2015 Year End Reflections

I found this idea from Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides on his twitter account today. So here goes.

10 Highlights and Accomplishments in 2015

1. — In January 2015, I was brought on at Red Maryland as a citizen journalist.  Even though I didn’t write much this year, two of my articles made it into Red Maryland’s top 30 stories of 2015! Numbers 15 and 19 are all mine. Pretty awesome, especially since I only wrote 6 articles this year.  That means one-third of my total contribution to the site made it to the most popular list!  I’m impressed.

2. — The kids needed new laptops for school work. So Tony found a great deal, picked up 3 laptops, and I got them all up and running.  There were some hiccups, some calls to tech support, and one of the machines had to get replaced (under warranty!) due to a bad hard drive.  But I got it all figured out.  Then 9 months later, I updated all three of their systems plus my own to Windows 10, and helped Tony with his.  Updating my computer involved researching my programs, updating some stuff, and making sure everything would run smoothly.  Tony had a hiccup with the update that I helped him research and find the fix for, and the kids all had to get updated, setup, and running again.  This doesn’t even count all the times I’ve helped mom fix her various issues with electronics.  So yea, my mad skills with computers (primarily on the software side of things) and my google-fu routinely combine to be a source of accomplishment.

3. — Joined the board of the Marlton Swim Club for a month, and helped expose the mismanagement that had driven the organization into a point of bankruptcy.  I loved my time on the board, even if it drove me and everyone around me batty.  I had to resign because I was not comfortable either tying my name to the massive amount of debt the club was in, or chasing government funds, funds that the government does not have, to keep the pool afloat.  In the end, the management of the club was changed, and the government supplied them with enough money to keep afloat.  They are planning to open again next year. We shall see.

Dime Bank Montage4. — I brought home another piece of family history in April. I found a dime bank made by my great-great-grandfather back in the early 1910’s. This neat little gem was added to my small collection of pocket calendars, a product catalog, and the one match holder I’ve been able to get my hands on.  Great-great-grandpa H.B. had his own novelties business. He went from selling magazine subscriptions to support his family, to owning a very successful advertising business, to Mayor of Linden, to bank president.  It’s been fun learning more about his life from the archived newspapers and articles in trade magazines, but it’s even more awesome to get my hands on things that he and his company made.

5. — Became the permanent co-host of The Swamp podcast.  Unfortunately, BigGator’s tablet crapped out during the holiday break, and he needs that to record the show.  So until we find an alternate method of recording the show, or get picked up by Red State Radio – which would be amazing! – we are on indefinite hiatus.  If you want to help us get back on air quicker, you could always donate to BigGator’s Patreon.

6. — Took a trip to my uncle’s beach house this summer.  Took my mom and the kids up there to hang out with mom’s side of the family, who we rarely get to see due to distance.  I was also to both show off some of my family history collection, as well as gather new information, and talk to people.  The trip didn’t go as planned, but it still ranks as a major accomplishment for the year, because driving that far is darn near impossible for me these days.

7. — Got an article published on Dana Loesch’s website. Considering how big Dana is getting, it’s a pretty big deal to me that she picked up my article.  I was also a caller on her show, discussing autism and the second amendment.  She’s mentioned me often, and I’ve called in before, but this time it was more like an interview, and she spent a good long time talking to me about the issue.

8. — I was way ahead in my homeschool planning this year.  I felt like for the first time since we started this crazy homeschool adventure, I was prepared for the start of school!  It was an amazing feeling.  I followed that up by getting all my Christmas shopping and gift wrapping done early this year.  Go me!

9. — I reached out to my mother’s Uncle George in the course of my family genealogy research and discovered he lives about 45 minutes away!  I took mom on a little road trip and got to meet with him in person.  Awesome.

10. — I made it through the holiday season yet again.  Unless you’re new here, you know that’s a huge accomplishment for me.  If you’re new here and wondering what the heck I’m talking about, the TL;DR version is that all four of my miscarriages, my father’s birthday, the anniversary of his death, and all three of my children’s birthdays are sandwiched between Thanksgiving and the 2nd week of March, with most of it coming before New’s Years Day.  So yea, the holidays are a rough time emotionally.  But I survived.  We all survived. That’s all that counts.

**Bonus Awesome thing — I met Ms. Kestenbaum online via Ancestry.com, and she has helped me track down so much information about my grandmother’s life just before and during WW2. It’s been amazing! I can’t thank her enough.

