Thursday, July 28, 2011

Old memories

Packing is good at bringing back memories, especially for people like us who keep more than just the typical sentimental items that most families lug around with them. We have mountains of clothing, a billion books, folders and book covers and (in my case) honors chemistry binders left over from high school that in all honesty mean nothing to me, and were kept as proof that somehow I managed to pass the class. Things that anyone else would have tossed as soon as they were done, ready and willing to accept the road to a different place in life, severing the ties to whatever was before with open arms and understanding. It's called being an adult, I hear.

As of late - blame the Lexapro, or maybe the extreme exhaustion that comes with childrearing while cleaning and packing an entire house - I've found myself craving these ties less and less. I've been forcing myself onto some trains of thought that are fairly atypical for me, such as the idea that it really is okay to let go of the past and continue on in life, that physical ties are not half as important as the memories I have formed through experience, and that I can really improve my life by letting go of things that have truly held no value to me in some time. If I haven't touched it in three years beyond packing or lugging it around from one house to another, really, then who is it benefiting? Not me, to keep the item around. It would serve someone else far more..

So that's the mental state I'm in right not, and I'm working hard on truly trying to live the ideals that I'm thinking through. Otherwise, we're doing okay. We're tired and stressed, and looking forward (I think) to being done with all of this for a while for sure.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Making ends meet

I've been spending the last few days stupidly functioning as though nothing is changing. I say stupidly because in less than two weeks we're going to have to be completely moved out and cleaned up, and be more or less moved into Mom's house, which means a great deal of preparing over there that she needs help with too. It means doing a metric ton of work over here, never mind the obvious daily functioning that has to occur, to continue separating items into three piles: yard sale, storage, and coming along. This, of course, means that I've been doing a lot of reconsidering when it comes to what's actually necessary and what isn't. As my beautiful sister-in-law K pointed out, it can feel good to know you're getting rid of the unnecessary and that you're going to start living with less clutter and junk. At this point, anything that has spent its time in closets or boxes is fair game, and it means that we're parting with a bunch of stuff. But man, it feels SO good!

Tomorrow is A's second birthday, though, and that means that on top of packing and sorting, I also need to do a full-down clean - and any cleaning done tomorrow will have to also be done with a third child here, and no help from Hubby, who will be at work most of the day. I will probably go insane, and that's okay.

I did set up a budget. It currently lacks a lot of crucial information, but as it is, if we stay with my mother for a year we will not only manage to completely fix our credit scores (yes, both of us) but will also be able to put some $10,000 aside for a down payment on a house. All while Hubby keeps working and I keep going to school. The downside is that we'll have a year of absolutely no leeway - no eating out, no toys, nothing. But do we really need to do those things? They're fun, sure, but they don't define our lives or relationships, and they don't make or break a good night or day. There are other things we can do that are fun and don't cost a thing, places we can do and activities to enjoy if we look hard enough that won't cost a dime. Nobody's life is defined by the inability to go someplace, or eat somewhere, or do something, or own another item we don't need and won't have room for.

The next year is going to be incredibly hard, and full of a lot of sacrifices and griping and uncomfortable quarters. But it won't be impossible, and the short term is so meaningless and small in comparison to what could be if we were willing to push a little harder for a while. In five years we won't care in the least how long we stayed with my mom, what it was like, the times we all got on each other's nerves, especially if at the end of that five years we're in our own house, Hubby and I are both working good full-time jobs that we enjoy, and we can take care of ourselves and our kids without having to depend on anyone or anything else anymore. They'll be meaningless if we can reach our goal.

So here goes!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

When good goes bad

(Alternatively titled, in which I bitch a lot and am unable to see the good in things.)

We were behind on rent.

Two months, to be specific; we saw it coming because I left my job to go back to school to become an RN. I saw something I could do, that I wouldn't hate, that would pay well. I knew getting there would be a huge pain. I didn't know trying to get there would completely conflict with our lives and drive us this far.

Let me back up.

We were behind on rent and our landlord knew it. They'd been understanding about us paying late, up until it came to the point that we literally couldn't pay anymore; we kept them in the loop as much as possible but there was never really much to report. $775 a month plus all the rest of our bills was impossible on one income and questionable student loan money. We were in over our heads. Last week we were given notice to produce $1700 in cash to our landlord or face immediate eviction. My student loan payment came in, we handed just about all of it over a day late (after calling them and letting them know we had no choice; the bank put a hold on the check), and after taking and counting it our landlord informed us that he would be unable to renew our lease. We have about three weeks - not even a full month - to find someplace else to live and move completely.

