On Friday night I made my mental plan for Saturday, March 2nd. I would get up and write “Fast Forward” about the time from Jana and Jeffrey’s births until now. Then I would write “Forgiveness.” I would take a break about 4pm, drive the ten minute drive to the beach in Ocean Ridge, take an hour walk, come home, make Steve a quick dinner and then get dressed, and we would go the Delray Beach Tennis Center to see some of the top players in the world show us how tennis is supposed to be played.
As morning rolled around, more and more thoughts started popping into my head, and I knew I was supposed to write “Forgiveness” first. The section called Fast Forward was my own story. The story wasn’t going to change whether I wrote it at 8 am or noon. How to tell the story was all that needed to be thought out.
The section called Forgiveness was different. I didn’t really know yet all the words to that section. It wasn’t a section I had originally planned to write, but after many, many years of playing “Simon Says” I knew that it was a section that I was supposed to write.
As I progressed typing away in the quiet hours of a Saturday with this section called Forgiveness, I was so glad that this was written in those special early morning hours. I like reading the bible early in the morning. I like praying early in the morning. I like working out early in the morning. I liked writing this section early in the morning when the day was fresh and new.
It took longer than I expected. Read some scriptures. Reflected. Researched some things on the computer. Reflected some more. Three and a half hours later, I was done. I decided to take a fifteen minute break and start “Fast Forward” and then go for my walk on the beach around 4PM as planned. I looked in on my husband who was engrossed in an old movie and told him that I had finished the section called “Forgiveness.” He looked startled. “I thought this website project was about Gregory. That seems like a tough subject to tackle. Who is actually going to read all this?” he asked. “Everyone” I answered. “Whatever” was his reply.
I was heading back into my office when God called for a conference. I went back into see my husband. “You know Steve it is such a nice day. I think I will go the beach now and then start the next section I planned to write when I get home. “Whatever, it is a nice day and that probably would make sense” he agreed. I was in the office banging away on the computer and not nagging him to tackle any of the projects on the “to do” list, and I had made him scrambled eggs and ham for breakfast on a typing break. It was maybe the second Saturday morning breakfast I had made him in almost seven years of marriage. He was starting to believe that maybe 2012 was going to be a year of miracles.
All of us who can truly say we have a personal relationship with God have a special place where we hear Him best. Some call it a prayer closet because sometimes it is an actual closet. Maybe it is a room in your house where you have created your own altar of sorts. For some it is hiking a mountain. For some it is walking through the woods. For me, it is the beach. There were things God needed to say to me before I began writing about life after Gregory.
“I want you to write the honest story. The not so pretty story. The real story. Not the way you want to write it – carefully selecting what you are willing to say on paper.” I am telling you this God knows you and He knows me. Given the choice, I would purchase every bottle of white out on the face of the planet and apply it to the sections of my life story which I wish did not exist. That is what I would do if I had a choice.
“But what will people think of me? People are going to think I am crazy,” I interjected. “They have thought that your whole life. What I think of you is all that matters, and I think you are a little crazy, and I love that about you. It is one of the best things about you. I created you to be a little bit crazy, because I wanted you to be able to go left when everyone goes right. I am directing the craziness now. It will be fine” God replied.
“But what if people judge me. I can’t believe some of the really stupid things I have done” I again interjected. “I am the only Judge and Jury that matters. Whatever stupid things you did while you were driving the car yourself was because you were using a faulty GPS. Those things were done when you just knew Jesus. He was not Lord and Master to you” God assured me.
So here it is. Not what I really want to write, but what I am supposed to write.
A lot of living has happened in the thirty years since Gregory left his Heavenly Father, came to earth for seven weeks and returned to his Heavenly Father.
My childrens’ father and I divorced in 1996 following twenty-one years of marriage. Jana was 11. Jeffrey was 8. I prayed. We did some counseling. It wasn’t a good situation for any of us. Our home was a battlefield. I thought it was all his fault. He thought it was all my fault. My kids even thought we shouldn’t live together. Most kids want so much for their parents to live under the same roof. Although going back and forth, having stuff in both places and having two sets of rules, wasn’t much fun – neither was living with two parents who could not get through a day without a war about something.
