Sunday, September 23, 2012

Food and Loving

I've been away from the computer again for awhile.  Trying to get the hang of my new school year and parenting a teenager.  I've been trying to think of just the right post and I finally hit on it tonight.

I have looked for and tried some new recipes lately, some things that would be tasty and quick to make, some quintessential American food for Sam to try.  I have had some wins and more losses in my quest for yummy food for the fam. 

When deciding what to make for the week, I pulled out my family cookbook that my mom and I put together several years ago with recipes that our extended family offered.  As a good Southern girl, I love making memories with food.

Immediately I was drawn into the memories that either the contributors or the recipes themselves brought to mind.  I decided on my grandmother's shrimp casserole and my cousin's chicken enchiladas this week.

My grandparents and my cousins have always been such an important part of my life.  Since my grandparents have left this world for a better one, I don't get to see my cousins very much..our lives don't intersect as often as they should. 

As I made the shrimp casserole last night, I drifted off to memories of my grandmother, holidays and the times I had made this casserole before.  My grandmother was a very gracious, lovely Southern lady.  I can still hear the distinctive way her drawl lilted out my name when she called me.  No one says my name the way Nonnie did.  Normally when a person says my name, it sounds kinda bitchy.  And more often than not, my friends call me Raynsford instead of Heather anyway, so hearing my grandmother call my name from the past made the casserole taste that much better to me.

Last night I made it for Sam, Brian and my brother-in-law, Eric.  A simple casserole, easy to make and very tasty.  I trusted what I knew to be a good meal, and it was excellent.  And it makes great leftovers.

Tonight I went for the chicken enchiladas.  Sam still hasn't had Mexican food...I know, I know, my parental rights as a Texan may be revoked any minute for just admitting that she has been with us for a month and she still has not tasted the manna from Heaven that is Tex Mex.  But, Brian is not a huge fan (my adorable Yankee husband, you know) and we try not to eat out more than once a week. 

So, I opened the Howe Family Cookbook again and turned to Kristy's page for the enchiladas.  Another easy recipe.  More great memories of my sweet cousin.  She and Brian regularly trade good natured barbs at family functions and it is always fun to watch.  When they really get going, get your popcorn.  And as Sam has been playing tricks on Brian recently, Kristy is quite pleased. 

When I pulled the enchiladas out of the oven and they looked so tasty, I had to laugh at myself.  Here I have been looking all over the internet for great recipes, when the best ones have been in a book on my shelf for years. 

I can't wait to pick more for next week.  No guess work needed, no fingers crossed that it will taste good.  The family recipes will remind me of the love that surrounds me and make great lunches the next day. 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A New Chapter

Today, Brian and I add a new chapter to our story.  We become least for a few months.

Today, Samantha, our teenage exchange student from Australia, arrives.  She will be with us until January.  I am pretty excited.  And intimidated.  And elated.  And a little bit scared.

Sam is a beautiful young woman who will attend one of our local high schools.  As her mom reassured me, she is not interested in boyfriends, but let me assure you that the boys at her high school will be trying to change her mind!  Brian may have to start cleaning his guns on an even more regular basis.

Add to that the simple fact that Brian and I are accustomed to living a pretty selfish life.  If we don't feel like cooking, we don't.  If we feel like going to have a drink downtown, we do, either together or separately with friends.  We leave for work when we please and we stay as late as we want ( or as long as the dogs' bladders can hang on.)

We haven't had to consider someone else's needs besides our own, beyond babying our pets.  I think this experience will grow us!  I am grateful for the experience, and pretty stoked about stepping into parenting way past the diaper phase. 

I realize that teenagers present a whole new set of challenges.  Curfews, mood swings, boys, shopping, laundry.  Sam doesn't eat or drink junk, so even our eating habits will have to grow up a little bit.  We do pretty well now, but I have a feeling that we are about to get a whole lot healthier.  So we lose a few pounds and gain a beautiful daughter?  Yes, I think so!

I am amazed at Sam's courage and her parents' courage as well.  To send your 15 year old across the world to a couple that you have emailed for a week must be about the most frightening thing you could ever do.  We are honored to host her; and if you know me, you know it's been hard not to go hog wild decorating and buying her things even before she gets here.  I have restrained myself and bought her one welcome gift.  And next week I want to take her to pick out her new comforter for her bed.  And she'll probably need some curtains, too.  And maybe a new lamp.

When we have kids of our own (fingers crossed), Brian will have to put me on a VERY short financial leash or I may bankrupt us buying things! 

Sam arrives tonight at 8 pm, and our world will be in that moment, forever changed.  We can't wait!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The Line Up

Sorry I haven't been posting lately.  It's been a crazy summer, but that is nothing new.  I guess sometimes you just need a break.  I noticed that this is my 150th post, and I suppose since this is such a special day, that is very fitting. 

Three years ago today, Brian and I were married.  Since we have been together for 15 years total, it seems a little strange to say three years.  I have loved him my entire adult life.  And so much life has happened in these three little years, it seems like such a small number.  But oh so significant.

Have I ever told you how we met? 

I was a junior at TCU, working at the Blockbuster Video on W. 7th and University.  (It's a Chipotle now.)  The FW police officer working security several times a week with me thought I should meet a nice guy.  He called three of his buddies from the Gang Unit to come by for my perusal.  At first I thought he must be joking, but it wasn't long before the first pair of partners strolled in.  I thought I would die of embarrassment; what was I supposed to say to them?

