Unsolicited Advice from Raymond B. Hughes

Some of this advice he gave me personally, some was paraphrased from his journal, and some are direct quotes from his journal.  Enjoy!

1. Take Vitamin C every day – as much as you can.
2. Do what you have to do, when you have to do it.
3. Don’t be stupid.
4. Keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the wheel.
5. Do not put stickers on your car that would indicate you like the Grateful Dead, for you WILL get pulled over, you will be profiled.
6. Try hard to be nicer.
7. Never steal anything.
8. Never use the Lord’s name in vain – he has nothing to do with your problem, your problem or mishap was due to your free will.
9. “Focus is a grand concept and necessary to accomplish life’s tasks, goals, get it done. Get on with things.” “Get at it, get it done. No excuses.”
10. Help one another, with whatever you have. “As we learn to help one another, we enrich our own lives.”
11. “Learn to love!”
12. “Being a true friend means that you want the best possible for someone else, and being totally glad, joyful, for that person when and if they attain what is best for them. You don’t covet what they have, you don’t wonder what’s in it for you.”
13. HAVE FAITH.
14. Pay attention!
15. See beauty in everything.
16. Be aware of and thankful for your blessings.
17. Meditate.
18. “Isolation is complex. Not any different from self indulgence. It’s self-centeredness. Independence is good, isolation is not.”
19. Promises are to live by, and never be broken.
20. Get over it.
21. Walk it off.
22. Forgive.
23. “We have limited time. While here, help, serve, heal, yada.”
24. For the good of all should be your mission.
25. Go beyond the expected.
26. Nobody said anything was going to be easy.
27. Give up things that waste time.
28. “Be prepared to worry about others’ feelings, territory, all in all their presence. Well learned we can improve ourselves to live in God’s will.”
29. “Reach out and touch somebody’s hand.”
30. “Disinterest in anything other than personal satisfaction is a mess.”
31. Remember God is everywhere, act accordingly.
32. “Knowing God’s timetable would be futile. We should live every moment as if He is right around the corner.”
33. “If you take something on, you should care for it endlessly – follow up care is the important part.”
34. “Knowing what the world consists of, people. Each person is a nation. Peace is personal. Anger is everywhere.”
35. “Rest is more important than pleasure.”

Though he didn’t follow all of his own written advice…he would want you to. Peace be with you, one and all.

Picture 13

Toast to My Dad

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Sail on, Brother Ray, you’re free at last!

Toast to Dad

My father taught me many things. He taught me the importance of honesty, integrity, hard work and kindness. He taught me to be mindful of others, and to think critically. Although I know I needed discipline at times, my Dad couldn’t do it – it wasn’t until my late teen years that he ever really “yelled” at me, and then once more in my 20s and once in my 30s. He treated me like a princess (except when I was working for him in the vineyards). Dad was a classic Gemini – he had two sides – one was kind and sweet and sensitive, the other was, well, NOT – that other side came out primarily when he was at work (or if you messed with his stuff in his house). He was keeping a journal for a while and talked about his problem with anger, and how he wished he could control it better. So to those of you he yelled at in the vineyards, he didn’t really mean it, forgive and forget it.

I still recall our many get-togethers in the 90s when all of my friends would crowd the kitchen and hang on his every word. Some of my friends considered him their Dad too, and it was okay with me to share him with them, mainly because I’d heard most of those stories already, and his going off on tangents tendency…”It’s like this, you see…” He used to get up early the next morning and make us all bagels with cream cheese and Tang to drink, it was awesome. He guided us all toward peace – there were only 2 fights out of like 30 parties, and he was right there, in the middle, diffusing them. He loved my friends, and one of the only times he let me see him cry was when Alan McIntosh died. I can see them hugging in my minds eye in Heaven now.

Dad was a hard worker. He was retired for about 3 weeks, and he couldn’t take it anymore, he needed to go back to the vineyards. He could very well have taken disability from the age of 20 if he wanted to, when his legs were so severely wounded they were almost taken from him. He was told he’d walk until he was 40, but he beat that by 27 years.

