Thursday, December 27, 2012

A Calm and Laid-Back Christmas :)

I didn't do anything special for Christmas this year, which actually is something special at our house.  There was no Christmas project like I've done in years past, no pressure, no stress-inducing obligations.  Since health issues have impacted my life and my daughter's life this year, and since my son has been in the habit of reminding me lately that this would be my last Christmas with him (my youngest) being a "kid" (he will be 18 in April), I decided this year's holiday should be low-key and just... nice.  Relaxed.  Just us and our close friends.  I absolutely refused to let anything bother me.  And it's a good thing I kept that attitude, because there were a couple of - ummm - bumps in the proverbial road.  But nothing we can't all just laugh about later.  See how much better it feels when you look at it all that way?

Christmas Eve went well.  I'd wanted to get all of my decorations unpacked and out on display, but that didn't happen and I didn't let it bum me out.  So far, so good!  I'd also wanted my house to be cleaner than it was, but I did what I could and then said, "Aw, heck - these are our friends, they've all been here before, and they don't care if there's a stain on the carpet or some dust bunnies under the sofa."  I wiped the lipstick off the milk jug (just kidding - I don't wear lipstick - hahaha) and just let things be.  Got myself into the kitchen and started cooking, because that's what really matters.  Goodies.  ;)

If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen the recipe for Chocolate & Peanut Butter Pretzel Cookies that I shared recently.  Well, I made those; here they are, ready for the oven:

See all that salt on the tops of them?  Yeah, that's too much.  Just letting you all know.  If you try these, go lighter on the salt than I did.  This was my fault; instead of sprinkling it on like you're supposed to, I put the salt in the palm of my hand and pressed the cookie dough lightly into it.  I did that because I couldn't get the salt to stick at all when I sprinkled it, but it any case, it was just too much.

Here they are, all done and pretty:

You can really see the over-salting in this pic, I think.  But all we had to do was brush off the excess and then they were super yummy.  I highly recommend giving these a try!

Also a little idea that I saw (and shared) on my Facebook page, really just a simple but clever thing, was to put veggie dips into hollowed-out peppers instead of bowls.  I'm terrible about having the camera ready and taking pictures when I should, so I didn't get a shot of my little veggie platter while it was still pretty and no one had dug into it yet, but here it is mid-foodfest:

Since I am, as I said, pretty bad about having the camera ready, I don't have a lot of photos of me and the kids being our festive selves.  But here's a pic of my son being goofy.  It's a horrible picture of me, but I'm willing to humiliate myself and show it for the sake of showing you all how charming and fun my little Jeff is.  :)

Gawd, I have so many chins in that pic.  But hey, a tree on your head makes up for everything, I say.

Here's my good friend Kathy and her son Justin, just hanging out and having some laughs with us:

Yes, the tree hat-thing made its way around.  :)

And that was that.  A few friends, a few drinks (Kahlua comes in gingerbread flavor!) and some good food (I made cranberry-chili meatballs, jalapeno poppers, spinach dip, and my super-famous chicken-enchilada dip).  Christmas Eve, done.  And without a single stressful moment.  Ahhh...

So, I thought things were going pretty smoothly, and I anticipated an easy Christmas morning.  No last-minute stuff I forgot to do, no high-pressure or fancy-schmancy plans.  Coffee ready to go the night before, requiring only that I flip the switch to "on" when I woke up, and a blissfully easy morning was ahead of me.

I did head straight for that coffee pot when I casually rolled out of bed at 10 a.m., feeling cool as a proverbial cucumber.  Then, just as I passed by and saw it go down out of the corner of my still-sleepy eye, this happened:

I heard the glassy "thud" just as my head turned instinctively toward the suspicious movement I'd caught in a glance.  And down it went.  See that innocent-looking puppy dog there?  Well, truth be told, she really was innocent.  It was our beagle who did the deed.  So, do you know what I did?  Nothing.  I just smiled and kept walking toward that coffee maker.  I turned it on and then headed toward my office, just to check the news online while I calmly waited for the percolating to finish and for the aroma of pumpkin-spice coffee to waft through the house.

