Home Buying Without Anxiety Part 1: Finding the Right Real Estate Agent

Real estate. Part of the American Dream is home ownership. However, the  process of acquiring that piece of the American Dream can plunge one with anxiety deep into the covers of the bed-not wanting to come out till spring. Or at least till market prices decline. But I am here to tell you, you can go through the process of buying a home, without setting off your Anxiety Medical Alert bracelet (Sidenote: wouldn’t it be great if they made those?).

The very first piece of advice I’d give to someone in the beginning stages of home shopping would be to make sure you have a reputable real estate agent. Not only should they be licensed, they need to have the skills necessary to show you appropriate places. I offer my story:

Years before my husband and I were married, right before we were in the same town, we went home shopping. A friend of my now husband did real estate on the side, and we thought it was a good idea to have him show us one house that was available. Let me tell you about this house. It was h-uge (when the word huge is pronounced with two syllables it’s a big deal). Two stories with ten–yes that’s right–ten rooms, spacious living quarters, stained glass windows and, wait for it, a freakin‘ FIREPLACE! Yes, it was just the two of us, but our real estate agent explained to us that we could rent out the upstairs. I had visions of wonderfully warm Sunday dinners around the fire, laughing and inviting our friends over for popcorn and games. There was also a basketball hoop out back and I imagined our children playing hoops with their friends.

The above describes what we saw when we toured the house. In reality, there were holes in the floors, windows needed repair, appliances needed to be installed and in some instances, replaced. Oh, and I haven’t yet described the yard. Have you heard of the Amazon rain forest? That was the front yard, on a much smaller scale.  I don’t exactly remember everything our real estate agent said about the house, but one phrase stuck out to me so much that I’ve remembered it ever since. He confidently assured us that, “this house is NOT a lemon!” Ladies and gentlemen, any real estate agent worth their salt will never say this. Not only that, they won’t show you houses such as this unless you want a major fixer upper. If you come across an agent that utters this brain burning line, RUN!

Fortunately for us, we decided to email pictures of our future palatial estate to our family. We explained that we hadn’t bought the house yet, but fully intended to. Now, my oldest sister is not a phone person. Never has been. So I was shocked when she called me the day after we sent out our happy email. She wanted to make sure no money had changed hands and told me we needed to find a reputable real estate agent–one who makes a living at selling houses, not just sells houses on the side as a hobby. So we listened, abandoned plans to buy the Great Amazon Mansion of the Midwest, and went about finding a new agent.

So how can you know if a real estate agent is reputable? I recommend going to www.daveramsey.com and finding an agent through their Endorsed Local Provider link. Dave Ramsey is well-known in financial circles as someone who helps people get out of and avoiding getting back into, debt. Any Endorsed Local Provider in Real Estate is required to go through Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace course and knows how to help people understand their financial options. Through the ELP page, we were able to connect with an agent that called us back promptly and every step of the way, made sure that we only saw houses that were within our budget and included items on our dream list. We recommend her to anyone we know that is purchasing a house in our area.

Make sure you trust the person that is showing you houses. Taking this step will make the rest of the home buying process that much easier. Tomorrow we’ll cover writing your housing dream list and the importance of contingencies.

Remember you are never alone.

Cheers!

Advice From a Modern Princess Bride

Over the weekend my husband and I celebrated our “monthaversary”. Yes, we are that couple who celebrates our wedding anniversary once a month. Nothing big. Some months we just greet each other by acknowledging it and saying, “happy anniversary!” 

This summer we will have been married two years. As I thought about writing this entry last night, I realized I’ve really not done the whole married thing for too long, but wondered if enough time had passed to qualify me to give advice. I decided I’d do it anyway ;-). A sort of, “Here’s What I’ve Learned So Far” piece. So without further ado:


1. Keep your fights off Facebook: Ah, social media. Where you can go to find out what time that party starts, and what your best friend from kindergarten had for breakfast. Sometimes you can also find out what they fought about last night. In detail. Airing your arguments in a public forum such as FB undermines your privacy as a couple. Communicate with each other. If you have gripes with one another, it’s more productive to talk with one another, or go see a neutral 3rd party, than hash it out via social media.

2. Speaking of social media, if you or your spouse posts something on FB or another platform, and the other person objects to it’s content, push your pride aside and delete it. It’s not worth upsetting your spouse to stoke your own ego or to get a laugh.

