Thursday, December 03, 2009

thyroid surgery and The Prayer

About ten years ago, I noticed a growth on my thyroid. It was a benign goiter, and my endocrinologist left it up to me whether or not to remove it. Since it wasn't that noticeable and wasn't interfering with my breathing or swallowing, I opted to just leave it alone. Over the years, we monitored it closely, measured its slow growth, and biopsied it again. I always knew the day would come that I'd have to have it removed.
This past September, I was sick with flu-like symptoms, and when I recovered, I immediately noticed a golf-ball-sized blob on the side of my neck. Thinking it was probably swollen lymph nodes from my illness, I dismissed it. A week later, at the urging of Cara (who's a nurse), the insistence of Darren, and the counsel of two doctor friends, I went and had it checked out. Turns out, it was more of the goiter, which had exploded in size.
Suddenly, a bunch of little things began to make sense. I'd started snoring inexplicably, I'd become short of breath, I was constantly fatigued, I suffered "fuzzy brain", and my muscles ached. I chalked it all up to turning 40 and gaining weight; my internist explained that all these things could come down to one problem: I wasn't getting enough oxygen. The goiter had grown at such an alarming rate and in such a direction that it was shoving my trachea aside. It was also wedged against my carotid artery. The time had come. Surgery was unavoidable.
I was scared at first - I mean, who wants the neck sliced open, right? But after meeting my surgeon, Dr. John Crawford at Harris Methodist Fort Worth, I felt a lot better. His expertise in vascular surgeries gave me confidence, but it was his relaxed demeanor and jovial personality that put me at ease. I knew immediately that he was the right surgeon.
As the surgery drew nearer, I began to worry about being "under" for so long. Because of the intricacy of the procedure - having to work around the carotid and all the nerves in my neck - it was expected to take 4 to 6 hours. The night before surgery, I was listening to Andrea Bocelli's new Christmas album and wondered aloud, "I wonder if they'd let me choose the music for the operating room?" I was half joking, but the next morning as they prepped me for surgery, I heard myself ask, "Can I choose the music for the OR?"

One of the attendants said, "I don't see why not. What's your request?"
"Andrea Bocelli's new Christmas album," I answered, "But it's brand new. I bet you don't have it."
We have Pandora in this OR," said the attendant. "I'll see what I can find."
I'd already been given a sedative and was fading in and out.
Then I heard the music. It wasn't the Christmas album, but it was Andrea Bocelli singing something in Italian. I was happy.
"I couldn't find any Christmas," he said, "but hopefully this will do." Next thing I knew, "The Prayer" began to play.
As soon as it did, a tear escaped out the corner of my eye. I was too far gone to open my eyes, or to reach up and wipe it away. But it was there, and I felt it. This particular song has always been extremely special to Darren and me - it was given to us as a gift from a dear, dear friend (Sonny Tomme) upon Aidan's birth 9 years ago this month.

The anesthesiologist - or whoever had been talking to me this whole time - said, "You must like this one." I whispered, "It's my favorite."

"Well, that's too bad," he said, "because you won't remember any of this." And as I continued to drift off to neverland, it was to these words:

I pray you'll be our eyes
And watch us where we go
And help us to be wise
In times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer
As we go our way
Lead us to a place
Guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe.

I knew - I knew! - that this was God speaking to me, telling me to let go of the fear and worry, and that I would be okay.

Later, Dr. Crawford said that what was supposed to be one of his most difficult surgeries turned out to be one of his easiest. He was finished in just over 2 hours. Aside from having a hard time intubating me because the trachea was shoved so far out of place, and then having to locate a specific nerve that was playing hide and seek (the one that controls my vocal chords), everything went perfectly.

Even knowing ahead of time how large the goiter was going to be, he was still shocked to see it up close and personal. He took a photo and gave it to Darren afterward. (Click here to see the photo. It's kinda graphic, so don't click if you can't handle blood and guts!) I can't believe this thing was in my neck. No wonder I felt like crap for the past several months!
The scar is bigger than he wanted it to be, but to get the whole goiter out without damaging any nerves or vessels, it had to be this big. I'll admit that when I first saw it, I shed a couple of tears. But it will fade, and be mostly unnoticeable in 2-3 months. There's a lot of swelling around my chin and neck right now, and along the right side of my face, but that will go down in a day or two.
He was able to leave the left lobe of my thyroid, which is healthy and normal-sized. It will take over and perform normally for the now-missing right lobe, and all should be well.
I'm glad it's over. I can't wait to have my old energy back, and to be able to wear necklaces again!
My hilarious friends Darcie and Amanda named the goiter for me last month, and he's been known as Gaston ever since. "No one's slick as Gaston, no one's quick as Gaston, no one's neck is incredibly thick as Gaston's!" And they were quick to point out, too, that Gaston lost in the end. Good riddance, Gaston! :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


A few minutes ago, I told the boys, ages almost-8 and almost-9, to go unload the dishwasher. Emphatic protesting immediately ensued, until I reminded them that they haven't had to do it since the weekend. Now they're in the kitchen and I'm eavesdropping.

Aidan: I don't get the purpose. We unload it tonight, and we'll just have to unload it again tomorrow night. We should just keep it loaded.

