An afternoon of exploring for me and The Soph

We had a warm day the other day and Noah was at jazz practice until 6pm. The Soph and I went for an explore. We belted out Sheryl Crow with the windows down then found some secrets path in the park that led to a new clubhouse made out of a tree and a secret, secret path under a bridge to a section that you can’t get to anywhere from roads. And as a special treat – if it will work – I will add the video from the explore entitled “It’s NOT a park!” Turn up your volume and you can hear Sophie’s exasperated tones with me. Why? Who knows. Apparently hormones begin kicking in at about 9 1/2 – or in her case when she was born. I think she may have been pms-ing in the womb. Half the time I am the coolest mom ever and the other half I am barely tolerable. Everyday is different and I never know what I will get with her. The Soph is like a box of chocolates… But lordee, do I adore this child.

(all of these taken with the trusty Hannah Montana Digital Camera!)

Here we are driving and singing. We are AWESOME. Can you even believe she let me sing with the windows down??? Five minutes later she may have been mortified by me! heh.

Here we are in the secret clubhouse. And we are COOL.

And now…your feature film…(I compressed it a lot so sorry for the poor quality)

Life is good, and it is hard to get used to

The car? Is awesome. Like, crazy awesome. I have been burning cd’s every morning right before I leave for work. Best Boyfriend Ever looks down to see. Then. Sighs….shakes his head…walks away… “What???!” I yell after him. “You gotta problem with Jon Bon Jovi???”

“Isn’t that like, your FOURTH Bon Jovi cd you’ve burned?” he asks. But he asks in THAT tone. Ya know, the lord help us, isn’t one Bon Jovi plenty enough for the whole world, and maybe you all can just pass that ONE cd along to each other cause what are there five of you fans of his in the whole wide world? THAT TONE. Why, why, WHY is there no love for my Jon Jon? Ya know what, Best Boyfriend Ever? You better count your little lucky stars that that man is married with four children, cause if he wasn’t…well, if he wasn’t….well, it’s just a good thing, is all I’m sayin’. And by the way Best Boyfriend Ever, you best learn you some of the lyrics because when we go to his concert in April you better be SINGING pal, not just mumbling along or looking all bored, and God help you if I see so much as an eye roll at that concert! So go listen to that cd I made you. It has some old school stuff plus last year’s Have a Nice Day and ends with his new Lost Highway songs quite nicely. You will be tested. And you won’t want to disappoint. Just sayin’.

So, anyhoo, love the car and I get to belt out my Bon Jovi while I am cruisin’ the highway to work. Sadly, now I can actually TAKE the highway without fear of my car turning off suddenly as I am about to pass a tractor trailer at 70 mph. It is sad, because I get to work 15 minutes earlier and just when I am really into it, really hitting those notes along with Jon Jon, ready to raise up that lighter in harmony with my fellow Jersey Bon Jovi lovin’ family…CRAP. Work appears. But work is what pays for the awesome car and my new awesome stereo in said car that actually WORKS. It is a vicious circle you see, don’t you? So to work I go to pay for that awesome car. But I go into work knowing that 8 short hours later or less I will be serenaded on my way home with the sweet, sweet melody of Jon as he croons about laying ME down on a bed of roses. Oh yes, he will…

So in summary, the car is good, life is good, can’t complain. And it is weird. It has been so many Januaries in the past 12 years that have sucked. And sucked bad. Like wonder where my next job is coming from bad. Like no one orders commissions in January cause everyone is paying off presents from Christmas bad. Like ‘call the electric company and turn on some tears and tell them how Pop Pop needed that cataract surgery cause it was the FIRST time he would be able to see the new baby and who knows how long he might still be around, he always has to use the oxygen now, and so I just HAD to use my electric bill money and so can I pretty please with sugar on top have a payment arrangement?’ kinda tears. You think that story is a not true? Tears work, people. For reals.

So there ya go, life is good and I can hardly stand it. Work is good, bills are getting paid and I am getting commissions and my book is selling and I am waiting on some REALLY BIG news that I wish I could talk about but I cannot yet. (And to my sisters? NO, I AM NOT PREGNANT!) Life is good and I am enjoying it. And I was soooo lazy this past weekend and slept in not one, but TWO days in a row! And ya know what? It was decadent, and I LOVED it. There. I said it. I was lazy and I loved it. But in a few days it is February and I will start working again, promise. Ok, maybe one more weekend of sleeping in. But that’s it. I promise. For reals.

Awww, yeah, off the chain!

