Archive for September, 2010
Yesterday morning I found myself in Oak Grove, LA, which is essentially out in the middle of nowhere in north Louisiana. The day was beautiful. Overnight, a front brought the cool weather of fall in. The morning was crisp and breezy, the perfect day to break out my new boots.
We gathered with family around a grave, a grave that would hold the body of one of the most amazing men I’ve ever known.
An American flag covered Mix’s casket and two Army soldiers were there, celebrating the life of a veteran.
After the minister spoke kind words about Mix’s gentle soul, “Taps” sounded from across the cemetery and everyone held their breath as tears ran down cheeks.
The soldiers approached the casket and began folding the flag with precise movements. When they finished, they walked over to Mix’s sister, handed her the flag, and thanked her for his service to the United States.
The group was absolutely silent and chills ran up and down our arms. His sister immediately turned and handed the flag over to their brother.
It was one of the most beautiful and moving experiences I’ve ever witnessed. Mix would have been so proud!
The simple gathering in the country, the military honors, family gathered close. It was exactly what he would have wanted, and I’m so glad he got just that.
This morning, one of the greatest men I’ve ever known passed away.
James Thomas Howell, affectionately known as “Mix,” was like a grandfather to me.
In actuality, he was my grandmother’s uncle, my great-great uncle.
Mix, who never married, was easily adopted by his sisters’ families (and a several other families) as one of their own.
Mix has been a huge part of my life from the very beginning.
From long road trips to Florida where he was put in charge of entertaining me and my sisters by making hot dogs out of silly puddy, to every single Christmas and birthday where he steadily picked up the wrapping paper that everyone else quickly ripped through, he was always there.
Mix even had his own signature dance that everyone loved to attempt.
This past summer, I started working on one of my Life List items when I interviewed him about his time in WWII and as a firefighter in the following years. Never have I been so happy to have that footage. I still haven’t edited it all together, but I will.
Here is a short segment during this summer’s interview that really has nothing to do with WWII, but everything to do with how much he meant to me.
Here’s a clearer version of the photo that’s in the video.
Thank you Mix, for always being a positive and happy influence in my life. Even though I miss you terribly, I know you are in a far better place now with those you love and have missed.
Between Mark’s nose and my great, great uncle Mix suddenly taking a drastic health dive for the worst, things have been a bit emotional in our household.
But today was very definitely a change for the better. We had our 12 week appointment with the doctor this morning. The baby is finally big enough to allow mama to get an external ultrasound, which I very much appreciated.
The screen came up, and I was amazed by how much my little peanut has changed! Instead of a tadpole with little nubs and a tail, it now has fully formed arms, legs, fingers, toes and eyes! And it was practically a little jumping bean. Legs were kicking, arms were punching, it was flipping around so much in my uterus that they had a hard time getting its heartbeat to register. It finally settled down long enough to show a steady 164 beats per minute.
It was moving around so much, in fact, that we got a good look at its spine and ribs, fingers and toes and even got a little hand wave!
I know the moving around won’t be quite so much fun in a few months, but right now it is absolutely amazing.
I know I’m a day late, let’s blame it on the call to be nurse the past few days, but my little sister (the middle one) celebrated her 24th birthday yesterday! So, in celebration, here is 24 reasons why I think she is amazing.
24. If you need someone to plan a party, she’s your girl. She single handedly pulled off my spectacular bachelorette party.
23. Someone messing with you? She always has your back.
22. Need someone to kick start the dancing at your wedding? Yep, that’s her.
21. Because she make the most animated faces of anyone I’ve ever met.
20. Because she loves her firefighter husband.
19. Because even early Christmas morning she looks immaculate.
18. Her motto? The bigger the hair, the closer to God.
17. Because she’s always there when you need her.
16. Because she always volunteers to watch my dogs when we go out of town.
15. Because we’ve been celebrating all the big holidays together since we were little bitty girls.
14. Need someone to go with you to any event? Count her in!
13. The family that makes cookies together.. stays together.
12. Because she’ll suit up to go to Mardi Gras… even when it snows.
11. Because when the parents do something strange, we don’t even have to say anything, we just look at each other and laugh.
