My Blanken World

My world of boys, textiles and moving.

Oh the places you’ll go and the people you’ll meet. February 15, 2014

Filed under: Boys,Broken/Repaired,Family,Hubby,Places,Random thoughts — blankenmom @ 11:56 pm
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February is a big month in our house – 3 birthdays.  And now that the first-born is out of the house, things are a bit different.  No sleep overs or parties for him.  But we did meet up half way to get dinner together.


Our trip wasn’t an easy one though – three broken tire chains and a usual 70 mph limit brought down to 30, chains or not.  I’m still trying to feel my finger tips from changing them so many times!  Turning a usual three-hour round trip into almost a six long hours.


tire chains


The snow was beautiful though and it was nice to get out and about and do something new.  And while purchasing *another* set of chains, the guy selling the next to last set to me asked me about my address – which frankly took me back a bit since we were 100 miles from where we live.  He asked again and then asked if we knew “Maria” in the off-white house.  I looked at him with surprise and he said “That’s my aunt!”


Our next door neighbor, in this super dinky town that we just moved to, is the aunt of the kid who was selling us our tire chains 100+ miles from home – because ours happen to break.


This isn’t my first experience with this however.  While living in “that house” the man at the jewelry store selling my oh-so-attractive utility hoops recognized our phone number.  It ended up, we were both from the same smallish town on the west coast and had both moved to the same ridiculously small town on the east coast AND we both worked in the same store.


Why is this important?


It’s not really I suppose, but it’s just fun to get out, get to know the people we interact with and see the connections we may have!


So glad we went out today – even though we probably shouldn’t have.


Happy Birthday to my dentist man, first and third-born!


Wandering the desert October 28, 2013






It’s strange how we can appear to be at the top of the world, by worldly standards, and yet still feel like we’re at the most bottom.  And while we’re there, feel the need to not let anyone know.


How shameful to feel that way when you should feel nothing but joy – look at everything you have!


For the last few months during the process of buying our “house on the hill”, I’ve been completely out of sorts.  Asking myself “How could I *not* be happy with this?”   “What’s wrong with me?”  “I must be completely selfish and spoiled?”  That’s when I saw the reminder of the one year “anniversary” of the flood.


On this day last year, I had a husband who was gone for his second 9 month deployment *of that year*.  A son recovering from two surgeries for a broken arm.  Two dogs with months to live.  3 kids and myself suffering from a severe flu (that would end up turning to pneumonia).  My “stomach issues” had finally, after 15 years, taken their toll causing me to *have* to get help.   And to top it all off, Hurricane Sandy took out the entire first floor and part of the second floor of “that house”.


Oy.  It’s been quite the year.



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My dentist man is home and settled in to the new practice.  The second-born is fully healed and back to his dare-devil self.  The dogs have been gone for several months and are sitting nicely on the mantle.  The pneumonia rattle is mostly gone, although we were nice enough to share a cold bug already.  My gut problems are much, MUCH better.  And “that house” is nearly finished, in spite of the (expletive), non-paying renters we have in there.


Ah yes.  It’s been quite the year.


For the last year I’ve been fighting for one of many things on a daily basis and some days all of them: our health, our healing, our pets, our insurance money, incompetent renters, mortgage companies.  It’s been one entire year of fighting.  None stop.  Sure there were days when the contractor didn’t wake me up with another “issue”.  There were days when the insurance company wasn’t calling to ask for more proof.  There were days when the mortgage company wasn’t asking for more paperwork.  There were days when I wasn’t waiting for a phone call from the vet/specialist/doctor/state worker/renter/realtor/my dentist man.  On those days I could just sit and wonder…. what’s going to happen next?


I’m tired.


Normally when I get overwhelmed, I go visit the ocean.  I can look out on it and see forever.  I can feel the openness and feel all the problems wash away, leaving with the waves.  Ironically, right now I’m in the desert.  I hate the desert.  I don’t think hate it too strong of a word for this.  I really do.


