Monday, November 7, 2011

Just Some Random Stuff That's Going On

Just a few notes of some things that are going on in my world...

My daughter was in a car accident recently and her car was totaled. The guy who hit her at 55 mph on the freeway and spun her car completely around to facing the opposite direction in traffic was driving with no insurance and a suspended license. Fortunately she carries good insurance coverage herself, so everything will be taken care of. You can't see it in this photo, but the car was smashed in the front as well as the rear. She was very lucky, though, and was not seriously injured.

This situation has left our household short one car (it'll be replaced, but hasn't been quite yet) when we were already short a car, so managing everyone's transportation has been a challenge.

On a separate note, it turns out I have severe arthritis in my lower spine and the degeneration has reached the point where a couple of nerves are being pinched. Not good. My right foot goes numb much of the time, and my left leg goes numb much more frequently. In addition, the pain in my right hip area is terrible. Pain meds upset my stomach, so I often get to choose between leg/back pain and vomiting. Most days I can't walk lately, and on ALL days I cannot put on my own socks and shoes. Fun times!

Because of these things that are happening, I may not be able to pull off my "Black Friday" project as planned, but I should still be able to do the Christmas stockings (theoretically, things should settle down by then). In any case, I'm not giving up just yet. I'll just see how things go within the next few days before I make any decisions.

On a lighter note, we have two cats that are mother and daughter, and the daughter is now about eight months old and close to the size of her mom. We've all been endlessly entertained by their antics lately. The two of them look very similar and are absurdly inseparable. They roll all over the house together in a constant blur of black and white fur, and you never see one without the other. Such a hoot!

Let's see... What else? Hmmm...

One of my now-grown strays, Jonah (who just turned 21) had previously been attending college but experienced some setbacks that forced him to drop out for a while. Naturally I was concerned that, as often happens, taking some time off from school would turn into a permanent situation and he'd never finish. However, Jonah seems to have really put effort into pulling a lot of things together, as well as paying off some past-due tuition he owed, and he's now ready to return to ASU for the spring semester! Yay! :)

Here's Jonah on Halloween with his girlfriend, Victoria:

Well, I know there must be other stuff going on, but I can't think of anything else terribly important at the moment. This will do for now. I promised myself I was going to blog more often, so I feel like I kept that promise today. :)

Until later, everyone have a great day!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Starting My 2011 Holidays Project!

**Quick note: I went ahead and left this post up (I just feel weird about writing stuff and then deleting it - think it looks hinky), but I have actually canceled plans for both of my holiday projects. This isn't a sad thing, it's just that my family needs attention this holiday season and also there are two new young people added to our home, so it just wasn't feasible to add anything more to my plate. So, I have to take a year off of holiday projects, but it's for the best.

This year I'm starting a little early on my annual project for the holidays (well, I guess it's not really that early, but it is for a "queen of the last minute" like myself - lol). Last year we filled Christmas stockings for the homeless youth at the Tumbleweed Drop-In Center, the year before that I did a Christmas Day dinner, and before that the kids and I had done gift bags for the homeless. If you'd like to read about previous projects, just browse through my older posts here. ;)

If I can pull it off, I would actually like to do two projects this year. First of all, I'd like to do something on "Black Friday" (the day after Thanksgiving, for those of you not familiar with the term). I was thinking about that day, and how when my kids were little I used to be out there every year in the wee hours of the morning with all the crowds, hunting down the toys and loving every minute of it. I've always loved how "Black Friday" kind of jump-starts the season. This year I would like to use that day to jump-start the season in a different kind of way. Instead of starting the season right off the bat in a commercialized, shopping-mall kind of mind set... Why not start the season right off in the spirit of giving and sharing? You know, reminding ourselves right from the beginning of what the holidays are really all about?

So for my first holiday project this year, I would like to throw a "Black Friday Party" that is not limited to homeless and at-risk youth, but rather open to anyone and everyone who is in need - whether that need is for food, tangible items, or just company and friendship. While we're all still basking in the glow of all that gratitude we expressed on Thanksgiving, let's keep in mind that the holiday season is not all about the mall. It's about people. Families, friends, communities. And this has been a rough, rough year for many people (myself and my family included), so let's start our holiday season off by remembering to stick together. Everyone has something to offer, whether it's a little extra food or a few kind and encouraging words.

For the "Black Friday Party" I will probably select a public park since we have the good fortune in Arizona of nice weather in the fall. I don't have my job at the church anymore, so I don't have the access I used to have to those facilities (bummer), but a park should work nicely. Of course I will serve food, but I'd also like to give away gift bags to those in need - bags filled with items like toiletries, socks for the cold weather season, first-aid items, useful stuff like duct tape and toilet paper, etc. I would like to set up and exchange table - if you received something you don't need, put it down and pick up something you do need. Share, swap, trade, talk, get to know people, spread some cheer and encouragement to each other... That's the whole idea here.

The second project I'd like to do this year is - again - Christmas stockings for the homeless youth. Exactly the same as we did last year, except this year I don't know if we will personalize them again or not (there were some complications with that, but I'm still thinking about it).

For both of these projects I'm going to need stuff, and I'm going to need volunteers to help out. If you'd like to contribute any items, we can use the following (I'll surely amend this list later):
  • Socks
  • Toothbrushes
  • Small-sized toiletry items (shampoo, toothpaste, etc.)
  • Rolls of toilet paper
  • Duct tape
  • Bunjee cords
  • Christmas stockings
  • Batteries
  • Chapsticks
  • Band-aids
  • Aspirin
  • Knit caps
  • Snack food items
  • Pens
  • Dental floss
  • Combs
  • Breath mints
  • Razors
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Shoestrings
  • Deodorant
  • Rubber bands
  • Gift cards
  • Wet wipes
  • Cough drops
  • Matches / lighters
  • Etc., etc., etc.
If you would like to contribute a dollar or five, you can do that here using PayPal: Holiday Projects Chip-In.

If you'd like to help out or if you have questions, drop me an email at

I will keep posting updates as these projects move along. If you'd like to be involved, feel free to jump in at any time! The more, the merrier! And let me be the first to say to you this year... HAPPY HOLIDAYS! :)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Getting Back To "Normal". Maybe?

I know I've been pretty silent on here for a while. There's been a lot going on (I've had some health issues come up, been being bounced from doctor to doctor), yet at the same time it's felt kind of like there's been nothing going on. That's because since the dramatic and upsetting exit of my foster son a few months ago, my kids have not wanted any new additions to the family. As a matter of fact, they haven't even wanted anyone really coming around at all. They were hurt, and they didn't want to share their mom with any more people.

Thus, my once bustling and busy house became silent and dull, and I hated it. Two of my girls - my "strays" - who have been members of the family for years moved away, too. My Tiffany got married, had a baby and moved to North Carolina. My Kayla got engaged and left for California. So then the now-silent house became even more quiet, and it started to feel like a morgue around here to me. I could still do some volunteer work, take out clothes and food or reach out to kids in ways that didn't involve bringing them home (all as my health / pain level would permit), but coming back to the house was always a let-down. I didn't enjoy being here at home anymore. Especially since my kids are older now and very busy, which means that even though they didn't want to share me, they also weren't here at the house a lot. I found myself making dinners for no one, and eating alone most of the time. Eventually I gave up making dinners and went with frozen stuff, eaten by myself in a quiet house with a book. A far cry from what I've been accustomed to for decades. I was really bummed.

Then yesterday morning I went for a walk and I met Amber. Amber is 19 years old and homeless. Her father is in prison and her mother committed suicide when Amber was just twelve years old, and she doesn't have any real family. She told me that she did have her own apartment for a little while when she was of age to get one, but she lost her job and was soon on the streets again. She carries only a plastic grocery bag with her.

Amber was hungry, so we walked back to my house together and I cooked her breakfast (my kids were still asleep). Then she helped me pull some weeds and rake the yard while we chatted. The things I found most impressive about this young lady were her sweet demeanor and her amazingly positive attitude. While she had her own problems, I often found her looking for ways to encourage me. Really just a very kind and thoughtful person.

