Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Personal, Relationships, Work

Life After Maternity Leave

Before I shared the news of my pregnancy with the world, I decided to tell my boss and co-managers first, in the form of a five person group text. They deserved that much, after all we were like family – a very, very dysfunctional family, but a family nonetheless. Apparently, they all found this news to be so unbelievable that not one single person responded. I waited a day before making the announcement on Facebook. That’s when the comments from co-workers flooded in. My boss even called me in to his office to confirm. He congratulated me and I assured him that after nine years of being a faithful employee, I would not be leaving.

Throughout my pregnancy, my employer was amazing. My boss never took issue with me having to leave work or schedule myself off due to doctor appointments or not feeling well. He checked in on me often and was very supportive. After my last pre-natal check-up, I returned to work. He asked how everything went. I told him Doc said I was dilated to three and 75% effaced. It would be any day now, in fact, I could go into labor that night. It was already two in the afternoon, so my boss told me to go ahead and go home. It would be my last day until after the baby was born. That was a Thursday; my daughter came into this world that Sunday morning.

I am not a salaried employee. I don’t have health, vision, or dental insurance, a 401K plan, sick days, vacation days, or paid time off. There is no maternity leave program. I earn an hourly wage and have a company provided (and paid for) cell phone. There are some pretty amazing perks at my job. My family can tent camp for free and float the river in a raft or a tube for free. We stay in cabins at an extremely reduced rate. I’m not required to wear a uniform – tank tops and flip-flops are perfectly acceptable. I have my own office with unlimited internet and little to no supervision as well as my own kitchen. We enjoy company paid for lunches in the summer and my boss is very flexible with my schedule. If you’re an outdoorsy person with no desire for material things, this is a dream job.

I am still humbled and overjoyed that my employer paid me a partial weekly salary while I took my leave. I am grateful for that.

When my daughter was two months old, I returned to work. It was the off-season and I was still nursing, so I brought her to work with me. The rock ‘n play was set up next to my desk and she slept most of the workday. When she was ready to nurse, I just closed my office door. My boss walked in and I held my breath. I was 98% sure he would be okay with my new office mate, but 2% of me still worried. (Yes, in retrospect, I should have asked first.)

He stopped by my office and we exchanged warm hellos as he welcomed me back. He had a new puppy on a leash with him that was very excited to meet my daughter. He fussed at the pup before saying to me, “I’m sorry I brought my dog to work.”
“I’m sorry I brought my baby to work,” I replied and that was the end of the discussion.

My daughter is one now and no longer sleeps most of the work day. I have exchanged the rock ‘n play with a pack ‘n play. She spends her time watching Chu-Chu TV on YouTube (and if I never hear the Mommy Finger song again, it will be too soon.) Sometimes I take her out of “baby jail” and let her crawl around my office as she tries to unplug my computer or just sit on my lap while I attempt to type one-handed. She loves for me twirl her around in my swivel chair.

My boss still brings his dog to work, too. She’s not a puppy anymore and he no longer keeps her leashed in his office. When they arrive, she promptly runs to me, licks my face, then goes to do her “job.” She has become the official “Guardian of the Baby.” She walks in circles around the pack ‘n play, making sure everything is as it should be. She licks my daughter’s feet through the netting, then settles down in place, right next to the play pen. If someone dares enter my office, she jumps up and stands at attention – her ears sticking straight up and her tail pointing straight out. Once she determines they are not threat, she lets her guard down.

Most days my daughter doesn’t interfere with my work, but some days… well, it can be tough. There are times when she is splayed across my desk as I change her diaper while she kicks and squirms. My office now reeks of fresh baby poop. Occasionally I take a call while she is saying, “Mommommomm” in the background. I get tired. So very tired. I wonder how I will ever get my work done while spoon-feeding a baby and wanting to rip my hair out after hearing the “Johnny Johnny” song for the umpteenth time today. It’s times like these that I have to remind myself she won’t always be here.

I don’t know what the cut-off age will be, but I know when she starts walking, talking, and getting into everything in sight, I’m going to need figure something out. Finding childcare makes my stomach turn. I don’t want to let her go. I want her with me until she has to go to school. I have no back-up plan and no idea where she will go while I’m at work. It’s a problem that sits in the back of my mind constantly and it weighs me down. I was not afforded this luxury with my older children and now that I am able to take my child to work with me, I can’t imagine not having her.

