January’s Journey

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I got fat.

Well not just fat, more like heart-attack-waiting-to-happen obese.

But let’s just back the food truck up for a minute here and start from the beginning.

Now, to truly start from the beginning, I need to take you back to August of 2014 when, on a snap decision made out of my husband’s mid-life crisis, I found myself in a mini van packed to the roof with my belongings heading back to my hometown in Michigan.

Lizzie did not survive the trip. I think she was just too old and hadn’t been feeling herself for some time. R.I.P my sweet, scaly girl.

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Anyhow, about 2 and a half months later, my husband Paul would walk away from our condo in Jacksonville and his property management job of 16 years to join me at my parents’ house with our 13 years of accumulated crap in tow. I had started working for my father at his auto repair shop, Paul got a short-lived job in property management for the first few months until that turned sour, at which point he decided to join the blue-collar world once again working in a factory. We rented a cozy little apartment in a quiet neighborhood, and we adore everything about living in a small town.

As for the kids, two of the five stayed in Jacksonville. Big Red moved to North Carolina with her new boyfriend. The oldest, her husband, and our grand baby decided to join us here in Michigan and get their own apartment. So we just have the youngest with us yet, and he’s 14.

I don’t know if I’ve ever really thanked my husband for his mid-life crisis yet, but it was the best decision we’ve ever made.

So now that you’re caught up on 2 years of my life in a nutshell,  you’re probably asking yourself, “What does any of this have to do with you getting fat?”

Well, the answer is 2 fold:

1 – Even though the move was a good one, I don’t adjust to change very well.

2 – Suddenly, without five mouths to feed we could afford food. Like…any food. All of the tasty, glorious, calorie-loaded food that we could get our lips on.

2 and a half-ish – having a sit-for-9-hours-a-day  desk job where customers are always bringing in donuts, pizza, and baked goods “just to say thanks” doesn’t help much, either.

Caloric intake doesn’t affect my husband much. As a matter of fact, he’s gotten skinny because his factory job keeps him in shape. He can shove anything into his gullet and not gain a pound. I hate him for this.

Me, on the other hand, I can just smell chocolate and gain 3 pounds. It’s like my metabolism got up and walked away when I hit 40.

So, I started gaining weight. Just a little at first, but then a little more. My dad would order himself and the other woman in the office some breakfast every morning. “Hey kid, you want anything?”… “Sure, dad, I’ll take ham, egg, and cheese on a muffin… and a chocolate milk.” Then I’d go get a greasy burger and fries and a big chocolate shake for lunch.

Oh, and not to mention the late night snacking just because I could. Doritos and Oreos? Sure, why not.

So the pants would get packed away to make room for larger sizes. Large and XL made way for 2XL and even some 3XL. It just kept getting worse.

The beginning of 2016 rolled around and I found myself in and out of the doctor’s office because of this pain or that pain. I’d look away when they’d have me step on the scale because I just didn’t want to know. I was depressed, partly because of what I’d let myself become but there were some other factors involved, too.

I started looking for a quick fix for what I had done to myself. I checked into bariatric surgery but insurance wouldn’t cover it. I started shopping around for miracle slimming pills…something that would shed the pounds quickly with no effort on my part. I checked out the Fit Body Boot Camp one morning, but decided it was just too intense for me. Nope. Not happening.

Around about the 6th of the year as I was driving home from somewhere that I can’t even remember, I recall thinking that maybe I should just drive into a tree at about 70 and be done with it. That’s a quick and easy fix. That’s about the time I realized how bad my depression had gotten and I ended up at church sobbing my heart out to my Pastor’s wife and getting some much needed encouragement. The following day, change started.

Change is hard.

Change is especially hard for people who fear change, and lets face it, are so lazy that they’d rather have a quick fix than put any real effort into getting back on track.

But, it happened, and as all change must, it had to start with a goal.

I gave myself the year to lose 107 pounds. That will put me right where I should be for my height and body type.

So where am I at today?

Well, I have lost 47 pounds, which leaves me with 60 to go.

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Here’s what else I’ve lost: Back pain, knee pain, shoulder pain, hip pain, ankle pain, night sweats, and low self esteem. The depression has gotten quite a bit better, too.

Here’s what I’ve quit to get here: Soda and other sugar-loaded drinks, candy, chips, sweets and junk-food, anything deep-fried, bread, potatoes, and some dairy. We don’t eat out much anymore, either, which has saved our bank account as well as my thighs.

I still have a long road to haul but I’m confident I can do it because some changes have already become habits. I really thought that giving up sugar would be hard, but that part hasn’t been too bad. Bread has been the hardest one to quit because so many things involve bread, but I’ve found some pretty creative ways to make breadless sandwiches.

I decided from the beginning that I’m not going to be one of those  people that has to keep annoying everyone with the constant updates of their weight loss journey, nor do I feel it’s my duty to become some outspoken advocate for health and wellness just because I’ve made it my personal goal to get on the right track. If you want a big old sloppy bacon cheeseburger,  fries, and a coke, well I’ll join you with my grilled chicken salad and water, and we’ll hopefully have some great conversation while we stuff our faces. I won’t judge. Nothing is more annoying than someone that jumps on a bandwagon and expects everyone else to join them, too. You live your life, I’ll live mine. Deal?

So consider this the first of maybe only two or 3 updates that you’re going to get on the subject of my weight loss journey.

I wouldn’t mind a few words of encouragement as I journey on, though.

Even though my body says, “You go, girl, eat that lean cuisine,” my taste buds want to bury themselves in a big bowl of macaroni and cheese and a bucket of fried chicken…

YUM! wear 309

Extra crispy…

With gravy…

No.

Bad taste buds.

 

 

 

 

The 12 Year Honeymoon

Daily Prompt: First Sight

Whether a person, a pet, an object, or a place, write about something or someone you connected with from the very first second.