While we were in the yard, my son woke up to get ready for school. He saw Amber outside and said to me, "Hey, I've seen that girl around. She's always in the dumpsters." I told him how she'd come over for breakfast and he went outside to introduce himself. They talked for a while as I did the dishes and watched out the window. He did not seem annoyed that I'd brought someone home. My daughter got up next and commented, "She seems nice." So far, so good. It didn't seem like the kids were bothered.

I offered Amber a shower, which she was really happy about, and gave her some clean clothes (I keep teen-appropriate clothing around and fortunately had her size). After that she was on her way. She did leave me a phone number, but her phone is turned off right now. I haven't seen her again, but that was only a day ago.

I do hope Amber will be back. For now, though, I'm just encouraged that my own kids seem to be coming back around. Perhaps some healing has started.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Resource list for homeless youth

This is a list of resources* that I've compiled over time and I regularly offer via online ads. I have decided to copy & paste it here, so that it can be accessed at any time by someone who needs the information. Please keep in mind that I live in the Phoenix, AZ area, and therefore some, but not all, of these resources are limited to the Phoenix area.

*Please note that some info on this list may be outdated. I am currently working to update the list, but since I had not posted it for a while, I wanted to go ahead and put it up for now "as is" in case anyone is in need of these resources. Please feel free to bring to my attention any info here that is not currently accurate. Thanks!


If you or someone you know is a homeless teen, or doesn’t have a steady place to stay (also known as “couch surfing”), or is in a bad home situation that they’re thinking of trying to escape, here are some resources and information that may be of help. These organizations/resources offer many more services than those I mention here, but I will tell you some of what I know they have to offer.

Tumbleweed Center For Youth Development
24-hour crisis hotline: 602-841-5799
Toll-free: 1-866-SAFE703

If you are in the Phoenix area, Tumbleweed is the first place I would recommend you call. They have been extremely helpful to many kids I’ve known.

• Serves youth ages 11-22.
• Emergency shelter.
• Drop-in center.
• Transitional living.
• Counseling.
• Tumbleweed will help you with any and all necessities, from a place to sleep to food and clothes, toiletries, literally anything you might need.
• They will help you get your GED. This includes helping you prepare for it, and they will pay for your test. I don’t know for certain that they still offer this, but they gave my foster son a $100 gift card just for passing his GED.
• Tumbleweed has lots of great “incentive” type programs, such as helping you get a job and then giving you rewards (such as gift cards) for certain accomplishments like being on time for work every day, etc.
• Bus passes if you are working or going to school, or looking for work, etc.
• Tumbleweed has a lot to offer, so give them a call!

National Runaway Switchboard

You do NOT have to actually be a “runaway” to get help from this organization.

• Anonymous, confidential & free crisis line 24/7.
• Helps youth up to age 21.
• Message relay & conference calls: They will deliver a message to your family for you and your parents can leave a message with them to pass along to you. If you give them a message for your parents, they will call them and deliver it. This is a very helpful service if you wish to let your parents know you’re okay, or have some other message to get to them, but do not wish to speak to them personally. Constructive messages only (in other words, they won’t call to tell your parents you hate them or curse them out for you). If you would like to talk to your family personally but feel that things won’t go well in the conversation, they will help you call them via conference call and stay on the line with you to help talk through things.
• Referrals to drug rehab facilities, shelters, family counselors, etc.
• Information regarding legal and medical issues.
• “Home Free” program: If you’d like to get home, but cannot afford it, they can provide a free Greyhound bus ticket. There are qualifications you must meet. For example, you must be between the ages of 12 and 20 and have had a missing person’s report filed on you. Up to age 18 you must be returning to a parent or legal guardian. If you’re age 19 or 20, they can get you a ticket to an independent living facility. There may be other rules as well, so please check with them.
• Bulletin Board: On their web site,, they have a bulletin board where you can post questions and get answers. It is a wonderful place to start if you have internet access and you have questions about things like what age it is legal to leave home in different areas of the country, emancipation, legal issues, how to help a friend who is in a bad situation, etc. The bulletin board is really great, and I cannot stress that enough. Very, very helpful.

Covenant House
Covenant House “Nine Line”: 1-800-999-9999

• Their motto: “Food, clothing, shelter for a night: given freely, with no questions asked, no strings attached, for any hurting, homeless youth who will knock on our door tonight.”
• Nineline hotline services available 24/7.
• Urgent and primary medical care free of charge to homeless, runaway, and at-risk young people ages 21 and younger. Psychiatric services also.
• If there is not a Covenant House located in your city, the Nineline will help you with where to go. They also refer to family shelters if your entire family is homeless.
• Provides shelters, help with employment, finding a place to live, etc.
• Mother/Child program: Provides services to homeless pregnant women and young mothers with children. The purpose of the program is to provide long-term housing, health services, counseling, employment training and parenting skills workshops to young mothers so they and their children can look forward to a brighter, more stable future.

ChildHelp USA

• If you believe you are being abused, ChildHelp is a good place to call and discuss it, and what your options are.
• Does not provide immediate shelter.

HomeBase Youth Services
602-254-7777 or 1-888-254-4297

• Helps at-risk and homeless youth between the ages of 18-21.
• Local to the Phoenix and Tempe area.
• Very helpful, respectful, and non-confrontational (in other words, they will offer you help without pushing anything on you). No obligation, no questions asked.
• They have a Street Outreach Van that is stocked with food, clothing, water, hygiene supplies and sleeping bags.
• Resource Program at the Dustin D. Wolfswinkel Center for Youth: Through the program youth receive basic needs, case management, and life-skills training. Resources available at the center include food, clothing, hygiene supplies, laundry and shower facilities, bus tickets, employment skills training, resume writing assistance, support for educational needs, mental health care, substance abuse intervention, case management, medical and dental care, and referrals to obtain overnight shelter and/or permanent housing (either at HomeBase or with an outside agency). Youth are able to earn points for their hard work and, in turn, use those points to obtain gift cards, extra bus tickets, and other prizes offered at the monthly barbecue that's held at the center.
• Offers mental health and substance abuse services to the youth in all of its programs.
• Employment and education services: Employment skills training and educational assistance is available. They will also provide study guides for your G.E.D., and they will pay for your G.E.D.
• HomeBase Education Assistance Fund: Want to go to college, a trade school, or a vocational-training program? You can apply for a scholarship through this program.

Stand Up For Kids

Call this hotline and you will get a very friendly, very helpful person who will talk through your situation with you. They won’t judge, they won’t tell you what you have to do, they will just talk to you and find out what you need right now. Then they will help you get it. It’s that simple. They operate, as they say, “like a family”. Lots of resources from food and shelter to counseling, helping you plan your way, etc.

...and then there’s me...
Cheri Mason

I’m a mom, that’s all I am. I am not a trained social worker, an expert on anything, or a miracle worker. But... I’m pretty good at coming up with ideas, problem-solving, or just listening. I also happen to have been around the block a time or two, and I’ve seen just about everything, so you’re not going to shock me and I’m not going to judge you. If you don’t feel like you’re getting what you need from the above resources, or you feel like you’re a little lost and not sure how to ask for help or what questions to ask, or you’d just like the advice of a mom who doesn’t work for any official agency, contact me. I will do what I can, and I have found that there is almost always an answer that we can find together.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Conundrum: When To Stop Sacrificing?

I'm in a pickle here and I'm having a hard time figuring out what's the right thing to do. My 21-year-old foster son moved out four months ago, and since then I've been giving him his space. Which is what I assume he wants. It's a little difficult to figure out what he wants because he won't say, actually. So, the best I can do is make assumptions, and I've assumed he wanted me to keep my distance.

Recently, within the last few days, I have tried to gently open the lines of communication with him. It has been very difficult. Whatever I say seems to come across the wrong way, and before I know it he is unhappy with me. I'm walking on eggshells with him because he absolutely will not tell me what he wants from me (Back off? Stay in touch? Give him some time? Never call him again?), and ironically enough, he says he doesn't like it that I'm walking on eggshells... Yeah, tough one there.