I would like to say that we always put our children before our own feelings in the way we handled our divorce, but that would not be true. I would like to say that we weren’t hurt and upset and kept our kids out of the middle of it, but that would not be true. The truth is that we started dating the summer before our junior year of high school. Our parents became friends. I became friends with his sisters and brother. My best friend and his best friend started dating. Our lives were joined. Our path was joined. We kept walking. I have great respect for people who call off the wedding even after the invitations are mailed and the catering hall is booked. We did divorce as badly as we did marriage.
A job transfer had brought us to Vienna, Virginia when Jana was two and I was pregnant with Jeffrey. My mother had died a few days before our scheduled move. She was only 62. She had breast cancer. She told my brother that my dad would live three years without her. He died three years after she died at age 65. The doctors would say a heart attack. I say a broken heart and regrets and loneliness and “what ifs” killed my dad. My mother got visions. She hated them. She told me I would marry Chuck the first time she met him. She saw Fr.. Allen carrying Gregory’s casket before Gregory died. We had no idea that he would do that. My dad talked about retirement every day. He told her to not speak of it. They would never retire together.
We had moved back to New Jersey following another job transfer. We would ultimately divorce after our return to New Jersey. We had sold our house in Washington Township at the height of the real estate boom. This allowed us to buy a nice house in Virginia because the housing prices were a great deal cheaper than New Jersey at the time. When he was transferred again, we were able to buy a center hall colonial in Ridgewood, New Jersey. A big home with four bedrooms, on the second floor and two additional bedrooms and a game room in the basement. A house we could have never afforded without the move to Virginia in between.
I had planned to start the divorce proceedings in Virginia as soon as we got a buyer for our house. This way he could go to New Jersey, and the kids are I could go some place cheaper as I only worked part time when the kids were small selling World Book Encyclopedia. Yes, that is how I made some extra spending money. I was good at it. I invented my own ways of selling a set or two or week. My kids and I did book fairs at schools, and they ran up ahead and rang doorbells when we went door to door in local communities.
The time came when we had to start looking at houses for the move back to New Jersey. I couldn’t afford to live in Virginia as a single mother – let alone New Jersey. My great escape plan couldn’t be pulled off. The moving date was scheduled by the bank he worked for. We had to find a home in New Jersey, which we did. The only thing I was sure of was that I could not afford to be a single mother in New Jersey, so this marriage had to work. But changing homes, did not change our issues. I remember saying one day. “I am going to buy and sell you one day. Just wait and see.” Be careful of the words you speak in the heat of the moment. They often times to come back and bite you. I still have the teeth marks.
A New Career
A friend said to me “if you can sell encyclopedias, you probably could sell advertising” she offered. “I don’t know anything about selling advertising” I reminded her. “You didn’t know anything about selling encyclopedias either before you start doing it” was her reply.
That made sense to me. So I found an ad from someone looking for a sales representative to start a coupon publication. I had tried calling Val Pak, but I didn’t think they knew what they were doing even though they had been doing it for over twenty five years. I drove to meet Dave. He shared with me his plans for a 8 1/2 by 11 inch booklet which he was going to call Bargain Hunter.
He was going to hire a few people. I told him he only needed me. He thought I was pushy, bordering on obnoxious. He only hired me. We made money on our first booklet and just considered ourselves partners. I sold the ads, and he printed the booklets. He needed me to do my part, and I needed him to do his part. He got past my aggressiveness. This personality trait fed his kids and mine.
The schedule and system started establishing itself. Once we got everything working and worked out, I had about six weeks of selling time and then about six weeks of down time as we only published each zone four times a year. I don’t like down time, and I needed more money so what I needed was something that I could do in between the selling periods.
