Sunday, December 1, 2013

The Paper Plight

Paper is my new pet peeve.

Since Al's stroke almost 3 years ago, I'm quite certain that an entire forest full of little woodland creatures has been evicted because of us.  I've seen them holding cardboard signs at the street corners, saying, "Will thump for food" and "Hunters killed my mom."  Between LTD, SSD, STD (that's Short-Term-Disability, people!) DHS, BCBS, FMLA, BYOB, ASAP and TEOTWAWKI, there is no end of paperwork.  And the exceedingly annoying fact is that, in order to determine whether something is actually important, I have to read every. single. piece.

It would actually be helpful if the papers came with a headers like:





When did we decide that it is so important to have so much communication?

One example is the agency that is handling the claim for the discharge of Al's student loan due to our bankruptcy filing.  It is quite complicated to discharge a student loan through bankruptcy, so we've had to jump through some hoops.  But now that our filing is complete, we have been getting letters like this almost every day.  A large header states:

PLEASE READ THE FOLLOWING INFORMATION CAREFULLY TO DETERMINE WHETHER YOU NEED TO TAKE ACTION.  The purpose of this letter is to inform you that your application for loan discharge based  on total and permanent disability has been received and appears to be complete.

Then the letter goes on to state, in intricate detail, what we have to do if Al's situation changes; for example if he goes back to work, or miraculously stops being disabled.  As far as I can tell, we do not need to take action.  Yet, the U.S. Dept. of Education insists on reminding us, on an every-other-day basis, that we need to take action if anything changes.  Rather than spending money on something useful, like education, we get letters basically stating the following:

1.  Hey, everything looks good, but don't forget to let us know if something changes.
2.  Hey, everything still looks good, but just a reminder, let us know if something changes.
3.  Hey, everything still looks good, but you know the US government is having severe financial difficulties, so we wanted to double check to see if you can actually pay back your student loan.  Because that would help us out a lot.  Well, not really a lot because your student loan compared to $17,000,000,000 isn't even going to put a dent in it, but it makes us feel better.  Oh, and by the way, we're spending more than your student loan amount by sending out these reminders to millions of Americans on a daily basis.
4.  Would you be interested in selling popcorn to help us raise money for the U.S. Department of Education?

And then, there are the repetitive letters from the Social Security Administration:

Dear Al

This is the SSA.  Just writing to let you know that everything is pretty much the same as it was yesterday.  We like writing letters to you.  It makes us feel like we're doing our job.

Your friend always,

P.S.  Please write back.

I think that the real reason that the SSA may run out of funds is that they use approximately 8.3 billion pieces of paper per hour, telling people redundantly superfluous and unnecessary things.

I used to go to great lengths to make our garbage as disgusting as possible so that anyone attempting to dig through it to find personal information about us would probably just pass out, or possibly die.  I put used diapers in the bags with the precious papers.  Used cat litter.  Spoiled milk.  Rotten meat.  You get the idea.

I finally purchased a paper shredder to deal with the discarded papers.

Now I have a giant stack of paper waiting to be shredded.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Waxing Nostalgic

Sometimes I long for the good old days.

Days when I didn't have to worry about the mortgage or car repairs.

Days when I didn't have 4 kids who think I have all the answers.

Days when I weighed less than a Buick.

Days when I didn't have a small cactus growing out of my chin....

Seriously, what the hell is it about age that makes hair suddenly sprout all over my face?  I am not a man, in case you hadn't noticed.  Mother Nature is becoming senile, I presume, because I am growing whiskers that rival the cat's.  For years, I handled those annoying little suckers probably like everyone else - by plucking.  Just a small inconvenience for a few small hairs every day.

But then, a few years back, it was like someone fed them after midnight and they began to multiply exponentially.  I plucked in the morning and in the evening.  I spent days wishing that I could afford electrolysis or laser hair removal.

I wondered how my husband's Norelco would feel on my delicate face, and if anyone would notice if I smelled like Old Spice.

This past summer, I went with my mom to get her eyebrows waxed.  (This is a mystery to me because I don't think my mom has eyebrows.  When I was growing up, she used to draw them in.  Sorry, Mom, don't hate me.  I still love you just as much as I ever did.)  But the eye opener was this - it was so cheap to get it done.

