked one off of hers. It's a surprise, so I won't post it until it's finished. I have ordered two patterns from the Country Cottage line. One is a butterfly (big shock for those who know me and unfortunately on back order) and one is the February cottage. January's cottage is out of stock or I would have gotten that one too.

I still have the Rainbow Bridge I started probably three years ago and the other three Celtic Princesses (why did I start with winter????) in my sewing box. I wanted to add a few small things in there because when I start a big project like the angel or this one:

Why Winter First??? I Have No Idea!
I like to have a few smaller things that don't take three years to complete in there to do to give myself a break from the bigger ones.

And now I must shower because I need to finish my little angel.

No, I'm just not writing as much as I was. But it's hard to write constantly when there are so many fun things to do like laundry, doctor's appointments, cleaning the kitchen, yelling at the kids about the work they haven't turned in. Oh, and sewing!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Stream of Consciousness Sunday - A Stitching Room

I haven't done one of these in awhile. Things have been kinda hectic and, to be honest, I've been really depressed by the hand life has been dealing. But I thought I would give it a shot since I am out of bed and have the computer in my lap.

Okay, five minutes, here goes.

I've been looking for projects that will take my mind off of some of the crap that has been going on around me and I have discovered a couple of stitching blogs. My favorite is Faye at the Carolina Stitcher. She sews up these incredibly cute little old fashioned things, finishes them off like a pro, and posts up pictures. Somehow, she has gotten over 600 followers and so there is just that dart of jealousy, like how the heck did she do that?

It seems like there are alway distractions, as Fadra said over at her blog today. I live in a house with a husband, three kids, a dog (who is always on the wrong side of the door), and two cats. And it never fails that when I sit down to write, someone wants to talk to me. But if I am stitching, then I'm pretty boring and none of the guys in my house really wants to sit and watch me stitch.

So, I've been over at the 123 Stitch website, drooling over some of the things that Faye posted up that she was going to try to get to this year. They're little projects and they look so home-y (is that a word? If not, I just made it up.)

When my oldest son moves out, Jamie has already been promised his room, which in retrospect, I totally regret. It's the biggest bedroom (aside from the master bedroom) and it has a separate bathroom. It would make an awesome "woman cave" and guest room. If we ever had guests. But since I promised it to Jamie, I will take his room and I will make it into my studio/writing room/stitching room. I already have a recliner and desk for it. I told Justin earlier that when I get it, it will be decorated completely in butterflies and no one with testosterone would have any interest in bothering me in there. Which kind of gets me to that place of no distractions, I think.

And, to make my point, I hope to be able to shift over to some of these smaller needlework projects and actually get some of them done. I found the satisfaction of finishing things when I made all of those Christmas gifts and my hand wasn't hurting the way it used to when I would stitch for 8-10 hours a day. I can still do my hobby, but on a smaller scale.

And now I'm over my five minutes, so there you have my stream of conscious(ness) for today.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Do You Ever Wonder Where Someone Went?

If you are a part of the blogosphere, I am sure you have a list of blogs that update regularly for you to read. I have 38 listed in my reader.

Do you ever wonder about the people who kind of disappear?

There's one guy I used to read who was kind of sarcastic and interesting and then apparently his girlfriend dumped him (after they met in person) and his best friend killed himself and, well, now he doesn't post anymore. I wonder if he's okay. But I've never met him.

I read Jenny Lawson and think she's one of the funniest people I've ever had the pleasure of running into online. But she also struggles with rheumatoid arthritis, depression, and severe anxiety. When she doesn't post her usual updates or an occasional hysterical entry, I start to wonder if she's okay. I've never met her either.

I read several stitching blogs (I was so excited when I found them) and, when they don't post, I know what they're doing. They're making things for me to drool over when they write their next post with pictures of their creations. I've never met them, but I feel kind of close to them because we share a passion for something.

I used to read a blog by a girl with Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as the dreaded Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I was friends with her on Facebook and, when I thought I was going to be putting a book together about people with chronic illnesses, we emailed back and forth and she sent me a beautiful story about her struggle. Then, one day, it went viral on my Facebook page that she had died. I never found out why. I don't know if it was something related to her chronic illness or if it was suicide. And believe me, if it was suicide, it was because of her chronic illness, so whichever it was, the ME was the cause of it. I never met her, but I grieved for her.

