Monday, July 30, 2007

The end is near

Of summer that is. Tomorrow, July 31st, my 3 youngest go back to school. Yes, it's early, but they get two weeks off for fall, winter and spring breaks, so it all works out. Because of scheduling issues and just plain busy-ness, we didn't get to go to the resort like I wanted. There ws never a day when everybody was able to go. So yesterday, determined to do something fun with them, we headed to a place called Amazing Jakes in Mesa AZ. It's pretty amazing alright. They have indoor puttputt, laser tag, a rock climbing wall, Go-karts, bumper cars, kiddie rides, and even 12 lanes of glow in the dark bowling. We had such a good time! Sassy even had fun, even though she was being contrary in this picture (she's just like that lately for the camera, unless she's the one taking pictures.)

We've got all the school supplies sorted, labeled, and in the appropriate back packs, we've got the uniforms, the gym shoes with laces that are actually white, and the lunch boxes and water bottles all ready to go. The kids are all excited to go back.

I'm not sure I'm all that excited about it though. Sure, the house will be quiet while I'm trying to sleep, but I've kind of enjoyed the schedule we've had this summer. I've enjoyed the extra time I've gotten to spend with them while not having to worry about spelling lists, homework folders and signing the planners. I won't even mention the three daily trips to the school I am doomed to make this year. I think it's pretty much going to be me saying "But I don't want to go to school today..."

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Thursday, July 26, 2007

A good question

In the comments on the post about my son's car, Din asked: what made you such a tight believer in God?

That's a good question Din. Part of the answer is that I've just always believed in God. My parents weren't very religious or a good role model for much of anything, but in our house it was understood that God was real. There have been times when I've questioned that belief, but I've always come away in the end finding more reasons to believe than not. But just believing because my parents did is really not good enough. My faith had to become my own, and in order for that to happen, I had to experience God for myself. I had to have first hand faith.

Most of the answer is because I've experienced God first hand. Nothing in my life has ever been easy. I didn't have a great childhood. My dad was an alcoholic and my mom died of cancer when I was 10. He then married a lady who was very often cruel to me. I think the thing that helped me make it through then was that I knew once I became an adult, things would be better. They were better in some ways, but not easier. I made a lot of bad decisions, for example, having a baby way too young and getting married to the wrong person for the wrong reason. But as much as I messed up, God always took care of us. God is always faithful even when I am not. There are plenty of examples of this throughout my life, but there's one that stands out above all others. I've talked about it a lot on this blog.

The main thing that made me such a tight believer in God was when I witnessed first hand Him stepping in to protect His children. In early 2004, my ex husband had been involved in some really bad things. He was sexually abusing my daughter, and he was bragging about what he had been doing all across the internet. One day in February, he took her with him to meet one of these people he had been bragging to. This person lived in a city about 2 hours away, and they decided to meet so that they could prove to each other that neither one was a cop, and both were really into abusing little kids. The way he was supposed to prove his sincerity was to bring my daughter with him. Once the meeting happened, they discussed getting together again so this other person could also do bad things to my daughter. They met on February 28th. They set up their next meeting for March 12th. But on February 26th, the authorities got a copy of some of the logs from the internet chats, and began a frenzied search to find the people involved. On February 27th, the authorities identified that one of the persons involved was at my address. On March 1st, they swooped in and arrested my ex-husband. My daughter was rescued. I am convinced this was divine intervention, and if God had not stepped in and stopped what these evil men were doing, my daughter would not be here.

But before God stepped in and stopped them, He put me and my kids in the place we needed to be to get help. We became members of our church just weeks before after going there for a really long time. While we were talking to church leadership about becoming members, they told us that they put a priority on helping members when they had needs as opposed to people who just attended services without making a commitment. Well, God knew we would have some big needs soon! That was part of God's provision for us. The church paid my house payment until I could get a job to do so myself, they paid for counseling for my daughter and me, and the people there loved us and supported us through one of the absolute worst times of my life.

There were several times through that whole mess that I really just wanted to curl up and die. It was SO HARD. By best friend had betrayed me in ways I never could have imagined. He violated my trust and tried to destroy that which was most important to me. He left me with huge stacks of bills and no way to pay them, and he left me with broken and hurting children. God was there though. God told me if I would CHOOSE to trust Him, He would provide, and He would mend our broken hearts. He has more than provided, and He has indeed healed the hurt. God is faithful, when we can't see a way, He makes one. I could not see at all how I would be able to support my kids on my own! But here I am, 3 1/2 years later, doing just that - providing for them with God's help. One thing I learned through that was that I had a choice to make - I could focus on how much pain I was in, or I could choose to thank God even for breathing. When I chose to focus on the pain, the pain became worse. When I chose to thank God for the even the smallest of things, I found the hope and the strength to make it through it.

