Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

Revenge of the Fifth

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Some call it karma. I guess I had it coming. I had spent nearly twenty-three years professing how amazing my pregnancies were. Hardly any nausea, minimal weight gain, no swelling, quick labors, fast delivery, angel babies that slept through the night and caught on to nursing at the first latch… Yes, I lived the dream.

Just before my 42nd birthday, I found out we were expecting. This would be my fifth birth, but I had an additional four I earned through marriage. I was no stranger to being a mother of “Advanced Maternal Age.” My fourth child was born when I was forty, but like the others, she was easy peasy. I am now in the second trimester of this pregnancy, or as some like to call it, “The Honeymoon Phase.”
Listen honey, if this is the honeymoon, I want a divorce.

I am tired. So very tired. Maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s because I have a toddler with more energy than a hydrogen bomb, but my guess is, it’s the new baby growing inside me sucking the life from my soul. Literally.

One morning last week, I woke up with a debilitating back ache. If I turned the wrong way, lightning would strike my spine and shoot down my leg. My right butt cheek would be left on fire. Apparently, our pending bundle of joy has caused my uterus to expand in such a way that I now have a pinched nerve. Sciatica during pregnancy is very real and very painful. I’ve been walking around hunched over like an old lady in need of a walker. I wince every time I sit. I can’t pick up my toddler out of fear of paralysis.
My best friend bought me a heating pad and I sit on a pillow at work. Also, if you’re wondering what that smell is, it’s Tiger Balm. Holy Christ on a cracker, this balm is the bomb! I slather that shit on like it holds the Fountain of Youth.

balm

As I waddled up to the check-out at Walgreen’s yesterday, the clerk looked down at my purchases (tennis balls and an electric massager) and gave me a solemn look.
“Pinched nerve?” she asked knowingly.
“My baby is trying to kill me,” I replied as I stuck my card in the chip reader. That card doesn’t even have a chip. I sighed, swiped it, and gimped away.

I had done my research. Google, Pinterest, and my faithful Facebook Mommy Group (shoutout to MoNBU) all offered the same advice. It was jumbled mix of foreign words I didn’t understand like, “exercise, stretches, yoga, workout, asana,” and something about remaining “active.”
…Basically, there was NOTHING I could do except lay around and complain to my husband in between naps.

He’s been a good sport about it. Just last night he cleaned the entire kitchen. He hasn’t said a word about my acne outbreaks, bloating, whining, uncontrollable hunger, daily mental breakdowns, or when I complain about the painful cramping that turns out to just be gas. Ooops. Sorry, baby.

loveme

 

 

 

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

Another Revolution, Another Resolution 

Most years I don’t make any resolutions. I tell myself I’m happy just the way I am. I’ve never been a person who said I would try to lose weight, eat healthier  (frankly, my eating habits are none of my business and I should just stay out of it,) or do something about my batwings. (Lord help that arm flab.)

Last year I did decide to try the New Year jar where you write down a happy moment, place it in the jar, and read all the happy memories on NYE. That lasted until spring when I decided to use the jar as a homemade lemonade container. Now it looks like nothing happy happened in our lives after March in 2016. *sigh*


I also resolved to be less of a pushover. The basic definition of a pushover is a person who rarely says no, so in that regard, I failed… but did I? I’ve always taught my children that if someone asks a favor of you and you can do it, by all means do it. A small effort on your part can make a huge difference for someone else. I rarely said “no” in 2016, so I call that fail a win.

I also promised myself I would complete my first book and I did. It was sent to a renowned children’s publisher on November 9th. They said it could take four months to hear back from them so I’m holding my breath until March 9th. Even if it never gets published, I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing I wrote it and I think it’s pretty damn good.

I’ve started writing my next book in the style of my favorite author, humorist Erma Bombeck. It’s a comedic autobiographical acount of what it’s like for me to be a 20th Century mom raising a 21st Century baby. Basically, it’s just a longer version of some of my funnier blogs and hopefully relatable to parents everywhere. I hope to complete it in 2017 and have higher hopes of it getting published. I don’t have delusions of grandeur. I’m not expecting it make the best seller lists, but I would like for it to hit home for many parents out there.

