It’s been a while…

I’ve been absent from this blog, and writing in general, for far too long.  The best excuse I can give you is that I’ve been without a working computer since May or June (I’ve lost track).  I finally have a computer again, and I have SO MUCH to tell you!!!

For starters, it’s my birthday today!!!  I am 33 years old…moving out of my “early 30’s” and into my “mid 30’s,” teehee.  It really doesn’t bother me any.  Maybe I’ll be more worried about aging when I get closer to 40, haha.  Anyway, 32 was a banner year for me!  Let me walk you through what has gone down in the Browning household since I turned 32 last November…

For starters, I allowed someone back in my life whom I said I was done with for good more than once.  It’s a family member that I find it rather difficult to “quit,” and we’ll just leave it at that for now.  (Those of you who have known me long enough already know exactly who I’m talking about.  Shhhhh)  It hasn’t gone south yet.  *fingers crossed*

I balanced that precarious act by leaving a toxic situation the moment it became unbearable.  Like the situation with the family member mentioned above, I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice it to say my life has improved in so many incredible ways since taking that leap.

I also left my part time job at Home Depot for a full time job with the Post Office!  I was sad to leave Home Depot.  I made some great friends there, went through some important learning experiences (including a “fun” scam by a customer that was incredibly embarrassing), and usually looked forward to my shifts there.  But the Post Office position was one that I had been searching for since the last time that I worked for them (you may remember that little blip in time during which I delivered mail at the end of 2012).  My new job hasn’t been “easy,” per say, but I can say it has lived up to expectations in terms of being a valuable opportunity.  I finally have a job that feels like a career, and I’m proud of it!

In September, thanks to my job at the Post Office and the stability it provides, I BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!!  Zack and I now live in a short double wide, with mostly hard wood floors, large rooms, two bathrooms, a fenced in back yard, and a kitchen with a dishwasher!  (Believe me, we were both very excited about having a dishwasher again, lol!)  I still need to work on my organizational skills, and we need some living room furniture (couch, pretty please), but Zack and I are both very happy in our new home!  I can’t wait to get caught up on my bills (as if that’s actually possible) so that I can decorate and furnish it better.

And now for the saddest news of the past year: the Browning house had to say goodbye to our beloved Neely-cat on April 16, 2014.  I cannot tell you how much I cried, and how much it still breaks my heart to think of that day.  The humane society was great in terms of giving me time to say goodbye to her, being gentle and kind to both Neely and me.  They gave me a copy of the Rainbow Bridge poem (I highly recommend it if you ever have to say goodbye to a pet), which I have somewhere and intend to frame at some point, and let me keep a snip of her fur.

So that’s all that has happened in the Browning household since I turned 32 last November.  I look forward to many exciting things to come this year!  I’m already kicking off the year right with a great birthday and a new hairdo (to be debuted soon).

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Technical Difficulties

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Here I lie on my bed, laptop propped on my knees, wi-fi network going strong, throwing a little pity party because I have no phone.  I have phone service, mind you, so if you call my phone, you can leave me a voicemail that I can hear from a friend’s phone.  However, my phone, which was refusing to hold a charge for very long, has completely died on me.  The month of December feels as though it has been dedicated to finding a way to get my hands back on a working phone.  

I bought a phone from a friend, but it took her a while to find it.  Once she finally did, she brought it to me, and I ordered a sim card from my service provider’s Bring Your Own Phone program.  While waiting on the sim card, I tried to get on the phone, which was an older model iPhone (a 3GS), to play with the apps and familiarize myself with its layout some.  Unfortunately, the phone was locked, so I tried to do a factory reset.  I plugged the phone into my computer with iTunes running, as per instructions I found on the Apple web site, and simply clicked on buttons when a message popped up saying iTunes had detected an iPhone that needs to be restored/reset (I can’t remember the exact wording).  The result was that whatever had been on the phone before was wiped from it, and now the only thing that will show up when it is turned on is a screen showing the iTunes logo and an image of a USB cord.  

I asked several iPhone owners if they had ever encountered such an issue, with minimal success.  One helpful individual said that the issue would probably be resolved once I got the sim card.  So I obsessively checked on my order status/tracking information, and before I knew it, the card had arrived.  So, off I flew to the store to pick up my sim card, after when I discovered that I had ordered the wrong size (I ordered a micro-sim, but the phone needed a regular sim).  I quickly ordered the correct sim card, and began the process of waiting and obsessing over the order status/tracking information all over again.  

