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Chasing a Fool’s Gold!

I have this picture in my head a fantasy, if you will. The boy’s mom and dad live close by, they have jobs, car and their own place. Most importantly, they are drug free and sober! They come over and have dinner. They are helping with homework and reading bedtime stories. I sit close by supervising and cleaning up after dinner.  On the weekends we enjoy family outings to the park or pizza and a movie at home. The boys snuggled up feeling loved, secure and whole as a family.

When I first took custody of the boys, it was to be only a few months; the kids would be stable and prove to the state they were capable of providing for the boys. I believed in the kids to ability to “get it together.” Well, that didn’t happen and their parental rights were terminated. I was chasing a fool’s gold.

I began the process of adopting the boy’s. I realize that the above fantasy is not the American normal. It would be the best we could do under the circumstances. I had hoped the kids would be ready to start integrating back into the boy’s lives. We had long discussions on what my expectations were. What behaviors would and would not be tolerated. I described in detail what I saw for our future. The kids readily agreed they had the same dream and goal. We had a countdown to adoption. The kids had stumbled a time or two, but they bounced right back up, determined to be ready to be regulars in the boy’s lives. Adoption came and went, and I am still chasing the fool’s gold!

After adoption, I still was not confident enough to allow my boy’s alone time with mom and dad. I encouraged the kids to accompany us while I readied my 7 yr. old for first grade. Making short little day trips so that we could do things as a family. I would take dad with us as we ran errands on the weekend. I popped by during the week to ensure all was well and they were striving towards our goal. Things looked good, but didn’t tell the whole story. I still thought it was possible to have the real gold, a whole family, not fool’s gold!

Last night, I was just blown away! I call the kids, as I do every couple of nights or so. I could tell by the way they sounded that they were not sober or drug free! It is the worst I had heard them sound in quite a while. I hung up and put the boys to bed and then proceeded to cry. This morning, my heart is still heavy. I thought we were making progress. I feel like I am back to chasing the fool’s gold!

I understand that addiction is an ugly creature. I understand that there will be slips and stumbles before a true recovery. I also understand that these kids have made great progress considering where they were 2 yrs. ago.  I also know that God can deliver them from addiction. I also know that my Lord is bigger than any desire to get high.

The kids need to cry out to God when the desire to get high invades their minds. Is this all easier said than done? You betcha! I understand that as well.

Today I feeling that it might be best for the boy’s if I distance us from mom and dad. At least for today, I am tired of chasing the fool’s gold.

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A Mom’s Loss Multiplied Equals Grief Squared.

Guest post by  Nita B. Haug-Zyph

I remember when I lost my mom to cancer I was positive the pain could not be matched unless it was from a death of one of my own children. At that time, my kids were 12 and younger and little did I know I would suffer the pain of the loss of my child and my child’s loss as well. The loss is not to actual death; instead it is to addiction and not one of my children but 3 of them. Looking back, the death of my mom was much easier to bear.

I don’t believe there is a worse pain as a mom I could suffer than the addiction of my children and what addiction has done to not only them, but their children as well. The children I knew died with the first drink that first snort, that first needle. The death of my children as I knew them started slow, gaining momentum as the addiction dug in and took hold and then took over.

As a parent we can help our kids fight things such as cancer, diabetes and so much more but when it comes to addiction, it’s a fight I’ve learned I am unable to fight. The heartbreak of not being able to help my kids through a disease that will be the biggest battle of their lives is in itself enough to bring me to my knees. All I can do is pull the tough love card, learn to say no and be consistent in letting them know it’s their story, they can tell it how they want, but I don’t have to, and won’t, believe it. The pain of their addictions is unbearable, watching their lives spiral downhill at a speed that left me in the dust for longer then I care to admit.

Then the reality hits and that reality is my grand-kids. I have 13 grand-kids, four of which I am raising, 2 that other grand-parents are raising and 5 being raised by mom’s that wised up and left my grand-kid’s dad, (my son). That makes 11 of my grand-kids not being with one, or both, of their parents due to addiction. No, honestly no. I’m not bragging. I’m crying. I’m embarrassed. I’m crushed. I’m full of guilt. I’m angry. I’m ashamed. I’m stressed. I’m terrified. I am so much more which would take up pages to get out. I am feeling the worst pain I’ve ever experienced in my life, the loss of 3 of my kids and their loss of their kids.