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I had never been one for long term relationships. I would make excuses for myself and place the blame solely on whatever guy unwittingly had one foot out the door at the time (even though at times it genuinely was a wise decision to move on), but in retrospect I can chalk it up to mostly my own selfishness. I had developed a “grass is greener” mentality, and when the butterflies in the stomach were gone, the guy that wrought them was soon to follow.

I went through a plethora of “relationships” in my younger years, with my 2 longest being 3 years and 5 years respectively, and even those were on and off at times.

I would dump a guy for the most absurd things, too. This one because he had too much nose hair, that one because I didn’t like the way he laughed, another one because he’d hold his fork like a 2 year old at the dinner table.

Yep, just give me a willing heart, and I could break it into a million pieces in the most creative ways.

I had developed an unhealthy relationship pattern, and I honestly didn’t even recognize that I had a problem at the time. I mean, society had made this type of behavior perfectly acceptable, how could I possibly see that it wasn’t right?

So on I went, hacking away with my relationship machete, oblivious to the  wake of destruction I left behind…

Until HIM.

It started innocently enough, with a “Happy Birthday” from a distance of 1200 miles via the online game we both played. If I think about it now, I was probably hooked from just those 2 words.

Over the next few weeks, more words were to follow in the form of lengthy conversations long into the night. We discussed hopes and dreams, wishes and desires. We got to know each other on an emotional level, without that pesky physical attraction business getting in the way.

We exchanged pictures after a time of course, and neither of us were disappointed. Exchanging pictures led to phone numbers, and after several lengthy phone calls (accompanied by astronomical phone bills), we were making plans to meet in person. He bought a plane ticket to Michigan to come see me, and I counted the days until I would see him with bated breath and nervous anticipation.

When he walked down the gangway and into my waiting embrace, the sparks were instant. I mean sure, we had connected on an emotional level already, but this…this was chemistry.

He told me later that his very first thought when he saw me was, “I’m going to marry that girl”, and I can’t say that I wasn’t thinking much the same. Love at first sight was always a trite and ridiculous concept to me, but there I was, with stars in my eyes, feeling like my heart would explode out of my chest.

As he walked me to my car, he held me close, placing a string of soft little kisses along my fingertips and up my arm to the tune of me giggling like a schoolgirl. This guy…oh…this guy.

Our first weekend together was magical, and our first kiss was off the charts. He had spent the day teasing me…getting close enough to move in for a kiss, making me think it would finally happen, and then he would quickly back away, leaving me breathless, confused, and still longing for our lips to finally meet.

He waited until a time when I was least expecting it. I had just stepped out the door when he turned me to face him, and the passionate connection that ensued left me with wobbly knees and rendered me speechless for some time to follow. I couldn’t even rate that kiss. On a scale of 1 to 10, that kiss was somewhere in the 50’s.

He was no sooner on his flight home than I was planning a trip down to Florida to see him the following month. Another amazing weekend was spent together, and that was all we needed to be sure. Truth be told, we were both sure even before that second visit.

I flew back home, found the perfect wedding dress, and 4 months after the words ‘happy birthday’ flowed in bright green letters across my computer screen, my hair was tressed up in flowers and curls, and I was shivering in chiffon while making a promise to love that man for life on a Florida beach in the nippy January air.

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Our ‘love at first sight’ is now going on year 12.

I still look at him sometimes and wonder how I got lucky enough to win over this beautiful man. We drive our kids crazy with our frequent smooches and love affirmations. “Get a room”, my son will say. I’ll retort with, “Got one already.” Then they’ll roll their eyes and groan. My husband and I will just look at each other and smile.

Sure we’ve had our ups and downs. We’ve wanted to kill each other at times, and we’ve wanted to kill for each other at times.

We are each other’s world, though, and we wouldn’t trade that…

For the world.

Sister Stockholm Syndrome

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My poor son just happens to be cursed.

The boy has been afflicted with 3 older sisters.

Well, one actual birth sister and 2 step-sisters, but in our house, a sister is a sister. Titles aside, they all torment just the same.

He has a step-brother, too, who sometimes crosses the line from simple sibling aggravation into straight up bullying. We put a stop to it when we know about it, but under threats of further torment, my son will opt to keep silent most of the time.

My husband has theorized, however, that some sibling oppression is good for the boy. Character building, in fact. So, he’ll often respond to my distress over any given situation with, “Well, my brother tortured me as a kid. I turned out just fine and still love him very much. Besides, he needs to toughen up a little.”

I just huff exasperatedly and shake my head at him.

We will probably never see eye to eye on the subject, but hey, I’m an only child so my views are naturally going to be different.

Anyway, I believe that the boy has weighed his options and realized that sister torture is marginally less painful than brother torture, so he’s decided to let the sisters do to him what they will and go with the flow.

I think he was conditioned by the girls at a young age when they made the assessment that he was a living doll put on this earth strictly for their personal entertainment, and would put him in dresses, complete with hair accessories and jewelry to match.

I would peek in on them to find them all staring up at me; the girls with big cheeky grins, and the boy in full female regalia with a defeated look on his face.

Over the years he’s been dressed up, made up, had his eyebrows plucked, his hair sculpted, his nails painted, and countless other atrocities committed against him compliments of his sisters.

When I would find him in such predicaments, I would go and get my camera to the tune of his screaming admonitions, “NOOOOO, MOMMY!! NOT FACEBOOK! YOU CAN’T PUT ME ON FACEBOOK!!!”

After a while, though, he gave up when he learned that Facebook was an inevitable fate.

Now he doesn’t even try. He has adopted a “just do to me what you will” attitude with his sisters, and even plays into their little brother bothering games with enthusiasm most of the time.

