Help Is In The Closet

September 30, 2012

A year and a half ago my husband and I had a very amazing experience.  We found ourselves in a situation where he had just had back surgery, we had no health insurance, and he had no job.  We struggled, especially me, trying to figure out how we would make ends meet.  Family and friends offered to ease the financial burden, but I didn’t feel right accepting it.  It’s not that I wouldn’t ask them for help if I HAD to, but I certainly wouldn’t ask them for help without first cancelling non-essential luxuries, like basic cable and internet, and selling any material possession that I could.  Asking for help would be a last resort.  That’s just how God made me, and judging by the amount of people I witness paying with groceries with food stamps whilst dressed in name brand clothing and talking on their iPhones, he doesn’t make many of us that way!

I prayed for God to provide, and he did.  We had been attending our church for less than a year.  When J had his surgery we received an enormous amount of support and blessings, both monetary and non.  A week after the surgery when we went to church, a gentleman walked up and gave J a check for $100.  We were touched and taken aback.  Of course, I sent him a thank you card.  The next week he thanked me for the card and said that, “it really wasn’t necessary for me to do that”, and kind of acted put off by the fact that I sent it.  Then he handed J another $100 check.

This went on for weeks.  Each time we tried to refuse it, and he told us that God gave him and his wife the idea at the same time, with each of them pondering on it for a few days before telling the other one.  He explained that God told them to help us, and they didn’t want any recognition for it.  They were doing what he told them to and we had to accept it.

During this time our friend had to have surgery himself and miss a lot of work.  We told him that we were okay, and would be fine without his financial assistance.  He didn’t listen, and whenever he had to decrease the amounts on the checks, he apologized profusely, as if HE had something to be ashamed of.   J and I were inspired, and our faith renewed by his act, and I honestly don’t know what we would have done without his assistance.  We vowed that when God blessed J with a job, we would find some way to pay it forward.

We pondered different ideas.  Giving individuals and families a check, as our friends did us, seemed like a good option, although we weren’t in a situation to be near as generous as our friends were.  Also, I had just really started to delve into the art of couponing, and I have a friend that uses couponing to help others, which seemed like a good option too.  However, when I thought about using couponing to help others, I often felt weird about it.  In my mind, it was like I was trying to be a control freak (which I am), and saying, “I can use this money way more wisely than the people God has asked me to help can, they will just blow it on non-essentials and I can do so much better than them.”.   We eventually settled on giving someone a financial contribution, rather it be cash, check or gift card, in the amount of $50 to $100 a month.  The recipient would be whomever God put on our hearts.  I was happy with our decision to give back, but something didn’t feel right about it.  I would soon know why.

One week I started the week with $5 cash and less than $1 in change in my wallet.  There was more in my checking account I had access to, but I challenged myself to see how long I could go without dipping into it.  At this time I had started taking my lunch to work to save money.  However, I worked an outside job, so it wasn’t like I could zap the leftovers from the night before and have a delicious lunch.  My lunches consisted of sandwiches, wraps, and salads, day after day.  Therefore on Tuesday of that week I decided to treat myself to a McDonalds happy meal and a sundae.  This was over a year ago and happy meals were $1.99 on Tuesdays and sundaes were $1.  I paid using the cash I had.  Sometime later in the week I went to CVS and Walgreens for some couponing.  I don’t remember exactly what I got, but I know there was body wash, dish detergent and band aids involved, and it was over 2 bags full of essential items, and I was able to pay with the cash I had without having to break out my debit card at either store!  I had turned a $5 bill into lunch for myself, and other needed items for my family.  I was quite proud.  It was then that I felt God telling me that I was right, and I could do SOOO much more with the money we were planning to give to people than they could, and help more people in the process.  My couponing was a gift I had been blessed with, and I knew, without a doubt, that it had to be used.

I struggled with exactly how I would go about doing it.  I’m very much a Type A person about some things, and I wanted to do it all very meticulously.  In the crazy mind of Alyson, I would have to spend $15-$25 on the stockpile each week, and keep stockpile items separate from the items my family uses so as not to take away from the people I am going to help, and this all just seemed too overwhelming.  Finally, the thought occurred to me that God didn’t care how much I spent, or if I used my own stuff, he just wanted me to help others by using my abilities!

I told J that evening, while showing him my loot, and he agreed that we had found our mission.  We started that night.  We were already taking a home cooked meal to a family that had recently started attending our church.  They were going through a similar job loss/surgery scenario and I decided to add a couple of bags of essentials to our offering.  I was a bit apprehensive, because I barely knew the family, and I didn’t want them to think, that by me bringing over laundry detergent, shampoo, soap and deodorant, I was trying to send them a message about a body odor problem, or that I thought they were destitute.  Fortunately, our gift was met with sincere appreciation, and a year later, the wife is one of my many coupon students!

Now that our mission was clear, the only question remaining was where we would store our stockpile.  The answer was revealed to us on the way home that night when I suddenly yelled, “closet of ill repute”, which was the name we had christened out closet in our den with, as it seemed to breed tons of useless junk hourly, and could not be opened unless you were wearing the proper protective equipment complete with crash helmet.

