A Plea for Help

I know I don’t have a big readership, and some of you have already seen me talk about this on other social media sites, but I need to take a moment to talk about a dear friend of mine who really needs help. I’ve never done something like this on my blog before, and I rarely even post these sorts of things on FB where everyone does, but this situation is overwhelming and my friend and her family could use every bit of help they can get.

Natalie and I met in high school and have remained friends ever since. She currently lives in Houston with her husband, Chris. Her parents live in San Antonio, across town from where I live, and her disabled younger brother lives with them. Natalie and her family lived at Camp Lejeune for a period of time while her father was in the Navy, and unfortunately, they were exposed to toxic water while they lived there. The toxic water situation at Camp Lejeune is well-documented and many lawsuits are in process, with settlements slowly going out to vets and their families. However, due to this contamination, Natalie and her family have suffered many health problems over the years. Her younger brother, Paul, was born at Camp Lejeune and is severely disabled with several different neurological and functioning disorders. He needs full-time care. Her mother has had multiple brain tumors/surgeries and now lives with a shunt. Her father has developed myelodysplastic disorder, which basically means that his body isn’t making red blood cells,  so that he is really weakened and must get constant transfusions.

So far, Natalie’s family is still waiting for their settlement re: Camp Lejeune, and with the recent myelodysplastic diagnosis for her dad and another stroke for her mother, Nat’s parents now need someone with them full-time, especially as they still care for Paul. Nat and Chris have been planning and trying to move to San Antonio this summer. Nat is a home-health caregiver who works out of Houston and San Antonio, and she’s trained in the care her parents and brother need. Sadly, Chris is having trouble finding work in San Antonio. He has a two master’s degrees in math and chemistry and has spent years both working in chemical research labs and teaching college, but he’s had no luck in getting a job here. Chris’ mother began a gofundme to help keep them afloat while they make the transition and he searches for a new job in San Antonio.

Unfortunately – because when everything goes wrong, everything goes wrong, right? – Natalie took a fall last weekend and shattered her left hip. She underwent a hip replacement on the 25th, and is inpatient-bound in San Antonio for the foreseeable future. Chris must stay with his current job in Houston for the insurance – he can’t resign and come look here, as originally planned – and Nat won’t be able to act as a caregiver for her parents and brother for quite some time. We’re hoping that she’ll be able to apply for disability and medicaid, but as with anything government-related, these things take time and you’ve got to get through a lot of red tape.

Long story short: My best friend and her family are suffering and they need help. Nat is a proud woman and I’ve never known her to ask for financial help once in over twenty years. But she needs to be with her family, and she needs her husband with her, and these are just too many burdens for five people to bear. If you can help, if you can donate anything or share her story with others, it would mean all the world to her and to me as well. Thank you.

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Sunday Coffee – The Last of the Big Adventures

So much is still happening, though we finally finished all the big adventures this week and have a few weeks of nothing-major-happening before the last round of crazy this summer. I’ve barely had time to sit at my computer lately, so I’m trying to catch up!

Appalachian Trail
I may or may not have mentioned (I can’t remember) that Morrigan went for a short hike through the AT with his church group. The group left on the evening of the 12th and returned home on the 20th. During that time, there were four days of hiking, roughly 38 miles they were told, and Morrigan would not have his phone during those days. So imagine how we felt when he called us sobbing on Thursday, tell us that he had an awful time and was really sick. His group had missed the sign toward camp and had hiked an extra 1.5 miles before they found a place they could call for help. During that time, Morrigan nearly slipped down the ravine and threw his hip out stopping the fall, and one of the other kids was severely dehydrated, so Morrigan gave him all his water, which caused Morrigan to get so dehydrated that he began vomiting. Four of the six groups all missed the sign and ended up in the location where they called for help, and when the support team arrived, everyone got scolded for “being off the path” and told to turn around and hike back 1.5 miles. No medical attention was given, and the support truck drove away without helping.