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This could mean one of 2 things. Either he’s been tormented by his sisters so much that he honestly genuinely enjoys it now, or it just proves how smart the boy is, because he knows that if he’s not acting like their antics annoy him, they’ll give up on him out of boredom.

If the former is the case, I see therapy in the boy’s future.

If the latter is the case, then…

Well played son, well played.

Halloweening on a Budget

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Well folks, it’s almost that time of year again.

That time of year when our kids beg us for expensive costumes that they’re only going to wear for about 2 hours, while they go door to door begging for candy like a band of street urchins.

Now, the candy part I like. If I don’t send them out begging for candy, how else am I going to steal all of the good stuff like Kit Kats and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and leave them with junk like Necco Wafers and that nasty chewy peanut butter taffy? (Seriously people, stop even buying those things, they just end up in the garbage or at the end of some kid’s slingshot.)

It’s just the buying costumes part that tries to throw a monkey wrench into my devious, candy thieving plan. We haven’t been able to afford a store-bought costume in years, because we just happen to be certifiably, duct-tape-your-shoes, Ramen-five-nights-a-week, wear-your-undies-until-there’s-more-holes-than-actual-fabric poor. So, we’ve just managed to make do with what we have.

We’re so poor, in fact, that one year we cut some arm and leg holes into a trash bag, stuck some wadded up paper and wrappers to my son’s head, and took him to an upscale neighborhood, (you know, the kind where they give out candy that didn’t come from the dollar store) where he went door to door proudly proclaiming, “I’m poor white trash.”

Don’t judge. It worked. Not only did the kid win a costume contest that year, but he even got double the candy out of sympathy, and it only cost us a trash bag.

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So, lack of funding during this time of year has forced us to get quite imaginative when it comes to costume creating. Call it Halloweening on a budget. We make it work, though.

I thought I’d highlight a few of my favorite past costume creations for you; my adoring one and a half fans. In honor of the upcoming festivities.

May you be inspired.

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Let’s start with this work of art that we like to call “Stepped in Bubble Gum.” This one happens to be one of my all time favorites. It was cheap, easy, and won him another costume contest. One of his sisters had the pink shirt and pants already, and I drew tire tracks and footprints on them with a sharpie. We found the pink hat at the thrift store, and I sewed one of my old shoes to the top of it. Voila! The kid was transformed into a wad of ABC bubble gum. (That’s “already been chewed” for those who aren’t in the know.)

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We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees, but sometimes it does for Halloween!

I had alot of fun with this one. The fake foliage, headband, and play money all came from the dollar store. I got a pack of brown pipe cleaners from Wal-mart to twist into little branches, and we found the brown gloves at the thrift store. I sewed some of the leaves and money onto the finger tips of the gloves, attached the remaining leaves and money to the ends of the pipe cleaners, wound them around the headband to look like branches, and sewed a couple of the makeshift branches onto the shoulders of the shirt. I even found a rubber dragonfly hiding out in my bins of craft supplies, and sewed it to the front  of the shirt. All in all, we spent about 6 bucks to make this costume.

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This costume didn’t cost us a dime. She was going through a goth phase so she already had most of this stuff in her closet  anyway. She threw together a few of her items to make a dark fairy costume, and the wings just happened to be hand-me-downs that I found stuffed in the back of my closet from some Halloween years ago:

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I pieced that together, too, but don’t ask me what I was. No clue.

Oh, and by the way:

Tree hugging fairy!!!

Sorry, just had to throw that in there.

Moving right along:

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The Low Budget Ninja.

Michelle Phan (love her) has this awesome little YouTube video called “Be a Ninja In 30 Seconds…I Think“. She basically teaches you how to take a black t-shirt and turn it into an instant ninja mask. That’s what we did for this costume, and then we just went through closets until we found some black garb to complete the ensemble. He had the weapons already because, well…he’s a boy. Grand total spent on this costume: nothing.

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Uh oh. Looks like Mr. Ninja stepped in some gum.

Anyway…

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Who doesn’t love a zombie girl, especially when she’s eating her daddy’s brain? This corpsie cutie made her costume herself. She cut up a shirt and some jeans to look like they had slash marks, added some fake blood and face make up, and her undead look had suddenly come alive. This costume only cost a few bucks for a tube of fake blood and some face paint.

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The following year my daughter was going through an “Everything Batman” phase and decided that she wanted to be Batgirl. So, I got this little slip-type skirt that I cut up from the Salvation Army store for a buck along with the shirt which was 3 dollars. I got the fabric for 5 dollars at hobby lobby, cut out the wings, and sewed them along the side seams of the shirt. I then sewed the tips of the wings to a couple of her rings so that she wouldn’t have to hold them.  We found the mask for a couple of bucks at a Halloween store. She already had the belt which was a gift from her dad I think, and the boots were borrowed. We probably invested about 12 dollars total into making this costume, which is pretty good considering the fact that when we looked at Batgirl costumes in the store, they were 40-50 dollars! Yikes!

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What good is a superhero without her trusty sidekick?

I had found this plain green shirt and little red slip-skirt at the Salvation Army store for a few dollars as well. I cut up the skirt to match her batty counterpart’s ensemble. I bought some t-shirt paint at Hobby Lobby for 4 bucks and painted the Robin symbol on the front of her shirt. I then found some red, green, and yellow fabric pieces in the craft section of the thrift store that I used to manage. I used them to make the cape that I sewed onto the shoulder seams of her shirt, and also her green armbands, and her belt. The mask was a couple of dollars at Walmart, and she already had the boots. The total spent on this costume was around 10 dollars.

Off to fight some crime, ladies?

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Go get those candy bandits!

Alrighty then.

