Friday, July 31, 2009

Friday Funnies!

I thought I would try something unusual and something we do at my house from time to time since it's Friday and we all need something to get us out of our perspective ruts today. I have to give credit to the photo I used above to the Pioneer Woman. If you haven't visited her site, you just have to go there. I love her ability to write.

It's a game really a simple game. No winners or losers, per say, just something fun to do.

The picture I posted needs a caption to go along with it. Give it your most creative go!

I thought I would solicit some responses from you and see where it goes from there. We usually do this with TV shows or movies we have seen before, turn down the volume and make up new story lines to go along with it.

Can't wait to see what you all come up with and I hope you have a wonderful weekend. Don't forget to stop by on Sunday and see which blog I have highlighted for this week! So let's see your best caption to the picture posted!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Thankful Thursday!!

Another week of blessings are here already and once more God has given me the opportunity to share them all with you. He alone makes blogging possible and taking time to reflect back on another week to find things big and small to be thankful for. If you haven't participated in a Thankful Thursday and would like to, stop by Sonya's blog, Truth 4 The Journey and read up on how to link them all together. She is an amazing woman with an inspirational blog to follow.

So without further hesitation, here are my blessings this week.

1. I am thankful for cooler temperatures this week. As of yesterday we didn't break the 100 degree mark and at night we were even able to open the windows and let the cool night air back in for a change and could turn the air off.

2. I am thankful for Steve being home. He was able to do so much for me this week, like waking up at 2:30am to drop Caitlyn, our oldest off for leadership camp for her school for 4 days, kill big, fat, green, grubs, known as horn worms off our tomato plant and we are hoping that our plant will recover and come back otherwise our summer tomato cravings are going bye bye, and for just being someone to skate with me while all the teens are zipping by us at the skate rink. Hey at least we are getting a small workout in.

3. I am thankful that Caitlyn made it to leadership camp and is seeing first hand what college like is like without all the parties. Getting up early and making it to breakfast without mom or dad waking her up. Missed it the second day. I really wanted to save her, but God gently reminded me to let her manage on her own these 4 days. Who I am to question that?

4. I am thankful that we have had the opportunity to just be together as a family for the last few months, to celebrate birthdays, anniversaries with family, and just try to reconnect after being pulled apart for so many months prior. I just hope we have lots more time til the end of the year at least.

5. I am thankful for the golden aroma of coffee in the mornings. There is just something about waking up to having that first hot cup with caramel creamer while I look over blog comments, and prepare to post my blog for the day.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

My Hero!

Just what do you do when you see some fat, green, grub munching on your newly planted cherry tomato plant? After screaming I mean?

Right oh, you call for hubby!

He just reaches in and grabs those fat suckers right off the plant and tosses them over our fence for the birds. Our baby tomato plant is just a few months old and had this whole family of four tomato bugs just munching away at it.

Last night as I lay in bed, I thought about how much that grubby, big, ol, caterpillar looked like Heimlich from Bugs Life. Only he wasn't craving candy corn. I wish he was.

I remember seeing these fat grubs so long ago when my parents had a huge vegetable garden in their back yard and we had to get some powder you squeezed on the plants to kill off Sir Heimlich and his royal family.

I mean just where do this grubs come from?

I did some google searching and it turns out that they are officially called horn worms laid by a hornworm moth who lays it's eggs on the underside of your plants leaves. In 3-4 weeks you have what my hubby picked off the plant and it can destroy a plant in about 2 days if left unchecked. No wonder why that poor old tomato plant was looking rather thin. It also eats potatoes and bell pepper plants as well!

They offer a few suggestions to get rid of them but the best suggestion is just to do what hubby did and pick them off and leave them to the birds. They even suggested for cowards like me, to flick them off, step on them or cut them in half with kitchen shears! Oh yeah, like I am about to do any of them. Heck I don't even like stepping on spiders or anything else that may omit a crunching sound.

After hubby picked the last of Heimlich's relatives off my tomato plants, he turned and looked at me and said, "I guess I know what I am here for!"

I laughed and told him, "Mike Rowe, from Dirtiest Jobs, has nothing on you!"

Seems like hubbies in general are our heroes on many fronts. They are the spider killers, and all purpose bug killers, weed pullers, fix the toilet person when it doesn't flush, and even removing only God knows what from our sinks and drains when those stop up. All this among all their other jobs as all purpose handy men!

My hubby, Steve, is truly my Hero!

That is not the only reason I keep him around! :)

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Roadtrip to Bakersfield, Come Along!

Ah it seems so long ago that we went on this roadtrip and I am just getting the opportunity to post this. It was actually last week Wednesday to be exact!

Ever just wish you could pack up last minute, get the kids in the car, pack a few snacks and head out on the open road for a roadtrip to somewhere???

Well that is basically what we did, although we did have a destination in mind. Bakersfield!



Well if you have been following my blog you know that Steve's job takes him all over the place, and at the last minute he got called in to Bakersfield for a service call. Most of the time he does these at night since it is easier when stores close but he had the option to do this one during the day.

Just the drive out to Bakersfield in itself is simply a beautiful but long drive. It takes us from our brown, flat, desert floor to the beautiful, green, cool, mountain slopes of Tehachapi before dropping us off the backside into the farm lands of Bakersfield.

So we did what any parent would do, we asked the kids if they wanted to go? Well since my kids have been camped out indoors due to our high temperatures, they practically jumped at the opportunity to do something new.

So while Steve went to have our cars oil changed, we packed lunches, snacks, drinks and some games to keep the kids busy for our 5+ hour roundtrip journey into Bakersfield.

I found some really interesting games to play on the internet besides having our kids tune us out with their Ipods and GameBoys, so once we were well on our way, I passed them out. We played car bingo that had them looking for such things as speed limit signs, horses, cows, tractors, planes, birds, farms, and I am sure you get the idea.

There was even one game that had them look for specific vehicles like a pickup, mini van, sports car, etc. The best one that we all got involved in was the License Plate Game. By the time we finished our drive we had 26 out of the 50 states found. Most of them were on big rigs and RV's. Thanks Steve for pulling into the truck stop to find a couple more!

It was super fun looking for these while driving. So I thought I would take you all along for the ride with us.

This first picture at the beginning of this post is when we began our journey on highway 395. As you can see where we live is quite flat, brown and just covered with sage and Joshua Trees so when you all send pictures with green trees, and lots of grass, we get envious! Ah to move, but this is about our roadtrip!

So the road is pretty wide open for most of the trip with nothing to look at except big rigs and other cars on the road. Not even clouds in the sky, just wide open spaces until we get to the base of the mountains.

We drive up through the Tehachapi's and we pass through the wind farms and see all kinds of windmills. I love this because it shows our kids how wind can make energy and how beautiful all these windmills look when they are all spinning!

We were reading up on these and when they break down, the companies that install them just leave them there. They don't repair them because it costs too much money. So they sit like sad little people watching life go on around them and wishing that they could be a part of it. The funniest thing was when we watched one windmill with two of it's blades missing, still attempt to spin around like it was giving it everything it had. I kept hearing, "I think I can, I think I can!" in my head.

Once we got into the mountain areas because it's summer, it's all brown except for the oaks that dot the hillsides. I was telling my hubby it looked like cashmere hills because the yellow grass looks like soft beige cashmere. So that is what we nicknamed them. Cashmere Hills!

We saw trains coming and going through the mountain sides, disappearing into tunnels like a game of hide and seek as we drove past them only to appear on the other side.

Once we reached the bottom of the valley floor, we came across some beautiful farm lands filled with almonds, pistachios, citrus and apple trees all in full bloom. Such a different world from the one we left behind.

When we arrived in Bakersfield, we left Steve to complete his work while we walked the mall there, Valley Plaza. Beautiful but a complicated mall to navigate because it was always turning back on itself or leading us to complete dead ends. My girls loved it because it contained stores we don't see unless we go to our higher end malls in the coastal communities.