Of course, the correct sim card came in, and I was so excited when that little card slid into the sim card slot that I think I danced a little in the parking lot of the store from which I picked it up.  Then I turned it on, hoping to transfer my service to that old iPhone, and…nothing.  Just the same annoying screen.  So, following another friend’s advice, I took the phone to Best Buy in the hopes that their “Apple guy” could fix it.  Five different people looked at that phone, but the general consensus was that the phone has a software issue and needs to be sent back to Apple, which will likely charge me for fixing it.  

In the midst of all of these phone troubles, I have had a great deal of anxiety.  Topping the list has been the fact that I have had no way to call my dad.  The ability to call him and chat is something I didn’t even realize I was taking for granted.  I’ve posted before about the fact that I have not always had my dad in my life.  Through no fault of his or mine, he was not allowed to be a part of my childhood.  I started getting to know him in my twenties, and we have grown as close as though we were always a part of each other’s lives.  He’s the only man in my life I really trust (sorry to my few guy friends…I promise it’s not personal).  I actually had a nightmare Christmas night that he was mad at me for not being able to call him.  I finally called him from a friend’s phone today, and thankfully he’s not.

I told the friend who gave me the iPhone today about my troubles, and she said she may have another phone to give to me.  I really hope that’s true…otherwise, I’m not sure how much longer I will have to wait to get a new phone.  Christmas was two days ago, and funds are, well, limited.  

Let me end this little pity party by saying that I know I’m not exactly in the worst position in the world.  Yes, I’m broke since Christmas is over, but all of the money that I had – and spent – on presents was given to me by other people — strangers, family, and friends.  My son and I had a fantastic Christmas, complete with blu-ray/dvd sets, video games, and a brand new Nook.  As I stated before, I’m typing this woe-is-me blog post on my laptop, which was given to me, while using internet service that I (wait for it) don’t pay for.  I am a genuinely broke single mother, who has yet to really start my second job and is not receiving child support, but we’re not exactly starving to death in my house.  We have been incredibly blessed, especially over the course of the last month, and once my second job really gets going, I know that I will struggle much less than I’m used to.  I know that this phone issue is just a blip on the radar, but right now that little blip is deafening.

One Busy Momma

I know I don’t have a habit of posting “regularly,” but honestly time just gets away from me.  Since I last posted, I had a birthday, we celebrated Thanksgiving, I had some changes at work, and I found a second job.  Not to complain, but I really do feel like I do the work of two people in many areas of my life right now.  I am mother and father to Zachary.  I spend about half of my work day alone in a room with up to nine babies.  And now, I am going to be bringing in paychecks from two different companies.

Am I nervous about the impact that having two jobs will have on Zachary, as pointed out to me by several people?  Of course.  His grades in school aren’t what they were in first and second grade, for one thing.  And then there’s the fact that I am the ONE constant in his life.  Sure, he’s ten and not three, but how is it going to make him feel when I’m gone a few nights a week, plus weekends?  I have considered these things, but right now making ends meet is near impossible.  In order to continue to provide a stable home for my child, I have no choice but to work hard at both of my jobs.

Besides, I am a fan of having big birthday and holiday celebrations.  This year, beyond what family and friends get for Zachary, Christmas presents will be minimal.  And maybe that’s ok.  Maybe he doesn’t need a huge Christmas morning during which it takes him an hour to open all of his presents.  He doesn’t use all of his presents on a daily basis throughout the year, anyway.  So maybe the three items I already got for him are sufficient.

Ok, enough of being a downer.  Here’s the up side: in a couple of months, hopefully, I won’t be behind on my bills.  Maybe I’ll actually be ahead.  Plus, the second job is at Home Depot, and everyone keeps telling me what a great place that is to work.  The lady who interviewed me even told me they have a room there that is designed like a sitting room, with sofas and comfortable chairs and nice lighting…it sounds like a dream!  Maybe I’ll even pop in to work on my off days just to relax in the employee “lounge.”

Oh, by the way, here is a picture from our Thanksgiving dinner at Cracker Barrel:

Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving 2013

Metaphors and Messes

Why do I feel like my messy house is a metaphor for my life?  I mean, in many ways, my life is worlds beyond better than what it was even a year ago.  I have my own place, a job I enjoy, and Zack and I are relatively independent from help.  If I fall behind on my bills, I catch up on my own.  If I’m low on gas, I sell something or *gasp* borrow a few bucks until payday, at which point I promptly repay what I borrowed.  Zack and I eat three meals per day, and my animals are fed and watered well daily, as well.  So why do I feel like my disastrous house really means my life is still an absolute mess? 

