Take 3

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Six weeks ago I got that dreaded call.  It was time for Joaquin’s Fontan.  We knew it was coming.  We’ve known since Joaquin was still in my belly.  And I would like to think I was prepared…but I wasn’t.  I cried when the hospital gave me the date.  And the memories started flooding back.  Oh, the memories.  Unlike my first born, Joaquin’s childhood memories have included plenty of tears.  From the time I found out about one of his defects up until Friday night when my nightmare left me crying and begging my husband to check Joaquin to make sure he was breathing.  He reassured me he was and then told me, “Walking into that hospital is making you stress”.  Stress??  Amidst the tears, I couldn’t comprehend what he meant.  Yes, I broke out in painful hives four weeks ago.  Sure, everyone contributes my painful gas to stress.  But how I could be stressed?  I was at peace with everything.  Much more so than I was two weeks ago.  I had changed my way of praying and it had made a difference.  Or had it?

Could the hospital really have made my subconscious bring back those memories?  What could have triggered it?  Was it the smell of the soap in the hospital bathrooms?  Was it the cardiac nurses that I have grown close to?  Was it the way my husband and I were just way too familiar with the routine?  That’s the part I hate the most.  He and I know what the routine is.  But Joaquin doesn’t.  He doesn’t remember the times I cried when he went into respiratory distress.  He doesn’t remember us trying to bring his fever down with washcloths.  He doesn’t remember having an IV started in his head because his veins were shot to hell.  He can’t possibly remember how at one point, I dropped to my knees because the worst thing was happening.  I felt my faith slipping away.  Without my faith, I knew I couldn’t function.  He can’t remember.  And I’m  he doesn’t.  But as we prepare for today’s heart cath and tomorrows Fontan, I’ll start sharing those memories with him.

And as we prepare, I’ll make sure to point out the best of our not so good situation.  Like, the fact that we have tons of people praying for him.  Or the fact that he’ll get lots of toys in his hospital room.  Or how about the fact that all he needs to do is smile at his nurses and they’ll treat him like a king.  I won’t bring up the fact that the McDonald’s in the lobby has the worst food ever.  Or that mommy lives on so much coffee but still manages to pass out the minute her head hits a pillow.  I won’t mention that I miss his big brother terribly.  I won’t tell him that I’ll gain 10 more pounds from eating at that same McDonald’s in the lobby.  Or that the nurses will have to convince me to go shower (do I offend??).

He’s been down this journey before but for the first time ever, we’ll be able to recall the memories together.  And I can’t think of a better person to share them with.

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Who Will YOU Listen To Today?

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God

Funny how things just happen.  Or do they?   Besides it being my husband’s birthday yesterday it really started out like an ordinary day.  I was actually kind of excited because my husband decided he would be able to pick the kids up from school so that meant I actually had my lunch to myself.  So, I got on Facebook.  And what did I see?  A message from an old college friend offering two beautiful prayers that she had prayed when her mother-in-law was having open heart surgery.  I was moved to tears.

Shortly thereafter, my phone rang and I saw a familiar face (literally, I mean how many of you actually know that your huge face pops up on my phone because my phone is synced to Facebook??  That makes my heart smile.).  At first I thought that person had butt dialed but I answered anyway and he hadn’t butt dialed!  His fingers did!  Intentionally.  My sweet friend, that I hardly see, called to say he was thinking about Joaquin as we prepared for his third open heart surgery.  My eyes watered.  This person decided to pick up the phone, out of the blue and just say “We’re thinking of you and we’re here if you need anything”.  He didn’t feel awkward (if he did, he didn’t sound it).  He just did it.  Perhaps he just felt what was in his heart and just went with it.

I have been so blessed these past few weeks.  And to solidify my blessings I received yet another random phone call.  This time from another college friend that I hadn’t seen in years.  This girl is hardly on Facebook but I just thought “Oh, she must have gotten on Facebook and seen that Joaquin was having surgery so she decided to check in on me”. Nope.  My friend had no idea what was in store for Joaquin.  She really had just called because something told her to.

Now, this friend is a true Catholic in every sense of the word.  The type that prays the rosary often, knows all the Saints (yeah, I wouldn’t doubt that she knows them on a personal level, too) and knows almost everything about Catholicism.  She’s what I strive to be.  She’s not perfect.  In fact, she’s hilarious and admits to her mistakes but constantly let’s God guide her.  Anyway – we got to talking about life and what was coming up in the next few days for our family and I shared with her about how calm I was lately.  I told her that it hadn’t come easy but rather with a lot of meditative prayer.  And it seemed to be working.  She finished by saying that she was proud at how I’ve decided to carry my cross.  And how, like Mary, I decided to step aside and watch my son (all 4 years old of him) carry his own cross and let God do His will with him.  And we both agreed that the Holy Spirit had been working through all of us that day.  From the prayers to those last phone calls.  Those people were being spoken to by God yesterday and they actually chose to listen.  And when we listen to Him, we can actually be more like Him.  Caring, thoughtful, compassionate, selfless.  So stop and smell the roses but don’t forget to perk up those ears to His voice while you’re at it.  You just might do something great today if you do.

