My Lucky Year

I was physically ill for too much of 2014.  I developed and continued dealing with some serious health issues. And we lost my Step Dad in January.  These things were hard.  The last two are still hard.  But I also enjoyed what, to me, seemed like a long string of good fortune.

Here are some lucky things that happened to me in the past year:

1) The company I work for is in a tough spot, so we did not have a holiday party this year. We did have a nice catered lunch during the work-week with a drawing for Amex gift cards, and  I won a $50 card!  I promptly gave it to Darth, who promptly took it to Target, where he promptly spent it on pants for Son 1 and Son 2.  To me, this was an all-around win.  Except maybe for Son 3, but I bought him pants a few weeks earlier.

2) I attended MALCon with my sister in 2014. At first glance, it seemed like a convention for gamers only – but with nice folks checking us in, pretty T-Shirts with Chaz Kemp art on them, and a really, really nice vending room (truly incredible vendors!). But my sister would not let me shop, sigh, and leave.  She started dragging me into various panel rooms and I ended up sitting in on a writer’s panel that really needed a woman on it. And I got to be that woman. It was great fun and I met some lovely folks, among them the incredibly talented and truly nice Lou Berger.  If you like science fiction at all, you should go buy something with one of his stories in it NOW!  Seriously, do it now…I’ll wait. 🙂

3) At MALCon (yes, I just linked that again), I signed up to win some earrings from Purple Poodle Designs – one of the aforementioned high quality vendors. And I won them!  But…the notification went to my “other” box on Facebook. When I finally saw it, I sent a note to the artisan, and though it was too late for me to get the earrings, she sent me an awesome pterodactyl necklace that I like better than the earrings. Is that doubly lucky, or what?

4) I won a free download of an album by The Breaking Winds!  I listen to it at the start of almost every work day and it both calms and amuses me. If you are a fan of bassoons, a fan of classical music, and a fan of classical music jokesters, check them out.

5) And most recently, I won a small drawing of a triceratops from Tara Gildow. It came a few days ago and is already up on the wall.  It’s orange and I love it! The link on the artist’s name is to her website.  Here is a link to her etsy site: Rocket Penguins Works.

Historically, I would not have classified myself as “lucky”.  Not at all.  So I am blown away by this amazing good fortune!

 

And, of course, good things that were not about luck also happened:

1) Son 1 also made the most amazing best friend in 2014 – the kid is a gift from God.  His whole family is.

2) Son 2 started Kindergarten, and though we had a brief adoptee-anxiety issue about a month in, he is doing incredibly well. He’s well suited for school. It’s nice.

3) We all started learning Korean and Son 3 is learning Hangul and English equally, which is awesome, though I had to explain to his pre-school teacher that he’s not wrong when he thinks the symbol “E” is pronounced “t”, he’s just getting the alphabets mixed up. Hangul is an incredibly easy alphabet to learn and Korean is an elegant language. Though I am finding pronunciation and vocabulary challenging, I have high hopes for my sons, especially Son 3 (who is not the Korean son, btw).

4) Darth started working more…which I hope will lead to me working less in 2015. A lot less.

5) And last but far from least – I finished the 3rd draft of my early reader book!  I started off 2015 by submitting that book to a literary agency.  That was terrifying, though I can’t explain why.  It’s a good book, and either they want it or they don’t (and I’m not the sort of person who gives up on the first try either).  Still, I am keeping my fingers (and toes…and eyes) crossed in hope that my streak of luck holds out.

Who knows – maybe I’ll have good fortune for the duration.  My grandfather was the kind of man who often won things seemingly because he willed it so.  Maybe it’s my turn?  Happy Year of the Sheep (or Ram or Goat, if you prefer)!

How did your 2014 wrap up?  What do you think lies ahead?

 

 

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Trick or Treat?

The time is nearly upon us – the night when the veil is thin, the hungry dead walk the Earth and we ignore them at our peril. In other words, trick or treat!

For people who claim no one played pranks involving eggs or toilet paper “back in the day”, for everyone who complains about teens trick-or-treating, for everyone who lives in Colorado – a State that’s very name is a Spanish word – and then complains about the Day of the Dead colliding with Halloween, I have three words: KNOCK IT OFF.

When I was a kid (in the 1970s), I lived in a bucolic rural area in Maryland. It was lovely. On Halloween, it was a given that if you had no treats, there would be a trick. The severity of trick often depended on how you treated the kids. If you were an older, popular kid, it was possible to end up with toilet paper trees whether you had treats or not.

When my Dad was a kid (in the 1950s), one Halloween he and his buddies carried the neighborhood grump’s Volkswagen up onto her porch and left it there. Of course, she was not handing out candy, so she did not find it until morning.

The pranks are not new. They are not a sign of the times. In fact, I see fewer of them than ever. So, yeah, trick or treat. Get it?

Teenagers are between childhood and adulthood, just as always. Even back when they were considered adults and were settling the (not empty) American West, their brains were still not adult brains. Sometimes teens are like adults, sometimes not. But really, think about it – what would you rather they were doing?

And yes, in Colorado, sometimes adults trick-or-treat – often with faces painted like skulls and dressed in wedding clothes. This is not new. The first non-native land claims in Colorado were made by Mexican farmers – long before the gold rush. This unique-to-the-region Day-of-the-Halloween mish-mash may or may not come to a neighborhood near you. But if it does, that’s really cool.

Here’s the main thing – Halloween is all Soul’s Eve, is Hallow’s Eve. This is the night when the dead were believed to walk the Earth and the living were to feed them. This was believed in many places across many cultures, and I can only speak for myself, but if people come to my door on Halloween, I am feeding them, whether they are 70, 27, 17, or 7 (though I also offer non-food items ~ which makes the night so much nicer for some kids).