My Dad loved with his whole heart. He was very generous and always helping people. He used to give $20 bills to panhandlers in NYC much to my dismay. He was very wise, but sometimes got taken advantage of due to his trusting nature. Although Dad wanted to be in a relationship, marriage was very hard for him, as at least three of you know. Forgive him, he didn’t mean it, he loves you still.  He always said that he truly meant, “Til death do us part”.

A few things that I’ve heard over the week from people about my Dad have really stuck with me – one person called him a legend, one person called him an icon, one person called him remarkable. He was all of those things, yes, but most of all, he was a great father.

The past couple years, his spirit was broken. His health was failing and he couldn’t stand being unable to “keep on keeping on”. He was depressed and not himself, moody and often sad. It was hard to see him that way, hard to see him sad and sick and in pain. There have been no less than 5 times that I have thought my Dad had died, and I thought I was prepared, but he was my greatest ally, my biggest cheerleader, my closest friend. Nothing can prepare a person to lose that which they’ve never been without.

I know he’ll always be with me. He told me that. I like to picture him happy and free, long golden sun lightened hair, bare feet, smiling that million dollar smile in Heaven, surrounded by all the family and friends and pets he’s lost along the way, listening to Janis Joplin sing at that “great gig in the sky” that he would always reference. He’s been sending me signs, feathers and butterflies, heart shaped clouds, bubbles, and rocks. I hope he knows its okay to let go and be free.

Dad would want us all to have a good time and remember him fondly. He wouldn’t want us up here bawling and blubbering. So let’s all raise our glasses in a toast to a great man. To Ray!

Keeping it Classy in the Carolinas

So here we are on our very first family vacation this far away from home (11 hours).  We are in Myrtle Beach and the weather when we arrived was amazing, but the ocean is cold, which is okay, because my daughter knows more about ocean creatures than most kids twice her age, and wading is good enough right now anyway.

We arrived after driving all night – we left at 9:30pm – we both took short catnaps while the other drove but, all told, if we slept a total of 4 hours between us I’d be surprised.  The kids were good though, it was nice that they slept most of the way, really nice.  When Rory did awaken, around 7:30 am or so, she had to go potty, and there are miles and miles of North Carolina roads that have no amenities whatsoever, and are frankly like looking back in time about 60 years or so, and not in a good way.  So we find a gas station, and the car is packed to the gills with everything I thought we might need for a week with two small kids that can go through 4 outfits a day easily.

Nate got Rory out, and when he opened her door, a bunch of stuff fell out.  He said, “We’re keeping it classy, aren’t we?”  LOL, yeah.  We are, don’t we always?!?  I take her to the bathroom and she’s babbling incoherently and still half asleep.  I come out and get some coffee and Ving Rames or his stunt double anyway, is standing at the counter, customer side, like he’s a bouncer or something – he’s not friendly.  The cashier is not friendly either, and I don’t understand her, and said, “I’m sorry?” and she repeated whatever it was she said, and at that point I just nodded.  It worked, she didn’t keep speaking her strange southern language.  So then we go out to the car and I put my purse on top of the car while I buckle Gage in and then I get juice boxes out of the cooler (on the other side of the car).  While I’m doing this, this car zooms in next to us and Lil Wayne’s stunt double gets out and sizes up our car, looks at my purse and walks reeaallll slow toward the gas station.  Pretty sure I narrowly averted some sort of robbery/sting type thing, Ving probably had a blue tooth on and called Lil Wayne to the scene.

So then we get to the hotel, and we’re too early to check in.  Too early by like 7 hours.  We’re all beat, stinky and hungry.  So we go to the public parking lot with access to the beach, and I have to get everyone’s suits out and stuff, and they are buried of course, so I’m pulling out piles of bags and toys are flying everywhere, food, etc.  People are walking by all decked out for their day at the beach, well rested, well dressed, etc.  Looking at me as if I may be some sort of homeless person living out of my car.

