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Showing posts from February, 2016

Not Through Just Yet

Most of my family and extended family live well past their eighties. If that is true for me, I have plenty of time to reinvent myself but I have to get to it. I had one successful career and was a darn good mother to my three, but there is much I still want to accomplish. I am not about to sit on my laurels, and I refuse to be pigeon-holed by how others see me.   I am not too old to rock and roll (or Nae Nae, though my knees and hips yell out, “Osteoarthritis, yo!), and I have always made goals and gone after them.  I love to learn.  I try to keep healthy and positive and spiritual. I constantly struggle to be a better person; I fail and then try again. What do I have planned for this next chapter in my life? Another career or two, another go at nurturing the younger ones in my family, another life lesson to face. The fountain of youth is not magic.  It is keeping a youthful spirit. It is tenacity and a positive outlook. It is striving to be physically, emotionally, and sp

My One Little Angel

The kids bomb through the house, headed for the back bedroom where Grandma keeps a box of toys – balls, Hot Wheels, assorted action figures; leftovers from childhoods their parents have outgrown. One little man comes out with a toy microphone, one of those cheap, plastic things that echo when you speak into it and it sounds like it is “live.” “Birthday to you,” he sings.  “Birthday to you.” We all smile at him and he does a little, sideways dance, shifting from one hip to the other to a melody only he hears. He gives a hearty laugh and goes back to his singing. All nine grandchildren are growing fast, all healthy and robust.   *   *   * I sweep through the house looking for toys left behind by little hands – the caboose of a wooden train set, an orange ball, the microphone that entertained us all earlier. I carry them in my arms, returning them where they go. I sing into the microphone, “Birthday to you,” remembering one little charmer, my grandson who never reached his se

True Love

Most of us say we believe in happy ever afters, but happy ever afters exist only in fairy tales and fairy tales are fiction. I prefer to believe in true love. True love is more than just attraction and intimacy.  It is affection and tenderness and kindness. It is holding hands and sharing smiles. True love is unselfish.  It is consideration and caring for the other person more than about yourself.  True love puts the other person’s needs first. True love in not a fifty/fifty proposition; it is both parties giving and doing 100% for the other. It is laughter and conversation because true love cannot exist for long without truly liking each other as well.   It is respect and trust, and it allows for vulnerability. It is confidence and assurance that the other person would never hurt you.  It is about loving one another when we are not at our best: when no one would come near us because we have the flu and are covered in contagious germs, when we wake up with bed head and m

My Life Is a Lifetime Movie

Baby, you complete me. You are my clone; my soul mate. Scary thought, but true. The person who was just a friend is . . . suddenly the only person you can ever imagine yourself with. You know me better than I know myself.   It was the million tiny little things that when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together.  It is like . . . magic.   In the movie of our lives, you get to play Tom Hanks and I get to play Meg Ryan. I’m your density.   Since God’s time-space continuum is different than ours, it is no wonder it took Him fifty-six years before He led you onto my path.    When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible. I knew when you asked me to marry you after only six weeks of dating, and we married after only knowing each other for three months, that our life would be perfect from the very start.   I married you so I can kiss you anytime I want.   And I find

My Grandmother’s Story

My grandmother’s family was well-to-do.  While her two older brothers went to school, she and her younger sister were raised at home.  A nanny tutored them in school subjects and they had a cook, a housemaid, and a laundress who cared for their needs.   This was the early 1900’s and a woman’s future was very iffy. My great-grandmother wanted her daughters prepared for whatever waited for them, so the girls were expected to help the servants and learn how to do the daily chores. When my grandmother was 12 years old, her father died suddenly. His business partners asked my great-grandmother to sign papers and she did, thinking they could be trusted. In a matter of weeks, she and the children were penniless and homeless.  The men swindled her out of land, buildings, and other investments. Some friends came to their rescue and offered them a place to stay.  The boys went to work and my grandmother went to work for her laundress.   When my grandmother talked about this woman, it

How I Became a Grandma

2001 – It started with one. I never pictured myself as a grandmother.  Never.  The transition started off unexpectedly.  A surprise. My son and his girlfriend told me first before telling her parents that they were pregnant.  And that is how it began.  I remembering thinking; they are still in their teens and I am too young to be a grandma. 2008 – And it grew to six My son and his wife added a second son in the spring of 2008, and one year later my daughter married a man who was raising his two children on his own.  Within two years, they had two babies, and I was into this grandma gig full time. 2010 – 2015 – It jumped to ten. My youngest remarried and introduced me to my daughter-in-law’s son.  He made grandchild number seven, and within two years they added two more babies for me to hug and spoil.  Last summer, my oldest gifted me with grandbaby number 10, a precious little girl, so now with seven boys and three girls to call me Grandma, there was no hiding from tha