It’s not like I really believe in the power of Feng shui on a philosophical level, but maybe I’m fooling myself to think that there is no validity to it at all.  It is true that this year has been a struggle on a financial and emotional level.  In a way, I lost a parent for good.  Not to death, but to her own foolish pride.  That has been harder on me than I’d like to admit most days.  What she did to me and to my child caused him great emotional harm, and that would be almost unforgivable if I weren’t a Christian woman (because, trust me, only God can give me the strength I need to constantly forgive and put that miserable person out of my mind).  Zack’s grades have suffered, among other things this year, and all I wanted was to make it better for him.  That is why I put so much effort into giving him the best birthday I could possibly afford, stretching a bit too far past my limit…but he’s worth it.

Life is relatively quiet around this house, save for the rare moments I lose my temper and yell, which I enjoy about as much as Zack does.  We don’t do drama, but if you look around our house, we definitely do mess.  Maybe if I get this place cleaned up, literally speaking, it will make a difference in our moods and habits.  I’ve already started trying to make a change by putting up a chore chart and daily schedule for Zack and I to follow, but as usual, I’ve neglected to follow through on most days.  I think I remember hearing somewhere that a clean house is a happy house.  Is that true?  I’m really not sure.  I’ve seen people with clean houses who are miserable, and people with messy houses who are just as happy as can be.  Of course, I’ve also seen the reverse.  I guess I’ll never know how a clean house affects my little family until I put in the effort to find out for myself.  Maybe even my animals will be happier for it.

Thanks for reading my Sunday morning musings!  Have a restful last half of the weekend! 

Zack’s Birthday Party & Halloween 2013

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With the exception of me getting terribly sick the day after Halloween, both Zack’s birthday party and Halloween were epic this year!  We couldn’t have Zack’s party on his birthday weekend because the bowling alley we had it at was having a tournament, so his party was October 26.  I picked up the three boys that came, and one of my best friends brought her daughter.  The boys were, well boys.  They were rowdy, goofy, and a bit hard to control at times, but the most important thing was that they had fun.  To my knowledge, they did.  

Zack’s cake exceeded expectations by far! I had ordered a T.A.R.D.I.S. cake from Cakes by Tina in Bilox, MS (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Cakes-by-Tina-Bishop/264424323658899), and it came out perfect! I will definitely be ordering cakes from them again in the future!  After we picked up the cake on the morning of his party, Zack and I saw that the comic book store by the cake shop.  It was free to attend, and Zack said he had never been to a comic book store before…which made me feel terrible!  

We went with the intention to not stay too long because we didn’t want the cake to melt, but I am beyond glad we went.  I got to meet Jeremy London!!!  As a professed geek and lover of movies such as Mallrats, that experience was so much fun!  He was very friendly, which is nice to say.  You never know what to expect when you meet a celebrity, but talking to Jeremy London was such a pleasure.  I made a comment that Mallrats coming up on almost 20 years makes me feel old, and he agreed (since he’s 10 years older than me).  The best part of that experience was getting my picture taken with him!  

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So even before the party, my day was off to an awesome start!  At the end of this post, I’ll include more pictures from Zack’s birthday party.  So glad we did it at the bowling alley!

Halloween, which is one of my absolute favorite holidays, was just about as much fun as Zack’s birthday and birthday party!  First, we went to the mall to trick or treat, which would have been a bust if it weren’t for the fact that we saw a guy in a great Doctor Who costume AND a toddler in a Doctor costume!  I seriously wish I had a picture of the tiny Doctor!  Other than seeing them, and getting complimented on my T.A.R.D.I.S. costume, we did not enjoy the mall.  We had to stand in a very long, very slow line to go to different stores and get candy.  One piece of candy each store was not worth standing in that line…but going to the trunk or treat at the church where I work certainly made up for that experience!  My boss had a seriously fantastic Halloween set up.  I was not expecting that from a woman who directs a Christian day care, but then again I work there, too, and I love Halloween!  Zack saw several friends from his summer camp there, and was amused that some of them didn’t recognize him at first with his glasses.  

As much fun as Zack’s birthday and Halloween were, I’m grateful for a short break so that I can get ready for Christmas.  I’m working on finding a second job so that Zack and I can have a good Christmas.  

And now for some pictures from Zack’s birthday and Halloween:

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I am an Awesome Mom

Ok, maybe I’m not always an awesome mom.  Sometimes I feel like just a mediocre mom.  Sometimes I feel like a good mom.  But when I have been up since 4:45 am, driven two plus hours in order to try to better my little family, and worked about three quarters of a day…and then have to come home and put together slightly complicated party favor bags…well, I feel rather like an awesome mom.

