Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How on Earth Did I Get so Jaded?

You may not realize, but I am a little cynical (and a wee-bit sarcastic.) It's genetic and possibly one of my finer qualities. Jaded, even. Merriam-Webster defines jaded as "1) fatigued by overwork; exhausted  or 2) made dull, apathetic, or cynical by experience."  The Urban Dictionary has 4 pages of various definitions for jaded.

Jaded.  I'm certainly exhausted.  And overworked. Or maybe I'm just overly stressed. If you've been following my blog, then you know the second definition is dead on. Either way, I accept that I'm jaded.

Cynical people rarely make resolutions. We believe no one ever keeps them and are acutely aware of our own limitations.  However, in these last few months, I've experimented with stepping out of my comfort zones, trying new things, allowing myself to be vulnerable and risking failure. I feel anxiety creeping in as a reveal not one, but 12 resolutions. TWELVE!!!  A runaway train.

I, April, a survival mom (with some issues) hereby resolve to:

1.   Read a book, for personal entertainment, every week.
2.   Become more involved in the good works of my church.
3.   Rid my house (or at least one room) of all clutter.
4.   Learn how to sew.
5.   Accept compliments more graciously.  (Seriously, it feels weird to me.)
6.   Give more praise to my children.
7.   Have one-on-one days with each of my kids at least twice in the new year.
8.   Find more happy things to blog about. (Although my dark posts are far better read.)
9.   Remember the person I used to be and try to see the world through her "glass-half-full eyes" again.
10. Learn as much as I can about Common Core, and do so with an open mind.  (Because honestly, I feel like, "What's the point.  It's just going to change in a few years.  And that attitude doesn't lead to jobs.)
11. Wake up every morning and thank God for the blessings I have in my life (even when they've kept me up most of the night.)
12.  Do whatever it takes to forgive my sister. (This may be a 2, 3 or 10 year resolution, but I'm going to try.)

Whew, I have a lot of work ahead of me.  I look forward to sharing 2014 with you.  Happy New Year, readers.  May you be blessed throughout the year.

(Psst...what are your resolutions?)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

A Sullen Riot Penetrating Through Her Mind

Facebook and other social media outlets are full of surveys and "things you don't know about me" posts and blah, blah, blah.  I recently completed one about 10 books that affected me in some way.  I'm a reader.  Limiting my list to 10 books was nearly impossible.  It took hours to complete.  I kept changing the books on my list.  I starting thinking about all those other lists I've not filled out.  I'm inspired.  Here it is.  My great reveal.  15 random "me" things.  If you currently have a positive opinion of me, you may not want to read this.  If not, well, you may find more reasons to hate me.

Music saved my life.  I was headed toward a future filled with trouble.  I had no guidance.  My parents were a presence in my life, but were lousy parents.  I didn't know God.  I doubted his existence.  In high school, my friend, Tricia, invited me to attend her church.  I was dying to get away from my mother, even if only for an hour, so I went.  The minister was wonderful.  I enjoyed his messages and appreciated the time he devoted to helping me learn who God is. I gave my daughter the middle name "Grace" because it was his last name.  Although I thought he, his wife, and the congregation were wonderful people, it was the music that kept me going back every week.  Hymns spoke to me.  I found words inside hymnals I couldn't find in myself.  Since then, every good thing in my life has come from this love of music.  I met my husband while singing with the All-Ohio State Fair Youth Choir.  He gave me purpose and 3 beautiful children.  I sing in our church choir and feel called to serve the Lord in that capacity.  My greatest pleasure is the 2-3 hours I spend in Community Choir every Sunday. The commitment is difficult to keep now that I have children, but I can't accept not being a part of it.  Music. Saved. Me.

I'm a reformed neat freak. I have obsessive compulsive disorder.  I was a constant organizer.  I kept my compact discs in alphabetical order. I organized my bookshelves by genre and authors' last names.  I had 3 closets in my bedroom.  One was for shirts and dresses, one for pants and jeans, and the other for coats, shoes and miscellaneous.  Inside my shirt closet, I organized the shirts by type: short sleeve, long sleeve, dressy.  And then by color.  I did this with every closet and nearly everything I owned.  Since having children, I have completely abandoned the need for organization. However, ocd is still present.  It manifests as a germ phobia.  I can't touch restaurant menus or condiment bottles. I won't eat ANYTHING a child has made. But, hey, my house is a cluttered shit-hole and I can live with that.

