Monday, September 08, 2008

A difficult end and a new beginning

Well...I suppose it is past time for an explanation as to why everyone I know got an email with my new address and no explanation.

On 4th of July weekend I was on the way home from a 6 week business trip to New Jersey. While there I worked 6 days per week and often put in 10 hours per day. It was hot, sticky, and no fun at all (except that I was 15 miles from Manhattan...which was fun). When I pulled in to the driveway after an 18 hour trip home Jay's car was gone. The grass in the back yard was 2 feet high. Haleigh (15) and Hunter (8) were in the house by themselves and the air conditioner was broken. It was 95 degrees outside and they had no fans to keep them cool except the ceiling fans in the living room and bedrooms.

I greeted the kids and noticed my book shelf was missing from the living room. When I asked Haleigh where the bookshelf went she said "Dad took it with him". I then asked "Where?" and she said "He moved out". The man left a 15 year old child to tell me he had moved out of our house AND left both of the kids in almost unbearable conditions. It was so hot in that house I took the kids to a hotel so we could at least have air conditioning. As it turns out, Captain Handy hadn't cleaned the filter in the furnace and all it took was rinsing it in the sink and replacing it for the air to work just fine.

Jay also left the clothes dryer and lawn mower broken. I had to hire someone to come in and cut the grass for me because it was ridiculously high. When I went to have my hair cut a few days later my stylist told me she knew Jay was going to be moving out because he had told her earlier in the week. He told her he was tired of being my day care provider and doing my chores for me. Funny...the last 5 years that I've been on the road and away from my family I thought he and I were working together for the greater good of the family. I thought all of the time I sacrificed away from home was for the good of everyone else and it was simply the price I had to pay for everyone else to be happy. Apparently...I thought wrong. I also discovered he had given away one of my dogs and both of my cats. He has still refused to tell me where they went and the only thing the kids know is that "Daddy found good homes for them".

With Jay's sudden departure I was left to care for the 2 children and couldn't work. My job was 100% travel and not to the scenic areas of town on most days. Haleigh and Hunter went with me to finish the last 2 small assignments I had but it bothered me to leave them in the hotel while I worked. Luckily for me I have some really great friends and got lots of help and support. I really needed it because none of the bills had been paid and Jay left a HUGE mess for me to clean up in the house.

3 very large dumpsters, 3 weeks (18 hours per day), and 3 dedicated workers (my dear friend Jeanette, Jay's daughter Columbia, and myself) and my house was finally empty. Just to give you an idea how bad it was...I threw away 42 empty laundry detergent/fabric softner bottles from the basement utility room. There were about 20 empty bags of cat and dog food lying around. I found 6 garbage bags full of used cat litter (which were no longer sealed) lying under boxes he had stacked in there just because he couldn't be bothered to put things away. In the utility room alone there were about 30 boxes of random 'stuff'. His idea of cleaning the house was apparently to take an empty box and clear all of the flat surfaces in the house into that box. In one of them I found an empty yogurt carton with the spoon still in it, 6 empty plastic easter eggs, a big swirly lolipop Hunter got at Disneyland 3 years ago, a handful of bills which had never been opened, and one of my shirts that I though I had left in a hotel somewhere plus a plethora of other items.
I had a massive garage sale which generated a good deal of needed cash and attracted loads of people with my signs alone. They were on bright green posterboard and said "He moved out...selling his stuff". If you ever have a garage sale I highly recommend this approach. It worked like a dream and it pissed Jay off to no end (which I merely considered to be a side benefit).






Myself, Jeanette, and her husband Steve in front of dumpster #1
Dumpster #2...full and ready to go (we filled this one in a day and a half)
The move to Cincinnati was a calculated one. There are 6 major metropolitan areas within 100 miles of here and if I have any hope on continuing my job it would be easier from here than from Quincy. The move had to be made quickly before my financial resources dried up and I have a dear friend here to help me. I had offers to go to Denver, Las Vegas, and California to stay with friends but here I'm in my own place and trying my darnedest to make a go of it on my own. Very soon I may fall flat on my face if I don't find some solid employment but at least I haven't done what Jay did and moved in with someone else right off the bat.

Hunter is settled in just fine. He handled the move well and has been really brave and pretty wonderful overall. We had to put Chrissy down when we got here because she just didn't make the move well. Physically it was time to say goodbye because she was in so much pain but it killed me to do it. Hunter and I went together and said our goodbyes. He did surprisingly well considering he has never known his life without her.