I had months last year that I didn't write very much. Pretty much the entire month of November, because I had pneumonia. Also, I think January was a bad month for writing for me, because of my mom's surgery on February 1st. I had nothing to say. I saw my number of page hits go way down because people didn't stop by. The only way to stay moderately "popular" in the blogosphere is to post as often as you can - daily if possible. Sometimes, there just isn't that much to say.

But what I wonder is do you notice when someone whose posts you like doesn't post for awhile or just disappears off the face of the earth? We've become so much of an online society and there seems to be less and less face to face interaction. People have 600 "friends" on facebook and, even if they haven't met the ones they talk to the most, they are really friends. (I know some people would argue they aren't and maybe they aren't in the traditional sense, but if you get support from them, I consider them friends.)

I loved the photo I found above, because it kind of symbolizes to me how I wonder sometimes what would happen if I disappeared? Would anyone notice? Probably a few people and maybe they would check back in every once in awhile. But the blogosphere moves quickly and you have to have material coming out at a pretty quick clip to keep people's attention.

I write for myself. I'm not paid for it, obviously. I've heard it said many times that writer's write because they have to write. I don't know if that's true for me or whether you would say that I'm a "real" writer, since I've never published anything in the traditional sense of the word. I come here to get the things out that I don't know how else to say. And I also come here because I love seeing the number of hits on my blog peak after a post. Who doesn't love seeing their stats go up?

I know I'll never be a Bloggess or anything along those lines. And I know that if I disappeared from the blog world, it probably wouldn't even be a blip on anyone's radar screen. So I wonder why I do this. And I wonder what it will all mean when I no longer do it. And I wonder if that guy whose girlfriend dumped him and whose best friend killed himself is okay. Because he hasn't posted in a long time and I worry about him, even though I've never met him.

Do the people whose blogs you read become as real in your head as mine do?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Sometimes Handmade Is Best

Snowman - Cross Stitch and Beading

Christmas Tree - Cross Stitch and Beading
(I made these cute little Christmas ornaments in addition to the larger gifts described below. The snowman was for my mother-in-law and the Christmas tree was for my mom, because she no longer puts up a tree every year. This way, she will always have a tree, whether she decorates a real one or not.)

There's no way around it. We spent a lot of money on Christmas. I've already used up my Christmas fund and am still getting more bills that I'm afraid to open.

The funny thing is that the gifts that were the biggest hits were the ones that didn't cost much money, but that I put a lot of time and effort and love into. I thought I would share with you what I handmade for Christmas this year that the recipients absolutely loved.

For Ben, who is an avid gamer (video games, for those of you without teenagers), he loves games with fantasy worlds. These are incredibly complex worlds, kind of like the book Bilbo Baggins made of his adventures in "The Hobbit," with maps and descriptions of the world and the creatures in it. For Christmas, he asked if I would get the map that came with his newest game framed for him. This is where I got creative.

Because custom framing is outrageously expensive, I went over to the new Hobby Lobby and picked out a black wooden poster frame to do it myself. It helped that all frames were on sale for half off. Of course, I don't have any framing experience and the back didn't have a hanger. This was a problem.

I took the map and the frame back to the framing department and the girl (the incredibly helpful girl) offered to put a hanger on the back for $1.00. I pulled out the map while she was getting ready to drill the holes for the hanger and she at first said she couldn't put the map in, but came back a few minutes later and said, well, let me look at it. It had a lot of creases from where it had been folded to fit into the box it came in. She also had to trim off some excess around the outside, which we were both a little nervous about, but the frame was on sale for $18 and she only wanted $1.00 to put the hanger on. I figured she would also add for putting the map into the frame, but when she finished, she attached a small sheet of paper reading "$1.00," even though she put a lot more than $1.00's worth of work into it . She had gotten all of the creases out of the map and it ended up looking like this:

I'm pretty sure the teddy bear hiding back in the corner is for his internet girlfriend that he won't talk about. Anyway, this was Ben's favorite gift and it cost me $19.