On top of those losses so deeply and painfully felt, is the equally soul sucking anger. Anger at myself for not being able to stop the addiction. The anger at my ex for setting the example of addiction. The anger at my kids for doing this to themselves. To their children. To me. The anger at lives lost, lives changed, lives scarred forever. The anger which had me hating. The anger that made me want vengeance. The anger that wanted to instill even more anger and hate in my grand-kids. The anger that wanted me to totally and completely take the grand kids away from the two people in their lives which regardless of how much or what has happened, these innocent gran-kids still love, their parents.

These last 18 months of my life have been the most challenging, life changing, thought and emotion provoking months of my entire life. I realized one day I was grieving for my loss, empty nest, fun with my Honey and friends, do as I please when I please, adult only life, and grieving hard. Yes grieving, all five stages of it. The denial and isolation. The anger. Bargaining. Depression. Acceptance. I’m positive the only stage I have made it through is denial and isolation. The rest of them I bounce back and forth with, in and out or even at times, getting brave and battling 2 or 3 at a time. The one I haven’t touched on yet is acceptance. Getting to this point of realizing I was going through a normal process due to such a major change in my life is what put me on the path to working my way through whatever stage or stages I am battling with at the moment. Unfortunately for me, anger is the stage that has me in its grip the tightest and I battle daily to not let it have my soul, nor the souls of the four grand kids in my care.

It’s only been the last 6 or 7 months I started to realize the importance of roping in the anger and realizing for my own souls peace and that of the four grand kids who regardless of what has happened, love their parents and need, plus deserve, to know their parents love them very, very much and understand addiction is thinking for their parents right now. I also came to understand that I too love my daughter and my other two who are battling addiction, very, very, much. If I didn’t I wouldn’t keep the hope alive. I wouldn’t hurt. I wouldn’t fear. I just wouldn’t, but I do and do very much.

I also know regardless of what other’s believe and say, my kids love me very, very, much. I want and need peace. The kids want, need and deserve peace. We all want to understand. We all want to make sense of what is breaking our hearts, ripping our families apart. Causing so much chaos. ADDICTION!

Focus on and learn as much as possible and teach about addiction to the kids. Help us all understand. Even the youngest one can get it to an extent and the understanding will grow with age. I think I finally get it, now it’s time to move in the right direction, work with it and get rid of the fear that breeds anger which poisons our very soul.

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ADOPTION OR PERMANENT GUARDIANSHIP?

Adoption or permanent guardianship?

Adoption or permanent guardianship? When faced with these two choices, it can be a struggle. Of course you want is best for the grandbabies, but there are so many other emotions that are happening at the same time!

In my case, the babies had been in foster care for two years and I was the sixth placement. Their parents had those two years to prove to the state that they were responsible, drug free, stable and able to provide a safe, loving home for their boys.  The states stipulations were not met, so as grandma, I was given the choice to adopt my boys or be granted full guardianship. The state already knew I would not allow the boys to go up for adoption to non-family members.

My next decision had to be between adoption and guardianship. I didn’t even know the difference at that time.

The adoptive parent(s) is/are given all the rights and responsibilities that once belonged to the birth parent(s) Adoption is a permanent, lifelong, legal, relationship.

A permanent guardian is given legal responsibility for the child and assumes the rights of care, custody, and supervision of the child. The court makes all decisions regarding the permanent guardianship, but the birth parent(s) can request that the permanent guardianship be vacated and that the child be returned to their care. http://www.nrcpfc.org/

I fought with choice internally and spoke with my support system I now had in place. I wanted my boys to feel safe, secure knowing they were with me forever. That grandma would always be there to protect and care for them.

I will admit I was angry with their parents for not “getting it together” for taking away my right to be the fun loving, spoil them and then send them home grandma. They robbed me of the occasional sleep overs with popcorn and movies and picnics and fishing. Allowing me to be totally exhausted and let their parents deal with the sugar highs! Mad about being a parent a second time. Dealing with homework, potty training, summer activities, day care, time-outs and groundings.