I do strive to be a better wife and better mother. I don’t need December 31st to make those goals. It’s something I strive for daily.

For the past week, I’ve tried to think of what resolutions I’ll make tonight and I’ve come up empty-handed. I don’t want to set myself for failure, I don’t want to set any meaningless goals, but I do want to have something to strive for in the new year. I’m a list maker and love the satisfaction of crossing something off my list.

So what will it be? Sky-diving? Learn to play the piano? Decide what I want to be when I grow up? Teach myself how to fishtail braid? Clean out the thousands of emails in my inbox?

Whatever it is, I may not choose it tonight and that’s okay. January 1st may represent a clean slate, but you know what else does? Every single new day.

If 2016 has taught us anything, it’s that having the chance to wake up every morning – no matter the day of year, and have the oppurtunity to make a decision to better your life in some small or significant way is more than some less fortunate are able to say.

Happy New Year, All. Make it a great one!

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.

camplife

Hashtag camplife.

Posted in Culture, Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

I Dry-Nurse My Granddaughter and I Don’t Care What You Think

She was inconsolable. I tried everything. I had foolishly considered myself an expert after raising four children and step-mothering an additional four, but nothing in my bag of tricks was working. My two month old granddaughter’s uncontrollable sobbing set off my one year old. They cried in unison. Ten minutes prior, everything was fine. I had dinner going on the stove and cartoons going on the television.

When my oldest daughter was twenty-one, I gave birth to my youngest daughter. Eleven months later, my granddaughter was born. Having a child and grandchild less than a year apart certainly has its advantages. I don’t feel guilty spending money on clothes and toys, knowing they will be passed along. We have the same pediatrician, belong to the same Mommy group, and our girls have matching car seats.

None of my children ever had colic, so when my daughter asked for advice, I had none to give. She spoke with the doctor, the pharmacist, and other moms. She tried gripe water, tummy time, swaddlers, white noise, and every pacifier on the market – to no avail. I got a frantic call from her one evening. She was overwhelmed and exhausted. Through her tears, she explained that she hadn’t bathed in four days and it had been longer since she slept. My granddaughter would only rest in twenty minute intervals and they both needed relief. I offered to take the baby for the night.

“No Mom,” she protested. “She won’t take a bottle and I don’t have any pumped milk, anyway.”

A couple of months went by and my daughter was ready to go back to work, just in time for Christmas. Naturally, I offered to babysit. Her first shift was only three hours. This would be the first time they were apart for longer than a speedy shower. She arrived at my house with an over-packed diaper bag, enough pumped milk to survive the Apocalypse, and apologies. She worried that it would be a burden for me, but I assured her I was thrilled for some time with my granddaughter! We hugged, she kissed the baby, and left for work.

So there I was, holding two crying babies, one on each hip, scolding myself for thinking I was an “expert.” I set the babies down, raced to grab the Bjorn, and strapped my granddaughter in. My own daughter was jealous and wailing. I scooped her up to my hip while trying to calm them both. Their combined screams pierced my ears, but there was something else…

…the smoke detector! It blared loud enough to drown out the babies and alert the neighborhood that I burnt the potatoes on the stove. While wildly flailing a kitchen towel at the alarm, I realized my face was wet. As I went to open the back door, I passed a mirror in the hallway. That’s when I saw my face covered in tears. I was crying with the babies and hadn’t even realized. I felt helpless, useless, and defeated. I felt what my daughter felt daily. I wanted to be a good mom and grandmom, but I felt like a failure.

With my head hanging, I worked my way down the hall, singing the ABC song. I looked up and saw my husband standing in the open doorway. We must have been a pitiful sight. I was frazzled, my knees buckling, make-up smeared from tears, and snot across my daughter’s face. He eased her off my hip and disappeared to the bedroom. I sat on the sofa, took off the Bjorn, and cradled my granddaughter in my arms. She was rooting around and I felt the “let down” even though my milk had been dry for months. It was a phantom sensation, but my maternal instincts kicked in and I latched her on my breast. I didn’t think about it really. She rooted, I offered, she accepted. Within a few minutes she was sound asleep.