There are still circumstances everyday in which I have to choose to trust God and choose to be thankful, none quite as traumatic as what happened March 1st, 2004, but now I know that I can trust God whatever happens.

Jeremiah 29:11
For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose

So Din, I know you are having a hard time right now. If you have any questions for me, please feel free to email me directly, I'm praying for you.

And bloggy friends - I pose the same question to you - What makes YOU such a tight believer in God? Please post your answer in the comments or leave a link. I'd like as many people to answer this question as possible, so if you feel like spreading the word, please do.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Boy and his Car

Now all he needs is his license. And insurance. And a job...
...but HOW EXCITING!! His first car!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Have Not Love?

1 Corinthians 13:1-3

1 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.

This scripture is pretty much kicking my butt this week. I actually went to my church class on Sunday after working in the nursery, which I usually don't do because I'm usually a zombie. Maybe it was all that caffeine I ingested, but I had no problem staying up till 1 or so, even though I worked all night long Saturday night. The Sunday school teacher was talking about love, and loving those that are hard to love. I felt like the biggest hypocrite there. These people know me, they know my ex-husband, what he did to wind up where he is, and all that's happened since. They watched me go from angry momma bear to wounded wife grasping at anything that would bring her husband back. That's over simplifying things, but there was a time when I was my ex's biggest cheerleader, although I never excused or defended what he did. All in all, most of the time, I have been able to demonstrate a Christ-like love for my ex-husband, even during the times when I've realized that loving him didn't mean staying married, and it didn't mean letting him abuse me emotionally and spiritually. So the teacher used my treatment of my ex as an example of what he was talking about. Because these people know that part of my life, I wasn't offended. But they don't know about my sister S.

S lives in another state and we don't have much contact, so not many people in my everyday life do know about S. Two of my kids have never met her, one of them doesn't remember, and the other two try to forget. She scared them, she really did. One of my bosses at work knows about S, because a few months back, S somehow got the city operator to transfer her to the supervisors at work to leave me a message. She apparently lost my phone number so instead of calling my other sisters or writing to me, she tracked me down at work. She called not once, but twice, and both times gave the supervisor she spoke to pretty much her whole life story, including the accident she was in years ago that is still causing her problems, and how her trailer still has a lot of damage from Hurricane Katrina. Now S is calling me on a regular basis, and asking me for help.

S is 8 years older than me, the second oldest. She was 17, soon to be 18, when our mom died. She had already been in a lot of trouble, she hated my father (her step-father) so immediately after the funeral she went to live with an aunt in Texas. There was a span of time when I didn't hear from any of my sisters or family members on my mom's side of the family, and I have reason to believe it was because my dad wouldn't allow contact. As soon as I was out of my dad's house at 16, I got back in touch with my oldest sister V, who pretty much took over the role of mom to me and my 2 other sisters, even if we didn't live with her (the oldest sister is the one I went to Tucson to visit.) S though, would go through years at a time when nobody heard from her. She apparently found even more trouble than before, and was in and out of prison for drugs. The last time she went, she was caught with so much c*caine that she could have been charged with trafficking, but because she had such a long history of using, they believed her when she said she wasn't dealing. When anybody did hear from her, it was usually V, and it was usually because S wanted money. Because V felt like she had to take care of us, she always has done whatever she could to help any of us, even if it meant giving the shirt off her back. She's still very much that way, and with other people. But she has gotten taken advantage of several times, especially by S. I pretty much grew up watching S call V and say "I have cancer, but the doctors won't treat me until I give them $500 and I don't have it." The next time anybody heard from her, she had been miraculously cured. Even though I admire V's givingness (is that even a word?) I have never had any desire to be the one people always went to for financial help.

S has finally beaten the drug habit, and is no longer in trouble with the law, but for whatever reason, she still won't or can't fend for herself. She subsists on government assistance, and is really only a step or two away from being homeless at any given time. I guess she's really not lead a much different life than a lot of those people. Most of them didn't become homeless by just deciding one day to be that way. They didn't start off that way, and I would guess have made a lot of the same choices.

So why is it that I have an easier time loving those total strangers and wanting to help them than I do my sister? Why do I not care about the choices they've made to get themselves where they are, but with her every time she tells me how bad her life is (which is often,) I can't help but think (and sometimes say) "it's that way because you made it that way." Is she not the least of these too? I cringe every time I see her name on my caller ID because I know she's not calling to ask me how my kids are doing in school. Maybe I have an easier time caring about the strangers because they don't have my phone number? Yeah, contact with the strangers is on my terms, when I'm ready to love them. With family, it's not so much on my terms. Man, I suck.