This was all we knew for quite some time. It turns out that most of the trip was great (or at least Morrigan loved it – I won’t harp on all the safety issues like not having a single adult on the trip that knew first air or how most of the adults didn’t finish the hike and started designating any youth who were 18 – like M – as official “adults”). In the end, at least Morrigan wasn’t badly hurt and he hydrated properly as soon as he was in camp. He was well enough to go hike with a group the next day to get the last four miles in to hit 50 (because their 38-mile-trip was actually 46, it turns out). Anyway, we were really glad when he was home safe and sound. A friend sent me the above picture which was taken only a few hours after Morrigan called us sobbing, so we knew he was okay. But seriously that was nightmarish and rage-inducing for a time…

Community Day
Wizards Unite had their first Community Day on the 20th, so I got together with a bunch of other players in town at a nearby library (one I’d never been to, and it’s lovely!). They have a quiet hall off to the side of the library that allowed us to be indoors and in air conditioning (when it was 100+ out!) and within reach of five inns, two greenhouses, and a fortress. Most of the others in the group knew each other from Pokemon Go, but those of us who didn’t integrated easily. It was awesome playing with other people, and those three hours were one of the highlights of the month! I wish I’d gotten some pictures.

Summer Sendoff
My cousin Warren is also leaving for college this fall, to Vanderbilt, so his parents threw a big summer sendoff party for him, Morrigan, and my aunt’s niece Anna, who was leaving for a semester abroad in London. It was a great big party with family from my dad’s side (also my uncle’s side) and my aunt’s side, with fajitas and ice cream sundaes and passing around books to write words of wisdom for the three guests of honor. No pics from this event either, sadly! I need to remember these things!

We’ve had a bit of drama this summer regarding Morrigan’s admission to KU. First, his DOD physical was rejected due to some very small issues (like self-diagnosed allergy to pineapple – makes his mouth itch), and Morrigan had to gather tons of info from his doctor to submit for a waiver. They have all they need now, but it takes weeks for this sort of thing to go through, and we’re still waiting to hear if he’ll get that waiver. If not, he loses the ROTC scholarship. He also found out that the ROTC scholarship doesn’t cover room/board, something he was sure it did. So after he threw a few hissyfits – “College was going to be great, and now it’s just going to be hell!!” – I sat him down with the numbers and showed him how doable this was going to be. He had to make some compromises, like not living in the most expensive dorms, but that’s no big deal. And he just found out this week that his application to live in the scholarship halls – where room/board are half-price because everyone does 4-6 hours of chores each week – was accepted. So already, he has a much better handle on things, and we just await the DOD’s decision.

Summer School
Laurence’s last day of summer school was Thursday. He elected to take his Algebra II class over the summer for two reasons. First, he hates math and didn’t want to be in a math class the entire year. Second, he joined an electricity program through school that will bus him to another location for two periods a day, essentially removing one spot for electives that he gets back if he doesn’t have to take math. This is the second year in a row that he’s chosen to do a class in advance of when he needs it, and while it’s a bit of a headache with all the scheduling, I’m glad he’s taking this initiative for himself.

Ambrose turned 17 on Thursday, and we had his party yesterday. A half-dozen of his friends came – a group who call themselves the “sauce squad” and are just as nerdy and strange as Ambrose likes to be – which made the party quite loud and rowdy. The party was baking themed, so we had a lot of Nailed-It style challenges, and the kids got to decorate the four mini-cakes we’d made for the party. It was chaotic and hilarious, though I was wiped by the end. I don’t like to include pictures of other people’s kids on my blog without their permission, so I’m just going to share my favorite pic of Ambrose from the party. His aunt got him this really awesome shirt: A cat (in glasses and an Olympic wreath hat) riding on a llama-corn under a rainbow as UFOs fly overhead. It’s quintessentially Ambrose and just plain awesome.

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The Stranger Diaries, by Elly Griffiths

Clare is an English teacher who adores classic horror – at least until one of her colleagues is murdered  in a fashion too similar to Clare’s favorite horror short story, and a stranger’s words suddenly appear in her diary…

I’ve been in a reading slump for quite some time, but I also spend a lot of time at my local library. Consequently, I see a lot of the new books coming out, and I will often grab one or two that sound interesting and take a peek at them. Usually they got right back on the shelves, and even the ones I take home end up being just okay. The Stranger Diaries? Now this one was awesome!