Ian: Something reeks!!!!!

Aidan: Seriously, Ian, what's the purpose?


Aidan: You know what I hate more than unloading? Touching dirty silverware. It's disgusting.

Ian: This reeking smell is disgusting. Hello? Are you listening to me?

Aidan: Huh?

Ian: I just farted about a million times. HELLO.

bwahahahahahaha! Lovin' life with boys!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Stacy, 2. Candy Bars, 0.

Let's see. The last time I blogged about my weight loss journey was ... wait. Really? November 5th of last year? Seriously almost a year ago? Wow. No wonder I've allowed myself to gain so much of it back. And no wonder I have avoided blogging, too. It's all coming back to me now.

I say I've gained most of it back, but the truth is, I don't know. I haven't stepped on the scale. I'm scared to death to. The funny thing is, when I started this journey, when I was at the heaviest I'd ever been in my life, I wasn't scared of it. I came online and announced it to the whole world wide interwebs. But now, NOW. Now I'm scared. How much did I allow myself to give up? How much of that hard work did I just throw away?

I have all sorts of reasons and excuses, starting with an emotional upheaval that lasted for a few months last year, followed by me breaking my foot and being forced out of regular exercise for 14 weeks, compounded by starting a new job that involves me sitting on my butt all day at a desk next door to a woman who cooks the best soul food in the county and loves to share it.

Somewhere along the way, I started to slip. It was winter, though, and my sweatshirts and sweaters didn't seem that much tighter. My jeans were a little snug, but it was easy to forget how baggy they'd actually become. Snug was a feeling I'd been used to for years, and it felt normal. Then warm weather came and I had nothing to wear, 'cause I'd given away and thrown out all of the previous year's too-large clothing, knowing I'd never need it again.

I cut off a pair of jeans into capris and wore them daily, washing them constantly, 'cause they were my only pair. I would not allow myself to buy jeans in the next size up, so I just refused to buy any period. Then about a month ago, I was pulling those threadbare jeans on when one of the beltloops gave way and created a humongous hole in the backside. I wore them that day anyway, but it became clear almost immediately that this was a very temporary situation at best. I was forced into new jeans. Size 22. I'd gotten down to an 18, almost a 16. And now I was back in a 22, just two jeans sizes away from the old ones that still hang in my closet, awaiting the day when Kristi and I will both stand in the same pair that used to clothe just me. I was disgusted.

And so I did what all emotional overeaters do when they're stressed, or worried, or pissed as all hades: I ate. For the last month, I completely sabotaged myself. I ate bad intentionally. I ate when no one knew I was eating. And in the process, I made myself a miserable, angry blob of a person.

Meanwhile, one of my sweetest friends was hitching up her own bandwagon and goin' to town. She started with a simple gym membership, then ramped it up with a personal trainer. Consistently, she invites me along. A free month here, a two-month trial there. I always decline the offers, but I've been watching her progress, and she amazes me.

Then I see women in my neighborhood jogging along every morning, some pushing strollers while barely breaking a delicate glow, others huffing along, slimy hair slammed against their foreheads and donning the tell-tale face of "what the hell was I thinking?". But they're out there.
And I notice them.

On Saturday night, we ate badly at CiCi's. On Sunday night, we grilled hot dogs. Both nights, I tossed and turned in bed, unable to sleep, feeling nauseated, racked with heartburn, bloated and miserable. Sunday afternoon while at the grocery store, I was in the check-out lane when I spotted the sale: 3 for $1. We all know this means I could've purchased one for $.34, but why waste a good opportunity? I chose a Reese's, a York peppermint pattie, and an Almond Joy. I took them straight from the cashier's hand and plunked them in purse for later. I'd already eaten a Hershey's with Almonds that day.

Monday morning, after a fitful night, I woke up exhausted and cranky. As I showered, I made a snap decision: today it begins. I hadn't planned it, I hadn't worked myself up for it, I hadn't laid plans to make it easier, nothing. I just knew it was time. It clicked. Thank God. I'd been praying for the click!

And so, at the end of Monday, I went to bed early to avoid the night time snackies that plague me. I slept well, having made good, healthy choices all day long, with three candy bars still in my purse. I considered giving them to Darren and the boys, but decided that leaving them would force me to surrender once and for all.

Today, I forgot to take lunch to work. At noon, I had an online training class to attend and locked myself in my office. The class lasted two hours, and about 1/3 of the way through it, my stomach was rumbling and I was feeling nauseous. I knew those candy bars were within reach. I knew I had another hour plus to sit there. I knew I could end the hunger pangs. I knew no one would ever know. I eyed the candy.

Tonight, at the end of Tuesday, I'm going to bed having made good, healthy choices all day long, with three candy bars in my purse. I'm leaving them there. Today was too hard. I'm leaving them in my purse until I don't CARE that they're there anymore.

Stacy, 2. Candy bars, 0.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


"Are you feeling a little fuzzy today?" asked Terri, my coworker. Um, yah, just a little bit.

