Monday, October 29, 2007

An Estranged Parent's Journey in Life & Death: Part I - Notification

We try our best to prepare ourselves for times like this, and yet when it happens we are often confused by its impact. On October 28th at approximately 10:30 p.m. Arthur Watkins was pronounced DOA after being transported to a local hospital in Alabama where he resided for several years. He had suffered a heart attack while driving home from Biloxi MS. Who was he? My estranged natural father.

He was born August 26, 1932 to Stanley & Mary Watkins and he had two siblings, Gene (his older brother) and Bobbie (his younger sister) all of which preceded him in death. He was a handsome man, 6'2" tall, thin build, with brown hair and blue eyes. He grew up in Roanoke Rapids, NC and would join the Marine Corps after his graduation from high school.

I am told, he had been married to a woman that did so with intentions to collect his combat pay should he not survive the war. Unfortunate for her, the military changed his orders and he never went on this tour of duty. Within two months the marriage was annulled. It wasn't long after that when he met my mother and they were married in August of 1953. They would have five children together, and after the divorce in 1975 their extended family would increase with the birth of eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. What a wonderfully large family.

The sad part is that Arthur Watkins would leave the area within 5 years of the divorce and remove himself for the most part from the lives of his five children and never enjoy his extended family. Though it seemed a blessing at times, there were moments for some of us when we wished he were the man we needed him to be, but he was who he was like it or not. So, how do you deal with the death of an immediate family member when they are estranged for more than 30 years of your life?

Related Posts: Part I - Notification, Part II - Reactions, Part III - Discovery, Part IV - A Full Military Honors Ceremony,
Part V - The Ceremony & Update from Biloxi, Part VI - Lessons Learned

What's in Las Vegas for Bloggers?

As I understand it there will be a blog conference in Nevada this coming month on November 10, 2007. The conference will feature guest speakers who will target in on how to help bloggers make their sites more marketable, boost their site traffic and readership, and make their blog a monetary success. Even if one could meet the cost for the conference, having to make Las Vegas hotel reservations is what would kill a trip like this for many bloggers that are just starting out or those who blog to make ends meet. It sounds like a wonderful idea! How about a local event here in NC? Now that I could handle!

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Are Air Tools Just for Men?

Nay, nay! So why is it that tools which require no electrical wiring are most often used by men? Are they more likely to be electrocuted if they have a cord attached to the tool? Why don't makers of famous household gadgets jump on board and offer similar hand held tools for the rest of us? Imagine an air powered mixer, coffee bean grinder, blender, you'd have the job done in moments and without the cord!

Of course, it might be a bit messier since Ingersoll Rand air tools are made for much more difficult tasks than blending ingredients for a cake. Driving a screw into a stud requires a bit more muscle than driving egg whites into stiff peaks. I guess we should reconsider those household gadgets being cordless instead of air powered.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Does Market Research Pay Off?

I've been hearing more and more about market research and how it helps large companies decide everything from which group of consumers to target to which shade of candles to stock in their inventory. We had a discussion at work about how we might better market our business since our stiffest competitor uses many different types of media to get their product noticed. As some of you know I work for a local accounting and tax preparation company, but I will not be caught wearing a patriotic old man suit waving a flag at people passing by in cars. No sir. We'd be better off doing another TV commercial, then maybe I'll become a "star" ... well, a girl's got to dream!

We're hoping to hear good news from marketing soon as none of us wants to wear that silly suit!

Heartbreaks & Colon Cleanses

Both are gut wrenching, leave you with an unsettling feeling, and can painfully remind you that you are alive. Online dating might be as annoying to some as having a colon cleanse done is to others. Personally, I think the latter would be less painful though, but then that's just me. It's easier to forget the discomfort of a reaming of the ... well lower regions, than a reaming of the heart and soul. Wow, what an idea! What if it were as easy to cleanse the toxins from your heartache as it is to rid your innards of its waste?