Tomorrow is Zack’s 10th birthday party.  Last Sunday was his actual birthday, if you remember, but due to a scheduling conflict at the bowling alley where we’re having the party we couldn’t have it last weekend.  Tonight, I’ve got seven bow ties to make, eight galaxy jello jars (http://bakingdom.com/2012/08/doctor-who-wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey-jello-in-a-jar.html), eight more adipose marshmallow guys (no link, but I’ll provide a picture at the end of this post), and then put all of these things and some candy in the party favor bags.

Then in the morning, I’ve got to drive about 30 minutes or so to pick up the cake that I ordered, which is rather extravagant, but my son is worth it.  I have absolutely no clue what I’m going to do with the cake between tomorrow morning and tomorrow afternoon, but I’ll figure something out.  At 2 pm, I will start picking up children for the party.  I have two for sure that I have to pick up, but it may end up being three.

Somewhere between the morning and the afternoon, I have to squeeze in taking a shower and putting on my “costume.”  It’s sort of a Doctor Who themed party, if you haven’t noticed, so I will be donning a blue wig, blue gloves, and a blue T.A.R.D.I.S. t-shirt with black pants.  It’s not as cute as some T.A.R.D.I.S. costumes I’ve seen, but I like it.  Zachary will be playing the part of the tenth Doctor, so he has a Doctor t-shirt, which he will probably pair with jeans, not to mention his very stylish new glasses.

I am actually very amazed that I was able to pull this party together.  Twice this week, I thought I was going to have to cancel the cake and just lose the deposit at the bowling alley.  I would love to say it was by the grace of God that I’m able to continue with the party, but I’m not sure God would fully approve.  I’m sure He’s all for my son having a good birthday party, but I admit I went a bit overboard this year.  Zachary hitting the double digits felt like such a big deal to me.  It feels like his childhood is quickly slipping away.  He’s not so much my little guy anymore.  He’s my as-tall-as-me almost-a-teenager guy.  Seriously, the kid is one inch shorter than me, if even that much anymore.  And he’s ten.  Ok…I guess that would be more impressive if I had grown even a little since I was twelve.

Ok, enough bragging about how much work I have and am putting into the birthday party.  I need to actually get back to working on the party favor bags.  Below are some pictures of the adipose marshmallow guys and a bow tie.

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A decade of awesome

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I’m sorry I disappeared for a while. My Zachary and I were dealing with some health issues of his that he would rather I keep private. (Although, if you don’t know me well, you have no idea how difficult it has been to keep quiet the past couple of months!) I’m learning to respect my now-preteen son’s boundaries. Which brings me to the point of this post: my son is a decade old!

Let that sink in for a moment. My only child has been around for ten years! I can’t even believe it’s been that long, but I also can’t fathom my life without him in it. He and I have been “just the two of us” for a very long time now.

I know this probably seems like an obligatory birthday post (granted, two days late), but this is pretty much the most exciting thing going on in my life right now. My son motivates me on a daily basis to try to be a better version of myself than I was yesterday. I hope I do the same for him.

This year started out with some serious family drama, but lately I’ve just been trying to focus on bringing joy into our house. I worked very hard this year to make sure Zachary had a memorable birthday. We celebrated on his actual birthday by going to Golden Corral, his favorite restaurant, and then enjoying a renaissance fair. This weekend, he’ll have a birthday party at a bowling alley. We couldn’t have it last weekend because the bowling alley was having a tournament.

I firmly believe in the old proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” I hope my personal “village” of family and friends knows how grateful I am for their help. Even though Zachary’s father has chosen not to be a part of his life, I’m not raising him completely alone.

If you followed my train of thoughts during this post, congratulations! If not, thanks for reading anyway. Now here’s some pictures of my “baby” for you:

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Not In Front of My Friends, Mom.

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Today, my big, tall 9 year old started 4th grade.  I didn’t think I would get emotional, but then every song on the radio made me weepy. I know I drove him crazy this morning, but I asked my son to stop for a picture about every thirty seconds or so.  Ok, I didn’t really do that, but I wanted to…

And then IT happened.  My sweet boy, who rarely wants to be in a different room than me at home, requested that I not embarrass him.  I’m still not sure how to process that request, or the fact that he refused to hug me goodbye in front of his classmates. 

At that point, I guess I had two choices: make the situation worse for him by kissing all over his face and calling him some cutesy name, or make it worse for me by backing off completely.  I’m pretty sure I stayed firmly in the middle of those two options.  I just hugged him quickly then left.

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Between You and Me

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I am an over sharer. I over share on Facebook.  I over share over the phone.  I over share in text messages.  I’m far too much of an open book, and always have been. 

This is in large part due to the fact that I am a very trusting person, and I want everyone to like me.  Well yesterday I learned the hard way that I can no longer “over share” certain aspects of my life, especially when it relates to Zachary.  My amazing, intelligent, sometimes complicated son has now developed a need for privacy. 

