Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Happy Anniversary - Sort of

Today is a special day, but not one we really celebrate in our house.

Five years ago today I brought home one really messed up little girl.  She was with a fabulous family, but she didn't want to be there.  She did everything to let them to know, and she wasn't subtle.  At 4 years old she tried to choke an older brother, she screamed 8 - 10 hours a day, if she was hurt, she went to anyone BUT her mother for comfort and so on.

We had spent several months talking with this couple about "rehoming" their daughter.  We had already done respite for them several times, so we knew exactly what we were getting into, but we also saw something there that we had never (and still haven't) seen with our son - Hope.  She wanted a family, but she was angry at this family.  There is a very simple reason that she was angry and she could tell me why, but she couldn't get past it, no matter how much therapy they did, and boy did they.  This couple was so committed to her, but without change on HER part, it wasn't going to work, and she didn't want to change.

We met at a neutral location, which we always did when we were the respite family.  We did the "hand off" but something was a little different.  She came with a few more things and some personal things, such as her "baby book" (a scrapbook lovingly made by her mother.)

At the time we told her it was going to be respite, but we knew that wasn't the case.  We all think she did too.  We didn't want to tell her she was staying until we had permanent guardianship from the court, which took another couple of months.  None of us wanted to tell this little girl that she was going to stay if the court didn't agree.  She couldn't handle an adult lying to her.

If you look at a change in placement, it's a scary thing.  The child is being moved to yet another home (some kids can have 30 - 40 placements) with a family that they don't know who is telling them they love them and that they're going to be here forever.  Like we as adults would believe this, but we expect kids to.  We expect them to be excited to be in a house of strangers who proclaim love for them. How could they possibly love someone they don't know?

Things changed when our daughter entered our home.  She grew and flourished into a beautiful young lady.  It wasn't anything that we did that was amazing, it was her willingness to change and accept us as her family.

So while we are thrilled that we have gained a wonderful daughter, we hurt for the family she left behind.  They made the most loving choice they could for her and it hurt them deeply.  I know the pain of loving a child who no longer lives with you.  I still ache for them, and I wish they could have experienced the girl we have.  They did all the HARD work for her.  They deserved THIS girl!

So, before anyone thinks about criticizing an adoptive family who terminates a placement, think about how that family feels.  Their decision is made out of love, not out of selfishness.  No one would choose the pain of having a child leave their life.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas isn't always Merry

For the past few days I have had a great sense of uneasiness.  It is overwhelming and something I could not shake. This usually means that the 18 year old is about to blow.  To my knowledge this hasn’t happened, but I doubt anyone would tell me if he did.

These feelings had me edge, but as I sat in church last night, another feeling hit me. The feeling of not being wanted or welcome.  As our pastor described why it was so amazing that the shepherds were the first to hear the news of Jesus’ birth, I identified with them.

She described a population that were thought to be outcasts, unworthy, unclean and smelly, just a lower class person.  These feelings were overwhelming.

As we ended the church service with great joy, that feeling just nagged at me.

When we got home, I did my Christmas Eve tradition of curling up on the couch and watching “It’s A Wonderful Life.”  My daughter was in bed, and hubby was on an ambulance shift until 11 PM, so I was essentially alone.

As I watched the movie, I identified with the main character, George Bailey.  He faces a hard time and feels that things would have been better if he had never been born.  If you’ve never seen the movie, an angel is sent to show him what life would have been like for the people he loves if he hadn’t been born. 

I was left with some of the same questions.  I posted this on Facebook and received some beautiful messages from people about how I have impacted their lives, but my feelings are not unusual for parents with emotionally disturbed children.

You see, I have basically lost my family.  There are a few people that have stuck by me through the years, but overwhelmingly, I have more criticism than anything.  Unless you parent a child or children like mine, you can’t understand. 

I have family members that truly wish I no longer walked this earth.  They would rejoice over my death.  (No, I’m not exaggerating.) 

A few years ago my grandmother on my mother’s side called me and told me that if I wanted to be invited back into the family and attend family functions again, I would need to meet with her and she would establish the rules for me.  Excuse me?  This is how family treats each other?  I don’t think so. That meeting never happened, and we don’t do family functions.

The contempt for me on the other side of the family is not hidden.  It is more passive aggressive, but it is still there.  I have two aunts that do the digs behind my back.  Other family members delight in joining them. 

My parents and my brothers, those relationships are non-existent.  My father and I get along, but he will never openly support me. 

So, during a season when everyone is talking about family and togetherness, it is a not so subtle reminder that I have none.  Don’t get me wrong, I can do without the drama and hearing what a horrible person I am, the glaring looks from people who wish they could kill me with looks, and the over all sense that I don’t belong.

It is just an in your face reminder of what we don’t have.  I love my in-laws, but they live in Texas and usually aren’t here for the holidays.

This feeling or phase will pass, but I wanted to write this because I know that I am not the only one that deals with this.  Many families of kids with attachment disorder have lost friends and family because they can never understand what we live with every day.  I know my son is working things at family gatherings and presenting himself as the charming and mistreated child.  Only someone who understands will see through his charming demeanor.