10. Because she has a great sense of humor.
9. Because she has fixed my hair and makeup more times than I can count.
8. Because she still loves me, even when I’m in a bad mood.
7. Because she ran out in the snow, into someone’s yard to take a photo with this creepy life-like Santa.
6. Because she is great at keeping the entire family in touch.
5. Because she puts up with an overexposure of lady bits as a manager of Victoria’s Secret.
4. Because we once survived a drive across the entire country with our grandparents, who would pull over the side of the road and make us take photos with cactuses while truckers honked at us.
3. Because she’s one beautiful lady!
2. Because our babies are both due in April! We’ll get to be mommies together.
1. Because she is the best sister and friend a girl could ask for.
Happy Birthday Shannon!
Today Mark had day surgery. Nothing serious. They worked on his nasal septums and a few other things, so he will now be able to breathe through his nose. This, we hope, will enable him to sleep through the night and catch naps on the fly (which I hear is a highly desirable trait when you have a newborn).
Now to say Mark is scared of needles is a gross understatement of the situation. Mark has been losing sleep for weeks now, not over the surgery, but over the pre-op blood work and IV.
After spending yesterday cautiously glancing in every hospital room we had to go in to make sure there were no needles, and getting kindly lectured by the nurse because of his soaring heart rate, it came time for the blood work.
And let me tell you, those nurses rose to the occasion. Not only did they get him a coke ahead of time, they laid him out in the Lazy Boy of blood collection chairs. Two of them worked together and they had it done and over with in less than 30 seconds.
The nurses were laughing so hard with Mark over the whole ordeal, the next thing we knew the whole hall full of nurses had joined us and were giggling and flitting around him.
They even produced a gold medal sticker for him to wear that said “Star Patient.”
By contrast, today was long. There was a lot of waiting. But again the nurses were absolutely amazing, which made it so much more bearable.
After they had pumped Mark full of “Dr. Feel Good” in his IV, he told the nurse who was wheeling him into the holding room that he felt like he was in a Pink Floyd video.
This was followed by a very touching moment in the holding room. There was a young girl across from him. He kept staring at her and it was starting to make me uncomfortable. “She looks like my little cousin,” he said. I chanced a glare and noticed she was starting right back at him. Sure enough, she did look like his cousin.
“What are you in for?” Mark said.
“I have cystic fibrosis,” she said, “in for routine sinus surgery.”
They then continued to have a conversation about her frequent surgeries. She was very upbeat despite it all, and had a good time joking with him about being loopy.
Then they came and got Mark and took him in. Two hours later, I had him back, covered in gauze.
But he’s recovering now and happy to be home. Let the healing and breathing begin.
Do you ever catch of whiff of something that brings you immediately back to a time and place in your life? It may be the heightened sense of smell, but I seem to be doing that more and more lately.
For example, when I walk in the morning, and a school bus drives by, the smell of exhaust mixed with the plants around me immediately takes me back to this corner I used to stand at to cross the street when I studied in England. I can remember the red bus, the sign on the corner, the color of the streets.
Sometimes I’ll walk by an office or a store, stop and have to follow the smell while my memory reels to place it. It’s strangely intoxicating.
Every once in a while, I’ll catch a scent of my ex’s cologne with a jolt. Or something that smells like the orange lotion I used to wear all through college and it puts me in the mind of a road trip I took with my friend.
I think that’s why I love the smell of pumpkin spice or chai lattes so much. They immediately transfer me to a fall state of mind, to thoughts of “pumpkin weather” as I always called it.
Too bad temperature highs are 99 the rest of the week.
Are there any smells that transport you to a memory immediately?
My mother in law called the other day to tell me she had early tickets to Reruns, which is apparently a big consignment sale they do twice a year at the local mall. Ideas started floating across my mind immediately… most importantly the fact that I have absolutely nothing to prepare for the arrival of baby. And secondly, I have a strong compulsion to get a good deal on things.
Not knowing much about it, I told her I’d love the tickets.
She went early and scouted the whole thing out. Turns out, it is a baby and child consignment sale. She informed me that she and her friend had gotten there two hours early to wait in line to get in.
First red flag.
But, being the saint she is, asked me what I was looking for and went in with duty and purpose. She fought the mobs of crazy pregnant women to find the perfect bed. And find it, she did.
And it’s a good thing too, because by the time we showed up, all the really good stuff was spoken for. And goodness the crowds. Mothers with a crazy look in their eyes who were knocking one another over to get that cute smocked dress. The checkout line was literally wrapped around the giant warehouse.
Second red flag.