3. Keep date night sacred: Make sure you are spending regular time together as a couple. Only postpone this time if there is an emergency such as a death in the family or one of you is sick.

4. Pray for your spouse daily: My husband is the one that works full-time for us. In a job that brings with it daily risks. Praying for his safety and stamina every day is one thing I can do to encourage and bless his day.

5. Sex: Ok this is a biggie. Especially if you are a follower of Jesus and waited to have sex till marriage. As a child growing up in the church, all I heard about sex was that, while a wonderful thing, not to do it till I was married. But the one thing no one tells you is once you are married, there is this unspoken pressure to consummate your marriage. Much like flipping a switch, you are expected to go from virgin to post virgin in a split second. I’m here to tell you, it’s not that easy. It can be disappointing to realize sex isn’t as natural as society tells you. If you don’t have sex on your wedding night, you are NOT a failure. Talk with your partner and make it a priority to work on this part of your relationship. Don’t put pressure on yourselves to be like others. Perception and reality are two different things and, the couples you most want to emulate could be struggling with the exact same thing! That grass on the other side of the fence? Astroturf.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it’s one I hope you find helpful in your own marriage. If you are struggling with any of the above, remember you are not alone!

Cheers!

Cats In the Cradle…..of Love

Welcome to FRIDAY!! WOOHOO!! In honor of Friday, we are going to have a special guest on the blog today. I’ll be telling her story as she dictates to me. So please welcome-quietly, she’s a bit shy- my youngest cat, Phoebe to the blog. Today she’ll be recalling the epic story of her conception and birth.

Hey guys! My name is Phoebe and I’m 9 years old. My birth mommy is an american short hair and my birth daddy was an orange tom cat. At the time of my birth, my birth mommy was living with my new human daddy, having just claimed his house as hers several months before. They met one night when human daddy was walking home from work and my birth mommy came up to him, stopped in front of him and rolled over on her back, exposing her belly. In her culture this means she had chosen his house as her new place to live, and she’d be coming back soon. Several weeks later, my birth mommy showed up on the front steps of human daddy’s apartment, carrying a small suitcase of all her things. She’d also lost a considerable amount of weight. Human daddy let her come in, but had to leave for work soon, so he scrounged around for something for her to drink. Milk had been something he’d figured would be a good idea. Milk is shown in story books about cats as a good treat. He poured her a dish of milk and left the house. When he returned, what he found on his bed made him NEVER give her milk again. 😀

But I digress. Several months after birth mommy came to live with human daddy, over the valentine’s day weekend, birth mommy ran out of the apartment when human daddy opened the door. He tried but was unsuccessful at bringing her back in. So he went to work, with the intention of looking for her later. On his walk home from work that night, he observed the following:

Hearing a hideous yowling, human daddy turned around and saw birth mommy and an orange tom cat in the bushes in front of a frat house (The Eta Kau Pi House 😀 ). Birth mommy ran out of the bushes with orange tom cat in hot pursuit. Human daddy ran after the orange tom cat and yelled, “Leave my daughter alone!”…..

Two days later, birth mommy came back to the apartment, a tiny cigarette dangling from her mouth. 10 weeks later, human daddy arrived home from work, but birth mommy didn’t greet him at the top of the steps as she always did. He found her in a closet, inside a plastic tub of warm coats, ready to deliver. Human daddy spread a towel out on the kitchen floor and wanted her to instead birth there. After helping her through Lamaze breathing, human daddy witnessed the birth of 6 healthy kittens. All bearing similar marking and coloring to birth mommy. None of my siblings had any resemblance to birth daddy–which is fine since he never visits or sends child support!

After putting an ad in the local paper, all my siblings found homes. Human daddy kept me since I wouldn’t go near anyone else. Several years later, my human daddy married my new human mommy. Here are two of my favorite photos of me and birth mommy. Here we are on our favorite couch. I’m the one on the right.
1908455_10154754450905300_7877672515403275433_n

and this ↓ is human mommy and daddy’s favorite photo of me. I’m the reason they can’t keep the toilet lid up. 

1441313_603902336337049_391652951_n

I hope you enjoyed this story of my conception and birth. Thanks for letting me tell it. Thanks also for supporting and sharing my human mommy’s blog. She really appreciates it. She’ll be back Monday with another story. 

Meow! 