But I'm really cheap, so even better, they sell waxing kits in my very own drug store!  So, I went to Walgreens and read the labels to find out which was the most idiot-proof.  I bought a small pot of wax and proudly brought it home.  Now, the instructions sounded really easy.  "Microwave the wax in small increments until liquid.  Let cool until the word READY appears on the mixing spatula."  They forgot to mention that I shouldn't put the pot on a paper plate.  Because paper plates scorch in the microwave.  And sometimes start on fire.

So, after the wax was sufficiently melted, I dipped the little spatula into the pot.  Still too hot, as the word READY was not yet readable.  Ten seconds later, still noT READY.  Twelve seconds later, still not READY.  Did I mention I'm very impatient?  After checking about 72 times, it was finally READY.

I proceeded to the bathroom mirror.  "Spread a thin amount over a small obscure spot on your face.  Remove the wax and wait 24 hours to see if you have a reaction."  Screw that!  I spread a thin amount over my entire lower jaw and both chins.  However, the wax that took so painfully long to cool actually lumped up very quickly after it reached the READY stage.  So I ended up spreading and matting chunks of wax together over my chin.

The next step:  "Grip one corner of the wax, and, pulling your skin tight with the other hand, pull the wax off very quickly."  Done!  And it didn't even hurt.  And it didn't even work.  I saw about 3 hairs sticking out of the wax, and the rest were still stubbornly stuck on my face.

Back to the microwave, heat, stir, heat, stir, cool.  Smash onto face.  Rip it off.  About 7 more hairs relented. 

I was frustrated, but I decided to try my eyebrows.  Now, generally, I like my eyebrows.  I rarely have to pluck as they don't grow bushy and they're not very dark.  Thankfully I inherited my mother's light-colored brows.  So, why didn't I just leave well enough alone?

The wax kit came with eyebrow guides that looked like sideways commas.  OK, I put one over each eyebrow and carefully lumped the wax around each one.  What I discoverd, however, is that it DOES hurt when you rip off eyebrow hair.  That, and sometimes the wax drips down under the comma-shaped eyebrow guide, and you end up with one eyebrow that looks more like a semi-colon.

The next time I went to the store, I thought I would find something a little more user-friendly.  I decided to try waxing strips.  That sounded much easier.  I got home and immediately read the instructions:  "Warm strips of wax between hands." (Whew! no microwaving or scorching required).  "Peel off one side of plastic liner and press wax firmly onto desired area.  Carefully peel off outer plastic liner.  Get a firm grasp on the wax strip, pull your skin tight, and swiftly remove the wax."

I tried that.  And failed.  I was left with a bunch of sticky spots on my face because the wax strips were more like glue traps than actual soft, easy-to-remove wax.  I was also left with several renegade hairs.  I scrubbed my face several times to get the residual "wax" off, but as I went off to bed, my face stuck to the pillow and my hair stuck to my face.  The next morning I managed to scrape off the last remaining bits.

Last night, I heard my daughters saying, "Hey, let's wax!"  I ran to them, yelling, "Don't do it! That stuff will never come off your face!"

My oldest daughter looked at me and flatly said, "Mom, you just use this finishing oil when you're done to get rid of all the extra wax."

Finishing Oil?  Ahem.  I, uh, didn't see that in the package.

Next time, I'm going to the salon.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bubble Butt, Thunder Thighs, Muffin Top

Be very jealous - I got 'em all, baby!  But not for long. 

You guessed it.  This is my semi-annual attempt to lose weight.  You may remember 190 or Ouch! or  Running.  Every single time, I was bound and determined to lose weight, get in shape and become a runner. 

I've had this blog for 5 years, and I've written about "trying" to get in shape about 5,000 times. 

I have yet to follow through.

But this time is different.  I feel it in my bones.  I'm fed up with being overweight, under-energized, and most of all, I recently discovered this disgraceful fact:

I currently weigh more. than. my. father. 

Shut up and quit laughing. 

I should focus on the positive  here.  I mean, way to go, Dad!  I'm proud of you for losing weight.  But I kind of hate you, too.