And in case you’re wondering… no, we haven’t heard a word from him since Thanksgiving.  We are useless to him if we won’t give him money.  The fact that he is not with us for Christmas means nothing to him.

The fact that I have “lost” a child weighs on me.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas

Now some people might think its offensive to put those two things together, but not really.  If you go back and check your Bible, Jesus was Jewish, not Christian!!

Our house proudly sports a Menorah right next to one of my (many) nativity sets.

Our family has some fabulous friends who happen to be Jewish.  Through them, we have been able to participate in, and learn, beautiful Jewish customs.  We have attended Passover and Hanukkah as well as Bar and Bat Mitzvahs.  I've heard enough Hebrew to be able to say the Hebrew words in the prayers, although not very well.

A couple of years ago I was driving my daughter to our friends' home.  I thought I would head things off at the pass and remind her that the family didn't celebrate Christmas so there would be no tree or anything in their home.  From the backseat she responded, "Duh Mom.  They do Hanukkah."  She had learned more than I gave her credit for.

We are blessed that they are in our lives.  Our daughter learns so much from them.  She is exposed to so many different cultures, and has tremendous racial tolerance.

Wednesday night during our Confirmation class at church, I shared the meaning of the Menorah and the story behind it, with our Confirmation kids.  They even played dreidel during class.

Judaism and Christianity should not be exclusive of each other.  There is so much rich history that we Christians can and should learn.

So, as you celebrate Christmas and the birth of Jesus, remember that as he grew up, and up until His death, Jesus celebrated Jewish customs, not Christian.  Christianity didn't fully come to be until well after His death.  Picture a young Jesus lighting the Menorah and playing dreidel.  It might give you a different perspective on things.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Six Years Ago

These few days are an anniversary of sorts, but not the kind you want to celebrate.

SIx years ago we were making the arrangements to check our son into residential care.  We didn't know it would be the first of many placements, or that he would never live at home again (except for 2 months in 2006) and would only visit.

During these past 6 years (plus a couple months) he has been in juvenile detention 9 times, shelter care 7 times, 4 residential treatment stays, and 3 treatment foster homes.  Not the life you envision for your child.

If you had told me this was going to happen when we first took custody or even at adoption, I would have told you that you were crazy.  My exact words were, "He's a regular kid, just cranked up a few notches." Oh, what I didn't know then.  I don't think the system wronged us.  We had a great worker, and we are still in contact with her nearly 13 years later.  However, at the time there were no pre-adoption education classes, RAD was not something that was ever mentioned, and the internet was still in it's baby stages.  Living in a rural community put us even further from other families who might educate us.

Now I am connected with so many other families that have lived the type of life my family has lived.  I can now easily talk to other families, get resources and learn new techniques.

My friend, Nancy S, got me through those early months of his placement.  I was so certain about the placement, until I actually left my son there.  I was a nervous wreck when we walked out. Nancy had been through this before and talked me through the various stages of my emotions. Sadly, I learned procedures about checking my son in and out of various facilities, the procedures for juvenile detention, and at shelter care they came to know me well enough that a fax of my signature was the only requirement.  They no longer required me to show up in person to sign papers.

Life in our house is so very different than it was then.  It's been 8 years since I had more than one child in the house, except for respite kids.  Our daughter joined us 5 years ago and T has been out of the house for 6 years.  They never lived together.  There were times when they were together when he came "home" on visits, but never longer than a weekend.

So as these days go by I can't help but think of the child we yearned for, the losses we have faced (even though some people don't feel we've lost anything) and the outlook on my child's future.  These are not pleasant thoughts, but they are the reality of dealing with a child with RAD and other mental health issues.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

A Special Place for Santa

I picked up a great book at Hobby Lobby tonight.  It's called "A Special Place for Santa."  It talks about the origins of "Santa" and takes us  back to the day of St. Nicholas.

In the book Santa is sad because people think the holiday is about him and have forgotten about the birth of Jesus.  Santa shows up at a church where there is a live size nativity to leave a gift for baby Jesus and he is crying.  Santa hears a voice (God) who reminds him of the origins of St. Nicholas, the gifts of charity and how St. Nicholas evolved into the commercial form of Santa.

I even learned that "Kris Kringle" actually means Christ Child!!!!

It's a great book for teaching kids that Santa and Jesus can exist together.  They do not have to be mutually exclusive.

A forward by Pat Boone talks about the image of the Santa kneeling in front of the manger scene with Jesus.  It is an image I love.  The same image that is on the front of the book.  The back of the book talks about the creation of this image, and I quote.

"...in a way that connotes their proper relationship - the secular subservient to the sacred...."

What a concept!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The other side of my life

I don’t often blog about my daughter, because she’s well, normal.

She goes through regular 10-year-old “junk” with hormones and attitude, but she is a sweet and loving girl.  The evidence is in the story that she wrote in school today.  It was an assignment on thankfulness.

She hasn't always been this way.  She used to be a very angry and violent child, but SHE made a choice to change that and become the sweet girl she is today.

  Here is what she wrote.