For my mom, who is a professional quilter, I found a cross stitch and beaded pattern of the log cabin quilt square. For those of you not familiar with quilting, this is the most popular quilt square. In fact, I actually made a baby quilt for a neighbor out of this pattern a few years back and I'm not a quilter by any means, but I am pretty darn good at cross stitching. I am also learning beading, which as it turns out, is pretty fun. Here is what I ended up with for Mom (after many, many intense hours of stitching to get it done in time):

I spent about $20 on the frame from the catalog I ordered the cross stitch kit from. The kit itself was about $12. The rest of the cost was only time and the love that went into making it. I believe this was definitely her favorite gift from me.

I spent the past six months working on a shadow box for my mother-in-law. Justin wanted to put the words that he said at his dad's funeral down on paper. I watermarked the back of the page of his words with the praying hands that were on the front of the handout given at the viewing, after he had fiddled with it for several months. I also scanned the inside of the handout and put the left half (with my father-in-law's information) on one side and the right half (a prayer that begins with "do not grieve for me") on the other.

I also took a picture on the day of the funeral at my mother-in-law's house of the shoes that my father-in-law had taken off and left under the coffee table the day of his heart attack. My mother-in-law has not been able to bring herself to move them (they're still there, under the coffee table.) I wanted to capture the shoes where they were, for eternity and got a great shot of them. I also was thinking clearly enough to take several roses from the funeral service, dry them and I used them for accents. After going shopping for a shadow box frame with my best friend, who found a frame for about $8, we went back to her house and used her glue gun to place everything into the box. Here's how it came out:

Justin and I decided not to wrap it, because we didn't want his mom to open it and be surprised in a bad way or upset. She was already having a hard enough time getting through the first holidays without Justin's dad. When we gave this gift to her, she ran her hands gently over the glass and burst into tears. She thanked me numerous times and obviously was extremely moved by the work I had put into it. And we all cried together because it was Christmas Eve and someone important was missing.

I have saved back about half of the roses from the funeral for a shadow box that I'll be making for Justin and, while we were there on Christmas Eve, my mother-in-law went searching to find the photo I've been looking for since last July. We finally found it in an album - a black and white photo taken in 1965 of Justin's dad holding him when he was about four or five months old. I'm not sure what else will go into the frame besides the picture and the roses, but I have time to figure it out. I'd like to find some mementos that mean something only to Justin to put in there, so that's going to take some investigation.

Of course, these homemade gifts sometimes don't really work when you have teenagers who are into the latest in video games and smart phones. But the gifts that I enjoyed the most and that were the most well received were the ones that I made that didn't cost much money and that I immensely enjoyed spending my time and creativity on making them. And Ben's map, although it was technically from a video game, was also a work of art. Whoever created that world should be writing Tolkien-esk books, but I guess creating gaming worlds is this century's way of doing that.

Do you find that your creative side comes out at the holidays? Is it out of necessity because of finances or because you really enjoy creating? I'm a crafter from my teenage years and just love it when things turn out so well. And I love giving things away, which means I don't many of the things I have put all of my love into over the years, but isn't that kind of the point? Why make something if you're going to hide it away in a closet somewhere, right?

(All photographs copyright Chelle Newton, Life on the Domestic Front, 2012)

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Please Help Malea's Cause!

Courtesy of Malea's Cause

This will just be a brief call for help on behalf of the best friend I have ever had.

Malea was diagnosed in April 2009 with invasive breast cancer. She had a bilateral mastectomy and invasive chemotherapy. Her last chemotherapy was in October 2009 and they declared her in remission.

Last year, it was discovered that she also had ovarian cancer and had surgery to remove a cancerous tumor. Again, she was a survivor.

Immediately after that, the breast cancer returned and was in her lymph nodes. They did intense radiation therapy. Again, she was in remission.

On December 5, 2011, a scan showed that the breast cancer has now spread to her lungs and is Stage 4. The doctor has given her oral chemo treatment and told her there is nothing further to be done. She is looking into treatment options outside of her insurance company's network, but these are expensive and the cancer is not willing to wait for the money to grow on trees.

I don't believe that there is nothing further that can be done and I am asking for your help. If you can direct me to any other types of treatment that you've known to be helpful for someone you've known with advanced cancer, fundraising ideas, anything at all, please contact me. What she needs most (besides prayer) is funds to get to a decent treatment center and I am wracking my brain as to how to help her raise the money quickly.

