Monday, January 01, 2018

What's on your top 8 Google list?

For years I've been a click happy sap for news headlines.  In 2014 I had to ban AOL from my list of reading material due to an article joking about bestiality.  Now this year I've added Yahoo to the list for a front page article on naked gyms.  I opened Yahoo's browser on New Year's Eve to see a front page image of naked butts on gym equipment.  Yuck!  Seriously, it's one thing to have a post with the title "Naked Gyms a new thing" and then it's up to the reader to say, yes I'd like to learn more on this subject and click to see the photo but to put that right out there on the front page for all to see?  That's disgusting. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Paintings 2017

One of the most challenging parts of this trip was getting all our presents to Texas safely.  I had split them with my husband as he was coming a week later.  One of those was a painting that was half finished that I'd planned to give to my in-laws.  This item didn't make it so 3 days before Christmas I asked Mema to take us to Michaels to get some art supplies and then proceeded to paint with the kids in the garage all the way up until Christmas eve!  It happens in spurts, one hour to do the background, let that dry, then 30 minutes to do the final shadow details, but two paintings in 3 days, that was a first for me!

My in-laws go to Montana every year, it's where my father-in-law grew up so I decided to make the first painting based on a photo they sent me this past summer.



The following is a painting of Texas for their Montana home.  I couldn't find reference of the local West Texas yucca in paintings so I made my own.  The blends were tricky around the blue/yellow/orange transition but I'm happy with the yucca.


Monday, December 18, 2017

Something to be thankful for

On Sunday, the kids and I with their grandparents stopped at a ranch that was having a Christmas event.  The kids got to hear a story, see Santa and reindeer.  It was a really nice day in the 60's so we were enjoying the weather.  The kids were clamoring for face paint and as I doled out money to each child I heard their grandfather say, "where's Evie?".

It's so disorienting to lose a child when you are all standing in a small group and apart from us is basically a giant gravel field leading to the next events.  Grandfather went one direction and I headed to the entrance to let the police know and the word was immediately spread over the walkie talkies.  I asked if they'd seen her wander out the entrance which was really only about 5 feet from where we had been standing but the main guy assured me there was no way she could have walked out without him seeing her.  It seemed the only logical solution to be because I couldn't imagine her running over the open gravel field but I turned and went back into the event space.  Within 5 minutes I heard her screaming her head off as a lady hung onto her failing body for dear life.  I ran over and got her from the lady.  Apparently she had walked out with a big group while we were standing at the face painter station so that's why the main guy hadn't seen her.  She got disconnected from the group in the parking lot and one of the workers started following her to see which way she'd go and when she saw the lady following her she took off running then melted down when she got picked up.

I've heard of little kids doing this at amusement parks and all but it's the first time it's ever happened to us.  I'm glad to know I've got a little fighter but I don't think I could take that happening ever again! 

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Solo Parent Flight to Texas with 4 Kids = 1 terrified parent

Kids ages:
C - 9
S - 7
V - 5
E - 2 (just 2 weeks shy of 3)

The trip was originally planned for the entire family to travel together.  I based it off school dates from 2016 before I was made aware that the 2017/18 school schedule was one week less over Christmas due to Maryland governors plan to move the start date of school until after Labor Day.  Then my husband started a new job, although that could have been worked around, then he was asked to support several programs in church and finally it seemed the only solution was to move his flight to a week later.  

A trip from Maryland to Texas is about 7 hours total in flight time, counting separate flights and layover time, not counting 1.5 hour travel time to the airport and pre-flight time of about 1.5 - 2 hours so all together it's more like a 10 hour day until we land and reach family who can help with the little darlings.

I planned as thoroughly as possible with meals packed, iPod per child with 2 back up batteries each and new content.

We had everyone sleep in comfortable day clothes so they wouldn't have to change in the morning.

The flight was at 7:50 so we had to leave the house at 5am and drive 1.5 hours to Baltimore.  Our luggage check in was easy, we had brought an empty duffel for winter coats.  Security was easy due to my TSA-pre status (will work with all kids until the oldest turns 12).  Finding our gate was easy, boarding was well executed and done during the family boarding on Southwest after the A group is boarded.  The first flight went exceptionally well, kids watched their movies, I could have pulled out my laptop and worked if I'd wanted to!  

We landed in Detroit, MI.  Yes, we had to go UP before we could go DOWN.  I've heard that for our destination it's either there or Tennessee but I'd rather the latter, sometimes there's no other option when ordering 6 months in advance.  We sat for only 30 minutes while picking up new passengers.  I changed the little one's diaper, went to the bathroom and then committed my first serious error of the day.  I asked the kids if they needed to use the bathroom, they all said no, and I didn't make them go.  Cue horror music.