Anyway, if that's not enough motivation to make it stick this time, I don't know what is....

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Our 1D Summer

Today is a sad day. It's the end of summer. And this was not just any summer.
 This was the

Yes, I'm a freak – a 43-year-old woman who adores One Direction. Their music is so fun and catchy, and the boys are all so stinkin' cute.  I like a lot of popular Christian music, but I haven't heard anything quite so upbeat from the Christian genre.

Last December, 1D was advertising their upcoming 2nd world tour.  I remember thinking how much I would love to take my girls to a concert.  I thought, "If only we had an extra $1000, then I could get tickets for them to see their favorite band."  Less than a week later, a $1000 check showed up on our doorstep!  Coincidence?  Maybe.  But I asked my husband if we could please use just a bit so my girls and I could go to a 1D concert.  When money had been tight for so long, it seemed a little silly to blow a small wad on something that seems frivolous, but I wanted to do something FUN with my girls after a couple of challenging summers. So it happened, (and no, we did not spend even close to the $1000 on concert tickets, FYI.  I just think that God is so awesome that He dropped the exact amount in our lap that I had been hoping for, even though it didn't take nearly that much to buy tickets).

The girls and I drove to Chicago and stayed with my best friend for a weekend full of the most fun I can remember. Aside from seeing the hottest band in the world, the girls and I also took a train by ourselves into downtown Chicago. We walked to Millenium Park and splashed in the fountain.  As we wandered around a bit, we would hear a rise in the noise from time to time and my girls' ears would perk up, and they would peer through the crowd to see if they might spot the 1D boys, on the extremely off chance that they might have slipped away from their very busy schedules to frolic in the windy city. No such luck.  We eventually got turned around so we caught a cab back to Union Station.  Being the dork that I am, I had no idea if it was kosher to sit in the front seat of a cab, so I smashed myself into the back seat with my girls and ended up on my teenager's lap!

At the concert, we had lawn seats (I told you I didn't spend the whole $1000!  If I had, we *might* have gotten a little closer....)  It didn't matter in the end - with binoculars and 12,000 other people, we danced and sang the night away with 1D.
We also caught the opening night of 1D's documentary-movie, “This is Us.” It was not nearly as exciting as seeing them in person in Chicago, but it was fun to do it with my girls.

As if that weren't enough excitement, two other events made this summer spectacular as well. On August 23, my nephew (and god-son) got married! August 24 was my parents' 50th wedding anniversary, so my entire family stayed at the Radisson in Green Bay for a celebration-packed weekend.

My parents with my nephew and his new bride 
(disclaimer - this picture was taken by someone else and posted on my FB page, so I do not take credit for this photo.)

If I had to choose my favorite part of the summer, I might say it was the 1D events. Of course, the family wedding and anniversary were extraordinarily fun. But a girls' weekend in Chicago, complete with a 1D concert, cemented my relationships with them, and gave us some of those “time stands still” moments in my children's ridiculously fast childhoods. My oldest is starting high school. In the blink of an eye, she will be grown up. I only have 4 more years to call her my own, and then she will be her own person. Sure, we will still be able to go to concerts and have girls' weekends together, but it won't be the same.

Nothing will ever be quite as memorable as our 1D summer.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Why I Wanted to Cancel Mother's Day

I wrote this letter to my children this morning:

The day before Mother's Day, I felt like there was nothing worth celebrating. All I could think about was how I had failed in countless ways as a mother. When you, my children, were very small, I remember a friend telling me that if I were a perfect mother, my children wouldn't need the Lord. OK, that made sense. It made me breathe a sigh of relief because I didn't have to be perfect.

However, sometimes I think I let that truth, and God's mercy, convince me to be lazy about mothering. I am ashamed at all the ways I have set a bad example. I have been lazy, crabby, mean, and selfish. I have set the example of hiding from my problems and shirking my responsibilities. I have complained instead of rejoicing; I have worried instead of praying; I have grumbled instead of giving thanks in all circumstances.

When I thought about Mother's Day, I thought about you giving me cards that said, “You're the best Mom in the world,” and it made me regret all the ways that I have been so much less than the “best” Mom in the world.

So, I thought I didn't really deserve Mother's Day.

