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10 posts from March 2009

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

He's a Cool Dude and a Heart Melter


That's my boy.  He's a cool dude. He's going to have the ladies wrapped around his finger some day.  Even now, when he's out in public view, the girls take a double-take.  They wink.  They smile.  They fan their faces.


I don't know about you, but I can definitely see the resemblance to another cool dude. 


There's just no mistakin' it.  He's got the "I'm cool and I know it" look down pat.


Like another cool dude from the past.  All Matthew needs to do is fluff his hair up a bit and he'll be a hot tamale for sure.


Then again, maybe he's already accomplished that look.  Now we just need to fix the bunny teeth and he'll be as good as James Dean.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Yo Yo Central


Do you remember when you were a kid and would try to do all those fancy tricks with a yo-yo?  I sure do.  Matthew found this yo-yo in his night table drawer and he wanted to show me some of his fancy moves.


Of course, the first thing I did was to fetch my trusty camera.  I mean, if my little man is going to show me some fancy olympic yo-yo moves, I had better catch the action.


And catch the action I did.  Doesn't he look cute in those white socks?  Why is it that little boys are just so huggable? And adorable.  And pinchable on both sides of his nose. 


Check out these moves.  He should win a gold medal.


At the very least a gold star, don't you think?


I think I'll go fetch one right now.  In the meantime, though, why don't you take a load off and watch him in action ...


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Puppy Play


Who can forget the famous Coppertone Ad of the puppy pulling down the little girl's bathing suit and exposing her bottom?  Well, we've got a bit of that going on at our house right now with Hannah.  Fortunately, she isn't pulling down anyone's underwear, although she does find them in the laundry room and walks around the house with them on her head.


Still, I took some pictures of Hannah just after Sarah got home from school the other day.  Hannah is always so excited to see Sarah that she pulls on her pant's leg wanting Sarah to play with her.  It is adorable.


Of course, Sarah ignores her because all she wants to do is share with me everything that happened in school that day.


"Mom, will you please tell Sarah to play with me? Pleeeeeease?"  - "Sarah, play with Hannah."

So, since Sarah won't stop talking and I didn't understand her plea for my help, she took things into her own hands - or should I say her teeth? 


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trust But Verify


Story updated 3/21/2009:

As you all may know, I have a teenage daughter.  She is 15 years old.  She is also my 3rd daughter - in other words, I've been through this stage before with my other daughters, and it isn't easy.  The occasional sarcasm, stinky looks, crossed arms, sassing back, sneaky behavior, little white lies, and rolling of the eyes.  For the most part, Sarah has been a good girl and a good student - until this semester.  Her grades have been suffering a bit and so has her attitude.  We had a situation this past week that required our immediate attention and we took care of it.  We nipped it in the bud before it got entirely out of control.


Most teenagers think they are pulling one over on us, but they aren't.  As for Sarah, we can follow every move she makes on her computer.  Our problem is that we haven't been following through with the spy tactics and we had some issues that needed to be addressed.  Like boys.  Actually, one boy.  We discovered a chat between Sarah and this boy from school and it was serious.  Not only did he solicit her for sex, but he threatened to hurt her if she didn't do as he says.  It was the most pathetic thing I had ever read and it alerted me to the potential of Sarah getting hurt.  We printed it off. 


Then we went searching around her computer for other such chats, letters, documents, anything that might give us a clue as to what more might be going on, and we found a few things.  Last week we had a meeting with one of her teachers, and the Principal and her school counselor to discuss her grades this semester and the threats.  First, though, we called the school and informed them of the threats and asked them to contact the boy's parents. The school met with the boy's parents and they now have copies of the conversations and we were told that they were just as disturbed by it as we were.  They were also given our phone number (at our request), but we thought it was interesting that they have not contacted us to discuss this situation.  I mean, if it were my son, I would call the girl's parents promptly and at least have an adult discussion about our children.  But, that's just me, I suppose they don't think like that.


