Thursday, May 17, 2018

Fifteen Years away from the Pain

On April 12, 2003 my seven year marriage fell apart. That night, i caught my then husband having an affair with a colleague. Confronted, he announced his love for her and his intention to move to Colorado to live with her, which he immediately did.  I was 8 months pregnant with our second child; our oldest daughter had just turned five. The next five years were the roughest of my life and there were times i thought i'd never be able to look back on them without being overwhelmed with sadness. But i was wrong. This was written to my sister, her husband and my parents. 

Back then, you would ask me: "What can I do? What would help you right now?"   I remember saying to you, (and to myself again and again, like a mantra): “I want to be years away from this moment. Please take me years away from this nightmare.”    Nothing could really help me except time.  I just wanted to be years and years away from those angry, scary, sad minutes, hours, days.

And now I am. I woke up this morning in the same house, but not in the same bed.  I woke up my baby, just like I did fifteen years ago, but today she got herself dressed, blew out some candles and headed off for high school. I sit here with my fresh coffee listening to the fountain ripple in the background. I take a good look around -- the woman I was back then wouldn't recognize the woman I am today. She would barely recognize the house.  
It’s funny that this time marks some of the worst days of my life and some of the best. Allie is a hilarious gift, even though her first years were so tough for me, and I’m sure for her too. Her first years were hard for all of us.

Forever I'll remember that first Good Friday- one year out. I remember sitting in a pew at Sugarcreek Baptist, two kids in my lap in the dark, funereal service and as I sang, through tears I told them, “we made it girls, we're one year later.”   I deeply celebrated those 12 months between me and the pain.  With the little bit of clear thinking I had at the time, I invested it all in believing that we three could make it. Back then, I didn't know what “make it” meant and I surely didn't know how, but I did believe.
And you believed.   Your help fortified me; your faith carried me – at times when I was very, very heavy.  For the meals, and the favors, for your willingness to forgive me in my struggle and still sometimes give me hell when I needed it.  For the talks, the laughs, the kid-watching, the everyday stuff and the once in a lifetime stuff –  thank you. Thank you.   
Thank you.

I didn’t know how much time I would need to come between me and those dark days before I could look back on them and not see them shrouded in black.  But I do know it's been that much time, more than enough time. So much healing, bright, brand new time in fact, that those black shrouds are not only gossamer, but memories of those times glow with aging gratitude for the love and the help that you gave me, and for God’s incredible grace in helping me raise my littlest bundle of wonder into a confident, funny and love – filled young lady.   Happy fifteen years, I know you celebrate with me.  

Thursday, February 08, 2018

You might be A Cruiser if ...

With impending birthday celebrations afoot and a weekend to kill, We and The Gang booked ourselves on a bonafide oceanic cruise out of Galveston. An affordable lark to get our feet wet and see what we're missing with the Cruising Lifestyle. 
Now this wasn't the fancy-pants river boat where we luxxed together that summer.  Blissful nights cutting through the gentle sway of the Danube and discovering new, old history spots every day. No. This is a weekend getaway for the masses; a sprawling hallways, massive-scale, line up and keep moving, hotel on waves.  We're not in Bavaria anymore, folks. 

After a fun and silly weekend on board, my takeaway is that if you love river cruising, you may not like ocean cruising. And based on feedback from my cruise review on ShipMate -- if you love ocean cruising, you probably won't love river cruising. In that vein and with deference to Jeff Foxworthy, I've compiled a list that may help you decide if the Cruising Lifestyle is for you.  

You may be A Cruiser if :

--  you've ever worn sweatpants to a funeral because they were your good ones.

--  you've ever celebrated a milestone at Golden Corral. 

--  you never look at yourself from the rear.

-- you're obsessed with looking at yourself from the rear.

-- you see a hot tub full of random people and think, "that looks fun." 

-- If claustrophobia makes you horny. 

-- If QVC is your favorite way to shop

-- your fashion motto is, "if it zips, it fits." 

-- Bingo sounds like a wild night out

-- If you've ever longed for less tranquility while lounging at the pool

-- if your spirit animal is Cattle ... 

