Saturday, March 7, 2009

Contemplating Change

It is funny how you come to a point in your life that things just have to change.

It is funny that as you stand there, you realize you were in this position not too long ago. And despite your attempts to alter the plan, you end up back at the point in your life that things just have to change (again).

So as things in my life have changed, especially in the past year, with a weary look toward the future, I had to make a decision.

Saturday morning I awoke and realized that I only had 8 days to make a decision in my life. So I made one. And as my son lifted up the empty water jug that held 7 years worth of spare change, my family vacation fund, I realized I had failed to reach my goal. As my son headed out to the car with it, my daughter looked at me and said, "That's our vacation fund!" I matter-of-factly replied, "Well, we gotta keep this house going, I am sorry." Nothing else was said.

So we went to the bank, and as a family, all went in and dropped it off.

Not the moment I wanted with the results of years and years of not spending my change. This money was supposed to go to a change for us, not a change due to the economy and of how things are.

So I begin again hopeful that the next "change" will be the change my family and I want.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Ring in the New Year!

OK, I am going to warn you now that this is an angry blog for me. You may just want to skip this one. I know that Mama always told me to shut up if I had nothing nice to say, but you know, there are limits. And yes, I know that someone else has it worse than I. That I may be dramatic....over other than pro-active....a selfish...and I am everything else I have ever heard in my lifetime that makes people want to dismiss my emotions.

As the dramatic changes occurred in the economy in 2008, I went along with it like everyone else. I am the only bread-winner in the house, and when everything started to go up, I was worried. When i refinanced the house, I saved $1.00 per month...a measly dollar. I knew I was not alone, so I just had hope and faith that things would continue to improve. They didn't, but my smile did improve. But this time to hide the sorrow I was feeling. A close friend once said to me, "You are at your worst when you are at your funniest." I am not that bad...yet...but understood the statement, which has stuck to me all these years.

My oil budget bill went up $85 per month, my monthly electricity bill went up $35 per month, my house insurance went up $50, and gas (depending on the price) hits me at $150 per month at the low point. Never mind the mortgage and other utilities I am failing to mention. I am using my credit card to buy gas and groceries. Through all these changes, I find that I can still smile and carry on. I mean, we are all in this together, right? RIGHT!

So here it is...The Holiday season. Ho-Ho-Ho and all that jazz, right? RIGHT! I am ending a huge project for myself at work, so I go to the office to get some supplies. We are also gearing up for (what I alone call) our major "keep my job" fundraiser of the year. So I am also doing an inventory of where things are since my office moved to my home. I am looking for some unique items that I created for the fundraiser. They were a labor of love...a whole weekend to choose, print, cut, paste-down, blah blah blah. A visual piece of art work you might say. Framed all nice. I only see one in my old office hung on the wall. The others were neatly tucked behind the office door, but they are now gone. I inquire where the others are. No one seems to know. Hmmm...They will turn up, I say to myself. I am so damn positive, too!

So I go about my business looking for the supplies I came for. The office secretary says they are in the outside shed due to lack of space. Man has it been cold I go to the outside shed and clear away the snow from the door to get inside. Once inside, I see the file boxes I need, but they are in the back corner of the shed. I move a few items, and I pull the box out. Yippee! Success.

As I look back before leaving, my eye catches glimpse of a black frame. I pull it out of the garbage bag that covered it and ALAS...there are my works of art. Do you know what a hand-made photo project that is glued together looks like in a frame when it has been exposed to the elements? Yes, a nice ripple effect. Of course the glue/tape had a reaction, and so did the paper, and etc. RUINED! Years of work RUINED! How could anyone put framed pictures of ANYTHING in the cold? It is disrespectful! But one died, right? RIGHT!