I found a great school for Hunter to attend. It is a charter school so it is open to everyone who wants to attend but is not considered private OR public. Their primary objective is to let children work at their own pace. If a child excels in an area they may advance in that area. It is not unusual at this school for children who are in 3rd grade (like Hunter) to be doing 4th and 5th grade work in reading or math. That idea really appealed to me along with the school's wonderful state testing scores. Hunter seems to like it a great deal and comes home happy every day. Our next step is to get him into soccer, cub scouts, 4-H or something else fun he can sink his teeth into and make some friends.

Jay also left his 18 year old daughter, Columbia, with few options. She was supposed to come and live with us to attend the college where Jay has been working but he told her (2 weeks before registration) that she would have to wait. I didn't find that to be acceptable so I went about finding her a place to live and used my garage sale money to pay one month's rent and my fridge to pay a 2nd month's rent. For helping me clean out the house (which was like being in a haz mat area in some of the rooms due to Jay's total long-term neglect of the housekeeping) I bought her a laptop to use for college. Next I got her registered for school and on the right path. She is now living with a friend of mine, working her first job (which she likes), and attending college full-time. Jay was so nice as to offer to take her to school every day for the low sum of $10 per week. Nice of him considering he works there and it is not out of his way to pick her up. She is really struggling with her relationship with him right now because he is treating her as if she made a choice between he and I and he was the loser. It's pathetic how he is acting like a child and his 18 year old daughter has to point this out to him. I only hope, for the sake of his kids, that he pulls his head out of whatever oriface he has it shoved into and does it soon.

That's pretty much it in a nutshell. I'm trying to keep things afloat without letting Hunter know how dire our situation is. He seems to understand that things are tight and we are watching our money. We moved into the same apartment complex as my dear friend Tom and have an arrangement with him that is working well. He buys the food and I make sure he is adequately fed on something other than take-out and 'bachelor cuisine'. At last check he was complaining I was doing it too well and he would be the size of a house come Christmas time. It has worked well for me considering Jay is giving me absolutely nothing in the way of support and I know I can count on him to continue with that course of action. Tom has stepped up and volunteered to make sure Hunter and I are safe, fed, and provided for as best he can. I hate the idea that I may be taking advantage of his kindness but I love him beyond measure for loving me enough to take care of my child and I, for being the kind of man I can respect, and for showing my son how it SHOULD be done.

No worries. I'm keeping my chin up. Every time I have a bad day I'm reminded that at least there was no funeral in the midst of this upheaval. My last 2 major moves were done around burials and I'm thankful not to be dealing with that this go-around. If you want the new address just shoot me an email and I'll send it. For now the phone numbers will remain the same.

Monday, May 26, 2008

She Made It!!!

Last Thursday we celebrated Columbia's graduation from High School. It is really hard to believe the time went so quickly and she is actually an adult now. We went down for the festivities, had lunch with the grandparents (and Jake...how could we forget Jake), and enjoyed being a part of Columbia's day. Here are some pix:

















Thursday, February 21, 2008

Newport Aquarium

As part of Hunter's birthday present he was given a choice between having a party and taking a roadtrip. He chose the roadtrip and we headed for northern Kentucky. One of Hunter's favorite places to visit is Newport Aquarium which is just across the Ohio River from downtown Cincinnati, Ohio. The aquarium has lots of swimmy stuff for kids to touch and a total of 5 different arches to walk through. When you are under the arches the sharks and stingrays are all swimming over your head! You can be standing there and watching one thing swim by and another will just show up right next to your head!
The other distinction Newport Aquarium boasts is their pair of sharkrays and the only sharkray breeding program in the country (and actually in most of the world). Hunter loves these guys and happily sat on a 6.5 hour car ride (one way) just to see them. This picture doesn't do them justice so you can always go to http://www.newportaquarium.com/ to check them out.














































It's easy to tell how happy Hunter is to be near stuff that swims by looking at the cheesy smile on his face next to this Wobbegong (carpet shark).















