Jenyfer Matthews
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January 21st, 2016
Progress and Delays

I am going to have to stop apologizing for disappearing – it is what it is. Sometimes I am busy, sometimes I don’t have anything interesting to say, and sometimes I am just speechless / depressed / dejected. So the new normal is that my posts are going to be irregular. For now.

I did start a savings account and I have made deposits these first weeks of the year. Yay, me! I have not yet started a jar for positive / good things that happen and I really, really need to do that – I do need reminders when so often it is the bad stuff that sticks in your brain.

On other fronts, delays seem to be the name of the game. I am trying to be “zen” and just go with the flow but it is difficult when you can see the light at the end of the tunnel and yet the end of the tunnel keeps moving backward. Optical illusion. I am just trying to keep the faith that I will eventually reach it.

Things are getting interesting work-wise: some big deals going on and I am in the mix. I was sick over the holidays and was hatching both quilting and home improvement ideas for the new year but we’ll see if I have actually have the time to get to any of them. I am thinking that I will have to MAKE some time for other stuff or I will just burn out completely. Still in thinking mode at this point.

I’d really like to get outside and take a walk after work but it isn’t that appealing when it is not only super cold but also dark (and difficult to see the ice).

January 1st, 2016
Realistic Resolutions

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m not much of a resolution maker. I know there are things in my life I need to change but there is nothing magical about January 1 as a start date for making those changes. However, there are a couple of new things I am going to try this year.

One new thing is this savings challenge.

moneychart

As you can see, things really add up by the end of the year. I may make it a little simpler and just save $30/ week if I can manage it. (I have been getting lots of overtime lately so shouldn’t be so difficult) At that rate, you end up with close to the same amount at the end of the year only just a bit more. More isn’t a bad thing in this case. What I will do with the money has yet to be decided. Travel? Home improvement? Oh, the possibilities!

The other thing I am wanting to try is this:

10157129_10152509255232945_8396031760257236654_n

This one doesn’t cost a thing and I have a couple of pretty blue vintage mason jars I could use to do this. Having a jar like this would have been nice last night when I was sitting in my bed with a head cold and a box of kleenex having myself a pity party.

Happy New Year, everyone. I myself plan to make it a good one.

December 31st, 2015
All I Got for Christmas was Ingratitude and a Cold

I have not truly enjoyed the holidays in a long, long time. There are so many expectations involved with them and guess who is in charge of meeting all those expectations? I try my best to make the holidays fun and special for the children, but it gets harder and harder to do as the children get older and as I soldier on with no one to do anything special for me.

There is something about shopping for boys that is difficult – juvenile or adult. My daughter is always so much easier to shop for than my son. Even when she was more of a tomboy I found it easier. I don’t know if it is because we are both females or what.

Part of the problem now of course is the cost of the items on my son’s wish list. I ended up just winging it and getting him some things that I knew wouldn’t necessarily “wow” him but would be things that he would enjoy for a long period of time. Like two really nice pairs of Adidas warm up pants (which he lives in) and a couple of good books as an antidote to endless video games plus a few other things.

As expected he wasn’t wowed. I was not actually expecting him to tell me that he didn’t like the gifts however.

That thoughtless comment was on top of having recieved a rather thoughtless gift from him as well…. the kind of gift that says “what in this store can I find that costs under $20 and doesn’t look like it came from a gas station?” I know that sounds harsh, and it probably is. But it was the kind of present an enthusiastic 6 year old might pick out but had an entirely different tone coming from a 13 year old.

I haven’t been having a great year, I am feeling pretty low and unappreciated so a disappointing Christmas was just icing on the damn cake.

But wait – there’s more!

My daughter was complaining of a sore throat on the Wednesday before Christmas and by the day after she was no better so I took her to the doctor. Not strep throat but just some viral thing… which she considerately shared with me. I am currently sitting in bed eating Emergen-C, sipping tea, and sucking on zinc tablets in between blowing my nose. I don’t get sick very often, but when I do, I am thorough.

So Happy New Year everyone. It can’t be 2016 fast enough for me.