This is our fifth move in about as many years.

Our kids don't remember the other places we lived. In 2007 I moved out of my mom's house into a house on the southwest side of town with what ended up being six other people by the time we found out we were pregnant and left. Our next house, on the west side of Broadway, was actually a one-bedroom apartment on the very hot third floor of a very old house. We had no storage, the air conditioning rarely functioned, and the place had problems - including the landlord - that we won't discuss. Suffice to say the guy wasn't all that nice, and after G was born we escaped, having stayed not even a year from fall of 2007 to summer of 2008. After living with my mom for a short time, we hopped immediately into another building, one on 12th Street, just off Broadway. We thought it was a good deal as even though it was technically only a one bedroom because it was the lower half of an old house, we had the basement to ourselves, a dedicated parking lot, we could convert a room into a bedroom, and we were doing okay. Spring of 2009 saw us moving before our lease was up, this time because the bank across the street that owned it was tearing the building - and two others - down to make more parking for the other tenants in the building it was located within. The assistant manager bullied us into another house they owned, and we were stupid and said yes, and again we moved. A couple of weeks after we got everything into our new home, A came along. G had his own room, we had our own room, we had a basement, a deck, the whole house was our's - but structural issues (ask anyone who had been in that house) and issues with the bank that owned it (they wanted us to rent to own, and we knew we couldn't own that house with the problems it had) left us yet again searching for someplace new. Summer of 2010 we moved yet again, living for a couple of months with my mother again, and swore it would be the last time, into the house we're in now.

But I had been sucked into a stupid "make money quick" scheme in the form of Combined Insurance, and it wasn't long before Hubby was unemployed and in a deep depression over it, and I wasn't doing much better. We struggled, hard, and for the longest time we only made ends meet because of assistance from parents. And it sucked, more than I could ever describe, but our landlords were as understanding as we could have possibly hoped they would be. The fact of the matter is that we can't afford this house. So they're refusing to renew our lease, which they have every right to do. I can't blame them. It is what it is.

But that doesn't make it any easier on us.

I'm really, really depressed right now. This happened about two and a half hours ago and I'm still desperately trying to process the fact that no matter where we go, we don't have the money right now for a new house - so we're going to be living with someone else for a while. It's less than ideal in every way, shape, and form, but it is what it is. We can't change what is. We have been beyond lucky, beyond blessed to spend a year in a structurally sound, safe house in a good neighborhood where there is no drug trafficking or other crime, within walking distance of everything we'd need. We have busted ass to try to live the American dream, in a house with a back yard that was all our's, with a carport that we didn't have to share, in a house that didn't have a crumbling ceiling or tilted floors or sinking, half-destroyed foundation. We have been amazingly lucky to live someplace where everything was our's and we weren't trying to share space with other people and always feel like we were imposing on someone else's belongings, space, or sanity. We have lived, for what will amount to be one day shy of one year, the life we have so desperately wanted for ourselves and more importantly for our children.

Now, even though Hubby is working two jobs (one of which may pan out into something much better), and although I am in school busting my butt to make a better life for my family, we have to change how we do things. In the next three weeks we will be heavily downsizing, packing, sorting, setting up at least one yard sale, and selling a deal of our belongings. What we cannot sell will go into storage with my mom's assistance. We will be making huge sacrifices and unfortunately will be asking way, way too much of two very small children.

But things will continue to be, as they always have been, what they are.

I will do my best to continue posting in here as frequently as possible. I have no intention of dropping this blog. It is too frequently my sanity; it has gone beyond being a place for me to share the things I feel most passionately about. I just can't promise all my posts will be happy, useful, or long. I can't promise how often I'll be posting. I want to finish up my developmental psychology class completely, since it's online, before we move, and I still need to finish my human anatomy and physiology class, which I have to do as it goes. I will be going back to school in the fall, and then the spring all over again. I hope that we won't be staying long wherever we end up - we've been welcomed nearly indefinitely into two different households. We don't know right now where we're going to end up.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Something satisfying

I was recently given an amazing gift by a former amateur photographer:

I was more specific on Facebook about what all of this is; suffice to say it's several flashes of varying powers, three Olympus OM-2 series cameras (two of which are technically not functional), and a myriad of different lenses. Of course, these are old school - circa the late 1970s - and take expensive button cell batteries and - gasp! - film. There was a roll of heat affected film already in the bag, and the pictures on it likely won't amount to anything worth printing, but still. I have to admit.

