Monday, August 29, 2011

Moolah Monday - Buying Out-Of-Season

One of the best tips I could ever offer you in the world of finances, particularly frugality, is the suggestion to find every opportunity you can to buy out-of-season.  Really, it is probably the best way to save money on both needs and wants. 

The concept is this: figure out things that don't have an expiration date or have a reasonably long shelf-life and buy ahead, in bulk if you can, whenever you buy it on sale.  Essentially, it's the same premise couponers use, only it can be applied even if you don't clip coupons or if you need/want something that you don't have a copuon for.  It's a really, really simple idea but it does require forethought and planning and often times a different mindset around shopping. 

Aside from super sales (which often aren't all that super, maybe 10-20% off without coupons), one of the best ways to apply this concept is to buy things out of season.  When the end of a season approaches, whether a pure season (fall, winter, etc.), a holiday season, or a shopping/fashion season ends, anything left-over will often be sold at remarkable discounts.  Usually there are only 2-3 left and if it is a size specific item you won't have a huge choice to be picky, but you should be able to get some great deals and either cut the budget or at a minimum stretch your dollar further.

This can work really well with both children's and adults clothes, especially holiday themed items (st. patrick's day shirts, valentine's day clothes, etc.), swimsuits, hats, sunglasses, gloves/scarves, shoes (especially sandals, boots, or water shoes), Halloween costumes, and regular seasonal wear. As an example, you all know swimsuits start to come out crazy early in the year - like February or something ridiculous like that. Last year I went shopping for snow boots in February when we had 6 inches of snow twice within 4 days. I was unlucky but did find gardening boots (which worked ok) but only after walking by the bathing suit aisle. You could jump into the mood in February and buy a bathing suit OR you can wait until May or June (maybe even July or August, depending on where you live) and purchase bathing suits for 50-75% off. My mother and I were walking through a department store two weeks ago and found complete suits for $20 and separates for $7-$8 a piece. Much better than the $50-$75 price tags no? 

Here are a list of recent purchase I've made with this concept in mind -
  • Life Jackets at Dick's Sporting Goods - I bought 4 kids life jackets for $55.  1 was an O'Brien neoprene vest for $20 (usually $60), 2 were 30-50 lb ski vests for $10 each, and the third was an infant "ski" vest for $10...those three were all regularly priced $30 each.  The signs said 50% off but at the register it came to 66% off. 
  • Kids sandals - I bought 2 pairs of toddler sandals (flip-flops) with a heel strap for $1.75 each at Target a few weeks ago.  Mid-august, still valuable to me.  I would have bought more, but I was in a hurry and I already had some of the other colors they had - no need to be wasteful.
  • Snow cone maker - 30% off at Target.  I also bought extra syrups because they were on sale and didn't expire for a while.
  • LOTS of toys - enough for my son and Little Miss for their birthdays and maybe even Christmas too.  Toys R'Us was having a moving sale and everything was 50-75% off.  I bought a camera for my niece's birthday (shhhh...don't tell her!) for $14 regularly $50.  I bought my son a ton of expansion packs for his train set - they were all 60-70% off.  I bought Little Miss some baby dolls.  I have to house them for a little while, but their birthdays are only 6 weeks away so it was worth the savings.
So, why don't people do this more often?  Sometimes they don't think about it.  Not everyone remembers to think about various purchases months in advance.  Sometimes they don't have the space to hold extra supply.  Sometimes they genuinely don't have the resources to get ahead by purchasing this month's necesities and those for future months.  (Of course, it usually only takes 1-2 months to get ahead of to make it start paying off, but I still understand the challenge).  There is of course the challenge regarding sizing - as in not knowing what size clothes an infant will be in next fall or that type of thing.  For foster parents it's hard because you don't know what children you'll have when, so it's hard to plan ahead for certain items (like matching kids clothes, which I love to try and pull off).  Of course, you also have less choices - you get to pick through what's left instead of getting the full selection in the beginning of the season.
Unfortunately, one of the biggest reasons people don't purchase out-of-season is that, by nature, things they purchase would be out-of-season. Many times this means the clothes wouldn't be the most up-to-date styles with "this year's trend". Some people have a stigma about buying things "on discount" vs. full-price. Many people believe it's a status symbol when you don't "have to" use coupons or find deals, like "you've made it". Some are embarrased. In my mind, I'd classify a lot of these types of reactions to discount-shopping as based on pride.  These types of responses are often boiled down to being "better-than" discount shopping or not wanting to be perceived as a "discount shopper".  That's too bad. 