Devastated, it feels like I am giving up on their parents. Giving up on the chance that the baby’s parents will grow up. take responsibility for their boys. Be able to help with homework, get dinner, baths and read bedtime stories. Taking away their opportunity to become full time parents. I know they love their boys, of that I have no doubt.  I believe that Jesus did much more than die for our sins, he came to restore us. God is the God of second and third chances. He forgives us, he restores us. Jesus can take that person that everyone has given up hope on, turn their lives around and use their testimony to glorify HIM. Was I in essence giving up on the grandbabies parents?

I was afraid that I would always be looking over my shoulder! The “kids”, or anyone else that decided to come out of the woodwork, at any given time, could challenge my guardianship. That would once again place my boys in a state of insecurity and limbo. Not to mention the financial hardship of hiring attorneys to ensure the safety and stability of my boys.

I had to think not only about the now, but the future. The 1, 5 and 10 years down the road future. I had to stop and pray, think without emotion, change my road map for the future in different directions and came to the conclusion that adoption was the best choice for the boys and I.

The boys have gone through so much, moved around with their things in trash bags from place to place, feeling like they were not important.  Their “vacations” were rooms at a boys and girls home while foster parents had respite time. I was not going to have that kind of uncertainty in their lives any longer. They do matter, their feelings are important. Their safety, stability and peace of mind, body and soul and a place to call home are of the utmost importance.

Am I giving up on their parents? Not in any way, shape or form. In my mind, I am showing them how much I love them by adopting the boys. When they are stable, drama free, sober and otherwise show me they are responsible adults they will be able to visit, get dinner, and help with homework, baths and bedtime stories. While they will never have the 24/7 parenting experience with my boys, I am not counting them down and out. Jesus isn’t giving up on these kids and neither am I!

My now 7 year old, knows I am adopting them. He doesn’t understand the whole concept, but he does grasp the basics as well as a small child can. He knows that mom and dad will always be mom and dad.  Brother and he will always live with grandma, she will make sure they have their own room and beds, clothes, food and to make sure he goes to school. Grandma will be next to him to love and help him no matter what. He is excited to play in “all kinds of sports” ( grandmas not a sport person, guess I will learn) have sleep overs with friends, move in to a house with a yard and…… well, that is his idea of what adoption means and grandma intends to move mountains to ensure that her boys have all those things and more!

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Nobody Is Home

Ever feel that you have just had enough? Want to just run away from it all? Me too and then I do! In my mind’s eye, I am serving fresh fruit kebobs from my food truck on the beaches of Santa Barbara. Or I am watching my boys ride the waves on their boogie boards. Sometimes we are building a sand castle in the front yard of our little beach side bungalow with smiles so big it would light the entire west coast.

Then the boys’ arguing brings me right back home! I separate them and each in time out…again….again…again! By now I am so frustrated dealing with the impulsivity of 2 boys with ADHD, I can’t write, hunt for shops or even clean the house and the “screaming Mimi” starts to come out. I just have to take a breath, grab ahold of the first one I can get my hands on and put in my lap. Just rocking them and explain that grandma doesn’t like “screaming Mimi.” And play a quiet game of “what can I find at the ocean?” Or I have sat the little one on my lap and we rock singing “Jesus loves me”.

I have no doubt that it is the Lord speaking to me, reminding me to slow down. It doesn’t matter if there are dirty dishes in the sink and their room has toys all around! MS doesn’t meet my needs, my God meets all my needs.

These kids have been through so much and my 7 yr. old feels so deeply that when I fly off the handle, he moves to the corner of the couch, puts the tablet in front of him and tears roll down his face. My heart breaks and I go to him, tell him I am sorry, that I made a bad choice. Then we cuddle. The little one is running back and forth, getting in to everything he shouldn’t and only laughs when he is put in time out. I soon learned that behavior means he is just over tired and needs a nap.