December 5th, 2015
Side Benefits

Just shy of five years ago, right after I returned from Cairo, I went to the dermatologist with a suspicious looking spot high on my cheekbone, under my left eye. She took one look at it and told me that yes, it needed to come off, but also that I had a lot of other sun damage on my face as well. She recommended I treat it all at once to avoid having to come in and get things burned off one by one as they appeared. After discussing my options, I opted to use the Efudex cream because while it was the most aggressive it was also the fastest (Efudex is essentially a topical chemotherapy cream that only reacts with damaged, pre-cancerous cells). I treated my face and chest and that cream was certainly effective. I was a walking scab for two weeks, at which point the doctor recommended I stop treatment. I think even she was shocked by how much of a reaction I had.

However, when everything was all healed up, I had a lovely new complexion.

Fast-forward to present day… Having had a few small spots burned off in the last couple of years and anticipating a change in my health insurance coming in the new year, I decided to be smart and proactive and requested the Efudex treatment again from my current dermatologist. She was somewhat surprised by the request because the treatment is fairly unpleasant and few people REQUEST IT, but she agreed and told me to use it 2x/day for three weeks. I started it two weeks ago.

I am treating my face, neck, ears, chest, and the backs of my hands. I am happy to report that nothing much is reacting anywhere but my face, and even that reaction isn’t as extreme as it was last time. My forehead is largely clear as are my temples and the sides of my cheeks and my ears (that is a happy surprise). I have a few scabby spots high on my cheekbones under my eyes. The worst of the reaction is around my mouth and chin, and oddly enough my bottom lip. I say it is odd not because I don’t think your lips can get skin cancer but because I am not actually putting the cream on my lips. Having layers of your bottom lip peel off every day doesn’t make it super easy to eat however, so a side benefit of this treatment is that I have lost that pesky 5 pounds I’ve been fighting with for the last year (plus a bit extra).

Fortunately, the lip issue didn’t start until just after Thanksgiving!

This treatment isn’t much fun for sure, but I am glad to see that the sun damage I still had isn’t as extensive as before which means the first treatment worked well. I can only hope that this round of treatment is equally as effective and that I won’t have to go to this extreme again for a very long time, if ever.

Not knowing exactly what to expect in terms of my reaction, I made arrangements to work from home for the last two weeks of my treatment. Most of my work requests come in by email and I would say that 95% of my job duties are accomplished online. I have been pretty busy the last few weeks but there are some down times here and there and being at home has meant that I can get some other stuff done in those moments.

Which also helps to distract me from my discomfort and my hunger pangs. (It is very difficult to avoid touching your bottom lip no matter what you eat)

For instance, my dishwasher wasn’t draining earlier in the week. I don’t know anything about dishwashers but my sister suggested that maybe the filter was clogged. I did a google search and watched a couple of YouTube videos and then took my dishwasher apart. Um, yuck. I am not quite sure how old the dishwasher is, but by the looks of it, the filter had never been cleaned, ever. Ugh.

dishwasher filter2

dishwasher filter

I ended up chipping a lot of the caked on detergent muck with a butterknife and then soaking the filter and various other pieces in a vinegar solution in my canning pot overnight. The next day I pulled the dishwasher out of the cabinets, disconnected the drain hose underneath to drain the standing water. Just that part was a huge challenge because there isn’t a lot of room to work under a dishwasher and the clamp was mounted in the most awkward way possible. I ended up using a penny and the sheer force of my stubborn will to get the clamp undone! I was able to bail out the standing water, clean out another two cups of detergent muck from the bottom of the machine before I put everything back together (remembering where all the pieces went was like doing a puzzle!). I remounted the clamp on the drain hose in a much more sensible way while I was at it!

I did a short rinse cycle to make sure that my kitchen wouldn’t flood and yay – it worked! The inside of the machine was a bit sudsy after that cycle but it did indeed drain. Since I was on a roll, I cleaned the inside of the door with baking soda to remove stains and then ran the dishwasher again with a cup of vinegar to further clean off any residue. Seems to be all good to go now.

The success with the dishwasher gave me the confidence to tackle another item I’ve been avoiding – investigating the trap under my kitchen sink. My sink drains slow from time to time and the joins of the pipes under the sink had crusty residue bubbling up around them from the inside for lack of a better way to describe it. Once again I got my canning pot out and I took the pipes apart. They were entirely clear, which was slightly anti-climactic I must admit. There were slightly scungy so I soaked them briefly in bleach before I put them back together again. The bonus part of that job is that I cleaned out the cupboard under my kitchen sink at the same time.