That weekend J began cleaning out said closet while I was at work.  You would have to know J to appreciate the magnitude of that statement, but trust me, it’s BIG!  By that Sunday afternoon we were in business.   A few weeks later when J received his first paycheck from a temporary job he had found, we put it to use, using about $20 from it to buy items for our stockpile to help others.  Trust me, we were very tempted to postpone beginning our mission.  After all, it was just a temporary job, and could end at any time, and we still had a ton of medical bills to pay.  We stayed strong in our faith, knowing that we had made a pact with God and it was our turn to uphold our end of the pact.

J’s temporary job, which started out as only a 1 week position, ended up lasting for 6 weeks.  With the 10 hours of overtime it paid every week he was bringing home more than before, and although we were still without health insurance, things were improving for us.  Meanwhile, our church angel insisted on continuing his mission to us, because God had specifically told him to help us until J found a permanent job, and this wasn’t permanent.  We tried to argue with him, but he insisted it was something he had to do.   It wasn’t until J left the temporary job for a permanent one, just over a year ago, that our friend stopped assisting us financially.

Since that time we have provided necessities to individuals, families, disaster relief efforts, and various non-profit organizations.  We have had to tweak our system for supplying the stockpile.  Due to coupon restrictions, offer limits, and the quality of weekly sales, it isn’t always possible to spend the same amount on the stockpile. Still, we have developed a good amount of stuff in the stockpile, and we now operate on more of a price-point based system.   What this means is I have set prices that I will pay for items, such as 25 cents for toothpaste, and whenever I find that item for that price or lower, I buy as many as I can while following the rules of the coupon and the store I am at.  We may not always help one family a week, or even one every month.  Some weeks or months we aren’t lead to anyone specifically that needs our help.  However, we never say no to whomever God puts on our hearts or in our paths.  I have left bags of blessings on the steps of homes that I felt led to.  I have put bags in the cars of people whom I know are struggling.  In the last year more than a dozen families, organizations and individuals have found help in our closet, and I have been more blessed in providing it than they have been for receiving it.

Jingit and Swag= Free Money!

September 17, 2012

As I mentioned before, I recently took a lower paying job in favor of a job that offers more benefits and time at home with my kids, a decision I do not regret.  Not at all!  To ease some of the financial burden created by this move I have invested more time and effort into a few websites that a friend of mine shared with me.  She began using these sites several years ago as a way to be able to earn “money” while staying at home with her kids.  Because she doesn’t hold down a public job, she invests a lot of time into her internet, “work”.  I work a public job and can not invest much time.  However, I am still able to earn a few extra dollars using these sites, and as we all know, every little bit helps!  Check out these links if you want to earn a few extra bucks (and who doesn’t).

What you are about to read sounds too good to be true, but it’s real.  I promise!  And I’m not getting paid to advertise for these companies.  I’m just hoping to get a few referrals.

Jingit: 

This one is my absolute favorite right now!  Users can earn up to $15 per week, loaded onto a jingit debit card that you can use anywhere that accepts visa, just for watching a few ads a day.  Signing up through your facebook account takes less than a minute.    Once you earn $2 for watching videos you can request your jingit debit card for a $2 fee.  All your earnings after that are free and clear.  You earn money by watching videos, click a button, and the money is placed on your debit card immediately.  New users can earn up to $10 per week, and for every referral you bring in your limit increases .25 until you reach the $15 weekly maximum.  Presently there are about a dozen videos, most of them being 30 seconds long, that you can watch every day that pay from .10 to $1 each time they are viewed.   Currently there is a box tops for education promotion, and many of the videos earn the school of your choice 4 box tops (or .40) each time they are watched!  If you have a smart phone you can earn cash through checking in at certain stores, such as Wal Mart, or scanning certain products in the store.  Even without a smart phone, reaching your weekly maximum in just a few days is easy given the amount of videos that are out currently.

The only downside is that there are not always as many videos on Jingit as there are right now.  Sometimes there are only 1 or 2 .30 videos on there, so you can’t max out EVERY week, but a lot of weeks you can, and on the weeks you can’t, you can still earn a few dollars.  You PAY your satellite/cable provider to watch the ads they show, so why not earn money for watching ads?  You can use your debit card anywhere that accepts visa.  A lot of people save their earnings for Christmas.  I use mine for those little everyday essentials, or to treat myself to an occasional lunch!  (Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch?).

Click here to start earning with jingit.  There are videos on their main page, and also a lot of hidden videos elsewhere that can be found by doing an internet search.  Anyone over the age of 14 can sign up for jingit, even if you are in the same household.  I signed my husband up recently and on the first night he had over $5 in videos to watch!

Get your Swag On:

Swagbucks is the first site I joined to earn extra money, and next to jingit it provides the most earnings for your time.  Users earn “swagbucks” for doing various things on the internet you are probably already doing, like searching, watching videos, playing games, and, my personal favorite, printing coupons and using them at the store!  You redeem those swagbucks in the swagstore for various prizes, including paypal money or gift cards for various retailers.  My favorite prize is the $5 amazon gift card.  At a cost of 450 swagbucks, it is the least expensive gift card.  Also, I have noticed that it is the more “economical” for you swagbucks.  For example, 10 of the $5 cards would cost you 4500 swagbucks, but one $50 card costs………….I know swagbucks offers other store gift cards, and even a paypal option where you get cash, but I do a lot of amazon at Christmas, so it helps me to save.  You just apply the amazon cards to your amazon account and they stay there until you use them!  I can’t tell you how awesome it is to go online and order something and it be free after your gift cards!

