Monday, December 27, 2010

The Greatly Revised Night Before Christmas (with strange fonts..not sure why)

Twas the night before Christmas, when we left grandma's home
We were so stuffed  with latkes, that our mouths they did foam.
We watched Santa on Radar. Channel 5, with  great care.
And rushed to Bandera to meet the man there.

The children were tucked in both of our cars.
They put on their headphones and looked for the stars.  
Austen and I dressed in jeans and our coats.
When we took a short detour to feed some friends' goats.

When just as we turned down the road in the muck.
I see Santa driving buy in an old pickup truck.
"Did you see him?" I ask my dear son, "He's still in view!"
But lost in his music, he hasn't a clue.

We arrive to our friends, but  concerns soon arise.
When the gate is unlocked yet we continue. Unwise.
My son walks in the house, while I wait with phone in hand.
He quickly returns, and scans the surrounding land.

Nothing is missing, but things are not right.
We debate what to do on this strange Christmas night.
A few calls are made, and we continue on our way.
I wonder. Oh, I wonder about that Santa with no sleigh.

Once back at home, with our family near.
We open the treasures which so miraculously appear.
E-books and clothes. Bows and arrows and more.
I 'm enticed to the deck to find a chiminea in full roar.

We warm ourselves by the fire and comment.
On how such a strange evening still leaves us content.
We are truly blessed without a doubt.
And now off to bed, before the sun peeks out.
As I cover myself with my blanket in bed,
I replay Christmas eve. Rewind in my head.
And as I nod off, I know all is right.
"Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good-night!"

What's for Dinner?
Sunday: Caprese pizzas
Monday:  community dining-spaghetti with (or without) meatballs, green beans, french bread  
Tuesday:  parmesan crusted chicken with creamy risotto, salad
Wednesday: grilled portabella bruschetta
Thursday: salisbury steaks or veggie burgers
Friday: New Year's Eve-Cajun Crab Boil
Saturday: tacos


Monday, December 20, 2010

Dear Bug...

Dear Bug,

  First let me start with, I'm sorry you have acquired the nickname Bug.

What can I say? Sometimes these things just happen. I realize that  Uncle Brian, your cousins and myself have been merciless. Snuggle bug,   bed bug, snotty bug, little bugger,( insert bug name here)...and now we have taken your beautiful name: Levi Thomas..and you have been dubbed Bug.   Please is said with full affection from all.

Now the main reason for this letter is to let you know how glad I am to have you with us this Christmas Season. (your first!)..and. to help you understand some of the nonsense around you.  Maybe I can even give you a clue or two on how to survive this Holiday Season .

But first things first. I had NO IDEA last Christmas season, that we would have the honor of sharing this time with the wonderful, growling monster, tree-eating, boat motor spitting, bug you are.  I am so proud of that big  heart you so openly share. You are a true LOVE BUG. What a pleasant surprise for us! Sometimes? Life has those sneaky little surprises. I hope you learn to recognize and LOVE THEM when you get old like me.

Now..onto this Christmas stuff. You know how we have spent Wednesday evening at the soup and salad dinner and then advent service at the church. Well that is because we like to get together to celebrate this time called advent. Advent is the time of pregnant anticipation in which we await the coming of Christmas Day. We can go into more details about Christmas day when you are older.

For now..just know..we celebrate with family and friends. As we enjoy our food, we  remember and reach out to those who are hungry. As we warm ourselves by the fireplace,we remember and reach out to those who have no shelter.  As we enjoy our time with family and friends, we remember and reach out to those who are lonely. It is also important to take some time during this season, to allow ourselves to grieve for those who are no longer with us.

Compassion, love and hope are key themes that this season represents.

Now, one of the ways we celebrate Christmas is by sharing gifts..and sometimes we even receive them. Then, of course, is all the magic that comes with that Santa Guy I told you about.

But for now,  back to these Christmas gifts, and the sharing of Christmas magic...that is why the house has been SO CRAZY lately.

So here are a few hints to help you through this and future seasons.

Hint 1: Not everyone is as meticulous as Cody and Ellie. So when buttons must be is not necessary to sort  them by as many details (or to place them in patterns)as they choose. Your cousin and his ever gracious girlfriend are simply a bit quirky sometimes.It is okay to be a bit more laid your Aunt Nicole...or Justin.  But taking the example of these guys and jumping in to help make always appreciated during the holidays.

Hint 2: While Aunt Sandy appreciates the help in the kitchen. It is not necessary to show her how you spit while you are around the banana-bread batter. You CAN help mix things and laugh and play while you do it like your cousin Austen and Devin if you want. Help in the kitchen IS also appreciated during the holidays.

Hint 3: Not everyone who practices music for various holiday occasions puts the wrong guitar strings on their guitars. That is simply because your Aunt Nicole and Jack are amateur musicians. Real musicians? They are a little more put together. But professional or amateur doesn't matter. Music is one of the coolest parts of the season...and music reminds me of our next hint.

Hint 4:  Many families listen to Christmas music. The usual repertoire consists of songs like Silent Night,Oh Holy Night, Frosty the Snowman and here in South Texas Feliz Navidad. Now a few of these songs you have heard (and will hear)in church. The rest? Well..I am so sorry. Your cousins have been a bit difficult about my Christmas C.D.'s this year. So for now, you will have to be content with AC/DC, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Nickleback. Maybe things will be different next year.

Hint 5: Now this is your last and final hint. But it is probably the most important. Your Aunt Nicole is not a chew toy. For that matter, no human is a chew toy. Some people would even call it biting. Please refrain from chewing on us. It hurts.

I believe that is enough for holiday-season hints.

Your cousin Brian and Angee both missed you the other day. They will see you when they return from Colorado. They also LOVE YOU VERY MUCH.

On Christmas Eve we will all (like your mom, your brother, aunts, uncles and cousins) go to church with grandma and grandpa. After church we will go to grandma and grandpa's house for tamales, crackers and oysters, eggnog, etc. It will be a late night for you..I would suggest a nap during the day.

All for now, we have community dining to prepare for. I think a bath is in order before company arrives. After all, Stink Bug is not a flattering name.

With Much Love,

         Aunt Nicole

Friday, December 10, 2010

Full Day Ahead

  I read a quote on the SonLight Forums (SonLight being the Lit program we use) last week. A mom simply stated

I keep having the feeling that something great in my life is going to happen..just around the corner. And then I is here. I am living the something great. here. now.

I have been thinking about her statement quite a bit in the past week. I know the do many. That the great thing in life is coming..tomorrow, next week, next year. I just need to x, y and z first. So I stopped planning and took a long hard look at my life, now

I have learned much from the guys at the prison where I occasionally worship. I am learning to live life fully. To appreciate and celebrate every moment of it. I am realizing how wealthy (not necessarily monetarily) life can be for all.

 ...and I realize I am living the something great. here. now.

I know some of my friends and readers are very skeptical about using the word blessed. But blessed is how I truly feel.

I truly do not believe in a Santa Claus God that blesses some and punishes others based on their acts. I believe in a God that is love. And sometimes good things happen and sometimes bad things happen because we are human beings that live in an imperfect world. I think our blessings come in how we appreciate or recognize what we have, no matter what the circumstances in our lives are. The blessings come in appreciation and the message of hope.

It is as simple as that.

That said. Today is the last day the older boys and I are doing any type of formal studying for about a month. The past 5 weeks we have gone nonstop. Writing, reading, mathing (we are pretending that is a word), discussing and all over again. I have almost finished the work I need for my Parish Ministry Training Program classes this week. What is left should not take more than an hour.

Now? Back to life, This simple thing known as nothing extravagant, ordinary life.

I wake a crying baby. We snuggle..Big B still calls him Clingon. I prefer Snuggle Bug. Coffee with Big B..then? Play/carry the Levi kiddo for a couple hours.