That's when I encountered this:

I've cropped the photo to spare you the gore, but those are feathers (and the occasional beak piece or bird-toe) all over the floor.  It seems our sweet little kitty cat, Tiny, had gone all Kill Bill during the night and had a fight-to-the-death with not one but two birds in my office.  I had left the back door open the night before (this is Arizona - it's not that cold), and apparently she took this as an invitation to show off her ninja skills.  Being less than entirely graceful in her massacre, she knocked absolutely everything off of my desk and every other available surface in the room.  Then she proceeded, as far as I could tell, to spread her own kitty-cat version of holiday cheer (i.e. bird bits) from wall to wall and ceiling to floor.  Meowy Christmas to me!

And once again, I did nothing.  I looked over the crime scene, smiled to myself, left the room and determined to clean it up later (those birds weren't getting any deader).  The evil forces of the universe were conspiring to stress me out, but I was having none of it!  They would not win!

A couple of the neighborhood boys who frequently hang out at our house helped me straighten the tree back up, by the way.  And only one ornament was broken.  One!  And it was one I'd never really liked, anyway.  Take that, forces of the universe!

I got the kids up, my parents came over, and the gift-opening frenzy began.  I didn't get any pictures of the frenzy itself (I told you I was bad about that), but here's the aftermath:

I think that shot sufficiently shows that we had a generally good time.  And I don't know why my daughter is staring at the door there in the corner, but she reminds me of that guy at the end of The Blair Witch Project.  Nevermind.  Lol.

Next we were off to the movies.  We'd never done that before - gone to the movies on Christmas.  I know some people do it, but we always had some big, stressful plans to keep up with.  Not this year.  We all went together to see Les Miserables (awesome) and chow down on popcorn in-between sobs.  (Yeah, it's a tear-jerker, but if you know Les Miz, you know that already.)

Anne Hathaway is amazing, by the way.

Then we headed back to the house to quickly warm up our respective dishes (my daughter made her potato casserole, and I made my almost-as-famous-as-the-chicken-enchilada-dip pineapple-cranberry upside-down cake), and we were off to my parents' house for dinner.

We had prime rib, which was a first for our family's Christmas dinners.  And asparagus with Hollandaise sauce.  And some kind of high-falutin' mushrooms that my dad said took him nine hours to cook (I don't know what they were called, but they were worth the time).  And my parents were nice to me, which is unusual (that's a whole 'nother blog post, which I'll probably never do).  Everyone was in a good mood, nothing went wrong, and if anything did, I ignored it.  The evil, stress-inducing forces of the universe were foiled again.

After that I have no idea what everyone else did, because I crashed on the sofa.  Hard.

And that, my friends, was that.  Christmas as it should be, I believe.

And to all a good night.  ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012


There are a lot of reasons why I don't post here to my blog as often as I'd like.  I get tied up with working and taking care of the kids and the pets...  There's all that, but there are really two primary issues that tend to keep me "quiet" much of the time - issues that, when I first started blogging, I didn't realize were going to be such problems.  The first one is the matter of discretion with regard to the kids in my life, deciding what I should or should not say or talk about.  The second issue is really just not wanting to sound like a "Debbie Downer" too much of the time.  Sometimes, and often for long stretches of time, things in my world can be so difficult that if I blogged about what was going on every day it would come across as depressing.  And sometimes it is depressing.  While I try to keep a positive outlook and "keep my chin up" as much as possible, the truth is that sometimes the crises are so intense and come at me so fast...  And sometimes the happy stories I could post here are so few and far between...  Well, sometimes it's just that way, and I don't know how open I should be here.

Anyway, this post is going to reach just a little bit into both of those areas:  Talking about a young girl that I've never mentioned here (I was protecting her privacy while she lived with us, and I will still do that now) and talking about some rather ugly issues.  I suppose the reason I feel like "talking" about her is to point out something I've come to realize, and that might surprise many people.  Or maybe it won't - perhaps it is I who was more taken aback by this fact than others would be.  I'm talking about the fact that there are some young people who truly don't want their lives to be better, who are so drawn to the harshness and suffering of life on the street that they would actually rather be homeless than be comfortable and cared for.