Just as the plane started to move my 3rd announces the need to use the bathroom.  I told her she had to wait until we were in the clouds.  We then had to stop for 15 minutes to de-ice the plane.  Teeth gritted, I watch them spray down the plane in green stuff.  We finally take off and due to weather turbulence they don't let us up for almost 30 minutes, so she held it for 45 minutes!  During that time oldest wanted to go.  Then I made my 2nd major error of the day.  I passed out food before they went to the bathroom and then had to move it all for them to get out and back in!  What's wrong with me?  I only fly like 6-8 times a year for business!  Egads.  I thought maybe the oldest would be adept enough to move her drink but she came back and promptly lifted the tray table with a full drink on it, knocking it to the floor while I'm practically shouting "grab your drink" as I see it all happen in slow motion and try to grab it as the lunchable on my lap hits the ground, crackers everywhere.  

As a personal reminder, zip lock bags are a great way to consolidate trash which seems to build up in large quantities with four kids.  They each need their own because they were handing me stuff left and right.  

About half way through the 2nd flight, youngest is in urgent need of a nap and gets really mad that she's stuck in her seat with more turbulence and thus in her seat belt.  I misunderstand the pilot and think he's landing in 15 minutes but he said we were getting in 15 minutes early and then suddenly tiny tot falls asleep with massive turbulence so I spend the remainder of the hour flight holding her head so she's not whipping back and forth on the chair.  Fortunately the others settled down and tiny tot remained asleep until we land upon which she's angry at being stuck in a small place.  I look at my boarding pass and note we have 35 minutes before our next flight and my anxiety goes into overdrive.  Maybe the pilot had earlier said 15 minutes later?  

I had already pre-packed my side before the nap so I hoped the 2 sitting across from me were capable of finding all their stuff.  People were between us as passengers tend to fill the aisle, no way to double check their side.  When space opened up I sent them out in a line while grabbing our over head trolley and followed, piled down with bags.  The flight attendants were awesome, they held all kids at the front until I stumbled out.

We went in immediate search for a flight tracker sign, the airport was jam packed with people, fortunately my crew stayed close.  The first sign confusingly did not show our flight.  I took this news surprisingly well considering earlier anxieties and started looking for the Southwest customer service.  We then came across another sign that showed our flight and it was across the hall from where we had come in AND it was scheduled to leave an hour later.  Great!  So we had time for bathroom breaks, reorganize bags, Starbucks, and 15 minutes play time before boarding the next flight.

Here is where I made my 3rd major error of the day.  Our tickets had boarding in the A group, so I thought that might be easier then waiting for family boarding.  I was wrong.  After giving our tickets to the ticket guy and following the kids down the jet bridge my bags started to fall apart.  The girl behind me simply walked past as I frantically grabbed at bags, then the next guy sauntered by, then the next.  I was separated from my kids by at least 3 people.  As I boarded the plane the flight attendant looked worried as she'd just seen 4 kids board without an adult, the lady behind them had not laid claim so they were confused.  I said yes they're mine, explained the bags and she then called over the loud speaker to explain there were 4 unattended kids with parent coming.  This completely unnerved me.  In hindsight it doesn't sound as bad as it felt at the time, I guess all prior stress had added up.  Next time, I'll just wait for family boarding because I'm pretty sure other families would not charge past me.  Fortunately this flight was uneventful and only 45 minutes long.  

In hindsight, we over packed which led to me being bogged down with bags at different points.  Each kid had a backpack, they had crammed some bulky toys in at the last minute that I wish I'd put into checked luggage because they got heavy and kids didn't want to hold them when we got to Dallas.  I had a food bag, computer bag, diaper bag and trolley which was annoying at keeping all bags intact and they kept swinging around and throwing us off-balance.  Need to work on that set up and on the return plan to not have diaper bag, I think we can live with 3 diapers, wipes and changing mat stuffed into my computer bag.  Oh, we also had two neck pillows that ended up on the floor and everywhere.  Those are going into checked luggage for the return.  

Overall, it really wasn't too bad.  I can't anticipate every potential issue and the kids did their best.  I'm just really glad it's all over.  We want to travel to Texas every other Christmas so the next will be 2019 and youngest will be 4 about to turn 5 so it will be a completely different situation then.  