They stayed for a few minutes, shooting the breeze as I was deciding how I might kill my helpful little friend and hide the body.  Then the next two called to say they were on their way.  Oh wonderful.  "One of them thinks he's seen you before," Axel told me.  This puzzled and intrigued me. 

As soon as he walked in, I realized that he had seen me before and he had not escaped my notice either.

My routine when I arrived at work was to go to the Subway in the same shopping center for a drink.  One fine day a few weeks earlier, I nearly bumped right into a handsome devil in a uniform ordering his sandwich.  I wanted to speak to him but didn't want him to think it was the uniform that did it for me, so I took my order back to work, regretting not knowing what to say.

Turns out, he would have liked to talk to me that day, too.  Go figure. 

Not wanting to turn my nose up at Fate twice, I told Axel that Brian is the one I would like to know better.  He made the necessary call, and the rest is a very long history. 

So, in a manner of speaking, I found my cop husband in a line up 15 years ago.  How's that for a little bit of irony?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Full Circle

Today was the last day of school. Whew. It has been a good year, good students, but it is time for a rest. I was honored this year that two former students sent me graduation invitations. I am always humbled that the kids remember me so many years later to send one to me because after graduating three times myself and getting married, I can tell you that invitations ain't cheap! And those kids are worrying about college odds and ends and who knows what else. To remember me during this time is a big deal. And they may realize it, and they may not. It is a sign that I actually made a difference. It is a sign that someone in that sea of little adolescent faces was listening. Heily has asked me to her AVID ceremony tomorrow to give her the medal she will wear over her graduation robe on Sunday. I am the teacher she believes made the biggest difference in her education. Way back in 6th grade. I remember her as the sweetest, most determined to succeed young woman I had ever met. You could see it in her eyes. 97 was not good enough if 98 could be had. Cody and his three best buds, three brothers, have come back often for big bear hugs over the years. And they lift me p literally off the ground and spiritually with their huge grins and their plans for the future. Tyler Junior College, TCU, and Texas Tech. A framed, signed poster from TCU hangs in my classroom. These boys were in the classes that wrote to the players that got us the poster. Now, one of the boys starts summer classes at TCU next week. And the one favor I will ask is a new signed poster to hang next to my first one. Students like these make look forward to what may be next year. Thank you, my darlings.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Downloading Excuses

Working out has not been an option for a few weeks.  My heel has hurt so badly; it felt like Thor had hit the bottom of it with his hammer.  I ignored it for as long as I could, but eventually I went back to the doctor. 

Thanks to some stretching and some steroids, the pain is almost gone.  I will shortly have to be seen in a bathing suit in public, so I need to get back on my treadmill.  Like yesterday.

I decided that I would need to walk at a higher elevation instead of running.  I have a bad feeling about running any time soon. 

And as walking will take longer, I am likely to get bored.  To try to stave off the boredom, I decided to download a tv show on my iPad as my Kindle Fire was charging. 

That sounds easier than it actually was.  On the iPad, the download was taking forever.  So I stopped that download and decided to give the laptop a try.

It has been awhile since I had been on this iTunes account. 

First there were updates to download for iTunes.  After 10 minutes ticked by, I decided I could live without the updates for tonight.  I just wanted to download something to watch while I walk!

Then I could not remember my password.  After satisfying the password moderator (you must have a capital letter, number, 8 characters long, first born child--you get the idea),I reset the password, only to have to reset security questions as well. 

I finally get to the iTunes store and pick the new pilot for that cop show starting on USA.  I click on it, and it says the download will take over an hour. 

Seriously?!  I just wanted something to keep me entertained while I walk!  While I decided what the new course of action would be, I did a few planks.  (Mine don't last very long, but I made the effort.)

So here I sit describing my cyber download adventure and an hour has gone by.  The hour I had planned to walk on the treadmill.  Sigh. 

Technology has failed me tonight (mostly) and the dependence I have on technology has definitely not escaped me.  I don't know whether to just embrace the addiction or to feel slightly ashamed and go get on the treadmill now, and suck it up with the music on my iPod. 

Probably just go fold some laundry and hope I can find a swim suit that forgives A LOT of sins this weekend.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Mother's Day

It's Mother's Day.  Happy Mother's Day to those of you lucky enough to have started your families.

It's a bit of a difficult day for me, to be honest.  It's never really bothered me before, but as Brian and I are finally, finally in a place to start a family and it hasn't been as easy as falling off a log, so to speak, I am a little emotional about it.

Oh yes, I have my dogs and my cat.  And they are quite child-like at times, but I have found as I age (more rapidly than I would like), even brilliant dogs and cats are not quite the same thing as a child of your own.

I try to stay positive.  These things do take time.  God has a plan.  I am still young (my ovaries are laughing even as I type).  I have 100 children every day at school, many of whom stay in touch and believe that I have made a significant difference in their lives.  We can always adopt.

You name the platitude, I have heard it or said it over and over to myself, little mantras to get me through the next menstrual cycle.

I used to roll my eyes at the little dresses in the department stores.  I shivered at kids throwing fits in a restaurant.  And while I do still fear the tantrum, I wouldn't mind taking my turn at handling one.  And I can't wait to have a closet full of little pink dresses...or little football helmets or whatever in the spare room closet instead of the random crap that's in there now.