I don't know what was wrong with me today, but more than once, my brain failed to connect with my mouth, and I made a fool of myself. Several times, I walked out of my office only to stand in the big room wondering why I left my office. Then I'd sit down again at my desk only to immediately remember why I left in the first place.

First thing this morning, I needed to call Darren to ask him some computer questions. I picked up the phone and dialed up to Michael's office. Michael, I knew, was not in the office yet. And yet, I let it ring and ring, wondering why Darren wasn't answering across town in HIS office. Yeesh.

Darren was on the phone with me yesterday (my cell) when I took a call (on the work phone) with a vendor I've been courting, and commented that it was cool to hear me "in professional mode". He was impressed that his trash-talkin', oft-giggling, sometimes ghettofied wife could actually sound mature and educated on the phone. I rode high on that compliment for a couple of hours, sad as that sounds.

Well today, the gentleman I was so professional with came by the offic with a proof for me to peruse and sign off on. He was middle-aged (meaning, of course, that he was probably 20 years older than me. ahem), immaculately groomed, very professional. After we small-talked for a bit, I offered to provide him with one of our info packets, and made my way across the room to my office. Behind me, I could hear him mumbling something, and then he said, "A&M".

I turned on my heels and squawked, "GIG 'EM!" He looked completely taken aback, and was speechless. Then I realized that he was looking up at the quote that adorns the doorframe of my office, which reads, "The Lord is my rock, my fortress, my deliverer. Psalm 18:2." In an instant, I realized that the mumbling I'd heard was him reading that verse aloud, followed by a more audible "Amen and amen." NOT A&M.

Finally, he said, "You're an Aggie?"

"Oh!" I gasped. "You said amen." He smiled weakly. I know he was thinking, "What a FREAK."

"I thought you said A&M. I just moved my daughter to College Station last week for her freshman year at A&M, so I guess I have it on the brain."

I am a freak.

I'll spare you the other stories, but the day didn't improve.


Monday, August 24, 2009

1st day

And so here we are again - the first day of school.

Remember back in the day when choosing your first-day-of-school-outfit was something to stew over and change your mind about thirty-three-and-a-half times? In this age of mandatory public school uniformity, it's a choice between khaki or navy pants, and white or blue shirts. Not a whole lot to get excited about. In fact, it's so unexciting that this morning, Aidan and Ian dug through their dirty laundry and chose the closest-to-clean shorts they could find to impress their teachers and influence their peeps. But wait - before you judge me - let me explain.

Last week, before I left for College Station with Dani (who is now safely nestled into her townhome and noshing on cupcakes and Dino nuggets like a real grown-up), I carefully laundered all the new school clothes and put them away. Imagine my surprise this morning when I opened the shorts drawer to find it empty of all khaki and navy shorts! WHA.....? A quick glance at the laundry heap clued me in: they'd been wearing their new school clothes every day that I was out of town. Did their father notice? Apparently not. Who sends their kids to the first day of school in dirty clothes? Please pass the Mother of the Year Award.

At least their underwear was clean.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

catch up

Dani graduated.
I turned 40.
The boys went to summer camp.
Darren finished staining the trim in the front room.
My foot continues to heal, but still hurts sometimes.
I gained 20 of my 70 pounds back.
Darren planted a garden and has harvested green beans, tomatoes and strawberries so far.
I manage to get up and go to work every day, a fact which still surprises me.
I've reunited with many old friends on Facebook, and am so grateful for it!
I stopped blogging, because I've felt like I had nothing to say. But that's not entirely accurate. I just haven't had the desire to type it all out. I think it's mostly due to the fact that I type all day at work.
I love my job.
I still scrapbook for others, but can't remember the last time I actually scrapbooked for ME.
I took up painting and have created two pieces - one for me, and one for a friend.
I've become addicted to Facebook.
The truth is, THAT explains my absense from this blog more accurately than anything else.

I'll try to do better!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


Darren just baked me a cake.
No reason.
Just 'cause.
And it wasn't even bad for me.
AND... it was THE moistest, most delicious chocolate cake I've ever eaten.


Recipe here.
Thanks, Ashley!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Winston and the boys

Ian wants a dog.

Grammy has ruined him; his life is incomplete without dogs, to which I say, "You want dogs? Go to Grammy's." bwahaha (She and PapPap have... what.... 8, I think?)

Thankfully for Ian, Justin and LuAnn have a nice dog right next door. He poops and pees and tracks mud on THEIR property, and my boys get to love on him. It's the best of both worlds!

Every now and then, J&L go out of town and leave the dog care to my kids. This time, they hired the boys. Not DANI, but Aidan and Ian. Dani was completely out of the loop on this one, and the boys were OVER THE MOON!

They love to feed Winston and make him obey commands for treats. It amazes me that such a big, energetic dog will sit and wait just because little ol' Ian tells him to. He's such a good dog!

Today, they fed him bright and early before school, but there wasn't enough time to take him out to play. They were pretty bummed about it. After school, Aidan said, "I told everyone in my class that I have a job. I can't believe I get PAID to feed my favorite DOG!"

Grammy, don't tell Lucy or Luke or Leia or Linus or Lunkhead or......