Haleigh loves to flirt and here she proves she can flirt with ANYONE! She says she would have given him her phone number but it would have been too wet to read!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Something helpful

For those of you who are having trouble deciding where your vote should go in the upcoming election I found something that might help a little...

www.harpercollins.com

This is a publishers website. They have a book available for online browsing called "The Undecided Voters Guide..." which lists each candidate in a nutshell. Helpful to me...maybe also to you.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Hunter's 8th Birthday

Hunter just turned 8! I can't believe he's that old! Yikes! Anyway, he had a fabulous day. Loads of presents and a cool cake. Here are the pix. In case you're wondering exactly what it is...Hunter is a Pokemon fan and requested a Pokemon jumping out of a Pokeball. Unless you have kids...Pokemon is going to be lost on you. Anyway, I used teh stuffed animal as a model. Hunter got to take his cake to school and show it off for his friends (which he enjoyed). A special trip is planned in lieu of a party so I'll be writing about that next week!


Thursday, January 03, 2008

Calvin and Hobbes Demented Snowmen Cake

For those of you who remember Calvin and Hobbes you'll love this cake. Every year I send people a selection of my favorite Calvin cartoons in which he has been evicted from his home for the day and spends it building demented snowmen. Each of the vignettes on this cake was taken from an actual Calvin and Hobbes snowman cartoon. As usual, except for the internal supports that keep some of the pieces vertical or 'together' everything is edible. I made everything except the larger snowballs (they are called dragees and are 'official' cake decorations). The cake was made for Columbia's darling boyfriend, Jake, on the occasion of his 18th birthday. No...my life isn't strictly about cake these days...it's just sweeter because of it!










































Sunday, December 16, 2007

Most Adorable Child in the World

I just had to post this picture of Hunter and his sisters. Haleigh is on the left. Columbia is on the right. We had some family pictures taken at Thanksgiving and this just happens to be my favorite! Isn't he adorable?!?! From the grin on his face you can see he likes to be the center of attention.

When I told Hunter I wanted to show this picture to everyone he was mortified! He told me if I showed his friends at school he was going to dock my paycheck for a week! Too funny!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Harry Potter cake

Here's the latest cake. Harry Potter theme done for my friend's son on his 11th birthday. The top part of the cake (the owl and the snitches) actually are motorized and rotate around the top of the broom. Everything you see here is edible and my father-in-law built a custom cake stand which can be fitted with an MP3 player and speakers. This cake played the theme from the Harry Potter movie. The cake is a stack of books with the broomstick resting on top. The broomstick itself is made of scuplted and carved gum paste then painted with food coloring. The broom straws are all made from modeling chocolate and were individually rolled and attached. The wand and cauldron are made of gum paste and the rat made of fondant. The cake was even edible! Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting. Yummy!




















This is a close-up of the broom and wand with Gryffindor house scarf wrapped around the books.







This is the a close-up of the quill, cauldron (which was later filled with cotton candy to simulate steaming potion), and Scabbers the rat peaking out from between the books. The quill is made of gum paste then painted with food coloring and is completely edible.

This is the part of the cake which rotated. The switch activated a gear box hidden inside the books and made the top part rotate to simulate the snitches flying around. I tried to make Harry fly after the snitch but he kept joining the headless hunt. A headless Harry Potter wasn't what I was aiming for so the 2 snitch arrangement worked out better.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Totally Awesome Ace of Cakes contest

October 20th I participated in a cake decorating contest which was judged by none other than Food Network's 'Ace of Cakes', Duff Goldman(http://www.foodnetwork.com/food/show_db or http://www.charmcitycakes.com/). The contest was part of a fund raiser for the Discovery Center Museum in Rockford, IL. A total of 60 cakes were entered with only 3 prizes to be had. Sadly, I didn't get one of those prizes, however would say I finished in the top 10. Not too shabby considering this is only the 6th or 7th cake I've ever made. Maybe I did so well because Hunter helped me with some of the bones.

Anyway, the rules were 1.) the cake couldn't be bigger than 24 inches x 24 inches (yes, mine was exactly 24 x 24), 2.) no heigh limit, 3.) must fit the theme of "Totally Awesome", and 4.) all exterior decorations MUST be edible. This was NOT your Mamma's cake decorating! Talk about 'non-traditional'!

Everything you see in the pictures is edible. If it is brown...it's chocolate so you can imagine how hungry we were having that thing in the car for transport! There was some pretty good competition and most of the people who entered were professional cake decorators with their own businesses. The grand prize winner had moving parts and lighted flowers in his cake. The 2nd place guy built a hot rod car which made noise, vibrated like it was running, and shot flames out of the exhaust pipes. I should have made mine motion sensitive so it roared when you walked past it. Good idea for next time!

The best thing about the entire experience was the lecture on Saturday. Duff critiqued each cake in the contest in front of an auditorium filled with 800+ people. When he got to my cake he suggested that everyone in the theater go and look at it because the detail was so wonderful. Excellent feedback and a huge ego boost for me, let me tell you!

