As most of my readers know, our family has been struggling with financial troubles over the past few years.  Needless to say, we were a little concerned that we wouldn’t  even be able to afford Christmas presents for our boys this year.  In addition, as the holidays approached, we were in danger of having our power turned off.

Then the week before Christmas we had 3 pleasant surprises.  First, we received a check from a class action lawsuit – just enough to pay our utility bill.  Next I found out I had won an Amex gift card in an online giveaway.  Finally, Art’s parents sent us a Walmart giftcard to cover Christmas food and beverages.  Now we were set for groceries, gas and a few Christmas presents.

Art and I agreed not to buy each other presents.  We got excited about picking out a few gifts we thought the boys would really appreciate – they both got electric blankets and two other small gifts.  I found some special deals on gift cards and baked furiously so we would have gifts for our parents.  Finally, on Christmas Eve night, we looked happily at the tiny pile of gifts under the tree and breathed sighs of relief.

Christmas morning went as expected – everyone was pleasantly surprised by what they received.  The boys had picked out some very thoughtful gifts for us as well.  That afternoon, Art’s parents came over for dinner, which in our house is cold cuts, cheese, rolls, crackers, and various snacky items.

Afterwards, we had the second round of present-opening.  I did not expect that Art and I would have any presents to open as Art’s parents had been helping us out financially for the past few months and we all were in agreement that it was most important for Bud and Boo to have a good Christmas. But as the gifts were distributed, everyone had one box to open.  I was directed to open mine last.

Imagine my shock when on ripping open the paper I saw a netbook!  I was completely tongue-tied.  It took me a minute just to be able to blurt out an intelligible “thank you” to my in-laws.  Bobbie said later she could tell by the look on my face it was a complete surprise.  It turned out when Art found out his parents were insistent on buying us presents, he told them not to buy him anything but a bottle of Jack and to take the rest of the money they would have spent on him to buy me a really nice gift.  My old computer is a desktop in the middle of the family room.  I share this space with both boys and their computers, plus their friends and the occasional dog. Art knew I needed a computer I could move around with me; taking it into the bedroom or to the library so I could be alone with my thoughts and  work on my blog.

After the in-laws left, I lost it.  I loved the gift, but I couldn’t justify it in my head.  I didn’t deserve all that sacrifice.  I told Art how I was feeling and he told me he and his parents wanted to give me the computer.  I realized that it wasn’t about whether or not I thought I deserved the gift.  It was about the gift freely given.  I was reminded that none of us deserve salvation either – yet there it is – freely given, as it says in Romans 3:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Just as I try to daily honor God’s gift in the way I live, I will also try to honor my Christmas gift by using it to the best of my abilities to write a successful blog.

As always, thank you for being part of the journey.


A Business Lost; Skills and Relationships Gained

In the aftermath of our golf shop closure and subsequent bankruptcy (see A Business Lost,) Art and I were both shaken up.  I felt humiliated by the failure and terrified of our uncertain future.  Art became depressed because he could not find a job and felt that he should be able to provide for his family.

Thanks to my four years of on-the-job training doing books for the shop,  I was able to garner two very part-time bookkeeping jobs.  That, combined with our income from Ebay sales and money we had saved from Art’s Golf Etc. paycheck got us through the first 7 months.  Much of that time is a blur to me of work, Ebay, Facebook, food and bed.  I slept 8-10 hours a night and took 1-2 hour naps every day.  Looking back, Art was probably not the only one who was depressed.

It’s two and a half years later now, and believe it or not, out of the ashes of depression and despair, some pretty wonderful things have happened.  We have grown closer together as a couple and as a family.  Art and I are available if our boys need us, even just to talk to, time we very rarely had during the golf shop years.  Art tapped into his VA benefits and is going back to school in January to get a business degree.  That combined with his real-world experience should make him a formidable competitor in the job market once he graduates.  I discovered a new found confidence in my own abilities.  I proved myself enough at one of my small jobs to turn it into an permanent part-time position where I feel like a valuable member of the team.  And about two months ago I decided to pursue my love of writing and start actively cultivating my blog.  I have the joy of expressing myself, as well as the knowledge that I have 6 loyal subscribers and over 36 views per day!!

In addition, thanks in great part to Facebook, we have rekindled some old friendships and sparked some new ones.  The support of our friends and family is the main reason we are still surviving and have the courage to take our lives in different directions than we had planned.  If you are one of those people, please know that there is no way I can ever express my gratitude enough.  You are truly and deeply loved.

We’re still pretty precarious financially, but I think we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s a good start.