I <3 U 4……

Mom, Dad;
Thank you very much fro adopting me!  Throughout the FIVE YEARS I’ve been living with you I have been very blessed that you gave me a better home.  I depend on you because I feel that you are always honest to me. I enjoy how you gave me a room that I felt espesally safe in, with all bright & cheery colors.  Dad…..I have always treasured you and the moments/days when we both cheer on “Tony Stewart.”  I believe you both already know I love you both, more than mom’s goodies.  (meaning mom’s goodies are the best!)  I enjoy living with you both!! J J


Signed in something we can’t read but she said is her famous autograph

What a stark contrast to our son. 

After a very stressful day and an anxiety attack due to son’s issues, it was truly a blessing to receive this after dinner tonight.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Secondary PTSD

Our son has been back "home" for two weeks now.  The only time we have heard from him is when he demanded money this weekend.  He was disrespectful and just plain nasty.  

It's a very long story, but the bank wouldn't release his money to him because he was a minor when I set up the account.  It listed me as the guardian, so he had to have my consent to withdraw anything.  I sent him an e-mail allowing him to do so, but I told him that he would not be getting a substantial amount of money that my grandfather gave him for graduation.  That check was made out to me and son because my grandfather gets it.  The money was intended for his education, which he chose not to continue.  I am honoring the integrity of what my grandfather wants done.  I received the following e-mail in response.  This is word for word what he wrote. I have not changed a thing.

"if it was there since i was eight like you said then why do I have no money in there??? doesnt make sense and way to be a complete ass yourself....i really dont get you .... i was ur son, was i not good enough, the drama. all the shit that happened in your house made me a stronger person.
first. you need to grow up yourself,
second. you need to make things right with all the people you have screwed over and then u might be a little happier.
and third, you need to take a look at your mind and all that goes through it, i dont understand you, why is everthing that comes out of your mouth or an email always hurtful or a way to punch back? Its not right for an adult to do that ....
furthurmore, I am glad you are out of my life, you never seemed to be in it in the first place, and dont f around with me anymore, the rumors, the bullshit needs to stop im not your sevenyear old pet anymore!!!!!

Peace love and hopefully a little happiness to you:)"

Yes, that last line is his too.  

Now, you probably don't have an emotional reaction to this e-mail but I sure do.  This is called Secondary PTSD, but I disagree.

You often hear of PTSD in military vets, and rightfully so.  They have lived through unspeakable horrors, and seen things I don't even want to think about.

PTSD is often diagnosed in kids who have been abused and/or neglected as well.  Because of the abuse  and neglect, the children have been traumatized.  PTSD stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.  The diagnosis is made when someone has been in a traumatic event, or ongoing events, such as the war vets.  However, people who live in abusive situations also get the diagnosis because they have lived in continual trauma.

Parents who parent these children often get a diagnosis of Secondary PTSD because they live with children who are recreating the trauma they endured in their birth home.  And here's where I disagree with the diagnosis.  I lived, and continue to live in trauma.  I have been physically and emotionally abused by my child.  Some people wonder how a child can emotionally abuse an adult.  Trust me, it is possible.

For years I lived in fear.  When my son raged, windows were shattered with crow bars, banisters were ripped from the floor, holes were kicked in walls and the list goes on.  I lived with violence.  I was called names and things you would never say to another human being.  Examples are in the e-mail listed above.  What child speaks to a parent like that and thinks it is OK?  And trust me, this is mild compared to many words that have been hurtled my way through the years.  

These are the spewings of a mentally unstable person, who is off his medication.  When my phone rings and I see his number, my stomach clenches.  When I see his name on an e-mail, my stomach clenches, when I am home alone, I am truly afraid.  If you re-read the e-mail, you can see how crazy it is.  It is so scattered with no rhyme or reason to what he's saying and things that are irrelevant to the "conversation" and just flat out lies.

My son has a history of extremely violent outbursts around Thanksgiving time.  He has spent at least three Thanksgivings in jail. I'd have to check the records to be sure of the exact amount.  Two years ago he threw his foster father (court ordered placement) across the room.  The man hit his head on a windowsill and wound up with 11 stitches in his head.  This is why I'm afraid!!!  I know what this "child" is capable of.  I have seen it first hand.  I am waiting for the blow up to come this week and I wonder how damage to my home or vehicles or even myself will play into things.  

In many respects, I am a battered woman, although the battering came at the hands of my child, so many people dismiss my feelings.  There is nothing secondary about my fear.  There is nothing secondary about what I have seen and been subjected to over the years.  

I will not respond to this e-mail or phone calls for several reasons.  

1) I don't have the energy.
2) As I have blogged about previously, you can't argue with crazy.

I am working with my friend, Charly, who has wonderful information on how essential oils can change the brain and help to relieve the symptoms I have.  I will have more about that after I receive my shipment and start using them.  

I cannot continue to live in this insanity, but right now I don't know a way out.  I can't walk away from my home to get away from him, but I can work to change my responses to his craziness, or choose not to respond.  

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Sadly, I'm Right

I had to emotionally process the events of the past few days before I could blog about them.