Monday, April 06, 2009


In my job, I routinely make photo posters using the kids' pictures and place them around the building. The kids love seeing their images on a real "poster". Here are a few I've created:

Today, I decided it was time for a new one.

I shot a self-portrait in the girls' bathroom at Fortress, where someone has started picking away the faux tile in one of the stalls (which was in bad shape to begin with), creating a big mess and an uglier wall over the last couple of months.

None of the students will confess to doing it, so I'm surprising the cuprit tomorrow with this new "poster". Heh.

I crack myself UP! I know the girls will snicker when they see it, and HOPEFULLY, the guilty party will stop making the sad wall even worse!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Naked Guy and The Intern

*not his real name

I wrote this story early one morning almost 18 months ago, but I never blogged it because I didn't want to be the cause of any negative ramifications for Dylan*, who lived with us while working as an intern at Fortress Youth Development Center. I've been reminded of the story a couple of times in the last few days, and I'm thinkin' enough time has passed now to share the fun....

When I went to bed at 2 a.m., Dylan wasn't home. Darren and Aidan were out of town on a Cub Scout camp-out. Dani was asleep upstairs. Ian was sleeping on the couch. He had BEGGED to sleep on the couch, and I had let him fall asleep there. At the last minute, as I headed upstairs, I decided to go ahead and carry him to his bed. This is noteworthy, because 1) I knew he'd be mad when he woke up in his own bed after I told him he could sleep downstairs, and 2) he's heavy and I'm lazy.

At 3:30, Dani was awakened by two guys "yelling at people". I sleep like a rock, and didn't hear anything. At 4:00, she came and woke me up, saying, "Mom, I think something's wrong with Dylan. He's being really loud and knocking stuff around in his room. And I heard someone banging on the piano [downstairs]." She had knocked on Dylan's door, and when he told her to come in, she opened the door to see him standing there naked.

"I told him to be quiet 'cause I have to take the PSAT in a few hours," she explained to me. "Then he started shouting to 'other people' that they need to be quiet, then he whispered it, then he started saying 'I am God, I am God'."

"Stay here [in my room]," I told her. I went downstairs to see if anyone else was in the house and immediately noticed that our front door was standing wide open. I turned around to take a quick inventory of our TV, computer, etc. The neighbor's backyard light shines right through our family room window, which created a perfect silhouette of a naked guy lying on my couch. I was furious that Dylan was sleeping naked in my family room! I flipped on the light and immediately recognized that it wasn't Dylan.

"Who are you?" I demanded.
He jumped up, naked, and asked, "Who are you?"
"I live here. You're in my house. WHO ARE YOU?"
He kept repeating, "Who are yooooooooou?"

I realized that he must've come home with Dylan, and my first thought was that he was from the homeless shelter. (Dylan spends a lot of time volunteering there). Turns out, he was an old high school friend of Dylan's who was in town for the weekend.

"Where's Dylan?!" I asked.
He replied, "Oh God, Oh God, Oh God."

I walked to the base of the stairs and yelled for Dylan to come down. He didn't, so I bounded up the stairs and threw open the door to his room. He jumped up, startled, and said, "We're on LSD. Oh no. Oh God."

"I'm about one second away from calling the cops if you don't get your naked friend out of my house. Get your clothes on and get downstairs."

Meanwhile, I went downstairs again, where the naked guy was still standing in the family room. I said, "Either get some clothes on, or get upstairs. I don't need to see your naked butt in my family room." He kept saying that he was dead, and that dead people don't wear clothes.

I called Michael and asked him to come over. (Remember, Darren was out of town.) While I was on the phone with Michael, Naked Guy kept walking up to me, asking what was happening. I kept telling him to cover up. He followed me all around asking me if God was playing a joke on him. He'd tap me on the shoulder, and when I'd turn around, he would be in my face - almost nose to nose with me - asking, "Is this real? Am I dead?" Eventually, I walked him out the front door and locked it. He didn't protest or try to walk back in or anything. He just let me lead him right out the door. Naked Guy seemed really scared of me, which I thought was funny. Then again, I was LIVID, and I guess he could tell. I was extremely angry that Dylan had brought a guy to my home in this condition, and I was so very angry at Dylan for using drugs in my house. Also, I had just sloshed through a huge puddle of pee in my kitchen, which REALLY pissed me off.

I called Dylan's parents, who live about an hour away, and told them that Dylan was tripping on acid, and that I was evicting him, and that they needed to come get him. They said they'd be on the road in less than 15 minutes.

While I was on the phone with his parents, Dylan started smashing stuff upstairs (throwing pictures frames from the walls of the stairwell - breaking glass and knocking off a big chunk of plaster from the wall high above the window), which scared Dani to death. Thinking that Dylan was either coming after her for ratting him out, or that he was wigging out on me, she took a phone into Ian's room, locked the door, and called 911. Then she called my cell phone and said, "Mom! I just called 911. I'm sorry if I shouldn't have done that." I was proud of her, actually.