For the first 2 or so years that I was a swagger, I primarily used the search tool and I earned an extra $50 or so in Amazon gift cards for Christmas just for searching the internet like I had been doing for years without getting paid.  You download the swagbucks toolbar and use it for your internet searches, just like google or any other search engine.  You earn 1 swagbuck a day just for having the toolbar installed, and then sometimes your searches earn you more.  Not every search is a winner, but at least one a day is.  Even if you don’t always win, you can’t beat earning money for something you were going to do anyway!

For your overachievers, you can earn more by participating in daily polls, watching videos (including non-advertisement ones, I earn for watching Bon Jovi videos), and completing surveys and special offers.  Also, for every person you recruit to swagbucks using your special link, you earn matching bucks for their searches up to a certain amount. The earning potential for swagbucks is limited only by the amount of time you are willing to invest.   Even if you don’t have time to do all the extras, using the toolbar can earn you some extra cash with little to no effort.

Click here to start swagging!    Then join the facebook group, “How 2B a Swaggernaut”, for tips on how to increase your earnings.  Feel free to comment or message me with any questions. I’m glad to help!

Lunchtime Loser

September 13, 2012

One of my hobbies, okay, my only hobby, is couponing. Now, I know that people who don’t coupon really don’t care for people who do, but if you fall into the non-couponer category, please allow me to state my case. I do not get 7 cart loads of products for free, or for change, I just don’t pay near as much as you do. I do not clear shelves, I leave plenty for your shopping needs. I am not a hoarder. I do not have a 200 year supply of deodorant stored in my basement. I don’t even have a basement, but if I did it wouldn’t be filled with good stuff like that, it would be filled with useless crap, the way God intended. I use my couponing skill as a ministry to others. I have helped dozens of families over the last couple of years get back on their feet, a fact that I will very politely share with you if I catch you rolling your eyes at me when I’m checking out with my million coupons. If you are behind me in the checkout line and you only have a few items and I have a ton of coupons, I will let you in front of me. I’m nice like that. Don’t hate me because you pay for the stuff I get for free.
One of the million things I love about my new job is that I have an hour for lunch, which is perfect for grabbing a drive-thru bite and hitting a store for some couponing. I know that Wal Mart will price match competitors sales, and that I could save time and gas by just going there exclusively, but I don’t like to. My theory is, if a store if offering a special price on a product, the least I could do is purchase it from them. I try to follow this “rule” whenever I can. My thinking is if everyone goes to Wal Mart and does price matching, then those other stores that are offering the sale price are going to go out of business and then we will be at the mercy of Wal Mart’s pricing for everything. Not to mention that some stores double some of my coupons, and Wal Mart doesn’t double coupons. The few times I have tried to price match have not gone well, and they always find some loophole to avoid honoring their policy
Monday I went to one of the local grocery stores to pick up pop tarts that were on sale. I had found printable coupons for these that would make them 86 cents a box. I have kids, therefore I know this is a great price! This store also has a deli so I grabbed me some chicken strips for lunch, and was bummed to discover that they were out of every dipping sauce that I will eat, which is a rather large group. I got to the cash register and was informed that if my internet coupons don’t scan right away they won’t honor them. Anybody that knows internet coupons knows that they rarely scan at all. Of course, mine didn’t scan and I lost $2 on the transaction. The pop tarts were still a really good price, but it could have been better with my coupon. As I pulled out of the parking lot I couldn’t help but think that if I had price matched the pop tarts at Wal Mart they would have taken my internet coupon. As I bit into my, so cold they were inedible, chicken strips a few minutes later I wondered why I had even bothered patronizing that store at all. When I went into a convenience store for a drink and saw their deliciously hot chicken strips complete with dipping sauce for less than what I paid at the grocery store, I was kicking myself for my stupid store loyalty rule. To top off a craptastic lunch hour, my next stop was out of the high end ice cream that I had hoped to score for $1 before my coupon expired the next day.
Tuesday I spent all morning debating rather I should spend my lunch time picking up a few things and playing coupon fairy with some coupons that expired that day at Wal Mart, or use that time at one of my favorite drugstores doing my weekly couponing. Five minutes before leaving for lunch I opted for the later option, only to arrive at my destination and find that I had left my coupons at the office. Ugh! I left and went to the McDonalds drive thru for some chicken nuggets, a rare treat for me. I arrived back at my office with my lunch only to discover that the McDonalds employee that packaged my food couldn’t count and I was a few nuggets short of a meal. On the plus side, they remembered the dipping sauce!

I think, given my track record, I should eat my lunch in the office as often as possible!

The New Me!

