Thursday, May 17, 2012

He's a Rocket Man


I love the totally random conversations I get into with my kids. There was a discussion of how much babysitting is appropriate for a 16-year-old to handle, and what hourly rate a 16-year-old should receive for babysitting his siblings, and this conversation ensued:

Me: Yeah, in a couple more years I can have you babysit while I take my weekend trips to Tahiti!
Jayson: You can do that now, I don’t mind.
Me: I know, but right now you have homework and stuff, so we’ll have to get a backup babysitter for my weekend jaunts. It sucks, because I totally had plans to go to the Caribbean this weekend.
Jayson: Were you going to take the private jet?
Me: Psht, of course. Like I’m going to ride in a commercial airliner with all the peasants and their germs. Yeah, I’m taking the private jet down to Miami to pick up the yacht at the harbor and then go island hopping.
Jayson: The forty-footer?
Me: Yeah, the bigger yacht is harbored in San Francisco, remember?
Jayson: That sucks, because I had plans this weekend too.
Me: Sorry ‘bout your luck, there.
Jayson: Yeah, I was gonna take the rocket ship to Mars.
Me: I guess you’ll have to do that the weekend after.
Jayson: I can’t, that’s the weekend I was going to expand into different galaxies.
Me: Well, just stop off at Mars on your way out of the galaxy.

All said completely straight-faced in a totally normal conversational tone… I have the most awesome kids ever!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Counting My Blessings


My life can be hard. Really, really hard. I'm a single mom of three boys. Two of my boys have autism; the other one is a teenager. Money is a constant struggle - I pretty much expect a shut-off notice from one utility company or another on a daily basis. There's often a severe lack of understanding from others about the challenges in my/our lives. I worry about my kids constantly, like most parents, but have some extra worries (especially with my youngest) that most parents don't have to cope with. I'm in physical pain pretty much all the time and have no health insurance. I also lack dental and optical insurance - my glasses are five years old or so, and I need some pretty major dental work done in the near future to stop a recurring abscess. My minivan is making funny noises when I drive it, and I drive as much as 500 miles a week for my day job. I need to do some repairs on my house - I know how to do most of them myself, but lack time, motivation, and money. (The dishwasher that won't drain and the breaker that keeps popping are outside my realm of repair knowledge, though). I can't seem to keep my kids in clean, matched socks. (We settle for just two clean socks per child, matching be damned). My house is always a mess - I could use the excuse that I have three sons, I could use the excuse of their autism, I could use the excuse of working two jobs as a single parent, or the constant physical pain I'm in, or any number of excuses, but really, I just don't like doing housework. Not to mention, to quote Phyllis Diller, "Cleaning your house while your kids are still growing is like shoveling the walk before it stops snowing." I've always loved that quote...

Yet despite all that, I'm generally pretty happy. Granted, I tend to be happy in a snarky, sarcastic, cynical sort of way - that's part of my charm. (Or at least that's what I tell myself). And there are certain situations and people that can shatter my serenity and drag me down into depression and anxiety. But alternatively, there are situations and people that can lift my spirits and make me feel like I'm flying. And really, most of my "problems" are of the first-world variety.


I have amazing kids. Challenging, but amazing. Brilliant, creative, artistic, mostly happy, polite (in public, at least), adorable... did I mention challenging? They really do keep me young at heart. Tired, but young. Yeah, I *have* to love my kids simply because they're my kids, just like you have to love that weird aunt we all have just because she's family. But I like my kids, too. I might not always be a perfect mom (probably pretty rarely, actually), but somehow I've raised these pretty cool kids anyway. (Although I would not be opposed if they would decide to start picking up after themselves a little bit better... just a little...) And we have a decent house to live in. We have food in the cupboards. We have not only heat and electricity and hot and cold running water (at least until those folks get pissy that I haven't paid them yet), but we also have "unnecessary" stuff like phones and internet and television and a running (so far) vehicle. And an awesome if overly-clingy kitty named Yoshi.

I have some truly wonderful friends (including family members) - I've always been a "a few very close friends" person over "lots and lots of 'friends'" person, but hey, quality over quantity. Those friends in my innermost circle are absolutely irreplaceable (if you're reading this, you know who you are, and I love you guys!) I don't know how they've managed to put up with me and my moodiness and my immaturity and my sometimes insanely stupid choices for so long, but so far they've managed. (And vice versa, for that matter). See, *I* usually like my personality, but I can see where it might be difficult for other people to put up with. :)

I have an incredible boyfriend. That's a relatively new addition, but one that I feel very fortunate to have acquired. He's smart, he's funny (in the ha ha way, not the weird way... well, in the weird way too, but I like that), he's hot enough to bake cookies on, he's functionally immature, my kids think he's awesome, my mom approves (which was a dealbreaker as a teenager, but not so much anymore now that I'm old enough to realize that she was right a lot of the time)... and for some reason that I really shouldn't question, he seems pretty fond of me too.

