Tell me a story…

Just about everything about me is run-of-the-mill. Physically, I’m 5’4″ with mousy brown hair and simple fashion sense.  I grew up with both my parents, my two sisters, my grandma, and a small and faithful procession of family dogs. My big sister is brilliant and my little sister is artsy. I’m in the middle, hoarding the family’s quota of common sense. I’ve known my husband since we were 18 and we have a five-year-old son. My husband works, I stay home, and we live in suburbia.

Anyone, when described in one paragraph, sounds ordinary. But our stories tell who we are. They are what makes us interesting, different, funny. The same. Stories connect us to others, in ways we recognize and ways we don’t.

Join me on this journey. I will tell you my stories and they will hopefully inspire you to see the beauty in your own stories.

Part of the Family

One year ago today Ace became the fourth member of our family. He was a much anticipated addition for our then six year old son. As an only child, he had big dreams about time together with his new “brother”…playing fetch, taking walks around the block, and cuddling at night. A built-in buddy to level out the playing field in our family. 

Before our son was born we had two boxers, Chloe and Hannah. They were hilarious, loving dogs but so full of energy. Since we had a kiddo this time around, we decided to go with a different breed that would be easier to train…and calmer. My husband did some research and landed on a chocolate labrador. 

I think it’s fair to say that Ace has broken the mold when it comes to labs. What we got instead was a furry whirling dervish that is equally smart and rascally. 

When I was little, our family also had a lab…his name was Pepper Jake. There were times when my dad would call him Pepper Jerk. I get it now. 

I can not count how many times we have chased Ace around the house to retrieve a stolen toy, dishtowel or remote control. The three of us have gotten very good at cornering him and retrieving the prize. It’s like trying to catch a chicken! It’s also a little embarrassing how breathless this game leaves all of us. And while we recover, I imagine Ace sitting in the corner, rubbing his paws together with a smirk on his face and a scheming look in his eye. 

There’s no telling how many Legos and Nerf darts he has consumed in the last year. Oh, and socks…he swallows socks whole. And snails, grubs, and roaches. And dog beds…oh, the dog beds he has destroyed!

We have tried to stave off this need to chew with dog toys, but he has not met a single one that he can’t destroy in minutes…including the ones that tout “INDESTRUCTIBLE!” on the label. 

We have finally landed on cow knuckles and logs to entertain this crazy dog. He happily runs around the backyard with logs that are about 8” in diameter, throwing them in the air and gnawing off their bark. And the cow knuckles, well, they’re as gross as they sound. When chewing on them he goes into a carnivorous trance. 

Fortunately he has not chewed on any furniture or damaged any walls or woodwork in our house…knock on wood. 

And all this rascally behavior is just the tip of the iceberg for this dog. Luckily, he is also a sweet love bug…when he wants to be. 

In the morning, after a full night in his crate, he will calmly wait to lap up his water and food until he gets a good belly rub. He loves to be wherever our son, “his boy,” is playing and will bring his own bone over so he can play too. He’s also great at retrieving and will run after a ball as long as you’re willing to throw it. And he’ll lay on the floor with our son, covering him with kisses, while my son squeals, “this is the best day ever!”

Yes, Ace has been a great addition to our family! For now, though, I cling to the experience of others who tell me that he will move past this puppy stage…in about four years. Sigh…

 

Remember the Alamo!

On a whim, we went to San Antonio a couple weeks ago. While there, we made the obligatory trip to see the Alamo. My seven year old son who is an enthusiast of all things history and war-related, soaked in every inch of the old mission. And yes, he donned a coonskin hat just to top off the experience. 

But before our outing to the Alamo, we enjoyed a little Tex-Mex on the River Walk. On the front of the restaurant’s menu was a picture of a margarita with the tagline “Margaritas so strong you won’t remember the Alamo.” A rather uncouth play on the famous battle cry, “Remember the Alamo!”, that the Texan soldiers cried out during the Battle of San Jacinto to honor the fallen heroes at the Alamo. 

Crass or not, I decided to partake…aaannnddd they were right. 

Anyhoo, just in time for Texas Independence Day, my son proudly produced this artwork. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t make me chuckle (and cringe). 

I hope this does not come up during his Texas history class in school some day! 

Say “Cheese”

My family have always lived quite a distance from each other. From Georgia to California, Wisconsin to Texas…we have spanned the states for as long as I can remember. My grandmother was the anchor for the family. She lived with her oldest son, my dad, here in Texas for many years. Her daughter lived in the Atlanta area and her youngest son lived in Irvine, California.

She would jet off to see her other children several times throughout the year. She was always a proper lady. She prepared for her trips by giving herself a fresh permanent and would done her Sunday best for her travels. She carried matching avocado green luggage  and would insist on arriving hours before her flight. These were pre-cell phone days too…so there was no texting anyone that she arrived or had a delay. She simply relied on them to be there and to find her every time. Her last flight was one month before she passed away at the age of 89. She was a spunky lady. But more importantly, she always put her family first and made every effort to be there for them.

When she passed away in 2003, our link to the extended family disappeared. Her absence made it very clear how much she kept everyone connected. Over the years, though, we have all found our own ways of keeping up with each other. Thank goodness for social media!!!