Growing Forgiveness

Living with a disability from birth, there are certain things you learn to live with. Discrimination is one of these things. I’ve been denied jobs because of my disability, and the perceived inability to do the job adequately because of my physical appearance. I was even asked once if I had the ability to write things down–ironically I went to college and majored in Communication, so yes, I am able to write things down 😉 . Speaking of college, there was one painful incident involving adequate housing for my needs my last year of school. But the most painful discrimination I’ve experienced occurred in my own church denomination. 



The other day I mentioned that I lived with several other young adults for one year during a voluntary service program after college. This was not my first attempt at working for a such a program. Shortly before I graduated college, I applied to be a part of my church denomination’s one-year voluntary service program. After the interview process, I realized I wasn’t ready, so I withdrew my application. Fast forward one year later. I had graduated and was figuring out my next steps. So I applied again for the same VS program. This time I went a bit further and was still interested after the interview process. Several weeks after my interview, I received a letter by email, informing me that although I showed a continued interest in the program, there were concerns that I wouldn’t be able to handle the proposed 40-hour work week, having never had a full-time job, but how many recent college graduates have this level of experience? In addition to this, there were concerns about accessibility at work and living sites. During my interview, I explained that I’d need accommodations, but minimal at most. 

After I received this email, I was devastated and walked around in a daze for a few weeks. I never expected my own church to discount my abilities because of my disabilities.

Around this time, the pastor of my church called me and asked me to lunch. She had heard about my troubles and wanted to let me know of a new VS program that was just starting up in a neighboring state. I immediately applied and within days received a call that I had been accepted. I couldn’t believe it! They even asked me what they needed to do to make things accessible. I moved to my new assignment 3 weeks later, and all in all the year was a wonderful experience. I ended up living in that same city for the next 6 years.

The previous story contained two different outcomes, from essentially the same source–the church. A place that is supposed to accept you as you are, and help you grow. But here is what I’ve learned in the years since this experience: the church is made up of people. People are fallible and make mistakes. As Christians we are called to forgive them. And realize life this side of heaven is going to be unfair at best some days. And in the end, know without a shadow of a doubt, that we are loved more fiercely than we know by our Heavenly Father. 

:-)

I hope this encourages you today if you are struggling with similar circumstances. Know that you are most certainly not alone. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

Cheers! 

Living On Your Own: A Survival Guide

Your first apartment away from your parents has become a rite of passage for many young folks. In my experience, I was a few years older than the average young adult. A few years shy of my 30th birthday, I achieved this milestone.

In the year leading up to my first solo apartment, I was living with 3 other 20-somethings in an apartment that had been converted from a working convent. We were all a part of a one year Voluntary Service term in a diverse community in the southern part of the US. We received a living stipend in exchange for volunteering with organizations in the city.

Living in a small space with 3 other people from diverse backgrounds can be fun. It can also have its trials. Despite the trials, I was grateful to delay living alone. As you’ll recall, I had anxiety about the thought of living alone. This more than likely was due to my disability and the fear of what to do if someone were to break in. As the year drew closer to being finished, I had moments of panic, but one day, a funny thing happened. I woke up and, as if a switch had been flipped, I felt more than ready to live on my own.

The experience of living in my first apartment alone taught me a few things I’d like to pass on to those about to make the switch. I hope you find these 3 tips helpful:

1. Know your neighbors. Sometimes it’s hard to live in a new place, surrounded by strange people. Getting to know those folks is helpful though. Especially if you get yourself into trouble. I remember one morning I woke up to get ready for work, but couldn’t find my keys. I searched all over. Then I opened my front door–there they were, still in the key hole. Of course panic ensued, but one of my neighbors came over to explain I had nothing to worry about because he had seen my keys in the door, and because of this kept watch over my apartment ALL NIGHT to make sure no one broke in. He didn’t knock on my door when he first saw them because it was late and he didn’t want to scare me. Through this experience I also learned that if I do something stupid and it scares me enough, I make sure it never happens again, which leads me to….