With that notice of the “anniversary” the laughable thought that I’m in the exact opposite place than I’d ever want to be, did not go unnoticed.  However, I think it may be the exact place I need to be at this very time.


I’ve said this before in Surfing life’s waves, I can best state it this way –

While we’re drowning in our own ocean of circumstances, carrying the weight of people saying what could have been done better tied on like a sinking board strapped to an ankle pulling us further down, the Lord is trying to field a rescue.  Instead of just letting Him pull us up however, we keep swatting at His outstretched hands like a drowning victim in a panic.  And after He does finally get a hold of our slippery little arm and drags our bodies to the beach kicking the whole way, He breaths life back into us once again.  Ignorant of our own inability to swim alone with all the exhaustion, and instead of just staying on the beach to enjoy the rest, we keep running back into the water to drown all over again, dragging the weight of the board behind us, hoping this time it will be different.  In His wisdom, He finally takes us from there, the place we love the most.  The place we feel most comfortable and places us in our own desert a spell, to finally get the rest we need, in spite of ourselves.







Just as the Israelite’s were brought to the desert to learn to better rely on the Lord, I needed to have all the distractions taken away and be brought back to Him.  The life I had felt so comfortable with, just as the Israelite’s felt comfortable in their slavery, needed to go.  This may not be where I want to be, but it’s where I need to be.


“Why”, they shouted to Moses “did you bring us out of Egypt to die?”  “Surely we will die of starvation out here?”  And honestly, my heart understands this for the first time.  Definitely not starvation (as my butt can attest to), but surely the uncomfortableness and fear that they felt in their new transition.


While the mountains feel as though they are closing in on me and every fiber of my being wants to be in the wide open ocean, it may be time to go wander my quiet desert and find the rest in Him that I need.


Yup.  It’s been quite the year.


I plan on leaving it on the other side of the desert for what God has in store for me.  But please don’t mind the grumbling along the way.









The tale of two men October 4, 2013





This past two weeks, I’ve gotten a great view of two different kinds of people – in this case, both men.


The first man, a sluggard.  A liar.  A person who blames anyone and everyone but himself.

Ladies and gentleman, my renter.







I was glad to be able to help someone who was part of a FEMA program for people whose homes floated away in last years storm.  I wasn’t able to be there to help out and couldn’t afford to give anything, so I was excited to be able to assist someone.

The man, his wife and three gorgeous little boys moved in excited to be in a new home.  Completely brand new.  With promises of taking grand care of the home and yard.  That is until it actually became time to do some actual work.

Finding out after a month that they didn’t have the utilities put in their name and given notice to do so – twice – utilities were shut off.

Imagine that – I didn’t want to pay for their utilities and ours.  Crazy I know?

He was livid and blamed me, the last landlord, the utility companies and anyone else he could muster.

On our part, in the middle of our own move and after the postal service lost our mail (and the paperwork) due to extenuating circumstances out of their control, we ended up buying an extra printer for the sole reason of getting this man and his family’s paperwork finished through email instead of snail mail.  Sorry postal service!

No home and no furniture, but we’ve got a printer!

At this point, three months in, the realtor discovered that they still hadn’t done their part to stay on the program and drives them to all their needed destinations.  Utility companies for proof and to sign a form saying they have no income yet.  That’s it.  That’s all they need to remain in the home.

Nope – couldn’t do it.  Btw – Who doesn’t have I.D. in this day and age?


So evictions notices were given.



The second man, amazing!  Works multiples jobs and is as honest as he can be.

This man knows everyone and I’m *pretty* sure he knows almost everything…. or at least where to find it out.  He’d bend over backwards to help anyone out, even if he didn’t fully like them.







We met him through our oldest while he was convincing every restaurant in town to allow my son to sell his cookies there.  He then discovered that I sewed and sent over every kind of weird object to sew on, knowing I had never worked on it, just to let me learn.

Anyone you talk to will say the same thing.