Meanwhile, Naked Guy started breaking into houses on my street. At one house, he was standing in the dining room muttering, "I'm in Hell" when the homeowner walked in and threatened to release his rottweilers if he didn't turn around and go right back out the window he'd just climbed through. At another house, the homeowner met him with a shotgun and said, "Get off my property before I blow your head off." Within minutes, there were cop cars everywhere. They arrested Naked Guy across the street from my house. I have to admit, it was pretty funny seeing this naked kid walking down the street with his hands cuffed behind his back and his jinglejangle flopping in the breeze.

I asked them to go upstairs and get Dylan as well. They said they couldn't, because he lived here and was allowed to be here. I said, "Even though he's tearing my house apart?" They said they couldn't do anything. I questioned, "Even if he has illegal drugs in my house?" Nope. "You can't search his room?" I pressed, "This is my house, and I'm giving you permission to search his room." They said that he had the right to a reasonable expectation of privacy, and they wouldn't search his room. I was so frustrated. Dani and I both argued with them pretty hard. Michael went down the street and talked to them too, and they gave him the same answers. "If he were out here, you wouldn't arrest him?" They said they could get him for public intoxication, so I offered to drag him out in the street for them. "Ma'am, we don't want you to do that. If he's doing acid, he could be a threat to the citizens." Uh, yah. That was kind of my point, seeing as how he was UPSTAIRS with my CHILDREN. Stupid laws that protect the guilty really piss me off.

Michael went upstairs and tried to make Dylan put clothes on and come outside. He had to send him back up twice because he came down naked. He finally came outside wearing boxers and a t-shirt and joined Dani and me on the porch, where we were watching Naked Guy be checked out by EMTs. (He'd cut himself up climbing through a broken window.) At this point, there were 4 police cars, an ambulance, and a fire truck sitting in front of my house, and neighbors were starting to appear on their porches in the pre-dawn light.

Dylan sat down and talked to us, and had moments of what seemed like clarity, where he'd say, "I'm so sorry. I can't believe I did this. I love you guys so much. You mean more to me than anyone. Why did I do this?" Then he'd go right back to talking nonsense. I'm telling you now that if there was EVER anything that would benefit Dani as far as making her determined NOT to try drugs, it was seeing Dylan in this tripped-out state. It was funny and heartbreaking at the same time.

"Oh my God, did we kill somebody?" he asked in a panic.
"I don't KNOW, Dylan," I exclaimed. "Did you?"
He couldn't figure out why there would be so many cops unless they'd killed someone. He asked Dani to go inside because he didn't want her to see him like that, but she refused. "You don't get to ask me to go inside," she said. "You woke me up at 3:30 in the morning. I have to take the PSAT in a few hours. You don't GET to ask me to leave." He said, "Okay." A couple of times, he said he was cold and wanted to go inside, and I'd say, "Sit down. You're not going back in my house." And he'd say, "Seriously? Okay." And he'd sit down. It was so weird how he could be violent at one moment, and totally compliant the next.

Dylan continued to hallucinate, and talked about how beautiful everything was. He'd say, "This is so beautiful. No. no. This is bad. Very bad. Beautiful. It's beautiful. No. It's bad. Bad." But every once in a while, he recognized reality. Eventually, he said he didn't want his friend to "face it alone", and he walked down to the police car, where they arrested him for "public intoxication other than alcohol". His dad got here before the cops left, and was able to see Dylan for a minute. He said he didn't blame us a bit for calling the police, and in fact, that if Dylan had come into THEIR home in this state and started breaking things, they'd have called the police too. He was really very nice about it.

Ian slept through the WHOLE THING. And let me tell you... there was a lot of noise in my house that night. I thank God that he was safely in his bedroom during all of it, and not downstairs in the middle of the commotion. (Especially since Naked Guy ended up on my couch!) Dani and I cleaned up all the glass (oh my GOSH, it carpeted every step of my stairs - tiny shards all in the carpet and everywhere) and mopped up the kitchen before she left for her PSAT. In a weird, surreal way, it turned out to be a neat bonding experience for us, so I'm actually thankful for THAT. Considering the circumstances, she did pretty well, but was 3 points shy of being "commended", which disqualified her for some scholarship opportunities. I think she's still pretty mad about that!

Dylan walked home later that day after being released from jail, wearing his t-shirt, boxers, and a pair of paper pants the jail had given him. He was very apologetic and promised it would never happen again.

"It shouldn't have happened at all," I said.
"I know. I'm sorry. I would never put your family in danger."
"But you DID put us in danger," I replied. "You put me in danger. You put my kids in danger. You put my NEIGHBORS in danger."
"You're really evicting me?" he asked.
"I really am. I have to. I can't risk this happening again." It was the hardest thing I've ever had to make myself do.

The following Monday, while at the police station giving my report, a neighbor I'd never met asked me if I was okay. I said, "Oh, I'm fine. He only broke picture frames at my house; I'm so sorry about what happened to yours!" (He'd had a huge picture window destroyed when Naked Guy heaved a planter full of flowers through it.)

"I'm not talking about your house," he continued. "I'm talking about YOU. The police told me that it was a domestic dispute." I'm sure my eyes must've bugged out of my head! "What?" I exclaimed. "It wasn't! My husband wasn't even in town!"