We learned this week, that my sister has been accepted into a transitional housing center. Meaning? She and Levi have an opportunity to call someplace home for the next 2 years. Also? The center is fine with Levi continuing to stay with us during the week. So..Yay. 

It is 9 a.m. now..and here I am, playing on a blog. In a few minutes I wake up the older kids and we eat french toast and scrambled eggs while discussing economics. I really am savoring this time at home. I have no idea what my life will hold in 6 months. I will be working, somewhere. It will be a necessity. So I savor this time I have now.

 This afternoon consists of a trip to the library, a Christmas Tea, a short stop at the Club, a soccer game and then off to the beach.

It is a wealthy life we live. All of us.

 I challenge all of my readers- all couple of you- to take a moment to reflect on the wealth  in your own life.

 To live life fully. Here. Now.

What's for Dinner?
Saturday: ?
Sunday: tacos
Monday: community dining (Arguelles home) Chicken soup..and chocolate martinis(?)
Tuesday: lasagna (spinach and mushroom), french bread, salad
Wednesday: meatball sandwiches or veggie burgers, fruit salad
Thursday: eggplant  parmesan, bread sticks, salad
Friday:  make your own pizzas

Sunday, December 05, 2010

My House Exploded


We have a sign on our back deck that says Danger..

Originally, the sign was created for that time of year when Odyssey of the Mind teams took over our house. various "works in progress" continued to take over our deck year-round. (I.E...rockets, recycling copper, building missiles, plant experiments, etc.) We also added to our deck decor another sign...stating simply Leaders in Progress.

But Leaders or Not..this weekend the house literally exploded with people, furniture, paint, grinders, etc.. The mess is all compliments of the big people....and this weekend was FULL of creative-messes.

Friday? Not too messy, actually. Just your usual to-be-expected-when-learning-at-home  type mess. The boys (Cody, Austen and Devin) spent the morning writing essays and studying economics. So other than books all over the living room floor? We were still okay.

Then Devin, Austen, Levi and I headed to SA. Cody (ahem) stayed back to study more???? The rest of us visited with my parents and then all of us..(Calvin, my parents, Devin, Austen and myself) went to the hear the Christmas Vespers at Texas Lutheran University.


Saturday is when the real explosion started....
 First came the venison processing (What do you expect? It's hunting season, here in the Texas Hills)

  Pictured are Sandy and Crystal just goofing around in the kitchen while we start the meat grinding (lovely, no?)

Then? Big B and Ricci start packaging the meat.


  Cody, Devin, Austen and I return to the den. It's time to paint. We find some fairly safe paint for Austen to be around in San Antonio...uhmm..until we run out. We kick Austen out of the room (and later the house) while we finish with paint we buy locally. Above is Odio rolling out the spots I made too thick.

As we wait for paint to dry, Sandy and I take the opportunity to drink choco-vino and put blondish highlights in my hair..and then?

 Andy arrives with his deer. More processing and packaging.

And before you  completely gross out. I would like to set the record straight that EVERYTHING the meat touches is sanitary. The hair highlighting and painting are happening in other rooms of the house.

By nightfall, we are exhausted. None of us remember going to bed. We just sort- of ..woke up this morning to a crazy, exploded house.

Sunday  I leave early in the a.m. for another day of worship, prayer and fellowship at a local prison. When I return..................

My living room looks like this!

For those who have been to my house before? You know this means most of my furniture is missing and the piano has found it's way back to my living room. For those who have not been to my house before? This means most of my furniture is missing and the piano is back in the living-room. (It's been several years)...

This room is a pleasant surprise after tripping over people and furniture all day yesterday..But Hmm...Where Oh Where Could the Couches have gone???? 
AHA! Here they are. The Shaggy Boys are sprawled out on them in....


What's for Dinner?
Sunday: Turkey, green beans, dinner rolls
Monday: (Community Dining) 15 Bean Soup, taquitos..and waffles???
Tuesday: Minestrone and grilled sandwiches
Wednesday: Baked fish, baked potatoes and peas
Thursday: Quiche (plain or kale and mushroom), salad, tomato soup
Friday: Leftovers- Cody has game. Big B and I are off to the beach!
Saturday: ? Boys are on their own..Big B and I ..still at the beach!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanksgiving Weekend in Pics!

We spend Wednesday with just our immediate family (a rare occasion in itself)..eating dinner, catching up with each other and playing with Levi.
 Here, Levi shows off his latest crawling maneuvers.

Austen and Brian spend a few hours just talking and going over gyro-copter plans. Then all three boys stay up way into the night playing MineCraft

Thanksgiving Day? I make the boys - all of them- Brian, Cody, Austen, Calvin and Levi..pose for entirely too many pictures. It hits me that this may be the last year with everyone home. Brian and Cody both graduate this Spring. (Brian from UT, Cody from..well..home!). I do not know where they will be living at this time next year.

Selfishly? I hope they stay in Texas. That way..I can see them on all the holidays! After all, it's all about what mom wants..right?!  (sigh) no one else agrees either!

But if... they say...Michigan..or Pennsylvania..or Massachusetts? Well I just hope they find a nice family to spend the holidays with!

So I take all these pictures. I lose the camera. pics.

On Friday we wake the boys up at noon. It is our family tradition to put the tree up after Thanksgiving..and leave it up until Epiphany.I think the boys all sense it may be the last year..because this year? They do not argue, moan or groan like they have the past few years.

Here Brian and Cody decorate our tree.(Brian took pity on me and let me use his camera phone)

..and now Austen? He is placing the baby-proofed ornaments on the bottom of the tree. You know..things like..NOT GLASS!
  The Boys Pose for a variety of tree-poses. I was fired..because, they obviously, take MUCH BETTER PICTURES than me. Here are my dear, charming, unruly boys. Gotta love them!

This pic was taken shortly before they all took off to hang-out with friends and girl-friends for the rest of the weekend.

and finally?                                    

The Advent Candles

Advent  is one of my favorite parts of the season.

I know the colors have changed over the years...but I love the tradition of gathering around the candles in the evenings and reading the Christmas story. One week at a time.  Lighting the candles along the way.

It is a time to reflect, to meditate, to wait.....and to enjoy some of the magic of the Season.

A few years ago, my good friend Leticia passed away just before Thanksgiving. Advent was a season Leticia treasured..and I hope to pass this tradition on to her daughter/my god-daughter Katherine.

Most years, Katherine helps me set up the candles..but this year? She is having her 10th  birthday party! So I promise Katherine I will set up the candles..and on Sunday, (the beginning of advent)...... We are roller-skating!

Katherine and I agree to light the candles together during her Christmas break.

What's for dinner?
Saturday- broccoli/cheese soup, grilled turkey sandwiches
Sunday- barbecue for friend's birthdays?? and veggie burgers
Monday - not dining? I'll be at Cody's soccer game.
Tuesday- lasagna, salad, french bread
Wednesday - Swiss steak, pasta salad, salad
Thursday-veggie tacos
Friday -make your own pizza

Monday, November 22, 2010

Baby Free Zone?!

also known as our Den In Progress.

Several years ago Big B and I moved to the Tx. Hills. Our intention? To build a log cabin along the river.

1 year later we were still in the single-wide trailer that came on the lot. Still arguing over floor plans (and budget and time frame)...for the log cabin. We decided it was healthier for our marriage to buy a double-wide.

We spent the next 4 months looking at homes and finally found a floor-plan we loved. It had a living room with den attached, dining room, kitchen, morning room/laundry, 2 bathrooms and 3 bedrooms.

Then? We stumbled on this same house (only the den was a bedroom!)...for sale in Bandera.
If we bought the one off the lot? We would save almost 30 grand.

It was a no brainer. We would replace the green carpet, and turn the bedroom into a den. It would be less expensive to remodel than 30 grand. guessed it. Here we are 12 years later..and we still have green carpet...and we still have no den.