Raising Jake

Mommy needed a babysitter for her five-month old, so for the next twelve months, Grandma ditched her recently-retired plans and babysat Jake. She changed into capris and sweat pants, packed frozen dinners and PBJs into a lunch kit, and motored twenty-five miles one way to meet up with him. When he wasn’t eating, sleeping, or filling his diaper, Jake and Grandma read.  Their library consisted of one-word picture books, all kinds of peek-a-boos, and the kind that make noise if you press a button. They went on many explorations and before he could talk, he understood everything she asked. He nodded or pointed to things or went and got objects when she asked for them.    She was there when he learned to crawl, stand, walk, say his first word and his first sentence. Everything he did was inspired by books. He learned to crawl reaching for his favorite books, and he learned to stand picking out a book off his book shelf.  Once he learned to walk, he would toddle over to her with arm

Teenagers and Skunks

Teenagers and skunks have a lot in common.  They are both crepuscular and nocturnal; their active hours are from twilight to dusk. During certain times of the year, they are also semi dormant. Both are scavengers, eating whatever gets in their way. Teenagers and skunks have poor vision and though they have an excellent sense of smell and hearing, they are known to be very selective and biased in the use of these senses. Solitary creatures, they respond only to the opposite sex.   Both are known to have a very smelly and offensive odor that they do not recognize on themselves but will repel everyone around them for miles.  If anyone or anything happens to intrude into their space, they will hiss, stomp their feet, and posture in hopes of frightening off trespassers.  They have been known to fight tooth and nail if threatened and let off a stink that offends for days. Most skunks live for a maximum of seven years, about the same amount of time the adolescent stage lasts in a

My Baby Brother

When Mom was 75 and Dad was 82, they found themselves caring for a young, pregnant woman who my nephew introduced as his girlfriend.  A few months after the baby boy was born, the unwed mother disappeared from our lives, leaving the little one with my parents. They contacted Child Protective Services and asked to foster the abandoned child but as time went on, the baby’s future seemed unstable.  My parents had fallen in love with the little man and did not want to lose him to the foster system so they decided to adopt him.  My parents became parents for the sixth and last time.  My little brother was almost two. Mom was 77 and Dad was 83.  On his second birthday, we were all invited to his birthday party at Peter Piper Pizza.  The next youngest sibling had just turned 40 and my oldest brother was in his late 50’s, so we invited some of our grandchildren to the party so our Baby Bro would have playmates closer to his age. My father passed away soon after the adoption and our

Middle Child

I was the middle child in an Hispanic family, the one wedged between the oldest son and the baby daughter. A lot was excused from an oldest son, and who could resist the cuteness of a baby sister? As the oldest daughter in an Hispanic family, I was expected to learn how to do household chores and learn how to cook, all in preparation of one day marrying and making lots of babies. My parents had high expectations for all of us and they demanded nothing less than A’s from us in school.  They sometimes overlooked my brother’s B’s (cabeza dura), but I was hounded and condemned to hours of study if I dared to bring home anything less than a straight A. My parents, especially my mother, didn’t care where or when we were scolded. Often it was out in public. I resented the humiliation. It only increased my rebellion and disrespect for authority. I decided I would never treat my children how I was treated.  My children would know I loved them and treated them equally. Though an educa

Being The Oldest

My brother was a year and nine months older than I was.  According to my parents he was my playmate and my protector, but he considered me nothing more than his pesky younger sister, someone to take the blame whenever we got into trouble with the parents. He was always so youthful looking and so handsome.  I looked old by the time I was twelve, so folks always thought I was the oldest.   He went off to Vietnam and I went to college and that was where our paths started to go separate ways.  We both married within two years of each other and our spouses pulled us further apart.     His life was fraught with pain, the after effects of Agent Orange and PTSD. He went through three marriages and never found true love.  I went through two divorces before I found HoneyBunch and I have a good relationship with three, amazing and forgiving children. We resembled each other physically, so when he was diagnosed with Diabetes, I knew it would soon show up in my make up as well. His was m