And it was warm and stuffy.
Third red flag.
When I arrived, I started having flashbacks to the one and only time I ever attempted to go out on Black Friday. That attempt lasted 30 minutes and left me frazzled and crying. (It also led me to discover that you can get the exact same deals if you get up early and get on your computer. Which is why I do all my Christmas shopping online).
At any rate, we scoped out the bed, saw that it was cherry wood, in pristine condition, included the mattress and was only $75.
We jumped on it. My MIL waited in the line for us while we looked through some other things, but nothing really jumped out at us, and frankly, I was getting a bit overwhelmed.
So we went to wait in line, narrowly avoiding the pregnant women and determined grandmothers literally kicking their laundry baskets full of toys and clothes around the store.
We waited in line for about 10 minutes before my vision started getting dark around the edges. I put a death grip on Mark’s arm and the next thing I knew, he was whisking me outside and putting me in the air conditioned truck.
“I feel like such a weenie!” I said.
He looked at me like I was crazy and said, “You’re pregnant!”
Then left me in charge of pulling the truck around when it came time to load up the bed.
Fortunately, Mark and his mom caught a break. Because they only had one item, they got to skip ahead to the front of the line. Hoorah!
So recap. My MIL got there at 4pm, scouted out the stock, found a bed, tagged it for us, waited for us to arrive at 7:30pm, waited in line for us, and then bought the bed when it came time to check out.
I think she deserves a princess crown and a good stiff drink.
Sometimes I think the universe likes to throw something completely unexpected in my path, then sit back and watch to see what I’m going to do.
This happened a few weeks ago.
My sister called me and asked if she could stop by work. She had something for me, she said, and she wanted to come by and drop it off.
She showed up at my work, settled into a chair and looked so anxious that I started to wonder if she had some kind of irreversible disease.
She took and deep breathe and said, “I have something for you. Some big news.”
My eyes got about as wide as saucers.
“You’re not preg…” I said and before I could finish my sentence she started nodding yes.
I flew out my chair and gave her a huge hug. I think she thought I would fly out of my chair and strangle her though.
“You’re not mad?” she asked. “No,” I said, “I’m going to be an auntie and a mom in the same month!”
And so I will.
I am due April 5 and my sister is due April 17. This happened totally and completely by accident on our parts, but I think that it happened for a reason.
My mother, of course, is thrilled beyond all senses. She has only stopped rejoicing long enough to threaten that we better not have them on the same day because she doesn’t want to be conflicted over which hospital to be at and miss something. And mom has already purchased a double stroller for herself.
What an amazing twist of fate. And how fortunate that they will literally grow up together.
Let the chaotic family gatherings begin!
Shreveport is known for a few things, most predominantly river boat casinos. In recent years, a little show called True Blood has set its vampire bar, Fangtasia, in Shreveport, but it doesn’t actually exist anywhere here (and unfortunately neither does it’s sexy owner Eric).
So when I knew my friends from Austin were coming to stay for the long weekend, I quickly assembled a game plan of things to do that were authentically Shreveport. And if it’s one thing Shreveport has, it’s lots of great, local food.
They arrived Saturday evening and Dana wanted something that can’t be found in Texas: raw oysters on the half shell. Packing into the Fit, we made our way over to The Oyster Bar, where she and Mark filled themselves with those raw little boogers and Oyster Bar’s infamous, take-you-down-with-one-drink margaritas.
Margaritas: 1, Visitors: 0
Sunday was laid back. After a leisurely stroll through the neighborhood, the allergens quickly sent us running in the house for cover. Then we made our way over to PieWorks where we ate lots of pizza (though we stayed away from some of the more bizarre toppings like alligator and shallots).
To walk off our gluttonous misery, we went down to the Louisiana Boardwalk where Scott and Dana stocked up on goodies at The Chocolate Crocodile. The boys, who refused to be overwhelmed by the amount of food consumed thus far, stopped at Counter Culture on the way home for a local favorite, Humphrey Yogurt (tangy soft serve yogurt with strawberries, bananas, grapes, granola and honey).
This snack sent them into some sort of coma for a couple of hours, during which time Dana and I snuck off to shop. Halloween goodies and fall boots FTW!
When we got back, pregnant lady was hungry again and harassed the boys until they dragged their still-full selves into the car. All the while I insisted, “Sorry boys, we will NOT be skipping meals this time!”