I'm not talking about kids who, in the immaturity of their youth, simply see the "street life" as glamorous, only looking at the perceived "benefits" (freedom to do as they please, living with no rules or constrictions, taking drugs and partying) and not yet having experienced the negative consequences that go along with such a lifestyle.  I'm talking about a young girl - and she is surely not the first nor the last - who has experienced all the pain and difficulty of living on the streets, and yet she gravitates toward such a life in spite of any attempts to help her.

This girl - I will call her "Willow" here instead of using her real name - was sixteen years old when she lived in our home for a few months late last year and earlier this year.  I had known her for a while before that, as she traveled in the same social circles as some of the other kids who spend a lot of time here.  I remember it was Thanksgiving night when the kids and I came home from a family get-together and I found Willow sitting alone on our back patio (kids often come and go from my home via the back yard gate) with puffy red eyes, a few bruises, and wearing a hospital bracelet.  There had been a fight at her family's Thanksgiving dinner and she'd ended up in the emergency room.  Then she'd run away and parked herself on our back patio.  We weren't home, so she waited.

I fed her.  I made sure her mother knew where she was (although her mother wasn't concerned enough to even ask for an address, and my over-the-phone introduction as "Jeff's mom" was sufficient for her to trust me with her daughter).  I made up the spare room bed with clean sheets.  I took her to Walgreen's and got her a contact lens kit since she didn't have hers.  I got a new toothbrush out of the stash I keep.

For the next several months she stayed at our house, and I did everything I could to help her and to get through to her.  But she would lie.  And lie, and lie, and lie.  Even when it was totally unnecessary.  Even when I totally knew she was lying, and I'd give her every opportunity to come clean and she knew I wouldn't judge her.  The lying I could deal with, though.  I'd seen kids like that before.  But then came the times when I caught her using my son's computer to post ads on Craigslist and exchange messages with men on adult sites.  Offering herself in trade for things she didn't need, because I would provide them.  And she would start fights with the other kids around the house, fights that were so unnecessary but she just insisted on having an environment that was chaotic.  As if she couldn't stand it any other way.  Then she'd cry and cry and cry that no one liked her.  And I would try to talk to her, and she'd lie some more.  Anything I offered - advice, suggestions - anything that would make her life easier and actually solve the problems she was constantly lamenting, she resisted.  She didn't want them solved.  I don't mean that in a snide or sarcastic way; it was clear that she truly didn't want anything to be better.  I know there are teenage girls who thrive on drama, but I'd never seen anything this severe.

Some of the neighborhood boys came to me one afternoon and told me that Willow had just been arrested at a nearby convenience store for panhandling.  Begging people to buy her food.  But she had food, readily available at our house, as much as she wanted.  I was baffled, and I said to the boys, "I don't understand.  Why would she beg for food?  There's food here!"  They just shrugged.  

The police released her to her mother that night, or perhaps it was the next morning, and she was right back at our house within a day.  I tried to talk to her, tried to make sense of her actions or gain some insight, but she just denied she'd been panhandling at all.  The police, the store clerks, everyone just falsely accused her, she said.  Of course.  I wouldn't have believed her story anyway (for all her practice, she was not a good liar), but the boys had witnessed her approaching people and begging, and they told me so.

I know it happens, but personally I'd never seen a kid so desperate for attention and love as this girl, and yet so unwilling to accept it when it was offered.  It was as if she only wanted the attention if it was gained by negative behavior.  All I could do was shake my head.

Then she stole $250 in cash from my son's drawer, and I had to draw the line.  I had to make her leave.  Interestingly, she didn't even ask me why when I told her to go.  I simply said, "Willow, you've got to go."  And she gathered her things in her arms and left.

She went to her boyfriend's house, which was in our neighborhood.  I made sure her mother knew, not that it mattered to Mother-Of-The-Year.  It was just one of those times in life where I had to accept that I can't help everyone, I certainly can't put my own family at risk for everyone, and even though I knew her mom wouldn't really live up to her responsibility, this girl was, in fact, her responsibility and not mine.

And that was that.  I haven't heard from her since.