Believe me, I know I am incredibly lucky to be in this position. It’s a struggle moms all over the world face when their maternity leave ends. I am so thankful. I love my job and I love living this camplife. I’m proud to raise my daughter in this environment and will probably only retire when my hands are too arthritic to type. Until then, I hope to take my daughter to work with me as long as possible.


Hashtag camplife.

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Home, Personal

Call Me Old-Fashioned, but…

I wandered into a local children’s boutique on a mission. I was in full-on nesting mode, decorating the nursery for my soon to be born daughter. The item I was searching for? Crib bedding. It had already been decided that yellow and gray would adorn the walls and decorations. It had been eighteen years since I had a baby and I remembered being able to purchase a bed-in-a-bag with all the matching sheets, crib skirts, blankets, and throw pillow.

“Can I help you find something?” The sales clerk asked.
“Yes, I’m looking for crib sets.”
“You mean like crib sheets?”
“I’d like to find a whole set with blankets and bumper pads, too.”
“We don’t sell bumper pads anymore. They’re too controversial!”
“I didn’t know bumper pads were controversial,” I said, confused.
“Oh honey, what’s not controversial these days?”

She was right. As I began to prepare for the birth of my daughter, I was learning that many things deemed “normal” when I had my older children were now considered taboo. I fed on demand, co-slept, and didn’t abide by a stringent feeding schedule or practice sleep training. Apparently I am a bad parent because of that. How could things have changed so drastically in the course of two decades?

After my daughter was born, my husband and I were excited to get her ears pierced. In my family, girls getting their ears pierced was a rite of passage. In my husband’s Hispanic family, it was a cultural tradition. I had taken both of my older daughter’s to get theirs done after their four month vaccinations. I expected to do the same with this daughter, but I wasn’t sure where to get it done. Naturally, I asked my Mommy Group on Facebook.
Oh boy.

If you belong to a Mommy Group, you know that at times, they can be the most supporting and understanding group of people on the planet. Other times, they can be the most judgmental, mom-shaming gang of mean girls you’ll ever encounter.

“How can you justify mutilating your baby’s body just for your own selfish wants?” One mom responded. Another mom said, “Piercing your baby’s ears is equivalent to child abuse.”

Child abuse? Mutilation? Whaaaaat?

There were other moms offering advice, suggesting the local pediatric clinic as well as piercing parlors. I learned that it was better if needles were used rather piercing guns, though I am still not sure why. I did not expect to be met with such disdain. The post turned into a full-on contentious debate between pro and anti-piercers. I had never seen the words “body modification” tossed around so much on one thread. It even sparked an argument about circumcision.  Uh, yes, my twenty-one year old son is circumcized, just as his father and grandfather before him. My ears are pierced just as my mother and grandmother before her.

Call me old-fashioned, but I would like go back to the time when you parent your way, I parent my way, and we all bring our favorite dish to the potluck block party in peace.

…now get off my lawn.


Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Personal, Relationships

Cart to Cart

Picture it: Grocery store, 7:00 pm, Health & Beauty Aisle

Olive’s barefeet are dangling through the leg holes of the basket while I’m trying to select the right conditioner for me. Color treated hair? Deep conditioning? Repair & Restore? Avocado, Coconut, or Moroccan oil? Is there a product that has all of these things, because I think I need all of these things. My husband is exercising his patience while silently praying that I’ll just make a damn decision before the store closes. I ask Olive for advice and she stares back at me with her goofy little grin, exposing her 3 bottom teeth. Her smile is crooked and it always reminds of Popeye without the pipe.

An elderly man in a motorized shopping cart rolls up, eyes sparkling as he sees Olive flutter her eyelashes at him. She giggles. His USMC trucker hat sits slightly awry on top of his balding head. His white collared shirt is so thin after seven thousand washes that I can clearly see his v-neck undershirt.

He raises a gnarled, arthritic hand to the basket and gently pats Olive’s. They are in awe of each other, both winning the staring contest. Decades stand between them; he could be her great-grandfather. I marvel at the circle of life right in front of me, clutching my bottle of Pantene as they both sit in their respective age-appropriate carts.

“Well hello, sweetheart,” he says to her. “Aren’t you just the most precious thing God ever created?” It’s possible I’m biased, but I nod my head in 100% agreement. Olive cocks her side to the side and then in response she…

…blows him a raspberry.