I don’t have the patience or energy I had when my kids were small but my calling is to raise these boys to be men of God. That means I have to learn new ways to modify behaviors, help them heal and build their self-esteem. I have learned to say “when you….. That is a bad choice “and let them know what the consequence is for the bad choice. Instead of threatening to throw toys away if I have to clean their room. Now I reward a cleaned room with m & m’s. I decided it was time the 3 yr. old dressed himself. Instead, I was always in a hurry and I dressed him. So, he is more cooperative if I let him choose what he wants to wear, and let him wear it even if it is rain boots and mismatched clothes.

There are still behaviors we struggle with, like any normal household. The 3 yr. old interrupts when I am speaking. The 7 yr. old cries and begs to stay up when it is bed time. How to get them to pick up after themselves without constantly reminding them? I am always on the hunt for forums or articles that offer suggestions because there is a wealth of information that comes from other grandmas that are dealing with the same issues.

It wasn’t just the boys that needed behavior modification; I had to change my behavior as well. I am learning to stop and listen, observe and ask myself what am I doing that is so important that I can’t give the boys my undivided attention? The answer is usually “nothing”. I feel myself getting frustrated, I had to ask myself, not only what are the boys doing, but why are they doing it. Have I “caught “them making a good choice, and complimented them on it? I try to ask myself these questions before I get to the “screaming Mimi” point.

As with anything, if you fail to be vigilant with the new resolutions, the chaos begins to emerge again. We are all guilty of that one! Behavior modification is for the whole family, not just for the children.

I love my boys and now I couldn’t imagine my life without them with me. There are times, I need a mental vacation, and so when you look in my eyes and nobody is at home, I am on the beaches of Santa Barbara.

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God’s In The Room

I detest being woke up at 5:00 a.m. by anyone!  More often than not, my three yr. old grandson will continually tap me on the arm “gma, wake up time.”  I tell him to go back to bed, because it is night, night time as I roll over. He is persistent, slapping his hand on the bed, getting louder, “GMA, wake up time, I hungy!” I give up any hope of grabbing another hour’s sleep, turn on the TV to PBS cartoons and try and get in at least one cup of coffee before I start the day. I had stayed up late the night before binge reading!

After a day of taking care of my small grandkids, trying to do one more shop report, I try and do something nice for myself at the end of each day.  Previously it had been a bowl of ice cream on a regular basis; however, I really had to set that addiction aside. After not taking the time to feed my need to read, I visited the library and stumbled upon a series of books that I could not put down! I need to say this first and foremost; reading Dave and Neta Jacksons books has enhanced my spiritual growth. They are filled with faith, love, hope, forgiveness and these “people” are in situations that we face every day.

I couldn’t help myself! I had to finish the newest book Penny Wise by Dave and Neta Jackson.  In my new golden years, I get so busy, taking time to read the word or quiet prayer time is often done on the fly! Taking time to pray with others over their needs and mine is postponed because I am sure I will have more time next week. Yet God’s word says “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” (Matthew 18:20) 

Penny Wise is part of the Windy City Series where The Bentleys have moved to a new neighborhood and they are introducing us to their neighborhood. Let me tell you the Jasper family has me nailed! To busy trying to make a living to support the family, volunteering their time, frustrations mounting. I was hooked from the start. I wouldn’t read one chapter, nope, I had to binge and read five or six at a sitting. I had to find out where they veered to the left when they should have veered right. There were lots of “Yep, that’s me” and “I did that too” moments that this book truly inspired me to change the way I do some things. It was like the Jaspers were next to me as I jump from crisis to crisis in my life, questioning God and all that I believe. These are lessons I learned long ago, yet as people, we allow the day to day distraction of life to blur that in which we already know. These characters bring things back in to focus for me. With another book on the horizon, waiting not so patiently, I brought out my collection of the other Dave and Neta books.  They serve as a reminder, as things start to blur in one direction, to stop, listen, praise, pray and fellowship. Once you pick up one of their books, you will become a binge reader too!