 

10 Disappointments or Utter Fails

1. — I fell down an escalator, because I am nothing if not a grade A klutz.  Still having trouble with my left big toe because of it too.

2. — I broke the truck. Still not sure how I did it, but I did. It rolled away from me in the driveway, and bent the door back completely.  Thankfully the insurance adjuster decided that since it was so close to Christmas, and obviously a well-cared for vehicle, that he’d eat some of the cost on it so that it wouldn’t be considered “totaled”.  So that aspect of the situation was another undeserved blessing.  It’s all fixed now, but still… what an epic fail.

3. — I crapped out on my Photo 365 challenge before the end of January. In fact, I barely took any photos at all this year.  That’s just odd for me.

4. — I tried to get involved in my homeowner’s association and the local civic league. Sigh. But neither hold regular meetings. Honestly, there is a whole lot of “I don’t care” and apathy towards both organizations.  It’s pretty frustrating, but considering the politics of most people in the area, and the ideas of the folks in charge, it’s probably for the best.

5. — The beach trip didn’t turn out like I’d hoped.  Let’s just say there was some family drama, and leave it at that.

6. — I’m still struggling to wrap my head around the local governments here.  There are so many layers of complexity and corruption, I’m just not nearly as involved as I’d hoped I’d be by now.

7. — I didn’t get nearly as far as I’d hoped with writing my book. I think the biggest problem I have is that I love the research too much!

8. — I gained weight.

9. — I didn’t get my room painted & fixed up, or get nearly as far through the list of home improvements as I’d hoped. At least the kids rooms got done.

10. — I didn’t blog nearly as much as I wanted to.  Seriously, I can’t tell you the hundreds of posts I wrote in my head, that just never made it to the keyboard.

** Bonus frustration — I got totally frustrated with my homeschool group coordinator and her constantly shifting goal posts.  Wound up calling HSLDA for clarification, and they became a mediator to sort out an agreement of what’s expected from me, at least for the rest of this year.

 

3 Game Changers

1. — My hubby had a health scare. That will change your perspective on life in ways you can’t imagine until it happens to you.

2. — My oldest son started 10th grade at age 14.  That means he’s only 2 years away from graduation.  That’s a scary thought.  Even scarier – In about a year, he’ll be old enough to drive.

3. — Family Drama.  ’nuff said.

 

3 Things You Focused On

1. — My children’s education.

2. — My book research, both into the genealogy and the history.

3. — Politics.

 

3 Thing You Forgot/Didn’t Get Around Too

1. — Keeping track of my weight and food.  Doing this always helps me lose weight, or at least maintain the status quo.  I forgot to do this on a consistent basis this year.

2. — Starting my own homeschool group. I’ve been contemplating starting my own group, getting the church to back me up, and getting it approved as an umbrella school, just so I don’t have to jump through the ridiculous hoops I do now.  But I just haven’t found the time or energy to figure out how to go about this.

3. — Photo 365 & scrabooking, or even blogging.  Pretty much did nothing this year in terms of recording memories.  Sigh.

 

So that’s it from me.  All in all, it was a good year.  Crazy, but good.  Can’t wait to see what next year holds.

Blessed Beyond Comprehension. Part 4.

If you aren’t caught up yet, check out Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 – then come back here.  I’ll wait.

While we were waiting to hear from our lender not just about approving the sale, but also about how much of the deficiency we would have to pay back, we got a call from my Uncle.  He sent us a check to help with moving expenses and let me know that the final settlement from my Grandmother’s estate would be coming through in a few days.  Wouldn’t you know it, the settlement check covered the truck rental exactly.  Yet another blessing from God, we had the money to move, without drawing more out of our meager savings.

Tony put in a transfer request at work.  In yet another blessing, one of the two stores he requested responded within the hour that they were desperately in need of a furniture guy, and when was the earliest he could get there? We were planning to move the second weekend of May, but knew there was a lot of repair work to be done once we got there, so we gave the start date of June 1.  It was accepted and our plans continued to move along so smoothly that it could only be the hand of God.

Then we got the letter from the lender, about 5 days early.  Not only had they approved the sale of the home, but they had also completely forgiven the deficiency!  It was a miracle from the Lord!  We had become only the second client of Advance Short Sale Service to have the deficiency forgiven by our particular lender. We would be walking away from the house debt free.  Let me say that again.  DEBT. FREE.

I cried when we got that news, or I would have if crying didn’t give me a migraine. It was such a relief, like a 50 pound weight being lifted off your back after you’ve carried it uphill for weeks on end.

