A Year In Review

012Averaging two blog posts per year isn’t bad, is it? Nah. I’m good. Considering I ripped down all the websites I own including this one, I would say that’s pretty good. I just got around to bringing this one back up – partly for nostalgia’s sake and partly because I’m a raging narcissist and need some outlet for my wordy word things.

When we last left our heroine…

  • I was with my Mom in California
  • I was working to expand my client base, after working with a single client for a couple of years (Note to self: Never. Again.)
  • I was cold, and out of good coffee a lot.

And Nine Months Later…

  • Back in Austin, working full-time with a fantastic company in a completely non-travel sector (Biotech, what?)
  • Dreaming of buying a new house and creating Pinterest boards with dreamy french decor
  • Driving my ultimate driving machine… like a boss.
  • Gluten-free and loving it.
  • The girls are settled – one at college and one graduated. Living between them is a dream. I get to see them pretty much whenever I want and we text all the time.
  • I am completely immersed in higher education. Working on my PMP Certification, CPLP Certification, Salesforce Certified Admin, Salesforce Certified Developer AND a Bachelors Degree in Business so I can start on my MBA. Leaning toward Pepperdine’s program for that.

I never thought I would be happy in a cube with a badge to get me in a building. Yet, here I am, loving it. My co-workers are sweet, my boss is a dream and my work is interesting. Couldn’t be happier.

Bob Schneider is My New Jam

Woke up in a stupor
Guess it’s time to face the pooper
Sometimes I feel like superman
Sometimes I’m just recuperating, yeah

My head is twisting in it’s cage
My mind feels like a twenty gage
I hope it’s just a passing stage
My heart’s not red, it’s Beige

And it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me
Not to tell you anything I think I know
But I think I’ll tell you all that I know

Try to tell you all about it
Thought you might’ve, Lord, I doubt it
Everyday’s a waste, I know
And everyday’s a funeral

Cutting out I’m feeling lost
Lost my mind I’m Mr. Frost
Collected all the evidence
I’m off the edge, I’m on the fence

And it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me
Not to tell you anything I think I know
Well, I think I’ll tell you all that I know

I don’t want to be alone, I want to be a stone
I wanna sink to the bottom of the ocean
And lie there with you ’til I’m gone

At the bottom of the big blue sea, just you and me
At the bottom of the big blue sea
The bottom of the big blue sea, just you and me
At the bottom of the big blue sea

I know I’ll never know nobody
Better than I know myself
But I can’t even figure out
Just what the fuck I’m all about

I’m sinking, I’m swimming, no wait a minute
I’m drowning, no I ain’t kidding around
Sometimes I think I’m gonna make it
Sometimes I fake it

And it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me
Not to tell you anything I think I know
Well, I think I’ll tell you all that I know

Anywhere and everywhere
Made up my mind it’s getting weird
It’s queer to think it might not
Get much better than today I fear

Won’t know true happiness
I tried so hard, I did my best
My best wasn’t good enough
Oh God, I hate this stuff

And it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me
Not to tell you anything I think I know
Well, I think I’ll tell you all that I know

I don’t want to be alone, I want to be a stone
I wanna sink to the bottom of the ocean
And lie there, laugh there with you
Laugh there with you till I’m gone

At the bottom of the big blue sea, just you and me
At the bottom of the big blue sea
The bottom of the big blue sea, just you and me
At the bottom of the big blue sea

And it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me
I said, it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me

And it’s days like this that burn me
Turn me inside out and learn me
And not to tell you anything I think I know

Dads Never Leave You

I dreamed of my Daddy last night. One of those vivid dreams where you can almost swear that you’re in their presence. I love those dreams because it gives me faith in the Universe that those we love never really leave you – they just change energy into something else. I try and reconcile my faith as a follower of Christ with this and the only thing I can say is that I can’t define “Asleep in Christ” and so I accept these gifts of connectivity with awe and wonder at what they mean, but I don’t delve too deeply because it’s just enough that I got to talk to my Daddy last night, even if it was a weird dream that my cousin shot me and he was sitting by my hospital bed. We talked of modern things and his wisdom was the same – leave the past behind, move forward and above all else Take Care of Business. His mantra. My goal for the day. A reminder to focus on the present and take care of what I have control over.