Turns out, Dani's phone call was registered as a domestic dispute call. It went something like this: "The guy who lives with us is breaking things and yelling, and my Mom is downstairs with another guy who I don't know!" Yep. Sounds like domestic problems to me. I'm horrified when I think about what the cops who showed up first must've thought: "Wow. This middle-aged chick has a teenage daughter, a live-in 22-year-old boyfriend, and another 22-year old on the side?? What a classy lady!" roflol. I straightened it all out, though, and our record is now clean again.

And now, 18 months later, I think we're ready to host an intern again. It's been pretty boring around here lately. ;)

Wednesday, April 01, 2009


It's the immature 10-year old boy in me, I guess - the same one who thinks farts are funny and who can't drive safely down Hwys 183 or 121 because the planes flying overhead are too mesmerizing - but I love a good April Fool.

This morning, I called Mecca. When her voice mail picked up, I made a snap decision to tell her we were moving to Ireland where Darren had landed his dream job. Apparently, my prank was believable, because Mecca sat down at her kitchen table with her hand on her forehead and cried while I described how we'd put our house on the market, that Darren would leave in the next few weeks and how the boys and I would wait to join him later after Dani was settled in at college. When I got to "April Fool's!", she cried even harder - from relief, she claims. I had no intention of making her cry, but HOW SWEET IS THAT? I feel really truly loved. (And I'm sorry for the cry, Mec. Sorta. ha!)

Then this afternoon, having not learned my lesson from Mecca, I grew evil horns and sent the following to my dearly beloved boss, Michael, and copied my coworker and good pal Terri:

I’ve been trying to think of a way to tell you this all week.
I guess I’ll just jump right in and say what needs to be said.

I’m giving my resignation. When I accepted this job, I just had no idea that I’d have to endure so much hardship. I’ve had rats watch me work from behind, mice climb up my leg and run across my feet, days when the building smells like sour mop, or
worse, like rancid green beans….

When I leave in the afternoons, I always make a list of items I intend to tackle first thing the next morning. Most days, like today, I still haven’t worked through the list when it’s time to leave again. People are always wanting something from me: either QuaQua needs another hug or some volunteer wants a tour of the building or a random group wants to know what they can do for 2 hours next Thursday. The phone rings all the ding dang time with parents whom I can’t understand wanting to know if their kid is here or not. Sometimes Nookie shows up for an unscheduled 2-hour counseling session. At least at home, I have caller ID and a peekie-hole and can
avoid these things if I’m not in the mood. Here, I’m a sitting duck.

Then there’s the issue of the internet going bonkers at least once a day and not allowing me to send/receive email or open attachments or crashing altogether. It makes me crazy, and when you add all these things up, I just don’t make enough to justify it all.

I love Fortress, but the time has come for me to take a step back and say April Fools. Unless you fire my sorry butt for this lame joke, I’ll be back again tomorrow, same bat time, same bat channel. The truth is, you couldn’t fire me if you wanted to. I love it here and I love every aspect of my job. (Except the phone. I truly do detest answering the phone.) But I love the rest of it. Even Ms. D, and even Ratatouille. Thanks again for blessing me with the opportunity to be here!

Terri's reply: "i almost threw up before I got to the bottom. good one"

Michael's reply, in part:

Not funny! :)

Before I got to the end my mind was going a thousand different directions, even in just the 20 seconds it took me, wondering how we could replace you because no one would have your passion, skill set and ability to juggle all the crap.

I’m glad it was an April fools; still not funny, my heart is still beating way too fast.

I hope at least one of them is laughing tomorrow.
Maybe by next April 1, I'll be a grown-up. :D

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

you found me

I'd heard this song before, but until Monday, I'd never paid much attention to the lyrics. Somehow, the first words caught my attention that day, and I found myself listening, intrigued, hanging on every word as I drove Dani to work.

I found God On the corner of First and Amistad
Where the west Was all but won
All alone Smoking his last cigarette
I said, Where you been? He said, Ask anything.

In my mind, I pictured the Marlboro man, silhouetted as he leaned with his back against a light pole, cigarette dangling between two fingers, his chin low, almost touching his chest. He looked out the top of his eyes, his focus grazing the brim of his traveled hat, as a young man made known his questions.
Where were you When everything was falling apart?
All my days Were spent by the telephone
That never rang And all I needed was a call
It never came To the corner of First and Amistad.
I've been there... waiting for the rescue, for the answer, and wondering why it never came.

Lost and insecure You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor Surrounded, surrounded
Why’d you have to wait? Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late You found me, You found me

At this point, I started anticipating the lesson, the answer to the questions, the resolution.

In the end Everyone ends up alone
Losing her The only one who’s ever known
Who I am Who I’m not, and who I want to be
No way to know How long she will be next to me

Early morning The city breaks
I’ve been calling For years and years and years and years
And you never left me no messages
You never sent me no letters
You got some kind of nerve Taking all I want

I love this verse, especially the last 10 words.I love that God allows us to rant and rave and demand answers and to wag our finger in the air and tell him He's got some kind of nerve. I love that He's big enough to take it, and real enough to understand my need for it, and gracious enough to love me through it. As the song continued, just like in real life, I grew impatient for the reasoning, the answer, the resolution. I was sure it was coming in the next verse.