They shopped for about an hour when Steve called and said he was finished. So we headed back to our car for our road trip home. We agreed to stop at a roadside farm for some freshly picked produce and just to stretch our legs.

So we stopped at Murray Family Farms. The girls stopped and posed for a picture just outside. They had all kinds of things to do here, and lot's of fruit to sample. We picked up some strawberries, peaches, and some corn nugget things Kailee wanted. We drove past their animal farm since everything was locked up because they were closing soon. They even had an Ant Farm that you could crawl through like you were an ant. The outside temperatures here made that something no one wanted to do. I believe it was around 109?

Now we headed back through the Tehachapis'once more where Steve and I decided to take a break and have dinner at a place called the Apple Shed. We had been there years earlier when we wanted to take a break from our summer heat when we lived in Lancaster. The temperature here was ideal! Even Cait seemed to fall instantly in love with the atmosphere this small town seem to charm out of her. She even mentioned she could live here!

Steve stopped and posed for me. Inside this cute little restaurant you'll find it sits along the train tracks. So you are always finding a train coming by, blowing it's horn and rumbling past. The kids loved watching these trains and feeling just how powerful they were while in the restaurant.

We had homemade meatloaf, Bar B Qued ribs, tri-tip, potatoes and salad. I mean isn't that what a home cooked meal should be? After we finished dinner and headed home we waved good bye to the windmills that stood like sentinels on the hillsides once again waving their blades as a passing sad goodbye to us.

We looked back after descending the mountains and noticed some clouds lingering above the wind mill farm while the sun began to set. I captured this picture as we left the cool mountain air for a much hotter desert landscape back home.

As we neared home the last thing we did as tired eyes began to slowly close was count the number of cars on the train that seemed to want to race us home. 64 was the count that this engine team was pulling behind it doing about 70 mph.

The best part of the drive was the memories that we created with our kids, the hilly dips that we passed over, speeding the car up to see if we could create that tickle in your tummy, and the question Caitlyn posed while driving through the farm lands. I have to share it with you because as a 16 year old now I am puzzled, she asked, "Are those wild cows?"

Yes Caitlyn, those are wild cows!

Monday, July 27, 2009

My Best Friend!

Today is the start of something special even though it’s just a Monday for most of you and something you are not looking forward to. However most of us can’t get to the weekend without having a starting point of some kind, so for most of us, Monday is it.

This Monday is different. This Monday celebrates the life of my hubby Steven Smith. He is turning 41 today. It seems like he has been 40 forever. Nice rounded off number with a zero at the end and probably one of the best numbers we would like to see before we hit the big 50. Steve and I joked about it some time ago that once you hit 40, you have to begin to take numbers off and begin to count backwards from there. So if that is the case he is turning 39 today.

Christmas Photo at Disneyland

Steve is the youngest of a family of three and had never been married prior to us meeting. I met him when I became his boss as a Service Manager for L.A. Cellular back in 1996. I heard he was going to be the most difficult part of my job in taking on this position because he was the rumored bad boy. Argumentative, hostile, and definitely not a team player.

Yikes, just what was I getting myself into?

Turns out rumors were all they were. He had passion and creativity to want to make things better. However people got in his way that weren’t willing to open up and listen to him. So that is what I did, I listened and let him run wild and free. He created our service bay’s design plans for what would make their work easier. I let him have all the creative freedom. It turned out to be a blessing because I gained his respect and our bay became one of the biggest profit generating service centers in the company. We became the model for what others hoped to become.

Steve and the girls at Knott's Berry Farm 2008.

Yet in the midst of this, I found my soul mate. I was in the midst of a messy divorce and messier child custody battle with my ex. I found comfort in my friend at that time. He was in a long-term relationship at that time and simply became someone who returned the favor, and listened when I needed someone to pour my heart out to. His heart was simply made of pure gold. I often teased Steve to this day, that God revealed his soul to me the day I met him and I saw what others failed to see. I got a glimpse of his soul.

Three years later, we were married. It wasn’t the marriage you dream of. No white dress, no tux for him. Just standing in a courthouse in Lake Havasu City with his parents and Aunt and we spoke our vows to each other. We had our first meal at Carl’s Jr. and I saved the cup that day and wrote in sharpie pen that it was our wedding glass. We got married in jeans and normal clothes that we could wear long after our wedding. We still laughed most days whenever we went out; to wear our wedding clothes since no one would notice but us. Love all those inside jokes.

Steve and Kailee on their date night!

This is an amazing man that so many of us women look for all our lives and only some are fortunate to find. God revealed His plans for us long ago, by interlocking our hearts together that no matter how far we moved away from one another, we eventually find our way home together.

He has an amazing kind and gentle heart. He will willingly do things for others without a second thought. He has helped our neighbors more times than they will ever pay him back. He tried to save the lives of 4 children and a woman who drove their pick up truck into an aqueduct one April and jumped into freezing waters without a second thought that he, himself just might lose his life. He has helped motorcyclists that have laid their bikes down while passing people on dangerous mountain roads and waiting for help to arrive. He said to me once that his dream job would have been a fire fighter and I can see just why. He loves to help people. To me, he already had that job and still to this day remains a hero to his family.

I know without a doubt that God sent Steve to me. I had completely lost faith that such a man existed and even when I found him, didn’t know what this beautiful man would see in me. When I met Steve, I was broken, battered and completely filled with self-doubt. I met in him someone who saw the person I could become with a little love and a lot of band-aids! With God’s healing hands, Steve made me into the person I am today. He gave me back trust that was robbed of so many years of neglect. He loves unconditionally and is not only my best friend, but also my soul mate and husband all rolled into one.

He loves the colors black and teal. Loves Nutter Butters and Froot Loops! His favorite food would probably be Seared Ahi with salad topped off with Blue Cheese dressing. He loves the mountains and has dreamed of a cabin by the lake as a way to spend our last years on this earth together. His favorite movies are those martial arts films like Hidden Dragon, Crouching Tiger, anything by Bruce Lee and even will admit to loving some chick flick movies like Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. He loves Bugs Bunny cartoons and simply adores Kermit the frog. He can even do a perfect Kermit imitation if you ask! He can quilt, sew better than I can, and now has his own blog called Gotta Have Faith.

One of the things I love the most about him is that we can speak an unspoken language at times. We share a look and both of us instantly know what the other is thinking without saying anything. No one understands it but us! We are just that in tune with one another.

So I celebrate his life today all 41 years of it, and I can only ask that if God allows it, we will begin to build even more happy memories together raising our two wonderful kids, Caitlyn, his step daughter and Kailee our daughter together.

Happy Birthday Steve! You are the best present anyone could ever wish for! If you want to wish Steve a Happy Birthday, hop on over to his blog, Gotta Have Faith!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Blog of the Week! ~ The Magoo's News

On Sundays each week, I am going to highlight a new blog I have happened to come across in my travels of blog hopping and share it with all of you! I was originally going to do it on Monday's since that is usually the busiest of blog traffic days but since this is God's idea, I only thought I would do this today and continue to glorify HIM in posting it.

The reason I feel God wants to do this is to unite His family of believers that are blogging and to encourage and motivate them to continue on. I guess the internet could be used for so many things but I do see God's hand in so many posts I have come across and continue to follow. You just never know who is going to stop by on any given day and the post you write that day could be the one that changes someone's life in a very positive way and brings them to God! So without further hesitation, I want you to meet Loren at The Magoo's News.

I found Loren's beautiful blog, through one of those blog hopping days where you click on blogging titles that sound amazing and after reading about Loren's father, Doug and his battle with cancer, and the love this woman has for her two families, her married one at home and her parents, I thought she would be the perfect start to this idea. Here are some of the questions I posed to Loren and she was simply wonderful enough to post them here.

