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JFK Moment

In elementary school, my Social Studies teacher assigned us the task of asking our parents if they remembered where they were and what they were doing when they learned of the assassination of JFK.

Of course they remembered. I think my mom even described what she was wearing. My teacher told us that one day we would have our JFK moment. For me, it happened the following year when we watched The Challenger explode on television while in school.

Turns out, I’ve had several JFK moments since then. I vividly remember watching the Branch Dividian compound burning. I remember the death of Princess Diana. I remember September 11th. And I remember Columbine. In fact, like my mother, I remember what I was wearing. It was a pale yellow sundress with baby blue flowers and a blue cardigan.

There have been so many school shootings since then. I don’t know if I became desensitized (God, I hope not) or if there have been so many that they are all just a blur (equally sad) or if I’m just getting forgetful as I age, but none of the subsequent school shootings became JFK moments for me.

Yesterday’s massacre has been the number one topic on social media today. I’m already battling mild depression and attempted to live in ignorant bliss by scrolling past the subject, but I found it near impossible. I’m not here to talk about gun violence or control, mental illness, or legislation . This is about the victims.

I watched a video featuring the lives lost yesterday. So much sadness, but when one name and face came across my screen, it felt like a punch in the gut.

Joaquin Oliver.

It wasn’t that I didn’t feel sympathy for the victims families or anger for what happened. Seeing each victim made me sadder, but this one in particular, well, tears were shed. The thought of one of my own children being gunned down made me almost vomit. I could taste the acid in the back of my throat.

I’m going to be brutally honest here. Down the road, I may not remember the name of the school, the name of the gunman, or even what year this tragedy happened in, but I will always remember Joaquin Oliver.

I hope this is my last JFK moment.

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Ollie the Toddler 

Ollie the toddler,

Is a lively, silly girl.
With a milk mustache, and a button nose, and a head made up of curls.

Ollie the toddler is a quiet one, they say.
She is full of life and her mother knows just how loudly she can play.

There must have been some batteries in that old, bright toy they found,
For when they placed it in her hands,
It began to make some sounds.

Oh, Ollie the toddler, is as active as she can be,
And her parents say she can play all day, as long as she naps at 3:00.

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Top 5 Reasons Your Eyeglasses Get Broken

1. You fall asleep wearing them while laying down with your toddler trying to get them in bed. You get up to find the toddler is still awake, holding your broken glasses.

2. Your toddler rips your glasses off your face, throws them across the room, and giggles uncontrollably.

3. Your toddler rips your glasses off your face, throws them on the floor, then repeatedly stomps on them.

4. Your toddler rips your glasses off your face, tries to twist, bend, and manipulate them like Stretch Armstrong.

5. Your glasses slide off your face while you are on hands and knees cleaning the toddlers mess. Toddler finds glasses. Glasses immediately fall apart.

TL;DR – Your toddler is an asshole loves you so much and wants glasses just like you!

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Hey Mr. Postman

When I first started suffering from my sciatica, I did quite a bit of Googling, trying to find help. Many people suggested using a maternity pillow to get comfortable. Since I was pregnant anyway, I decided to give it a shot. After looking online, I found they were running upwards of $80 and I was skeptical enough to not spend that kind of money. 

(Lucky for me?) Amazon tracks my searches and sent an email informing about one that was $35. I checked it out and decided to give it a go. All the other ones with Chevron patterns in mint green colors were high dollar, but this one was beige. That’s cool. I didn’t care about color, I cared about comfort. 

I placed my order and anxiously awaited my package delivery. It only took one day for it to leave California and get to Arizona. Progress. The next morning, it arrived in Texas! I was over the moon. That was five days ago. Little did I know my maternity pillow would be on a road trip from West Texas to North Texas to Southeast Texas, then back to Central Texas. (I’m kinda jealous.) I watched my package travel via Fed Ex Tracking multiple times a day. They do an excellent job of updating. I was getting more and more anxious for it to arrive. My expected delivery date was Monday, April 10th, but when I got home from work there wasn’t a 7 pound box on my doorstep. I was disappointed. 

Today was my day off and as soon as I woke up, I checked my Fed Ex tracker. My pillow had arrived in New Braunfels last night and was out for delivery via USPS at 7:43 am. Today was the day!