I have a totally cake job that pays better than it probably should (if my boss ever sees this, I will deny I ever wrote that). Not good enough to dig me out of the debt hole I'm in, but good enough that I can feed the kids every third day or so.

I have a fair amount of brains, and allegedly a small amount of talent for writing and other English-type related thingies. I can does the maths, too. 

Other than the chronic pain issues, which are more annoying than debilitating, my health is decent - I've managed so far to avoid most of the maladies that haunt my family - diabetes, cancer, addiction issues and whatnot.

And then I think about all the things there are to do in a lifetime that I haven't had the chance to experience yet... so many things to experience for the first time (skydiving, hang-gliding, laser tag, para-sailing), so many things to do again (roller coasters, cross-country road trips, concerts), so many places to visit, so much stuff to learn about, so many books to read and movies to watch and video games to play and pictures to take... with all that I already have, and all that I have to look forward to, the good definitely outnumbers the bad. I just need to make sure I remember that.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Music Memes - For When You REALLY Don't Feel Like Cleaning the House


Music Meme
INSTRUCTIONS:
1. Put your music player on shuffle.
2. Press forward for each question.
3. Use the song title as the answer to the question even if it doesn’t make sense. NO CHEATING!

How do you feel today?
Fraggle Rock Theme – Fraggle Rock
(Going by just the title it doesn't make a lot of sense, but it's a pretty upbeat little song, so that works)

What’s your outlook on life?
Never Again – Nickelback
(Okay, learn from my mistakes and don't repeat them... that's a good one...)

What does your family think of you?
Epic – Faith No More
(Heh.)

What do your friends think of you?
Sinner – Drowning Pool
(Somehow I'm not surprised...)

What do strangers think of you?
Crazy – Patsy Cline
(Again, not surprised...)

What do your exes think of you?
Love Stinks – Adam Sandler (from the Wedding Singer)
(And yet again... and I SWEAR I didn't cheat! If I was cheating, I probably would have put up "Crazy Bitch" just for a laugh.)

How’s your love life?
Lost in Love – Air Supply
(Okay, that's going a little far... let's just stick with "things are going really well" for the time being, okay?)

How will your love life be in the future?
I Love a Rainy Night – Eddie Rabbit
(Hmm. Okay...)

Will you get married?
Blame it on Your Heart – Patty Loveless
(Dammit!)

Are you good at school?
Don’t Drag Me Down – Social Distortion
(Fitting...)

Will you be successful?
Whatever – Godsmack
(Also fitting... )

What song should they play on your birthday?
Wasting My Time – Default
(That seems just a little bit mean...)

What song should they play at your graduation?
Fallen – Bret Michaels
(Given that if I ever finish my Bachelor's, I probably WILL trip and fall going up to receive my diploma...)

The Soundtrack of your life?
Another Romeo & Juliet – Pop Evil
(Ugh. Really not into the idea of stabbing myself through the heart with a dagger, no matter how happy the damned thing is)

You and your best friends are?
Flat on the Floor - Nickelback
(Only when we've been drinking tequila!)

Happy times:
I’ll Be There For You – The Rembrandts
(But only in the happy times.)

Sad times:
Let’s Get Rocked – Def Leppard
(Hard to stay sad when you're getting rocked... heh...)

Every day:
Kickstart My Heart – Motley Crue
(Yes, that's what coffee is for.)

For tommorrow:
Unskinny Bop – Poison
(Yay!)

For you:
The Chain – Tantric 
(You who?)

What does next year have in store for me?
Sweet Dreams – Patsy Cline
(Let's hope this one is referring to the title only, not the lyrics)

What do I say when life gets too hard?
Spider Pig – Homer Simpson
(Yes, this song is on my playlist. And yes, I have been known to sing it at inappropriate times).

What song will I dance to at my wedding?
Mad World – Gary Jules
(Seems an odd choice, but whatever...)

What do you want as your career?
Coffee Shop – Landon Pigg
(Really, not so much. Unless we're talking about sitting in a coffee shop while I write my next bestseller. I could hang with that. But I prefer writing in the privacy of my own home...)

Your favorite saying?
Let’s Get it on – Marvin Gaye
(Only to one particular person, though!)

How will I die?
Return to Innocence - Enigma
(I'd think that's more answers the question of what happens after, not how).

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Karma

I have a history of having pretty lousy luck. Sometimes self-inflicted, more often not (but of course I wouldn't think it's *my* fault!) I've had more than one friend ask me what evil person I was in a past life because of the incredibly bad luck that seems to come my way. I'm generally a good person - not perfect, no one is, but I usually try to do the right thing and I feel bad if I mess that up.