OH MY GOD. I want to slink down the (invisible) drain the way my last bottle of conditioner did when it was left on its side with the cap open in the bath. (Thanks, kids.)
“OLIVE!” I admonish. She looks at me, smirks, and blows me a raspberry, too.

“Okay, okay, I get it. I’ll leave you alone now little girl,” he says to her and we hear the reverse beep on his scooter. I see the sadness in his eyes. He is visibly hurt. I want to apologize, I want to hug him, I want him to stay so he can see adorable Ollie really is. He is looking the other way while backing up, but he does say good-bye. Olive knows this word all too well and she immediately starts waving. I desperately want him to see this.
“PLEASE TURN AROUND!” I am yelling at him inside my head.

He gets his cart into position and finally looks back at us. He smiles. I sneak a peek at Ollie, hoping she is still waving. She isn’t. Instead, she is eye-locked with him again, but this time she…

…blows him a kiss.




My oldest Dallas and my grandson Lyric Cody


My daughter Mikayla and my grandson Mason

Posted in Community, Culture, Home, Personal, Relationships, Television

The Pursuit of Happiness

The Presidential debates are tonight. For the third time in a row, I do not plan to watch. Like many other Americans humans, I’ve had enough of all of it. Nothing either candidate says or does will influence me at this point. There will be chatter about our Forefathers, our Constitution, and the Declaration of Independence. And being Independent is exactly what I plan on doing. (Maybe I’m referring to my vote, maybe I’m referring to my plans for tonight – take it as you like.)

“We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

The pursuit of Happiness – a God given unalienable right.

While many people are busy arguing Gun Control vs The Right to Bear Arms, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” vs extreme vetting, telling your Facebook adversary to “shut up” vs The Freedom of Speech, Banning Sharia Law vs Freedom of Religion, media censorship vs Freedom of the Press, yada yada yada, they seem to be overlooking the pursuit of Happiness. I find it notable that the words Rights, Creator, Life, Liberty, and Happiness are all capitalized in the Declaration of Independence. (It’s not like Jefferson had the option to use “bold” or “italics” to emphasize importance.)

There are certainly things in life we MUST do that we aren’t exactly happy about (washing the dishes, for example) the idea is – happiness is a choice. You can be miserable that you’re getting dish-pan hands, touching the slobber on your Corelle Livingware Mosaic Red dinner plate after your 5 year-old son licked the ketchup clean off of it, or you can CHOOSE to be happy that your kitchen will be clean when you are done. You simply make a choice. Start with the little things. Find joy in the scent that follows you after you’ve brushed by a rosemary bush, delight in the hidden soundtrack on the new CD you bought, be pleased in finding the rogue onion ring that turned up in your order of fries. Once you’ve made the decision to find the upside, bright side, and silver linings in the simple things, finding it in the bigger picture becomes habit. Do you hear me?
Happiness will become a habit.

Donald Trump does not make me happy. Hillary Clinton does not make me happy. You know what does make me happy?
– Getting my butt kicked at wii-golf by my grandson.
– Playing patty-cake with Olive for the zillionth time today.
– Watching my 44 year-old husband and his friends have an “old man skate session” at the skate park.
– Taking a hot shower, shaving my legs, putting on my favorite nightgown, and getting in a bed with freshly laundered sheets whilst reading a novel from my favorite author.
– Literally anything that doesn’t have e-mail scandals, pussy grabbing, or is associated with Trump or Clinton.

These are some of the many things I will be doing during the debates tonight. Whether you watch the debates or not, that is your choice, but for the love of God, please practice your unalienable right to pursue Happiness.



Posted in Community, Culture, Home, Personal, Relationships

Sandy Sandy Night

Thursdays are generally chaotic for us, so when we were asked to join a co-ed sand volleyball league on Thursday evenings, we gladly accepted. In our minds, it would be a fun way to let loose after a tumultuous day at work. My husband closes his business at 6:00 pm and our first game starts at 6:45 pm, not leaving us much time to get home, change clothes, grab dinner, get the baby ready, and head out the door. It’s always pandemonium.
Wednesday evening, my husband went for a skate sesh with his buddy Reagan. Several hours later when he limped through the door, his ankle looked like it swallowed a soft ball. Apparently the skate wheels weren’t the only thing that rolled that night.
His contribution to the game would be in question.