I am touched but ever so slightly bothered by the fact that I was included in Mother's Day twice today.  The intention was completely pure in both cases, but I felt like such a phony.

Our minister's daughter passed out a flower to all the women in the congregation at church today.  A simple, sweet gesture. But I am not a mother.  I don't have that honor, that responsibility.  Nor can I say that I ever will.  I appreciated not being left out, but I felt like an imposter.

Then at lunch, there was free cobbler for the moms.  The waitress brought a bowl to my mother and me without even batting an eye.  And while I really wanted the cobbler, I still felt like a phony, a little dishonest.  (Don't you worry, I ate it, and it was good.)

And I know that it's silly. I know if you are reading this right now, in your mind are the same platitudes I am thinking.  Have been thinking. 

Don't worry, some day you will earn that flower and cobbler plus some. 

And you have no idea how right I hope you are. But as each month brings only another bottle of Midol, it gets more difficult to be patient.  (Still not my best virtue, even with all we've been through.)

So, here's hoping by Father's Day things will be different.  We need a new adventure.

Smells Like Sunday

This Sunday I was called back to Bridgeport for the first time since Christmas.  It's Mother's Day and the church was dedicating a memorial sidewalk to my grandparents. 

I haven't dealt well with their passing, and the only explanation I have is that we are such a close family and they were so much a part of my life that no matter how old they got, I was sure they would always be there.

I have intended to go back to church, despite the drive, several times.  I just kept thinking about the last time I had gone to church before my grandfather's passing.  My grandmother was mentioned quite often in the service; my cousins were baptizing their little girl and most of the family was there.  I couldn't make it through the service without blubbering, and I REALLY hate crying in public--happy or sad tears.  I mean, REALLY hate it.

I was amazed by all the improvements in the church since last July at Grandpa's funeral.  There is a new kitchen, back entrance, and new floors throughout the Fellowship Hall.  The fund set up in my grandparents' name helped pay for all of it.  It's beautiful.

I took a deep breath and breathed in the smell of Sunday.  I love the way that church smells.  The smell of coffee permeates the building from the kitchen to the sanctuary.  Everyone smells their Sunday best and the perfumes and colognes dance invisibly to my nose in time with the reassuring smell of the pages of the Bibles and hymnals and the wax of the candles. 

First Presbyterian of Bridgeport has smelled that way for as long as I can remember and as I sat there, once again trying not to cry, I had to smile.  We don't have my grandparents' house anymore.  We have divided their things and each member of the family has their favorite item now in their homes to remind them.  Their things are scattered hither and yon, but they, Nonnie and Grandpa, are still very much in that church. Just as they were for 60 years of their earthly lives. 

They are in the songs of what we like to call "The Last Chance Choir." They are in the stained glass and the organ.  You fully expect to see them waiting for you with a cup of coffee and a cookie in the Fellowship Hall between Sunday School and worship service. 

I never realized how much of our history is linked to that little building.  We were all baptized there.  Family weddings were there.  And, like it or not, funerals were there.  And it will go on.  And they will be there, in the bricks of the sidewalk Nonnie would be so thrilled with (no more tromping through the grass from the back door to the front), in the bulletins, in the guestbooks. 

And I have to say that I hope I can get back to the smell of Sunday a little more often, so I can find what I have missed so much. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


It was one helluva day at school, if you will pardon the potty mouth.

We had to evacuate the school during first lunch because of an incindiary incident in a stairwell close to my classroom.  My colleagues and I had just sat down to our lunch when the fire alarm went off.  We all waited just a beat, thinking that we would be told to stay put, that it was just a false alarm.  But the loud speaker message didn't come, and somehow we knew without being told to get to the kids immediately.

We took them outside to wait, and I have to admit, for having their social and feeding time interrupted, they were model citizens. 

The smoke and fire extinguisher residue lingered in the back hallway, so students were prohibited from using it for the rest of the day, but we were able to return to business as sort of usual. 

My brave colleagues who put out the fire were told they should go to the doctor to check their lungs.  That meant classes needed to be covered.  I cheerfully took the Texas History teacher's class and ran two classes in my room at once.

Just another day in paradise, right?  My carefully crafted lessons flew out the window.  We even went ahead with our scheduled meeting after school with a member of admin. 

At the end of the meeting, I found two boys harassing one of my sweet angel students.  Turns out, they called 911 from a classroom three times and hung up. She just witnessed them near the phone. They were begging her to tell the principals she was mistaken because the boys are in serious trouble now.  I went to bat for them with the principals because the boys swore on a stack (metaphorically) that they hadn't done it.  I got just a little egg on my face when I talked to the principal and found out that they had already admitted it IN WRITING.  Sigh.  And my poor angel girl was in tears because she didn't know what to do.  I will have a little more making up to her to do tomorrow.  Maybe I don't have kids yet because I cannot tell when the kids are lying like a rug.  I want to believe the best in all of them and they played me.  Big time.

On my way home, I got a text from a good friend who told me I would have a surprise waiting for me at home.  She couldn't have known how much I needed a pick me up today, and yet like so many times in my life, she let in the light I so desperately needed today.  The school's wall seemed to close in even closer today as the day ticked away.  Having dinner out with my handsome husband didn't hurt either. 

So, as a terribly stressful day ends, I bask in the light of friendship and love shining on me. And am in the process of finishing a well-deserved Shiner. 

I hope your light found you today.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Azalea's Misadventures

Azalea, our cat, who up to now has been most famous for the mischief she creates with our Christmas tree, has had quite a week.