What hurts me the most is that we have trusted Sarah to be forthright with us, and for the most part she has.  Until recently, she has not given us any reason "not" to trust her.  Actually, she really hasn't given us any reason "not" to trust her, she just didn't open up about this situation as promptly as we would have liked her to.  We did catch this early - within 48 hours of the conversations, but we just wish she had shared it with us right away.  So, I suppose it goes without saying that even if you believe you can trust your teenage children, it is probably a good idea to verify that trust - regularly.  "Trust but verify" is what my father used to always say to me.  "I will trust you, but I will also verify that you can continue to be trusted if I feel you are slipping."  Nothing ever got past my dad.  I thank God for that.  Fortunately, although we will be doing more verifying to protect her, Sarah really has been open with us about most everything else going on in her life. 

As for the chats we found and the issue with the boy, she explained to us that she saved them on her computer because she was going to try to handle the problem on her own.  She later told us she was grateful that we found the conversations and that we took care of it.  It was a big weight off her shoulders and she feels safer now.  

I, personally, can tell that she is doing better now that we have addressed this problem with the boy.  This has been bothering her for a while now and I believe was responsible for her slip in grades.  Why do I feel this way?  Because in the days following the meeting with the school, she has taken several quizzes and has received 100% on all of them and is now entered in the school talent show - something that she initially insisted she did not want to take part in.  She seems a lot happier and is more cheerful.  And, she is coming home from school and getting right on her studies.  

We, as parents need to pay close attention to our children - like radar, we need to be in tune to their changes in behavior, grades, friends, the way they dress, speak, sleeping habits, and more.  We need to communicate with them and be open and honest with them if we expect them to be open and honest with us.  Most importantly, we need to respect our children.  Respect begets respect. 


I honestly believe that it is harder on the parents than the child in situations like this.  Whenever we discipline our children we put everything on lock down - computers, cell phones, iPods, Television - Over.  Done.  No more.  Not until there is resolution, communication, and an understanding of where they slipped up. I believe Sarah's grades are back on track - to the A's and B's, and her focus is back on her academics and not the boys and the girlfriends and the popularity contest at school.  School should not be about popularity and socializing, although I know that it is a given and a big part of the high school experience, we want Sarah to keep her eye on the ball - her education and her future goals and dreams. 

Bob and I have even thought about taking her out of the public high school and bringing her back home for homeschooling.  We're talking about it.  It might be a good idea. We are not going to make any hasty decisions, though.  We want to do what is best for Sarah.  We respect her and her feelings about any decisions like this and her high school education experience.


I must say, it is hard to reconcile in my brain that my little girl was having conversations that were completely inappropriate for a 15 year old.  Maybe I'm just old fashioned, but at some point parents need to step in and protect their children.  15 is much to early to grow up, and our daughters should not have to grow up at this age.  Just so it is clear, Sarah did not initiate any of the conversations - the boy did.  She tried to handle it with a bit more oomph than I would have expected from her, but I give her credit for trying.  Actually, the more I read and re-read the conversations she had had with this boy, the more proud of her I was for some of her responses - like "I choose my friends wisely and you're not one of them" and "I'm saving myself until marriage" and "you're a jerk, leave me alone."  If I wasn't so intent on being parental at the moment, I'd give her a high five.  She tried her best to handle it on her own - I suppose because she knew if we knew about it we would be upset.  Not with her so much, but with the situation as a whole.

We spoke to Sarah's teacher, Principal, and School Counselor the other day, and we are all on the same page.  We are going to work closely together to see to it that this boy no longer speaks to Sarah and bothers her, and we are going to make sure we understand what all of her assignments are, when they are due, and when her tests are scheduled so that we can help her with her studies as needed. 


Bob and I are very involved with our children.  We try to stay on top of all that is going on in their life, who their friends are, who they are hanging out with, and what's on their mind.  Sometimes that can be really tough. 

I think we have this one nipped in the bud.  We had a nice long conversation with Sarah and initially put her on "lock down" from all those things she takes for granted - like computers and cell phones.  But we have since lifted those restrictions and trust that she will let us know promptly when and if any conversation makes her feel uncomfortable.  She knows she can come to us and discuss these things now.  Sometimes we, as parents, have to take a hard line with our children.  I don't think we ever stop being parents.  Good grief, I am almost 50 years old and I still need my mother!  And, my 30 year old daughter has moved home because she needs me too.  Once we become a parent, we are always a parent.  We never stop caring for the welfare of our children.