The den was originally going to be used for piano/violin lessons. Well..we just gave lessons in the kitchen or living room instead, until I stopped teaching.

Last summer Big B and I decide we really could use that space after-all.

Guests have no privacy on our pull-out couch in the living room. The teens and young adults needed some space to have an electronic explosion. (not literally..think Wii, guitars, lap-tops and..okay..electronics being taken apart) I do not want the explosion in the living room.

Big B and I agree. It is time!

Instead, we start a garage.

..and along come Levi...and also? Jack (2 years) and now Charlie (3/4 weeks?)..for community dining..and now Malachai (1 year) and Reini (3 years)..a couple days a week. Meaning?

The babies are everywhere!

Don't misunderstand. We love having the younger crowd around. Cody and Austen play with them, tease them, carry them, feed them, and try to protect the house from little fingers...and in return? The babies adore the boys.

Reini shows her adoration by hiding under the piano when it is time to leave. Everyone looks and Reini is not to be found. When she is always followed, with loud wails, tears and CAN'T find me! Try again. (more sobbing) Jack continues to bring the boys random items...blocks, little people, cars. Malichai throws things at them...and Levi shows off his latest noises. This week? Levi can make spitting sounds that sound like a boat motor.

Sometimes , all this baby love can be a bit overwhelming for the older kids.

For example, last Thursday, Cody, Austen and friend Devin tried to write a timed essay. While for some people, essay writing is a cinch, this is not the case with these guys. Especially timed...because in years of self-directed one ever chose to write timed essays.

Until now. Why?  Because these young men are practicing for ACT, SAT and Accuplacer.

So...back to the essay. I start the timer. The boys look at the writing prompt..and Levi and Malachai have a squealing contest.

Then? Malachai starts throwing cereal from the highchair. The cereal repeatedly hits Cody in the head. This causes Malachai to laugh hysterically, causing the boys to lose all concentration, because cereal on Cody's head is way more interesting than writing about reasonable expectations for the ethics of leaders.
While Malachai throws cereal..Levi makes boat noises..louder and louder and louder.

...and yes the boys managed to write essays. They almost made sense.

The boys and I agree. The time for a den is NOW.

So Big B, Cody and Austen remove walls, replace walls, add a huge entrance (that will be blocked by a baby gate!). We are not normally baby-gate people..but this is to keep the older boys in..really. The boys continue by putting up sheet rock..and we paint the floor (YES we pulled out the green carpet..but cannot afford the floor we want) a blue/grey.

This is to be the older kids space. The baby-free zone. The one and only zone in the house, where they can be teens/young adults...without playing with babies.  This their line in the sand.

Here's hoping we finish it soon.....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Epilepsy (long post)

Cut the dreads?!?!

Austen is debating joining the local law enforcement Explorers program. This would mean...(music please) cutting the dreads.  But he is not sure.

As unimaginable as it may sound for a child of mine, Austen thrives in paramilitary environments. His experiences with Scouts and Civil Air Patrol have proven this. But...these programs (Scouts aside/Explorers included) usually have an emphasis on career exploration. Careers..that Austen are drawn too. AND careers whose doors remain closed for Austen.

Why? Because Austen has epilepsy.

It is estimated that 3 million people in the United States are affected with seizure disorders today.

According to this article The Scope of Epilepsy and Seizure in the United States

The severity of epilepsy varies from person to person. In an ongoing study sponsored by the Epilepsy Foundation on the impact of epilepsy and the cost of the illness, several distinct patient groups were identified. In about 60 percent, no additional seizures occurred after one year. In an additional 15 percent, several seizures occurred over time, but eventually ceased.

And in an unfortunate subset, amounting to about 40 percent of the total epilepsy population, seizures persist despite treatment and are considered intractable.

40 %! That is crazy. My sister, Tania is one of those 40%. My son, Austen..appears to be in the 15% (we are hopeful, fingers crossed) but it is too soon to tell.

Today, I am sharing Austen's story.

Austen is our numero tres son. Other than a few minor concerns about his growth (or lack there-of) and some delays in walking. Austen was a healthy baby. In early pre-school years, the concerns started to grow. Austen was ALWAYS sick. Asthma, pneumonia and bronchitis...along with numerous allergies.

The Spring before Austen started kindergarten, my friend Cookie and I loaded all three boys into her car for a month long trip to D.C. and back. We camped and visited family along the way. We stopped in numerous museums..and Austen chatted non-stop about being an army doctor.

 When we visit the memorial wall in little boy stands still..for a very long time. I stoop down in front on him. He has been silently crying. Austen looks me straight in the eyes. This should not happen. I have to be an army doctor. Maybe some of these names would not be here if I had been there.  I dry his tears and think of his constant bronchitis. I assure him these men had doctors as well...but that I'm sure he will help people in the future. But first..don't you think we should start Kindergarten?

Austen started kindergarten wearing size 4T.  He missed often due to bronchitis. When he was in class, he was in trouble. The teacher did not know what to do with him. He was always day-dreaming, wandering off or running around the room. Once? He danced on the desk! Just before Christmas, it was agreed that Austen should try Kindergarten again in a year..and by the way the teacher says, we think he is adhd..please consider putting him on medication. Here is the name of a psychiatrist we recommend.

Austen came home. We read books, he fished. We played with horses at a nearby girl-scout camp. We cooked, we painted. We went to LOTS of doctors. Pulmonologists, allergists, cardiologists (his lips were turning blue)...and we went to an assessment center through our local university health system to see about the adhd concerns. I had my doubts..but something was up, that was for sure.

It was discovered that Austen was CAPD and maybe ADD. Meaning..he had been trying to lip-read in the classroom. Hence..the constant running around. Still..all was well. No meds needed. Keep in touch if anything else comes up.

This continued..this learning at home..and constant illness for a couple of years. We dragged Austen to the activities of his brothers. Karate, Soccer...Austen would proudly cheer his brothers on..before falling asleep at the dojo or soccer fields. Why? Because he was SO TIRED and his head hurt. Austen always has a headache. 

Just before his 9th birthday a friend of mine pulled me aside. She was Austen's scout leader..and she trained paramedics in the paycheck world. Nicole, she said, something is not right. He is getting more and more confused. He is wandering off and looking geuninely shocked at us. Sometimes..I think he doesn't know who we are. It's almost like..I don't know..a Hodgkinslike look or something. What are the doctors saying?

She is right. I know she is right. But the doctors have ruled out their major concerns..and keep trying to help him breathe. They don't know. I respond.

On his 9th birthday, Austen has a small party. Among the gifts received..a cool video-game. The boys are only allowed to engage in 4 hours of electronics a week. Austen is determined he will use all his 4 hours on THIS GAME...and he does.

The next morning, as I'm lying in bed. I hear tip-toeing in the next room. It is Austen.

That little sneak. I think to myself. He thinks I won't hear him playing. (His 4 hours are up for the week). I stay quiet to see if he is actually going to play the game. Yup..I hear the sound of the game..I hear race-cars...and the volume is quickly turned down..and I hear banging? Austen..AUSTEN.

He appears to be ignoring me..and I am stunned at how shameless he is. I walk into the living room to scold him..and there he is. Curled on the left side in a fetal in hand...body banging. Austen is having a grand-mal seizure. I time him. (I learned this with my sister years ago). At 45 seconds  he stops. I carry him to the couch and wake up his brother Cody.

Come on. I tell Cody.We have to take your brother to the hospital. 

Cody rides in the back. He nurses Austen's head in his lap. Austen has no idea what is happening. We drive for an hour to the nearest emergency room.  Cody keeps giving me an update. Mom..he's still breathing. Mom..he twitched. Mom..he's still breathing. 