Tío Agapito and the Mexican Revolution

Agapito Ram í rez, an old great uncle, never married, but that didn’t stop him from leaving behind several descendants.  He fought in the Mexican Revolution alongside Emiliano Zapata which made Tío Agapito very old when I first met him. I don’t recall being in school yet so I must have been four, maybe five. Whenever we made the trip down to south Texas, someone would drive out to Tío Agapito’s property (he never owned a car or a phone) and let him know my dad was visiting the family. Tío Agapito must have liked my dad because he often made the long ride out on his horse to visit with him.  I had heard so many stories about him from my dad that when he rode up on a horse at my grandmother’s house, I wanted to get a really close look at him. We had been sitting on my aunt’s front porch, but the women scurried inside and dragged me off with them. All I got to see was a tiny man who reminded me of Yosemite Sam from the Saturday morning cartoons.  He wore a holster with two guns s

Mi Papa Abuelo

My paternal grandfather passed away when I was two and a half, but if I close my eyes and concentrate, I can hear his voice. He spoke in polite Spanish with everyone, the kind of Spanish one uses to show respect.  He used it with me also. He was stern and his grown children hesitated before approaching him, but I was too young to be afraid and would crawl onto his lap.  I would ask him questions and he would smile and answer me. He had property out in the country where he raised livestock but lived in town and kept one or two horses, maybe one cow, in the corral next to his house. We lived nearby and would go visit him every weekend, and I would walk alongside him whenever he went out in the yard to check on the livestock. I remember I had on a pair of red cowboy boots which he thought were pretty amazing.  He would place a booted foot on the lower rung of the corral and I did too, except I had to hike my leg a little higher than his.  I remember I looked up when I heard him l

What is Family?

When someone complains about being lonely, I offer them a few dozen of my relatives. I’ve never been alone.  I went from a nuclear family into one of my own.  Then, for a while I was a single parent until I married HB and we created a blended family with his kids and mine. As our children grew, and married, and had children, our tribe grew into a large, healthy, extended family .  Some of our married kids are still childless, yet they are a family – couples without children . Why wouldn’t they be?  We do not live the Ozzie and Harriet life anymore, but what we have now is just as valid and just as comforting. What defines family? I am not talking about the cold definition one finds in a dictionary or in the IRS 1040 Instruction booklet, but something that encompasses all the different constellations within our homes. Isn’t it people who live together, related or not, in a committed, interdependent relationship? I used to envy the only child, the sequestered num, Tom H

Leap Day

My fourth grade teacher took great joy announcing that her birthday was that Leap Day. She was 12 to our nine and ten.  She giggled, mistaking our faces for amazement.  We knew our times tables.  We were shocked. She looked much older than 48. While student teaching in an area high school, I met quadruplet boys who were used to being the center of attention.  They proudly announced their birthday fell on Leap Day and bragged about being 4-year old sophomores.   They acted like it too. I love Leap Day. It is nature way of letting humans know that everything does not fit into neat little calendar boxes. One of those boxes is the Gregorian calendar.  To keep up with the natural rotation of the Earth, it adds one day every four years but it still does not keep “perfect time,” so it removes a leap day three times every 400 years. Confusing?  Try this: other calendars keep up with the “natural” year by adding a month every four years. To do this, they have to rearrange the other m

Love Song

You are the waltz that settles my soul, the jazz piece that makes me smile, the ballad that wraps me in love. You are the anthem of my dreams, the lullaby when I am sad, the tango only we dance. Our dance will be brief, but its music will play forever. 

Love of Books and School

Dad told me school would be awesome.  We would read and do math.  There was such a thing as recess and there would be books and more books! On the first day, my mom took me to my first grade room and while the other kids cried I shooed her away.  I was so happy to finally be in school. The teacher got my name wrong that first day but my parents changed it the next day to Rachel so she wouldn’t have such a hard time.  I forgave her the moment she started assigning text books.  She called us one by one and took forever copying the numbers inside each book onto a sheet on her desk.  Since my last name starts with M, I was afraid she would run out before she got to me.   When I finally got mine, I grabbed the reader and read it all in the time it took her to dole out books to the rest of the students. I honestly thought we would get a new reader every day. When I told the teacher I was done with my book, she scolded me for “getting ahead.” Dad hadn’t warned me about her.  

Praying for a Husband

I prayed to keep my marriage together and it did for almost thirty years, but by then the foundation had cracked and the roof leaked. It was time to stop calling it a marriage and get a divorce. Once single, I prayed for healing and wisdom and forgiveness. My self-esteem was at rock bottom.  I had been told for years that I was homely and insecure and a nag.  “No one would ever love me.” This broken house was me and I needed repair.  I needed to solidify its foundation and rebuild the walls so that I could stand on my own two feet and yell my success from the rooftops. I wanted to be whole again. Five years later, I prayed God would show me what lie in my future. If this had been my life, I accepted it without any regret.  I loved my children, my career, my accomplishments, and I felt good about myself.  But IF He felt there might be a man He still wanted me to meet, would He please make sure he was kind and nice and intelligent and funny, and could he please treat me lik

“Holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.”