First let's hear from Loren before we begin:

First, I just want to thank you for choosing my blog, it is such an honor and I am humbled! The Lord is amazing how He works things together for HIS good and this is yet another example of HIS love and sovereignty. How HE cares for us even in something like a blog! You Kat, are such a cherished friend and your title heart2heart describes you perfectly! I felt your heart connected to mine from the very first comment and the Lord shines in all you do and say so Thank you again! Now, to your questions.

1. Something about myself that you might not know ?

I went to school to be an accountant. Sooo NOT my personality :) ended up doing hair, but my favorite job is being a MOM. I have 3 kids, my oldest is married and as of this past Dec. I am a grandma.
I have been married 19 yrs to my best friend and the man the Lord made JUST for me. We found the Lord after we had been married 2 yrs. and HE has changed our lives, our future and the future of our children, grandchildren and all generations thereafter, Praise HIM!

2. Why did I begin blogging?

I have to laugh at this question, somehow I knew this would be asked. Honestly, I had a friend who was a blogger and I loved it. I read it and thought, hmmm, I would like to learn how to do that. Then, I thought it would be a good way to share things with my family and just as so many things in my life the Lord has showed me, that we plan our course but the Lord orders our steps. Prov. 16:9. I never dreamed blogging would become such a gift!

3. Where did I get the name for my blog?

Well that was easy. Since this was originally going to be for my family and about my children.......We are the Magoos. I asked my daughter Jenna what I should name my blog and she said ....The Magoos News. That was it....PERFECT :)

4. What is my favorite part about blogging?

Oh my, this could be a long answer! I love soo much. Seeing Gods hand at work every day in my blog and others too. Meeting new people and learning from them. I have met some of the kindest people! Bloggers are amazing ......they are prayer warriors, encouragers, teachers, some make you laugh, some will make you cry but they are faithful and loving friends. Your lives become entwined daily, and for me, I have found that we all share each others burdens and joys. The Lord definitely directs you to the people He wants you connected with. I love seeing how He brings people you don't even know and they will give you a scripture meant for that very day or circumstance, or an encouraging word and even a "Prayer button." This happened for me from a new friend named Edie. She made a button for my Dad who has recently been diagnosed with Lung Cancer. It has been amazing to see all the wonderful things the Lord can do in and through His people.

5. If I could have one super power, what would it be and why?

Goodness....I guess it would be flying. Because I could spend my time here in Florida with my dad and then also fly home to be with my husband and kids and sweet grandaughter & my mom all in one day.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart Loren! We will all continue to pray for you and your wonderful family. If you haven't stopped by Loren's site, The Magoo's News, please do and follow her in her journey with God. Leave her an encouraging word, a thought or a prayer and keep this beautiful soul in your prayers.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

One Lovely Blog Award!

I am so honored to receive this award. I woke up yesterday and shortly after posting my blog, I received this from Chrissy at Bitter Sweet Moments We have just become followers of each other's blogs and I think its so wonderful to receive this from Chrissy! If you haven't heard of her yet or stopped by her blog, you will just absolutely love what she posts everyday!

The only thing you need to do to receive this award is to pass it along to 15 other bloggers and let them know! So here goes in no particular order:

1. Dear Craisin

2. Gotta Have Faith

3. Reflections

4. Off The Beaten Trek

5. Filled With Praise

6. Lemonade Skies

7. Just Be Real

8. Simply Divine Love

9. Diagonally Parked in a Parallel Universe

10. Homesteaders Heart

11. No Ordinary Moments

12. Jesus Loves Mums

13. The Secret Life of an American Wife and Mom

14. Through the Storms of Life

15. The Magoos News

There are so many other wonderful bloggers out there to just name 15 was difficult but I am hoping that these will all wind up on someones blog! Have a blessed weekend!

Friday, July 24, 2009

16 is Sweet!

July 24 th seems just like every other day to most people. It’s just another day right smack dab in the middle of summer. Today it’s just a Friday and for most of us, that alone is a great thing in itself. However for one person in this household it is much more than just an ordinary Friday in the middle of summer in July. It is her birthday! She has no completed 16 years of experience in a short time she has lived. She has had to grow up much to fast for most teens her age.

She was born at 6:03AM and weighed the average 7 pounds and 8 ounces, like most female babies. We were super lucky she was born healthy! Isn’t that what most parents wish for when their baby is being born? Please let the baby be healthy! She was!

She was the perfect first born for me. As a first time mom, I was looking for easy in raising a baby and that is just what I got. No real crying except for the usual, diaper change, hungry or overly tired. Other than that, perfectly content.

That lasted way into her toddler years. Everyone who met Caitlyn fell in love with all her super cute charm, and she could charm them all. Never had a lack of babysitters or people wanting to take her off our hands for a couple hours or even a weekend. She was fine with commuting long distances and kept herself busy in the car without fussing.

She lived through a divorce but doesn’t remember most of it since it happened when she was 3. For that alone I am thankful. I made a vow that I wouldn’t stand in the way of her happiness ever, as long as it was something she wanted, no matter how much it hurt. For 5 years, I watched her leave every summer, and fly home to her dad in Rhode Island, ripping my heart out each time, but hiding it until she was safely on a plane. Never did I ever let her see how much pain a mother goes through when her daughter leaves. I thought I wouldn’t experience that until she left for college.

However, in her 9th grade year, her dad finally agreed to let her make the decision to move where she wanted and the heavens rejoiced that day, when she chose us. We have been so blessed to have had her these last 2 years. Now she flies home to Rhode Island for the summer and returns to us before the start of school.

She is turning into an amazing woman before our eyes. She has maintained a 4.0 throughout High School and has a life goal of being valedictorian for her High School class within the next two years. She has participated in Track and Field and made it to CIF’s while maintaining all her academic levels and being on the Principal’s Honor’s Roll. She is planning on attending some college classes while completing her Junior year to get her started in her college classes early.

Friends ~ From left to right ~ Heather, Caitlyn and Samm!

She has volunteered at our church with Leaders in Training which helps out the Youth Groups. This summer she is attending a Leadership camp at the UC of Santa Barbara for her ASB class this year as Activities Commissioner. She has also completed 2 years of community service as a Mentor in her school helping developmentally challenged kids with their schoolwork. Their parents have sent glowing letters to the school and us!

Caitlyn in the brown top and her circle of friends!

When you ask her what she sees her future job as, it’s an easy choice for her. She wants to work with children. She sees the future for what it can potentially become and she never harbors grudges even when others have betrayed her trust. She sees things through those proverbial rose colored lens and always sees the best in others no matter what others say.

Caitlyn at Sea World working with Dolphins!

She is the daughter that everyone wants to be best friends forever with, all the guys want for their girlfriend and ever parents perfect daughter! She makes being a parent so easy even with all her teen challenges; we wouldn’t change anything about her.

Caitlyn and Kailee at Knott's Berry Farm!

Her favorite colors are purple and black. She loves God with all her heart and found salvation early on in her childhood. Her best female friend is Samm Lillard. She loves to run track. Is super excited to be planning most of the activities at her school this year. Hates most math classes. Loves History!

Her first real love was Quinn but now is sharing her love with Jordan for a second time.

Her favorite food is Salmon or Chicken Fettuccine Alfredo. She loves Dark Chocolate, especially from See’s Candies, or even Hershey’s Special Dark Chocolate. Her favorite season is Fall. Her favorite place to buy clothes is Forever 21 and Aeropostle. Her best male friend is Mikey! She loves horses. She spends all of her time, MySpacing, emailing her friends, hanging out at the mall with Mikey, Jordan and Samm. She loves roller-skating. Her dream vacation would be Italy! Her favorite flower is a red rose!

Caitlyn at Magic Mountain with Samm, Mikey and her cousin Josh!