I decide to go in and ask WHO put them there and no one seems to know. I call my co-worker, who knows the value of "marketing" these items have. I told her of the incident and she was shocked. "Who would do such a thing?" I have no idea, I respond, but I just want you to know that I am done doing them. She hopes I will change my mind and do one for this year, but I resign myself to "NO!" She said that she understands, but it was a highlight to many people. Even that did not sway me. I was mad, but I decided no one died, no one suffered but me, so I will just move on in positive fashion. And so I did...I asked for 3 days off right after Christmas, so I will gain my positive perspective back! Right? RIGHT!

Christmas went well...lots of fun visiting family. As I laid myself in bed that Christmas evening, I was looking forward to a few days off to rest and relax. In the middle of the night, I became ill. Rushes to the bathroom, pain, etc. Not fun. So the next few days were spent bringing myself back to the normal world. Can you believe the timing? I finally take some time off to do what I want to do, and I end up sick. I miss the 3 Baptisms being held in the family on the 27th due to my ill feeling. What crappy timing!

I am feeling better by New Year's Eve Day...and all I wanted to do was spend a quiet New Year's Eve to rush out the crap of 2008 and begin 2009 with positive thinking. I will make it. Right? RIGHT!

So here it is New Year's Eve...and it is the coldest day of the year. The wind is whipping, the degrees are very low and the wind chill is lower. As Winnie the Pooh would say, "It's a rather blustery evening!"

As I am preparing some chip and dip, taco dip, and other little goodies for those around me, we played games, laughed, and just had a pleasant time. As I began to wash the dishes at 10pm, I noticed that the water turned colder and colder. "Something is wrong with the hot water!" Can you guess what happens now? Egads!

Here it is New Year's Eve. It is 10:30pm, and the house has NO HEAT! No Hot Water! Nothing! I go downstairs and reset the furnace. It clicks on....yipppeee! But soon clicks off! uggh! So I call the furnace person. "Try to reset it again, and call me back if it doesn't work." It is now 11:30pm and the house is below 60 degrees. A call back to the furnace man shows we are in for a long night. "Hunker down and I will come by early in the morning." OMG!

So as we all ring in the New Year, I am as cold as those in Times Square. My daughter has 5 or more quilts on her bed, I tell her to dress from head to toe, and her room was warmer than the downstairs, so I feel she is going to be ok. She did not want to go to relatives. She gets all set for the night. As I leave her for the night she says, "Dad, this is a bad omen for the type of 2009 you are gonna have!" OK, Like I needed to hear that, right? RIGHT! I love her so much!!!!

We survive the night in single digit temperatures. I can see my breath in a cloud of frost as I speak in my kitchen. I make a home-made coffee cake to greet the morning...and get the oven to warm up the house as much as it can. As I pull the coffee cake out of the oven, the steam from it was incredible. It was cooked through, but the middle still plunged down due to the temperature in the environment. It was nice to have something warm to put inside our bodies.

By 9am, the furnace guy will be there in a few minutes. Do you know how long a few minutes is? IT IS LONG! (Kinda like this blog!). This is ridiculous!

The $125 Furnace Repairman comes into the house. He says the furnace has captured a lot of soot and garbage. He cleans it out, but says the furnace needs to be replaced in a few months. March or April to be exact. It is not efficient due to age. He said that maybe it can be rebuilt for just under $1000.00 or a new one at around $5200.00. He will wait to hear my decision. He takes his $125 check and leaves into the chilly daylight.

The house takes all day to get back to 60 degrees and a full day for my bones to get back to their warmth. I cook and do all things warm. My daughter was excellent through it all and never complained. Maybe she could sense I was ready to lose it. She is smart like that.

So here I sit, not being able to make ends meet each week as it is, contemplating how in the heck I am going to come up with almost $6,000 within a few months, let alone keep things going. I have $19.00 as a checkbook balance, and I wonder how I can look at 2009 with grace, positivity, and hope. I always fake it well, but this one will be tough.