Fortunately for all involved, I am patient and I can wait until the time comes when he is willing to talk. However, I have some decisions to make in the near future that will impact him, so there are some things that need to be talked about. One of the most important ones is this: Do I take him as a dependent on my taxes?

See, here's the deal: For years I have not been listing him as a dependent on my taxes, which of course is a sacrifice on my part financially, because if I do so it will interfere with his college financial aid. It's complicated, but basically unless he files independently he will have to go and get his biological parents' tax returns in order to file for the grant he receives. And the amount of their income will disqualify him for said grant. Upon the advice of his college financial aid office, the only way to go about this was for him to file independently and then provide a letter each year. I agreed to forego the tax deduction and this has been working for three years now.

But now things have changed. Now he is gone, separated from the entire family (not just me), and really appearing to want nothing to do with any of us. He refuses to say why, refuses to give any answers, and leaves me in a position of not knowing whether I am supposed to grieve a loss here and move on, or wait out some mysterious issue until he's ready to speak. For all I know he will sit down with me someday and explain to me what was going on in his mind and we will patch things up, or else perhaps I will never hear from him again. Either result is as likely as the other.

Meanwhile, I need to file my taxes. I've put it off because I couldn't decide what to do. Other kids in the family are upset that I have continued to help him and make sacrifices for him (which I have), that I have spoiled him and never held him accountable or required anything of him (which is also probably true), and that I've allowed him to be manipulative (maybe true - my perspective is admittedly not clear enough to be sure). Frankly, he is acting like a huge self-centered jerk (gotta admit that) and everyone but me has had enough of it. And here I am with another sacrifice to make - foregoing that deduction once again on the taxes so he can stay in school.

What makes this even more complicated is that he doesn't know this is an issue. He seems to have forgotten that I've been doing this for years, and if I decide that I am taking the deduction, I will need to contact him and let him know that he's got to talk to his financial aid office because he's not able to file as independent for this year. If I contact him and tell him this, I know it's going to come across as me being angry and vindictive. And THAT is counter-productive to my ultimate goal of patching up this relationship.

I should probably mention this, too: When he left, he didn't just move out in some kind of planned, organized way. He got upset and left in a huff, leaving unfinished projects and half his things and messes to be cleaned up - all of which fell on the shoulders of myself and the other kids. He apparently just expected that everyone would go ahead and clean up after him, take care of his things until he retrieved them, etc. Naturally the other kids are very, very unhappy about all this. So, if I make another sacrifice at the expense of this family in order to benefit him... Well, it could get ugly.

Besides all that, there's the matter of what is just good parenting. He's behaved very selfishly and irresponsibly, and I'm not sure I should continue rewarding that. I may already have contributed to the problem we're dealing with now by my past "spoiling" of him. He seems, at almost twenty-two years old now, to believe that he does not have any personal responsibility for the impact he has on those around him. He seems to believe he doesn't owe anyone anything, not even an explanation. He seems to feel entitled to act in any way he pleases with no accountability for how that affects others.

If I continue to make sacrifices for him, as much as I love him, I may be reinforcing these attitudes. If I don't make the sacrifices, he may lose out on his college education and also it may further damage our relationship since he'll interpret it as me being vindictive. Sigh...

If anyone has any thoughts on this, I'd sure appreciate hearing them. :-/

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Accidental Shoe Drive

Back in December, when I was working on the "stockings project" for the youth at Tumbleweed, I mentioned several times that I was wanting to do a shoe drive. I wanted to gather up shoes - new or "gently used" ones - for the youth. I'd wanted to do it around Christmas time, and then I'd wanted to do it maybe in February, and then I'd wanted to do it at least some time before the brutal Phoenix summer arrived. If you've been following along, though, you know that my world has gone just a little bit (understatement) haywire over the last seven months or so. So, although it was in the back of my mind all along, the shoe drive idea has been put on the back burner.

Sort of.

A funny thing happened on the way to summer... Since I'd mentioned the idea for a shoe drive, talked about it a few times here and there and lamented about wanting to "get around to it", people started dropping off shoes at my house. "For whenever you get that started," they would say. Or, "Well, we knew you weren't ready to do that shoe drive thing just yet, but we were cleaning out our closets and didn't want to just throw these away..." This happened here and there, now and then, until I recently noticed that I have shoes lying around everywhere. I haven't even officially started the project - heck, I haven't even worked out how I'm going to do it - and already I have (I'm guessing here) between fifty and one hundred pair of shoes around here. And they are in the way. So I need to get moving on this. I mean I literally need to get moving on it, or else I need to just decide it isn't going to happen any time soon and go ahead and drop these shoes that I have off down at Tumbleweed.

Now, these shoes that I have - they still need to be gone through. They're in bags and boxes and I haven't even looked at most of them. I need to sort through them and pull out any that are not suitable for young people (I don't think most of these kids living in shelters are really looking for some sparkly, high-heeled old lady shoes), any that don't have mates (I don't know if there are any like this - just have to make sure), or any that are just downright worn out and don't have any life left in 'em. And honestly, some have been sitting in boxes so long here at my own house that they may be dusty and I might need to clean 'em up. So even as of now, even though I haven't officially started this project yet, there's work to be done.

So that brings me to now. I'd like to get this thing going and I'd like to hear some thoughts from all of you out there. Ultimately, I would like to bring about 200 pair of shoes down to Tumbleweed, and I'd like to make sure that the whole range of sizes is covered. One thing I learned a couple of years ago when I did my first Christmas project was that a lot of these young men are big guys, and it's hard for them to come across shoes in their particularly large sizes. So I will be looking for donations of shoes - new or used - and also I will be going out with my kids to thrift stores and yard sales in search of shoes in any sizes that don't appear in the donations. That's how I'd like this thing to end up. As far as how to reach these goals, here are some questions/thoughts that I'm asking for input on:

1. How should I conduct this drive? Should I just ask people to bring shoes to my house, or should I perhaps go to local businesses and ask them if I can place a donation box at their locations?

2. Should I offer the option of monetary donations to cover the cost of shoes that need to be purchased (any sizes that we don't receive)? Or should I offer the option of donating shoe store gift cards? Or is it just too off-putting to mention money at all, and in that case might I do better to simply ask for shoes and just pay for any needed additional shoes myself?

3. How should I get the word out about this drive? I can post ads on Craigslist and here on my blog, but where else? Any ideas?

4. Should I set an end date for the shoe drive at all? Or should I just say it's going on until we reach our goals?

5. Does anyone have any other thoughts, ideas or input? Anything I haven't mentioned or maybe haven't thought of?

So far this shoe drive is accidental (hence my title) - lol. Let's put our heads together and make it official, make it "on purpose"! Please share your thoughts here in comments, or feel free to drop me an e-mail at!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Just a Quickie - Another Update On Jeff

I just have time for a short little post, but I wanted to give everyone a quick update on Jeff and tell you all how wonderfully he is healing from his burn accident. He was trying to give me a silly look in this photo, but just look at that handsome face! No scarring at all!

It truly is amazing. If you'd seen his face in person (the photos I posted of him in the Burn Center never really did quite depict how bad it was) you wouldn't believe your eyes right now.

Also, last week Jeff was actually able to go to summer camp! We really didn't think that was going to happen for him, but he was healing so well that we just bought him some "under-armor" to protect his arm and lots of sunscreen for the new skin on his face - and off he went. While he was there, he even pulled a 6' 1" teenager out of the Colorado River rapids (the kid had fallen out while white-water rafting) and carried a girl with a broken ankle down from the top of a building, then called paramedics! Two months ago I wouldn't have imagined any of this possible so soon. What a kid!

He is still not fully healed (that will be about another 10 months) and he is being treated for a pretty severe case of Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, but he's in great hands with his doctors and his progress is astounding.