But then a couple of days ago my attention was brought to some videos that were... let's say "circulating".  Videos of Willow, looking ragged and with dead eyes, with men clearly much older than her and smart enough not to let their faces be recorded.  And then yesterday one of the boys told me that he'd seen her walking the streets downtown, in a very bad neighborhood nowhere near ours, "looking like she was working it".  

I wish I was shocked.  Instead I'm just disturbed, troubled, saddened.  I'm no psychologist and I really have no insight as to why the Willows of the world are the way they are.  I just know they are.  And I wish it weren't so.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

"We Are a Funny Family"

My sense of humor has always been a coping mechanism for me, and it's gotten me through a lot.  A lot.  I know this is something I've passed on to my kids because they are, well, a funny bunch.  You really do have to have a sense of humor to live in this house, I must say.  The darker and sicker and more twisted the better, but if you haven't gotten in touch with that part of yourself, just give us at least something to work with and we'll help you get there.  Ha ha!

I used humor a lot in bringing up my own kids from the time they were young (new additions to the family just have to get used to me/us, as my two have had years to adjust), even in the area of discipline.  When my daughter was a "tween" and she would need an attitude adjustment in public, for instance, I would threaten to sing John Denver songs at the top of my lungs.  This would get her immediately into order because she knew I would do it.  On rare occasions I had to actually make good on the threat.  One time we were all in line for popcorn at a movie theater, and she just kept huffing and puffing about how long it was taking.  Being a snot, frankly.  As a warning, I began to hum the opening of "Rocky Mountain High", but she rolled her eyes at me and apparently didn't take me too seriously.  So when she continued to grumble, I began - just a little quietly at first - "He was born in the summer of his twenty-seventh year..."  Then something really awesome happened.  The guy behind me in line joined in.  Pretty soon a handful of us "oldies" in line were singing "Rocky Mountain High" together, and she was mortified into submission.  :)

There was also a time when my son was being a bit... difficult?  Mouthy, let's say.  So, I headed down the hall toward his bedroom, and as I did so, I whispered to my foster son, "Tell him I'm heading for his room..."  Before I knew it, my son was racing down the hall behind me, trying to catch up and get ahead of me.  I was too fast, though, and I flashed through his door and slammed it shut behind me just in the nick of time.  I locked the door, and then...  I sat on his bed quietly for about five minutes while he stood outside pleading.  I came out smiling and walked away, saying nothing.  The poor kid spent about the next week going through every single thing in his room, trying to figure out what I had done or taken or messed with.  It was driving him crazy.  I finally let him know, thinking he'd suffered enough in that week, that I hadn't done a thing.  Bahahaha!

Back when my daughter first started high school, it just so happened that I was on the school board.  This gave me some connections (poor kid).  Well, backing up a little bit here in the story, there was this cookie jar I'd found at a yard sale, and Kristen (my daughter) hated it; it looked like a gingerbread girl, which I thought was cute, but she found "creepy".  So, one night when she was sleeping, I set the cookie jar on the desk in her room, right where she'd be looking eye-to-eye with it when she woke up.  The kid turned that one around on me, though, because when I woke up in the morning, it was on my night stand and it was me who was looking it in the eye.  Ha!  But I wasn't to be outdone.  I stashed the cookie jar behind some clothes in her closet the next day, where it would startle her, which it did.  Were we finished, though?  Of course not.  That night, there was the little gingerbread girl sitting in my office chair when I went in to get some work done.

So...  The first day of school was approaching, and remember those connections I mentioned?  Well, I made some calls.  I found out in advance which locker Kristen would be assigned, and I even got her combination.  Tee hee...  On the first day of her freshmen year of high school, my daughter opened her locker to find that "creepy" gingerbread girl cookie jar staring her square in the face.  When she called me on the phone, I answered already laughing!  That one, I have to say, was priceless!

Of course, when one doles it out - so to speak - for so many years, one has to be prepared for some payback when the little tots get older.  A while back, this is what happened to me when I unwisely fell asleep on the sofa one afternoon:

And this happened to my daughter at the hands of my beloved "stray" Kayla (who has the patience of a saint and can always pull off what you think she can't); those circles are the little felt dots you use on the inside of cabinet doors to keep them from slamming loudly:

Speaking of Kayla, this is what she left for me one Easter when we were decorating eggs and I asked her to "leave a few eggs in the carton for me because I want to bake cookies":

Yeah, you may have to look at that for a minute...