2. To prevent yourself from leaving your keys in the door, make a habit of unlocking the door, then immediately taking your keys out of said door, and putting them back in your purse or pocket (or murse– Come on, you know you have one 😉 )

3. Research how much utilities usually run in your area for the size of apartment you’ll be in. Funny story-I learned this the hard way. My apartment was newly constructed–in fact the first time I walked through it was not finished. So, several months later, after I moved in and got my first month’s electric bill, I didn’t realize it was maybe a bit too high. I paid it anyway, no questions asked. After this I turned off the AC and opened the windows, thinking I’d save money. The next month my bill was even higher than the month before. In fact the bill was $270.53. Did I mention my apartment was only one bedroom? I didn’t pay right away, but called the utility company and was told the bill was correct. In tears and panic, I wrote a check and thought to myself, “well, this living on my own thing really does suck.” Fortunately I talked to my landlord’s office a few days later, and they agreed to come out and check my utility box to make sure everything was wired properly. They discovered that the wiring from my apartment was installed BACKWARDS (at the utility box) and was actually installed to control the laundry room and the lights on the outside perimeter of the complex. The lights on the perimeter came on when the sun went down, but the laundry room lights could NEVER be turned off!! Needless to say, a short phone call to the utility company and I was set straight, my account was credited and I was able to go without an electric bill for about 6 months. If I had done my research ahead of time, this could have been prevented.

If you are facing the reality of living in your first apartment alone, it can be scary. Understand you are not alone! I found prayer to also be a helpful tool when I was scared.

I hope you found these tips helpful. Please pass this list on to anyone you think would find them useful. I’ll see you again tomorrow.

Cheers!

Driving Nowhere Kinda Slow

I’ve had a recurring dream often on since I was in my 20’s. So I’m driving a car down a street, when all of a sudden I somehow am sitting in the backseat, and no one else is driving the car, but it’s still moving. I always wake up relieved it was only a dream. Here’s the ironic part: I don’t drive or have a driver’s license.

Now you may be thinking, “well of course, that makes sense, given your physical disability“. But that would be a bit inaccurate. There are SO many people with physical disabilities that can drive. Even some people without some of their limbs are able to drive with specially equipped cars. Unfortunately, these specially equipped cars weren’t enough to turn me into a driver.

When I was a Jr. in high school, my parents looked into driver’s training for me. I’d need a specialized car with hand controls since foot controls would not work for me. That meant I’d need a trainer that specialized in teaching people with disabilities to drive. Fortunately we were able to contact an organization that helps people with disabilities procure necessary services, and an appropriate driving instructor was found.

To complete their driving program, I was required to successfully finish 56 hours of on the road driving with an instructor. Seemed pretty simple at the time. So our lessons began.

One thing I learned early on in the driver’s training process is how stressful driving can be. I seemed to do fine on straight country roads, but put me on more than a 2 lane highway, and I’d start freaking out inside. At first I was able to calm myself and get through a session. But in time I experienced more anxiety as my lessons progressed. I found it difficult to do the multiple simultaneous tasks needed to safely drive. Even with medication, my ADHD made it difficult to concentrate on the road, on account of my anxiety. Couple this with my then unknown eye condition, and you have the perfect scenario for disaster on wheels. Yes, as an adult I’d be diagnosed with a condition called lateral nystagmus; by definition, an involuntary shaking of the eyeball. I’ve had this all my life, I just thought it normal. LN can make stationary objects appear to be moving, or moving objects to be still.

The last complication of driving was my instructor. His was tasked with teaching several students out-of-state, and would frequently cancel our sessions only after he was late to them. One thing I’ve learned about living with anxiety is that I crave structure and consistency. Not being able to drive on a consistent basis was upsetting, so I did the only thing I knew to fix the problem; I fired my driving instructor.

Several years later I resumed driver’s training and it was decided it was in my best interest (and society at large), if I remained off the roads.

So, I am a fully functional adult who doesn’t drive. Sure this has taken some adjustment over the years, but for the most part I’ve been able to live my life fully without the need to drive. After college I moved to a larger city that had a great public transportation system, enabling me to get around quite easily. Sure there have been frustrations over the years; snow and I are in constant battle mode every winter, but I’m relieved to know that I’ll not be responsible for an accident due to poor driving.

You may have anxiety over driving. That’s ok. You are most certainly not alone. If you only have anxiety and no other physical restrictions that would prevent you from driving, I encourage you to seek some help from a professional. There is no shame in seeking help.

I hope this encouraged you. Please pass this along to anyone you think it could help.

I’ll see you again tomorrow!

Cheers!

Spring Cleaning and Tweezers: Lulabelle’s Rules of Order

Hey guys guess what? Can you guess? IT’s SPRING!!! I am SO stinkin’ excited for warmer weather! I’m sufficiently coffeed and ready to rock-so let’s get this first LAFF (Lulabelle’s Anxiety Free Friday) of spring started.