I had been trying to get someone out to repair the fence and deck from the storm last year and either they won’t pick up because of our phone number being out-of-state, or they’re just still too busy.

You’d at least think they’d call back?

As a last resort before the insurance company came after me, I called this man.  He came to my rescue.  He does what he says and does it amazingly.

Mind you, he doesn’t do it for free if you can pay.  He know’s his worth and I appreciate that!


Two men.  One who takes and spreads nothing but blame.  One gives everything and expects the same back.


I strive everyday to be more like the second man.  After all, who would you want in your life?




It’s Done!! May 11, 2013








Yes – that house… is officially done!

Ok, one small detail, but other than a change of a hall carpeting…

it’s done!


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Through tears, heartache, headaches, complaints, (possibly some yelling), cage rattling on my part and finally….. some sweat and hard work on the part of our contractor to get us to the end.  It’s been exhausting and it’s been infuriating.  6 months of hair pulling, listening to lies, excuses and being given the run around – and then being handed paper work, so the process can start over again.


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With the help of our former renters, contractor and some great people keeping us going through all of the process, we’ve got a beautiful house we’ll admit we own.

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Is it nice enough to make us move back?  Heck no!

But for once we’re proud to own it!

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Anyone want a house?


A little help from our friends! March 19, 2013


Sorry for the double up on posts, but I have had several people ask me about the letter we ended up sending to the congress people for help with “that house”.

I’m glad to say, it worked.  Within the day of sending out the letter to three congress people, Congressman Pallone’s office was good enough to assist us.  They even called us twice to make sure we got the assistance we needed.  By the end of the day we had the check we needed to begin work and the next day – we had floors!


Never thought I’d be so excited for sub-flooring!



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It’s beautiful, isn’t it!






And since I didn’t name our insurance company, I’m posting the letter here for those people:



“Our family bought a home in NJ while my husband was in school for the Navy. After graduation we were unable to sell it due to the housing bubble and hurting economy, and couldn’t refinance or use the military program to buy us out. Not wanting to go back on our contract, we’ve done everything possible to hold on to the home, including losing several thousands of dollars. We’ve worked in good faith to be good home owners, and now reluctant landlords.

We are now stationed in our home state, over 3000 miles away.

When hurricane Sandy came, it devastated the entire town where the home sits. The whole town was washed out under 7 ½ feet of water. Our home being raised higher than most, sustained “minor” damage comparatively – it’s still standing. However being over 100 years old, it could no longer hold out even under the “minor” 2 feet of water that made it in and buckled, warped, cracked and rusted. It’s livable, if we could only get the money to fix it.

Our renters, who hadn’t even been in the house long enough to unpack lost everything for the second time that year due to weather and held out for 3 months before finally giving up. I was amazed! Not only did they help us by being there for inspections and scheduling, they even apologized when they could no longer afford to pay for the hotel they had been staying in. With 3 more month to go until she delivered her little girl, I completely understood and wished them the best. In those 3 months we of course could not charge them rent and had to give back their deposit. However, they still can’t retrieve their possessions on the second and third floor because there is no first floor.

Our contractor, knowing our situation, showed up as soon as people were allowed back into the town to inspect our house and start cleaning and removal. He has been a champion for us and has dealt with things for us as much as he could. We wouldn’t have made it this far without him, but he can only do so much. He does have other jobs he needs to work on however and cannot wait for insurance to decide to pay us.

We are now 4 ½ months post Sandy and have a floor-less, wall-less, potentially molding home to show for our wait. With no protection from the snow, wind and environment from underneath. The second and third floors are now starting to show signs of problems that didn’t exist before due to moisture that the insurance company will not cover.

We’ve been doing our best to keep up with where the paperwork is and what we need to do to keep up our side of this process. We’ve made sure our payments were never late or short, we’ve done all the things that have been asked and yet…. we’re still without repairs. We even went so far as to take out a small personal loan to get things started and to show we were serious about getting it fixed.