Unfortunately, we had terrible weather. It was pouring, thundering, lightning, even hailing. We were under a tornado and flash flood warning. The skies were dark and foreboding, but I knew my box was on its way come rain, come hail, come snow or sleet, the postman always delivers. 

Here I am, laying (uncomfortably) in bed, watching for the mail truck, day-dreaming of my maternity pillow. Olive was down for her afternoon nap and I was afraid the door bell would wake her. Plus, I didn’t want the box left on my porch in such wet conditions. I must have stared out the window for 30 minutes, but it felt like 3 hours. When I finally saw him approach my mailbox I jumped up, ran to the living room, flung open my front door, and watched him stuff bills in the box before driving away. 

“Wait!” I wanted to yell. “You forgot my box! I know you have it. Fed Ex told me.” But I didn’t want to run out in that weather any more than he did. I knew that’s why he didn’t bring me my box. I closed the door, hung my head, and went back inside, defeated. I would have to wait another day.

My husband got home a short time later and I couldn’t hide the sadness on my face. He asked what was wrong and I felt petty. There was flooding in areas near us and I was pouting over a pillow. I admitted that I was upset overy my box not arriving. “Well baby, it was hailing. I’m sure he didn’t want to get out in that. Maybe he will come back.”

I knew he was right, though I doubted he would come back. In weather like that, you just want to finish your job and go home. I have two very close friends that are postal carriers and I wouldn’t want them out in these conditions. I let go of my selfishness and started cooking. I got into my groove, baking banana bread, thickening my carne guisada, and rolling out tortillas. (I had to include that, since it’s out of the norm for me.) I stepped out front to discard some cans in the recycling bin when lo and behold…

There was a mail truck pulling into my driveway!  Long after his shift was over and the weather had cleared, he returned to bring me my coveted pillow. He was kind and even apologized for not dropping it off in the hail. I was so grateful. 

Hey Mr. Postman, you’re the bees knees.

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You’re Welcome, World

For the past eight weeks, I’ve put a lot of thought into this pregnancy. Lord knows I’ve had some struggles as of late, and adding another baby to the mix seems like bad timing, but I was nonetheless over the moon with joy. 

I believe in God and I believe in His plan. Who am I (or anyone else) to question His plan? I may not understand why He decided to gift me with another child, but I whole-heartedly embrace this gift.

Besides, so far I have a 100% success rate at bringing amazing souls to this Earth. My children are beautiful, caring, empathetic people that touch the lives they meet. All of them make this world a better place. Honestly, it would be disservice to humanity if I didn’t improve the gene pool by adding more folks like this to the world.

Just in case you thought my reproductive system is your business (it’s not) the answer to the question you want to ask, but haven’t is…

No, I will not be getting my tubes tied, a hysterectomy, or anything “fixed” because that implies that there is something wrong with me. (Hint – there isn’t.) In order to get fixed, something must be broken and it’s clear there is nothing broken here.

Guess what? We have a clear understanding of “what causes this,” we are familiar with birth control, and we have grown to despise the term “Fertile Myrtle.” To the vast majority of our friends and family that have congratulated us and share in our excitement – we thank you from the bottom of hearts! To the few that have questioned us and God’s plan, to the few that have gossiped, sneered, and brought negativity to our special news – you’re the reason we are thrilled to bring another happy, positive, glowing soul to the universe. Our new bundle of joy will cancel out your shittiness. 

You’re welcome, World.

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Remember When Safety Pins Were Punk Rock? 

Remember when safety pins were punk rock? 

There is a new movement on Facebook and the news encouraging people to wear safety pins as a sign of solidarity with groups such as the LGBT, minorities, and women.
“You are safe with me.”
It began in the UK following Brexit and was picked up in the US following the election results.

I remember when safety pins were punk rock. I wore tons of them on my jean jacket along with band buttons, patches, and anarchy signs. We thought we were so cool. (And we were!) Just recently I wore 89 safety pins in one evening. It was my no-sew Halloween costume. I was a monster from Where the Wild Things Are.
I won’t be wearing a safety pin to prove that you are safe with me. These days, if I am wearing one, it’s most likely due to a wardrobe malfunction.

My no-sew 89 safety pin Halloween costume. 