As we pull into the parking lot. Austen opens his eyes. Oh. he says.

Austen looks around..and looks at Cody. What are we doing here?!

You had a seizure. I respond. We're here for you. Come on we need to get you checked out.

Austen grins, he shrugs and skips into the E.R.

Once I convince the triage nurse that Austen REALLY DID HAVE A SEIZURE...they agree to run an EEG ..mostly to humor mom.

..and then? He seizes again. Then again. EEG records abnormal activity not just when he is obviously seizing..but even while he is just telling jokes to the nurses.

We are now welcomed into our new home away from home, at Methodist Children's Hospital and the Texas Neurological Institute. Austen meets his new best friend. The neurologist who continues to work with him today.

Over the next couple of years Austen's seizures get worse. We discover he has been having drop seziures, petit mals and nocturnal seizures for a while. Hence..the purple lips, day-dreaming and constant fatigue.

Austen begins the medication maze. We start with depakote. As the depakote dosages increase and the years pass, Austen becomes less focused in his thinking..he starts to have memory problems, his amonia levels get too high. It is time to switch to lamactal.. Austen spends 3 months being withdrawn from depakote and increasing lamactal. Then the lamactal rash starts. Another 3 months and daily visits to the lower, then slowly increase lamactal again..  Lamactal doses continue to be increased year after year. At his worst Austen is averaging 6 seizures a day. He begins hyperventilating and develops leg tremors.

Yet he remains optimistic. He knows he is better off than some of his friends at the T.N.I building...and even though he can no longer play any video games, go to arcades, movies that flash,etc...he feels really sorry for Joe. When I ask him why he says..Mom..he can't wear headphones! Austen-land. All is well.

Austen's headaches continue.

This picture was taken during one of Austen's harder years. Here he had been home for almost a month due to uncontrolled seizures. Cody shows him how to play guitar.

We make the best of it. Big B says obnoxious things. For day when Austen's left leg kept trembling Big B..looked at Austen and said.Hmm..I think you like a girl. Shake your leg if you like a girl.
Austen would grin's not funny. Stop. And then he would laugh.

We learn that Austen's triggers are flashing lights,needles (and this is a kid that needs LOTS of blood work), messed up sleep cycles and math.

It's a sequencing we cook and play games in place of any formal math work.

Many of Austen's asthma meds disrupt his sleep patterns. Our family physician and neurologist work closely to come up with a reasonable medication cocktail to enable Austen to function with the best life-style options possible. As his sleep becomes manageable..and his nocturnal seizures decrease, Austen finds the energy he never had.

 Austen discovers gymnastics and roller hockey.

We are upfront with the gymnastics instructor. Not a problem, says the awesome gymnastics coach. He's most likely to have a seizure after he works out. We have mats on the floors. He'll be fine. The neurologist agrees...and encourages us to help Austen develop his risk-taking abilities...and so we do.

We realize Austen likes Roller Hockey because he can wear a helmet and blend in with everyone else. He becomes an active skater at the Boys and Girls Club. He rides bikes. He swims...and he has friends. We add karate to his list of activities.

Austen's friends are crucial. I have never seen so many supportive kids in my life.  Birthday parties are planned in places Austen can attend. ( roller-skating and pizza places with flashing lights). Questions are asked to know how to help if and when. Austen's friends are protective of him.

..and then there are the brothers.

They are supportive, they are protective, they are obnoxious. I walk into the living room one day when Cody and Brian are trying to teach Austen what he looks like when he is having a grand-mal. The boys think this is great fun..and they could scare mom! I start to protest..but I realize, they are supporting Austen in their own, twisted, brother way. So I leave it alone.

In this picture Brian is putting sunscreen on Austen. During this vacation Austen was fighting headaches and a medication rash the entire trip..but he was determined to have a good time...and he did!

Just before Austen's 11th birthday the neurologist calls me into his office. He would like us to consider surgery. Austen is on the same dosage of depakote needed for a grown man. The neurologist is concerned about liver damage...and if Austen is going to have surgery it needs to be either  now, or after puberty.

We begin a series of tests.

More psychological, more EEG's, sleep apnea, MRI's, educational (to see what areas of his brain are affected). We discover Austen is dyslexcic, dyscalculic, and dysgraphic in addition to having memory loss. We contemplate putting him in school. The specialists advise us to keep him home. We are informed by the school district he would be a home-bound student if he were registered. After all (all medical and educational professionals agree) Austen shouldn't work on more than 15 minutes of formal academics at a time. It is too hard on his body. More testing..and...

It is decided that Austen is not emotionally ready for the surgery.

We have a no brain surgery for now ice-cream celebration.

In time, Austen gets better at managing his own lifestyle. We plug along with minimal book work. His short-term memory is shot. We think this is because of meds..but we are not sure. We make sure to show him pictures of people before any function so he can remember who they are. We tell and retell family stories over and over.  We continue to read to Austen. We visit lots of museums and see lots of plays. Austen continues with karate, gymnastics and roller hockey...and then he gets pneumonia again.

When Austen is 12- almost 13 -our family physician refers him, again , to a pulmonologist. Austen is diagnosed with chronic pulmonary disorder and his meds are changed again. And you know what? They start to help...and as Austen's breathing becomes more regulated, the frequency of his seizures seems to decrease.

The headaches? They continue.

Austen joins Civil Air Patrol when he is 14. He flies planes, he becomes an element leader. AND  he is really good! I love to watch him drilling others.

There are certain things people do that- when they have a gift..or simply really enjoy doing-makes them. beautiful to watch. I love to watch my son Brian do katas and complicated math problems. I love to watch Cody play soccer and work out computer programs. And I love to watch Austen when he is choreographing a drill..or working with a drill team. He is beautiful.

Just before Austen's 15th birthday, his neurologist decides to take him off of his meds! We are stunned.

I know, he says. It makes no physiological sense. Let's just say, serendipity has struck again.

He pats me on the shoulder and gives me a wink. This is the way to decrease his meds. Call me if there is a problem. Otherwise? Austen..I hope to never see you again.

Here is Austen lighting a camp-fire for brother Brian's 20th birthday camp-out.

I would like to say that was the end of the story.

It is not.

Austen returned to the ER last Spring with a migraine that led to an altered mental state. This led to another round of testing with neurologists and cardiologists. But Austen is still off  of meds...and for the most part his memory seems to have returned.

It has now been determined that Austen has Bickerstaff Encephalitis. Essentially, his brain stem swells as a reaction to pulmonary stuff (originally). One of the times his brain was swelling, he received lesions on his left-frontal lobe. Causing permanent scarring -hence epilepsy. The brain swelling occurs off and on. This is Bickerstaff. We now know that this swelling is triggered by numerous food additives.

Today Austen is 16.

He sits in my living room reading Peter Pan as I type. He still works as Junior Staff at the Boys and Girls Club.

He quit Civil Air Patrol a year ago.

Austen realized he would never be able to be in the air-force and decided to turn his attention another direction. He spent a year directing all his attention to Odyssey of the Mind..and now he is searching, yet again. My son will not be an army doctor, an airforce search and rescue guy..or Drill Sergeant.  But Austen is amazingly social, bright and resilient. He contemplates opening a cafe, being a museum curator..or maybe..maybe..he will be president...

Austen misses the structure, the leadership training, the camaraderie and the challenges of the Civil Air Patrol environment, yet he seeks to grow. Austen seeks to soar beyond his limitations..and accept the ones he cannot change.

I do not know what Austen's future will hold. Will he stay relatively healthy? Will he get sick again?

I do know that Austen is a strong-spirit. I am lucky to be his mom.

So..the question, for now remains. Will Austen keep his dreads?

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Lazy Day Bliss

It is starting to feel like Fall here in the Tx. Hills - also known as the land with no seasons.