So, I'll tell you why I was thinking of this tonight, our sense of humor and all.  This morning I was heading down the hallway to go to the bathroom, and I caught a glimpse into my son's room.  Every drawer was hanging open (this is a weird habit he has, leaving all his drawers open), and I laughed out loud.  From the living room, he called out, "What's so funny?"  I replied, "I just saw your room and it occurred to me that it always looks like you just got robbed."  Ha ha.  And then I headed into the bathroom, where I remained for all of about a minute and didn't hear a thing...  When I emerged, I noticed that the two cabinet doors in our hallway were standing open.  "Very funny, Jeff!" I shouted down the hall.

Then I headed toward the living room, where I found that every single open-able thing was hanging open.  All the cabinet doors in my buffet and in the shelving units by the TV, all the drawers in every end table and other piece of furniture, the coat closet door... Even the sliding drawer-thingy in the DVD player was standing open.

I was already laughing, and then I headed into the kitchen.  You guessed it.  The oven, the breadbox, the dishwasher, every cupboard and drawer, all open.  Suffice it to say that the kid covered the entire house - quietly and in less than a minute.  I laughed until I literally cried.  The apple, as they say, does not fall far from the tree.  :)

And as we were chatting before he went to bed tonight, I brought up his little prank and chuckled again.  That was a good one.  And he said to me, grinning, "We are a funny family.  Other things about us may be debated, but not that.  We are one funny family."

As long as we can hang on to that, we'll get through whatever comes our way.  :)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

So Proud Of My Son ~ An Update On Jeff One Year Later ~ And A Little About Heroes

Okay, so it's been 14 months rather than exactly a year, but I haven't had a lot of time to post here.  I set aside some time for it today because a mom's gotta brag.  ;)

Some of you may remember (for those of you who don't, here's the story) that last year my son, Jeff, was very badly burned in an accident on the day before his sixteenth birthday.  This happened, as luck would have it, just a couple of weeks after he'd been released from an extended hospital stay due to a previous incident, so it was a very bad time for him and for all of us.  I posted a couple of updates last year as he was healing (beautifully), but now that he's fully healed I wanted to just tell everyone what he's been up to since then...  And brag a little because I'm so proud of him.  :)

This is Jeff last year.  I never got a very "good" photo of the most severely burned parts of his face in the burn unit because he didn't like me taking pictures.  He was terribly afraid (as was I) that he was going to be permanently disfigured, and he wouldn't even allow mirrors, let alone cameras.  Anyway, this was him:

And part of his arm (again, I never got pics of the worst of it):

Now, on with the update/bragging:  

After being released and healing up well enough to go outside, Jeff hopped on his bicycle and rode to the fire station nearest to our home.  He walked in, told them his story and said that he wanted to volunteer so he could help other people.  Training he'd previously received as a Boy Scout was sufficient to qualify him to provide basic medical assistance.  The firefighters had Jeff on a truck that very day.  He immediately learned to handle dispatch and rode along on three emergency calls within the first couple of days of his volunteering.  Now he wants to be a paramedic!

Meanwhile, Jeff put his nose to the proverbial grindstone and got down to some hard work toward becoming an Eagle Scout.  As of now, he has completed everything except his final project, which is in progress.  He's temporarily put that on hold, though, because...

Jeff's spending this summer working full-time at Camp Geronimo as a lifeguard and teaching swimming classes for the littler Scouts.  I should probably mention, too, that Jeff attended Camp Geronimo last summer as a camper himself (on a full "campership" scholarship), while still bandaged up and on pain medication, and taught fire safety lessons to the kiddos.  They took things a little more seriously after meeting him in person.

Also last summer at a different camp, again while still bandaged up and on pain medication, Jeff pulled a 17-year-old boy larger than himself out of the Colorado River.  The boy had fallen out of a raft while white-water rafting.