Now that I have had a chance to calm down from this week's debacle with Sarah, I realize that our children need this hard line now and then.  They need the discipline and structure.  They need to know that we love them enough to listen when it is necessary, and respect them as well.  They need to know that we will trust them until they give us reason not to, and hope that they won't take those privileges for granted. 

This past week was tough - I'm sure the weeks to follow will be better.  Sarah's future is what we care about the most.  We want her to be able to stand on her own 2 feet and have inside of her enough self-respect and dignity not to be controlled by or verbally abused by anyone.  I hope she learned that lesson. She is better than that.  Nobody deserves to be verbally abused, insulted, and bullied.  Thank God we caught this early.


Friday, March 13, 2009

The State of Our Economy and Our State of Mind



An Open Letter to NBC Nightly News and Brian Williams:

Tonight, as my Big Bear and I were watching the NBC Nightly News, we were inspired by your segment "Making a Difference" and the goodness in people to help others.  You have had similar such stories on a regular basis and I believe that you may just be onto something good - how about paying it forward to all who watch NBC and make this more than just a "segment" on the Nightly News, but rather, make it an hour show.  Let's get America back in a positive frame of mind.

Last night I went to bed with a busy mind and terribly worried for my family and the stress that is on my husband to find a job comparable to the one that he was laid off from at Avaya back in September, 2008.  He hasn't been on the first interview.  We are a family of 6, and we have both put our life and heart into this home.  I shudder to think that we could lose it all - literally.  We are on the tail end of the unemployment supplement, and nearly at the end of the bucket of our retirement funds after having depleted our savings entirely to support our family and our living expenses up till now.  And to think - we are the lucky ones.  The tent cities make my stomach do flips. 

It seems that the news is 7/8ths bad news and 1/8th good news.  No, I take that back.  We rarely if ever hear good news.  This country needs more good news.  I hate to admit it, but I truly believe that the media plays a huge part in the state-of-the-economy by fueling our negative state-of-mind.  It is time for a major change and I believe that NBC can lead the way to a positive frame of mind by reporting more of the good news and less of the bad.  Unless you try it, you'll never know how this could jump start the economy - jump start the positive thinking that this country needs to get back on its feet. 

I do believe that the media is the single greatest influence from our state-of-mind to our crime rate.  From Wall Street to Main Street - the media is everywhere, and everywhere we look and listen we know that this country - this world - is in a world of hurt.  The United States is leading the way to the free fall of the world economy.  So how do we pick up the pieces?  One idea, one seedling of positive thinking, one example of the goodness in humanity, and one step at a time. 

Your segment on the nightly news "Making a Difference" truly is making a difference.  I believe that your story about the person who paid the toll of the person behind them and how that one stroke of kindness led to a wave of kindness that went on for hours, is exactly what led to the money in the envelope at the checkout counter at the grocery store and why some even put a few dollars in the envelope before passing it on to the person behind them.  You see?  You really did start a shockwave of kindness and goodness, and the ripple affect can be powerful.

So how about it?  How about "Making a Difference" from the mind up?  How about turning this segment into a full blown program?  How about seeing how many stories come trickling in about people making a positive difference in this country and across the globe. 

LaidOffT-shirt NBC can lead the way from "No Body Cares" to "Nothing But Confidence" for the American people.  You brought color to the American people through the essence of your Peacock, and now the American people need you to bring us Confidence.

And this is one email I hope that you - Brian Williams - will read.


Susan Vaughn
Riding the Wave of Economic Disaster with my family in hand
Charlotte, NC



To NBC and Brian Williams,
Once, there was a time when the symbol of NBC stood for color. Your animated logo was more than just an advertisement of reds,greens and blues, instead it was a promise of progress. To all American people, television entertainment once represented how life can be better ... but these days it fills us with discouragement and dissapointment .. showing us how it could be worse.

Today, your network broadcast a report informing us how the citizens of our country, and quite possibly the world, are looking to Obama for confidence... but confidence cannot be led by one man alone.  Although your network has shown us hope through these dark economic times with your segment 'Making a Difference' unfortunately, one small segment just isn't enough. It is obvious today that the people need confidence. Let your network follow in our nations leaders footsteps, let your network stand for something else in this generation. Let your network stand for Confidence.