So I would ask one small favor of each of you visiting my blog today, to please stop over at her blog, Dear Craisin and wish her a very Happy 16th Birthday!

Happy 16th Birthday, Caitlyn!!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Thankful Thursday!!

WOO! Hoo! Another week has come and gone and there are always blessings galore to be found. If you haven't yet participated in Thankful Thursdays and would like to, please visit Sonya at Truth 4 The Journey and sign up today! Her site is beautiful and you will meet many new blogging friends who will stop by and view all your blessings as well!

Here are just 5 of the things I am thankful for this week, and in everything I am always thankful for God and His hand in my life!

1. I am thankful that my air conditioning is still working in the midst of all this heat wave we have had for almost 2 weeks straight. I am praying that God will work on the electric company and keep us from being sticker shocked when we open the bill this month!

2. I am thankful that Caitlyn's teen party went off without any problems and everyone that she invited all showed up and were a part of something special for her 16th!

3. I am thankful that we were all able to take a roadtrip yesterday and discover some amazing things. I will be blogging about it soon, so keep a sharp eye out!

4. I am thankful for my hubby who at this time, remains at home working most days so the kids can really spend some much needed quality time with him. We have been in a deficit for a while.

5. I am thankful for all my blogging friends who remain so inspirational and motivated that I can't wait to see each and every one of your sites and postings each day. I am going to dedicate one day a week to highlight new blogs I have come across to make finding new friends even easier!

Have a most wonderful and blessed day today!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Great Back to School Ideas

I know, I know! We still have almost 4 more weeks of summer left and I am already talking school supplies! Yet I have to because I came across some amazing ideas I have used in the past or have found on my own being a home school mom to my youngest and a hybrid to my highschooler. I thought I would share them because in this economy of trouble times, who couldn't use the help!

1. TARGET ~ Besides being one of my favorite places to shop, Target has their school supplies out already. HINT: Don't wait to buy these, the prices will not drop, they will only run out and then go up! Made that big old mistake last year! I found crayola crayons for .24, index cards for .47, composition books for those science fair projects and spelling words for .50, pens for .50 and the list goes on and on.

2. Dry Erase ~ These work great for things like doing spelling words in the car while taking your teen to school. If they make a mistake, simply smudge your finger across the wrong letter and no re-writing is necessary. This works well for little ones because rewriting is something they don't like to do.

I also found my teen likes to use them for working out difficult Algebra problems in different colors for different operations, like red for adding, green for multiplying, so she can check her work and keep from being confused. I refuse to start school without a fresh set. Plus I can keep track of the subjects she needs to complete for my homeschooled daughter on the board and she can check them off or wipe them off when complete.

3. Preparing for back to school. One of the best tips I have gotten this year was from a home school mom whose son was taking the initiative to check his supplies before school started. He pulled out all his pens, pencils, markers, crayons, and even dry erase and made sure that the ones that had dried out, were tossed. Nothing spells grief to a child then starting coloring and the marker runs out of ink. I thought this was a great idea and it also helps with buying them early if you need to when the prices are still on sale.

4. Frustrated spellers? I had a great response last year and the year prior with washable window markers. Nothing says FUN like writing on the windows or patio doors. When it's all done, simply wipe off with water or Windex. Kids like writing on different surfaces and it makes it fun to write on things you don't normally get to!

I will post more tips next Wednesday, but if you have some, please leave a comment so we can all share in the great ideas all of you have!!!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Pictures of Wonderland

If you followed my blog at all last week, you knew that our oldest daughter was planning her 16th birthday party this last Saturday. She had it a week early due to so many of her friends leaving for summer camp or just having things planned this weekend.

What were we thinking? We gave her all kinds of options for a party, but then came across an idea on the internet for an Alice in Wonderland themed party! She fell in love with it since it is her favorite Disney movie.

We changed the title to Caitlyn in Wonderland and designed two party rooms. One decorated all in playing cards, red, white and black streamers, and a huge 10 foot banner than we all painted for 5 hours one night for the game room. This is the room where we hosted all the games.

As you can tell, there I am in black with blond hair reading the instructions for the Amazing Race challenge game that all the teens loved. We divided them into two teams, team red and team black. We created 10 tasks for each team to complete. They were sealed in envelopes with clues to what task they might be faced with. We even had roadblocks and detours. Everyone on the team had to participate and they couldn't have the same person complete tasks until everyone else had gone.

The first task was that they were guess the flavored jelly belly's blind folded after you successfully found 2 green, 2 yellow, 2 white, 2 red and 2 speckled pink jelly beans with the help of one of your team mates. They got points for each correct color found and bonus points for the flavors. Not many got the flavors correct.

Then we had them designate two people from their team that had not participated in the jelly bean game and one was blind folded and the other stood at the top of the stairs and tossed filled balloons to the blind folded person below. I think we had more laughs from this one because the first team caught none and the other team caught 2.

Then we had them blind fold one of their team mates and scoop up cotton balls with a serving spoon and drop them into a bowl.

They actually did this one pretty good because we timed it. They got points for every cotton ball they received.

Then they had to paint white silk roses red with marker. We awarded the team who colored all their petals, points for each petal painted.

As you can tell, this one was almost completely red. I mean what would the queen say?

We also had them scrabble tiles over and spell "Caitlyn in Wonderland." Here my youngest, Kailee was even able to participate!

Then we also had them sort Roman Numeral Letters in order from the highest to the lowest. As you can see here. The only thing we would tell them is how many they had in the correct order, not which ones were correct.

There were more challenges and if you want you can email me and I can send you all 10 tasks and the clues we used if you want to do this for your party.

We completed her party with her cake, which we did at Costco because I didn't want to try and master a fondant Alice in Wonderland cake like the one pictured below. I know I could do it, but the costs to complete this would have been more than I wanted.

So I opted for a Costco cake with roses and we added the colored hearts to it. Caitlyn loved it and said it was her best birthday ever.

After the cake was finished the kids played Catch Phrase which they all loved. Great game that is passed around much like password. Definitely a teen game. Then because we had a 110 degree day, they all went outside at 8:30pm and played Hide and Seek until everyone had to go home.

Before our guest left, they all signed her banner with well wishes and comments. We also gave them a treat bag filled with "Eat Me" cookies and a tea bag wishing them all, " A Merry Unbirthday!" Thanks Samm for the bags and cookies.

One key detail I left out was when each of Cait's party guests arrived they had to pop a balloon with a task inside. For example, each time you hear the word "Caitlyn" you must yell, "Happy Birthday!" We had a grand total of 14 of these going on with phrases like "Off With Her Head!", "Long Live the Queen!", "Has Anyone Seen the White Rabbit?", "I'm Painting the Roses Red! and "It's My Unbirthday Too!"

When I asked Caitlyn what her favorite part was, she said either the Amazing Race Game or the Catch Phrase game. Go figure, teens love games!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Discovery - Chapter 6

Ah another busy weekend has passed and Monday has arrived. It's book reviewing time and I need your critiques and suggestions. I am posting my latest chapter of my book. Please comment and let me know what you think.

Love and Hugs ~ Kat


It’s been a week since I visited the Gallery. Yet every day I awake I find myself thinking about it over and over again. Sometimes I wonder if I am dreaming. Wondering out loud to myself, was it real or did I just imagine it?

Ever since that day however, my mood has changed. Besides the feeling of being puzzled about the reality of the place I have visited it has changed me inside.

No longer do I feel happy or joyful.

I can’t even seem to find anything to smile about. Loneliness and anger fill my insides. It has become something that has begun to consume me.

A piece at a time.

One day at a time.

It’s becoming harder to remember what it was like before I went there.

I can’t even remember what one day was like before that fateful day.

The day I walked into the Gallery has forever changed me somehow.

After leaving the gallery that day a nagging thought kept coming back to my mind.

“You have paintings in there too. Don’t you want to see them?”

What was that supposed to mean?