Yada Yada Prayer Group series is faith based. As you begin to read, you get to know each character as if they were real people in your life. I identified with traits from each character. I grew to love these women and know that God had put them together for a reason. They are as different as miss matched sox but they fit together! As different as they are in life, they are equally in different places in their walk with God. I became witness to lives in the homeless shelter, heroin use, robbery and just plain old hurt feelings. While reading this series, my prayer life indeed improved. I began “talking” to God as if he is there in the room. The awesome worship team at church sings a song by Jesus Culture “You Won’t Relent” and the way the sisters learn to pray reminds me of this part of the song.

I don't want to talk about You

Like You're not in the room

I want to look right at You

I want to sing right to You

Jesus Culture - You Won't Relent Lyrics | MetroLyrics

Also being reminded, God inhabits the praises of his people, both in word and song(Psalm 22:3)

Like everyone else, when things happen and I ask God “why?” and I don’t hear an answer, The House Of Hope Series  is really a direct answer to that question. When a woman loses everything she has in life except the clothes on her back is a reminder that all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

As I watched Gabby learn to love God, piece back her life one step at a time, learning to hear God and be obedient to God that she truly realized God had a purpose for her life. So when I am having a solo pity party, I stop and dig back in to God’s word because he does have a purpose and if he laid out the plan all at once I surely would mess it up!

Knowing that addiction has reared its ugly head in many families as it has in mine, the Harry Bentley series is a reminder of (Roman 7:15 -24) where God has delivered Harry from an addiction, he doesn’t want to do it, yet he does! Harry is a gentle soul, marries a wonderful, talented, and in my mind’s eye, boisterous, large, formerly homeless woman. Together, they raise their grandson. The boy’s father not able to care for his son because of his own addiction is a story that hits close to home for me. Yet the love, hope and faithfulness of Jesus surrounds me as I devoured these books.

The Souled Out Sisters will have you laughing, crying and shouting out loud “Oh no they didn’t”. Watching two different churches, struggle separately with the roller coaster emotions. Then there is a new Christian, excited about serving the Lord, and jumping from one idea to the next guided by those more stable in their faith. Only to find out, nobody is immune to those struggles but how you bounce back is the answer!

What I have also learned is that prayer doesn’t have to be with those that you know face to face. I belong to several support groups on Facebook. Scriptures fly, prayer request made known, and there will always be someone there to pray for you and with you.

Prayer doesn’t just have to be a solitary, set time. Pray, every day, all day. Talk to the Lord constantly as if he is in the room. Because he is!

 

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The Power Of Prayer

Ever scream out to GOD in your own head?

“GOD PLEASE!” those were the only words you could say?

How about sitting on the edge of a chair, elbows on your knees, hands covering your face and tears streaming from your eyes.  The frustration so overwhelming that you couldn’t say anything else except whisper “God,please”.

Ever drive stressed or anxious? Eyes darting back and forth searching for a loved one, “Please God, please” were the only words running through your head like a ticker tape?  Me too!

Psalms 6 (NIV)

In my distress I called to the Lord;

I cried to my God for help.

From his temple he heard my voice;

My cry came before him, into his ears.

Having been married for 30 years to a controlling abusive man, I had long given up on prayer. After hearing the same degrading crud for so many years, I believed all his lies. Then something happened in my life that shook me to the core, emptied me and that my friend, is the best place, although it doesn’t seems like it at the time. Let me explain.

My husband ran an online business, as it turns out, the business was fraud! I wasn’t privy to all of the ins and outs; just those that he felt concerned me. I made bank deposits and did basic office work in addition to working. The business goes belly up and we move around a lot. My husband was arrested by the US marshals. I also then found out that I had a warrant for my arrest. I was scared, homeless, friendless, broke and seemingly no hope. My third day of running scared I came across a bible, flipping through the pages as I sat on a park bench in the “homeless” park I began to talk to God.

I am turning 50 yrs. Old, I had not prayed in years, I had no expectations and no hope and figured I had nothing else to lose. “GOD HELP ME,” I screamed in my head, wiping tears away. Still flipping through the pages I can’t move past Roman 13-1(Living Bible TBL) and I only remember seeing the first three words.

13 Obey the government, for God is the one who has put it there. There is no government anywhere that God has not placed in power.