But none of us deserves God's mercy. None of us deserves what Jesus did for us on the Cross. So, I have to face my failures and ask for forgiveness, from you and from the Lord.  Then, I am free to receive His mercy and love because.  And then, I have to resolve to “do better.” That doesn't mean “try harder,” because growing as a mother – like growing in any kind of holiness - doesn't come from my own sheer effort. It comes from my submission to Christ and His will for my life. If I want to be a better mother, a better example of gratitude, joy, and service, then I need Christ first. I need Him to give me the grace to say no to my desire to be lazy, my temptation to complain, and my habit of thinking of myself first.

I apologize for not putting Jesus first in my life every day. I'm sorry that I haven't worshipped and adored and glorified God the way He created me to. And I'm sorry that I haven't taught you to do so as well.  Forgive me for trying to be a mother on my own strength rather than through Christ who gives me strength.

Forgive me for all the ways I have failed you. I pray that God will help you to heal from the ways I've hurt you. I know that HE is enough when I am not. I pray mostly that I will be able to submit to His will to be able to be used by Him to be the mother HE created me to be.

So, on Mother's Day, instead of dwelling on my own insufficiency, I will rejoice that God is enough. I will rejoice that love covers a multitude of sins. I will rejoice that, even though I'm a “failure,” God brought us together as a family for a reason. Not because any of us is perfect, but because we're perfect for each other.

I love you!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Please Stand By

Hey, there, new and old blog friends:

I just wanted you to know that I will be taking a little break from my blog for a few weeks - probably  until Easter.  There's a lot going on in our family right now, and I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed and stressed. 

If you know me personally, or you have read my other blog, Postcards from Therapy, you know what kind of chaos we've gone through in the past 2 years.  Thank God His Almighty Power and Presence, the ability to begin anew every morning, and for my sense of humor.  If God hadn't given me a lighter side, I'd probably be dead by now!

Thanks for hangin' with me - I'll see you in a few weeks!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Ten Random Things I Know How to Do!

Once again, MAMA KAT has given us a mission:  write about something.

And no, not just about anything.  She couldn't risk giving that kind of freedom to amateurs.  You will understand why when you read my post.  She has to give us guardrails so that we don't careen off the mountainside highway of authorhood.  (Yes, I might have just made up that word.  That's because I am an established author using Mama Kat's writing prompts.  Do not attempt this yourself.)

The topic I chose for this week:

Ten Random Things I Know How To Do!
(I feel like there should be theme music playing here.)

1.  In college, I learned how to hold a flashlight and look pretty while a guy who likes me changes my alternator in a blizzard.  I'm proud of myself for learning that valuable skill.  Looking pretty, I mean.  I have no idea how to change an alternator.

2.  I know how to fly off the hood of a moving vehicle and get skid marks on my dress.  If I were ever needed as stunt double, I would rise to the challenge.  Skid marks on my clothing would be part of my resume.

3.  I could probably get a job in Hollywood, doing makeup, because I once hid under a dock, covered myself with mud and fish guts.  I was going to try to scare my older sister, but she saw me first and I ended up looking like a complete moron.

4.  While testing a frozen pond, I found out that I can half walk on water.  The other half of me fell in up to my thigh and I had to walk back 10 minutes back to my apartment half soaking wet.  By the time I got there, half of my clothes were frozen solid.

5.  I know how to sing a song in Tagalog (Filipino) for a free cab the Philippines.  I would not try this in New York City.

6.  I now know with what caution I should pick up a hot muffler off of the highway after it has fallen off my van.  That would be a lot of caution, because after it had been on a vehicle in the hot sun and then skidded down the highway, that sucker was hot!

7.  I know how to go on my honeymoon with my in-laws.  No, that's a lie.  Well, I really did honeymoon with my in-laws, but not gracefully.  It was a disaster.

8.  I know how to homeschool.  At least for the really little kids who just need to know 1+1=2, and that ABC spells CAT.  After that, it got too complicated, so I quit.

9.  I still remember how to make Christmas ornaments from when I was in elementary school.  I have tried several different ones over the years with my kids.  I thought we might get so good at them, we might be able to sell them on Etsy.  It turns out, they looked like something made by elementary school kids.