More for mie.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Foster Parent Friday - From Fostering into Adoption

Q: How long does it take before a foster placement turns into an adoptive placement? And, how long does it take for you to know that you want to adopt the foster placement? And, how long does it take for you to know that you will be the adoptive home?

A: There is no easy way to answer any or all of these questions. First though, I'd recommend starting here to brush up on how long placements last and kind of makes a difference.

In this case, I'm going to focus on pure foster care cases rather than adoptive placements. Going the straight adoption route is something very different and not something I have direct experience on yet. (Though, if you have questions on that I probably can still answer, just send mie an email).

As referenced in the link above, we typically plan on cases lasting between 12-18 months. Ideally, by that time we'd know for sure if the case was going to adoption, and then ideally at that point the adoption would be on its way to being finalized. There is no "ideal" situation in adoption though so not let's get into the practical.

Practically, we almost always plan for the case to go home. Not only is that usually the plan through at least half of the case (6 months) but it's also just easier for us to try not to get too attached. Inevitably though, the circumstances of the case begin to come out over time and we get a better feel for what the issues are and whether or not the parents are going to be able to get their children back. In our experience, we've had a good understanding of whether or not the parents are going in the right direction to get their kids back within 3-4 months. By 5 months in, the state has a 2nd permanency conference to determine the direction of the case. In all but one of my cases, the decision at that conference has correctly indicated what will happen to the children, whether they will return home or if an alternative placement will be found.

Here's why - even though a case usually has 12-18 months (let's call it 12; 18 is supposed to be by exception only), the time allowed per case typically includes the time to get the child to their permanent home. If you really think through the situations that might lead someone to a CPS case (let's say drugs, violent behaviors, long-term prison sentences, etc.) there are only a handful that can be adequately resolved in 6 months. So, after the first 6 months, if the parents have done nothing to move their case forward, it's often unlikely that another 6 months will help. Not impossible, so foster parents and the state always have to be aware and provide the opportunity for parents to make appropriate life changes even in the last 6 months, but if a parent isn't making progress for the 1st 6, he/she probably won't. A case going toward reunification has much different activity than a case going toward termination (please keep in mind, I'm not a social worker, just an observation and common sense). It takes a while for the state to find the right permanent home for a child. If a kinship placement is chosen a homestudy is required and those can take a while especially when dealing with another state. The court system takes a while, etc. So bottom line, by 6 months in there is a good feeling on whether the state is going to ask for reunification or for termination.

If the state is going toward reunification, in my experience the parents are working their visits and I've had a good relationship with the parents. In our experience, we've been happy to support parents working toward getting their kids back. So though we love those kiddos too, it's a little bit easier to avoid thinking about adoption. You're part of a system that is trying to get the kiddos back with a particular set of parents and you have a job to do within that system.

It is much different when the state believes it might be or is going toward termination. At any point in a case the state looks for kinship (family) placements. I've noticed a more active search once the decision has been made about termination. So, the first thing is to determine if termination is the goal. The second is to determine if there are any family members. Depending on how long the case has been going on, by 6 months in you have a good sense of what family members are there and maybe interested and when there are no qualified kinship placements. That's not to say someone won't "pop-up" but certainly you have an idea of the family structure. Usually, but not always, when there are interested kinship placements they have come forward participating in conferences, hearings, and often times visits. That is not always the case, but in my experience has been true.