'Nothing but Confidence'

The American people need a network to set the tone, once again, for the way things should be. Anyone can report about others who have made a difference but who will be the ones proving they dont just report the news, they make it.

For those of us still fortunate enough to watch your broadcasts day to day, we are  looking to you for inspiration and motivation.

Kathleen Smith
Riding thru the storm with my family
Charlotte, NC

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Darlin' You've Got Paint In Your Hair

Kathleen is so much like her mother (me, of course) it scares me.  We've begun the process of painting together in my studio.  I set Kathleen up with her own easel and canvas, made her a glass tabletop palette, and showed her the ropes to start painting in oils.

First step - Grab a liter of Coca Cola and stick it close by, then begin graphing her reference image while I set up her palette of oil paints and medium.

Second step - Graph your canvas the same as your reference image and sketch it out.

Third step - Study your reference.

Fourth step - Mix your oil paints and prepare for painting.

Fifth step - study your sketch and get your image on the canvas.  Paper towels available - check.  Charcoal available - check.  Hairspray available - check.

Sixth step - Spray your finished charcoal or pencil sketch with hairspray to set it on the canvas and prevent the charcoal from smearing when you begin painting.  I had you fooled about the Hairspray didn't I?  hee hee.

Seventh step - Begin painting, working "thin to fat" and preparing your canvas with the "underpainting."

See the portrait I'm working on?  That is an underpainting.  I put down "color notes" as I call them, and paint a thin layer of color to provide me with a map by which to build the correct colors, values, and thicker layer of oil paint.  And that is what is meant by "thin to fat."  As an artist in oils, I put down a thin layer of paint first, almost transparent, and I cover the canvas.  This enables me to see the direction I am taking with the painting, working to build up the layers of paint, brushstrokes, and detail.  Just thought you'd like to know.

And so, Kathleen works hard on her first oil painting, and she is doing a great job!  I can't wait to share it with you when she's finished.  Oh, and also that portrait of Matthew.  I began that painting 6 years ago and have been procrastinating finishing it.  I think I had an artist's block and, well, I put off getting back to it bcause of my own artistic insecurities.  Thanks to Kathleen's motivation and inspiration, I'm going to finish this painting and dangnammit, make my little boy happy.  Matthew's been after me for years asking "Mom, when are you going to finish my portrait?"  "uh, Matthew - when I feel like I'm not a crappy artist trying to be good at what I do."  He didn't buy it.

Kathleen's painting, by the way, is a beautiful abstract painting that she wants to frame and hang in her bedroom.  Sounds good to me!

Isn't this fun? 


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The More Things Change, The More They Stay The Same


Having Kathleen home has been great, if for no other reason than getting a kick out of the fact that she is turning into her mother - aka "Me."  Poor child.  We have found ourselves on more than one occasion saying the exact same thing at the exact same time and then looking at each other and laughing, or she'll say something to the kids and you'd swear it was me talking.  There has been a lot of laughter.  In so many ways, Kathleen and I have grown up - together, albeit apart for the last 9 years.


Since she has been home, Kathleen has been the "Biggest" help of all around the house, and I didn't have to ask her for help either - unlike the other inhabitants of the household who need me to crack the whip to get them to help me around the house.  When you live in a house with 5-6 people and everyone is home all the time, the house gets messy quickly in ways that I would like to avoid having to face on a daily basis.  Fortunately, we rotate each child's responsibility to clean bathrooms and each are responsible for their own bedroom, but as you can see from last week's post about Sarah's bedroom, that certainly hasn't gotten me very far. 


It seems like the kitchen, family room, and laundry room are in a constant state of disaster.  I can never seem to get them clean and keep them clean.  The laundry is Never done.  The paperwork is Never done.  The bathrooms are Never clean all at the same time.  I don't think I have had one full day yet where every room in the house was clean.  As my mother would say - "Susan, you need a bulldozer.  A bulldozer is the answer to everything."  Strange logic, but I can see how that would work.