For all of you suffering from heartache ... forget the cleanse, you're not going to need it right now! Nature will take its own course and you'll be back into living life and having fun once again, just remember to take it slower this time. :)

Things Heating Up at the High School

We recently hosted a benefit ride for the FFA Chapter at our local high school. There was a grand prize, door prizes, a 50/50 drawing, and a bar-b-cue meal for the riders as they came in from the run. As we finished boxing up the meals with all sorts of goodies and the necessary utensils we noticed that we might need to warm up some of the meals if the ride took longer than anticipated. We searched the cafeteria for microwave ovens and could only find one! What would we do if we needed more than one? Fortunately the ride ended as scheduled and the riders all got a turn heating up their meal if they were so inclined. The benefit ride was not as large a turnout as the kids had hoped but they learned more about how to set up such an event for the future. Thanks to all of our riders, sponsors, students and parents who helped make it the success!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Katrina's Refugees Forgotten?

It's been over two years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, LA. Saying that it made landfall is an understatement to say the least! It was more like "plowed" over the lower wards in New Orleans, LA. After things settled down and the media coverage went elsewhere what happened to the area? How many people are still displaced from the devastation from Katrina?

We had a discussion about the state of refugees from Katrina and wondered what needs to be done to bring the attention back to supporting aide to a part of our own country that was hard hit with a natural disaster. With California facing thousands of refugees from the wild fires, how will their treatment differ from that in New Orleans?

Bottom line ... we cannot forget ... we need to get our government involved in restoring these victims of a natural disaster to a normal lifestyle!

I'm not sure how we can voice our concerns to get this issue back in the forefront, but we cannot continue to be apathetic in America. What if it had been you or your family that had been displaced? How would you react then?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

An evening at the bay ...

My youngest has reminded me more than once about visiting some of our friends who live in Maryland at the bay. They have a beautiful home, filled with antiques purchased at an auction house, modern amenities like marble counter tops, built-in appliances to match the surrounding cabinets, two-sided fireplaces, an elevator, and a home theater screen in the family room. They have the most beautiful leather home theater seating which is covered with lambs throws. They make it so much more comfortable to sit on the leather for long periods of time. It also makes for a romantic evening in front of the fireplace. Perhaps a visit to the bay is long overdue, and I'll have to take along a special guest, "Mr.D" ;)

Preparing for Saturday's Competition

This weekend will be the next to last of our school's band classic competitions this year. I hope be chaperoning on one of the buses of band and color students. Last time we had enough seats that Jenn sat by herself, we'll see if that happens again this trip. There will be 15 bands at this weekends competition, 14 of them will be competing and one is the host band. The host band always performs last in order to allow the judges to finish their stats to determine the winners in each class. This weekend there are four Classes from Single-A to Quad-A. Jenn will compete with her band in the Quad-A Class along with three other bands. I'm excited about getting to see them all perform this weekend since I missed out on the trip to VA a couple of weeks ago. Best wishes for continued success ... GO EAGLES!

Monday, October 22, 2007

What's New in RC Vehicles? Helicopters

Nearly ten years ago we bought a remote control bi-plane kit for our children to assemble and fly. We had driven out into the countryside where there were several avid RC vehicle operators flying their various styles of aircraft. One we didn't see were any RC helicopters among those in flight that day. It was awesome to watch the ground pilots take their aircraft from a runway in the field to the airs above and then safely land them with little to no injury to the craft itself. What had started as a unique idea proved to be too much for us to handle with five children all wanting an aircraft of their own. We ended up getting those wooden bi-planes you assemble in three easy steps and which are propelled by arm driven thrust!

Band Break

This last Friday was supposed to be our schools homecoming game but unfortunately it was canceled due to a storm front that was moving into our area. Though the football game is being played tonight the band and color guard will have the night off. It is a welcome break since we've been very busy with competitions and game performances. We have two remaining competitions, two home games, and several Christmas parades yet to perform in, so any chance to take a breather is great! If Jenn stays with color guard for her years in high school then it will be a busy four years. As for tonight, I am sure she will find a way to enjoy her evening at home.

A New SAE Project: Vehicle Restoration

Why do the ideas that teens have always seem to cost the parent money? At the end of the last school year my son wanted to repair the deck on our home which we rent. I agreed since the deck was in need of such repairs and we like having our home (rented or not) look its best. So what's next for him? Vehicle restoration. He'll have to decide on which vehicle he wants to restore, a 1990 Chevy Lumina or a 1973 Ford truck. His dream vehicle is a small hatchback with a car spoiler, however he has to be realistic. After all, I won't be funding this project it will be all on him. It's enough for me to keep them clothed, fed, housed and provide funds for activities. The time is coming when he will make that decision to get a part-time job to fund his own projects, I can hardly wait!