When our son entered college, I predicted he would not make it through the first semester.  Sadly, I was right.  On Monday we discovered that he left the college and moved in with my parents, without a word to us by anyone involved in this.  There were so many emotions involved when I learned this information.

In a previous blog, I posted that he was nearing dismissal from the college because of his inability/unwillingness to follow the college rules.  He knew the rules before he ever left for college, so he cannot say this was a shock.

On October 29, the day I posted the blog actually, he elected to move out of the college.  Because he had signed a privacy waiver, the college was able to tell me about the circumstances, which they could not have otherwise.  Here is the e-mail I received from them.  This is their words, not my interpretation of what they said.

"T left (the) College on the 29th of October. He moved his stuff out of the dorm room and moved in with an expelled student in town. We, (the) College, officially withdrew him from the college on that Monday, October 31st. He moved all of his things out of the dorm room; there was nothing left on campus.  This information comes from the Academic Dean and T's Dorm Manager.

I can tell you that T was not expelled or kicked out of (the) College. T chose to leave (the) College. He was struggling academically, but I was working with him and he could have passed all but one course. T's conduct on and off campus is what caused issues. He disrespected the authority of the Dorm Manager and the Assistant Dean of Student Services. He was summoned by the Assistant Dean on a couple of occasions to discuss his chapel absences. One time he did not show up and another he lied to her that he was in my class, which he wasn't. T was also going around town soliciting money from people because his "grandmother was dying of cancer." He was also mowing lawns for money, but said it was to raise money for the soccer team, which wasn't true. He did talk about leaving and the soccer coach and I did talk with him at length. I helped him try to withdrawal weeks before he left, but he decided to stay because he would owe over $10,000. It was at that point I help get his Dorm Manager to help wake him up for chapel so he wouldn't be expelled. That was a week or two before he left.

While T could have been getting expelled for excessive chapel absences, his blatant disregard of authority, lying, and outside conduct in the town - HE CHOSE TO LEAVE. I was working with him and all those involved to keep him here. I know this was probably the best place for him and tried desperately to keep him here. I am sad that he left, but it was his choice.

I am sorry to write these things about your son, but I hope they help you in the future."

None of what is written is a surprise to me.  Last weekend he hopped a train and a bus to plant him back in the state, however, he had no plans for anyone to pick him up, nor did he tell anyone he was coming.  He attempted to land at his former foster parents house.  They refused to keep him.  He then contacted my parents, who took him in.  We were not notified of any of this.  He left behind everything that we had purchased for him for his apartment and dorm room and he arrived with 2 suitcases.

I have shared all of the information from the college with my parents, and have been brutally honest with them.  Our son becomes extremely violent around Thanksgiving.  He has spent 3 of the past 5 Thanksgivings in jail.  And this is when he was on his medication, which he is not now.  I fear for their safety, as well as our family's since we are in very close proximity now.

Our son has made no attempt to contact us and has left it to my father to notify us that he is back in town.  This upsets me because it shows yet another level of irresponsibility and not taking the consequences of his actions.

Additionally, we have found out that he is being investigated for "criminal mischief" in the town he just left.  No charges have been filed yet, and we don't know if charges will be filed.  

My husband, my daughter and myself are handling this better than we were a few days ago, and we are working very hard to let this go and let the chips fall where they may.  My parents think they can "save" him and lead him down the right path.  I don't know what they are going to do that we haven't done in the last 13 years.  I told my father that you can't help someone who doesn't want to be helped, and the only thing he wants from anyone right now is to mooch off them.  If someone won't give him money, he has no use for them, and this includes his biological brothers.  

My husband and I know that we have tried our hardest and done everything we can to help him.  Now it's his turn to take charge of his life and start taking responsibility for some very large mistakes.  We have friends who have been incredibly supportive, and we are beyond thankful for that!  I have a feeling we will be leaning on them, and our faith, greatly in the coming months. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Lay Academy

I belong to the United Church of Christ.  It is a denomination, like Catholic or Lutheran or Methodist are denominations.  The image above is a "slogan" of the UCC.

This is a large part of what I like about the UCC.  It is ever changing, ever growing and encourages learning.  And here is Lay Academy.  This is the only form of self care that I participate in regularly.  OK, it's not a relaxing thing, but it fills my spirit.

Lay Academy is a series of 5 classes held during the school year.  There are various topics, depending on what class you are enrolled in.  You can take the classes for personal growth, for use in your church or to discern whether or not you want to go into ministry.  My reasons are the first two.  I have NO calling to become a minister, although my friend, Beth, heard that call very clearly during our classes and she is now studying to become Pastor Beth. I am so proud of her!!

These classes can be taken as a series (which I highly recommend) or you can pick and choose which years to attend.

Years 1 and 2 are "Faith Foundations" years.  These cover the Old and New Testament, Ethics, Thinking Theologically, Caregiving and various other topics.

Year 3 is Lay Leadership skills.  This series is highly useful to those who are active in their church, serve on committees, or want to improve their own participation.

