31 December 2012

2012 In Review

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It's that time for the obligatory year in review post.

I did the Opening Lines meme last year, but came across from Tracie's version of a yearly summary yesterday and decided I liked her format, so I stole it. Of course I let her know I was stealing it, so hopefully she'll not be too upset.


I am going to finish 2012 by looking back at twelve posts that will give you (and me) an overview of my year.

These posts are not necessarily the ones that had the most traffic, comments, or shares. They are simply my favorite posts from each month. The ones I really enjoyed writing.

JANUARY A Picture Can Speak A Word Or Two - This was written soon after Mike and I started officially dating, and addressed my need for balance. I'm still not there, but I've certainly made progree.

FEBRUARY - I didn't manage to write a single post in February, and since one of the items on my 2012 To Do List was to write more, I'd say the lack of a post speaks volumes.

MARCH - My Favorite Stalker - Where I finally told the story of Mike. Making our relationship public was a huge risk for me, fearing that once I did he'd run away and I would look like a complete fool. *SPOILER* He hasn't run away ... yet ...

APRIL Where have all the bloggers gone? - My first inkling that blogging had really changed, that personal blogs had gone the way of leg warmers and big hair. I'm still looking for a few good blogs to read, blogs where writers interact with readers, bloggers who write more original content than sponsored posts. Let me know if you've found any of those.

MAY Can I Be Awesome? - Where I commit to a blog post a day for 365 days. Guess how that went? About as well as the Project 365 I started in January. But you know what? I'm actually okay with failure ... maybe I'm a little too okay with failure.

JUNE - Who Am I? - Not exactly an uplifting post, but I think an important one. I need to give myself permission to be in a funk - to be less than what I want to be - without beating myself up.

JULY - What Kind Of Friend Am I? - Relationships and working in a large group were rough spots in July. This post was one of several written on that theme, and was instrumental in helping me set boundaries in a situation where there were none.

AUGUST Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Letting Go - Where I toyed with spontaneity and intentionally allowed myself to publish bad writing. The world didn't end\. It was another good life lesson.

SEPTEMBER 6 Things I've Learned About Volunteering - I stood up for myself in this post - dared to "talk bad" about a well-liked, big name blogger. And you know what it did? It made loyalties very clear. There was a price for writing this post, but there were rewards for writing it too, and the rewards were far greater.

OCTOBER - Should I Die Before I Wake - Where I admit that seldom do I do things out of obligation, and acknowledge that some people find that quality rude. I want to live a life where I do things because I truly want to them, and if that is selfish and rude? So be it!

NOVEMBER - Moving On - As difficult as it has been to pack up the old house, it has been putting a dent in a very heavy weight I have been carrying around for three years.

DECEMBER Is that a sleeve on your stomach? - This was a hard post for me to write. I feel shame because I've failed at maintaining a healthy weight, and because I am now considering "cheating" by having weight-loss surgery. Writing this post helped to decrease some of that shame.

And there you have it - lessons learned in 2012 - most surrounding relationships - romantic - group - and the relationship I have with myself.

Was there a theme to your lessons learned last year?

28 December 2012

5 Things I Learned From The HNT Reunion

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  1. There are not a lot of "personal" bloggers left out there. Okay, so this isn't some glorious revelation. Most of us who have been around the blogosphere for more than 3 years have seen this change happening. Where there was once a blogging audience, now most people find themselves as key contributors, with several online personas that could all qualify as blogs (twitter, tumblr, facebook, pinterest, etc.)
  2. When you retire, it is usually best to stay in retirement. Just ask Brett Favre, Lance Armstrong, or Randy Moss. Sure, you can attempt a reunion, but you have to accept that it won't be what it was the last time you were together.
  3. There is no longer a HNT blogging community. It used to be that if you took the time to acknowledge a blogger, that courtesy was almost always returned. Not any longer. (I may have spoken too soon - traffic and comments picked up Thursday evening) It seems people use the HNT platform for self-promotion and little more. It's every blogger for themselves. This holds true for most "Link-Ups" on blogs these days.
  4. HNT was never about sex bloggers, until it became all about sex bloggers. I can count on a single hand the number of HNT Reunion posts I read that were not prefaced by the ADULT CONTENT warning when I landed on the blog URL. Those warnings used to be the exception, not the rule.
  5. It's never good to allow your self-esteem to be tied to the internet. There was a time when I'd have had 8 comments and 25 page views in the first 10 minutes I posted an HNT. Yesterday? After 14 hours I had 8 page views and 2 comments. This reinforced the lesson in number 2.

26 December 2012

Satchmo

Remember that thing we called "Half-Nekkid Thursday"? It was a great community, even with its occasional drama and infiltration by the morality trolls.

But a year ago, it became little more than a tale - a badge of blogger honor if you will - one of those "Remember when ...?" things ...


*CLICK* - NSFW

Mike bought me Satchmo (a.k.a. Kindle Fire HD) for an anniversary/Christmas gift.

I swore I would never convert to an e-reader - that there was nothing that could replace the feel and smell of real books.

Although I still have a special place for real books, I've discovered there really is a place for a tablet/e-reader too. It's a little colder place - a little harder place - but there is a place for it.