So once we check in and get all situated, I’m preparing to cook dinner for us – I broiled the steaks we brought in a pan in the oven, and duh….I see a pan and think I can grab it by the handle after it had been under the broiler for 10 minutes and sizzzllllee off my right hand’s outer layer of skin.  It was great, thought I’d have to go to the hospital,  I soaked my hand in the sink for like 3 hours, and since I had nothing else to do, I drank beer.

The next morning, the kids wake up at 5 am, and they are hungry, so I get the cereal bars and they wanted cheese balls, I’m so bleary-eyed tired and my hand hurts, I just want to go to sleep again, so I turn the TV on for them and go lay back down.  When we get around and go in there, they had smeared the red jelly in the cereal bars all over the white down comforter, and had dumped the entire jar of cheese balls on the carpet and had crushed many of them.  Nate says, “I guarantee this is the first time cheese balls have been crushed into this carpet!”  Keeping it classy!

At 9am, we have to go to the dreaded time share meeting.  I’m sporting a giant blister which looks like some sort of weird disease or wart, I’m slightly hung over, tired, and my kids are NOT DOWN with sitting through this meeting.  The guy was nice, he had a sense of humor at least.  Within 10 minutes the kids were whining, pleading, acting out – Gage eventually gave up begging to leave and fell asleep on a chair.  Rory was yelling, “Daddy promised we’d have a great vacation, and this IS NOT A GREAT VACATION!!!”  She’s yelling, “VAMANOS!!!”  She’s banging her head on a chair cushion, she’s answering the main presentation lady’s rhetorical questions, it was rough.

So we go tour the luxury suite, get our ridiculous quote $35,000 – yeah, not on your life, dude, and then we are getting in an elevator with this family and their luggage cart.  The guy says, “Do you drink Budweiser?”  I said “No!” emphatically, because one beer I hate, absolutely hate, is Budweiser.  Nate said, “Yes, yes we do.”  And the guy hands him a plastic bag full of Budweiser (he said he couldn’t take it with him).  So here’s Nate, with two toddlers in tow, with a big bag of beer, in the lobby of an upscale hotel.

We go back in for the final sales pitch and the guy’s asking us how much we spend on vacations.  We basically told him we spend only gas and food because if we go anywhere, we are usually lucky enough to stay with family or in this case, won this week with a $5 raffle ticket purchase.  The poor guy was flustered.  Rory then interrupts the exchange to show him how she can write her name, and he asks her some questions, like if she’s been good all year (so the Easter Bunny will come).  She says, “Well, I try to be good, but sometimes, I make bad choices.”  We were all speechless for a minute or two (and giggling).

We FINALLY get out of there and they know we’re broke and we aren’t going to be signing on any dotted lines…and my blister pops and I’m oozing yuckiness so I grab a cocktail napkin, and as I’m trying to get bandaids from the desk, Nate is walking around with his bag of beer and the two toddlers.  Keeping it classy!  He then says, “I have to go,” and they leave to go to the room – he tells me later it is because he was painfully aware that he was walking around with a bag of beer and two small kids.

Then we finally get down to the pool, Rory gets in, and within 2 minutes is yelling, “I HAVE TO POOP!!!!  I HAVE TO POOP!!!!”  Ah yes, keeping it classy!!!  😉

 

Fighting Predatory Banks

I remember my first year at SUNY Cortland – so awkward being a transfer student who had taken some semesters off to travel and follow my heart down bad avenues…older than most juniors,  knew no one, clothes were all thrift shop/old whatever kinds of clothes.  The kids I went to school with CARED about fashion, and I so didn’t.  I still really don’t, honestly.  I wear what I want, and no crazy designer is going to tell me what not to wear.  They can kiss it.  Yeah, so that’s an issue I guess.  Whatev.  My husband says I have a problem with people telling me what to do.