Year 4 is the year I am in now. It focuses on preaching and worship. I put this off for two reasons.  I'll get into the second reason in a bit.  A huge reason was that I would have to give a sermon in front of my class.  I have absolutely no problem with public speaking.  I am not shy.  BUT, the thought of giving a sermon terrified me.  I don't feel solid enough in my theological knowledge to give an intelligent sermon.  I was thrilled to find out that it is going to be different this year.  We are to bring a written sermon to our class, but the class will instead focus on teaching us how to give a sermon, and we can modify our sermon during the class.  I have made a commitment to my pastor that I will let her read it when I am done, and if she thinks it fits with our Lenten themes, I will deliver the sermon during a Wednesday night service.  WAY outside my comfort zone!!

There are also two single years that are stand alone.  One is on Christian Education, and the other is the reason that I put off taking Year 4 when I did.  It is Youth Ministry.  My passion is working with youth and this class was being offered at the same time as Year 4 when the rest of my friends were taking it. I opted to do Youth Ministry, rather than trying to cram two classes in at the same time.

I love my time in Lay Academy.  The classes are a couple hours from my home and take place Friday night and Saturday. I spend the night rather than commuting, so I have time for me.  I have also made great friends during my classes.  My friend, Beth, that I mentioned above I met only because of Lay Academy.  She is one of my dearest friends now and I am so thankful that we met.  Another friend I made is a woman named Bonnie.  She was also a foster parent and worked at a women's shelter, helping moms who had lost their children to social services develop a plan and regain custody.  Truly an amazing woman and we had so much in common.  I met wonderful people and friendships that will last for years, and hopefully, life.

This is why I recommend taking the classes as a series.  The friendships you develop will carry you through hard times.  At the end of one of our years a classmate left because he wasn't feeling well.  It was the last class of the year.  At the end of the class, it was announced that he had been diagnosed with ALS.  It was a horrible shock to us.  However, we banded together to keep in contact with him.  Most of us didn't get to say goodbye before he passed away a few months later.  But when our group reassembled for the next year, we took a group photo at the hotel to send to him.  We wanted him to know we loved him and he was with us in spirit.  This is the relationship that develops during these classes.

We come together because of our love of God and our desire to become closer to Him.  We gain so much more than knowledge.

I cannot tell you how much these classes have changed me and made me grow in faith and just as a person.  I recommend it to everyone.  You don't have to be "smart" or a biblical scholar to take these classes.  I sure wasn't, and I'm still not a great scholar, but I have a better understand of Scripture, how to read Scripture and that it's OK to ask questions.  If you ever have the chance...take the classes.

God is still speaking to us, if we take the time to listen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

You're not coming home

Yesterday we received a letter from the college our 18 year old attends telling us that he is one infraction away from being dismissed from the school.  We are only halfway through the first semester.  Sadly, this doesn't surprise me.  I predicted he wouldn't make it through the first semester.

When/if he bombs out, he will not be returning to our home.  I don't know where he will go, but it won't be here.

Yes, I know I sound cold, but this is my reality.  I know many people who haven't walked in my shoes judge this, so let me explain a little bit about our lives.

If you've seen my previous posts, you know that our son is severely mentally ill.  There are 10 mental health diagnoses.  He is extremely violent.  We have replaced windows, walls, stair railings and much more because he has destroyed them.

Due to his violent and criminal behaviors, we have appeared in front of every judge in our county as well as been in court in three other counties.

He has been in 3 different treatment foster homes and has been in residential treatment 4 different times, in additional to psychiatric hospital placements.  He has been in juvenile detention 9 times.

We have torn out the carpet in his bedroom because it stunk so bad from peeing on it - yes, intentionally, and burned his mattress for the same reason.

We spent endless hours preparing him for college, what the rules and expectations were.  We had numerous discussions with him while his social worker and case worker at the residential treatment center were present.  No one can say we did not prepare him for what college would hold.  One of the things he is on probation for is skipping chapel.  He's skipped it 15 times and they are allowed 10 misses in the semester.  Again, we are only halfway through the semester.  He knew the expectations of this before he ever left.

We are anticipating something major around Thanksgiving.  He has spent 3 of the last 5 Thanksgivings in jail.  Even when he is on his medication, he blows - BIG - around Thanksgiving.  A couple of years ago his foster father ended up with 11 stitches in his head because my son threw him across the room in a rage.  And that was when he was ON his medication.  Off his meds, he is beyond unpredictable.  He has indicated that he's going to Colorado with a "friend" to the family home for Thanksgiving.  I am grateful I don't have to fight to battle of him not coming here, but I am scared for this family.  I know warnings would fall on deaf ears though.  He presents as sweet and charming.  Remember Eddie Haskal from "Leave it to Beaver"?  Yep, that's my son.

We also have a 10 year old daughter to consider.  Allowing him to live with us and potentially put her safety in jeopardy... just not an option.  Not to mention the safety of myself and my husband.  If he can throw a grown man across the room, what do you think he could do to me?  And the majority of the time my husband is not home.  He works during the day and most weekends.  I would never trust our son to be alone with our daughter.  If he went "off" about something, she wouldn't stand a chance.