September 13, 2012

The last time I posted, a “real” post, nearly a year ago; it was to inform the world of my impending unemployment. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I got to keep my job, which one would think would be a good thing. Not so much in my case. I could go into a lot of detail. Heck, I typed 3 pages of “detail” and was nowhere near done saying what I wanted to say. So I’ll give you the Cliff Notes version.
When I accepted “that” job nearly 5 years ago, I thought it was the answer to prayers. As it turns out it was the devil in disguise, with the disguise being a big fat dollar sign. Most weeks I worked 6 days. I always worked on Saturdays. I could never get off when I wanted or needed to and I missed a lot on the home front. Even when I was home, I wasn’t home. I was too tired to really be there. My house was a wreck, my family was a wreck, and I wasn’t really happy, even though I convinced myself that I was. I made a lot of money, but I paid a high price for it.
The last straw came when I was transferred to another office last March with 2 days notice. Transferring to this office would more than double my daily commute, costing me a lot more just to get to work, and it wasn’t a good work environment. I was told that they didn’t need me at my original office anymore, and I didn’t have a choice. Word to the wise, there is always another choice! I began searching frantically for another position, even before I started working at my new location, and my union steward began fighting for my job to stay where it was.
My first day at the new place was a Saturday, naturally. Friday night’s sleep was hard to find, as I was sick at the thought of having to work go to work at a new place. I awoke that morning and with sleep still in my eyes I caught the reflection of my wrist in the bathroom mirror. The thought that went through my head still scares me, although it served as a very effective wake up call. “You could get out of this whole thing by slitting your wrist right there”.
That thought scared me, it still does. I cried all day every time I would think about it going through my head. Not because I was scared that I would do it, but from the shame of letting something and someone have that much power over me. It took a while before I even shared that with anyone, and until now only my sister knew.
My unhappiness intensified over the next few weeks, as I was constantly harped on by my new management team for not being fast enough. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not the fastest, not by a long shot, but I’m good at what I do. My speed had been good enough for 5 years at several other offices. I finally had to resort to skipping my breaks and taking an abbreviated lunch just to keep them off my back, and some days that wasn’t even enough.
To make matters worse, there was a lot of sickness at my old office, and I was only getting 2 days a week at my new one. Therefore, I had to help them 4 days a week. It wasn’t pleasant being miserable with your circumstances then having to go help the very people that put you in the situation to begin with. It was ironic that they “didn’t need me” but yet I worked there every single day I was available, and on the days I wasn’t available, the brought people in from other offices. Still yet, a bad day at my original office beat the heck out of a good day at the new one. Also, the amount of hours I worked there were evidence of the fact that they did indeed need me. Myself, as well as the people working to get me reinstated at that office kept meticulous records of every minute I spent on the clock there.
Most weeks I worked a 2 days at my new home office, and 4 at my original one. Some weeks I had to cover for vacations at my new office, and work there exclusively for a week or two. Naturally that was when I reached my lowest points. I spent my own vacation applying for other jobs. I had excellent connections at one place and applied for a clerical position there. I knew the pay would be less, but I had 10 years experience and a business degree that I might as well put to use. After a month of not hearing anything, I had all but given up, especially when my connection informed me that someone internal had applied for the position. I had a few other nibbles, all of which I didn’t even pursue once I found out the starting salaries. I was really discouraged with the whole situation, to say the least!
During all of this, my friend and union steward was going through the lengthy process of appeals to get me moved back to my original office. Given my track record I was incredibly shocked one morning to be told that following an upcoming 2 week stint at my new office, I would be moving back “home”! Permanently! Not only that, my moving was unfair, and they would have to pay me mileage for every day that I worked at the office I had been transferred to! The frown I had been wearing for the last 3 months turned into a smile that wouldn’t go away. I resisted the urge to shout, “Winning” a la Charlie Sheen.
Near the end of my final 2 week stint at the other office I received a phone call one afternoon around 2:30 from the place where I had the connections, asking me to come in for an interview at 5:15 that evening. I don’t feel comfortable saying where I was working, but I worked outside, all day, everyday, and it was July 5th, and it had been approximately 7,800 Farenheight that day. I was disgusting, to say the least, and I wouldn’t get off work until after 4:30 and I was about 30 minutes away from where the interview was. I tried to talk them into letting me reschedule, but they insisted that they wanted to see me, and they wanted to do it as early as possible. I warned them that I would stink, and they laughed and said they would sit across the room if need be!
So, a few hours after getting a call I went in for a job interview smelling like sweat and dirt, in a dingy uniform, with my hair thrown in a messy ponytail. Not ideal interviewing conditions for anyone, let along someone whose self esteem was in the gutter. I was very self conscious, but the interviewers put me at ease quickly, and made sure I had plenty of water to drink. Following the interview I had to complete a series of “tests” to check my computer skills and abilities. The interview and testing process took over an hour and I was ready to go home!
Once I got home, I told my husband about the interview. He asked if I thought I might have it, and I honestly had no idea. I had prayed and prayed for something new to come my way. I knew God was in control, but I couldn’t understand why he would let me suffer for so long. With my degree and experience I would be making a manageable salary. I would have paid health insurance, vacation, holidays, sick leave, and retirement. I never had all of those provided for me by my employer, and having been without those luxuries that most people take for granted; I definitely knew how valuable they were. Most importantly, the type of organization offers job security second to none. Out of everything I had applied for, this was the first position I could really see myself doing. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I had done the best that I could, and the rest would be up to fate.
I didn’t have to wait long for an answer. My interview ended at approximately 6:30 pm, and I knew there were other candidates in the office when I was there. By 7:30 they were calling me to offer me the position! They wanted me to start immediately, but I requested they let me give my present employer a 1 week notice. Looking back, I have no idea WHY I offered my previous employer that courtesy. It’s not like they had shown me any respect in the 4 plus years I had been working my tail off for them. That’s just how God made me, too nice sometimes, not nice enough at other times.
I spent the next week in complete shock and amazement at how a person’s life can completely change in a matter of hours. Suddenly, a world of opportunities was open to me, and to us, as a family. Things we couldn’t do before, due to time constraints and work schedules, were now options. It’s a great feeling to know that you will never miss another of your son’s ballgames, or karate belt ceremonies, or that you won’t have to plan his birthday parties on Sundays anymore! It’s nice to know that you will have 3 day weekends, for the first time in your life, and that every day you will get off work at a decent time. My first weekend off we went with our church group on a trip to Saint Louis, a luxury we had previously been denied.
It’s not all rainbows and sunshine though. 2 weeks after I started my new job, my son got terribly sick. After nearly 2 weeks in 2 hospitals (one 2 hours away), it was determined that he had HSP. It made me sick that I was taking so much time off from a job that I had just started, and at the time of year when they needed me the most. My supervisors were amazing about the whole thing, calling to check on us and praying for us regularly. My new co-workers picked up my slack in such a way that I knew I had made the right decision.
Another bummer, my new job only pays monthly, and because of the way the pay periods run I would have to wait 6 weeks before I got a check. Couple this with a week at an out of town hospital and it can get difficult. Unless of course God puts wonderful people in your life, some of them strangers, to meet your needs! As for the needs on the home front, they were provided by that payment for all my back mileage that I mentioned earlier!
Looking back I now know why I had to go through every trial and tribulation that I did. I wanted relief from my work environment, and I couldn’t understand why God would let me hurt so much. It all makes perfect sense to me now. With my old job I didn’t have sick leave. I would not have been able to get off work when my son was sick, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have gotten paid for the time off. At my present job your sick days for the year are given to you on day one. Although I hated to use a week’s worth of sick days on my first check, it was such a blessing that they were available to me. Being sent to the other office at my old job provided me the kick in the pants to start looking for better options, and it provided me with income (through the back pay for mileage) during a time that would have been financially difficult otherwise. Finding out that I would be transferred back to my previous office before I made the decision to change jobs, provided me with a clear conscious with no regrets. I was able to make an informed decision about my future. I can’t say, “If I would have known that maybe I wouldn’t have taken the new position”.
Most importantly, and as cliché as it might sound, the experience has made my family appreciate each other in a way that we didn’t before. Missing out on so much for so long has made me happy about getting to experience the little things. The things that others take for granted, such as taking in your sons football game, spending a lazy Saturday afternoon watching movies, or going on a church trip, now have new meaning for us. Things people may despise, such as spending a Saturday morning cleaning house, running errands for your grandparents, or having a yard sale, I find myself so incredibly happy to be doing. I’m not happy because I like cleaning (okay, maybe a little), I’m happy to have Saturdays free to do it, and to know that if I get it all done on Saturday that we can relax on Sunday. Before, I would work so hard on Sunday just to get things ready for the week, that I felt like I needed a vacation.
My boys and husband tell me every Saturday, and sometimes on the other days, that they are so happy to have me with them, and I couldn’t agree more. I’ll leave you with a smile on my face and one word:
“WINNING”!