            You May Be a Cruiser 

 ...Any leisure time spent with friends is time well spent and our cruise was a resounding success in that we had a fantastic weekend and put lots of currency in the memory banks. But i think our next excursion will be on land.  Love to Cruisers everywhere <3 font="" nbsp="">

Thursday, October 20, 2016

The Lime Tree Story

I've lived in this house for 18 years, and just this summer did I first notice a lime tree growing in my neighbors back yard.  I guess it just got tall enough for me to see the tiny green balls sprouting above the fence line -- some of them even hanging OVER the fence, preciously perched on my side.

Now, I'm sucker for edible plants.  It started last year when I bought some spindly herbs in tiny plastic pots at HEB.  I'm one of those gardeners with great intentions, but poor execution so when I transferred the little plants into big clay pots on my patio, I had realistic low expectations. But with regular watering, all of my herbs flourished and soon I enjoyed fresh basil leaves & clumps of dill in salads and baked vegetables. Twigs of sweet mint leaves made nighttime hot tea an aromatic little treat. I was hooked. I sprouted ends of celery in tiny dishes of water around my sink.  I planted garlic pods and onion bulbs.  I researched foraging and looked for edible weeds and medicinal herbs in my yard grass. My big discovery was identifying a random Purslane that sprung up in a flooded, dirt-filled pot after a hard rain.  I proudly plucked off it's salty leaves for salad with dandelions. I was the suburban farmer, eating what I grew-- at least as garnish.

So when the limes on that backyard tree started getting larger, the conscientious grower in me got miffed : my neighbors weren't taking the bounty! The limes got larger and greener and still they weren't picking the fruit.  One night, I couldn't stand it anymore.  I grabbed my gardening shears and clipped a small branch that was heavy with four limes hanging over my side of the fence. I felt vindicated.  I brought the limes inside and imagined tart, sweet meringue pie made from their juice, or maybe I'd blend up a batch of tangy salty, fresh-from-the-vine margaritas.  That night, I cut into one, to squeeze some juice into my iced tea. But it was dry.  The flesh was tight and pale; the little juice I could get out of it was tasteless, bland.         I was deflated.

BUT, mystery solved, I thought.  No wonder they ignored the sagging fruit, the neighbors knew the secret: those limes suck.  For the next few days, I'd glance over at the tree and shake my head... what a shame, maybe they should just cut it down.

So days went by and I watched the limes continue to balloon, getting larger and larger, their deep green skin started to fade; but none seemed to fall. Doesn't ripe fruit just fall off the vine and rot on the ground if it's not picked?  (well does it  ?  because when push comes to shove, I actually don't know a darn thing about harvesting or plants or fruit trees or gardening at all. This will be come clearer as the story progresses.)

It was about this time that I realized it was a lemon tree.  I'd look over at the pale yellow fruit and chastise myself, I shoulda known. Lemons are even better, I thought.  And just like that, I was excited again, paying attention with anticipation.

I started to think about that tree a lot. I wondered what it says about me that I picked the fruit before it was ready .  before I even knew what it was . even when it wasn't really mine. and then I turned away from it, before it's real time had come.  

This whole thing with the fruit and the tree got me to thinking about expectations and patience ; and assumptions.  and hope.

I have a knack for researching things--addresses, previous owners, court documents, private investigating--I love to snoop out facts.  But I never questioned my own judgement on that tree. A quick google probably would have told me that those weren't limes, heck I could have asked my neighbor--at least if I could pick some.  But I made plans and even took action, without checking out any facts beyond what I saw, (behind a fence).  I wondered how many times had I done the same thing with jobs or relationships and how many of my life's decisions were tainted with false assumptions, or worse, how many of my regrets could have become precious moments with a little patience on my part ? Is God using this backyard tree to teach me about myself ?