If there is one thing that this household of mine definitely needed, it was 2 adult women who aren't going to put up with anyone's crap or excuses.  "Pick up your shoes" "Comb Hannah" "Clean up your bathroom" "Rinse off your dishes and put them in the dishwasher" "Put your toys away" "Do your schoolwork" "Clean up your mess" and the list of common comments goes on and on and on like a broken record.  My brain is tired.


I have to chuckle when I think that this is Kathleen's greatest revenge on her siblings - getting after them the way that I used to get after her when she was little.  I've lightened up a lot as I've gotten older, mostly because I find that it is more work to yell at the kids to do this and do that than it is to just do it myself.  But, now that Kathleen is home things are a little bit different.  Just this morning Kathleen said "Mom, I have the perfect solution - you tell them what to do and I'll follow thru and make sure it gets done."  In other words - Kathleen is going to have to raise the decibel of her voice by 10 notches , discipline with a firm hand, develop a case of pointing her finger and rolling her eyes and squinching up her face.  This should be interesting.  I'm getting a kick out of watching her, you know why?  She's the spittin' image of my attitude and determination at 30.  Back then, I didn't put up with any crap from my girls.  Now?  Oh hell, I'm too tired to deal with it anymore, so I just ignore it - which explains why my house looks like a bomb hit it most of the time.


It hasn't all been crackin' the whip since Kathleen has been home.  Nope.  We've been having fun too.  Yesterday, Kathleen helped me organize my art studio and motivated me to finally put a paint brush to that portrait of Matthew that has been sitting idle for 6 years.  I'm sure you are wondering why this portrait of Matthew has been sitting idle for years, right?  Well, I'll tell ya - because I suffer from a chronic case of inferiority when it comes to my artwork.  No matter what I create, I often think it isn't good enough, or it could be so much better.  I have come to know so many incredible artists and "incredible" doesn't even begin to describe their artwork.  More like "magnificent."  I suppose I look at my artwork with a much more critical eye than others.  Still, that is why I have put off completing this portrait.  I have felt like I couldn't do it.  But, Kathleen cracked the whip and inspired me to face my fear and the portrait with a fresh eye.  And so, yesterday began that adventure in my art studio.


That wasn't the only adventure in the art studio, though.  I set Kathleen up with her own easel, canvas, paints - the works, and she is completely in her element creating a beautiful painting for her bedroom.  Kathleen has been an extraordinary artist ever since she was an itty bitty little girl.  She has never drawn a stick figure.  Her eye and ability for detail has always amazed me.  Kathleen is a born artist.  So, she's all set up in the art studio.  We've got the music goin' and we've both been working on our projects.

Life is good. 


Friday, March 06, 2009

Sticking my Neck Out - For Good Reason


It's like she's never been gone.  Kathleen has settled in to being at home and is getting comfortable.  We are so happy that she is here and doing well.  The Lord has truly answered all of our prayers.  Now  if only Bob could find a job then life would be near perfect. 

We celebrated Kathleen's birthday with a nice steak dinner from Longhorn.  It was delicious and she was thrilled to have a good meal.  We took her and the kids to Barnes & Noble and got her a lap desk for her birthday.  I still can't wrap my brain around the fact that she is older than I am.  I mean, she just turned 30!  But wait, I'm still 29!  ha ha.  Yeah, right.  It just doesn't seem possible that I have a daughter who is 30 years old and a grandson who is 9.  Maybe one of these days I'll grow up.  Ya think?


We've been doing great.  Yesterday we cleaned out the closet and drawers in my mother's room since my mother is staying with my brother and his wife in Florida, and got it all ready for Kathleen to decorate as she sees fit.  She can have at it - making the room and bathroom on the main level her own and a reflection of her style and personality.  She is all excited about it and I'm equally excited for her.

Kathleen came home with one suitcase, one pair of jeans, a few old and torn tops, and maybe 2 undergarments.  I wanted to cry.  I washed all of her clothes and let her raid Sarah's and my closets and drawers for anything that she can wear and enjoy.  She found a few things, but overall, Kathleen needs so much more.  We're sitting here on the bed in her room right now looking through the recent People Magazine Style Watch edition and she is showing me a few colorful handbags and outfits that she would love to have.  I wish I could get these things for her right now.  I hate having to put all of these little luxuries off right now, but we have all had to tighten our bank buckle and turn down the heat to save on expenses since Bob is out of work.