We left Black Dog Pet Spa at precisely 6 o’clock and went straight home. We were ecstatic to find that my daughter Dallas had made dinner for everyone! One less thing to worry about. After a mad rush of clothes changing, diaper changing, and face stuffing, we scrambled to the car and left for Landa Park. Upon arrival, I swiftly kicked off my flip-flops, cracked open a cold one, and sunk my toes in the sand. It was glorious. I’m not going to bore you with the details, but let’s just that by the time we finished our last game Jose’s ankle looked like it belonged to the Elephant Man and my right arm was burning from my shoulder down to my elbow nearly necessitating a sling. That being said, our team “The Sand Eaters” crushed it. We packed up our things and left the park triumphant.

In the car, my husband had the familiar gleam in his eye and I instinctively knew what was coming. With a presumptuous side grin, he voiced the desire to go have a few celebratory Lone Stars at our favorite watering hole – The Phoenix Saloon. Thursday Night Football was on the big screen and karaoke was happening on the small stage. He wasn’t ready to let go of the high we had from winning. We hobbled in the house appearing more wrecked than the bench players on my Fantasy Football team. (I’m looking at you Ertz, Rawls, Langford, and Walker.) I sheepishly asked Dally if she would mind watching Olive for a couple of hours and without hesitation, she said yes. Jose was ready to skedaddle, no time for a shower, so I said F-You to the Fashion Police, threw on my staple white sundress after Labor Day, and brushed sand from parts of my body that you should never have sand in.

Jose’s ankle injury seemed to have magically healed itself as I’m almost certain he skipped through the doors of The Phoenix. Our favorite bartender Mario greeted us with handshakes and Tall Boys. We felt good. A couple of friends walked in and joined us at the bar. While Jose was on stage singing “Never Tear Us Apart,” (making me weak in the knees) our friend emerged from the ladies room looking crestfallen. She immediately relayed to me that she overheard a gaggle of girls saying nasty, horrible, racist things about us while powdering their noses. Jesus Christ on a cracker!

(In my best southern drawl) Well, bless their pea-pickin’ little hearts. I might be able to turn the other cheek, but if Jose caught wind of this he might could cancel their birth certificates. No sooner did he get off stage than he saw the hurt in my eyes and asked what had happened. Like George Washington, I cannot tell a lie so I spilled the beans. He surveilled the crowd, looking for the snakes in the grass. There were a ton of females there, many of whom appeared to have just left some sort of women’s only tacky prom dress party (but I ain’t judgin’, I swear it!) so it was difficult to identify the culprits.

In true Jose and Liz fashion, we retaliated in the most mature way we could think of – by getting on stage and delivering the most epic and Castelanish rendition of “You’re The One That I Want” (I was Sandy) ever sang in a karaoke bar. Or maybe not. Either way, we refused to let the lint lickers get the best of us and in doing so, we had a very sandy, very splendid evening.


Like sands through the hour glass, these are the days of our lives.


Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

Rock of Ages

Some days my skin is so thick you can take a cheese grater to it and not cause a wound. Some days, my skin is so thin you can slice it to the bone with a single word.

Passive aggressive criticism is shitty. You can “bless my heart” all you like, but at the end of the day, you’re still a flower covered asshole. I can usually take it, even when I rarely ever dish it, but say something to one of my children and I will destroy you.
…or not. I’m not really that type of person. But I will want to. Oh my God, I will want to. I will think of a gazillion different things to say to you to put you in your place. I will kick you in your gut and smash your toes with the heel of my boot (in my mind.) But I don’t. Instead, I take the high road. I try to teach my children that we are better than that. Some people are miserable and misery loves company. There are folks in this world that live a negative life and I encourage a positive life. We should not judge, we should encourage. Compliment, not criticize.

“Mommy-Shaming” is not a new thing. Working Moms vs Stay At Home Moms, Breast-feeding vs Bottle-feeding, Co-Sleeping vs Crib-Sleeping, Vaxxed vs Un-Vaxxed, Home-Schooling vs Public-Schooling vs Private-Schooling, and on and on and on and on. But the one I am addressing today is:

Age Shaming – specifically, Child Birth Age Shaming.

I had my oldest daughter at 19 and had my youngest daughter at the ripe old age of 40. Lucky me, I got to experience age-shaming on both ends. I mean statistically speaking, I was a “teen mom,” and even now, that term incites negativity from within me (even though it shouldn’t.)  My obstetrician with my youngest loved to refer to me as having “advanced maternal age,” and that term still makes me cringe. (Yes, I know that’s the correct medical term, doesn’t make it more appealing though.)

