My youngest daughter being hella adorable back in 2009. She had just turned 3. She used to love to wear dresses back then; not so much at age 10.
My oldest daughter, Meagan, shared this picture on Facebook of her and three of her siblings in 2010 with this comment:
currently my favorite picture of all time. i wish jack was old enough at the time to get in on this, its just so darn cute. me and my lifelong friends. so thankful that i get to live and grow with my best friends
August 2010–we had just moved to this house a week before after a five-day, cross-country trek. In the back: Brenna (7 1/2) and Meagan (10). In the front: Owen (8 1/2) and Nora (4). Jack was a month old.
And here’s the most recent pic I have of all five of them together at Owen’s 8th grade graduation in June.
From left to right: Nora (1o), Owen (14), Jack (almost 6), Meagan (almost 16) and Brenna (13).
Here’s what else Meagan had to say about her siblings:
ive been around these kiddos forever. no matter who walks in n out of my life, these fuckers are the ones who will always stick. i dont even want to think of us all starting our own lives and separating. its scary. ive lived with them my whole life, i hate to think one day i might have a hard time getting ahold of them because we let distance or time get in the way
This from a girl that has always said she hates being at home because there are too many people in the house and she can’t stand any of us. I guess she’s getting wise in her “old” age.
I look at the second picture and can hardly believe these are my kids. Three teenagers–two of them in high school in the fall. Am I old enough to have a sixteen-year-old? When I think about them, I still picture those little kids in the first picture.
Or like this:
Brenna (15 months), Meagan (3 1/2) and Owen (2). So little.
As I sit
by Javier Mendoza
As I sit alone on the edge of a cloud,
Whistling a heavenly tune,
While watching the beauty of nature surrounding me,
Feeling the love from everything of life,
I had to let go of things that
Society had blinded me with:
Corruption, ignorance, materialism,
the imitation of treacherous people.
I had to look away from all of the hatred,
The destruction of our planet,
The destruction of our country,
The destruction of our people,
As I sit here so blissful, meek, and enlightened.
I’ve known Javier since he was five years old–over thirty years now. He went to kindergarten with my younger brother, and they became fast friends. My mom sort of adopted him, and watched out for him growing up. He became a brother to us. I remember how devastated he was to learn that my mom had died. I think he cried harder than I did at her funeral. To this day he opens every message to me with, “hey sis…”
Looking at him you’d see this big, bald Mexican guy. He’s intimidating. But underneath he’s so sweet and thoughtful. You’d never suspect that he writes deep, beautiful poetry. I love him to death.
Christmas this year was sparse to say the least. With my husband not working because of an injury, we’re surviving off of his meager worker’s comp. Thanks to food stamps we had a wonderful dinner on Christmas Eve with my dad and brother, but the real test was Christmas morning. I didn’t know how the kids would take getting only two gifts each (one from us and one from Santa).
I think my thirteen-year-old’s reaction sums it up: “Oh my god, this is so awesome; it’s exactly what I wanted. Thank you, thank you, thank you.”
He got two small Lego sets that together equaled $30, and apparently, it was the best gift in the world. That was his Santa gift. From us he got a sweater and pants from Goodwill.
Having five kids is always tough money-wise. This past year has been a challenge. Having to admit we couldn’t do things on our own was tough–sitting in the waiting room at social services to get food stamps was a bit demoralizing. We’ve been getting by, though.
I worried about the disappointment I might see on Christmas. In all each kid got an outfit from Goodwill, pajamas, and a $30 gift, plus a couple small things in their stocking (each under $5). We also got two board games for the family which were on sale, and I have an amazing friend online that sent me $50 which I used to buy four movies. I thought about skipping the pajamas, but I’m glad I didn’t because my twelve-year-old wouldn’t leave me alone on Christmas Eve until I gave her hers, even though they weren’t wrapped. It’s a family tradition.
My fourteen-year-old got the least. Her pajamas were just bottoms, her outfit was just a top (with an IOU for pants later), and she got a gift card instead of a Santa gift. Her only comment: “I looked in my stocking and almost died; thank you for the coffee.” I got her a package of instant Starbucks coffee.
Watching them play with their Legos Christmas morning, I realized I was worried about nothing. My kids might be a huge pain in the ass a lot of the time, but when it counts, they are understanding and appreciative of what little they have. They know we’re poor and weren’t expecting much so they were excited for what they got. None of them even cared that their clothes came from Goodwill (might have something to do with the fact they got brands we could never afford from the stores).
We must be doing something right if two small gifts at Christmas made for one of the best Christmases ever.
Being poor sucks all year ’round, but it seems doubly bad come the holidays. If you’re Christian, or like me, an atheist that celebrates Christmas, there is a lot of pressure to give gifts to everyone and their uncle. It can cause a lot of stress when you barely have money to put food on the table, and many poor families go into more debt trying to give their children even a small Christmas.
This year is exceptionally hard for us. In 2013, my husband hurt his shoulder at work and went on worker’s comp. It’s been over a year since he worked, and since then, we’ve had to go on Medicaid and food stamps. We’re below the poverty line for a family of four, but there are seven people in our family. Our rent is over half of the disability income my husband receives, and we barely scrape by every month. If it wasn’t for the refund from my student loan that I get every two months, we’d have lost our house already. Or we’d have no lights or water.