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Mr. Gangster here was a last minute throw together costume because we really had no other ideas. The pinstripe suit was given to him by some friends of ours, and I used an eyebrow pencil to draw on a snazzy little beard. Don’t worry son, you’ll be growing facial hair of your own soon enough.

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Last year my daughter opted for a mother nature look. I’d say we only put about 5 dollars into creating this costume with the purchase of the make-up. I used an eyebrow pencil, metallic gold eye shadow, and metallic green eyeliner to paint the design on her face. A friend had given her the fake fall leaves that she used to weave into her corded belt and make into a circlet for her head. The shirt and cover-up she already had, and the skirt was a part of my old renaissance costume:

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Uh…yeah. Old school.

And then there was Juliet:

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Okay. I’m no great seamstress, but with the added help of a plain white skirt and some gold-trimmed pink velvet ribbon, I managed to recycle an old church choir robe into a work of art. I accented the ensemble with a teardrop shaped pearl bead tied to a piece of gold ribbon to adorn her forehead. All of the items for this costume were found in the thrift store that I used to manage, so the only thing it cost me to make this costume was time.

Now, these last few low budget costumes weren’t necessarily for Halloween, but I’ll throw them in with the mix anyway because they were just so much fun to create:

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Even better than the Von Trapp family is…well…mine.

You see, we had this “World Nations” dinner at church and we were supposed to dress up in a costume that represented a country of our choosing. Since I’m of German decent, I naturally chose to piece together a few German costumes for the fam. All of the clothing and fabric that I used for these costumes I found in the thrift store. I sewed their cute little hats out of felt pieces and ribbon. I dissected an old fashioned ruffled shirt and added the sleeves to my vest and some of the lace to my step-daughter’s shirt. We found some plain white skirts that fit and used some gold cloth place mats as aprons. I made the suspender pieces out of fabric and wide ribbon and sewed them to pairs of shorts that we already had to make Lederhosen.  Ja!

And there you have it folks!

This year we’re working on an awesome Alice costume for my daughter. My son is going to be the Mad Hatter, and Ray Darr, the worlds worst excuse for a pet rabbit is going to be the March Hare.

Stay tuned for those pics. It’s going to be fabulous!

The Journey of You

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don’t be in such a rush.

Stay a little longer as a child.

Just yesterday I held you,

now your hand is on the door.

Tomorrow you will be off running wild.

 

 

To my daughter:

May you always know I’ll be here when you need me, and may God bless you more than you could ever dream.

The Journey of You

A blink ago my star was born.

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At one you held my heart.

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At two you were my little light.

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At three a work of art.

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I took a breath and you were four.

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Exhaled and you were five.

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At six I couldn’t love you more.

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Then seven had arrived.

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I turned around and you were eight.

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Turned back and you were nine.

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At ten you were my silly girl.

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Eleven you did fine.

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Age twelve had come and gone again.

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And So did age thirteen.

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At fourteen you were tomboy.

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At Fifteen a beauty queen.

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Sixteen is almost over now.

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And seventeen is here.

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When I blink again you might be gone.

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And that’s my greatest fear.

I Have Let You Go

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To the man that I know loves me:

I have let you go.

I know that it may seem silly to say this to you right now. You’re probably puzzling over what this could possibly mean. Why would I choose this moment in time to say this to you? You’re perfectly healthy. We’re the strongest in our relationship that we’ve ever been. There have been no threats of separation. No diagnosis of disease. Yet here I am letting you know that I have let go of you nonetheless, because I need to.

You know that I’m a worrier. There isn’t a moment when you’re not with me that I’m not worrying about what’s happening to you. Are you sick and we don’t know it? Are you safe? Are you paying attention when you’re driving? Are others watching out for you? Has someone pulled a knife on you? A gun? Threatened you? Hit you? Hurt you?

When I know that you’re on your way home and I hear sirens in the distance, the fear takes my breath away. I pray that it isn’t you that they’re coming for.

I have lived with this overwhelming fear for 11 years. I have lived in fear…for you.

So many times I have thought about what would happen if I lost you. I can never imagine this world without you. I can picture myself curling up and dying right along with you were you not to make it home to me someday. I always think that if I did not die, too, I would just shut down. Never get up again. Stop functioning at a normal human level. Cease to think, reason, or even move.

I admit that I’m co-dependent. I rely on you. You cook because you know I hate cooking. You always put gas in my car because you know I hate doing that, too. You pay the bills. You drive the kids around. You spoil me as much as our finances will allow. I often start to wonder if I might be taking you for granted. Then I think, “No. I always appreciate all that you do, I just don’t tell you enough how much it means to me.”

I could likely never put into words how much I do appreciate you. More than mere appreciation, though, what I feel for you is adoration.

Even after all this time, I am still completely head-over-heels, droolingly, babblingly smitten with you.

After 11 years together, I continue to look at you with stars in my eyes and butterflies in my stomach. I will watch you singing on stage, or working, or teaching, and think, “Wow. That’s my man.” Then this feeling of overwhelming need will wash over me. I don’t know what it is about those times that I can’t have you that make me desire you even more, but for some reason, it happens.

Yet I’ve been taught the evils of lust. So I have wondered, “Is it okay to lust after your own husband?” Surely that’s an exception, right?

Then I realized that my desire is not always purely physical. I sometimes feel a need just to be near you. Simply touch you. Just hear your voice. Know that your heart still beats. Feel your aliveness.

My love for you had crossed the line into unhealthy obsession. I knew it, and God knew it. As I looked at you on stage again today, and thought, “Look at that guy. He’s amazing, and he’s all mine!” I heard that still small voice tell me, “He is not yours to keep.”

You would think that those words would have crushed me, and maybe, had I had any farther to fall for you, I would have been hurt when I landed on the solid ground that I had just been knocked down upon. I could not have crawled any deeper down into my pit of selfishness, though, so those words had an effect on me that I would not have otherwise imagined that they could have.