My husband wandered in the living room and was surprised to see my granddaughter latched on. He asked if it was okay to do that. I didn’t see why not. All my children had comfort nursed. I was used to being a human pacifier and I was sure my daughter would be happy I consoled her, by any means necessary. And she was. When she arrived to pick up the baby, I told her the whole story and we laughed.

“I don’t mind if you don’t,” she told me.
I didn’t mind at all!

I’ve taken care of my granddaughter several times since then and each time, she’s needed a breast. I understand that to some this is seen as controversial, but truthfully, I don’t care. I love my daughter and granddaughter and will continue to do anything and everything I can to help them both – even if it means dry-nursing.

 

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Posted in Culture, Family, Food, Relationships

Chicken (Tortilla) Soup For the Soul

I was an adult before I had ever heard of or tried Chicken Tortilla Soup. The only time my mother ever served me soup was when I was sick. Even then she would usually warm up a can of Campbell’s Chicken & Stars. (Chili and stew don’t count – Momma rocked those!)

I once got food poisoning from old broccoli and cheese soup at a Black Eyed Pea Restaurant and I refused to eat it again for thirteen years. True story. Ever since, I always choose salad over soup at a restaurant. But Chicken Tortilla Soup is good – I mean really good. So about eight years ago, I decided to make it for the first time. My kids loved it! In fact, my oldest loved it so much, she wouldn’t stop eating it. I think she had nine large servings before she finally threw up un-digested chicken tortilla soup all over my kitchen floor. She begged me to never make it again and after the great broccoli and cheese incident of ’91, I was happy to oblige. We were kindred. Soup had scarred us both.

Now that it’s November in Texas, the temperature has dropped below 100 degrees. ‘Round these parts, that means soup! (Or chili – whatever.) Last night I decided to make it again. I also made a very small pot of vegan tortilla soup for Parker (recipe below.) My house smelled of garlic, cumin, and lime. The cilantro, avocado, and sour cream were fresh. I couldn’t find the cheese grater so I used dental floss to finely slice the block of cheddar. I still don’t know where that grater is.

Our front door was open, letting in the cool autumn breeze (and possibly airing out the kitchen after I burned the first round of tortilla strips in oil.) I was just about to scald my tongue when I heard a woman’s voice saying, “knock, knock” from the open door. It was our friend, Ally! She stopped by to drop off gifts for Olive. We exchanged pleasantries, chatted about her parents, and she was on her way. I finally took my first bite and it was awesome.

After some silence, I asked my husband if his mom made Chicken Tortilla Soup when he was growing up. He gave me “the look” which means, “Are you serious?” (Some people that know him interpret it as, “Are you fucking stupid?” There’s a fine line.

“Chicken Tortilla Soup isn’t a real thing, baby.”

Not real? It looked real. It smelled real. It tasted real. The jalapenos and green chilis were really making my forehead sweat. It took a really long time to make and real dollars to pay for the real ingredients. Was this somehow the Emperor’s New Soup?

“It’s just a made up thing,” he explained.

Well, of course it is made up. At some point, some person threw all the ingredients (whatever they had in the fridge, most likely) in a big pot, added some spices, and called it Chicken Tortilla Soup. It’s not like there is some natural body of soup out there that we can just take soup from…
Split Pea Springs
– River of Creamy Potato
– The Egg Drop Ocean
– Lake Lentil

I understood what he was trying to say, though. He meant that it wasn’t a traditional Mexican dish. His mother made caldo; trendy restaurants made Chicken Tortilla Soup. I didn’t know that. My mother’s dinners were mostly spaghetti, tacos, meatloaf, BBQ, burgers, and her signature dish – pork chops, ranch style beans, and mac & cheese. It’s not like I grew up eating diverse foods, unless we were at a restaurant. (My first experience with curry was revolting.)

My Vegan Tortilla Soup is, in fact, made up. By me. Last night. Hope you enjoy!

Ingredients:
3 cups vegetable broth
olive oil
1/3 can of green chiles & tomatoes (I used Ro-tel)
1/3 can of sweet kernel corn (rinsed and drained)
1/3 can whole black beans (also rinsed and drained)
1/4 cup diced celery
1/4 cup diced onion
cilantro, avocado, lime, garlic, cumin, and cayenne pepper to taste

optional: tofu

Directions:
Pour vegetable broth, Ro-tel, corn, and black beans in a small pot over medium heat. Add tofu chunks (optional.) Sprinkle cumin and cayenne pepper to your preferences. In a separate pan heat olive oil until it simmers. Add celery, onion, and garlic and saute until tender. Add contents of pan to pot. Voila!