People, if only for a moment, I was cool. Cooooool Yesterday I was SO COOL. People clapped and cheered and laughed and were joy-filled and little old me made them that way! Have you ever been in an echo-y gym with lots and lots of little people absolutely giddy at something making them happy? Yesterday was career day at my daughter’s elementary school. I took the whole day off and gave 6 45 minute presentations to four year olds up to 11 year olds. I cannot tell you how much fun, how fulfilling how much it FILLED ME UP. I showed these lovely girls and boys my art. As I turned around each canvas, one at a time, making them tell me each breed, I was met with the purest, most delightful laughs and gasps of joy. I thought I could just float away on the laughter of little children yesterday. Both the boys and the girls asked me questions over and over and over. “How can I be an artist?” “Can I draw dogs too?” “What kind of paint do you use?” Then “I have 2 dogs! Will you paint my dogs?” “Have you painted fish??” (yes) “Have you painted rabbits?” (yes) “Have you painted snakes?” (yes) “Have you painted rats?” (no, but I have done a mouse) Every single session ended with kids running up to me and hugging, saying they wanted to be just like me, saying thank you for coming, thank you for showing them my art.

I left on top of the world. I have already had some emails from some kids that went and looked at my website last night. Last night my daughter says that one of the boys in her class said, “Sophie, your mom and her art are off the chain!” And that just about made my head explode and I smiled so big. And I stood in the kitchen in front of her and did a happy dance cause I was a COOL MOM! To which she replied, ” Um, mom. Please don’t do that. That dancing is NOT cool.” I guess my coolness does not extend to my dance skills. heh.

THE BIG NEWS (one of them)

For 7 years i have been driving a car that I pretended was a huge SUV. Not because I am materialistic or wanted to pay high gas prices or needed a house on wheels. No, because with the interest rate i was paying (23%) my payments were huge. But at the time, Sophie not yet 2, I was driving a tin can on wheels. It was our only car. I got it for a web design and identity trade out. $400. That was generous for this car. It was a deathtrap and I drove it sometimes 3 hours in Atlanta traffic to a contract job I had at the time. I had stayed at home with Noah until he was three. It was a choice I made and I knew it meant being very tight on funds. I did freelance work to help with bills until I was 8 months pregnant with Sophie. Then I didn’t do freelance again until she was about 8-9 months old. We lived on my then husbands income from a $10 an hour job. A lot of people wondered why, knowing what I could earn as a good graphic designer would I not go to work. We struggled a lot. We had the lights shut off more times than I can remember. But I got to be home with my babies. And that was way more important than anything else. I saw their first steps, heard their first words, put them down for every nap and saw their sleepy, wobbly toddler steps when they woke up. Those were precious days to me. They were also the days where i dreamed of my future and realized that i wanted to be an artist that lived her life the way she wanted to, and to show that you could do that with lots of hard work.

But when Sophie was 16 months old I got tired of the crappy basement apartment, the bathroom with only a tiny standing shower and lack of a dishwasher. So I asked my husband to stay home for one year until Noah was old enough for preschool. Then they could both go tot he same preschool and daycare together. If he would do that, I would go get a full-time job that would make us enough to get out of where we were. I got a great job as a print designer working with Aquent. it was a full time contract job and when they said I would be making $36K I about fell over. We were RICH! heh.

I did that for four months, then moved on to another place just down the road for another four months, making even more money there. Design became my life – it was a way to make my kids’ lives better. I taught myself Flash and web design because the internet dot com boom was going on. I ended up getting a job for $50K 8 months after my first time back in the workforce working for a dot com. But 3 weeks later me, along with 15 other people got laid off. Welcome to the dot com bubble beginning to burst. I was a few years too late. But a week later they called me to do contract work for them. At $50 an hour for 40 hours a week. Holy CRAP! I knew their days were numbered, but with that kind of money we could save a bunch and pay off some debt. Meanwhile, I was driving the same old death trap and it was getting scarier by the day. The second I got 2 of those contract paychecks making it look like I made over $100K a year, I made friends with the secretary and said, if I buy a car, and they call to verify my employment, will you say I am full time? She agreed. And not that I am for lying, but our credit sucked. We ruined it the first year Noah was born. On VERY little money. It is sad how easy that can happen and how hard it is to restore, but that is a story for another day. So when she agreed to say i was full time and not contract, I ran to a dealer. I knew my options were limited. I plunked down $2000K and said, “what car can I get???” In retrospect, not the best way to car shop, but I was desperate. They ran my credit. I think they had no idea it could actually go THAT low. But when I showed them paycheck stubs the salesman’s face opened up and sunshine came out of his ears. “I can get you into a car, I PROMISE!” Six hours later they FINALLY found a bank that would finance this terrible credit risk. Let me tell you, getting yourself into trouble and having bad credit happens to good, hardworking people. But the world treats you like a crack whore. And it gets to you. And it hurts. And it played with my self esteem for years and still does. So if you know someone with bad credit and ever judged them, like they don’t take it seriously, or are lazy people, give them a break. Because sometimes you get into circumstances you simply cannot get out of and you get scared and overwhelmed and you make mistakes. So be kind. Anyhoo…