I just have to be a little more careful when I fall asleep with Satchmo in the bed ...

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After The Secret

I've been kind of tight-lipped when it comes to Cam these days, mostly because I'm a bit ashamed of what has been going on. I cannot seem to let go of feeling ultra responsible for everything he does - of getting stuck in the "bad parents raise bad kids" loop.

I'm also leery of being judged here. Not because I don't deserve it, but because I already judge myself so harshly. I'm not sure that opening things up here and inviting more criticism is in my best interest emotionally.

That said, Sunday's secret needs a little splainin' ...

Back in May, at the very end of the school year, Cam and another student were involved in an altercation. Cam was not the instigator, but he was a participant.

Like many schools, our high school has a School Resource Officer (SRO) who works full-time at the school. In theory, the main goal of the SRO is to prevent juvenile delinquency by promoting positive relations between youth and law enforcement.

In practice, the SRO at Cam's high school has done little more than reinforce the idea that cops are assholes just looking for an opportunity to show how small their penis is be the tough guy on campus.

In addition to being suspended for 3-days, Cam was charged with Disorderly Conduct (about 100 of these charges are handed out by the SRO each school year in a school that has about 600 students).

As it was a first offense, Cam's case bypassed the court and was handled by a probation officer. It took a few months for Cam's case to be processed, but in August, he was given 6-months probation for the offense, the only stipulations of his probation being that he go to school and keep out of trouble. There was no credit for "time served", leaving his probation in effect until mid February.

December 13th, Cam was involved in what I can only describe as a territorial (lunch room) pissing match between two 16-year old friends that lasted all of 7 seconds (I watched the video) and did NOT result in injury to either of them. It was something that, had it happened on the football field instead of the lunch room, would have been encouraged.

That event turned into a 4-day suspension (during review week for finals), and the SRO filed Battery and Disorderly Conducted charges against Cam. Because Cam was on probation, the county has referred his case to the State's Attorney for prosecution.

If that wasn't bad enough, the school is now doing everything within their power to remove Cam from the school and place him in a self-contained behavior disorder program even though this was NOT an expellable offense.

Bottom line? I don't know what is going to happen. I've contacted an attorney for the criminal charges, and am looking for an attorney for the educational issues (does anyone know an education attorney willing to work Pro Bono?), but I just don't know how things will turn out.

We have a meeting with the school on Monday, January 7th to address the educational side of things - a meeting that will likely be postponed because the school seems to think they don't have to follow Federal Regulations that require Prior Written Notice for placement decisions.

I should hear from the State's Attorney's office within the next couple of weeks with a court date.

This has put a bit of a damper on the holiday season.

Instead of buying a ton of gifts, or spending my Christmas money on myself, money went into my savings account to cover Cam's likely legal fees.

Unless the charges are dropped.

I'm not counting on that.

23 December 2012

Sunday Secret


Stream of Consciousness Sunday: Shopping

Jana's Thinking Place

Today’s (totally and completely optional) prompt: How do you Christmas shop?

~*~

It's no secret that I am, by nature, not a shopper. I am one of those people who doesn't even travel to a store unless I have money, and need/want a specific item.

Window shopping?

Not my idea of a fun time.

Christmas shopping?

Well, I spend a lot of time throughout the year listening to what others say they'd like to have. I have a pretty good mental list by the time Christmas rolls around.

As one of the millions of people who are on a paycheck-to-paycheck budget, and one of the few people who still get a Christmas bonus from my employer, I have to wait for that bonus to do my Christmas shopping. Although that bonus is isn't huge, it is usually enough to get a few things for those who are special to me.

This year, my bonus was - quite unexpectedly - 25% less than last year.

Add to that a legal matter (involving my son) that requires I hire an attorney, and Christmas shopping has been ... well? Not a lot of fun.

I took my son to the outlet mall last weekend, gave him a budget, and let him shop. That was his Christmas gift.

I had grand plans for a gift for Mike, but with my financial constraints, had to abandon that idea.

It's been an emotional holiday season, one where shopping has had to take a backseat to the realities of my financial obligations and limitations.

And one filled with self-imposed guilt.

Because I cannot do the things the special people in my life deserve.

~*~

This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…


  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post (in the sidebar). .
  • Link up your post below.
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.


20 December 2012

The WeLoveSchmoop Fund is Now Open!

Many of you know Schmoop ... in the internet defined "know".

She is the BFF/OSP of the one and only Matt-Man, and has recently been stuggling with some significant health issues.

Like turning yellow.


I first “met” Matt and Schmoop over 5 years ago when blogging was the only social  media platform … unless you were 12 and on MySpace. A few years later, I drove to “Bagwine” Ohio and spent a long (based on some of the shenanigans that took place, some would say too long) weekend with the two of them. They are real people. Real people who work hard and live a simple life.

In October, Schmoop did - indeed - turn yellow. Since that was not her normal color, she decided a trip to the ER might be in order.

That trip led to a battery of tests and then a transfer to another hospital where they drilled a hole through what they discovered was a blocked bile duct, and put a tube in to allow the bile to drain (a tube she wore proudly for 2 months). Last week, she went in for surgery to permanently remove the mass that was blocking the bile duct ... and anything else (pancreas, liver, stomach) that might have been impacted.