Ever since I was a kid, I loved ghost stories, especially with a dash of paranormal (or seemingly paranormal). Unfortunately, both the mystery and thriller genres are full of books that I don’t quite get along with, and I’m often disappointed by them. Every once in awhile, I accidentally stumble upon one that works for me. This was one of those times. The Stranger Diaries is written in a way that echos classic lit in pace, motifs, and style, but also stays modern enough to feel like a tribute rather than a copy. Clare’s favorite short story is interspersed through the book, with a new section revealed each time there’s a narrator shift, and it feels like a true classic rather than a story written specifically for this novel. The novel itself is less about the reader figuring out the mystery, and more about the characters as they deal with the mounting horror before them. There’s a richness in the fabric of the book that I found refreshing.

This would have been the perfect book to begin the RIP season. In fact, I loved the writing so much that I looked up Griffith’s other novels and plan to try her Ruth Galloway series in the fall!

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Happy Birthday Ambrose!

Another year has passed, another year of weird hijinks and fun(ky) hair and attempts to bake delicacies seen on the Great British Baking Show. Seventeen years ago, you finally made your entrance into the world after a weird four days of induction attempts. (See? You even started weird, aren’t you proud??) Now, you only have a year left at home before you must start a path for the next years of your life. It’s been a wild ride for everyone, and as I said on Instagram – you’ve been a trip and a treat, Ambrose. Happy 17th birthday!

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Unpopular Opinions

Back in my early days of blogging (2008!), I wrote up a tiny post that just said one thing:

Confession: I think Colin Firth is U-G-L-Y.

It was my first blog experience with negative confessions and unpopular opinions, and thankfully it was a good experience. At the time, only a handful of bloggers and a lot of friends knew my blog, and everyone knew that it was a tongue-in-cheek post, and so no one thought I was some monster for not finding Firth attractive. (It still amazes me that people can get passionate about who I find attractive, or whatever other different opinion I have…) Anyway, it was a fun post, and there was a recent Top Ten Tuesday post that I missed about unpopular bookish opinions, so I’ve decided to make a list of my (tongue-in-cheek) unpopular (sorta-bookish-at-times) opinions, just for kicks. In no particular order:

I still think Colin Firth is U-G-L-Y.

French food isn’t good and I don’t understand why it’s the standard for high cuisine. Give me Indian or Lebanese food any day!

Sometimes I prefer to watch the movie version of a book first, or I prefer the movie to the book. The Hours is a good example. It’s my very favorite movie ever. I didn’t like the book even a little.

I enjoy Stranger Things, but it’s not worth binge-watching or watching more than once.

Cooking is the very worst chore. Despite what I said a few weeks ago. I really just despise cooking and I’d do just about any other chore to get out of it.

Shows like the Big Bang Theory drive me crazy.

I would prefer to be out with friends than home reading 99% of the time.

Deckle edges on books are the worst!

Musicals drive me crazy for the most part. I have no interest in listening to or seeing Hamilton, though I’m willing to one day eat my words on that particular one. The Greatest Showman is the only musical I’ve ever 100% liked.

I’m a fast reader, but I enjoy books more when I read fewer of them, read them slower, and take long breaks from reading. Also, sometimes a book is best experienced when it is read twelve times in a row.

(Jan 2012: The month that shall forever be remembered as the month of twelve rereads of Howl.)

Pie is not my thing. I can’t think of a single pie I actually like. (On the plus side, this makes it easier to eat moderately through Thanksgiving, heh.)

Modern literary fiction, especially written by male authors, bores me to tears.

I was good at school, but had to leave college before I finished my degree because I had an infant to take care of. In the years since then, I’ve come to realize that despite being good at school, I actually hated it, and I have no desire to ever go back. Unfortunately, I do need to go back, but I wish I’d gone a trade route rather than a college route when I was 18.