This morning we awoke to a howling wind. Levi is up and ready to play at 4 a.m. Somehow, he hasn't gotten the message there has been a time change. No explaining will do. Levi is not interested, in the least, in day-light savings.

I place a kettle on the stove. Cinnamon tea it is. I place a Louis Armstrong c.d. in our kitchen c.d. player...and this seems to have set the tone for our day.

I absolutely love days with no agenda.

Austen is still recovering from hunting over the weekend.Too much time in the cold..his asthma is in full swing.Yet he is grateful. You know,he says with a grin, I'll take this kinda sick over a migraine any day. At least I can still function. Cody is swollen, bruised and bloody (it's soccer season).

We are finally finished with transcripts, grants, soccer paper-trail, etc. Working on Cody's transcripts motivated me to be a little more organized with Austen. So..Sunday night I started putting Austen's transcript together. Oh my.

I show him what he has accomplished (in that highschool transcript checklist sort-of way) so-far. Austen is still a sophomore, he has completed the equivalent of 2 years of highschool English, 3 years of science, 2 years of social sciences, and numerous electives..but math?..and .. you know Gov't and  U.S history. Well..We do have another 2 1/2 years. We agree to switch math programs that might be more effective for Austen.

So anyway..after all this paper-trail, trying to be organized stuff..on top of just feeling puny. We decide a lazy day is in order.

 The boys have spent the morning reading.Cody snuggles under the blankets in his room to read Hamlet, Austen sprawls out on the living room floor to read The Story of US (Thirteen Colonies). He is next to Levi.   Levi has spent most of the morning trying to learn to craw. Occasionally Levi and Austen get distracted playing peek-a boo with a quilt..which for some reason Levi finds hysterically funny. I rotate laundry, pack stuff to give to the Ronald McDonald House, start some minestrone and play on the computer.

Occasionally we converse with each other. Austen wants to know if I know what a privateer is. He is enamored with the idea of a pirate that works for a king. I mean, really. What could be cooler?

At one point, Cody wanders into the living room. We discuss whether to give away an old science set. Before long I realize that the boys and I have spent over an hour in conversation. A range of topics from telescopes, netflix, suicide... privateers.

Cody decides to make omelets for lunch. Austen is not far behind.

Now? The kitchen has been raided, bellies are full. All studying seems to have ceased..and we are planning a movie/ Terminator-Sarah Connor Chronicles marathon for the rest of the day...complete with left-over Halloween candy.

Ahh..lazy day bliss.

What's for dinner:
Monday: community dining at Balsley's (or Balsley take-out for those at soccer) Spaghetti!
Tuesday: minestrone, grilled sandwiches, sliced tomatoes and cucumbers
Wednesday: three cheese tortellini, salad
Thursday: honey chipotle salmon, wild-rice, broccoli with cheese
Friday: make your own pizza
Saturday: swiss steak, bread sticks, spinach salad 
Sunday: linguine with Alfredo sauce, stuffed clams, green beans, sliced fruit

Thursday, November 04, 2010

In the beginning

(John1:1)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

Over a year ago I attended a 1/2 day Biblical Story-telling workshop. The speaker told of a challenge he received in college to memorize his favorite Gospel.He chose Mark. I have thought of this often in the past year.

It is no secret that the bible was never meant to be read. It was meant to preserve the stories. As in oral -storytelling tradition stories. (okay..I know, I know..the letters from Paul, etc.) Still..most biblical stories are meant to be told. Not read.

I am drawn to John. Always have been. But really? It's the longest gospel. I'm not that talented. So I tuck the idea in the back of my mind and leave it there.

Then? I begin reading some of St. Teresa of Avilla's Interior Castles. I am working on letting go of anything that holds power over me. Primarily..ideas of social status, and memories. Memories that are good, bad..or simply never were. I take these ideas/memories and hold them individually and collectively...and then I pray. I pray for guidance on letting these things that hold power over me go. I pray and listen...and as I listen? I keep coming back to the book of John.

So..I am trying to memorize the book of John. So far? I am comfortable with story telling John 1:1- 5.

Yeah..back to the not that talented. Yet I am compelled to try. And somehow? This feeble attempt to know helping me enjoy (okay all you Eckhart Tolle fans) the here and the now. for the here and the now? I would like to tell a tale of another beginning.

It was the beginning of my marriage to Big B. We were young, naive, broke..and hopeful..that we could really make this work.We dared eachother into this venture..and then headed to the flea market (because we like flea markets..) to search for wedding rings.

Fast forward a decade+.  I have lost my ring .Rumor has it , it might be on a ship in Corpus Christi somewhere. Brian has broken his at least 3 times. We spend a few years without rings. For the last year and a half? We just keep talking about looking for some know..when we have time.

So this weekend? We made the time!  We spent the weekend in Port Aransas with the Van Bibbers , Balsleys, Devin and Austen.

Cody chose to hang at sardinemama's house for the weekend. Brian and Angee? Studying still.

Pictured here are Jack and Rhonda early Sat.(Sun?) a.m..

 and pictured here are Austen and Devin with newly discovered costumes from a yard-sale.

On Saturday, we messed around in souvenir shops..when I thought. Aha..we should get beach rings! We can afford them...and the mission began.

We went from shop to shop- Big B and I ..dragging all the other families (complete with the wolf and dragon boys)and I would explain our plight.

Here's the thing, I begin. We (motioning to Big B and myself) lost our wedding rings a few years ago. We would like to replace them while we are here..but we are on a budget..and sort-of we might lose them (break them) again. Still..we enjoy being here (Port A) and would like to try. Could you help us?

And most places did. Shop 1? We found cool rings made of shells. But they only fit me. Shop 2? Wooden rings..but Big B didn't want flowers. Shop 3? Nope. Then? (and by now we have lost everyone else..they were much more interested in t-shirts) Shop 4: Two women helped us dig through a bucket of womens rings. Finally Big B finds one with waves. He grins. This is it. I like this. We decide it is perfect because we have spent 20 years "riding the waves of life together."

Another search through the bucket of mens rings..and we find the match.

By this time the rest of the crew have wandered into this shop. The woman behind the counter directs us to place our rings on eachother's fingers. She waves her hands in a grand gesture and announces that we are officially rewed.

...and we are off to enjoy the rest of the weekend.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Best laid plans...

No Levi this week.  It has been odd. Quiet.

My sister had a week between school she and Levi are spending 9 days together! (gasp).

I am happy for both of them..but has been eerie without the kiddo here.

I had grand plans. To tame the laundry monster. To put away the pack-n-play. To catch up on all my homework for the SAM class. To crochet at least 2 blocks for Cody's afghan. It's a tough pattern. Cool though. You can see it here.

Instead I redid the same 5 chains on the 3rd row of the 1st too many times. We decided a trip to my friend's ranch was in order.

We like to go to her ranch. She tries to show me how to crochet. (and often does a lot of it herself!). The boys run around blowing things up. It's perfect!

Actually? We visit this ranch about once a week. Austen has decided NOT to go kayaking in Canada this summer. Mostly..because he didn't want his mom tagging along. Yes..I was fired from my son's summer trip. Instead he is spending a month surviving.

The day after his 17th birthday, we are dropping him off at this ranch. He has agreed to call my friend once every morning and evening. If he does not check in..they will search for him. He can start fires, catch and cook small wild-life (remember..the snake?), plant and eat veggies, etc. He knows where to find clean water, etc. What scares me? Mountain lions. But this is something he really feels he needs to do. So we let him go.

I know..from kayaking in Canada to survival in the Texas Hills seems completely incompatible. Big B and I agreed to send him to Autrailia, New Zealand and Fiji  if he holds off on international travel for another year. He can go with People to People. We are comfortable with this organization..and more importantly? He won't have to bring his mom. But it is he will have to wait.

The laundry? Still everywhere. I must get rid of some clothes.