Ok then, that was my answer. It was all going to be OK, they would see the mistake and I would be free to move on. It took me all day and the first two government agencies telling me I was wrong, there was no warrant. I had one place left, filled with confidence that I would receive the same answer; I begged a ride to the final office and again repeated my dilemma. I was told to have a seat and within three minutes an officer arrived with handcuffs! After a basic interview, the US marshal told me that they would get me up to see a judge and I could be on my way.  HOPE again, I had done the right thing. Only to find out the judge was gone for the weekend and I would be transported to the Jail. Handcuffed and shackled, I rode in the van with tinted windows, I didn’t know what to expect, and I had never been in trouble with the police.

Booked, showered with their disinfectant soap, dressed in jail garb hauling a mattress and other assigned belongings I was escorted to a cell. The only other occupant in the cell was a young girl straight out of the department of corrections, sitting cross legged on the bunk reading a bible. Few words were spoken between us except to be told I had to stop crying and an invite to a bible study.

I went to bed and woke up with tears silently rolling down my cheeks. Doing as I was told by the jailers, mindlessly staring at the TV. screen off in a corner alone. I hadn’t prayed again, this where it got me! My name was announced, summoning me to see an attorney, in response to earlier paperwork I had filled out. As it turns out, my new attorney was a bible believing, Christ following, woman of God. After our meeting, I began to talk to God again. Short, get me outta here, prayers. Jail is a scary place!

I was again handcuffed and shackled to return to court. I met with my attorney and we went before the judge to see how much or if there would be bail. After all, my husband was still in jail with no bail. I had a meeting with what seemed a skeptical young woman. She made it clear that she didn’t think I should be released. Turns out she had also met with my husband when he began this process. Meeting with my attorney afterwards, she began to prepare me for the fact that I would not be released. About that time, an officer came for me with a judge’s request to see me. The lawyer assured him we had just left the court room. “I was told to come get her” he said while putting me in the now familiar restraints.

With my face against the wall of the moving elevator, I once again began to pray “God, please let these charges be dropped.” Standing in front of the judge, he didn’t drop the charges but he did release me on my own recognizance. My attorney amazed, I began to inwardly to the happy dance “Thank you God.” I wasn’t in the clear, until I had a place to go, they were not about to let me out for fear that I would disappear. My spirit was then deflated. I sat on my bunk, begging God once again. As it turns out, the grumpy lady at the court arranged for my mother in-law to take me. Not an ideal situation, but I was allowed to leave. So after 3 nights and 4 days, I walked out of the jail and the beginning of my relationship with Christ.

I spent many hours holed up in a room, watching Joyce Myers, Joel Osteen, Marilyn Hickey and reading the word. My mother in-law decided it best if she interpreted the word for me as I was not able to understand it myself. Well, now I see the apple didn’t fall far from the tree! Don’t get me wrong, was thankful to not be sitting in a jail cell, I was thankful for the opportunity to study the word, but I began to see the connecting dots!

With numerous meetings with my attorney, it was best if I moved closer. So I began to pray about that need. From an unexpected source, I was able to move in to a room paid weekly. Sure I would find a job to move quickly. The grumpy lady showed up at my place unannounced, as was her job, and saw my bible I had been devouring. This lady went from an opposing force to an ally. Giving suggestions on where to look for work and guiding me through part of the process. Turns out she was a spirit filled woman of GOD!

I never did find work; I began packing what little I had, ready to be placed at the curb. Sure I was going back to jail because once again I am homeless. I took a break and stepped outside, pleading with God for a place to live. I saw birds taking a bath in a puddle of water and a peace came over me. If my father takes care of the birds, he will take care of me. Where was that, I know I just read it somewhere. I ran back in for my bible and found Mathew 6:26. I got up; ready to look for work but a quick stop at the library so I could check my email. There it was! My answer! A friend I wasn’t able to have contact with while I was married had wrote me back. She had a place for me to stay while I got back on my feet! “Thank you God”