You see, it all came to an end for me today. The fear of losing you. The fear of what the future holds. The fear that you will be gone from this world someday, it’s just a matter of when and where.

Understanding that you don’t really belong to me took a burden off my shoulders and freed me in a way that I had never thought possible.

I know that we aren’t promised tomorrow, but if something were to happen to you before the next sunrise, I now believe that I could make it through. Yes I would still mourn. I would hurt. The pain would likely stay with me for longer than I care to even think about.

But I would be okay. I would survive it. I would press on; because you don’t belong to me. Your life isn’t mine to hold on to. You are simply a loan that will need to be repaid someday, and when collection day comes, I will still be able to stand because you were never truly mine to begin with.

You will still hold my heart in the palm of your hand while you’re here, and I will likely hold yours as well, but I understand now.

It’s just for safe keeping until we move on from this world, and someday, we must.

I still love you just the same, and always will, but I’m letting you know that I’m okay with letting you go…

Because now I can.

Collaborating With My Kid

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On a recent trip to Michigan to visit my parents that included my husband, daughter, son, and one of my step-daughters, we found ourselves attending my cousin’s college graduation party. It was just a simple outdoor gathering with a barbecue style buffet spread.

While there, there was an item made available to the gathered guests and children that caught my ever-artistic daughter’s eye:

Sidewalk chalk.

She proceeded to grab the bucket of chalk and set to work doodling on the cement driveway.

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This eventually led to her working on a detailed picture of one of her favorite things to draw:

Her “Mushies”.

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Being the huge Alice in Wonderland fanatic that she is, she loves mushrooms, and she loves to draw colorful and creative pictures of whatever toadstools her imagination can work up; among other things, of course. She has a very vivid imagination.

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So there she was down on her knees, diligently working on her chalky cement creation while other party-goers were slowly packing up and heading out one by one. The party was coming to an end, and my husband and parents were trying to hurry my daughter along so that we could leave soon ourselves.

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My child, however, takes after her mother in that she’s not only an artist, but a perfectionist as well, and walking away from an unfinished work of art just isn’t an option for her. I understand this incessant need to finish a masterpiece while others may not.

In a crunch for time, however, I bent down and asked, “Would you like me to help?”

She responded with a relieved “yes,” and we proceeded to finish the creation together that she had started herself.

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Now, in the artistic world, one does not simply allow other people to dip their hands into one’s creative cookie jar. This is especially true with me and my daughter, considering how seriously we take each project that we set our minds to. There has to be complete trust in another person’s artistic abilities to even consider allowing them to touch your own masterpiece.

My daughter and I share a bond that goes deeper than just mother and child, though. We share an artistic bond, in that we have almost the exact same sense of artistic style, imagination, and ability. We have complete trust in one another artistically, and often times, we’ll find ourselves working together or running ideas by each other on any given project.

We collaborate well, and we complement each other quite nicely. It means a lot to me that I’m the only one on this earth that she trusts enough to touch her work. This goes both ways.

We recently worked together on a project to rework a beat up old gun rack that had been kicking around the thrift store for almost a year into a sword rack for my step-son. My husband screwed a wooden plaque on the front for us, and I painted the whole thing black. I had intended to paint some sort of Asian dragon design on it, but I asked my daughter if she would be willing to do it instead, because I knew it would turn out just as well if she did it.

And it did.

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I look forward to collaborating on many more future projects with my kiddo. As a matter of fact, we’re wracking our brains even now trying to come up with something amazing that we can work on together. I have a few ideas. You’ll have to stick around if you want to see what we come up with.

I told her yesterday that I was throwing her out of my art class. Not because I don’t love her, of course, but because she’s just way too advanced. Then I decided to let her stay, but only as my assistant. I think that would be a much better arrangement, don’t you?

Oxymorons and Such

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I have admittedly been suffering from writers block for the last two weeks. Well that’s not entirely true, because the words still seem to flow when I’m given a topic assignment that interests me, so maybe writers block isn’t exactly what I’d call it. It’s more or less been a lack of imagination. Creative Constipation. I’ve simply had an inability lately to think up good writing topics on my own.

So, I’ll go to the Daily Prompt each day and look it over. Lately they haven’t appealed to me much, but occasionally I’ll say, “Ooo, that’s a good one.” Then I’ll get sucked into some TV series on Netflix, and writing goes out the window for the day. Sad, I know, but it happens.

I used to try and write something daily, but I’ve been pretty unmotivated for whatever reason these past couple of weeks, so it’s been more like twice a week. I suppose I can blame my allergies. I’ve had an almost continuous sinus headache that has kept me feeling pretty crappy and has sapped my focus.

When I have written lately, it’s usually turned out to be something sad and depressing. When I wrote the previous post, my husband came home that evening and said, “Would you warn me before you’re gonna post stuff that makes me cry? I can’t be bawling like a baby at work.”

He’s right. I have been getting further and further away from the lighthearted humor that I used to try to fit into all of my posts. I’d rather be funny than depressing. I was just trying to keep it real. Didn’t mean to make anyone shed tears on my account. Don’t cry my adoring fans, don’t cry. There, there.

I mean sure, it’s all true stuff about my life and the emotions that past events have brought about, but all one and a half of you don’t want that sappy junk. You want the good stuff. You’re humor junkies, shaking in the ultraviolet glow of your electronic devices until you get your next fix. “Show me the funny,” I can hear you say. I’m telepathic like that. I’m watching you with my mind’s eye right now. You’re looking good. Have you lost a few pounds? I have to be honest, though, pink isn’t your color, and it’s about time you had a haircut.

Anyway, in the interest of lightening the mood for a change, I thought I’d grace you with a few of the crazy things that my kids have done or said that have made me chuckle over the years. Having offspring, while a full time, exhausting job most days, isn’t without its entertainment value, after all.