Sunday, October 21, 2007

External Hard Drives ... Size Matters

Before you go thinking that I am a shallow woman, let me explain. Even though I may have traded my old system with its small hard drive in for a newer one it was for good reason. The old one was just not up to the task anymore, always shutting down without notice, increasingly difficult to get started again, and was suffering more frequent bouts of slow performance. Sometimes I had to go to desperate measures to get it to cooperate, then finally my patience was spent. After fighting to get it to open up one day I decided it was time. I finally set it aside and picked up a newer one with a larger capacity drive. I may still need to invest in an additional external hard drive in order to meet all of my needs when it comes to storage. After all, I had maxed out my old system's storage capacity with graphics, docs and photos. I wonder how large it will need to be to hold all of my files from my old computer system? Surely a flash drive will not be enough, but they are making larger capacities in smaller packaging all the time.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Seeking Business Success after Raising a Family

Twenty-seven years ago Leigh made a choice that would change her life forever. She chose to be a stay-at-home mother. Her daughter Lilly was born in 1980, then came Riley in 1992, then Dougie in 1990, and finally JB in 1992. Twelve years separate the oldest from the youngest so the years in the public school system cover 24 years. One would think that a commitment to such a decision would never have a bad side to it.

During the early years and in between the second and third children Leigh went to work full time after a separation and divorce. Within three years she remarried and they added the third and forth child to their blended family. They discussed their options and once again she chose to be a stay-at-home mother. It is an awesome labor of love, one with many rewards, and she would never trade her time spent with her children.

What she wasn't prepared for was the difficulty that she would encounter upon returning to the workplace after her second divorce. She would commute from one state to another to attend classes for a major appliance plant with the encouragement that people from the classes would be hired directly to the plant. She attended all of the classes, including ones during her move to relocate to where the company is in operation, yet when she got settled in there she never received an offer of employment.

Being a responsible parent and adult she registered at a job shop and was promptly employed. She stayed with the job shop through three assignments until she was hired direct from her last assignment. She remained employed with them for over two years until their move to the middle of the state over a year ago.

She was back in the job market in search of a new job. While she was drawing unemployment she registered for college in order to work toward a degree. Soon she was back at work and everything was looking good again. Then it happened. A revelation about the company going under. Twice now she would be employed by companies who were in serious financial trouble and again she would end up looking for a new job.

She is currently working for another small business in order to meet her necessary basics of providing a home for two of her children who are still at home. She needs a job with benefits (health, dental, life and retirement) but wonders if she can find that with her work history and decision to be a stay-at-home mother for so long. What will it take to make her more desirable in today's work force? Since motherhood and it's commitment were her priority for the majority of her life, how does she pull it all together in a resume in order to have that ideal job consider her experience and skills?

What would you do?

Monday, October 15, 2007

Mesothelioma Cancer

On a more serious note, I was reading about an often unknown type of cancer called Mesothelioma cancer, in specific pleural mesothelioma. Mesothelioma is a disease of the tissue surrounding not just the lungs but several other vital organs in our bodies. The most commonly confused type of variation of this disease is that of the effected tissue surrounding the lungs. Often mistaken for lung cancer, it is not the same. This type of cancer is most commonly found in people that had direct contact with a dangerous building material known as asbestos. As if having this disease wasn't scary enough, imagine it taking up to 70 years before it becomes active and is diagnosed. How do you hold the companies responsible for being negligent in not providing preventative measures to ensure the safety of their work force or advising them of the inherent dangers of working with this type of material?

Any type of cancer is scary, but not having a support system in place can be even more frightening. If you know someone that has been exposed to asbestos, make sure they are checked regularly by their doctor. As with any type of illness, early detection is a key component to successful treatment and great odds of survival.

Watches from afar?