Organization and constantly losing things because of the lack of the first element can be a great source of stress for someone with anxiety. This is something that I’ve struggled with my entire life. Recently one item in particular keeps going missing in my life. Tweezers.

Much like the movie Groundhog Day, I’ll buy a pair of tweezers to groom the crazy hairs on my face–lovely mental image, you’re welcome–and eventually within weeks or months they are gone. The last pair I had were just purchased last Sunday. They also went missing the same day. This should probably earn me some sort of award: World Record in Losing Stuff or something.

Before I was able to buy a new pair of tweezers, some areas of my face I tweeze managed to grow so long that I was literally able to pull out a few hairs with my BARE HANDS (holy crap, I’m Wonder Woman! ). I did try to replace them with a pair of the best tweezers on the market, but when I went into the store to buy them, I chickened out. Do I really need a pair of $23 tweezers that I’ll just lose next week? Next option please!

WIth my history of losing tweezers, when I purchased the latest replacement, I thought I’d be smart and put them in a place I’d use them regularly, and remember to keep them there. My purse. This seems like an odd place to put a pair of tweezers, but I sometimes arrive at appointments early and have to wait. While waiting, I’ll sometimes look over my face and tweeze stragglers. In my head, this made perfect sense.

So it came as quite a shock when I searched my purse and didn’t find my tweezers anywhere. I even emptied all the pockets last night and threw out all the pieces that weren’t necessary–mostly used kleenex’s and empty gum wrappers. At least my purse was cleaned out, but I was flummoxed as to where my newest tweezers ran off to. Even my oldest cat searched for them. Nothing. In the midst of cleaning out my purse, it dawned on me where they were.

“Hey Mom, they don’t seem to be under here”

I had bought them on Sunday afternoon and was on my way to a party later in the day. During the car ride over, I brought out my tweezers to make a couple minor adjustments. My husband, who was driving, stopped short at one point and the tweezers flew out of my hands and under the seat. Yes, I realize tweezing one’s face in a moving vehicle is risky, but I’ve always come out of the experience with both eyebrows completely intact so, so far, so good. Plus it helps to go with curved tipped tweezers in situations such as this.

In life you are gonna lose stuff, especially if you are like me. The way to get through this is to get creative in three ways. First, put things in places that, while unconventional, are places you’ll remember. Secondly, if you choose to tweeze in a moving vehicle, make sure your tweezers have a blunt end. And finally, if all else fails and you manage to lose your tweezers, be bold. Start a new fashion trend by braiding your chin and eyebrow hair. Then call Vogue.

I hope this entry made you smile. Feel free to share this with anyone that needs a laugh. Remember you are not alone. I’ll see you back here on Monday!

Cheers!

Tendonitis, Trash and Theft: Unfortunate Alliterations

Glad to be back to blogging today. I took the last few days off so my hands could rest–pesky tendonitis flare up–and to get caught up with some housework. So without further ado let’s talk about……trash.

It’s a universal tie that binds. No matter where you live on the planet, you’ll have to deal with trash, and it’s disposal, on a regular basis. In some places, you can get trash picked up by a city-owned trash service–provided it’s properly bagged and placed in the accompanying dumpster, set on the curb. Some places you pay for this service, in other locations it is free.

Our fair city is going through a bit of a trash can crisis. Although trash pick up is free, some residents require an extra can, a can that is provided for a small fee. In recent months trash cans all over the city are mysteriously disappearing. Much like the Tooth Fairy in reverse, residents go to sleep after having set their cans out to be picked up, and in the morning they are gone. No amount of money is left anywhere.

Fortunately, the company that issues the trash cans are a benevolent folk, who replace the stolen cans at no cost to residents–no matter how many times the same house requests a new one. Unfortunately, the replacement cans take a few days to arrive, forcing residents to stockpile their bagged up trash inside their homes or on their front lawns. That paints a lovely picture of Americana, doesn’t it? And the accompanying smell? Not exactly Chanel No. 5. 

This brings up two important questions. Who is taking them and WHY?? Perhaps it’s a rogue team of oversized squirrels, hellbent on taking trash cans to turn them into large apartment spaces for the broader squirrel community. Or maybe a mysterious spell is cast on our trash cans after dark, enabling them to sprout limbs and run away to an undisclosed location, underground and out of sight.  Just for fun.  The official theory formulated by the trash company, and floating around town, is that there are those among us that need an extra can but lack the desire or resources to pay the extra can fee.