My first job after graduating from college was a fun job.  I worked at a tiny record label, with business trips to blues festivals and breakfast meetings at noon.  I met semi-famous people and got into shows for free.  Like I said, it was fun.  About three years into it, the label folded and I was approached by one of the executives to start a new publicity company, with him as the Founder and President.  At the time, I didn't know much about the music business. In retrospect, I didn't even know the circumstances of why our label was folding, but from the little I saw, it looked like an unorganized mess, and I didn't know this guy very well. He'd come to label right before the shut-down so I had no background on him. I declined on the spot.  I wasn't going to take my chances, I went on to work in an office, answering phones and doing the 9-5 for the next 20 years. Not Fun Job. Turns out (you knew this was coming, right) that the guy who approached me turned out to be one of the founders of the South by Southwest Music Festival. Even if his company didn't get off the ground (which it did) the contacts and connections from that job may have set me on a different career course for life.  Or maybe I would have just become a secretary 5 years later than I did. There's no way of knowing.

I can think of other examples where a little research, patience and honest assessment could have carved out an opposite life for me, but analyzing what's already done is just a way of ignoring what is.

As a single mom ten years ago, with a newborn and a four year old, I didn't even fantasize about the life I live now. I'm married to a hilarious, generous, great-looking guy, who shows his love to me as much as he does my children and my parents.  My path has had some deep scary caves to explore along the way, but for now I'm flooded with bright, loving light and allowing myself to finally let go of the critical, broken girl that used to live in my body.  I'm learning to embrace this story of the lime tree as a new way to see my spectrum of possibilities, recognize a tendency to jump to judgement and remind myself to pay attention when things don't go as expected, life gives you limes but you may end up making lemonade.


The other night our neighbor's little girl peeked through the back fence pickets to talk to us while we had wine on the patio. She told us that her name is Amelia, she's almost three and she likes our dog's name: Lulu. She likes bubbles and oranges, especially the oranges from their tree--but they're not ready yet, she squealed, we have to wait for them. Yep. it's a dang orange tree.  Good one God.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Table for One : Field trip to Chinatown

i had the afternoon to myself and i was in the mood for a bit of adventure.  i'd spent the morning with mom and needed to indulge myself in a lovely time alone. somewhere interesting, if only to me. i was dressed for just about anything, which usually would inspire a stroll out of the zone, perhaps into memorial for pork belly at bramble or west U has that cuban place i've never tried. but being noon on friday, a city trip was immediately nixed. i mean, i want adventure, but i don't do friday commuter traffic. i'm a spoiled housewife.  i don't do inconvenience.

i was thinking chinatown.  a reliable go-to for me, so not exactly an adventure, but i was getting hungry and kept picturing myself at the white-clothed table at szechuan house, digging into a bowl of mapo tofu with a plastic chinese spoon.

A word about mapo tofu:  i crave it.  there are times i have to have it.  i am ever on the quest for the most tingly, tasty, spicy-soft mapo tofu on the planet, specifically radared-in on places within 10-20 miles from my house. i'm lucky to live close to a real chinatown, but one of my favorite mapo places is nestled in suburbia, right in my neighborhood.  like i said, i'm lucky.

the best thing about mapo is the tingly spiciness of the szechuan peppercorn. and nothing high-fives that peppercorn flavor in your mouth better than ice cold beer. it's like hot wings. i mean they're good, but the beer, that's what makes them great. chinatown is crammed with tons of dive-spot cafes, but most don't serve beer--or any alcohol. and herein lies a bit of adventure -- bring your own beer to lunch.  it's kinda like free beer, at least it feels kinda like it.

I mentally gauged my adventure capacity and what kind of experience would satisfy the thirst for self-celebration that i hankered for, i knew it was going to involve szechuan in some capacity.
Back to  Mala? (the Houstonian's darling of the mapo, consistently nabbing their top slot for best szechuan, which i was level-8 excited to try.  and was disappointed like a child when it wasn't even tasty, let alone tingly spicy) i want to give it another chance, but i hesitate. it's pricey and full of white people. A few other options skirted through my mind, all clustered in chinatown, somewhere.  i tossed two cold beers and a koozie into my purse, headed for the beltway and figured i'd make up my mind when i turned onto Bellaire  (aka: chinatown blvd).