After talking with the insurance company numerous times over the last several months and getting no answers other than “We haven’t seen your report yet.” we recently found out that we were on a list for “second homes”. Apparently meaning that we could afford to sit and wait – on a military salary. After sitting on our inspection report for 4 months, the adjuster, after much pushing finally sent in their report but yet, still we sit.


My husband is in one of two groups of ships out to sea now, serving on the USS John C. Stennis. This after being deployed to the same area last year. This means we’ll have seen him less than 1 ½ months in the last two years if he get’s home when he is actually supposed to. This is part of the job and normally, while it makes us miss him more and wouldn’t be an issue, however he’s starting to get worried about us at home. We’ve already stretched our budget further than we should have, paying for any extras out of groceries. Extras being our 18 year old’s birthday (no gifts) and our 11 year old’s 2 gifts (no party). We paid to put our two sick dogs down after Christmas with Christmas gift money and can’t afford to fix the check engine light on our van.

After talking with the insurance people several more times, and being reminded several more times that people are still homeless out there – which we feel extremely sad about, especially when they lost a home they loved and we’re still stuck with a house we can’t stand, that still doesn’t change the fact that they are able to get free food, free or low-cost housing due to their situation, money for loss of use of their house and government help, where as we are on the other side of the country where people don’t even know that there are still issues going on. We don’t get reduced food or housing, we still have to pay full rent, mortgage and insurance. We didn’t get help with Christmas. We can’t get help from the insurance company for loss of use even.

Where was the insurance companies compassion towards the homeless when our soon-to-be-expecting renters couldn’t find another place to live for the 3 months they stuck it out with us hoping for a fix (or even just a floor)? We know all too well how it was affecting the people who are there!

During a call to ask for the inspection report the adjuster asked “And how exactly, does this effect your husband’s job performance?” How exactly? To be 5000 miles away from your wife and kids for nearly 2 years is hard enough, but to also know that they are struggling financially because of insurance bureaucracy is even harder. Knowing that your wife has all the normal daily struggles, is raising the kids on her own, all the craziness and worries that come with deployment and now the added stress of following the paper trail of insurance, inspections, contractors, new laws, multiple phone calls to try to get some straight answers, renters issues and paying for it all from 3000 + miles away.

At this point we are left with two choices: Lose the house because we can no longer afford to pay for it in spite of all our efforts to keep it and deal with the financial repercussions that come with that or move out there and live in a house that has no floor, heat, electricity or water, all because the insurance company has dragged its feet.

I would love to get a job to help with the situation, but with about 4 months left to this duty station, employers are not willing to hire and train someone. We are literally stuck.

The small check they finally, just recently sent, can’t be used because it’s not large enough to cover any repairs and it has to be signed by my husband who they know is out to sea.

We have become second class citizens according to the insurance company because we are military stationed away from the house and may very well become homeless ourselves, with little understanding from them or the people around us, who don’t understand how bad the flooding was.

I’m not asking for anything special, for financial help or handouts. I’m asking for the insurance company to stop being dishonest. To stop the silly paperwork shuffle. I keep getting reminded that there was a disaster and there are hundreds of thousands of people in our situation, so one would think they would have a better system set up after Katrina so people wouldn’t have to “homeless” for 3, 4, 5, 6 months or more, or like my husband, wouldn’t have to worry about his family back home, while the insurance company shuffles their paperwork around to justify not paying.

The people in the town are my friends and neighbors, and my heart breaks when I see the devastation they’ve gone through – because 3000 miles away, we’re feeling it too. But now that they are back in their homes and getting back to normal, they are actually starting to feel bad for us and what we’re going through.”



This was truly our last resort – but it worked and we are VERY grateful for the assistance of Pallone’s office and for ALL the people – our contractor, realtor, former renters, friends that live there still and those of you who kept us in your thoughts and prayers, who helped us finally get this started.  I feel very blessed to have so many amazing people in my life!  My one last hope (other than the dang house would just float away) would be that all the people who still haven’t gotten the help we did, can find the people in their life that can assist them.