Anyway, plans are in the works for the next cake I'm making. It will be Harry Potter themed for my friend's son's birthday and has already got sound and motion incorporated into the design. Now I just need to add some light somewhere and the boy will be the happiest 10 year old on the planet! I'll post pix when it's done.

Since the blog isn't cooperating tonight here is a rundown of the pix posted:
1.) General view of the cake just before we transported it.
2.) Close-up of the lower left corner
3.) Duff 'Ace of Cakes' Goldman signing autographs for Hunter and I
4.) Close-up of top layer
5.) Close-up of bottom front
6.) Close-up of upper left


























































Thursday, August 09, 2007

Cakes, Cakes, and more Cakes!

I've been blog lazy over the last few months so the updates are going to be out of order. Although I have lots of other things to add this one is all about cakes. I've been watching a show on Food Network called "Ace of Cakes" and have found I really enjoy making 3D cakes. My Mum always decorated cakes as does my Aunt Daphne and both have made some really great cakes in my lifetime. I've been unable to take the courses to learn about flowers yet but it's on my list of stuff to do. Anyway, these are the latest cakes...and by looking at them you can probably tell that I learned something new with each one (trial and error being the best teacher). Sorry I can't send a slice along with them!
Columbia got hunky construction workers for her cake. The guys are styled after the 2 main characters from the 'Ace of Cakes' show on Food Network. On this one I learned the importance of supports and using a dense cake to support my design. I suppose you can tell that by looking at the picture, though!



Haleigh loves Peeps marshmallow candies. She is also a BIG fan of the colour pink. During this cake's creation Haleigh completely avoided coming into the kitchen because she didn't want to see what the cake was going to be before it was finished. Happily for me, she was tickled pink!








The same wonderful hair stylist has been putting up with our entire famliy for more than 3 years. Her Mom wasn't going to be around to make her a birthday cake (for her 22nd birthday) and, as much as I hated to admit it, I'm old enough to be her mother. To me it only meant I should make her a cake since everyone deserves a cake on their birthday. I made sure to surprise her at work so she could show it off to her co-workers. Everything on this cake is edible...including the scissors and comb.

Monday, March 05, 2007

My birthday cake


Here's a quick shot of my birthday cake. It was just a quickie so I'll put some better pictures up later. Haleigh's birthday is next month so I guess you'll have to put up with another cake picture next month!

Monday, February 19, 2007

"Pupcakes"




Hunter helped me with these cute cupcakes and christened them as "Pupcakes". Mostly he helped with the eating and clean-up of any extra frosting. Still...it was fun. If I had my career to start over again I might consider opening a bakery or something like that. We'll see if I can rise to the next challenge of a penguin cake for my birthday!




















Saturday, February 10, 2007

Happy 7th Birthday, Hunter!

In January we discovered a new series on Food Network called "Ace of Cakes". It is a 'reality' show about a young man who started his own bakery and wanted to make 3D and sculptured cakes. While watching the New Year's Eve marathon of the show Hunter decided that I could make cakes of the same type...COMPLICATED! I argued for saving my sanity but he told me I could do anything I put my mind to.

After a small amount of questioning why, exactly, I had thought it important to teach my son HE could do anything he put his mind to...I decided to try being a role model for him and give it a shot. His first request was to make a cake which looked like a German Shepard. No way. I managed to convince him to try something else. Finally he decided he wanted a cake that looked like a snake about to eat a mouse. Unusual and, as it turns out, not impossible! Everything on this cake is edible with the single exception of the support I used to hold the snake's head up. Here are the pix:

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Ice and snow


We've had a bit of winter weather lately. It seems to hit on a weekend and last for a solid week before it warms up a bit. Here's a quick shot of the ice Jay had to break off his car a week ago. most of it is still on the ground as it hasn't been warm enough to get rid of it! Now we're back down to what the weathermen describe as "bitterly cold" so I suppose we're stuck with it for a while. Wish us luck and sunshine!!!


Friday, December 15, 2006

Pictures from this year



In front of Quincy's Bayview Bridge.


Turtle park near the zoo in St. Louis.


One of the "baby" whale sharks at Georgia Aquarium.
The smallest of the 2 is 15 feet long and still a juvenile.

Hunter and I in front of the Indianapolis
Children's Museum dinosaurs.

Gotta make time for cuddles!