 

Death By Food

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belly

Today the unbelievable happened.  This morning I woke up afraid of food.  Is my soft, ten-pounds-heavier-than-it-should-be body rejoicing?  Hell no.  It’s crying!  I. Love. Food.  There.  I said it.  I do.  I love to cook it. I love to smell it.  And oh my, I love to eat it.  So imagine my angst when for the past nine days I have been plagued by the most painful gas. EVER.  (I told you from the beginning that I was going to be honest on here.  You’re welcome.) I have no idea where this is coming from so my mom has been desperately searching in one of my dad’s self-help ailment books as to what I can or cannot eat.  One book says no potatoes.  But I said screw you, book, I ate the potatoes on Friday night and again on Sunday night and I was fine.  Until yesterday.  I ate the potatoes again and I was doubled over in pain within minutes.  How can something so small and delicious (baked, topped with butter and my fave condiment – salsa) cause me that much pain??

The smart girl in me would have avoided my mom’s enchiladas last night or the chips and salsa OR the pan dulce that husband brought home last night.  But I am brave.  I am a risk taker.  I am hungry.  And guess what?  I was fine!!  Oh rejoice!!!  I am healed!

But this morning my healed body woke up afraid.  And hungry.  What if I ate my whole-grain toast with almond butter and jelly and I began to die my painful death once more – and this time at work?  No one at work would understand why I would be lying on the floor rubbing Vicks on my belly (another mom ailment that works WONDERS!!).  So, I decided to starve and take an orange and a bottle of water to work with me (as opposed to my regular buffet line that usually accompanies me on a daily basis).  When I called my parents to say good morning guess what my mom said she read in that book of hers?  No oranges.  Fabulous.  My life, as I know it, is officially over.

Do Not Feed The Monkeys (Especially At A New Church)

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Early last week my good friend Jackie texted me and informed me that some ladies at her church were praying for Joaquin’s upcoming open heart surgery and that they were making him a prayer shawl.  I thanked her so much because I was genuinely grateful.  And then the next text came in, “Shawl will be ready this Sunday and will be blessed during the service.  Hope you can join us!”

Now listen.  Momma didn’t raise no fool.  When someone offers to pray for you, you take it.  But an invitation to attend mass at some place other than a Catholic church got me nervous.  So what did I do??  Well heck – I knew that Episcopalian services were similar to a Catholic mass but I didn’t want to be surprised.  I wanted to go in prepared.  So I Googled it and Wikipedia came to the rescue.  It turns out they’re almost exactly the same.  Score!  Nothing to worry about.  Until the husband tells me he has to work that Sunday and I’m on my own.  I go into panic mode.  Listen, I try to avoid going to the grocery store with my two stinkers much less mass because Joaquin does not have a church voice.  Well, maybe he does, but you can still hear it several pews down.

Sunday came and I wrangled the stinkers so I could put their clothes on.  Not an easy task when one child asks why he needs new underwear if he had already taken a bath on Friday (don’t judge – it was a weekend and he smelled clean to me).  After threatening one child with putting him out for the trash man to pick him if he didn’t behave, we were ready and we (almost) looked picture perfect.

We get to church and I parked as far as I could so no one would judge my filthy van.  We were ready.  We were greeted by two nice gentlemen and we were shown inside.  To a pew.  Not a cry room.  Great.  Now I really wouldn’t be able to pay attention and everybody would hear Joaquin.  But to be fair, the nice gentlemen provided us with crayons and activity sheets.  Score one for the Episcopalians, yo.

The first thing I noticed was just how laid back everyone was.  Very unlike a Catholic service.  At my church you kneel, stay quiet, don’t look around and don’t cross your legs or the devil himself will snatch you away.  The rest of the time went like a breeze.  Until the guy behind me started making funny faces at Joaquin.  Oh yeah guy, really??  Before you know it, Joaquin was laughing so loud that even the guy realized what a mistake it was to feed my caged animals.  Geez.  Then the priest came forward and presented us with the prayer shawl.  And when he did, it was evident that I was raising a heathen child.  I mean, judging from how Joaquin clung on to me and cried when they blessed us you would have thought he was a vampire child being shown a crucifix.  Eventually it was all over and as I scooped Joaquin and Alejandro off the floor (literally, Alejandro was lying down on a kneeler throwing a paper airplane around) and I realized that I never had anything to worry about.  Because prayers are prayers.  Blessings are blessings.  And kids will always act like monkeys…no matter what church you attend.

