Monday, January 20, 2014

Staying Positive

Image from

Generally I'm a glass-half-full kind of person, so it comes naturally to me to try to make the best of every situation.  This past year has had more than a few "lemon" moments, and so I've had a LOT of practice trying to make lemonade.  (Sometimes I think making something alcoholic might be better for some casual relaxation, but I'm not much of a drinker, either.)  Anyhow, in the spirit of making lemonade from lemons, here are some GOOD things that have been going on in our lives:

The Princess has made a couple new friends at school this year, girls who share her slightly nonconformist take on the world and are happy to introduce her to their favorite interests and listen to hers as well.  They're a good match.  And, through them, the Princess has now been initiated into the fandom of Doctor Who.  What's not to like about that?

'69 Chevelle Malibu, local car show, September 2013

Safety Guy continues to learn about cars - ALL about cars, everything from history to performance specs to value to reliability.  He's taught himself a fair amount about car audio systems, and is dying to get a car to put one in.  (Two loves in one:  MUSIC and CARS, with the added frisson of BUTTONS and DIALS.)

Safety Guy is also actively investigating future careers, and thinking quite realistically about his own skills, aptitudes, and goals in life.  I'm very proud of him for taking stock of his strengths and liabilities, then looking for career options that would be a good match for his strong points and interests.  I can't wait to see where the future takes him.

Mom and Dad's quilt top, ready to be layered

I've enjoyed learning how to quilt this winter.  I'm still very much a beginner, but I'm really enjoying the process, and I've already got ideas for four more projects besides the one in hand:  a quilt for my parents' birthdays in March.  (I don't think my parents even know about my blog, but if they do, SURPRISE!)  I'm enjoying looking at fabrics, and I'm hoping to take a couple more project-oriented quilting classes this spring.

My sister Debbie and I had a WONDERFUL brainstorm last night:  we'd like to take a weekend trip this spring, to Cooperstown, NY.  We want to see the Fenimore Art Museum, walk around the town, go to the nearby Fly Creek Cider Mill, and spend a couple nights in a hotel with a pool and a hot tub.  She can get hotel discounts through work, and we can split the cost.  We're quite excited to plan something just for us.  Sister time!

The Princess is enjoying 4H, and gearing up for show season in the spring.  She loves being at the stable.  I hope she has an amazing show season this year.  This is the first year she'll be eligible to qualify to go to the NY State Fair, too.

Finally, I'm getting the upper hand on the process of readying the house to sell.  Every day I try to do at least one thing toward that goal, even if it's just something small.  It's not so overwhelming when I approach it that way.  Yesterday, the Princess totally cleaned her room - DEEP cleaned it.  Hooray!  One more step on the road to a new home.

And so we go on.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Tipping Point

For a little while, I was optimistic that Safety Guy's struggle with being bullied at school had passed its peak.  This fall was a mixed bag, but still better than last spring, and we saw even more improvement for about a month before the winter break.  But, unfortunately, it was only a lull in the action.  The bullying, while diminished in scope (fewer people doing it - we're down to two main perpetrators), has simply become more covert.  Safety Guy is just as frustrated with school now as he was last spring, which means it's gotten pretty bad - again.

I'm not going to hash over details.  Our school has a serious bullying issue, and the upper administration has been reluctant to really crack down on the perpetrators.  On top of that, because of the covert nature of the bullying, it has been implied many times that Safety Guy is overreacting to nothing (which has, admittedly, happened - but that doesn't diminish the real bullying that has also been going on), or even making up the bullying.  As a result, Safety Guy rarely tells the teachers at school the whole story of what has happened in any situation.  He doesn't trust most of the adults there; he thinks they don't believe him, and that they won't do anything about it even if he were to tell them.  Things have gotten really bad for him since we returned from Christmas break, to the point that he's had thoughts of hurting himself because he feels so bad about himself.

This CANNOT go on.

We have an ongoing bullying situation negatively affecting our son.  We have a friendly witness (SG's friend H) who corroborates that these guys have been trashing Safety Guy behind his back as well as to his face in class and in the hallways.  Last fall we started the DASA process (NY anti-bullying legislation, to document bullying and notify parents of their student's involvement in it).  My husband is livid over this whole mess, and is turning in the completed DASA paperwork this week.  He's also taking SG to school on Tuesday, and meeting with the assistant principal.  I'm not sure what (if anything) will be sorted out then and there, since the most recent incident happened so late on Friday that by the time the AP and psych finished talking with SG about it, school had already been dismissed and the bullies had gone home.  But one thing is clear:  if this situation isn't resolved to the point that SG is no longer targeted and trashed every day, then I'll pull him and home school him for the second half of this school year.