I settled in to my life, found a church and a job and grew closer to God. My prayers were still about me and my needs. Yet God met those needs! He met my needs BEFORE I knew I had them. I knew I wanted a divorce, but had no idea how to go about it, couldn’t pay for it. Then one day while waiting for my court ordered counselor to come get me I spied a flyer. I took the number down and began the classes to file for a divorce pro per. HA, not so stupid now, am I? I said as I walked out of yet another court house after filing for divorce. I quickly repented for my haughtiness because I also know it was God that led me through this process. He gave me the desire of my heart! I was thankful, proud and yet oddly sad. After all, 30 years is a long time to be married, even if it was an abusive marriage. While waiting for the court date to finalize my divorce, I was convicted and sentenced for a crime that I did not knowingly commit. The only people present during my sentencing were my attorney and the former grumpy lady. She came to support me. I had prayed and prayed hard, began praying for the authorities that were involved, for wisdom to do God’s will. I was learning some lessons along the way! I was placed on three years’ probation.

I did go from job to job and began making donuts at 2:00 a.m. but I loved that job. Still not feeling settled I was sure God was calling me back home to California. I knew I could put my life back together in the sunshine state! I won’t say that venture failed, because I was able to help my sister move closer to family. I learned a lot about me and what I am capable of. I was still stuck in the “I” mode. I did return back home, found a great job, a cute little place to live, but I still wasn’t settled. God led me to find my son that I had not heard from in months. I drove 3 ½ hours to find him hanging in grave yard, high and homeless. Lots of prayers, from lots of people, my son accepted CHRIST. The struggles didn’t end there, but we began praying for the grandbabies to be placed in my custody until they could be reunified with mom and dad. The background check and process took forever because I was still on probation. Lots of prayer and claiming back what satin stole from my family, word came that my boys were coming home with me! Praise GOD! In the meantime, I had completed my probation! Praise GOD!

Well, reunification didn’t happen and I will be adopting my boys. I guess this where my blog “The new Golden Years “begins.

I can tell you that through all of this, I have learned the power of prayer, even the short, three word prayers said in moments of darkness and desperation. Things didn’t turn out in a way I could have ever imagined. I am learning to trust and believe that GOD has a plan for my life.  My desire is to be right where God wants me, when he wants me there doing exactly as he has called me to do.

God did meet me where I was at in life. Empty and without hope. He has taken me in his arms, loved my broken heart, and forgiven me of every sin, hateful word and unbelief. He is teaching me to trust him, listen for his voice, showing me daily what true love is. It is not about ceremony or being religious. It’s about falling in love with JESUS.

 

Ephesians 3:17-19 Living Bible (TLB)

 

17 And I pray that Christ will be more and more at home in your hearts, living within you as you trust in him. May your roots go down deep into the soil of God’s marvelous love; 18-19 and may you be able to feel and understand, as all God’s children should, how long, how wide, how deep, and how high his love really is; and to experience this love for yourselves, though it is so great that you will never see the end of it or fully know or understand it. And so at last you will be filled up with God himself.

 

 

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Unconventional

This isn’t as off topic as it may seem!

As I have posted previously, I lost my job when I wasn’t able to work 12 hr. shifts when I gained custody of the boys. I prayed for a new job, I pleaded; I filled out application, after application.  Things never seemed to work out between DFS visits, classes, the kids therapy and assorted other appointments, it didn’t help that I live in a small town either. I needed a job! And I needed one so that I could be home with the boys.

Then the Lord brought back to my remembrance what I used to do when my boys were small to get some extra income. Mystery shops, demonstrations, merchandising .I know, I know, I have heard it all.

“Not real, it’s a scam” “that’s not real work.” And I have heard the other end of the spectrum “fancy hotel stays and easy money, sign me up!” Yes it is real work and it is not a scam, you are not going to get rich and it sure isn’t easy money! Are there plum assignments? Sure but you have to move up through the ranks and prove yourself first. One word that can describe it is UNCONVENTIONAL!

Let me share just a little of what is involved. Please keep in mind that I have only been back at this for two months. Things have changed since I started MANY years ago. So I had to learn the ropes over again, building my reputation as a shopper. After all, I am not the same person I was then!