Pack-n-play? Still set up filled with (gasp) laundry!

My own studies? about started one assignment out of 4.

But..I insisted we, you know, studied earlier this week. So we did.

Hamlet and  more essay writing (Cody decided to add another college to his list) We spend a day studying economics and perusing a local college library for resources on various research papers. Devin is writing on the history of computer gaming, Austen on zombie lore. Cody..was writing on the loan industry..but changed his mind. He is still deciding.

..and me? I must choose a church leader from the last 50-60 years to write a paper on. It's for my ethics class. I chose Archbishop Helden Camara. Because I love to quote him "When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a communist."

I mean really. How can you not love that?!

So today is the day we head to the ranch...and I am going to have to tell them ..uhmm..oops?

 Oh yikes..the boys are going to kill me..I need to spend the afternoon at a local non-profit. A nice mentor has taken me under her wing to teach me business know..for future reference. We had planned to meet for an hour later this afternoon. Now? It has turned into 4 so I can attend a webinar on quick-books and stuff.

Hmm..maybe if I wake the boys now..we can squeeze in a couple of hours of play...

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Sexy Mom!

Yup..that's me.

At least according to the facebook quiz guru from "What kind of Mom are You?"

My quiz results come with a picture of a half naked girl leaning on a car and everything. Which, by the way, I really don't get. I've never equated naked with sexy. I mean really. A tender act...a flirty assertive (not aggressive) gesture..these things..I may find occasionally sexy. But nakedness?

Okay, picture of girl and car or not? I'll take the quiz results. Why? Because it is coolio.

I expected to get, you know.."soccer mom", "neurotic mom", "kool aid mom" but nope. Sexy. ..and the best part is. I can horrify my children.

I mean let's face it...this is the family that says things at dinner like Mom...(total exasperation in voice) you are sounding like a GIRL!! (This is usually when I am trying to explain how to be nice to someone..or something along those lines)  I often respond to this  passing commentary with Hello! I hate to burst your bubble..but I AM A are my child..I gave birth to you and everything...that's how that works.

This usually involves laughter from my brilliant boys because the thought of mom as any gender is just amusingly ridiculous. Then, inevitably..the boys look to Big B for affirmation that I am not saying I am from mars or something. He usually responds with a surprised look..and's true..your mom really is a girl. And dinner continues.

  According to the facebook quiz? .I am sexy because, among other things, I take control of a situation in a cool and calm manner. Yes..I had to laugh, too.

So we have been cooly and calmly crazy-busy. Not hectic-like busy. Just getting stuff done, busy. Because this is our "off" week as far as studying goes. So it's a now or another 3 weeks from now kind-of thing.

The past few days have been spent creating and sending transcripts, gathering letters of recommendation, creating course descriptions and school profile, etc. for that Cody kid.

Here he is at The Cove..some time this summer, with girl-friend Ellie. (who just had an amazing piano recital)
Ellie and her family are also going through that pre-college craziness. And craziness really is what it is!

When Brian applied to schools we did not have to provide a mass amount of extra paper-work or have higher expectations as home-schoolers. Cody? He's applying to different schools.

So...I kid you not..he has to score 6 points higher on the ACT to get into his numero uno school of choice (University of Houston's Bauer School of Business) than his public-schooled peers. 6..and that's just to be considered. I mean..I'm all for accountability and all that..but really?On a scale of 1-35..with the mid 20's being the lower end of the scale (for the traditionally schooled kids) .6+points!

For his numero dos choice ..which seems to quickly be moving to numero uno (Kettering University) we simply needed to summarize and list resources for every single one of his English, Math and Science courses during his high-school years-as well as create a home-school profile. This was more time-consuming..but it made sense.

His numero tres choice at this time (Schreiner U) ...treats him like everyone else. He's good to go, if he so desires.

Also? I just finished another day of SAM (or Parish Ministry in Training Program) classes. The SAM program is a three year program designed to train and certify synodically authorized lay ministers to serve in the Southwest Texas Synod of the E.L.C.A.(the Lutherans).

See? I'm studying hard.

Actually? Our class is meeting at St. John's Lutheran in Robstown this semester. My dad had rented a condo at the beach (30 minutes away) for my mom's birthday. So..lucky us. Austen and I hung out with my family on Padre Island.

Austen played in the water  and hung out with my nephew. We (the 15 SAM students in our rag-tag group) studied the artisan's uprisal led by Demitrius (Acts), spent a few hours discussing church administration and best of all worship! We reviewed the seasons of the church year..had way too much fun mimicking Herod.  We practiced presiding over communion. was SO MUCH FUN!! I like worship me a worship geek. Actually? Call me whatever you want.. doesn't matter.

Because according to facebook..

I'm a sexy mom!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Welcome to House Lived-In

  (Sigh..Grin) Well..I'm not in Oakland anymore! Lot's of quick reality breaks in the past week. But glad to be home  nonetheless. I am extending an invite to all my Mills friends (and old St. Anthony's crew or out-of town family) to come visit!!!  You might be surprised at what Hill Country Texas has to offer. So, just in case you are interested..I invite you on a tour of house lived in.

This is the last paved road outside of my subdivision. Occasionally, you may have to wait for traffic.

 Once you enter our home you will be greeted by Dino.Dino is our official greeter/shoe guarder. There will ALWAYS be a pile of shoes.Feel free to kick yours off and come on in.

More than likely, you will next be greeted by the dreaded boy. Austen will greet you in our living room. He will share his latest talent (this week it is guitar drumming) and tell you his latest tale. Here he is regaling us with tales of a recent snake chasing, skinning, cooking over a campfire and finally snake- tasting adventure. Ooh. Gross! 
  We are not picturing Cody because he will be ghost-like. He will enter the room. Say hello. Share some dry humor..and vanish as quickly as he came.

If you take 5 steps through our living room (possibly over a circle of children playing Quelf) you will enter our dining room. is frequently surrounded by a ridiculous amount of chairs. You  too, may join us around a crowded dining room table. We will offer you a beverage of choice (lemonade, or cold, water, beer or wine) Unless it is nice weather and the mosquitoes are on vacation. Then? We will move this dining experience to the back deck.

If you veer to the left you will be in our kitchen. This is where it all happens. Conversations, spills, wine pouring, more conversation. There is not usually a table in the kitchen..that was temporary to hold presents for a baby shower. At the far end of the kitchen is Levi's corner/toy room/music room/laundry room. It is the second most used room in the house.
 But don't expect to find Levi there unless he is wide awake. Otherwise..someone will be wearing him or he will be sleeping here. In our bed. Our bed has mysterious sleeping powers. Children between the ages of birth-18 often find there way to it. The older boys say it is because Big B and I hoard all the good blankets. Could be.

Not to worry. If you choose to visit..we have pull out couches, boys bedrooms and a tree-house in which you may crash. .

And best of all?

The great outdoors. (Not pictured here) Complete with 4 wheelers, tree-house, chickens, deer, garden sort- of, a river(complete with tubes shallow/deep areas and rope swings), a camp-fire, trampoline and a deck to just enjoy the view from...and sporadic hole-digging under the deck.

Okay. Crying baby and need to get the rest of these Texas boys and friends moving to study some econ.

Hope to see you soon!

Friday, October 08, 2010

Goofiness of Home Life

Ii is going to be another goofy day, here on the home front.

I'll take goofy. Goofy is good. Especially when you are sleep deprived.

..and I am definitely sleep deprived. To be expected in a house with two teens and an infant.

Last night, Levi had a little pee-party (not to be confused with tea party) in our bed. 3a.m..I am bathing him..and changing clothes..and..sheets...well, you get the picture.

Big B? He slept through the whole thing. (Even while changing sheets!)

So it was no surprise that I was a tad punchy at 6 this morning when the little man finally returned to sleep..just as Big B's alarm went off. I realized there was no point in trying to go back to bed...and then? I got the giggles.