I came up with an idea. Would people pay me to organize their closets and rooms? It was something I was good at. I had never heard of such a thing, but I had free advertising at my disposal. I had my Bargain Hunter partner create an ad for me, and we ran it in all of our issues. The ad had a graphic of a girl standing in front of a closet which was exploding with stuff coming out of it.
Right after the first ad was mailed, I got my first call. It was from a wife who was recently divorced. I came to her house. I didn’t have any idea of how I would do this. I just needed to fake like I knew what I was doing. Hey, I didn’t know anything about selling encyclopedias. I didn’t know anything about selling advertising, but I did it. I didn’t know how I was going to help her do what she needed me to do, but I was sure that I couldn’t let on that she was my first client, and I was winging it.
Her husband’s old office was in the loft over the garage. She wanted it dismantled and changed so it didn’t look like him. I understood her and want she wanted so I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. I asked her what she wanted to keep and wanted she didn’t want to keep. The stuff that wasn’t to be kept I brought down to the garage. There were a lot of steps to the garage below us. I was charging $35 an hour. I would earn every dollar of it.
When we were all done with the office above the loft – me doing the physical work while she told me what she wanted and didn’t want – we moved to the next room. And then the next room. Two and a half weeks later, the house was completely organized. She was happy. I was happy. After she gave me a check for the several thousands of dollars she owed me told me what I great job I had done that’s when I told her that she was my first client, and I had been winging it. She just laughed and said I was a natural.
Yes, born this way to the chagrin of my parents who really were not to thrilled with all my efforts to personally organize their stuff and everyone else’s in our house during my entire childhood. I would tell them “can’t you keep things neat?” “Can’t we bring you back to the hospital?” was their usual answer.
The phone kept ringing, and I organized family rooms and kitchens and bathrooms, kids bedrooms, parents bedrooms, playrooms, offices, basements, garages. Did the same procedure over and over again. “Do you want this?” The same question over and over. The stuff they didn’t want was organized into sell, give away or trash. They all loved me. I got them hooked on the “clutter free” life. It freed their souls. Their home became a place they liked coming home to. Children told me how much easier it was to play when they could find all the pieces to their toys.
I was making good money. Things were going okay. Advertisers would complain if they didn’t get a good response to their ads. I wanted everyone to be happy. But that was not as predictable as knowing I could do a great job making their garage sparkle. We had to wait for money to come in. I wanted to be rich. I wondered if there was another business with less ups and downs as selling ads.
A Bad Idea
One night I met a guy at a dance club who had been in corporate marketing. He told me that it was such a rat race. It had destroyed two marriages for him. It was demanding. He was on the road a lot. He had little free time. He had attended a franchise trade show and spent a great deal of time researching the purchase of a new career that would allow him to live a less stressful life.
He had sold his house and bought a child care center through a franchise. That seemed like a strange career path for a man – especially one with no children of his own. But whatever. He told me of his plan to then buy a second one. After that, he would be able to purchase a home again. He figured once he got the second one opened, he would be making about $300,000.00 a year. The income would be steady, and he would have weekends off. Because parents worked all year and the day care center offered summer camp programs, the income was pretty steady all year.
It sounded worth looking into so I got the number for the franchise office. I drove there with my accountant to see what they had to say. They told me all about their operation, how many schools they had opened, what it would cost and everything they normally tell interested parties. It didn’t take long for their company’s representative to realize that I thought that I could do it better than they had even though I had never opened one, and he said just that. “I get the impression that you think you could do this better than we can and have.” “Yup I do” I confessed.
At the time I was attending my childhood church in Oradell. Fr. Allen had left Annunciation while I was living in Virginia. Although I was going to church on Sundays, I had some friends who were traveling down a different spiritual path. One of my advertisers had a store that sold crystals and candles and powders that brought you what you were looking for. One of the store owners that I sold an ad to read tarot cards. This world fascinated me. I was seeking, but I didn’t know how to find what I was seeking. But they did. They could hear the things I couldn’t hear myself.