So if and only if they've exhausted their resources trying to identify kinship placements does the case go toward an adoptive placement with a non-relative. Almost always, the foster parent gets first choice because they have had the next-longest relationship with the child and that is presumably better than moving the child to a stranger's home. Depending on where the case is with termination, if the foster parent chooses not to adopt they will either place the child in an foster-to-adopt home (usually prior to termination) or they'll place the child in a pre-adoptive home (post termination and appeals). Ideally, this will be their last placement.  Here's a good post on the risks of foster care adoption.

Specifically, I've outlined our cases below, including the outcome, the time we thought we knew the outcome, and when we officially knew the outcome.

Case #      Outcome      Placement      "thought we knew"      Official Notice     Notes

1              Termination        Kinship           within 4 weeks                about 5 months       Moved to kin @ 2 mo
2              Reunification       Parents          4 months                         5 months               Terminated after return
3              Termination          US!               2 months                        7-8 months             to be adopted...
4              Moved Homes - only had for 2 weeks but expected termination - who knows...
5              Reunification      Parents          1 day (6 months)           4 mo (10 months)       Still with us

 I don't know if that helps. I think we've had a good feeling about most cases within the first few weeks and were typically right but every single case has had twists and turns so that even though our first guess has usually been right it has never been a clear path to get there. Even with case #3 even though we are currently the sole consideration in her adoption and we did the homestudy last night, something could happen where that plan changes and we have to be prepared for that.

Bottom line, until the judge signs the final judgements and adoption decree (when necesary), no one knows how the case will turn out.
I'm going to wait to address the "how did you know when you wanted to adopt" question in another post because it really has a whole different set of criteria that are only partially impacted by the way the court case is going.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Thankful Thursday - Expertise

Though I'm not always great at it, I try to live my life with gratitude.  I've been fortunate enough to have learned pretty quickly in my life that when trouble comes and pain hits it will eventually turn into a great opportunity to minister to others.  This has helped mie a ton as I've gone through my share of troubles, almost everytime something major has hit my life I've been able to immediately recognize the "new expertise" that God is developing in mie and that in and of itself has made the pain easier to bear.  Not easy to bear, just easier.  Faithfully, as soon as I start to get through the initial torment of pain people start popping into my life who are going through the same thing, usually a few steps behind me in the journey, and I'm able to love and guide them from a "been there done that" kinda place.  It's almost always more comforting to talk to someone who has experienced what you're experiencing and survived than someone who has no direct experience in what you're going through.

I'm so grateful for the big things God has brought mie through - the infertility, marriage troubles, deaths - you know, all the big stuff.  But I'm also grateful for the little things too.  Those small challenges I've gone through that have made life a little bit more challenging but certainly more rich on the other side. 

And so today I have another opportunity to share with you an expertise through a guest post on my girl Brit's site - Living With 3 Boys of Our Own.  Check the post out here and give my sweet friend some love.  There's even a contest you can enter...

Maybe, just maybe, the torment I've gone through in cleaning up enormous amounts of vomit has turned into an expertise that, though I would have never asked to get the merit badge, can turn into something that helps all of you out in your time of need.

Have a great day folks.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Working Mama Wednesday - New "Job"

Because I don't do enough and have way too much free time on my hands, I've decided to volunteer as a community leader for ivillage.  I was a community leader for the message boards over there back before my son was born, but that was a long time ago.  I have some life-long friends that I developed from my days on those boards, and now I'm ready to get back into the message board scene. 

Join me over at Foster Parenting at ivillage.

In all honesty, I headed over to the boards looking for more folks to "socialize" with who share an interest in foster parenting.  When I arrived, I found they didn't have a CL and in the back of my head thought maybe one day I'll volunteer if the opportunity arose.  Sure enough, a few weeks have passed and I'm now officially the community leader and I'm super excited to be able to share and help lead that board. 