The worst pain I have ever endured was my divorce.  I had been lied to.  I had been humiliated.  I had been treated like an imbecile.    I was angry. Very angry. When I sought help, I was told to forgive and forget, but no one told me HOW someone does that. This is what I figured out: 1.     I sought help from counselors, church, and community.  I listened to advice.  I took meds for depression.  I prayed.  I relied on my family and friends. 2.     I assessed my surroundings.  I counted my blessings: my job, my home, my family, my abilities, my possibilities. 3.     I came to the realization that the opposite of love is not hate.  The opposite of love is nothing, feeling nothing for that person. It gave me a goal and I worked toward letting him go so that he became nothing more to me than an annoyance with whom I shared a past. 4.     I took responsibility for my half of the failed marriage.  I should have never allowed another person to treat me less than how I deserv

In Love with my Grandmother

When I was about six, my mother served me milk with my dinner. Milk and I have never gotten along so she usually served me water.  When I politely refused, everyone was allowed to leave the table except me.  I sat there and watched the milk get more and more tepid by the hour. Hours later, everyone started getting ready for bed and lights started to go out. My mother in her night gown checked on me one more time. She reminded me to drink my milk. The house went dark except for one bathroom light. I felt abandoned and unloved. My grandmother who lived with us walked into the kitchen to take her nightly meds.  My mother yelled from her bedroom, asking Mama Ene to check on my progress. My grandmother ran the sink faucet, walked over to the kitchen table, drank my glass of milk in one swallow.  She never once looked at me but yelled into the darkness toward my parents’ bedroom. “She drank her milk.” “At last.”  I could hear my mother’s relief. The impasse was over. I have

A Lifetime of Learning

In my earliest memories, I am outside playing, scratching “words” into the dirt. In one, I estimate I am about two (because we still lived in Laredo at the time), and in the other I am about three (because I see the duplex we rented before my parents bought the San Antonio house we lived in until I was 18). I also remember my father teaching me to read using the encyclopedia we had in a place of honor in the living room.  I had to be about four years old.   Ask me anything about aardvarks. The brain is an amazing muscle.  It hungers for input for the span of its life. I have witnessed delight in a baby’s face when the brain first grasps new information, and studies have shown that an aging brain that is kept active stays healthy longer than one that is not stimulated. If we love and value ourselves, we should care for our bodies and our brains. We should keep ourselves active and mobile for as long as we can. For this reason, I did not retire without a plan. I read, I writ

If I Were to Recommend Books to Read during February

I read the following ten books for book club and at the time they weren’t my favorite reads, but they have stayed with me longer than the other three dozen assigned books I had to read.   Have you read any of these?  ·        Bel Canto – Ann Patchett   ·        Book Thief – Marcus Zusak ·        Distant Hours – Kate Morton (or anything by this author) ·        The Double Bind – Chris Bohjalian ·        Girl on a Train – Paula Hawkins ·        Gone Girl – Gillian Flynn ·        Life After Life – Kate Atkinson ·        Private Practice – Samanthe Beck ·        Storm Siren – Mary Weber ·        UnDomestic Goddess – Sophie Kinsella ( or anything by this author) What books have you read lately that stayed in your thoughts long after you put them down?

A Book Club Built on Friendship

Before I retired from my last job, HoneyBunch suggested I make a plan.   He was afraid one of us would go insane since he was used to living out here alone but I wasn’t.   I promised him I would think about it. I signed up for real estate classes.  I joined Weight Watchers and a gym.  I looked into several writers’ groups that might help boost me into my next career. After a few months, I ditched the real estate license and decided to concentrate on my writing.  I chose one writer’s group that fit my needs the best and have stuck with them for the last six years. One of the many benefits I acquired from this group was an offshoot (rebel) group of ladies who formed a book club. We have been together since the spring of 2011.  In that time we have read over three dozen books together.  Many of those books have gone on to become best sellers and about a dozen of them went on to become award winning movies. But the best thing of all is the friendship and the stimulating conver

I Had Three Whole Dates in High School.