I don’t paint.

As a matter of fact, I don’t possess any form of creativity of any sort in my body. I’m not a fan of most music, I hate art of any kind, I can’t take a decent picture if my life depended on it, and I can’t carry a tune. So how is it that I supposedly have works of my own, hand painted by me, in that crazy stupid place?

I knew once I was standing outside, I should have never entered there.

Why did I after all?

Even now sitting here on my couch, with my old fleece blanket tucked around my shoulders, I can’t remember why. Just one of those, you just have to do it moments I guess.

It’s the only thing that seems logical at this time. I mean what else should I think.

Oh wait, I had a delusional breakdown? That idea at this moment, sounds like it actually fits.

Yet, somehow I felt compelled, pulled, something wanted me to venture just a peek inside its black ominous doors. No one would even know and No one knew where I was anyway. So deep inside me somewhere, I answered that still small voice and said, ‘sure what the heck!’

Little did I know where I would end up a week later.

Depressed, blue, melancholy, and just plain devoid of all emotion.

I simply sat here in my apartment for the last week. Unmoving, unable to get dressed, shower, or even eat for that matter. Empty bags of Oreo cookies, Doritos Nacho Cheese, and Ruffles Sour Cream and Onion Potato Chips were the evidence scattered all around my living room, that food must have passed through my lips at some point. Although I can’t remember eating any of it.

Since I am a free lance writer, work isn’t a problem.

Deadlines are.

I have one coming up in a few months to put the finishing touches on my third novel. Hopefully this will make enough money that I can take a break for awhile. But even the thought of picking up my laptop and generating some new ideas is escaping me

I don’t want to.

I simply want to just sit here and relive dreadful times in my past.

No one even cares any way.

My parents have long outlived me and have moved on to their happily ever after, and they never graced me with siblings to whom I may share some of my grief with anyway.

My editor just wants the book complete and then perhaps will leave me alone if his commission is big enough I suppose.

Yet as soon as I close my eyes, I am back.

Back in the gallery.

Back where it wants me to be.

It calls to me.

Tells me to close my eyes and come back if I can’t be there in person.

My days are empty enough anyway.

I wake at noon and find myself reaching for more pills or something to just put me back in my silent sleep so I can go back. Nyquil, Percoset, Vicodin, Xanax, even alcohol if I can remember to drink enough and not throw it up before I pass out. Sleep keeps me sane.

I can’t wait to go back to sleep. I find peace there.

Peace from everything going on in the day before me.

I dread waking up.

It’s depressing and I hate it.

Life is going on and I am simply not a part of it any longer. I don’t want to be.

Life sucks at this point.

Nothing I do will make a difference to anyone anyway so why bother.

Perhaps just this once I won’t wake up and I can stay in my peaceful sleep once more.

But I am afraid. I am afraid of being alone.

I don’t want to die.

I just want my life back before the day I visited the gallery.

An evil seems to have followed me home and now it’s like my personal escort waiting to take me back.

The thoughts about my paintings keep nagging at me as well. What paintings?

So I try and pass the time today. I look around me and see nothing within reach I can take to put me back to sleep which is good.

I know if I just take a shower, a warm soothing, relaxing shower, perhaps I may just feel a tiny bit better.

But I lack the energy to get up. The blanket is so warm and comforting. Like a hug when you need one the most. Like the hug I need from my husband, but who sleeps in another room. He doesn’t know what is going on in my life.

He knows I am troubled but doesn’t know how to fix me. Fix what is broken on the inside. We’ve been fighting on and off, some big and some small fights for weeks now. We used to be so happy. So perfectly made for each other. People used to say we seemed like the perfect fit. Destined for one another. Soul mates. Life had dealt us the Royal Flush and we were it.

Sure I could chalk some of it up to family responsibilities, getting married too soon, having kids way to early before we even had a change to get to know one another. But we were on the fast track and we felt nothing could go wrong. How wrong it all seems now huh?

Too many years have separated us and now I feel that we are perhaps too far apart for fixing any more. Perhaps we have grown apart. We both want separate things to make us happy. Although I am certain I can’t quite put my finger on what would make me happy again.

I am too lost. Too much has been said that can’t be undone. Too many broken promises lie unfulfilled. Too many lies have been revealed. Trust is now gone like dust in the wind after a breeze has come and taken it away. I can’t remember how to get back.

So I sit. I count the hours in the day. I sleep as many of them as I can possibly can away until the kids call and require some task for me to fulfill. Some errand that only mom can do. Once their needs are taken care of the only thing remaining now is more time.

Time that lies between sleep and me. Sleep where time can change. Dreams could bring back what is missing. Wishes of what could be different in the morning. Possibilities of something new and exciting that will wake me from this sick hell I have found my way into.

All I know is what brought me to this place and what keeps calling to me in my dreams. I must go back. I must see what lies within that place that has kept my life on hold and happiness someplace I can’t see any longer. I must go back to the gallery.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Funnies

Whew! After a very hectic week we all need something to smile about or laugh about. So I think we all need to go back and appreciate being a kid cause it's summer and that is what being a kid is all about. Enjoy and Have A Wonderful Weekend for those that take the blogging weekend off.


3-year-old Reese :

'Our Father,

Who does art in heaven,

Harold is His name.



A little boy was overheard praying:

'Lord, if you can't make me a better boy,

don't worry about it.

I'm having a real good time like I am.'


After the christening of his baby brother

in church, Jason sobbed all the way home

in the back seat of the car.

His father asked him three times

what was wrong.

Finally, the boy replied,

'That Priest said he wanted us

brought up in a Christian home,

and I wanted to stay with you guys.'


One particular four-year-old prayed,

'And forgive us our trash baskets

as we forgive those who put

trash in our baskets.'


A Sunday school teacher asked her children

as they were on the way to church service,

'And why is it necessary to be quiet in church?'

One bright little girl replied,

'Because people are sleeping.'


A mother was preparing pancakes

for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3.

The boys began to argue over who

would get the first pancake.

Their mother saw the opportunity

for a moral lesson.

'If Jesus were sitting here,

He would say,

'Let my brother have

the first pancake,

I can wait.'

Kevin turned to his

younger brother

and said,

' Ryan, you be Jesus !'


A father was at the beach with his children

when the four-year-old son ran up to him,

grabbed his hand, and led him to the shore

where a seagull lay dead in the sand.

'Daddy, what happened to him?' the son asked.

'He died and went to Heaven,' the Dad replied.

The boy thought a moment and then said,

'Did God throw him back down?'


A wife invited some people to dinner.

At the table, she turned to their

six-year-old daughter and said,

'Would you like to say the blessing?'

'I wouldn't know what to say,' the girl replied.

'Just say what you hear Mommy say,'

the wife answered.

The daughter bowed her head and said,

'Lord, why on earth did I invite

all these people to dinner?'

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thankful Thursday!

Yeah it's the special time again, the time you all tune in for each and every Thursday! If you want to jump in and partake, jump on over or should I say blog hop over to Truth 4 The Journey and visit Sonya! She is not only an inspiring and amazing blogger but you will find so much truth in her daily posts.

1. I am thankful for my blogging community of friends and family. I see you all as extended family members that live all over the world and it makes me all warm and fuzzy inside just thinking about it. You all inspire me when I am blue, encourage me when I am struggling, laugh with me when life hands us lemons, and just love like there is no tomorrow.

2. Martha at Fly Away Birdie. Thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart. By posting yesterday about how to become an independent book reviewer, my first book is on it's way and I can't wait. It would have been a book I wanted to purchase but didn't know existed and now a copy is being mailed to my home for FREE! I love to read and love books.

3. I love that Caitlyn, my oldest daughter's birthday plans are all set and ready to go. We have a few things to pick up on Saturday for her big 16 birthday party but we were able to get everything ordered and purchased yesterday. We even all sat around for 5 hours last night making a 10 foot Birthday banner. I will post pictures next week.