Unfortunately I didn't get a very good picture of his arm and hand, so I will take some more and post those later. But for now... Just look at that face! :)

I want to offer my deepest thanks to those who have supported Jeff with cards and gifts, and also helped with his care financially. You all have been a miracle. If you would like to help with his continued care, please click here. Do not feel obligated or pressured AT ALL! Thanks, everyone!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thrown For A Loop

As I type this, at 2:45 in the morning, I am angry. Enraged. Also confused, sad, discouraged and conflicted. I am shaking, I am teary-eyed, my stomach hurts and my heart is pounding. I've been thrown for a loop.

Have you ever wondered what that actually means? I tried to check it out. It seems to be an idiom that is primarily used in the United States and rarely heard elsewhere, and I ran across a few vague statements that it may have origins in the sport of boxing. As far as where it came from, that was about the best I could figure out. What it means, though, according to (who seemed to offer the simplest and most on-point definition) is this: "to confuse or disorient, to throw off, to mix up." That does seem to sum it up. So yes, I've definitely been thrown for a loop. And it's been going on for some time now - I live constantly with the pounding heart, the feeling of lost bearings, the confusion. And it only gets worse as time goes by.

So who did this? Who threw me for a loop (or two or three)? My foster son. The boy I took in as a teenager, loved and raised as my own, got off of drugs and out of a life of crime and into college. The young man who became not only part of our family, but a deeply integral part of it. So entrenched with our home, household and family that when he left a couple of months ago, we were all thrown for a loop. As were all of his friends, and my friends, and our friends' friends, and pretty much everyone who knew him.

It wasn't just that he left, though. I've had kids grow up and leave. That's not earth-shattering news, especially since he was 21 years old by then. No, it was much more complicated than that. For context, let me explain that this young man, over the years, had become extremely close to our whole family (my father and my aunt even helped pay for items he needed for school, and he was included on the Christmas lists of even my more distant relatives). He sung our praises at every opportunity to everyone he knew. He regarded me as not only his "mom", but as his best friend and "the only person that I can talk to about absolutely anything". He credited me for having turned his life around and for being "the person who has influenced [him] most in [his] life". These sorts of statements had been coming out of his mouth for years, and continued even as close as two weeks before he left. To be even more specific, three weeks before he left he approached me and pointed out that he believed I needed more "support", as my son had been in and out of hospitals for months and I was beside myself with strain. He said he wanted to be the one to help - he wanted to take me on nature hikes and to museums, expressing that he thought I needed to get out more. He said he wanted to be a friend to me when I needed one, he said that he thought I had too much on my plate, and he wanted to help. He asked me if I would please trust him. He was a grown-up now. He could be my friend. That's what he wanted, he said.

And then, within a matter of days, something happened. I do not know what it was and I may never know. I only know that he started making comments that he wished to move out of the house. I argued with him gently, being concerned that he would not be able to finish school (he was, at that point, at the end of his sophomore year at Arizona State University). But then he took things a step further and told me that he not only wanted to move out, but he wanted nothing to do with this family any more. He actually said that he would rather live in a car than in this house. He told me, "This family is not the center of my life anymore. This family isn't even close to the center of my life. This family is a tiny, little side issue in my life." We just weren't important to him anymore, he said. I was, of course, stunned. I pressed for an explanation - anything that would make some sense of what was happening with him - and I got none. He simply stated that he had "changed his mind" and I should just "deal with that" and gave very vague responses to any questions. When I pressed, he became angry. I'd never seen him angry at me, not ever. I was shocked, couldn't believe what I was seeing and hearing. When I finally pressed him enough on the issue, just trying to understand, he grew very angry and stormed out of our house with no explanation, no apology, no "thank you very much for taking care of me for five years", nothing.

So I cried for days. On Easter, which came just after he left, I did not get out of bed and join my family. On Mother's Day I stayed in bed as well. I could not face family events without this person who I consider my son - at least without him and lacking any understanding of why.

Okay, enough context.

So, I didn't hear from him at all for a while, and then over the last couple of months there have been occasional encounters (although I have not seen him in person). A few text messages, an e-mail, a few phone conversations. Never, though, an apology or even a gentler tone of voice. No, quite the opposite in fact. With each communication he becomes angrier, more rude and demanding, more disrespectful. It has reached the point where it seems he is literally going out of his way to be hateful to us and hurt our feelings. The whole family - thrown for a loop. A series of loops, actually, because each new contact feels like a brand new punch in the gut. Each time I don't think it's possible - I think I will hear my old son and buddy on the phone - and then I am subjected to shouting and cursing and rudeness and blatant disrespect. What follows is that gut-churning, surreal, this-can't-be-happening feeling that hurts every bit as much as a sucker punch. Even worse is when I meet up with cold, cold indifference. "I don't care about you anymore. Sorry." Said as flatly as if he were telling me that the freeway is closed this morning, too bad.

Don't think that I tolerate being mistreated. No, I end those phone calls when he gets that way and I don't answer rude text messages and I've e-mailed him - just in case he didn't "get it" - that I will not tolerate being spoken to in that manner. I got no response to that and didn't hear from him for about a month. When I did, it was as hateful as ever. More so, actually.

That last time that he was so rude to me and I ended the call, he did later apologize and say, "I'm just not myself right now." Whether he was referring to our current conversation or his behavior over the last few months, I didn't know and I didn't ask. But since he apologized, I helped him with the issue he'd called about. I sent him some things and I sent him some money.

Now before you jump all over me for doing that, let me explain myself: I am trying as hard as I can to make it easier for him to come back and apologize whenever he pulls his head out of his proverbial backside. I realize this could be years, but I am a patient person. My approach is this: I will not respond to disrespect, but I will reward even the smallest "progress" or "good behavior" (i.e. an apology) because I do not want him to dig his own hole so deep that he burns this bridge entirely. I guess I am protecting him from himself in a sense, but I have been living with the hope that one day he would come to his senses, and when that day comes, I don't want him to think his relationship with me is beyond repair. So, when he behaves like a respectful son, I respond by behaving like a mom. The message? "I am your mom and I love you unconditionally, even though I'm hurt and angry. In that light, while I won't accept disrespect, I will be there for you when you're ready to behave appropriately." I hope that makes sense to y'all. I could expand upon it and clarify further, but I'm not trying to write War and Peace here.

So... Why am I so upset tonight? Because once again he's reared his ugly attitude and it just seems to get worse and worse. My daughter saw him somewhere tonight, and his behavior toward her was childish and rude and deplorable. She was so shocked and taken aback by this stranger who was once part of her family that she had to step outside and call me on the phone. She was in tears. I offered to come and get her, but she declined.

Now as I sit here, I am struggling. Struggling with my anger toward him while I still love him as a son, and with the conflict that comes with those competing emotions. Furious that he would treat my daughter this way. Gritting my teeth and tightening my jaw and clamping down with my teeth on that last thread of the belief I hold in loving our children unconditionally, biological children or not. Wondering who this person is, where the boy I raised into adulthood is hiding, or if he exists at all and whether this stranger has taken his place. Struggling to understand how that can happen. Frustrated at having pieces of information with which to try and put this puzzle together - information that could only come from him, and he won't share.

Prior to these events I had never gone more than 48 hours without seeing him in the five years he lived in our home. Even those times were only when he took a weekend to go visit his grandmother in Mexico, and even on those trips he would call me at least once - of not twice - every day. And now I have not seen him in months, don't even know where he is or where he sleeps. And as far as I am concerned, I haven't spoken to him at all. I've spoken to the pod person who now seems to occupy his body and speak with his mouth, but after the events when things went downhill I would say I've never spoken to my actual son again.