So they took me out to a car they said i could have. I did have a choice, a black Ford Contour or a fuschia Mercury Mystique. I chose the black. They payments were high and the car was ok, but to me, I was in heaven. I drove it home that night and felt on top of the universe. Shortly after that the red car finally died and this was our only car. I paid it off the first year after I separated from my then husband. The car began to slowly fall apart the last three years. The radio stopped working about a year after we got it and we never had the money to fix it. Door handles broke, windows stopped rolling down, the fender got a big hole in it after lending it to a friend for a weekend and someone backed into them in a parking lot while they were working and left no note, the check engine light goes on and off and I could go on and on… But the engine works and if I don’t drive it on the highway, it’s ok. Cause it sometimes turns off for no reason.

I have worked my tookus off this past year people. I have worked harder and more hours than ever before. And I wanted a new car. But I could not afford it. I put a certain dream car of mine as a screensaver at work. I got the brochure and have it next to my computer at home. I could not afford it, and even though I have been working so hard on fixing my credit, I was sure I could not qualify for an interest rate that would make it affordable. But then late last year I started upping my hours at work. And still painting at night. And slowly I began to see that with careful budgeting I MIGHT be able to afford a car. So last week i went for a test drive. I fell in love. I haggled. I got them to offer me a crazy amount for my Contour. And SHOCKINGLY I found out I qualified for a GOOD rate! When they went to run my credit I told them to not hold out hope. When they came back they said, “Um, how bad do you think your credit is???” I said TERRIBLE! “Um, no, not really at all, it is just about average with the rest of the country.” COLOR ME SURPRISED! My hard work had paid off. They told me my payments and I was floored, stunned, delirious!!

People, this week a dream came true. I waited, I prayed, I was patient and worked hard. I now own a 2008 Honda Element. And the last pic shows you what I will decorate it with. I am friends with a print vendor and he is making magnets for trade out on some web design work. Here is to dreams becoming fulfilled.

Oh, and on the back will be more dogs, my web address and my license plate will read “IPNTDGZ” hee. (and these pictures were all taken with a Hannah Montana Disney Digital camera by me and Sophia. Cause some stupid robber done stole mine…. But I don’t even care anymore cause LOOKEE AT MY NEW CAR PEOPLE!!!!!)

Big surprises!

I have so much exciting news I could just bust! Just bust i tell ya! But I am that girl who crosses her fingers, doesn’t step on cracks and wishes on eyelashes. So lord-ee! I am not messing any of it up by saying anything yet. BUT I should have pics of one of the super duper big surprises by Wednesday or Thursday. It is HUGE! And something I have been hoping for for quite a while!

And this is the most boringest entry EVER because I just finished making an html email, updating my homepage and now I won’t even tell you what my big news is. What a meanie meanie bobaleenie I am!

But I will write more tomorrow. Promise!

Nuh. Uh. Shut up!

Well lookee here! I found out this week that my books are available at Leisure Arts – my publisher and I was THUH-RILLED! I had gotten a box of samples books int he mail last week and was over the moon! Then yesterday on a whim I looked my name up on amazon and color me surprised there it was!!! I have been so busy at work with two huge events I am working on that I have not had time to blog about this, but I just have to let y’all know the happy news! (And where to buy my book! hint..hint…)

I will write more details later, hopefully tonite, but for now, here ya go, click below! TOO MUCH FUN! Me! On Amazon! How crazy is that???

weekend raking and things accomplished and tried to accomplish

Thank you to all the people that commented and emailed me to wish me and my family well. It is so nice to know how much peope care. We are all doing well and just get super pissy every once in a while. Like when we remember that file that is lost forever and now we have to create. Or that Chrismas picture or new photo of a painting I can’t take cause they took my damn digital camera. Stuff like that. makes me mad. But time to move on.