I can't wait to get out of this district, for his sake.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Color Me Impressed

I have to say, I'm really impressed with how well our kids are handling the idea of moving over the summer.  Both are asking smart questions about the school districts we're considering, both are looking at stuff online about the schools on their own, and both are already invested in getting this house (and in particular, their STUFF) packed ahead of time.  Safety Guy is even looking at real estate websites for apartments and houses for rent already.

I shouldn't be surprised - they're both older than the last time we went through this (in 2009).  And I've noticed that Safety Guy copes with change by doing research, so him helping us look for housing is not surprising in the least.  The Princess is sad about not living close to her best friends, but she's not despondent or refusing outright to go along with this change either.  In fact, both kids seem rather relieved at having a definite direction to pursue, rather than continuing in the limbo that marked the last six months of 2013 for us.

So, we're looking at a few districts closer to the major city we live near (but not IN the city - suburban to rural, but within a reasonable commute to anywhere in the city).  The districts are all much larger than the one we're in, and thus much more well off financially.  Each has its strengths; none have glaring weaknesses.  All have good reputations among other teachers I know, and among the parents I've spoken to around here (people who have lived here MUCH longer than we have, "natives" and long-term transplants alike).

It's all going to come down to housing - we need something with three bedrooms (or two bedrooms and a basement that is or can be finished into a bedroom).  So, a rental house, a rent-to-own house, or a townhouse.  Three bedroom apartments are scarce, and cost just as much as the rental homes and townhomes that I've seen.  I'd rather have more space than less for what we can afford.  And, we've got two cats - the place needs to accept them too.

So, wish us luck!  We hope to move over the summer, so the kids can settle in before school starts.  We already have a favorite out of the three primary districts we're looking at.  Hopefully we'll find a decent place to live there when we seriously start looking in May.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Getting Organized and (Not) Winter Sowing

No, this isn't a Martha Stewart-esque, Pinterest-driven how-to blog post.  My earthly cares haven't been solved by California Closets, Thirty-One, or even Tupperware.  But I am in a general "clean it out, box/keep or toss/donate" frame of mind.  Our kids have had a VERY long winter break this year (16 days!), and I was out of work the week before Christmas break began with bronchitis, so I feel like I've been under house arrest for three weeks.  I need to do SOMETHING to feel like I'm moving forward and preparing for the future.

Maybe "house arrest" is too strong a term - I'm not a prisoner in any way (although I willingly hunker down indoors when the temps get as brutally low as they've been recently - wind chills pushing -25F?  NO, thanks, I'll stay inside, with my coffee, computer, and cats).  But I'm not a winter outdoor activity enthusiast.  So, like many people, I guess, I nest a bit during the winter.  I clean things out, sort things through, work on indoors house or craft projects, and generally turn inward for a season.  My big accomplishment over the past week was really cleaning out the office and organizing my craft and art supplies.  One less room to face winnowing out right before a move - it's already done.  January will also see me tackling closets, and February, the basement.  I don't want a last-minute cleaning/packing marathon.  The more I can do now, the less stress I'll have down the road.  At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

Normally about now I'd be gearing up for winter sowing, but with a move a strong possibility for us this summer, I'm reluctant to fill the back porch with recycled milk jugs full of seeds (and eventually, seedlings).  I'm not sure when we'll put the house on the market, and the containers full of dirt and held together with packing tape aren't really what people want to see on the deck when they scope out a property.  They want pretty, and clean, and tidy, and everything in its place.  Not a dissertation on the joys of winter sowing.

It's strange and sad to not have that forward-looking, garden-dreaming, spring-anticipating, hands-in-the-dirt outlet for the winter blahs and blues, after doing it every winter for about a decade now.  It's actually been quite painful to contemplate leaving this garden that I've poured myself into, to the point that I've been throwing out gardening catalogs as they come in, without even looking at them.  It's just too sad, another sadness on top of other sorrows.  I have saved a handful of large containers (cat litter jugs, actually) to use to sow tomatoes and zinnias.  Those I can use in the raised beds out back, and not take up a lot of porch space while they germinate and get their initial growth, and be done with them by early May.