Since I was on a roll I also cleaned the inside of my oven. The window in the door was particularly bad and has been bugging me for a while. It looks pretty good now except that there are drips inside the double panes of the window in the door – how does that happen? I found a video on YouTube for how to take the oven door apart to get inside the window to clean that up so guess what I’ll be doing next week when I’m working from home again?

I guess another side benefit of this skin cancer treatment is getting some (very overdue) cleaning projects done…

November 18th, 2015
Be a Butterfly

I feel like I’m always apologizing for being absent, but this last year has been a very weird time. I have good days and bad days, up days and down. Some days I feel like I’m holding on to my sanity by my fingernails alone. I’ve had rough patches before and managed to continue to update my blog, but these days I’m also going to work every day and frankly that just isn’t that interesting a topic to write about.

And in the midst of my personal pity party, the world continues to implode. School shootings, suicide bombers, terrorist attacks. They seem to happen so frequently now that we’re becoming desensitized to it all. At least I know I am. Part of it is just a coping mechanism of course – you can only let your heart hurt for so long before you need to let it scab over.

Yet the Paris attacks really touched a nerve with me, which of course was the point I suppose. All those people just going out on a Friday evening to enjoy their weekend, many of whom will never go home and see their families again. No more cafes, no more concerts, no holiday cheer. Just over in an instant.

Like so many others, I feel helpless to do anything about it. I’m not prepared to condemn and reject every Muslim on the planet as a would-be terrorist any more than I think every fundamentalist Christian is a porn-addicted child molester. I lived in the Middle East for a little more than a decade and I know that the vast majority are just people like any other. People use a variety of excuses to explain their vile actions but it all just boils down to one thing: evil. None of these actions are actually coming from any sort of loving God.

Rather than curl up in a ball and weep for our world, I’m going to think globally and act locally instead. There is nothing I can do to influence world politics or sort out the tremendous political mess of the Middle East or the immigration crisis in Europe. But I can perform random acts of kindness in my own space. I can compliment a stranger’s sweater or earrings or smile. I always enjoy a compliment so giving them is a small but effective way to brighten someone else’s day.

I am not particularly in a holiday mood either, but I’m trying to jump start that by giving to others. I took a “wish” off the Sharing Tree at work – for a movie gift card for a lady who loves romantic comedies. It made me feel as good to get that gift card as I hope it will make her to receive it. I’m going to find some other ways to spread holiday cheer in the next few weeks.

I’m hoping that these small acts will create a butterfly effect – if everyone who I touch then touches someone else imagine what could happen.

October 26th, 2015
Not My Forte

I put 721 miles on my car this weekend driving to 3 different “away” soccer games over the course of three days for each of the children.

Both the kids have been playing travel soccer for going on four years now so you would think that I would be better at managing all of the details that go along with it, yet it is a rare weekend that I don’t forget something.

For instance, Friday afternoon was really nice, but it cools off a lot when the sun goes down. Do you think I remembered to bring myself a jacket for the game? I didn’t realize I’d forgotten it until we were an hour away from home. How could I forget a jacket? It is ALWAYS cold and windy at soccer fields. Lucky for me the game ended up being inside. I knew it was supposed to rain on Saturday for my son’s game but not only didn’t it occur to me to bring my rain boots, but I also didn’t think about bringing along any towels for the boy to sit on in the car or any extra clothes for him to change into. In fact, we didn’t do an equipment check before we left the house so we got 2.5 hours away and almost all the way to the game field before we realized he’d forgotten his cleats! Lucky for him there was an outlet mall at the exit next to the field and the cleats that the Nike store had were on sale. However, it did POUR for most of the game so he was entirely soaked – and cold – for the 2.5 hour ride home.

Sunday’s game went mostly without incident – and I’m glad I remembered my jacket that day because there was a cold wind blowing. I did however forget my camera.

I recently read the latest installment of the Bridget Jones series (Mad About the Boy) in which Bridget Jones is a widowed mother to two young children and is constantly messing things up as she tries to get them to school on time, get their homework done, feed them and generally manage as a single parent while also trying to start dating again. The book was funny, but it also resonated with me. I’m basically the Bridget Jones of sports moms.