Besides my mother, Malea is the strongest person I know. She has fought a hard fight with beauty, grace, strength, and dignity. She will never give up hope and never give up fighting. She has four children, the youngest of whom is only 12 years old, and they need their mom. She is going to be a grandmother in July. She has a family who loves her very much and can't live without her.

Please go to Malea's Cause and like it on Facebook. And if you have any ideas on how I can fundraise to get my friend to a treatment center that will help her, will treat her as a person, will give her some genuine medical care and concern, and will try to heal her please post a comment or send me an email.

Thank you in advance and your prayers are always welcome. I love my friend and hate the cancer. Cancer has taken so much from all of us. If you can help, you will be considered an angel.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Not Gonna Do It...

 I decided today that instead of New Year's resolutions, I'm going to make a list of things I am no longer willing to do. I have lived long enough to feel that if I don't feel like doing something, unless someone gives me a really good reason, then they can, well, you know, go scratch themselves or something.

So, in honor of 2012, here is my list of things I am no longer willing to do:
  • Not do something just because I've been told I can't. You never know if you can or can't do something until you try and if I want to try, then I will try and either fail or succeed. And, in fact, this might be the best way to actually get me to do something.
  •  Keep my opinions to myself out of fear of hurting someone's feelings. I'm tired of walking on eggshells and radical honesty is my new policy. (You've been warned; it's not personal, I promise.)
  • Agree to someone else's unreasonable requests. This includes any writing I might do for anyone. Editing is one thing. Asking me to change a story because you don't like the ending - isn't gonna happen. Asking me to give up the rights to what I've written - not gonna happen. If you request my writing, you get what you get and it will still belong to me. Because I wrote it.
  • Work for anyone who micromanages everything I do. Or refuses to teach me how to do the job. In fact, it's safe to say that I won't be working for anyone again. I love myself enough that I will never fire myself, so it works out pretty well. This writing gig doesn't pay anything, but it gives me enormous satisfaction and I'm leaving my kids a legacy of my life. I think that speaks for itself.
  • My own taxes. We got an accounting firm to do them last year and that was the best money we ever spent. And wow. I don't have to worry about making any mistakes. Win-win.
  • Make appointments for anything in the morning. Well, unless it's surgery and I don't have a choice. I did my morning duties of getting to work by 8:00 and getting the kids off to pre-school for years. Now my kids are older and more independent and, being disabled, I don't have to be at work in the morning. Mornings are tough for me physically and there's a reason that offices are open in the afternoon. For people like me. Because I don't like coffee. And I need two hours to process the fact that a new day has begun.
  • Finish a book that isn't well written. After trying to read The Executioner's Song (Norman Mailer) and wondering what the hell made someone give him an award for that dreck, I have given myself permission to chuck any book that doesn't grab me within 20 pages out the window. Unless it's a library book, in which case I will just return it. Life's too short to read uninteresting things.
  • Do my children's projects for them. They're smart - they can figure it out. If they can't get the grades themselves, tough. I already did school, a lot. If I want to study math again (and why on earth would I?), I will take a class myself.
  • Make the bed as soon as I get out of it. Or put my laundry away immediately when it is done. Okay, I didn't do those things already.
  •  Watch televised sports. Again, okay, I didn't do that anyway. But now I am a member of Amazon Prime and have a newfangled, majorly high definition computer. I can stream movies while sports goes on without me. And still be in the same room with my husband while I do it. Another win-win. And he's really sweet because he will mute the sound so it doesn't bother me.
  • Toss and turn when I can't sleep. When the lights go out and my eyes pop open, I now get up and read or play Words with Friends or watch sitcoms in the dark with my snoring dog until I get sleepy. Because even if I have to get Joey off to school the next morning, I can go back to bed after he leaves. (And I should mention that this ability to not do mornings is thanks to my incredible husband who is (a) a morning person and (b) willing to support me, along with the Social Security Administration. So thank you to both, but mostly to Justin.
Don't you think that after a certain age, you've earned the right to not do certain things just because you're not gonna do them? I asked Justin if he wanted to add to this list some of the things he wasn't going to do and he said the list changes from day to day. I know he won't answer the phone if it's a number he doesn't recognize, go grocery shopping on Saturday morning, paint walls if he can get someone else to do it, empty the dog's anal glands, and schedule appointments. Luckily, I am willing to schedule appointments, we have the number of a vet that does the anal chore (ugh) and someone who will paint for us for a fee, the grocery store is open early on Sunday morning (before the people come), and the phone does not have to be answered.