Earlier this month, I got my tax return. It was gone within a week, but I got caught up on the bills. I also did something else - didn't cost much, but hopefully made a couple of people's days. The day the money showed up, I took myself out to eat at a local restaurant, just me and a book. I asked the waitress if there were any customers in the restaurant who were maybe going through a rough time and could use something to brighten their day. She pointed out an older couple sitting across the room from me. The woman was wearing a bandana over her head. She told me the woman's been going through chemotherapy. I told the waitress that I wanted to pay for their meal - to give the couple's bill given to me, but not to tell them who was paying it for them. And then I watched over the top of my book while she explained to them that someone had anonymously picked up their tab. That was an amazing feeling. The waitress was thrilled to be able to participate in something that made someone smile, and said something like "What goes around comes around." I was kind of thinking, "Yeah, not for me, but it's a nice thought!" And then left her a $10 tip hidden under my plate when I left.

Then I went through McDonald's to treat myself to a mocha - $3.70 is kind of ridiculous for twenty ounces of chocolate-flavored coffee, but it was a day of celebration. I'm a semi-regular at this McDonald's, I usually run through the drive-thru for coffee or soda on the days I work (my job involves driving up to 500 miles per week). I told the cashier who took my money that I wanted to pay for the person behind me - I'd heard of other people doing that, and it seemed like fun. So I paid for our orders, and pulled up to the next window to wait for my mocha. This gave me the perfect chance to watch, in my sideview mirror, the huge smile that lit up the face of the elderly man in the car behind me as he held out his money to the cashier and had his payment declined. I stuck my arm out the window and waved to him as I drove off. It didn't cost much money, I think somewhere around $6, but it seemed to have made his day! Plus involving the employees of the two restaurants brought them into the little circle of happiness I was trying to create. I only wish that was something I could afford to do on a daily basis!

Anyway, I didn't do those things in expectation that I'd get some sort of cosmic pat on the back. I've done nice things for people before and never gotten anything in return. (In fact, some people will take advantage of a nice person and keep taking from them; I'm just glad those experiences haven't jaded me too badly). I just wanted to make some people smile, spread some happiness around, hope that they paid it forward and kept the happiness moving.

But then, a couple of weeks later, something amazing happened to me. Or something that *could* be amazing, and *has* been amazing so far.

I've been in a very rocky relationship for the past five years, and recently ended it for good. I truly loved him, but it got to the point where there was more heartache than happiness and I had to walk away. I closed the door, not expecting there to be a different door opening so soon... and not expecting someone so wonderful to be on the other side of that door. Obviously it's too soon to know that for sure, but in just the short time I've known this man who was on the other side of that door, I've gotten the distinct impression that this could be something very, very good. And he seems to feel the same way about me.

And then on top of that, there's a band I've wanted to see live for years, and a couple of days after I met Mr. Amazing, I won two tickets to that band's concert from a radio station call-in contest. And guess who my date to that concert is going to be?

So maybe things are finally starting to turn around. Maybe my run of bad luck has finally worn itself out. Maybe I'm jinxing myself by saying that - don't think I'm not pounding furiously on the top of my wooden desk as I write this! I do know that I'm going to go ahead and pick up a Mega Millions ticket - just one - for the next drawing. Just in case.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Drowning in Paperwork

I am under so much stress right now.

I received notification from the Social Security Office that Dustin and Braeden's SSI payments will be stopped effective March 1st. Unfortunately, my employment income is not enough to cover all of our expenses, especially not on short notice. The notice stated that the payments were stopping because "we need correct information about name, address, or bank account." 

Okay, not a big deal, I figured. Their names haven't changed. Our address recently changed, but the paperwork was mailed to the new address - maybe they need some sort of proof of address like a lease or utility bill. Or maybe they need to see some bank statements - again, no big deal, I can print those off in five minutes. So I called the office to find out what exactly it was they needed to continue the kids' payments.

Definitely a big deal. They, in fact, do not need information about names/addresses/bank accounts. They want proof of income statements going back to January 2009. More than three years worth of all financial statements - child support statements and pay stubs, broken down monthly.

First, I don't get pay stubs from my main employer. My paycheck gets direct deposited, and if I need a pay stub I go online and print it off from the website. However, the records only go back to October 2010. I've left messages with HR requesting pay stub histories going back further, but haven't received a response yet.

I've been married twice and have children from both marriages, so I (occasionally) receive child support from both ex-husbands. And I get monthly statements for that card. However, all payments are deposited onto a single card, and there's nothing differentiating which child received which funds. It all just gets lumped together. I can access some child support records online, but not going back three years.

I can request financial history statements from the Friend of the Court by making the request in writing. Unfortunately, my divorces were in two different counties, neither of which is the county I currently live in. And then they can't just fax it to the SSI office; the statements have to be mailed to me or picked up in person. Which of course takes a lot of time either way.