Age shaming usually comes with advertisements for wrinkle creams, but when it comes to having children, apparently there is so small window of opportunity in which it is acceptable to have children. Have them too young and you are judged, have them too old and you are judged. When I discovered I was pregnant just a few weeks shy of my 40th birthday, the age shaming came directly from friends.  To this day I have a vivid recollection of one of my closest friends saying, “But you’re a grandmother. You’re done. You’re kids are grown. You shouldn’t be having kids again.” Ahhhh, the magic word “shouldn’t.” I shouldn’t says who exactly? You? Society? Science? Not my doctor. He asked me when I was going to have another one after Olive was born. (Still on the fence about that one.)

While we are at it… let’s talk age differences in your children. If you haven’t already done the math, my oldest and youngest daughters almost 22 years apart. I know it’s not common, but it’s also not anyone’s business but mine (and my husband’s.) So, yesterday afternoon, my very pregnant (36 weeks along to be exact) daughter was at the grocery store with my almost 10 month old daughter. While in line at the check-out, the woman in front of her turned around and my eyed my daughter up and down – noticing the baby (my baby), noticing her belly, and back up to noticing the baby again. It made my daughter uncomfortable. She went so far as to ask my daughter how old Olive was and when her other baby was due. Holy crap, you guys! Who does this? This lady did. What the FRENCH TOAST business is it of hers? If Olive was my daughter’s daughter, then her children would be 11 months apart. (My mother calls that “Catholic Twins.”) If I had been standing there I would’ve jerked the hair tie off my wrist, thrown my hair up in bun, handed my daughter my earrings and stepped up to this ignorant woman.
…or not.  Because we all know I’m not really that type of that person. But I would have wanted to. Instead, I would’ve taken the high road, just as my daughter did.

And that makes me so very proud.


While I draw this fleeting breath,
When mine eyes shall close in death,
When I soar to worlds unknown,
See Thee on Thy judgement throne,
Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in Thee.


Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

To Die For…

I can’t keep quiet any longer. Like Jose said, “Opinions are like assholes and everybody has one,” so I’m finally going to throw in my two cents. I tried to avoid it, but the topic has been front and center everywhere I turn. It’s on television and social media. I guess what finally threw me over the edge was this:


I am, of course, talking about Brittany Maynard.
I’ve read hundreds of comments about her. (Whatever, I have a lot of time on my hands.) It seems everyone is passionate about their opinion and everyone is convinced their opinion is the right one. I’ve seen her called brave and a coward, I’ve seen her called a hero and a quitter.
As with any controversial topic, you’re going to see heated debate, one that inevitably includes religion. And what what would a controversial topic be without the deity of your choice waltzing in wearing a flashing neon sign? (hashtag Ecclesiastes 7:17)

Oh yeah, don’t forget politics! You can’t have a discussion (especially on Election Day) without politics entering the picture. Did you know that there are three states in the union that have “Death With Dignity” Laws? I didn’t either. They are Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. All three of them are blue states.

“Remember to vote Democrat today! If it weren’t for them, Brittany wouldn’t have been able to CHOOSE death with dignity!”


“Make sure you vote Republican today! They would NEVER allow a doctor to murder!”

Holy crap! I guess it’s all about perspective. Out of all the comments I’ve read, I think I like this one the most:
joseWhat do you think? Until you have walked the shoes of a person facing this, are you really entitled to your opinion? Do I have the right to state my own opinion knowing the road I’m facing with my tumors? Sure, my situation is different. I am not physically suffering. I’ve had a few terrible, nearly unbearable bouts. When it gets bad, I can usually hide the pain, pretend I’m okay. I’m a lover of life with a smile on my face, but the pain I suffer from is emotional, rarely physical. I just want these tumors out of me. I want my life back. No matter how happy I may seem, I always have thoughts of this ugliness in the back of my head (pun intended.) I want to be normal. I want to be healthy. I want to not have to face this ever again. Sure, if you are breathing, you are dying. We all know we can’t beat death, but we don’t know when our time will come, well, some of us have an idea. Brittany knew how long she had. I have an idea of how much time I have left. It changes your perspective, I assure you.

The vast majority of the comments I’ve read go something like this:
“My (insert family member or loved one) is currently/has recently suffered from (insert debilitating disease here.) It pains me to watch/have watched them suffer from this terrible illness. While I don’t personally experience this, seeing this person in my life go through this makes me qualified to pass judgment on Brittany. I think she is a coward/hero for the choices she made and she should/shouldn’t be influencing others to do the same.”