We are presently in the process of remodeling our kitchen.  And by “remodeling” I mean we are installing a new floor, nothing more.  And by, “presently in the process” I mean that the installer finished said floor nearly 2 weeks ago and our house is still a wreck.  I used to be OCD, but 2 boys and an insane work schedule later, I now choose to live in dump wrather than spend every second cleaning.  But I digress………..

For you enjoyment I give you the following, “By The Numbers” list regarding this process.

3 and counting:  The number of weeks our house has been torn upside down for a project that took 2 days to complete. 

3:  The number of layers of old flooring that had to be removed.  Decades of old flooring, including absbestos tile.

16:  The number of cabinets that had to be emptied, cleaned, and the contents hand washed to rid all traces of absbestos dust created by removing the old floor.

4:  The number of garbage bags full of crap I deemed excess to our needs and donated or threw away.  It’s amazing what you find you don’t need when you are faced with the daunting task of hand washing it all.   

2:  The number of aforementioned garbage bags who’s contents all said “cool whip”.  2 is also the number of non functioning appliances currently residing on my front proch.  2 is also the number of gaping holes, both asthetic and literal created by this project.  #1 is a literal hole, created by removing a non functioing dishwasher.  #2 is an asthetic, “hole” where we removed a built in desk and found that the pannelling does not go beyond where the desk sat.  The plans for hole #2 involve renovating an antique pie safe that is in our shop.  The long term plans for hole #1 involve a new dishwasher.  The short term plans invole a tension rod and a curtain because…….

1,000:  The number of dollars over budget this project went.  Ugh!

Maybe someday I will have a restored pie safe, and all the dishes will be washed and put away, and I will have a new dishwasher in my kitchen and the old one will be at the recycling center.  Before and after pics coming soon!

 

Its like rain on your wedding day

or the free ride when you’ve already paid

or the good advice that you just didn’t take

or finding out your losing your job the day after you husband starts a permanent job for the first time in nearly a year.

Yep, that’s where we are folks.  It came as a huge surprise.  I have one week left at the job I thought I would retire from.  The job I poured my heart and soul into.  The one I went to while my child was hospitalized, the one I went to the day my grandma died, the one I went to one cold December morning when I was puking my guts out.  The one I missed countless ballgames, parent teacher conferences and various other child-related activities for. 