As Christmas crept closer, the more anxious we’ve been. It’s not that we want to go all out. We’ve been poor our entire relationship, but the last couple of years weren’t as bad–we had some disposable income and were able to give the kids nice Christmases. This year is going to be bad because there just isn’t anything extra.
So far we’ve spent $30 on each child. The four younger kids each got two LEGO sets; the oldest got a Target gift card. We had to charge it to my husband’s emergency credit card (the only one we have). Normally my dad gives us $50 for each child which we use for Santa presents along with a gift from Papa, but this year he moved and can barely afford to eat so there were only be cards from him.
It’s hard. I know the kids will understand. They’re good kids and will appreciate what they get. Sure they’ll be disappointed, but they know we’re poor–we’ve never hidden it. How do you even do that? How many times have they begged for money to do something with a friend? How many times have I had to tell them to suck it up when they outgrow their clothes (thank goodness for hand-me-downs)? How many times have I had to use their birthday money to buy things for the house? They get it.
But we still want them to have something. It’s Christmas! So they’ll have their $30 gift from Santa. I’m going to pick them out each an outfit from Kohl’s which will be charged to my card to be paid off at some unknown time–they need the clothes anyway. And I’ll get some stocking stuffers using what’s left of my student loan money.
We do have a bright spot for Christmas. I have a friend online that I met through Livejournal that sends a gift for the kids every year. I’ve never asked her to do this, she just surprised us a couple years ago. Today she emailed me to let me know she’s sending a gift card this year. I cried. She’s amazing, and that will add one more Santa gift to the mix (the older kids all know that the gifts come from her–she’s our own special Santa).
I know we’re not the worst off–there are many other families in the US that have less. Things could be worse, so I’m not really complaining. The tree is up and looking all festive. My dad and brother are coming over for Christmas dinner–pork roast, yum–for our first full family get together. It’ll be a lot of fun even if the space under the tree is going to look really bare this year.
It’s that time of year again when pretty lights twinkle in the night, kids line up to sit on Santa’s lap in every mall across America, and parents struggle to figure out how to afford Christmas yet again.
If you listen to some conservative Christians, you’d think there’s some huge conspiracy to shut Christmas down–the “War on Christmas.” As far as I can tell, this war stems from some stores asking their employees to say, “Happy Holidays,” instead of “Merry Christmas” because they, you know, recognize that Christmas isn’t the only holiday celebrated in December! Apparently this is persecution.
As a minority religion-wise, I don’t get it. It’s just common decency to consider other people’s beliefs and to not insist yours is above the rest. Personally, I don’t mind either version. It seems the only people upset about what greeting is used during the holidays are the quacky Christians (not to be confused with the sane Christians).
Being an atheist during the holidays can be a challenge. First off, it’s the one time of year that bombardment with Christianity isn’t just tolerated, but expected. There are other religions celebrating in the winter? Who knew?
Luckily for me, I like Christmas. I grew up celebrating and carried the traditions to my children despite raising them in an atheist household. We have the tree with twinkling lights, Santa visits (although he’s about as poor as we are), we make cookies, have a big family dinner on Christmas Eve, and generally enjoy this time of year. I even like most religious Christmas music. God, Jesus, mangers, and wise men play absolutely no role in our celebrations. They aren’t mentioned at all; it’s completely secular–just the way Santa intended.
Deciding whether or not to celebrate a religious holiday when you don’t believe in the religion can cause a lot of stress for atheists. If family members aren’t pressuring you to participate, there’s an internal battle over your own personal beliefs. Not everyone goes through this. For me, it was never an issue. I never thought twice about doing Christmas with my kids, but I’ve known others that have struggled with the idea of giving into the Christians this time of year.
Trying to explain why I still celebrate Christmas as an atheist has been met with criticism in the past. I’ve been accused of just pretending to be an atheist since I still continue to participate in obvious religious holidays. I’ve been told I’m a hypocrite for saying there’s no Jesus, but celebrating his birth (which I’m not doing–it never comes up at our house). Generally, there is just confusion coming from Christians who can’t fathom anyone believing any differently than they.
Christmas is a family and cultural tradition for me. Although we’ve started a few traditions of our own since my kids were born, most come from things I did as a child like having dinner on the 24th, leaving gifts unwrapped to play with before Mom and Dad wake up, and stockings with names stitched on by hand. I also feel connected to the millions of other people celebrating Christmas (for whatever reason), knowing that on December 25th, most people are waking up to brightly wrapped gifts under a tree. It’s all about community–locally and globally.
Most atheists I know celebrate Christmas and other holidays from when they were children, but there are many that don’t. For them, this time of year can be aggravating with the music, decorations, and pushy Christians everywhere. For me the stress has more to do with affording a few gifts for the kids every year. With five children that adds up quickly.
Ninety-five years ago today, we celebrated the first Armistice Day. November 11 because a national holiday in 1938 as what we now know as Veteran’s Day–a day to celebrate all those that have served in the protection of our country.