We were dogsitting for a good friend last weekend when the unthinkable happened.  We found Azalea's head in the mouth of one of the visiting dogs.  Now, I don't believe for one minute he was trying to hurt her, but unfortunately he did.

Brian and I rushed her to the nearest emergency vet and waited for the worst.  I knew her jaw was probably broken because the right side of her mouth was drooping down.  I felt she would make it, but what concerned me was the road that it would take to get her there.

Well, we are on that road now.  A few thousand dollars in, two emergency vet clinics and a people dentist, as a matter of fact. 

I know.  You probably think we are crazy.  But these are our children.  In fact, Brian had no idea the effect she has had on him until she was hurt.  He was a mess.

She got to come home on Wednesday from her second procedure.  Her canines are fused and her jaw is wired.  Her mouth is open slightly so her tongue is sticking out most of the time.  It's kind of cute and pitiful and the same time.  She drools a lot and her fur isn't as perfectly groomed as the little princess usually keeps it. 

She took over our clothes hamper in our bathroom where we confined her for the first few days.  We put her little kitty bed in there and took the dirty clothes out.  She has been very happy.  We may never get the hamper back, even when she is well.

Giving her the medicines prescribed is a real adventure.  She needs an antibiotic and  pain meds every twelve hours.  Which means using a syringe to shoot the liquid in her mouth.  Know much about cats?  They don't take well to stuff being forced into their mouths.  Especially when it tastes disgusting.  I guess no one has thought of making a tuna flavor antibiotic.  Most of the liquid ends up on the lucky person holding her.  So dressing for work in the morning and then giving her the meds isn't the best idea I have had. 

This weekend she didn't eat as much as we'd like and she seemed pretty lethargic.  This afternoon we decided that she needed to be looked at, so we made the trek back over to Arlington to the vet. 

We discussed what might be wrong with her on the way over.  One thing that had occurred to me was that she no longer liked the food we gave her because of the shortcut I tried.  I injected her medicine into the food I wanted to feed her.  No muss, no fuss.  Maybe.

Miss SmartyPants could smell the medicine and decided she didn't want to eat what she was offered.  She was hungry, just not for food that smells like antibiotic.

She acted like a champ at the vet, even sitting curled up on my lap, purring up a storm once she confirmed there was no viable exit from the exam room. 

Our dear friend gave us some canned food her angel kitty didn't need anymore, and as soon as we got home, we served up some of that, sans medicine.

Let me tell you what! She ate (licked) like she had never seen food before!  She had a half a can before she decided it was time to get her appearance in order. 

So, I have learned my lesson.  Medicine will no longer be dispensed in Princess Purrrfect's food.  And we will syringe smaller amounts of said awful-nasty-stuff at a time into her mouth, to make sure she gets the proper dose.

Live and spend a fortune learning how to care for your "children." 

Monday, March 26, 2012

My Grass Got Kicked

If anyone tells you that they enjoy push-mowing their lawn, you should immediately demand some of the crack they are smoking. Or ask for the name of their landscaper.

Y'all, let me tell you something. I would rather do just about anything than push-mow a lawn EVER again.  I mowed our front and back lawns this morning as a gift to my sweet husband, but I think I will still to baking cookies and making sweet tea for him to enjoy after HE mows from now on.

Long story short, I am off school today and the lawns need to be mowed.  House needs to be cleaned too, but my thought process was--mow in the morning while it's relatively cool, clean in the afternoon in the air conditioning.  Seemed like a good idea at the time.

Heard that one before? 

I dutifully cleaned up all the dog business in the yard, a pre-mowing ritual at our house.  Then I dragged the little red mower out of the shed and put it in position.  I pulled back the little handle, and pulled the cord with all my might, but nothing happened.  Ok.

I repeated the process.  Nothing.  Ok.  I checked the gas.  Plenty.  I repeated the process.  Nothing.  Ok, little red mower.  I have two degrees and wrangle 7th graders for a living.  You will not outsmart me.

Well, the mowing was supposed to be a surprise for Brian, but do I want to surprise him more than I want to accomplish the task? Not today, my friends, so I called him to ask how to start the darn thing.

"Well, did you choke it?" he asked after he picked himself up off the floor from the shock of my intention to mow the grass.  "Uh, choke, you say?  What is the choking you speak of?"  I replied. 

Apparently there is a little red button on the front of the mower that "primes" the machine after it's been sitting.  Ah hah.  Push one, two, three.  Repeat the starting ritual, and voila!  A live lawn mower! 

I proceeded to mow the top tier of our lawn with little trouble, but there are places that will benefit from the attention of the weed eater.  The May flies were taking off the grass by the thousands as I rolled along, and I discovered one shouldn't have their mouth hanging open while mowing the grass, struggling for breath the hard way.  Oh well, a little extra protein never hurt anyone. 

My next challenge was the bottom tier of the yard.  Narrow and down about 5 steps.  I wrestled the mower down there and chopped down the enormous, gnarly weeds.  But the grass was a little too dewy still and it bunched up under the mower and trapped the blade.  I did discover this after turning off the mower.  I still have all my digits, but they are a bit stained from the kelly green wet mess I had to extract from under the mower.  Grrr.

Next was the front yard.  In the hot morning March sun.  Neighbors I have never seen before are waving as they drive by as if to say, "Howdy!  Bout dang time you did something about this lawn, lady! Making the neighborhood look bad!" 