If you're interested in foster parenting join us won't you?

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Logan's First Day of Kindergarten

 Monday, August 22nd, was Logie's first day of Kindergarten.  Wow - I can't believe how he has grown and that he is ready for kindergarten.  I had been eagerly awaiting his first day of kindergarten, prepping him for being a "big boy" and starting real school.  He kept telling me he wasn't ready yet, but then as the day arrived he was so happy to go to kindergarten.  He was a little shy, but probably more because I was making such a big deal about it than anything else. 

See his uniform?  He loves wearing the uniform.  He's a big boy now and gets to wear the uniform that the big boys get to wear.  We (I) had so much fun shopping for them and trying the different sizes on.  When he finally had the whole outfit on with the right sizes - oh I wish I would have taken a picture - he was so happy and proud of himself.  I wish I could capture that moment forever.

The night before school we didn't arrive home from our trip to California until around 9pm.  By the time we got settled and all the little kids to bed it was 10pm.  Surely this was not ideal on the night before the first day of school, but we did the best we could with what we had.  He took a shower and got all spruced up.  He shaved and brushed his teeth and combed his hair before bed.  I told him I'd iron his uniform so there wouldn't be any wrinkles.  He told me he was going to look great for kindergarten.  I agreed.

Before he went to bed he told me that he was going to wake up early and brush his teeth and then wake me up.  That was at 11pm.  I know he was awake still at 1am.  I also knew that he wouldn't be waking up as early as he thought he was.  (I on the other hand had to wake up really early to take #7 & #8 to school in time for a visit). 

On his first day of school I would have liked to have made him a big yummy breakfast but because of said visit I didn't have time to do that.  Instead, I made him a great big bowl of sugary cereal and had him eat before getting dressed.  I sat with him and talked.  Daddy woke up (after only a few hours of sleep) to share the morning with us and admittedly I was probably more excited than anyone but Logie was certainly excited. 

Logan's cousins stopped by to see him and to say hi to grandma mom before their first days of school.  One of them was starting intermediatte school - what a big boy.  Logie wasn't dressed in his uniform yet so they didn't get to see him but he was able to see that his big boy cousins wore uniforms too.  So he promptly got dressed and boy was he so handsome.  We took a few pictures at home before heading out the door on our way to kindergarten.

Logie is attending private kindergarten because he's not quite old enough to start in public school.  This of course just means I will have to figure out how to get him into public 1st grade next year, but that appears to be easier than entering kindergarten early.  This has its good and bad sides.  It wasn't quite as big of a deal for any of us to have him start kindergarten because he's not at a new place - he's at the same place he went for pre-K.  He and I had both met the teacher before and he knew where his classroom was.  He also had a friend of his going into kinder with him, so it made the transition much easier.  On the other hand, we missed out on the whole public kindergarten send-off.  I'm not sure if that's good or bad.  Either way I tried to treat it just like if he were entering public kindergarten.  We took lots of pictures, walked him to his class, showed him around his classroom, found his name everywhere, found his seat, and talked to the teacher for a little bit.  I think this all made it more of a celebration.  Despite this being Tuesday's Tears I didn't actually cry.  I'm just so proud of the little guy.

Because grandma mom had driven back with us from California, she was able to be here for his first day and happily went along for the ride.  And, we got to get this picture too.  That worked out well :)

I couldn't wait to pick him up from school yesterday.  Unfortunately it was later than I would have wanted, but nevertheless it was still just as joyous.  He ran to me and jumped in my arms like normal.  I love that.  Then we talked about his day and I greatly enjoyed his willingness to share with me.  He learned new "big boy and girl" rules.  He learned about lines on a paper and how we're supposed to use them to help us write.  (He was amazed I knew that - he said "were you there the whole time?" I just saw the chart paper with the notes on it ;-) ).  He drew us a picture with writing on it.  He only got in trouble once for not being quiet during story time. 