I talked to him a little more when I woke up and sat in the sunshine outside. It seems like a California day here in Texas. Low humidity, awesome sunshine and a little Santa Ana-like breeze. Just the kind of day he would have loved and I can picture him in his hammock, strong and tan with his dogs and his little farm around him. My heart is full of him today and it seems that all of nature is in agreement that I need his presence around me today. It’s been eight years since he died and today is the first day I’ve been at peace with our new relationship.

I think I will plant something today to honor him. He could grow anything, make anything, do anything. He was my Daddy. I know I was a well-loved child, and I know he was proud of me – and today, I know he still is, and is still around me, guiding me, leading me and showing me how to navigate life and love the same way he did when he could tell me all I needed to hear.

Juice Fast – Day 6

This is less of a blog post and more of a whiny rant about headaches, body aches, sneezing, itchy skin and detoxification while I juice fast for the next 60 days. I know this will pass, but in the meantime, it sucks.

The first few days are the hardest, I know, and I also know my body is pretty toxic from weeks of extra medication over the holidays so it’s been a little rougher than in juice-fasts-past.

So, I whine and wait for this to pass. And you get to read about it. Lucky you. Thanks for being my friend, all the same.

Sometimes You Should Just Let Danny Elfman Speak For You.

I would really like to know you better
But sometimes I’m afraid that it’s not meant to be
I would like to believe in something higher
But I can’t get a grip on all the little things

When the night comes I cannot sit still you see
And the years they have not been so kind to me
Got a gallery of figures standing all in a row
And every single figure has a soul of its own
But I never look back
Never look back
Don’t turn your back on me

(Chorus)
(Hey yeah) My life has come unraveled again
Like so many threads
(Hey yeah) my life has begun unfolding
In so many pieces
(Hey yeah) my life has come unraveled again like
so many threads in the wind – drift away – drift away

There’s a time and a place
For understanding
And a time when action speaks louder than words
And I don’t seem to get no indications
And I don’t know how to get through to you
And when time like the pyramids
Has worn away
All the mountains and the valleys
Of the words that we say

We have got to make sure that something remains
If we lose each other we’ve got no one to blame
So never look back
Never look back
Don’t turn your back on me

(Chorus)

© UMPG Publishing, Oingo Boingo

The Whole Soul of Motherhood

I have a lot of kids. I mean, like a LOT of kids. Like the old woman that lived in the shoe. Except with a cappuccino machine.

Only two were gestated. The rest were gifts. Some were wrapped up nice and pretty, and some just sort of showed up alongside the others. Some are refugees. Some come from broken homes, and some from great homes.

I love them all, with a fierceness that surprises even me sometimes. When someone hurts them, or ignores them, it makes me really, really mad. I generally say something. There are generally expletives.

I didn’t realize that I was going to be mom to a lot of kids. It just sort of ended up that way because kids hung out with my girls and saw that my girls talked to me and liked me (generally) and I liked hanging out with them, and liked helping them figure stuff out. Little stuff like makeup. Big stuff like drugs and sex and abuse. Nothing really shocks me, and nothing shocks God. I remind them that He loves them more than I do and that talking about whatever the issue is usually diffuses the power it claims, and sharing a hurt or fear cuts it in half. And then I point them back to God and assure them that it is OK to trust Him, too.

Summer brings them all home from their various wanderings. Some are now in college and some come and go trying to figure out life. They know they always have a bed (or, at least a couch) here. I suppose that’s also my homage to my transient Daddy, too. I can wake up any given morning and find kids making eggs, drinking coffee, cleaning the kitchen. No keys needed. They know how to get in the house. The dogs bark, but quickly figure out they’re part of the tribe, too. They also know that I don’t tolerate any shenanigans – no drinking, drugs or smoking. So far, no one’s disrespected me by trying. Mild cussing won’t make me blush, but gratuitous cursing gets you time on the naughty mat. I also don’t allow you to bash your mom, or run away from your problems. Parents have it hard and I don’t judge. My house is safe, but your house is your home. Unless you don’t have a home and then this can be your home.