It’s not that I’m against the movement, in fact, I support it. There are people genuinely scared and I love to see our society coming together. I have dear friends that are passionate about this, handing them out at bars and street corners. I think that’s awesome. But I’m still not going to participate.

I don’t copy and paste. I’m pretty sure Jesus knows I love Him without me having to share a meme. I don’t own a dipped, powder coated, bedazzled, monogrammed Yeti. I didn’t put a rainbow flag across my profile photo when marriage equality passed, I didn’t do the ice bucket challenge, I  didn’t check into Standing Rock, I don’t watch Game of Thrones, I never bought a Chevron print rug for my bathroom, and I didn’t do the things we were supposed to do about Kony. I don’t even remember what that was. Maybe a petition was being circulated or another image across our default photo on Facebook? Whatever happened with Kony?

It’s so hard for me to jump on the social media bandwagon. It’s like, if I’m being told by the masses or media that I should be doing/watching/buying something, my immediate reaction is to not do the thing. It feels trendy and disengenuine.

I’m not a monster. Well, except on Halloween. Yes, I support marriage equality, encouraging other to feel safe, I want clean water for all humans and animals, I don’t believe children should be exploited, I think coffee should stay hot and tea should stay cold, and I’m quite certain GoT is an amazing show. 

I have nothing but love for those that do these things. I am in no way trying to put them down. I respect the passion! It’s just not for me.

I will continue to do my part. I smile at every single passer-by, wink and wave to every small child, and reach out when I can. Some days, that’s all I can do, other days, I quietly move mountains. I won’t be posting my random acts of kindness to social media, or touting my efforts against social injustices.

That’s just me, and maybe in some small way, that’s just a little punk rock.

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Sensible Shoes

We awoke dark and early (thanks, Olive.) By the time I changed her diaper, brewed coffee, fed her a healthy breakfast of leftover crab dip and Ritz crackers, bathed and got us dressed, we were ready to leave the house by 7 am. We ended up watching Monsters, Inc (twice) before actually heading out. 

There were a couple of yard sale stops and I found a book by my favorite author. I was inspired. Jose got us tacos from Granzin’s and my grumbling belly thanked him. We arrived at Black Dog Spa in time for him to greet the pet parents dropping off. I loaded up Ollie in the stroller and headed downtown to the Farmer’s Market. On the way there, we stopped at a Pumpkin Patch. She made friends with the scarecrow and we continued our journey.

Fifty feet later, my left flip-flop had a blow-out. Awesome. I debated calling Jose to come pick us up, but I’m not a quitter. Rummaging around in my purse, I managed to come up with a band-aid (because I’m a prepared Mom like that.) I “fixed” the flop and we were off again.

The Market proved to be rather boring. Somehow, shopping for fresh carrots and butternut squash isn’t nearly as exciting as one would think.  We (I) decided to stop at the Phoenix Saloon for a diaper change and a Lone Star. We drank our respective bottles and headed back to the shop.

Jose was done and with plenty of sunshine left in the day, we decided a river trip was in order. Within five minutes of setting up our blanket and slathering Olive in sunscreen, Jose jumped up, dove in the river fully-clothed, and frantically swam to save a 3 year-old little girl getting swept away in the current after her dad thought it was a good idea to take her down the tube chute in a kayak, where it promptly flipped over. She was (thankfully) wearing an adorable tiny life-vest with a shark fin on the back. After checking on the visibly shaken family, Jose returned to our blanket to dry out. There were no other notable incidents with the minor exception of a twenty-something gal who laid claim to a Ziplock freezer bag full of Dorito’s found floating in the river. She swore she wasn’t stoned. Surreeeee.

We packed up things and decided to call it a day, stopping at HEB for three items needed for dinner. I opted to stay in the car with Olive while Jose ran in “real quick.” Twenty minutes later, I noticed a lady with a basket full of groceries and a fussy toddler prancing around on tip-toes with her arm extended above her head, clicking her key-chain in a desperate attempt to locate her car. Feeling her pain and wanting to help, I climbed out the open window Dukes of Hazzard style, barefoot and bikini-clad on to the top of the Mitzu. (In retrospect, I don’t know why I didn’t just open the door.)
“What kind of car do you drive?” I hollered to her. She turned and looked at me horrified. I probably should’ve told her I was trying to help, but I realize now that I must’ve looked like a lunatic up there. She ran in the other direction.
I noticed everyone in the parking lot was staring at me so I slinked down the side of the car, scraping my fanny on the side-view mirror. My shoeless feet hit the hot pavement, as well as a gooey piece of spit out bubble gum. I uses a wet wipe to clean myself up and get back in the car. Olive was giggling in the back seat. Just as I hid the evidence in the bottom of the diaper bag, Jose got back to the car. I resisted the urge to ask what took him so long.