I'm also not real good with the grass boundary with the neighbors, so those lines look a little like I was drinking a Stella while walking along. Unfortunately, I am not that coordinated or I might have tried.  (I miss the riding mower.  There was a cup holder on it.  Sigh.) 

But, the grass is mowed.  You can't say it isn't.  I haven't attempted the weed eater yet, but something tells me that Brian will have to do that.  I have some cookies to bake.

My grass is kicked.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Happy O'Remission Day to Ya!

I took Brian to San Antonio on Friday.  He knew that part through a slip o' my big mouth, but he didn't know the other details.

He didn't know he was staying at The Menger Hotel, across from the Alamo, until we pullled up in front.  He was delighted, but his first question was, "Hey, uh, isn't this place haunted?"  Uh, heck yeah it is, but I didn't want to tell the big scardy cat that.  He has his gun and handcuffs, right?  He'll be fine....I hope.

I had been antsy the whole trip down, and you would think it was the traffic--at least that is what Brian thought, thank goodness.  Actually it was the concern we might see one of his surprises on the way down there.

You see, back in December, I asked his two best friends and their wives to meet us in San Antonio as a surprise.  I had no idea I would be able to keep a secret that long, but I did.  Chris and Cathy live in Burleson and had left about the same time we did. 

Turns out that even with a stop at Jason's Deli in San Marcos, another luxury we usually do not afford ourselves on road trips, we still beat them down to SA. 

After checking into The Menger, we ambled on in to The Menger Bar to enjoy the ambience.  Teddy Roosevelt recruited some of his Rough Riders in the cozy little bar.  It is quite dark in there, especially when you first walk in from outside, but the bartender poured generous vodka tonics.  We sat down to enjoy each other's company and unbeknownst to Brian, to wait for his surprise to come walking in.

Matt and Wendy, our other friends, could not join us until the next day, but fortunately they don't live very far from San Antonio.

As we sat there and talked about how great it was to be there and celebrating one year of remission, Brian looked up to see one of his best friends amble through the bar.  He looked happily confused for a minute as Chris walked right past him.  Cathy was a few steps behind. 

Surprise!!  Whew!  Now I could tell him everything!  I had been about to bust for weeks!! 

That night we went to Waxy O'Conner's on the Riverwalk for dinner and drinks.  Chris tried the 30 year old Glenfidditch for a measly $50.  Yikes!  I'm not a whiskey girl, but it was all right.  Apparently you can really taste the oak.  I will stick to vodka tonics...or Smithwick's or even Guinness...but never all in the same evening. 

Next morning Matt and Wendy arrived and the party was complete. We went to The Alamo at noon for a wreath laying ceremony for the Irish Americans lost at The Battle of the Alamo.  After lunch there was a little parade on the river.  Then it was time to fight our way back into Waxy's for the evening.  The boys didn't have to wait long for a table. 

Pipers came and went throughout the afternoon up and down the river.  It made Brian think of Scotland and how we will soon be there.  Another side effect from his illness--carpe diem.  He does not believe in wasting a moment. 

We drank and talked and ate, thoroughly enjoying the party atmosphere and ever cognizant of the gift it all was.  Brian gave us all a good scare, and I think it's affected each of our little group a little differently.  One thing I can say for sure is that we don't take each other or our lives for granted.

It was a wonderful weekend. Great friends, beautiful city, no ghosts.  We are thinking of upping the ante next year and heading to Chicago for St. Pat's. 

No matter where we go, we will not forget the preciousness of life and great friends. 

Monday, March 12, 2012

One Year On...

This weekend is St. Patrick's Day.  March 17th.  My nephew's 6th birthday.  A day to be with friends and drink too much kelly green beer.  A day to wear green and pinch those who are not. 

And Brian's one year remission anniversary.

I have been planning a trip to celebrate since January.  He's pretty impressed that I have kept a secret this long. So am I, to be honest.  I would tell you all about it, but he reads this blog and there are lots of details he doesn't know yet.  So--you will have to wait until we get home Sunday to hear the details and how much he loved it!

One year cancer-free.  And even as he makes the one year mark, one of my students is diagnosed with leukemia.  Fortunately, she will be cured as well.  I was devastated by my husband's illness.  I cannot imagine going through it with a child.  She is a brave little girl and her mom is upbeat and supportive.  We plan to get Fight Like A Girl orange bracelets to remind her that though she cannot be at school with us for now, we have not forgotten her.

Speaking of going through cancer with a child, my mother in law went with Brian to his latest maintenance treatment.  It stresses Brian out if anyone but me goes with him; he feels the need to entertain them when he should be resting.  When I go, I have to entertain myself and I know the routine. 

He likes to sleep through a lot of it, and I cannot blame him.  But his mother needed to see what happens to him in a treatment, needed to see what he went through, and I cannot blame her either.  He didn't get to sleep much because she had so many questions, but it was important for her to be there.  You can try to describe the experience, but it's hard to really understand unless you have been there. 

I think Wilma feels a little better seeing exactly what Brian endured...and will still 5 more times before it's all over.  We have a PET scan in May.  I am not afraid of this one like I was the one he had last March.  Last March was the all clear scan, the one that told us the nightmare was over.  This one will just confirm that we still are living the dream. 

Tune in Sunday to hear how he liked his surprise!  It's going to be so great!! Slainte (Cheers) to remission for all!!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Back to Normal...but Better

Today Brian ran the Cowtown 5k in 36 minutes. 