I hope he's not gone. I hope this new person isn't who he is. I hope, I hope, I hope. I cannot wrap my brain around it. And so tonight, as yet one more incident has occurred where he has shown himself to now be a hateful, selfish and unkind person, the struggle becomes harder. I have never, ever turned my back on one of my kids, cut them out of my life, dis-owned them or any other such nonsense. This includes ALL my kids, not must my biological ones. I don't believe in that - or I didn't used to. I believe that family is always there for you, even when you screw up or behave badly. I believe that a mother loves unconditionally, even if she doesn't accept or tolerate bad behavior. And I have always believed very strongly that I need to model this especially well for the kids who come to me from families who could not be trusted. I always know they'll test me, and I always pass that test. You can trust me, I will be here always, I will not reject you no matter what.

But this one... His tests (if that's what they are) are stretching me to limits I've never seen before. I love him so much that I'm heartbroken to see him going through something - whatever it is - and not be able to reach out to him. Yet I'm so angry at him that I feel I could scratch his eyes out. And so, when a new incident occurs, I shake and cry and pound my fists and clench my jaw and feel like utter confusion could cause me to jump right out of my skin. Then come the questions , the doubt. Am I really a good mom? Does this happen to a mom who has done the right things, or did I make some terrible mistake? Or, even worse, should I reconsider my very deepest beliefs about the human race - that people are worth helping, that there is good in everyone if we can just help them reach down and find it, that making sacrifices for the good of others is a worthwhile investment in the good of the human race. If this is what people are capable of, if this is common (I don't know - is it?), then is it all worth it?

Thrown for a loop. And then another and another and another, each one making it harder and harder for me to hold firmly onto my belief in unconditional love for our children. I am clinging, really clinging. But stretched nearly to the breaking point.

Monday, June 20, 2011

New "Chip-In" for Jeff

Just a quick note here to let you all know that we've set up a new "Chip-In" event for Jeff's ongoing care. The old event has expired and some have asked if they can still contribute - of course his needs are ongoing and will be for a while. So, the new "Chip-In" is located here: New "Chip-In" for Jeff.

Much thanks to everyone, and I will keep you updated on his progress!

Chip-In for Jeff's care

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Road Trip!

My awesome daughter was nice enough to drag my tired self out of the house this weekend and take me on a road trip to visit one of my other girls in Las Vegas (I'm typing from her kitchen right now). I loved driving up here with my daughter, who is 21 years old now, since it's been a while since I got to spend real time with her like that. There is just no one-on-one time that you get with someone that's quite like what you get with just two people in a car on a good, long drive.

We got here to Vegas last night, and after having my daughter to myself for several hours in the car, I then got to spend a quiet evening with both my girls - Tiffany and Kristen - here in Tiffany's house. Since Tiffany grew up and got married and started her own family (darn her!), it's been rare that I can be in the presence of these two together - something I had MORE than enough of when they were growing up. Ha ha!

My son, by the way, is with his grandparents this weekend. So this is a nice break for me from all the recent drama. Just me and the girls. :)

Here is a little pic of Tiffany and her baby this morning - I will try to post some more pictures from our little trip later on.

'Til then! :)

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Update On My Son - He's Doing Great!

It has been a month now since my son, Jeff, was badly burned in an accident while trying out his new barbecue grill. The support our family has received, especially from the Bonanza community, but also from friends and total strangers, has been amazing. To all of you who have sent cards and treats and gifts and contributions to his "Chip-In" - I cannot begin to express my appreciation. I would like to provide you all with an update on how he's doing.

Jeff is healing at a mind-boggling pace; even the doctors are shocked at his recovery. At first they said there would need to be skin grafting (he had second and third degree burns), and then they were pleasantly surprised to find that would not be necessary. Such a relief! Then they said they were optimistic that scarring would be minimal. Now we are all thrilled to have learned that the burns may actually leave no scars at all. Absolutely amazing! He does still have the potential for scars if he damages his vulnerable, brand-new skin. For instance, about a week ago he had a little itch on his cheek and, just out of habit and without even thinking about it, he reached up and lightly scratched it. When he did so, a bit of his skin came off of his face and it started to bleed. He learned that he has to be very careful with this new skin!

Bandages are not necessary most of the time at this point. His does still bandage up his arm and hand when he goes out into a crowded public place, just to protect them from possible accidents, being bumped into, etc. Other than that, though, he can leave his skin uncovered, although he cannot be in the sun and has to wear very strong sunblock if he goes out at all, even if it's just in the car to go to a doctor's appointment or something. We've been warned that this new skin can burn in as little as nine seconds!

Jeff is still being treated for the conditions he had prior to the accident, and unfortunately his tremors seem to be returning, so we still have to get to the bottom of that (the tremors become seizures, and had him hospitalized for a week back in November). He's also being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome due to the burn incident (he has flashbacks and hears the "whooshing" sound of being engulfed in flames). So, there is obviously quite a way to go, but he is a trooper and I have great confidence that he will get through all of this. The boy was meant for great things - I just know this!

Here's Jeff's hand one month ago, and then today:

Amazing, isn't it? You can still see what looks kind of like a red "shadow" where the new skin has grown over the damaged areas (my photo doesn't really show it well enough, but no one's ever accused me of being a great photographer), but no skin grafts and no scars. I'm so happy about that! Here's a kind of creepy-but-Jeff-thinks-it's-funny fact: When he moves his fingers, that skin is so thin that you can see the movement of the muscles (or whatever) underneath it. Jeff finds this ridiculously entertaining.

Here is his face, then and now:

Again, my photos aren't great at showing what I wanted them to. But if you look at his cheek you can see that little red spot - kind of looks like a pimple. That's where he scratched it. The spot was a bit bigger, but it's healing well just like the rest of him. The only places that really still show some scabbing and remnants of the burn are the tip of his nose, the edge of his upper lip, his neck just below and behind his ear, and his earlobe. Also, as you can see, he hasn't shaved. He's too scared of an accident with that sensitive skin!

By the way, that beautiful turquoise necklace you see him wearing was a gift from Bonanza seller Montrose. It came in the mail one day with a card that promised it would protect him. He has worn it every day since he received it, and... So far nothing bad has happened! Maybe there's something to that protection! :)

Again, thank you to everyone who has been so supportive throughout all of this. In addition to all the ways you've all been helpful, it has also kept Jeff's spirits up and I believe that helps even in the physical healing. Much, much gratitude to all of you!

That's about it for tonight. I will post updates from time to time and let you all know how things are going for Jeff. For now, I'm just happy to say that all the news is good! :)

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

If you are visiting to read about my son...

If you are visiting for info on Jeff, click here.

To go directly to the Chip-In page, click here.

A Bit About My Booth - Rummage Rampage - And Why It's So Awesome :)

In my (admittedly limited) experience in the world of online selling, I have observed that there are sellers who have a blog and there are bloggers who also happen to sell things. I don't consider myself someone who falls into either of these categories. Rather, I am a mom - and I consider that my primary job - who happens to have a blog and also happens to sell stuff. I've noticed, though, that beyond having a link up in the corner of my blog here, I don't really blog much (or at all?) about my online booth. I'd like to interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for a moment here and tell you a little bit about it.

First of all, I would be remiss if I didn't "introduce" my booth right up front here and tell you that it's called "Rummage Rampage" (catchy - don't ya think?) and it makes its home at a wonderful little spot on the web - I chose the name "Rummage Rampage" because that is exactly what I strive for it to be - an online rummage sale of sorts. It's meant to suit all of those who normally love to go to "real" rummage sales: those looking for a bargain on everyday items, those who love to hunt for unusual and hard-to-find treasures, the collectors who know exactly what they want, and even those who buy to re-sell. I do my best to provide a wide variety of items and also keep my prices within the range of what you'd expect to pay at any local rummage sale you attended live and in person. Basically, being a big fan of tag sales and yard sales and flea markets and (of course) rummage sales, I try to pass along what I love!

You really, truly never know what you will find in my booth. My items come from a wide range of sources, from my own hunting to donated items from many people who support what I do as a "freelance mom". The result is a true hodgepodge of stuff - you may find anything from clothing and books to vintage collectibles and even tools or old radio parts. Need a roll of plastic tubing? I've got that. Or how about a box of vintage Christmas ornaments or a cute coffee mug? I've got those, too!

