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Monday, July 25, 2011

A tale of Two Soldiers...Part Two

On September 24th of 1988 I was at a Def Leppard concert with some friends.  When I got home that night, and it was late, I had learned that my sister had had her baby.  He was her first child, he was the first grandchild and he was my first nephew.  He was a little cone-headed but he was beautiful.
 
My sweet little Justin Ryan.

He is my godchild and I could not love him any more if I tried.  He always makes me smile and just being around him makes me feel good.  I don't always agree with the things that he does but that's okay.  

In October of 2001, at the age of 13, Justin was diagnosed with Leukemia.  We were all shocked.  I think that we all went numb for a period of time.  I was living 600 miles away and didn't get to see him hardly at all during his battle but I was majorly impressed with the way that he held himself strong during such a difficult time.  The chemo, the days of being sick that followed, losing his hair...he did it all and he became a role model to so many.

When he graduated the 8th grade, the whole family was there and I remember when they called his name, the whole audience cheered loudly.  You see, the whole school knew of his battle with cancer and so to see him walk across the stage to get his diploma was worth cheering.  

Three years after his diagnosis, he was cancer free.  Six years later, he is still cancer free and ready to take on the world.  At this stage of his life, after having been through so much, he could probably take on anything.  And to that end, he has chosen to take the life that God has given him and join the Marines.

We are not a military family and so this came as a GREAT shock to us all.  The only problem?  The Marines did not seem to want him.  I don't think they actually COULD say "no" but they made him jump through many, many hoops and still they would not take him.  He had every medical clearance that he could get and finally, he took matters in to his own hands and contacted a Senator and a county official and soon enough, he got the call.  


The Marines wanted him.


Most of the family still doesn't understand why he wants to do this.  I am beyond proud because really, he could have played the cancer-card and used that to get out of doing anything challenging for the rest of his life but instead, he wants to make a difference.  He wants to be known as something other than a cancer survivor.  The cancer did not define him.  He is now, at age 22, ready to tackle something else that most of us would not.


As he finishes doing what he has to do before heading out to start his training, there are a lot of mixed emotions going around.  I will never discourage him.  He is not doing anything that his wrong; if anything, he is doing something more admirable than all of us in the family combined.


I love you, Punkin, and I am so, so proud of you.


To read the complete story of Justin's journey from cancer to Marines, you can click HERE

Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Tale of Two Soldiers...Part One

Back in 2004, I went to work for a little homeschool bookstore here in town.  They sold curriculum and offered enrichment classes.  I had the opportunity over the next4-5 years to meet possibly hundreds of kids.  Most of them came and went with very little interaction, some I still see from time to time and a select few leave a lasting memory.
 
Lucas was one of them.

Last Saturday afternoon, I had learned of his death.  He was killed in Iraq two days shy of his 22nd birthday.  My heart broke and I cried through the weekend.  I hadn't seen him in more than three years but he had made such an impression on me that it felt like just yesterday.

As news spread of his death, I learned so much more about him.  Lucas was an avid hunter and fisherman; he loved the outdoors and he loved the Lord.  He was a leader to those around him and was always looking to help his fellow man in any way possible.  He signed up for the Army as soon as he was able and when he should have been home with his family, he volunteered for deployment.

I remember the last time I had seen him.  He had just come back from what I guess was basic training and he came to the book store.  He looked so handsome in his dress uniform and he was proud to wear it.  I was so excited to see him - you see, he was probably the MOST polite young man I had ever met.  He was personable and would do anything that asked, and he would do it with a smile.  When he walked through that door I just about fell over at the sight of him.  So handsome.  So proud.  He came over and picked me up in a big ol' bear hug and spun me around.  

I felt honored that he even thought of me enough to stop by and say hello.

This morning I went to his memorial.  This amazing young man, with blue eyes and dimples that would make anyone envy, is gone.  As I drove up to the church, American flags lined the road.  I prayed that there would be no protestors.  There was an amazing show of support by one motorcycle organization (I wish I remembered their name!) who lined the driveway all the way to the church's front door, each member holding an American Flag.  There were hundreds of people there.

Because this boy touched so many lives.  He was amazing.  He was beautiful.  He loved his country, he loved his family, he was born to serve.  He made us all proud.  