Being as I’m the only one losing my job (another story entirely), it feels like I’m going to my own week long wake.  The past 2 days have dragged on and on forever.  Even though I have no idea what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, I’m SOOOO ready for next Friday to be over with.   And although I’m depressed about it, I think it will all work out for the best.  After the initial shock wore off, I started viewing this as an opportunity rather than a setback.  With approved unemployment benefits I can draw a check to stay home with my kids, and make up for all the time that I’ve lost.  And even though I know I’ll have to eventually take a job making far less than I was making, it’s also an opportunity for God to open another door for me.  Perhaps a door that offers weekends off, health insurance, and a retirement plan, which are all things I have never had. 

I’ll be quite honest, this new happy, glass half full, attitude is due in part to the fact that a mere 2 hours after submitting one resume online, I got a nibble!   Wish me luck!

A Young Sheldon Cooper

September 20, 2011

One of my absolutely favorite shows is CBS’ “The Big Bang Theory”, and in my opinion, the character of Sheldon Cooper makes the show.  My 8 year old son made a comment over dinner this past weekend that is very reminiscent of a young Sheldon Cooper.   As he often does, when conversing he used a word escapes my memory, but was much more advanced than his 8 years, prompting Jess to ask the rhetorical question, “When did you get so smart?”.  Karate boy replied:  “I’ve always been smart, I started my terrible twos at one and a half.”.  I nearly peed my pants laughing!  It’s moments like this that make life worth living.

 

The Pastor Dance

June 20, 2011

Tonight, just down the road from me, a pastor is loading up a moving truck.  He is the third one in 4 years to do so.  However this one is different.  This one is personal.  This one hurts. 

We first met Bret and Marie, along with 2 of their 3 daughters 26 months ago, and the connection was instant.   At the time our boys were playing t-ball on the church team of our former church and their practice ended just as Bret and Marie wrapped up their tour of their new digs, adjacent to our former church.  I was already VERY unhappy at that church and had prevously told J that I didn’t want to meet the new pastor, I was done with that church and would not be back.  I was forced by J to meet the new pastor that night, and I trapsed over to do so grudgingly.  

As I said before, the connection was instant, both among the adults as well as the children, who played in the yard while the 2 couples, along with our then-pastor, “shot the bull” so to speak.    We talked about how well our 2 boys and their 2 girls got along, and our former pastor even joked that they would be adding each other on facebook later that night.  I snuck a few pics of the kids playing through the window that night, and my suspicions about their connection was verified in the next couple of months, as my boys asked incessantly how many more days until they moved here. 

That day finally came, 2 years ago, and our aquintances, along with their new addition, another daughter, just a few weeks old, took up residence less than 2 miles from us.  Our 2 families quickly became fast friends.  We would get together once a week and eat, talk, and play cards or board games.  We’ve taken road trips, planned vacations that didn’t get to happen (stupid back surgery), attended birthday parties, reminissed on our youths, and even spent a few Sundays at the local skating rink!   We’ve helped each other out of babysitting binds, and been glad to do so.  I’ve come to love their daughters as the girls God never blessed me with personally.  We’ve laughed alot and cried a little.  When I had my convulsing crying episode at my old church, it was Marie who consoled me first.  When I left that church it was Bret who sat with me in my living room and listened to me rant about how deeply the church had hurt me.  It was our love for this family that led us to another church he pastored, where, over the last year we found everything we were wanting in a church home, and yesterday officially moved our membership. 

Our kids have an incredible bond.  The four of them play together wonderfully, and I have it on pretty good accord that my 5 year old and their 6 year old recently exchanged their first kiss at a church fish fry.  Our 8 year old and their 10 year old are kinda sweet on each other too, and I would not be surprised or at all disappointed if either girl, or even both wound up being my daughter in law one day. 

From the very beginning of our friendship, I’ve been dreading today.  With every step closer I’ve grown to them, I’ve wanted to pull back, because I knew it wouldn’t last forever, and I wanted to save myself the hurt.  Small church Methodist minsiters don’t stay anywhere long, and I knew Bret would be no exception.  They are even told in training to be cordial, but don’t make friends, which seems harsh, but I’ve come to understand.  Even though I’ve known all along this day was eventually coming, it still came as a blow a few weeks ago when I got the official word. The hows and why’s aren’t important.  What is important is that it’s in their best interest to move, and it’s God’s will. 

 A few weeks ago, at their, “baby’s” 2nd birthday party,  Bret’s mom, who I had only met a handfull of times, teared up as she hugged and kissed me goodbye, and told me how much she loved me.  And I knew that if it was that hard to say goodbye to their extended family, that saying goodbye to them would be brutal.   Part of me wanted to distance myself from them to make the transition easier.  Another part of me wanted to spend every moment possible with them, and soak it up while I had the chance.  The latter part of me won, and we’ve spent alot of time eating and playing together over the last 6 weeks.  Even tonight, I took them supper in disposable containers, as I knew they would be too busy packing to cook.  I guess you could say we were there till the end, and did all but help them load their moving van.  (And we offered to help with that). 

I realize they are only moving a hour and a half away, but an hour and a half is a whole lot further than a mile and a half, and knowing that I won’t be able to pick up the phone for an impromptu skipbo or sequence game makes me sad.   From our “last supper” Friday to Sunday’s final sermon have been sad, and I’ve spent much of tonight wallowing in self pity, and silently asking God “Why”?  Why would he allow us to become so close only to take it all away?  The answer has came to me in the form of a line from the Garth Brooks hit, “The Dance”.  “I could have missed the pain, But I’d of had to miss the dance”.  And I’m glad I had the dance.  A dance I woudn’t have had if J had not made me go meet the new pastor that I didn’t want to meet 2 years ago.   It’s all a wonderful reminder that God is in control.