I decided that this weekend i was going to finish the mailbox come hell or high water. But first there was the problem of all the leaves in our yard. I thought, ya know what, I will just wake my little self up on Saturday morning and rake the fornt yard! yes I will! And then I can come inside finish the mailbox and put it out. Cause ain’t nothing like a nice pretty front yard for a nice new pretty mailbox, right? Well, I filaed to realize that there are ninety billion oak trees around here. And apparently all the leaves and the neighbors leaves decided to all fall in our yard. So two days and 20 leaf bags later, the lawn looks AWESOME. And I used me some muscles I didn’t know I had. And Best Boyfriend Ever was right there with me. Cause ya know what? He is that amazing guy that simply CANNOT watch me work. If I do the dishes he gets up to help, If I start to make dinner he gets up and helps press the microwave buttons or dials the delivery man. He is awesome. And he does laundry! Mostly because he is the most bestest boyfriend ever, but maybe a little bit because if left up to me he would be forced to wear the 80’s clothes in the back of his closet that he is not sure why he kept, but it is the only shirt he has that is clean and ya know what? Leather patches on a sweater are cool. Right? Yeah, so he does laundry cause me? Not so much.

So anyhoozles, the mailbox did not get done cause I had to finish some paintings for super secret project that I was supposed to finish until I began throwing up a spleen, and what next? Oh right, the home invasion…Pesky things getting in my way.

So I finsihed them up and they are the cutest things ever. But I can’t show you cause I don’t have a camera cause, oh never mind.

But it is 2am and I am tired and I have work tomorrow and i am supposed to be creative and organized enough to come finish up all the event design needs for a big MLK celebration and an annual report needs a cool new design concept. Thing they might like cute little dogs all over it?

all right, over and out.

2007…kinda ended ick.

Where to begin? Well I can say that 2007 had its fair share of ups and downs. And it unded on the last possible day with a down, down, down. Earlier in the day I had been explaining in a calm and and controlled parental tone to my children, which they might have construed, perhaps in their misinformed youth as ‘yelling’ or possibly ‘mom’s face getting really red and her talking getting louder and faster adn dude, sh’s gonna blow!’ about their CONSTANT BICKERING. For those of you with more than one child you all know what I am talking about. (And if your kids are all perfect, well hahah, they are figments of your imagination) My kid have a hate/hate relationship. They annoy each other for the sheer joy it brings them to see the other irritated as all get out. I basically have two only children that happen to live in the same family. They have not much in common and the only thing they enjoy doing together is fighting. I think mainly they do it to try to make my head explode, but probably more for their own pleasure. And I regret to say history is repeating itself when to my horror I have uttered the phrase in complete distress and teetering on the edge of parental sanity, “WHY DO YOU HIT EACH OTHER????!!! I DON”T HIT YOU!!!” And I gasp as I realize my mother’s curse on me has come true… YES MOM! I had children that were JUST LIKE ME AND MY SISTERS!

So while I was sputtering, or explaining to them that I had to work on Wednesday and I had no babysitting and I was thinking about leaving them alone I actually had to be concerned about getting a call at work that went something like, “Mom, Sophie isnt moving.” And when I ask what happened the reply is, “Well, she called me a dork so I HAD to push her down the stairs! I mean, what ELSE could I DO???” And I told them that even though I wouldn’t leave until 9:30am and my boyfriend would be coming home at noon to check on them and stay until 1pm and i would leave work at 2pm and I would call them exactly every half hour on the dot that I found it sad that I can’t trust them not to put each other into full body casts in those in between times. So. They felt sufficiently guilty and sad and puppy dogs eyes and “Sorry mom’ed” me up one side and down the other. And I felt good. Cause now they felt MY pain. And it is a parent’s right to guilt their children into behaving if the end justifies the means. And two intact children with with no hospital visits indeed justified the means. And on we went about our day. Thinking I might be able to let them stay alone.

Then we got ready for me to take Noah to his sleep over. It was New Year’s Eve and he was going to a friend’s house and Best Boyfriend Ever, the Soph and I were going up to my sister’s for Russian New Year’s. (Don’t ask, I will tell ya later. But her baby doesn’t understand a lick of English and trying to talk to a baby that only understands Russian can be both comical and frustrating. But I digress.) So we all get ready.

We are getting ready to go and I ask Soph if she wants to stay since Best Boyfriend Ever is on his way home and I will be 10 minutes total time roundtrip. She says, “Um, no, I’ll just go.” Which is odd cause ya know, time to watch Hannah Montana without big bro annoying the pi…bothering her, is golden. But she wants to go and they even don’t fight abot who called front seat first. Guilt people, the other white meat. It works.