A couple of years ago, my daughter and I were discussing the fact that my son will walk around with sticky, gooey hands and a dirty face, and it doesn’t bother him in the least. So, in an effort to sound all motherly and intelligent, she turned to him and said, “You’d better wash your hands more often, or you’ll get Glaucoma.” I about died laughing. She of course knows what that is now, and I, being the compassionate, loving mom that I am, bring it up from time and time just to agitate her. It always works. She’s easy to rile up, though. It usually takes little to no effort to push her buttons. I think it’s a redhead thing. Or maybe a teenager thing. Probably both.

Then a few months back, my husband, who refused to cut his hair for whatever reason, decided to slick back his unruly mane with hair gel one day. I looked at him on the ride home and said, “Nice hair.” He said, “You think? I was going for a Bella Lugosi look.” I responded with, “Well, I think you more or less have Fonzie pegged.” My son vehemently disagreed from the back seat. I said, “Son, do you even know who  Fonzie is?” “Yeah. He’s that guy from the Muppets,” he replied.  My husband and I both laughed out loud.

This is also the same boy that was bored one day while we were running the thrift store, so he decided to go out and dance in the rain with a stuffed buffalo. I peeked around the corner out of the big roll up door at him spinning around with his buffalo, and said, “Son, should you have that buffalo out in the rain?” His response to me was, “Yeah, it’s fine. He’s a water buffalo.” I love my son.

Many years ago, when my oldest step daughter was about 11, her younger brother decided to shut the door in her face while we they were getting out of the minivan. A small argument ensued between the 2 once she made it out of the vehicle, which resulted in her eventually calling him a ‘stupid genius.’ I looked at her and said, “He can’t be stupid and a genius. That’s an oxymoron.” She put her little hand on her hip, gave me a cocky glare, and said, “I am NOT a moron.” I laughed until my sides ached.

Several years later, we all went to Krystal after church to get burgers; all 7 of us. On our way out, that same child thought that one of the large, sectioned windows next to the door actually was the door, and walked right smack into it. She stood there for a second and then said, “Oh. This one must be locked.” The whole family witnessed this display, and we all burst out laughing. This resulted in my quick witted self turning the situation into a joke. “How do you confuse a blond?” I asked. “You put a window where a door should be!” Everyone laughed, but I got a slug in the arm for that one from the blond in question. That whole scene still haunts her from time to time to this very day. Only because I bring it up, of course.

My kids.

They’re crazy, but I love them, all five of them; two that I gave birth to and three that I married into. When we’re all out and about people will say, “Are all of those your kids?!” I just smile and say, “Yep, never a dull moment in my house.”

And I mean it.

Too little, too late

Weekly Writing Challenge: Backward

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While I laid there staring up toward the ceiling on the cold operating table, the blinding surgical light overhead stabbed into my retinas like a thousand sharp needle jabs. The anesthesia had been administered, and it was just a matter of time before I lost consciousness. “Count backward from 10,” the nurse had said, and so I did.

Ten, nine; I was terrified. I felt cold, so very cold, inside and out. Eight, seven; the nurse smiled down at me. At least, I believe it was a smile. The corners of her eyes creased and her cheeks arched in a smiling manner, but her mouth was covered by a surgical mask. She held my trembling hand in hers as a calming gesture while she waited for me to drift off. It did nothing to steady my nerves. Six, five; tunnel vision had started to set in. A chilly darkness gnawed at the edges of my periphery. It wouldn’t be long now. Four, three; my eyes felt dry. I finally closed them as I let the effects of the anesthesia wash over me. Two. A deep, black void rolled in. One never came. My final thought as I drifted off into oblivion was:

Please stop. I’ve just made a terrible mistake.

I had never intended to get pregnant with my son. I had, however, stopped taking my birth control pills because my insurance wouldn’t cover the monthly cost of the drug, and I was convinced that I couldn’t keep up with the mounting financial strain it put on my wallet. I was intending to just ‘be careful’.  Use condoms and such. Great in theory, but we all know how well that works out in reality, right?

I was already a single mom. Well, sort of, anyway. It was in the respect that I wasn’t married at the time. The apartment was mine, and the boyfriend moved in with me, thus making the bills my problem. While maybe slipping me a few bucks here and there if he was feeling generous, he wasn’t a huge help when he would disappear on weekend long drinking binges every time he received a paycheck.

It was during a trip to Vegas that it happened.  Wait. What? Vegas? I thought you just said you couldn’t afford birth control. Why were you traipsing off to Vegas?

Well, the best answer I can give for that question is that I was young, stupid, and didn’t have my priorities in order. Tax time came, and when I got that check in my hot little hands, I just couldn’t wait to go off and spend it. Vegas seemed like the fitting place to do just that.

Thus, the trip was booked; for me, and the boyfriend. Okay, stop right there. You just said he wasn’t much help because he went off to drink away his paycheck, yet you decided to take him to Vegas? Where’s the logic in that?

Revert back to my comment about being young and stupid.

Off we went to sin city, and during a thoughtless night blurred by the effects of ingesting massive amounts of alcohol, and being enraptured by a buffet of wild, unbridled night life, careful didn’t happen, and Cameron did.

I knew the deed was done before I even urinated on the little white stick that would reveal my fate.  I had been overly tired for 2 weeks straight upon my return from the trip. I would drag my carcass home from work, flop on the couch in a drooling heap that would drift in and out of consciousness, and stay there until it was time to get up and do it all over again. Occasionally I would slither into bed when I bothered to stir. I don’t even recall now how my daughter got fed during those first couple of weeks. Either he did it, or I stumbled into the kitchen in a half dazed stupor and opened up a can of something that Chef Boyardee had been kind enough to cook up in advance.