I live thirty minutes from the city, makes getting assignments tough! I don’t have the money to put out for reimbursement shops therefore I only can accept shops that don’t require money. Then there is the rotation cycle so that you are not “made” as the shopper. I said tough, not impossible!

I start by going through my daily list of company web sites, looking for shops available in my area. I keep a spread sheet with the shops, fee, and company link. I start accepting or applying for the jobs. I need at least three jobs to make it worthwhile to drive that distance.  Yesterday, I had four shops; the boys are in daycare and summer school. Off I go! First stop is a grocery store where I stop at every department and ask a question. Making note of the time, employee name and description and answer to questions I know are on the survey, Picking up a few needed items. I leave the store and take the picture if it is required. I make a few more notes, and then I am off to a department store to see if I am offered a credit card. When I leave the store I hide out and make my notes. I drive two blocks and visit a cell phone store observing the salesman’s technique. You guessed it, more notes and pictures! Now I drive towards home to keep my appointment at a car dealership. Leaving there I make a quick stop to make my notes and rush home so I can get started on the reports. I get one finished completely and I am half way done with the next and it is time to get the boys. Dinner, bath and books. Now I get to finish my reports! The reports are not just yes and no forms. Most like narrative as well. The narrative needs to be very detailed so that the reader feels like they were there. Sound fun? Still interested?

First off NEVER pay to be a shopper! There are hundreds of mystery shopping companies that are interested in a steady supply of dedicated, detailed and reliable shoppers. Shops can range anywhere from reimbursement only for a really nice dinner to a trip to the Cayman Islands.  Most jobs pay $10 – $20. If you hold a pass to get on to a military base or a badge for airports, there are jobs a plenty for you. There are multitudes of different types of jobs. Reveal rewards at amusement parks, fast food, casual dining, age verification, bowling, retail. You get the idea.

To get started, there are different writing samples companies will ask for. A recent dining experience, recent bad customer service and a recent retail experience. Those are the basic ones. Keep those stored in your word document so you can apply with companies faster.  Next, have a spread sheet ready with columns for company name, hyperlink address, when and how they pay. You will use this as you start applying.

Next stop should be the Mystery Shoppers Providers association. MSPA for short.  http://www.mysteryshop.org/shopper. You can find lots of answers to your questions here as well as certification. As of yet, I have not had the opportunity to be certified. As funds come in, this will be a priority. I would suggest at the very least, take a tour of the site and take advantage of the free membership. Here you will also find a list of companies to get you started, as well as the app that will deliver available shops to your phone.

Another valuable site is volition http://volition.com/mystery.html  there is a list of mystery shopping companies A-Z with a link to each of them. Some links may be outdated, just move on to the next one. The Daily site check list is the companies that I started signing up with. To date I have only signed up with 96 so I have a long way to go. At Volition there is IC tools, with links for free spread sheets, job logs, other ways to make money such as surveys. When you sign up you are NOT an employee, but an Independent Contractor. Thus accepting the shops you want and passing on the ones you don’t. There is also a section for merchandising companies, I haven’t even thought about these yet!

How do I get paid you ask? Most companies pay by pay pal or paper check. This information is given to you when you apply. Also setting up a separate e-mail is a good idea.

When, is an even better question! Each company is different, normally, 30 to 60 days after the shop. Let’s say they pay on the 25th of the month by pay pal every 30 days. If you completed a shop on May 1, you won’t be paid until the 25th of June. If that length of time is to long for you to have your money tied up, then you will need to think twice about accepting that particular reimbursement shop. If you are signed up with enough companies that have shops in your area, you do many, many shops a day, that’s when you will see your hard work start to pay off.

Apply, apply, and apply! Not all companies will have shops in your area, so make note when you find a company that does so you can check with them regularly.

Once you accept the assignment, read the guidelines carefully, read the survey forms so you know what you are looking for, take extremely detailed notes, write a brilliant report and be reliable.

If you happen to have some extra time, and want to pick up a couple more bucks, add assignments from these sites. You can download their apps and check them on the go. http://www.fieldagent.net/ and http://gigwalk.com/ .

Happy shopping.