While I love classics, there are many classics I dislike or can’t get through. I’ve never read a Persephone book that I thought was good. I can’t stand Mark Twain. I’ve tried to read The Great Gatsby half a dozen times and can’t get past the halfway mark. I even tried to watch the GG movie to see if that would make reading the book better, but I detested the movie, too…

Tea in all its many forms is awful. I wish I liked it, but 20 years of trying to force myself to acquire a taste for it hasn’t worked in the slightest. It’s irony indeed that my blog is named after a fictional tea shop.

Tom Hiddleston looks like Pee-Wee Herman grew older and stopped wearing so much makeup.

And these, my friends, are some of my unpopular opinions. You’re welcome. (Or not. Heh.)

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Family Reunions

I had my whine-fest yesterday, but really, there have been some awesome things happening. My half-sister’s sixteenth birthday was on the 10th, and (possibly related) my brother arrived from DC for a week-long vacation. That meant my second-youngest sister drove into town with her three boys, including the newest, Kyler. Kyler is six weeks old, teeny-tiny, and this was my first time meeting him. He was adorable!!

We had a little mini family reunion for a couple hours before my family had to get back to the house to finish prepping Morrigan for his trip to the Appalachian Trail. I’m not sure if I said here before, but he joined the Mormon church back in early June. Jason’s family is Mormon and Jason grew up in that church, so Morrigan has always had an on-again-off-again relationship with it that finally became on-enough for baptism. Anyway, the young men’s groups of the whole church Stake put together this trip to the AT: eight days, including six of camping and four of hiking (about 38 miles altogether – 13 on the first day and the rest divided over three days). It’s a great opportunity, but I’m afraid Morrigan is woefully unprepared physically and mentally for this particular challenge. He was also a little upset by the amount of money he had to spend on supplies, but that’s part of growing to adulthood – sometimes you bite off more than you can chew, and you just have to deal with it. I just hope the trip goes well for him, because I really worry about all the ways it could go badly wrong – and I’m sure I’m just a nervous mother, and he’ll be happy and excited and all that jazz. Fingers crossed!!

Then there was my sister’s birthday party. As I said above, she turned sixteen last week. We had a pool party and dinner on Saturday. Lots of fun, including the two-year-old doing his “ninja dance” for us several times, and also both him and his older brother putting their hands on people’s shoulders and saying, “Hey,” in their deepest voices. Ha!! (For anyone who might be confused, watch this clip from Into the Spiderverse) Two of my aunts also came over for the party, so it was an even bigger reunion than before!

We have a few more days before my siblings and nephews leave town again, so I imagine I’ll get to see everyone at least once more. I’m looking forward to more awesome times, and will leave this post with a gratuitous adorable photo of sleeping baby Kyler:

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Sunday Coffee – Longing for Fall

Every year, a post similar to this one ends up on my blog. Usually it’s not quite so early, honestly. It’s usually August when the months of relentless heat finally break me, or sometimes even September or October, when fall should have arrived and it’s still 100 degrees out. But I’m early this year, and counting the days.

My house is a wreck. The grocery shopping has been haphazard and scattered for weeks. The family is living on meals we can cobble together because our main cook has been out with surgery recovery. Routines and sleep have been thrown off. The heat has been monstrous this year, with record-breaking temps since April, and there’s no relief in sight.

I count the weeks and days…five weeks until the two younger boys start school; six weeks until Morrigan goes up to college; seven weeks until all the travel/events of the summer will be over and done with; twelve weeks until we might see a temperature below 70 degrees at night; eighteen weeks until our Thanksgiving Week Vacation (and when we actually start seeing a few cool fronts!). Those are long numbers. Too long. So I drink from my autumn owl mug and dream up fun ideas for Halloween and plot the impossible dream of one day owning a summer vacation home up north somewhere.

And really, since it’s only halfway through July, I pray that August will not be as much as a heat-nightmare as it usually is, and I’ll be grateful that I’ll be in Kansas and maybe in Wisconsin at the end of August for a short-lived mini-break from the heat!!!

PS – Does the weather keep me from walking the trails to play more Wizards Unite? Um…no. So I’m probably making myself miserable, and all that jazz…you know, in full disclosure, heh.

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