Now, the first time I had gotten pregnant shortly after we started dating he had been happy about it, because we were okay then, but I miscarried about a month and a half later. Our relationship proceeded to turn to crap about a year after that. He started going out to bars and parties without me, often disappearing straight out of work without even coming home to change and clean up first. So I would either sit at home and stew, or I would get a sitter and do the same with a few of the girls from work, often hoping we would end up at the same bar so that he could see that I had decided to still go on with my life without his presence.

He wasn’t happy when he found out about this pregnancy. “How’d that happen when you just stopped taking your birth control pills last month? That stuff stays in your system for a while,” was his response. “Well, you know, a woman is more fertile the month after she goes off the pill,” was mine. He retorted with, “You’re full of sh*t, I aint never heard of that.” He had never heard this common knowledge bit of information; therefore it must not be true. Being a woman, I never knew what I was talking about and he never took anything I said seriously anyway. He’d never hesitate to tell me to shut up or call me stupid. Thinking back on it now, he had so many emotional issues and hang ups that he had to belittle me to bring me down to his same level of despair. It worked.

I don’t know what made us stay together when we were both clearly miserable. The sex wasn’t even that good anymore. It could have been fear of starting over, or maybe being alone. I really couldn’t say, but I can tell you with absolute certainty that our relationship was over long before it was officially over.

I remember the whole discussion scene over “what to do about it” vividly even now. We had taken his nephews and my daughter to Chuck E Cheese that day, and we discussed options over slices of greasy, barely warm peperoni as the kids toddled off with their buckets of tokens. Actually it was more like argued options, as arguing was all we ever did by then. The “a word” came up. It was an option, after all, and I had already done it twice by then.

The first time, I had gotten pregnant by a pothead that I knew from high school. We dated for about 3 weeks. I knew it wouldn’t be a lasting relationship after 2. I was not even fully divorced yet and was still hurting from the split. A second child was not something I was even willing to consider then. So I committed the unthinkable; I killed my unborn child and wailed face down on my living room floor most of that night, until head aching, eyes swollen shut, unable to breathe through my nose, I finally passed out from exhaustion. That scene played out exactly the same for several nights to follow.

The second time I did it, I was with him. I had already known by that time that I didn’t want to be saddled with him for the rest of my life, and I had caught the pregnancy so early that the clinic didn’t have to do an invasive procedure to end it; they simply gave me a shot in the rear end and a pill to stuff up there after I got home. I had convinced myself that because of the ease with which the termination occurred, I wasn’t actually committing murder. It wasn’t far enough along yet for it to be murder. I know better now, but back then, there was hardness in me. I don’t know if it was a hardness that was brought about as a response to his, or if life kicking me repeatedly when I was down was to blame. It was there nonetheless.

Was.

I can’t go back and change what I’ve done today, but I have changed my heart. I’ve become a Christian since, and have sought forgiveness. Though I try not to beat myself up over the past atrocities that I’ve committed, I’m still human, and the pain still creeps in from time to time.

Knowing the pain that stemmed from the aftermath of an abortion, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it a third time. My body had been through enough. My emotional state had been through enough. My fragile psyche had been through enough.

So my life went on with a growing belly. An undeniably growing belly. Undeniable for me, anyway. It took him a good 6 months before he would even acknowledge that I was pregnant. Then, slowly, he warmed up to the idea and started buying a few baby things here and there with the money that he didn’t go out and drink up. It wasn’t much, but it was a start.

He was there for the birth, but he was drunk. I recall my father looking at him with disgust as he laughed, joked around, and stunk like a hobo. I also remember him telling me that I’d better not have to have a C-section, because then my stomach would “turn into oatmeal” and he wouldn’t want me anymore. Big loss there, right?

My squalling, red-faced, baby bobble head came into the world at 11:56 pm on October 18th, 2001. I call him my baby bobble head because when he was born, his head was enormous. I don’t just say that in gest. It caused quite a bit of concern with doctors for a good long while, and he had to go in for frequent checkups so that they could monitor his head growth. He also had to have extensive physical therapy because he couldn’t hold his massive head up or roll it from one side to the other while sleeping, so the side that he favored to sleep on was becoming flat and misshapen. He was also born with hypothyroidism, for which he was immediately put on medication, which resulted in frequent trips to an endocrinologist and more doctor bills.

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All of this was naturally my fault. He already had one son that was born perfectly healthy, so it had to be me. Several years of drinking and dabbling in every illegal substance known to man couldn’t possibly have led to any abnormalities in his child. No, it had to be my fault because I was on a low dose of Prozac during the last half of my pregnancy, since he just made me so very upset and depressed all the time, and my blood pressure was through the roof.

I had told my doctor during one of my regular checkups toward the end that I was done.  I had my girl from a failed relationship already, now I was having a boy with a man that I silently loathed a vast majority of the time, so that was good enough for me. One of each was perfect I thought. Why would I want to risk having another child in the future with yet another man? Imagine what people would think of me. Three kids, three different fathers. Slut, trash, tramp; those were just a few of the descriptive words that came to mind.

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I believe my exact words to the doctor were, “Snip it, burn it, rip it all out if you have to. Just break the baby making machine beyond repair, please.”

He scheduled me to have it done the following morning after delivery, since I would already be in the hospital. Then I would have time to heal from the birth and the surgery all at once. It was a done deal.

Never again. No more babies.

I realized that fact in a cold operating room just as black oblivion enveloped me. Never again would I get to experience the thrill of feeling a baby kick for the first time. Never again would I have the attention of people rubbing my belly and taking burdens from me out of care and concern. Never again would I bring a life into this world. Never again would I get to feel that first wave of overwhelming love wash over me as I stared down into the eyes of my newborn son or daughter.