There was significant concern that cancer might be the culprit.

The good ... wait ... make that FABULOUS news is that her surgery went well and she was cancer free.

She is still in the hospital recovering.

Unfortunately, Schmoop has been unable to work during this time, and her unemployment benefits have been delayed by at least 8 weeks. She will not be able to start collecting unemployment until she is released from the hospital, and eventually cleared as "able to work" by her doctor.

Quite frankly, Matt and Schmoop are looking at the very real possibility of eviction.

Jay and I decided we needed to do something to help out these two great people, and the WeLoveSchmoop Fund was born.

We are asking for donations.

The idea is to try to help Schmoop recover the income she lost during this time that she has been denied unemployment benefits. So, with the help of Jay, here is a handy dandy little button that you can click on and make a donation to the WeLoveSchmoop Fund!

You don’t even need to have a PayPal acct. You can donate using your debit and credit cards. Just click the button and then put in the amount you want to donate (it’s up to you, no fixed amounts or minimums are set). Or, if you do have PayPal you can donate by sending the money to the official email of the WeLoveSchmoop Fund which is ….

WeLoveSchmoop@yahoo.com

It's a chance to help a great human being whom we all love so very much. The donate button will also be on the right sidebar here for the next few weeks. This isn’t an open-ended thing and we won’t badger you (much) to donate.

But, as Jay has so eloquently said, GIVE TIL IT HURTS PEOPLE!

17 December 2012

Is that a sleeve on your stomach?

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On November 28th, I started down a path I have thought about frequently, but was terrified to explore.

I attended a Weight-Loss Surgery Informational Session and decided to take the next steps to see if weight loss surgery - preferably a sleeve gastrectomy or Lap Band procedure - is an option for me.

I like my digestive system. I'd like to keep it intact.

I've been battling with my weight for almost 40 years. I vividly remember a doctor's appointment when I was 10 where, after having my height checked (5'-8") and being weighed (165) I was warned that I was already on the fat track and I should gain no more weight for the rest of my life.

40 years later I'm 4" taller, and over 100 pounds heavier.

I've been lucky. With the exception of arthritic knees, I am relatively healthy. No diabetes. No stroke. No high blood pressure.

But I also know that my health is a ticking time-bomb.

I've been this fat before. In my early 20's I lost over 100 pounds. I ate less, exercised more, and when I got frustrated with that, I abused laxatives. I was able to keep the weight off for about 6 years, mostly because my job (I was active duty Army) depended on it.

When I left the Army, and got pregnant with Cam shortly thereafter, I ballooned right back up again, eventually working myself all the way back to my heaviest weight.

If you've been reading me since the beginning of time, you know that I went on a weight loss spree again in 2007. I got down to a size 10. I was much healthier in some respects, but had - again - abused laxatives to get there. And when that didn't work, I added purging to my weight loss plan.

As you know, I've gained every bit of that weight back ... again ...

Weight-loss surgery was, at one time, what I believed was the easy way to my goal. Three of my family members have had gastric bypass surgery over the past 10 years. I've watched them trade one set of medical issues for yet another (the side effects of weight-loss surgery can be significant), but they lost weight, and if you are fat, you know that it's better to be sick and skinny, than it is to be sick and fat.

I no longer think of it as an easy solution, but rather a tool that will be used in conjunction with dietary and activity changes to make permanent weight loss possible.

I am at a point in my life where my mortality is no longer something I can ignore. Although I don't want to live forever, I'd like to be healthy the remaining years of my life, and although I am a master at losing weight, I'm a failure at keeping it off.

After attending the Weight-Loss Surgery Informational Session, I filled out the 17-page questionnaire and made my first set of appointments.

Today I have an appointment with a nutritionist, followed by an appointment with a bariatric nurse.

In January, I will meet with the surgeon.

After making it through this process, my insurance company will be contacted and we'll see if they will cover the surgery. If they won't, my path ends there. If they will, the journey continues.

This is a long process. After being cleared by these 3 people and the health insurance company, I'll need to be cleared by a mental health professional. I'll also have to attend 2, 3-hour educational classes before surgery can be scheduled.

I'll keep y'all informed ... whether you like it or not ...

16 December 2012

09 December 2012

Housekeeping

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I tend to get comfortable with sameness. Whether that be in my personal life, my professional life, or in blogging.

In the 5 years I've been blogging, I've changed my blog template once.

Sure, there have been minor tweaks - adding the Home, About Me, HNT Archives, Sunday Secrets, and Suicide - The Never Ending Story tabs - changing my profile pic - adding gadgets to the side bar - but the overall look of my blog has remained relatively the same.

It was time for a change.

I'm all about simple and efficient.

Now the blog is too.

~*~

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HNT is making a one-day return.

December 27th marks the first full year of HNT retirement. In celebration, it's coming back!

And so am I ...

I put a poll up in the sidebar, hoping it would help me decide whether or not to participate. The overwhelming majority of you who voted *cough*TWO*cough* were supportive, so I figured what the hell?!

