When Jim had reached his car he realized he had no memory of gathering his things and leaving the building. Did he even mutter a goodbye to his co-workers of 10 years? His mind was racing, to the point of having to search every pocket for his key's. "Get it together Jim" he told himself, out loud. As he began his routine ride home he barely even noticed that it had started to snow. His mind just kept distracting him with too many questions, as he fought desperately to find some answers. He pulled into his driveway, turned off the engine and just sat in the car staring at his home. His mind went numb as he reminded himself to cover the pipes and find the snow shovel buried somewhere in the garage.
That's how Beth found him. He was just sitting there, deep in thought, as the snow was covering the windshield. She tapped on the window, with just a jacket thrown over her shoulder's, as the snow began to fall harder. "Jim, are you alright?" she shouted. Jim saw the worry on her face as he turned toward her feeling the fear rise up to his throat. He quickly gathered his strength and got out of the car. "I'm OK Beth, let's get out of this cold" as they carefully went in the house.
The blood drained from Beth's face has she sat there listening to Jim. "The company had to scale back and mid-management took the biggest hit" Jim said in disbelief. "It's three weeks until Christmas Jim, the mortgage, the bills and the kids. What are we going to do?" Beth said in a panic. Jim knew they were still paying off their summer vacation, but his thoughts were of saving the house and putting food on the table. Jim had made plenty of money to make it possible for Beth to stay at home and raise their kid's. The loss of their only income and medical would hurt them. Their lifestyle was about to change drastically. They talked it through and came up with a plan.
Jim and Beth knew the plan would devastate the kids. They realized that they had protected the kids, by not explaining what was happening, when the economy started to flounder. They had also failed to set a good example about money. With a meager savings, car loans and debt, they dreaded talking to the kids. Jake was a sophomore in high school and Amy was in eighth grade. When they got home from school they felt the tension that filled their home. Jake looked from Jim to Beth, gulped and said "who died?" as he dropped his backpack at his side. "Daddy? Amy asked with fear. "No one died, but we need to talk." Jim said seriously. Jim put it all out on the table, before he brought up the plan. "Are we broke?" Jake asked calmly. "It's not that simple" Jim replied. "You can get another job, right?" Amy said hopefully. "It may take some time, baby" Jim cautiously replied. We have a plan until I get a job, but always remember we have each other.
The kids eye's bugged and jaw's dropped at the changes Jim would put into action. We must sell all but one car, no cell phone service, get basic cable, cut back on extras at the grocery store, one TV, one computer and no new clothes. We must use less electricity, water and recycle. Then I need you to go into your room's and find items you want but don't need. Your mom and I will do the same and we will have a huge garage sale. I'll be selling the boat and waverunners in the paper. "What? are you kidding me! We are going to sell our stuff on the front lawn for all to see?" Amy cried. Jake got up and said "you can't be for real" as he stomped up the stairs, slamming his door behind him. Amy looked at her mom and said "what about Christmas? choking back tears. Beth looked up at Jim with tear filled eyes and encouragement.
As Christmas drew near Jim's fear turned to pride as his family came together and grew stronger. They had so much and never noticed what they were losing in the process. Their community, extended family and friends rallied behind them. Many who were in similar circumstances sharing their own stories and solutions. Jim, Beth and Jake found seasonal jobs that helped to keep food on the table and Amy stepped up in taking care of inside the house. There was a game night and movie night on weekends with a warm fire to keep them warm. One night as Beth was drifting off to sleep when Jim said "Beth, you asleep?" Beth responded "not anymore, what wrong?" "I've never felt happier, isn't that weird?" Jim stated in a surprised tone. "It's not weird Jim, we've become a family with good neighbors and friends" Beth said proudly. "I know, but I had no idea how much stuff can cover up living happily" Jim replied. Beth said "I'll remind you of that when we get back on our feet" as she kissed him goodnight. Even as the foreclosure sign went up they knew they could start over, but better.
Christmas was full of uncertainty that year and yet it was the best they could remember. Christmas Eve they went to their first midnight service and upon leaving Amy said "I can feel real Christmas spirit here" to no one in particular. The next morning they each gave one another a letter expressing how much they meant to each other. You could hear a pin drop as Jake said "well that's enough mushy stuff" as he turned around to brush away a tear. They had decided to join their community Christmas dinner that year. Amy was drawn to the kid games and Jake helped a cute elf from school hand out gifts. Jim grabbed Beth's hand under the table with a proud squeeze. It was a wonderful Christmas.
This family got a second chance to begin again and a heartfelt winter's tale to share with generations to come.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Fall has been beautiful and long this year. These apples are hanging on for dear life, for they will soon find themselves stuffed in Dave's turkey. This year it will be just the two of us, so we are keeping the meal simple.