I found it amusing that we were lighting the fire-place for the second morning in a row..when we knew the weather would reach the 80's mid-day. But..our heater is broken. (Yes..there is always something broken) it helps take the chill out.

I get the giggles at the ludicrousness of the entire situation. Then..I know..with a cup of coffee in my hand. (I forgot I was holding it)..and you got it. I pour the coffee on my head!  It took me a few seconds to figure out what was pouring down my hair...luckily it was luke-warm. I must have looked absolutely insane.

Big B looks at me and can't stop laughing.God..he says..I sure hope you get some sleep tonight. I picture him in bed as I am trying to change the sheets..and this, too, strikes me as funny.

But I can't get mad. Because..if I were working as much as he has been? I would be dead to the world.'s a nice change Because yesterday I was feeling so whiny. (..and no..I am not losing my mind here)

Actually, ridiculously whiny.

Why? Because I want clear direction as to what I am doing in my life. (I know..who doesn't).

This new desire to know what I'm doing when I grow up started with the grant-writing last week. I really enjoyed it. Weird as that may sound. There is something really cool about grant writing. It's like a puzzle..only with the written word. Which if you are a problem solver who stinks at aesthetics, like a good thing.

Selfishly? I got to hang out in an office. Visit with other adults...listen to other people's kids in distress...and solve a written puzzle.Also? I started day-dreaming about working...and then followed up on the dream by applying for a job. (Hence..leaving the possibility open) Then? Top it off  with a weekend full of love and and laughter with old friends?

Who wants to return to the daily grind.

Monday I received a call from anonymous job. For a variety of reasons, they will be postponing filling this position for several months. Would I please consider reapplying then and working on a contractual basis in the meantime. Instead of being relieved because it is more practical for all of us at home..I find myself a tad disappointed.

I realize later that I am more disappointed for Big B's sake than anything. I mean lets face it..being the sole provider for a family of 5+ is a lot of pressure. I wanted to be able to take off some of the pressure. Otherwise..well..I have waited a long time to have this sort of time with my family. I do enjoy it...even if the family is weird.

..and they are a tad goofy..

Levi is showing me just how goofy we are. As I see more of his own personality developing..I realize that being goofy is such a luxury. 

For instance..he has acquired a fuzzy pink hat. We originally handed it to him as a toy. It vanished for a few weeks and recently resurfaced when I cleaned under my bed. The kiddo LOVES this hat. He wears it as much as possible. How does a 4-5 month old know to put a hat on his head?/ Then..I look at his cousins. Just in the past few weeks Levi has become more and more enamored with Cody and Austen.

Cody...wears a baseball cap often. Austen..a fedora (yes, with dreads and all). So...I suppose it is only natural that Levi would wear a pink fuzzy hat.

Then there is the opera. The boys listen to music in their rooms in the evenings. I usually happen to keep the t.v. on the coffee house station in the mornings. So one morning we accidentally passed the opera channel. There is a beautiful tenor singing..and Levi is attentive. So attentive, that he tries to sing along. Since then, we have turned the t.v. onto the opera station every early a.m. (Still coffee house when we are studying and stuff). He still sings every single time a tenor comes on. Levi is NOT a tenor..but he thinks he is.

The list of goofiness is endless. But what a be able to be oneself in the safety and comfort of home. I embrace it fully.

Now..I am off. The boys are hanging in the living room, writing an obituary for Sherlock Holmes.And then we can put Holmes to rest. (no pun intended) Next week?

Canterbury Tales. Because I am just sure that the 14th Century British version of Saturday Night Live will eliminate all goofiness.

Monday, October 04, 2010

One Human Family

The adventure began in Austin, Texas.

(darn no pics..I'm having uploading issues) partner in crime in numerous exploits...including Odyssey of the Mind, parenting and various ministries....agreed to come with me to the Mills College Reunion in Oakland, Ca.   But when the shuttle dropped us off at the Southwest terminal in Austin....We began to panic.

We tried not too. (panic that is) Really..but wow. We had WAY underestimated the check-in and then there was the security line. The line which was literally snaking all over the airport.

And this is how Rhonda ended up accidentally (and it really was an accident) trying to bribe TSA so we could catch our flight. I won't go into too much detail here..but let's just say..that instead of being body searched and put on a no flight list..we luckily passed through security and made our flight in time.

Lucky us!

..and then the fun really began!

Laura picks us up at the airport. Actually, Laura picked us all up at airports and B.A.R.T. stations. Thank you  Laura.We enjoy catching up throughout the day. Later we pick up Mitra and Lisa. Christy will meet us at the hotel later.

We decide to wine and dine at Ceasar's ..or is it Cezar's?Over mojitos and something to eat (wow..I don't remember what we ate!). We talk. We catch up on family, jobs, relationships past and present. We discuss chickens, nurolinguistic programing and the quickly fading understanding of political discourse along bi-partisan lines. Essentially? We enjoy our inner geekiness in the company of old friends. refreshing.

The next morning (Saturday) we meet the rest of the motley crew at the alumnae house on campus. Where we eat, robe-up (for convocation) and schlep ourselves over to the concert hall. Still visiting. Now? We reminisce on strike stuff.

Delores Huerta is the convocation speaker. How awesome is that?! I hope, one day, to be as vibrant and effective with social justice as she is. She reminds us (after touching on various race, class and gender issues) that we are one human family. That it is our responsibility to provide compassionate justice and to defend our fellow human family members. I think she pretty much summed it all up with that.

Convocation ends with the women from this year's graduating class (2011) leading in the singing of the Mills traditional "Fires of Wisdom" . My peers and I realized we did not remember how to sing the tune..or most of the words.I am glad to know I was not the only slacker in the group. But we DID try.

The rest of our time is spent visiting the campus and then going out in the evening.

This time to Mua's. There are nine of us. Laura, Mitra, Lisa, Rhonda and myself are joined by Anissa, Leslie, Kim and Christy. We are almost all from Reinhardt turned into a Center for Public Policy . (i old bedroom? Now a classroom)We continue discussions from the day before..and add to our conversations memories from our years at Mills. Topping the list being skinny dipping, "borrowing" a car, a sea-monkey funeral and talking muffins. Geez I've missed these guys!

Rhonda and I cut out of the weekend early to return to Texas for a morning in a local mens prison.

At the prison we worship, commune, sing and pray with fellow brothers-in-white.

Our luxury of chocolate covered strawberries and champagne has quickly ended..and here we are eating prison food. The inmates remind us not to eat the meat. I eat sweet potatoes and a slice of bread.

After lunch I join Jack (Rhonda's husband) in a classroom with 22 brothers in white rehearsing. The English choir and the band. (Spanish choir is the next group) They are rehearsing for an upcoming Kairos weekend, as well as an upcoming graduation. I am struck by the lyrics of the song they have written for this GED graduation. proud of me.

Wow. If that's not telling. I don't know what is.

Less than 24 hours before I was in a small auditorium of women in a fairly elitist setting fumbling through words to "fires of wisdom". A setting where we encouraged each other..just for being. Now? I was in a class of grown men (a mix of former Bloods, Krytps, Aryan Brothers...) joining together to celebrate a GED graduation of their peers...singing " proud of me."

..and I remember the words of Delores Huerta. We are all one human family.

She is absolutely right.

Both of these communities represent extremes in our society. Yet they are much the same.

Both communites revolve around relationships formed.. We laugh, we cry...we bend the law. (I mean let's face-it. Skinny dipping and security car "borrowing"? If those things happen off campus they might be construed as indecent exposure and car theft!) Charming, eh? We play jokes. We sing. We dance. My brothers in Mills sisters..and everyone in between. We have everything different in common.

We are a human family.