I'll be direct sowing a lot of stuff in the yard this year, all annuals for quick and easy color, and also easy veggies to make the raised beds look full.  I have to be mindful of curb appeal - prettying up the yard for someone else to look at as part of the house.  (And knowing that whoever buys our house will most likely get rid of a lot of the garden space I've worked so hard on.  It hurt like hell the last time that happened.  I don't expect it to be any easier this time.)

Come April, I'll be digging and potting some things I'd like to keep and move with me - special daylily seedlings I've hybridized, mostly.  Plus one or two peonies, which take years to mature and came with me on the last move.  Well, "some" is a relative term.  I mean, probably a few dozen one gallon and two gallon containers, and the peonies in larger pots.  I hope, wherever we move, that I will have either a balcony/deck to put the containers, or a sympathetic landlord who will let me dig a holding bed in the back yard.

So much looking ahead and planning, working and organizing, and I have no idea where or when we'll move, or where I'll be working.  Still, doing what I can to prepare helps me cope.

Pinterest, anyone?

Friday, January 3, 2014

Farewell and Moving On

I think I can say, from the other side of New Year's Eve now, that 2013 was the most difficult year of my entire life so far.  I am far from sorry to see 2013 fade into history, but it will always be with me.  Nothing will ever be the same again.  I'm moving forward now, hoping for less sorrow and more positives in my life this year.  There are no guarantees for any of us, but I am hopeful that the things within my control will be better for my family and I, and that I'll be able to deal with the things out of my control in as gracious and positive a fashion as I can, leaning on the Lord's grace and strength to do so.

Most of my friends and all of my family know that 2013 was a year of great challenges and changes for the kids and I, and for my husband.  If you know us well, you know what's been going on; if you don't, I'm sure you've read between the lines.  My husband and I are no longer living together, and have not been since last summer.  We are on good terms, working together to raise the kids, but we are not a couple.  This has set off a whole cascading series of changes, including my need to find a permanent job with insurance, and the likelihood that we'll be selling the house this year to adjust our finances to a more realistic long-term plan.  So, the kids and I will be moving, probably over the summer (between school years).  We hope to stay in the general area near my husband, for obvious reasons.

I have appreciated all of the prayers and well-wishes from all of you through the ups and downs I've shared, and I hope that you will continue to lift us up and encourage us now that you know a little bit more.  Everything is up in the air for us, waiting on where/when I can get a permanent job.  I'm looking now, and not limiting myself to jobs in education.  I'm also considering work with not-for-profit agencies working with people with disabilities, or other human services related work.  If I can get my foot in the door somewhere, I'm open to retraining.  I don't want to wait for September (or later) for stability in employment, and this is NOT a good time to be looking for jobs in education.  I may have no choice but to take something else, outside of education, sooner rather than later.

The kids are handling this transition with varying degrees of understanding and patience.  Of course they've got a lot to process, and we're all getting counseling now to help us work through our issues.  You've probably noticed I've posted much less about Safety Guy and the Princess than usual over the past six months.  I wasn't ready to share this news, and the kids needed me to respect their privacy, especially Safety Guy, who does read my blog occasionally.  But I've also realized that NOT sharing the most basic life-changing fact of our lives right now is another way of lying to everyone around me, and hiding the unpleasant truth.  This situation hurts all four of us - a lot.  It won't be the focus of my blog (what a downer that would be!), but it may crop up occasionally, directly or indirectly.  Frankly, I'd rather write about gardening, or art, or autism-related stuff, or just the wonder and joy of watching our kids grow up and become unique, amazing people.

Life is messy, but I'm not going to air our most private lives for others to get a vicarious, voyeuristic thrill.  I am, however, going to be honest about the basics, and also discreet.  No bashing, no ranting, no recriminations, no airing of grievances, and no whining about what's "not fair" in our lives.  Just the occasional statement of, "Yes, this is hard - thank you for praying for us," or, "I've got to work through finding a job and moving with the kids, and thank you for listening to me while I process all of this," or, "We could use some extra prayer right now."

Thank you, my friends.  Farewell, 2013 - I'm not sad to see you go.  Welcome, 2014 - I hope you're kinder to us all.