Now I'm nervous about what will happen next year - really nervous.  But I know it will work out in the end and I'll figure out next year's plans later.  Right now I'm just enjoying my kindergartner.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Impending Goodbye

So much happened over the last week.  I need to catch you up on all of it.  But I also have to catch-up on a lot at work and home too, so I'll have to do some of it over time.  One such example - Little Miss decided that she wanted to and could climb out of her crib.  A lot.  Thankfully so far she hasn't learned to climb out of her crib at home, but we'll need to start thinking of converting her crib to a toddler bed - or maybe not...

Mid-week last week we had a special permanency conference for #7 and #8.  I had to attend by phone because I was out of state attending my uncle's service, but at least I was able to attend by phone and hear what was going on.  Based on previous conversations with folks in the case I expected this conference to result in a discussion about termination and long-term plans, either with us or elsewhere.  Instead, when one attorney said something to the affect of wanting return-to-monitor but "the state won't agree to that", the state responded by saying "actually we will". 

I'm glad I was on the phone.  I'm sure the look on my face wasn't pleasant.  I'm glad I was able to process that in a locked room by myself without having to control my reaction.  I was shocked.  Return-to-monitor typically means the children will return to the people who they were removed from (usually mom and dad) but the state will remain involved in the case.  Depending on the issues in the case, that might mean frequent visits from the caseworker, random drug tests, counseling, etc.  In some cases this is the first step toward reunifying the family before dismissing the case.  In other cases, this is a chance to let the parents screw up for themselves when the case isn't quite strong enough to go for termination.  I know - that sounds horrible and as a foster parent it's almost unbearable to know that you could be returning your children to a place where it's expected they won't receive good enough care.  I'm glad  I know they do that though because it helps to make more sense of the system when kids are returned home when it doesn't seem like they should. 

I don't know what the intention is, overt or hidden, with this case.  I have to choose to believe that no matter who in the state is in control, how good the parents are or are not, and how I think it will help or hurt the kids, God is in control and he loves them more than I or anyone else ever could.

I have a fear about the end of this case that I think will make it much harder than any of the previous cases.  I am so unbelieavably afraid for how this will affect the kiddos, especially #7.  As I thought through his case and what I know about his history, I realized that in at least 3 of the 4 years, he has had no more than 6 months of life in any one place with any one set of parents.  He's really struggled with learning what "home" means.  We had conversations for weeks about the difference between "visiting" and "living" because to him they were the same.  He struggled so much with the concept of home and where he lived.  Every night I'd spend about 20 minutes talking with him at his age-level about who is in his life, where he lives, where he'd like to live, and his feelings about it all.

At some point he got the idea that he wanted to have our last name.  We had been talking about Little Miss's adoption for a while and changing her name and I think he picked up on that.  Of course then I mentioned that if he had our last name, he wouldn't live with his family anymore and he struggled with that.  He wanted to be a part of our family and a part of his family.  Who would blame the poor guy.

At some later point - around the time his attorney visited last - he decided that he no longer wanted to live anywhere but with us.  He wanted to live with us.  When he would say that I'd remind him that he loved his mommy and daddy and they loved him and that living here with us meant he couldn't live there with them.  He has since consistently said that's what he wants, but that he wants to visit them.  I know he looks forward to his visits and I know that he loves being with his parents so I'm guessing if they have their act together enough for the state to send him (and his sister) home that he will eventually be ok with not seeing us anymore.  That being said, right now stability in his life is so important and it feels like there is a no win situation.  He has learned to trust that we will provide for his needs and give him a safe loving home.  The idea of leaving our home makes him anxious and upset.  We've taught him that when we go (to work, etc.) that we will always come back.  We've taught him we will take care of him as long  as he needs us to.  We've taught him that we love him and that he's important.  Now, he's facing leaving and never coming back. 