That's a great time for anyone.  But Brian ran his first 5k today since his remission from Lymphoma.  He didn't make me get up to go watch, but I wish I had...and I knew I would feel that way. 

The week before Brian was diagnosed with stage 3 Lymphoma, he climbed Mt. Tallac at Lake Tahoe.  He did it all by himself.  He dreams of going back and climbing it again now that he is in remission.  Today was a big step in getting back to the top of the mountain. 

Running has become such an important element in our lives.  It symbolizes health to us.  If we can run so fast and so far, illness cannot catch us.  And in my opinion, the farther and faster we run, the better. 

Brian knew he would finish the race today, but he worried that he would not do better than 45 minutes.  Hah.  I pray to finish in 45 minutes.  I knew that he would come in faster than that.  And while I was slightly hurt he didn't ask me to run with him, I knew he would have to leave me behind.  I would have never made him run with me.  So as I ran without him in my races, he ran alone today.

And it is better this way.  Today was about Brian getting back to normal, but better.  He needed do this alone and he didn't have to tell me that.  Someday I hope to be able to keep up with him...hey, maybe even pass him.  But for now, I will go buy a frame for his bib and hang it where we can see it every day.

Every day we will be reminded that it is one year of remission now, and that will steadily grow into many years.

I love you, Brian for your courage and determination and I am so honored to be your wife.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Tilting At Windmills....Again

It's that time again.  The last day of the grading period.  Once again, I have several students failing my classes or other classes.  And once again, the only reason they are is the failure to complete and turn in assignments.  Once again, it is contest time in Band and Choir and Track season.  Once again, the students failing are the ones needed most desperately by their teammates. 

I have started tutorials at 7:30 am and given up my conference period the last two days to tutor athletes, singers and band members.  And they owe so much work, it's not enough.  I can give up Monday as well; grades won't be pulled until Monday at midnight. 

I can do tutorials at 7:30 am and give up my conference period, but should I?  The parental instinct I have tells me, "No!"...quite sharply, too, I might add.  But the middle school kid in me who depended on these students to be eligible for contest and athletics is frantic to get the work in.  I remember the thrill of the winning and I want these students to have it. 

I keep thinking that maybe, just maybe, if they could experience that winning feeling that would inspire them to try harder in the classroom next time.  Pretty in my world, isn't it? 

I liken this effort to spitting in a bucket with a hole in it, trying to fill it. 

And yet, I find myself here every Friday of the end of the grading period, trying harder and caring more than the students I am trying to help.  So, am I helping them?  I honestly don't know. 

I know that 99 % of these kids will go on to be productive citizens in society.  I have taught long enough to see the proof.  And that 1%, well, I have taught long enough to see what happens to them, too.  And as my husband goes to a middle school today to arrest a 12 year old for robbery, maybe I feel the need to try just a little harder to have more of the 99% and less of the 1%. 

I have to believe, as tired and frustrated that I am, that I will have more students like Kerry, a sophomore in college now on a track scholarship.  He had troubles in middle school, and he is becoming a great man.  I have to believe that I will more students like the Vaitai brothers who recently signed their football scholarships to college.  One to TCU. 

I have to believe that caring FOR them will eventually become the kids caring on their own.  I rationalize my actions by pointing out that they are ultimately not escaping the work, even if they have left it to the last minute.  We are teaching them responsibility by getting the work from them...even if it takes a little longer for some. 

So I will go to Happy Hour today with other frustrated teacher friends and tell myself that I am keeping the kdis in their extracurricular activites and out of trouble with the police.  I will tell myself that one day they will visit my class all grown up and lecturing my current students on the importance of doing work on time. 

And I will have at least one very large margarita.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

We Meet Again, Jillian Michaels

Running has gone pretty well recently.  I'm not anemic anymore.  Ulcer went bye bye.  And though I have run (and walked some) every day lately, I don't really look any different.  I feel better, but don't really look better. 

Something more has to be done. 

Re-enter Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred to my life.  When Julie and I tried it a year or so ago, it damn near killed me the first few times I did it.  We started running with Luke's about the same time and our trainers sagely advised we not try both at the same time. 

Julie and I worked at Level One and just as Jillian promised, I felt like I wanted to die.  I couldn't make it through the workouts without gasping, panting and cursing the lovely and fit Ms. Michaels. 

So when Julie and I decided to just concentrate on running, I was totally cool with that.  I put the DVD away and didn't think much more about it.  I fell in love with my treadmill.

Recently however, between frustation with my lack of progress in the dress size department and getting a little bored with the treadmill every single day, I began to reconsider.  A friend of mine posted every day in January as she worked through the Shreds.  Now Rene is incredibly fit anyway, but she had high praise for the workouts. 

Today I had an "early dismissal" from school after the district spelling bee, so I had plenty of time for the workout.  I dusted off the dvd, shut the bedroom door so my nosy dogs would leave me alone, and got down to business.  I've got 20 minutes to spare.

I decided to be brave and try out the Level 2 workout; after all, I have been running nearly every day.  Turns out I did pretty well.  Well enough to try it again tomorrow.  I had to stop less during this workout than my first few of Level 1 last year.  That must be progress.

Jillian informed me that she wanted me to feel like I was gonna die.  Mission accomplished.  But she doesn't scare me anymore.  Hah!