Anyway – this girl in my class, she tapped me on the shoulder and I turned around.  I see it in my mind’s eye as slow motion – this was a pivotal moment in my life, one where I wish my decision had been different.  She said, “Hey, I have these credit card applications, and pretty much everyone is accepted, and if you fill it out I get $25, and I need to buy my books for this class, so it would really help me out, if you’d just fill it out – you can always just cancel the card when it comes in the mail.”  This girl, her face, I still remember it.  She was a mole, sent in by predatory banks, looking for naive people like me who had never had a credit card in their lives, had no idea what they were all about.  I was trying to work, I got a bartending job, but was told I needed to get a new wardrobe, “club clothes” they said – the clientele was all sorority and frat kids…not my scene…then I had a job at a restaurant nearby for awhile but one of the waitresses there was some kind of schizo psycho chick that used to throw things at me and not tell me my tables had been sat so that I’d get in trouble and instead of throwing down in the parking lot, I bailed, but not before she almost ran me over with her car on purpose.

Money was scarce.  I got that credit card in the mail, and it had a $1000 credit limit.  I decided that I’d use it only for necessities and do my best to get a 4.0 that semester, since none of my jobs were panning out.  I did, I got that 4.0 (a lot of good it did me), and I maxed that card out by the end of the semester.  They sent me a credit increase.  I accepted it.  Bad idea, bad pattern, I was hooked and I was 24.

After that I had plenty of other credit card offers, I transfered the first one to another with a lower interest rate, I consolidated here, paid off there,  but I continued to dig a hole.  There’d be a concert I’d want to go to, so I’d put tickets for myself and whatever accompanying individual I chose at the time.  I wanted to fit in better, so I bought the “in” clothes (girls were actually talking about my wardrobe in classes, right behind me, I could hear every word – they’d say things like, “Where did she get that outfit, her Mom’s closet?”)

I’d buy dinner or drinks for friends and they’d give me cash.  I’d plan to send that cash in as a payment, but anyone who has fallen prey to the banks knows that it doesn’t happen – cash gets spent on things like toilet paper and stuff – things that you hate to present a credit card for.

I had a loser liar boyfriend whom I almost married.  He basically stole from me every chance he got – “Oh, hey can you get this on your credit card and I’ll pay for xy and z, blah blah blah.”  I figured it would all come out in the wash, but there never was a rinse cycle.  Spent 7 years of my life trying to figure out that I was worth more than that guy.  Seven freakin’ years.  Found out el post facto that when he was unemployed he was spending his unemployment insurance money on drugs, while I worked two jobs and went to school, paying all the bills.

By graduate school, I had a good job making good money in Ithaca – I was a waitress and we opened the restaurant – there’s something special about opening a brand new restaurant – one becomes so invested – and the people I worked with (well most of them) were like family – some I still love to pieces like siblings and we keep in contact on Facebook.  I was also with a different boyfriend, one who wasn’t a loser or a liar, but who thought he was my Dad.  I was able to pay more than my minimum payments on my credit cards, and wasn’t using them anymore.  I started to see balances decrease slightly, and I thought, “I got this.”

Then, I got my first teaching job.  I figured my ship had finally come in, I could now pay my bills with no worries.  Riigghhhtt.  I was told I had to quit my waitressing job (by my bossy boyfriend), so all I had was my salary – which, even with a graduate degree, was barely enough for my bills and groceries.  I broke up with him and moved out on my own – lived close to the school to save on gas, and still only made enough for my bills.  I was paying $10 more than my minimum payment on my credit cards, and I was using them again, to buy groceries or supplies in between paychecks.  I met my husband, and after 3 years of teaching in NY, moved to OH where I have been unsuccessful in finding full time employment as a teacher or anything else that has panned out financially in any way, shape or form.  I went to college for no less than 8 years all told – have a stack of degrees, and I babysit for a living.  Obviously, I used credit cards at times during these 5 years in Ohio.  I consolidated, I closed accounts, I transferred to lower rates, I played the games.

For 15 years, I’ve been a slave to the banks who ensnared me in college.  My balances remained the same for what seemed like at least half of those years, and my interest rates have steadily increased.  It became so bad at times that I was borrowing money from relatives to pay my minimum payments.  My husband and I probably paid thousands in overdraft charges throughout our 5 year marriage due to these payments.  Meanwhile these same banks got bailed out by the government (whatever the hell that means), and many of their practices were ended through legislation and media coverage.  The economy pretty much tanked, the whole country belongs to China and I’m still paying WHO?  WHAT?  WHY?  Then came the moment when I stopped.  I stopped, and I called one of those companies that dickers with them and reduces balances.  I knew I’d take a hit on my credit score, but I just can’t pay for the bankers’ bonuses and vacations anymore.  My family will not suffer so that the fat cats can get fatter.