It’s been two years since I made the painful decision to change churches, flip flopped around on the issue, then decided that my church wasn’t so bad, and it seems like forever.  (Heck, I first started this post a year ago!) My first couple of weeks back I was excited and happy to be there, but it didn’t take long for the old feelings to come flooding back to me. 

There have been so many incidents that made me start to really question my future at my home church.  I’ll spare you the boring details, but my kids were getting absolutely no age approporoiate spiritual education, I was not being filled spiritually, and I felt nothing but disdain for my fellow church memebers for a variety of reasons. 

I think the icing on the cake happened in the fall of 2009.  Karate boy contracted a nasty case of salmonella, which landed him in the hospital for 6 days, Wednesday-Saturday.  During that time we got no cards, calls, flowers, meals, or any type of support from our church family, unless you count 3 facebook comments saying, “hope he feels better soon”.  Our pastor visited us once in the hospital and called one other time to check on him, but that was it.  Fortunately my family, co-workers, and outside of church friends provided emotional and physical support, offering to stay with Karate boy, keep sir sweats alot overnight, or just bring us whatever we needed to the hospital.  While it may be true that family is obligated to help you out during difficult times, that’s not so with friends and co-workers.  I stayed with KB during 5 of those 6 days and nights, and I had alot of time to think, which was good and bad.  I couldn’t help but notice that my co-workers, who I had only known for less than 2 years and had never seen or met KB, called to check on us and offer to bring supplies every day, while his own Sunday School teachers and church family did nothing.  I also couldn’t help but notice how my bestie Brian and his honey called and emailed despite having very busy schedules that week, and most of the members of my church would write them off entirely because of what they are.  I can’t even begin to explain how hurt, disapointed  and alone I felt and still feel over the situation.  Every time anyone is sick in our church I send a card, at the very least.  Many times I fix a meal, however when I needed it, it seemed like nobody cared.  After talking with some people that attend other churches, and hearing their stories of how their church family has really come through for them in times of need, I was jealous, and ready to move on. 

KB retunred from the hospital on a Saturday, and J and I had discussed our severe disapointment in our congregation, and I had decided it was time for us to move on.  We agreed to take that next day off, to get KB well, and try a new church the next week.  Sunday morning KB awoke and BEGGED us to go to church.   So we did.  And I cried for the entire 2 hours we were there.  I’m not just talking about a few tears either, I’m talking full on bawling, complete with sobs and the inability to catch my breath.  When I confided to a few close friends as well as our pastor what the problem was, one of those people had the audacity to tell me that:  “people are just too busy now days”.  That logic really hit me the wrong way for a variety of reasons.  Primarily because just a couple of weeks before Karate Boy’s hospitalization I had taken an amazing dietary approporiate meal to the home of  a couple that had been in a car accident and are on special diets.  That particular week I had worked 50 plus hours at my job, countless more at home, and was dead on my feet.  However, I knew that couple was struggling with their future in our church, and feeling hurt by how they got support from only a select few during the loss of their grandchild the year before, and I didn’t want my inability to come to their aid to be the reason they left our church.  To hear that other people were “too busy” to help me out really pissed me off.  But I eventually made an attempt to suck up my bitterness, and gave “my” church another second chance. 

In March of  last year, something changed for me, and I really don’t know what it was, but sitting there one Sunday, filled with so much bitterness and hard feelings, just like so many weeks before, I knew that I just couldn’t worship there anymore.  I just knew.  It wasn’t like the other times, I knew that this time, this was it.  And it was. 

At home that evening I told J that we simply had to find another place to worship.  The next week we went to church at my sister’s new home church, and we really didn’t like it.  The next week was Easter, and due to the myraid of family obligations we didn’t go to church, too much to do.  Ironic isn’t it?  Even people who don’t go to church very often usually manage to go on Easter. 

That Sunday began a trend, and obligations, the idea of a Sunday off, and yes, fear kept us from going to any church for the next 6 or so weeks.  When Sunday is your only day off, spending it doing what you want to do rather than fighting with your kids for 2 hours in a place where you are all miserable is rather inticing.  Every week we would talk about where we were going to visit, but we never managed to do so.  Sunday as a family day was much more fitting than Sunday as a worship day. 

It was around this time when I discovered the Christian Rock band Casting Crowns.  They were preforming locally and, although I wasn’t that familiar with their music, I really wanted to go.  In preperation for the concert I downloaded 20 or so of their songs and put them on my MP3 player.  One day at work I put only their music on shuffle for a couple of hours, and I liked it.  “Praise You In This Storm” espically spoke to me.  After listening solely to them until the songs were repeating and threepeating themselves, I returned my settings to, “shuffle all”. 