10.  I am a sanity daredevil.  What does this mean?  It means that I have come so very close to the edge of sanity - you know the part where you're standing on the glass-bottom walkway, looking down into the canyon on insanity, and you think, "It doesn't look too bad, maybe I'll give it a try."  I start to climb up over the fence, but a small voice in my head tells me it's not quite time yet.  "Give your kids a few more years to mature into full-blown teenagers; give your husband a little more time to "sort things out" in his life, give yourself a little more time to juggle 839 with 2 hands.  Then, my friend, then you will be ready to make this leap."

Now, if you are one of my regular followers, or if you are visiting from Mama Kat's blog, please do this for me:  If you are interested in hearing "the rest of the story" from any of the snippets listed above, please let me know in the comments section.  I love comments, and I love writing ideas. Because it's hard to come up with my own when I'm on the edge of sanity.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How My Parents Met

The Rivards were farmers.  My grandma cooked food from scratch for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  She made home-made bread and pies every day.  I can't imagine how she managed to stay ahead of 9 hungry kids who had been working the farm all day.

The Rivards were a tight-knit clan, even with countless aunts, uncles and cousins.  My dad and his brothers used to party with their cousins - legend has it that the Rivard boys were a bit on the wild side.  My dad, Gary, had a cousin who was dating a girl named Darlene.  Darlene had a best friend named Marie Johnson.  As all swooning young couples do, Dad's cousin and Darlene wanted to set Gary and Marie up on a blind date.

And so it happened...blind date with Gary, the party animal, and Marie, who happened to be extremely shy and quiet.  They stayed out until all hours of the night since Marie was too shy to mention that she had a curfew, and Gary didn't think to ask if Marie's parents wanted her home before 4 AM!

You can imagine what happened next:  my Grandpa Johnson was furious and forbade my mom to see my dad ever again.  Well, at least for a year, as the story goes.  But as my dad confided in me once, "I just couldn't forget her."

Not exactly sure how they resumed their relationship after that long separation, but they were married the summer after my mom graduated from high school.

This year, on August 23, 2013, our family will celebrate the wedding of my parents' first grandchild (who also happens to be my godson - yeah!).  The following day, on August 24, my parents will celebrate 50 years of marriage!

I love my family!

I joined up with Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop this week.  Thanks for your inspiration, Mama Kat!

Mama’s Losin’ It

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My First V-Log: Meet Sally!

OK, either I will go down in history as the weirdest mom ever, or I will be committed to a mental institution immediately.  Cast your vote - just don't be too harsh!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Lost in Lost

I've been having a very strange craving.  I want to keep watching Lost.  Over and over again.  This is probably the 3rd or 4th time (maybe 5th or 6th?) that Al and I have watched it from beginning to end.  We're somewhere in the second season, in the "hatch." 

Why do I love this show so much?  I'm not sure, but I think it's because I'm really beginning to like the idea of getting lost.  Let's see - a tropical island, gorgeous beaches, shirtless guys (shhh, don't tell Al).  Well, minus the violent plane crash and the smoke monster, I think I'd really enjoy it.  Sure, having to find fresh water and probably some food and shelter might be challenging, but I would gladly trade some of my current demands for those piddly problems.  Really....

Well, you know me, I'd have to find a steady Coffee supply, too.  But otherwise, I think I'd be set.

And just in case, I have memorized this bit of information from eHow:  How to Survive on a Deserted Island.  I have to laugh about this seemingly serious article.  If you were, indeed, stranded on a desert island, you would most likely not have a working laptop or wifi to be able to access this article.  If you did, you might be spending your time sending out a Facebook messages, saying "Help, I'm stranded on a deserted island!"

Or in my case, I might just message everyone, saying,  
"Ha ha!  I'm LOST!  Do NOT try to find me!"

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

My Coffee Addiction

Mama Kat makes me laugh so hard!  Yesterday's post about COFFEE  made me start thinking about my own obsession passion addiction love affair with coffee.  I can't remember when I started drinking coffee, but I believe I was quite young.  I know I drank it in college.  But I can't be exactly sure when the actual addiction started...probably when the babies came along and coffee had new meaning to me...liquid sleep.