And the worst thing ever, for a "giver" like me...a young boy came to my door today. I could see through the sheer curtain that he had a plastic bag in his hand, and he was collecting bottles for some worthy cause. I never answered the door. I let him stand there and wait as I saw his shadow through the sheer curtain. I sat still, not wanting to move until he moved. How silly is that?!?!

When he walked away...I walked to the computer and typed out this blog. I need to release it somewhere. And I know not many people read my blog, so it is ok. And not many will read this whole blog because it got too whining many paragraphs ago. But if you did get to this point in the blog, please never under estimate the value of people, their feelings, and hope. I feel pretty drained of all of these things myself. People around me discarded my hard-work, without a care for my feelings, and with the cold weather, the increase in cost of EVERYTHING, and the losing of heat on the coldest day of the year, I am low on Hope. You can call me dramatic, over done, whining, or whatever, but it is all painful to some degree. People try very hard not to let you see the pain, but it is there.

So as 2009 rings in another year, be kind to each other even if you do not know their personal stories. Be kind because it is the human thing to do. Listen because it can make a difference. Share because we all have an overabundance of "something," and care because it is the human reaction we should all have. Kindness and caring breed hope. Hope breeds faith, and faith brings miracles.

I need a miracle, but I am going back to the drawing board and will try to begin with being kind and positive.....and maybe the rest will follow as it should.

Happy New Year and I wish for you everything that makes you happy, comfortable, and healthy.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

SAVE THE DATE - Bowl For Kids Sake 2009 - March 28th and March 29th

Send your own ElfYourself eCards

The Big Brothers Big Sisters Bowl For Kids Sake Event is gearing up! The Elves here are the ones that make this event truly special. The Bowl For Kids Sake 2009 event is being held Saturday, March 28th and Sunday, March 29th at Sparetime Recreation in Lewiston, ME.

So...for my friends in the State of Maine, who live in, near, or will travel to Androscoggin County, you are expected to be at this event to support the great work of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Androscoggin County.

Save the date...March 28th and March 29th!

Here is how you can help:

1. Donate a Flat-Rate Pledge!
2. Be a Team Captain and create teams of family and friends to bowl at the event!
3. Volunteer your time to make the event a success.
4. Spread the word by being a BFKS Representative at your business! Company challenges are great ways to have fun together and help the community!

If you need any information, I am sure one of the elves at Big Brothers Big Sisters can help you! Call Big Brothers Big Sisters today at (207) 782-5437 x76

Help if you can, make a difference in the life of a child!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Line Up Those Ducks!

Change and growth take place when a person has risked himself and dares to become involved with experimenting with his own life.

—Herbert Otto

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Mass of Dots

Life is like a mass of dots, isn’t it? You look around at what is going on in your life and all you have is dots. One dot for each item. Like a bullet point on your list of life.

• Call Mom
• Go to the store
• Put up your Christmas Tree
• Prepare the agendas for your meetings next week
• Search the stack of newspapers for the Honor Roll with your daughter’s name
• Begin to get your attitude in gear for the fundraiser of the year
• Get the holiday music together
• Review the missing items in your database
• Remember to get those holiday cards out
• Try and find some money for your mentoring programs
• Get in the holiday spirit
• Buy a real shovel
• Take the bottles to the redemption center
• Pay the bills
• Do another blog
• Really put your office together
• Get the crap off the stairs that has been growing for weeks
• Send thank you cards for the birthday thoughts/gifts
• Get those empty cans off the car floor
• Stop thinking about dead relatives so frequently
• Be happy; others have it far worse
• Put in request for time off during the holidays
• Log in those poor Pez that have patiently been waiting
• Did you even think of the chocolate season yet?

And so the list goes on and on and on…and I realize that the huge mass of dots in my life seem out there on their own, waiting for me to pick them. I hear a sort of “Pick Me!” … “No, Pick Me!” … “Umm, Hello, Pick MEEE!” … in my head. I look at the dots and sometimes I just go sit down to contemplate my next choice; my next dot. Then, out of the blue, an emotion takes over me and I get up, almost in a rage, to do a random thing. I get it done with a lot of effort and forced speed.