Oh, and backing up a little bit...  Last December, on the way to a leadership training course he was attending, Jeff happened to be the first person to encounter an injured man in the middle of a highway who had been thrown from his motorcycle in a hit-and-run car accident.  Putting his training to work, Jeff tended to the man (who was in shock and unaware that he had multiple broken bones, some protruding from his shattered hand) until an ambulance arrived.

Jeff also rescued a woman in the Grand Canyon who'd been thrown from a horse and had broken ribs.  He signaled (using those signals they learn in Scouts) to a touring helicopter for assistance, made a sling for her out of his own clothing, and carried her to the rescue helicopter when it arrived.

I could go on.  I'm sure I'm forgetting things.  He's a busy kid, a tough kid, a great kid, and a go-getter.  As you might have ascertained by now, I'm really, really proud of him!

And this is Jeff now, just a few weeks ago, doing beautifully and with NO scars from his burns:

One last thing I'd like to add is that the lovely girl there in the photo with Jeff is Hayleigh Funk, his forever friend and my forever hero, because without Hayleigh there would quite literally be no Jeff.  I can't stress enough how true this is.  There was a time - and I won't go into too much detail because I haven't asked Jeff's permission to talk about it publicly - when Jeff himself was all alone and very near death.  Very near death (it took five days in I.C.U. to stabilize him).  It was Hayleigh who found him, and not by accident - she hunted him down with virtually no information on his whereabouts, no contact information for myself or any of his family, and with Jeff himself unconscious.  She found him with mere moments to spare, and she saved his life.

I am forever indebted, and forever proud to know them both.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

About Trust...

My kids say I trust people too easily. And maybe they're right, but it isn't something I wish to change. At least not too much. Of course it's always a good idea to apply the wisdom you gain from years and experiences - I'm not indicating that I wish to be naively foolish - but I do not want to become a suspicious, jaded, distrusting person.

It would be true to say that because of my trusting nature we have had people steal from us, but not in any major kind of way. It would also be true that from time to time I, and my family, have been taken advantage of. But again, usually not to a huge extent, nor have I failed to put a stop to it once the matter was spotted, so I wouldn't say we've suffered greatly in that area. To anyone reading this who knows us personally there is one glaring exception to what I've just said, though, and that would be what happened with my foster son. Interestingly, however, the horrible things he did to us (and I'll grant they were, in fact, pretty horrible things) didn't occur until he was twenty-one years old and a long-established member of the family. But that is a story all its own that stand separate from everything else. It's a story I will write about when I'm ready (it'll be soon, I think). I'm not yet ready, though, and I don't want to wander off track here.

My point is that I am a trusting person but I'm not a fool about it, although my kids express some concern regarding my potential in that area. Basically, they worry about me. But I want to stay a trusting person, and I have my reasons.

And here they are:

First of all, I know that I, personally, can be trusted. I've worked very hard at that throughout my life, making it a priority to be a trustworthy person and stressing to my children the importance of integrity. Not that I'm perfect - far from it. Naturally I will sometimes fail, sometimes fall short of my own standards, sometimes let someone down. But I try very hard not to let that happen, and when it does, I own up to it, apologize, and try to learn how not to let it happen again.

Now, I cannot possibly allow myself to believe that I am the only person in the world who values their integrity in this way. To tell myself such a thing would be not only illogical but supremely arrogant. There must be other trustworthy people. There must, I would think, be lots and lots of other trustworthy people. I cannot bring myself to think otherwise.

Secondly, and this is the most important point on this topic for me, I certainly can't ask the young people I encounter to trust me if I trust no one myself. I'd be telling to do as I say but not as I do, I'd be telling them in a sense that I don't believe my own words, I'd be asking them to believe I am worthy of their trust while at the same time setting an example that says I don't believe the same of anyone else. I'd be a hypocrite.

So I am determined to remain a trusting person. Not a naive person - that's not the same thing - but a person who applies judgment, takes the risk, and then steps forward well aware of the possible costs. Will I be hurt again, as I sometimes have in the past? Probably. No, certainly. But I am not afraid of that; I am not afraid to experience let-downs and disappointments and painful feelings. I will not "protect" myself by putting up a barrier of guardedness and suspicion at the cost of being the person I wish to be.