We got word that Closing wouldn’t actually happen until the end of May, but proceeded with our plans because we had already lined everything up, and mom had already gotten a couple of guys from the church to help us unpack the truck.  Thing was, we couldn’t schedule the utilities to be shut off.  Instead, the buyer agreed to switch the utilities into his name, meaning we would NOT have to pay disconnect fees, & he wouldn’t have to pay connection fees.  Win for both of us, so of course we said yes.

In the end, we made our way to my mom’s house, and spent a few weeks making it home.  There’s still some work to be done, but we continue to be blessed. With the move, we gained an amazing church that support special needs kids amazingly well, and really listens to the kids and the families.  The store management has already recognized my husband’s hard work and has taken steps to get him the maximum hours allowed.  We also got much closer to my middle sister and her kids, who love to play with their cousins.  Mom got a membership to the local pool, so the kids are finally learning to swim.  And in the midst of it all, I had a problem with my website, and a good friend who works for my new hosting company, Arvixe, looked out for me and moved my site to a better server.

Throughout this whole process, everything went so smoothly, and all of the pieces just clicked into place so easily. It could only be the Hand of God, directing us, and leading us all along the way.  While the living situation isn’t the most ideal, and it was hard to lose the home we had poured our blood, sweat, and tears into for seven years, there is no doubt in my mind that we are right where God wants us for whatever reason.  There is no other explanation for the shower of blessings that got us here.

I’d like to thank everyone who helped us and prayed for us throughout this whole ordeal.  God is amazing, and He can work miracles. He did for us many times over.

Blessed Beyond Comprehension. Part 3.

Quick recap – we were losing the house & almost broke, but we had a place to go and a great realtor who we trusted.  However, we had no showings, a poor housing market, and a bad economy.  But the blessings God had in store for us were just beginning.

Original image from West U Methodist's website.

Have you tithed this week?

One day in late March, a discussion about tithing broke out on my Facebook Debate Club group. While defending the practice to a young man who thought it was all a scam, it dawned on me.  When was the last time we’d tithed? See, we weren’t physically attending church due to various sensory issues and work schedules.  However, we continued to “attend” by watching sermons and tithing online.  We’d usually tithe a few weeks at a time, so I asked Tony to check.  Turned out, we were overdue.  Tony logged in and paid up our tithe right away.

About a week later, we got the phone call we’d been waiting for! Finally, a showing! Considering the house down the road hadn’t had a showing in months, this was great news! I didn’t want to get too excited, but still, a showing!  Two days later, we had three showings in one day.  That night, we had three offers! It was a miracle!

The best offer was for a few thousand more than the appraised price of the house, but the buyer wanted us to pay closing costs.  We weren’t financially able to do so, despite the hefty tax refund that had just come through.  So, at the advice of our realtor, we sent a counter-offer. The buyer would get the house at the appraised cost & pay closing. The total came out to about a thousand more than the buyer had offered.  Then we waited.

Malachi 3:10

Malachi 3:10

The buyer accepted our offer.  Now we just had to wait for our lender to approve the sale, and find out if they would come after us for the $80,000 difference. We had been informed that our particular lender had a reputation for demanding repayment of the difference. This was concerning because there was no way we’d be able to help mom with our part of the bills, pay off the difference, and save anything to try to get back on our feet.  The guys at Advance Short Sale Service warned us that they’d only had one other client with our lender who’d had the difference forgiven.  The most they’d been able to get from our lender was 50% off the difference. So while we prayed for the best, we prepared for the worst, and waited to hear from the lender.

The buyer had asked to close in just two weeks. We still hadn’t heard from the lender, but time was running out to get a truck rented.  So we once again stepped out on faith.  We rented the truck and made final preparations to move to mom’s house on the second Friday in May. God had already poured out so many blessings on me and my family, but He wasn’t done yet.

Stay tuned for Part 4.

Read the whole story:

Blessed Beyond Comprehension. Part 2.

our VA Home  It wasn’t easy to face the fact that we would be losing our home.  Believe me, I fought it.  I begged the mortgage company to reconsider, I applied for work to try to help make ends meet.  The more I fought it, the more anxious and upset I became.  So I prayed.  We prayed then discussed it, and decided to stop trying to fight it.  We decided on a Short Sale, and made plans to move into my mom’s house with her & my sister & brother-in-law.  The instant we came to that decision, a sense of peace filled me.  It was such a relief after weeks of fighting the inevitable. I know we were blessed to have a place to go, but the blessings didn’t end there.