As I contemplate my next dot in the mass in front of me, I realize that doing that one thing led me to do the next natural thing because I was already moving. As I sit and revel in my success, I realize I completed more than one or two dots.

The Christmas Tree is up. And to get the Christmas Tree up, I had to move the newspapers, so before I did that, I searched them for the clippings I needed. I also had to get the holiday music on, because you can’t decorate a tree without the music, and this put me in the mood for the holiday season. And while I was hauling things around, I took time to clear the crap at the bottom of the stairs and on the stairs. I hung the stockings on the doors.

I am thinking about dead relatives.

12 hours or so later, I am looking at my tree. It is ok. I begin to think about my dead relatives again. How Dad never saw my daughter, never saw my tree, and never got to share anything at all with her. Last night, as I hung the only ornament made by my father on my tree, it made me pause for a moment with a big gulp. I am wondering why that moment was something to pause about.

As I brought the empty holiday boxes to the basement, I saw my Uncle’s wooden baskets he used to make and give out on Christmas Eve. How we miss him and how appreciated he felt with those baskets. We would cheer when the basket was unwrapped! We all wanted one.

I think of how a friend, who was like a second father to me, would be laughing…over the stupidest things, but I knew he would support me in laughter. When I was unsure, I would look to him in confidence because I knew he would be there supporting me with a smile, a laugh, or both. He appreciated my every thought, sometimes adding to it in fun.

As I sat there, and as dramatic as it sounds, a single tear came down my cheek, followed by a smile. I realized that the mass of dots around me provide me with the joy of connecting them. And without my dead relatives memories, I couldn't proceed to make my own memories. And those lone dots in that mass are there for a reason, and they are for connecting. Connecting our past, our present, and our future.

As the season approaches that we celebrate our religion, our families, and our successes, just remember that we are all dots and we need to continue to connect those dots. This is what makes life worth living. Dots never stop. Dots provide meaning. Dots provide growth. Dots provide understanding.

Just a random thought I had today…why I am sharing? I have no idea. What are your dots? How do you find they connect themselves in wonderous ways?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Memories of Holidays Past

As houses change from dark to brilliant lights,
As lawns begin to get covered with sticky white,
The memories of holidays past begin to ignite.

As a little guy Santa was a powerful thought,
I wondered if I’d see him, or get a quick snap-shot!
See the reindeer, the magic, and the presents he brought!

I remember decorating the house with gadgets and stuff,
Making it look over-festive til Mom said, “Enough!”
Dad was tall; hit his head on a hanging Christmas ball.

Christmas Eve was special; the family all together,
We would flock to Mom’s like birds of a feather,
No matter what happened; no matter the weather.

Each year Uncle Joe made his baskets of wood,
And Aunt Connie brought ham that was finger-lickin’ good
Everything was good, fun, and made it a great childhood.

As a married man, I whispered a huge thanks to the Lord above
As we experienced our first Christmas; full of hope and love,
But I remember the first divorce holiday; with none of the above.

The magic of children at Christmas makes the holiday great.
Watching their innocence in motion as they celebrate.
You see the hope in their eyes as they lay down to wait.

In the morning they awake to a different feeling; a different day;
Justin is excited for the bowling ball he has wanted in the worst way.
Alexandra opens the Barbie Doll as tall as she…it’s a happy holiday.

The family gets together to eat leftovers and to share,
The joys of the day, and what happened here and there.
The kids are over-tired; hugging good ole Mr. Teddy Bear.

As I sit here thinking; of all the holidays that have passed,
I know that I am lucky; because it has been a total blast!

What is your favorite holiday memory? Will you share it with us?
Did someone drop a pie, did grandma make a big fuss?
Hit the comment button and type…don’t be a “Gloomy Gus!”