Years ago one of the kids named me Mama Chelle. I was in my early 30’s, so I wasn’t in love with the name, I have to admit. It conjured images of a stout frau-like old woman, which certainly didn’t match my brain’s self-image. Now, a decade later, I embrace it and the dozens of kids that call me that, too. I’m honored. I’m blessed. My heart is full and overflowing. I have a great relationship with my girls, and they come first… but it’s pretty amazing that God continues to trust me with some of his other kids, too.

When Old Is New Again

 

It really wasn’t even a decision, really. It was more of a collective, family lightbulb moment.

Take Cathryn back to Annapolis Christian Academy.

Not “send” her back.

Not “let her go” back.

Take her back.

Through all of this mess with the church… the pain Ken and I have felt, the struggle to wrap our brains around the loss… she’s felt it too. It was a death to her, too. She lost a friend in Tricia, too. She saw someone she trusted do the wrong thing, and then ignore her. Her pastor, no less. It was a rough lesson to learn at a young age. Lesser kids might have abandoned their walk with God. She didn’t.

But slowly she became less and less herself. Less and less “Cat” – the sparkly, bubbly, energy-drink of a girl that everyone loves.  First it was grades. Then she broke up with her boyfriend for no good reason. She decided not to go to prom. She came home for lunch alone every single day. She was home every night, then every weekend. She cried for no reason. She argued about anything and everything. She dropped out of debate. She ditched tennis. She skipped basketball games. All of these one-by-one things were pieces of her that kept falling away like single leaves from a tree. Until she was just a little twig standing there in front of us.

We hoped that the group that came to our house on Wednesdays would give her purpose until things got better. She sang and worshipped as if her life depended on it sometimes. But she is the only girl, and these are kids still figuring out their faith. It wasn’t an anchor. But it was the best we could offer.

And then she got the note that she had been removed from the Presbyterian Mo Ranch Planning Team which was the last steady constant in her faith. Her last connection to who she was and what she was as a Presbyterian. Being an MPT was her last great joy – these kids were friends of faith that she played with, talked to, connected with – from all over the state. Now, this was gone, too.

CPC Port Aransas has “reported her” inactive in her Youth Group, and so she was ineligible. Without a word to us, a phone call or even an email.

I can honestly say, I’ve never – never – been angrier. In my whole life.

It’s one thing to strip us down as adults. It’s one thing to send a letter of rejection to an adult disguised as a termination of employment. You can “bless our hearts” and tell us you hope we’re well and go back to your little country club you call a church and forget all about those “sad little events.”

It’s quite another to ACTIVELY take down a child. What youth group is she “inactive” in? She’s not been INVITED to any events for the “new” program – and the “previous” program, and it’s youth director – WHOM SHE LIVES WITH – would check the box that she is quite ACTIVE as a Presbyterian. She leads kids each week in a study. She prays with them. She counsels them. She sings with them and eats with them and fellowships with them.

And yet someone – one guess who – has the audacity – the huevos, if you will – to check a box that blows up my kid’s world again.

I’m finding it harder and harder to turn the other cheek. And harder and harder to keep the secrets I know. Secrets that would demand a change in the pulpit, in fact.

But grace demands that I land on and stand on my knees. The mercy that has been shown me must be extended to those that don’t deserve it. Much as I don’t deserve it, in fact. It’s humbling, but true. I am a sinner, saved by grace. I sure do want to give Karma a list of people she’s missed sometimes. And some help. I pray instead.

And so.

She asks in a whisper to go back to Annapolis with tears streaming down her face. It is a hard thing to ask because I never wanted her to leave in the first place, and she is worried I will gloat, do the happy dance and tell her “I told you so!”

I do, a little.

 

But really, it is all I can do to keep from tucking her into a reed basket as if she were the tiny, football-sized-burrito-swaddled baby she once was and lay her on the doorstep of the school like an abandoned orphan with a note pinned to her saying, “please, help her” – knowing that the teachers there that have loved her, prayed for her, cried for her and fought for her will do just that.