We have anywhere from 2-4 weeks to prepare him for what's in-store.  I could spend that time not doing anything and then that last day just saying goodbye and "shocking him" with "sending him away".  Or, I could spend that time preparing him for what's to come, which inherently means that I tell him he will be going away and not coming back (in age appropriate language) and getting him used to the idea.  I prefer the latter.  I think that will be better for him.  I can be there for him by helping him in the transition.

The problem is, I started by asking him about what he thought about living with his mom and dad.  He got very upset and said no, he lived here and that he wants to visit but he wants to live here.  I asked him how he felt if he could go live with his mom again (trying to make it an exciting and happy thing) and with his verbal and non-verbal reactions it was very clear that he was getting anxious at the idea.  He was very much against it.

I think this is going to make this one of the hardest send-offs yet.  I don't have a relationship with the parents yet to try and make the transition smoothe.  I get the impression that I'm part of the enemy to them.  I don't think the idea that he wants to stay here would make them like me anymore.  If sending him home is the right thing I want to do it, but I want to make it as easy as possible on him and I just don't know how to do it in this case.  I'm going to send him home and just have to hope and pray that he will be getting what he needs going forward to adjust.  I'm going to have to live with the knowledge that he will feel at least temporarily that I abandoned him, that I didn't want him here, that he wasn't welcome as part of our family, that I too have failed him.

I hope that his parents do a great job and realize how difficult this has been not only on them but also on their kids.  I hope that they can be strong parents that can quickly meet all of his needs in the transition and that he quickly learns to trust them and be healthy there.  I really, really hope that it works that way. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Update - I'm still alive!

Hi folks - thanks for trying to keep up with me.  I just haven't been able to blog much the past few weeks.  Between recovering from vacation and simultaneously processing my uncle's death and preparing for his service, blogging just hasn't been an option.

My uncle's service is tomorrow.  I'm nervous about it - I'm going to have to face reality.  I'm not sure how it will all turn out.  I hope it's a good day and brings some sort of closure for our family.  After the service we'll spend time as an extended family, sleep for the night, and then take off on a car ride back home - 22 hours in the car with 5 kids and my mom.  Should be fun as long as they don't bicker constantly.  I'm praying for a peaceful trip.

In other news - we had a permanency conference for #7 & #8 this week.  I had to participate by phone because I am out of state.  To my surprise, they decided it was time to return the kids home to their parents.  We will begin that process and transition them home over the next few weeks.  I don't know the full sequence of events or dates, but we do expect them to leave our home around the beginning of September.  We're still processing how we feel about that - there are certainly mixed feelings I'll blog about when I'm back.

I'm also discussing a potential new job opportunity - hmmm....

My son starts kindergarten this next week.  I'm so proud of him.  We bought his uniforms this week and when he tried them on he was so happy.  I'm sure I'll take lots of pictures of his first day.

Ok...please don't give up on my blog just yet.  I'll be back in full action soon God willing!

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Tuesday's Tears - Goodbye Uncle Ken

In case you were wondering, our vacation was great!  We had a blast at Sea World and managed to not lose any of our 4 children and none of them (nor us) were sunburned by the end of the trip despite the 105 degree weather.  It looks like we found somewhere to do mini-vacations for the next year which will put our free vacation passes to good use.  We even managed the long car ride down there without any vomiting.  YIPEE!

On our way back home we received horrible news.  My sister called to tell me that my Uncle Kenny had been murdered.  This is one of my parents' nine brothers - the youngest brother on my dad's side.  In the beginning, all we knew was that he was murdered on vacation oversees.  As the night progressed we quickly learned more.  I'm not going to go into the details in part because none of us know exactly how it all happened, but we know enough to know that it wasn't a completely random act of violence.  It was a crime of passion.  I'd like to think most murders are senseless and unnecesary, but this is certainly one of them.