Saturday, December 09, 2017

Homeless in Hagerstown

It's Saturday, and the 5th week since I first met Lisa.  One week until my solo parent trip to Texas so husband gives me the day to get everything done that is urgent.  My list for the day is long but I decide to check on Lisa first so I can let her know I'll be gone for a few weeks.  She's at her now usual spot, under the bridge near Roy Rodgers but she's talking to another person in a vehicle.  That's odd, maybe it's just someone trying to give her food so I wait and after several minutes decide to walk up and see if everything is okay.  Turns out this lady wanted to pay for Lisa to have a hotel for 2 nights.  The weather was getting worse so it was a very generous thing to do.  I offered to help Lisa get to the Dagmar Hotel which was only a half mile away. 

Lisa was overwhelmed and very nervous.  She knew the lady who was trying to help her about as well as she knew me.  She was worried she wouldn't be able to take her cart inside, worried about steps, etc but we convinced her to try.

I helped her carry her stuff and she pushed that massive cart that seemed bigger and heavier over every street crack.  There were times when we had to stop and evaluate the terrain and cross a street if the sidewalk was too messed up.  It took almost 35 minutes to walk what might have taken 15 minutes without all this baggage.  Our mutual friend was waiting, and there was a ramp!  The hotel had a massive elevator and no one said anything about her bringing in a giant cart.  We got her loaded up into the elevator and said goodbye. 

I'm glad she was able to get some help and meeting another women who had been trying to help was wonderful.  We exchanged emails and phone numbers and have been in contact.

Lisa stayed in the hotel for four nights and I called her twice to see how she was doing.  She got some laundry done and tried to downsize her stuff as much as possible.  I again offered our shed hoping that she knew me better and might trust my offer but by the time she checked out, she was still to afraid to trust her stuff to be anywhere but where she could reach it.  She said she'd been burned too many times. 

I called Reach to ask why she'd been banned.  They told me that they offer appointments on Thursday's to find out what action steps one can take to get off the banned list.  Lisa said she'd already done that, didn't seem open to doing it again.

I feel like we're running out of options. 

One of Lisa's biggest concerns is getting arrested and then all her stuff will be thrown into a dumpster.  She says a member of Hagerstown City Council saw her under the bridge and complained to the police so she was threatened with arrest if she didn't find somewhere else to be.

In my call with Reach, they said one of the problems with homeless is how much stuff they accumulate.  They can't allow them into the facility with a shopping cart.  She said people keep giving them stuff.  I haven't tried to add anything to her bulk, only food and small hygiene items. 

I've tried to convince her to downsize, or use my shed for the bulk of her items, if she could get down to a backpack she could spend the day at the library for example but she doesn't want to be separated from everything she has left. 

I know we're going in circles and I probably haven't been much help so I've resolved that I can at best be a friend and offer support.  She may not take my advice today, or any time soon but maybe one day a door will open and I can help her through it. 

Sunday, December 03, 2017

Homeless in Hagerstown

Saturday again, time to visit the City Park and check on Lisa, only she wasn't there and it was a warmish day and very crowded, maybe she decided to avoid the crowds?

The next day husband happened to drive through town on our way home from church, I asked him to swing by the bridge where I'd seen her before and there she was.  I was able to get out and talk to her for a few minutes, she'd been avoiding the park because of the tree lighting which was actually Friday, but when you're homeless time/days are a blur.  This week I had another package prepared of a few hygiene items and some food.  Her situation hadn't changed and I still hadn't found any other options so we said goodbye and I said I would keep her in my prayers. 

To be honest, I'm feeling pretty helpless by this point.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Trip to Florida

I managed to squeeze in one more work trip, right after Thanksgiving and two weeks before my solo parent trip to Texas with four kids.  It was nice to get a break from the cold although Florida felt too warm for me as I'd already acclimated to 40's.  I didn't take many photos while there, didn't go to the beach at all but I did manage to catch a Pokemon that can't be found in Maryland while on a coffee break so that was cool.

My hotel was very cute, it felt like an apartment building because it had a kitchenette and faced a lake that I kept thinking I'd walk around but never did.  I guess it was a busy work week but I did manage to squeeze in dinner with a friend and breakfast with another friend. 

Even if I don't get to the beach, it's still nice having Florida as a work base for a few visits per year.  Maybe I'll get to the beach on the next visit.  Having shorter day time hours definitely affects my ability to visit the beach.  I don't want to go at night by myself and it's dark when I get off work so I have to really motivate myself to get up at 6am and head there for an hour before heading back to work and it can take 30-45 minutes to get there and back in the morning.  I've noticed that when I visit in the summer or fall, I usually go to the beach at least 2-3 times in the evenings.  Light has everything to do with it.