4. I love my hubster. He has been home most of the week and life is grand again. We haven't been able to do much because our kids keep leaving to go to friends houses and then we can't go anywhere so we have been playing in the blogging world and playing Webkinz. We are in the planning stages for vacation now.

5. Looking forward to Saturday when my mom, Rose and her grandson she hasn't seen since he was 3, will be reunited once again. Oh the happy tears I am sure we will shed. Again, I promise to take pictures.

My thanks is always to God for allowing me the time to get to be thankful for every little thing that comes our way. Thank you Jesus for pulling us through some major difficult times. You alone are worthy of our praise!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Real Women!

I just finished watching an episode of the Bachlourette this past Monday and was heart broken by what I saw. The girl's name is Jillian and she came from a past episode of the Bachelor when she was left high and dry at the alter. She was proposed to, but it never came to pass.

My heart breaks for this poor girl because she seems like the girl next door. She is pretty although I wouldn't call her drop dead gorgeous. I guess everyone has an opinion on what gorgeous is anyway. My heart goes out to her because she is in pursuit of what every woman wants, love. Pure, honest, don't lie to me just to get me to go out with you, love.

In the course of the last two weeks she has had one guy completely use her to further his career by being on the show and lasting as long as he had, with a girlfriend at home, no less. Could love be so blind on her end, she couldn't see this person for what he was?

Do we, in pursuit of love, put blinders on and jump at the chance for happiness no matter what lies ahead?

I am saddened because watching someone get their heart broken, makes me cry real tears. I hate to see it. Even during break ups, one person gets their heart broken and the other does the breaking up.

No wonder society has labeled perfect women as being 5'7" to 5'9", about 120-130, thin as a rail, works out all the time, generally isn't married and has the perfect career so she doesn't depend on anyone for financial well being. They also fall in range from 25-35 years old. They are also a size 2-5.

Now don't get me wrong there are plenty of women that meet all these criteria and there is nothing wrong with any of them. They are the lucky ones, blessed with youthful skin, no kids most of the time, and a super high metabolism. For the ones looking for love, for most men, this the also the criteria for the perfect wife.

The sad reality is, most women don't fit that bill. We are the ones that are over 35, range in height from 5'4 to 5'8", weigh between 130 and up, and have real curves. For the most part, we also have not received any kind of plastic surgery to enhance that look. We are the girl next doors, the ones that don't fit societies model for the perfect woman.

This is why girls in their pre-teens are constantly focused on looks, weight, and status of rank within the school population and this carries on until they get married, if they can maintain their looks. This is where suicide rates climb and so do the number of cases of bulemia and anorexia for these teens.

These are the same women who diet pill manufacturers are trying to market their products to. We must fit the image society deems as appropriate.

Wait a minute. Real women have curves. Real women are comfortable enough with themselves to be happy being them. Do you know that the average size for women isn't 3-5, but 14 to 16?

I know for every woman out there reading this, we are never happy with what we look like. We always want to look better, be better, feel better, so we pursue the status society labels for us. We get our hair and nails done, try and look our best all the time, and keep our hubby's eyes from wandering. We want approval. We want recognition. We want love. Real, honest, no lies, love, forever. Love that doesn't leave us for the younger more updated model of us.

I am glad that at 45, I am content with as good as it gets. I am 5'7" and weigh 185. I know it's a lot higher number than what I would like, but I am not 20 any more. I am not 30. Each year our bodies change so much that taking weight off in our early 20's is a bigger challenge the older we get. Our metabolism shuts down. Heck I was a huge workout freak in my early 30's but I had just faced a divorce, so I had to fit societies mold or risk being left alone with kids for the rest of my life. Face it looks, attract.

I am not making excuses, but I'd rather go rollerskating with my kids on a Saturday than sweating it out alone in the gym. I'd rather sit on the couch with my hubby than spend the day getting my hair and nails done. I'd rather eat cheesecake because just one slice is pure heaven on earth to me, than a large green salad with no cheese and dressing on the side.

I still work on looking nice, doing my hair and makeup, getting dressed nice, but I am comfortable with who I am. Hubby says he is too! He likes me that way I am. If you ask him if he would like some improvements, he would probably say yes, but then he would say he needs them as well.

So we are aging and growing older together, the way God intended it to be. It is sad to watch marriages and relationships fall by the way side, because women gain more weight over time and they aren't the same size as they were when they met them. If they won't attempt to improve, there is the door. Goodbye. Not all marriages or relationships are that shallow and based on those stats, but I have seen personally my fair share.

The sad thing is, we are all going to die someday, whether we work out or not, whether we look good or not, and sure we can try to keep from dying any sooner than we want, but ultimately only God knows when our number is up. Isn't not like He is going to change His mind just because you finally got your looks where society thinks they should be. I have seen people beat themselves to death with working out and eating all the right things, and drop dead riding bikes with their kids. Now that is what I'd call irony!

For now, I would be happy if we would take the focus off how women look and put it on how we can improve world hunger all over the world or helping out people less fortunate than ourselves. I think there are definitely more important things in life besides looks. Everyone gets older!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Happy National Hot Dog Day!

I didn't realize that the hot dog actually had its own holiday but I guess it does. I got not only one but two coupons in my email this morning for Der Wiernersnitzel for a free chili dog. Who can argue with that?

For those of you that have hot dog places around you, you might just want to check it out and see if they are doing anything that crazy!

I mean I missed out on National Pancake Day so I figure why not give this one a shot.

And if you don't like hot dogs they are offering free ice cream cone instead.

Hope you all have a great day and enjoy the delights of summer.

Monday, July 13, 2009

The Man Hole Cover - Chapter 5

Well it's Monday again and time for all of you to become my editors, critics, and book reviewers. I am now up to Chapter 5 in my book, "The Gallery" which is where this story begins for those of you just jumping in. I would love your blunt honesty and nothing you say will hurt my feelings. I need the honest criticism. So let them rip. Blogger is having issues allowing me to post a picture which is why there is one missing for this title. I hope I can get it to post later. I hope you enjoy this!

The Man Hole

They are there every day. Right smack dab in the middle of the street. You wouldn’t even notice them unless you were looking for them and I have one right in the middle of my street. Not more than 500 feet from my front door. The only way I noticed it was there, was during a picture scavenger hunt I gave my daughter and her friend more than 2 months ago. One of the items was to take a picture of a man hole cover. They found it. Yet there it remains. A cover to whatever world lies beneath it.

Oh sure I have watched my fair share of discovery shows on TV to know that just below the man hole cover is a pipe that lead to some sewer line buried beneath our street. It’s where all the stuff from our home drains away so we don’t have to know where it goes once toilets are flushed or showers are turned off. It just all disappears down the drain. No need to know from there. Just gone.

Yet it puzzled me in a creative way one day to wonder what possibilities could lead to what lies underneath the man hole cover if we didn’t have someone to point the way. The imagination is a very powerful thing. So I stare at the man hole cover while watering the lawn today. I don’t have time to wonder today. I have too many things on my plate today. I will think about it later.

After I roll up the hose, my cell phone is already vibrating and ringing away in my pocket. I put it there because I need to make sure I don’t miss a call. My job requires that I am pretty much on call whenever they need to reach me, especially in this economy. I have to do twice the work as every one else. We just can’t hire more help right now. The company is already teetering on whether or not to close our local office, so for me, I am just happy to be working right now.

I look down at the phone and sure enough caller ID reveals it’s my boss. I roll my eyes before pressing the send button and prepare myself for whatever dilemma or crisis will reveal itself to me in an instant. I hesitate momentarily but press the button anyway. Can’t avoid it, he will only call back.

“Hello? Hey Jake, what’s going on?” I asked trying to sound wide-awake.