My new found friend asked if I wanted her to read my cards. “Yes, I had a very important question I needed an answer to. Is there a man out there for me? I know that I was married once. But will I get married again. And when is he coming.” I pleaded to know.
Another Bad Idea
I didn’t know that the bible warned against psychics and such. I heard the gospel every Sunday, but I didn’t read the bible. I saw that sometimes churches held bible studies, but I never had the interest in attending one. I didn’t know this was such a slippery slope until I slid all the way down.
Having a reading of playing cards, tarot cards and my aura became sort of an addiction. Well, not sort of. Actually, a full blown addiction. I bought a pendulum. This would give me accurate answers, I was sure. Just ask a question and if it moved forward and back it meant yes. It if moved side to side, it meant no – or something like that. It certainly seemed like a indispensable tool at the time.
I purchased candles to bring love. I purchased essential oils to bring love. If it could bring love, just tell me how much. I remember one reader telling me “your husband will be very tall.” “Tall? Are you sure you have that right?” I asked. “Very tall” she said in confirmation. I’m 5′ 1″ giving myself a half inch grace. I don’t go out with tall guys. I try to stick to the 5′ 10″ range. “No, he is going to be very tall” she repeated. I spent a lot of money for a very little information.
But here was the shove that did me in. Here is the spider’s web that I entrapped me. “I see you buying a piece of land” I was told by one of the most respected physics in the country. I had driven into New York with a friend for my appointment. It was very hard to get an appointment with him. “Well, I have been thinking of trying to open up a child care center” I told him. “That is how your husband is going to come to you” he replied. He said he heard from God. I realize now that he was hearing from an entirely different source.
“Okay, all bets are off. I am going to open a child care center” I told my friend as we drove back. I was more afraid of not meeting my intended husband who would love me and just think I was the best thing since sliced bread then the inherent dangers were not important to me.
An architect whose house I organized said he would lend some assistance. He believed if I could create organization from the chaos of his home, I could do this. I was a salesperson who had heard the best sales trainers in the world speak during my World Book days. I was on a mission. Hey, I wanted to be remarried. I wanted to be rich. I wanted to be famous. I’ll open up the best child care center in the country. I would be on the map.
Of course, I didn’t realize how much money it would take to open up a center. I would get a bank loan I thought. But banks wanted things I didn’t have – like experience. I would find some investors, but they wanted things I wasn’t willing to give – like full control. But I kept going. A builder was willing to put up $20,000 to get the project moving forward. That was just a drop in the bucket of what was needed.
We found a building in Allendale which was for sale, but it wasn’t zoned for day care use. A lawyer tried to tell me what it would take to change the zoning. I didn’t listen. You pay all your own fees – architect, lawyer, planner AND the towns fees for these same people. But my husband was going to show up somewhere in this process. Maybe he would be rich.
Have you ever tried to open a steel door that won’t seem to open? You bang on it. You ram it with your shoulder. And then again. And then again. You are sore. It won’t open, but you won’t give up trying. Little do you realize that God and his entire company of angels are standing behind that door. I could try to huff and puff and below the door down, and I did try and try and try, but that door wasn’t budging.
This man had already invested $20,000. I was not going to let him loose this money which he could not afford to lose if I could help it. I’m sure if I just pushed a little harder, this door will open.
People would say it was an ambitious project but “if anyone can do it, you can. If anyone could single-handedly change the child care industry, it is you.”
So I cashed in my $100,000 retirement plan from my secretary days in Englewood. I saw that I had these huge credit limits on my credit cards. Wow, $25,000.00 cash available. I would produce a newspaper telling about the project and mail it to 50,000 homes in the local area. I could do that for a mere $17,000.00. I paid by credit card. I would make a placque for Gregory and put it on the school.
A Game Changer
Then came the moment of truth. The owner of the building I was trying to get approval for wanted $150,000 nonrefundable. I had that much equity in my home. Would I bet my home on this project? I had gotten that word from God – no I mean the psychic – but surely the psychic was hearing directly from God. Would I sign on the dotted line? Was this meant to be the memorial that would honor my son? If I didn’t keep going, everyone, including me, would lose what was invested. If it opened, I would do good things with my new found improved financial status.