Lost and insecure You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor Where were you, where were you?
Lost and insecure You found me, you found me
Lying on the floor Surrounded, surrounded
Why’d you have to wait? Where were you, where were you?
Just a little late You found me, You found me
Why’d you have to wait To find me, to find me?

It didn't come; the song ended with the same questions. For a half a second, I was annoyed that the lyricist didn't wrap the story up with a neat little bow and call it a day. But as soon as that fleeting emotion died, I celebrated that it was left open-ended. It makes the song so much more meaningful.

And isn't that the way it is in life anyway? Do we ever really know WHY God does what He does? Is it ever our RIGHT to know? Job never knew. He suffered for reasons that he NEVER had a clue about. I'm sure he asked the same questions.

In the end, "You found me."That's all that really matters, isn't it?That IS the resolution. The reasoning is irrelevant.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord. "Plans to prosper you and not to harm you. Plans to give you hope and a future." -Jeremiah 29:11

Tuesday, March 10, 2009


In the past month...

Darren and Aidan ran the Cowtown 5K; Aidan beat Darren's time by about 40 seconds, clocking in a time of 27:58 and placing 8th out of 281 other 7 and 8 year olds. He was most proud of beating Mr. Dague's (PE teacher) time! I love to see Aidan after a good run. He glows, and I'm not talking about the afterglow of a hard workout. He glows from the INSIDE. Running is such a natural thing for him, and he loves how it makes him feel. I think that's so cool.

Dani competed at UIL with both choir and history. She earned a "1" with her ensemble - a SSA piece that she and two friends performed, and a "2" on her solo. The ensemble gets to compete at State in late May. In history, she placed 5th individually, the only one on her team to medal. Her team rank was 2nd, though. This was a preliminary competition - the main one is March 28, so there's still time for improvement.

The bummer about that date is that it means she'll miss her "Meet and Greet" with Drew University. Drew (in Madison, NJ) is her #1 choice for college, and they're hosting a regional meet and greet in Dallas for accepted students in this area. It's from 2-4 on the 28th - the exact time of her UIL event. Bah!

She's also been accepted to a handful of other schools, including Texas A&M. She's holding out hope for UT, but hasn't gotten her acceptance letter yet. Texas has a law that allows automatic admission to students with a class rank in the top 10%. That's all well and good, you'd think, but the rub is that even though Dani has a GPA of 4.5, she's still only in the top 12% of her highly competitive honors program. Some of the individual schools at UT (business and architecture, for instance) fill up long before they reach the 10%ers. The College or Architecture, for instance, is so competitive that they sometimes only admit the top 4% of high school graduates before the reach capacity. This makes getting into UT very difficult even for top-ranked students. Still, Dani's holding onto hope that she'll be admitted. In the meantime, she has a trip to College Station scheduled with our friend Jake, Fort Worth's most enthusiastic Aggie. ;) I'm a little disappointed that I'm not taking her myself, but she'll have a lot more fun with Jake. For one, he's a lot cuter than I am, and a lot more cool. I'm just a Mom. Nevermind that being an Aggie was my DREAM for 4 years of high school. No, nevermind that. Dani would rather go with Jake (and Nikki, who promises me that by the time she and Jake are through with her, Dani will be bleeding maroon).

Ian is beyond excited right now about an upcoming play date with his friend Curran. He's excited about Karate, too - or Kung Fu or Tae Kwon Do or whichever one Darren decides on. Who knew that martial arts was so stinkin' expensive?? I don't know where we'll dig up the scratch to pay for it, but Ian's heart is set on it, and unfortunately, we agreed to it before we did the research. Ian's not much for team sports - he's too shy and worried about not excelling. He can't WAIT to try martial arts, though, and I think the discipline and self-confidence it'll provide will be wonderful for him.

You know how you know you're a real adult? No, not when you pay taxes for the first time. Not when you clean up someone else's barf while holding back your own. Not even when you buy your first house. No, you know you're an adult when you're able to spend your tax refund on something you WANT rather than a looming, unwanted but necessary bill, and what you WANT is something as mundane as a new dishwasher to replace your broken and unfixable one, and a new BED! YAY for us!

We'd been sleeping on The Cheapest Mattress We Could Find Fourteen Years Ago for, well, fourteen years. For a long time, I've been waking up feeling exhausted and sore - and cranky. (Can't really blame that on the bed, though. I've woken up cranky all my life. It takes me two hours to become human.) This morning, after my 3rd night on the new bed, I woke up an hour earlier than usual for no reason other than I WOKE UP ON MY OWN FEELING RESTED. And get this - I was in a good mood. SILLY mood, even. Singing in the shower, even. Weird. The earth must be off its axis. Could it be that this new bed is turning me into a morning person after all these years of hard core night-persondom? I'm betting it was a fluke. Tomorrow morning, if I don't wake up with a growl and a snarl and a hmpftoyourmomma, we'll know that the end time is near.