My ex-father-in-law was originally from Hungary and while he was over there visiting his sister and her family, he found many souvenirs to bring back to his family here in the states. One that he may have wanted to bring back to his wife of 45 years might have been a watch from the Vacheron Constantin collection of fine watches. There are so many different styles though and being a frugal man when it comes to giving gifts he decided to wait for her to choose the watch she liked most. After all a watch is a personal choice much like fine jewelry, so to make the woman in his life happy he let her choose. I wonder which one he would have picked for her and if she would have chosen differently?

Saturday, October 13, 2007

FFA Motorcycle Benefit Ride ...

Today was my son's FFA Chapter's Poker Run Benefit Ride to raise money to send students to the National Leadership Convention in the fall of the school year. It was their first time trying their hand at a motorcycle event type fund raiser and they managed to get a really good sponsor for door prizes. As it turns out there were only 10 riders on 8 motorcycles to attend. When it looked like it was not going to be what the students had expected, we all put on our thinking caps and went to plans B, C, D and more ... LOL! We ended up selling tickets at the stops along the biker route and those went into the drawing for the grand prize. The riders ended up taking home lots of door prizes from the raffle tickets and one rider took home a nice cash gift from the 50/50 drawing. As for the 100 bar-b-que plates for the event, we put up a sign in front of the school at $5 per plate, and called friends and neighbors in order to sell the rest. We sold all but 30 plates and the student raised $300 for the day. It was not bad but not as good as it could have been, so the sponsor is going to organize another ride (he owns a motorcycle business) and benefits will go to the FFA at my son's school. Why would this man do this? He is a former FFA student and a successful businessman looking to give back to his community. What a great way to give!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Absent Parenting and Grandparenting

During my experiences with ex-husbands, I have been dumbfounded by their actions as non-custodial parents. Both ex-husbands reacted pretty much in the same manner. They were both afforded visitation by the court, yet both eventually cut all ties with their children. One cut his ties after not securing a place of residence other than his work van (he refused to live in conventional housing) and after leaving the children with his family during his alloted visitation. Our eldest complained about being dropped off and not spending the time with her father, spending nights in the woods in the van as he had no home, and eventually coming home after a weekend in filthy clothing as it was apparent that no one had changed their outfits. His visitation ended by his choice less than six months into the separation.

The other cut his ties a bit later into the separation. At first he refused to see the children, he said he was too depressed to see them. Then after repeated prompting I insisted he come get them for a weekend visitation. He complied and upon repeated prompting he pick them up every other weekend for the most part over the next year. Then he moved from VA to MD about 2.5 hours away to be with his girlfriend. The visits continued until the children and I moved to NC. Prior to our move we had discussed the need for the children and me to move back to NC to be around a family support system. Since he had moved out of the area there was no reason for us to remain in VA.

Before we moved his visitations had begun to get out of hand. He was leaving them with his friends while he went on overnight dates with his girlfriend, he was dropping them off at her place while he would go out for the day tending to business, and he was bringing the children back late from their visits. On more than one occasion he brought them home on Monday morning just before school. On those mornings they had been up since 5 a.m. and were exhausted from the weekend, so they would often end up staying home from school that day to get rested.

Once we moved he adopted the thought pattern of "out of sight out of mind." I had made an open invitation at the time for him to come down and stay with us on weekends in order for them to visit. He refused. He spent the next 11 months ignoring the children. No calls, not for birthdays, not for holidays, nothing. Then a week before school was to let out for the summer he called to inform me that I needed to bring them to VA for summer vacation. So we bantered back and forth only once via attorneys and his decided not to pursue a threat to take custody of the children based on his lack of parent involvement. Since that summer he has seen both of the children once. He saw our son in 2004 during his summer vacation with a friend in VA and our daughter this past summer at a meeting set up by my eldest daughter on behalf of her sister. During that visit he gave both Jenn and Ryan each $100 and told our daughter that he would be calling, writing and beginning to rebuild their relationship.

Since that time he has called ... never. I have spoken with him about child support as it pays the rent and he is late and even misses payments from time to time. Never has he once asked about our children. I am civil when we talk and if he gets heated I say my goodbyes and avoid a fight. What confounds me is how these absent parents behave. I would do whatever it takes legally to see my children had the roles been reversed. These men continue to blame others for their lack of interaction with their children; and it didn't stop with the fathers, the grandparents also failed to continue to maintain their relationships with their grandchildren.