Day 2 June 11, 2011

Filed under: Boys,Family,Moving,Pets,Places — blankenmom @ 10:56 pm
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Day 2 of our move – 8 hours of family togetherness; so far so good.

Tight quarters!

We managed to get through 5 states today – impressive!

Today was a longer day in the car than yesterday.  The boys in our car started a game of beating on each other; always a fun game?  And the two in the other car enjoyed sending us random texts, but quickly grew a little cranky with no A.C.  What – we all survived?

I think the most compelling part of the day was driving through Alabama and seeing a whole neighborhood that had gotten hit by a tornado.  It was amazing, shocking, heart wrenching and something I, and the family so needed to see.  You see the devastation on t.v. all the time, we’ve even lived two places when they’ve come through, but they never really hit anything near us.  This was the first time we’ve ever seen what can actually happen.  So strange to see a whole block, blown to bits and the next, untouched.  (I don’t have any pic’s because we took us a minute to figure out what had happened and by then, we were passed it.  That’s how picky the tornado’s are about where they’ll hit!)

All I can do as we drive through is pray for the families, that they’re all ok and able to recover.  I just don’t know how they do this every year?  Amazing people!

First mountains we've seen in 5 years! 😀



It’s the little things June 3, 2011

Amidst all the craziness of moving, I promised to carve out a day or two of beach time for the boys – and carve is what I did;  between getting both car’s checked and tuned to perfection, brace removal (of the dental kind), movers, meetings, cleanings, repairs, phone calls, finishing the school year, report cards, transcripts, last trips to this, that and the other “favorite little shop” and of course, good-bye’s and dinner’s, I managed to squeeze in two or so days for the beach.  I had to finagle, beg and borrow to get there, but we’re managing it!

And it began….

OMG’sh – I LOVE BOOGIE BOARDING!  The water is so warm, as I described it to the hubby – “It’s like, pee warm!”  (Ok, a better description probably could have been found, but what fun is there in that?)  In all the years I had heard about warm beaches, I thought they ment warm air, breezes, days – not the water!  So Cool… I mean warm?

Today was the first of those days.  After the ortho appt. for the oldest, we stopped by to pick up the van from the repair shop and deliver it to the base so the hubby could get home, and the three youngest and I ditched the first-born for an afternoon trip to the beach.  The fourth-born and I each got our own boogie boards today, like the middle two and the first-born (who chose a skim board instead) had earlier; I did manage to leave the cute, little baby turtles that were for sale at the surf shop that I SO wanted to bring home with me… (I get brownie points from the hubby for that one)

My new board

My board actually matches my swim suit (excluding the nasty pink bottom), how perfect is that!  I had SO  much fun – I think maybe too much; I didn’t notice a cut toe, scrapped up knees and that my sunscreen may not have been waterproof? 

Mom Boogie boarding

The boys actually ended up wanting to go home before me – they dragged me away, I whined and pleaded, but to no avail….

On the way home with the hot breeze coming through the car, 3 wet, tired out boys chatting with me, music on, heading towards The Chocolate Tree one last time, my mind had to stop and grasp about how lucky we, but in particular, I am.  Not only did we have enough money to get the cars fixed up for the trip, braces for our first-born, I can afford to stay home with the boys, get a special treat for all of us out of the blue, we can take a trip to the beach when ever we want AND the hubby is still safe at home with us for at least a month.  Yeah, those may all be small things – but they add up quick.  How blessed are we to have such a good thing going!

Sometimes we need those moments to take us out of our grumblings of day-to-day life to give us a peek at the good stuff.

We ended the day with a lot of candy, a good squash soup, a beautiful storm – maybe I’ll go sit on my “front porch couch” to watch!   *giggle*

We’ll be going again possibly on Saturday, definitely on Monday and if I’m real good, I can fit Tuesday in too.  Yup, I’m addicted – can anyone say “wetsuit” for the cold coast?

Yeah – I love Boogie boarding, but surfing’s next!