(still darn no pics..still having uploading issues)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


Maybe it's age..maybe it's just super sensitivity. maybe..I'm just tired...

but I keep finding myself teary-eyed this evening.

It started last week. I went to the laundromat (our washer is broke again). I brought a book..

Then? Some of the Club kids spotted me. They introduced me to their dog. They told me their grades. They helped me put clothes in the washer...and then another Club kid -a graduating senior-joins us to discuss his plans to join the air-force. As we were sorting clothes and coins, I notice two children at the vending machine.

One boy, one girl. These children are younger than the Club kids. More pre-school/kindergarten aged.

The younger of the two..a little girl.. catches my eye. She comes over to join the growing laundry party. She shows us her mosquito bites.  Her mouth is covered in candy residue. She is hungering for human interaction..and upon closer examination..I notice she has rat or roach droppings in her hair. Shortly her brother comes over also (mom has left to her truck to talk on cell phone). He assures me he is a good boy and a good clothes folder.

I want to cry.

I wish these kids were old enough to go to the Club.

They are not.

And I am reminded, once again, of the ripple effects that often come with rural poverty. We visit (these mysterious kids and I) as they help me with my laundry until I have to go.

This girl and her brother have been lingering in my mind this past week.It would be safe to say they are haunting my mind.

Then today? I am working on this BIG grant for a local non-profit, when I receive a call from Big B. He  asks in a strange voice if I have talked to Brian-Scott.

Immediately my heart starts pounding What do you mean? Is something wrong?

Oh no. Big B responds..I just thought you would have heard about the shooting and be worried.

What shooting?

The one at the library.

That is all I heard. The library is home away from home for Brian and Angee. We (friends, family, themselves) make fun of them often for the amount of time they spend at the library.  

My head begins racing. I want to cry.  Big B must have heard the panic rising in my thoughts. He's okay.

How do you know? How about Angee? How about their friends? What happened?

He embellishes me with what he knows about the shooting on the UTAustin campus and assures me that as far as he one has been killed other than the shooter.

I am relieved. I call Brian-Scott.

He assures me he is fine. They are on lock-down..expected to be off soon..and  he was asleep in his own bed through the entire thing! Oh..he says..and I called grandma to let her know I'm okay. I thought they might be worried.

It is not until later in the day that I learn that this boy who committed suicide is a 19 year old math major. I think of the boy. I wonder about his family. How are they tonight? I remember the children at the laundromat..and I cry.

Later I speak to Brian-Scott again. I wonder if they knew this boy..and if are they feeling.
No..he says..I checked my class roster..I don't recognize the name. Angee does not either. They say their friends do not either...and I wonder about this boy and friends. Was he lonely? Was he angry? Suicide is always difficult to process. I cry again for this boy.

Now..I am treating myself to a break from dinner. We are eating breakfast for dinner here on the homefront.

Tomorrow (Wednesday) I take Levi to my parents house..and try to wrap up this grant.

Thursday I leave for the Mills Reunion. Friday hanging out specifically with fellow Reinhardt roomies. (the dorm I lived in a zillion years ago). Saturday..we return to Texas. It will be a quick trip so we can go back to prison on Sunday. (barring no paper-work glitches, etc.) and then dinner for the birthday of a family friend Sunday night.

So maybe..just maybe..I am letting myself be sentimental and teary..because I have the time to do so.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Working Again...really???

What can I say?

This is not the plan..and we all know how well I follow through with my grand plans...

I am seriously considering a cool job.. I don't want to go into too much detail. Bad Karma and all that.

But it is SURE tempting..and unlike some jobs..this opportunity will not wait for me to be done with my year at home hiatus. (sigh..)..and just when we are getting a real rhythm going around here to0.

I've talked to la familia. Both immediate and extended.

Austen just grins and shrugs because he really doesn't care what I do. 

Cody says we're poor and could use the pesos.

But sometimes Cody is tricky. He has a good poker face..and despite pretenses otherwise, will tell me what I want to hear.

I try to counter with how much I want to spend time with him this  year..that he and Austen are my first priority..and while this job has a lot of scheduling is very demanding..and will be time consuming.

Cody looks at me like I'm insane and repeats we're poor and could use the pesos. Austen nods his head in agreement, grins and puts his headphones back on.

I say but and before I can even think of a good but..Cody repeats himself again.

Big B says I think you'll be happy. It's a good fit...and it would sure take off  a lot of pressure! (financially)..and he is right.

My mom says, I think this is a C.P. Snow decision..and you just need to send in your resume and be done with it. (the deciding factor). C.P. snow decisions in my parents house means..a decision you have already made but are not willing to admit you have made yet. Based on some poem.

I don't remember the poem.

I also didn't realized I had already decided..but I had..and she is right.

If I actually GET the job..not just the strong encouragement to apply (back to the karma and stuff) we -as a family- have figured out a way to make it work. You know, logistically, with continuing to study together, finishing the parish ministry training program, watching Levi and following up on soccer commitments and stuff.

We all seem to think it's a good move. For no other reason than it feels right. ..and these things never happen at a good time.

So..hold breath..cross fingers.

.and it's off to update, print and send a resume.

What's for Dinner:
Saturday: lasagna, garlic bread, green beans
Sunday: baked tilapia, baked potatoes and salad
Monday: community dining: chili (both vegetarian and carnivorous), corn-bread and salad.
Tuesday: soup and sandwiches
Wednesday: ? Austin with friend Rhonda, Brian and Angee..Salvation Pizza?
Thursday: ? arriving in Oakland! 
Friday: ? Mills reunion

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Life Lessons

I received this as a forward recently..and thought I would share here. I will be the first to admit I fall short on some-many of these words of wisdom.

We have been know..studying. My parish ministry training class has started. I am, among other things, keeping an ethics journal (which I will spare you here), seeing worship in a new light and having many "aha" moments with administrative stuff. The boys continue with Sherlock Holmes, math, econ, French and O-chem. Soccer season has officially begun. I was looking forward to this last  year as a soccer mom...only to find myself an assistant soccer commissioner?  And most exciting of all, I am about to take a short trip to Oakland for a Mills College reunion! REALLY looking forward to it.

So...I thought I would share these life-lessons which helped me remember to be grounded at a time when I can easily get caught up in the "busyness" of life.

Hope you enjoy.

"To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I've ever written.
My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:
1. Life isn't fair, but it's still good.

2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.

3. Life is too short to waste time hating anyone.

4. Your job won't take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and parents will. Stay in touch.

5. Pay off your credit cards every month.

6. You don't have to win every argument. Agree to disagree.

7. Cry with someone. It's more healing than crying alone.

8. It's OK to get angry with God. He can take it.

9. Save for retirement starting with your first paycheck.

10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.

11. Make peace with your past so it won't screw up the present.

12. It's OK to let your children see you cry.

13. Don't compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn't be in it.

15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don't worry; God never blinks.

16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.

17. Get rid of anything that isn't useful, beautiful or joyful.

18. Whatever doesn't kill you really does make you stronger.

19. It's never too late to have a happy childhood. But the second one is up to you and no one else.

20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don't take no for an answer.

21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don't save it for a special occasion. Today is special.

22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.

23. Be eccentric now. Don't wait for old age to wear purple.

24. The most important sex organ is the brain.

25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.

26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words 'In five years, will this matter?'

27. Always choose life.

28. Forgive everyone everything.

29. What other people think of you is none of your business.

30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.

31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.

32. Don't take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

33. Believe in miracles.

34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn't do.

35. Don't audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.

36. Growing old beats the alternative -- dying young.

37. Your children get only one childhood.

38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.

39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.

40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else's, we'd grab ours back.

41. Envy is a waste of time. You already have all you need.

42. The best is yet to come...

43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.

44. Yield.

45. Life isn't tied with a bow, but it's still a gift."

by Regina Brett