I really dislike weird-ass names people choose for their children.  I understand the desire to be unique. I named my DAUGHTER "Mason" which likely guarantees no other girl in her school will have the same name, but it is normal enough to easily pronounce and find on kid things.  Kids love having their names on shit. Pencils, cups, you-name-it.  We can still provide those for her.  I roll my eyes and think, "your parents are morons" when I see twins named "Heaven" and "Nevaeh."  I detest the creation of new names by putting together letters from each of the parents' names. John and I could have done that.  "Joap" could have really caught on, but we chose not to because it's STUPID.

I find it hard to identify my sexuality.  I don't consider myself straight.  I'm not straight, but I'm not gay, bisexual or asexual either.  When you love someone, when you get lucky enough to have that "magic" moment where you realize you can't live without that person, it doesn't matter what sex s/he happens to be.  I truly believe, had John been a girl, I would have fallen head over heals for her.  He was the most amazing, loving, kind person I had ever encountered.  I feel extremely lucky that he was a boy and we were able to share our love without adversity. (Side note:  I'm not exactly sure what happened to that amazing, loving, kind person.  He's been replaced with someone much grumpier.)

I'm still learning how to love.  Children are not born knowing how to love.  Love is NOT human nature.  We are a ruthless, wild breed capable of extreme selfishness.  I was not taught how to love others.  My father was loving toward us, but he was also very needy.  He craved attention and approval.  My mother grew up with an abusive father and psycho-bitch stepmother.  She had no idea how to love anyone, not even herself. She "loved" me by controlling me and treated me like property.  I find teaching love, empathy and respect to be the most difficult parental duty I have.  I am not equipped with the skills necessary for teaching them, but I'm trying.

I was 28 years old before I realized only my opinion matters.  My father taught me to desire acceptance and praise.  My mother, sure as Hell, never gave either to me.  I began to look for it in other people.  I was a model student in school.  I tried to get perfect grades just to see a "well done" written on the top of my paper.  I followed the advice of my teachers without ever thinking about whether it was right for me.  I became sexually active at a young age. I craved approval. This need cost me 3 years of my life in law school and a student loan debt I will spend nearly an eternity paying back.  It wasn't until I became a mother that I let go of caring about what others thought and started to value my own opinions for my future.  I followed my heart and became a teacher....the career I always wanted but pushed away because an adviser thought I was more suited to be a lawyer.  I was never meant to be a lawyer.

I once dearly loved my mother-in-law;  now, just the thought of her makes my blood boil.  When I met John, I thought he was so lucky to have a mom like her.  She was so nice to him, which was completely foreign to me.  She really made me feel welcomed in their home.  All of John's friends loved her.  After we married and moved away, everything changed.  She has hurt me more than anyone ever has..which I never thought was possible.  And I hate her.  I hate her.   I'm not proud of that, but it's where my heart is.  I'm working toward indifference.

I have never successfully lost more than 40 pounds....I'm very good at regaining weight. Perhaps that's my superpower. Following our parents' divorce, my sister and I gained tons of weight.  I was a fat kid and now a fat adult.  I have dieted, exercised, taken diet pills, joined Curves, joined Weight Watchers and fallen for every televised weight loss program there is.  Sure, things go well at first and I lose weight.  I usually lose around 40 pounds and then plateau.  After months at the same weight, I get discouraged and quit...and regain all I lost plus more.  I'm the heaviest I've ever been as an adult.  This will change in 2014.  I'll blog about that when the time is right.

I am the most perceptive person I know.  I read people.  When friends of ours were having an affair, I knew it before they were caught.  I warned them how ugly their lives were about to become.  I have countless examples of knowing what is happening without being told.  Body language says so much.  And now, with the digital age, I think people are even easier to read.  We're losing the ability to communicate face to face which is having a positive effect on aptitude to lie.  People just aren't as good as it as they once were.

I enjoy other people's drama.  I even have a Facebook friend that I'm not close to and don't really care for, but I keep her because she periodically posts long rants.  There is no soapbox too big for her jump on.  I LOVE THAT! While it's ridiculously annoying, it's equally entertaining.

All my life, I have wished to be more like my cousin, Chad.  As a child, I thought he was freaking amazing. He is still ultra-cool, plays the guitar, sings well and has a the best set of friends a person could wish for. I recently learned that he reads my blog.  He called one of my posts, "good writing."  Oh my.  There is NOT a word in existence that describes what that means to me.