Created by Tammy Brierly at 11:35 AM
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I found this candid picture on my computer of TK and it spoke to me. This shot captures his joy of playing in the sand. At what age will he trade his amazement of sand for a cell phone, or the latest video game? This picture makes me want to wave my magic wand and keep his life this simple and joyful forever.
As fall begins to drift into winter I have been thinking and worrying about our economy. Christmas is just around the corner and I have been trying to think simple. Sadly, any holiday is hard to do simply. Gifting and being with all of our families is not an easy task this year. I stink at gift giving and I don't like receiving gifts that are a financial hardship on anyone. My kids think I'm cheap and compared to their other relatives, I am. I'd rather be together and having fun, than center the holiday around gifts. Who and where to spend Christmas is the tough call for everyone in my family. I just tell my kids I'll see you when things settle down. I like being home for Christmas and not traveling. I'm just grateful for good visits anytime of year.
This year we will have grandchildren at Christmas! Dave's daughter, Jolene, at http://onevintagehousewife.blogspot.com/ will be bringing her family this Christmas to CA. The boys are 7, almost 4 and almost 1. I'm doing my best to make this a Christmas about fun. Dave and I are not the most exciting pair to visit according to my kids, but I have a plan. A pup tent in the hunting den for the boys, kid snacks, movies and a Wii game. I have until Christmas to learn to play Mario Kart Bros. Yikes! Now, if I can just get it to snow I'd be extremely grateful. It's been a long time since I've had kids at Christmas. TK was too young last year and this year Jessy is wanting to stay home for Christmas.
We are all effected by this uncertain economy, but I think of it as an opportunity to re-evaluate the way we spend. I hate being considered cheap and boring, so I'm changing those labels to smart and fun. I told Dave that I don't want presents this year but Dave said "well I do!" I got him to agree to one "man toy" a month from February 09 to Sept 09 at Home Depot. That did it for him! In the end we both win on that deal. I have a wonderful life that we have earned and sacrificed for, so I'm staying out of debt.
It's the simple things that I'm truly grateful for this year:
I'm alive, I have my smell back, I can dress myself, fix my own hair, brush my own teeth, shower on my own, I can feed myself, make love, live in the mountains, go fishing, read, swim, play Wii, laugh, talk, love and hug.
P.S. A personal chef, The Amazon Kindle and a driver would be cool too, I'm just saying. ;)
Created by Tammy Brierly at 8:18 AM
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
My dear friend Robbin at http://cedarchestofdreams.blogspot.com/ began this year on a warrior's path. She began her journey as a healthy 51 year old woman that needed a hysterectomy. While recuperating, she lost her 30 year old son, Johnathan, to suicide. Then came yet another devastating blow, she was diagnosed with uterine cancer. Living alone, she faced chemo and grief head on. I am over the moon to announce, that as of TODAY, she is cancer FREE!
She was thrown into menopause, her heart was shattered and yet she fought on. I've come to know and love this amazing woman like a sister. She is my hero. Thank you God for Robbin!
A Warrior's Journey
Created by Tammy Brierly at 1:53 PM
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I have often felt, in my journey through life, as if I were a stranger in my own environment. Just when I would start to get comfortable in my life something would invariably switch. Who knew that these different environments I visited were simply a learning ground for bigger challenges I would need to face.
Growing up I lived in a diverse neighborhood where I was considered a minority. I was threatened and teased for my dresses and white skin. I quickly learned to survive by ditching the dresses and embracing the different cultures. I didn't give up my culture, I just emersed myself in the other cultures to fit in. I was given a very unique look at the world at an early age. It shaped who I am today.
In high school I was taken from my diverse surroundings and thrown into another strange land. I was put in a Catholic private school where once again I felt like a stranger. We were not rich and I didn't even pass the entrance exam. I was somehow accepted and found myself in a school where the majority of the kids were white and rich. The economic differences were very clear in the various cliques. My core group of friends were diverse, and yet I could hang with the burnouts as easily as I could be a cheerleader on a Friday night.
Being a working wife and mother did not feel strange to me at all. I just thought it was the natural order of things. I loved juggling a home, kids and work. I didn't even feel strange doing it as a divorced mother because my role really didn't change. My life was full and productive. Sadly that would come to a sudden halt, as my life would take yet another turn. With one diagnosis I was once again a stranger in my own environment.
My life changed drastically as I went from a full life, to a life of isolation and uncertainty. I tried countless ways to adapt, but this would not be as easy as I had anticipated. It would become a journey I had to take alone. I found my inner strength, with the help of my faith, to find ways to stay a part of the outside world. The computer brought me to Dave and a very special love. I found that same computer kept me connected to the world and gave me a voice. I have real friends that I can reach out to all over the world. I can not only fit in, but I can make a small difference.