No, when the time comes again - and it surely will - when someone breaks my trust of maybe even my heart, I will feel those feelings willingly and ride out the proverbial storm and come out the other side continuing to believe what I must believe... in order to believe in myself.

In the well-known and admirable words of Anne Frank, "Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart."

Sunday, March 18, 2012

When They Can't Go To Their Parents, They Go To Me

A couple of days ago a boy in our neighborhood ran over to our house in his pajamas, frightened and bleeding all over the place. He cuts himself. You know, a "cutter" as they call them, because he has some very serious emotional pain. This time he cut deeper than intended. Afraid to turn to his father (I don't believe his mother is involved in his life), he ran here. I closed this up for him:

I am glad that he knew I was available and knew where to go, but it saddens me so deeply that he doesn't feel he can go to his own family. See all those other scars on his arm? He is covered in them. Although he wears long sleeves and hides this issue from his friends and family, I have known about it for a while. I try very hard not to be pushy when talking to him, wanting him to feel he has someone he can trust who won't prod or judge. And I'm glad I have taken that approach; otherwise he might not have come here seeking help. I'd like to see him receive help from professionals for his emotional problems, of course, but I also know enough about his home situation to know that his father would not cooperate with anything like that. As a matter of fact, part of the reason this young man is afraid to open up to his father is because he would, in all likelihood, be thrown out of the house. See, his dad regards him as just generally too much trouble.

I suppose there isn't a lot more to say about this. I'm just sad that he doesn't have the nurturing environment he deserves at home, but I'm glad he knows I'm here. Hopefully I can find a way to be helpful to him in a deeper way, even in light of the obstacles that his circumstances present.

If you love your kids, and of course I hope you do, please make sure they feel comfortable and safe that they can come to you with their sadnesses and anything that's on their mind. It's just so important. :(

Monday, March 12, 2012

I Almost Gave Up

Obviously I haven't posted anything here in months. I almost walked away from this blog, walked away from this whole "I'm everybody's mom" thing, ditched it all. Almost. I did, actually, put my online booth on vacation hold (meaning I temporarily closed it down, and as of this writing it's still closed) and basically crawl into a metaphorical hole for a while, just didn't talk to anyone any more than I had to. I couldn't deal with any more. That may sound weak - perhaps whiny? - but that's just the simplest way to put it. I had to sort of withdraw from the world for a while and take care of myself. I could not take any more.

The approximately eighteen months between the summer of 2010 and the end of 2011 contained so much drama for this family, so many crises, that I couldn't even bring myself to talk about most of it. I mentioned a few things here, but I never like to feel like I'm posting all sorts of negative stuff, so I always try to keep some balance by posting positive things that are happening in my world as well. The trouble was that there were no positive things. A few small ones here and there, maybe, like when my daughter took me on a fun little road trip to Las Vegas. The truth was, though, that even on that trip I just grinned through tightly gritted teeth and tried to tell myself I was having a good time. It was work - actual effort - to keep up the appearance. The truth was that nothing could balance out all of the awful things that were happening, though, and a momentary escape here and there was the best I could hope for.

Actually, now that I look back, I recall that even that trip was mostly ruined by a barrage of phone calls from home as my world continued to crumble while I tried to get a tiny bit of reprieve. Ugh.

Anyway, things are better now. I am still recovering from it all, though, and I am allowing myself to "re-enter" life slowly. I've been through a lot. A LOT! It's all about baby steps, as they say.

I will write about the events of 2010/2011, and I will do it soon. For my own reasons, I have to do it soon. But for today, I will just update y'all on my daughter's car accident (the most recent thing I'd blogged about).

I'd said she wasn't seriously injured, but that turned out not to be true. She had some back pain, but we all thought it was just the standard back pain - you know, some soft tissue injuries and basically whiplash - that one would expect after being hit from behind. She was seeing a chiropractor, but while her neck was starting to feel fine, pain in her lower back was only getting progressively worse. The chiropractor suggested she get an MRI, but she couldn't afford it as she was uninsured. By the way, it did turn out that the at-fault driver had insurance, but they would only cover her expenses on a "reimbursement basis". Meaning, in reality, that she would have to come up with cash to pay for all treatment and they would reimburse her when it was all done. I mean ALL done. So, being a broke college student and with a mom (me) who didn't have a lot of cash, she really couldn't move forward. All she could do was hurt, and be frustrated knowing that there was insurance to take care of her, but she couldn't access it.