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The company that I found, first had me nervous, because they were taking a set amount out of my paycheck every week and I was still getting calls (at all hours, and many times per day) from the banks.  I was advised not to answer their calls.  Finally, the banks gave up and they sold off my debt to collection agencies – some banks even told me they were going to “write it off as bad debt” some offered to match my payments dollar for dollar (via mail).  I was advised to bide my time still, so I did – I really didn’t have a choice actually, as the weekly amount the company was taking to build up a savings account to dicker with was all I could afford with my car payment, gas and groceries.  I felt exonerated, but fearful at the same time.

Last week, I got my first settlement offer.  The credit card balance was $5500, and they agreed to take $2100 and call it good.  $3400 wiped away, just like that.  Evidence that I was throwing my money in the trash every month.  The company takes $600 in fees for a settlement like this, and the payments come out gradually.

My purpose for writing this is to provide a cautionary tale to younger people, avoid credit cards at all costs!!!!  My other purpose is to offer hope for people like me that have spent tens of thousands of dollars in interest on purchases made a decade ago, due to stupidity, naivety, and wishful thinking.  The company I go through is Freedom Debt Relief.  www.freedomdebtrelief.com.  They are very respectful, the operators are always American, and you have access to the savings account they establish for you, should you need it.  But the bottom line is, pay cash for things.  If you can’t afford it, you can’t have it, make due with what you can afford, or save for what you want.  In the 1990s somehow that sound principle got masked by the corporations and the banks.  Wise people knew better, but I wasn’t wise.

Honestly, I never thought I’d be unemployed, which is why I went to school for as long as I did, worked as hard as I did, graduated Summa Cum Laude and made Dean’s List every semester.  It is the reason I always had a job while in college (except that one semester), I always had this vision – 2 great kids, a great husband, a nice house, a secure job, write books in the summer – sunshine daydream – vacation every year – and although I have the great husband and the two great kids, the other stuff didn’t pan out real well.  As I approach middle age I wonder if it ever will.  I am trying to open a business with my friend but my credit issues (and hers) and my lack of income are hindering our fund finding efforts.  I’ve been applying for jobs, but I don’t even get interviewed.  The only thing I can find is babysitting.

At this point my struggle is to stay out of the fetal position, and keep the faith.  Onward and upward.

Motherhood

Yesterday my daughter was playing dress up and make believe, which she does every day, and she says to me, “Mom, I’ll be the princess and you can be the housekeeper.” Yes indeed, that’s me. Now that I work 6 days per week for the most part, my house has manifested some messes that have actually taken me down (I slipped on a toy saxophone and crashed to the wood floor at 7:30 in the morning) and threatened to consume me. In fact, they do consume me. Most of the time that I’m home which is not much, I’m trying to beat back this mess. I will find myself washing dishes and staring out the window wishing I could just go wandering on a beach somewhere for like a week, or a month, and get paid for it.

We had to stop and get groceries the other day and my daughter was annoyed for whatever reason – I wouldn’t buy her yet another princess item of whatever sort – and she said she hates me. Already? I don’t think I “hated” my Mom until I was like 14 or something, and then I stopped “hating” her around 16 when I moved out and realized I never did.

Motherhood is so often a thankless job, but yesterday, as I sat at the top of the stairs and thought I’d cry (which is very rare since being medicated for mood disorders) my son intuitively came up the stairs, gave me a huge hug, and kiss and said, “I love you, Mom.” It was the first time he’s said that without me saying it first, and boy did I need it at that moment. This child has always known what I’ve needed – when I get mad (usually at Rory) he’ll get between us and beam a huge smile at me, or dance, and it’ll break my focus enough to make me smile, and then I’m more able to deal with her respectfully.