Resources for the Unemployed

Cyberbullying – A Mother’s Story, Part 2 of a 2 part series

After the night-time incident (see Cyberbullying – A Mother’s Story, Part 1,) Bud became understandably paranoid.  He would no longer leave the house unless we drove him to his destination, even if it was just around the corner.  He and his friends used to walk all over town and now he was getting so little sunshine that he was eventually diagnosed with Vitamin D deficiency.

During the week that followed, one of Bud’s friends texted him and told him to check out G’s Facebook wall.  G had a public and completely open Facebook page, anyone could see it whether or not they were his friend.  Bud called me over to see what G had posted.  Right there on G’s wall, was an invitation – ” bud morris, come over to my house… I have a bottle of bud and a freshly dug grave in my backyard for you…”  “I want to grow my hair long so I can strangle bud with it.”   My husband, Art, and I tried told Bud he needed to get a restraining order against G.  We went to the courthouse and got the paperwork, but Bud was terrified there would be retribution from G’s brother and friends if he followed through.  So we put it on hold.

Then, on July 1st, Bud saw this message on G’s Facebook wall, “anyone down to get torches and pitch forks and begin an angry mob and go over to bud’s house and drag him outside by the throat and beat him til he’s dead in the street?”  Bud went to his room and refused to come out.  When I tried to talk to him he was actually shaking, he was so angry and scared.

I called a friend of ours who I knew Bud would listen to because he works closely with the police department.  C told Bud the only way he would get through this was if he trusted us as his parents to protect him and the only way we could do that was by filing another police report and getting a restraining order.  Bud finally agreed.

We printed all the pages from G’s Facebook wall from the past week and called the police.  This time, partially due to the printed evidence and partly because G was a known troublemaker in the neighborhood, Bud was taken seriously.  The police went to his house that night and arrested him for felony stalking as well as multiple counts of theft from other people which he had also confessed to on his Facebook wall.  He spent a month in juvenile hall and received a year probation with a no-contact order on Bud.  We also received a 3 year civil restraining order against G.

It has been almost six months since the arrest, and Bud is finally starting to feel some peace.  He looked over his shoulder for a long time afterwards and still wanted to be driven everywhere.  For awhile G’s brother and his friends would drive by our house and yell curses and insults at us.  But I think Bud finally sees that they took him seriously and understand that retribution would just land them in the same trouble as G.  At least I hope that’s what they’re thinking.

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Childhood Bullies

Cyberbullying – a Mother’s Story, Part 1 of a 2 part series

Bud loved cyberschool.  During his sophomore and junior years his grades got better, his attitude improved, he started hanging out with friends again.  Towards the end of his junior year, Bud decided he wanted to go back to public school for his senior year.  We were all very excited about his progress.

Some of Bud’s friends from junior high had taken a wrong turn in high school and started taking methamphetamines.  Bud had no use for that and stopped hanging out with them, although they all parted on good terms.  The problem was that G, the younger brother of one of these boys, had looked up to Bud as a protector and was very resentful when Bud stopped hanging out with G’s brother and friends.

G is a troubled child – he struggles with mental health and weight issues and his brother’s friends would tease  him and make him the butt of their jokes.  Bud had always stuck up for G, and G looked at Bud’s absence as a betrayal.  G developed an obsession with Bud.  He started texting Bud, demanding that they meet to fight.  Bud refused and ignored the texts, until one night in April, G texted Bud and told him to meet to fight that night or G would show up at our house and cause trouble.  Bud was understandably scared as G is considerably larger than him, and because of G’s emotional instability.  My husband, Art,  agreed to sit up all night in case G tried to break in, and Bud was finally able to get some sleep.  G never showed.

We convinced Bud that G was making idle threats and he calmed down for about a month.  Then, one night, two of Bud’s friends were approaching our house to visit Bud (my husband and I were out for the night.)  The friends were met in our driveway by G and his brother, who asked if Bud was home.  Bud’s friends lied and said Bud was gone to the convenience store.  G and his brother went to the convenience store and found out the friends were lying.  After that, G started threatening to fight all of Bud’s friends.

Another month passed.  By now it was summer.  One morning Bud and his 3 closest friends got a text from G, with lots of cursing and name-calling, demanding that they all come fight him at once.  We all laughed it off.  That night, Art & I went out with friends and Bud had his 3 friends over to play video games.  About 10 p.m., G and 7 other boys showed up at our house, all dressed in black, and started pounding on the exterior walls and windows of our house screaming for Bud to come out and fight.  Fortunately, Bud had the presence of mind to call the police and yell outside that he had done so.  G and his friends ran away before the police got there. The police took another “informational report.” (see When Older Kids are Bullied – Part 1 )

We now had a new threat against Bud and we had no idea how to deal with it.  But we would soon learn…

Look for Cyberbullying – a Mother’s Story on November 4th, 2011

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Cyberbullying/Cyberstalking

Tips and Tricks for Dealing with Chidhood Bullies