So these are the questions – Trick? Or Treat?

Patroness

In addition to the paintings I shared here, I painted another, then another.  On Friday, I sold the first 3 to the same person – the friend who initially asked if she could commission me to do one.

She has done me the most wonderful turn of kindness without even trying in breaking through the barrier that had stopped me from painting for years. Maybe, having borne the heavy mantle of supporting the family for so long, I couldn’t break it out of simple desire.  Maybe there had to be money in it.  Whether she ever buys another painting again, I also feel that I have a patron, which is a huge big deal.

Paintings #1 through 3 are shown below.  I wrapped up #4 last night.  I did that one for a charity auction for the preschool my sons have attended (last one in his last year now).  I will share it soon.

How did your week-end start?  Did it wrap up in a similar way to how it started?

Pathways #1 - Over the Hill - inspired by Moundville, AL
Pathways #1 – Over the Hill – inspired by Moundville, AL
Pathways #2 - Into the Woods - Inspired in the woods of Louisiana, though the cherry tree is the stuff of fantasy
Pathways #2 – Into the Woods – Inspired in the woods of Louisiana, though the cherry tree is the stuff of fantasy
Ditch Weed/As I Lay Dying - Inspired by the tenacity of life and the rebirth of hope
Ditch Weed/As I Lay Dying – Inspired by the tenacity of life and the rebirth of hope

Getting By

I recently posted the info below in a comment to an article on “saving money”.  It was a well-intentioned article, but like many such articles, was not useful to anyone struggling to get by (as in, struggling to be able to eat and have a roof).  There are things I know that I tend to assume are common knowledge, but…may they aren’t.  So, I am sharing the comment in hopes of helping…anyone (sorry for the funky paragraph breaks; I can’t seem to get spaces to insert at will).

     If you are struggling for food and shelter, it’s tough, and these kinds of articles don’t help. Part of the problem with money-saving advice is that it rarely comes from folks that have struggled to simply survive.
     When I was living off one meal a day and struggling to pay rent, I looked for fun, free entertainment (art openings, concerts in the park, free days at the zoo or museum, festivals where you can people watch and hear music). Some of these are good with kids too – and with kids, you can usually add local (free) splash parks, playgrounds, and library story times. That helps with savings, because you don’t have to spend money to have fun. Walks and hikes are also good. Of course, you have to remember to pack your own food for many of these – pb&j is fine, popcorn is a good go-to snack you can pack, and rice and beans go a long way at home.
     Cook the rice and beans and keep them separate and you can make them into a variety of meals each night for a week with a few ingredients added (add chicken or other veggies) – just mix it up each night, and sauté the cooked rice and beans with new ingredients, and it won’t feel like you are eating the same thing over and over.
     For the popcorn, if you have a microwave and a sizable microwave-able bowl, you can make regular popcorn with 1/3 to 1/3 cups of kernels plus enough vegetable oil to cover, cover with a dish cloth, and pop for 3 to 4 minutes (listening). Popcorn and a movie on TV can be fun. If you have a TV and Netflix, you have a ton of choices for movies streaming.  If you meet a friend “out”, meet them somewhere you can have one cup of coffee (cheap) – don’t meet them for a meal.

     If you have any way to grow food (even indoors in a pot), that can help. If you have kids, they get a huge kick out of growing food. You won’t be able to grow enough to feed everyone, but you’ll save a few $, and it will be fun.
     If you can make the time to pick through things, definitely get your work clothes at the thrift store. Goodwill and ARC have dressing rooms, so you don’t have to risk that spending $5 to $30 on a bunch of clothes that only kinda fit.
     For the literal saving of money, start a change jar – just a little one, like a used jelly jar. When it’s full, take to the bank and put it in your savings. Or if you feel weird doing that you can use a change machine (lie Coin Star) at the grocer and either apply those $ your groceries or get cash. The downside of that, is that it takes a small fee. If you can join a Credit Union, do so – fees are lower and your money is safer. With either a bank or CU, make sure you have a savings account (with most CUs, you need $5 to $50 to start one). Put $1/pay check in savings. When you feel safe doing so, bump it up to $5, then $10…and so on.
     If you are crafty or need kids’ activities, don’t be afraid to use the insides of cereal boxes for drawing, or scrap wood to paint on. There’s a shocking amount of things you can do with what people throw away or with rocks and pinecones. Flour, glue, water, and salt are also handy. Since you are on the internet, you can find tons of ideas for this – modify the ideas to work with what you have on hand (added aside:  I will post some of my Mom’s simple crafty free/cheap things here occasionally from now on; I learned a lot about crafting on the cheap from her!)
Don’t give up.
     I hope some of that helps. I am doing much better now thanks to many things, including my friends, but I got pretty good at looking like I was living the kind of life that one needs to be considered for many jobs while actually being dirt poor (most people don’t even know that they fit some middle-class mold that helps them get hired, but once you’ve poor, it’s obvious). GOOD LUCK!”

Sick

I feel like I’ve been SICK since we crawled from the primordial ooze.  Actually, it’s been a month.

First everyone at my house had strep.  We went to our Family Practice, got treated to a bit of fresh from med school arrogance, took antibiotics and felt better for a few days.

Now everyone has a cold, and my baby and I have a dry, unproductive, painful cough that gets worse at night…so sleeping to get better is tough.  It’s probably time to drag all of us back to the doc, but for now, I have to work.  My PTO is about used up, so I’m here to invite you to my pity party.

I honestly do feel like crying.