So, these are the reasons our son is not moving back home.  Not because I'm cold hearted, but because I'm a realist.  I harbor no fantasies that living with us would change him or help him.  It hasn't helped in almost 13 years, why would it suddenly change now.  And based on the nasty messages I get from him,  there is no change in the works.  My family's and my safety comes first.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Frugal Living - Substitutions

We all have favorite products that we can't live without, but there are many things that we CAN substitute things for and save ourselves some money.

Fabric Softener - Vinegar.  Add 1 cup to your wash when you start it. It softens fabric, gets rid of smell, and gets rid of build up on clothes as well.  This is especially helpful if you are sensitive to scents and dyes.

Weed Killer - Vinegar (again.)  Weed killer costs about $20 a gallon.  Vinegar costs about $2.50 a gallon.    Pour some into an old ketchup or mustard bottle and squirt it down at the base of the weed.  In a day or two, no more weeds.

Shaving cream - Hair conditioner.  If you use coupons, and watch sales, you can get conditioner for under $1.00.  Much cheaper than shaving cream.  Use it exactly as you would the shaving cream.  Spread it on and shave.  The conditioner softens the hair, making it easier to shave, and softens your skin as well.  You might be able to skip your lotion, saving even more money.

Vegetable wash - One of my dear friends writes the Two Men and a Little Farm blog.  It's a good blog about a couple who has bought their first "country home."  Anyway, he wrote about a vegetable spray that they use that's home made.  

1 Cup water
3/4 Cup distilled white vinegar 
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp baking soda

Mix it all up and put it in a spray bottle.  Spray the produce, rinse, let it sit a few minutes and enjoy.  

All purpose cleaner - Vinegar (again), dish soap and water.  This is a hand me down from my great-grandmother.  Mix your normal soap and water and add some vinegar to it. It cuts grease and shines at the same time.  She used this for everything from cleaning floors, to windows and mirrors, to lights to just about anything you can imagine.  No need for all different types of cleaners, and you know what's in it. She also used old newspapers in place of rags or paper towels when cleaning any type of glass.  It doesn't leave lint.

Cake Flour - Just under 1 C all purpose flour combined with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch.  Use it cup for cup for cake flour.  This is especially helpful if you don't bake cakes or use cake flour all that often.  Cup for cup, cake flour is about twice as expensive as plain flour.  

As you can see, vinegar can be used for so many things.  It's a staple to have in your house.  

You can Google all sorts of substitutions.  Some people make their own laundry detergent.  I haven't tried that yet, but those that use it, love it.

If you have favorite substitutions, please share them!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Products helping breast cancer fundraising

About a week ago, I wrote a blog about Breast Cancer Awareness month.  Since that post, I learned of another friend who has breast cancer and has started chemo.

I decided to do a blog dedicated to companies who are helping to raise breast cancer awareness and contributing funds to research.  This is not, in any way, a complete list, but these are some that I know of.

Panera Bread - they have a "pink ribbon bagel."  It is in the shape of the cancer awareness ribbon with cherry chips, dried cherries, dried cranberries, vanilla, honey and brown sugar.

Dannon Yogurt - each cup of Dannon brand yogurt has a code inside the lid.  Enter the code on the website, and they will donate 10 cents.

Yoplait Yogurt - they have a similar program to Dannon.  You used to have to save the lids themselves and mail them in, but now they have a code inside that you can enter online.

Pink Together - This is associated with General Mills cereals and other products.  Click on the Pink Together link and it will take you to the Facebook page.  "Like" them and they will donate money.  There are also other opportunities on the Facebook page to donate.

Proctor & Gamble - Another one to "Like" on Facebook.  In addition, many P & G products have turned pink for October and money will be donated.

Ulta Beauty - Ulta participates in many ways.  You can get a "free" product with a donation.  They are hosting a Cut-A-Thon.  A "free" shampoo, cut and style with a donation.  They also carry products from many manufacturers that are donating proceeds to breast cancer.

Pink Hair Extensions - Many hair salons are offering pink hair extensions.  Ulta, listed above, is one of many places.  Click on the pink hair extensions link to find a salon where you can get yours.  (This is one thing I will be doing for sure!)

I could go on and on and on and on..... There are some major corporations that are active in breast cancer fundraising year round.

Ford - they have a Warriors in Pink campaign.  There is a specially designed car, apparel, etc.  You will find them out at the Susan G. Komen breast cancer walks, and they give away a special Warriors in Pink scarf at each walk. I have passed my scarves on to my pastor as she goes through her fight.

Avon - Avon hosts a different walk from the Susan G. Komen.  They have a 2 day walk totalling 39 miles (Susan G. Komen also has a 3 day/60 mile walk)

There is also a website called The Breast Cancer Site Store that I have ordered from.  They have a large variety of items and each item purchased funds 1%  of a mammogram for a woman in need.  The more you buy, the more you fund!  There are also daily sale items.

Doing a quick Google search will reveal all sorts of results.  You can use these to decide where and how you can help.  Every little bit helps and hopefully we can find an end to this horrible disease.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pondering homelessness and poverty

I spent the last 24 hours with twenty 7th and 8th graders, and 5 other adults.  We did an "urban immersion" retreat to Milwaukee.  We took our country kids out of their comfy lives and plopped them completely out of their comfort zone.  I went on this same retreat with a different group 2 years ago, and it was amazing then too.