I had never been to a military funeral and it was someone awe inspiring to watch.  The show of support; the number of people who came who probably never met Lucas.  It must have eased some of the hurt that his parents and young bride were feeling.  

I can't remember the last time I cried so hard.  R.I.P. Lucas...I'm so proud of you. 

To see more about Lucas, you can click the news coverage HERE.   

Sunday, July 17, 2011

PRE-ORDER YOURS TODAY!!!

Okay, those of you who know me, know that I am a HUGE fan of author Susan Mallery.  She writes contemporary romances and I pretty much love everything that she has written.  With over 120 titles to choose from, I can't say that I've read them all, but I have read a LOT of them!

Right now I am helping with the campaign for her new book "Only Mine" which will be released Monday, July 26th.  I am trying to get as many pre-orders as possible for Susan and need your help.  If you are a fan of contemporary romances and are looking for a GREAT book, please pre-order "Only Mine" either through these direct links to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and please, please, PLEASE let me know that you've done it.

I promise to give you details soon as to why this is so important to me but if you, my loyal readers, could help me out with this, not only will I get closer to a goal but you will be blessed with a great story!  You can click on the widget on the side of my page for more info on Susan or go to her website 
HERE.

Happy Reading!!!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

In case anyone has forgotten, we are a family of FOUR!!!

Hello, my name is Stace and I am married with two children.

If you are stopping by here for the first time, this may be news to you.  If you've known me for any amount of time beyond right now, then you should KNOW that information!!  Especially if you are related to me!

I'm dealing with an awkward situation right now.  I have two children. No, that's not the awkward part.  See, when Nick was born, we still lived up in New York and so did all of our family.  Everyone was there when he was born, he spent time with all of them and we did all of the things that families do.

Fast forward a bit and we move to North Carolina and and five years later I have another child.  Michael.  No one was here while I was pregnant.  Only my sister came when he was born.  There haven't been many family get togethers so while Michael may not regularly THINK of his extended family, the adults in the family are more than aware of his existence.

They just don't seem to remember that they should remember...

It's been little things and to be honest, Nick has a very big presence.  When he is around, it's hard to notice anyone else and Michael seems content to just hang out quietly in the background.  BUT...again, the adults should know better.

First there was the time that my dad called and asked if he could have the Legos that he had given NICK as kid back.  Why?  Because he has another grandchild who wanted them.  I was like "Um...remember MICHAEL???  Because HE plays with them!"  Oops...

Then just recently we dealt with a blatant snub.  We homeschooled Nick.  His graduation from elementary school to middle school meant that he was STILL in my living room.  There was no great transition and no big whoop about the change and YET, people sent cards, gifts and called him to wish him well.  Fast forward and here's Michael, who is actually IN school and making the HUGE transition from elementary school to middle school and not ONE person called to wish him luck, congratulate him...NOTHING.  

Actually, in the last week, I have spoken to three different family members who have asked how I was, how Frank was and how Nick was.

Insert the sound of crickets chirping HERE!!!

Does anyone else see anything WRONG with that???

I am heartbroken for my son.  He is a beautiful person with a great personality and a great laugh and a big heart.  He is quiet; he doesn't like to have a lot of attention thrown his way but that doesn't mean that people - especially people who are supposed to LOVE HIM - should ignore him!  

If I have to sit on the phone and hear about your damn dogs, your neighbors, people you work with why is it that you cannot add my SON to the list of people that you have on your mind???  

When my grandmother was alive she always sent cards when we got promoted in school.  When Nick was younger and almost up until she died, she continued to to send the cards to BOTH boys.  She lived on a fixed income and was ill and yet she STILL took the time to acknowledge BOTH of my boys.

So SHAME ON YOU.  You are all missing out on knowing a wonderful little boy with sparkling blue eyes, and infectious laugh and a cute little dimple.  His curly hair is always unruly and he tends to have bumps and bruises on himself because he is always running and exploring something and if you took even FIVE minutes to speak to him once in a while or maybe even took ten seconds and ASKED how he was doing, your life would be better for it.

He does matter.  He's not invisible.  And not knowing him is YOUR loss.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

We survived the first day!