We tag teamed dinner, making tamales, rice, and beans. Olive ate all the beans. After dinner, we finally settled down on the sofa to watch Swiss Army Man. I made it through the trailers, making a mental note to pick up The Lobster from Red Box before dozing off. The next thing I knew, Jose was telling me to go get in bed. The credits were rolling.

Today, as we’re prepare to head to the Flea Market, packing sunscreen and extra band-aids, we wonder if there will be any toddler-saving or top-of-the Mitzu frantic waving. I’ve decided to ditch the flops and don some sensible flats. 

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Tiny Dancer

It was awful. The kind of cry that makes your gut wrench. It wasn’t a “hungry cry” or an “I have a poopy diaper cry,” it was an “I’m in terrible pain cry.” At 10 months old, Olive is too young to vocalize with words so she cried. And cried some more. She wouldn’t stop crying no matter how many times I softly sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” while rocking her. I tried every baby soothing method imaginable to no avail. I ran bathwater and got in the tub with her. It was 1:30 in the morning and we struggled. She was uncomfortable, kicking and screaming, water splashing, her face red. I was naked and vunerable. Overwhelmed with fear that I was failing as a mother, failing her, unable to calm her or make her feel better, wiping the tears from her cheeks (and mine.)

My husband stood in the doorway of the bathroom watching us with concern and sadness. When it became obivous the bath wasn’t calming her, he grabbed a towel and gently scooped her up. I sat there for a moment, feeling exhausted and defeated. Jose stepped back in the bathroom, Olive bundled up in my favorite soft towel, cradled in his arms, still screeching. He handed me a towel. I headed to our bedroom, he headed to the living room. After drying off and getting back in to my nightgown, I warily walked down the hallway towards the living room. Olive’s howls were cracking. Her throat was dry. The walk down the hallway felt like “The Green Mile.”

They were sitting in the brown velour chair against the window. Jose was hunched, his head hanging down as he looked at Olive, inconsolable in his lap.I couldn’t see his expression but his body language told the story. By the flicker of the flame, their silhouettes danced on the wall beside them. It was beautiful. If I were a photographer I would’ve captured the image. If I were an artist I would paint it on canvas. But I’m just a writer trying to put it in words, but I can’t. Failing again.

Jose has her at the clinic right now. I wish I could be there, but at least I have that image in my mind. I hope it stays there forever.

 UPDATE: Jose called me from the clinic. Olive was diagnosed with Staphylococcus Scalding Skin Syndrome. We are heading to the children’s hospital in San Antonio for treatment. Please say a prayer, light a candle, knock on wood, sacrifice a cockroach, or do whatever it is that you can do to send some good juju our way.

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We Buried Our Son Tonight

We buried our son tonight.
I hope I never have to say those words again. He wasn’t just tissue that I passed. He was a real baby and when I saw him, no bigger than a quarter, I couldn’t flush him down the toilet.
I wrapped his tiny body in toilet paper and put him in a little cardboard earring box. The box sat on my nightstand for 3 days. I guess it took us that long to come to terms with it.
I put a sterling silver cross necklace in the box so he could be buried with it. Jose found a heart shaped rock and picked a beautiful flower to put on top of the “grave.” We decided to go for a walk to find the perfect place for him to rest forever. We held hands walking down sidewalk. Jose said he wanted to name our son after my father and I silently nodded in agreement. Without giving them direction, our feet took us to a nearby park. Under the moonlight, we spotted an oak tree by the playground. It was perfect. Jose used a small garden shovel and dug a deep hole. We both kissed the box our baby was in and placed it in the grave. Jose filled the hole and put the flower on top. The heart shaped rock now leans against the base of the oak – my son’s marker. We said a prayer and felt a breeze. The weather was just right. I wouldn’t say this gave us the proverbial closure people seek in tragic times, but it gave us something.
We buried our son tonight under the moonlight next to the playground at the park by an oak tree.
Rest in peace, Wilbur Clyde Castelan. I never even met you, but I loved you so much.