I live in a super-diverse area.  i have neighbors from bangladesh, hong kong, nigeria--everywhere.  so i know about stereotypes.  i know about PC..  i thought i'd drive around the shopping centers and if something interesting appealed to me, i'd park and go in.
chinatown was a mass of traffic. no biggie.  i'm on an adventure, i guess a teeny bit of inconvenience can be tolerated. but yall: chinese people can't drive.  it's a stereotype, but sister let me tell you, it's rooted in real life.  parking lots in chinatown are where road rage was born.  cars parked in handicap ramps.  not the space --the ramp next to the space.  every backing out and pulling in was an act of intricate and slowly considered movement.  i think the same person that teaches  Tai Chi teaches the parking class.  i sat behind an old buick with it's blinker on for over three minutes.  three minutes.  it was just sitting there.  with it's blinker on. i don't think the guy ever saw me, even when i backed up to get the hell out of the isle, as he was sitting in right in the middle of it.

I ditched exploring and aligned all my energy into finding somewhere --anywhere-- to park . by now, hunger was overtaking my sense of adventure and the whole parking lot fiascos were killing my happy.  just as i was considering other options, a spot opened near me and i snagged it. i looked around to what was close:  szechuan house it is.  white table cloths, here i come.

man the place was packed.  i loved the energy.  four waitresses orchestrated the room with eye gestures and quick words -- "you one?" she shouted to me from across the room, i smile and headshake yes, hold up one finger.   "okay here!"  another she shouts & points to a seat in the left corner of a 4-top, facing the kitchen. she sets down a menu and catches my eye with a smile. my happy is resurged. i've got a big table and a prime spot to watch food come out of the kitchen.  i've been here a few times--the mapo is really good and they serve lunch portion, which is unusual, plus it's about six bucks with soup and rice, so it's a no-brainer.  (remember, i brought my beer from home!)

 i love the symphony of a busy chinese restaurant, the clanging of chop sticks on ceramic bowls and the low, chopped language broken up by laughter.  Ladies, business men, families and couples reach across round tables to pick up noodles, or separate fish from their garlicky sauce. there's a communal element to chinese eating---i think it's the round tables.

 I ordered, then got up to fill my ceramic bowl with steamy soup from the self-serve cauldron at the front of room.  the slightly thickened hot and sour soup had strips of soft tofu and long twines of chinese mushroom.  the broth was tangy and rich. i popped my beer and savored the moment.  i love going to lunch alone.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Table for One: Field Trip to the Museum

A facebook ad caught my attention last week -- the Museum of Fine Arts had an exhibition of art deco cars titled "Molded Steel." The photo in the ad looked chic and cool and i made a mental note to section off one thursday afternoon to go museum exploring.  Thursday is free museum day in Houston.

Just such a thursday made itself known the other day, when the hubs and kids had plans that would keep them out until after 5.    I'd had a busy morning, up early and out.  i had a chiro appt at noon, but after that---nothing. Of course i could go back home, have an egg on toast, fold two loads of laundry, move dirty and clean dishes around. think about mopping. or i could go into Houston and see the museum. 

These crossroad decisions for my day -- these moments where i make the choice, to zig or to jag or to clean.  These moments of pure freedom when i am left to wholly and completely choose the path of my day, i get a glimpse of my unfettered self.  (and let me interject, that i very often choose "to clean.")  but this day,   I left the yoga pants and put on a pair of jeans, checked the gas gauge and hit the freeway. The Zone be damned, we were going into Houston.

Once in the museum district, i found an easy parking spot at the church lot across from MFA.  For like 25 seconds, i sat in my car and questioned this move.  The museum by yourself in the middle of the day?  will that look weird?  also,  i didn't tell husband i was going into houston.  should i?  these thoughts flashed through my consciousness like an imperceptible lighting flash. they were there, they were gone.  i snapped a quick pic of the painted VW van in the parking lot and turned off my phone. 

Walking into the lobby at MFA was like becoming a kid again,with that field-trip sense of excitement for what's to come, the anticipation of a slow, thoughtful day with nothing to do, but look and think.