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Roll Your Eyes and Deal With It

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So last nights date night began with us was driving around trying to think of new restaurants that lovely Brownsville, TX had to offer.  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.  ZERO.  Maybe that’s a bit harsh.  I’m sure there are some new restaurants cuz new restaurants pop up everywhere (we got our first Shipley’s yesterday complete with a 20 minute wait on their opening day!!) but we didn’t feel like having Tex-Mex (again) and I know the husband and I are always looking for a restaurant with a cool and hip vibe.  That said.  Nothing.  Nada. Zilch.  ZERO.  Oh well.  We settled for our local Texas Roadhouse and oh dear Lord, that place was packed!!  On to the next! The lovely Cheddars.  Just as packed.  Geez.  And so we ended up at our local Chili’s.  Only a 20 minute wait.  Not bad.  And so we waited and when we finally sat down husband did something new when he ordered our typical bottomless chips and salsa.  He ordered DOUBLE salsa! Double Salsa Wha?????  Wow.  After being married for seven years the man knows me well.  This lady can drink salsa if given the opportunity (I actually asked for a straw for my own little bowl and the waiter threatened to kick me out so I settled on using my chips again).  And then we ordered our typical Micheladas with Dos Equis and Tecate.  Sadly the Micheladas sucked and I’ll have to post husband’s recipe another day so y’all can see what I’m talking about if you don’t.

Anyway – the Micheladas were flowin’ and the salsa was devoured (by yours truly) when husband made a face and rolled his eyes.  Shoot.  Had I finished his bowl of salsa too??  Nope (Yay – for me, but I was tempted, trust me).  It turns out husband was having one of his “I miss Austin” moments.  Again.  I swear it happens every six weeks.  Had the lack of cool, hip, restaurants brought this on?  Yeah, probably a bit, but he said that Brownsville just has a vibe that rubs him the wrong way.  Now, I am not trying to throw husband under the bus (not today at least) but I’m here to be honest.

Husband was literally dragged down here by your truly (I’ll tell you that lovely story in another post) and although he is Hispanic he does not know Spanish and oh boy, did he struggle in the beginning (for more info on struggling to teach younger generations Spanish check out the article at the bottom of this post)  .  I mean there were times when he looked so depressed about being here I thought he was going to leave us for Austin.  The thing with Brownsville (or the Rio Grande Valley) is you either you like it or you don’t.  I’m not too sure if there’s an in between.  Husband says he can’t stand that Spanish is spoken so much here (hello??  we’re a border town!  Yes, yes, I  tell him this often) and you know?  I have to agree.  It is a pet peeve of mine when I walk in to a store at the mall and I’m asked if I need assistance in Spanish.  My Spanish is ok and I could just actually answer them and succumb to them but I refuse to.  Instead I play dumb and I make them work for it.  Why?  Because we are in the United States and while I welcome the idea of people moving over here for better opportunities I still think that you should be grateful and at least learn the language.  My dad came to the U.S. probably in his early 20s and the man taught himself English.  I know he prefers Spanish but he made (and still does, when needed) makes the effort.  And I think everybody needs to.  But I digress.  Anyway…

There is so much that husband cannot stand about being down here but he has slowly (at a snail’s pace y’all) come around to the idea that God puts you where you’re needed.  And when he finishes school and starts applying for work he’s decided to apply for teaching positions down here as well. Does that mean that I have to live with his eye rolling every six weeks for the rest of our life.  Probably.  But even though I am not the biggest Brownsville fan I do believe in thriving where you’re planted.  It’s a hard concept to wrap your head around that idea but you have to look at the good and the bad of every situation (for instance, Austin is hip and cool but the traffic bites and houses in the cooler parts of Austin are way too high for a teacher).  So I’ve asked husband what he DOES like about Brownsville.  He loves that homes prices are so low around here and that he’s so close to the coast.  And…he loves the school district that the boys are zoned too.

So you see?  Yes, he may miss the Longhorn tailgating and the cool culture that the ATX has to offer but he’s a family man first and foremost and you do what’s best for the family.  And for the moment, that’s what we’ll do,  So, please excuse me if I clearly look like I should be speaking Spanish.  But when I don’t, I ask that you remember that you and I are both where we need to be at the time.  Just roll your eyes and deal with it like we do (but can you turn away from me before you do it?  Thanks!).