Yesterday was a productive day for us here.  We got up, I did a one-mile walk with my little hand weights (2 lbs. each!) and then it was time for Michael to leave for his first day of middle school.  Frank walked him down the two blocks to the bus stop (it's the first time he's taken the bus in the morning ever) and...

They missed the bus.

Seriously.  We got a letter in the mail telling us what time the bus would pick up and they got there 20 minutes BEFORE that time and the bus had already been there and gone!  So, they ran back to the house and had to hop in the car and do the carpool thing. And...while they were gone I did my thirty minute Power 90 workout that I have not done in WAY too long plus the Ab workout.  I was feeling pretty sassy...

Other than that, it seemed like a normal first day of middle school.  He got confused once with his schedule and went to the wrong class but the rest of the day was fine - no major issues.  Thank GOD!  By the time he got home he was still fine, still happy, not overly impressed with the whole situation and I took that as a good thing.

Now here we are, day two.  He is up and moving around and having his breakfast.  He is not complaining, not giving me a hard time about getting ready and I practically need someone to help me walk.  Oh...my...goodness...is my body sore!!  I had every intention of getting up and doing a walk but it's going to take this old body a little bit of time before I can move about the cabin freely!

At least one of us is off to a good start!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Being Productive...I guess

So on Sunday I got up, went to church, greeted the masses, listened to a very touching sermon, cried through "Amazing Grace", left, came home, did dishes, made lunch, folded laundry, took Michael to finish up his school shopping, came home, did more laundry, organized all of Michael's new binders, folders, pencil case, etc., labeled all of his stuff (including his PE uniform), washed all of the bedding in the house, had Frank go through every piece of clothing Michael owns and got rid of anything that no longer fit, cooked dinner, made all of the beds, folded the rest of the laundry, cleaned up in general around the house and got the boy to bed by 10.

On top of that, I sent out a follow up e-mail to Harlequin about my submission that I sent to them THREE MONTHS AGO and contacted unemployment because there is the possibility of getting those last two weeks that they owe me.  The nearest unemployment office is 20 miles away so there is no way that I want to drive all the way down there for nothing.  At least if they e-mail me back, I can find out what I need to do BEFORE making the hike.

Frank still isn't working and I have to admit, I am having a REALLY hard time with it at this point.  I mean, I have great RAGE towards him.  He was supposed to start a job this week on a full exterior paint job but because we had bad weather last week, the other contractors that were supposed to do some work before him, never showed up.  Now we wait.  And you know what?  We cannot afford for him to sit around for another week without bringing in a paycheck.

My new online class that I am teaching started this week and on Sunday I got two more students!  That makes seven!  I was psyched about that.  My online class that I am TAKING (on synopsis writing) is slow going mainly because I don't have the time to really focus on it and don't even get me started on National Novel Writing Month!  I have maybe 4,000 words done...only 46,000 more to go by the end of the month.  

No problem...

I need another ten hours in a day and I need for my prayer for work for Frank to be answered.  We need three solid months of work to get us out of the whole that we are now in and even then, I don't know what will happen.  All I know is that I LONG for a couple of hours alone to just write...for pleasure, not because I have to.

Pray, pray, pray...

Sunday, July 10, 2011

The Art of Dialogue Writing...

Okay, so my first attempt at on online writing class went pretty well.  My next one, "The Art of Dialogue Writing" starts on Monday.  And you know what?  There are four high school students and one MOM!  I am so psyched about that!!  I mean, I know that I geared this for high school but for someone looking for a beginner's class, this would be it!

I figured out how to use PayPal - which is good and bad.  Good because it gives students the convenience of paying online.  Bad because PayPal takes a percentage of the money.

Major bummer.

It has been interesting to research how I want to write the curriculum and I'm kind of excited to see how creative the kids can get with their writing.  I mean, writing and someone's creativity is all subjective.  I taught a creative writing class last semester where all of the kids wrote various forms of fantasy and science fiction.

Soooooo not my thing.

I guess for me, as long as the writing is good, and makes sense and makes me WANT to read more, then I am happy.  I have had work handed in that made me want to kill myself because it was so poorly written and boring.  The student was very proud of it.  Who know?  There could be an editor somewhere that likes it.  I mean, as a writer, I think that my writing is good.  I'm sure there have been editor's who have read it and thought "Really?  You felt confident mailing this to me?"