Friday night, we ate dinner at St. Benedict the Moor church at their meal program.  It is an amazing program.  They serve dinner 6 days a week to anyone who comes.  The majority of the population is homeless or living in poverty, but anyone is welcome.  For most of our youth, this was their first exposure to homelessness and/or true poverty.  We did not eat as a group.  3 or 4 of us would go through the line and be seated with the "regular" participants.  Most of us had discussion with the other participants and we learn a lot during these conversations.  I am eager to hear their thoughts after they have had time to process everything.

From the meal program we went to Greater Mt. Sinai Church of God in Christ.  Again, this is outside the comfort zone of our youth.  This is an African American Pentecostal church and the Friday night worship service is amazing.  The love and warmth of the congregation is amazing, their faith in God and Jesus are beyond evident in their testimonies, and the worship is filled with lively and spiritual music.  A few of the youth got into it and were clapping and dancing.  This is not "normal" in our church, so I was glad to see them let the Spirit move them to join in the service.  The church is so welcoming of visitors, and we are obviously visitors!!  This may have been the first time that these youth were in the minority by being white.

From their we made our way to Bethel-Bethany United Church of Christ.  This was our host church and our sleeping quarters.  Bethel and Rev. Tim Perkins run this program.  It's a great trip for a youth group both in content, and the fact that we have to do little planning. They do the work for you!!!  It is another welcoming place.  We all bunked on the floor, well the adults bunked on cots, and spent the night.

In the morning, we got up and ate breakfast.  Last time we got up and prepared breakfast for 75 men at the Guest House in downtown Milwaukee, just a few blocks from where we ate on Friday night.  Another group had already signed up to serve there, so we had a different "project" this time.  We talked about how people become homeless.  We ran through different scenarios.  We were then given a budget and went to Target to purchase items that would be beneficial to the recipients in each scenario. The youth learned what the NEEDS of these groups are, and they are learned about making a dollar stretch as they had to get the items on their list, within their budget.  Yes, I know, it's a basic life skill.

We took our purchased items to Guest House and took a brief tour.  A walk around downtown Milwaukee gave us a glimpse into the life of someone on the streets and where they might seek shelter.

Onward to the Islamic Center of Miwaukee.  We were greeted by our wonderful guide, Inshirah, who took us on a tour of the Mosque and the school and we witnessed the afternoon prayers.  We discussed the Islam religion and found that we had many things in common.  There are cultural differences, but our youth discovered that we actually worship the same God.

Our last stop was for lunch at the Milwaukee Public Market.  If you are in the area and have not been there, it is worth the trip.  There are vendors offering everything from burgers to sushi to Mexican food and seafood.  If you can't find something you like here, you're a pretty picky eater.  You won't find a chain restaurant in the market.  Along with being a place to eat, it's a place to gather.  Their is a coffee vendor, a flower vendor, a wine vendor, and a gathering area.  Every age and race are present in the market.

....and then it was back to church.  We did ALL of this in 24 hours.  We left our church at 4:00 PM on Friday and returned at the same time on Saturday.  It is a hectic, action packed time, but there is so much to learn and absorb.

It's good for us to get out of our comfort zone and remind ourselves that we actually have pretty good lives.  There are things we take for granted every day that many people do without out and be grateful if they had it.  I am tired, but it is a good tired.  I hope we have given our youth some things to think about and reflect upon.  I know this trip make a big impact on the group we took two years ago.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Product Review - Ultra Extreme Gel Eyeliner

I have tried a product that I absolutely LOVE!!

I've spent money on eyeliner that promised to last all day. They did not lived up to their promises.

I checked out a new to us store.  Ulta Beauty.  This store just opened in our area a couple of months ago. I like it for several reasons.  One is that they carry many of the name brands such as Revlon, Cover Girl and various others.  But, they also carry their own brand, which is where I found this great eyeliner.

This is a gel/creme eyeliner, so you will need an eyeliner brush to apply it, but it really does last.  At the end of a 16 to 18 hour day, it's still there.  And I have active days.  I can be working in a warehouse, running errands, meetings at church, working with a youth group, and it's still there at the end of the day.

Better yet, it washes off easily at the end of the day.

It costs $10 and comes in various shades, but it's worth it to me to have a product that actually lasts.

Another reason that I like Ulta is that they are big supporter of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  More to come on that in another blog.

Meanwhile, check out this product.  I think you'll love it.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Product Review - Olay Facial Hair Removal Duo

I received this product as a freebie from Olay.  I was thrilled that it was a full size product, not just a sample size.

I have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome.  There are various symptoms with this, and one of them is excess facial hair.  Isn't that thrilling?

Women have facial hair.  Some have fine and light hair, others dark and coarse hair.  You know the ones... the women with a "mustache."  We wish we could get rid of it.

Well ladies, here is your option!