There are many people I’d like to thank for their service: Dennis Gordon, Pat Gordon, Howard Gordon, Carl Brooks, Miranda Gordon, Crystal Sobus, Tim Ranger, Chris Ranger, Alex Connelly, Pat Connelly, Carl Gordon, and the many, many more that I’m forgetting.
And I want to thank my dad, Alan Nicholson who served in Vietnam in the Marine Corps.
Facebook is great for a lot of things. For me, the best part is being able to keep in touch with family that lives on the other side of the country. Without facebook I’d have no idea what was going on with everyone. I love being able to log in and find out what my cousin’s son is doing in Michigan or how my aunt’s vacation is going in Florida or how my old neighbor is still warring with the crazy lady next door.
But facebook has a much darker side, too. First of all, there’s all those highly addictive games. They’re sneaky and will get you every time. The games lead to the second most evil thing about facebook: game requests. No, I don’t want to help you on Candy Crush, please stop asking!
My biggest issue, though, is dealing with people on my friends’ list that have vastly different social, religious, and political ideas than me. As an atheist, facebook has been great for finding other atheists to commiserate with, but on the flip side I have to deal with people spamming my feed with stuff about god. It goes on and on, sometimes ten or fifteen posts in a row about how much god loves us or how Jesus will save us. Anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-guns, pro-military, pro-crazy rancher in Nevada. Ultra conservative Evangelical Christian Republicans who believe their view is the only right one. Bob forbid you disagree with them.
An easy solution to the last one is to just not respond to their posts. Which I don’t. But they’re still there. Dozens of them, several times a day, making me wade through them to find updates I actually want to read.
The dilemma, though, is do I block them, unfriend them, ask them to stop, suck it up, or just quit using facebook?
Option three would just be rude–it’s a free country and they can post whatever they want. I shouldn’t have to quit a site or sit quietly and endure and bunch of crap I don’t want to see, though. So that leaves blocking or unfriending? But can you really do that if they are family.
I wouldn’t mind if it was one or two things here and there. I don’t mind when other family members post things about their beliefs, but they don’t go overboard. And I don’t go crazy posting twenty atheist posts in a row. In fact I post nothing about atheism because it gets those family members in a tizzy. Then I get IMs wanting to know why I can’t just believe, and don’t I know how much god loves me, and “I just don’t understand, but I’ll pray for you.” Gee thanks.
I love my family, even the crazy religious members, but I’m not sure I can take much more of the spamming. I don’t want to start some family tiff either.
I guess for now I’ll just have to suck it up. Which, well, sucks.
Review of Here Without You by Tammara Webber
Goodreads rating: 5/5 stars
my rating: GAH!
Pages: 250 (ebook)
found: my kindle library
I can not express enough how much I LOVE this series. Way back in February I checked out the Amazon preview for Between the Lines—the story of four actors, stars: Brooke and ex-boyfriend, Reid; and fairly newcomers: Graham and Emma, trying to figure out life and love. The second book, Where You Are, follows their lives outside of the set as Brooke and Reid scheme to break up Graham and Emma. Which of course, backfires completely when Reid (the consummate bad boy) finally finds a conscious.
Graham and Emma go about their lives with the third book, Good For You, following Reid as he does community service after wrecking his car while under the influence. He meets do-gooder Dori who has to supervise his work and is taken by her. His new found moral compass has him wanting to do the right thing by her and it blooms into a real relationship.
Here Without You gives us the story of the fourth character from the first book, Brooke. She’s known as conceited, shallow, vapid. Bitch is a word normally associated with her. But she’s now ready to change things about her life. Starting with finding the son she gave away for adoption four and a half years ago, when she was just sixteen.
When she finds him he’s in foster care after his meth addict mother loses custody of him. Determined to get him back Brooke goes out of her way to change everything about her life, including her personality. Well, not so much change, as let out the real her. Getting her son, River, back isn’t going to be easy.
Reid gets sucked into the drama when he’s asked to sign relinquishment of custody papers. He was only fifteen when River was born but didn’t believe the boy was his until recently. But, maybe, he’s not quite ready to do that yet.
But the secret he’s kept threatens to ruin his relationship with Dori. He realizes he might have to choose between his true son and his responsibility towards the son he’s never met.
The story is beautifully told through alternating viewpoints—Brooke, Reid, Dori and River—as they all struggle to do the right thing when doing the wrong thing is just so much easier.
I absolutely loved this book. I was near tears so many times and the ending was just beautiful. I loved the fact that Booke, who is such a bitch in the previous three books, finally gets her redemption. I fell in love with Reid all over again as he struggled with the emotional impact of being in love for the first time and having a son that needed him. And watching Reid and Brooke finally forgive each other and move on to something like a friendship had me teary eyed.
Dori kind of made me mad because she gave up so easily but she thought she was doing the right thing, too. But seeing Reid hurt so much made me want to poke her eyes out or something. I’m kind of protective of my fictional love interests.
All in all this was a great read. I suggest starting from the very beginning with Between the Lines but you can probably get the gist of this book as a stand alone, too. But let me reiterate how much I LOVED LOVED LOVED the entire series.