“We’ve got a really big issue going on at the mall project you’ve been working on. Our contractor never showed up and the client is pretty upset.” Jake yelled. “We need you to get out there right away and make sure there is some presence on site so that the client knows we will handle the materials delivery that is already in route. There isn’t anyone else on site that can receive it in, and make sure nothing is missing. How soon can you be there?”

Without thinking, I answer, “Give me an hour and I will take care of it.”

“Great! I knew I could count on you. Call me when you get there.” Said Jake before hanging up.

“Sure, no problem.” I say as close the phone and put it back in my pocket.

Now reality sets in. Once again I stopped to think about my recent decision. I can’t even believe where the words came from. I said I would be there. I would be on my way. How was I going to be able to leave?

Since it was still relatively early, I made my way into the house quietly to see if anyone was awake yet. The coffeepot still sat sleeping in its holder, unaware of my presence. No automatic light signaling the brewing process was in the works or even on a delay setting. The house was silent.

Every one was still asleep. So I quietly slipped into the shower while leaving all the lights off in the house. I was in and out before the water had time to warm my feet still cold from watering the lawn. I grabbed my clothes that were lying on the floor from where I left them, and headed downstairs to get dressed.

I slipped into the bathroom downstairs and quietly turned the handle before turning on the light. I got dressed and brushed my hair. I had very little time for anything else.

Normally on mornings like this I would make some coffee and set the timer to go off before she would get up. The smell of morning coffee brewing was like heaven in the morning. One thing less that she would need to do before any of the kids put demands on her. If she could just get through one cup uninterrupted, it would be a great day. I simply didn’t have time today. I checked the time on the coffeepot and I had already been here 25 minutes. I knew the commute might take me a bit longer since everyone else would be sharing the road with me. I could cover for that if I needed to and I could push the speed limit a bit on my way in as well. Should be able to make it.

Thank goodness I had gotten up early this morning. I had a sense that I would have to go in today. I worked non-stop for the last four weeks and today should be the final day of the project. Today should hopefully be the last day to head in to the mall for another long day. After today, things would be different.

I had already packed up the car with my laptop and tool this morning. I figured it would be the last thing my wife would want to see staring at her or the kids today. It’s been up and on when I am not gone. Just in case I get something urgent from work that needs my attention. It’s part of the job I tell myself. So I wanted to make sure it wasn’t sitting there again this morning. I figure I would put it away. I put everything away this morning that reminded me of my job. My organizer, my computer, tools, my GPS, my cell phones. I have more than one. I have one for my family and one for my job. This way my family can always call and I don’t have to worry about explaining calls to my boss on my company phone.

So we got the family plan that allows us to have unlimited minutes between us all. It helped months ago when I was gone. I was required to be out of town for a “special project” that needed my immediate attention. Plus I really needed the money. In this market, both your working and getting paid, or you go hungry for weeks. Since we were getting back on our feet again, I didn’t want to risk another possibility of now work if I declined this offer, so I said yes, no problem.

Again I said those same words to my boss. My wife’s brother. I mean could I really say No? You would think he would understand all the previous weeks of being out of town for months at a time. Being flown out last minute with less than a days notice to Florida or Indiana, Oregon or Washington. Always having a start day but never knowing just how long I may be gone.

The answer I usually got? “Whenever you finish what needs to be done. We’ll fly you home.”

I barely missed being gone for Christmas but thankfully I had a court date from a creditor on December 17th that required my presence. It couldn’t be postponed again. I already did that once before since I was out of town the month before. It was a convenient excuse so I let it stand. I would rather attend court than to deal with telling my family; I wouldn’t be home for Christmas.

Doing that over Thanksgiving had already produced the first big fight of many I would have with my wife. At first I thought she would understand. We were almost four months behind on our house payments when her brother as a way to bail us out first offered me this job. I was told the work was always busy and the money was great. What he failed to tell me was the price I would pay to take this job. The price my family would be faced dealing with not having me around. I was told that most of the travel was only for a couple of weeks and the likelihood of some work being available in my state would come before the first of the new year.

We talked and agreed that we couldn’t risk the loss of our home right now with the holiday facing us in a few months, so I took it. I left the very next day to Oregon. Two weeks later. I was headed home. I was home for a few days, then I was told I had to go back. There was more work that needed to get done and still there was no work here locally. I left again after the weekend was over first thing Monday morning.

That time, I was gone for three and a half weeks. I dealt with all the crying of my youngest saying she missed me and wanted to know when I was coming home. It sucked not being able to give her an answer other than, whenever daddy finishes everything up.

I dealt with all the late night calls listening to my wife deal with going to sleep without me yet again. I couldn’t even give her the answer she wanted and needed to hear. I simply didn’t know. I was working to try and get things done as soon as I could.

I got to stay home for a week after that. It should sound great however, when I don’t work, I don’t get paid. So while staying at home with my family was nice and having my littlest one glued to my side as much as should could, I knew I couldn’t stay. I had to get back to work.

This time, I was gone for 5 weeks to Florida. At least it was supposed to be Florida. I was hoping I would be staying here because it was working on a hotel. When we worked at a hotel, all our expenses would be paid for. If we didn’t we had to pay for it ourselves and the company would reimburse us when we returned at $85.00 per day. If we went over that, it was on us. I don’t know about you but you can’t really expect people to live in a hotel away from home, and eat all day for $85.00. Yet that is what I did. I had to. Even then, I was taking that same $85.00 out of my bank account until I could get home, fill out all the expense report forms and submit it before the next pay period. After that, I would cross my fingers and wait. Hoping that I would see that reimbursements appear on my paycheck.

Sometimes they didn’t. There were errors in payroll I was told. They didn’t get my paperwork. They didn’t have a signature on the forms by my manager. He failed to submit the paperwork in time. I didn’t have the original receipts.

So I would have to wait for another two weeks. In the meantime, that money was already spent so I had to take another out of town job. I had to since there wasn’t any work at home in my state. So when the job to Florida showed up it gave me hope. I didn’t have much money to travel on so staying at the hotel and working gave me an out I needed.

It didn’t last. I was needed in Indiana. The very same day I was flown out. This wasn’t a hotel job. Worse yet, Thanksgiving was a week away. This was a high profile job with a major communication's carrier. I was told if we could do this job and make it look good, it would bring our company more revenue and get me back home sooner.

More nights of lonely calls to a house that was slowly losing hope. My youngest daughter was lashing out in anger at both home and school. She wasn’t sleeping and waking up to nightmares. My wife wasn’t sleeping since for 13 years, we’ve never been apart. Suddenly she was being pulled in the direction of both wife and husband.

When the sprinkler system failed at home and began to flood our front lawn, she called me. She was crying because she couldn’t turn the water off. When I told her where it was the shut off valve was, water had flooded the valves and she couldn’t see them under all the muddy water. Water was flooding all the rose bushes and filling our street. I was thinking it had to be the water main since there was so much water coming from the lines.

She hung up with me in frustration and thankfully a neighbor came to her aid. They turned all the water off in the house. I was in Indiana still with no way out. When some time had passed and things dried out, I told her where to locate the water shut off for the sprinklers. Unfortunately for her, she had to dig three feet of mud and debris to locate the sprinkler shut off valve that had gotten buried when the sprinkler valve blew.

She wasn’t in the best of moods when we talked later that night. She had pulled quite a few back muscles in between tears trying to get the water turned back on in the home so the kids could use the bathroom and take showers. Thankfully it worked. She told me the grass could die because she wasn’t about to fix the sprinklers while talking to me over the phone.

Then more bad news. I wasn’t going to be finished with the project before Thanksgiving and our company needed us to work through the holiday. They couldn’t send us home This project was too big. That wasn’t a phone call I was particularly found of making to my family. Thankfully we don’t do big Thanksgiving dinner with family; it’s usually just us. Not this year. It was just them without me. She said she understood and hopefully this would not impact Christmas.