So now that we’ve theorized on the how and why what can be done to change this? Spray painting house addresses on cans have done nothing to stop this wave of larceny. Some have suggested attaching a GPS (Global Positioning System) to the can with duct tape and wait to find out where it ends up. Seems reasonable given the number of cans some residents have gone through but this solution may be more costly than effective. The most obvious solution would be to keep trash cans off the curbs and inside of garages until trash pick up day. But what happens if you are at work all day or physically unable to bring in the can after the trash has been picked up?  Do you watch desperately as it’s carried off by the above-mentioned squirrels? There’s a police report that you never thought you’d file.

Perhaps the solution isn’t as hidden as we think. Maybe our fair city could set aside funds to defray the cost of extra cans for those that need them. Helping to curb the trash crisis and clean up our piece of Americana. Or maybe we should just put those oversized squirrels on the city payroll to stand outside houses and ensure no cans are taken. Then they’d be able to buy their own apartments. Problem solved.

Clearly, this one is a bit bigger than our cities current needs! 

*steroid popping squirrel appears courtesy of http://capitalcitiesusa.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/01-giant-squirrel.jpg

“And They Shall Call Her Blessed…”

Show of hands, who else has a ragin’ case of the Monday’s?  Thankfully the sun is shining and there is NO snow in sight (I’m turning mental cartwheels in my head because I lack the skills to do a real one
😀 ).

A few weeks back I narrated our family’s struggle with accepting that parenting was not going to be part of our life journey. Immediately following that revelation, my husband and I started making a list of couples or single folks we knew who had come to the same conclusion. Now, it’s not socially acceptable to go up to a childless couple and ask them why they are without children, but a strange thing happened after we made our decision. Without any prompting, we began hearing accounts from our childless friends about why they didn’t have children. Finally we felt we had a community we could relate to.

Back to that list. The list of people we knew who didn’t have kids? One of the most healing things I’ve done was put my kindergarten teacher on that list. Her name was Kathryn Aschliman. Ms. Aschilman for short.

Ms. Aschilman was simply one of the best teachers I ever had. She was the professor of education at the college where my kindergarten was located. Yes, I went to kindergarten on the campus of a college. Every year, a few education majors would rotate doing educational activities with the 15-20 kindergarten students that came through each year. This gave the college students real world training, and a chance for the kindergartener to interact with adults other than their teacher. Every year Ms. Aschilman made sure the class was made up of a diverse group of children from all backgrounds and creeds. In my kindergarten class I was the token disabled kid. There were also african americans, Asians, and children from different economic backgrounds. By the end of her 34 year career, Aschilman managed to teach and influence the lives of 700 children. All without raising her voice. As someone who works in childcare, I can tell you this often takes the patience of Job. 😉 

I have many happy memories in Ms. Aschilman’s class.  Every day we’d have story time, where we’d gather on a mat on the floor-in a circle, and she’d read us a story and have a short lesson. I also remember having a day where we learned about and celebrated Indonesian culture with one of the students mom and grandma. They came dressed in traditional clothing and we ate traditional Indonesian food. Another day we dressed up as hospital workers and went around the community, collecting donations for a family in need. 

The neatest thing about Ms. Aschilman was what happened after I left her kindergarten class and journeyed through my school career, entering senior year of high school 10 years later. At my graduation open house, She arrived at my party and handed me a tiny diploma! Later that summer my kindergarten class–all of us taller and older–gathered for our kindergarten 10 year reunion. Upon walking into that same classroom of our youth, we were struck by the reams of newspaper that covered the walls. Each of those newspaper clippings chronicled each child’s life from kindergarten to the present. Any time any of her students were in the paper or on TV, Ms Aschilman made a point to save the article or watch the footage. Like a mamma bear, she kept track of all her cubs. And looked on in pride at their accomplishments.

As a child it never occurred to me that the abbreviation Ms. was to denote singleness. At some point in kindergarten, we visited her house. I never thought it strange that there seemed to be no children living there. Of course years later I learned that she never married or had children of her own. But in a way, she did. 700 of them. And she loved them all as her own.

If you find yourself going through similar circumstances, I encourage you to seek out the Ms. Aschilman’s in your community. Know that you are most certainly not alone!

Cheers!