A few days later, I was feeling quite fragile.  My inferiority complex was rearing it’s ugly head, and as I worked, reflecting on my church situation, the old feelings were creeping up on me.  The voices in my head said, “All churches have their issues”, “It’s really not that bad”, and most loudly, “You will never be accepted anywhere else”.  As I thought on these things I heard something new through my earbuds, something about a comfort zone and being laughed at, and I was intrigued.  I re-started that track, and listened carefully.  What I discovered was a previously undiscovered (t0 me) Casting Crowns track, “The Voice Of Truth”:

Oh,what I would do to have
the kind of faith it takes
To climb out of this boat I’m in
Onto the crashing waves
To step out of my comfort zone
Into the realm of the unknown
Where Jesus is,
And he’s holding out his hand

But the waves are calling out my name
and they laugh at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The waves they keep on telling me
time and time again
“Boy, you’ll never win,
You you’ll never win

But the Voice of truth tells me a different story
the Voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
and the Voice of truth says “this is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of truth

Oh, what I would do
to have the kind of strength it takes
To stand before a giant
with just a sling and a stone
Surrounded by the sound
of a thousand warriors
shaking in their armor
Wishing they’d have had the strength to stand

But the giant’s calling out
my name and he laughs at me
Reminding me of all the times
I’ve tried before and failed
The giant keeps on telling me
time and time again
“Boy you’ll never win,
you’ll never win.”

But the voice of truth tells me a different story
the Voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
and the Voice of truth says “this is for My glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of truth

But the stone was just the right size
to put the giant on the ground
and the waves they don’t seem so high
from on top of them looking down
I will soar with the wings of eagles
when I stop and listen to the sound of Jesus
singing over me

But the Voice of truth tells me a different story
The Voice of truth says “do not be afraid!”
And the Voice of truth says “this is for my glory”
Out of all the voices calling out to me (calling out to me)
I will choose to listen and believe (I will choose to listen and believe)
I will choose to listen and believe the Voice of truth

It’s been a year now, and I can honestly say that this song changed my life.  It still makes no sense to me why it didn’t come up on my mp3 player when it had it set to just play Casting Crowns songs.  It came to my earbuds amist 1,000 songs, at just the right time.  The waves and the giants stopped calling out my name and laughing at me, reminding me of all the times I tried and failed.  I fought the urges to go back to my home church.  I stepped out of my comfort zone and I’m incredibly happy.  The giant still calls me every now and then, but I know how to fight him now!

Hello, I’m alyson, and I have a poorly neglected blog.  I think about updating this blog all the time, even write posts in my head, but I never manage to type them.  As I type this one, a doctor I met for 5 minutes last month is holding my husband’s life in my hands.  I’m trying really hard not to be afraid, I’ve been very receptive to all the signs God has sent my way.  There was Bon Jovi on the radio as we pulled out of the driveway, and another of my mothers favorite obscure songs on the sound system at last night’s restaurant.   This morning in the waiting room there is a former local newscaster from my hometown on the television, and a very friendly couple from a neighboring home county sitting next to me, having their own private conversation about the little hole in the wall restaurant where I worked for 2 years.  All of these things are making me more comfortable, but I’m still a little afraid.   So, I’m taking my nervous energy to the blogsphere.   

You may remember that my husband was out of work last year for 3 months.  He had a bulged disc, and our chiropractor (whom I trust with my life, btw) tried everything to avoid surgery.  In 3 months he was good as new and back at work.  3 months after going back to work he found himself back at square one.  This time she recommended surgery.  2 months later, we’re finally getting it.  From the best of the best.  Unfortunately, throughout this process J’s FMLA and sick leave was exhausted, and 6 weeks from now, when he is completely recovered, he will begin the process of searching for a new job.  I know I don’t have to tell you how bleak the job market is right now.  Especaially for a man nearing 50 years old.  Nor do I have to tell you how much it sucks paying for back surgery without insurance.    

We found out last week that we had to be checked into the hospital at 5:3o am.  There was much arguing last week about weather or not we would be getting a hotel room the night before.  I argued against, in the interest of saving money.  We found a wonderful compromise in our hospital literature called the “Hospitality House”.   We were referred there by our doctor, and it was decided that if we could get a $20 room, we would stay overnight.  The way it works is, you call at 1:00 on the day of your stay and see if they have any vacancy.  In the event they were full I had found several rooms on priceline under $40.  Of course, at that price, they weren’t anything nice, but I figured I could manage, after all, we would only be there  for 10 hours. 

We called at 1:00 and the hospitality house was full, but they offered to find us a discounted room in the area.  What the heck, I thought.  2 hours and a half dozen phone calls later they put us up here for $55!  The best available internet rate was $169.  This place was amazing!  I felt  like the country bumpkin that I am as I pointed and stood with my mouth agape, and grinned like a little kid as I rode up to the 18th floor on a glass elevator.  We explored the hotel, and I was amazed to see treadmills with built in televisions.   

As I stood at the window of our room, looking down 18 stories to the city lights below, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of sadness for what could’ve been.  My dream, upon finishing college was to move here, to live among the hustle and bustle.  I was so ready to do it back then, but life happened.   I met J, and I could never ask him to be that far away from his kids.  So here we are, 10 years, 2 kids, and one fixer-upper in the country later.  Driving to the, “big city” only for special events and medical procedures that we don’t trust our fellow country bumpkins to perform.  And, with the exception of not bringing my camera to document the awesome room, there are no regrets.  NONE.  A statement that I’m sure will be echoed when we leave here this afternoon amid bumper to bumper traffic, and I ponder aloud, “Who in the hell would want to live HERE and fight this every day”!