By December her situation became dire. She worked retail, so the holiday season was her busiest time, and she was continually sent home from her job because she'd stand at the register and cry. By early January she had to quit her job, a job she'd had for four and a half years, a job they'd held for her when she went away for six months to work at Disneyland, a job she liked and was good at. She was very depressed over this.

By the end of January she could no longer attend classes and had to drop out of college. Her pain was tremendous, but when I'd taken her to the emergency room they only suggested Ibuprofen. An x-ray didn't reveal anything serious, but they suggested (as her chiropractor had) that she get an MRI. We explained that she was uninsured, explained the "reimbursement coverage" situation she was in with the auto insurance company, and pleaded with them to do the MRI there at the hospital during her ER visit. They refused, told her to go get one herself, and insisted that there were places who would do this and third-party bill the responsible auto insurance company. I told them we'd been unable to find any such places, asked again and again that they do it there, but all to no avail. They didn't even want to give her any pain medication and treated her, frankly, like some drug-seeker who was making things up. Only when I had a fit did they give her a few Percocet, grudgingly. We were sent on our way with no idea how to proceed. She was in tears. Honestly, by this period of time, she was always in tears. She'd just cry constantly from the pain. No one seemed to care.

By early February pain that had been steadily creeping downward into her hips and legs made it nearly impossible for her to walk or even to sleep. Finally having scraped together enough cash for the new-patient fees at a doctor's office, I took her in and we asked them to give us the referral paperwork for an MRI (apparently you can't just get an MRI unless a doctor orders one, so we had to pay for that first). This doctor - sadly and disappointingly my doctor - also didn't appear to take her seriously. She did order the MRI, but refused to prescribe any pain medication at all. My daughter, who is intelligent and driven and works hard, was angry and offended at being treated like some kind of drug-seeker. She'd lost everything - her job, her college education, her social life, everything - and yet this didn't seem to be enough to convince anyone she was in severe pain.

We scraped together more money and took her to another doctor, one recommended by someone on Craigslist, actually! This doctor took her more seriously, and also ordered an MRI from a place that was somewhat less expensive than the one my doctor had ordered. It took another week and tons of begging to get contributions from family members, but we finally got that MRI. It changed everyone's attitudes and facially expressions remarkably.

On the same day as the MRI was done, we ran back to the doctor's office with the films. Suddenly everyone was compassionate, everyone was sorry, everyone was placing their hands on her shoulder and calling her "sweetheart". They tripled the dosage of pain medication they'd prescribed a week earlier and they referred her to a spinal surgeon, whom they wanted her to see immediately.

More begging, more family members chipping in money. We got to the surgeon's office in less than a week. I don't remember all the terminology, but suffice it to say that her lower spine was torn up. Four discs were problematic, one was "just gone, there is no disc" (using the surgeon's exact words) and was herniated so badly that - again using his own words - they were "surprised you aren't peeing all over yourself". He ordered surgery within 36 hours, and the biggest scramble for cash was on. We turned to everyone, even cousins I hadn't seen since high school, and within those 36 hours we came up with nearly $11,000 to pay for the surgeon, the hospital and the anesthesiologist. She had the surgery and felt relief immediately. The surgeon, outside of my daughter's earshot, said that this thing he'd removed was one of the largest he'd ever seen and that he'd showed it (ewww) to everyone there in the OR that day.

It's been two and a half weeks now and she is recovering beautifully. She still has physical therapy coming up that we still can't pay for, and our entire extended family is flat broke, so we'll have to find ways to deal with that. Her total out-of-pocket expenses now exceed $20,000 and the insurance company still won't talk to her until she's "all done".

The important thing, though, is that she's better. So much better. She's almost giddy with joy at the relief she's finally feeling. And that, folks, is a mood-lifter for all of us around here!

I guess it's time for me to crawl the rest of the way out of my hole and re-open my shop, though. Gotta sell!