Allegedly I was told back when I first moved to Cadillac (December 2008) that I would have to supply this information every month. I don't remember being told that. However, since I wasn't employed at the time and wasn't receiving any child support at the time, it's possible that they told me and I just forgot, since it wasn't applicable at the time they told me. So yes, I definitely screwed up by not being aware of the reporting requirements. That's not in dispute. However, I've received notices in the past (shortly after child support started coming in) that the children's SSI amount was being adjusted due to child support received. And obviously Social Security is well aware of where I'm working and how much I'm earning. They're kind of in charge of keeping track of that sort of information. So I guess I just assumed they were getting all the information they needed (and you know what they say about assuming...)

My other issue is the time period in question. Okay, I was supposed to be sending them this stuff every month. (Difficult to do - I can easily print off my pay stubs every month, but I don't get monthly child support statements broken down by child). But this isn't something they could have notified me about, oh, maybe two years ago? They obviously knew a long time ago that I started receiving child support, since they reduced the kids' SSI payments in response. They obviously knew when I started back to work, since Social Security tracks employment. Couldn't they have contacted me within a few months of those things starting and said, "Hey, chick, where's our paperwork? C'mon, cough it up or we're gonna stop your children's payments!" If they'd notified me within a year, I could've had that stuff printed out and dropped off to them the same day I found out they needed it. But now I have to drive halfway across the freaking state, drop off letters at various courthouses, call around to try to get my pay stubs, blah blah blah, for the past three years.


Meanwhile, my kids still need to eat. They still need a roof over their head. They still need heat and lights. I'm filing an appeal to keep receiving payments while I track down all this paperwork, but I don't know if I'll be successful or not. Obviously I'm not good at giving the SSI folks the paperwork they want and need. So fingers crossed that my kids won't be made to suffer just because I screwed up on not giving SSI backup copies of information they already have...

Monday, January 2, 2012

This Would Be Funny if it were a Sitcom…


I used to post occasional blog entries on MySpace. (Remember MySpace?) This one is from May of 2010, and totally fits the theme of the blog. 
***
So I'm trying to get some housework done while dinner's cooking, and my youngest son is thwarting me every step of the way. He's just shy of five years old and has autism. That should say it all right there.
I put dinner in the oven and then start taking care of dishes in the drainer. I'd washed the silverware tray, so I put that in the drawer first. I then proceed to turn my back on that drawer long enough to put some plates away. While my back is turned, Braeden removes the clean, empty tray and tosses it into the sink full of soapy water and dirty dishes. I fish out the tray, rinse it off, and set it back on top of the dish rack so I can dry it (again). I hear my bedroom door close, so I abandon what I'm doing and head down the hall. Braeden has attempted to sneak outside via the sliding glass doors in my bedroom. I retrieve my child, return him to the living room, and continue taking care of clean dishes.
A few minutes later, on the kitchen counter, I find a jewelry box belonging to me that was in my bedroom on my dresser ten minutes ago. The jewelry is still (thankfully) there, but the empty space in the box has been filled with cat food. I dump the box out, put the jewelry back in it, put the cat food back into the cats' dish, and take the jewelry box back to my bedroom. In that span of time, Braeden proceeds to open the sliding glass door in the dining room and start tossing his toys out the door. I stop him from doing that, go outside, grab the toys, and bring them back in. I open the dryer to get the next load of laundry together, and he turns off the coffeepot. I turn the coffeepot back on, start another load of laundry drying, start the water in the washer, and run the load of clean and dry laundry back to my bedroom. When I get to my bedroom door, I discover he has somehow locked it in the ten seconds I wasn't looking, so I have to set the clean laundry on the floor to pick the lock on my bedroom door. While I'm doing that, my son closes the washer lid and closes the door of the closet where the washer and dryer are, so when I come back with a load of dirty laundry I have to drop it to re-open the door and re-open the lid of the washer.
The timer goes off on the food, so I turn to get it out of the oven. In so doing, I notice that my coffeepot is once again turned off. I turn the coffeepot back on, get dinner out of the oven, and turn back towards the dining room. There stands Braeden, holding my mouse pad. I remove it from his grubby little hands, put it back where it goes, and return to the kitchen. Somehow I manage to slam the back of my shoulder into the edge of the entryway on my way past, hard enough to bring tears to my eyes. I hear a shout from the living room of "NO, BRAEDEN!" and go running back. My middle son is playing on the computer, and Braeden is reaching across him and putting his hands on the screen, blocking Dustin's view of the game he's trying to play.
On TV, this would be hilarious. In real life, it’s incredibly frustrating, especially in combination with the crappy way this week has been going so far. But imagining a camera crew attempting to keep up with Braeden helps me to see the humor in the situation.
I won't even bother telling you the things he got into while I was typing this up... and the struggle for control of my mousepad that occurred while I was sitting RIGHT HERE…