I think the biggest issue between my daughter and I is that I have, in the past, dealt with her strong personality (she’s a Taurus) rather harshly and without the respect that I should have – and now she’s disrespectful to me while still being a hard-headed and self-centered (normal 4 year old). I can’t undo that, but I am working to show her respect. She still does the “Rory jig” when told “No” but she doesn’t throw herself on the floor and tantrum as much. She still cries (her teachers have mentioned this as an issue at school) when she doesn’t get her way on occasion, but I think as she rounds the bend to age 5 in the Spring, we’ll get along a lot better. We already giggle sometimes at things, which we haven’t done much of prior. She’s a bright child, can be a very sweet child, and is funny like her Dad. I adore her and her brother, and would die without them.

I’ve never been more convinced of angels and God as I have been throughout the past 4 years. Their grandmother (Shelley) is, I’m convinced, always around, and has shielded them from injury countless times throughout their learning to walk years. I think although the timing of Gage wasn’t intentional on my part, it was on God’s part – he often keeps me sane.

This morning, seeing my organization of her Barbies, Rory came out and said, “You’re a genius, Mom!”  However, my son just said, “I’m not your friend, Mom,” because I won’t let him open his uncle’s present.  I wouldn’t trade motherhood for anything, but I’d still like to wander on a beach for a month.  🙂

Is that Real Poop?

I haven’t written in a while.  I’ve been in survival mode, honestly – I’ve been sick for like a month, my kids have been sick too, but we haven’t necessarily been sick with the same viruses at the same time.  Nate’s been sick as well but not as much as us – high school kids have a lot more immunity than 3 year olds.  He’ll tell you it’s because he uses the same towel for a month.  Whatever.  I’d complain but laundry is an area I struggle to conquer, so I let it grow.

Anyway, so my daughter has some new phrases that she uses when conversing with me.  Yesterday we were discussing something and I asked her a question about the topic and she said, “We are SO done with this conversation.”  She is 4 years old, but I’m beginning to wonder if she’s aging in animal years, like each year must be multiplied by 4 or something. Another phrase she uses is, “If I have to tell you one more time…”  It’s great.  Really.  I guess on the Polar Express she was yelling, “I DON’T NEED NO MAN!!”  I have absolutely no clue where she heard that, aside from some of the staff at my center or some of her peers in her class there perhaps, but I’ve never heard anyone say that there.  Other kids are singing “Jingle Bells” but my kid is standing up for feminism.  Weirdo.

I’ve been making every effort to be on time at work.  My boss was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and she held a meeting a couple weeks back and said it is imperative that we are on time and she kind of went on and on about it and I’m trying.  Now that I’m on antibiotics I’m regaining some of my energy, and have been doing pretty well with time management.  This morning was rough though, and Gage was in the bathroom yelling for me.  I came in there and he said he’d pooped in the potty.  I didn’t see any poop but I figured, maybe it went hiding.  Sorry to give details, but well, you saw the title.  I’m dressed in my uniform for work and I put him on my knee to help him get his pull up off (he wears them to bed) and get him cleaned up and I discover that he had poop hiding and it was now on my pants.  Well, at this point, I wiped at it with a wipe and went flying around trying to get the kids dressed and out the door – they fight me every step – they’re whining in unison – and I say, “Open the door and head for the car.”  Gage must’ve misheard me because he headed for the swingset and lost his boots in the snow and then laid there and yelled for Rory to get his boots.  She was too busy trying to untangle herself from her bookbag (my daughter is all thumbs most days).  So I go scoop up the boy, put him in the car and zoom off.

I get to work LATE.  I try to drop off my son but his regular teacher isn’t in there and he’s not happy.  I take him down the hall and my boss is there with my class.  She asks me how he’s feeling – I had to leave early to take him to the doctor last night (and fell with him in my arms on the ice outside my door) and I said, well he’s on medicine but he pooped on my leg.  It’s been one of those mornings.  She says, “Is that REAL poop?”  LOL – no, I stopped at the fake poop store.

P.S. My ankle may be fractured, stay tuned. 🙂