Here I am being real to the bloggy world - I am considering ways to help S, but only so that she will leave me alone. Not because I love her, or even because I genuinely want to help her. It's because I want to be able to tell her "I did this big thing for you, now don't call me and ask me for money." Because I wouldn't mind hearing from her if every call weren't about each ache and pain and medical procedure and bill that's late getting paid. Really, she's 47 years old and sounds about 80. But I don't want to accept her how she is. That's not love. I'm pretty sure it's not how my mom would want me to treat my sister, and I'm very sure it's not how Jesus would want me to treat my sister.

Just as I start to think though that it's too much to ask of me, I remember the cross, and how that wasn't too much for God. I have so far to go.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


So last night, I'm driving to work, minding my own business, staying in my lane, when this kid two lanes over decides to get on the northbound freeway entrance ramp. Problem is, we were east bound. He had to turn left. From the farthest right hand lane. Across 3 lanes. In front of me. While it was raining. And he was talking on his cell phone. The good news is, nobody was seriously hurt. I ache, and I hear he's sore too, but we'll all live to do it again, as my momma used to say. The bad news is, for the 2nd time in 11 months, the front end of my car is hosed because someone pulled out in front of me.

But how convenient is it that I could call 911 and say "yeah, I've been in an accident, and by the way, could you please let the boss know I'll be a little late?" And I don't know if it was because a police employee was involved, or they were just bored, but there ended up being 5 squad cars out there. FIVE!! 2 of them were two-man units! That's 7 cops for a two car relatively minor accident :P The thing was, none of them talked to me. They asked the witness what he saw, then they asked the other driver what happened, and he said "yeah, that's pretty much it. It was totally my fault." Then the officers told me to wait in my car for the information exchange sheet with report number on it (it was raining pretty good) and when I got that they sent me on my merry way.

Now the fun of getting my car fixed begins. The thing is, this kid is like weeks older than Sam my 18 year old. He immediately got out of his car to see if I was ok, and he apologized. He seemed like a genuinely good kid. His dad called me this morning. Asked if I would consider letting them pay for the damage to my car themselves and not going through the insurance company. They've got a friend who can fix it for me. Because 18 year olds already pay through the nose for insurance in Arizona, add an accident to that, and they may as well sign over their first born and right arm. The kids in college and can't afford more for insurance. Having an 18 year old, I totally understand. But you know what, I'm still paying for this car. It's still under factory warranty. I'm not sure I want someone's friend fixing it. The preliminary estimate is over $2000 but will likely end up being closer to $3000 because there's a lot that is not visible without taking the front end apart. Then there's the whole rental car issue... So I'm kind of torn. It's not that I want to cause trouble for this kid, or make life hard for him, but he kind of did that himself when he chose to cut across 3 lanes of traffic while talking on his cell phone.

UPDATE: I spoke to the dad again, and he agreed it would just be better for all concerned to go through the insurance company. At the scene we didn't see much damage to my car, but it was dark and we didn't lift the hood, so they were thinking maybe $1000 and no rental car. So I'm glad I don't have to make that decision.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Cakes and other stuff

When it was Sam's birthday a couple weeks ago, Sassy was at camp, and DQ was in Ohio. Today DQ came home so everybody is back together again, and here is his cake - quite possibly the ugliest cake I've ever made. The background frosting was supposed to be brown, but not chocolate. Didn't work out that way. But it made Sam happy, so that's all that matters (and it's not like he really knew the difference, he's color blind!) And yeah, it tasted good!

Speaking of cakes, I made a really yummy one on the 4th of July - strawberries and vanilla pudding in the middle, frosted with whipped cream and topped with strawberries. My friends who invited us over were impressed :)

Other stuff - DQ is back from Ohio, like I mentioned. I picked her up at the airport this morning. She's been gone since June 3rd. DQ's return can only mean one thing - the imminent return of... [cue horror music] SCHOOL!!!!! It starts back up July 31st for my kids. It sure was noisy in my house today. We've had a pretty decent routine going these past few weeks, but that's all about to change. DQ has play practice starting Monday, and now we've got school shopping to do. I loathe and love school uniforms all at the same time. I think we're going to try to get in one last hurrah before they go back to school - perhaps one of the local resorts that has awesome summer deals (because it IS 110+ these days, not many people want to come to Phoenix these days) and a water park, or maybe just a day at a water park.