There is one thing that makes this product very unique.  The first thing you do is apply a "balm" to your skin. It comes in a twist up tube that looks similar to lipstick or lipgloss.  Put it anywhere you are going to use the hair remover, then rub it in for about 20 seconds.

Next, apply the removal cream and leave it on for the indicated amount of time.  If you have dark and/or coarse hair, go for the longer time.

Then wipe off the cream.  It's that simple.

However, the balm makes a big difference.  Anytime I use a facial hair remover, my skin gets red and flaky.  That didn't happen after using this.  I just had nice smooth skin.

It's a little pricey at about $22.50 - $25.00, depending on where you buy, but it's a good product. (Made me extra glad I got the full size one free.)

I give it a two thumbs up!!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Breast Cancer Awareness Month

You probably know that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  If you're not, you will be by the end of the month.

This cause is one that is very dear to me.  I lost my aunt to this disease when she was younger than I am now.  A 42 year old woman should not die from breast cancer.  She battled the way she battled everything in life, head on.  She was an amazing woman and the world is a lesser place without her in it.

Right now I have two friends who are fighting this.  One is younger than I am, the other older, but the fight is the same.  And it is a fight that affects so many.  I have several friends who are survivors and I am so proud of them.

Statistics from Breastcancer.org.

About 1 in 8 women in the United States (12%) will develop invasive breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

About 39,840 women in the U.S. were expected to die in 2010 from breast cancer, though death rates have been decreasing since 1990. These decreases are thought to be the result of treatment advances, earlier detection through screening, and increased awareness.

In 2010, there were more than 2.5 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S.

About 70-80% of breast cancers occur in women who have no family history of breast cancer. These occur due to genetic abnormalities that happen as a result of the aging process and life in general, rather than inherited mutations.

How can anyone argue with this?  A cure needs to be found!!

My friend, Laura, and I try to do the breast cancer walk each year.  Both her mother and her sister has battled and won.  This puts her at great risk.  We both know how much awareness there needs to be.

The Susan G. Komen breast cancer walk is an amazing event.  When you see a mass of people, all wearing their race/walk shirts, all in support of cancer research, it is amazing.  Pink is everywhere you look, and the size of some of the teams that form are overwhelming.  When you look around you see "bibs" on people.  The have their race number on it, but most of them also contain at least one name.  The name is either someone they are walking in memory of or in honor of.  The number of names is beyond comprehension.  There is also a garden where you can hang a ribbon in honor or memory of a loved one.  Watching the ribbons blow in the breeze brings a harsh reality.

For Laura and me, it is a girls day.  We take the whole day for ourselves and just spend time together. It is the bonding time women need, along with a great day of self care.  This year, my schedule did not allow us to attend, so we decided to Sleep In For the Cure.  We paid our fee, just as if we were attending the walk, we just didn't go.  The money goes for the cause and we could still contribute, even though we couldn't be there in person.

Participate in a walk if you can.  It is a mind boggling event.  If you can't, consider doing the "sleep in" so the money still goes toward research.  

To all of you currently battling, or have survived the battle, you have my greatest admiration!  To those of you who have lost someone, you have my sympathy.  Cancer sucks!

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Well Loved Baby

I haven't posted in 2 weeks, mainly because our house has been knee deep in the Pepsi Refresh Project.

We are trying, no make that going to, win a grant for $50,000 for our work with abused and neglected children.  The group of parents at ATN are very dedicated.  We work hard to help families.  Every person "on staff" is a volunteer and every person is parenting at least one traumatized child.  We know what the parents deal with, because we ARE those parents!

Today, in some down time, while we waited on the results of all the coding and entering that we have been doing with the power vote caps, I took a drive to see a couple who had just had a beautiful little baby.

These are friends of ours, and true friends at that.  Just a few hours after giving birth, they were helping us to win this grant!

I held this little girl and didn't want to put her down.  Babies are actually my favorite age.  I know many people prefer older children that interact, but I love the feeling of a baby in my arms.  The pure innocence, the way they snuggle into you, the smell and feel... It makes me so incredibly happy.

When I left the hospital today, I realized that this beautiful girl is the opposite of what we are fighting for. She was born to two parents who love her and want her.  There was no need for an adoption plan.  Instead, conceiving a child was their plan.  She will go home to a beautiful nursery, surrounded by friends and family who welcome her arrival.  Her clothes are neatly folded and hung.  Her mother took great care of herself during the pregnancy, and will continue to do so while mothering this child.

She has a daddy who loves her completely.  He maintains that he will be a strong father, and he will, but I also know that this man will also become a softie with his little girl.  He will stand strong and protect her with everything in him.

Besides the grandparents and other family members, she will have a group of "aunties" who will watch over her, protect her, and of course, spoil her. I am honored to be in that group.

All of this is so different from  the beginning of the lives of both of my children, and the lives of so many of the children that we work with.  The families we work with  have children who have been abused, neglected, or even unwanted in the first place.  How different their lives would have been if they had parents who loved them from the very beginning.

So while our group works hard to help the children who didn't get this start, I celebrate this beautiful baby who WILL have a great life and a family who loves her.  Welcome to the world little one.