I think the common denominator we should all be focusing on is that fact that nearly every single person has been impacted in some way by a deadly disease. Whether they themselves are diagnosed or their loved one. In the end, someone suffers, someone dies. Shouldn’t we be focusing all of our energy where it really belongs?
I started my blog with a quote from Jose and I’ll end it with a quote from Jose:

“Want to ‘pray’ for someone, want to be mad at someone? Want to call people dirty names? Try the government agencies and the pharmaceutical companies and the lobbyists who hold up research and shoot down the alternative drugs and procedures that could heal some of these people, and have a little damn compassion…”

Well said my love, well said.

Posted in Community, Crafts, Family, Home, Personal

10 Inexpensive Activities for All Ages

Now that Summer is winding down, the kids have reached the ultimate level of “I’m bored.” Since we have 8 kids at any given time ranging in ages from 3 to 20, I put together a list of fun, inexpensive activities for everyone to enjoy of any age or gender. If you have any to add, please do so in the comments. Enjoy!

1. Make rock candy
It is so easy! I found the glass jars at the Dollar Tree and bamboo skewers ($1 for a pack of 50) and clothes pins.

2. Homemade Chia Pets!
I got almost everything at the Dollar Tree, including the googly-eyes. The grass seed came from Wal-Mart.

3. Make a hula-hoop rug!
We got the hula-hoops at the Dollar Tree and used old t-shirts. The kids loved this!

4. Tie-Dye Party.
The whole kit was 14.99 at Wal-Mart. We used shirts we already had, ones with stains that we never wear, but now they have a new life!

5. Hand Painted Tic-Tac-Toe
I found this on Pinterest. Such a cute idea!
32-Of-The-Best-DIY-Backyard-Games-You-Will-Ever-Play326. Camp on the Tramp!
We put a tent up on top of the trampoline, made a campfire in the BBQ grill, made s’mores, and told ghost stories. The kids loved camping out on the trampoline.
tramp7. Most of you have seen the kids spy game idea. We put it up and the kids absolutely loved it. I went through it and it was so difficult, but so fun!
spy8. Wax paper “stained glass”
I got a huge pack of knock-off Sharpies in awesome colors from HEB for $4.99. This kept the kids entertained for hours.

9. Coffee Can Lanterns
I save my coffee cans in case I ever need them for a project. We let the younger kids map out their pattern on paper and let the older kids nail the holes. Everybody got to spray paint their coffee can. They came out awesome!

10. Recycled Bird Feeder Mobile
This was enjoyable for everyone and they all got to be original in their ideas, plus we got to do some awesome bird watching as a result!


**For all you local New Braunfels, Texas Moms**
McKenna Childrens Museum is perfect for every age and they are having an awesome Space Exhibit right now. You can get half price tickets on Groupon – 4 for $15!

Don’t forget the Train Museum. My kids love going there!
I hope you enjoy this list and please add anything you can think of!

Posted in Community, Culture, Family, Food, Home, Music, Personal, Relationships

Great Expectations

I was sitting in front of the mirror in my bedroom, carefully applying my make-up when Penelope walked in.

“Where are you going?”
“Your Dad and I are going dancing.”
She groaned. “I haaaaaate it when Parker babysits us!”
I always thought of Parker as being the cool big sister and that the kids would love to hang out with her all night. “How come?” I asked.
“Because,” she said in the whiniest voice an 8 year old could make, “Pixie is a whiny-baby. She whines and whines and whines and keeps whining until she finally gets her way. And she ALWAYS gets her way. It’s not fair!”
“Hmmmmm,” I said, “Pixie isn’t the only one we know who whines…”
“I know,” Penelope said matter-of-factually.
“Who else do we know that whines?” I asked while peering at her through the corner of my eye.
“YOU!” Penelope exclaimed.
“Yes, you whine ALL THE TIME!”
“I do? When?”
“Like on Easter… if everything isn’t perfect, you’re going to whine,” she said flatly.
“That’s an example of when I *might* whine. Give me an example of when I *have* whined.”
“Well, there’s just so many to choose from.”
“If there’s so many, name just one,” I said, wondering when I had ever whined.
“Let me think of the best one,” she said as she left the room.

I sat there looking at myself in the mirror wondering if I was a whiner. I was sure I wasn’t and couldn’t think of a single time in my adult life that I had been. That’s when Parker wandered in and saw my expression.