Funny story about the mattress shop. We walked into Sleep Experts because it was "there". We really didn't think we'd be buying that night; we were just gonna test drive some new models. We agreed rather quickly on a bed and decided to just go ahead and make the purchase, which is so unlike us. I'm the one who always wants to hunt for a better deal, and Darren doesn't make snap decisions about ANYthing, EVER. So this was strange for us. We went with a mid-range model - not too pricey, but not cheap, either. Just right, Goldilocks would say. (Simmons Beauty Rest something or other, though that doesn't tell you much, as there are a million Simmons Beauty Rests in all price ranges.)

As Darren signed all the papers and turned down all the extra warranty crap, I decided to test drive one more mattress, simply because of its placement right next to the register. It was a gorgeous bed, too. Within 45 seconds, maybe less, I was OUT. Like a LIGHT. Darren and the salesman woke me up when the deal was sealed, and after checking that I hadn't left a pool of drool on the pristine foam, I said, "I changed my mind. I want this one." The salesman laughed and said, "Yah. This one will run you $3600. And that's just the mattress, not the box." No wonder I fell fast alseep. I could buy a CAR for $3600!

Man. This post proves what a barrel of laughs we are around here. History UILs, 5k runs, martial arts and new mattresses. This is the stuff we get excited about. Try not to be too jealous now, ya hear? ;)

Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Already in 2009, I've detected new wrinkles around my eyes, and two gray hairs on top of my head.

And to that I say, "BRING IT, 40s!"

In the meantime, Aidan is already planning for his future, too.
While his classmates wrote of growing old and being in wheelchairs,
Aidan was imagining his rocking out at his 100th Birthday Bash.

(click to enlarge)

"...and a wife."
You can understand how I stay young. My kids crack me up, and a good laugh is good for the soul. :)

Monday, February 16, 2009


Darren has been harrassing me about this blog. So has Dani, actually. And an assortment of other people. *sigh*. I've been busy, people! And the truth is, I got tired of blogging. Don't know why. Maybe it's because I do a lot of writing at work.

The last 6 weeks in a nutshell:

Dani has been furiously writing essays and applying for scholarships.
She's applied to 5 universities and heard back from one so far. (Accepted, with a scholarship offer of $17,000 per year.) She commited to being a camp counselor this summer at a non-profit camp for inner city kids. I'm proud of that decision, and I know it'll make for an awesome summer, but it also means that she's effectively leaving home 10 weeks earlier than I'd anticipated, and I'm maybe a little bit sad about that. ;)

Aidan's been training with Darren for this month's Cowtown Marathon - the 5k, though, not the actual marathon. He also had a lead role in his school play. Funny this was, we didn't even have a CLUE that he had a rather large part. We knew he had a speaking role, but he flat refused to ever practice his lines at home, saying that he wasn't worried. Dani filmed the play and put it up on YouTube if you want to see it. Aidan plays the lion.

Ian is obsessed with war, specifically World War II. He knows who were allies and who were enemies. He knows how it started. He knows who Hitler was and what he did. He can define the word Nazi. He knows what weapons they used, and what kinds of planes they flew. He can tell you about the first A-bomb. Now he's boning up on the Civil War. He's in first grade. He blows my mind.

Darren's been building a terraced garden in our backyard - for vegetables. It's right next to the herb garden he started a few years ago, but on the other side of the fence. He's also been dancing his buns off every night and is putting me to shame on Dance Dance Revolution. Today, Aidan's teacher stopped Darren at school and said, "What's this I hear about dancing? Something about Karma Chameleon?" Darren laughed and said, "Oh yah. Aidan's really good at that one." Mrs. Bradshaw said, "I hear that YOU'Re the one who's really good." Who knew that Darren could dance? lol!

And me, I've been working. My 30-hour/week job hasn't been fewer than 30 hours since I started! But I love it SO much and can't imagine not being there every day. It's one of those jobs that people wish they had - where you're good at what you do and what you do is making a difference in the world. In the big picture, we're just a blip on the screen. But life by life, kid by kid, family by family, dream by dream, Fortress Youth Development Center IS making a big difference, and I'm both blessed and proud to be a small part of it.

Ashlie the cat is still harrassing visitors and pooping in places she ought not to poop. Tonight, I detected the most noxious odor ever, and went looking for The Cat (which is what I call her when she's in big trouble, mister). I just knew she had taken a dump on the floor somewhere, but I found her in the litter box. Scratching at the box liner. Then she pranced out of there with her nose in the air. I grabbed the scoop and buried her treasure FOR her. I swear, if my life were a cartoon, there'd have been green fumes wafting from it and flies swarming overhead. Stupid cat.

Have you forgotten what we look like?
Here's a photo to jog your memory.

I'll be back tomorrow.
I have to. I PROMISED. :)

Friday, January 02, 2009

The Dawn Treader, part 2

Ian conquered his boredom by picking a book from the shelf in my bedroom and reading it. He read all of chapter one and into chapter two that first night, and this morning, the first thing he did was pick it up again. Tonight, he's in chapter 3.

He's reading "The Dawn Treader", which is his favorite book in the Narnia series. A few years ago, Darren read the books to the boys each night at bedtime. I can't believe Ian's big enough to read them on his own now!

Watching him read, and hearing him say "Dawn Treader" made me heart melt, 'cause it reminded me of this little nugget from 3.5 years ago. I'm so glad I blog!