Our family is devastated to learn of my uncle's death, particularly given the circumstances.  It makes it much more difficult in that it happened on the other side of the globe and no one involved is familiar with that country's legal system and furthermore, it's just plain far away.  Though the officials have been generous in talking with the family as much as they can, it's still difficult to get the answers the family is looking for if for no other reason than the time difference. 

Truthfully, "answers" won't make it better.  Maybe it will help fill in some of the details of how this came about for some and for others might bring a sense of closure, but none of it will bring him back.  None of those answers will help turn back time and make this all go away.  We'll all have to process that over time.  Hopefully we can all come to peace somehow with his death and trust that God's justice will be served.

I haven't really been able to process it.  I've teared up a bit but I haven't cried.  In part because I always have my kids around and though I'm not afraid to cry in front of them I also felt the need to be strong until I had more details.  Weird I know.  I needed to process how I explain this to them.  I didn't want to take away from our good vacation and leave this memory in their hearts - associating Sea World with his death and all.  I'll break down soon I'm sure. 

One of the things my family is trying to do is honor his memory by living well including making good life choices and moving forward in enjoying life to its fullest. I had planned to take our oldest son Logie to the water park on Friday because he had to put off a lot of "big boy" things because we had the babies at Sea World - we continued with that trip. My nephews birthday was on Friday as well and my parents had planned a big beach trip for them and some other family - they went forward with that celebration. Life needs to be celebrated and though we may need to take time to mourn he would have also wanted people to enjoy their life. I'm confident that he would have wanted us to spend time with our son at the water park that day and that he would have supported my dad taking his grandson to the beach. Our hearts our sad but one of the best ways to honor his memory is to continue to live even though, or especially because, he can't.

Then there are those that are struggling with or recovering from substance abuse. Thankfully, I never walked that path. I've never even tasted alcohol. My Uncle died on his 21st birthday - his sobriety birthday that is. Sobriety is something he and my dad shared. My dad took his 25th cake on Christmas last year. The last communication from my uncle was a post to facebook with his 21st chip - because of the time difference when I woke up he had already had the chance to attend a meeting to take a cake on his birthday. Actually, by the time I woke up he had already died. I mourn the opportunity to have congratulated him for his 21st birthday - but I have to realize that I didn't have the chance. So, in his honor, donations are being made to Alcoholics Anonymous, the organization he supported and supported him in achieving and maintaining sobriety.  In his memory - can you take a moment to pray for those who are still suffering with alcoholism or substance abuse?

Social media has been amazing as it was when my dad was injured.  Thankfully, the family knew before the word was out on social media, which has been a blessing.  We were able to connect and talk and grieve together though many of us are spread apart.  We were able to do so in a private forum which is quite important in this type of a situation where we want to be able to be a family and talk as a family without worrying about the media (this is a media heavy story...).  We were able to create a memorial site to spread the word to extended family and friend who we wouldn't have otherwise known to contact and, maybe even more importantly we were able to ask them to share their memories and now have quite the collection of stories of people and the ways my uncle touched their lives in a positive way - things we would have never known about.  This has really helped in our grief. 

We will again be traveling soon to attend a family service out-of-state.  I'm grateful I can go.  This will be complicated with the less-permanent placement I have but I'll figure it out.  It is very important to me that I can go and my family is as together as it can be.  There will be a gaping hole, but we will try to honor his life as best we can. 

I had the opportunity this weekend to get together with a cousin of mine who is like a brother to me but I haven't seen, that I can remember, since I moved away from my family 7 years ago.  It was so good to see him and I'm glad we made it happen and that one of my best friends happily watched my youngest kiddos so we could go catch up late into the night.  I'm glad she doesn't hate me that I was really late.  I hope we can catch up more when we go to the service and we have more family there.  I'm really looking forward to this as it is way overdue.  I wish it were under better circumstances.

My request of you all today is to call the folks you love and tell them you love them.  When you say goodbye to folks, remember that it very well might be the last time.  Don't live in fear - enjoy life - but try to be cognizant of mortality on Earth and the fleeting nature of natural life.