There is something immensely satisfying about using actual film cameras.

It's something about that click of the shutter opening and closing, that faint and brief sensation akin to the backfire of a rifle for you gun enthusiasts out there. It's something about the need to physically advance the film, forcing it to move on to the next exposure - having complete control over it, instead of having a piece of admittedly amazing technology do all the work for you. There is something about learning how to properly put film into a camera such as this, advance and rewind it properly, and doing it right that is so incredibly rewarding. There is something about holding these 30+ year old lenses in your hands and knowing that while styles have changed, the general function has not, and that what I hold is somehow better than what's available today, because it's authentic, it's more real. Picking up one of these cameras with a full lens attached leaves bulk in your hands, and the weight seems more .. Realistic, somehow, than a digital camera.

When these cameras and lenses were released to the market, they were nearly top of the line for a home user - they were expensive, they were considered high-tech. Watching someone switch out these lenses and set the f-stop and ISO and select the film and whether or not to use flash used to be an art form, one that I think lost some of its glamour when digital cameras became the norm. Digital is unquestionably easier, because the camera will do so much of the work for you. A single HDSD card can hold thousands of pictures, depending on the size of the card. When it's full, you swap out - no film means no extra time lost rewinding, threading, and storing. Modern digital photographers have the right idea, for sure, in that they are saving themselves and their clients time and money by keeping the process of portraiture quick and clean. Darkrooms have been replaced with industrial photo printers and laptops; a photographer's keen eye by Photoshop. The need to take time to manually focus and position has been replaced by autofocus and, well, auto everything, down to delivery of photos via email and photo sharing sites.

But where's the glamour in quick and clean?

Why not get your hands a little muddy and take your time to enjoy the ride? 

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Yes, I'm going to talk about Casey Anthony

I feel like it's almost a requirement at this point, a social obligation because I followed the end of her trial so closely and with such anticipation. And I'm going to put this out there, that I do have very specific and definite feelings toward the trial and toward Casey Anthony (if you follow me on Facebook, you would know).

To be honest, though, I think the problem here is that what I personally think doesn't matter.

The fact of the matter is that a beautiful little girl is dead. Some serious inconsistencies leave a lot of unanswered questions, and I worry - I think like a lot of us do - that the case will not be pursued any further and that other persons of interest won't be properly examined. Regardless of how any of us feel about Casey Anthony specifically, someone out there is walking around freely who took the life of a child.

And let's not forget the jurors - 12 men and women who had a horribly difficult job, who hadn't followed the case previously but who all the same had to take a lot of presented evidence and commentary and put aside their feelings to try to make an unbiased decision that involved the life of two human beings - one still present, the other long gone. I can't imagine their thought processes. I can't imagine how difficult it must be to have your heart screaming one thing and your mind trying to interpret another. I wouldn't have wanted to trade places with them for the world and try to do what they did, and I hope it's never something I'm called upon to do. I'm proud of them for doing their civic duty, for not trying to get out of it like most people would have, and for sticking out some of the more difficult moments of the trial. Again, I don't think I could do it.

And then there's this, an article from Orlando's WESH News: "Casey Juror: 'I Did Not Say She Was Innocent'". It specifically notes that after coming to their incredibly difficult conclusion, the jurors all felt sick to their stomachs, physically ill at what they'd endured to come to any conclusion at all. I think that single physical response proves that so many of them overlooked their personal convictions about the trial and about who was or wasn't guilty to try to literally use the evidence alone.

I'd also like to note that I'm not a fan of the death penalty. I can see the point that some people make, in that an inmate sentenced to life in prison is often given better care, better meals, and so on than individuals on the outside world - and that said life costs taxpayers a deal to maintain. However, I'd like to note that a number of people in states that are especially backed up by death row inmates actually pass away while on death row from natural causes or old age - the equivalent of life in prison, depending on their age at incarceration. Also, the cost of state-paid appeals can be astronomical - and for inmates on death row, the moment they're sentenced they are automatically put on a roll for appeals. These appeals can take years, decades even, and an inmate can continue to appeal every time it comes around to be their turn. The justice system is a disaster and a blessing all at once in this way, giving potentially innocent people the opportunity to prove themselves while giving the guilty a "get out of jail free" pass with the right opportunity and potential circumstantial evidence.