Are you in a place where you’re not 100% happy but are trying your hardest to make the best of it?  Share your comments and tell me how you deal with it.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by submitting your e-mail!!

 

Sometimes Faith Needs Some Coffee Too

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So these days it’s fair to assume that my faith is indeed being tested.  Kinda like when we were young and we tested just how far we could get away with our parents (I don’t know about you but seeing as I was the youngest in my family I got away with so much!).  So I guess God is trying to see just how much I really trust him.  If you asked me last week I would have said, “Yeah God – not so much”.

Today is a different story and thank God for that (no really, thank you God).  Yesterday I wrote about this fab journey that I am on but you know, I was on a completely different path many years ago (weren’t we all?).  My journey actually started around 1998 or so when I was a student at Texas State University (although I suppose I will always remember it as Southwest Texas!!) and I started attending mass at the Catholic Student Center.  Once there I started attending Bobcat Awakenings and just like the name of the retreat states – I was awakened!!  But wait – I fell asleep again shortly after graduation.

And then my faith was awakened again (it was drowsy but nonetheless awake) after the birth of our first son, Alejandro.  And then it fell asleep again.  By the time our youngest son’s defects were diagnosed in utero I can honestly say I was jolted awake (kind of like the times that you realize you’re late for work…running around like a mad person, promising it won’t ever happen again, constantly checking my alarm clock for the next week)!  I haven’t fallen asleep since.

Now, I wasn’t asleep anymore but something was missing.  I couldn’t put my finger on it but something was just not there.  And then one day, God gave me exactly what I needed.  Unfortunately it came with tragic news.  It was late spring of 2012 when I saw a post on someone’s page that expressed sorrow for the death of a Frank Wearden.  I had to click on it because the person that posted it was from the same town as a guy that I knew in college with the same last name.  I honestly thought the name was perhaps an uncle or a brother to that other person that I knew from that town.  But as I scrolled through the posts my heart broke.  It wasn’t an uncle or a brother.  It was him.

I met Will Wearden at one of those Awakening’s and we clicked.  He was a blast.  He was funny.  He was handsome.  And boy could he dance.  And the crush started.  Lucky for me, the crush was reciprocated because we started talking on the phone often and hanging out.  He and his friend would visit in San Marcos or I would grab a pal and we would road trip it to Victoria.  I admired Will so much.  Now, Will and I had several mutual friends and they were almost all like Will – just nice, good, young Catholics.  What amazed me so much at the time (and still does) was the fact that this group of kids were about the same age as I was but they were already on the journey with God and enjoying it.  Me?  I was faltering all over the place.

Now remember how my faith was always falling asleep earlier?  Well, Will’s death is what gave me my second real awakening.  Why he died so young and so tragically, we’ll never know.  But Will is proof to me that Will came into my life for a reason.  My relationship with Will was short lived but he ended it was such grace that I was ok letting it go.  I never kept in touch with him so I was saddened that when I finally did hear about him it was about his passing.

It’s been a little over a year since he died but it was right then and there that I received the gift of Will from God.  I received what I had been truly searching since that first Awakenings retreat – God’s grace.

What about you?  What’s missing from your journey?

Why Now?

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Why would I need to start blogging now?  Now of all times…when my life will once again be turned upside down?  The answer is pretty simple.  These are the times (when your life is anything but normal) that you start to look at life from a different perspective.  I mean yeah, in an ideal world, we would all be looking at life from a different perspective.  But come on, who are we kidding?  We have to have the naysayers to challenge those that are looking at life through rose colored glasses. 

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not ALWAYS looking at life through Mother Teresa’s eyes (but, man, imagine if we all did??) but I am definitely trying to.  And doesn’t that count for something these days?  That you at least try??

That’s what I love about this journey – my journey.  It’s so damn unpredictable and just crazy – kind of a lot like me, I suppose.  It’s so all over the place (hello??  another reference to my true self once more!!) but I am learning so much more about the true me now than I have ever known.  When our youngest son, Joaquin, was diagnosed with three congenital heart defects that would require three open heart surgeries, life threw me for the ultimate loop.  I can honestly say I suffered.  I suffered throughout my pregnancy.  I suffered during his hospital stays and man, oh man I suffered so much when we thought (one too many times) that we were close to losing him.  My heart ached so much. 

And then he got better.  And we were thrilled.  And life got back to normal – our normal, at least.  And when it did, I managed to say “Thank you, God” for these awesome life lessons.  And I tell everyone whenever I get the chance.  It hurt like hell but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat for those lessons learned.  So why am I blogging now?  Now of all times…when my life will once again be turned upside down?  The answer is so simple – I don’t want you to hurt but I definitely want you to learn the same life lessons I’m learning and just come along for the ride.