She did remind me that I had a court date pending on December 17th and she would not be able to get it extended. Perhaps she reminded me, that the company would at least deal with it since it was a legal obligation of mine I couldn’t change.

I was home on December 14th. I told them I needed time to prepare with my attorney before the actual date. I was hoping that they wouldn’t send me out after that. They didn’t. I didn’t work again or get paid again for that matter until I went back to work on January 3rd.

Nope it wasn’t at home in my state either. It was in Philadelphia and New Jersey. My littlest daughter was inconsolable at the airport that day and it broke my heart as I watched both my wife and family leave me at the curbside check in. I didn’t know when I would be back. I would be there at my job. No problem. They could count on me.

The only way I made it home in time for my youngest daughter’s birthday was a threat from my wife. It was plain and simple. Either you come home for her or you don’t come home at all. She told me that if I wasn’t going to be able to make it, I would have to be the one to tell our daughter why. She was tired of being the bad guy all the time.

I tried to negotiate with my daughter. I tried to tell her that perhaps we could do her birthday some other weekend when I got home. Perhaps the weekend after or the weekend after that. I tried to explain that I had no control of that situation. She didn’t care. She didn’t want to hear it. She wanted her daddy home. I wanted to come home.

My brother understood and had me flown home the day before her actual birthday. I surprised her at friends and she cried. She said she didn’t want any presents that just me being home was present enough. It broke my heart. I needed to find another job.

I put my resume in a few places, but I really didn’t try hard enough. Just tried to make it seem like I was. I even tried to drive around and put applications in but only at a few places. It just seemed like no one was hiring. So I left when a job offer came around to fly out to Northern California this time with my old company. The jobs were coming through in our market. They were looking for a person to manage mall projects here. So I took the offer since it meant I wouldn’t have to fly out. No problem. I am your man!

This time, however, it proved me wrong yet again. I couldn’t get home for our wedding anniversary of 11 years and worse yet, I was going to still be out of town for my wife’s birthday, two weeks after that. I tried to arrange for our friends to help me. I had one pick up a cake I had bought and paid for over the phone. I had another friend agree to go pick out some flowers for her and deliver them. I even had promised to call her all day. I don’t understand why she was so upset.

She told me to call all those friends of ours back and call it all off. She didn’t want anything and then refused to take my calls that day. I called first thing to tell her Happy Birthday but had to hang up when worked called. She didn’t answer any phone calls that day. I don’t understand why she doesn’t realize I am only working so she doesn’t have to. She can stay home with the kids now all day long.

I came home two days later. She threatened me with divorce if I didn’t go speak with our pastor. I really didn’t want to go because I knew what he was going to say. He just didn’t understand my situation. I sat in the car that day sitting outside the church. I was afraid. Not sure why. He would understand in this economy a man had to do what he could to provide for his family. After all, I am doing what God told me to do. I felt much better after giving myself that talk.

I was right too by the way. The pastor did understand. He understood my need to provide for my family in the best way I could. He understood the economy better than I had thought too because so many other men were in the same boat but losing their homes and families because they couldn’t find work.

I felt so much better. He told me that the cost to my family however was too great. It was something that they weren’t supposed to do. They are supposed to be trying to be a family without me, just so I could provide a paycheck.

I was thinking I was leading my family and being the head of our household, but all I was doing was providing for them financially. I wasn’t present in my home anymore. Phone calls and emails were not a substitute for me.

I vowed to change. He asked me to read a book with my wife to work on putting myself back in our marriage. I agreed wholeheartedly and would hope she would join me. She loved this stuff. He also suggested that I start looking for a new job.

When I returned that morning, my wife thankfully agreed to work on things with me if I agreed to change. I promised her I would. I also told her I would find another job.

I was called out to work in Las Vegas for a week and agreed. That turned into three weeks. I got an offer to complete two more malls in California again and told my boss no problem. He could count on me. There was even an offer to a promotion in it if I could successfully complete those malls on time and under budget.

I finished those projects and got the promotion. I was going to double my current salary. What I didn’t realize after my wife figured it all out, was that all my hours I was putting in during the last six months this year was more than my current new salary. Plain and simple, my company would be saving money by moving me to a salary position from my old hourly one. We would be losing money.

She must be wrong I assumed and waved her off.

“We’ll just wait and see what the checks show.” I said smugly to her.

She didn’t respond. She just walked quietly upstairs. She didn’t even look back when my work phone rang.

“Hey buddy! How’s it going, Congratulations!” said Jake proudly.

“Yeah, thanks a lot!” I said.

“We’ve got a new mall project just a couple of hours from you we need you to manage? You up for that?” he asked.

“Sure, no problem. When do you need me?” I asked.

“Need you out there today to go over the mall with both the client and the manager of the mall to work out all the details of the project. Can we count on you?

“Sure, I can be there in about an hour!”

“Great! Call me when you get there!” he said before hanging up the phone.

I didn’t understand it when my wife lay there on the bed watching TV. I told her I got to go, this new promotion thing and it wouldn’t take too long. No response.

“Bye,” I said standing in the doorway of our room waiting. Nothing. She didn’t even look at me.

“I love you,” I said, waiting. No response. I shrugged my shoulders and closed the door.

I walked down stairs and leaned over the recliner my youngest was sitting in watching cartoons.

“Daddy has to leave for work baby!” I said kissing her on the top of her head.

“Bye” she said not looking up from her cartoons.

I don’t know when the reality of it all came crashing down. I don’t even remember if there was even a starting point at which things went south. I do know that the people at my job loved how well I did my job. I was called at all hours of the night, and I was always able to provide answers to any problem that came up. I was the “go to guy” for the company. I loved my new title and all the recognition that came from that.

My family wasn’t home as much when I got home. They were gone out shopping or to the movies. Heck I don’t even know where they were most of the time. I know that when I needed to talk to them someone was always available on the cell phone. Our family line.

It wasn’t always the same for them. Sometimes, I left my phone in the car or on the ground when I was climbing up in the ceiling. They got used to calling me on my work phone when I didn’t answer the family phone. They didn’t call me very often. I was usually super busy or I had another person on the other line.

I didn’t even notice that they didn’t call so much anymore. Weekends rolled by and work still demanded my presence at the site. I was working so much I couldn’t remember sleeping but a few hours when I got home the next morning. The family was great about letting me sleep before I had to get back to work that night.

One day at work a man handed me a yellow manila envelope after confirming who I was. I figured it was another contractor’s bid that day. It was Dissolution of Marriage form and a date. It hit me like a ton of bricks. I don't remember breathing. I tried to call that day on the family phone but no one answered. I tried calling our home phone. No one answered.

I went home that night after I finished dealing with work and found our home dark. They must be asleep. I quietly opened the door and found no one home. The upstairs closet doors were all open and empty hangers filled the once full closet. All the pictures of our kids and family were gone. I picked up the phone and called our family phone. I could hear it ringing somewhere in the house.

I ran down the stairs and found a phone lying on the kitchen counter ringing. There was no one there on the family phone for me to talk to anymore. So here I sit looking at the phone and realizing that my family is gone.

The price I paid for that job and the promotion was more than my family could take. They needed a leader and not a financial provider. Someone who would come home instead of calling. Inside my pocket my phone rang again. Not the family phone but the work phone. Called ID showed “work calling” and I waited.

I looked up and wondered how that man got to the point in the painting.

Here he sat in his home, sitting at the kitchen table.

The family phone sitting on the table in front of him.

Manila envelope in his hand.

An empty home.

No blinking light on the coffeepot.

No one would be making coffee for him any longer.

No lights on in the home.

Just above the roof is a pipe.

A pipe leading to the street above.

Covering that pipe is a man hole cover.

Now I know what lies beneath that man hole cover.

The one just outside my home. I no longer need to use my imagination to know what lies beneath it.

I see it in front of me.