My arms will be killing me tomorrow; I can already feel it, but they need a lot of work.  I walked a mile and a quarter on the treadmill afterward.  Just a little extra calorie burn.  Pizza is on the menu tonight.  Whew!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Puppy Rescue

It was an exhausting day at school.  I don't know what got into the children, but I was so exhausted I didn't even want to work out...and lately, that's saying a lot.  I was drinking a Stella with a Tylenol chaser after walking Bear, dinner simmering, when my daddy called. 

Usually a call from Daddy means an invitation to dinner out.  Not this time.
 "What are you doing?" he asked. 
"Uh, nothing really." 
"Can you go help your mother?  I'm on my way home, but she's there with Beau and his head is stuck in the fence." 
Yikes! "Yeah, I'm out the door right now."

I ran out the door and into the car.  My parents only live about 5 minutes away. 

After tailgating an elderly gentleman in a blue pick up who clearly didn't know I had an emergency, I screeched  to a stop in my parents' driveway.

My dad said the dog was caught in the fence, so on my drive over I have been imagining the scenarios where I extract the little fella from the wooden privacy fence that surrounds the yard.  I wasn't quite prepared for what awaited me.

My mom sat on the couch holding the dog and the decorative, fleur de lis iron fence that they have around a flowerbed.  Beau was squirming and squealing a little...partly in distress, partly in joy to see a new person in the house. 

I flopped on the floor in front of the problem and immediately saw why my mom was so worried.  The fence is quite sturdy iron and in curls, several of which are now curling into Beau's neck. 

I looked up at my mom.  "I know it's cliche, but let's grease him down and see if we can slip him out."  She agreed on that plan and away I flew to get the cooking oil from the kitchen.

FYI, it IS as cliche as it sounds.  It will deliciously cook your food, but it will not extract a curious puppy from an iron prison. 

Ok, what to do?  What to do?  It didn't help that every time I looked at his pitiful little face, I started giggling.  It was serious, but very funny, in a way. 

I asked myself, "What would my friend Tim do?"  Tim is a man of action and has two mischievous dogs.  I decided that the only way to get him out was to bend one of the bars back.  Now I needed a tool to assist me in that endeavor. 

I flew out the back door and into the pool house where my parents have their plants for the winter, and Daddy keeps his tools.  The palm goosed me a little as I squeezed past and grabbed some pliers. 

I landed back in front of the puppy predicament and then had to decide what part of the fence to try to move.  I decided on the top piece and began pulling.  Beau wiggled and whimpered as I worked. 

It didn't take too long before I had pulled enough on the piece for him to just roll his giant puppy head right out.  He shook his floppy ears several times and Mom picked him up and hugged him. 

I took him to the kitchen sink and gave him a quick bath to get the oil off of his head.  He was a little indignant, but no longer oily. 

He seems no worse for the wear, and seems to actually enjoy the attention he received.  Mom and Dad are quite relieved.  Their little bundle of joy is safe to play another day.

So, I may not have made any great strides in education today, but I saved a puppy.  So there.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


I just took down our calendar from 2011.  It was on the inside of the pantry door, so I hadn't paid much attention to it.

As I took it down I looked at each month and what was chronicled there.  I still can't believe sometimes how much God trusts us with.  Sheesh.

January 2011

Pretty low key, actually.  Rose Bowl watching party, Jiggle Butt 5k with Julie, English conference in Galveston.  Brian's last treatment was in December so it was a waiting game until March when he had his scan to tell us whether he was in remission.

February 2011

By this time my grandfather had been in the hospital since the day after Christmas with cellulitis in his leg.  This would develop into an ugly staph infection that he ultimately would never really recover from.  But on February 5th he had another birthday.  This time we had to meet as a family in the hospital waiting room with cake and presents.  We were also out for a week for snow days from school and the Super Bowl in Arlington was just ruined.  Hee hee.

March 2011

We missed a very wet Mardi Gras because back in the fall of 2010 when it was time to make those plans, Brian had just been diagnosed.  We felt that he wouldn't be very comfortable jammed in with all the party goers.  On March 17th, we got the news we were waiting for...REMISSION.  We declared it Brian's new birthday (as well as my nephew's 5th birthday) and celebrated the rest of Spring Break. 

April 2011

On the first, like a cruel joke, my mother had a procedure that told us she had stage 1 uterine cancer.  Here we go again.  Brian is healed, so now we get another curve ball.  My birthday and Mom's birthday pass; the next week she is in the hospital for another surgery.  But at least that got rid of the cancer.  Brian worked a lot of overtime, but we were saving up for Australia by now which was just a few months away.  Brian celebrated 20 years with the police department.

May 2011

May passed pretty smoothly.  Brian took his two best friends to Police Week in Washington, D.C. to meet up with his other buddies from around the country and around the world.  My grandfather was still in the hospital/rehab in Ft. Worth, and I was feeling worse every day.  Every day I struggled to have the energy to teach.  I thought it was just the crazy year I had had.  That's what I get for thinking.  Finally right before Mom and I left on the cruise, I went to the doctor.  Feeling silly for going just because I didn't feel good, I was soon vindicated because it turns out I was very, very anemic.  Oh goody...iron pills.  Mom and I went on the cruise not knowing what June would bring.