I put it all on #7 or so they say at the roulette wheel in Las Vegas. Surely, God wouldn’t let me lose my home. There was no turning back once I signed on the dotted line. As long as the day care center opened, my home would be safe. I wouldn’t even allow myself to imagine the other possibility. Not getting opened, losing all the money I invested, not being able to pay back investors, being homeless.
I kept looking for investors. I get passionate. I was passionate. I had a woman on “my team” who was a director at a local day care center. We talked and dreamed about our goals and visions. We would name the school Compassionate Kids Day School. Each one of the children who attended our school would have a child sponsored for them on their behalf through Compassionate International.
The pictures of the children which the school sponsored on behalf of our students would hang in the entry hall so that our students would learn about children all over the world. They would be able to see that they looked different. They could learn about the living conditions in Puerto Rico where Juan comes from. They would learn about caring for those less fortunate them themselves at a young age.
We would rotate the children into different classrooms instead of having them stay in the same classroom for their entire day. The school would have a music room, a history/geography room, an arts and crafts room, a playroom, etc. Yes, it was going to be so wonderful. We would pay our teachers more than all the other centers paid their teachers. We would draw attention to the low salary paid to people who do this important work.
Putting my house in the pot was a game changer. It was hard sleeping at night knowing that I had risked the place where my kids lived. I remember reading that Cher was devastated when Sonny put their home up for collateral on a project that he believed in, but the project went south, and they had to move out of their mansion. Cher looked so said in the photo of her walking out the door with a handful of possessions.
I spoke to one of the business owners in my town about investing. I promised him a good return on his investment. He agreed to invest $20,000. I was to meet him at his bank later that afternoon. I was there with bells on. As he held the check in his hand, he asked if I would attend a bible study at his church tomorrow night with him and his wife. They attended one of those bible believing on fire for the Lord type of churches.
When I lived in Virginia, the mother of one of my daughter’s little friends attended one of those kind of churches. Everything was Jesus this and Jesus that. If you asked my opinion, it seemed like a cult. “We ask God about every decision we make” they would say. I did not understand this at all. Well, didn’t He give you a brain so you could think for yourself was what I wanted to say, but I held my tongue.
“So how do you do church?” I asked really wanting to understand. “We worship by singing songs for about a half hour and then the pastor talks and then we pray” she answered. “Well, we sing a song and then prayer and then kind go up and down a lot.” I told her. “No we stand while we sing and then sit while we listen.” she told me. “We believe that every word of the bible is true” she told me. “Really, even the Noah and the Ark and Jonah in the belly of the whale. Every word huh” I replied. “I belong to a church that let’s everyone kind of come to their own conclusions about things” I continued.. “What God says goes with us” she tried to explain. I didn’t get the explanation at all.
All I could think of in that moment when he was holding that check was that I don’t think I will be anymore on board with the whole Jesus is my everything kind of bible study any more than I was with my friend and her group of bible believers who amened every other word ten years before, but I was going to go to bible study the next night.
My biggest fear was that the pastor was going to be talking about not having sex if you are not married. If that was the topic of discussion at all, I was out the door. I planned to kind of sit forward in my chair just in case I wanted to bolt out the door. I would use an emergency situation at home as my excuse.
I was single. What I did was my business, right? I was looking for my next husband. I wasn’t going to put up with a pastor who has a wife to sleep next to each night tell me how I was going to spend my nights.
But God didn’t start with that discussion that night. The pastor’s words that night were all about God’s plan for our lives. About our hopes and dreams. I thought this project was God’s plan for my life. I had been told it was, hadn’t I? I liked the songs they sang. I liked what the pastor spoke about. I didn’t quite get it when they raised their hands. They all seemed a little too happy to be giving up a perfectly good Wednesday night to discuss the bible but whatever. I would come back next week.