We needed a realtor, and fast.  I knew the woman who had sold us the house was no longer a realtor, but we figured she’d know someone we could trust.  Laurie Wagner had been amazing when she helped us find the house, and really trusted her.  A quick google search found her new contact information, and phone call later we had a referral.

Buck Heffernan was an answer to prayer.  A former Navy guy, and a solid Christian, he had such a calming influence from the moment he stepped in the door.  He let us know what we would need and who we would need to talk to to make this happen. He was a God-send. If you are in the market for a realtor in the Hampton Roads area, I highly recommend Mr. Heffernan.

Thing was, the housing market in our neighborhood was dismal. Not much had sold in the past 2 years, and there were houses on the market for over a year.  We needed to sell quickly.  It wasn’t looking good.  Then the state government enacted the tolls, and the city council made noises about raising the water rates again and other market-killing moves, and it seemed like all hope was lost.  But despite that, I just knew the house would sell.  I felt like we’d be out by the end of April – an impossibility considering the market and the amount of hoops and paperwork we had ahead of us, but still, I just had this peace about the whole thing.  So we put the house on the market and stepped out on faith.

February passed, and no showings.  March was almost over without a showing.  I started to doubt just a little.  I started thinking, maybe June? Hopefully? We kept praying, and trusting God to make this happen.  I researched truck rentals and started packing boxes.  The books were first.  We use LibraryThing to catalog our large book collection, so I used that to mark which books were in what box.  Before long, most of the books and everything else we could live without was packed up. Now there wasn’t much to do but wait.

We’d already been blessed with a place to go and a realtor with connections to make this happen.  But with no showings, things were looking bleak. On top of that, our mortgage hit the 7-year mark and our payment increased. Would the blessings continue?  Was this a test of my faith? Stay tuned for part 3.

Read the whole story:
Part 1

Blessed Beyond Comprehension. Part 1.

What a difference 6 months can make.

Found online somewhereIn January, we were informed by our mortgage company that despite all of our best efforts to reduce our bills to the lowest possible, cut our spending down to nothing but the necessities, and do everything we were supposed to do…  the economy had taken it’s toll on our finances.  We were given two options:  Wait it out until our bank accounts were completely dry and our credit wrecked then go into foreclosure, or we could try a short sale.  (If you don’t know what a short sale is, check out this YouTube video, I’ll wait.)

What a lousy choice. Either way, we would be losing our home.  It had been our home for 7 years, the longest we’d been in one spot in our entire 15 years of marriage!  This was not easy to hear.

For what it’s worth, I meant it when I said we had done everything we were supposed to do. We had worked hard and paid off both cars while the military was providing housing.  When we paid off a car, the payment went into a separate bank account so we could “pay ourselves” and build up a nice savings account.  Our credit was excellent.  We paid off our credit card every month and were never late with a bill payment.  We even planned well when we bought the house, so that our mortgage payment would equal what we knew DH’s military retirement check would be – that way the mortgage would always be paid.  DH got a full-time job at JCP when he retired from the military, and we continued to save what we could.  When JCP started to decline fast under Ron Johnson, DH was a casualty.  He got laid off from his full-time position.  We immediately took measures to cut our bills to the barest minimum possible.  Then several Obamacare regulations kicked in, including the one that effectively reduced part-time hours to 29 a week instead of 39.  DH was able to find a part-time job with Big Lots, thanks to a good friend.  But you can’t support a family of five on 29 hours a week.  So we cut every penny out of the budget that we could, and started enforcing strict energy & water usage rules.  Then the City Council raised our property taxes and our water bill by 10%.

We filed a hardship packet with our lender, and in the process spoke to two different credit counselors & walked them through our budget.  Both were blown away by how tight we’d managed to make our budget, and neither could find a single thing to cut or reduce any further.  We were done for.  We’d already burned through so much of that nice savings accounts, we would be lucky to make it another 6 months.

I can already hear you asking, “But, where’s the blessing in this? You’ve lost your home, you’re pretty much broke, how is this good?”  Stay tuned for part 2.

I have the best kids in the world!

I just have to brag on my kids, and maybe encourage some of you.  Just a brief reminder, I’ve got 3, all on the spectrum. My 12 yr old has Asperger’s Syndrome, Dsygraphia, & ADHD. My 10 yr old has High Functioning Autism, and some sort of processing delay – it take her longer to catch on to things than the others.  My 8 yr walks the line between Aspeger’s & HFA, and also has Sensory Processing disorder, & ADHD.  I myself am an Aspie with Dysgraphia & maybe some ADD.