Being the lame pregnant lady that I am, I caved at 10:30 pointed out to my guests where they could find some snacks if they so chose, and crawled into bed, leaving my guests to fend for themselves. Aren’t I a great hostess?
Dana, who is also friends with Kelly, wanted to meet her fiancé. So Monday we met Bachelor Girl and The Guy at one of the best local eateries in town, Strawn’s. Strawn’s has lots of great home cooking, and while everyone ordered great big breakfast platters or fried chicken specials, I insisted on putting together my own random smorgasbord of goodness involving a hamburger, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans and their famous strawberry pie.
That evening we ventured into downtown to see a movie at The Robinson Film Center. The Robinson is one of Shreveport’s really neat establishments. An indie film theatre with a bistro and bar upstairs, patrons can bring their drinks into the theatre for the show.
Unfortunately the Bistro, as well as the rest of downtown, was closed for Labor Day, so they had to watch the movie completely sober. As it turns out, the movie, Get Low, was great so intoxication wasn’t actually needed.
From there, I nearly attacked Dana to get a granola bar out of her purse while we drove to our one and only chain restaurant of the trip, Logan’s Roadhouse (hey, it was Labor Day and everyone else was closed).
As usual I was excited for the meal. Then they brought out my salad and it had bacon on it. I took a few bites and my gag reflex immediately triggered. I pushed the salad away. Then potato skins came out with bacon on them. Thinking I could scrape the bacon off and be ok, I took a bite and then hauled it to the bathroom.
Turns out baby hates bacon. Baby also hates the site of an almost raw steak on other people’s plates. And Mama? Had to go home and take a phenegren and pass out into my own coma.
Bacon: 1, Pregnant Lady: 0
On another note, fellow blogger bluzdude gave me a blog award on Labor Day. Being such a new blogger, it really meant a lot of me. He has been such a great supporter and commenter throughout my upstart, and I appreciate it so much.
Here are a list of well established bloggers who have been great supporters and commentors throughout my humble little upstart. Thank you for your support! I can’t tell you how much it means to me.
1. Bluzdude – based out of Baltimore, he blogs on everything from politics, to funny stories from the past to sports and state fairs. A hilarious guy and fun to read.
2. BachelorGirl – I helped Kelly get this blog off and running over a year ago now and she has drawn a great cast of readers. She is absolutely hilarious and I always look forward to her updates.
3. Sisters from Different Misters – the sisters live in Pittsburgh and tell great stories. They’ve also inspired me to attempt a Christmas stocking for the new baby.
4. She’s One Lucky Dog – My best friend writes on her house full of animals and their never ending destruction and makes me literally laugh out loud.
5. One Purpose Driven Mom – A friend and co-worker who inspired me to go organic and make huge lifestyle changes.
Last week I was up in the morning walking the dogs. It was the first morning temps were below 80 (in fact, they had dipped down to a cool 66 with no humidity). This set me in a great mood and put my mind on the approaching fall season. Leaves were just starting to fall, and I was thinking of Halloween and pumpkins.
We were near the end of our walk and I had one more street to cross. There was an older lady at the stop sign (see diagram below). She had her left turn signal on, and turned left. So I started to cross, when suddenly she threw her car into reverse and stomped on it.
The dogs and I literally had to run and she barely missed us with her backwards flying car. She then put it in drive, pulled on to the street she just turned off of and parallel parked at the house on the corner.
I glowered at her and she pointedly ignored me.
Not to be outdone, this morning I got a phone call at work.
Old Lady: “Yes, I’m looking at your publication on page 12 and there is a boy on there named John Doe.”
Me: (Thinking, oh no, what nasty thing is this woman getting to say. Because when anyone calls the day after we mail, it’s always negative).
Old Lady: “And this boy has a big, black mole on his face. Has he had that checked for cancer?”
Me: (Baffeled) “Well ma’am, I don’t know him so I have no idea.”
Old Lady: Launches into a story on the importance of getting moles checked.
Me: Cutting her off “Ma’am, he is an adult. I’m sure he can take care of himself.”
Old Lady: “That doesn’t matter. My husband had this mole and it was black…”
Me: “Ok, well I’ll pass the message along to the lady who did the interview.”
Old Lady: “Oh, ok, because it is very black.”
Me: “Ok, goodbye.”
Seriously ladies. Pull it together and leave me out of it!
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