My blog post titles are lyrics from songs I really like.  Some of them have meaning to me.  Some are guilty pleasures. Some, like this , feel almost like they were written for me.

There is a rage inside me that sometimes frightens me.  I harbor anger.  I need time and space to cool off when I've hit my limit.  If at home, I will retreat to my bed for an hour or two.  I'm not violent, but if you piss me off you better be prepared for a pure, unadulterated bitchathon. John's grandma once said that she took everything that upset her to the Lord.  She never discussed it with others or made it public.  She gave it to Him.  That's classy, right.  I sometimes wish I was capable of that, but if I was what the Hell would I blog about?

I love being a substitute teacher.  Seriously, it's a great gig.  I choose when I work.  If my kids are sick, I can stay home.  It's the perfect job for a SAHM returning to the work force. Unfortunately, it doesn't put even a slight dent in that student loan debt I reference above.  Substitute teachers are paid less for a day's work than grill cooks at McD's. If the pay was better, I would sub forever!

I have no idea where I will take this blog.  I started it hoping to use it to show the world how I, a mother of 3 small children, managed to keep it together with little support at home.  It's become something far different.  I use it like therapy.  It's a place where I can put everything that consumes me: a home for those overwhelming feelings I don't have compartments for. Love, rage, sadness, anger, happiness...I leave them all here.  I love that people read my words, but I don't write for an audience.  My blog is a purely self-centered mode of release.  I use it to void myself of things that bring me anxiety.

Wow.  It's nearly 3am as I finish this. I'm a little surprised at the time and thought I put into it.  That wasn't my intention.  It feels good, though. Somehow, once again, I have purged myself of emotion I can't bare to keep. I feel renewed. And tired.

Friday, December 13, 2013

But Maybe I'm Crazy....Probably

My disdain for Time Warner is fairly well known.  There's a planet in my mind where all of Time Warner is housed.  It's wrapped tight with dynamite and I hold the detonator.  It's a beautiful image. I see me standing at the detonator box waiting for the perfect time to push it down and blow that planet straight to Hell.  It all started with a mistaken disconnection that took an entire week to resolve.  Somewhere, in Time Warner's digital recorders, there are telephone conversations evidencing the rage that will keep me from ever running for public office.  When the a-holes tried to raise my rate this year, I called and demanded my old rate. When the CSR lied to me about the best possible rate, I demanded a lower rate.  With each, "I'm sorry ma'am, I can't do that," I requested to speak with someone who could.  This went on for nearly two hours.  But at the end of the marathon, I'm now paying the introductory price offered to new customers. I was THAT persistent.  Crazy?  Possibly.

I wish I could say my anger stops at Time Warner.  It doesn't.  In fact, I harbor feelings of negativity toward all utilities. I'll put it out there.  I'm not ashamed.  I'M CHEAP.  I hate to pay outrageous fees for things that should, in my opinion, cost far less than they do.  I am not loyal to any one company or brand.  If you offer me the same or similar service at a lesser price, I will drag my happy ass up and contract with another company. I have even (unsuccessfully) tried to negotiate gas and electric prices.

Usually, it is worth it.  We recently dropped Verizon and switched to Straight Talk.  Our Verizon bill was $130/month for 2 lines...shared 700 minutes, unlimited texting and NO DATA.  Rip off?  You bet it was.  With Straight Talk, we have smart phones and pay $90 per month for unlimited everything.  John and I love our new phones.  Who knew having Pandora on your phone would be so awesome? (All of you with smart phones knew, right?)

I dropped cable and purchased Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.  We were paying $130/month to Time Warner for Digital Cable and internet.  We now pay less than $40/month for internet and   $236.42 per YEAR for television.  Amazon gave me a 50% discount on Prime.  Yay!  Our total savings is over $80/month.

Our most recent switch is car and homeowner insurance.  The switch from State Farm to Farmers is saving us more than $500 per year.  After a 14 year relationship with State Farm, wherein we had few claims, we grew tired of being gouged monthly for little service in return. (This is the part where I tell you how disgusted I am with our old agent.)