Her headmaster was misty-eyed when we re-enrolled her. He said it was an answer to prayer. Her teachers rejoiced, and hugged her like a prodigal. Parents “liked” my Facebook status announcing our return.

ACA wasn’t perfect, it never will be perfect.

But real families never are.

 

 

 

Brothers and Daughters Separated At Birth

I had a weird childhood. I know, everyone says that. But, I did. I was one of those kids that had weird things happen that they base after-school-specials on. Nowadays, it would be a Lifetime Movie – maybe even a mini-series – but back then my whole existence felt a little surreal. Like I was just sort of hanging on until the good part of the movie started.

I was a grownup from the age of 9, when my brother Dan was born. My mother was 9 days pregnant with him when his father was murdered by a guy on PCP. Any chance of a normal life for us bled out with Richard. With three jobs, and a fierce will to never accept charity, my mother somehow survived that dark time of grief, hopeful that better days were coming. Danny’s arrival February 19th was her reward and my salvation. He was the golden boy, cherished and loved by everyone that he met, with a smile that could eclipse the sun. My Great-Grandmother came to visit my mom and me and Danny when he was a few weeks old and asked if I was jealous not to have my mom all to myself and I said, “Certainly not. That’s MY baby.” And he was. He captured my heart from the moment I kissed his toes, and I made him fresh nanners with the Happy Baby Food Mill and we watched Charlie’s Angels together and made forts and played High/Fast. He cried when I left the house, and tried to go to school with me every morning. My poor bus driver Mrs. Detrich had to tell him he wasn’t big enough to go to school yet and he told her that he was a BIG BOY and she was taking his SISTOO and that was NOT NICE. I acted annoyed, but I was secretly delighted to have someone love me that much. He was the only certain thing in my life.

Now I have two daughters of my own, and each year I relish telling them the story of the day they were born. For Kelsea, it’s the play by play of the day including the lobster thermador that made it’s reappearance during labor as I projectile vomited it across my birthing room when the pain overwhelmed me (I slip that in as a little subliminal birth control) and all about the storm she was born in. Both literal and figurative. I say now that I fell out of my family tree as a tongue-in-cheek way to describe my painful, violent and very necessary split from the toxicity that just IS the family I was born into.

Except for Danny. He’s caught in the middle. Leaning way more away from me, but I understand. He’s a peacemaker and I am not. Kelsea is so much like him that I truly, to the depths of my soul, believe that God knew what was coming and gave her the personality she has as a gift to me. To remember MY baby each time she smiles, tells a joke the same way, raises an eyebrow, and calls me Mim, like Danny does our mom.

They were not raised near one another, but their cadence, demeanor, humor and compassion are as if they were separated at birth. It is both comforting and disconcerting at the same time. Like watching a ghost come around the corner.

In a few days she’ll head back to college after Winter Break. I wonder if her bus driver will let me on. I am a big girl, and taking her is not nice.

The World’s Loss is Heaven’s Gain

 

I wasn’t blessed with a sister. I had two brothers come along 9 and 12 years after I was born, and some of the mysteries of siblings somewhat escape me. I love my brothers, don’t get me wrong, but we don’t talk very often and when we do it’s about pretty simple stuff. I got married when they were still in elementary school and moved to Texas, so it’s just different, I suppose, from some families.

Like the one you see above. On the left is my friend Tanya. She’s also my daughter Cathryn’s “real” mom of sorts. They are hilariously similar in ways large and small.  They laugh, they bring joy to everyone they meet and they’re the center of many people’s attention for their infinite goodness, love and strength. They sparkle. Cathryn dated Tanya’s son for a while, but even if she hadn’t they would still be close. When something happens in Cat’s world, she wants a hug from me, and then a hug and an hour to talk to Tanya. I don’t mind – love multiplies with both of them. They’re glittering soul-mates.

In the middle is Phyllis, her Mom. We call her Honey, which is what her grandsons Chase and Maxx called her when they were little and that just kinda stuck. Honey pretty much describes her, too. Without being cliche’, she’s the sweetest person I’ve ever met. She “adopted” my husband Ken a while back since they were both in the theater and had a million funny things to talk about. My husband would walk through fire for her. He adores her. When I met her she quickly became one of the women I most admired and loved, too – and I don’t like a lot of women, to be honest. She’s smart, always sees the good in people, shares her love and faith freely, and takes care of more people in large and small ways than most churches. She’s my hero.