Yesterday I violated his trust by telling a friend something about him, and she pulled him aside to ask him about it.  I had no idea I could ever be so ashamed of my actions as a parent.  My sweet son was so betrayed and hurt by my actions.  I apologized, and he forgave me, but I will never forget it. 

Why am I sharing this with you now?  I guess for accountability, and so that I have a reminder in the future of what happened.  That is not a mistake I ever want to make again.  The last thing I would ever want is for Zack to feel like he can’t trust me.  He’s the most precious, important person in my life on this earth. 

Geeking Out

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So today I had an interesting experience at church.  The past couple of days, I’ve been listening to my inner voice, which I hope is inspired more by my relationship with God than other things.  Last night, for example, I had this thought, “What if I’m not the person I want people to think I am?”  That thought was followed by a great deal of pondering over how effective I am at portraying how important my faith really is to me.  Do I really live the Christian life, or am I all just talk?

Before bed last night, Zack told me he did not want to go to church, and was not the least bit interested in discussing the matter.  When this kid makes up his mind about not wanting to do something, such as eating a particular food item, he means business.  I’ll admit, I tend to have a pretty lax attitude when it comes to arguing with my boy.  It just seems easier most of the time to let him be in charge.

I know how that must sound to some of you parents out there.  More lazy than lax, right?  I do have friends who feel the need to remind me on a regular basis that I am the parent.  It’s pretty sad, in my opinion, that anyone ever needs to remind me of that.  I feel a lot of guilt where Zack is concerned, though.  I hate how his life has gone the past few years, and I feel like I could have made better choices in order to prevent certain situations.  I could have stayed in TN instead of moving down to AL, thus avoiding another custody battle with his father, and quite a lot of emotional trauma to Zack.  I could have found another solution to getting out of the custody battle instead of moving to CA to live with my mother, thus avoiding some terrible drama caused by her earlier this year, and again, more emotional trauma to Zack.

Ok, I’m getting a little wordy here.  I was getting to another thought.  This morning, the first thought on my mind was, “Be the leader.”  The leader of the house, physically, financially, spiritually, etc.  There are only two of us here (not counting the pets), and our battle of wills has gone on long enough.  With all that Zack has gone through, he probably needs a strong leader now more than ever.  So I let him sleep in, but when Zack woke up I informed him that we would be going to the 11:15 am service at the church that I have chosen (despite the fact that he likes a different church better).  I never wanted to be the kind of parent that forces her child to attend church if he/she doesn’t want to, but I do believe in “training up a child in the way he should go…”  When Zack is older, it will be up to him to decide if he wants to attend a church regularly, but for now it is my place to teach him right as I see it.

This leads us, I hope, to the third interesting thought that popped into my head.  Right before church, I thought, “What if I was a geek for God?”  Ok, I know how corny that sounds, but that’s kind of the point.  I pride myself on being a geek or nerd or dork or whatever you want to call it.  I enjoy science fiction shows, reading, playing video games, Pinterest, blogging, Star Wars, Hello Kitty, shows like The Big Bang Theory, and so many other geeky things.  I love talking to and meeting people who enjoy the same geeky things as me.

I read this interesting quote on Facebook that said something about how being a geek means being passionate.  And I am definitely passionate about so many things.  What if I made more room in my mind, heart, and life to be even more passionate about my faith?  In the 90s, when I was a teenager, there was this whole great Jesus freak movement.  I was definitely a geek for God then.  My first boyfriend, when I was 18, was this great nerdy tech type guy who frequently challenged me in my faith.  We had many great conversations about the Bible, and quizzed each other on Bible verses all the time.  That might not sound like a great time to some people, but it was fun for me and it made me grow.  It may not be a boyfriend, but I’d love to find someone to challenge me like that again.

Maybe I will find someone like that – or even several someones – at this new church.  After I had that thought about being a geek for God, the sermon was about Serving, the four cups of Passover, and different things being offered at this church.  I’m going to start the membership classes to find out where I can serve and belong in this church next Sunday.  Zack wants to be baptized on August 7th, so I’m going to try to sign up for that online, if it doesn’t require being a member yet.  There are several small groups starting soon, so I plan to get involved in one of those if possible.  I really want to get involved in church again, and maybe find some ways to minister that I haven’t thought about in the past.  It’s kind of like the pastor was saying today: everybody always asks God to move, but in reality He’s been moving all along.  It’s up to us to move forward and try to meet Him and join in what He is doing.  I’m tired of being stagnant and pretending like my faith isn’t the absolute most important thing about my life.

Geeky Me