Will they ever take accountability of their actions and rebuild their relationships or are the children better off if these absent family members keep their distance?

Monday, October 8, 2007

What do you take for a headache?

I guess that would depend on what gives you the headache. If you get a sinus headache it helps to take something that will alleviate the sinus pressure thus relieving the pain. For a migraine headache one might take anything from an over-the-counter pain reliever followed by ice packs, neck rubs, and sleeping upright in a recliner, to prescription pain relief. What about those celebrities who suffer with headaches from painfully swollen lips? Would they benefit from taking the same Botox for headaches of this nature? Curious isn’t it? Take it from this migraine sufferer, prompt relief is always appreciated!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Coach, what were you thinking?

Tonight our high school played football against a tough team. It was great to watch them keep this powerhouse team at a score of 14 throughout the night. They had scored early on and we answered back with one touchdown but we needed to get another before the night was finished. Then with one minute and twenty seconds left in the game our team threw a touchdown pass. The game now stood at 14 - 13 and we only needed the extra point to have a tie game and go into overtime for a better chance at beating the other team. There were two time outs. The team returns to their positions, they line up and the ball is hiked to the quarterback instead of a kicker ... WHAT??? The quarterback throws ... the man is open but with men around him ... the ball nearly lands in the opponents hands but falls to the ground ending the game with a loss!

We all figure they will do the smart thing and go for the extra point and not a two point conversion. WRONG! WHAT WAS THE COACH THINKING? Did he have a hot date? You should have heard the moaning from everyone in the stands.

Even us GIRLS knew it was smarter to tie up the game and go for a win in overtime!

Are You My Real Estate Agent?

Of all of the interviews I had the opportunity to attend during my search for a new job, the one that was most interesting was that for a position of real estate agent. A local rental/real estate office was seeking an bookkeeping/agent for their office. During the interview I was asked if going back to college for a real estate license would be something of interest to me. Hey, I'm up for anyway to further my education, so I responded in a positive manner. Even though the interview went well and they were impress with my computer (internet web design and html experience) the job went to another applicant. You never know, perhaps a real estate class would be a nice addition to my resume. Who knows, someday someone may just ask "Are you my real estate agent?"

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How do you decide?

What factors come into play when you need to compare one job to another?

Location: Do you want to commute or work locally?

Salary: How do you determine what you need to make a job worth staying with long term?

Benefits: Do you want them included in the offer for employment or as an option for your to purchase?

Work Hours: Straight 40 hours per week, government holidays, accrued vacation, and sick time, or 28-32 hours per week for 46 weeks of the year boosted by a six week 67 hours per week stint?

What would you do if you took a job with no benefits, minimum hours in the off season, extensive hours for a six week stint, because you needed a job in order to make more than the allowed amount of unemployment and then you were offered a year round full-time job, full benefits and a higher salary? If you enjoy the job you are in and the people you are working with, how do you decide to give it all up and take the "logical" one? Will the logical one pay off in the long run? What if the offer depended upon 4 months training at which time you might not be accepted into the position for which you applied? Would you have given up a good deal in the move?

These are the questions I need to ask myself. I've grown accustomed to their faces, voices and life stories. It will be a sad thing to leave them ... but for now, until I have heard that the company wants me for the position I will remain dedicated to my current employer. More later ... sigh ... time for some sleep.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Will taking Britney's children from her help?

One wonders if this move will be successful in turning this young mother around. Even though she spent a month in drug rehab it proved not nearly enough to get her started in the right direction. I feel for her only to the extent that she lives under far greater scrutiny than most of us, however there are children involved and as a mother of five you worry about their safety. It's hard enough for parents who behave properly to protect their children 100% of the time, but how much more difficult is has to be for parents who are behaving improperly? Only time will tell if the decision to take the children from Britney was a productive one, we can hope for the best! Our best wishes for success Britney!

As I've often told my children's absent parent, when you love them, you will do whatever you have to in order to maintain a healthy, loving relationship with your children. After all, submitting to random drug tests and completing a parenting class is far less a consequence than others have received for similar behavior. So, if learning to be a better parent enables them to keep their children from harm's way, and fosters a healthy, loving relationship, then their efforts are worth every moment spent improving their skills.