I'm looking forward to this next workshop - that's all I'm saying.  I love helping students work through the creative process.  I think that it's a cool thing.  As of now I have five students for this workshop, the last one I had six.  I was hoping to go up in figures but what I found last time was that not everyone signs up on time.  I had some late entries in the last one and so I may get that sixth and seventh person yet.

I know that I am taking an online class on synopsis writing and it is 4 weeks with lessons several times a week and it was $25 which is exactly what I am charging so I know that I am in the right range.  I think, with me gearing this at the homeschool community right now, that I will get more interest in the classes that I will do come September - I may throw one out there in August because a lot of us here in the South do year-round school.

Either way...LOVING it!!

Friday, July 8, 2011

I think we should get an adjustment, don't you?

About a month ago I went on a rant about Time Warner Cable and how after one storm all of our digital stuff got whacked out.  The cable box got fried, we were without a phone for 24 hours but remarkably, still had internet.  Go figure.

Well it's stormy here in North Carolina this week, folks and yesterday, even though it wasn't a BAD storm, we lost our phone service and nothing else.  So we did the on-line chat thing and were told that a serviceman would be here on Friday.  That was essentially going to be 36 hours of no phone service.  Okay, fine, we don't have a choice.

Early this afternoon, the phone came back on all by itself.  Yippee, right?  Well, six hours later another storm hit - this one was pretty scary and severe - and BAM, no phone again.  Of course we had already canceled our appointment because our phone was back on and we didn't want to be charged for a repair visit that we didn't need.  

Only now we do.  

I am beyond frustrated.  Basically, in the less than two months that we have had the digital service we have been without our phone for a total of three days (and at this point I'm being optimistic that the phone will come back on it's own tomorrow at some point).  Do we get compensated for all of this loss of phone time?  Do we get any kind of rate adjustment for crappy service?

I want to rant, rave and basically tell TWC that they suck but I kind of enjoy the cable service.  I would LOVE to get rid of the home phone but oddly enough, at the same time, it is like a security blanket.  I don't particularly love cell phones and so right now I am losing my mind without my home phone.  

Why would only the phones go out??  I just don't get it!!  Anyone have a better grasp of this than I do???

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oh, my gosh...we're heading to middle school!

So later on today I will be meeting Frank and Michael at the middle school to... drumroll please...get my child ready to start school on Monday!  

Oh...my...goodness!!!

We have to go and pick up his schedule, walk him around so that he can find his class rooms and his locker; we have to purchase his gym uniform and lock for his locker and an agenda.  Who knew the middle school had such a business going on!  Just walking in there tomorrow is going to cost me $30 and that's not including the actual school supplies that I have to buy!

I am trying to be calm and cool and not voice my fears out loud but I am freaking out about the whole thing.  I worry about my little bean!  He's my baby and way too sweet to have to go through the horrors of middle school!
I worry about transitioning, dealing with the faster pace, changing classes, having to change for gym class...I mean, middle school is a LOT to deal with. 

Should make for an interesting week next week...

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When relationships end...

Whether a boyfriend and girlfriend break up, friends lose touch or a marriage is on the rocks, it sucks when a relationship ends.  We've been dealing with a lot of this in the last week or so.

In the case of a breakup, it's hard to not get involved and not take sides.  Personally, I see both sides and I feel a little bit torn.  I mean, I want to shake both of them and scream YOU ARE BOTH TO BLAME! but that is not my place.  Although, I think it should be.  

Losing touch with friends?  Well, sometimes it just happens.  You don't even have to move away or anything drastic, it's just that life takes you in different directions.  I am actually quite fine with it all.  I mean, friends should support one another and if you are true friends and not superficial ones, when one is going through a rough time that is all the more reason to be supportive!  I can sadly say that I can count the number of friends who have been that for me on one hand.  