“Am I whiner?” I asked her seriously.
“What? No. You are NOT a whiner.”
“Penelope just told me I whine like Pixie.”
“Oh my God, don’t listen to her. She’s the whiner.”

I told Parker about the conversation I just had with Penelope. After a second, I asked her about the other thing Penelope said… about Easter. If everything wasn’t perfect and all.

“Well, Liz,” I could tell she was choosing her words carefully, which isn’t common with a 13 year old. They came out staggered and slowly. “You do tend to have impossibly high hopes of perfection,” she said apologetically.

‘Impossibly high hopes of perfection.’ Her words stung, though I knew it wasn’t intentional. Just then, Jose walked through the door and asked if I was ready. I was ready. After my conversations with the girls, I needed to let loose and get my dance on. We kissed the kids good-bye and headed to Gruene Hall to see the Old 97’s. I was excited, but still, Parker’s words lingered in my head.
“Do you think I whine?” I asked Jose in the car as we headed downtown. Without hesitation, he said “no,” and I could tell he meant it truthfully. I was relieved. “Do you think I have ‘impossibly high hopes of perfection?'” He drew a breath and looked away. That was the only answer I needed.
Apparently in my circle I’m known for a few key phrases (In no particular order):
– “I support this.”
– “I need a beer.”
– “I just want everything to be perfect.” and
– “Fuck it.”

We arrived at Gruene Hall to a sold out show. The gal at the door checked the guest list, signed us in and stamped our hands. We went to the bar, got a couple of Lone Stars and headed towards the stage. The place was packed and I knew there would be no dancing. Bummer. Following his lead, Jose wove through the crowd so we could get closer to the stage. The gal behind me grabbed my hips and moved my whole body to the left, telling me the flower in my hair obstructed her line of vision. Wow. I may or may not have “accidentally” crushed her toes with my 5″ black patent leather stilettos. Jose wrangled his way backstage and we got some awesome pics. It was a GREAT show!

The next morning my daughter Dallas and I carpooled to work. I was dying to talk to her, she’s always been honest with me. I filled her in on what the girls said to me and asked if she agreed.
“You don’t whine, Mom. I whine. I was whining this morning about getting out of bed and Brandon yelled at me from his room to quit whining.”
“What about having ‘impossibly high hopes of perfection?” I asked.
“Well…” her voice trailed off.
I hung my head and inspected me feet.
“You’re not always like that. Sometimes you just say, “fuck it” and go with the flow. You do both.”
That’s the truth I was after.

Why does ‘perfection’ seem like a dirty word in this context? What is so wrong with striving for perfection anyway? Didn’t we spend our childhood trying to get 100’s on spelling tests? Weren’t we told “practice makes perfect,” “aim high,” “do your best?’ yada yada yada. “It’s a dog-eat-dog world and if you’re going to make it, you have to be better than the rest.” Us Generation Xers weren’t raised with the “everybody is a winner” attitude. We didn’t get ribbons and trophies just for participating. If we lost a soccer tournament we went home with a speech from Coach telling us what we did wrong so we could be perfect at the next game. Oh yeah, and an orange. We always got oranges after playing soccer.

I did have big plans for Easter and yes, I did want everything to be perfect. This would be the first year I was hosting and cooking. I was looking forward to having all of kids there at once. That had never happened before. We invited our nearest and dearest friends, too. I had lists, I had plans. I had the whole menu picked out, bought token gifts for the big kids, color coordinated the baskets and eggs for the little kids and hit up Hobby Lobby for all the materials I needed to make everyone an Easter basket. This was going to be perfect. Yes, I have visions in my head. I knew how I wanted everything to go. I chose gifts that I knew everyone would appreciate and picked their favorite colors just for them. I used scrapbook paper, Modge Podge, and matching ribbons for the baskets. They came out perfect.

I bought all the groceries for my perfect meal and knew just what I wanted. My friend Angie (an amazing photographer) was coming over to take perfect pictures of my perfect family. This Easter would go down in the books. All 10 kids would remember this forever and my first attempt at hosting an Easter party for the family would be stress-free, problem-free, and care-free. It would be perfect.

Except it wasn’t.