This weekend’s foibles were fairly low-level as far as it goes – the forgotten cleats could have been a disaster if not for a conveniently located sports store. Even though that could be argued to have been my son’s responsibility / fault, in the end that sort of stuff always blows back on the mother. It isn’t the first time we’ve had that sort of equipment emergency either – we once got all the way to Ohio for a tennis tournament and discovered my daughter had forgotten her tennis shoes (another conveniently placed outlet mall saved her butt). Once I myself set her tennis bag on the ground near the back of my car, got distracted, and then drove away leaving her bag in the parking lot (later recovered intact!) We have frequently been late to arrive for the warm-up for soccer games because I’ve underestimated the travel time needed. I seem to be the only parent who never quite knows what division / league / rank the team is playing or competing at – in fact, I am usually only barely keeping up with who has a game where and at what time on a week by week basis.

Worst soccer mom ever.

Because I like to think of myself as being competent, organized, and efficient, I was feeling slightly demoralized at the idea that other parents probably don’t see me that way at all. I’m sure I come across as disorganized and flighty. All the other soccer moms seems to have it under control – getting to the games on time in their shiny new SUVs, with all their equipment ready to go, and sometimes bring cookies besides and here I am tearing into the parking lot at the last minute in my ancient VW Golf and freezing my butt off because I forgot to bring a jacket.

Then I decided it didn’t really matter. My child is on the team, not me – so long as they do their part I guess it should be good enough that I get them to the field on time. It was never my dream to be a perfect soccer or tennis mom anyway.

Mission accomplished.

October 23rd, 2015
Memories: the Good, Bad, Crazy

I was listening to a radio show the other morning where the hosts were discussing how their children will remember them. One host was saying that he was sure that the children would remember things evenly – both the good times and the bad. The other host was just as sure that her children would mostly remember the things that made her look bad or bat-shit crazy.

I’m pretty much thinking host #2 is the correct one.

My mother used to tell me that she read to me all the time when I was a small child. No recollection. And later on, after I’d made some comment about my parents never taking me out to eat when I was a child, my mother reminded me that she and my dad used to drive me 1.5 hours one way to take me to a seafood restaurant I particularly liked for my birthday dinner – I vaguely remembered that once she mentioned it. I’d give you more examples but clearly I don’t remember that stuff on my own!

I do remember more than a few occasions when my mother flew off the handle in traffic and how she really, really hated when you asked her to take you anywhere after she’d gotten home from work. Once she had her slippers on, she was not going out again – or at least not without a heavy guilt-trip. I remember vividly how much I hated when she made vegetable soup for dinner (bland root vegetables ground up in a meat grinder and boiled in water).

I’m sure it will be a similar scenario with my own children. They won’t remember my reading to them every night when they were small either, won’t remember my flying internationally with them on my own every summer, won’t remember my driving them all over the Midwest (and sometimes beyond) for soccer / tennis tournaments, won’t remember all the perfectly cooked meals I made (nearly) every night for dinner.

They will remember me sleeping through the alarm and nearly being late getting them to a soccer game, getting pulled over for speeding on the way to a tennis tournament, burning some pancakes and setting off the fire alarm, nagging them to do their homework / laundry / take a shower (fill in the blank).

That’s just the way it goes I suppose. I guess the best you can hope in the end is that they can remember the feeling of being loved, even if they don’t remember the specific events.

September 23rd, 2015
Upping My Game

It’s the third week of school and I’m already regretting that I didn’t enjoy summer more… not because of the weather, or the “free time” (ha!), but because I didn’t have to pack the children lunches every day.

Summer had its own drawbacks – because the children were more at their leisure (meaning ‘home more’) they were free to eat whatever they wanted, prepared by their own hands. And they did. In copious amounts. My son particularly made it his mission in life to eat whatever he set eyes on. It was truly astonishing to see how much he could consume in a sitting, let alone a day. Or a week. He is still only 12 but he is almost eye to eye with me and outweighs me. Since presumably he isn’t done growing yet, I suppose I have a few more years of his appetite to deal with. A scary thought.

On the level of preserving food levels in the house, I was looking forward to school starting – if they aren’t home most of the day then they won’t spend most of the day eating. However, being away from home puts the burden of providing school lunches back on me.