However long it's been, I'm sure that it can be classified as a full-fledged addiction at this point.

I mean, I think about coffee often.  I contemplate coffee.  I ponder the great and meaningful coffee questions of the universe.  What if I run out of money for coffee?  It's possible in these challenging financial times.  What if my coffee maker breaks?  She's old, but she's reliable, and she makes a sweet cup of java.  What if...what if the entire world stash of coffee runs out?

You think I have a twisted mind?  Well consider these chilling scenarios that have played over and over in my mind.  What if I was kidnapped?  I think I'd be OK, as long as my captor gave me coffee.  And what if I was in a plane crash and washed up on a deserted island?  You can bet your boots that I would be swimming out to the wreckage, trying to find those little floating one-pot coffee packs.  Sharks would be no match for me, a coffee-crazed castaway!

I don't worry about being beaten to death or being eaten by wild animals.  I worry about not having my coffee...

Yep, I think this qualifies as an addiction.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

My Thoughts on the Bachelor

My blogger friend Connie at the Young and Relentless has gotten me addicted to The Bachelor.  I have only watched one entire season before, and I wasn't very impressed.  I mean, am I the ONLY person who doesn't believe this "Bachelor" process will ever work?  How can you expect a man and woman (or 26 women, in the case of the current season) to NOT fall in love when you take them out of their normal, stressful lives and place them in a resort setting for 3 months, provide them with gorgeous clothes, make-up artists, hair stylists, and waxing!  They only have to look good for about 3 or 4 hours of the day.  The rest of the time, they can probably surf the web, sleep, sit in a hot tub, sleep, read, sleep, swim, sleep, or just be lazy (or sleep)I assume they do not have to cook, clean, do laundry, solve sibling fights, or clean up puke.  Sure, they show the ladies making their way around the kitchen, but there is no way you can convince me that a show with a multi-million dollar budget - complete with limos, helicopters, trans-continental dates and diamond jewelry - does NOT provide a 24-hour kitchen staff.

If you put me in that environment, I would fall in love with a monkey.  

Now, the show really does have entertainment potential.  My girls and I have already spent countless hours laughing commiserating with the women's intensely emotional issues.  (Girl with raccoon eyes, sobbing in front of the camera:  "I was just so sure I would be the future Mrs. Bachelor.  I mean, I just met him 3 hours ago, but I just knew....")  We do realize that this is indeed NOT the way to get a husband, so I point out the inconsistencies, the unhealthy emotional attachment, and not to mention immodest behavior, to my kids every. single. time. we watch it.

However, I, for one, would like to see the realism in this reality TV show kicked up a notch.

Here are some of my suggestions for future Bachelor dates
(Take note, ABC, you may just get some fresh potential for these monotonous shows of yours.)

1.  Put the Bachelor and all the women in the same house, together, 24 hours a day.  Do not provide cooks, maids, or laundry service, and the girls' true colors will shine in no time.  For a fun twist, make them all share one bathroom.  Make a chore chart to see who's a slob and who's obsessive compulsive.

2.  Deprive the girls of several days' worth of sleep before their dates.  Then we'll see how sweet and perfect they seem when cavorting on their dream dates.

3.  Provide the Bachelor with some hidden-camera clips of his potential wives driving in heavy traffic during rush hour.  How perfect are they now?

4. For that matter, show him some of the clips of the girls interacting in the house when he's not there.  
Cat fight anyone?

5.  One of the dates should include 3 small, exceptionally whiny children and a visit to WalMart on a Saturday afternoon.  Give them a 100-item shopping list, a time limit, and no snacks or extra diapers.

6.  Put the Bachelor and the girls in a motor home for a cross-country trip.  Limit the number of stops, all they have to eat and drink are hot coffee and bran muffins.  Do not stock any deodorant, toothpaste, or hairspray.

7.  Here is my final idea - and the most genius, I might add.  This will ensure that Sean will not have to make any decisions whatsoever; he can just sit back and enjoy the process while waiting for his bride to emerge alive.

May I present to you:

The Bachelor Games

26 Tributes, fighting to the death until a lone victor remains.

At least the Bachelor wouldn't have to go through the agonizing process of choosing just one.