I had told all the guest to arrive at 1pm. We began cooking the night before and I thought I would get off work at 10am on Easter Sunday. I didn’t. By noon I called my daughter Dallas and asked her to go to my house to finish the food. I was already in tears. Nothing was going as planned. My other daughter Mikayla said she was going to be late. I still hadn’t showered or done my make-up and the family pictures were on my mind. Parker had helped me make the baskets and Brandon helped stuff the eggs. When you have tons of kids, you have tons of help. My boss let me leave at 12:30pm and I sped home. I raced in the door, put Dallas to work on the deviled eggs, put Parker to work on the green beans, kissed Jose and said, “I need a beer.” After cracking a Lone Star, I changed into my yellow Easter dress, put a flower in my hair, slapped on some make-up and hurried to the kitchen. Things were in full swing with kids running around everywhere. My grandson Lyric was already jumping on the trampoline, neighborhood kids, my kids, my step-kids, and my friends kids were on bikes, skateboards, scooters, and my heels. I made a proclamation that you had to be at least 16 years old to be in the kitchen. I heard someone say, “I support this,” and I smiled. I’m rubbing off on them. Perfect.

We were *supposed* to have friend chicken, mashed potatoes, fried okra, green beans, spinach & strawberry salad, deviled eggs, pasta salad, baked beans, dinner rolls, and apple pie. I forgot to make the spinach salad and okra. Dallas and I destroyed the eggs while we were peeling them so our deviled eggs looked especially devilish. Jose fried the chicken to perfection. Naturally. While the younger kids were eating, I sent the older kids out to hide the eggs. I had begun to relax. Few things were going as planned, but everybody was there and enjoying themselves. That’s what mattered. When we were all done eating, Angie grabbed her camera and we all headed outside for the coup de gras! Starting with the cascarones, (confetti eggs for you Yankees) the kids chased each other around the backyard as it rained brightly colored tissue paper everywhere. The adults kept a safe distance at the patio table while the teenagers watched from the trampoline. I watched everybody else and there were smiles all around. Perfect. When the cascarones were gone, we let them hunt for their colors. Dallas and Ray helped Lyric “find” his orange eggs. He picked up the first one and tried to crush it on Ray’s head. Lesson learned. Egg hunt first, then cascarones. Not perfect, but seriously funny. Once all the eggs were found, Angie set us up for some family photos under the tree. I had ‘impossibly high hopes of perfection.’ Lyric began to cry. Trying to get that many people to sit still and smile at the same time was a daunting task, but you know what? I think the photo came out pretty perfect, don’t you?

Maybe everything didn’t jive with the visions in my head. Maybe the food didn’t come out just as I expected it, and maybe things didn’t go the perfect way I envisioned them to, but we had a wonderful time. We were surrounded by the people we love and the people that love us back. My Great Expectations were realized. Maybe perfect doesn’t mean that things go exactly the way you planned. Maybe the idea of perfect in my head wasn’t perfect at all. While we were celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus, I was praising Him for showing me that Perfect Love is what it’s all about.

Posted in Community, Personal, Relationships

International Women’s Day 2014

I never acknowledge a celebrity on IWD, I prefer to choose someone whose hard work and accomplishments I personally see in everyday life. In the past I’ve celebrated my mother, sister, and daughters – all of whom were well deserving that I still hold on a pedestal. For this years woman, I’d like to acknowledge my very dear friend, Miss Kelly Mochel.
In the year that I’ve known her, my love and admiration grows daily. I’ve witnessed her face struggle and heartache head on. She always perseveres. Her positive and strong attitude pushes her through all of the challenges she faces. Always one to put others first, I’ve seen her deprive herself in order to do for others, all the while sans complaint and with a smile on her face. She is one of the greatest mothers I’ve ever known, hardest workers I’ve ever seen, and best of friends I’ve ever had.
Let me tell you something about Kelly. When she saw things going on in our city that she didn’t agree with, instead of griping about it on social media or to family and friends, she decided to stand up and try to be a voice of her friends and neighbors by throwing her hat in the ring for City Council. Elections are May 10th and from what I’ve seen, she stands a damn fine chance! Already dubbed “The Hospitality Princess,” Kelly is a fixture in our community that is pro-tourism, pro-river, and pro-local economy.
I’m so very proud of all that she has done and all she plans to do and will be right by her side as she moves forward. No matter the outcome on May 10th I know she will continue to be the strong, community-minded hard working, “hospitality princess” that she is!
So today, International Women’s Day 2014, I salute you, Kelly Mochel. You are the kind of person women everywhere (myself included) strive to be. Thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do!

I love you, my friend.
Always & Forever