Serve with fresh avocado chunks, chopped cilantro, fried tortilla strips, and a squeeze of lime!

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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.

olive

Ollie

dally

My oldest Dallas and my grandson Lyric Cody

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My daughter Mikayla and my grandson Mason

Posted in Family, Home, Personal, Relationships, Television

Gaslights & Stringlights

When my husband and I first started living together, I moved into his house. That was fine, but even after all my belongings were there, it still felt like his. I was more like a long-term guest with closet space. It took about 3 months for us to realize we needed a new place; something that was ours.
We found this fantastic 1938 shotgun-shack style house in the neighborhood we were hoping for and the price range we needed. He hung skateboards on the walls, I hung curtains on the windows. I was so enamored with the high ceilings, wood floors, plank walls, and sun room that I didn’t take into account how difficult having one bathroom would be for all us. That’s when it started happening.
At first I just thought it was one of the kids haphazardly throwing it on there, but after several weeks I began to questions things. The toilet paper roll. I’m not talking about someone being lazy and leaving the empty roll on the holder while setting the new roll on top. No, I’m talking about replacing the empty one and putting the new one on backwards – the wrong way. It’s usually just a minor pet peeve of mine. It takes me only seconds to correct it. At first I didn’t mind, but then it kept happening. Every 2 or 3 days I would sit down to find someone had changed it back. So I, in turn, would make it right. But then a couple of days later, it would be flowing under again.
After a few months of this toilet paper over/under game, I became certain it was being done to me on purpose. I knew the people I lived with were intelligent enough to know how to properly insert toilet paper. They were trying to make me crazy. (And it was working.)
One morning over coffee, I confided in my mother that I thought someone in the house was trying to gaslight me. She explained that in the film, the only person that believed Paula was Inspector Cameron. She told me that if I was Ingrid Bergman, she would be my Inspector. That year for Christmas, Mom sent me a box with a nightgown, a bag of microwave popcorn, and the 1944 Gaslight DVD. It was one of the best gifts I have ever received.
I’ve never spoken to my husband about the “Incredible Ongoing Toilet Paper Roll” situation. I’ve come to accept it. This has been happening for more than four years and will probably continue for the rest of our lives without a word being said.

gaslight
We spent about a year and half in our fantastic tiny house before Olive was born and we knew we needed bigger digs. I was going to miss the old-fashioned charm our house had, but was already in love with the modern amenities the new house had to offer. The dishwasher, garbage disposal, and automatic garage door opener were awesome, but the second bathroom was what sold me! I’ve found that the toilet-paper-flowing-under culprit likes to visit BOTH bathrooms regularly. Sometimes I fix it, sometimes I just sigh and let it go.

About a month ago, we moved Olive’s crib to our bedroom. It took some minor rearranging that resulted in moving the bed closer to the wall on my side to allow enough walkway to the bathroom on his side. You may remember my blog post, The Princess and the Sea  where I told the real-life fairy tale of redoing my bedroom. This was the final layout:

enchanting

I sleep near the window (we don’t have a specific side of the bed, he always takes the side that puts him between me and the door because he is a natural protector.) The stringlights behind my homemade headboard plug into the outlet on my side. The bed is now slightly off-center from the headboard and that only gives me a minor headache. I know this is a temporary situation. Now, here’s the thing…
…about every two days, I walk in my room to find that the bed has been moved about four inches to the left. I immediately start twitching. Four inches doesn’t seem like much, but that’s the difference between me walking on my side of the bed in a straight line or doing the awkward sideways shimmy. It also means I have to move the bed back to where it was so I can plug in the stringlights. (We use them in lieu of a nightlight.) Plus, my brain just can’t handle that much off-centeredness.
The SuperBed Shuffle has happened at least fifteen times (maybe more) without discussion. I move it where it belongs, some rascal moves it back.