I will never remain a stranger in my own environment for long. My past has taught me how to adapt and know there is always a way to stay in the game.
Typing a single post and commenting takes a very long time with one finger. I recently had a demo with what I hope to be my saving grace. The Dynovox Eyemax will type with my eye's and will record my voice. I can use my voice or their numerous choices of sultry voices. It is a PC and can even anticipate the next word I might want to type. I can put it on a rolling stand and use it like a laptop. I loved trying it and I can see it giving me many more years of having a voice. I must get approved by the insurance company, but I will not take no for an answer on this one.
Created by Tammy Brierly at 10:22 AM
Monday, November 10, 2008
November crept up on me while I had simply turned my head. In my mountain retreat the roses were still blooming among the colors of fall, in the warmth of October. As the cold began to settle in the corner of every room we still denied November's appearance. The rain came in the night blanketing everything in pine needles. The smell of our first rain and a wood fire, quieted my spirit.
On November third I celebrated my daughter Michelle's 25th birthday. I had sent her a beautiful "Willow Tree" figurine of a mother and daughter. The company sent the wrong figurine and out of all the choices they had, they sent her a figurine of a beautiful pregnant woman. Good thing my daughter is working on starting a family, that could have been a pushy gift. Now she looks at it as a good omen. ;) Happy Birthday Shell, I love you!
I'm all for change and I could not have been prouder or happier on November 4th. I cried and cheered as I felt the wave of hope for a new future. We have boasted of the wonderful diversity and freedom of America. But I was seeing a different America, one of racism, apathetic youth and intolerance. I have hope, that with patience, we can walk the walk. YES WE DID!
During this exciting week of November I have also been given a gift, but at a price. ALS gives you an abundance of patience, so when I lost my smell and taste with a sinus infection, I just lived with it. That was over 18 months ago. Two courses of antibiotics helped a tad but never for long. Although Dave loved the no complaints on his cooking skills, I was missing out and fed up. I found an ENT that found both sinuses full of polyps. He put me on an aggressive treatment of steroids, a month of antibiotics, steroid spray and Musinex. I can now smell and taste! YAY! I will have surgery after treatment to avoid a repeat of this treatment. I had forgotten that I deserve the best quality of life I can. Shame on my complacency.
ALS does not do well on steroids because it makes you very jittery. When muscles are already stiff and balance isn't at its best, you just make do. I've taken a half of a muscle relaxer to counter act the effects, which made for a comfy MIA blogger. I've been trying not to walk too much while my body fights its dueling drug war. There are the perks, like my face has puffed up so much that I'm watching my wrinkles disappear before my eye's. I also now have fat little feet that I keep snug in my new slippers Dave surprised me with. No more freezing skeleton feet!
I've read all your entries, but I fell so behind that I'm starting fresh on commenting. I will be off the steroids in five days and I have so much more to share with you about this week. I will be testing out three manufactures for voice banking and typing computers for the disabled. They record your words in your own voice. The computer will then type for me by looking at the words I've banked by head pointing and blinking. Very exciting news for my one good typing finger! A new ALS clinic is also coming to Sacramento. It will provide specialized medical care and drug trial opportunities. Do you hear the roar?
I will never forget the cost of our freedom and our brave soldiers. God bless them!
Created by Tammy Brierly at 3:09 PM
Saturday, November 01, 2008
OK, I'll give you a commotion that everyone found funny but us. I must start off with what I call a "scandalous event." Before Dave retired from a national lab we carefully chose their best health care plan. It would cut into our retirement income, but with ALS we felt it was important. When Dave retired we found ourselves in a pickle. We could not sell our old house to pay down the new house.
Dave got another job with the school district to cover both mortgages. We found out we had to pay for two health care plans, but could only use the new one. GRRR! Some people have nothing and we have too much! Here's the kicker, the national labs health cost went up by 35 million this year. So what did they do? They are taking the good insurance away from retired employees and their spouses on Medicare. (Dave and I, because I'm on it. ) We must now find a medicare supplement. We are sickened that they are, in my opinion, taking advantage of the old and sick. We have yet to discover all the differences we will be forced to face. Thank goodness we still have a good insurance from Dave's current job, for now. What about the retirees who have only until Jan. to figure it all out? Shame on them!
Now for a bit of fun commotion in our last summer project.
Dave says it looks nice but not a thousand bucks nice. I am fully responsible for our biggest summer commotion and lowered savings account. Who in the heck can save 6mos of two mortgage payments, as suggested? I like it, but just don't bring it up when you visit while enjoying your smore. LOL
Created by Tammy Brierly at 12:58 PM