~*~

I'm taking a bit of a self-imposed, social media (tumblr, twitter, facebook) break.

I find myself - once again - bitching more about it than having fun with it.

Patterns ... I've got 'em.

We'll see if I can pull my head out of my ass.

~*~

Mike and I celebrated our one-year anniversary last week.

I think I'm finally (maybe) coming to grips with the fact that his love isn't in spite of my faults, flaws, and quirks, it is because of them. Okay, maybe I have a hard time accepting that every day ... let's just say that I believe it more now than I did a year ago.

It's been a good year ...

I look forward to many more.

04 December 2012

My Name Is Dana And I Am A Project 365 Quitter

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By now, most of you have at least heard about Project 365, and a lot of you have probably attempted one yourself.

I took on my first Project 365 (Dana Does Digital) in 2010. I made it through the year, taking (and usually posting) a picture a day. It was, at times, more painful than accidentally chewing on a piece of aluminum foil. 

I vowed to never do one again ...

Until 2012.

Suddenly, it seemed like a good idea (I'm guessing this is a similar phenomena to the one that allows people to have more than one child).

41 days into the 2012 project, I quit.

There were several reasons why I quit, but it really boiled down to setting unrealistic expectations (for myself and the project) and feeling like a failure when I didn't meet those expectations. 

I'd rather quit than fail to meet my unreasonable expectations.

What's that you say? That attitude is a little self-defeating??

Yeah ... well ...

I really do like the Project 365 premise, but how do I get past the must-take-one-excellent-photo-each-day-and-post-it-that-same-day-with-some-witty-banter-attached-or-I-am-a-failure mentality?

I set lower reasonable expectations.

1. I will remind myself that for me, this endeavor is less about the quality of the photos and more about the memories. It's just another means of documenting a period of my life, and I give myself permission to post crappy, unedited photos.

2. I will not start my Project 365 on January 1st. I hate New Year's resolutions almost as much as I hate Jell-O, yet for some reason I decide it's a good idea to start my Project 365 on January 1st? Pffffttttt! I'll start when I want to (I am such a rebel).

3. I will take at least one photo every day, but I will give myself permission to miss a day (or several) of posting a picture to the Dana Does Digital blog, catching up when I can. I will not invite needless guilt into my life by beating myself up over it "not really counting as a Project 365 blog" if I don't post to the blog daily (and yes, this was the the single issue that contributed most to my decision to quit this year after only 41 days).

4. I will use technology to my advantage. I have installed 365 Photo App on my phone and will use it, without fear of judgement, to capture moments in time. I will approach this project as an artist (in the loose, artsy-fartsy sense) rather than as an aspiring photographer, using all imaging resources available to me.

I think I've really limited my success with this project by setting cumbersome and arbitrary rules for what Project 365 should or should not be.

Some might say the practice of setting cumbersome and arbitrary rules of what  should or should not be has crept into more than just my Project 365 life.

Maybe there is a lesson here *smirk*

I'll let you know when I start the project again.

28 November 2012

A Slow Comfortable Screw Up Against The Wall

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I probably should have pounded a few of these before yesterday's meeting, or at least brought some lube.

Yes, it was one of those IEP meetings, however I managed to walk out - 2 hours later - with exactly what I wanted.

*NOTE* Not only was it one of those IEP meetings, it is now going to be one of those posts. Some of you will want to stop reading now. Please do!

When we checked in at the office (Mike attends these meetings with me) I learned that there were several people attending the meeting who were not on the original invite (that's a BIG procedural no-no). 

Although I walked in with an open mind and a good attitude, finding 8 teachers and administrators in the conference room, when I was expecting to see 3, kind of soured my good attitude.

The first part of the meeting was to decide if Cam is still eligible for special education services (his trieneal determination).

Cam has been on an IEP since he was 6. When we lived in Minnesota, he qualified for services under the "Autism" disability category. Illinois doesn't use that category, instead lumping autism (and several other disability categories) under "Other Health Impairment" (OHI). Cam has qualified for special education services under OHI for the past 9 years. This should have been routine.

All was well and good until the Education Service Specialist summarized the determination review, stating that he recommended Cam qualify for services under the Emotional Disturbance (ED) category, with OHI being secondary.

Why did this happen?

Because there were questions surrounding why Cam originally received services under the autism designation when he had never had an autism diagnosis. Because I trusted school administrative personnel when I had been told by a medical professional not to.

It was my fault.

I shared - in confidence - Cam's original diagnosis with the school social worker and the Education Service Specialist in a meeting we had in October.

When Cam was diagnosed with Aperger's, he was also diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD). Both diagnoses were printed on the report that I shared with the school social worker and the Education Service Specialist, and even though I was clear that I was providing the report for informational purposed only (not to be included in his permanent record), the Education Service Specialist chose to ignore my instructions.

He took one look at that ODD diagnosis and ran with it. ODD is a conduct disorder

Kids with conduct disorders are often placed in self-contained learning environments as they are considered dangerous - their behavior is consistently troubling to others and outside of the range of what is considered normal or acceptable. Kids with conduct disorders often show little remorse, guilt, or understanding of the damage and the pain inflicted by their behavior.