Six years ago, one of my California cousins moved to Texas to go to college. Since she was only an hour and a half away, we found ourselves texting and spending time together. I have LOVED having her close! We have kept each other abreast of all the family gossip and happenings, talked endlessly about our similar professions, and shared stories about our grandma. It’s the kind of connection to my extended family that I always craved.

I was thrilled when her parents and younger sister decided to follow her to Texas, making it their home in 2017. I adore that my son knows them well and loves spending time with them. They dote on him like grandparents which is something I cherish. I do believe my grandma is smiling down on us every time we are together…she would be so happy that her children and grandchildren are connected.

So three weeks ago when my aunt and uncle from Georgia came to Texas for a visit, we all congregated in Waco for a reunion. We easily fell right back into conversation, laughing at stories about our crazy dogs, reminiscing about their childhood, and sharing the woes of health concerns that arise with aging. The day flew by and left me longing for more time together.

IMG_6724.jpg

At the end of the day, we gathered together for the obligatory picture. We laughed at how my grandma never liked to have her picture taken and how that angst continued in my aunt. We chuckled at how time had changed everyone’s appearance. But in all the razzing, you could see that the bond between the siblings ran deep. They held onto their goodbyes that afternoon, stopping and starting several times on the way to the car, savoring every last minute together.

I am ever-hopeful that having the majority of my extended family now in Texas will lead to more time together. It’s just good for the soul.

IMG_6731.jpg

“Families are like branches on a tree. We grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one.”

 

Bloo

Today is a monumental day for Young Ben because he’s taking his very first test! I was relieved it was a spelling test. If I was ever good at anything in school, it was spelling. I was hopeful the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

I felt reassured when I saw the list included all the color words…red, blue, green, orange…you get the idea. In theory, these words seemed like an easy start because they’re familiar. He quickly read the flash cards that I dutifully made. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I had a proud mama moment that included a brief daydream of him standing on the stage winning a spelling bee.

*Record scratch*

I then realized the words were written in their matching color <insert eye roll>.

Anyway, we devoted time to those words every day this week and I can say, with conviction, that he was about 50/50 on those words. Turns out that the color words are actually pretty hard to spell because you can’t sound them out.

Go ahead, give it a try…

Blue becomes bloo

Orange turned into orunj

Purple morphed into prpl

In the end, I had to get pretty creative to help him remember how to spell some of them. I’m not ashamed to say that I tapped into my boy-mom potty-humor to achieve this. How you ask…well, the words yellow and brown have more than just the “ow” in common…they are also the colors of pee and poop…which go together too. I really hope he shared that gem with his class!

“So there you go.” It was reminiscent of the father from the movie My Big Fat Greek Wedding trying to explain that all words are rooted in Greek. 

Like Mr. Portokalos, I was stretching it a bit. Whatever works!

I pick my kiddo up from school in an hour. There will definitely be a stop for ice cream on the way home…even if he totally bombed the test! I want him to know that he’s brave to face this next step in his school career and that even if he only spelled his name right on the test this time…he will eventually know how to spell his colors along with many other words. And if not…there’s always spell check. 

PS – in 4th grade our bonus word for our spelling test was 45 letters long. I got it right on the test and I can still spell it today…pneumonoultramicroscopicsilicovolcanoconiosis… it’s a lung disease caused by inhaling very fine ash and sand dust, common in mine workers. I always knew this word would come in handy at some point!

 

Grandma

I spent the weekend of August 23rd, 2003 at my grandma’s bedside, holding her hand, reading her favorite Psalms, combing her hair, massaging her hands with lotion, and just simply sitting in silence with her. The final leg of her journey had started just three short weeks before with a hospitalization that lead to hospice care in a nursing facility. I knew I didn’t have much time left with her, but when I said goodbye to her on August 24th, I had no idea the end would come just twenty-four hours later.

On my way home from work, while I was riding in the shuttle to the off-site employee parking, my mom called me. There I sat, surrounded by strangers, hearing the crushing news about losing one of my very favorite people in the whole world. You see, she was more than a grandma to me…she was my kindred spirit. She moved in with my family in 1985 when I was in the second grade and she became my third parent. She was there for all the birthday parties, all the talent shows and games, all the homework and tests, and the many crushes and teenage woes. She watched me graduate from high school and college and was there, front and center, to see me get married.

One of my very favorite things to do with her was to go through her drawer full of pictures in her room. We would sit on her bed while she would tell me stories about growing up on the dairy farm in Wisconsin. Memories of living in Chicago with her sister’s family and meeting my grandpa when they both worked at Walgreens. How she and my grandpa moved around for his job and all the homes that she loved. Her eyes always lit up when she talked about my grandpa. And although he had died many years before in 1977, you could feel how much she loved him still. I was named after him (his name was Donald) and according to her, I had his “baby blues.” I think there was something about me, beyond my name and my eyes, that reminded her of him. I like to think so at least.

It’s hard to fathom that she has been gone for fifteen years now. Oh how I wish she could have met my son! I think he would have reminded her of my grandpa too…his sense of humor and big personality, his eyes and his smile. I think he would have been the apple of her eye.

There is so much peace in knowing that she is reunited with her love in Heaven. I miss her something fierce, but I take great comfort in knowing that I will see her again someday.

“Some people come into our lives and leave footprints on our hearts and we are never ever the same.”

-Flavia Weedn