These last two years in particular have been brutal.  I mean we have faced eviction, dealt with dual unemployment, illness, depression, lawsuits and the friends that I had at the beginning of that journey are not the same people who stand with me today.  Kind of sad but I guess that's the way life goes sometimes.  I'm not bitter or angry, it all goes back to that growing and changing that I talked about a couple of weeks ago.Some people, I guess, are not comfortable being around "messy" situations because they like to pretend that their world is all shiny and perfect.  Well guess what?  Life is messy and pretty much never perfect.  That's the unfortunate reality of life. 

And marriage...well...it is a never-ending struggle.  We've hit a pretty low point around here.  I haven't felt like this since around 1995 when Frank moved down here to NC while I stayed in New York for three months.  It was nice to have a break at that point and right now, I find myself thinking that we may need one again.  We won't...we'll talk it through because if there is one thing that has always been great about our relationship it's that we talk through things.

I went to my pastor and kind of begged him to call Frank and talk to him.  He hasn't.  He told me on Sunday that he' s on vacation for the next couple of weeks but he PROMISED to call Frank when things calmed down.

Thank God no one's suicidal around here...sheesh.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A Writer Must Write...

So you may have noticed that I have not been posting like I usually do.  I hate that.  With work, teaching the on-line writing class, taking care of the house, the kids, the husband, well...it hasn't left a whole lot of time to blog.  

I sat down the other day and tore off the June page of my giant calendar and got a good solid look at July.  Let me just begin by saying that I don't know what I was thinking...

From July 5 to August 1st I am TAKING an online writing class on how to write a synopsis.  I have high hopes that it's better than the last one that I took.  Then From July 11-August 5th I am TEACHING an online writing class on dialogue writing.  From July 1-the 31st is the summer edition of NaNoWriMo - in all it's 50,000 word glory...and all of that on top of work five days a week (sometimes 6 because I will be pulling some Saturdays from now on), doing my cleaning gig with my friend once a month and I have a resource fair that I am participating in to promote my online writing classes WHICH I am writing all of the curriculum for so somewhere in all of this I have to find time to write ORIGINAL curriculum.  Oh, and let's not forget the four blog posts that I need to write for the Mouse For Less travel blog because I want me some free Disney swag!

For the love of it somebody slap me!

Actually, I was not feeling well on Saturday and pretty much sat my sorry self down in front of the computer all day and wrote ten of the twelve lessons for the July workshop.  I did one more today and I will get to that last one some time this week.  Hopefully.

If you think it sounds bad here you should see what my poor calendar looks like...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

I guess I'm not THAT emotional...

Okay, so there was another royal wedding this week.  There was zero coverage compared to Will and Kate but it was a big deal, nonetheless.  

Basically, Prince Albert II finally got married.  He's kind of a sleazy royal, in my opinion.  He's got two illegitimate children and rumors abound that this marriage is merely a business deal to secure a legitimate heir to the throne.  

Ah...romance.

So there were rumors all over the place that his bride-to-be tried to "escape" but was brought back to Monaco to go through with the wedding and there is one particular picture of her - and she is beautiful, by the way - on her wedding day crying.

Now, in this case, there could be a very REAL reason why she's crying - like she doesn't want to marry this guy and is being forced to.  But I never understood the whole bride-crying-on-her-wedding-day thing.  I mean, I was PSYCHED to get married.  I practically dragged my dad down the aisle I was so excited.  Brides to be?  BE HAPPY!  Your wedding is supposed to be a good thing!

Why do they cry?  I mean, I cry at some pretty silly stuff (commercials with sad looking animals) but on a day that is supposed to be joyful, why the tears?  I just don't get it.  

I can only hope that the new Princess Charlene was just one of those silly, sappy brides and really not there against her will.  THAT would be a reason to cry.

Here's to being silly and sappy... 

Friday, July 1, 2011

30 Days and not a thought in my head...

So National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) which only takes place in November, is actually offering a summer camp.  Writing nerd that I am, I signed up.  For the month of July, same rules apply - 30 days (or in this case 31), 50,000 words.

I cannot think of one.

I almost always have a story plot in my head but now?  Nothing.  You know what is in my head?  Work issues; finding Frank a job, helping Nick find a job, what is going on at my own job, Michael starting middle school in a week.  None of this makes for a good story.

Maybe a good night's sleep will help?  I don't know.  I think a little less stress in my life would be super...don't see that changing any time soon.