For the record, I think I should point out here, all donated items are sorted to see if they are needed by the youth at Tumbleweed Center For Youth Development before anything is placed in my booth for sale. In other words, Tumbleweed (an organization that helps homeless and disadvantaged youth) gets first pick.

I also try to have a little fun with my booth, give it some personality. Ya know? That makes it fun for you to visit and fun for me to operate. In my booth you will find a "Joke Of The day" (recently the title was changed to "Joke of the day (or week or month, depending...) due to all the recent crises with which I've been trying to keep up), so you can join me for a laugh. We all need to keep our sense of humor, come what may! I also do occasional giveaways and games with prizes - none of which ever require a purchase in order to win, by the way. You can keep up with the latest shenanigans I've got going on there by "liking" me on Facebook:

I focus primarily on local pick-up of items - I feel I should mention that since it's stated in all of my booth items. However, as the years have gone by I've had more and more requests to ship things, so about a year ago I started including shipping on almost all my item listings (except the occasional very heavy or bulky item). So, wherever you may be, if you find a great treasure in my booth that you just have to have (which you will, if you check in frequently enough), I will be happy to get it to you.

Oh! And one more thing... All of my items are marked "obo" or "Or Best Offer", so no price is set in stone. Don't ever hesitate to make me an offer!

So, have I about covered everything? Probably not, but that's okay. Come on by Rummage Rampage for a visit, and come back every now and then. You're bound to catch on and see how much fun it is. Speaks for itself! :)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Info Regarding Jeff and His Care

If you are visiting for info on Jeff, click here.

To go directly to the Chip-In page, click here.

They Say Laughter Is Contagious :)

So... Tonight my son was sitting on the sofa watching Family Guy. His sister was sitting on the other side of the living room in a chair, paying no attention, wrapped up in something on her laptop - probably homework. I was sitting in my office, around the corner from the living room.

Something funny was said on Family Guy (shocker). I could hear it from around the corner, but I wasn't paying attention as I was focused on work I was doing. But it was said, and after a brief pause, some back part of my brain picked up on it and caught the joke. I chuckled to myself.

My son, in the living room, heard me chuckle to myself, realized I'd heard the joke, and laughed at my delayed catching on.

My daughter heard this sequence of events and started giggling to herself.

At which I laughed, from around the corner.

Then my son laughed even harder, and so did I, and so did my daughter.

This circle of laughter rapidly increased in speed and intensity until we were all laughing at once, even out of sight of each other. Then, every time one of us would try to stop laughing, another would chime in again. It went on for about ten minutes. :)

That's all - I just wanted to tell you. It was a fun moment, an odd kind of bonding that happens in families and is all to often disregarded or overlooked (in my opinion). There was more stress release and "togetherness" (at the risk of sounding drippy) in that ten minutes than I could have found if I'd taken the kids out for a movie and spent thirty bucks.

Save your money and tell your kids a joke now and then. ;)

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I Need Help. So I'm Asking.

I've taken care of a lot of kids in my day, some who just needed a little help and some who needed a lot. I've always told them not to be afraid to ask for help when they needed it. I told them that asking for help does not make you weak - that all of us go through times when we can't go it alone, and that others won't know you need the help unless you tell them.

It's time now for me to take my own advice. I need help.

Some of you who are reading this know me, some of you don't, and some of you know more than others about what's been happening in my family over the last few months. Suffice it to say that there have been many, many trials of late - some that I've written about here, and many that I haven't.

For those of you who don't know any of this, I will cover just the important points that are relevant to this post and to my reaching out for help.

My fifteen-year-old son (now sixteen) began to have health problems around last October. It started with tremors, which culminated in a seizure by November. This resulted in his first week-long hospitalization. He doesn't want me to publicly discuss his medical condition(s), but I can tell you that there were subsequent hospitalizations, ER visits, involvement with various specialists, etc. Between November of last year and March of this year, my son had a total of six emergency room visits (to the best of my recollection now), six ambulance rides, one four-day stay in ICU and four long-term (a week or more) hospitalizations. He came very close to death on one occasion, and is currently - in addition to everything else - being treated for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, as he has flashbacks to that near-death experience. To him, falling asleep feels like dying, and he jolts awake at night screaming. I'm telling you all as much as I can here without disrespecting his wish that I not discuss certain things in detail with strangers.

Amid all of this, I lost my job in January.

By the beginning of April it appeared that my son's condition was getting under control. We had an accurate diagnosis, seemed to have finally lined up the correct concoction of medications (after many changes), and he was lined up to begin an intense form of treatment. His treatment would require various appointments almost every day of the week (and would leave me unable to work) for an undetermined period of time, but at least there was hope in sight. For that I was grateful, as was he, and his spirits began to lift.

And then, just when we thought the worst was behind us, he caught on fire. Yes, caught on fire. You can read about it here.

So... That brings me to this. He's home from the burn center now and I am taking care of him. However, there are not only the burns to contend with, but also the other treatment for the condition(s) he already had. To be quite blunt about it, his care has put us in a dire financial situation. We are facing disconnection of utilities by the end of this week, we're out of everything from laundry detergent to light bulbs, and the cost of gas for taking him to all of his appointments is killing me. That's aside from co-pays for doctor visits and, of course, there are things that insurance doesn't cover. When I found myself washing and re-using bandages for my son's arm, I knew I had to swallow my pride and reach out for help.

Please do not think this is easy for me. Just to write this post took me all night and resulted in a monumental headache from the tension of having to ask. I do not like having to ask. But, as I said before, I must take my own advice as I've given it many times before. I can't do this alone, and I'm not ashamed to admit I need help. Not ashamed, but definitely not happy about having to do it.

I'd love to tell you more about my wonderful son. But before I go any further, let me stop right here and provide the link where you can "Chip In" toward his care via PayPal: Just click here for the Chip-In page. Some may want to stop here while others may want to know more about this great kid. If you are one of the latter, read on...

What can I tell you about my son? I don't even know where to start. Let's go back to kindergarten... At my first parent-teacher conference, his kindergarten teacher sat me down and said, "I know this is going to sound strange, but I'm telling you Jeff is going to be famous one day. I don't know for what, but he will be famous. And I will have gotten to be his kindergarten teacher". He's a special kid. He's handsome, smart, witty, odd (in a good way - he just marches to the beat of his own drummer, as they say), and has an absolutely magnetic personality.

At five years old, Jeff started Cub Scouts and piano lessons. He is now almost an Eagle Scout (has one project to do) and plays the piano beautifully, as well as a little bit of guitar. He's been a soccer player, a high school football player, and a cheerleader in both junior high and high school. Even while on the edge of a collapse due to his condition, he took his high school cheer squad to the number one spot in the West Coast Nationals - and he immediately collapsed afterward and was taken to a hospital. But he managed to take care of his team first.

His personality has always drawn people of all ages to him. I cannot overstate this. When he was as young as seven years old, I would have people approach me in places like the mall and say, "Oh, are you Jeff's mom? How nice to meet you!" I'd ask Jeff who that was, and he'd say, "Oh, the librarian" or "Oh, that's the lady who works at the bakery at the grocery store." I'm telling you, everyone knew Jeff. I used to joke that I was going to change the name on my driver's license to "Jeff's Mom". LOL.

Here's an even better example: In 2004 we went to Disney World in Florida. When we visited Epcot Center, Jeff was all over it. He's fascinated by geography and world history (ask him about the French Revolution, what led up to it and what were the repercussions both in France and internationally. Ask him. I dare you.), so Epcot was Heaven for him. Well, at the end of the day as the park was closing... If you've ever been to a Disney them park or even any other major theme park, you'll now what I mean when I say that thousands of people are bottle-necking out the front entrance at closing time. Anyway, at Epcot there are these sort of balconies overhead as you exit and park employees from all over stand there and wave. As we were leaving, huddled within a crowd of probably 50,000 people or so, I began hearing, "Bye, Jeff! Goodbye, Jeff! Have a great trip, Jeffrey! It was so nice to meet you!" I looked up and - I kid you not - Epcot employees (or "cast members", to be accurate in Disney-ese) from all different areas of the park were leaning over those balconies and spotting Jeff in the crowd and waving to him. He grinned and waved back, and I looked at my daughter who rolled her eyes (being the big sister) and said, "Why am I not surprised?" That's Jeff for ya.