This is where I needed the lube. The Education Service Specialist was fucking me right up the ass, and he wasn't even sneaky about it.

There were some terse words. I refused to accept the ED designation - Cam's behaviors do not meet the criteria for ED and I sure as hell wasn't going to allow the Education Service Specialist to focus on one component of a 10-year old diagnosis while ignoring all of the other more recent test data available. 

Eventually, I won.

It wasn't pretty.

It was insightful.

My suspicions that the administration wants to outplace Cam? Confirmed. 

And their plan to do so? Currently foiled.

Now ... to figure out how I'm going to keep things this way for the next 18 months ...

27 November 2012

Screwy Hammer

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I have yet another meeting with Cam's school today - this one, his trieneal determination of special education eligibility.

The administration tipped their hand this time. They are usually tight-lipped - preferring to attack from the blindside - hoping parents don't have the sense to stop the plan they put in place long before you ever enter the meeting room.

They want to outplace Cam.

I will fight this. 

Past experience indicates outplacement is not the educational solution for Cam.

Past experience indicates that outplacement is socially and emotionally harmful to Cam.

As fate would have it, I came across Jeff Hunter's blog, Talentism, today. Reading his 2007 post titled My Son Won't Do His Homework gave me the push I needed to fight one more fight. He writes:
But school doesn’t care, because school does not have the objective of helping my son produce the maximum amount of value in the future that he will probably encounter. School cares about ensuring that he knows how to take tests, follow directions and can do math that he will never have to care about for the rest of his life. School cares that he can either prove that he is worthy of being in the top 5% that will go on to be homogenized and brainwashed in a top-notch school so that they are almost completely without originality of thought or perspective or that he gets the hell out of the way for those kids that meet that description. School cares that he can be measured and managed, so that he will be a good little cog in a habitual big wheel.
What he says is true. You can argue with me all that you want and it will still be true.

This isn't because teachers are bad.

It is because the public school system is broken.

Shattered even.

I'm going into this meeting to fight one more fight. 

I'm prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure outplacement does not happen, even if that means declining special education services.

IEPs are supposed to be the equalizer in education. For Cam, the IEP has been used as a tool to segregate and exclude.

I can't keep giving the school a hammer and expecting them to tighten screws with it.


I'm going to take the hammer back.

19 November 2012

Things I Learned In Milwaukee

  • Mike is famous in Milwaukee. He insists he isn't, but everywhere we went it seemed everyone knew him.
  • Aloft hotels have amazing showers, but no bathtubs. The hotel was beautiful, and we had a magnificent view from our river facing room, but next time I think we'll stay where I can get in a tub soak.
  • Bloody Mary's are served with a side of beer. I mentioned this in another post, but it's worthy of repeating. It's not like you order a Bloody Mary and a beer either ... if you order a Bloody Mary, a "side" of beer is coming with it.
  • Girls not only travel to the restroom together, they share a stall. Now I'm not at all modest (5 years in the Army will do that), but sharing a stall when sharing isn't required? Just caught me as a little odd.
  • I am too old to drink cheap, bad beer. There were an awful lot of young'uns drinking PBR. Just EEUUWWW!
  • Snow Shoots! I thought these were for trash, but Mike tells me they are for snow removal from upper level parking garages. He also tells me they dump truckloads of snow on the beaches of Lake Michigan, but I have yet to see that.


  • Taking turns with the bartender,throwing a cup-full of dice, results in someone handing me a shot. I have no clue what the rules are of this game, I just know that when Mike plays I get drunk ... quick.
  • I did not feel old while hanging out with Mike's friends. I was actually quite worried I be the old woman out, but discovered that Mike has a diverse group of friends, some of whom are actually my age *gasp*
  • Alterra > Starbucks (or any other mass-market coffee chain). Just driving by the building borders on orgasmic as you can smell the beans roasting. 

  • It's never a good idea to meet new people when hungover. We got together for breakfast at the Red Dot - where you can get poutine and a drink called a C-Note (a Pearl screwdriver mixed with Emergen-C), but you can't get a milkshake - with one of Mike's good friends the day after his birthday. It was all that I could do just to make eye contact every 60 seconds or so. I'm certain they were impressed.
  • Right Lane Ends signs are an invitation for a drag race. I'm one of those drivers who moves to the left lane when I know the right lane ends, and curses those drivers who stay in the right lane to get one or two cars ahead. If I held tight to that pattern in Milwaukee, I'd have been doing nothing more than cursing all weekend long.

18 November 2012

SOCS: Who Do You Compare Yourself To?

Comparisons are my Achilles heel.

I constantly compare myself to others - physically - emotionally - professionally, and it is destructive.

Comparing myself to others often results in a "not good enough" conclusion  and lately I've found that my parenting is the comparison du jour.

Cam is in his junior year of high school. This is a time where parents often talk about ACT/SAT scores, what colleges their kids will be attending, how successful their kids will be. How well our kids do in school seems to be the primary way we measure ourselves as parents.

That's a broken barometer for anyone who has a child who struggles academically in school.