Some of you know, I am HEAVILY involved in my city’s politics. I was brought into the local tea party in October to be their social media person.  I’ve since been named Vice-Chair. Our city is nearing the end of the yearly budget battle.  I’ve been actively fighting a tax increase & a water fee raise, by writing articles for the local paper & organizing our little group as best I can.  This past week has been the final push to do anything about these increases.

In the past week, I met with the city’s budget director & spent about 3 hours going over the budget with her & my Tea Party chairman on Monday.  On Tuesday, I spent several hours at a TP meeting, grilling the Asst. Superintendent of the school system on his budget, & putting out the results of our meeting with the Budget Director.  Then last night, from 6 to midnight, I was out at the city’s public hearing, and talking to people about the budget.

All that to say this:  I could NOT have done any of this a year ago. This week, for the first time since we started homeschooling 7 years ago — all three of my kids have done their schoolwork everyday this week, without being prompted, without having me sit over them, constantly reminding them what was next.  They didn’t give their father a hard time about anything on the days he was subbing for me. Just woke up, did their school work, and went on about their day.

Then last night, there was a 2 hour window between when I had to leave for the council meeting, and when my DH would get home from work.  Not only was I able to leave the kids at home, and trust they would feed the dog & not kill each other — My 12 year old cooked dinner for the other two – Kraft Mac & Cheese, Scrambled Eggs, Hot Dogs, & Toast. *S*  I’m so proud of him! And so proud of my littlest guy, who for years has struggled with separation anxiety that was near crippling, but was able to kiss me good bye last night, and has not freaked out about any of this.  Also, I’m proud of my Diva, for holding her ‘tude in check & not fighting with her brothers over stuff while I was gone.

Last year, none of this would have been possible.  We still have our issues. But I’m so proud of my kids.

My Kids

Pure Joy.

BigBoy decided Friday night that he wanted a Bible of his very own.  His big brother received an Adventure Bible a few years back.  thePinkDiva has commandeered the Read To Me Bible we have for the kidlets.  So off we went, bright and early Saturday morning, to the Christian Bookstore down the road.

BigBoy took his time, looking over the selection of Bibles at the store.  I’ll never forget the look on his face when he made his decision and carefully picked out the Bible He wanted.  He clutched the Bible to his chest, and told the cashier how happy he was to have his own Bible.  He carried it so tenderly to the car.  He gazed lovingly at it as we drove home, talking excitedly about how he couldn’t wait to get home and show the rest of the family.


We found the cutest Veggie Tale Bible.  It’s an actual Bible, with all kinds of goodies like verses to remember, and information at the front of each book telling a bit about it.  Plus, several of our favorite Veggie ‘toons have been turned into short comic strips and interspersed through out the Bible, complete with references to locate the actual Biblical story.  It’s so cute!

(And, in the interest of full disclosure, I have NOT been paid by Big Idea for this review.  I mean, I won’t complain if they want to send me a few of their new DVDs…  but yea, totes not compensated for this, ok FCC & Big Govt.)

When we finally got home from our errands, he ran into the house, threw himself down on the carpeted hall right next to the door, and pulled the slipcover from his very own Bible.  He lay there on his stomach, flipping the pages, pointing out comics and words he recognized for a good 5 minutes – which for a 5 yr old boy, is practically a lifetime.

His first Bible.

My heart filled with joy as I watched my son enjoying God’s Word.

I love technology!

Right now, I am just so blissfully happy with email, little point n shoot cameras that take video, and my husband’s gorgeous face and his delightful voice.  So much so that I can’t even begin to think of anything else right now.

Te amo mi amor, con todo mi corazon.

things that made me happy…

Well, what can be said for today….  I’m alive.  So I guess that’s number one.  I have amazing kids, who don’t trash the house when mom needs a nap.  I have a loving husband who does his best to look out for me even from an ocean away.  I’m alos pretty thankful for networks that put full episodes of  TV shows online because, DUDE! that’s the only way I’m keeping up with Hell’s Kitchen & Amazing Race this year, and for real, I just luv the escapism.

Joyful 5

Just a quick 5 things b4 I head to bed..

  1. Good friends. Had a blast with HeadNurse & her kids today.
  2. Hostess Chocolate Cupcakes
  3. Bubble Bath
  4. Email – my lifeline right now.
  5. Amazon.com – for getting my copy of Twilight delivered right on time. Dude.

That’s it for me, what about you?