So here's all of the stuff I won't do anymore (and this may not be a complete list). I need to make a list of things I will do this year, but I've already blown my one resolution (the dollhouse is going back because it scares me), so I'm being careful with this list. It will only be things I know I will do so there isn't that sense of failure come December 31st.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

2011 - See Ya! Not Sad to See Ya Go!

So I'm sitting here, reading all of the New Year's Resolution blogs and the Happy New Year's blogs and I'm thinking okay, what actually happened in 2011 and what, if anything did I accomplish?

The thing I've noticed about being in the blogosphere is that every holiday (I mean every holiday) is written about to death. So I thought that instead of making this about a whole lot of resolutions I won't keep anyway, I think I will try to figure out what happened to me last year and if my cup is half empty, half full, or I have a cup that is twice the size that it needs to be (thanks, Justin, always the engineer).

So, in 2011:

I completed an entire year of blogging. I didn't post every day, but I have posted over 350 times since starting in October of 2010, so you guys got a lot of me. That's kind of an accomplishment that I have that much to say. Or maybe I'm just wordy and prolific and you would like for me to shut up. Sorry. I'm totally not able to do that. And I'm now writing at Off The Deep End with a great bunch of writers. Blogging is great because you don't have to go through a bunch of stuff publishing houses and worry about rejection.

I finished quite a few cross stitch projects, which is definitely an accomplishment. All of them were for Christmas and I am now going back to the ones I have piled up and trying to get those finished. Although I had thought that the chronic strain that sewing was putting on my hand might be the end of my stitching days, I discovered that shorter stitching times and smaller projects work better for me, allowing me to continue with the hobby that I love so much.

I sent out my Brave Bear manuscript to several publishers and go rejected by three of them and ignored by the fourth. Ah well. No one said that writing as a profession was going to pay the mortgage.

I made several starts and stops on various novel ideas which are sitting around on my old hard drive. I don't really know if any of the ideas will ever go anywhere and I am currently reassessing whether writing is ever going to be anything other than a hobby for me. Quite honestly, reading is a lot more fun and sewing even more fun, so it might be that I am not the great American novelist after all. I'm really okay with that.

I learned to live with and actually love a dog. And not one of those little teacup, toy, yappy numbers either. This is an 85 pound, genuine, furry, shedding, sloppy, tv watching, hamburger begging, scare off intruders and small children dog. (Refer to any Facebook post over the last year and you will probably find a picture of my dog. In fact, my picture for my blog is now the realistic 47 year old me (albeit from the back) and my dog. Well, he's really Justin's dog, but I'll do in a pinch. I think this is quite an accomplishment from someone who has been a cat person for her first 46+ years of life.

I managed not to break any bones last year. Stay tuned. (I don't know if I broke the toe. We didn't bother to have it x-rayed. Because it was a toe.)

None of my children were brought home by the police or suspended. Again, stay tuned.

I read somewhere in the area of 200 books. Maybe more. The gift of my kindle for Christmas 2010 caused a large dent in Justin's wallet and a renewed love affair with reading. I'm still checking out the library periodically though. And taking advantage of those free book offers that come my way in my email from Amazon from time to time.

I survived pneumonia, a kidney stone, and multiple fibro flares. Again, stay tuned. There's always a hypochrondrical hysteria when you live with me.

My husband lost his father in July and we will always miss him. There's just not enough words to describe this loss, so I'm not going to try.

My mom is still here and now in remission from her aggressive fibromyxosarcoma (wow, what a mouthful!). That is the best accomplishment of 2011 and it's not mine, but I wanted to include it here anyway. Because when one person has cancer, the whole family gets to watch and suffer right along with that person.

My best friend continues to fight her metastatic breast cancer and I am praying that 2012 will come with a cure and restore her to health. Your good thoughts and prayers are of course appreciated.

And that's basically my 2011. I can't say that I'm sad to see it go.

I'd say that the glass appears to be about right. I have a roof over my head, three wonderful children, great parents, a wonderful mother-in-law, the ability to do whatever creative thing I get into my head, food in my pantry, and pets that I adore. Oh. And I should probably mention the husband who makes it all possible.

Thank you, Justin. I don't say that enough.