June 2011

Brian finally heard from my doctor and they were panicking #1 because they couldn't find me and #2 based on the blood count they had done on the last day of school, I was bleeding internally somewhere because my iron levels had not improved at all after two weeks of treatment.  I was in the gastroenterologist (how do you spell that anyway?)  two days after I got home from the cruise...scared out of my wits.  A week after that I have a endoscopy/colonoscopy combo to confirm I have an ulcer.  No more Excedrin candy for me.  But once my ulcer was healed, my headaches pretty much stopped too.  A vicious cycle stopped.  Whew.  Less than a week after that we left for Tahoe to see Brian's family.  We had a great visit and even got to see a bear for the first time!  Who can resist trout, I ask you?

July 2011

Still on the mend, I went to Texoma to camp with the exchange students.  But my grandfather who had fought so hard to stay with us, decided it was time to go with my grandmother at last.  His memorial was July 28th.  And just like that, we didn't have our grandparents anymore.  Still doesn't seem real. 

August 2011

Brian and I triumphantly celebrated our second wedding anniversary on the first.  We returned to the Lightcatcher where we were married.  The first day of school was the 22nd.  The Grape Stomp with my girlfriends at the Lightcatcher was the 27th and despite the desperate heat of this summer, we had a great time.  On August 31, Brian and I left on a jet plane for Sydney, Australia. 

September 2011

We had the time of our lives in Sydney for 10 days.  It was such an amazing trip, and I can't believe that I am lucky enough to have stood on the beach on the other side of the world and petted a koala. 

October 2011

Brian, my brother and I went to Arkansas to the Blues Festival to see our family.  It was David's first time in Helena since he was 7 or so.  It was wonderful to bond with another branch of the family.  The Rangers made it to the World Series again but again couldn't close the deal.  We carved pumpkins as a family. 

November 2011

Thanksgiving was the highlight.  Brian's parents were home from Tahoe and joined us as did my Mexican brother, Luis.  David and I couldn't resist taking him for Black Friday shopping at 5 am.  He enjoyed that but the Cowboys game even more. He finally made it to Jerry World in person.  He loooooveees the Cowboys.  Well, no one is perfect. 

December 2011

Brian celebrated his actual birthday on the 11th.  David and I bought Mom and Dad a beagle puppy for Christmas and had quite the adventure in the process.  Winter Break was much needed and thoroughly enjoyed. 

So now, Brian and I begin to plan out our adventures for 2012.  Looks like Scotland is on the agenda for vacation.  Mom and I are going on another cruise...this time with proper suitcases.  Mardi Gras is back on the calendar for next month. 

Looking forward to all of it and having a great year with friends and family.  Here's to 2012 and making it through 2011.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Random Thoughts

All of these thoughts are more like Facebook posts...but I've had so many at once, people might wonder about me changing my status every thirty seconds to get it all here goes!

Random Thought #1:  It was with great joy I started a load of workout clothes this afternoon after my run.  That means I have been workin' hard!

Random Thought #2:  I may be addicted to technology--officially.  I carry my smart phone, my iPad and my Kindle Fire around the house with me. I am typing this on the laptop...

Random Thought 3:  Connected to Random Thought #2....I couldn't get through my workout now without my Kindle.  I started this week by reading a book as I I have moved on to watching episodes of The Big Bang Theory.  Laughing out loud helps me gauge my oxygenated capabilities...

Random Thought 4:  Connected to Random Thought #3...I really want Chinese food tonight for dinner after watching The Big Bang Theory.  Fortunately, Brian didn't have a problem with that, and connected to all of the above thoughts, I can eat a little more as I worked out and didn't waste calories on crap at school. Whoo hoo!

Random Thought 5:  This one makes me a little sad, but it was revealing.  I don't laugh much at work anymore.  I laughed a lot today with students and with friends and it felt so good!  I believe I will work on that again tomorrow.

Random Thought 6:  I feel better each day, physically and mentally.  I hadn't realized how much I missed my treadmill. 

Enjoy your evening, friends!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Trying to Understand

I had planned an amusing little entry tonight about working out; it's going very well these days. 

Instead, as I logged on to the computer, I saw a headline about an armed 8th grader killed in Brownsville by police.

My day at school wasn't a piece of cake, but it was a helluva lot better that everyone's in Brownsville today.  I ended my day in tutorials with 3 eighth grade girls visiting me; I taught them last year and they were begging to come back to my class, as they do every time I see them.  I am always flattered, but I have to say after reading about this student today, I am savoring it more than usual. 

I have taught middle school for 10 years.  I am the wife of a dedicated police detective.  I am reeling.  I have so many questions.  Why?  What made that boy (because no matter how "mature" they think they are, they are just boys in 8th grade) feel he had no other way to make someone hear him?  And the worst part is, because of the choice he made to point the gun at officers, we will never know any answers.

That officer will never forget this day.  Not if he lives to be 100 years old.  I hope he will take comfort in the knowledge that he did what he had to do to go home safely tonight and to keep the other children in that school safe.  I'm sure it's little comfort.  He will have no more answers than the rest of us.

To my students and other young people I say--you have people who love you.  No matter how bad it may be at home, teachers at school will listen to you.

Real weapons have real consequences.  Leave them alone.  Period.

Know that no police officer wants to harm you; they want you to follow the law and they want you to go home safely each night.  They have the same desire for themselves, as do their families. 

Your teachers, principals, custodians, counselors, librarians, and lunch ladies would not come to school each day if they didn't love their work and love you.  School is supposed to be a safe place for everyone.  We must take of one another so that remains true.