Cam will likely not take the ACT/SAT. He probably won't attend a 4-year university, in fact, it will be nothing short of a miracle if I can talk him into a 2-year college or trade school program.

I often feel I am measured far more on his perceived failures than I am on his successes.

At least I do when I compare myself to other parents.

I don't measure up.

His "failures" must be a result of my parenting.

It's the only logical conclusion ...

~*~

This was my 5 minute Stream of Consciousness Sunday post. It’s five minutes of your time and a brain dump. Want to try it? Here are the rules…

  • Set a timer and write for 5 minutes.
  • Write an intro to the post if you want but don’t edit the post. No proofreading or spellchecking. This is writing in the raw.
  • Publish it somewhere. Anywhere. The back door to your blog if you want. But make it accessible.
  • Add the Stream of Consciousness Sunday badge to your post (in the sidebar).
  • Link up your post [HERE]
  • Visit your fellow bloggers and show some love.

16 November 2012

On The Lighter Side

Screw the funk! Some really good things have been happening lately, and it is time that I let go of what's (not really) wrong and celebrate what's right!

I WON A T-SHIRT!!!


I first learned about Project Underblog through Jana, who is a regular contributor to the site. 

Project Underblog is "a submission-based collaborative writing project honoring the smaller voices in the blogging community. With a foundation of 5-10 core bloggers to publish, promote, and engage on a monthly basis, this is ultimately a place where the majority of the content comes from submissions. Anyone can submit and share their voices and stories without consideration of their blog stats, followers, page ranks, and social media reach."

I like the concept of Project Underblog. Quite frankly, there are a lot of "BIG NAME" bloggers out there who have very little to say. I've found that I enjoy the quieter voices - their writing is usually motivated by passion rather than page hits.

Anyway, I was excited when the site launched a few months ago, and have added them to my reader. 

What's better than a FREE t-shirt??

How about Fred Pastasaurus!?!?!

I saw this photo on Sujomi's Project 365 Blog and knew I needed a Fred Pastasaurus in my kitchen!

And guess what? Sujomi thought I did too ... so she sent me one!


Yes, I did text her this photo after opening up the package with the smile on the box.

And then I discovered that Fred also makes a PANTS Salt-and-Pepper Set, a Batterfinger Spatula, and a bunch of other fun cooking utensils.

Then, if that wasn't enough, my employer decided to add Green Mountain Naturals® Hot Apple Cider K-Cup®'s to our ever expanding drink choices (at $0.50/K-Cup®).



These things are to DIE for ... or at least to go broke for as I have now developed a $2.00/day habit.

It's like drinking a slice of hot apple pie - not too tart - not too sweet. I think the only thing that could possibly make them any better would be if you made a Green Mountain Naturals® Hot Apple Cider K-Cup® float!

Anyway, that is the good stuff that has been coming my way lately, which is far more fun to talk about than the funk.

Do tell ... what goodness has found its way to you lately??

14 November 2012

FUNK-a-delic

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I battle the funk on occasion. 

I try to fight the good fight, but I know my opponent is getting the best of me when I start seeing signs like:
  • Losing interest in things I usually enjoy
  • Being irritable
  • Feeling (more) anti-social
  • Neglecting my body
  • Wanting to sleep more
  • Feeling defensive and cranky
Unfortunately, I'm usually in a full-fledged funk by the time I acknowledge that I've been seeing the funk warning signs for weeks.

Guess who is singing the FUNK-a-delic blues right now?

Telling myself I shouldn't be in a funk - that I have so much to be grateful for - that others have far worse circumstances than I am - doesn't lift the funk. I mean, logically, I know those things are true, but telling myself I shouldn't be in a funk does little more than make me feel guilty and actually gives the funk new life.

I've decided that what I really need is a plan of action - a collection of weapons that give me a better chance at slaying the funk. 

My first step is to pause  and look at the bigger picture. Is the reason for my funk staring me in the face? Is there an issue I have been avoiding that needs to be addressed? Or is this a general funk? One that cannot be conquered with a single action.

If it’s specific to a single situation/issue (which it sometimes is), and I can ease the funk by confronting the situation/issue, that's exactly what I need to do. Identifying the cause of the funk, before it takes over unrelated parts of my life, is much easier than battling multiple enemies.

But what if I'm facing the funk Army? What if it's a generalized funk that is infiltrating who I am (and yes, this is currently where I am)? What then?

Then it's time to take the "one bite at a time" mentality.

Losing interest in things I usually enjoy - I've learned this often happens when I've overdone whatever "it" is that I enjoy. My personality tends to put me either all in, or all out. I'm working on finding that "happy medium", but until I do, I've decided that giving myself permission to have less interest for awhile - rather than beating myself up over it - is usually a successful strategy.

Being irritable - I got all up in Cam's face earlier this week over the glove box latch breaking in the 14-year old Cavalier. I was unreasonable. It reminded me of the importance of breathing. If I take the time to conscientiously breathe, it gives me time to realize that the things that are irritating me are completely out of my control and are irrelevant in the long run.