I'm going to stick my neck out right now.  I know that everyone in this country is struggling because of the economy and life is tough for everyone.  We've been enormously blessed in our life and overall are doing far better than so many out there who have far less.  I pray for everyone.  So what am I asking for?  Well, I'll tell ya ...

All you ladies out there, if you have any items of clothing or handbags that are stylish and that you think my precious daughter, Kathleen, would enjoy, that you otherwise are not wearing or might pass on to the consignment shop, would you consider passing them on to my girl?  In my life, I have never asked for anything, but because my baby girl is in desperate need of the basics and really needs to pull her life together and feel good about herself again, her health, her dental care, everything - again - and because we just can't afford to buy her all the things that we want to buy her to help get her back on her feet ... well, I'm turning to my friends - you - for any help you can provide my girl while she makes this life change - for the better. 


I can't thank you all enough, for your good wishes and prayers.  God has been good to us and the fact that Kathleen is home - home to stay - while she gets back on her feet, builds back her health, and maybe goes back to school, - is a miracle.  Her future looks bright.

Last night, we all watched American Idol together and when Anoop (Noop-Dog) said hello to everyone in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in remembrance of Eve Carson who was brutally murdered last March, 2008, by 2 guys who wanted to rob her, we paused the show to explain to Kathleen what Anoop was talking about and about Eve's story.  It is a story that will touch your heart and leave you heartbroken.  Everyone in North Carolina and beyond grieves for Eve and her family. 


Then, after American Idol and the children went to bed, we watched a movie together - Body of Lies - with Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Great movie.  Intense for sure and scary as hell, but the message was clear.  Midnight - we say good night and Kathleen retreated to her bedroom just a few steps away from the family room and Bob and I went upstairs, and Adolf (our German Shepherd) followed.  Two hours later there is a knock at our bedroom door, and Kathleen came wandering in with her hair in a pony tail ... "Mom, I'm freaking out downstairs.  Can you sleep with me?"  After maneauvering to sitting up in bed, I said "Sure sweetie" and I grabbed my pillow and we both shuffled downstairs to the kitchen where we got some orange juice and then went to her room and talked for 3 hours. 


Kathleen was obviously not used to the sounds that this house makes and being that she had all those images and thoughts going thru her brain from the movie and the Eve Carson story, she had every reason to freak out.  I couldn't help it, but I was laughing out loud and making jokes about the boggie man.  So, to help calm her nerves I went upstairs and got Adolf too, and he slept beside us both (and snored and licked our face) throughout the night.  If you want a good night's sleep, get a German Shepherd and let him sleep next to you every night.  You'll sleep like a rock knowing that if anyone tries anything funny, he'll tear off their head.  Kathleen calmed down while I gave her a back scratch and a head rub and she finally went to sleep - like a baby.


I couldn't help it, but Kathleen was adorable last night all wrapped up with a blanket around her shoulders and her hair pulled back in a pony tail.  She reminded me of the adorable little girl she was at 3 years old. 

This morning, Kathleen wolfed down a huge breakfast of waffles, oj, bacon, and toast.  We thought we would have to encourage her to eat when she got here, but thank God, she is eating like she hasn't had a decent meal in 5 years, and to be perfectly honest, she probably hasn't.  Things are looking up for her.  Thank you all again for your thoughts and prayers.  My baby girl is home and it is as if all the years past have just melted away.

If you would like to donate to Kathleen's wardrobe or personal needs, please let me know by contacting me at [email protected].  It takes a village to raise a child, and although she may not be a child anymore, she is my child, and if you can't stick your neck out and ask for help for your child, who can you stick your neck out for? 

Kathleen sizes are:

Top:  Medium or size 6 or 8
Pants: Size 6 or 8 tall (Kathleen is 6 feet tall and 105 lbs)
Dress: Size 6 or Medium
Shoes: Ladies Size 9

These clothing sizes may be a little large on her, but she is eating well and will surely start putting on some weight.  Thank God.

Thank you all again.  I appreciate it more than you know.



Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Prodigal Daughter Comes Home


Many of you have prayed for the healthy return and well-being of my first born, Kathleen.  I am thrilled to tell you all that she is coming home - today.  And, there is special significance to this event and I thought I should share it with all of you so that you know that your prayers - our prayers - have been answered abundantly.


To read the story of Kathleen, click HERE.  Kathleen has been struggling with many aspects of her life, and she has tried, but her health deteriorated as did her ability to survive on her own.  It has been 5 years since I have seen my daughter.  She has traveled between New York and Florida and settled in Florida with a dear friend, Dale, 4 years ago.  He let her have the extra room in his small townhouse and he supported her the best he could on a butcher's income.  He has been a "friend" to Kathleen in a way that many of us may never be able to wrap our brain around.  And no, this was not an intimate relationship and never has been, and that is what is so amazing about this young man who took Kathleen in and gave her a chance.  If only we all were so blessed to have a friend who would save us when we needed them.


Dale wasn't there for Kathleen because we "weren't."  He was there for Kathleen because she didn't want to need us.  She didn't want to come home.  She was stubborn and difficult.  She didn't want to face the responsibilities of her life through the eyes of her parents.  If we gave her money, she might squander it away on something completely unnecessary, so we stopped giving her money.  If we sent her items to help her, like clothing, hygiene items, or sheets, she wouldn't say "thank you."  If anything, she resented any of the help we provided, and knowing that she was an adult and needing to take responsibility for her own life, we backed off.  Of course, for any of you reading this, please know that we've been raising Kathleen's son and only child since he was 2 weeks old.  Glen is now 9 years old and a dear and loving young boy.  We adore him.  So please know that we did not entirely give up on Kathleen.  We never have.  And everyday with Glen is a day "for" Kathleen.



What has made our communication with Kathleen the most difficult is that she has not had a telephone or a mobile phone.  Dale worked and has a mobile phone, but even with the messages that we left, it wasn't always easy to speak to Kathleen and know how she was doing.


Fortunately, my mother, who has lived with us for 11 years, went to Florida to visit my brother, Mike and his wife, Marcella for an extended stay.  Mom loves Florida and we thought it would be healthier for her if she was there during the winter months.  My brother, Mike, lives about 15 minutes from where Kathleen was staying.  He drove over there to check on her on a number of occasions.  When Mom went to visit him he drove her over there too and Mom took her out to lunch and shopping for a few things and took the pictures that you see here.  When she sent me the pictures in the mail I took one look at them and dropped to my knees.  I felt like I had been hit in the stomach with a sledge hammer.  I curled up and cried.  I prayed.

Thanks to this blog, this life story of mine, I received numerous emails and comments from concerned readers offering hope, solace, advice, guidance, and many, many heartfelt prayers.  I want you all to know that I heard you.  I listened.  And, I am eternally grateful for your prayers.  Kathleen is coming home.


I'll tell you how we got to this place today.  I was talking to Kathleen on the phone (one of those rare occasions on Dale's cell phone) and she asked me to sign up for a vent (Ventrilo) which is a server and a VOIP whereby we can communicate through our computer.  She was a member of a gaming Vent and working for this gaming company.   So, while on the phone she walked me through the process of becoming a member of her employer's Vent so that we could chat.  It is sorta like instant messaging, only you don't have to type, you just talk.  Funny thing is, it is clearer than a lan line telephone and much clearer than a cell phone.  Go figure.  You sign on and sign out much like you would if you were instant messaging. 


I was so amazed by this that I went to Ventrilo and dangnammit, I bought my own server and Vent so that I could talk to friends and family on a regular basis, especially Kathleen - and free to them - and not be interrupted from working on my computer.  I hate telephones.  When they ring, everything else has to stop.  So this was the perfect solution.  I love it.   As a result of starting my own Vent, Kathleen and I have been communicating on a daily basis and sometimes for hours on end.  That was easy! (Now I sound like a Staples commercial), but it was!  And Kathleen and I had a lot of catching up to do. 