I’m not going to argue about who ought to be packing their lunch, them or me. Obviously they are old enough to do it themselves. However, it doesn’t take me long to do and at least by doing it myself I can ensure there is some sort of balance to what is packed. It isn’t the time involved in packing the lunches that I find difficult, it is what to include when one kid like “this” and the other one likes “that”.

The other challenge is that I buy things that I intend to use in their lunches and then discover that they have snacked on those things while sitting at home! So last night after I went shopping for fresh supplies, I stashed the goodies so they would not be easily found.

I’ve hidden food from time to time their whole lives – every mom does it whether it is because you don’t want the kids to eat the food all at once or because you want to eat it YOURSELF. I used to be able to use the cupboards above the fridge or the oven but they’re both tall enough to easily look there now. And once they see me getting things out of a particular spot, that spot is no longer a safe option.

I like to keep things as close to the kitchen as I can for my own convenience, but still out of the obvious places. Since neither child is particularly interested in making much effort in their food prep, I stashed the fruit cups in the cast iron Dutch oven and the cheese crackers on the spinning shelf behind the flour canister in the corner cabinet. And it just occurred to me that I could also get super clever and replace the contents of a box with the goodies of another – for instance I could put the chewy fruit snack packs in a box of organic bran cereal. That could sit in plain sight and they wouldn’t bother it.

I will admit to outwitting myself from time to time. I once hit a sale on Goldfish crackers and stocked up – then hid them and forgot about them entirely. A year later I found a paper grocery bag in the cupboard above the refrigerator and thought “what’s this?” Gave myself a good laugh. Unfortunately, my daughter was standing there watching when I made that discovery so there went that hiding spot idea…

September 8th, 2015
When Will I Learn?

It’s the first day of school in Michigan and while I was looking forward to this day, I do not necessarily feel like I was totally ready for it.

It isn’t as if I didn’t know this day was coming. I bought a pile of notebooks, folders, binder tabs, and pens / pencils about a week ago. And I took both my kids shopping to get a few new pairs of shoes and some new clothes. But I was out of town all weekend and late yesterday afternoon I suddenly realized that I didn’t have any juice boxes or snack-y items for school lunches. And though I plan for my daughter to ride the bus home from school in the afternoon, I didn’t actually know what number bus that would be.

Why why why wasn’t I better prepared???

I like to think of myself as an organized and productive person. I suppose most people who know me would probably more or less agree on the “productive” part, but there may be some hesitation on the “organized” part. All of the areas that I regularly occupy in my home are cluttered. (“cluttered” is a far kinder word than “messy”) I can almost always locate any item I need when I need it, but I’m not sure that necessarily qualifies me as “organized”. And though I like to think of myself as punctual, I am beginning to slide on the scale toward a few minutes late to everything. I don’t like to think that people have this image of me as disorganized and tardy, but I can hardly blame them when I myself feel like I’m perpetually playing catch-up. The last few years seem to have drifted past while I was focused on just getting through each week without forgetting to do / attend anything major or required.

First day of school pictures?? Not at my house. We were lucky to have everyone awake, lunches made, bags packed, and out the door on time.

How do all of the other responsible grown-ups do it? And make it look easy besides?

August 27th, 2015
Everything Old Will Be Shiny Again

I was gifted a vintage step-stool by a friend who was moving – she herself told me it was a curbside rescue for her. It was in rough shape, but there was no way I wasn’t going to take it. My grandmother had one like it in her kitchen, though I can’t remember now what color hers was.

stepstool1

Someone along the way spray painted it white – which might not have been such a bad idea except that they also painted the chrome legs and the black rubber foot pads. This is how a step-stool like this should look (I got this one at an estate sale and it sits near my projects table):

stepstool2

I first tried to remove paint from the chrome parts with regular paint stripper but that vintage spray paint was not budging. I ended up getting some spray-on aircraft paint remover from an auto parts store. That did the trick!

stepstool4

The chrome looks a bit dark still but I have hope of either shining it up or, as a last resort, spraying it with chrome colored paint. The red is the original color of the stool. Guess what color it will be again??

I still have a lot of work to do on this project, but I can see how I can dismantle pieces to make clean up and re-painting easier. I’d like to get it done and installed as a cheerful pop of red in my kitchen before winter starts. We’ll see…