Drifting off into unconsciousness as a surgeon readies his scalpel is a terrible time to reach the realization that you might have made a mistake. As the barely audible number two left my dry lips in a raspy whisper just before the darkness overtook me, that’s exactly what happened. Two. Too many bad decisions made to bring me to this point. Too much worry about what the future held. Too quick to act without thinking it through.

Too little, too late.

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Luxury? What’s that?

Daily Prompt: Luxurious

What’s the one luxury you can’t live without?

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Disclaimer: Due to the pathetic nature of this post, tears of pity for the author may be shed. Please have tissues on hand.

Luxury? What is that?

We pretty much live at poverty level with 5 kids. My husband is paid a fraction of what he should be making after 15 years of property management service with the company he works for. So, my idea of luxury probably isn’t what everyone else’s idea of luxury may be. I don’t think of luxury as fancy cars and expensive jewelry and the finer things in life. No, I consider luxury to be what others may just think of as standard living. I can’t pinpoint any one specific thing that I’d put above any others, though, so I’ll just list a few items that I consider to be luxuries.

Personal space. Now there’s a luxury. We live in a small 3 bedroom condo, which doesn’t seem bad in theory because we at least have a roof over our heads while many others don’t. It’s a nice place, too, so I’m not complaining about my home. It isn’t falling apart or run down or anything and it’s in a fairly decent area of the crime infested city we live in. However, when 3 teenage girls are crammed into a bedroom that isn’t even large enough to park a car in, it does become…problematic. The oldest is moving out next month, though, because she’ll be 18, so the 2 remaining girls will have a bit more space.

Then there’s food. Food is a luxury. This saddens me deeply, because I love to ingest food. What would I do for a Klondike Bar? Start selling off children or body parts because that’s about what it would take for me to get one.

We’re often forced to have small portions to make meals stretch, which often leads to whines and complaints from the kids because they’re still hungry after a meal. Well, of course they’re still hungry, they’re teenagers. They’d eat the furniture if it were deep fried and covered in ketchup.

We can’t afford decent food, either, because we’d have to take out a loan and put our vital organs up as collateral to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, and meats. No, we can only afford the cheap, unhealthy junk. Our weekly meals consist of stuff like hamburger helper, macaroni and cheese, ramen, hot dogs, chicken nuggets, and French fries. I can’t recall the last time any name brand items crossed our threshold, either. I have fantasies about Kraft macaroni and cheese, because that generic stuff, while not only a lovely shade of florescent orange when you mix in the powder, is like chewing on a dirty shoe. I stopped wondering why my intestines light up like a glow worm a long time ago, and assumed it must just be the generic macaroni and cheese.

Our kids are so sick of eating ramen for lunch every day (that isn’t an exaggeration), that they’ve started experimenting with different ways to make it. My daughter will boil it, microwave it, or sometimes fry it. She’ll mix it with teriyaki sauce, sugar, frozen vegetables, butter, or anything else she can think of to try. They have learned not to whine to my husband about how sick of it they are, though, after hearing, “You’ll eat anything if you’re hungry enough” any time that they do.

New clothing is a luxury, too. I have to admit, though, that it’s been nice working at a thrift store because we haven’t really had to worry about how we were going to get clothes for the kids. I’ll usually just tell them to bring in their outgrown items and exchange them for clothing that fits. We’ll be lost when we don’t have the thrift store helping us out with clothing anymore.

Now underwear, that junk is definitely a luxury. I’ve worn my sports bras right down to the point that they look like Swiss cheese. The elastic will be shot in my “drawahs” (that’s southern for underpants) and those suckers will be hanging to my knees before I finally get some new ones. Then my eyes light up like a kid on Christmas morning when I get that new pack of Fruit of the Looms.

Having a laptop and Internet to go with it is beyond luxury. It’s straight up extravagance. Lucy, my beloved laptop, is getting up there in years though. She’s an old girl as far as computers go. She’s like…5 or something. She’s a hand-me-down from my husband because he needed a new laptop for work. I’m happy to have her, though, she’s my baby. My husband has thought about cutting off the internet a few times to save money, but we don’t have cable, so if he did that we might actually be forced to…oh I don’t know…have conversations or spend time together and junk. How horrible would that be?

We do get to go on a cruise at least once a year compliments of my husband’s company. That’s a huge luxury for us. They take us every October, so that trip is coming up, too. I’m excited.

Through all the things I’m lacking, though, I’m content. Contentment is being satisfied with what you have and not longing for more. I don’t sit around in misery all day and say, “I wish I had this or that”. I like my home. I like the things in it. Sure, the kitchen table is in rough shape, but I found a nice table runner at the dollar store. Problem solved. Man, have I learned to solve some problems over the years with nothing but spare change, too…

I don’t look at what other people are driving and long for something better, either. I like Bessie, my minivan with the wired on bumper from getting rear ended by a texting taxi driver. She’s a sturdy old gal. Now if I could just get my kids to stop thinking she’s a trash can and laundry hamper on wheels…

Sure I get frustrated sometimes if there’s a need that can’t be met financially. I haven’t been able to visit a doctor in years due to lack of insurance, which is hard because I’m getting older and problems that I’ve had for awhile are becoming more prominent. We just can’t afford insurance, though, and I don’t qualify for Medicaid. So, I suck it up and cope when I have a medical issue. Ibuprofin is one of my closest friends.

I’m sad for the kids more than anything because they’ve had to miss field trips, birthday parties, and other events due to our financial situation over the years. They’ve gone without birthday presents for as long as I can remember and have pretty meager Christmases sometimes because we just can’t afford to buy them luxurious things.

For the most part, they understand, though, and they don’t complain as often as they have reason to. I think they know that we do the best we can with what we’ve got.

We get by, and that’s what matters.

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