Feeling (more) anti-social - Being an introvert by nature, feeling anti-social is pretty normal for me, but when I notice I'm hiding from the world all of the time, it calls for action. I've found that I tend to do this more when my interactions are limited to the same handful of people for an extended period of time. A change in "facial scenery" - like my recent weekend in Milwaukee - will often do the trick.

Neglecting my body - This tends to be the proverbial snowball rolling downhill for me. I find myself engaging in continuous negative self-talk and expect perfection (this would fall into that all in or all out mentality I struggle with). When I find myself in this place, I remind myself that every small decision I make regarding my health has the opportunity to be a a positive one, and do the best I can to make as many of those during the day as possible.

Wanting to sleep more - I am one who uses sleep to avoid - to avoid taking action that might be difficult - to avoid facing the funk. Avoidance doesn't solve much (DAMMIT!), so I've been trying to find activities that are stimulating and productive. Playing Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook for hours might be stimulating, but it's not productive. Reading a book? Satisfies both requirements.

Feeling defensive and cranky - These are probably the most difficult things for me to deal with during the funk cycle. I know that other people’s actions may make me feel defensive and cranky, but it is seldom (if ever) their intent. Even if it is? I just look like a schmuck when I react this way.Thinking before speaking (or writing) is my best bet on this one.

I do know why this funk appeared. The holidays (sans family) are approaching  I won't be able to do all that I want to do for Cam or for Mike. I've got an eligibility/IEP/placement meeting on the horizon.

I've got sadness, disappointment, frustration, and fear staring me down. I'm not a fan of any of those feelings, so I just shove them down, letting them fester. And then the funk gets worse and gains even more control.

I'm trying to give myself permission to feel the funk (rather than beat myself up over it). At least when I acknowledge how I am feeling, I take the power back, start working on battling the demons, and spend less FUNK-a-delic time.

At least that's the plan.

Are you a frequent funk visitor? What do you do to get yourself out of it?

10 November 2012

Moving On

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It's been just short of 3 years since I left husbandIn that 3 years, the family home has been in limbo - still filled with all of the things that represent who we were supposed to be.

You might remember that husband was insistent that he was not going to pay the mortgage on a home that he was not living in. Rather than fight, I chose to let him and the three cats live happily ever after in a 3,200 square foot abode while I move myself and Cam to a small 2-bedroom apartment. I thought husband was being ridiculous and selfish, but I wanted out more than I wanted to fight.

Selling the house hasn't been an option. We purchased it right before the real estate bubble burst - we aren't just upside-down on the house, we are upside-down and backwards, and my VA loan benefit is tied to it. A foreclosure or short sale would result in obliterating the likelihood of my ever owning a home again.

About 8 months ago, and after listening to husband bitch about living in a 3,200 square foot abode with 3 cats, I suggested that he consider renting the home out - becoming a landlord. That would allow him to move closer to his work (he's got a 90 minute commute each way), reduce his living expenses, and preserve my VA loan benefit as we wouldn't have to sell the house at a loss.

There was one little hiccup in the plan.

The house is filled with stuff - husband's stuff - my stuff - Cam's stuff. 

Lots of STUFF.

I have no storage in my apartment. I've put off moving the stuff out of the house for as long as I possibly can. Anything that I decide to keep will need to be put in a storage unit, and my budget doesn't allow for more than a closet sized storage unit.

That means I have to make some difficult decisions.

I have to pick and choose which memories to donate - which memories to trash - and which memories mean enough to me that I am willing to pay for storing them long term.

I am starting the process this morning.

I've committed to 4 hours with husband today. Although the process would be easier without him there, he is concerned that I might take something that is his.

Whatever ...

If that isn't bad enough, I'm terrified that I am going to toss or donate something that I want to keep and lose the memory.

This is more difficult than I thought it would be - than it should be - but it's time.

08 November 2012

Cheese Curds & Cheese Heads

Friday afternoon was a rough one. A very public shouting match from my cubicle, with the new Education Service Specialist at Cam's school, that included ultimatums and insults (flung at me, not by me). 

Mike and I were scheduled to head to Milwaukee on Saturday to celebrate his birthday. He had contacted his friends to let them know we'd be in town, and we had a hotel reservation for Saturday night. When I got home Friday night, I knew I had to just let go of my extreme frustration or I was going to ruin Mike's birthday weekend.

Then Mike suggested we leave immediately rather than waiting for Saturday.

My response?

But we don't have a hotel! And I cannot leave Cam home alone for an entire weekend without having the police department on speed dial! And ... and ... WE MUST PLAN! Spontaneity is evil! If we don't plan something terrible will happen! No! I don't know what ... I just know it will!!

Thank goodness Mike has mastered the ability to talk me down from the ledge ...

Cam was at a friend's house - a friend who is a good kid and whose parents are very ... well ... parenting parents. Mike suggested I check with them to see if Cam could spend the weekend there while he made an inquiry at the hotel to see if they had rooms available Friday night.

The friend's parents were thrilled to be able to help out and agreed to have Cam as their guest for the weekend.

The hotel had rooms.

We spent the next 30 minutes packing and loading, then headed out.

I was a mess for the first hour of the drive, my bestie - anxiety - sitting squarely on my chest, but as I continued to drive, I began relaxing, letting go of the stuff that bounces around in my brain.