So, for the last 6 weeks or so, Kathleen and I have been "venting" (that's for sure) every day and it has been wonderful.  And then she asked the "big" question.  "The" question.  The one that I knew would be tough for her.  She asked if she could come home, even if just for a visit.  "Kathleen, my home is your home."  "Mi casa es su casa,"  "La mia casa è la tua casa," "Ma maison est votre maison."  And so the path was set and we talked some more, and then some more, and then some more.  We bonded - again.  The years of resentment, regret, and stress melted away with every conversation. 


As you all know, my hubby has been out of work since September, and times are tougher than they have ever been before.  But, we are surviving and we are okay.  When the possibility arose that Kathleen would come home, I realized we couldn't afford the ticket.  As a last ditch, I asked my mother if she could help. (I guess we never grow up do we?)  And she said "absolutely" as she was anxious to have Kathleen come home anyway.  So, Mom bought Kathleen's plane ticket and she is flying home today. "Thank you Mom.  I love you."


Now, you want to get a chill up your spine?  Do you want to know how God's ever presence gives us miracles and speaks to us?  Listen up.  Today is Kathleen's birthday.  She is 30 years old today. That's the first amazing thing - that she is flying home on her birthday.  Oh, and it is the season of Lent.  And, it is a Wednesday - 1 week after Ash Wednesday.  I'm not finished - who can forget the story of the Prodigal son in Luke 15:11-32 which occurred during the season of Lent. 


Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock of our life.  It is a season of spiritual change.  It is the season for rebirth.  As I kneel before my Lord, I know that I must repent.  I know that I need to continue with my soul-searching and reflect on my relationship with my daughter.  I know that I need Him to guide me and that I need to turn this all over to Him.  And I have. 


And so, today, on my daughter's 30th birthday, she is coming home.  I will take pictures.  I will take video.  I will take heart of the blessings that are held dear on this day.


This story cannot end without recognizing the blessings I have in my dear friend, Beth.  My singing girl cook here on Raisin Toast.  The one who provides us all with great recipes week after week.  The one who has been my friend for over 25 years.  The one who looks amazingly youthful and beautiful for her age.  The one who makes me laugh and smile on a daily basis.  Beth asked her sweetheart, Paul, if he could pick up Kathleen in LakeWorth and take her to the airport for me since she had to work.  And, without hesitation, he said "yes."  "Thank you Beth.  Thank you Paul. From the bottom of my heart - thank you!" 


So, Paul is picking up Kathleen at 9:30 this morning, 6 minutes before she officially turns 30, and will be driving her to the airport.  She'll be home at 4:12 this afternoon.  I can't wait.  I can't wait to put my lovin' arms around my baby girl - even if she is 6 feet tall!" 

Thank you all for your prayers - they've been answered.



Monday, March 02, 2009

A Clean Room, A Happy Daughter, A Happy Mom too


It took me 3 days, but I cleaned every square inch of Sarah's room - every drawer, every article of clothing, every tiny Barbie accessory, everything was put in a place and organized.  Sarah now has the cleanest and most organized room in the house.  She is really proud of her room and so am I.  Next stop - Matthew and Glen's room.  They've been working to clean their own room while I was working on Sarah's and that has surely eased up on the amount of work I'll have to do.  Still, it sure feels good having cleaned out all the "stuff" that can go to the goodwill or in the garbage.  Less is definitely more in this case.

Just so you know, I gave Sarah a number of lessons in organizing and in keeping her room clean and she helped me when she wasn't studying and doing her homework.  I know she was embarrassed by her room and how bad she had let it get.  I honestly believe that she will do her best to keep it clean and organized going forward.  I can only hope - right?

So here is the result:





Everything is so neat and clean! 


Her desk is neat and clean.  Her computer crashed, so Big Bear took it into his office to fix it.  He's such a good Daddy.


I emptied her closet entirely and asked Sarah to choose the stuffed animals and dolls that were important to her.  We ended up with 4 large bags of dolls and toys that were in excellent condition to give to the Goodwill. 


I organized her drawers too. 


She has a plastic container for all of her things.  Everything has a home now.


Sometimes as mothers, we need to step in and give our daughter's and our children a lesson in organization, hygiene, cleanliness, and more - all in an attempt to teach them the value of living a good life free of stress and dirty underwear under foot.

I have a feeling Sarah is going to be sleeping like a baby in her nice clean room, don't you?

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