What does it take to sell insurance?  Sure, it requires a test and a licensure and all the responsibility that comes with it.  But it doesn't really require hard work.  So, what do agents do with YOUR hard earned money?  Our previous agent doesn't do anything that I am aware of.  He isn't available early morning or evening.  Forget weekends.  His office completely closes from Noon until 1pm for lunch, even though he has an employee and they could easily alternate lunches to remain open.  If the weather is nice, you'll find him on the golf course.  Hell, he literally lives on the golf course.  His secretary fields all phone calls, and, based on my observations, runs the business. Every change we've ever made happened through her.  Fourteen years of service and I'm sure the "agent" hasn't put in 1 total hour of work for us.  I LOOOOAAAATHHHHE his secretary.  It makes me grumpy to even think of calling their office because I know I will have to talk to her.  However, she deserves some credit because, in my opinion, she's the only one working for his State Farm customers.

I recently spoke with the State Farm agent about life insurance.  We reevaluated our needs and John cancelled a small whole-life policy.  I'm educated and aware of a cash value for the policy. When the policy was cancelled, our State Farm agent did not have the decency to make John aware of the cash value, counsel him regarding it, or send him a check.  Months after it cancelled, I called asking where the money was.  He put me off, told me I was making a mistake, and made every attempt to persuade me to reinstate the policy. Why?  I told him repeatedly that we wanted the money.  I specifically said that I wasn't calling for advice, I just wanted to know where the money was.  He evaded my questions until he could stall no longer and then, with irritation, said, "Yeah.  There's about a thousand there."  Why did he give me the runaround?  Because he earns a commission off our money.  State Farm is not only an insurance company, it's a bank.  As our agent, he was a fiduciary for our money and he purposefully neglected that duty.  After that conversation, I knew it was time to move to another company.

So, I called Farmers.  We were offered more discounts than I expected.  The agents provided us with multiple packages and rates.  They really tried to help us decide our needs. Their advice was excellent and the best part:  THEY MET WITH ME ON SUNDAYS.  Sunday!!! Our old State Farm agent probably hasn't worked on Sunday in 30 years. But my husband, the man who paid the bill the last 14 years, works twice as many Sundays per year than he gets off.

Perhaps I am a little difficult to please.  A bit demanding at times.  Ok, I'm a pain in the ass. I know it.  But there is something incredibly wrong with our class structure.  I point out our insurance agent because he's local and easy to bitch about. I can make presumptions of what he does with his time based on what I've personally witnessed. And, compared to large corporations, the insurance man is small change. The bigger problem happens everywhere.  The guy who physically works the hardest enjoys the least time off and the least pay.  Meanwhile, his check is sliced thin to pay for service from someone else who does very little in comparison.  It's not right.

I'm not saying John doesn't earn enough.  I cannot complain about his pay.  His wage is decent and the benefits are incredibly generous. However, he sacrifices so much time with us just to keep us out of the poor house.  You won't find him on the golf course.  He doesn't get to close up shop halfway through the day for an hour.  He doesn't have 9am to Noon and 1pm to 4pm hours.  He works 8-16 hours per day, alternating afternoon shift with midnight shift, 6 days a week. Every week.  Every holiday.  Every birthday.  Every anniversary.  I can't tell you the last time I kissed him on New Year's Eve.  The only hobby he has is reading, because he can do that on his down time at work.  He no longer hunts, shoots pool, or spends time with his friends. He works harder than anyone I know.  Yet he doesn't live the life our old insurance agent does.  He has never experienced the luxury the CEOs of Time Warner or AEP or Columbia Gas consider normal.  And he never will.

Don't think I feel company heads don't deserve high pay.  I know they handle a lot of pressure and responsibility.  But every single employee beneath them works harder.  For less pay.  All the time.  As I write this, I'm sure you are confused about what I'm feeling.  This isn't an argument for greater pay for John and other workers.  It's a call for fairness.  Dear Cable, Internet, Phone, Electric, Gas, and Insurance provider: CHARGE LESS. Lower your rates.  Don't lower pay for your average employees.  Don't squeeze their benefits.  Cut the salaries of those earning the top 10% of your payroll (including you, CEO) and allow your customers to receive the benefit.  Rates always go up.  How about, for once in our lives, you lower your rates? Try it.

Life is expensive.  Children are expensive.  I've cut out almost every unnecessary thing that I can.  I'm doing all the right things, yet it feels like I'm on a treadmill. Cutting, cutting, cutting. Saving, saving, saving. Not getting anywhere.

Do you understand?  Do you feel a pinch that hurts just a bit too much? How do you stay afloat?