On the right is Tiffany.

Truth be told, I haven’t spent a lot of time with Tiffany, but I know and love her as much as her Mom and Sister. This week Tiffany lost her hard fought battle with cancer. And for 487 days from the diagnosis until she passed, this was a journey that was gracefully shared with the world. There was a cord of three that showed the entire world what it meant to love someone through a crisis.

From the outside looking in, it was astonishing. And they had no idea how astonishing it was.

When Tiffany was first diagnosed, she came down to her mom’s house and we all sat on the deck overlooking the harbor and enjoyed the sunset. It was when things were still uncertain in terms of a treatment plan, and Tiff was in quite a bit of discomfort. That was the first time I saw them in action and it was completely foreign to me to see such love poured out on one another. Tiffany would shiver a tiny bit, and Tanya would move her blanket around her more tightly while in mid-sentence about something else completely. No words were exchanged about wanting the blanket moved or being cold. Tiffany would glance to her right for her glass, and Honey would be holding it ready to hand to her. They instinctively knew.

Tiffany became the center of their universe and they were orbiting her. 

This seems simple. Most people wouldn’t notice these things. But it was indicative of  what was to come. Tiffany was surrounded for the next 18 months with that same light, love and care. She was never alone. She never had to worry about anything except fighting hard.

That night, after watching a true family, I told Tiffany that I was jealous of having a sister. They never took it for granted that they were best friends, and never, ever missed an opportunity to say, “I love you” or smile.

She said that night that I could be her Sissy, too. She understood that love was meant to be shared and she shared it with everyone. She knew that she was loved without end, by her family, her friends and her savior. She understood that love was multiplied and never divided when shared with another.

I was not the only one that saw the miracle of her journey. When we had a candlelight service as she was sent home to hospice, nearly one hundred people came and prayed for Tiffany – who didn’t even live in Port Aransas. Most of us watched her journey on Facebook and cried as she lost her hair and cheered as she watched her beloved son graduate from high school. Every milestone was celebrated.

And prayed over. And praised.

Lesser families, and lesser women would have lost faith. Tiffany never did. She never lost faith that she would be healed – even if that wasn’t an earthly healing. She never questioned her God’s plan for her. Her mom and sister praised God for His grace and mercy. They prayed for the wisdom of the doctors and thanked God for the gift of time.

It was astonishing. It remains astonishing.

There is a deep sadness for me at her passing, that isn’t “quite” made better by knowing that she’s in a very real afterlife with a very real Jesus. I know she’s out of pain, and for that I’m grateful. Selfishly, I wanted her cancer-free and sitting on the deck at her mom’s house. I cannot pretend to understand why that wasn’t the plan.

But I will take the lessons that Tiffany’s life taught me, and watch the women that loved her best, and do what they do. Love, laugh, celebrate, praise and pray. Despite the sadness of losing Tiffany, they continue to praise their God. Their love carried them through and one can only hope to be loved like that in their lifetime.

Tiffany Beth, you were an extraordinary woman, from a family of extraordinary women. I was honored to know and love you. I will do my best to take care of your mom and sissy as they miss you for all time, but forgive me for not doing it as well as you – no one could.

Juice Fast: Day 2

Well, that sucked. Being off caffeine – meaning, my beloved coffee – just about killed me. I had the worst headache ever. I mean – ever. I couldn’t even write yesterday.

In terms of the juice part, I made 16 ounces of a fruit blend – apple, carrot, pear and ginger, which was DELICIOUS and I used for my morning cocktail. I would have had decent energy, except for the headache and a lot of the detox symptoms – body aches.

I also made 40 ounces (5 glasses) of pure green juice: kale, celery, apple, cucumber. It wasn’t bad, but it smelled like butt.

Didn’t feel hungry at all, which was good. I’m also taking psyllium caps for fiber, coupled with a natural laxative to keep things moving. It worked pretty well yesterday, without being too harsh or gross.

On to day 3!