So as I pull out I get behind a car at the red light at our corner. I notice for some reason the light blue color Passat. It’s pretty. And for some reason I notice the three people in it. They are all big. They look like a clown car, all too big people in a teeny car. I notice the man in the back turning around a bit. I notice his Team USA hat. It is a long red light and I ponder a lot. Never can tell you directions, but I can let you know there was the prettiest bluejay on the tippy top of an evergreen near some house that had perwinkle shutters. Perwinkle, you don’t see that much. I bet the owners are fun and whimsicle. Perwinkle, I just like to say that word, and i do love the color. It looks so pretty next to a nice buttercup yellow. I never really am sure I’ve ever seen a buttercup, do they look like daffodils? Do I confuse them with honeysuckle? I love the smell of honeysuckle, it is the smell of summer after my dad has cut the grass when i was 10…. And that is why i don’t know where I am going half the time and I am always a half hour late… Now you know the voices in my head…

So anyway, as the light changes the Passat’s hazards go on. I have to go around them and I am mildly annoyed as I tell boyfriend that I will be home in 10 minutes and he will likely make it home before me. So i drop off the Dude and as I am almost home Boyfriend calls. “Where are you?” he asks in a tone that says, things are WRONG. “Why, what happened?” I ask. “We just got broken into and the dogs are missing along with a lot of our stuff.”

Yeah. Just like that. And can you guess who it was? There was a woman driver in a blue Passat sitting in our drive way when he got home. See, we have a circular driveway on a corner lot off a busy road. Lots of people use the end of our driveway to turn around so he didn’t think anything off it. He found it slightly odd when she took off down are street and then drove past again a few minutes later. This time with two big men in it. Apparently, she must have called them in the house to get out. When he walked in he saw they had tried to break in the front door. It was pretty splintered but held. But they managed to kick in the back door with such force that our floors have knicks where the deadbolt struck it. We found Lucy hiding in a back room terrified. Rufus was missing, but came home about an hour later with a cut foot which has since stopped bleeding.

They got my work laptop, boyfriend’s brand new laptop and my son’s computer. Plus all his new Christmas presents and his saxophone. They got my digital camera and other odds and ends. They went through my drawers, my closet, ripping open boxes that had labels like “Noah’s coming home from the hospital stuff” and ” Sophie’s handmade dresses when toddler” Yeah, that was fun. And just like that 2007 offically got really bad.

And I know how lucky we are. I know that Soph was NOT in the house. Even if I feel like suckiest mom ever for all the times I had let them stay alone before. I know that Best Boyfriend Ever listened to an NPR program end so that he gave them enough time to get out and he did not walk in on them. I know all that. And it still sucks. A lot. That is just where i am right now. I am the girl that always says people are too paranoid, people over react, the kids can handle staying by themselves for 10 minutes. I always said I could sleep with my doors and windows open cause i have two 100 lb barking scary alarms systems. But ya know what? These dogs were zero deterent. And now I watch if a car drives by too slowly. And I get up and look out the window at what used to be annoying barking and now give treats and say ‘good dog,’ even if it was just the wind. We have metals doors and a new alarms system now. And just like that we are “the other people” that this happens too. Just like that. And my kids probably won’t be left alone again until they go to college. And even then I may just go with them.

And no I didn’t have renter’s insurance. And yes I know how dumb that was and yes ironically we had just discussed it. A day late and a dollar short. And if you know someone that this happens too, don’t ask if they had it, cause it makes you feel like after someone broke down MY door and took MY family’s stuff, but somehow it is MY fault when I can’t replace it and that feeling sucks. So yeah, keep that gem to yourself cause the second it happens you realize you don’t have it and you are S.O.L. But damn skippy I had insurance at midnight when the big ball dropped in Times Square. The internet is amazing. But it was still 5 hours too late.

So anyway, that was how 2007 ended. And I made it very clear to everyone that this happened in 2007 and it in NO WAY indicates what 2008 will be like. And last night as my kids slept in the same bed and have not bickered once and been the most polite to each other since they were born, we prayed. And we prayed for God to help us through this and to make our family stronger. And we asked angels to watch over our house and to make us feel safe again. And then, hardest of all we prayed for the people that did this to us. Because as angry as we are, and still are, putting that hate out there in the world won’t help. And ya know what, maybe God can help them. Maybe they will at least feel bad and that will make them turn their life around. And I want to believe that even if it is a bit Mary Poppins. So I guess it changed me, but my rose colored glasses somehow didn’t break. I might look at strangers a bit more warily now, but I have to at least hope for the best.

So 2008 will start with me knowing that my family is the most precious thing in the world to me and God watched over us very carefully on New Year’s Eve. And God, thank you, thank you from the depth of my soul for protecting my family. There are no words to express my gratitude to you for keeping them all safe. Cause they are what I work for, paint for, breathe for and live for.

Ok, 2008 bring it on, I’m ready for a party!