Being interested in world events and particularly politics, Jeff volunteered for the McCain / Palin campaign in the 2008 election a the age of 13. He was the youngest volunteer here in Phoenix, and every day after school he was downtown working those phones. Now, whether you agree with his political views or not (he is a staunch Republican), you've gotta give him credit for putting his time where his mouth is. Jeff is a hands-on guy. And I might add that Sarah Palin is practically a centerfold model to this kid, so every time she's been in Phoenix, he's been there. And not only there, but somehow he always manages to not only get his book signed or whatever autograph he's wanting, but also gets to wriggle his way in with "the fam" (I'm referring to the Palin family) and hang out with them, chat, whatever. Like I said, whether you agree with him politically or not, you've gotta give the kid kudos!

We have a DVR to record TV shows. Once my daughter was looking over the recorded shows and she asked me, "Why do we have all these news shows recorded?" I told her, "Well, those are all the times your brother has managed to be on the news." Again, being the older sister, she rolled her eyes. But also chuckled. Jeff will manage to make his way in front of a camera wherever one pops up, I swear.

In February of 2010 (I think it was 2010, but it may have been 2009), Jeff jumped into the icy water of the Colorado River to rescue a younger boy in an overturned canoe. He jumped in without a thought - boots and all - and pulled the young boy to safety. He also gave the kid his blanket, leaving himself to freeze in the winter cold. He justified this by saying that the smaller boy didn't have as much body fat and therefore needed the blanket more than he did.

Last summer he came across and injured woman in the Grand Canyon. He and a friend determined that she had a broken shoulder and also a broken rib. He knew how to address that issue, so he had her keep her left arm raised so as to not puncture a lung (I didn't know this!), and then he used a mirror to signal an "S.O.S." to a Tribal helicopter for help. Recognizing their return signal that they'd received his message, he assured the woman that help was on the way. He and his friend used their sleeping bags to make her a comfortable place to lie down. A few minutes later, a rescue helicopter arrived. Jeff, being the physically strongest one there, carried her to the helicopter and placed her inside.

A few months ago I was browsing Craigslist and a woman posted in the "General Community" section that she'd run out of gas. In her post she acknowledged that this was a long shot to ask for help this way and she expected to get criticized for it, but she stated her location and Jeff rode his bike four miles to bring her $10 for gas. She was overwhelmingly grateful and impressed with such a kind young man. Not something you expected from teenage boys nowadays, she said. She insisted on driving to our house to meet his mom (Moi) and tell me how nice he was. :)

Have I told you enough? His older sister jokingly refers to him as "Forrest Gump without the slow Southern speech" because this kid has been everywhere and done everything. Frankly, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if some of you reading this are saying to yourselves, "Hey, I know that kid!" Because it seems everyone knows Jeff. Anyhow, I am quite sure I'm leaving things out, but I'm equally sure that y'all don't want to sit here all night reading this. LOL. So, I will wrap up my bragging right about here. He's just an all-around great kid, and he's had a rough turn of events over the last few months.

Again, I'm asking for help with his care. Not because I want to, and not because I make a habit of such things, but because he deserves the care he needs and as a mom I would be remiss if I let my pride keep me from asking. He shouldn't have to be using recycled bandages.

Here is that link again: Chip-In For Jeff's Care. Also, you can visit my online booth, Rummage Rampage, and see if there isn't something there you can't live without. And if you can't help financially, which I totally understand, please do spread the word. You can refer people here to my blog, refer people to my booth, Tweet about my items if you're on Twitter, or whatever else you can think of. Any of these things would be greatly, greatly appreciated.

And just one more thing (I promise, just one more): If for any reason you would like verification of anything I've stated here, feel free to ask. I will be happy to provide whatever you need to feel comfortable that this is not any kind of scam. My e-mail address is

Thanks so much for reading. So much. Really. :)

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Some have been asking for updates, so I'm just throwing out this quick post to bring y'all up to speed on things that have been happening. It's been an up-and-down ride for the last few months, and particularly the last few weeks. Here are some "highlights".

  • Good: My son's burns are healing at an impressive pace, surprising even the doctors. Of course it's going to be a long process, but it is going well so far. I attribute this, in large part, to how quickly the folks at the John C. Lincoln Deer Valley Hospital emergency room got him transported (lighting speed, I'm tellin' ya) to the Arizona Burn Center, where he received absolutely amazing care.
  • Bad: I haven't seen my foster son for a month now, and I don't even know where he lives. Since 2006, I have never gone more than 48 hours with him out of my sight. To this day I still do not know what happened or why he really left, an issue over which - I am not ashamed to admit - I've lost many nights' sleep. But he is an adult now and I must leave things in his hands, just hoping that one day he will want to have a relationship with me again, or at least explain himself. :(
  • Good: Kayla, one of my now-grown strays, came over and brought me the most beautiful bouquet of flowers for Mother's Day. It truly lifted my spirits in a difficult time.
  • Bad: On Mother's Day, in the evening, my dog got out of the yard when some neighborhood kids left our back door AND our back yard gate open. I love this dog. LOVE this dog. He was a rescue dog, having been abused in the past, and he has bonded with me like no other pet I've ever had. I found it nearly impossible to sleep without him snuggled up next to me at night, and I worried endlessly about his welfare. My daughter and I went to the local dog pound every day (a heart-wrenching experience in itself, which my daughter cried all the way through the first time), but didn't find him there.
  • Good: After four long days, when I'd really lost hope, my dog was found! Responding to one of a kajillion posters we'd hung, someone finally called and said, "I think I have your dog." They DID have my dog! When I came to their door and he saw me from inside, he went bananas and ran to me, and I cried. Yay! :)
  • Ugly: Well, there's no ugly. Ha ha. What COULD have been ugly would've been my son's burn scars, but fortunately it appears that there won't be any really bad ones, and none severe on his handsome face. I don't have any pics to post right at the moment, but I will when I can. As I said before, the healing is coming along well.
That's all I have for now, especially since I am having to "borrow" an internet connection (that's a whole 'nother story) and don't have a lot of time for a long post tonight. But I really, really want to express thanks to all who have been supportive during these difficult times, especially my fellow sellers at Bonanza. If you haven't been there yet, stop by and browse around. I'm telling you, there are some truly wonderful finds there, and some really wonderful people!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

It Was Just A Nice, Calm Spring Afternoon...

(Just fyi - I realize the font in this post changes throughout and I don't know why, but I can't fix it and I'm tired of trying. So, onward...)

Last week, on the day before his 16th birthday, my son caught on fire. Yep - caught on fire. Now how's that for a way to start off a blog post? Figured I may as well just "jump right in" to the topic du jour.

It was a kind of freak accident with his new charcoal grill, an early birthday present he'd received from his grandfather the day before. He'd wanted to do a back yard cook-out for his birthday and do all the cooking/grilling himself. Kind of show off his skills to all his friends and family. See, my son has been a Boy Scout for eleven years. He is one project away from being an Eagle Scout, as a matter of fact. So it's not as if he is new to working with a grill. The kid's been cooking over fires for years. Sometimes he makes our family dinners in his treasured Dutch oven, out in the yard over a fire pit in the ground. He is not inexperienced.

Now, here's what my son didn't know (nor did I): If you need to add some charcoal to your grill that's already got some going, it is recommended that you pick up the individual briquets out of the bag one at a time with tongs rather than tipping the bag and just dumping a few of them out. Well, that is what he did - tipped the bag.