We picked Momma up from the airport last night and on the way home I explained that I’m no longer convinced I’m being gaslighted. We all know I can be overly dramatic at times. (I’m not going to stop correcting the TP and bed placement, though.)
Tonight after dinner, I’m going to put on my Christmas gift nightgown, pop some popcorn, and we are all going to watch the Gaslight movie she sent me.
Afterwards, we probably all will marvel at Ingid Bergman’s beauty and laugh at my silliness until I go to my room to get in bed, only to find that it’s been moved four inches to the left.

momma

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.

happy

 

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.

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Posted in Family, Home, Personal, Relationships

My Back to School Story

Today my Facebook feed is filled with adorable first day of school pictures. All of my own children are either too old or too young, but I do have something I would like to share. This is my back to school story…

16 years ago today was supposed to be my son’s first day of kindergarten. We had just taken the kids to Astroworld for one last hurrah before summer was over. It brought back vivid memories of spending my summers there with my brother and sister. Mom would get us season passes and drop off us on her way to work.
Dallas had just turned 6, Brandon was almost 5, and Mikayla was only 2.We took turns taking Mikayla on kiddie rides while the other parent took Dallas and Brandon on big kid rides. When it was my turn with the big kids, I couldn’t wait to get to the Gunslinger!
…but Brandon wasn’t up to it. He hadn’t been feeling well the past few weeks. Sometimes he would get a fever and he had blisters around his mouth. We chalked it up to him having a summer cold. There was no excitement, no light in his eyes. He was tired and feeling weak. He complained of terrible aches in his legs. We had to rent a wagon to pull him around in. When a kid can’t find joy at Astroworld, you know something is wrong.

His first day of school would be that Tuesday and I took him to his pediatrician on Monday. After a battery of bloodwork and tests, they determined that something was in fact wrong. They didn’t know what that something was, so they referred us to Driscoll Children’s Hospital. “We’ve called ahead,” they told me. “They are expecting you.” I was worried, but not terrified. We didn’t have GPS or cell phones back then, so I just hopped in the car and drove to Driscoll. I didn’t know where the hospital was, but I figured I could stop at the gas station and ask for directions. Turns out, Driscoll Children’s Hospital isn’t in Driscoll at all, it’s actually located in Corpus Christi. Awesome. More time to drive and more time to fret. By the time we found the hospital, my nerves were shot.

My pediatrician was right, they were expecting us. They had papers ready for me to fill out, a room ready for us to settle in to, and a phlebotomist ready to draw more blood. For some reason, Brandon and I both still thought he would make it to his first day of kindergarten the next day. But he didn’t. At almost 11:00 pm that night, the on call doctor came in to tell me Brandon had been diagnosed with leukemia. Now, I was terrified.

16 years ago today, I woke up in a hospital in Corpus Christi, Texas. The realization had set in that my son was diagnosed with a horrible disease that didn’t have nearly the success rate that it does now. 16 years ago today, Dallas started 1st grade. I wasn’t there to take her to school. I wasn’t there to help her get dressed or take first day of school pictures. I don’t even know if her hair was brushed or if she had a sweet note written on the napkin in her lunchbox. 16 years ago today, Brandon was taken into surgery to have a port-a-cath put in his chest. 16 years ago today, my son started chemotherapy.

Brandon turns 21 tomorrow, a milestone denied to many of the other kids being treated at Driscoll Children’s Hospital back then, a milestone we weren’t sure he would reach. He was a tough kid, so much stronger than I. He endured weekly blood transfusions and spinal taps WITHOUT anesthesia. We were told the steroids would stunt his growth, yet at almost 21, he towers over me. We were told he would always walk with an awkward gait because the bone marrow aspirations had ruined his hip, yet at almost 21, he walks with the swagger of a Hollywood celebrity. He has been in remission for so long, he is considered “cured.”

I am taking Brandon to get a tattoo on Thursday. That’s what he asked for and I am happy to oblige. We won’t be hitting up the bars tomorrow, now that he will be of legal age to drink. He will be spending the day with his girlfriend and that’s okay with me. I will; however, make a silent toast to him and his fallen friends as I sip my cold Lone Star after dinner tomorrow.

Happy 21st Birthday Brandon with many, many more to come! You made it, kiddo! And Happy First Day of School, Moms…

SALUD!

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