In the end, what truly matters most, no matter my personal feelings about any of the Anthony family, is that we must make sure that the individual responsible for Caylee Anthony's murder is brought to justice. There is every potential that Casey Anthony is truly at fault, and at the same time, there is every possibility that she was completely uninvolved, and is in serious need of a good psychologist to figure out why she behaved the way she did after her daughter went missing.

If you're interested in ensuring that Caylee's death was not in vain, and that her memory is forever preserved in a way that can help prevent the same thing from happening to other children, please consider signing and forwarding on this petition to start Caylee's Law - which would make it a criminal offense to not report a child as missing in a timely manner. Unfortunately, if a similar law had existed sooner, there is every possibility that Caylee's life could have been saved - or that her remains would have been found sooner, and more useful DNA evidence found on them.

Blessings to everyone, and I hope Caylee Anthony rests in peace.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Trying my hand

So I made some kind of a vague attempt at being all crafty a bit ago. Here's the result:

I didn't make the copper tree; that's a beautiful creation by my far more talented and awesome father-in-law, Carter. He still lives up in Maine, and is now (temporarily?) semi-retired. He's been making things like this since the dawn of time to the best of my knowledge, and while he sells them in some stores up in Maine, if you live elsewhere you can check out his wares by visiting his site, CopperTree Sculptures. His talent is unquestionable, and if you want to support a small home business made by an awesome dude (love ya, Caahh-tahh!), I highly suggest you go poke around there.

I don't know why I felt compelled to make this. It isn't as attractive as it could be, not great, but it's neat, I think. I'm proud of myself for it. It's not pretty, or professional, but it's me, and I made it, and that makes it more me. I wish it was super-awesome-shiny-pretty-cool, and it isn't, but it's neat to me and I think I did a good job. :)

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My house is a mess

My house is quite a mess
I really must confess
There is crap most everywhere
It'd make you stop and stare
I try to keep it clean
But I really want to scream
'Cause every time I pick up
Fold laundry or clean a cup
The kiddos throw their things
And Mess Faeries flutter their wings
And suddenly that mess
Is causing me some stress
Because of my lovely spawn
This mess is never GONE!

Friday, July 1, 2011

A bit 'o' photography

I dabble in photography.

I'm not great. In fact, it could be argued that I'm actually not that good at all, and I'm just tooting my own horn because it's convenient. I'd believe as much; I'm one person with a desire and a love but absolutely no real given talent and, to add insult to injury, no real training beyond the bits and pieces I've read here and there about how to focus something and what an f-stop might be (still don't know) and different apertures to use (uhh, open?) and types of flashes and different lenses and oh my gods I don't know what I'm doing. But I'd like to think that what little experience I've had has shown some inborn talent.

Of course I want to think I'm good - what photographer doesn't? Though it would be rather mean of me, in retrospect, to say I'm good enough to charge for my services without having any idea what I'm doing - it's an insult to professionals who've taken classes and have combined that knowledge with years of experience to operate a slew of local businesses.

After years of relying solely on my mother's Kodak EasyShare 1012 (a camera very similar to this one, only older and without a few features), I'm beginning to get antsy. I want - naturally - something more, something solid, something with features and options and things to help me learn about what I'm doing and how to do it. Something with lenses. I want something that's both a fun toy and unquestionably a professional tool.

The downside is, as it always is, that getting the camera I'd like means a massive amount of money I just don't have. My ideal camera from Canon would, with a couple of lenses added in and some essential accessories, mean a price of well over $7,000. A similar option from Olympus with similar lenses and features would run around $4,000. Naturally, downgrading and giving and taking in places means lower prices, but when you're going to be spending a lot on a camera - or mentally spending a lot at least - you may as well get what you actually want than something you're settling for in lieu of the best choice.

Of course, none of this will be happening. I don't have that kind of money and if I did, right now, I certainly wouldn't be spending it on a camera (but I would be wishing I could!). I'd be doing something responsible.

Still, someday...

Meanwhile, last night I gathered some juniper sprigs from the trees in my mom's back yard. Never chemical treated, and I only took what new growth the tree was willing to give. :) They've been around longer than I've been alive!