One boy survived my father’s inquisition when I was in the 9 th grade and I was allowed to go on a date to a high school dance. Somewhere between the first and second dance, Bachelor # 1 confessed that he only asked me out so he could get close to my best friend.  I dragged him over to where she was holding court and left him there to bask in her beauty until it was time for his parents to pick us up and return me to the bosom of my family. When I was a junior, my mother set me up with a young man who worked with her and I was his date to a Christmas banquet.  We double dated with another couple and I was sequestered with Bachelor # 2 in the back seat to and from the steak house. After the banquet the other couple wanted to go make out but I was not about to swap spit with someone who smelled of medium rare and baked potato.  He had sweaty hands, leered at my chest and mini-dress, and his right leg shook like Thumper’s hind leg in Bambi.  I demanded to be taken home and when the

Amazingly Blunt Dating Rules

I have little actual experience “dating,” but then scientists base their findings on observation and not experience.  They do not inject themselves with the virus, drink the chemical solution, or time travel into outer space.  They observe and so have I. Rule # 1:  Know your expectations, what you will and will not do on a date, then stick to that and have fun.  Rule # 2: Never date someone with better hair or a better chest than you. Things might evolve into intimacy and one of you will be disappointed. Rule # 3:  Date within ten years, plus or minus, of your age. Slightly older at either end is okay, except this does not okay anyone to date someone under the legal age. Remember, you are NOT Madonna, Cher, or Tina.   Rule # 4:  If you were divorced, remember it is in your past.  You are “single.” That is all that is really necessary when meeting someone new. Dragging the ex into the introductions should not start every new conversation. Rule # 5:  Should th

Love Thy Neighbor

I read once that empathy is not an innate human trait.  We have to teach caring and compassion to our children through example and touch. It makes sense if we can teach our children to be cruel and prejudiced, we can teach them kind and understanding as well. My mother was raised in dire poverty.  She was the second oldest and at the age of 14 she finished the 8 th grade and went to work as a house maid to help her mother support her four siblings. They went on to finish high school but she sacrificed her dreams to help her family survive. She cared for my grandmother until she died. My 8-year-old grandson hears his little sister cry.  She has fever and a terrible respiratory infection and my little grandboy tells me his heart breaks when he hears her cry.  He says he wishes he were the one ill instead of her. I never understood the golden rule about “love your neighbor as you love yourself.” Until now. Empathy, kindness, and understanding starts with us, and when we dem

Love Thyself

I blame the drive-thru hamburger or the coffee shop with the creamy drinks.  I’ve been misled by the Mexican food restaurant with the bottomless bowls of chips and salsa and the to-die-for enchiladas. I have been two-timed by an egg and bacon taco and hoodwinked by a side of hotcakes.   It’s their fault my belts won’t buckle and my jackets won’t zip. I blame them for my shortness of breath and my aching back. I know I am not alone, so I say we sue those who have made us this way:  they force me to eat that taco (or two) for breakfast; they lure me with their double lattes topped with whipped cream; they snare me with their Number One specials, and they sing their siren songs with their “Hot and Ready” pizzas and drive through dinners that come complete with desserts. After all, it is my Christian duty to clean my plate, and the next day as I struggle with my stretch pants or drag my dress over my derri è re, instead of loving myself enough to take responsibility for

Defining Love

February is a painful month for those of us who have not found love.  Worse yet, it is painful for those of us who have not found someone who reciprocates our love. We are the Charlie Brown’s, the kids who never get a card on Valentine’s Day, when we should be looking around us and acknowledging there are many kinds of love and they are not all dependent on finding a partner or a cheap little card in our decorated paper bags. I wasted the majority of my life trying to win the love of my first husband until one day I realized I deserved better.  I realized I needed to start by loving myself more than chasing after someone who did not prize me. It was when I opened my eyes to all the love around me that I fought for my independence and changed the course of my life. I love HoneyBunch, doughnuts, and warm socks.  I love daylight and peanut M&Ms and my grandchildren.  I love truth, and humor, and kindness.  Once I realized the true definition of love, I found I was no lon

The 29 Days of February

I told HoneyBunch that I was going to attempt writing a blog every day for one month.  Some of my writer friends attempt it throughout the year and I wanted to try it also. Being the slouch that I am, I chose February, the shortest month of the year, thinking I was being a smarty pants. Wouldn’t you know it, this is leap year, and February has 29 days. Aargh. I told HoneyBunch I was going to write 29 entries about “love ” (cue:  Barry White music in the background) , but HB wasn’t listening.  He was more interested in leap year.  When did we start counting leap year?  When was the first leap year?  Do all countries around the globe have a leap year? He totally killed the romantic mood I was trying to explain and I stuttered to answer his questions. (Stop playing Can’t Get Enough of You Baby.  Cue: Theme to Close Encounters of the Third Kind) “Stop interrupting me.” I say. “But your readers will ask.” “This wasn’t the direction I was going with my 29 days.” “What