Even though he didn't add his charcoal in the "recommended" way, I am now told by people with more expertise (i.e. a lot of old guys, including the doctors) that what happened next should never happen. Apparently, bags of charcoal can often have - for obvious reasons - bits of dust and debris in them from the briquets. Bits. Some. A little. This bag had a massive amount of charcoal dust, and when my son tipped that bag it all poured out onto the already-hot coals, instantly bursting into a huge fireball that engulfed his upper body.

He knew, being a Boy Scout, to "stop, drop and roll". Then he plunged into the swimming pool. Now here is a very fortunate coincidence: I had just filled that pool the day before. Prior to that it had been empty for months because we had to have some work done on the pump and drain. And as an added bonus, because I had literally just filled it, I hadn't added any chlorine yet (which would have irritated the burns). So, at least there was that. I'm looking for all the "positives" I can in this situation.

Here's how things went down from my perspective: I was in the front yard planting some flowers. I had been in and out of the back yard checking his progress with the new grill, so it's not like I didn't know what he was doing. I just wasn't worried, since everything seemed find and normal. A fine and normal Spring afternoon. Sigh...

About five minutes into my hole-digging I heard a sound. A scream? I wasn't sure. It was loud and echoed around the neighborhood, so at first I didn't even know where it had come from. I lifted my head and I'm pretty sure I cocked it to the side like a dog does. Then I suddenly just had a feeling (all of this happened within about three seconds). I dropped my little shovel and ran into the house.

As I neared the sliding glass door that opens to our back patio (hauling ass, even though I wasn't quite sure why yet - just "mom instinct"), I saw my son emerging from the pool, fully clothed and yelling, "Hospital! Hospital!" I didn't even get a good look at him and I didn't ask any questions. I just reached to the key rack that happened to be on the wall right next to me, spun around and headed for the car with my son following. Oh, and just in case you're wondering why I didn't just call 911, I know from much experience that the hospital is exactly a three-minute drive from our house. So I didn't think - just ran.

In the car I caught a glance of his arm as I was driving. Just what I could see out of the corner of my eye as I tried to drive fast but safely and stay focused on the road. The arm looked horrific and frightening, and I could smell the smell of burning flesh. I know that sounds really graphic, but there's just no other way to put it. As I was driving, my son started to frantically tell me what had happened. And then the screaming started.

It was awful. Awful! He's a tough kid, a big and strong kid, and to hear those screams... I can't even express the feeling. And the feeling of helplessness as I could do nothing except let him scream; I had to keep my eyes on the road and not lose it.

When I pulled into the hospital parking lot, my son just flung open the car door and ran straight into the ER. I pulled into a parking space and headed in after him. There was an available parking space right in front, so it took me probably less than 30 seconds to park and run in, but when I got into the ER the place was empty. Empty. They'd all rushed him back that fast! I stood for about five seconds before a door flung open and someone said, "Are you mom?" I nodded and they held the door for me, nothing needing to be said. I followed the sounds of the screaming.

I have no idea how many doctors and nurses and people were in that room, but it was crowded and chaotic. It was at that moment that it started to sink in with me - this is really serious! I stepped out into the hall. Not only did I want to stay out of the way, but there was absolutely nothing I could do and I could not bear the screams. I'm a pretty tough cookie, but I couldn't take it. I moved even further away, from the hall to a nearby waiting area. I could still hear him, but not so much. I hated the helpless feeling and was just trying to maintain my composure. A couple of doctors (both of whom I already knew - that's how often I'm at the ER with all these kids of mine) came out and asked me questions about what had happened, what kind of charcoal, whether he was using lighter fluid (no) and other questions that I mostly couldn't answer. I signed forms that were put in front of me. I paced the floor. I wanted to ask how he was, wanted to ask how bad the burns were, but I didn't want anyone to stop whatever they were doing long enough to talk to me.

Someone came out and told me that an ambulance was on the way to transport him to the Arizona Burn Center (the best in the southwest U.S.). That's when another wave of this is bad came over me. I signed papers giving permission for him to be transported. The ambulance arrived very quickly and one of the EMT's came over to ask if I would be riding along or following in my own car. I answered that I should probably follow, since I didn't know how long we'd be there and I had no other way home. The EMT paused for a moment, took a look at my probably-pale face and said, "Are you okay to drive?" I took a deep breath and pulled myself together, and answered that I was.

When I went to my car in the parking lot I saw the ambulance pulling away from the hospital. It was moving fast and had all the lights and sirens going. One more wave of this is bad hit me. It was all happening so fast, and I was only absorbing the severity of the situation a little at a time.

I followed, but obviously couldn't travel at the speed of the ambulance, so I arrived a little while after them at the burn center. By the time I got to the room where they were treating him, he'd been pumped full of morphine and, while clearly still in pain, had stopped screaming and was beginning to show bits of his real personality. He - being 15 years old, keep in mind - remarked that he "hadn't been burned this bad since back in 'Nam" and also at some point said, "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning" (the reference to Apocalypse Now from such a young kid drew chuckles in the room).

They told me immediately that he'd be staying, and they didn't know for how long (this is bad again). I asked about the burns, and they explained to me that they wouldn't know the severity for a few days. I was getting my first real look at him at this point. Fortunately he was bandaged up pretty thoroughly, so I didn't have to see the worst of the damage, but his face was exposed and it looked horrible. I almost felt sick, but I didn't want him to see any such look on my face and be further alarmed, so I kept my cool. On the outside, anyway. I was glad to see, though, that while his face was definitely burned badly, I didn't see anything that looked like it would result in his being disfigured. Except maybe his lips. I'm still not sure about his lips...

More paperwork was put in front of me and I signed, signed, signed. Then I was escorted to his room along with him on his gurney (is that what they're called?) in a staff elevator. By the time we got to the room I was totally lost in this huge hospital, having paid no attention whatsoever to where I was being led. The grandparents had arrived at the hospital by then and were calling my phone asking where he was. I didn't know, I told them. I didn't know where I was, I was disoriented and stressed, and they'd just have to ask and find us on their own. Out his window I could see the airport in the distance, so I knew the room was facing east. That was about all the help I could provide.

I stayed with him that night, sleeping in a chair. He was mostly knocked out anyway, but I didn't trust the staff to adequately understand some of his already-existing issues. For instance, he has been in treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome as a result of a near-death experience he had (that's a whole 'nother story), and when he falls asleep he sometimes jolts awake in a panic because he feels like he's dying again. I was glad I stayed that night, because the morphine caused a bit of a "vicious circle" issue in that regard. The medication would make him drowsy, but then as he began to doze off he would suddenly sit up screaming. I had to go to him and hold his "good" hand, comfort him tell him where he was and that he was okay. This happened twice on that first night, one incident being fairly severe and the other not quite so bad. After that I think the staff understood the seriousness of that particular problem, and then I felt able to go home and get some rest because I trusted they'd look out for him. And they did.

He's been there for a week now and I'm sure I don't have to tell anyone that it's been a very painful process of treatment. Here's a not-very-good picture of his face on the second night (I had to take it as I caught him dozing off, so couldn't really get a good angle):

Here's what his forearm looked like on day three (upper arm is worse, but I have no pic of that - not that I'd probably post it anyway):

I haven' seen it since that picture was taken, so I don't know how it looks now. Honestly, I try not to be there when they change the dressings and do the treatments. I can't handle seeing it and I can't bear the screaming and crying. Even though he's on morphine and other drugs, the medication can't keep those treatments from hurting brutally.

Poor kid had to spend his 16th birthday there in the hospital, but we did throw him a little party with a few good friends - and a cake that had the candles painted on. LOL.

As of now, that's pretty much where things stand. He's progressing well I'm told, but he is still in a tremendous amount of pain and I don't know when he will be home. But I will keep y'all updated.

To end this post on a somewhat lighter note, though, there was one little anecdote in this whole incident that gave me a bit of a chuckle. Even while engulfed in flames, rolling on the ground and heading for the swimming pool, my son had the presence of mind to grab his iPod and fling it into the yard so it wouldn't get wet. Kids have their priorities. ;)