Work hasn't been too crazy, but crazy enough. We're still at police headquarters, which was supposed to be for only 3 weeks. It's already been 2 months. But they have to make sure everything works the way it's supposed to all the time, or it puts people in danger. The trainee I was working with in May is all finished with training and on his own, and at the end of August I'll be getting a new trainee. I'm excited about that, I really enjoy training :)

One thing I've discovered though is it's easier to teach people 911 than it is to teach my 18 year old son to drive. I have a few more gray hairs, and we're not done yet.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

A day to celebrate

Yesterday, July 6th, I signed the final paperwork and closed on the refinancing of my house. This is important because prior to refinancing, my name was on the title of the house jointly with my ex-husband, but it was not on the mortgage. I had been paying the mortgage for the past 3 years, but the loan was not in my name. It was one of the things that prompted me to file for divorce when I did, because he just wasn't being as cooperative as I'd hoped, so his cooperation became court ordered. Even after the divorce was final though, I still procrastinated in trying to refinance. I was intimidated by the whole thing frankly. And I wasn't sure it would go over so well because I filed bankruptcy shortly after my ex's arrest. I've been on time with everything since then, but it's a huge black eye. (As much as I hated to do it, I didn't see any other choice then, and looking back, I don't see that there was an alternative. I believe when Christians file bankruptcy it dishonors God, but it wasn't because I was irresponsible with my money or wanted to shaft my creditors that it happened. It was because I lost the breadwinner of the family and was left alone to pay for bills that added up to around $3000 a month on the income of a part time teacher's aide at a preschool - roughly about $400 a month if I recall correctly.)

But it's all done, the paperwork is all signed, and the house is mine. This is so important in so many ways. It's the last tie besides to my ex-husband besides our son (the man will be in prison until the child is 32 years old, so it's kind of a moot point.) There are no more joint accounts, no more legal matters, and no more business that needs to be taken care of. I am legally free of him.

The other thing is, it means I've made it. One of my biggest stumbling blocks in life has been that I have believed that I've needed someone to take care of me, I wasn't strong enough to do it on my own. It was why I got married the first time, and it was why I got married the second time. The second time I thought was so much better because he was a Christian and I honestly did love him. So it was SCARY when he was arrested to know I had to do it myself, that this time, I wouldn't be able to even think of letting someone rescue us because of what my daughter had just been through. I wouldn't be able to trust anybody enough to even consider letting them near my children. It was almost an audible voice, God told me that He would take care of us, I just had to trust Him and be obedient. For the first time in my life, I put my entire trust in God, and now I can't figure out why I had such a hard time doing that before. But with God's help, I did it. On my credit. With my income. I was able to get a loan and refinance my house. I am providing for my kids and myself. I don't need someone to rescue me. Because of God's faithfulness.

I know I am not fully healed from our ordeal (I still don't see how I could ever trust another human male again, but now is not the time to worry about that...) but where I am now still feels really really good. I am happy, my kids are happy, and God is so faithful. I've learned so much and grown so much through it all, such as obedience to Christ is a beautiful thing. Healing may not be complete, but it's far enough along that we're not victims, we're not survivors... we're conquerers :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

Happy Birthday T3h Sam!

So, time sure does fly when you're having fun. Tomorrow (7/3) my oldest son will be 18! Eighteen!

His birth was kind of dramatic in that it was very fast. My doctor compared it to being in a car without brakes going down a very steep hill, and that's a pretty good description. The other thing was that a week before his birth, a radiologist at an ultrasound told me he weighed 11 lbs, and he was still two weeks early at that point. He ended up being "only" 9 lbs, 1 oz, thank goodness for that.

Maybe I have selective amnesia, but I don't remember ever having much of a problem with Sam. Ok, he didn't always do as well in school as he could have, and he got in trouble once or three times in class, but he graduated from high school with honors... he was frequently mean to his younger sister DQ, but that was not usually in my presence and the two are very close now. Ok, there was the time he shot Sassy in the butt with an airsoft gun, but I think that was an accident. Mostly. And there was his fascination with petroleum jelly... you know Dawn Dish Detergent gets that stuff out of hair pretty well? Yeah. Not once, not twice, but 3 times. The child was like a ninja or something climbing and slinking his way around undetected to find the vaseline. I won't mention the gum in the eyelashes bit, but that sure was interesting. For the most part, Sam has lived his life being helpful, even if not always obedient. When he was 7 and I was pregnant with Sassy, our dog got sick on the living room rug. We had come in from being out and discovered it when we got home. Sam took one look at the mess and said "I'll clean it up for you Mom, I know it will make you sick." And he did.

He's grown into a fine young man, and I think it's mostly in spite of me and not because of. I am so proud of him.