We checked in at the hotel, then headed out for the start of a celebratory weekend.

Mike deemed Friday night as "pre-game warm up". It involved letting Milwaukee know he was in town, drinking at a few different establishments, and losing my Qdoba virginity.

Saturday I woke up in the swanky Aloft Milwaukee Downtown to this view.


Then we went to The Eatery on Farwell for breakfast. I had The Hangover Burger (½ lb hand-pattied burger stacked up with provolone & Muenster cheese, bacon, a fried egg, caramelized red onions, lettuce, tomato, avocado aioli, Sriracha aioli & hollandaise served on a homestyle bun with a choice of side) and the best Bloody Mary I have ever experienced in my life.


Yes, that is beef jerky in that glass. And since when have all Bloody Mary's started being served with a side of beer? I'm not complaining, I've just never seen this!

Bellies full, we headed out shopping. It's been at least 3 years since I've purchased a new outfit at a retail store ... seriously. This was HUGE. I don't spend money on myself, and when I do it's usually for a single clothing item at Goodwill or off the clearance rack at Walmart. But this time? I bought a complete outfit - nothing from the clearance rack - including shoes. I didn't even look at prices (which fortunately turned out to be very reasonable).

Then it was back to the hotel for a little rest, a quick "linner" (if you can have brunch, you can have linner) of cheese curds at The Loaded Slate,


... and then back out for the MAIN EVENT!

Although we had planned on starting at Vitucci's, and then drinking our way to other bars, we wound up staying where we started.

Which was a good thing.

'Cause I got to kiss a girl ... several times ...*

Wait! What???

* Don't you hate it when a blog post ends like that??

30 October 2012

Decisions ... Decisions ...

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I excel at making decisions.

I suck at making decisions quickly.


Well, that's not entirely true ...


White or wheat? Wheat, unless I'm ordering a BLT, then white.


Plastic or paper? Plastic, unless I'm at Woodman's with my reusable green bags, or at the market in town where the paper bags have handles.


Those are the types of decisions that I can make quickly. I can make them quickly because I've made them before, I've learned through trial and error what works and what doesn't, and the wrong decision impacts only me (Have you ever eaten a BLT on wheat? YUCK! Just YUCK!!).


When it comes to bigger decisions - ones I've never made - ones that impact other people (specifically those few I hold close in my heart) - I am all about gathering information ... and gathering information ... and sorting data ... and sorting data ... and? I usually get stuck there. The information and data is so dependable - so comfortable - so warm and fuzzy (SHUDDUP! It makes me feel warm and fuzzy!) that I tend to wallow in it ... and take forever to make decisions.


How long did I live in a physically and emotionally abusive relationship with husband before I finally decided to leave? Case in point.


And if I make a big decision without my extensive information gathering and data sorting? I spend months mulling that decision in my head - questioning if it was the right one - ready to flip the switch and change the decision - until the decision proves itself worthy.


I've been gathering information and sorting data regarding Cam's educational placement. My gut tells me homeschooling (or un-schooling) supplemented with fine arts, physical education, and elective classes at the public high school, is my best option.


But what if I'm wrong? The wrong decision here has the potential to be life altering, not for me, but for Cam.


So I did what any rational person would do - I sent an email to Penelope Trunk (founder of Brazen Careerist whose career advice runs in 200 newspapers and who is now homeschooling) titled 7 Reasons You Should Help Me Decide To Homeschool, because if I didn't give the email a catchy subject and relevant content, I figured she'd never read it, let alone answer it.


Okay, let's be honest, I figured there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell she'd read it no matter what the subject was, and an even slimmer chance she would actually respond. 


Why 
Penelope Trunk? Because I've been reading her for years (since July of 2010). She has Aspergers. I identify with how she thinks. But she is far better at making BIG decisions quickly than I am. So what if the reason she easily makes big decisions is due to poor executive function, she is at least able to make them!

And it never hurts to send strangers (even popular ones) email, does it? If it gets ignored it's just a reminder of how significant you are in the world, and we could all use a bit of humble pie on occasion.

Within an hour of sending my crafty email, she responded:

take your son out and then work with him to figure out how his days are with you at work.
that's what i did. i started homeschooling with absolutely no idea how i'd do it but i knew there was no way i would be worse than our rural school.
it's okay to have no idea what you're doing for the first six months. i wish i had known that.
i can tell from your email that you'll do fine. really.
my son with aspergers is so grateful to be out of school. and i have aspergers and i wish so much that someone had let me stay home. 
i hope this helps. you can email again. i'm happy to help more if i can.
I needed that validation.

Today's meeting with the school Social Worker and the Education Service Specialist for the high school was all about what placement options are available for Cam. It was information gathering.

Most of the placement options were unacceptable.

I let them know that I consider homeschooling (or un-schooling) supplemented with fine arts, physical education, and elective classes at the public high school as a very viable option.

They were not supportive.

I didn't expect them to be.

Soon, I'll actually have to make that decision, and I feel a little more confident that if I make the decision to homeschool, it won't be the end of the world.

In fact, it just might be the beginning of a brighter world for Cam.