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Big Sister Olive

Of course we didn’t plan for it to happen. We weren’t trying, but we weren’t exactly careful about it, either. After having Olive at 40, we were well aware of the risks, but when I didn’t get my period as expected on May 2nd, I knew I was pregnant. Hell, I knew I was pregnant the morning after conception. They say you don’t know, that you can’t tell, but I could. I knew. I even took a home test the day my period was due, but it came back negative. I waited 5 days and finally said something to Jose. I asked him to go buy another test. He left right away to go to the same Walgreen’s we purchased the test from that confirmed my pregnancy with Olive. It was only a few blocks down the street. On his way there, a woman racing down the street barreled into him head-on, totaling the car. He ended up with a swollen elbow and back injuries resulting in daily visits to the chiropractor ever since the accident.

He never made it to Walgreen’s.

My daughter Dallas picked us up and we made the stop on the way to the house. I could feel the box burning through my purse; I couldn’t wait to get home. I burst through the door and ran to my bathroom in anticipation of the results. The first window was negative and the second window, the test window was blank. It was invalid. Luckily, Jose had purchased a two-pack. The second test, as expected, came back positive. I was pregnant!
I told my sister. I told my mom. I told my kids. I told my boss and colleagues. I told a few close friends. I was over the moon! I started making baby name lists, planning the nursery for two babies, and imagining the enormous family photo at Easter. I made a tutu and “Big Sis” onesie for Olive. It was going to be the next Yellow Chair photo in the album. I bought her a book called, “I’m a Big Sister.” I called my insurance company and made my 10 week appointment with my doctor for June 14th. I already knew my due date was January 9th,  but hoped for a News Years Eve birth so there would always be a party for my baby to go to on his birthday when he grew up. I downloaded a pregnancy app and read daily about his growing progress. I walked with my head in the clouds for almost 3 weeks as visions of babies danced in my head.

We had a nice weekend. We rode bikes to Landa Park, pushed Olive in the swings, had friends over for dinner, went to The Flea Market, and went swimming at The Comal River. Everything went fine, I felt fine, nothing out of the ordinary happened. But everything wasn’t fine.
Jose dropped us off at the house and he left to go to the store. I got Olive settled in her crib and went to change out of my new bathing suit. That’s when I looked down and saw it. The blood. So much blood.

At 6 weeks and 6 days, I was losing my baby.

As soon as my brain registered what was happening, my body started to feel what was happening. I doubled over in pain from the cramps. My uterus was contracting trying to expel my baby from my body. The baby I didn’t plan to have, but couldn’t wait to meet. The baby I talked to everyday. The baby I imagined raising with his Big Sister Olive.
Sobbing, my world crumbling around me, and my husband at the store without a phone to reach him with, I called my kids. After much consoling and sympathizing from all of them, Mikayla told me everything happens for a reason. Maybe so. But what reason? This baby was going to be so loved, so well taken care of. He would have 8 amazing brothers and sisters looking after him his whole life. Doesn’t God already have enough babies in Heaven? Why take this one? Why take my baby?
I woke up this morning and went to work. We had an important meeting that I knew I couldn’t miss. The cramping wasn’t bad, but I was an emotional disaster. Halfway through the 2 hour meeting, the pain set in. I could barely sit straight in my chair and I could feel my baby passing through my body. I should have never gone to work. If anything, I should’ve gone to the hospital. I wanted to go home, put on my nightgown, and snuggle with Olive in bed while watching a Criminal Minds marathon on the ION Network. My eyes burned from tears, my back ached, and my gut was twisted. I went home as soon as the meeting let out.
So here I am, laying in bed, marveling at how lucky I am to have a perfect living baby while simultaneously mourning the loss of her baby brother. (In my mind, this baby is a boy.)
I don’t know why these things happen. Is it science or God? I guess I will never have the answers. I don’t know if I will ever get pregnant again and I don’t know if I will be able to carry that baby full term. But I do know this:
I know I’m blessed to have what I already have and I’m thankful for the joy Olive has brought to our lives.
She would have been a wonderful big sister.